18 December, 2012


Nell Dunn slummed it in Battersea. She crossed the river and made it the subject of her 1963 book 'Up the Junction' which documents the working class lives she shared at least in her fiction. And who can forget Dennis Waterman in the film version? Not me that's for sure. Nell Dunn seems to have brought the whole of Chelsea over with her in the fifty years since her book was published. Battersea has gone posh! Now it's full of shops, some of them with an extraordinary degree of specialisation: I went into one called 'the honey shop' that just sells products made by bees, and derived from them. Not sure many bees produce flower pots with beeswax candles in though. The main merit of Battersea is a shopping centre, with some strange specialist shops selling at premium prices. I couldn't find a pound shop here. There are also lots of restaurants, although not the restaurants that, together with barber shops makes one think that a neighbourhood has been colonised by unskilled workers from overseas. These are the type of restaurants found in posh shopping centres. This pub used to be the Temperance Billiard Hall - with 17 tables no less. To be truthfull Battersea has its cultural side too. There is the Battersea Arts Centre in the former Battersea Hown Hall. The building has some original features like a bee mosaic on the floor and the Ayes and Noes lobbies in the former Council Chamber. I once spent a never to be forgotten night there watching an opera about Dennis Neilsen and his murderous ways. There was no interval because nobody would have come back. The library is also rather splendid, at least the 1924 extension in the Arts and Crafts style. It's also worth going into to see the woodwork around the reference library, although this is not well cared for. So Battersea is posh, but you'll still find an Asda. Maybe not quite as posh as we thought.

15 December, 2012

Larkhall, Lambeth

Now I can get to Clapham Junction from Surrey Quays without a change of train. So I got on the train at Surrey Quays and passed straight through Brixton non stop. For this relief much thanks. But I decided to get out at Wandsworth Road. Not much here though although the Larkhall Estate is listed Grade II because of the architects Louis de Soissons and G Grey Wornum. It looks a lot like the LCC blocks around it that form the Springfield Estate but there are some nicer touches such as little pediments to the windows and doors and little cartouches on the blocks - this one shows a boy with a bowl of fruit on his head. So Wandsworth Road is ppretty much like any other inner city thoroughfare which is surrounded by council estates. I thought that there's not much to it, until I came to this. It's now the Lost Theatre but the foundation stone was laid by the President of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers so I suppose it was once their HQ. I'm not sure if I've been there once, back in the 1980s or it may have been somewhere else. Anyway it's certainly a striking streetscape. The Church of St Andrew and St George was tucked away behind some council flate. Quite nice looking.

13 December, 2012

Horniman museum christmas

Hooligan crafts made out of rubbish and mulled wine laced with rum. A visit to the Horniman museum and Gardens to see their exhibition The adorned body, one of the london 2012 Stories of the World, and to take part in their Christmas Fair. The Christmas fair was busy and so was the museum on a cold but bright winters day. The mulled wine was very good but the crafts were the usual suspects. Everything recycled and not as good as factory made things. The Horiman museum was given to Londoners by a tea producer for their recreation, instruction and enjoyment as a free museum, and he adds the words 'for ever'. With care it should last that long. The collection is quite eclectic with anthropology, music and natural history coming to the fore. The torture chair is always a favourite of mine and if I take a visitor there I head for that. This time I was on my own so after the briefest glance at this terrible instrument I made for The Body Adorned. The exhibition was perhaps a bit too crowded. The Horniman really pitches itself to the pushchair and toddler market which all adds to the congestion. And what the mother was thinking about taking a picture of her child next to a video wall I don't know. Seems an odd thing to do. Nevertheless the exhibition was good and fun to go to with lots of video of people making fashion staatements. I think I need to go when it's quieter. The views over London from the gardens are spectacular. This is the Overhill Estate also known as Dawson Heights.

