A London Inheritance documents exploration of London using the photographs as a starting point. To try and identify the original locations, show how and why these have changed and how the buildings, streets and underlying topography of the city have developed.
If you drive west out of London, along the A4, Great West Road from the Hammersmith Flyover to Chiswick and the Hogarth Roundabout, you pass along a very busy highway with three lanes of traffic either side.
This probably is the last place you would expect to find one of the more historic walks along a very scenic part of the River Thames, with some of the views looking more like the depths of the countryside rather than a built up area of west London.
There are some superb walks along the River Thames, and for today’s post, here is a walk from Chiswick to Hammersmith on a very hot Saturday afternoon in June (it is also a lovely walk on a cold, dark winter’s evening). The walk is perfect for a hot day as there are plenty of suitable stopping places along the route for some quick refreshment.
In the following map extract, the A4 is the large road running from the Hammersmith Flyover at top right, down to the Hogarth Roundabout at bottom left.
A short distance below the A4 is the river and along the river is a series of streets starting with, on the left, Chiswick Mall.
I started by walking to the river down Church Street, between St. Nicholas’ Church and Fuller’s Griffin Brewery to reach Chiswick Mall.
Chiswick Mall runs along the river, with gardens separating the street from the river, and large houses lining the street opposite the river.
The views here to the river look as if they should be from the upper reaches of the river, rather than a short distance from the six lanes of the A4.
The river here does frequently flood across the road. This was not a particularly high tide, however the damp road shows how far the river had come across the road.
The majority of the houses on the opposite side of the street have flood defences in the form of walls and metal gates that can be closed across the entrances from the street to prevent water from flooding towards the house.
There are also signs warning of the potential impact if you leave your car along the Chiswick Mall.
This is Walpole House, a Grade II listed building dating from the 18th century, possibly with elements from the 17th century.
Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, a former mistress of King Charles II was one of the earliest recorded residents, with Thomas Walpole a later owner, who gave his name to the house.
Another view from Chiswick Mall towards the River Thames:
Italy or Chiswick?
At a number of places, the route between Chiswick and Hammersmith turns slightly in land and there are houses between the street and the river. This is where Chiswick Mall ends and becomes Hammersmith Terrace.
There are a number of references to the age of the terrace, dating them from 1755 to 1770. The houses along the terrace are nearly identical, however there are some minor differences, and some which stand out such as very different entrance doorways.
As could be expected there are blue plaques to be found. This one to the typographer and antiquary Emery Walker
Emery Walker was a friend of William Morris and it was Walker’s interest in early typefaces that inspired Morris to set up the Kelmscott Press.
A short distance along the terrace is another blue plaque, this time for Edward Johnston, a Master Calligrapher.
Edward Johnston has had a significant impact on 20th century London. It was Johnston who created the sans-serif alphabet (now called Johnston) in 1916 for use across London Underground.
At the end of Hammersmith Terrace, the route returns to run alongside the River Thames, and at this turning is a good stopping point – The Black Lion:
The view at the end of Hammersmith Terrace. Hammersmith Bridge is just starting to appear in the distance:
The view looking back upstream towards Chiswick with Chiswick Eyot in the middle of the river:
The River Thames between Hammersmith and Chiswick is a wide river. In many places the river is bounded by large concrete walls that keep the river within the channel, however in some places, such as where the river floods in Chiswick Mall, the river comes up to the road, with a poorly defined boundary between river and land.
This was the state for the river until recent times, and early prints show a wide, meandering river with marshy edges. The following print from 1750 shows the River Thames from Chiswick:
In 1834, the banks of the river are starting to be developed, but the edge of the river is still a natural boundary between buildings and river:
However much of the river now has a very clear boundary, and time for another stop at the Old Ship:
A short distance along from the Old Ship is the London Corinthian Sailing Club, with a lookout and small pier for launching boats onto the Thames:
The forerunner of the club was the London Sailing Club, who later moved further downstream towards Essex, and those who remained in Hammersmith started the Corinthian’s. They were original housed in a building where Furnivall Gardens are now located, however the area suffered badly in the war, and the council cleared the land to create the gardens.
The council provided Linden House for the club where it remains to this day. The building is a magnificent, 18th century, former Merchants house.
On the corner of Upper Mall and Weltje Road is this house with a blue plaque on the side:
The plaque records that the artist Eric Ravilious lived in the house between 1931 and 1935.
He lived in a flat in the house with his wife Tirzah Garwood. His work had a very distinctive style and his later work covered many wartime scenes. He took the opportunity for a posting to Iceland with the RAF in August 1942 to paint both the Icelandic scenery and the work of the RAF.
On the 2nd September 1942 he was on an air-sea rescue mission flying from Iceland, in search of a plane that had been lost the previous day. The plane with Ravilious on board also disappeared, and he was lost at the young age of 39.
The following is an example of his wartime work. Bombing the Channel Ports. with the description from the IWM image: “a deserted coastal road that leads past an ‘acoustic mirror’ early warning device. In the top right of the composition there are searchlights beaming up into the sky, and a large circular glow of light to one side.”
I was intending to write about Ampton Street a couple of weeks ago, It is the location of one of my father’s photos, taken in 1947, of a street with a cleared bomb site along one side of the street.
This was one of the photos my father had printed, and on the reverse was written Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road. I had assumed the photo was taken from Gray’s Inn Road (I will explain why later), but when I got home and checked the photos side by side on the computer, it was obvious that I had taken the photo at the wrong end of the street. I had a day off from work last week, so on a rather lengthy walk, I included Ampton Street on the route and finally photographed the scene from the correct end of the street.
This is my father’s photo taken in 1947. The view is looking from Cubitt Street, along Ampton Street, in the direction of Gray’s Inn Road. A length of Ampton Street has been cleared of houses following considerable bomb damage.
The first house still standing on the right hand side of the street is on the junction with Ampton Place, so the entire terrace of houses from Ampton Place to Cubitt Street has been destroyed.
This area on both sides of Gray’s Inn Road suffered considerable bomb damage during the war.
The LCC Bomb Damage Maps showing the houses on the cleared space as “total destruction”. The houses on the left of the street are colour coded purple “damaged beyond repair” and red “seriously damaged”. This also applied to many of the buildings in the street directly opposite Ampton Street on Gray’s Inn Road and there are new buildings now covering these areas.
A V1 flying bomb also landed just south of Ampton Street on the area just behind what is now the Eastman Dental Hospital (the old Royal Free Hospital).
I love the detail in these photos, in this one there are a couple of children playing in the street:
This is the same view today:
I took the photo a bit to the left of where my father was standing in order to get a slight view up Amton Street.
The bomb site is now covered by the brick buildings on the right of the photo and the open space on the left is also covered by new buildings.
Ampton Street is now closed off to through traffic with only a pedestrian walkway and cycle lane running through into Cubitt Street. Looking through the gap between trees and buildings it is just possible to see the porticos on the houses on the left, far more clearly shown in my father’s photo as in 1947 there was a clear view along the street.
These are the buildings on the cleared bomb site:
In my father’s photo, a couple of the buildings have a portico over the entrance. These are still visible today and a couple of buildings have also had porticos added since 1947.
The LMA Collage archive includes a 1972 photo of the same terrace of houses as shown in my photo above. A number of the houses look to be in a rather derelict state, with broken windows and boarded up ground floor windows. Rather amazing considering the prices these houses would sell for today.
This is the view leading into Ampton Place. The house on the left is the one seen at the end of the cleared bomb site in the 1947 photo.
This is the view looking down Ampton Street towards Cubitt Street. The housing on the left occupies the 1947 bomb site:
This is the photo I took a couple of weeks ago, looking across Gray’s Inn Road towards Ampton Street, thinking at the time it was the right place.
In my defence it was a hot day, I had already walked for miles, and I was looking at the original photo as a small printout. I had assumed that the park area on the right of Ampton Street was the old bomb site, however it should have been very obvious that the houses on the left are different to the original photo and the house just visible on the right is too close to Gray’s Inn Road to be the house in the original photo.
Ampton Street was built between 1821 and 1827 by Thomas Cubitt. The land between Gray’s Inn Road and the Fleet River was owned by Lord Calthorpe and in 1814 he applied for an Act of Parliament to approve the paving of streets on his land.
Some of this land was leased to Thomas Cubitt who built Ampton Street, Frederick Street, and the street now named after the builder, Cubitt Street (however at the time it was called Arthur Street.)
The houses that remain in Ampton Street are perfect examples of Cubitt’s early 19th century designs. This is the terrace running from the Gray’s Inn Road to Ampton Place along the northern side of Ampton Street. On the far right of the photo can be seen the new builds on the old bomb site. This original terrace probably shows what the destroyed terrace looked like.
A rather nice street name plaque:
It is unusual to walk these early 19th century streets and not find a street without a plaque recording a previous resident and Ampton Street continues this rule with an LCC plaque recording that Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, historian, and key founder of the London Library lived here from 1831 to 1834. It was his first London residence after moving from Craigenputtock, a very rural location in south west Scotland where Carlyle lived with his wife.
