London Walks - 2014

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On this page: 151 Years of the London Underground - Hammersmith - Crystal Palace Park - Olympic Park - Canary Wharf - Islington - Richmond - Wapping


OCTOBER - We left home in pouring rain hoping that our last walk of the season would not be a total wash out.  We started on Tower Bridge - 120 years old this year – pausing to look at the gigantic structure that we normally take for granted. Designed by Sir Horace Jones, with John Wolfe-Barry as engineer, the first stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1881. The bridge was required to be Gothic in style to be in keeping with its neighbour the Tower of London.  Horace Jones died a year later and the detailing was not carried out exactly to his original design.  The towers have a steel frame covered in stone in order to support the great weight of the bascules (the opening arms of the bridge). Bascule is apparently French for see-saw. The amazing hydraulic machinery which used to raise the bridge, before electrification in 1976, can still be viewed on a ‘Tower Bridge’ experience tour. The bridge took around nine years to build, cost ten lives, used 30,000 tons of stone and cost £1,184.000. 

We walked alongside the Tower of London to see the commemorative poppies now almost filling the entire moat.  Ceramicist Paul Cummins had the idea of ‘planting’ 888,246 ceramic poppies (one for reach British soldier lost during the 1914-18 war. The concept was brought to life by Tom Piper an Olivier-Award winning theatre designer. Teams of volunteers ‘plant’ the poppies in four hour shifts.  The swathes of poppies will continue to grow until Armistice Day 11 November by which time the White Tower will be encircled by a sea of crimson, its round black roof marking the heart of the most dramatic poppy.

On through St Katherine’s Dock which originally opened in 1828. A hospital, a medieval church and over 1,000 houses were demolished to make room for the dock. Tea, rubber, wood, marble, sugar, tallow and ivory were all unloaded at the quays and stored in the multi-storey warehouses supported on their thick iron columns.  The whole area has been rejuvenated with apartments, shops, restaurants with amazing yachts berthed in the old docks.

We moved on into Wapping High Street – described by the 16th century historian John Stow as a ‘filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages inhabited by sailors’ victuallers’- the beginning of the maritime community in the East End. 

In Riverside Memorial Gardens there is a fairly recent memorial to East London civilians killed in WWII. At Wapping Pier Head a double row of fine Georgian houses face each other across railed gardens.  These were built for officials of the dock company and the garden now covers the original entrance to the docks. 

Next to the Town of Ramsgate pub a narrow alley leads to Wapping Old Stairs. Above the door to the buildings that once housed Wapping’s 18th century Charity School painted figures of a girl and boy await the sounding of the now silent school bell. 

Gun Wharf and King Henry’s Wharf are indication that there was once a cannon foundry here making guns for Henry VIII’s navy. King Henry’s Stairs leading to a riverboat pier later became the traditional place of execution for convicted pirates including Captain Kidd, a naval officer who, turned pirate himself.  Kidd was hanged here in 1701. For maximum deterrent effect the sentence was usually carried out at low tide and three high tides were allowed to wash over the corpse before it was cut down and buried.  The last hanging at Execution Dock was in 1830.

In King Edward VII Memorial Park, by the ventilation shaft for the Rotherhithe tunnel, a coloured tablet commemorates the Elizabethan navigators who sailed from this point in 1563 to find a north east passage round Russia to China. The ships were soon separated in a gale. Sir Hugh Willoughby and his crew froze to death in the Arctic winter but others returned safely. Sir Francis Drake found a way to China around Cape Horn 25 years later.

Lunch was at The Prospect of Whitby – named after a ship from the Yorkshire port that once berthed here regularly.

Passing St Paul’s Shadwell we learnt that Captain Cook was once a regular worshipper at St Paul’s, his eldest son being baptised there in 1763. Captain Cook was killed at Kona, Hawaii in 1779 and buried there. Following the Ornamental Canal we found our way back to St Katherine’s dock.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red - WWI Poppy Tribute at Tower of London

Hippopo Thames - created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman for Sept 2014 Totally Thames Festival

Gloriana - The Royal Barge built in 2011–2012 to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations

