H&C Tube line walk 2: Ladbroke Grove walk to Hammersmith

H&C Walk 2


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.


Ladbroke Grove Underground station

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

Royalty Studios -ahem

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.

Methodist church in Silchester Road

L Bramley Road passing


Latimer Road Underground station

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

Estate in Whitchurch Road

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.

St Clemen’s Notting Dale

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

Avondale Park

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

Access to an estate in 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.

Victorian neo-medieval town houses in St Ann’s Road

Ahead St Anns Villas

R Royal Crescent

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.

Private garden for Royal Crescent

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

Westfield shopping mall from outside

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.


Inside Westfield shopping centre

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


Wood Lane Underground station

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 Underground station

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.

Entrance of Shepherd’s Bush Market

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)

Edwards Library on Uxbridge Road

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

Shepherd’s Bush Green

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.

Former music hall on Shepherd’s Bush Common

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.

Pub in an unusual colour

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.

Former film theatre on Shepherd’s Bush Common

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


Goldhawk Road Underground station

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

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.

Former Osram factory on Brook Green


Art studios off Brook Green

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

Hammersmith library

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


Hammersmith terminus

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.


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H&C Tube line walk 1: Baker Street walk to Ladbroke Grove

Hammersmith & City line Walk 1


2 1/4 hours

The Hammersmith & City line was a suburban railway built by a private company in 1864 between Hammersmith and Paddington where it joined the line from Paddington to Farringdon opened in the previous year. Until 1990, the 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.

This walk connects obviously to numerous train and Underground walks at different interchanges. The most logical connections are with the Metropolitan line walk 1 in Baker Street as mentioned above and with the H&C walk 2 in Ladbroke Grove.


Baker Street station main access

The station opened on the first Underground railway built in the world, opened in 1863. These platforms are the ones used by the Hammersmith & City line. A terminal with a connecting curve was built for northbound Metropolitan line trains (towards Harrow) in 1868; it was called originally Baker Street East. Platforms deeper underground opened for the Bakerloo line in 1906. Finally, the Jubilee line platforms opened in 1979. Altogether, there are 10 platforms, which is the largest number for any Underground station complex in London.

The main entrance at street level is a simple arch below a big Edwardian office building clad in grey stone. The Hammersmith & City platforms are interesting because they are the best remaining example of the original arrangement from 1863. The station is actually just below street level and daylight reaches easily the platforms through numerous shafts.

Platforms from 1863

The tracks were laid in the “cut-and-cover” manner, by far the easier method at the time: you dug a deep ditch along the street, laid tracks and covered the line with a brick vault, enabling carriages to run just above the railway. Light shafts for the platforms were very convenient both in order to evacuate exhaust from the stream locomotives and to save on lighting costs at a time when lighting was only possible with explosion-prone gas lanterns.

Exit the station through the main access on Marylebone Road, cross this main road and start ahead (southwards) along Baker Street

R Bickenhall Street

Former Marylebone town hall


Ahead Salisbury Place

This narrow street runs along the back of the former Marylebone town hall. If you wish to have a look at the building from the front, you need to detour around the corner. The building opened as a town hall in 1920; most of it is now used by a university and a few rooms have been converted for ceremonial use. The architecture is very much “English Empire”, a heavy-handed type of oversize neo-clacissism. The tower is also typical, being a massive cube. As opposed to Art Déco that would develop in the 1930s, there is no statue, relief or sculpture on the façade.

L Upper Montagu Street

Ahead along Montagu Square

Montagu Square

This part of London is very popular with embassies. The houses around the square are part of a larger development from 1820. Interestingly, the speculator had started his career as a modest chimneysweep. “Montagu” was the name of the local landowner (Wikipedia says she took the chimneysweep as a lover) and comes originally from the Bordeaux area. Several artists and writers lived in this square in the 20th century like Ringo Starr and Anthony Trollope.

Window from the 1820s on Montagu Square

The development was considered a bit dreary when it was built as affluent patrons preferred whitewashed façades, a sign of affluence at a time when soot from chimneys was a major pollutant in London. The main point of interest is the bow windows at first floor level, some of which have decoration reminiscent of the Adam brothers.

R George Street


Montagu Mews

Soon after Montagu Square, you pass a dead end called Montagu Mews. It is a particularly obvious example of 19th century planning: affluent residents had horse-drawn carriages and each residence therefore needed room at the back for the horses and for the groom. Having a garden was less important as long as you had easy access to a communal garden for strolling around. Of course, mews have all been converted to apartments. They are often very expensive because you do not need to bother about upstairs neighbours or road traffic, but they are not attractive for families as combining a groom bedsit with a horse stall does not give much room overall.

Bryanston Square

George Street next crosses Bryanston Square, the slightly upmarket version of Montagu Square

R Seymour Place

L Bryanston Place

R Shouldham Street



Theatre school in a former church

The road passes what looks like an austere church building in a very traditional neo-Romanic style. It was indeed a church but was sold in 2010 to a theatre school. There were no issues with decommissioning the church as it was an evangelical church, for whom the building is much less important than the Bible healings. Cynical people might add that there is some similarity between preaching and being an actor.

L Crawford Place


Almshouses in Crawford Street

You pass in this street a lovely building with a neo-classical front and the inscription “The Christian Union Almshouses”. The first floor is very unusual with a gallery running behind columns along the façade like a balcony. The charity was set up in 1830 and the architecture is typical of the time. Combining brick with stone had become fashionable, particularly when cost was an issue, and the style would be re-used for public buildings like train stations for many decades.

R Edgware Road

R Old Marylebone Road

soon L Cabbell Street

Cabbell Street Mansions

The narrow street was built as the access to a stand-alone development of apartments in the late 19th century. The gables are in the neo-Renaissance style that speculators thought was popular with Queen Victoria due to her German origin. The somewhat unusual colour of the bricks was a fad that lasted for not more than a decade. The buildings are rather high for the time with six floors; this had become possible with advances in water and gas supply, but top level floors did not sell too well because climbing so many stairs everyday tends to be tiring.


Edgware Road (H&C) station

The station opened in 1863 together with the line between Paddington and Farringdon via Baker Street. It is an open-air station combining the through platforms on the Hammersmith & City line with a terminal on the Circle line (since 2009, Circle line trains from Kensington terminate here). There is a completely separate station for the Bakerloo line using the same name with no direct interchange.

Because the station is partly a terminal, the original owner, the Metropolitan Railway, built an elegant, serious station building clad in stone with a frieze of small columns, a cornice and flashy lettering in dark red contrasting with the light grey stones. The concept is similar to that of Farringdon terminal.

L Chapel Street

Hotel on Edgware Road

At the end of the street, you see on the other side of the road an impressive hotel building. The tower is a boring box from the 1960s, not surprising for an American operator, but the access block is a really intricate pile of oblique shapes. Obviously, the balconies are completely useless above an extremely busy main road, and I doubt the window panes open at all. Present architects will skip the balconies for cost reasons and replace them with tiled or otherwise contrasting materials if they need to enliven a façade.

Ahead Praed Street

At the corner with Harbet Street, take a passage half to your R under a building bearing the inscription West End Quay / Balmoral Apartments

Ahead to the head of Paddington Basin

End of Paddington Basin

The basin was used as a harbour at the end of Regent’s Canal. It opened in 1801 and was very busy with goods from the Midlands delivered into Westminster. There were many similar basins further east, particularly in Islington, while Paddington was the only one in its area. When commercial traffic disappeared, warehouses closed and the area was not converted before the 2000s. Because the basin is quite narrow, the feeling is different from schemes in Canary Wharf and Islington, reminding more of a courtyard. The office buildings as such are of no particular interest.

Paddington Basin

Walk along Paddington Basin. The better solution is the north side (keeping the water to your left).

The Basin has become well known among bridge enthusiasts for its three footbridges, two of them being unusual. One is a “curling” bridge, with individual sections being rolled into a snail shape. The bridge does not really need to be opened as there is no barge traffic nowadays, but it is rolled back regularly as a lunchtime attraction for office workers. The other interesting one opens in several thin sections that are raised at different heights, reminding people of a half-open fan. This bridge opens less often than the curling bridge.

Warehouses at the end of Paddington Basin

Cross the last footbridge, just after the basin merges into a canal and turns sharply R

From this bridge, you saw a few remaining low warehouses when I took my picture, but I think there is an office building here as well by now.

Ahead on the footpath across Paddington Station (follow the signs for the side entrance of the station if in doubt).


Paddington Underground station

The station was the original terminus of the Metropolitan train line opened in 1863 towards Farringdon. The platforms were built in a shed on the northern side of the long distance train terminal and called originally “Paddington (Bishop’s Road)”. The line was extended to Hammersmith in the following year. As the tracks were identical to those of a suburban train line, trains ran initially over the normal train tracks beyond Paddington for a certain distance, but this arrangement proved to cause delays and congestion and separate tracks were soon provided.

War memorial in Paddington trian terminal

There is an other Paddington Underground station used by the District and Circle line towards Kensington. This second station is completely separate with no interchange and was called Paddington (Praed Street). Both Paddington stations got the present, shorter name in 1933.

As Paddington (Bishop’s Road) is primarily an annex of the main train terminal, it did not have a specific station building. My picture shows the access to Paddington (Praed Street). I also show you two pictures of the train terminal because I like them, but please refer to my Paddington network walk 1 for detailed comments.

Inside Paddington train terminal

Cross the train tracks using the footbridge above the trains.

Exit the station on the south side at the level of the taxi stand

Paddington station taxi stand

I apologise for the bad quality of my picture; I felt it is necessary in order to point out at the particularly elegant and well conceived stand. The row of columns and arches along the main station wall are clearly meant to reassure the elegant Westminster clientele about train travelling. The stand is fully covered over a lengthy section so that you do not get wet. No other main terminal has a comparably comfortable system. Train companies soon decided that such protection was a wasteful indulgence and this shows you that Paddington is indeed the oldest London terminal.

L along the taxi row, cross the higher road (Eastbourne Terrace) at the nearest traffic lights

Continue along Eastbourne Terrace for a few yards

Soon R Chilworth Street

R Gloucester Terrace, turns slowly L at the end

I did not take a picture in this road because it repeats itself over a rather long stretch. It is a typical development from the 1850s intended for moderately affluent patrons. The style imitates the posh terraces of Belgravia with neo-classical porticos and whitewashed façades but the houses are much smaller.

Continue on Gloucester Terrace, do not cross the first bridge over the tracks

R Porchester Road

Paddington Library on Porchester Road

Paddington Library at 45 Porchester Road is a solid, somewhat forbidding building. Surprisingly, it was not built for an institution projecting authority like council offices or police but was from the onset a sort of cultural centre including a library and a large concert hall. It also has Turkish baths that have not changed much since the 1920s, a rarity in London. The architecture from 1925 / 1929 echoes the British Imperial style, but the decoration above the windows and the round openings called oculi are simple versions of baroque and actually strange on a building from that period.

Baptist Church demolished in 2012

My next picture might baffle you. It shows the last building on Porchester Road before reaching the bridge over the train line and it was an interesting example of a church in the style of the late 1960s. My picture is historical, the building was demolished around 2012.