09 December, 2012

Addington Old and New

By tramcar to the countryside! You can get to New Addington by one of the Croydon tramcars, although I've now done it so you don't have to. There's nothing much at New Addington, it's a big council estate and if a person I know is to be believed with a dubious reputation. It didn't look that bad to me but I stayed on the beaten path from the tramcar terminus to the Church of St Edward the Confessor, built around 1957. The church has a microbrewery attatched. If I'd known that I would have called at the vicarage! New Addington has a library, leisure centre, nursery and community centre, presumably because it is so far out of Croydon. I never thought that Croydon had any rural districts. Old Addington is not what you would call a pretty village. True it has an old forge which is the only forge operating now in the Croydon District, and don't forget that Croydon also once made some very fine Church Bells by Gillet and Johnson. The glory of Addington is the church of St Mary dating from just after the conquest. It's slightly cagey vicar needed to have a good look at me before she would let me in but I must have reassured her that I would not run off with the poor box. The chancel is the oldest part of this little flint church and was decorated with very impressive medieval style wall paintings in memory of Archbishop Benson of Canterbury, who was the father of E F Benson of Mapp and Lucia fame. The chancel has three little romanesque windows and a great big vulgar urn to a former lord mayor of London. The Archbishops of Canterbury used Addington Palace as a summer residence from the time of Archbishop Manners-Sutton (1805 to 1828) until Archbishop Frederick Temple, father of William Temple, decided he preferred a residence in Canterbury in 1897. As a consequence of their residence there are five Archbishops of Canterbury buried in this church. So the Addingtons made a morning out rather than a day.

25 November, 2012


I'll let the picture speak for itself. Hat tip to Ian visits for tweeting this.

19 November, 2012


Cheese toasties under the Westway with Phil and Margaret Drabble? No it's another one of my London walks this time written by Margaret Drabble in the company of my pal Phil from Brum. We went a bit wrong on this walk and it really wasn't very nice. It began in a Sainsbury's carpark just behind Kensal House, designed by Maxwell Fry with input from Elizabeth Denby who made a comment that "In short, the general working class opinion seems to be that the blocks of flats would be all very well for people who can afford to send their children to boarding school, and go off by themselves by car for the weekend and for the holidays, but that they were definitely inadequate for families whose lives must centre in and around the home." The flats were built by the Gas Light and Coke Company to showcase high quality low cost housing. After we saw this we took the nicest part of the walk by the Grand Union Canal as far as Wormwood Scrubs. Even this part wasn't that good. We went wrong at Scrubs Lane and should have walked on the other side of the road for a view over Wormwood Scrubs for a view of the scrubs and the prison! Think Margaret Drabble has some funny ideas about pleasure. Having braved Dalgarno Gardens and the St Quintin Park estate of my former employers (known to the managers as San Quentin) we walked down an unremarkable suburban street to meet the dominatrix of the Westway which covers an awful lot of space and has a lot of real property underneath it. We lunched at the Westway sports centre on cheese toasties and cake (not cheap) and looked at the brightly coloured climbing walls. We passed under the westway to where 10 Rillington Place had been demolished and then walked up Ladbrooke Grove sadly missing out the deviations which might have been more interesting. We did see the Trellick Tower, sister to the Balfron Tower. This building was designed by Erno Goldfinger who once had the misfortune to live next door to Ian Fleming. Mr Fleming did not like his neighbour so named a faamous bond baddie after him. All in all not sure I'd want to do another walk written by Margaret Draabble if any exist.