Carlyle wrote about his stay in Ampton Street that they spent “an interesting, cheery, and in spite of poor arrangements, really pleasant winter. We lodged in Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, clean and decent pair of rooms, and quiet decent people. Visitors in plenty, John Mill one of the most frequent, Jeffrey, Lord Advocate, often came on an afternoon.”
Thomas Carlyle’s house in the centre of the photo:
The area around Ampton Street, covering Lord Calthorpe’s original land still has many of the original early 19th century buildings and shows the development of the city as formal streets and housing spread north. There is a Calthorpe Street, named after the original owner of the estate, running from Gray’s Inn Road to King’s Cross Road to the south of Ampton Street.
It was a pleasure to make a return visit, however also a lesson that I need to more carefully check the original scene.
When my father’s photos include children, I always wonder if they are still alive. The two playing in the middle of the street in 1947 would I suspect now be in their late 70s – and if they came back to Ampton Street, I suspect they would be very surprised by how good the street looks today.
On a cold, windy and grey day in February, a day that seems very different to the weather we are having in June, I walked to the sites in Bethnal Green, Mile End Road and Stepney, continuing in my project to visit all the sites listed as at risk in the 1973 Architects’ Journal issue: New Deal for East London.
I had intended to cover all these locations in a single blog post, however I keep finding things of interest during these walks, and I did not have the time to write the full post, and did not want to impose such a lengthy post on readers, so I split into two.
The post covers sites 49 to 52, where I also find an 18th century boxer and an interesting walk down to Mile End Road.
The area I will be walking is very built up, and has been since the early decades of the 19th century, however in 1746, Bethnal Green was still a hamlet surrounded by fields. Despite the very rural nature of Bethnal Green in 1746 it is possible to see the majority of the streets and features that we can walk through today.
The following is an extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map and I have labelled the key features I will cover in the rest of this post.
I travelled out to Bethnal Green on the underground and arrived at Bethnal Green Station which is at the junction of Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and also located at this busy road junction is:
Site 49 – Soane’s St. John’s Bethnal Green
The church of St. John’s, Bethnal Green looks over this major road junction from the corner of Cambridge Heath Road and Roman Road.
The church was designed by Sir John Soane and built between 1826 and 1828.
One of the so called Commissioners Churches as the church was a result of the 1818 and 1824 Acts of Parliament which provided sums of money and established a commission to build new churches.
These were needed in the areas where there had been considerable population growth and Bethnal Green is a perfect example of the transformation of an area from a low population, rural landscape, to a densely populated urban settlement.
The location of the church was on open land directly adjacent to what was already a road junction in central Bethnal Green, however there are also references to there being a Chapel of Ease on the site, or close to the new church, (for example the Tower Hamlets publication: “History of parks and open spaces in Tower Hamlets, and their heritage significance” mentions a Chapel of Ease in 1617). The Roque map does show a building of some form in the road junction which may have been the Chapel of Ease, although this is just speculation at this point and needs some further research.
The church was damaged by fire in 1870 with much of the interior and the church roof being destroyed. The church was reopened the following year after restoration, which included new bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The church did suffer some damage during the last war, fortunately not the major level of damage suffered by many other east London churches.
The church was closed on the day of my visit, however it is good to see that the church is still an imposing building overlooking this busy junction, even on a grey and cold February morning.
Diagonally across the junction from the church is the Salmon and Ball pub:
Early references to the Salmon and Ball date the pub to the first half of the 18th century, however the current building dates from the mid 19th century and is Grade II listed. The earliest contemporary reference I could find to the Salmon and Ball is from a newspaper report on the 26th November 1795 reporting that:
“This day about two o’clock, in consequence of Advertisements, several thousand Weavers assembled near the Salmon and Ball, Bethnal Green, to take into consideration a Petition to the House of Commons against the Bill brought in by Mr. Pitt, to prevent the people from meeting, &c. Mr. Heron was called to the Chair, when several resolutions were passed and a Petition against the Bill agreed upon.”
There are newspaper references to an east London Salmon and Ball going back to the 1730s, but they do not specifically confirm that they refer to the pub in Bethnal Green.
The name of the public is interesting, I have only found one reference to the origin of the name. In the East London Observer on the 9th January 1915 in an article titled “Roundabout Old East London” by Charles McNaught, there is the following reference to the Salmon and Ball:
“The Salmon and Ball, by the bye, figures prominently in more than one historical scene in the turbulent days of Bethnal Green Weaverdom. Apart from that, however, it is a tavern sign sufficiently incongruous to awaken curiosity. The early silk mercers adopted the Golden Ball as their sign, because, in the Middle Ages all silk was brought from the East, and more particularly from Byzantium and the Imperial manufactories there. And at Byzantium the Emperor Constantine the Great adopted a Golden Globe as the emblem of his imperial dignity. The Golden Ball continued as the mercer’s sign until the end of the Eighteenth Century and then it gradually passed to the ‘Berlin’ wool shops, and – conjoined with a fish or other animal – its was favourite sign for Taverns in the silk weaving area.
The Salmon and Ball in Bethnal Green is not the only house with that sign; and other local names of the past include: The Ball and Raven, The Green Man and Ball, the Blue Balls, The Ring and Ball, and many others.”
No idea if this is the true origin of the name, but an interesting possibility.
My next stop was very close, and it was a short walk to:
Site 50 – Early 19th Century Terrace
This location was just opposite the church, a narrow street that runs parallel to Cambridge Heath Road and that goes by the name of Paradise Row. For the main part of the street, houses run along one side, with the opposite side formed by Paradise Gardens, which in February really did not live up to the name.
The terrace of houses in Paradise Row taken from within Paradise Gardens:
There is a blue plaque on one of the houses recording that Daniel Mendoza lived in the house:
Daniel Mendoza was a fascinating character. A boxer, or pugilist who became heavyweight champion between 1792 and 1795. In an age when it was common to advertise yourself with a memorable name. As the plaque states he proudly billed himself as ‘Mendoza the Jew’ in honour of his Jewish heritage. For an example of how other boxers billed themselves, Mendoza’s first recorded successful prize fight was against the wonderfully named ‘Harry the Coalheaver’.
The plaque refers to Mendoza living in Paradise Row when he was writing ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In the 18th century, boxing was mainly a punching, grappling, gouging match between two fighters.
Mendoza advocated a more formal, scientific approach to boxing which he set out in his book ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In his preface to the book, Mendoza explains his approach and the reasons why boxing should have a more scientific method:
“After the many marks of encouragement bestowed on me by a generous public, I thought that I could not better evince my gratitude for such favours, than by disseminating to as wide an extent, and at as cheap a rate as possible, the knowledge of an ART; which though not perhaps the most elegant, is certainly the most useful species of defence. To render it not totally devoid of elegance has, however, been my present aim, and the ideas of coarseness and vulgarity which are naturally attached to the Science of Pugilism, will, I trust, be done away, by a candid perusal of the following pages.
Boxing is a national mode of combat, and as is peculiar to the inhabitants of this country; as Fencing is to the French; but the acquisition of the latter as an art, and the practice of it as an exercise, have generally been preferred in consequence of the objection which I have just stated as being applicable to the former.
The objection I hope, the present treatise will obviate, and I flatter myself that I have deprived Boxing of any appearance of brutality to the learner, and reduced it into so regular a system, as to render it equal to fencing, in point of neatness, activity, and grace.
The Science of Pugilism may, therefore, with great propriety, be acquired, even though the scholar should feel actuated by no desire of engaging in a contest, or defending himself from an insult.
Those who are unwilling to risque any derangement of features in a real boxing match, may, at least, venture to practice the Art from sportiveness and sparring is productive of health and spirits as it is both an exercise and an amusement.
The great object of my present publication has been to explain with perspicuity, the Science of Pugilism, and it has been my endeavour to offer no precepts which will not be brought to bear in practice, and it will give me peculiar satisfaction and pleasure to understand, that I have attained my first object, by having taught any man an easy regular system of so useful an Art as that of Boxing.”
Daniel Mendoza put his approach into practice throughout his career. He was highly successful and his name became very well known across the country. He made (and lost) a considerable sum of money.
In the following we see the first fight held on the 9th January 1788 in Odiham in Hampshire
Mendoza lost the fight and the following etching “Foul Play” shows how Mendoza lost the fight through the actions of Tom Johnson, Humphreys second, who blocked a blow from Mendoza:
In perhaps an early version of the tension built up in advance of fights today, in the 18th century Mendoza and Humphreys traded insults and accusations at each other through a series of letters published in newspapers across the country.
In a letter written on the 16th January 1788 when Mendoza was living in London at No. 9, White Street, Houndsditch, Mendoza set forth three propositions for how the next fight should take place. He finishes the letter with:
“The acceptance or denial of Mr. Humphries to the third proposition, will impress the public with an additional opinion of his superior skill, or they must conclude that he is somewhat conscious of his inferiority in scientific knowledge. In imitation of the challenge of Mr. Humphries, I shall not distress him for an immediate reply, but leave him to consult his friends, and his own feelings, and send an answer at his leisure.”
Mendoza wrote a follow up letter on the 27th January 1788:
“To prevent the tedious necessity of a reference to the several letters which I have written, and which have appeared in your paper, I am induced to take my leave of the public, with the insertion once more of the conditions of my challenge to Mr. Humphreys, and I beg that the world will consider them as open to the acceptance of that gentleman, whenever he may think better of his boxing abilities.