Royal Oak Underground station

The station opened in 1871 a few years after the line itself and the name comes from a nearby pub. It was actually opened as an interchange between main line trains and the present Underground line and the arrangement lasted until 1934.

The history of the station explains why there is a substantial brick building at all. The premises have been unused for a long time and the Underground station is now just an awning and a ticket machine. The platform has a long corrugated iron awning that reminds clearly of suburban train stations.

Royal Oak road bridge

The road bridge has delightfully English colours, the steel girders being painted gaily in white, dark green and cutesy pink. The actual interesting point is the steel structure with a very large number of rivets. At the time of construction of the train line, steel was still an innovative material and was more brittle than our modern alloys, so that engineers sometimes went overboard with the number of rivets in order to convince the railway company managers that this cheap method of construction would be as safe as a traditional brick bridge.

Turn around away from the station on Porchester Road

R Westbourne Park Road

Villas in Westbourne Park Road

This road has many villas with large front courtyards. You are clearly a class above Gloucester Terrace, partly because only more affluent professionals would build a villa further away from central London and depend on owning horse carriages.

The road turns R past a church, then L and turns into a wider avenue



St Stephen’s Westbourne Park

The church is the parish church for Westbourne Park, built in 1855 together with the housing developments around it. As the congregation was expected to be wealthy businessmen (because of the warehouses on the nearby canal and of the railway attracting factories), a seriously imposing church was considered appropriate. The original plan was a typical neo-Gothic church. The building was very run down by the 1980s but was rebuilt in 1995. It has one peculiarity, the altar being at the western end of the church because of the road layout. This is only done by special dispensation of normal liturgical rules. There was an amusing incident once due to the road layout: a careless driver lost control, his car crashed the church portal and was only stopped by the altar stairs.

Estate in Westbourne Park Road

Towards the end of the road, you reach larger estates. There is a rather nice, well-kept open space between the rows of flats. Try to identify how I took the picture, this might prove not so easy.

R Great Western Road




Westbourne Park Underground station

The station opened in 1866 two years after the train line itself and was relocated by a few yards to the present location in 1871. The station also included platforms on the main train line from Paddington, like at Royal Oak, and this convenient interchange lasted from 1871 until 1992. The main line platforms were demolished in order to enable the newly built Heathrow Express Services to run at speed.

The station building is a full size suburban train station with typically Victorian brickwork and neo-Romanic arches in contrasting dark red.

Continue on Great Western Road under the motorway viaduct to the canal

Just before the canal L into Meanwhile Gardens, continue along the canal

Core of Meanwhile Gardens

This park is a narrow strip of land along the canal, landscaped in 1976 on the site of a demolished, derelict terrace. It is one the cleverest examples in London for using such an awkward layout in an interesting fashion and there are a number of interesting details to look at. A large part of the garden is managed by the local community and you should therefore not expect formal flower beds set by the borough. You will find instead a very large crocodile lurking near the playground, a surprising row of immaculate topiary along the canal towpath and a lovely wilderness pond with many wild flowers.

Meanwhile Gardens crocodile

Meanwhile Gardens topiary

Wildlife pond in Meanwhile Gardens


Moroccan garden in Meanwhile Gardens

At the end of the pond, there is a wooden pergola and an unusual “Moroccan garden” with a row of tiles leading to a wall fountain with appropriate Mediterranean plants growing along the path. There is only one similar scheme in London (in Burgess Park) and it has a very different layout. The garden was very well known at the start for having a large skateboard training area, something extremely innovative at the time.

L after the pond away from the canal towards Trellick Tower (see my picture)

Trellick Tower with detached service tower

The tower is a major landmark in the history of architecture and is a work by one of the best known architects of the second half of the 20th century, Ernö Goldfinger. It opened in 1972 and was the crown of the “brutalist” architecture very popular in the 1960s. This involves building in raw concrete, façade cladding being considered as some kind of falsification and inappropriate shame towards a modern, useful material. Access to the flats is through a separate tower housing the lift, linked to the hallways through bridges. This was an attempt at innovation with the service tower having a hot water tank at the top in order to save on pumping costs. The tower also included a refuse chute, something very popular in the 1970s but that was strictly rejected later on due to many people abusing the convenience to drop things that did not belong there.

Trellick Tower seen from further away

When built, the flats were much more comfortable than the old social housing they replaced. But society changed with the traditional working class jobs disappearing, causing many residents of social housing to be frustrated and jobless over many years. This in turn meant increasing risk of crime. In the case of Trellick Tower, the residents managed to agree on funding a concierge to look after the common parts and flush out illegal activities. There was a fire in the tower in 2017, but it was less serious than at nearby Grenfell Tower with the construction concept being completely different anyway.

Take Golborne Road past the tower, soon crossing over the train tracks

L Portobello Road

Portobello Green market

The road passes soon under a motorway. There is a small open space to your right and you also see the structure of the daily street market held here. I don’t really like buying produce or poultry that has been exposed for a few hours to the exhaust fumes from the motorway running directly along the market stalls. Do you ?




Pub in Portobello Road

Portobello Road is often described as a major tourist attraction, partly because of romantic films. Actually, I think it is more an attraction for London residents having a weekend stroll. There is a very well-known street market on Saturdays where traders sell knick-knack, antiques and curios. The rest of the week, you can still have a leisurely shopping stroll through dozens of boutiques selling everything from second-hand clothes to decoration items. I don’t remember seeing much handicraft, you find this rather in Greenwich or Camden Town, where I would indeed rather send foreign tourists.



Colourful houses in Portobello Road

Portobello Road is also quite enjoyable to walk through because it is an old church path. As such, it is not a straight, boring road, and the houses on both sides have a variety of details instead of a standardised terrace style. In recent years, traders have started to paint some of the houses in pastel colours, something rarely done in Britain because of the brick walls but a sensible import inspired by European town landscapes from Italy to Bavaria and Bohemia.

Film theatre in Portobello Road

At 191 Portobello Road, you can see the baby blue front of the Electric Cinema. It is a historical building, one of the very oldest cinemas in the whole of Britain, opened in 1910 when films were still an extremely unusual novelty. Like many smaller venues, it was often on the verge of liquidation from the 1970s on, but a developper managed to turn it into a successful venue showing unusual films in a historical ambiance. Tickets are suitably priced for rich intellectuals from Notting Hill. When it was built, there was no tradition of architecture for film theatres and the architect chose a very fanciful mix of baroque scrolls, classical columns and exotic dome, the kind of strange combination that appealed to the more traditional public in Edwardian times.

Florist in an interesting building

Towards the top of Portobello Road, you cross Westbourne Grove. If you fancy a short detour, turn L for one block in order to see a rather unusual florist shop in a low brick building painted a delightful turquoise. The shop also an interesting awning in the shape of a rounded fan, reminding me of French Art Nouveau. You can also look at the clock on the side of the shop, a modern design that fits surprisingly well. Come back to Portobello Road afterwards.

R Chepstow Villas

L Kensington Park Road

Estate in Kensington Park Road

The properties in this road are not typical terraces, rather large estates from the 1930s. The one on my picture was interesting for the unusually elaborate brick fence.

R Ladbroke Square

R Ladbroke Grove


Typical Notting Hill terrace

This long, wide road crosses a rather bland, elegant part of town with neo-classical terraces overlooking private strips of greenery. The whole area was part of a large country estate that belonged to Mr Ladbroke. His uncle had bequeathed him the land with the proviso that buildings could only have a lease of 21 years, which more or less precluded development. Mr Ladbroke managed to have Parliament issue an Act for his benefit changing the rule to 99 years. The core of the development dates back to the late 1820s, with additions in the 1840s after an intermediary period of economic uncertainty. The style is therefore very typically neo-classical, as was usual at the time. These streets are always as boring to walk through as they are pleasant to live in because of the long, repeated, straight alignments.


Ladbroke Grove Underground station

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.

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Victoria Tube line walk 5: Tottenham Hale walk to Walthamstow Central

Victoria Tube walk 5


1 1/2 hours

The Victoria line was built by Transport for London in the 1960s in order to alleviate congestion on existing underground lines in central London and proved very successful as it is considered to be congested as well by now. There are two good reasons for this: it is the line providing the most convenient interchange at many stations as changing to other lines is step free in a number of cases. And trains run very fast because distances between stations tend to be high.

The line was not meant to provide access to suburbs that might have been underserved until then and all stations are interchanges except for one that was added later. Looking at a map, you might argue that an opportunity was missed in several cases (New Covent Garden in Nine Elms, Clissold Park area, St Ann’s Road, Walthamstow Town Hall).

Apart from the interchange issue, the main peculiarity of the line is that it is the only longer line built fully underground (only the maintenance depot is over ground). The line is called “Victoria” because it passes Victoria train terminal. Other names had been proposed and some sound rather funny (“Viking line” or “Walvic line”).

Routing note: This route connects in Tottenham Hale with Victoria Underground line walk 4 and with Liverpool Street network walks 6, 7, 9 and 10. It connects in Blackhorse Road with Overground walk 15. Finally, it connects in Walthamstow Central with Liverpool Street network walk 11.


Tottenham Hale station

The Underground station opened in 1968 and offers a very convenient interchange with the suburban train station. Because this is a station also served by all train services to Stansted Airport, Tottenham Hale is one of the Underground stations with a full set of elevators.

I have read that the station building dates back to the 1990s. The London Underground part of the complex is a plain brick box crowned by a tall tower with blue glass tiles at the top. The tower is spectacular at night because the tiles are lit from inside. This is unusual for a train station and is possibly inspired by the landmark Art Deco stations on the Underground Piccadilly line. Major works are being discussed for this interchange, so stay tuned for a different building in the future.

Exit the station towards the main road in order to cross the railway tracks. I think the views are more pleasant if you do not cross the road itself and stay on the northern pavement.

L Ferry Lane

Lea Navigation with Tottenham Lock

The first bridge crosses the Lea Navigation, built from the 17th century onwards in order to provide easier access to the markets in London for agricultural goods from Essex. The Navigation still has relatively busy lock traffic, but the traffic is now mostly on weekends and concentrates on leisure river boats. The view north also shows moored boats because this is a popular alternative to living on a Victorian terrace.


View from Ferry Lane downstream

The view south shows a pleasant estate. As is often the case in London, residents have a pleasant riverside view and some greenery, but they cannot make use of their balconies because of the heavy road traffic on the bridge nearby.

Soon after a small open space, the road crosses a small undeveloped stream. This is one of several river Lea arms and is called Coppermill Stream. The name stems from a factory built downriver by a Welsh mining company in 1808. It issued copper tokens as a replacement currency because of a shortage caused by the war in Europe. The venture turned to more typical copper articles later and closed in 1857.

Coppermill Stream


Old pub on Ferry Road

There was a large pub on Ferry Lane called logically the Ferry Boat Inn. The sign is quite pretty with a predatory fox supposedly helping innocent geese to cross the river. Ferry operators had a very bad reputation, being often accused of robbing passengers and threatening to drown them if they would not pay a supplement. This was an easy game at a time when nearly no one could swim. From an architectural point of view, the building is considered interesting for some 17th century features. This being said, it is a standard venue run by a commercial corporation, the main attraction being the location.