Dickens Inn

King Henry's Stairs

Girl and boy figures on St John's School buildings founded 1760

Dove Memorial to London Civilians killed in two world wars

Typical Thames side Wharf

Tower Bridge

The usual suspects

HQ of Thames River Police

Coiled rope sculpture at end of ornamental canal


SEPTEMBER - We began our walk on Little Green the north end of Richmond Green. In a survey of 1646 the Green was described as "a piece of level turf of twenty acres" and in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII it was the scene of jousting tournaments, archery, prize fights and cricket, not to mention grazing cattle. Along Greenside stand Richmond Theatre, 1899, designed by Frank Matcham also creator of the London Palladium, the Coliseum, Buxton Opera House, Hackney Empire, Victoria Palace and many more; and the Central Library of 1881, one of the earliest libraries supported by contributions from council rates, is still in use. Richmond Green United Reformed Church of 1885 is now converted into flats. On through Paved Court with its delightful old shop-fronts. Maids of Honour Row is a terrace of four three-storey five-bay houses and is probably one of the best early 18th century terraces in south west London. Built in 1724 the houses provided accommodation for the maids of honour attending Caroline of Ansbach, Princess of Wales to the future George II who had set up court at Richmond Lodge in the Old Deer Park – the wrought iron railings and gates are particularly fine. No 2 was once the home of the Victorian explorer Richard Burton.

Roger pointed out the Victorian letter box (1879-1887) made by Andrew Handyside of the Britannia Iron Works in Derby, one his ancestors. His first letter boxes did not have the Royal cipher. Handyside also cast the Royal Albert Bridge and a lot of the ironwork in King’s Cross Station; his cast iron bridges and staircases can be found dotted all around the world.

Through the gateway onto  the  site  of Richmond  Palace  whose  hay-day  was  during the  Tudor  period.

Henry VII died there in 1509 and Elizabeth I in 1603. Following the execution of Charles I the palace was sold by Cromwell’s Commonwealth Parliament and the principle buildings were demolished fairly quickly. Only the Gateway and Wardrobe Building remain – much restored. Trumpeter’s House of 1700 was built on the site of the middle Gatehouse for one Richard Hill, statesman and diplomat, now converted into very desirable flats.

Soon reaching the Thames Towpath we passed under the first railway bridge of 1848, and Twickenham Road Bridge of 1933 running parallel to it. On the right were views into the Old Deer Park where an Observatory was built in 1769 for George III. We soon reached the impressive Richmond Half-Tide Lock and Weir opened in 1894 with evidence of a turn-style mechanism no longer in use. The weir is designed to keep the depth of water at least half-way between that of the tidal water below Richmond and the fresh water above Twickenham. The river between Richmond and Teddington is still semi-tidal and spring tides occasionally flood the towpath and beyond as we saw earlier this year. Crossing the river we returned to Twickenham Bridge by the waterside and made our way to the many tempting hostelries on Cholmondeley Walk and Water Lane where goods were once transferred to and from river transport. Many warning signs on the hotels indicate that the area is liable to flooding. After lunch we continued along the towpath under Richmond Bridge completed in 1777 which at that time replaced an earlier ferry. Above us on the hill we could make out the British Legion Poppy Factory. We left for home in the knowledge that there is much more of interest in Richmond to explore on another walk.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Richmond Theatre 1899

Cricketers Pub

18th and 19th century shops in Paved Court

Arches beneath the 1848 railway bridge

Houses in Maids of Honour Row

Maids of Honour Row

Gateway of Old Richmond Palace

Richmond Bridge 1777

William IV bollard

Victorian post box without royal cipher

Old Richmond Palace

More houses in Maids of Honour Row

Twickenham Bridge

Richmond half-tide lock and weir

View from top of weir

Another view of Richmond half-tide lock and weir


AUGUST - For many centuries the village of Islington was known as the dairy of London, its cows producing milk sold throughout the capital.  It was also a stopping point for cattle and sheep being fattened up before being driven to Smithfield market for slaughter.  The name is probably a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon settlement known as Gislandune (or Gisla’s Hill).