11 November, 2012

Royston Hertfordshire

The welcome in the pub was as sour as the beer. Not a good introduction to Royston in Hertfordshire. Royston (the Royes Stone) stands at the cross roads of the Ickneild Way and Ermine Street and the pub was nearby. I have to say the food was good though, and I did get a copy of Red Bulletin with a feature on Felix Baumgartner's space jump. The stone is the base of a cross that was set up long ago, just after the Norman conquest. It stands above a cave that nobody knows why it is there, although I suspect it is probably a chalk mine. Anyway I couldn't call in at the cave because it was closed for the winter. The town once had a Royal palace but the townspeople asked the king to go away because they couldn't afford to keep him. They made their living catering for travellers on the way to York with a series of inns. Besides the inns there are old houses in the town: This one doesn't have a georgian front stuck on to a medieval building but there was certainly one that did. This house is (allegedly) the remains of King James's palace. The church was open when I called but although it is part of an old priory, bought by the town for their church at the dissolution of the monasteries, there was little to catch my eye inside. Outside the church the churchyard has been turned into a war memorial garden with a monument to USAF bombers in the form of a red granite obelisk. The gardens also include a raised area dedicated to the Queen's silver jubilee of 1977. The gardens themselves recieved a Festival of Britain award for merit. At the top of the high street is a small corn exchange with curious chimneys and, just out of town near the golf course is a fountain dedicated as a memorial to Queen Victoria. The actual war memorial shows soldiers from medieval times to the first world war and is an interesting sculpture.

30 October, 2012


'He should be in a hospital for the criminally insane' young male speaking to friend on train. Friends reply unintelligible.

This was my introduction to Worktown, the typical industrial town studied by the mass observers Tom Harrison, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings just 75 years ago. Some of the observers had previously been studying african cannibals and decided that they wanted to study the cannibals of Britain. I didn't see any cannibals, although I did see a questionable black pudding. Worktown seemed to have a bit going for it including an olympic gold medalist. The Salvation Army charity shop even had two utility sideboards at £30 each - now how to get them on the train...

 It was raining in Worktown today. 80% of people wearing coats, 20% of people wearing hats. Some men and women in summer clothing even though the temperature was low. Called in at the town library, museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium. The Aquarium was built after the Worktown study and attended by about 10 people most with children in tow. Strong obediennce to the notices in three languages not to tap on the glass fish tanks. Some big fish were present and the atmosphere was silent observation. Worktowners seem to like their aquarium. After that I called into the library with the Bowyer illustrated bible. This bible was given to Worktown in 1948 by the Heywood family. All 44 volumes of it sit in an ornate wooden bookcase in the library. Lavishly illustrated it is a true work of art. But I bet not many worktowners look at it.
From Travels around London
In the Worktown study the attendant came out of the Art Gallery office to see who was coming into the gallery. Well today there were a few more people in the museum and gallery. Most of them were looking at the Humphrey Spender pictures from the Mass Observation archive. 50% female, mostly elderley. The pictures were taken in the 1930s and 1960 when the observers returned to worktown. A fascinating account of the recent past. An interesting building was the Turkish Bath right next door to the Inland Revenue offices. . What would the mass observers make of that?

Co-ops 2012 and Manchester

Come gather round O my droogs and devotchkas and come to baddiwad old Personchester where we can see an old biblio with a statue of a babooshka and two horrorshow expos! The Co-ops 2012 expo was held in Manchester. I turned up on the wrong day and nobody could blag me in as it wasn't open to the public. You can go now though. Instead I went into the John Rylands Library to see an exhibition about a clockwork orange although more to get out of the rain. The John Rylands Library was founded on textile fortunes and the company existed until 1971 when it was absorbed by Great Universal Stores. Ryland also won fame through the important tort of Ryland v Fletcher - the case of the flooded mine! The library that bears his name is a gothic monument to commerce and industry presided over by his octoroon wife no 3 who built and endowed the library. There are several exhibitions on a changing programme in the library and it was well worth a visit. I saw the exhibition about the Anthony Burgess book - a Clockwork Orange.

