London Walks - 2012

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On this page: Notting Hill (North side) - New River Walk - Blackheath - St James's - Second New River Walk - Rotherhithe

October 10th - We travelled by rail to Surrey Quays where we called in the Surrey Docks Weatherspoons for a very  reasonably priced coffee.  Suitably refreshed we then walked through Southwark Park admiring the lake and Ada Salter Memorial Rose Garden. Here we were joined by the warden of the park who told us of the development of the park.  We came to the bandstand and while Anita was telling us how it had been rebuilt with Heritage money we were again joined by the warden who gave us the story behind the two statues or Caryatides. They had originally flanked the doorway of Rotherhithe Town Hall which was severely damaged in World War 11.  They had been re-sited on the Heygate Estate but after the redevelopment of the park they were brought back to Rotherhithe in 2011. Leaving the park we crossed into King’s Stairs Gardens passing the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel.  Walking along Paradise Street we saw No 23, Gaitskill House, typical of the elegant houses that once lined the streets here and in 1836 was leased to the Metropolitan Police as a police station. Moving on we came to the War Memorial in West Lane commemorating the Boer War and World War 1. West Lane is the boundary between Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.  Cherry Garden pier is the point on the river where Turner stood to paint his “Fighting Temeraire”. We walked by the river to the ruins of the Manor House built by Henry V11. Nearby there used to be three sculptures of a seated Dr Salter, his daughter Alice and her cat but sadly Dr Salter was stolen by metal thieves in 2011 so the other two were moved from here to a place of safety. We called at The Angel pub for lunch. The pub, one of Rotherhithe’s oldest, had recently been refurbished and did not seem to have a lot of character but we took our lunch in a room upstairs and the reason for the choice of pub became obvious. The views along the river were spectacular and the setting could not have been better. After lunch Bob, on behalf of us all, thanked Anita and Roger for all the effort they had put in to ensuring our walks were so enjoyable. This was to be our last walk in 2012 for which we were all sorry. Back on the walk we left the Angel and walked up Rotherhithe Street through the old warehouses and more recently developed flats overlooking the river. We came to the Peter Hills School founded in 1612 and St Mary’s Church. Alongside the school was the Watch House dating from 1812. This was the base for the parish constable and being on the edge of the burial ground it also acted as a deterrent to grave robbers anxious to make money by supplying cadavers to Guys Hospital, only a couple of miles away. Anita pointed out Rotherhithe Picture Library used extensively for research. We were spotted showing an interest and much to our delight we were invited in and shown around which was most interesting. Back to the river and the Mayflower pub, on the site of the original Spread Eagle.  The pub was badly damaged by a fire in 1958 and was extensively refurbished.  Nearby was a statue commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers. We had also walked by the rear of the Brunel Museum where we noticed some interesting seats depicting Brunel’s achievements. We returned to Liverpool Street by the Rotherhithe station and the original Brunel tunnel. Our last walk on a perfect autumn day - we could not have wished for a more fitting end to the year.

(Report: Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)

Top: The City skyline

Above left: Rotherhithe Street

Above: 1st Norwegian Church

Above right: Southwark Park

Left: The Angel

Right: Lunch with a view

Below left: Peter Hills School

Below centre: St Mary's

Below right: The Mayflower

September 12th - Our second walk in this area this year started by taking the overground railway from Stratford where we were amused to see Rio De Janeiro appearing above the platform entrance – although you would be hard pressed to reach the next Olympics on this route! After coffee outside Highbury & Islington station we travelled back to Canonbury and the start of our walk. Anita gave us some background information on the New River. Built to bring fresh water, from Hertfordshire to London, it was completed in 1613. The channel built for the river is now in parts covered by more recent development but we again walked through the gardens where the river can still be seen. An 18th century hut, used by a watchman whose job it was to prevent bathing and fishing, is still there and this length of the river lined with (restored) wooden vestments is the only part of the river to survive in Islington. Still following the course of the river we made our way through the streets and into Dagmar Terrace. In Dagmar Passage we saw The Little Angel Theatre, converted from an old temperance hall, and used by John Murphy (1906-91) a Master Puppeteer who gave shows, taught children to make puppets and gave marionette workshops for adults. This reminded Bob of his schooldays and he recounted his involvement with marionettes. Walking on through St Mary’s churchyard Anita stopped and told us some of the church ‘s history and the well-known curates who had served there, Donald Coggan, David Shepard and George Carey who became more well known as the Archbishop of York, Bishop of Liverpool and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We walked up to the Green in Islington where stands a statue to Sir Hugh Myddleton, the engineer responsible for finishing the work on the New River, when Edmund Colhurst, the man who had proposed the idea, fell into financial difficulties and could not finish the work. Anita kept stopping to give us potted histories of some of the former residents of the area. Charles Lamb, critic and essayist, who’s writing had influenced some of Dickens writing, had a small house with “six good rooms”. Another resident was Caroline Chisholm who had worked tirelessly with emigrants, especially young women, going to Australia. She had lived in the colony for many years giving practical help to settlers and she had established links between ex-convicts and their families back home. Dickens was a keen supporter of her work and his Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House was based on Caroline. Years ago, being 100ft above sea level, Islington, an area free of the City's fogs and smogs etc., became a place for exercise, bowling greens cricket grounds and other leisure pursuits. Our hungry group now broke for lunch and some of us went to The Camden Head. Revived we strolled through Camden Passage looking at the antique shops before making our way back to the bus stop en route for Liverpool St and Home.