Pub sign with fox and geese


Maynard Reservoir

After the pub, the road runs between reservoirs. The Maynard Reservoirs on the north side (there is a Low and a High Reservoir) are drinking water reservoirs built at the end of the 19th century in order to safeguard supply in summer. They are of scientific interest because of interesting waterside plants and many waterfowl. Nonetheless, you are allowed to walk along them, which is unusual for the river Lea reservoirs. As there is only one single entrance through the fences, the area is not convenient for a route like mine.


Reservoir with Canary Wharf skyline

On the south side of the road, your view is slightly impeded by the railway embankment carrying the London Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking. You still get an idea of a number of smaller reservoirs on this side of the road as well. Access to those is possible as they are also drinking water reservoirs with interesting nature, but access is through a gate far away on the southern side of the lakes.

Both sets of reservoirs are rarely visited by anyone else than a few anglers because they are cumbersome to reach, have strictly no amenities and have a very busy road running along them.

Ahead Forest Road


Blackhorse Road station

The station provides an interchange between the London Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking and the Victoria line. As the train line is of rather minor importance, this is the least used station on the Victoria line. The Underground platforms opened in 1968. Like in most Victoria line stations, there is a themed decoration on the platforms, in this case a black horse.


The Black Horse

The station building at ground level is one of the few interesting buildings on this Underground line. It is a typical example of architecture in the 1960s with concrete being shown “brut” (unpainted, therefore “brutalist” architecture). The complex interplay with boxy shapes was popular in order to avoid boring, straight walls. There is also an unusually large awning that builds a sort of inner courtyard. This is really different from your usual brick box.

The nice mural with a black horse on blue ground is a work by Scottish sculptor David McFall.

L Blackhorse Lane

R Tavistock Avenue

The whole area until you reach the park is a densely populated set of terraces built in one go in the 1930s.

Ahead Queen Elizabeth Road

Ahead Winns Avenue

At the end of the road ahead into Lloyd Park

Moat in Lloyd Park

The park is the central and quite the only park in the whole suburb. It was opened to the public in 1900 when the previous owner, the heir of newspaper published Edward Lloyd, gave the property to the local council. The park had a major attraction, an island with a moat already documented in the early 18th century. There was first a bandstand on the island and there is now a theatre.


Entrance of sensory garden in Lloyd Park

An other special attraction was added in 1957. It was called a “Garden for the Blind”, this politically incorrect name having been changed since to “sensory garden”. Such gardens concentrating on smells rather than on colours were still a novelty at the time. This one has a very nice border with reliefs of plants at the entrance.


Formal garden of Lloyd Park


The southern end of the park near the former mansion was logically the more formal section. It still has very nice displays of flowers in season with a selection of flower beds in the style of royal gardens (round beds, contrasting blocks of colours, higher plants in the middle). But there are also straight borders in the baroque tradition. Very nice. The garden was very well known in the mid 20th century for an annual exhibition of chrysanthemums exhibited in a glasshouse. This became obviously too expensive to maintain when Mrs Thatcher cut the funds made available to local authorities.

Seasonal yellow

Lloyd Park flowers


William Morris Gallery

The brick mansion at the back of the flower beds is a rather ugly box seen from the park. It has a much nicer front to the road on the other side with twin rounded sections and a neo-classical portico in the middle, fitting for a property built in the 1750s. Before belonging to Mr Lloyd, the property was the residence of famous entrepreneur and designer William Morris between 1848 and 1856. He moved later to a newly built house in Bexleyheath which you can also visit, but the borough of Walthamstow has the better museum on his work.

Front entrance of William Morris Gallery

It is definitely worth looking at the explanations in order to understand the idea behind “arts and crafts”. It was partly a romantic rejection of industrial uniformity, partly a worry about the low quality of modern production and partly a criticism of the neo-everything fashion of Victorian designers. It does have some echoes in the modern chase for “authentic” and “unique” objects for your home. You might spend an hour looking at the many textile designs on display and at the explanations. Entrance is free but you may want to check opening times in advance (www.wmgallery.org.uk).

Turn R within the park in order to get to the south exit passing the moat, the formal gardens and the museum

L Forest Road

Temple in Bedford Road

Shortly after leaving the museum, you cross Bedford Road. You might want to have a short look at the façade of the hindu temple in this road. You will not be surprised at the use of very strong colours and the figures painted on the wall have traditional postures. But they have interesting, very realistic faces, some of which may even be actual portraits. This was also done in medieval churches on occasion, but it was a rare occurrence as clerics seldom allow artists to deviate from coded, traditional representations.




Waltham Forest Town Hall

Further on, Forest Road widens with a huge open space in front of blocky white buildings with very formal colonnades. Many London boroughs built new city halls in the 1930s. Walthamstow chose a design influenced by Swedish rather than Dutch architecture and the central building ended up looking quite typical for the heavy-handed neo-classicism of the late 1930s. But the choice of white stones contrasting with the thin copper-clad tower is elegant and nicer than brick to look at when the weather is good. In addition, the borough took care to plan a very generous fountain and prim flower beds giving the town hall space to impress.

Walthamstow Town Hall from 1942

Civic Centre fountain


Walthamstow Assembly Hall

The colonnaded building on one side is a multi-purpose hall used for receptions but also for concerts and theatre performances because it has remarkable acoustics. Apart from the neo-classical columns, there are many Art Deco details such as the window surroundings and even the script used for inscriptions. Unfortunately, you cannot see anything of the inside if you do not have tickets for a performance.


Détails of Assembly Hall

R opposite the town hall on a footpath (between house numbers 588 and 590)

At the end R The Drive

L The Drive (beware as the road ahead has an other name)

Ahead through the public footpath to the parish church

Monoux Almshouses

Before reaching the church, you pass on the left side a row of nice almshouses. The Monoux Almshouses were originally built in 1527 and half of the building was actually used as a grammar school with six classrooms, a very unusual combination in Elizabethan times. Half of the building was rebuilt in 1730, the rest after World War II because of bomb damage. The central gate has a very Tudor arch and a very neo-classical but also very tiny arcade above.


St Mary’s Walthamstow

St Mary’s church was originally built in the 12th century but was rebuilt and remodeled many times, in particular after being bombed in the Second World War. It is supposed to contain a number of interesting brasses and monuments, but the church is closed outside of services and I have been unable to visit it. The churchyard is really interesting to walk through. There are many imposing monuments and a number of them are listed. The cemetery is seriously overgrown because it is now a nature reserve and this will give you a nice display of bluebells in spring.

Modest monument in Walthamstow churchyard

Wilderness churchyard

The Ancient House

At the end of the path across the churchyard, you reach a particularly old half-timbered house. The shop fronts date only back to the 19th century, but the core of the building is more than 500 years old. The building is imaginatively called “The Ancient House”.

After the church R Church Path (a footpath away from the road)


Almshouses from 1795

You are here in an area popular with books about historical walks in London suburbs. The path leads you between old houses on both sides. On the right side, the low cottages give a feeling of bygone rural atmosphere, with almshouses from 1795 at the start of the row.

On the left side, you pass the former Vestry House. It was originally built in 1730 and extended at different times later on. There is an interesting garden at the back of the building along the path; it is a community garden and is quite impressive taking into accounts that it is not financed by the council.

Town museum in Vestry House

Vestry House has been used for a number of things over time and I remember it was the venue for a citizenship ceremony when I visited. But the main use is as the museum for the borough of Waltham Forest (free entry Wednesdays to Saturdays). It is one of the best of its kind showing a great variety of things: toys, costumes, beautiful furniture, cooking and washing implements, a police cell (quite impressive and fun at the same time).


Community Garden of Vestry House

There is also a car invented in 1892, one of the very earliest attempts to make one. And there is an interesting display on policemen in the 19th century, with explanations I haven’t read anywhere else. I was impressed to read that policemen were expected to wear their highly uncomfortable uniform even when at home in private – hard to imagine nowadays as many policemen don’t even wear uniforms at work.

Ahead St Mary Road


Walthamstow Central Underground terminal

The Underground terminal opened in 1968. Although there is a connection with a suburban train line, it is not used much and the much larger part of the very heavy traveller traffic connects to buses.

There is no building at ground level but there is a glass box marking the access opposite the bus station. Nothing special, partly because there were serious budget constraints by the time the line reached the terminus.


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Victoria Tube line walk 4: Finsbury Park walk to Tottenham Hale

Victoria Tube walk 4


2 1/2 hours

The Victoria line was built by Transport for London in the 1960s in order to alleviate congestion on existing underground lines in central London and proved very successful as it is considered to be congested as well by now. There are two good reasons for this: it is the line providing the most convenient interchange at many stations as changing to other lines is step free in a number of cases. And trains run very fast because distances between stations tend to be high.

The line was not meant to provide access to suburbs that might have been underserved until then and all stations are interchanges except for one that was added later. Looking at a map, you might argue that an opportunity was missed in several cases (New Covent Garden in Nine Elms, Clissold Park area, St Ann’s Road, Walthamstow Town Hall).

Apart from the interchange issue, the main peculiarity of the line is that it is the only longer line built fully underground (only the maintenance depot is over ground). The line is called “Victoria” because it passes Victoria train terminal. Other names had been proposed and some sound rather funny (“Viking line” or “Walvic line”).

Routing note: This route connects in Finsbury Park with Victoria Underground line walk 3, with Piccadilly line walks 1 and 2 and with King’s Cross / Moorgate network walks 1, 2 and 6. It connects in Seven Sisters with Liverpool Street network walks 2 and 3. Finally, it connects in Tottenham Hale with Victoria Underground line walk 5 and with Liverpool Street network walks 6, 7, 9 and 10.

I may have been overestimating the time needed for the walk. As the following and last walk on this network is quite short, you can easily combine them. By the way, the distance between Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters is the longest fully underground section in London without an intermediary station.


Finsbury Park Underground station

The Underground station opened with platforms for the Piccadilly line in 1906. It was originally the northern terminal for the line until it was extended northwards in 1932. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1968.

The station is located beneath the train station, but a separate access was built for the Underground on the western side of the train line, the normal access to rail services being on the eastern side. The Underground access is a rather simple brick building in geometrical shapes.

Exit the station through the main train station exit on the eastern side and cross the bus interchange

L along the main road (Seven Sisters Road)

R Queen’s Drive

St. John’s Brownswood Park

You soon reach an unsual church, St John the Evangelist. This is the parish church for Brownswood Park. The church is usually closed if there is no service, but the main attraction is the overall impression anyway. It is a very unusual church for an Anglican parish church; when the original Victorian building needed to be rebuilt in 1958, a choice was made to go for contemporary architecture and you get a rare example of a circular parish church. It looks a little like a lighthouse, which is not a bad idea for a church.

L Gloucester Drive

Nice palm tree in front of a nice house

I noticed a very well kept property in this street with a superb palm tree. They are not unusual in London thanks to global warming but are seldom this lush. Otherwise, the whole area is not that much fun to walk through because of the long straight roads.

At the end R Green Lane

L into the access road for the Castle Climbing Centre

The Castle Climbing Centre

The Centre is indeed built within what looks like an impressive neo-medieval castle. It was originally a pumping station linked to the nearby drinking water reservoir and was converted in 1995 to an attraction. Businessmen interested in climbing realised that there was little opportunity to train in London and the large, empty inner space of the building was easy to outfit with training walls. The castle was built in 1855 when Sir Walter Scott’s medieval Scottish romances were the height of literary fashion.

