London Walks - 2015

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On this page: Belsize Park - Millwall - Hampstead I - Hoxton - Westminster - Wimbledon Village - City of London Alleyways - O2 to Greenwich


OCTOBER - We set off to walk the Thames Path from the O2 crossing the Greenwich Meridian three times due to the bend in the River. The Meridian line was not actually defined as such until 1960. 

 There were good views of the Emirates Cable Car and across the north bank of the Thames. Interesting features were the Millennium Signpost indicating a distance of 24,859 miles round the world and back, whichever way you go, the ‘Slice of Reality’ a cross section of a sand dredger with only 15% of the original vessel remaining, ‘Bullet from a Shooting Star’ and a 40’ tall inverted electricity pylon by Alex Chinnock to celebrate the 2015 London Design Festival.  Walking alongside huge construction sites we passed what will become the new Victoria Deep Water Terminal with berths for two ships and the turreted entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel opened in 1897.

The remaining jetties from the demolished wharves have been planted with mosses and sedums to encourage wild life.  Enderby’s Wharf was once the home of Submarine Cables Ltd where the Pluto Pipeline was manufactured.  PLUTO (pipe line under the ocean) was laid under the English Channel to France during World War II.  

Planned development for the Enderby Wharf area includes 1,154 new homes, restaurants, cafes and bars plus a Cruise Terminal for completion by 2017. It is expected that 55 ships a year, up to 210m long with 1,600 passengers, will dock here bringing more tourists to London.  At Ballast Quay flats landscaped gardens stand where ships once took on gravel for their return journey having unloaded their cargoes in the Port of London.

Leaving the construction sites behind there was the delightful Georgian terrace built to provide income for Morden College, Blackheath.  At the Cutty Sark Tavern we looked across to the Isle of Dogs where in the 13C a small community lived in what was Stepney Marsh, working cornfields, meadows and pastureland.  A small chapel was built for them. In 1448 the embankment was breached and the land flooded and the community dispersed.  The ‘Isle of Dogs’ is said to derive from the Royal Kennels situated there in the time of both Edward III and Henry VIII; corruption of the Isle of Ducks from the wildfowl once inhabiting the marshes; or, the Dutch having reclaimed the land from disastrous flooding, the Isle of Dykes.

On the walls of Greenwich Power Station there is a children’s story told in ceramic tiles made in 2000 by artist Amanda Hinge who used flotsam from the Thames and cast them in plaster.  The power station was built in 1906 to provide electricity for the LCC Tramways and the Underground.  The Greenwich Meridian passes through it. 

Transport for London are bringing it up to date to comply with low carbon emission and to supply all their needs.  Two new gas turbine engines are being installed to be operational by 2017 with another four spread over the next 20 years.

The Trinity Hospital almshouses, founded in 1613 by th4 Earl of Northampton’s Charity, were refurbished in 2011 to provide 41 one and two bedroom apartments.  To qualify, people have to be resident in Greenwich for at least four years.   A tablet set in the wall opposite the Hospital records exceptionally high tides in 1874 and 1928.

Along Crane Street we passed the Trafalgar Tavern of 1827, popular with PM Gladstone’s ministers who enjoyed the Whitebait caught off Greenwich and served within the hour.

The footpath between the river and the north face of the Royal Naval College is known as the ‘Five Foot Walk’.   After Wren started building the Royal Palace, 1682, people were barred from walking by the river to improve security.  The locals didn’t take kindly to losing what had always been a valuable communications corridor and made a fuss.  The authorities eventually gave way and so in 1731 a walk way just five feet was created.   An expensive concession.

Looking across the Thames at this point the spire of Christ Church, Cubitt Town could be seen among the houses. William Cubitt, one time Mayor of London, developed the area in 1850 to provide housing for Dockers and workers in the growing industries in and around the Isle of Dogs.

