H&C Walk 2
LADBROKE GROVE walk to HAMMERSMITH
1 1/2 hours
The Hammersmith & City line was a suburban railway built by a private company in 1864 between Hammersmith and Paddington. There was already an existing train line between Paddington and Farringdon, opened as the Metropolitan Railway in 1863. Until 1990, the Hammersmith & City line was actually considered officially part of the Metropolitan line. The line was extended eastwards beyond Farringdon to Whitechapel in 1884 and to Barking in 1936. Except for a short junction curve, most of the extension uses District Line tracks.
Because of the combination with other lines, I only give a route for the Hammersmith & City line between Baker Street and Hammersmith. Between Farringdon and Baker Street, please use my Metropolitan line walk 1. Between Liverpool Street and Farringdon, please use my Circle line walk 2. Between Liverpool Street and Barking, please use my District line walks 12, 13 and 14.
Routing note: This walk connects in Ladbroke Grove with Hammersmith & City line walk 1. It connects in Hammersmith with Piccadilly line walk 7 and with District line walk 1.
The station opened in 1864 together with the line itself and was originally called “Notting Hill”. The name was extended to “Notting Hill & Ladbroke Grove” in 1880, changed to “Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington)” in 1919 and simplified to the present version in 1938. These numerous changes were caused by confusion with Notting Hill Gate station, which is located in a completely different part of the borough. A significant part of the traffic through the station is linked to nearby Portobello Road market and there have been suggestions to change the name accordingly.
As the tracks are laid on a viaduct between Westbourne Park and Hammersmith, Ladbroke Grove is one of the stations with just a small brick shed at road level, the nice brick walls and clapboard awnings being on the raised platforms. The tracks cross the road on a bridge painted in a geometrical, colourful pattern. For some reason, this is a scheme you find in a number of locations in the area.
Exit the station and turn L (uphill) on Ladbroke Grove
R Lancaster Road
I noticed an interesting property in this road advertising itself as “Royalty Studios”. I let you guess whether they cater to royalty, are owned by royalty, are royally expensive or just royally pretentious. The building is clearly a take on American Art Déco and it is difficult to assess whether the studios are used for artistic purposes or are just penthouses for hedge fund wannabes.
At the end R Silchester Road
There is a typical late 19th century Methodist church in this street. As usual with this denomination, the building is sizeable and refers primarily to the neo-gothic style.
L Bramley Road passing
The station opened in 1868 when the operator of the line decided to open a junction with an other train line now known as London Overground. The junction was dismantled in 1940. The station is curiously named after a road that does not run in the close vicinity. This is because there was indeed a Latimer Road here until it got a new name later on. The Tube operators usually don’t have problems changing names when necessary so that the situation strikes odd.
There was no room for a station building as no stop had been planned originally. As a result, the only street level access is a modest door into the viaduct arch. This is actually not unusual for minor suburban railway stations and is an additional reminder that the Hammersmith & City line was not an Underground line originally.
L Whitchurch Road, the road turns R
The garden of the estate in this road has unusually hilly landscaping. I guess it was a convenient use for World War II bombing rubbish. In any case, this is the usual origin of such parkland.
L Treadgold Street
The road passes St Clemens’, the parish church for an area called Notting Dale although this description is hardly ever used otherwise. The building dates back to 1867, at the height of neo-gothic fashion. It is not overly large and pretentious as this was more a working-class suburb. Actually, when the first priest moved here in the 1840s, it was a very bad slum with most residents being involved in raising pigs on refuse from Westminster.
The church tower with the clocks is rather nicely designed and it is a bit unusual for Anglican churches to have the steeple directly above the crossing of the naves. The steeple is also fully covered in shingles instead of the more usual shaft in stone.
R Sirdar Road
L Mary Place
R across Avondale Park, turn R within the park in order to exit back on Sirdar Road
The park was landscaped in 1892 when the surrounding area was cleaned and prepared for development. Although close to posh Notting Hill, it had been an industrial area involved primarily in baking bricks. Part of the area was also a very large stinking pool caused by the effluent from the many pig stalls.
The park is rather nice with a mix of leafy sections, curving paths, lawns and playgrounds. The borough prides itself in having planted here a “floral lawn”, meaning that no grass at all was planted but only wild flowers. In many cases, this reverts after a few years to very few surviving species and tall grass encroaching. Wait and see.
continue on Sirdar Road
R Wilsham Street
Wilsham Street is bridged here by a residential building covered in shingles. This is a highly unusual design and is very rarely done as it prevents access for lorries and for some emergency vehicles. In this case, it marks the access to an estate built in one go.