The first condition is, that I will fight him for 250 guineas a side, the second, the victor to have the door, the third, the man who first closes to be the loser, fourth and last, the time of fighting to be in the October Newmarket meeting.
Mr. Humphreys would do well to insert this challenge in his private memorandum-book; and as a teacher of the art of boxing, it would not be amiss to have it penned, neatly framed, and hung up in his truly scientific academy.”
Letters continued and finally Humphries accepted the challenge, writing on the 31st July 1788:
“I have seen your letter, and accept your challenge. I am glad that you have at last found out your own mind. The terms shall be settled at a meeting which I will appoint by private letter to you.”
After the loss of the first fight, Mendoza won the next two fights. The following etching shows what looks to be the closing stages of the fight on the 6th May 1789 with Mendoza on the left and a collapsing Humphreys on the right.
After his boxing career declined in the 1790s, Mendoza pursued a number of other money making opportunities including landlord of the Admiral Nelson in Whitechapel, the occasional boxing match, running his own academy, and also what today would probably be classed as a ‘bouncer’ at the Covent Garden Theatre.
The theatre management were attempting to increase ticket prices, which resulted in riots and protests in the theatre.
“It is a notorious fact that the Managers of Covent-Garden Theatre have both yesterday and today furnished Daniel Mendoza, the fighting Jew, with a prodigious number of Pit Orders for Covent-Garden Theatre, which he has distributed to Dutch Sam, and such other of the pugilistic tribe as would attend and engage to assault every person who had the courage to express their disapprobation of the Managers’ attempt to rain down the new prices.”
In another newspaper report, Daniel Mendoza was reported as being at the head of “150 fighting Jews and hired Braizers, as Constables.” His actions supporting the theatre management did not help his popularity with Londoners as he was seen to be supporting the theatre management rather than the common theatre goer.
I can find very little information on Daniel Mendoza’s family. He appears to have had two sons and a daughter. One son also named Daniel (so presumably the eldest son) appears in a number of newspaper reports accused of robbery and also wounding a man with a penknife.
In another newspaper report, his married daughter along with another woman were reported as being assaulted by two cab drivers.
Daniel Mendoza died in September 1836. his lasting legacy were the changes to boxing through his approach to ‘scientific boxing’ which started the move of boxing towards a rules based sport.
The contest between Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphreys was still being used as an example of sporting excellence many years later, as shown in this Guinness advert from 1960:
The view from Mendoza’s house on Paradise Row must look very different today, with the volume of traffic on the Cambridge Heath Road, but good to see this terrace of houses still standing.
To get to my next location, I walked along the Cambridge Heath Road, passing the V&A Museum of Childhood, then turned into Old Ford Road, opposite this mix of buildings, including the Dundee Arms pub:
I had not been intending to write about Chiswick House and Gardens for today’s post. I had been planning to write about one my father’s photos, one showing a street with the open space remaining from the clearance of bombed buildings. I tracked down the street and found gardens occupying the space where I thought the bombed buildings had been, however when I started writing the post, I checked the photos in more detail, aligned with some old maps, including the LCC Bomb Damage Maps, and found I had taken photos of the wrong end of the street.
I usually get the location right before I visit, however this time I missed some obvious architectural features which I should have seen whilst walking the street.
I will need to go back and photo the correct part of the street, so for today I have fallen back on a recent trip out to Chiswick, to visit Chiswick House and Gardens.
Chiswick House and Gardens are found just to the west of the Hogarth roundabout, between two busy roads, the A4 which runs out to the M4 motorway and the A316 which runs to the south west and crosses the River Thames over Chiswick Bridge. It is a busy and densely built area of west London.
The original Chiswick House was constructed in the 1620s, at a time when country houses were being built in the area, to take advantage of the benefits of being relatively close to London with the river providing access to the City.
The house was inherited by Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1715. At the same time he also inherited Burlington House in Piccadilly, which became his London house.
Rather than use the house in Chiswick as a family residence, he planned to build a new house where he could use the architectural inspiration from his Grand Tours of Europe, and would also house the collections he had gathered touring Europe and where he could entertain.
The new house was built between 1726 and 1729, just to the north west of the original house.
Work on the gardens continued until the 1740s and the inspiration for many of the buildings that were distributed around the gardens would also come from his experiences during the Grand Tours. The Grand Tour was part of the education of an 18th century aristocrat, with months travelling through France, Germany and Italy to provide experience of the major European cultures. The majority of these tours would have Italy as their main destination. The tours were also used to build collections and many aristocratic residences of the time would be full of purchases made during the Grand Tour.
Chiswick House and Gardens passed through generations of the Dukes of Devonshire after Richard Boyle’s death in 1753. The 5th Duke demolished the original 17th century Chiswick House. The 6th Duke of Devonshire made significant changes to the gardens in 1811 with the purchase of additional land and the construction of formal gardens and the large conservatory.
Use of the house changed during the later years of the 19th century. The house was let to a number of different tenants and for a period was used as a lunatic asylum.
In 1929, Chiswick House and Gardens were sold by the 9th Duke of Devonshire to Middlesex County Council who opened the gardens as a public park.
After the war, the house was in need of serious restoration and whilst the gardens remained with the council, the house passed to the Ministry of Works in 1948.
Today, the house and gardens are managed by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, set-up by the London Borough of Hounslow and English Heritage.
The gardens are free to enter, and despite some of the land being sold over the years as Chiswick land was needed for building, there are still 65 acres of gardens to explore with many of the original features from the time of Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.
English Heritage manage the house and charge a fee for entry. Unfortunately there are also signs banning photography inside the house. Walking the house, it is clear it was not designed as a home, but does provide a series of rooms designed for the display or art and sculpture, and there are still a significant number of works on display today.
If you enter from the entrance along the A316, Burlington Lane, this is the view of the house:
The same view of the house in 1796.
The following photo shows the rear of the house:
Slightly to the side of the above photo is a long walkway leading up to the rear of the house:
The following view from around 1770 shows the rear of the house with the lawns lined with large urns atop pedestals – much as can be seen in the gardens today.
In the photo of the rear of the house shown above, steps can be seen leading up to a gallery from which the following view was drawn in around 1770.
In the above view, a set of statues can be seen set in the hedge that forms the end of the large open area at the rear of the house.
I do not know if they are the same statues, however in the same place today, statues can be found in alcoves cut into the hedge at the far end of the lawns at the rear of the house.
The Ionic Temple seen from across the lake. The design of the gardens incorporates long walks with a building, obelisk, or some other feature which can be seen the full length of the walk.
Artists easels with 18th century views from the same spot can be found across the gardens. A very imaginative feature, and it is easy to picture an 18th century artist sitting at the same place, drawing the same view.
The view looking down one of the walks with an obelisk in frount of the gate at the Burlington Lane entrance.
A large artificial river runs across the full length of the gardens from the north west to the south east. Towards the north western end of the lake is this classically designed bridge.
The view looking along the length of the river towards the south eastern end of the gardens from the bridge.
And the view from the opposite side of the bridge.
Standing on the bridge and looking at the views along the lake it is hard to believe that this is west London, however there is a constant reminder of where we are in the sky overhead. Chiswick House is a short distance from Heathrow Airport and under one of the flight paths and on the day I was there, a continuous procession of aircraft flew overhead coming into land.
But the wildlife on the lake seems blissfully unaware of the planes flying overhead.
The amphitheater, another obelisk and the Ionic temple.
A statue of Venus rising above the trees atop a doric column.
The gardens are also home to a rather large conservatory. Built by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1813, the building is 302 feet in length.
During the later years of the 20th century, the conservatory was almost derelict and the collection of rare camellia trees housed in the conservatory was in serious danger. Considerable restoration work was carried out, completed in 2010 and the conservatory today looks magnificent.
The view from the conservatory to the formal gardens.
The camellia collection that runs the length of the conservatory is considered of international importance. The collection includes some trees surviving from the Duke of Devonshire’s original collection. The camellia trees were all dense green leaves during my visit, but must look magnificent when in flower.
Inside the conservatory are two Coade stone vases. These were originally outside the conservatory, alongside steps leading down to the gardens. They were manufactured at the Coade stone factory in Lambeth, on the southbank of the river by Westminster Bridge.
The Inigo Jones Gateway, on the pathway between the conservatory and the house.
A walk around Chickwick House and Gardens provides a wonderful break from the busy city streets and if it were not for the planes flying into Heathrow, you could be walking through a country park set in the countryside rather than west London.
Chiswick House and Gardens are a short distance from Hogarth’s House, and a visit to both provides a snapshot of 18th century Chiswick.
Now to find the time to go back and photograph the correct end of a London street.
Cowcross Street runs from just north of Smithfield Market, past Farringdon Station where the street becomes Turnmill Street and then continues up to Clerkenwell Road. All these streets have a fascinating history, however for today’s post I want to focus on a single alley, Faulkner’s Alley which can be found in Cowcross Street just before reaching Farringdon Station.
My father took the following three photos of Faulkner’s Alley in 1947:
As I work through my father’s photos I am more and more convinced that I should switch back to black and white film. The combination of getting the lighting right, and black and white is perfect for this type photography.