Next were the precincts of the Royal Naval College in the Grand Square constructed over the foundation stones of the Tudor Palace of Placentia and a late 15thc Manor House, the Queens House and the Colonnade. We intend to return next year to explore the centre of Greenwich itself.

After lunch we returned by bus to the Greenwich Peninsular to walk through the newly constructed ecological park and Thames Path back to the O2 and home.

 (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Canary Wharf from 'the other side'.

Outside The Cutty Sark Tavern

Anchor Sculpture (2004 by Wendy Taylor) commemorating Sir Anthony Crowley 1705 iron founder who built the original Crowley's Wharf nearby.

Thames Tale (2000) A story created by Amanda Hinge in ceramics cast from flotsam salvaged from the Thames.

"Bullet from a Shooting Star" inverted pylon - erected for London Design Festival Week September 2015

Millennium Signpost - 24,859 miles round the world and back to this spot - either way.

 Another view of Anchor Sculpture.


 Bronzed Legs and other things - new sculpture on Thames Path at O2.

Royal Naval College Greenwich

Another view of Royal Naval College Greenwich

Elegant gateway riverside entry to Royal Naval College.

Green planting on old jetties to encourage wild life.



SEPTEMBER - Our walk started in St Botoph’s churchyard a few yards from Liverpool Street Station. As well as historic tombs and a restored school hall we found the Victorian Turkish bathhouse complete with minaret, now for hire as an events space. The church of All Hallows on the Wall, built alongside a section of London Wall, dates back to the 12th century, although escaping the Great Fire it was damaged during WWII and rebuilt in 1960s.

Off London Wall we found the impressive doors of the Carpenters’ Company Hall its coat of arms depicting on a ‘silver’ felde (field) compasses and a black chevron which may represent a roof support – the French for rafter being ‘chevron’. In Austin Friars the site of the Augustinian monastery we found the current Dutch church built on the site of the church and given by the monks to Protestant refugees from Holland 450 years ago. The Furniture Makers’ Hall has a coat of arms including brace and bit, dovetailed joints and the motto Straight and Strong. There are two statues of Friars. In Drapers’ Hall gardens we found a delightful strip of what used to be the garden where the drapers dried and bleached their clothes.

In Throgmorton Street there were the remains of two entrances to J Lyons Restaurant, the original head office of the Westminster Bank, the church of St Margaret Lothbury and Tokenhouse Yard where farthing tokens were minted in the 17thc; later special business tokens were issued there at times of coin shortage, something like quantitative easing perhaps? We passed the rear of the Bank of England, the high curtain wall being the only part of Sir John Soane’s building remaining the rest being rebuilt by Sir Hubert Baker in the early 1930s.

In Old Jewry we recounted the great expulsion of the Jews from the City in 1291 when 500 were murdered following a dispute over interest charged on a loan to a Christian. The Jews were allowed to return in the 17thc. In Frederick’s Place, a cobbled cul-de-sac designed by the Adams brothers in 1776, at No 6 we saw the house Benjamin Disraeli

was articled to a firm of solicitors. A delightful courtyard in St Olave’s Court revealed the tower of a Wren church now converted to an office.

On Cheapside we paused to look at the plaque in the pavement marking the Great Conduit, a man made underground channel dating originally from the 13thc bringing water to the City from springs near Tyburn. Use of the conduit ceased after the Great Fire in 1666. Crossing the Bank junction we found Post Office Court the original home of the post office since 1679. Bank Underground station was originally named ‘Post Office. The area was once known as 7 Carts Yard as all post went out in just 7 carts in the roads radiating from ‘Bank’.

Entering Royal Exchange we passed the Cornhill Water Pump from 1799 and used by the Auxiliary Fire Service during the Blitz. We passed a huge statue to Paul Julius Reuter – founder of Reuters press agency in Brussels which used pigeons carrying messages in silk bags to take closing prices from the Brussels Bourse to Aachen. The London Office was founded at No.1. Royal Exchange. HQ now in Canary Wharf.