From the Angel tube we headed down Rosebery Avenue for coffee close to Sadlers’ Wells Theatre.  The current theatre is probably the sixth on the site and dates from 1998.  In medieval times a religious order occupied the land and used a well whose spring water was thought to have miraculous healing properties.  Around 1683 Thomas Sadler, a surveyor who owned a property nearby, uncovered an old well and decided to exploit it as a “spa”; he marketed the waters as being effective “against dropsy, jaundice, scurvy, green sickness and other distempers to which females are liable” – and more.  He also founded a theatre to attract more visitors.  By the mid-19th century it was known for performances of Shakespeare; in the 20th century it became famous for its ballet and opera companies.  After WWI the ballet company moved its base to the Royal Opera House and in the 1960s the opera company became the core of the English National Opera at the Coliseum.  The original well is sunk under the floor of the current theatre.

The Spa Green Estate designed in the 1930s by Modernist architect Berthold Lubetkin, a Russian émigré who also designed the penguin pool at the London Zoo.  The building was interrupted by war and the foundation stone only laid in July 1946 by Aneurin Bevan.

New River Head was the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water Board which took over from the New River Company in 1904.  The New River was constructed by Sir High Myddleton (1560-1631) to bring fresh water over 30 miles into London from the River Lea and the Chadwell and Amwell Springs in Hertfordshire.  Many underground reservoirs passed on this walk are still in use today, now controlled by Thames Water.

Charles Rowan House – like Spa Green Estate another example of well-built, publicly owned housing.  Now Grade II listed, dates from 1929 and originally intended for married policemen.  Named after Sir Chares Rowan (1782-1852) an army officer who later became the founding Senior Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police in 1829.

The huge fig tree in Amwell Street is actually three fig trees whose branches have grown together horizontally over 200 years.

Filthy MacNasty’s pub was once a quirky establishment well known for musical and literary events.  Sadly closed in 2013; past patrons included The Pogues, Will Self, Helen Fielding, Nick Hornby  ….

In Percy Circus – once considered one of the cheaper parts of Islington although the properties now sell for over a million pounds – a blue plaque commemorates Vladimir Lenin who lived around the corner at No 16 Holford Gardens, destroyed in the Blitz, and played host to a number of delegates to the first Bolshevik congress in London in 1905.    We cut through the gardens behind Bevin Court completed in 1954; another example of Lubetkin’s Soviet inspired architecture.  The original plan had been to call the complex Lenin Court but to Lubetkin’s disgust this was vetoed as by the time building had started we were into the Cold War and the USSR was our enemy.  Lubetkin’s bust of Lenin still stands in the entrance hall (only accessible on Open House weekend).  Walking up Claremont Square towards the Pentonville Road we could see the original Upper Pond reservoir of 1709 now covered by a grassy bank following a cholera epidemic in 1846 when we laws were passed forbidding open areas of standing water.  The reservoir beneath is still in use today supplied with treated water from the Thames Water Ring Main (completed in 1994 and extended in 2010).

Pentonville Road and Penton Street named after Henry Penton who developed a number of residential streets in the area in the 1770s.  A small building in Penton Street was the venue for taxi drivers taking the “knowledge” exams also for people collecting luggage left in the back of black cabs – now moved to a new venue.

Chapel Market one of London’s remaining daily street markets – No.74 Manze’s Pie n’Mash still sell traditional jellied eels. Up White Conduit Street to Culpeper Community Gardens named after 19th Century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper.  Cricket was born on White Conduit Field (now Barnsbury Park) in the 1780s.  The WCC got tired of playing matches so close to local taverns and residential streets so they moved to Dorset Square in Marylebone in the early 1790s; the club was re-named Marylebone Cricket Club or MCC and later moved to St John’s Wood.   Along Richmond Crescent where No 1 became a memorable address when Cheri Blair appeared on the doorstep in her nightie to take in the milk on the morning after Tony’s first general election win in 1997.    One of the members of our group remembered that her grandma had lived in Richmond Crescent when she was a child and said it was ‘not so posh’ in those days.   We were taken by the silvery angel sculpture in one front garden.                         (Report: Anita Butt. Photos: Maria Buckley)

New River Head Metropolitan Water Board headquarters

Charles Rowan House 1930s social housing

Huge fig tree

Blue plaque Vladimir Lenin in Percy Circus

Happy Walkers enjoying a fine summer's day

Penton Street - where taxis drivers used to take their 'knowledge' exams.

Entrance to Chapel Market

Filthy MacNasty's - pub with history - now closed.