There is a small canal on your left. When you see the footbridge across it with black signs for the New River Path, cross the canal

Follow the New River Path along two reservoirs

Sailing boats on the New River Reservoir

The path is originally the inspection path for the canal and is still used for this purpose by Thames Water, so that it may be closed on occasion for a few days. It is now marked as a long-distance footpath because the canal runs for 45 km between Hertfordhisre and Islington. It was built in order to bring clean drinking water into London at a time when the only alternative was dangerously polluted Thames water or weak beer (the alcohol being supposed to kill the dangerous stuff).

West Reservoir and New River

Of course, Romans already had the idea of building aqueducts, but this had become very fanciful in the Middle Ages. When an engineer convinced a few investors to build the canal in 1613, it was really a visionary plan and it encountered heavy opposition. Landowners along the planned canal were particularly worried by the idea that their cattle might drown in the water, that it may overflow or that it may hamper their normal hunting habits. In the end, the king took a majority of the shares of the company and landowners had to comply.

New River

It is very interesting to note that a large, sensible piece of infrastructure could not be built because of opposing private interests until the State forced it through – it is still the case nowadays with motorways, high-speed rail lines etc. The company now controlled by the King proved extremely profitable, possibly because it had a natural monopoly. Water supply companies continue to be extremely profitable monopolies nowadays and their profiteering causes many problems with setting up the right regulation system.

Pumping station for West Reservoir

On this particular section, the New River runs alongside two reservoirs built in the 1830s. They were fed by the canal and were used as a buffer in order to supply enough water in times of higher demand. The first reservoir, the Western one, is now cut off from the canal and is only used for sailing. The water is not clean enough to be used for swimming as far as I know and people have to use the Hampstead ponds for this.

The Eastern Reservoir continues to be a drinking water reservoir fed by the canal and is therefore strictly off limits to visitors. This has the advantage of making it attractive for water birds as there are reed beds along the water. One of my pictures looks so rural that you might think of a picture by Constable. Surprising so close to central London.

East Reservoir


Victorian control house

The New River needed a quantity of technical equipment and this added to quite a museum of techniques over the centuries. The canal snakes about quite a bit because the engineer sensibly tried to get a constant, slow incline over the whole distance in order to ensure the natural flow of water. As the ground is not flat, this implied following carefully each gully and vale over the way. Victorians later built siphons in order to shorten the length of the canal and to make better use of the unnecessary detours. They also built control houses and bridges as the suburbs grew; there is a rather nice brick house near the Eastern Reservoir.

New River path near Seven Sisters Road

After the second reservoir, follow the canal as it turns sharply L

On reaching a main highway R across the canal

Ahead Seven Sisters Road (this is the busy road downhill, not the one branching off to the right)

R Vartry Road

L Richmond Road

R into Paignton Park, exit the park at the bottom of the hill using the footpath along a modern building clad in grey metal

Paignton Park

I don’t know when the park was originally set aside. It was a rather plain open space for a very long time until it was converted into a real park with a children’s playground in 2010. It is actually quite nice because it is sloping and because it has a shady copse of mature trees.

R St Ann’s Road

L Ermine Road, the road turns R at the end and ends on a main highway

Victorian neo-gothic pub

Nr 148 on the main road is a rather striking corner building with an impressive neo-gothic oriel, clearly a harbinger to high Victorian times. The ground floor is covered in striking baby blue paint. I have no doubt that it draws attention to the pub located inside, but I think the council should bother a little more about the somewhat unfortunate clash with the elegant upper floors.

L under the train bridge

Directly afterwards L between the buildings to Stonebridge Road

Follow Stonebridge Road, the road turns R

Access to Seven Sisters train station

At the end of the road, you are opposite the entrance to Seven Sisters train station. You might think that it is a rather unimpressive entrance. This is due to the fact that the original station building was located on a different street further north and that this secondary platform access was converted into the main entrance because it was closer to the Underground platforms.

R Seven Sisters Road


Seven Sisters Underground station

The Underground station opened in 1968. It is located a fair bit away from the much older train station although there is a connecting corridor.

The station is entirely underground and there is no entrance building. Like most Victoria line stations, it has a tile decoration on the platform. In this case, it is a tree because “Seven Sisters” refers to seven trees.


Miracle campaign on schedule

On the corner opposite the Underground station entrance, you can see an other building in the castle style. From the shape, I can imagine that it was originally a business, possibly a garage. It is the main London base of the Christ Apostolic Church, an important Pentecostal church founded in Nigeria during World War II. I noticed the sign announcing that Miss Maria Lorena would be offering a “campaign of miracles”. I am always a bit surprised at the ability of such churches to provide miracles at specific hours announced in advance every week.

R High Road (back towards the train bridge)

Page Green

There is a pleasant strip of greenery along the busy road. The road itself is strikingly straight over a very long distance from central London all the way to the Hertfordshire border. This is due to the fact that it is actually the oldest road in England, built by the Romans about 2,000 years ago. They preferred straight roads both in order to see potential dangers more in advance and because it made roads shorter.

The strip of greenery, Page Green, is the actual location of the “Seven Sisters”. This was a group of seven trees. They had to be replanted quite often in Victorian times due to pollution issues and this was always done by the seven daughters of whichever local family could be found for the purpose. The last planting abandoned the tradition, the seven trees are not standing together any more and no family of seven daughters could be found.

Victorian row of houses in Crowland Road

Cross under the train line

L Crowland Road

You are now in a more lower middle class Victorian suburb. This is due to the fact that you will soon be reaching the river Lea, which attracted a high number of factories.

Ahead into Markfield Park


Markfield Park with King George Field markers

The park was first opened as a so-called King George Field in 1938. The scheme was supposed to provide many working class suburbs with open spaces where young people could train sports. The idea that open air sports were important for health was quite new as a general government policy but fit with the hygienic movement of the 1930s, brought about by advancement in medicine. The park was not in an attractive location as the lower part of the ground near the river Lea was used for sewage works. You can see that it was a King George Field because of the two pillars with coats of arms at the entrance.

Markfield Park

It is not before 2005 that the local council developed a plan for a real park, long after the sewage treatment plant had been moved to Walthamstow. The work involved primarily a rehabilitation of the industrial part along the railway embankment. It was very well made with a maze of foundation walls being left standing and being used as retaining walls for plant beds. This is officially called the Conservation Garden because the bad quality ground attracts drought-resistant plants that are unusual in other parks.

Markfield Conservation Garden


Markfield pumping station

At the end of the Conservation Garden, you reach what was obviously an industrial building. It is a small museum housing the “Markfield Beam Engine”, a major piece of Victorian industrial heritage dating back to 1886. Its function was originally to pump sewage into the treatment plant but it was not powerful enough by 1905 and was only used in case of flooding risks.


Markfield beam engine

Because it was not used for long, it is in very good shape and local enthusiasts repainted it in gay colours that make it very nice to look at. Opening times of the museum are extremely limited as it is run by volunteers and you will usually have to be content with peeking through the windows. If you plan your visit accordingly, though, it is worth going inside as part of the engine can be operated and is quite spectacular. There are very few beam engines still in their original location.

Walk ahead past the Beam Engine building to the river Lea

L on the towpath along the river, crossing under two train bridges

Lea Navigation

You are not actually walking along the river, rather along the Navigation arm of the river. There is a second channel further east, which is important as the river level can rise quickly after heavy rains on the clay ground of Essex and Hertfordshire. The Navigation was built as an important transportation link between the agricultural areas north of London and the consumer markets in the city. Of course, there were many disputes between canal operators and mill owners relying on sufficient flow in the natural arm of the river.

Lea Navigation towpath

Like all canals in England, commercial traffic is now nearly nil (the occasional barge with construction materials), but the location near central London makes it very popular with boaters both for weekend trips and for residential marinas. The towpath is accessible in most places and I use it on many of my routes through this area. The river Lea area has an unusual governance; it is managed by a specific authority and financed by an additional tax on all residents of adjoining boroughs.

Tottenham Lock

Strictly financial experts complain that this arrangement does not motivate the authority to lower costs and manage as efficiently as possible while public policy experts point out that this makes sure that the area is managed under due consideration of common goods like providing room for leisure activities instead of maximising profits by asking for fees and blocking access everywhere.


Waterside estate

The further north you come, the more pleasant the waterside estates look like. This is because they are catering to commuters and not to speculators. Jobs in Canary Wharf or in the City remain easily accessible, but the location is too isolated to make quick turnover of flats realistic. Hackney is not the London borough with the best reputation in terms of peaceful, middle classe environment, but there are enough pockets offering this and the estates along the river belong to them.

Ferry Lane estate path

After the second bridge, there are three gates giving you access to an estate on your L. Take the third gate using the footpath and ignore the first road you cross

The footpath joins the central garden of the estate. Turn now R towards the next road

L along the open space until you reach the train line

R to a staircase enabling you to cross the railway line

Cross the train line and go the traffic lights to cross the main road


Tottenham Hale station

The Underground station opened in 1968 and offers a very convenient interchange with the suburban train station. Because this is a station also served by all train services to Stansted Airport, Tottenham Hale is one of the Underground stations with a full set of elevators.

I have read that the station building dates back to the 1990s. The London Underground part of the complex is a plain brick box crowned by a tall tower with blue glass tiles at the top. The tower is spectacular at night because the tiles are lit from inside. This is unusual for a train station and is possibly inspired by the landmark Art Deco stations on the Underground Piccadilly line. Major works are being discussed at this interchange, so stay tuned for a different building in the future.


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Victoria Tube line walk 3: Warren Street walk to Finsbury Park

Victoria Tube walk 3


2 hours

The Victoria line was built by Transport for London in the 1960s in order to alleviate congestion on existing underground lines in central London and proved very successful as it is considered to be congested as well by now. There are two good reasons for this: it is the line providing the most convenient interchange at many stations as changing to other lines is step free in a number of cases. And trains run very fast because distances between stations tend to be high.

The line was not meant to provide access to suburbs that might have been underserved until then and all stations are interchanges except for one that was added later. Looking at a map, you might argue that an opportunity was missed in several cases (New Covent Garden in Nine Elms, Clissold Park area, St Ann’s Road, Walthamstow Town Hall).

Apart from the interchange issue, the main peculiarity of the line is that it is the only longer line built fully underground (only the maintenance depot is over ground). The line is called “Victoria” because it passes Victoria train terminal. Other names had been proposed and some sound rather funny (“Viking line” or “Walvic line”).

Routing note: This route connects in Warren Street with Victoria Underground line walk 2 and with Northern line walk 9. It connects in Euston, in King’s Cross St. Pancras and in Highbury & Islington with a large number of walks relating to a number of different networks. I don’t give you detailed references because I think these would not be very logical walk combinations. The route finally connects in Finsbury Park with Victoria Underground line walk 4, with Piccadilly line walks 1 and 2 and with King’s Cross / Moorgate network walks 1, 2 and 6.

Please note that there are three different walks connecting King’s Cross St Pancras with Finsbury Park (a train walk and two Underground walks). The walks follow separate routes.


Warren Street Underground station

The station opened on the Northern Line in 1907 and was originally called “Euston Road”, a highly confusing name as there are also stations called “Euston” and “Euston Square”. The name was therefore changed directly in 1908. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1969 and were given a themed decoration in form of a labyrinth (from “warren”).