A huge bronze statue to George Peabody, sitting in an armchair, commemorates his unstinting work as a banker and philanthropist providing subsidised housing for ‘artisans and the labouring poor of London’. Born in Massachusetts he died in London in 1869 and was given a temporary burial in Westminster Abbey before being shipped home to the town of his birth, Danvers (now renamed Peabody) in accordance with his will.

Crossing back into Change Alley we found the site of Thomas Garraway’s Coffee House 1669. Garraway’s became the City’s leading eighteenth century maritime auction house earning a mention in Pickwick Papers and Little Dorrit. It closed in 1872. The golden grasshopper sign for Martins Bank indicated that the bank once had a branch in the building. Crossing Birchin Lane we saw the plaque to Captain Ralph Binney, a ‘have-a-go hero’ who tried to stop an armed robbery at a jewellers shop in the lane and died of his injuries. An award was set

up in his memory to be given to members of the community who commit acts of bravery within the City and Metropolitan areas.

1We soon reached the George & Vulture Pub. A tavern has stood here since 1175. Rebuilt after the Great Fire and again in the early 19thc it was the haunt of many writers including Jonathan Swift and Charles Dickens and features in Pickwick Papers. Also the home of the Hellfire Club in the 18thc; the drinking club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood flirted with the occult, masonic rituals and satanism. Sir Francis later became Chancellor the Exchequer and Postmaster-General to George III. No comment.

In St Michael’s Alley we found the site of Bowman’s London’s first coffee house opened in 1652. Although this was the place where Charles II supporters planned his return to the throne the king tried to ban coffee houses as he said they were placed where the "disaffected meet and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers". He failed and by the beginning of the 18thc there were more than 1,000 coffee houses in London and 26 between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street alone. Some of us had lunch in the Jamaica Coffee House which replaced Bowman’s in the 1670s.

We paused in the churchyard garden of St Michael upon Cornhill which has a flourishing Ginko tree. Passing on through Corbet Court we found on the wall the earliest surviving symbol of the Mercers Company – the Mercers Maid – dating from 1669 – restored and placed here in 2004. First appearing on their seal in 1439 the maiden appears to have been dressed in the fashion of the day down the centuries until the current version was officially authorised in 1911.

Crossing into Leadenhall Market some took the opportunity to go downstairs into the basement of the barbers shop to see the remains of a Roman building. The walk ended with a promise that we will return to more alleyways next year and look at some of the modern office buildings that have grown up in recent years. (Report Anita Butt)

Alleycats at the start of the walk (Photo: Brian Leith)

Victorian Turkish Bath (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Part of London Wall (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Tokenhouse Yard (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Rear of Bank of England (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Rear of Bank of England (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Ben was here (Photo: Maria Buckley)

George Peabody (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Carpenters' Company (Photo: Maria Buckley)

George & Vulture as in Pickwick Papers

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Mercers' Company Maiden c1669

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Founder the Press Agency (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Capt Ralph Binney CBE RN (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Drapers' Company (Photo: Maria Buckley)

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Ben was here too! (Photo: Maria Buckley)


AUGUST - Wimbledon has been one of London’s most select suburbs for over two centuries but its history goes back to prehistoric times and the so called Caesar’s Camp on the Common (now in the middle of the golf course) is an Iron Age fort. In 1536 the then Archbishop of Canterbury was forced to surrender his Wimbledon property to Henry VIII and shortly afterwards the new rectory was leased out to the politician and courtier Sir Thomas Cecil. The Cecils took to Wimbledon and having risen to become one of the most powerful dynasties in Tudor England moved out of the rectory into a huge new country house completed in 1588. Although neither house survives today Sir Edward Cecil inherited the estate and was created Viscount Wimbledon in 1625. Its healthy position 150 feet above sea level and its closeness to London made Wimbledon  a desirable retreat for wealthy merchants and professional men from the time of the Cecil’s onwards. Many fine houses were built facing the common where we started our walk. (No Wombles were sighted). We spent some time strolling in the grounds of Cannizaro House – now a hotel and public park - originally Warren House built in 18thc by William Bourne. From 1785 onwards the house was the venue for many royal and political gatherings. George III and P.M. William Pitt the Younger both stayed regularly. In 1817 the house was leased by a Sicilian Count, the parties continued attended by the Duke of Wellington and Mrs Fitzherbert, mistress of George IV.