21 October, 2012

St John's Deptford

Martin Rowson writes 'What could be more pleasing than a stroll through Deptford? Almost anything but hold up there.' Well I think that displays remarkable candour. I was using the Time Out Book of London Walks and Mr Rowson had written, or rather drawn, one fairly near to me, begining at St John's Station. Well the trains don't run on Sunday so I had to take the 47 bus to Brookmill Road and walk up to the station from there. I saw the church (Victorian) but not the house with the enormous cats. Perhaps they were in hiding from the rain. I had a look at the blue plaque to Edgar Wallace, once a very popular thriller writer but you'd be hard pressed to find many books by him now. Some nice autumn colours in Tresillian Road. The real purpose of the walk is to take you to Hilly Fields, one of the tiny local parks around the Deptford/New Cross/Brockley area. Again my guide and mentor advises me to look out for the man with one leg, and indeed I did see him, sitting on a mobility scooter, although he did not have a dog with him. There was a dog though, and that had only three legs, so perhaps there is a hilly fields leg snatcher. It would not surprise me. There was also a rather nice man in army gear jogging in the park, but he ran away... After passing the Francis Drake Bowling Green (yeah right) I turned into White Post Lane, marked, of course, by..... ...a black post! This little alley running at a height (the whole area was once a quarry and a hill and vale so the roads run at all kinds of heights and gradients) was remarkably clean, and may well be the last surviving cobbled street in London. The last major sight before going back was the painted house on Loampit Hill (another clue to what they did there). Needing some renewal this is quite a sight to see.

14 October, 2012

Brookwood Woking and Weybridge Diggers

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common off the goose.

A visit into the depth of Surrey to look at Brookwood Cemetery. Brookwood cemetery was developed from the former common and was intended to secure burials from London for 500 years. It never really lived up to expectations of the buriel numbers and most of the land was sold. It once had a railway line running through it and you could get a special funeral train there, including first, second and third class hearse cars! No difference in the appearance just different fares for the coffin.  The train ran from Waterloo.

 The cemetery now seems to specialise in ethnic minority burials with plots for muslims, zoroastrians and Italian and other roman catholics. They are also arsey about pictures having stern notices up about no photography. And judging by the flickr group I wouldn't want to defy the notice.  Still there is nothing much there to interest me.  No station remains but there was a very neat and tidy war graves cemetery including Czechoslovakians, Belgians and Americans with a very pleasant reception room, presided over by Barack Obama, where I sheltered from the pouring rain.  The American part also had a chapel with stained glass of the states in pleasant tiffany like colours.  No religious imagery of course as befits a godless country but calm and dignified nevertheless.

The cemetery did not occupy me long so I went into Woking, which is really not that exciting. They do have a new art gallery and museum called The Lightbox which was completed in 2007.  The museum part tells the

story of Woking and its demenses which was a little more interesting than I thought. There actually IS an old Woking rather than the railway town. I also didn't know that Kenwood mixers were made in Woking. The Art Gallery bit houses the Ingram Collection of art accumulated by a local business man. Some good pieces by CRW Nevinson, Eric Ravilious and John Bratby.

After Woking I went to Weybridge where I quite by accident saw a memorial to the pamphleteer of the Diggers, Gerrard Winstanley on Cobbett's hill. Not sure if this is named after the great radical in the tradition of the Diggers, William Cobbett, but it would be nice if it was. The diggers, together with the levellers, were the great radicals of the English Commonwealth to prove that the 'Earth was the Lords and the fullness thereof' a 'common treasury for all'. There is a Digger's Trail which ironically takes in some of the wealthiest enclaves in the wealthy county of Surrey. Levellers were keen that 'servants might adventure their wages' and although we do not have servants these days (or wages), we do have employees, and we do not adventure money but we invest it, which employees sometimes do. Diggers were more practical, and up waste and common (belonging of course - then and now - to the Lord of the Manor. I didn't do the full diggers trail as it leads through a lot of places including Cobham, Walton on Thames and Little Heath but it is worth storing away for another day. I think we may need to look back at the diggers and take up our spades 'thereby declaring freedome to the creation and that the earth must be set free from intanglements of Lords and Landlords'.

13 October, 2012

Dick Whittington elected Lord Mayor of London today

In 1397.  Here is a picture of his cat on Highgate Hill

11 October, 2012


A visit to the Old Vic Tunnels where the only thing inducing madness was the technology. 