The access is the ground floor of an imposing rotunda built at the end of a large office building from 1934. The shape is typically Art Déco but no effort was made in terms of decoration or a particular window scheme. A bit cheap for this period.

Cross Tottenham Court Road and take opposite the Underground station Beaumont Place. This is a hospital access road that turns R.

At the end L Grafton Way

L Gower Street

R Gower Place

Between Warren Street and Euston stations, my route passes a number of institutional buildings. I chose the most direct route because I explore the area more closely in the Northern line walk covering exactly the same section.

L Gordon Street

Ahead Euston Square / Melton Street

R Walk across the main hall of Euston train terminal


The station opened on the account of two different Underground companies in 1907; both lines are now called Northern Line but are actually two separate lines. An interconnection was put in place in 1924 in order to enable trains to switch from the one line to the other. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1968.

The station is entirely underground and has no dedicated entrance at street level. It is accessed through the Euston train terminal, a gloomy concrete structure from 1968.

On the east side of the train station, cross the main road into Doric Way

L and directly R Churchway (a footpath)

L Chalton Street

R Polygon Road

Polygon Road outdoor gym

There is a so-called “outdoor gym” in the road. You will probably have noticed in similar locations that the equipment is quite popular with young men of Caribbean or African origin. It is a good reminder that affluent white young men go to private gyms, often in the vicinity of their office. Less affluent white young men usually work very long hours and have no time for gyms; if they do have the time because they are in a “low work intensity household”, they are often overweight in Britain and don’t seem to listen much to what authorities say about exercising. It seems many young Blacks pay more attention to being healthy and it is therefore a good thing that there are publicly accessible gyms like this one as they would not be able to afford commercial ones. I don’t intend to sound racist, I think it is a good cultural tradition that they bother about practising sports themselves.

Ahead on a footpath and cycle way along school grounds

R Purchese Street

Purchese Street Open Space

As there is a large estate just further north, I think the small park along the road was planned together with the estate. It was often the case that the local authorities would buy derelict housing or factories and build high density housing on part of the acreage, keeping the rest for a local park. Purchese Street Open Space, to use the correct name, has no special amenities apart from a small playground.

L Brill Place

R Midland Road

L across the lower hall of St Pancras International train terminal

Cross St Pancras Road for


King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground station

The station is the second busiest on the Underground network as it combines six Underground lines and two train terminals. There were actually two clearly separate Underground stations; the first one was built for the Metropolitan line and opened in 1863; the platforms are under the main road in front of the St Pancras terminal complex. Platforms for the Piccadilly line opened in 1906, for the Northern line in 1907 and finally for the Victoria line in 1968. Those platforms are located more or less under the forecourt of King’s Cross terminal.

There have been a series of structures at ground level giving access to the different platforms over time. The main access is now a flattish dome located between the two train terminals. It is much larger than you would think necessary because it is actually a small shopping mall with just the escalators being part of the Underground station. The dome is a glass structure on a lattice of steel beams, a very popular design in the 2000s. The main point was not to use concrete in a visible manner as this was considered ugly and difficult to keep clean.

Go to the main crossroads in front of the train station complex and take Pentonville Road

Night club on Pentonville Road

The large building at the corner with the road called King’s Cross Bridge was a film theatre called the Scala. It was not built for a major chain of theatres and the owner gave it an old-fashioned, neo-classical appearance with columns along the top floor. The building has lost its neighbours and the colonnade therefore looks rather lonely in the low-rise landscape of what was actually primarily an industrial part of London. The building is now a nightclub.

L Rodney Street

Joseph Grimaldi Park

The park at the start of this road is Joseph Grimaldi Park, built on the grounds of a churchyard. The corresponding church was demolished in the 1960s for real estate purposes. The unusual name of the park honors an artist: Grimaldi was the most admired entertainer in London in the 1820s, being particularly famous for his clown roles in pantomimes (this quintessentially English amusement that never caught in Europe). As far as I am aware, Mr Grimaldi was not related to the royal family of Monaco, also called Grimaldi.

Park in Pentonville

It is a well kept, small park with the old churchyard wall still standing along one edge. There was also a small rose garden until a refurbishment in 2010. More recent pictures show a very contemporary combination of dry shrubbery and curving grey stone seats.

Former layout of Grimaldi Park

R Donegal Street

L Penton Street

Ahead Barnsbury Road

Drama school on Barnsbury Road

At the corner with Copenhagen Street, you will find the Young Actors Theatre. It is actually not a theatre but a drama school for young people learning the actors trade. It is organised as a stand-alone charity, which is often the case with drama schools. Only few actors attend publicly-owned university colleges because the entry requirements are too competitive for most beginners.



Barnard Park

Just after the drama school, you reach Barnard Park. It is a rather sizeable park developed on the location of Victorian housing that had been destroyed by bombs in 1940. The park opened only in 1975 after many years of discussion about what to do with the rubbish from the bombed houses. The main attraction of the park is a football field, but there is a small section along Richmond Avenue with banks and a few flowers.

Flower borders on Richmond Avenue

R Richmond Avenue

L Lonsdale Square

Lonsdale Square garden

Although the area of Barnard Park was a run-down area catering to the working class from the 1870s onwards, Lonsdale Square is a completely different world. Elegant townhouses from the 1840s attracted intellectuals, are still popular with professionals and artists and are correspondingly expensive. A large house with eight rooms was offered in 2018 for more than 3 million £.

There is a lovely garden in the middle of the development with blooming borders, a few rose bushes and a memorial.

Mémorial in Lonsdale Square

Houses on Lonsdale Square

The third picture shows more clearly the houses. The brick walls, the colour combination and the row of identical façades is quite typical for late Georgian developments, but there is no neo-classical decoration and the house gables remind more of medieval towns. Gothic revival was to become very popular later on for churches but is less frequent for housing.

R Barnsbury Street, the road turns a bit L then again R

L College Cross

R Islington Park Street

L Upper Street (A1)


Highbury & Islington station

The underground station opened in 1968 and is served only by the Victoria line but it offers easy interchange to two suburban train lines. One of the unusual features of the station is that the trains to Finsbury Park and the northbound Underground services stop on two sides of the same platform, giving one of the most convenient interchanges in the whole of London. The same arrangement is available for trains to Moorgate and southbound Victoria Line services. I think this is the only case in London of subterranean platforms shared by trains and Underground services.

There were station buildings for both train lines, but one of them was demolished and the other one shelters only technical equipment nowadays. The present station entrance is a nondescript brick and corrugated iron shed.

Take Highbury Place, the pedestrianised street branching off Holloway Road just south of a disused train station. The street runs between a long row of Georgian houses and a park.

Georgian houses along Highbury Place

The Georgian townhouses were built around 1790 on land leased by the local landowner, a stockbroker (showing that canny, slick traders keen on showing off their newly acquired wealth in flashy properties already existed more than two centuries ago…). This was a very desirable location from the onset and important people like the painter Walter Sickert, the methodist preacher John Wesley and the influential politician Joseph Chamberlain lived here. The town houses on Highbury Crescent (the other side of the park) are even more impressive.

South African war mémorial in Highbury

The park called Highbury Fields was set up in 1869 when earlier plans for a much larger park in the area were dropped considering the potential for luscious profits from real estate development. At the bottom of the park, you can see a large war memorial devoted to soldiers who fell in the 1899-1903 Boer War. The memorial is a typical female allegory from 1906.


Higbury Fields

Highbury Fields

Higbury clock tower

There is a popular swimming pool behind the memorial. Otherwise, the park is mostly grassy slopes with tall mature trees along the edges. At the top of the hill near the church, there is one of the typical late Victorian town clocks. This one was set up in 1897 for the Queen’s Jubilee, therefore the portrait of Her Majesty on the shaft. Dark red was an extremely popular colour in the late 19th century, including for upholstery and curtains.

The parish church behind the clock tower was built in 1848 and is a good example of the neo-gothic style. It keeps particularly close to medieval examples, including the use of mullions.

Continue past the church to the following crossroads

L Leigh Road, turns R and becomes Panmure Close

Glimpse of Emirates Arsenal Stadium

At the end of the road, you get a glimpse over the houses towards Arsenal Stadium.It is a landmark building, costing 390 million £ in 2004 and being the third largest sports facilities in London with about 60,000 seats. It is also a money-making machine as season tickets to the stadium cost from 1,000 to 7,000 £. When I lived in England, I was surprised to hear that football is considered the more bourgeois sports while rugby is supposed to be a working class sports, but such ticket prices confirm it.

Emirates Airlines paid 100 million £ to sponsor the building for a duration of 15 years, but it has to be called Arsenal Stadium for international competitions as Emirates did not pay sponsoring fees to UEFA. The stadium can also be used as a conference centre and a French President once had a summit meeting here with Prime Minister Blair.

R and directly L Avenell Road

Aubert Court garden façade

The road leads along an estate called Aubert Court, built in the 1960s. The flats are rather affordable compared to other locations close to central London, possibly because of the nuisances after football matches. The architecture is definitely worth a look. On the back façade towards the garden, there are many half-round balconies. This is both very pleasant for residents and lively to look at. On the road front, there is no feeling of gloomy, oversize shoebox because of the many staircase towers with tall white windows. This is unusual for the 1960s and reminds much more of Art Déco.

Aubert Court façade on Avenell Road

Development replacing old Arsenal Stadium

The next development is completely different. It was built on the grounds of the former Arsenal stadium. To keep the idea of a stadium, the former stands were each converted into a glass-fronted building overlooking a central garden. The buildings are surprisingly low; this was forced on the developer by the local authorities as the outer walls of two of the stands are listed features. The glass fronts are boring and could be any office building rather than flats. This is because the buildings are meant to maximise short-term profit and to be demolished as soon as a more profitable idea is found for the location. By the way, the four stands together add to no less than 711 flats, which implies most are likely to be quite tiny.

Listed part of former Arsenal Stadium

The listed wall along Avenell Road owes its protection listing to the Art Deco architecture. It was built in 1936 at a time when architects liked to break long, tall walls with geometric features, in this case recessed boxes. As you will probably know, the gun on the club’s coat of arms is linked to the fact that the club was founded originally in 1886 by workers from the ammunition factory at Woolwich Arsenal.

L Gillespie Road

R into Gillespie Park Nature Reserve. Beware that the entrance is a very inconspicuous arch just before house number 106

Cross the park keeping parallel to Gillespie Road

Wilderness in Gillespie Park

The first section of the park is a small neighbourhood park until you reach a pond that marks the start of the Nature Reserve. The few trees along the pond bear the grand name of the “Lakeside Copse”. After passing the lake, you reach a rather interesting wrought iron gate looking a little like intertwined silvery twigs. This is the “knotted gate”.


Gillespie Park Nature Reserve “Lake”

Knotted Gate in Gillespie Park Nature Reserve

Creepy-crawly tiles

Colourful tiles showing beetles and other creepy-crawlies have been inset in the concrete path as this leads to the local Ecology Centre. I have never looked inside the building but I did notice the rather unusual plants that grow in the garden. They are specifically meant to be attractive to wildlife such as bees.