Following a great scandal of the time the Count returned to Italy leaving his wife to live in the house until she died in 1841. He inherited the title Duke of Cannizaro and after his wife’s death the house became known by his title. During his exile in 1936 Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and his family stayed in Wimbledon and he is commemorated by a bust in the park. The house was to become a hotel in the 1980s. Other fine mansions nearly by included the home of Spencer Gore – first Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Champion in 1877; Chester House 1690 home of John Horne Tooke, founder of the Society for the Supporters of the Bill of Rights with John Wilkes; Lauriston House home of William Wilberforce. Passing the impressive façade of King’s College School we made our way into the village proper. Until well into the 19thc Wimbledon’s shopkeepers and tradesmen relied on custom from the big houses for their living; many delightful artisans cottages have survived (now in the £2m bracket). Then came the railway and with it the spread of housing. Fortunately the railway had to be built in the valley bottom about half a mile from the centre so the village has been able to preserve much of its individual identity. After lunch we walked on to St Mary’s church and found a memorial to William Wilberforce and the huge tomb of Sir Joseph Bazalgette the Victorian engineer and builder of London’s remarkable sewage system and Battersea and Hammersmith Bridges (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Vivien Shooter)


Above left: Cannizaro Park - a hidden gem

Above: Flowers but no tennis players

Above right: Looking for wombles

Below: Meeting Haille Selassie

Below left: Wimbledon church

Below right: Wimbledon's history



JULY - Getting off the bus at Charing Cross we saw the elaborate stone cross in the station forecourt which is the twelfth of such crosses erected by Edward I after the death of his wife Eleanor in 1290 at each place where the coffin rested overnight on its way to London.  The current cross is a replica dating from 1863. 

After coffee in the Crypt of St Martin in the Fields we looked at the statue of Edith Cavell the British nurse shot by a German firing squad in October 1915.  We headed into Trafalgar Square laid out about 1835 on what had been the site of the King’s Mews.  Nelson’s column designed by William Railton was erected around 1842 and the five-metre high statue of Nelson by E.H. Bail installed in 1843.  The four bronze lions by Edwin Landseer were added in 1867.   A new sculpture was added to the fourth plinth in the square in March 2015; by a German artists Hans Haacke and called Gift Horse the statue is a skeletal representation of a horse.  Distances to all places in the U.K. are measured from the base of the statue of Charles I facing down Whitehall and now on an island in the middle of the traffic.

Passing through Admiralty Arch we came to the black granite Memorial to members of the police force killed in the course of duty and unveiled by The Queen in 2005.  On Horse Guards Parade we stopped to locate the back  garden of No.10 Downing Street and the black dot on the clock marking the hour of 2pm when Charles I was beheaded from the 1st floor of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, the only remaining part of the original Palace of Westminster.  In Whitehall we passed the current Ministry of Defence Building on the site of Whitehall Palace which was once the largest Palace in Europe and the main residence of English monarchs from 1530 to 1698 when it was destroyed by fire.  Buried deep within the present office block is Henry VIII’s wine cellar.  Group tours are possible and interesting as security is tight and long drab corridors have to be negotiated to get to the actual room.  Today the cellar is mainly used as a venue for MoD parties.

In the centre of Whitehall is the Memorial to Women in War unveiled on 9 July 2005 to commemorate the role of women during World War II.  11ft high it depicts the uniforms and working clothes worn by women during the war in both civilian and military roles.  It cost £1 million and Baroness Boothroyd raised £800,000 towards the cost of the monument by appearing on the television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire in 2002.

