Made in Clerkenwell : a walk led by guest guide Karen Lansdown
Ten of us braved the tropical heat and headed for Farringdon where we met with our excellent ‘guest guide’, Karen of Lansdown’s London walks who led us through the many unexplored lanes, passageways, squares and crannies of Clerkenwell, enlightening us with its fascinating history. In the 17th century, Clerkenwell was outside the City of London and so was colonised by communities such as the Huguenots seeking refuge from persecution, bringing with them numerous skills such as watchmaking and jewellery, remnants of which still remain. The presence of plentiful sources of water and proximity to London town led to the establishing of many breweries and distilleries, now of course, converted to luxury apartments. Even today, the area retains its reputation as a creative hub, opening the doors of its many architects, furniture designers and jewellers during the annual Clerkenwell Design Week, a wonderful legacy of its roots as an ‘outsider’ village.
Hampstead : a walk led by John Wray (Group member)
On a very hot June afternoon members of the Group met at Hampstead Underground Station for a walk discovering what Hampstead had to offer. Opposite the station we could not help noticing the prominent the clock tower of the old fire station and the nearby Horse and Groom public house. In Church Row we saw some lovely architectural features on the houses including demi lune door lights, nice ironwork window features and small balconies and the floppy fleur-de-lys brickwork over one window. Next we visited the lovely 1745 parish church of St John where John Constable, John Harrison and many other famous people are buried in the church yard. Another church on our walk was the French Catholic Church of St Mary, next door to which is the old 1830s Watch House of the Hampstead Police Force on the corner with the very narrow Holly Berry Lane. Then on to Mount Vernon, and a fading plaque to Robert Louis Stevenson. Above one door a hard to decipher fire insurance plaque and on a garden wall a blue plaque to Sir Henry Dale, a Physiologist. An unusual house had a plaque to George Romney, the painter. Having seen the lovely Holly Bush pub sign we then past the pub up yet another hill (Holly Mount) , before returning to Heath Street, before finding Flask Walk and the
The Wells and Campden Baths and Wash Houses, an impressive 1888 Grade II listed building. On to Well Walk where there is a plaque to Marie Stopes, and Chalybeate Well . In Willow Road some nice cottages and an old Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough, now planted up.
And a house with a red, white and blue roundel window over the door – an RAF connection?
Then, at 1-3 Willow Road, the 3 Modernist, pre-WWII houses designed and built by Erno Goldfinger (No. 2 which is a National Trust property, but was not open).
At 23 Downshire Hill was a plaque to the wonderful, female photographer Lee Miller (and her husband Sir Roland Penrose).
Across the road was the lovely Grade I listed St John’’s Church.
The last stop was the shady garden Keat’s House in Keat’s Grove It was here he wrote Ode to a Nightingale. We finished our most enjoyable walk at The Garden Gate pub in the cool garden with drinks and an opportunity to discuss the walk with each other, and to thank John for leading us so well.
Edited from notes made by Lesley Ramm, with photographic contributions from Alison Miller and Angela Dawson.
Mayfair : a walk led by Philip Messent
This walk was packed with things you may never have seen before and proved that it’s always fun being a tourist in the city one lives in, especially on a perfect sunny day. Who’d have thought Mayfair had a disused underground station and a Turkish barbers which we’re more used to seeing in Hoxton or Green Lanes? And have you ever chilled out on top of an electricity substation?
Around 14 of us convened by the statue of Eros in Piccadilly. The first gem of information was that this memorial is misconceived. Eros is a god of love, yes, but it’s a statue to the memory of the philanthropist John Shaftesbury: a different kind of love would have been more appropriate for a memorial. We headed off after this to Piccadilly, first stop the Albany, a set of bachelor’s apartments or ‘sets’ with many famous real life (Gladstone) and fictional residents (including the wonderfully named Pongo Twistleton, a friend of Bertie Wooster). It was great to imagine all the characters and the goings-on. Next to the Royal Academy and a look at the buildings there and the statue of Joshua Reynolds, the first RA President. People asked whether Turner was an academician, but apparently he was too common to be allowed in. We then wandered along Burlington Arcade on our way to the Royal Institution. Did you know that Paul McCartney is the only person allowed to whistle in the arcade? Answers on a postcard please. None of us knew why. Shepherd’s Market next, a contrast to the designer shops, and a buzzy area with ‘real’ shops, cafes and the thriving barber’s, certainly more patronized than the famous Trumper’s, which was completely empty when we had a look in. We then came across the disused Down Street underground, and Crockford’s Gambling Club, still open today. By this time the heat was starting to get to some of us and it was wonderful to come across Mount Street Gardens, shady and calm with the Farm Street Church nearby.