Other tiles in Gillespie Park Nature Reserve

Garden of the Ecology Centre

Grassland in Gillespie Park Nature Reserve

North exit of Gillespie Park Nature Reserve

Walk up the embankment towards the train tracks, then R along the train tracks through the nature reserve. The reserve later turns into a very thin strip of greenery along the train embankment, but it is a valuable natural space because the grass grew naturally to a sort of small wilderness and now attracts many insects.

This area is sometimes closed off, particularly when there are football matches at the nearby stadium. If this is the case, you have to go back to Gillespie Road and take St. Thomas’s Road parallel to the train line.



Finsbury Park Underground station

The Underground station opened with platforms for the Piccadilly line in 1906. It was originally the northern terminal for the line until it was extended northwards in 1932. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1968.

The station is located beneath the train station, but a separate access was built for the Underground on the western side of the train line, the normal access to rail services being on the eastern side. The Underground access is a rather simple brick building in geometrical shapes.


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Victoria Tube line walk 2: Pimlico walk to Warren Street

Victoria Tube walk 2


2 hours

The Victoria line was built by Transport for London in the 1960s in order to alleviate congestion on existing underground lines in central London and proved very successful as it is considered to be congested as well by now. There are two good reasons for this: it is the line providing the most convenient interchange at many stations as changing to other lines is step free in a number of cases. And trains run very fast because distances between stations tend to be high.

The line was not meant to provide access to suburbs that might have been underserved until then and all stations are interchanges except for one that was added later. Looking at a map, you might argue that an opportunity was missed in several cases (New Covent Garden in Nine Elms, Clissold Park area, St Ann’s Road, Walthamstow Town Hall).

Apart from the interchange issue, the main peculiarity of the line are that it is the only longer line built fully underground (only the maintenance depot is over ground). The line is called “Victoria” because it passes Victoria train terminal. Other names had been proposed and some sound rather funny (“Viking line” or “Walvic line”).

Routing note: This route connects in Pimlico with Victoria tube walk 1. It connects in Victoria with Victoria train network walks 1 and 7 and with District line walk 9. It connects in Green Park with Jubilee line walk 5 and with Piccadilly line walk 5. It connects in Oxford Circus with Bakerloo line walk 1 and with Central line walks 1 and 6. Finally, it connects in Warren Street with Victoria Underground line walk 3 and with Northern line walk 9.

My estimate for the walk does not include time spent in the different museums the route passes. You might also want to do some shopping.


Pimlico station

The station opened in 1972 and is the only station without an interchange on the Victoria line. It was considered sensible because of nearby tourist attractions. The platforms have a themed decoration with a carpet of yellow dots, supposedly a reference to contemporary art exhibited at nearby Tate Britain.

The main entrance is a corner hall beneath an office building from the 1970s and is of no architectural interest.

Exit the station on Bessborough Street following the signs for Tate Britain

L along Bessborough Street, soon called Drummond Gate

R Vauxhall Bridge Road

L before the bridge Millbank until you reach Tate Britain

Tate Britain

The museum opened in 1897 in this building built for the purpose. Both the original collection and the construction costs were a gift by philanthropist William Tate, hence the name. The architecture is the work of Tate’s usual architect, Sidney Smith, who got help from American architect John Russell Pope. Both were very fond of neo-classical architecture and the riverside façade looks like an oversize Greek temple. An additional wing was added in 1987; it is a work by James Stirling, a celebrity at the time. When asked to add to an existing building, he liked to create a very strong contrast in style while keeping to simple shapes and little decoration. The extension is considered interesting in architecture history but no one says it is impressive or beautiful.

Tate Britain entrance portico

The collection covers mainly English painting from the 18th and 19th century. There were very few English painters before 1700 because England was not a wealthy country; any important commission went to imported European artists like Holbein. Works from after 1900 are mainly at Tate Modern, the sister museum. Tourists usually visit Tate Britain for the large collection of works by William Turner while London residents usually visit rather on the occasion of the yearly Turner Prize. The prize is often highly controversial and seeing the shortlisted works provides socialites with enough gossip for a few weeks. You could argue that controversy is the essence of the prize as it is primarily a marketing ploy intended to launch artists in the international collector’s circuit.

Entrance to the museum is free except for the occasional special exhibition and for the Turner prize shows. I guess you will not need more than an hour unless you are passionate about paintings. Apart from Turner, the one section you cannot see elsewhere in London is that covering William Blake.

With the main entrance to your back, turn R and again R into Atterbury Street

Chelsea Art college

The very large building to your left is now called Chelsea Art College. As the name says, it offers university-level education in arts and media. The building was originally used as the Royal Army Medical College. This explains the unusually sizeable courtyard, needed to have army medical students exercise and parade. It was opened in 1907 and the colour scheme of the building is typically Edwardian.



Main building of Chelsea Art College

The main block is the one to your left between the courtyard and the riverside. It included officer accommodation, a grand hall and a banqueting room. This explains the somewhat bombastic central section with neo-classical arcades, columns and domed turrets. The block facing you housed the teaching facilities and has little decoration as this was a practical building developed by army engineers. The block to your right was used as barracks and has several unusual details such as the flattish tower domes and the long galleries overlooking the courtyard. Note the many chimneys needed to heat such large stone buildings. One of the buildings houses an art gallery where you can see exhibitions by the students.

Former barracks of Royal Army Medical College

Millbank Gardens

At the end of the street, you reach a small park. Millbank Gardens is a well-tended park in the Art Deco tradition with small geometrical flower beds lined in stone, many convenient banks and pleasant trees.

L John Islip Street

R Cureton Square

R Causton Street

Where the road turns L, there is a passage ahead. I am not sure that it is a public footpath but I was able to walk through all the way to Vincent Street. If this is still possible, it is the better route. If the area is now gated off, you need to stay on Causton Street and to turn R at the next opportunity into Regency Street.

Crystal sculpture

The passage delivered two nice pictures, one of a well-kept green space with a small sculpture reminiscent of quartz crystals. The other one shows the access arcade to an estate that gives also on Regency Street. The neo-classical arcade is very Edwardian.


Edwardian portico

L Vincent Street

R Vincent Square

L continuing around Vincent Square

Vincent Square

The square is not a public garden, it is a sports ground for nearby schools. The mock-Tudor pavilion on the edge of the cricket ground is actually quite nice. It was customary to have very steep roofs going nearly to the ground for such pavilions but I don’t know why. Maybe to deflect errant balls ?




Lawrence Hall

Opposite the pavilion, there is a small street called Elverton Street. You can detour into the street for a few yards to the next crossroads if you wish to see the interesting Art Déco building called Lawrence Hall. It is usually used as a private venue, which is a pity because pictures show a remarkable exhibition hall. From the outside, you see clearly the Art Déco interplay of the cubic core building with a rounded protrusion. The lettering above the entrance is also unusual; the 1930s were a time when there was quite an interest in original, innovative lettering. Because of the use of computers, very few people experiment nowadays with unusual lettering.

Horticultural Society headquarters

Back in Vincent Street, you soon reach the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society, a quintessentially British charity founded in 1804. It is primarily known for the yearly Chelsea flower show. A member can become a “fellow”; this was decided by election until recently. In a nod to disgraceful capitalist mores, the title of “fellow” is now available for purchase (called a “suggested donation” for tax reasons). I have not been inside the building, but you can probably have a look as there is a public library in the basement. The building itself is Edwardian with mild neo-classical details.



Westminster Kingsway College

At the end of the road, you walk along Westminster Kingsway College, founded in 1910 by leading cooks who wanted to promote vocational education in their trade. It has a restaurant where the students cook for outside clients and learn proper serving. This is quite popular because it offers outstanding cooking for an affordable price. The building is a rather special construction in light brown bricks with unusual window patterns and a variety of pleasing decorative friezes. I am tempted to describe it as “Arts & Crafts”.

Westminster almshouses in Rochester Row

The building on Rochester Row opposite the college is a sizeable red brick building clearly inspired by Dutch Renaissance architecture, particularly the gables. It was built in 1880 to replace older almshouses financed originally by a Westminster cleric in 1656. Like many almshouses, it provides flats to elderly people of modest means who can live independently but appreciate a community feeling.

Ahead Emery Street

L Francis Street

You get a glimpse on the right side towards the catholic Westminster cathedral. I comment on the building in a District line walk but the view was worth a picture.

Side view of Westminster catholic cathedral

R Carlisle Place

Carlisle Mansions

The long row of houses on both sides is called Carlisle Mansions, as if residents lived in country palaces. Developers are always fond of grand names for places that don’t deserve it. I mention them because there is a significant excess of white plaster decoration. It looks like icing on a sickly sweet cake. The development goes back to 1886 and proved particularly attractive to writers such as T.S. Eliot, Ian Fleming and Somerset Maugham. To prove my point about the excess of icing, look at the more subdued building from the same period and in a similar colour combination at the end of the street.

Estate in Carlisle Place

L Victoria Street

The road forks with the train terminal being on the left side. You don’t need to go to the terminal, but keep to the left arm of the road. The passage for the Underground station will be on your right.


Victoria Underground station

The Victoria Underground station was built for the Circle line in 1868. This station has its own entrance hall away from the train terminal. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1969 underneath the train terminal. The two sets of platforms are linked by a long, inconvenient subway, while the Victoria line is linked with the train terminal by shorter corridors but with a very inconvenient set of stairs. This will be alleviated by building a new access but this will be much further away from the train station.

The picture I use for the underground station shows the Circle line entrance. It has a shopping arcade and the office building over the station hall is a formal Victorian affair with stone cladding and a device above the first floor windows that reminds me of the Prince of Wales’s standard.

R through the shopping arcade of the Circle line station hall

L and directly R Sir Simon Milton Square

This square might have temporarily no access to the other side due to construction work. It this is the case, walk on the parallel avenue (Buckingham Gate)

Ahead Warwick Row

Ahead Palace Place

L Palace Street

R Buckingham Gate

Royal Mews

The long wall crowned with urns on the north side of the road hides the park of Buckingham Palace from passers-by. The building with the large triangular pediment peeping over the wall and the small entrance door is a sort of museum, the Royal Mews. The building was originally built on a design by John Nash in 1825 and the taste for classical ornamentation is clearly in evidence with the triangular pediment, the scrolls above the arches and the cornice under the roof.

The museum exhibits horse-drawn carriages from the considerable collection Her Majesty’s ancestors have accumulated during the 19th century. Because of the very high entrance fee (11 £ in 2018, up from 9 £ in 2015), you should only consider entering if you are really interested.

Greek entrance to the Royal Gallery

At the end of the park wall, you reach a somewhat strange, little greek temple with fat columns used as the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery. The original building was a chapel, but this was destroyed by bombs during World War II and the replacement building opened in 1962 was erected in a restrained neo-Greek style (note for example the stone leaves marking the triangle at the end of the building). The building being quite small, it was decided to enlarge it substantially in 2002 and the somewhat overdone portico dates back to then.

Her Majesty the Queen is the owner of one of the largest and most magnificent collections of classical paintings in the world, but there is no large museum showing them together at any one time. You can see regularly changing selections at the Queen’s Gallery. Because the selection changes, you should check on the website what is on view at the time you plan a visit. This is also recommended considering the high entrance fee (11 £ in 2018).