In the shadow of the Abbey we made a brief stop to look inside St Margaret’s Church, the parish church of Westminster.  The original church was built in 1064 for the people of Westminster who had been sharing part of the abbey church with the monks but they were always quarrelling.  The current church dates from early 15th century and is the parish church of the House of Commons.  Sir Walter Raleigh is buried near the High Altar also William Caxton.  Samuel Pepys and Winston Churchill both had their weddings there.  Cutting down beside the church we admired the detailed stone carving on the east end of Westminster Abbey.  

In St John’s Square we looked at St John’s Church which is now a fine concert hall.  The church was built in 1728 at a cost of £40,875 as one of fifty new churches required by Act of Parliament in 1711.  Designed by Thomas Archer the church’s four rather strange towers on the corners are said to have been created following a remark by Queen Anne who, when asked what sort of a design she would like, is said to have kicked over a footstool and said “One like that”.

In the almost complete Georgian terraces in Lord North Street, several houses still had “Public Air Raid Shelter” painted on the brickwork with arrows indicating access to the shelters from the basements of the houses.  In Burton Street a blue plaque marked

the one time home of Lawrence of Arabia.  Through the iron gates into Dean’s Yard the precinct of Westminster Abbey which houses the buildings of Westminster School and on through Dean’s Gate into Parliament Square we crossed into the café at Methodist Central Hall for lunch.  The building opened in 1912 and was used in 1946 for the inaugural meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations which soon moved to New York and its early origins in London are now largely forgotten.  Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s father was organist at the hall for many years, and the young Andrew chose the hall for the premier of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in 1968.

In Parliament Square we stopped to admire the new statue of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled earlier this year.  Created by Philip Jackson it was inspired by a photo of Ghandi taken at 10 Downing Street in 1931.  Unlike nearby statues of other international statesmen, including Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, he is not standing on a pedestal but down among the people of London, an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.

All around Westminster had been very busy all day as the Chancellor was delivering his Budget to the House and traffic was heavy due to the tube strike due to commence the same evening.  Anita & Roger said they intended to avoid the frustration of more traffic jams by walking back to Liverpool Street along the Embankment and through the City.  Fourteen intrepid members of the group joined them for a pleasant stroll which took about another hour on top of the planned walk.  A short stop was made to go to the top of No 1 New Change behind St Paul’s Cathedral to get the view from the scenic lift.  On the roof space people were drinking champagne and watching Wimbledon in deck chairs on Astroturf – a quirky end to another good day out.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

On Horse Guards Parade

Women of World Ward II Memorial

Down to the air-raid shelters on Lord North Street

St George's Smith Square - now a concert hall

Entrance to Church House, Westminster

Police Phone Box

Lawrence of Arabia's house on Lord North Street

Admiralty Arch

A Landseer Lion in Trafalgar Square

Battle of Britain Memorial 2005 by Paul Day on Embankment

'A conversation with Oscar Wilde' by Maggi Hambling 1998

Another view of the Battle of Britain Memorial


JUNE - At the time of Magna Carta what is now Hoxton was a community of twenty houses of which four were occupied by ploughmen, hence its original name of Hogsden. In the 1590s the herbalist John Gerard ‘picked horseradish in Hoxton in the fielde next unto a farme house leading to Kingsland (Road). In the 1660s the area was taken over by those fleeing the burning City of London. Later some grand squares were developed in the hope of creating a wealthy East End in the manner of the flourishing West End. This never really took off because of the amount of smelly industry in the East End and with the arrival of the railways and the Regent’s Canal the wealthy moved out. Last time we visited Hoxton in 2008 we commented on the signs of regeneration particularly around Old Street with the arrival of artists’ studios and IT entrepreneurs. This regeneration has continued apace and the area around the Old Street roundabout has become a busy buzzing environment with lots of new building and refurbishment – the new wedge shaped hotel only opened in May 2015 a case in point. During the walk we encountered public housing, libraries and signs of Victorian philanthropy by the likes of William Sutton, Charles Booth and John Passmore Edwards and the Methodist Leysian Mission founded in 1886.