Time for a welcome tea-break, which we had in an elegant and classic Viennese-type patisserie. We also saw the beautiful Ukrainian Church from the chilling area (Brown Hart Gardens) on top of the electricity substation on Duke Street, as well as what looked like social housing, a great contrast to the splendour and a reminder that there can be diversity in such an affluent area. Grosvenor Square brought back memories of rallies and demos for many of us, and Hanover square was also a pleasant respite from the heat before we made our way back to the tube. Philip showed us so many things on this walk. I hope we can run it again.
Reports by Jeannie Davidson and Lesley Ramm.
Line Sculpture Walk : a walk led by Sally Geeve
For many of the members of the Group, our latest walk, led by Sally Geeve, was new territory indeed, quite a contrast from leafy Crouch End and Hornsey. What were we up to? Following the Line Sculpture Walk … , but there was so much more to see besides. We met at North Greenwich Station and followed the Thames River path on the perimeter of the O2 Arena, stopping to admire a series of artworks by Alex Chinneck, Thomson & Craighead, Richard Wilson, Gary Hume, and Anthony Gormley.
Then it was time to board the Emirates Air Line cable car for views of Canary Wharf, Trinity Buoy Wharf, the mouth of the River Lea, the ExCel exhibition centre and London City Airport accompanied by a gushing promotional audio commentary …
Back north of the river made our way via the DLR and a rather unattractive industrial estate, we stopped for lunch at Cody Dock, a wonderful oasis of plants and community activity.
Resuming the sculpture trail we soon encountered a Damien Hirst and further on admired a tower of shopping trolleys (created by Abigail Fallis) reclaimed from the Lea, and appropriately sited adjacent to a Sainsbury logistics centre.
The final leg of the walk took us past the historic Three Mills Island, and onwards past two more artworks – the Three Mills Green Memorial, and “Network” by Thomas J. Price.
Soho : a walk led by Philip Messent
About 20 members joined Philip Messent on a walk through historic Soho, starting at the Dominion Theatre and ending at Piccadilly tube station several hours later. In this very small area we heard tales of high and low life, Royalty and crooks, musicians, and comedians, and saw a number of commemorative plaques, featuring, among others, Mary Seacole, the Jamaican nurse “Heroine of the Crimea” – she has a ward named after her in the Whittington Hospital, comedian Peter Cook, Mozart, John Logie Baird, essayist William Hazlitt, botanist Joseph Banks, David Bowie, health campaigner Dr John Snow, and landscape architect Charles Bridgeman. In Greek St we were very lucky to be invited into the House of St Barnabas, a charitable foundation with its own small church, where the Rev Dr Adam Scott, a direct descendent of the Monro family involved in St Barnabas, gave us a talk. Then on to Soho (formerly Kings) Square with many fine buildings on each side including St Patrick’s Catholic Church. In the square we saw the Tudor looking building which was only built in 1925! Originally a disguise for an electric sub station it is now used to store gardening equipment. We went down Romilly Street (home to Kettner’s Townhouse hotel, an historic Georgian building, Frith Street past Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, The Arts Theatre Club, noting that a No. 14 there was a gap between buildings, probably from a WWII bomb in the area. There is now a single storey building Garlic & Shots. At the rear stage entrance of the Prince Edward Theatre was a sign – The London Casino. It says The Worlds Greatest Artistes have passed and will pass through these doors. In Old Compton Street we saw G-A-Y, the site of the former 2 I’s Coffee bar where Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele were discovered, and the Admiral Duncan pub where in April 1999 a nail bomb killed and injured many people. After a break for refreshments in the Soho Theatre bar, we investigated Dean Street including the Kemble House apartments, decorated with plaques illustrating sailing ships, the former Royal Ear Hospital building, with year AD 1816 in mosaic. Then on to St Anne’s Church, Brewer Street Market and finally Broadwick Street, and Carnaby Street.
This was another wonderful historic walk led by Philip and we look forward to future walks.
This text is based on an account prepared by member Lesley Ramm. Her images illustrate the text.
Around 20 of the Shorter Walks Group were blessed with perfect walking weather for our guided walk around Highgate Village. We visited the newer estates of Hillcrest and Highgate before seeking out some of the poets of Highgate, from A.E. Housman to the latter day bard George Michael, whose shrine is now so visible in the centre of the Village. But we also took in Andrew Marvell, whose lovely sundial poem is displayed below, as we ended our walk at Lauderdale House and Waterlow Park, donated by Sydney Waterlow as a ‘garden for the gardenless’.
The Group had a really enjoyable walk around Walthamstow Village, which was unknown to us in Crouch End and Muswell Hill. The photos show the range of buildings, from St Mary’s Churchyard to the old Walthamstow Town Hall. We had tea and a chance to look round the William Morris Gallery as well. For once, it did not rain!