In the above photo there is a sign reading “M&V Coenca – First Floor”. I assume this refers to a business, but I have been unable to find any details of their trade.
I am fascinated by the placing of the chair, what I assume to be a pram and the street lamp.
Faulkner’s Alley runs between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, although originally it was much longer. To find the Cowcross Street entrance, walk past the entrance to Farringdon Station towards Smithfield Market and a short distance after the Castle pub is the gated entrance to Faulkner’s Alley.
The entrance looks as if it is a pedestrian entrance to the same area as the much larger entrance on the right, however there is a wall running back between the two entrances so they are completely separate entrances.
Unfortunately the gate was locked during my visit, so all I could get was a view through the gate showing a similar alley to that in my father’s photos.
The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Faulkner’s Alley in the centre of the map, between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street. If you follow across Benjamin Street, there is a continuation of an alley indicating that Faulkner’s Alley probably once extended much further.
As the entrance in Cowcross Street was locked I walked round to Benjamin Street to see if the entrance there was open, as in the past it has always been possible to walk through the alley.
However I was rather shocked by what I found. The southern side of Benjamin Street is now a building site.
Which extends a considerable distance along the street. Just here on the right is where the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley was once located.
It was a similar gated entrance to the one in Cowcross Street, with the same style of ironwork and name above the gate.
I had a look at the planning applications on the Islington Council web site and found the application relating to the building work in Benjamin Street.
The application covers the demolition of the existing buildings and the build of a 6 storey building on Turnmill Street and 5 storey building on Benjamin Street, with both buildings being linked by a 4 storey building. The new building will comprise retail, office and 4 residential units.
The plans show Faulkner’s Alley will still run from Cowcross Street to Benjamin Street and there will be a gate onto Benjamin Street as part of the new build. Along the alley will be a courtyard and residential reception. I wonder with the new development whether Faulkner’s Alley will continue to accessible to the public or with the new residential and office build, it will only be accessible to those living or working in the buildings.
The site is owned by the Girdlers’ Company (one of the City’s livery companies) so hopefully Faulkner’s Alley will have a restoration that recognises its history and as a public alley, although I do worry when I read on the architects’ web site that the alley will be “enhanced” as part of the project.
Along the wooden hoarding, there is a small display of excavation findings which include some Tudor brick, medieval tiles and clay pipes:
We can get an impression of Faulkner’s Alley in previous centuries from newspaper reports. Some examples:
From the London City Press on the 9th April 1864 in an article on overcrowding in the city:
“I may mention that I found one family with but two moderate sized rooms, in Faulkner’s Alley, had taken in six railway navvies as lodgers. Even if they spend little more time in-doors than what they require for sleep, that is time enough to breed a fever, as was the case in this instance, for one of the lodgers had been prostrated by typhus fever, and sent by the Union authorities to the Fever Hospital.”
From the Islington Gazette on the 9th July 1877:
“A SINGULAR CASE – Dr. Hardwicke held an inquest at the St. Andrew’s Board Room, Great James-street, Holborn, on Friday, concerning the death of a newly-born male child, which was found on a doorstep in Faulkner’s-alley, Clerkenwell, and for which a woman of the name of Mohan is under remand, charged on suspicion with having deposited the child. The facts in connection with this case were reported in the proceedings at the Clerkenwell Police-court, and it will be remembered that on Tuesday night, about 10 o’clock, a constable stated that he saw the woman in question go into Faulkner’s-alley and stoop down, but whether she placed anything on a doorstep he could not say. Upon going up the alley a short time afterwards, however, a brown-paper parcel containing the body of a child much decomposed was found. The woman Mohan denied that she knew anything about the child, and the jury returned a verdict that the child was found dead in a state of decomposition, and that the evidence was insufficient to show the cause of death. They also added that they were of the opinion that the police were in error in charging Sarah Mohan.”
The London City Press on the 5th September 1863 included an article titled “Old Smithfield and its Precincts – A Sanitary and Antiquarian Ramble” where the author took a walk around the area and described what he saw, including this description of Faulkner’s Alley:
“Passing up Cowcross-street to Smithfield-bars, there are some quaint houses and shops. Part of the frounts in Faulkner’s-alley are of wood, and are worth notice. And here, as well as in some other confined places where the people are very poor, there are, considering the situations, wonderful displays of window plants and flowers. We would, however, just hint that in some instances the windows are so crowded with drooping and other greenery, that it interferes to a great extent with the proper admission of light and with ventilation.”
A report in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 4th September 1878 on the Princess Alice disaster, when the steamboat the Princess Alice was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle near Woolwich, included a list of the survivors, one of which was Mary Brent of Faulkner’s Alley. There was no accurate record of the number on board the steamer, or the number that died, however the Pall Mall Gazette reported that between 700 and 800 people were on board, and the number dead or missing was in the order of 700 – so Mary Brent was one of the few, very lucky, survivors.
The book “London – Alleys, Byways and Courts” by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924, also includes a brief description of Faulkner’s Alley:
“A few yards past here on the left, by No. 31, is the alley with the wooden frontage, with its name, Faulkner’s Alley, at the top. This old wooden front dates from about 1660 when the alley was formed, and built in.”
The book also includes the following drawing of the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley from Cow Cross Street:
We can trace the development of the alley over the centuries. In 1746 Faulkner’s Alley was shown in John Rocque’s map:
In Rocque’s map, the alley extended across Benjamin Street into what is now the edge of St. John’s Gardens. The map also provides a clue to the origin of the name.
In 1746 Rocque labelled the alley Faulconers Alley which may possibly have some reference to the Falcon bird, as Faulcon was an early spelling for the bird, a name with French origins, and the word Faulconer was given to the person who would look after the birds. I have not been able to find any written reference as to why this name should have been used for the alley.
Going back further, Ogilby’s map of 1676 shows the alley as a much longer alley. Unfortunately Ogilby does not provide the name of the alley as it would be interesting to see if the name was the same as in 1746.
Faulkner’s Alley was a good example of the type of alley that was once so common across the city. My father’s photos from 1947 show the alley much as it must have been during the 19th century and possibly earlier – a narrow alley with tall, brick-built buildings lining the alley occupied by people and businesses.
I hope that when the building on Benjamin Street is complete, Faulkner’s Alley is open again and that whatever “enhancement” has been made during building work, Faulkner’s Alley retains much of its original character.
There are places in London where the subterranean history of the city touches the surface and it is easy to imagine finding long lost geological features beneath the city streets.
This post is about one such place that I found whilst hunting for the location of this photo that my father took in 1986:
My 2018 photo of the same location:
I am in King’s Cross Road, a street that runs from Pentonville Road to Farringdon Road. The building was the location of Dodds the Printers in 1986 who occupied numbers 193 and 195.
I am not sure when the business closed in King’s Cross Road, however I believe it was relatively recently. The shop front has changed and the lovely signage above the shop has disappeared, however the terrace of 19th century buildings are much the same.
On the right side of both photos is an alley disappearing through the buildings. This is St. Chad’s Place. The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location. St. Chad’s Place can be seen running left to right in the middle of the map – suitable for vehicles to just after crossing the rail lines where it turns into a pedestrian alley, with a sharp bend and a narrow stretch running up to King’s Cross Road.
This is the type of view I love – a small alley to explore:
Walking into St. Chad’s Place from King’s Cross Road, you first pass through the terrace lining King’s Cross Road before continuing down a narrow stretch between high brick walls.
Looking back towards King’s Cross Road:
At the end of the narrow stretch, the alley does a 90 degree bend and opens out slightly:
This is the view back down the alley with the buildings lining King’s Cross Road in the distance:
The alley passes a number of old brick, industrial buildings, gently rising in height. Half way along the alley there are high metal walls. This is where St. Chad’s Place passes over a railway.
It is just possible to peer over the top of the metal walls and look at the railway beneath. This is the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon.
The railway was built below street level, using a mix of cut and cover, as well as leaving the railway in an open cutting, as in the stretch that passes underneath St. Chad’s Place.
The route today is used by Thameslink trains and the London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. In the following photo, looking south towards Farringdon is a Thameslink train, with the red of an underground train just visible to the upper right.
The railway cuts a wide path between King’s Cross and Farringdon, but for the most part is not that visible. Walking along King’s Cross Road or Gray’s Inn Road, you would not know there is a railway running close by, it is only when you walk through the streets between these major roads that you pass over, and get a view of the cutting through this part of the city.
This is the view looking north from St. Chad’s Place where the railway runs into King’s Cross, St. Pancras underground station:
The building of the railway must have been very disruptive to the area. Streets were cut off and before construction of the railway could start, demolition of hundreds of houses, factories, warehouses and workshops was required.
The following print shows the building of the railway near King’s Cross:
Walking up towards Gray’s Inn Road, this is the view back down St. Chad’s Place. A narrow, cobbled roadway in the centre, sloping down to where the blue metal wall of the railway can be seen on the right.
The black sign on the left is for Meat Liquor bar and restaurant, probably the main reason for anyone to walk down St. Chad’s Place. Apart from the person sitting outside the restaurant, I did not see anyone else walk through for the whole time I was in St. Chad’s Place.