L St Ann’s Road
You are now away from the pig-raising area of Notting Dale and back into the elegant area of Notting Hill. The town houses towards the end of the road are rather interesting because they are completely different from the usual architecture of affluent areas of London in the early 19th century. No forbidding Georgian brick façades, no endless neo-classical rows of white columns. The style is here Jacobean-Tudor-Elizabethan-Medieval and I leave you to sort out the different elements.
Ahead St Anns Villas
R Royal Crescent
Comparing with the houses in St Ann’s Road, you see the difference now that you have returned to the more typical style with white columns. This particular development dates back to 1839 and was clearly inspired by the Royal Crescent in Bath. But it differs in having façades painted white instead of the grey stone typical for Bath. The crescent is also broken into two sections, the reason being, there is a sewer under St Ann’s Road preventing a house from being built on that spot. As usual in Notting Hill, there is a very nice community garden at the disposal of the residents of the crescent. And as usual in Notting Hill, there is hardly ever anyone taking advantage of the private park.
R Holland Park Avenue
Ahead across the big roundabout and over the motorway
R into the access road between the train station and the Underground station towards the shopping centre (Westfield)
Enter the mall and cross the whole length all the way to the marked exit for Wood Lane station
The shopping centre was the largest in London when it was built in 2008 and is touted to be the largest in Europe since an extension in 2018. As the extension includes high-rise towers with luxury flats, it is a full-scale real estate speculation while the original shopping centre with its 255 stores all relating to ubiquitous high street chains was a pure shopping mall investment by an Australian developer.
As I mentioned in relation with other similar locations, huge shopping centres have decidedly mixed blessings. On the one hand, they attract people to areas of London that might have been neglected for years, raising real estate values and local tax income. On the other hand, they stuff out more individual shops and attract considerable traffic problems. Their impact on society is also disputed as it may be unhealthy to equate leisure too much with shopping (instead of sports, family outings or culture).
My picture taken shortly after the 2008 opening shows a rather artificial world in glass and gold. This is typical for the mall owner, a corporation trying to attract affluent customers to upscale shops (and being criticised for being quite undiplomatic when it wants to get rid of a tenant it thinks is not glamorous enough). By the way, the name Westfield happens to be that of the original mall builder and operator, but was also quite reasonable considering the location within London.
R Wood Lane crossing under the tracks
The station opened for the first time in 1908 on occasion of the summer Olympics held at a nearby stadium. The name changed to “Wood Lane (White City)” in 1920 and to “White City” in 1947. The station was then closed in 1959 after a fire because of competition from a Central Line station located not very far. The station reopened in 2008 as a contribution by the developer of the nearby shopping centre to public means of transportation in the area.
The station building is a rather flashy steel structure with a huge silvery front to the road. It is neither beautiful nor elaborate in any way and it was cheap to build, being made of prefabricated steel sheets, but it aims at making a statement by its sheer size. Very macho behaviour fitting with what you expect from a shopping center speculator.
Turn around on Wood Lane, crossing again under the tracks
R Macfarlane Road. The road turns L before crossing under the Underground line. Do not cross under the line here. The road turns L again at the end
R Hopgood Street
R Uxbridge Road
SHEPHERD’S BUSH MARKET
The station opened in 1864 under the name Shepherd’s Bush. Although this caused confusion when the Central line opened its own Shepherd’s Bush station several hundred yards away with no interchange provided, the name was not changed. The name finally changed in 2008 because of a new train station in the vicinity also called Shepherd’s Bush.
There is no station building, just a small brick shed giving access to the staircases up the viaduct.
The name of the station is obviously linked to a street market. The stalls are located along the train viaduct all the way between this station and the following one (Goldhawk Road). As the ground belongs to London Transport, there are discussions to make a more profitable use of the location, for example with a real estate development combined with a shopping centre, but no decision is likely to be taken quickly. The market is catering to working class clients and to immigrant communities, so that it definitely looks different from the pretentious and soulless Westfield mall.
Turn around on Uxbridge Road (now towards central London)
You soon pass the former local public library, called the Passmore Edwards Library after the philanthropist who financed it in 1895. I was more familiar with the Carnegie libraries but Mr Edwards deserves recognition as he was very generous in the working class areas of London. Reading wholesome literature was seen as an important contribution to driving the minds of workers away from gambling, drinking, immoral pursuits and revolutionary meetings.
A new library was built in an annex to the Westfield shopping centre and the building is now used by a theatre. The architecture is late Victorian, typically combining stone and brick, but the shapes are less neo-fancy than in many cases. The bow window does remind of Jacobean palaces, the columns are Georgian and some details are Renaissance, but there is overall less bombast than in later, Edwardian buildings.