L Spur Road walking along the palace fence

Main front of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is well known for its official function. It was originally a country house that was extended into a royal palace in the 1820s. At the time, three wings formed a U around a courtyard, as is still the case in Versailles and in the Louvre in Paris. At the time of horse carriages, this was the most convenient layout. The courtyard was closed with a fourth wing in 1850 and the new wing is the only one you can see from the public streets. It was built in a rather austere neo-classical style, the problem being the sheer scale of the palace and the unflattering grey hue of the stones.

Buckingham Palace gates

Queen Victoria soon decided to spend most of the year in Windsor. This is not surprising as most royal families use a palace for official functions but prefer to live most of the year in a family palace they can more easily fit to changing family needs. Later British royals had differing opinions on which palace they found more convenient.


Mémorial, Palace and gates

Most of the palace was decorated in the 19th century in a very flashy manner with lots of gold, rare marbles, chandeliers etc. It is usually possible to visit a few rooms used for official functions in August and September. It is a very profitable operation for the Crown Estate as entrance costs 24 £ (in 2018), but the money is needed as the maintenance and renovation costs of the huge palace are staggering. I have never been inside but I imagine the sheer size of the rooms is impressive. To be honest, the entrance fee also allows you an opportunity to walk around the park.

Victoria Memorial

Part of the large roundabout in front of the palace was pedestrianised when a huge monument to Queen Victoria was installed in 1911. As usual at the time, it is a gigantic pile with many allegoric figures. There is an inscription at one spot commemorating a gift of New Zealand. This dominion did not contribute specifically the two statues involved, it paid money into the overall fund. The fundraising was so successful that there was enough money to build also the Admiralty Arch and to rebuild the whole façade of the palace. My pictures show the Agriculture and Industry statues with their attending lions.

Agriculture on Victoria Memorial

Industry on Victoria Mémorial


Flower bed in front of Buckingham Palace

I don’t really like the palace itself and I think most tourists pay attention primarily to the guards. The gilded gates are worth a short look, but you will see better ones soon. What is definitely worth a look is the magnificent flower bed spread in a half-round. I always felt jealous that Her Majesty could enjoy such a flower display through Her windows. The plants are not exceptional but the size of the flower bed makes it impressive. My larger picture was taken on occasion of the official visit of the President of Mexico, but the colours of the flowers are the colours of my own flag, Luxembourg (baby blue, white and red). Thank you for the honour. The smaller picture is taken in August instead of April; as Her Majesty is not in London in summer, the flower beds are more modest.

Flower bed in Luxembourg colours

Ahead across the gilded portal into Green Park

Green Park gates

This gate is possibly the most magnificent and most pretentious gilded gate in London. When the dominions contributed to the Victoria Memorial, Canada offered instead what is officially known as “Canada Gate”. The general style is neo-baroque with lanterns in the shape of urns and an assortment of scrolls. A closer look at the designs shows the coats of arms of several Canadian provinces, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and a design I can’t identify.

Canadian provinces on Canada Gate

View of Green Park

Ahead across the park, exit at the Northeast corner on Piccadilly

Green Park is a large, plain expanse of grass with rows of trees marking the alleys. There are a few minor monuments but there are neither flower beds nor playgrounds. It was a royal park as early as 1668 but was more a heath. Prudent travellers were advised to avoid the location, feared as the haunt of highwaymen. The park was landscaped in 1820 with the intention of making it a pleasant place to ride a horse, hence the alleys.


Green Park Underground station

The station was originally built for the Picadilly line in 1906 and was called originally Dover Street. The name was changed after extension works in 1933. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1969, the Jubilee line platforms in 1979. Interchange is convenient between the Jubilee and Victoria lines but is very cumbersome with the Picadilly line.

The Victoria line platforms have a themed decoration like some other stations on the line. In this case, leaves on a russet background referring to the nearby park. The historical access to the station is on the ground floor of an imposing office building from 1926.


Devonshire house office building

The office building is called Devonshire House after the town palace of the Duke of Devonshire, who had to sell the property in order to pay inheritance duties. The property became the headquarters and showroom for the owner of Hillman cars, a rather upmarket brand before World War II. The company disappeared because of production problems: the British government had forced it to open a factory in Scotland, but all suppliers remained in the Midlands and the transportation costs combined with very difficult relations with the local trade unions caused huge losses. Surprisingly, the building decoration makes no reference whatsoever to cars, it is just very well made neo-baroque imagery.

R Piccadilly

Posh club in St. James’s Street

Before turning left, you might have a look at 37 St. James’s Street. This is a beautiful neo-classical property but the façade is actually an excellent quality 1852 imitation of Georgian architecture – the columns are much flatter than in authentic buildings. The property belongs to an exclusive club for gentlemen founded in 1693. It had traditional associations with the Conservative party and with royalty and it does not admit women.

L Albemarle Street

Albemarle House

One of the first buildings in the street, Albemarle House, has an interesting recessed entrance. The geometric shapes of the door and of the wrought iron gate remind a lot of Scottish art nouveau; there is a variety of symbols (caduceus, owl, winged horses, lightning bolts) that make me think of a apothecary’s. The recessed entrances were popular because this gave more room to display goods, but they were abandoned in the mid 20th century both because it meant losing valuable selling space inside and because they were too tempting for people who need a shelter without being interested in the shop.

39 Albermarle Street

Albemarle Street is popular with art galleries, but nr. 39-40 at the corner with Stafford Street is an office building. I mention it because it has an unusual colour scheme (baby blue panels). The many windows point to construction in the 1930s, but the lack of decoration points to a commercial office building rather than to retail.

R Royal Arcade (if it is closed, take a parallel street shorly before the arcade)


Royal Arcade

This is the oldest shopping arcade in central London, built in 1879. Until the mid-19th century, people would go to a specific shop they needed and the concept of shopping as a leisure activity did not exist. Streets were busy and dirty due to the horse carriages and walking was no pleasure. This led speculators to the idea of shopping arcades while merchants developed a similar concept with the department stores. Arcades soon became extremely popular with Milan and Brussels having among the most impressive ones.

Inside Royal Arcade

In London, despite real estate costs, arcades were not built beneath buildings and had low glass roofs. In Paris, low arcades were created in the cheaper parts of the city while those in expensive sectors were beneath buildings, the arcade roof being used as the courtyard for the offices above.

This particular arcade is called “royal” because Queen Victoria patronised a merchant located here. The shops in the arcade are still very upmarket as this is one of the most expensive retail areas in London anyway. In terms of architecture, the somewhat frilly decoration is typically Victorian. You may notice that the roof has small glass panels and many intermediary beams. It was not impossible to build larger panels in the 1870s but it was still a risky novelty.

Roofscape of Royal Arcade

L Old Bond Street

Luxury in Old Bond Street

Most buildings in the street are of no particular interest; the main point is that they are all different as opposed to the rows of identical façades seen in some other areas of London. There are more millionaires per square foot in this street than anywhere else in London because all the shops in the street belong to luxury brands. As you will be well aware, their wares are status symbols, particularly for newly rich people in Asia and the Middle East. The quality is flawless but the same quality will cost much less is you know an appropriate craftsman, showing the power of brands. There is no convincing reason why this particular Mayfair street attracted luxury brands in the first place rather than a parallel street; obviously, it is a self-perpetuating reputation by now.

R Burlington Gardens

Neo-gothic mixed with Arts & Crafts

The large building at the corner of Old Bond Street with Burlington Gardens is a listed property with a very grand front. It has friezes with gilt details, which is really unusual. The façade towards Old Bond Street is an Arts & Crafts reminder of gothic architecture, expressed for example in the balcony stonework and in the steep turret. The property was built in 1926 for a luxury perfumer’s.

Détails on Old Bond Street

American-style Art Déco in New Bond Street

The property on the other side of the crossroads (nr. 1 New Bond Street) is an interesting contrast as it is strictly Art Déco with rounded domes and stepped decoration at the corners.

Very soon after entering Burlington Gardens, you reach the entrance to Burlington Arcade. It was originally built in 1819, at a time when this was a very eccentric concept. The owner of the neighbouring property decided to develop an arcade on part of his garden partly because passers-by were dropping refuse over the property wall into the garden ! He also thought correctly that there would a market for jewelry shops because it had become very fashionable for affluent Mayfair residents to promenade in this area. The façade on Burlington Gardens is rather plain while that on Piccadilly is a rather pretentious neo-classical arcade from 1827.

Burlington Arcade

Back entrance of the Royal Academy of Art

Nr 6 Burlington Gardens is a very imposing official building used now by the Royal Academy of Arts. It was originally the headquarters of London University when it was built in 1870. The architecture is a very heavy-handed form of neo-Renaissance with porticos, columns, statues and a rustico ground floor. The Royal Academy bought the property in 2005 and it is mainly used for educational activities. On occasion, it provides an additional entrance for exhibitions.

Gates to Burlington House

The Royal Academy complex also has a front on Piccadilly which is actually the main entrance. You can easily detour through Burlington Arcade to see it and it is definitely a recommended excursion. The entrance portico and the front wing are 1873 additions imitating Italian Renaissance decoration with impressively showy wrought iron gates. They are used by learned societies.


Burlington House

The formal building at the end of the courtyard is the actual Burlington House, a former aristocratic palace rebuilt in 1717. Both the architect and the owner had just come back from Italy where they had been fascinated by Renaissance architecture, particularly by Palladio’s works in the Veneto region. The palace was to astonish people in London and neo-palladian architecture became the dominant style in England for at least a century. Two typical details are the stonework on the ground floor and the alternating window lintels, rounded and pointed.

The original building had only one upper floor (the “piano nobile” of Italian villas) and the upper floor was added in Victorian times. This explains the cornice between the two levels while such cornices normally indicate the roofline. Also, the idea of having a gallery of statues on a façade is typically 19th century; in earlier times, you would have only one statue and possibly bas-reliefs.

Main entrance to Burlington House

Burlington House is mainly used for exhibitions organised by the Royal Academy. Most major exhibitions of painting and sculpture are organised here except for contemporary art (usually shown at Tate Modern). You will obviously need to reckon with long queues for blockbuster exhibitions and the courtyard is quite convenient in such circumstances. As the Academy does not get public funding but plays a leading role in the cultural life of London, it must plan blockbuster exhibitions that bring visitors and money. I suggest you have a close look at the catalogues before purchasing an entry ticket as the exhibitions go from exciting eye-openers to boringly commercial blockbusters.


Former ballroom of Burlington House

The Royal Academy also has its own collection of paintings because academy members are required to present a sort of “admission work”. A few highlights are exhibited in a part of Burlington House called the Madejski Fine Rooms after the gentleman who financed the renovation. Opening times are restricted but you definitely should time your walk in order to visit them as entrance is free.

The rooms are considered the finest example in London of interiors by major architect William Kent and were decorated in 1719. The ceilings with cartouches separated by very conspicuous, gilt scrollwork are typical of his style. You will also recognise easily the influence of antique sites visited by Kent in Italy considering the columns in the boardroom.

Work from the Royal Academy collection

The works of art from the Academy collection are of varying quality as explanation panels will point out to you. The one work of international reputation is a tondo by Michelangelo, shown in an adjacent corridor.