At the top is the junction with Gray’s Inn Road.
A walk through St. Chad’s Place is a glimpse of the many old alleys that once ran between major streets (I will be writing about one that is in the process of disappearing in a future post), and the view of the railway provides an insight into what is just below London’s surface, however, as usual, there is always more to discover.
Starting with the name, St. Chad’s Place, this is an indication of what was once here.
The route of the River Fleet was once alongside where King’s Cross Road now runs, and the geology of the area gave rise to a number of springs at Bagnigge Wells, Clerks’ Well (Clerkenwell), and a St. Chad’s Well. All running close to the River Fleet.
St. Chad’s Well was to be found at the junction of St. Chad’s Place and Gray’s Inn Road.
The well was very popular in the middle of the 18th century, with around 1,000 visitors a week travelling along Gray’s Inn Road to take the waters.
The following advert from the 29th May 1807 edition of the Morning Advertiser gives an impression of how St. Chad’s Well was sold to Londoners:
“St. Chad’s Wells – Health restored and preserved, by drinking the Battle-Bridge Waters, commonly called St. Chad’s Wells, formerly dedicated to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. These Waters are recommended by the most eminent Physicians as the best Purging Waters in England, they are found highly efficacious in removing all Complaints which affect the Urinary Passages such as Stone, Gravel, etc, They likewise cure the Scurvy, Bile, Worms, Piles, Indigestion, Nervous Complaints, Seminal Weaknesses, and various other Disorders too numerous for an advertisement. Several attestations of their wonderful Effects may be seen in the Pump room.
N.B. These Waters may be drank every morning, at 4d each Person, or delivered at the Pump-Room at 8d per gallon. The Gate leading to the Wells opens at the end of Gray’s Inn-lane Road, near the Turnpike.”
The name Battle-Bridge Waters refers to the Battle Bridge, a brick arched bridge over the River Fleet just north of St. Chad’s Place. The name Battle Bridge is often taken to refer to a battle fought here between Boadicea and the Roman army, however this is very unlikely as the name in medieval manorial court rolls was Bradeford Bridge.
Chad refers to a 7th century Mercian churchman who founded the first monastery in Lichfield. St. Chad allegedly preached at Stowe, just outside the centre of Lichfield , and a medieval St. Chad’s Church was built at Stowe along with a holy well with St. Chad’s name. This association with a well could be why the well in Gray’s Inn Road took St. Chad’s name – a more virtuous, health promoting name than Battle Bridge.
The following print from 1850 show the St. Chad’s Well pump house, built close to Gray’s Inn Road. At the rear of the house, gardens stretched back towards King’s Cross Road.
By the time of the above print, the well was declining in popularity. I cannot find exactly when St. Chad’s Well closed, however St. Chad’s Place was built over part of the garden in 1830 and the majority of the gardens were lost in 1860 when the Metropolitan Line was built. I suspect it was the building of the railway which finally swept away the well.
Now this is where this post starts to get very speculative.
I am sure though of the route of the River Fleet. I have checked a number of sources, including the book “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers (a well researched and illustrated history of London’s lost rivers and their routes through the city) as well as “The History of the River Fleet” by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, and they all show the River Fleet running along the western edge of King’s Cross Road, under where St. Chad’s Place meets King’s Cross Road.
The River Fleet is also shown on the OpenStreetMap extract, running parallel to King’s Cross Road.
St. Chad’s Place descends very gradually as you head from Gray’s Inn Road towards King’s Cross Road, which could be expected for a spring rising near Gray’s Inn Road running through the gardens of the pump-room and down to the River Fleet.
As I walked along St. Chad’s Place, the sunlight glinting off running water below a small grating in the middle of the cobbled street caught my eye.
It was hard to judge the depth, but it must have been around 10 to 15 feet below the road surface. It looked to be a fast flow of clean water, and yes I did take a sniff and it did not smell like a sewer.
I have no evidence to support this, apart from the view through the grating, however it is interesting to imagine that perhaps the waters of the St. Chad’s Well still rise here, and run along St. Chad’s Place, heading towards the River Fleet.
They would now be cut off by the cutting made for the Metropolitan Railway, however perhaps there is a pipe that carries them across, or a separate sewer that runs along the western edge of the railway.
Walking back towards King’s Cross Road, and where St. Chad’s Place passes through the building facing King’s Cross Street, there is a run of old paving slabs, and an old manhole cover.
This is exactly where the River Fleet is shown to run parallel to Kings Cross Road.
If you walk past 193 and 195 King’s Cross Road, take a detour into St. Chad’s Place. Walk up to Gray’s Inn Road and you will cross the River Fleet, the original Metropolitan Railway and the site of St. Chad’s Well – not bad for a couple of minutes walk.
And with some imagination, perhaps you will also see the waters of St. Chad’s Well still running beneath a small, four hole grating.
I am still working through the locations featured in the 1973 Architects’ Journal “New Deal for East London” special issue where a range of locations, deemed to be at possible risk from future development were identified.
My first post on this subject with the full background to the 1973 article can be found here.
For today’s post I am in Mile End and Stepney Green, tracing the sites numbered 44 to 48, 61 and 62 as shown in the following map extract from the 1973 article (I covered site 46, the church of St. Dunstan’s a couple of weeks ago).
The Architects’ Journal identified Stepney as a Medieval Village Centre, but one that had been absorbed by the growth of east London over the past couple of centuries. I have reproduced the same locations in an up to date map, shown below, from OpenStreetMap.
There is so much history in this area that a much longer post is needed to cover fully, so my focus for today is seeing how many of the 1973 Architects’ Journal locations remain, and their current condition.
My first location was in Mile End Road:
Site 44 – 1695 Trinity Almshouses
The Trinity Almshouses were built in 1695 by the Corporation of Trinity House for “28 decayed Masters and Commanders of ships or ye widows of such”. The land for the almshouses was donated by a Captain Henry Mudd and they consist of two rows of cottages either side of a green, with a chapel at the far end of the green.
For many years after construction, the almshouses were in a very rural Mile End. The following extract from John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the almshouses in the centre of the map, surrounded by agricultural land and fields.
The roads leading north from Mile End Road, either side of the almshouses have some interesting names. Dog Row on the left (now Cambridge Heath Road) and Red Cow Lane on the right (now Cleveland Way). Mile End Road leading through Mile End Old Town was a wide street here in 1746 as it is today.
Captain Fishers Ale House is at the end of Dog Row (I wonder how many of the decayed Masters and Commanders of ships frequented the ale house), and a Turn Pike could be found across Mile End Road opposite Dog Row.
The following engraving from Chamberlain’s History of London published in 1770 shows a rather impressive view of the almshouses as they appeared at the time.
The almshouses have been under threat many times since 1695. The Corporation of Trinity House petitioned the Charity Commissioners for permission to demolish the almshouses in the 1890s, permission was refused.
They suffered bomb damage during the last war, but were repaired by the GLC, with the chapel being fitted with 18th century paneling from a house in Hammersmith.
Where they reach Mile End Road, the two rows of cottages are terminated by rather ornate gable ends:
A plaque on the gable ends records the origins of the almshouses:
In the 1770 engraving, some rather impressive model ships can be seen on the gable ends. Model ships can still be seen today, however these are now fibreglass replicas with the original marble models being stored in the Museum of London.
The almshouses feature in the top right of this mural by Mychael Barratt which can be found a short distance from the almshouses:
There is also a statue to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army which was unveiled in 1979:
And rightly there is also now a 2015 statue to Catherine Booth to acknowledge their joint enterprise to setting up the Salvation Army:
To show just how much can be found in this short distance along Mile End Road, further along can be found this entrance to a car park and a number of businesses, however the wall on the left records an example of the type of destruction that the Architects’ Journal was so concerned about.
In 1958, fifteen years before the article was published, the site of the wall was occupied by the house that Captain James Cook occupied for a number of years in the 18th century.
The buildings either side of Cook’s house were not demolished, the apparent reason for the demolition was to widen the lane, but there was no reason then, or today, for a wider lane leading off here from Mile End Road.
It is a perfect example of the random demolition that took place in the decades after the 1940s that Cook’s house was destroyed, but the adjacent terrace of buildings was left in place, which is my next location:
Site 61 – Late 18th Century Terrace
Running to the east along Mile End Road from the location of Cook’s house is this row of late 18th century buildings:
The terrace consists of a fascinating mix of different architectural styles and modifications to the buildings. In the following example, a bay window on the first floor extends over Assembly Passage – a long, cobbled walkway that leads from Mile End Road to Redmans Road.
Across the road is the Genesis Cinema – a restored cinema (which originally opened in 1912) in a location that had been occupied by a pub, theatre and palace of varieties.
A short distance along Mile End Road from the cinema is the next Architects’ Journal location:
Site 48 – Early 18th Century Group
A lovely group of four terrace houses – it took a while to get this photo without any traffic, there is a continuous stream of traffic along Mile End Road.
Further along Mile End Road is:
Site 62 – Early 18th Century Group
A pair of large 18th century houses, set back from the road with small gardens between house and street.
To the right of the buildings is a Topps Tiles warehouse and on the left is a small open space, then the new buildings on the site of the old Anchor Brewery.