My visit to the tunnels was provoked by Twitter when somebody posted something about bookings opening for an exhibition in some old railway warehouses under Waterloo Station.  The title of the exhibition was 'Bedlam' after the Bethlehem Hospital now in Bromley but formerly in Lambeth.  The initial website www.lazaridesbedlam.com was efficient at booking but inefficient at sending an email confirming it.  Nevertheless my name was on the list so I was going in.  Nobody asked me to fill in a form disclaiming responsibility for any medical diagnosis that I might get so I presume there was no psychiatrist on duty that evening.  I was issued with an HTC mobile phone that was supposed to guide me round the exhibition.  I had been thinking about a smart phone but decided that if I do get one it will not be made by HTC.  Firstly it did not work as there was no volume, then I couldn't get the display to light.  Eventually somebody fiddled around with it so it played, but eventually I just gave up and let the thing play out without associating it with the exhibits.

I should state that the Old Vic Tunnels were used for the Middle Classes Graffiti artist of choice, Banksy, to run his money making scheme (sorry Ironic take on exhibitions) Exit through the gift shop.  I think that Mind were also trying to make money out of this with a suggested donation of £5. 

So after a failure of technology what were the exhibits like?  Well there were some good sculptures and installations including the two depicted here as well as some good canvases.  There was also a cafe but really, £2.50 for a cup of tea?  I'm glad I didn't book food.

On the whole I've had better experiences in the dark.

From Travels around London

24 September, 2012

London Open House weekend

Almost missed this in the excitement that surrounds summer and such a wet day on Sunday. However I still managed some places on Saturday and today. First up - Caroline Gardens Chapel which was the chapel of the former Licensed Victuallers Benevolent Association almshouses in Camberwell.   The Licensed VIctuallers moved out in 1959 and the estate was sold to the Camberwell Metropolitan Borough Council for use as social housing. The chapel fell into decay and is not much more than a hollow shell although some good stained glass and monuments remain. Photobucket Photobucket Next up was St Giles Camberwell, a church built to replace an earlier one destroyed by fire by George Gilbert Scott in a very pure gothic style. The beautiful Victorian window positively gleams in the morning sunlight. After the war work was carried out by Sir Ninian Comper (satirised by Osbert Lancaster as Sir Septimus Ogive who died of apoplexy after his design for an Early Gothic airport was rejected by the council). PICT4263_zps73a20330 The Fire Brigade Museum was worth visiting - once - and the rooms lived in by Captain Shaw (of Iolanthe fame) were on display although they are not usually open.   The museum is housed in two late Georgian terraced houses.Photobucket The Cinema Museum in the old Lambeth Workhouse where pictures were permitted but filming was forbidden was also a point of call.  The Museum was in the administrative block of the former workhouse.  I actually used to work in Lambeth Hospital (which the workhouse became but this has now been demolished and luxury flats built on the site.  Photobucket I also called at The Siobahn Davies Dance Studio. No pics sorry but quite a nice space with a wiggly roof.  And that's all you can say about it really - it has a big room and a bigger room.
Morley College has murals from the 1960s in the canteen based on the Canterbury tales.  This picture shows the mural based on the Miller's tale Photobucket On a very wet Sunday I visited the East London Central Synagogue in Nelson Street Whitechapel where the President gave us a wide ranging talk on the history of the synagogue and judaism in general. I was glad to be wearing a hat. The Synagogue had been built in an archaic style in 1923 and we even got to see the inside of the ark. Photobucket Limehouse Town Hall has seen better days with ivy growing over the windows and into the gents toilet.  I also went to the Limehouse accumulator tower and had a long lecture on the use of hydraulics and the power of water, somewhat ironically in the pouring rain. Both me and my companion were losing the will to live by this point. When we went up the tower it was good to get a new perspective on Limehouse. All in all not the best open house weekend I've had but a good one in a summer that has been rather overshadowed by other events.


I don't normally big up other people's content but the people at Urbanvox have posted a great video of the river cruise and bridge illuminations. It's all here.  I may even appear in it as head shadow...