The old Victorian Vestry House of 1896 became the Shoreditch Vestry Refuse Destructor and Steam Generating Station generating 250kwts of power for the local community and heated the public baths in Pitfield Street.

The Latin motto on the frontage translates From Dust, Light and Power – have we been a bit slow to catch on to the uses of recycled waste? The building now houses CIRCUS SPACE the only school for circus skills in the UK. What were once the tall turbine halls now house swinging trapezes.

The Haberdasher Robert Aske founded almshouses for 20 decrepit men and a school for 20 poor sons of Freemen of the City of London. The frontage of the original almshouses is still visible now part of a housing development. The fee paying Haberdashers’ Aske Schools in west London still provide good education for boys and now girls also.

St John the Baptist church of 1826 built to seat 2000. Now providing accommodation for thriving community activities with income from business people using the car park during weekdays.

In Hoxton Square, first laid out in 1683, many interesting dwellings from earlier years and now restored create a delightful space. Monica Donegan told us about her early days as a teacher at St Monica’s R.C. School, alongside the church designed by Edward Welby Pugin in 1860. Tracey Emin and Damien Hurst opened the White Cube Gallery here in the 1990s but have now moved on.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Victorian frontage of H.Q. of Methodist Leysian Mission

Alexandra Dining Rooms

The gang in Hoxton Market Square

Wedge shaped building for a new hotel at Old Street

St John The Baptist Church 1826

On Hoxton Square

Victorian drinking fountain

Ceiling in St John Hoxton restored 1990s

New 'pod' community meeting room/tree house in Hoxton Square


MAY - Hampstead is the highest spot in London and was a village of around 600 inhabitants until the mid 17th century existing almost independently from overcrowded London far below. In the days when TB, smallpox and cholera were common in London, Hampstead’s healthy heights attracted the wealthy and grand houses began to be built from the 1680s. The discovery of a spring of mineral rich water also drew developers and by 1800 it had become a small town. The 800 acres of nearby Hampstead Heath makes it the nearest thing to open countryside that exists in a suburb so close to London. Hampstead has long been loved by artists, writers and architects. On the walk we saw the house designed by Modernist architect Erno Goldfinger in 1939 and others which had been home to John Constable, D.H. Lawrence, J.B. Priestley, H.G, Wells, R. L. Stevenson, George & Daphne du Maurier.

The Victorian Wells & Campden Bath & Wash Houses have been converted to private accommodation and we were invited inside by the current owner who showed us his work restoring the house back to its former decorative style following brutal changes carried out in the 1970s. The delightful Flask Walk and Georgian Church Row Transported us back to Hampstead’s quieter past. In the churchyard of St John at Hampstead we found the grave of John Constable, his wife and

six children, hard against the churchyard wall with no view at all of the panorama of London visible on the other side of the wall. We also found there the grave of John Harrison (well maintained by The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers) the self-educated 17th century carpenter and clockmaker whose marine chronometers solved the problems that sailors at that time faced in determining their longitude while at sea. We reflected on the recently published results of the scientific construction of a clock which he designed towards the end of his life and which he claimed would be accurate to a second over a 100-day period but for which he was held to ridicule at the time. It was announced in April 2015 that at the conclusion of a project over the past few years to decipher Harrison's plans and build and test the accuracy of his ‘Clock B’ it was found by The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and the National Physical Laboratory to have lost only 5/8ths of a second in the 100-day trial.