The Architects’ Journal definition for this site was a ‘Group’ rather than a ‘Pair’ so I do wonder if there were additional houses in 1973 and this pair are all that remain.
The following location was not so lucky:
Site 45 – Mutilated Early 18th Century Group
To reach my next destination I turned off Mile End Road, a short distance along Stepney Green, along Hannibal Road to Redmans Road to see if this early 18th century group remained.
If my reading of the Architects’ Journal map was right, then the terrace should have been in this location – space now occupied by the expanded playground of the Redlands School.
The houses in 1973 must have been in some state as the Architects’ Journal description was the rather strong “mutilated group”. I checked on the excellent London Metropolitan Archives Collage image archive and found this photo from 1971 of a terrace of houses along 42 to 48 Redmans Road – the space now occupied by the playground extension.
The boards to the side of the doors on the central houses indicate that the houses were used in the clothing trade, with the board on the right advertising machinist vacancies.
I am sure this is the right location as to the left of the above photo, the edge of a post war terrace of flats can be seen, which are still there today as shown in my photo below.
I assume the description of mutilated indicates that the buildings have been considerably changed from their original 18th century design and structure.
I then turned back along Redmans Road to the next location:
Site 47 – Early 18th Century Remains At Stepney Green
Mile End Road is very busy, with what seems like endless traffic streaming both into and away from the City. Walk the short distance to Stepney Green and the environment changes completely. I walked through Stepney Green on a cold grey day in February and a warmer, but still grey day at the end of April, when the trees were coming into leaf and bird song was louder than the distant traffic.
The main part of Stepney Green consists of two parallel streets with central gardens running between them. The eastern street is narrow and it is along this street where the majority of the older buildings are located.
In 1746, John Rocque’s map included what would become Stepney Green as a wide area running south from Mile End Road with houses mainly on the eastern edge. Houses with large back gardens with a large open field behind. In 1746 the area was called Mile End Old Town rather than Stepney Green.
This is the view down the eastern side of the central green.
Blake Hall Central Line Station and Greensted Church are a rather strange combination of subjects for a single post, however I hope the reason for combining these locations becomes clear.
Blake Hall Central Line Station
If you look at the following extract from a 1963 London Underground map, you can see the red of the Central Line extending at the top right corner from Epping, through North Weald and Blake Hall to Ongar.
This route out to rural Essex did not start as the Central Line. Built as a single track extension from Loughton to Ongar by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1865. This extension provided a direct route from Ongar, through Epping and Loughton, and then to central London, with fourteen trains a day making the full journey out to Ongar. The name of Blake Hall is after a country house with the same name, and as evidence of the very rural nature of the station’s location, the Blake Hall house is well over a mile away from the station. There appears to have been very little justification for a station at Blake Hall, however it may have been a requirement of the Blake Hall land owner, and a small goods yard for the distribution of coal and the collection of agricultural produce for delivery from the surrounding farms to the centre of London, probably also supported the provision of a station.
The extension of the Central Line, which had been delayed by the war, reached Loughton in 1948, with the original steam trains then continuing from Loughton on to Ongar. The route from Loughton to Epping was electrified in 1949, extending the Central Line further, and rather than leave the short route from Epping to Ongar under separate control, it was transferred to the London Transport Executive, but continuing to run steam trains.
In the 1950s, the line between Epping and Ongar was upgraded with a limited form of electrification allowing electric passenger trains to run, however goods trains continued to be powered by steam.
Due to its rural location, Blake Hall was the least used station on the London Underground network. The goods yard was closed in 1966 as the transport of goods moved from rail to road, and Sunday passenger services also ended in the same year.
Blake Hall continued as a stop on the Ongar extension of the Central Line, but was never going to attract the numbers of passengers which could justify keeping the station open. Closure of the station was announced in 1981 and at the end of the October 1981 the last Central Line train stopped at Blake Hall and the station was closed on the 31st October 1981.
In August 1981 I took a trip out to Blake Hall to take a few photos of the station before closure, and last weekend I made another visit to see how the station had changed in the intervening 37 years.
At the Ongar end of Blake Hall station, there is a road bridge taking Blake Hall Road over the railway track. The bridge provides an excellent viewing point to see the station building, platform and track. This was my view of Blake Hall station in 1981:
The same view in May 2018 (although at a slightly different angle as I had to move to a different point on the bridge as tree growth has completely obscured the view from the original position).
The station buildings are now a private house. The platform is not the original platform. The original platform was demolished soon after closure, however the current platform was built in 2013 by the owner of the old station buildings. The new platform is much shorter in length than the original.
Another of my 1981 photos of Blake Hall station. I could not repeat this view today as trees have grown to completely obscure this view.
In 1981 I also took some photos of the station entrance:
Another view of the station entrance showing London Transport posters, advertising season tickets, and transport options to get to the Royal Tournament at Earls Court and Heathrow Airport.
The old station building has been converted to a private home and the station approach road from Blake Hall Road is blocked by gates, so I could not get any photos of what the original station entrance looks like today.
This was the view in 1981 from the other side of the road bridge showing the track heading towards Ongar:
The photo below shows the same view today. Note the additional rails in the above 1981 photo which provided the electrical supply to the trains.
Although Blake Hall Station closed in 1981, the Epping to Ongar extension of the Central Line continued in operation until the 30th September 1994 when the line closed. Continuing losses and the lack of any future development in the area that would boost passenger numbers could not justify keeping the line in operation.
Soon after closure the line was purchased by a private company, with the intention of restarting train operation, however the failure to launch passenger trains led to the formation of the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society who worked with the owner of the track and stations to restore the line between Ongar and North Weald to a point where diesel and steam trains could start running.
The Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society now run a weekend service on the line during the spring and summer months, and quite by chance whilst I was taking the photo of the station from the bridge, I could hear the unmistakable sound of a steam train in the distance, and a few minutes later I was treated to the sight of a steam train running again alongside Blake Hall Station.
Heading towards Ongar:
I did take photos in the 1980s of all the other stations between Epping and Ongar and the Central Line trains on this short extension, however I have only found the Blake Hall negatives – the challenges with a maximum of 36 photos on a single cassette of film. Hopefully I will find and scan my film of the rest of this small bit of the Central Line in rural Essex.
Full details of the train services now running between Ongar and North Weald can be found on the website of the Epping Ongar Railway.
The following map extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location of Blake Hall station (the orange circle) and how remote the station was from any major settlement. Blake Hall, the source of the name of the station is shown at the location of the red circle – it is some distance away. The route of the railway can be seen as the green line running left to right, to Chipping Ongar.
The nearest village to the station is Greensted, and this is the location of my next stop, marked by the blue circle:
Greensted Church is about one mile from Blake Hall station. When scanning my father’s photographs there were a few photos of the church that he took in 1953. There are no other local photos on the same strips of negatives, so I have no idea why he was here, did he travel out by the Central Line or on his bike.
Greensted Church is rather special, it is the only wooden church to have survived from before the Norman conquest, with the wooden walls of the nave dating from around 1060 – the oldest wooden Church in the world.
This is my father’s photo of the church in 1953:
My photo from May 2018 is shown below. Greensted Church is identical in the two photos, as you would expect as the 65 years between the two photos is nothing compared to the 958 years that the nave of the church has been here in Greensted.
There may have been a church on the site as early as the 6th or 7th century, however the Greensted Church of today developed in stages over the years.
In the photo above, the original Saxon nave of the church is the section to the right of the tower. The wooden logs forming the main part of the wall have been dated to around 1060. The logs were shortened and a lower brick wall added when decay in the logs was found during restoration of the church in 1848. The porch and windows in the roof are Victorian and the tiled roof is Tudor.
The chancel to the right of the nave, behind the tree has Norman origins, but is now mainly Tudor side wall and Victorian end wall.
In the photo below, the Tudor door, window and brickwork can be seen, with the remains of Norman flint walls on either side of the lower part of the wall. There are also, possibly, a couple of Roman tiles at the top of the flint on the left.
There is no fixed date for the tower, it may be 17th century, or possibly earlier. One of the bells in the tower has the date 1618.
One of my father’s 1953 photos show the original logs of the side walls rather well:
To construct the nave of the church, 54 oak logs were split lengthwise with the flat side on the interior of the church. Tongues of wood fixed into grooves running down the side of the logs were used to hold them together and seal gaps between adjacent logs.
The same view today:
A view of the southern wall of the nave with the wooden logs. originally these would have extended into the ground and met a thatched roof at the top.
The fenced grave in the above photo is thought to be a 12th century Crusaders grave.
The following photos show the interior of Greensted Church. The interior was much darker than the photos suggest. I was using a handheld camera so to avoid camera shake, I increased the ISO setting which has the effect of brightening the scene.
The following photo is from just inside the entrance porch, looking along the nave to the chancel at the end of the church. The flat side of the log walls can be seen running the length of the nave.
The view down the nave from the edge of the chancel gives a good idea of the wooden nave. Prior to the Tudor roof and Victorian windows, the nave would have been much darker,
On the northern side of the church interior can be seen this strange, small piece of glass covering a hole through one of the logs:
This is the other side of the hole – looking in from the outside of the church with one of the roof windows on the southern side of the church visible.