Clerkenwell Parochail C of E School, Amwell Street

"Ghost" advertisement still visible on the wall of what was a chemist's shop in the 1930s

Old shop front from what was once a "Costumier and Furrier's shop in White Conduit Street

No 1 Richmond Crescent - home of Tony Blair and Cherie's appearance in her nightie to bring the milk in morning after his first election win.

War Memorial to Finsbury Rifles campaign in Gaza in WWI - and subsequent conflicts

Angel in a private front garden in Richmond Crescent

St Mark's church Myddleton Square des by William Mylne

JULY - From the DLR at Westferry we soon came upon the 1807 Dock Police Cottages and the Georgian Dockmaster’s House, designed by Thomas Morris, Engineer to the West India Dock Company 1807 – now an up market restaurant. As we turned into West India Dockside we found Cannons Workshops 1804, single storey workshops and dock offices now being revitalised for small business occupancy. Coffee was in a workers café in part of the original workshops -large mug 80p. We walked on past the statue of Robert Milligan, merchant ship-owner and driving force behind the construction of the West India Docks. Having grown up on his wealthy family’s sugar plantations in Jamaica he came to London in 1779. Merchants were experiencing huge financial losses due to theft and delays when the wharves were down on the banks of the Thames at Millwall and he got a group of powerful business men together to build the West India Docks. First stone was laid in 1800.
The three striking original Quayside warehouses are now listed buildings and house the excellent Museum of London Docklands and many restaurants. Seven others were destroyed by bombing in WWII. Across the floating bridge to Wren’s landing and up the steps to Cabot Square. The 240 metre tower No 1 Canada Square designed by American Cesar Pelli looming above us.
We stopped to look at numerous contemporary sculptures in the piazzas. On past Norman Foster’s Canary Wharf station and through the ornamental gardens to get a fine view across to Billingsgate Fish Market and the new Crossrail Station under construction. Over a pedestrian bridge though a housing development into the Blackwall Basin and Poplar Dock now an attractive marina. Past two restored cranes into a tree lined walkway beside the original dock wall built in 1828 to secure the docks. The wall has been recently renovated and is now Grade I listed – our first sighting of a listed wall! After lunch at the Lord Nelson at Island Gardens we returned to Coldharbour where two elegant 18th century houses back onto the river, one being Nelson House the supposed trysting place of Horatio and Emma Hamilton. We admired the Gun Pub – once supplying ales to gunsmiths, foundry workers and sailors but now a gastro pub. Over the Blue Bridge to a fine view across to the O2 and then around the Storm Water Pumping Station at the water’s edge; designed by John Outram Associates in 1989, storm water is pumped up into a big surge taken from where it drains by gravity into the Thames. The jet engine type fan in the pediment is functional and expels sewer gases from the station – we
hurried on by. We crossed into Marsh Wall and continued dockside past two splendid cruising yachts to South Quay DLR and home. (Report: Anita Butt)

West India Dock (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Looking towards Canary Wharf from Blackwall Basin (Photo: Monica Donegan)

Probably a watchman's shelter at the entrance to the 1804 Cannons Workshops and dock offices at West India Dock (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Two Men on a Bench in Cabot Square by Giles Penny 1996

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

 Sugar Warehouses along by what is now Museum of London Docklands at West India Dock (Photo: Maria Buckley)

O2 Arena from Coldharbour (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Storm Water pumping Station by John Outram Associates 1989  

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

 Poplar Dockside (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Centauro. Upper Bank Street by Igor Mitoraj 1994

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Street Musician (Photo: Maria Buckley)

The 'Team' with two men on a bench as above (Photo: Maria Buckley)


JUNE - The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford opened this Spring, a rejuvenation of the 2012 Olympic Park site. A short walk from Westfield shopping mall, at 560 acres the park covers an area as big as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens put together. The south park around the Aquatic Centre, the Olympic Stadium and the red steel Orbit tower have gardens along the river and canal banks, fountains and a brilliant play areas for children. The north park alongside the River Lea is a more wild and natural area with developing wet lands.
There is an trail of 26 permanent artworks to add to the enjoyment of exploring the park – some are very small, some are enormous, some are solid, some make amazing use of the reflections of sky and water on polished steel.