Top left: All aboard for Rio

Above: Caroline Chisholm lived here

Top right: Little Angel puppet theatre

Left: Sir Hugh Myddleton

Right: St Mary's, Islington

Below left: Listening to Anita

Below: The Camden Head

Below right: Rear of Liverpool Street

July 11th - Train and bus took us to Piccadilly where our first stop was for coffee. Our walk today was to take us down hidden passages, alleyways, courts and mews in the heart of the West End. No slum areas today as we saw how the other half live. Walking down Jermyn Street we stopped at St James’s Church, designed by Christopher Wren and consecrated in 1683. A beautiful church and an obvious haven for the homeless who were asleep in the pews. Walking on we passed the Prince’s Arcade and the statue of George Bryan (Beau) Brummell, a Regency dandy, narcissist and confidant of the Prince Regent. This fastidiously fussy young man asked to be excused the move with his regiment when it was posted north – Manchester was not his idea of a desirable place to be. Through alleyways and down steep steps in Bennet Street to Park Place we came to Overseas House, home to the Overseas League founded in 1910 to foster comradeship within the British Empire. This area is home to some well- known gentlemen’s clubs, Brook’s where gentlemen could stay, away from ladies, and Pratt’s where all the stewards were called George to avoid confusion, until in the 1980, when Georgina was appointed. Notable members were Harold Macmillan, Randolph Churchill and Duncan Sandys. We then walked to Blue Ball Yard and saw a row of traditional mews cottages built in 1741 which were originally coach houses with rooms on top for coachmen and footmen. As our walk progressed Anita pointed out two blue plaques. The first to William Huskisson 1770-1830 who was a statesman and the first fatality of the Railway Age, being hit by an engine at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and the second to Chopin who had left the site for his last public performance in 1848. Further on we came to Spencer House. The Spencers lived there until 1895 when it was let. In later years it was leased to Lord Rothschild who spent millions restoring it. It is open to the public on Sundays and our U3A had a visit there some years ago. We passed the Royal Ocean Racing Club which has 17 en suite bedrooms and an incredibly economic bunk room. The front door, like many boats, was very well varnished. There was also a green plaque to Sir Francis Chichester. We then detoured into Green Park through to the Mall where we saw preparations for the forthcoming Olympics. We kept coming across new signs in London showing the parking restrictions that will be in force during this period. Back on track we saw the gardens of Spencer House and looked at the Rams Heads that were the architectural decoration on the house depicting their role as sheep farmers in Northamptonshire during the 15th and 16th centuries and from where their great wealth came. Next we walked through the area around St James’s Palace. In a cobbled mews we saw stained glass decoration in the windows of a Masonic hall. Anita told us some of the history surrounding the Palace and Chapel Royal. We walked up St James’s Street looking at Berry Bros Rudd, wine merchants and on the corner of their premises saw a plaque re the “Texas Legation to the Court of St James 1842-46”.  Lock’s the Hatters since 1764 and Lobb’s Shoes also have shops here. Shoes from Lobb’s could cost you around £2,800 a pair and more if exotic skin was used. Reeling from these prices we broke for lunch in the last remaining village inn in London, The Red Lion in Crown Passage. A lovely old pub serving excellent sandwiches. After lunch Anita took us to King Street, where Christies, the auction house, was founded in 1766. There were too many of us to wander round today. On to Mason’s Yard built as a stable yard for St James’s Square and now home to the White Cube Art Gallery. In the far corner of the yard is the back wall of the London Library – famous members only lending library conceived by Thomas Carlyle in 1841. Through more passageways we found ourselves back in St James’s Square where we saw the memorial stone to WPC Yvonne Fletcher. Grand mansions border the square. From here we walked back to Piccadilly and the bus back to Liverpool Street. We had carried macs and umbrellas but the weather was kind to us and we enjoyed a dry day amid this prestigious area of our capital city. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos John Franey)