Fragment from the General Post Office building that once stood in St Martins-le-Grand near St Paul’s Cathedral. The building, designed by Robert Smirke (architect of the British Museum), was demolished in 1912.
Former Walthamstow Postal Sorting Office, built in 1903.
Walthamstow Town Hall, built in 1941 to a design by architect Philip Hepworth.
Blessed with a sunny spring day for outing to Walthamstow Wetlands and accompanied by an excellent guide from the London Wildlife Trust, we began with refreshments in the beautifully restored Engine House. Walking in a figure of eight over about 4 miles, we learnt about the history and construction of the 10 reservoirs whilst enjoying the views of the semi-industrial landscapes seen over great expanses of water, reed beds, and cormorant-filled islands. A wonderful place to get away from the city – only a few minutes tube ride away.
Photographs © Alison Miller
We were lucky enough to have a rare sunny afternoon for our outing to Woodberry Wetlands, walking along a very muddy New River Path from Finsbury Park to arrive at the East Reservoir, where we had tea at the Coal Hole, before proceeding to the West Reservoir and viewing the extraordinary castle pumping station, built by Mylne for the New River Company. We had the pleasure of a local expert, Nick Higham, who gave us really useful background to the creation and adaptation of the New River, and the successful 1980s campaign to save the reservoirs.
Spitalfields and Whitechapel : a walk led by Philip Messent
The Shorter Walks group enjoyed a fascinating walk around Spitalfields and Whitechapel, despite some threatening rain clouds on 29 January. Philip Messent showed us 17th century houses, a mosque which had previously been both a church and a synagogue, and a former Rowton Houses hostel, as well as enjoying a delightful tea in the Crypt of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church across the road from Spitalfields Market.
Other highlights of the walk included the Kindertransport Memorial Sculpture at Liverpool Street Station, Artillery Passage, Sandy’s Row, Tracey Emin’s former warehouse home, the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor in Brune Street, Spitalfields Market, Huguenot residences in Fournier Street, the Brick Lane Mosque, and Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, and the Royal London Hospital.
Islington and Water : a walk led by Karen Lansdown
Expertly led by qualified Clerkenwell and Islington guide Karen Lansdown, we were taken on a tour of central Islington, with some familiar sights and surprises. The theme of the walk was Islington’s relationship with water, beginning with the Regent’s Canal (tunnelled under Islington itself), the historical course of the New River (well-known, of course to residents of Hornsey). We went into the public spaces of Sadlers Wells Theatre, to inspect The Well (unfortunately not illuminated), admired the buildings and landscaped grounds of the former headquarters of the London Metropolitan Water Board, and shown a series of carvings on a perimeter wall in Myddelton Passage – by, it turns out, members of the Metropolitan Police! Our tour ended in Claremont Square, opposite the extensive reservoir, covered in the 1850s. We were indeed lucky that yet another watery feature, the rain, held off, and we left the Angel after 90 minutes of fascinating history and thinking of Charles Lamb’s friend who fell into the New River in the days when it ran in front of his house in Colebrooke Row.
Queenswood to Alexandra Park : a walk led by Mike Gee
The Shorter Walks Group enjoyed a lovely walk on 18 December through Queens Wood, Shepherds Cot and Ally Pally Park taking in the Meadow Orchard project at the back of the Queenswood Medical Centre. Many thanks to Mike Gee of Greenacre Walks as guest leader.
Moselle River walk
Member Lesley Ramm writes: “About a dozen of us met in Priory Park to see where the Moselle River runs under the basketball pitch near Middle Lane. Then we crossed High Street Hornsey to Moselle Close and then Penstock Path where the New River crosses the Moselle.
Again underground. After crossing Wood Green High Road we entered the Noel Park estate and Moselle Avenue. In Vincent Road we saw old brickwork of a bridge that the Moselle runs under.Then along Lordship Lane to Lordship Rec – where we saw the Moselle above ground! After a coffee break in The Hub we skirted the Broadwater Farm estate and crossed Lordship Lane and entered the Tower Gardens estate. We made our way to All Hallows Church and churchyard and into Tottenham Cemetery. We ended our walk in White Hart Lane and caught the W3 back to Hornsey. This two and a half hour walk was in lovely sunshine. I met people I have met on other U3A groups and some new ones as well. A lovely afternoon thanks to our new Crouch End & District U3A.”
River Lea : a walk led by Sally Gee
We were very lucky with the weather, as we assembled at Finsbury Park to catch the train to Cheshunt. Sally led us along the canal towpath to a cafe just near Broxbourne station. The sun shone, the leaves were beautiful and we had some fascinating conversations.