The aim is to create a diverse display that reflects the Park’s identity as a place for visitors from around the world and also from just around the corner.
Conversion of the venues, new road, and landscaping have cost around £300 million paid from the £6 billion Olympic budget.
The views from the park out to Canary Wharf, the City and the new residential neighbourhoods, some still under construction, are stunning.
The weather was glorious and it was wonderful to see many groups of schoolchildren playing and enjoying the open spaces. We walked four miles through the park from Stratford station and back, quite a bit further than our usual walks. (Report Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Entering the park with the Orbit tower, Aquatics Centre and Olympic Stadium in view

Looking towards the Velodrome with the 'Dry Garden' planting along the path

Aquatics Centre - not unlike a shark devouring its prey

The usual suspects

Fountain Play Area

'Fantastic Factology - one of many seats with weird and wonderful bits of knowledge on labels on the seat.

Shaping Up

Spherical objects - untitled piece of sculpture near the Timber Lodge Café

 Olympic Rings in the north park


MAY - The world’s first truly international exhibition was opened in 1851. The building that became known as the Crystal Palace began life in Hyde Park as the venue for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. At the close of the Great Exhibition nine gentlemen formed a private company and purchased the building and it was re-erected on the 200 acre Penge Place estate and opened by Queen Victoria in June 1854.

When Joseph Paxton’s proposed drawing for a glass and iron structure for the Great Exhibition of 1851 appeared in the Illustrated London News the Exhibition Committee were really excited. Paxton was superintendent of the Duke of Devonshire’s gardens at Chatsworth, where he had designed a conservatory which served as a model for his proposed structure. A tender of £80,000 was obtained, 2,000 workmen were engaged to build it. 4,000 tonnes of iron and 400 tonnes of glass contained 30 miles of guttering and 200 miles of wooden sash bars. When it was finished squads of soldiers were marched in and ordered to stamp and jump on the floor and roll roughshod about, to test its capacity to remain in one piece when crowded with visitors.

It was the centre of an amusement park and was used as a concert hall, theatre, menagerie and exhibition rooms for 80 years. Outside were fountains supplied by two 300 ft high water towers and lots of statuary. The building caught fire on the night of 30th November, 1936 and was destroyed - only the dinosaurs survived. The grounds struggled on for a few years until the outbreak of war in 1939 when the site was commandeered for military purposes. It was acquired for the nation in 1952 by act of parliament.

Boris Johnson announced recently that a Chinese construction company is interested in re-creating the Crystal Palace on the site. We await further news.

In 1852 Professor Richard Owen

(the man who categorised the giant lizards as a new group and gave them the name Dinosaurs), was given the task of creating 33 life-size models of prehistoric animals, as well as a geological time trail and lead mine, to open at the same time as the Crystal Palace Park in 1854. The models represented not only dinosaurs, but also amphibians, crocodiles, marine reptiles, pterosaurs and early mammals that roamed the earth millions of years ago.

Owen enlisted the skills of the animal sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins to create the models. Using fossils from the Natural History Museum and by comparing them with the bones of modern day animals both Owen and Hawkins constructed a display that at the time introduced the controversial theory that such animals once roamed the earth millions of years ago. All this predated Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species published in 1859. Funds ran out before Hawkins completed his plans. The area was restored during 1980s and 1990s and more recently with Heritage Lottery Fund money. Only last week it was announced that a new species of dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex has been found by men working on a construction site in Ganzhou, southern China and it has been branded PINOCCHIO REX.

The site contains the National Sports Centre which includes an athletic stadium. It also had a speedway track which hasn’t been in use for some years but after a number of repairs is due to reopen this July for a Motorsport event.

First constructed in 1879 the park contains one of the largest mazes in the country covering an area of 2,000 square yards and is thought to be the only one to use Hornbeam and a total of 4,000 saplings. At a Boy Scout rally in the park in 1909 a group of girls demanded Baden Powell form a similar movement for girls. Shortly afterwards he published "A Scheme for Girl Guides"- 6,000 joined when founded in 1910. In 2009 the maze was refurbished again and "adopted" by Girl Guiding UK to mark the centenary of their founding.

The original impressive upper and lower Italian Terraces, along the whole length of which the "Palace" once stood, remain, linked by flights of steps with sphinxes flanking each flight. On the site of the north transept stands the impressive but now obsolete BBC transmitter tower built between 1955 and 1957.

Capel Manor College runs a city farm in part of the park where school children can meet the animals and learn in a fun classroom setting. There is also a small museum in the former Crystal Palace School of Engineering.