Plaque- Berry Bros Rudd

St James's Church

Prince's Arcade

Beau Brumell

Blue Ball Yard

Parking Notice

The Mall

The Gate House St James's Palace

Lunch Stop

June 13th - We met at Stratford and proceeded by the DLR to Greenwich where a stop was made for coffee etc. We then caught a bus to Blackheath. Anita thought it had probably got its name from the soil or perhaps the dark bushes which covered it – it had nothing to do with the Black Death of 1340. The heath had been a source of gravel used as ballast for ships, chalk and limestone was considered a dangerous place to be. One interesting fact was that the highest point of the heath is parallel with the top of Canary Wharf. Over the years the heath has been a site of much pageantry and has connections with Richard II, Henry V, Henry VIII and Charles II when the Lord Mayor London waited here to escort him back to London for the Restoration of the Monarchy. We saw All Saints Church built in 1857 amid much protest. Golf or Goff (its first name) may have been played here in the reign  of James 1st and in Queen Victoria’s reign Mr W E Gladstone (her four times Prime Minister) held huge rallies on the heath. We walked to the Princess of Wales pub where Anita pointed out a plaque that records that the first English rugby team was selected here, four of whom played for Blackheath Club, one of the oldest in the country. Walking on we came to the edge of the Cator estate where we saw The Paragon, a striking crescent of seven tall houses linked by Tuscan colonnades. John Cator hoped to attract socially distinguished residents to the area, but he came unstuck with his first two. They were sisters who ran up enormous debts and became known as the "swindlers" of Blackheath. Later occupants were more acceptable to him: lawyers, bankers, surgeons, a former Lord Mayor and a bishop. We then had sight of Morden College, impressive almshouses founded in 1695 founded by Sir John Morden, a trader with Turkey, for elderly colleagues. We continued walking through this very upmarket part of London and admired the beautiful houses which had been part of the Cator estate and still remain. Anita also pointed out the Span houses built around 1957. "Span" was derived from the intention to span the gap between the ordinary and the architecturally designed houses only affordable to the wealthy. The new houses were set in landscaped settings and all the mature trees were preserved. A Covenant was set up that protected common areas and controlled the changes residents could make to their houses. Local residents and Greenwich Council objected to the proposals but eventually the builders were given the go ahead and 20 housing medals were awarded to the development. We then carried  on past St Michael and All Angels built in 1828 with its elegant spire, dubbed "the needle of Kent" and placed, unusually, at the east end. We looked at several unusual houses and eventually turned back toward the village passing Blackheath Halls, the first purpose built concert hall in London. This hall had attracted  some very famous musicians and singers and also the explorers Stanley and Shackleton who had lectured  about their expeditions. George Bernard Shaw promoted the cause of the National Theatre, still a lively programme today. Lunch was enjoyed in the village and we then caught another bus alighting to enable us to walk through Greenwich Park to the  Observatory. We saw what will be the start of the Olympic cross-country and from the Observatory we could look down on the area where the Olympic equestrian events will take place. The arena will seat 20,500 and stage dressage, show jumping and the modern pentathlon. Our walk finished by the Cutty Sark and most of us headed for the DLR and the start of the journey home. Tired but well satisfied with what had been a most enjoyable day in a very fashionable area and in the fresh air - could summer be about to happen! (Report: Ann Franey, Photos John Franey)


The Paragon

Morden College

Entrance to the Cator Estate

Blackheath cultural halls

The Crown (lunch for some)

View over the hospital showing the equestrian arena

The Observatory

Cutty Sark

This London walk had an interesting start because we travelled by three forms of London rail transport, underground, over-ground and national rail. These took us to our coffee stop outside Highbury station. Anita explained how the over-ground section was being developed and later this year the final section of this circular route around London will be completed at a total cost of £75 million. Coffee over, we then started our walk at Drayton Park and the mecca for Arsenal supporters. Having seen the Emirates Stadium we took the road opposite and eventually climbed to Highbury Terrace. As we walked, it was interesting to see the parking restrictions on Match Days and these restrictions covered a wide area. Highbury Terrace was an imposing development from 1789. Nearby was Highbury Fields, an open area which after the Great Fire had been a sanctuary for people and the belongings they could save, and these people although destitute did not ask for any monetary relief. The area had had many well-known residents and had suffered damage in World War II when a V1 flying bomb had fallen there. Walking on Anita told us how beautiful the Union Chapel was; it had been a congregational chapel but was now used for meetings and concerts. Designed by James Cubitt, built in 1876, it was based on the 11th c church in Santa Fosca in Tortello and had a marble interior. We walked on through a garden to our lunch stop, The Compton Arms where earlier Roger had telephoned our orders for lunch. An old and delightful pub which had accommodated us well. Suitably refreshed we walked to Canonbury Square and through the gardens in the centre. Canonbury is one of the best preserved and most picturesque suburbs in inner London. The area took the name Canon’s Burgh after coming into possession of the Canons of St Bartholomew in the 13th c and became even more popular when Hugh Myddleton created the New River bringing water from Hertfordshire to the City in the early 17th c. More recently it has become a prestigious place to live. The area had connections to Charles Dickens and in this his Bicentennial year we will pick up any connections as we complete our programme of walks. Today we see a plaque to Samuel Phelps, a contemporary of Dickens, an actor whose portrayal of Macbeth at Sadlers’ Wells in 1844 had provoked bad language, fights and disgusting behaviour from his audience. He stayed as actor-manager for 20 years and transformed the theatre into one renowned for its Shakespearean productions. More notable residents over the years included, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and the architect Basil Spence. Canonbury Tower, an important landmark for centuries, had an interesting history and had been home to many notable residents and was more recently a Masonic research centre. Behind the tower were Alwynne Villas, a row of charming terraced houses bearing drainpipes from 1870. We now came to gardens with an ornamental stream following the course of the New River, which was actually beneath our feet. The visible area is actually duck ponds made to look like a river. MP Sir Hugh Myddleton was the banker behind this enterprising scheme of bringing water from Hertfordshire to the people of London. Although money for the scheme was hard to raise those who invested made a fortune. In 1893 one of the original shares sold for £95,000. The Metropolitan Water Board took over the New River Company in 1904. Today the aqueduct still provides eight per cent of London’s water. There is still more to explore and this we shall do at a later date. Our 2012 season is now up and running and Anita and Roger have once again stimulated our interest and we look forward to the months to come and the pleasures in store. (Report: Ann Franey, Photos John Franey)