Admiral’s House built around 1700 was once owned by a naval lieutenant called Fountain North who had the roof built to look like the deck of a ship and fired a cannon from the terraces on the King’s birthday or after naval victories – similar to the eccentric Admiral Boon in Mary Poppins whose author P. L. Travers also lived in Hampstead. A fine painted ship’s figurehead outside a house in Pilgrims Lane once owned by William Cory, Housemaster at Eton College, alerted us to the fact that he had written the Eton Boating Song. With the strains of the song drifting through the group we made our way back to the station, tired but happy.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

The Group takes a short rest beneath the wisteria

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Not the Tradesmen's entrance

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

J.B. Priestley lived here . . .

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

. . . and John Constable lived here

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Burgh House/Hampstead Museum

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Church Row

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Font in St John at Hampstead

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

The Admiral's Entrance

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Window shopping in Flask Walk

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Figurehead outside home of William Cory - Housemaster at Eton College and composer of Eton Boating Song                   (Photo: Maria Buckley)

Garden of Burgh House

(Photo: Maria Buckley)

Clear evidence: Even our social secretary needs to rest

(Photo: Pauline Anthony)


APRIL - The walk started at Limekiln Dock on the Thames Path on the western side of the Isle of Dogs.  Limekiln Wharf was built on the site of England’s first soft paste porcelain factory in the 1740s. The first passengers for Australia left from Dunbar Wharf which had been close by. Today the remaining charming old warehouses are reminders today of how many of the old London docks and wharves once looked. We climbed some steps to Westferry Circus with the towers of Canary Wharf ahead of us, returning to the river where services go up and down and across the River from Canary Wharf Pier. Continuing along the riverside we are now on Millwall. This bank of the river has been developed since Roman times.  In later centuries a wall was built to protect the land from flooding.  In the past seven windmills stood along the wall to provide power for the growing industries but these gradually disappeared in the early 1800s with the arrival of steam power and new factories. Further along the river side we turned inland to Millwall Inner Dock and gradually made our way through the various sections of the dock now extensively redeveloped with residential properties and office blocks. After lunch we arrived at Mudshute Park formed when the earth excavated to create the docks was dumped here.   Even then the area around Millwall and the docks was seriously deprived in terms of housing and employment and the name Mudshute was chosen rather than Millwall to name the area. This grassed area was the site of the first ground of Millwall Football Club founded in 1885 by a group of mainly Scottish workers at J. Morton’s jam and food canning factory at Limekiln Dock at the start of our walk.  Originally known as the Dockers the club moved to four different sites on the Isle of Dogs and finally moved to New Cross south of the river in 1910. Passing Rope Walk the long straight path where the rope makers would lay out and stretch the ropes we crossed the grassed area to Island Gardens and finished the walk looking across the Thames to Greenwich on the other side. There was an opportunity to cross under the river by the foot tunnel to Greenwhich but everyone opted for the DLR and home.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Looking towards Canary Wharf from Millwall Inner Dock