Returning home, Maria said "we had a lovely day helped by excellent weather."
A few days after our walk news was released of the discovery in Argentina of huge bones that may be from the largest creature ever to have walked the Earth - now named Argentinosaurus.

  (Report: Anita Butt with contribution from Maria Buckley, Photos: Maria Buckley)

All smiling on the steps to Upper Terrace

One of thelakes which fed Paxton's fountains all over the park

One of a line of original cast iron bollard dated 1854

Stone Ichthyosaurus (fish lizard)

Stone Megaloceros "Giant Antler" or Irish Elk

Bronze sculpture by Sir David Wynne of Guy the Gorillas - famous resident of London Zoo (1946-78) Guy died of a heart attack following surgery for an infected tooth

One of the stone Sphynxes guarding the entrances to the Crystal Palace.

View from the terrace across South London to the North Downs


Ship's bell trophy 1931 - a tribute to 125,000 young men trained for naval service (RNVR) in WWI when the Admiralty occupied the upper park and Palace as a shore station - HMS Victory VI


APRIL - Our walk began at the busy Hammersmith "Megabout" on the corner of King Street and Beadon Road at the Swan pub with its over-the-top decorative mosaic sign and brickwork. In 1873 Hammersmith was recorded as having 139 pubs. In the 20th century Hammersmith was well known for its dance halls, cinemas and places of entertainment some of which survive today - the Palais, the Apollo, Riverside Studios, and nearby Olympia. Coffee was at the King Street mall where the Victorian Lyric Theatre, demolished in the 1970s and stored, has been rebuilt complete with chandelier and red velvet interior within the shopping mall. Current refurbishment work meant we couldn’t actually see inside the theatre but the coffee was good.

We set off down King Street immediately admiring the splendid front of the Hop Poles pub, the favoured local of Ian Drury of the Blockheads. Further down King Street we passed the Hammersmith Ram and the Salutation Inn dating from 1750 when this road was the main road into the capital. Around this point a creek (now enclosed), used to come up from the Thames and massive spritsail Thames barges could unload close to what is now the high street. Still on King Street the Co-operative Funeral Service proudly displayed an Investor in People award. The UGC Cinema, a 1930s building, now Cine World, stands on the site of one of the earliest cinemas in Britain dating from 1912. Latymer School founded by Edward Latymer in 1624 - now a co-ed selective independent school with 1200 pupils.

This part of Hammersmith was the capital of Free Poland in post WWII Europe and a kind of government in exile kept the flame of freedom burning in POSK Centre for Polish Arts and Culture until Lech Walesa and Solidarity reclaimed Poland for its own people. The centre also houses the papers of Polish writer Joseph Conrad and the records of the Polish emigres in London. At this point we turned from the busy high street into quiet, elegant St Peter’s Square with its open-access garden and a sculpture by Sir William Blake Richmond. Although we were getting uncomfortably close to the thundering A4 the square remains amazingly tranquil. Through the subway, under the A4, and into charming Chiswick Mall, with several blue plaques to Edward Johnston – calligrapher, and Sir Emery Walker, typographer and Sir Alan Herbert, author, humorist, reformist MP.

Lunch was at the Black Lion the scene of a reported haunting of old St Peter’s graveyard from 1804. One Francis Smith, fed up with his ghoulish neighbour, loaded his blunderbuss with shot, and himself with ale, and went out and blasted the "ghost" which unfortunately turned out to be a bricklayer Thomas Millwood in white overalls. His body was carried back into the pub by shocked onlookers. Reaching the waterfront with Hammersmith Bridge ahead Black Lion steps recalled the days before the building of the bridge when people needing a boat would stand at the steps and shout “Oars” in the hope that out of the dark and fog a waterman would appear to ferry them across to Barnes.

Among the elegant 18th century houses along Upper Mall is Kelmscott House, home of William Morris from 1878-1896 from where he ran the Kelmscott Press. From here Sir Francis Reynolds made the first electric telegraph in 1816 (8 miles long). The Dove pub was bought by Fuller’s Brewery in 1796. The Dove claims that James Thompson (1700-48) was a "regular" and wrote Rule Britannia in one of the upstairs rooms. Passing three more pubs, the Old Ship, the Rutland and Blue Anchor we reached a number of rowing clubs. Furnival Sculling Club was founded in 1896 by Dr F. J. Furnival, for women only initially, although decorum required they had to row their skiffs in their long skirts without revealing an ankle to onlookers.