The Emirates Stadium

Highbury Terrace

Highbury Corner

Luncheon Break

Alwynne Villas

The New River Walk

At Liverpool Street station Anita welcomed us all to the 2012 season of walks and introduced Margaret Warnock who has joined our group and welcomed back Hilde Weiland-Sutton. We then caught the tube to Ladbroke Grove which was formerly called Notting Hill. The name was changed in 1919 to avoid confusion with the new station Notting Hill Gate. We made our way to The Terrace Higgins Trust House and their Lighthouse café where we had our coffee stop. We enjoyed the break and were surprised to find a delightful garden with many interesting plants and seating areas. Before leaving here Anita pointed out Bartle Road which used to be called Rillington Place where at No 10 had lived the serial killer John Christie. Residents had got tired of the many ghoulish tourists and mounted a campaign to have the name changed and were eventually successful. In more recent construction of Westway, No 10 was pulled down and the site is now part of a garden in Bartle Road. We then hopped on a bus to St. Charles Square where we visited the Roman Catholic Church of St. Pius X. This church was ornately decorated but some of our group found it cold and unwelcoming. We saw the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Trinity in beautiful grounds but not open to the public. Anita reminded us that we were in carnival territory and we saw shops selling ribbons etc used in the making of costumes for the event. The area has a very cosmopolitan community but in previous years it had been home to Spanish immigrants and the Spanish influence still remains. The Institute Espanol Canada Blanch is an independent school of 500 pupils drawn from the Spanish in the community. Portobello Road is the most famous road of Notting Hill. Our walk last year took us to the Southern section. It was named after a port in Mexico that had exported treasure to Spain. Home to the weekend Antiques Market at the southern end, the middle section is fruit and vegetables and the northern end is mostly second hand goods. The area, also, has many connections with the film and entertainment business and we saw the locations for the film Notting Hill and the location of the boutique which was formerly I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, very popular with rock stars of the day and also became the inspiration for the cover of the Beatles record Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. We walked under Westway, left into Westbourne Park Road then right into St. Luke’s Mews. It was here at No 4 that Paula Yates took her fatal overdose – a tragic accident. Then on to St. Luke’s Road and to Powis Square. We saw the flats where Peter Rachman the infamous slum landlord terrorised the overcrowded tenants. Racial tension finally came to a head in the riots of 1958, London’s worst riots in living memory. The carnival had developed as a response to the riots and was first held in 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall. By 1965 it had moved outside but was still a lot smaller than it is today. One of our last ports of call was The Tabernacle Grade II listed building. Now a community arts centre with a bar and theatre and on the wall was a plaque to Claudia Jones (1915-1964) who was the originator of the first carnival. We had now walked full circle back to the Southern end of Portobello Road and our lunch break. After lunch we visited the Museum of Brands where we indulged in some nostalgic memories. Amusing comments were heard as we remembered days of childhood and earlier years. Or first walk over, we had all enjoyed being together again and we look forward to the delights Anita and Roger have in store for us throughout the summer as we discover more of London’s treasures and hidden secrets. (Report Ann Franey, Photos: John Franey)

 Above: The Lighthouse Cafe, Terrence Higgins Trust


Below: St Lukes Mews


Below: Portobello Road

Above: St Pius X

Right: The Museum of Brands

Below: Notting Hill Bookshop

Below right: The Tabernacle

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