The small window has been called a lepers squint – a small window in the side of a medieval church through which lepers could watch a church service, however this is very unlikely given the size of the hole and the very limited view of the church that it provides. It may well have..
Last Monday, the early May public holiday, I headed to Hampstead Heath to visit Kenwood House.
I probably chose the wrong day to visit as it turned out to be the hottest early May holiday for decades, but the weather was fantastic, there was not a cloud in the sky, and along with what seemed like hundreds of other people, I headed along Hampstead Lane to enter the heath at the rear of Kenwood House.
The reason for the visit was to take a couple of photos of Kenwood House as my father had done some years before.
Kenwood House sits on flat ground at the top of a long grass slope down to some rather large ‘ponds’. The land in front of the house has a short, steep fall, then a smoother fall down to the water, thereby reducing the height of the land in front of the house compared to the sides.
This has the effect of leaving arms of higher ground branching out from either side of the house and running either side of the central grassy slope. Standing on this higher ground provides a superb view of the house, which was obviously the intention of the landscape design.
It is from the higher ground to the east of the house that my father took the following photo in 1953:
I could not take a photo from the same position as in the intervening 65 years there has been considerable tree growth, but I did find a gap a short distance further along to take the following photo:
The first Kenwood House was built in the early 17th century by John Bill, a printer to King James 1st, who purchased the land in 1616. For the rest of the 17th century and early 18th century, the house would be brought and sold, modified and extended.
In tracing the name Kenwood, I have found several sources that give the original name as Caen Wood, including the use of this name during the 19th century. In Old and New London, Edward Walford writes:
“Pursuing our course along the Hampstead road, we reach the principal entrance to the estate of Caen (or Ken) Wood, the seat of the Earl of Mansfield. Though generally regarded as part and parcel of Hampstead, the estate lies just within the boundary of the parish of St. Pancras, and was part of the manor of Cantelows. It is said by antiquaries to form part of the remains of the ancient forest of Middlesex. Lysons is of the opion that the wood and the neighbouring hamlet of Kentish Town (anciently Kentestoune) were both named after some very remote possessor. There was, he says, a Dean of St. Paul’s named Reginald de Kentewode, and the alteration from Kentwode to Kenwood is by no means unlikely to happen. Mr Howitt looks for the origin of the syllable in the work ‘Ken’, a view. As, however, we have stated in previous chapters, the word Caen may, perhaps, be an equivalent to ‘Kaen’ or Ken, which lies at the root of Kentish Town, Kensington etc.”
In 1746 the house appears on John Rocque’s map, with the name being two separate words as Ken Wood House, with the name Ken Wood also being found across the wooded area running parallel to the ponds. Whether Ken or Caen the house takes the name from the woods. The house can be seen just above the centre of the following map extract. In 1746 the area in front of the house down to Hampstead Ponds was covered by formal gardens.
The transformation of the house and grounds to the view we see commenced in 1754 when William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield purchased Kenwood House.
Robert Adam was commissioned to remodel the interior of the house. This included a new northern entrance to the house at the end of the drive from Hampstead Lane, along with interior works.
Adam’s original designs can still be found in the interior of Kenwood House. His work included the build of a ‘Great Room’ or Library. This is a section through the end of the library:
Which can still be seen today at the end of the Great Room:
One of Repton’s recommendations was to move Hampstead Lane further away from the house to provide more privacy and to allow a longer, more impressive drive to be built between the house and road (you could do this sort of thing if you were an Earl).
If you compare the following two maps, the first being detail from Rocque’s 1746 map and the second being the 1940 Bartholomew Atlas, you can see that Hampstead Lane now curves much further away from the house:
With reference to the earlier discussion of the source of the name as Caen Wood, in the above 1940 map there is a Caen Wood Towers to the right of the map. This is a large Victorian house, now known as Athlone House.
Repton’s proposals can also be seen in the open area at the rear of the house as the land drops down to the lake. Repton’s proposals included planting strategically placed trees to hide the buildings at Kentish Town and also to create the impression that the valley sweeping down from Kenwood House leads directly towards the City of London.
In 1804, the book “Selected Views in London and its Environs” described the house and gardens using the name Caen:
“Caen Wood, the beautiful seat of the Earl of Mansfield, is situated on a fine eminence between Hampstead and Highgate, and its extensive grounds contain no small degree to enrich the neighbouring scenery. These, with the wood which gives name to them, contain about forty acres, and are laid out with great taste. On the right of the garden front of the house (which is a very noble mansion) is a hanging wood of tall spreading trees, mostly beeches; and on the left the rising hills are planted with trees that produce a pleasing effect. These with a sweet shrubbery immediately before the front, and a serpentine piece of water, render the whole a very enlivening scene. The enclosed fields adjoining to the pleasure-grounds contain about thirty acres more. Hornsey great woods, held by the Earl of Mansfield under the Bishop of London, join the estate on the north, and have lately been added to the enclosure.”
The reference to the ‘pleasure-grounds’ refers to the large, grassed area at the rear of the house which slopes down to the ponds.
My father had photographed Kenwood House a few years earlier to the photo at the start of this post. The following photo was taken in 1947 from the western side of the “pleasure-grounds”, looking across to the house.
I tried to find the same location, however the tree growth on the western side of the house has been considerable and the following photo is my best approximation of the same viewpoint. Although the majority of the house is hidden behind the trees, the fencing that runs along the middle of both photos provides a good reference point.
My father’s photo taken in 1947 was just after the war, when the house was occupied by military servicemen. The connection with the Mansfield family had ended a couple of decades earlier when the 6th Earl of Mansfield had sold of the contents of the house in 1922 and in 1925 Kenwood House was purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness, the 1st Earl of Iveagh. Edward Guinness had a large art collection and in 1929 the Iveagh Bequest stipulated that access to the house for the public should be free of charge, and the art collection maintained in the house.
These conditions still hold today with the house having passed through the London County Council, then to English Heritage who run the house today, with access free of charge and Iveagh’s art collection (with a number of additions) still being on display.
The view from the rear of Kenwood House looking down towards the ‘ponds’ and Ken Wood:
Whilst the view from the rear of the house is mainly obscured by trees, a short distance to the east of the house there is a viewpoint where a panorama of the City across to the BT Tower can be seen shimmering in the haze.
The interior o the house has been carefully restored and the Iveagh art collection is on display in many of the rooms.
There is an English Heritage Volunteer in each of the rooms, who, without exception, had an in-depth knowledge the house.
It was also much cooler inside the house, compared to outside, although talking to the volunteers. the view was that it was a very cold building to work in during the winter.
We walked back to Hampstead Lane by a different path, and spotted a couple of boundary markers by the side of the path. The stone marker was very faded but I think may have been a St. Pancras boundary marker. The metal marker is for Hornsey Parish, and is numbered and includes the names of a number of parish officials.
I have seen a number of these Hornsey Parish boundary markers before, but not this one – I should really have been keeping a list of numbers.
Hampstead Lane was busy with parked cars occupying every available space either side of the road and still plenty of people walking to the heath to enjoy the rather unusual weather for a public holiday. We left Caen Wood, or Ken Wood via Mansfield’s rerouted Hampstead Lane to walk back to Highgate for some much-needed refreshment.
At the end of the last war there were a number of booklets published by different Government Departments – the Metropolitan Police, the Post Office, British Railways and some of the London Boroughs. My father seems to have purchased a number of these as they were published, and this week I want to feature one of the booklets published in 1946 by a London Borough, with the title “Bethnal Green’s Ordeal”.
The booklet was published by the Council of the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green and is a very slim, fifteen page account of Bethnal Green during the war. Written by George F. Vale, who had previously written a pre-war book about Bethnal Green, so I assume was a local resident. The booklet covers 1939 to 1945, but starts with preparations in 1938.
The booklet also includes a fold-out map showing the Borough of Bethnal Green with the location of major air raid incidents marked in red. Each dot represents a high explosive bomb, a parachute mine, flying bomb (V1) and long-range rocket (V2), but excludes incendiary bombs. (Click on the map to open a larger version)
Note in the bottom right hand corner the impact of the war on the population of Bethnal Green, with a population of 94,560 in 1939 falling almost by half to 50,641 in 1945.
Starting in 1938, we discover that 66,828 gas masks were issued to the residents of Bethnal Green on Wednesday and Thursday the 28th and 29th of September. This was followed by a period of comparative calm, until the war came to Bethnal Green with a vengance in August 1940:
“On Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning, the 24th and 25th August 1940, the storm broke and we in Bethnal Green had some ideas of the dangers that lay ahead. Our baptism of fire consisted of several high explosive bombs each weighing 50 kilograms which were scattered over a fairly large area of the borough, extending almost in a line from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney Road to Lessada Street, east of the Regent’s Canal in Roman Road.”
The raids continued through September between Saturday 7th September and the 24th of September 1940, when 95 high explosive bombs, two parachute mines and literally thousands of incendiary bombs fell on Bethnal Green.