The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Victorian engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The bridge has come close to being blown up several times; in the 1930s a passer-by picked up a fizzing IRA bomb and threw it in the river. During the Blitz a German bomb fell in the river close to the bridge and in 1966 enough IRA Semtex to blow the bridge all over west London failed to detonate properly. A few months later an IRA man was shot dead in a hideout a few hundred yards away. The bridge was closed for repairs in 1998 and just as the work was nearing completion Irish terrorists blew up a bit of it again and delayed its re-opening until 2000.

Back in the centre of Hammersmith a restored St Paul’s Church (1882) has added a new community centre and café. Looking ahead we could just see the ARK the brown glass office building designed by Swedish Ralph Erskine in 1992 which has become a familiar site to drivers on the Hammersmith fly-over. Moving round the church we were under the fly-over again and outside the Apollo where 80,000 tickets for a Kate Bush concert recently sold out in 15 minutes. (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Madeleine Williamson)

Above left: The Black Lion

Above: Outside the entrance to Latymer School - founded by Edward Latymer in 1624.
Above right: Admiring the 20th century tiling on The Salutation pub - originally founded in 1750.

Left: Plague on Black Lion

Centre: Elegant St Peter's Square

Right: Property in Chiswick Mall

Below left: Members gather - Hammersmith Bridge in the backgroiund

Below centre: A familiar sight for drivers on the A4 - The Ark.

Below right: Full blown ironwork on Sir Joseph Bazalgette's Hammersmith Bridge



MARCH - To mark the 150th Anniversary of the Underground in 2013 the Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger was commissioned to provide 270 Labyrinths which will be positioned one on each station but not in obvious positions. They are made in vitreous enamel in the same way as all the other signs on the Tube and use the familiar roundel shape of the Underground sign. The Labyrinth originates from the story of Theseus and the Minoteur – a Cretan monster with a bull’s head and a man’s body - kept in a labyrinth and killed by Theseus with help from Ariadne. Theseus found his way out following a thread. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one way to the centre and back. Each design is different. The numbering appears to be random as they are dotted around all the stations but in fact they are in the order of a journey that was made in 2009 for the Guinness World Record for the shortest time taken to visit every station on the Underground. That journey started at Amersham which has Labyrinth No. 1. Why a choose a labyrinth?  The journey to the centre is mysterious – a bit like a journey on the Underground but maybe also suggestive of an inner journey into the mind. Some of the designs are actually rather cerebral in style.

The iconic Underground map may be a safer way of undertaking our journey. Designed by Harry Beck in 1931. Beck was a temporary draughtsman in the signal engineers’ department of the London Underground Group.  He sketched a diagram which after many amendments became his famous schematic map of the Underground network. It was based on three design principles. First, the Central Line was used as a horizontal axis around which the map was built.  Second, where lines intersected or where they diverged from a straight line, he used only 45 degree and 90 degree angles. Third, in spacing the stations, no regard was paid to the true distance between them.

We set out to experience the London Underground from its foundation as a Victorian steam railway of only 3.5 miles, with just six stations, to the complex system we know today which covers more than 250 route miles, serving 270 stations across the capital, handling over 3.5 million passenger journeys a day which adds up to 1.1 billion journeys in 2010-11 more than the total for the entire UK national rail network. By 2018 new deep tunnels for Crossrail will be carrying services below London and out to Shenfield – not part of the Underground but all Crossrail stations will have direct interchanges with the “TUBE”. Our journey was an exploration – a bit through time as well as mileage – trying to spot some of the styles and designs created through 16 decades. More than 70 of the pre-war stations are now listed buildings and London Transport has the challenging task of maintaining and upgrading the Tube’s historic features whilst keeping a busy transport system up to date and fit for purpose in the 21st century.

In 1861, two years before it opened, an article in The Times commented that “it was insane to imagine that horse-drawn omnibus passengers would instead choose to be driven amid palpable darkness through the foul subsoil of London and that this railway would in the future be associated with other absurdities such as plans for tunnels under the Channel”. Today, not just in London but in cities from Tokyo to Moscow and beyond, millions of people travel daily with their faces squashed against the doors – they probably still feel that travelling underground IS a form of madness.