23 September, 2012

Chester - Ghoulies and Ghosties

More from Chester, this time taking a midnight (OK eight o'clock) ghost walk. The tourist information centre sold us the leaflet, which advises you not to do the walk at night. We are hardier souls. And it seems the Tourist Information Centre also has a ghost! The store room beneath the external processional staircase houses something nasty - allegedly. Could be anyone as the town hall was built on the site of the legionary fortress of Romman times. Also Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were held in the cells awaiting trial at the Chester Asizes - oh right only Ms Hindley is dead. Next up on the tour the Coach and Horses where a ghost allegedly walked in ordered a pint and told the barmaid his life story, particularly that his wife had just died. The barmaid checked the story when the man, who had engaged a room, failed to return that night and found his wife had died 8 years earlier and the husband had joined her a week later. But how did he drink his pint? The First pic shows the Blue Bell Inn, first licensed in 1494. I couldn't see a ghostly serving wench in the upper window but I wonder if any of you, dear readers, can? The camera never lies... The tour carries on past the Cathedral Churchyard and onto the city walls. This next picture shows Eastgate Street where three old women foretold the death of Princess Diana ten hours before the newsflash. Now I've heard and have experience that the pensioner grapevine is fast and accurate (my gran told me that 5p pieces were going to be the size of silver 3d bits and she died in 1987) but ten hours before the news? Goodness! This next picture is just a gratuitous night shot of the Eastgate. The walk takes us up to St John's church. Thi church has ruins attached that had a light show playing when we called. Chester Council can put it better than I can: "Multimedia artist Nayan Kulkarni has been commissioned by Cheshire West and Chester Council's Arts and Festivals and Museum Service, and Chester Renaissance to transform the eastern ruins of St John the Baptist church using light. The new artwork will illuminate the ruins with a set of computer controlled architectural scale monochrome projections. Using a specially designed light system the final artwork will be a composition that changes over time constantly remodelling the appearance of the ruins." And very nice too. It was on the ghost walk because of this extraordinary coffin built into the roof space. It's said because a nun wanted to be closer to heaven The walk took us down to the river and back up through some medieval streets including one so steep that there were steps to get up it, and then up to the town cross where the walk finished. A very pleasant, interesting perambulation. Did we see anything unusual or spooky? What do you think, gentle reader?

17 September, 2012

Chester: Meadieval Town

Chester Cathedral is a cathedral of the new foundation which means that Henry VIII closed down the Benedictine monastery in the church at Chester and instituted a new cathedral there with a new bishop to head the diocese.  The Cathedral does charge for admission but this includes a rather temperamental audio guide which works when you approach green pillars in the building. One memorial is to the crew of HMS Chester, which included a ships boy, John Cornwell, killed at the battle of Jutland. There are memorial cottages to John Cornwell at Hornchurch. In the cloisters stands a sculpture by Stephen Broadbent. The Water of Life is set in a fish pond and is shown in the picture below. The medieval town walls stand on Roman foundations, and the old Roman moat was turned into a canal at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These are some of the oldest surviving town walls. The picture shows the deep gorge the canal runs through. The canal makes a pleasant walk back to my hotel, which was on the canalside.

13 September, 2012

Chester walls and rows

Chester is a fine Cathedral city at the end of the Wirral Peninsular.  One of the many attractions of the city is the old city wall, some of it dating back to Roman times.  The walls were maintained originally by Murrengers, although I don't suppose they actually did the bricklaying and stone work.  We met a murrenger before in Newport, although there are few walls left there.
Chester's walls were converted into a dignified promenade in the eighteenth century and it is possible to walk round the walls today.  For the last Diamond Jubilee, Queen Victoria's, the townspeople erected a clock above the Eastgate, and it stands there to this day.  The walk round the walls takes a couple of hours, if you take it slowly, and takes in the best sights in the town including the Cathedral and the racecourse beside the River Dee.     Chester is also famous for the meadieval layout of its shopping centre with some shops in cellars and a public walkway above so you can walk in shelter during rainstorms.  I have never seen an equivalent anywhere else as old.  Most of the shops are 19th century but the model had been there since the meadieval times, and are estimated to have been completed by 1350.  They are very pretty with a lot of half timbered buildings and some in stone and concrete from the mid part of the twentieth century, but I would not like to be the lawyer dealing with the tenure of these buildings.