“No part of the district escaped this terrible holocaust. Bethnal Green Hospital, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Central Library, Columbia market, the Power Station in Bethnal Green Road, the Hadrian Estate, the Burnham Estate, the Vaughan Estate and the Bethnal Green Estate were all hit, whilst the parish church of St. Matthew’s and St. Paul’s Church in Gosset Street were totally destroyed. On that night too, Columbia Market, which contained a very large public shelter was the scene of a very distressing calamity when a 50 kilogram bomb, by a million to one chance, entered the shelter by means of a ventilating shaft and caused extensive casualties to those sheltering.”
Thirty eight people were killed by the bomb on the Columbia Market shelter.
The booklet provides details that help understand Bethnal Green at the time. For example, there were still a number of stables across the Borough, and one of these, the Great Eastern Stables in Hare Marsh was hit and several horses were trapped and needed to be put down.
The composition of road surfaces amplified the impact of incendiary bombs as many were still covered by wooden blocks: “On the night of December 11th 1940, more fires were gaining hold on Bethnal Green than ever before. The area at the west end of Bethnal Green Road was a sea of flames, the wooden blocks which surfaced the road themselves catching fire and burning through almost to the concrete underneath.”
The booklet has a page covering the disaster at the Bethnal Green Underground Station. This was being used as a shelter and was one of the largest in London capable of accomodating 10,000 people.
The shelter was opened very rapidly in 1940 at the persistence of Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Home Security. The Sunday Mirror on the 6th October 1940 reported:
“The Man Who Gets Things Done – Herbert Morrison, new Minister of Home Security, beloved by Londoners, is the man who gets things done.
Standing on the platform of the uncompleted Bethnal Green Underground station, 65ft below ground yesterday, he asked L.P.T.B and local council officials why it was not being used as a shelter.
He was told there were certain technical difficulties. ‘Is there anything to stop the people using it right away?’ he queried brusquely. He was told there were not.
‘Then open it tonight’ said Herbert Morrison.
That is why several thousand men, women and children of the East End who last night found sanctuary in the station and tunnels – part of the new Tube extension not yet in use – bless the name of Britain’s ‘livest’ Cabinet Minister.
A.A. Shells were bursting in the sky during an alert when Mr Morrison and Admiral Sir Edward Evans arrived to inspect the station. Mr Morrison, after chatting with the experts, reached his decision about the opening of the station as a shelter in five minutes,
Council officials told him that everything was ready to make the shelter comfortable.
Someone said the pit in the concrete track should be boarded over. ‘Let them sleep on the track’ replied Morrison.
Mr Morrison said in an interview: ‘You can tell the people we are going to utilise every inch of shelter we can find and we’re going to do it quickly’
The booklet describes the Bethnal Green Underground shelter:
“It had a sheltering capacity of 10,000; the highest figure reached was 7,000 in 1940-1 and in the summer of 1944 during the flying bomb raids. The Tube played a great part in the life – at night and in times of danger – of a great number of people in Bethnal Green; particularly the old people and mothers with children. It was provided with a canteen, a sick bay with a trained nurse regularly in attendance, a visiting doctor, a concert hall capable of holding 300 people and a complete branch public library consisting of 4,000 volumes.”
The worst civilian disaster of the war happened at Bethnal Green Underground station on the 3rd March 1943. The booklet records:
“On the night of the 3rd March the warning went at 8:17 p.m. and almost immediately hundreds of people were seen to be making for the shelter from all directions. It is estimated that in the first ten minutes after the sirens had sounded 1,500 people were admitted. Everything was normal and although the people were obviously anxious to get under cover there was no undue haste or panic, when suddenly, without any kind of preliminary warning, at 8.27 p.m. a salvo of rockets was discharged from a battery in Victoria Park. The shattering noise created by this operation undoubtedly caused the already anxious people to redouble their efforts to get into the shelter.
Unfortunately the reports of the guns were thought by many to be the sound of exploding bombs. At this critical moment it is said that a women, with a child, or a bundle, or perhaps both in her arms, fell on the stairs. So great was the pressure of the crowds behind her that in the matter of a few seconds there was a solid mass of bodies, piled up five or six deep, against which the people seeking admission and not knowing of the accident, still endeavoured to force an entrance.
On the instructions of the Home Secretary, Mr Herbert Morrison, a full enquiry into the circumstances of the accident was conducted by Mr. Laurence Rivers Dunne, M.C. one of the Magistrates of the Police courts of the Metropolis. The enquiry lasted from the 11th to the 17th March inclusive and in all eighty witnesses were examined. His final conclusions were:
(a) This disaster was caused by a number of people losing their self control at a particular unfortunate place and time.
(b) No forethought in the matter of structural design or practicable police supervision can be any real safeguard against the effects of a loss of self control by a crowd. The surest protection must always be that self control and practical common sense, the display of which has hitherto prevented the people of this country being the victims of countless similar disasters.”
The report appeared to put the blame on the people attempting to enter the shelter and their loss of control.
In reality, the entrance to the stairs down to the shelter were poorly lit, there was no central handrail and insufficient police or wardens to manage access to the shelter.
The Illustrated London News on the 13th March 1943 published an account of the tragedy and published photos of the entrance showing only side handrails and the general poor condition of the entrance.
It is easy to imagine how simple it would be for someone to stumble and fall in a crowd, and the impact that would have in such a confined entrance with no safety features.
The Illustrated London News report states that there were no bombs and no panic, and makes no mention of the salvo of rockets. An apparent contradiction to the report by Rivers Dunne, and despite the report stating that “No forethought in the matter of structural design ” could have avoided the tragedy, immediately after the tragedy, steps were taken to improve lighting, add handrails and barriers to shelter enhances, perhaps an acknowledgement of the contribution that the lack of these features had to the Bethnal Green tragedy.
173 people of all ages died on the 3rd March 1943 at the entrance to the Bethnal Green Underground shelter.
The entrance today – the woman fell at the bottom of the first flight of stairs:
A plaque recording the tragedy above the stairs:
A memorial to the disaster was completed in December 2017:
The memorial is located by the entrance involved in the disaster and represents the stairs down from the street, with the names of those killed carved into the side of the memorial:
There are 173 small conical light shafts cut into the top of the memorial, and these are clustered closer together as the end wall is approached – representative of the way the tragedy unfolded:
The full names and age of those who perished are recorded on the upright support of the memorial. The repetition of the same surname, and the numbers of children involved shows the terrible impact that the tragedy must have had on individual family’s.
The memorial is a very fitting reminder of the tragedy at Bethnal Green Underground station in 1943.
One final comment on the tragedy comes again from the booklet and highlights the impact that war had on children:
“Some reference must be made to the work performed by the boys at the tragic Tube Shelter disaster. They helped with the injured and saw sights which probably no boy of such tender years has been called upon to experience. One boy was found by the Controller at the mortuary helping to unload the dead as they were brought from the scene of the disaster. The Controller said to him, ‘Don’t you feel somewhat upset by this?’ and the boy answered, ‘Well, Sir, I was sick when I first started, then I got over it, and anyway the job has got to be done.”
The remainder of 1943 and early 1944 was generally quiet in Bethnal Green, however Bethnal Green’s ordeal continued on the 13th June 1944 when a flying bomb fell in Grove Road. A total of twenty V1 flying bombs would fall on Bethnal Green.
These would be followed by the V2 rocket, with the first falling in Lessada Street in November 1944, the second in Parmiter Street in February 1945 and the final rocket just outside the borough boundary in Vallance Road in March 1945.
The booklet illustrates the effort needed by the Council and volunteers to respond to the bombing of Bethnal Green. The Borough Council had to arrange the clearance of 4,550 homes, providing storage space for the furniture from 1,350 and moving the furniture from 2,200 other homes to alternative accommodation.
Those too young to be conscripted into the armed forces were involved in a number of activities. Boys were used for multiple roles, acting as messengers, filling sand bags, installing blast walls at the London Chest Hospital, and it was the Scouts who erected the 5,000 bunks in the Bethnal Green Underground station shelter. Although evacuation of children from the city had started at the beginning of the war, the booklet records that a large number of children had drifted back to their homes and families in Bethnal Green. (This was also my father’s experience, as he only lasted three weeks after evacuation before returning home to the city).
The task of looking after and identification of so many dead civilians was a challenge for a single Borough. Of the 555 civilians killed during the war in Bethnal Green, there were 23 unidentified or unclaimed. These were buried in the communal grave at the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park.
Bethnal Green’s Ordeal also highlights the impact on the population of day to day precautions. For example, the black out came into full force on Friday 1st September 1939 and is recorded as being one of the war time restrictions that was the most difficult to bear. “It was easy to appreciate its importance during actual raids, but the hours of darkness were so many, especially during the long winter nights – many of which were raidless – that at times the depressing effects of the black-out were almost unbearable.”
The booklet ends with two pages that provide some key statistics, and details of the organisations that developed within the borough to manage the impact of the war.
The memorial at the entrance to the Underground station is a reminder of the dreadful tragedy of one single event. The booklet is a reminder of the overall impact to one London Borough as summed up by the final paragraph in the booklet::
“Thus ends the story, perhaps rather fragmentary, of what an ordinary typical East End borough endured during the war years. It is hoped that it will serve as a reminder to the present generation and as a record for posterity of Bethnal Green’s Ordeal, 1939 – 1945.”