By Hammersmith and City line to Farringdon which still has features dating back to 1860 – notably the train shed roof now criss-crossed with overhead walkways as part of the new infrastructure for the interchange of Thameslink and Crossrail. The original booking hall was rebuilt in 1915 and there is now a new Crossrail station entrance at ground level. Crossrail trains will pass below the current platform when it opens in 2018.

Back on the train to Baker Street one of the original six stations where the Metropolitan and Circle line platforms are still in the original brick arched cut-and-cover tunnel below the Marylebone Road, cleaned and renovated in the 1970s with replicas of the original globe gas lighting. 

The ventilation shafts are still visible and we tried to imagine the original steam trains chuffing through, filling the tunnels with acrid smoke and the smell of sulphur. The line was electrified in 1905. In 1929 the station was promoted by the railway as "gateway to Metro-land" and was topped off with Chiltern Court, an enormous block of mansion flats designed by Charles W Clark rather in the Edwardian Grand Hotel style. H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett were among the early tenants. It had its own restaurant on the ground floor – now a Wetherspoons where we enjoyed coffee and cream cheese bagels. Wetherspoons have preserved the original grand decorations. The station booking hall retains the cream tiled Luncheon and Tearoom signs incorporated in the booking office. The tea room was beloved by John Betjeman who wrote a poem about the station buffet at Baker Street –

Early Electric! Sit you down and see,

‘Mid this fine woodwork and a smell of dinner,

A stained-glass windmill and a pot of tea,

And sepia views of leafy lanes In PINNER –

Then visualise, far down the shining lines,

Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.

Back on the train. Change at Edgware Road and on to High Street Kensington.  The booking hall opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1868, modernised in 1900s and 1930s has features surviving from both periods. The elegant entrance arcade and octagon, designed by George Sherrin and opened in 1907 originally providing access from the High Street to Pontings and Derry & Toms department stores – names from the past. 

Back on the train – District Line to Earls Court. The first escalator on the Underground was installed at Earl’s Court in 1911 linking the District and Piccadilly line platforms. Moving staircases were fitted to all new deep Tube stations opened after this date. The first escalators were of the type of construction still used for luggage carousels at airports. That is why we “stand on the right” because, originally, on the left the over-lapping steps closed down to nothing at the top and  bottom. Recently renovated, the station has new platform lifts but some early 20th century features such as the original electric train destination ”describers” from about 1905 and the 1930s and wooden seats with the backrest formed by the UNDERGROUND roundel nameboards. The familiar ‘bar-and-circle’ device now known as the roundel was introduced onto the platforms from around 1908 with various modifications down the years.  

Back on the train to St James’s Park. Above the station, at street level, 55 Broadway is the Head Office for the Underground. Designed by Adam Holden and completed in 1939, at the time it was the tallest office building in Westminster, rising to a central tower ten stories high – London’s first American style skyscraper though modest in height. The outside of the building has sculptures by Eric Gill, Henry Moore and, controversially, Jacob Epstein. The two large Epstein figures at first floor level were criticised by conservatives as primitive and indecent but are hardly noticed today. The building was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects London Architectural Medal for 1929 and in 2011 its status raised to Grade I Listed in recognition of its heritage. The booking hall and reception area of the office building are resplendent in marble and bronze.

After lunch in the Wesley Café at Central Hall Westminster we completed our journey on the Jubilee and DLR lines. At Westminster Station the trip on the escalators to the Jubilee Line has been described as one of the greatest architectural experiences in London. Designed by Michael Hopkins & Partners.  Labyrinths were spotted at Westminster, Canada Water and Canary Wharf stations. The vast cathedral-like main hall at Canary Wharf was designed by Norman Foster and opened in 1999. It sits in a huge concrete box below ground level in the former dock. The huge glass canopy is an enlarged version of the entrances he also designed for the new Bilbao Metro in Spain – known locally as “Fosteritos”. 

 (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Harry Dennehy

Lunch at the Central Hall, Westminster

Original Baker Street seat

St James Park, the original Tube H.Q.

Mark Wallinger Labyrinth there is a different one in each station

Canada Water Station

Canary Wharf Station

DLR at Canary Wharf

This is the original logo, incorporated into the seat

Earls Court Station

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Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020