R along the edge of Shepherd’s Bush Common
The common is officially called Shepherd’s Bush Green and is a noisy, triangular patch of grass lined by beautiful alleys of mature trees. There are a few monuments on the green but they are not particularly interesting. You do get a picture with flowers, but I had to look hard for the appropriate viewpoint. Otherwise, the common does not have formal flower beds as it is not a “park”.
The most conspicuous building along the common is a spectacular entertainment venue called “Empire”. It had to be conspicuous because it was built in 1903 as a music hall venue for an Australian impresario. It was used by the BBC as a recording studio from 1953 on but was sold in the 1990s to a corporation organising clubbing events and gigs.
The architect was Frank Matcham, the best known specialist for such buildings at the time. He had an uncanny ability to build each theatre with a spectacular, individual façade that you would remember, and loved in particular towers with rounded tops. The Shepherd’s Bush tower is peculiarly fat; the red sandstone crowning has a faint Art Nouveau influence, possibly from Vienna, while the top lantern has a faintly oriental style. Taken from the vantage point of my picture, there is even a faint echo of Hundertwasser’s celebrated style, involving façades cut into irregular pieces of different shapes and constrasting colours.
I also noticed a conspicuous pub belonging to an Australian group. It seems Shepherd’s Bush is an area of London particularly popular with Australian investors. The pub is noteworthy for the colour scheme of the façade. Dark green with orange highlights is the kind of flashy, constrasting scheme you see seldom. I don’t know whether this is due to a British preference for mock Tudor or to restrictions by local authorities. Strong dark colours are anyway very unusual in London, partly because they are not attractive in cloudy weather and at night.
The last building worth mentioning is a new luxury hotel at 58 Shepherd’s Bush Green. It is actually a much older building of spectacular proportions with a particularly forbidding front. The hotel operator was not allowed to make it more welcoming because it is a listed building, a former cinema. Obviously, film theatres should better not have windows and daylight inside. Many theatres in London were built in the 1930s in the Art Déco style. This particular one is slightly older and is built in the imposing but somewhat forbidding style I like to call “British Imperial”, a sort of neo-classicism popular in the 1920s and more usually encountered in public or office buildings.
R Goldhawk Road
The station opened in 1914 in order to spread the significant traveller outcome over two stations rather than one. The other station, Shepherd’s Bush Market, is indeed located less than 500 yards away, which is extremely close by London Underground standards.
The station was built into the arch of the viaduct, which was sensible for an already existing train line, and the only visible sign of a station is a small awning in front of the arch. This is not unusual for suburban train stations built on viaducts and the same solution was used in Cambridge Heath or Queen’s Road Peckham for example.
L Wells Road
At the end of the road, take an unmarked public footpath directly along the Underground viaduct. This footpath turns L behind a small office building
At the end R Sulgrave Road
At the end L Lena Gardens
Ahead Sterndale Road
R Dunsany Road
R Brook Green
The green is an elongated strip of greenery between two roads. It gives the surrounding area a pleasant feeling and this is by now a rather affluent part of the borough. In the early 20th century, it was to a large extent an industrial area and you can still see the former Osram factory, now a supermarket. The building was quite imposing with a tower crowned by a baroque copper-clad cupola because the company produced electrical lamps, a glamorous technology product at the time.
Because it was an industrial area, rents were not high and artists found on occasion buildings that could be converted easily into studios. You might discover a few blue plaques around the green. What makes the green unusually pleasant is that there is only one single main road skirting it at the very end. In addition, while the northern side was built in form of terraces, the southern side has a variety of buildings of differing heights, a very pleasant environment.
L Shepherd’s Bush Road
The road passes the local library, a building well worth comparing with the Edwards Library you saw before. It was built only 10 years later (1905) but the architecture has changed from late Victorian to bombastic Edwardian. Sculptures, pediments and mock-baroque scrolls were the height of fashion and give these buildings an overloaded appearance. The building is also strictly symmetrical, something considered less important by Victorians.
At the end R for
The terminus opened in 1864 and was relocated to the present place by a few yards in 1868. There were also through platforms on a short junction enabling trains from Paddington to continue towards Richmond, but this arrangement lasted only between 1877 and 1906 as it offered no significant advantage compared with the District Line services.
There is a completely separate Hammersmith station served by the District and Piccadilly lines. Interchange is allowed but involves a good bit of walking in order to reach the traffic lights over the busy main road.
The terminus building is a rather nice brick structure with symmetrical triangular pediments on either side of a central clock tower. The tower has mildly rounded shapes inspired by German Renaissance castles but the whole structure remains free of the decorative excess and mock-medieval frills that were very popular at the time. The proportions appear very well thought out; the building was large enough to stand out in what was still a halfway rural area, but did not go beyond the size of a reasonably large barn.