New housing alongside Millwall Outer Dock

Old winding gear Millwall Outer Dock

A good turnout

Plaque commemorating extension of Wharf in 1903

Pay attention please

Walking towards Westferry Circus

Cooling tower of old brick kilns

Map of Mudchute Park original site of Millwall Football Club 1885


MARCH - We returned to Belsize Park after seven years. The walk started at Hampstead Heath station close by the pub where Ruth Ellis shot her playboy racing-driver boyfriend David Blakely with a British service .38 Smith & Wesson revolver on Easter Sunday in 1955. Bullet holes are still visible in the outside walls and also inside the pub. At the moment the pub is undergoing refurbishment so were unable to go in. Ruth Ellis was quickly arrested by an off-duty policeman who had been drinking in the pub. He took the gun Ellis offered him and put it in one of his coat pockets and heard her say, incriminatingly “I am guilty. I’m a little confused”. She was convicted of murder and was the last woman to be hanged in England, in Holloway Prison. A remarkable coincidence is that the penultimate woman to be hanged, Styllou Christofi, also lived in the same road, South Park Hill. Mrs Christofi was a traditional Cypriot peasant, brought to England by her son, she failed to adapt to western style marriages and killed her daughter-in-law in a fit of jealous rage – it was then discovered that 25 years previously she had been acquitted of murdering her mother-in-law!
After coffee in the retro-style Polly’s café we moved up Keats Grove, past houses occupied in the past by Alan Aykbourn and Herbert Asquith to the elegant Keats Museum. Keats met the 18-year-old Fanny Brawne here when he rented one half of a pair of gracious semi-detached houses, the other being rented by Fanny’s mother. Keats qualified as an apothecary in 1816 and self-diagnosed his own TB. Keats was already ill with consumption and hopelessly in love with Fanny though he was urged not to spend too much time with her for fear or worsening HIS condition! Keats went to Italy with the Shelleys to recuperate but died there in February 1821 aged only 25. Fanny subsequently married Louis Lindon, a sales agent 12 years her junior. She lived to be 65 and although she told her children about her romance they were sworn never to tell their father. When he died in 1872 the children were able to profit from the telling of their mother’s story – Keats having come to be considered one of the great English poets by this time.
At the top of Keats Grove is St John’s church (1818-23) where John Constable and his family worshipped. Now the only privately owned chapel in the Diocese of London. Up Downshire Hill an area where the ‘Hampstead Set’ of artists settled in the 1930s and Hampstead became an unofficial artists’ community in exile. Roland Penrose, Surrealist artist, helped German refugees enter the UK by setting up the Artists Refugee Committee which saved hundreds of lives. Erno Goldfinger, architect, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Paul Nash and Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius all lived nearby. Downshire Hill was considered to be run down in those days as people hung their laundry in the front gardens. Penrose told his friends he had been drawn to Hampstead because it reminded him of happier days on the Left Bank in Paris.

On Rosslyn Hill we passed St Stephen’s Church, built in 1869 for 1,200 people to cope with the expansion of housing in Hampstead and Belsize Park. Now redundant and used as a community centre. Local residents Jude Law, Helena Bonham-Carter, Judi Dench, Sam Mendes and the late Anthony Mingella campaigned to save the church for the community.
The nearby congregational church designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) who also designed the Natural History Museum is now Air Studios – a recording studio founded by the Beatles producer Sir George Martin and next door The Olave Centre home of the Girl Guides & Girl Scouts.
Down Lyndhurst Gardens an estate developed in 1886 by William Willett & Son in an elaborate and ornamented Queen Anne style. His son William Willett Junior was the originator of ‘daylight saving’ or British Summertime as we now know it. In 1907 he published a pamphlet entitled ‘the Waste of Light' and in 1916, shortly after his death, parliament adopted ‘daylight saving’ as a means to save coal during WWI.
On down into Belsize Terrace the heart of the village. The name derives from the French bel assis, beautifully situated, and became a middle class residential area in the 19c. A number of delightful mews properties are hidden away behind the huge stuccoed villas; originally designed so that the necessary but unsightly workaday functions of stabling and horses etc did not spoil the view these properties are now much sought after and what were once stables now provide highly sought after garage space. House prices round here range from £100,000 to £3,650,000.
Allchin & Co – chemists – retains a fine tiled Victorian shopfront and interior.
Arthur Rackham illustrator of Wind in the Willows lived in a house in Chalcroft Gardens.
After lunch we plodded up to Primrose Hill and were rewarded by stunning panoramic views over London. Once part of Henry VIII Great Chase for hunting the area became an extension to Regent’s Park in 1841. A commemorative plaque indicating the four compass points bears the inscription “I have conversed with the spiritual sun”. Words by William Blake (1757-1827) who loved the view from here – he’d be amazed to see how it has changed from semi-rural to metropolis.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Keats House Museum

Air recording studios since 1960s

Stuccoed villas

Tiled Street labels

Plaque on Primrose Hill

St John’s Church

Street graffiti in Belsize village Is it a Banksie?

Queen Anne Style villas by William Willett

Allchin’s Chemist shop front

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Page last updated : Tuesday, 23 June 2020