L Savile Row

View to Regent Street from Savile Row

The street is mainly known for a number of tailoring shops. The first tailors were attracted to this area by the fact that a number of officers and politicians lived here after the street was developed in the 1730s. Most of the original neo-Palladians houses have been replaced by completely uninteresting designs. Don’t be fooled by the aura of “bespoke tailoring”, this can also include clothes made to your measurements but by a machine.

Ahead Mill Street

L Maddox Street

R St. George Street

Hanover Square

The parish church of St George’s is one of the churches built under Queen Anne in 1724. It has a typically neo-classical portico with huge columns. The church is normally closed as there is nothing exceptional inside. Being the parish church for Mayfair, it features occasionally in reports on celebrities.

Cross Hanover Square Gardens aiming for the Northeast corner

Fountain in Hanover Square

Hanover Square is a small, busy square. It tends to be overrun at lunchtime because of the employees from the many office buildings in the vicinity. But it does have pleasant flower beds with modest palm trees. The square is special because it was the first public square planned specifically for the purpose in a real estate development back in 1717. There is a statue of William Pitt in a corner of the square and a pretty bronze fountain with reeds and ducks.

Take Princes Street

L Swallow Place

R Oxford Street


Oxford Circus Underground station

The station is the busiest underground station of all. It opened first on the Central line in 1900 and the Bakerloo line platforms opened in 1906. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1969 with a particularly convenient interchange with the Bakerloo line.

Like with a number of stations in Central London, the entrance is clad in conspicuous dark red tiles. This was a scheme developed in the early 1900s by architect Leslie Green. It normally includes wide ground floor bays with the one or other shop and semi-circular lighting bays on the first floor. They were built in such a manner as to be included easily into a commercial or office building. About 50 stations were built with this scheme. In terms of architectural style, I find it difficult to associate it with a specific type, which means Green really developed his own style. Unfortunately, the architect died very young, probably due to burnout caused by an excessive work burden.

continue on Oxford Street

L Great Portland Street

93 Mortimer Street

While crossing Mortimer Street, you may notice 93 Mortimer Street, an interesting listed building with a neo-Greek front. The particularly Greek elements are the Ionic columns while there is a rustico ground floor like in neo-Palladian architecture. This eclectic mix is from 1910, a period when Greek decoration was a bit unusual. Inside, there is a large room used for commercial events.

R Little Titchfield Street

University building from 1929

You will probably notice the imposing front marked “The Polytechnic Great Portland Street Extension”. This is a 1929 building opened by what is now the University of Westminster when it decided to offer courses to young ladies. Women were not supposed to be interested in male subjects and many parents would have considered the idea of students of both sexes in the same building outrageously immoral. The building is now mainly used as a library. It has a peculiar inscription (“the Lord is our Strength”). I know it is a quote from the Psalms but it is strange on a university building. The architecture is nicely Art Déco but is marred by a seriously oversize and rather obscure design above the main door.

L Great Titchfield Street

R Riding House Street

Bourlet Close

The road got its name from the exercise place for a cavalry regiment. It passes on the right a minor cul-de-sac, Bourlet Close, a former mews. It has been converted into flats and someone got the peculiar idea of putting five statues on the edge of the roof. The sculptures are clearly modern and they seem to belong to a producer of advertising films headquartered in this close.

Former Boulting building in Riding House Street

At the corner with Candover Street, you pass a conspicuous Arts & Crafts building. As a large sign says, it belonged to “Boulting & Sons Hot Water Engineers” who had a “stove manufactory” (an unusual word…). I mentioned above once an instance of unusual lettering as being quite typical of Art Déco. This inscription is rather Art Nouveau but also has interesting lettering. It uses cleverly pale green as a background, contrasting with the more usual brick and plaster colour scheme. The overall impression of this building is rather unusual for London and reminds me more of Brussels.

L Cleveland Street

Broadcasting tower

The road passes a tower that is a bit difficult to see from the street as it is in the middle of a block of offices. It was built in 1964 for the Post Office and was used to broadcast BBC signals that were otherwise disturbed by tall buildings. It was built in a manner very similar to comparable technical towers throughout Europe such as the Alex tower in Berlin. The tower had a top floor restaurant popular for the extended view, but this was closed in 1981 for security reasons as anarchists had planted a bomb in the lavatories in 1970. Although the tower is now quite old for a concrete building, it seems in good shape. When it was built, it was the tallest structure in the UK at 177 meters.

R Grafton Way

Cross Fitzroy Square Garden towards the Northeast corner

Fitzroy Square Garden

The square is a delightful oasis of quiet and peace in a busy part of central London and this fits with the original intention of Mr Fitzroy who was a speculator trying to sell the houses to aristocratic families. The architects were the brother Adam and are clad in expensive Portland stone, confirming the upmarket target. The scheme was finished in 1794, actually a bad time as the economy suffered under the war from France, but the location was well chose close to Regent’s Park that had not been developed yet at the time.

Fitzroy Square development by Adam

Celebrities in Fitzroy Square

Many of the properties have blue plaques because it was an attractive location for artists and scientists in the 19th century. Number 29 was the domicile of George Bernard Shaw until he married. The house deserved a second plaque because it was later the domicile of Virginia Woolf. It is exceedingly rare to find two blue plaques on the same building.

Take Fitzroy Street

R Warren Street




Warren Street Underground station

The station opened on the Northern Line in 1907 and was originally called “Euston Road”, a highly confusing name as there are also stations called “Euston” and “Euston Square”. The name was therefore changed directly in 1908. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1969 and were given a themed decoration in form of a labyrinth (from “warren”).

The access is the ground floor of an imposing rotunda built at the end of a large office building from 1934. The shape is typically Art Déco but no effort was made in terms of decoration or a particular window scheme. A bit cheap for this period.


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Victoria Tube line walk 1: Brixton walk to Pimlico

Victoria Underground line walk 1


1 3/4 hours

The Victoria line was built by Transport for London in the 1960s in order to alleviate congestion on existing underground lines in central London and proved very successful as it is considered to be congested as well by now. There are two good reasons for this: it is the line providing the most convenient interchange at many stations as changing to other lines is step free in a number of cases. And trains run very fast because distances between stations tend to be high.

The line was not meant to provide access to suburbs that might have been underserved until then and all stations are interchanges except for one that was added later. Looking at a map, you might argue that an opportunity was missed in several cases (New Covent Garden in Nine Elms, Clissold Park area, St Ann’s Road, Walthamstow Town Hall).

Apart from the interchange issue, the main peculiarity of the line are that it is the only longer line built fully underground (only the maintenance depot is over ground). The line is called “Victoria” because it passes Victoria train terminal. Other names had been proposed and some sound rather funny (“Viking line” or “Valvic line”).

Routing note: There is a train station in Brixton relatively close to the underground terminal. Although it is not really a connection, you can therefore combine the present walk with Victoria train network walks 7 or 8.

This route connects in Stockwell with Northern Line walk 12 and in Vauxhall with Waterloo walk 1. It connects in Pimlico with Victoria Underground line walk 2.


Victoria Underground line terminal in Brixton

The station opened in 1971 when the full Victoria line was completed. It is one of the busiest stations on the whole network.

The station has a rather sizeable frontage on Brixton Road with a wide glass façade. At the time, unadorned concrete was still the material of choice (for example at the Barbican), so that a glass front was quite modern and innovative. We are a bit fed up with the style nowadays because all office buildings are built in this manner, but it was not the case at the time.

Exit the station on Brixton Road and turn L for a short cultural detour until you reach the town hall overlooking the main crossroads.

This is actually the town hall for the borough of Lambeth. The name sounds surprising but was more historical and the old town hall was actually located closer to old Lambeth. The present building dates back to 1908 and is a typical example of Edwardian bombast. It is described as “neo-baroque” because of the scrolls around the oculi (the round windows) of the rotunda. The tower is a landmark and was rare for a town hall at the time. The balustrade on both sides hides the third floor because there was originally an inclined roof rather than a third floor.

Ostentatious mémorial opposite Brixton Town Hall

Just opposite the town hall, there is a tall freestanding monument with a giant palmetto at the top. This is a funeral monument from 1825 in the neo-greek style – anything greek was the height of fashion and Lord Byron would soon dash into the Greek guerilla against the Turkish Ottoman regime. The location of the monument is logical because this was the upper end of the churchyard until graves had to be transferred away from inhabited areas following an Act of Parliament. The Budd family were successful stock exchange and real estate speculators – then as now, many rich people like to flaunt their newly and dubiously acquired wealth in an ostentatious manner.


Brixton Library

Going back a few steps towards the station, you see three interesting buildings on the eastern side of the crossroads. The one closer to the town hall is the library, built with subsidies from industrialist and philanthropist Tate in 1893. The architecture is subdued neo-clacissism with the typical late Victorian colour pattern of cream and orange (actually inspired by French 17th century castles). There was a formal garden in front of the building but this was too cumbersome to maintain and was replaced by modest raised patches of grass.


Film theatre opened in 1910

The neighbouring building is a film theatre that was extended after World War II bombs destroyed a theatre that stood here. The entrance is from 1910 and is suitably imposing as theatres were major cultural venues in any town. The style is quite similar to that of the town hall, which is very thoughtful from the architect.

On the other side of the road, the film theatre faces an imposing brick rotunda with thin white stone columns. It was originally a very large pub and is now divided among flats, a pub and a fast-food restaurant using a colour scheme that is very inappropriate for the building. The present building dates back to 1935 and is an excellent example of Art Deco. It combines the vertical and the horizontal (our modern business buildings stress only the vertical), it has the rounded shapes much used at the time in conspicuous locations.

Former Art Déco pub in Brixton

It also has very large windows that were made possible by the invention of concrete pillars bearing the structure and that were considered very sensible by the new hygienic movement as sunlight was said to be essential for good health. By the way, this interest for sunlight explains why nudism started as a movement at the same period. Sunny weather being unreliable in Britain, nudism caught less than in Germany.

Chain shop in the Art Déco style

Continue walking back towards the tube station. You are soon passing the white stone façade of a large apparel shop. It was built in 1935 like the pub you just saw before and is a very different type of Art Deco, stressing the vertical much more. There is not much decoration, which makes me think that it was built as a standard branch for a large corporation. The tall windows would be logical for a department store.

Before reaching the tube station again, turn R into Electric Avenue (a pedestrian area), the road turns L towards a subway under train lines

The road takes its name from the fact that it was the first shopping street to be lit by electricity back in the 1880s. There was also a canopy protecting shoppers in bad weather, a little like in Leadenhall Market, but it was taken away in the 1980s for safety reasons and was not replaced. It is now a very lively market catering to the “vibrant multinational community” Brixton is often described as.

This came to be partly by chance, as the first Caribbean immigrants to England were housed in a shelter in Clapham, came to Brixton for shopping purposes and discovered affordable houses in rundown Victorian streets. Brixton has become a symbol for immigration and featured a few times in episodes of racial tension and suburban riots in the 1980s and in 1995. Brixton is becoming more upmarket like other inner suburbs and an example of this is National Rail expelling shops from the train viaduct arcades in order to refurbish them – the result being that rents will quadruple and that the shops will not be the same and will not cater to the same clientele.

Ahead Pope’s Road passing under both train lines

There are actually two separate train lines. The lower viaduct bears the train line from London Victoria to Bromley South and has a train station. The upper viaduct only crosses the first line and has no station; it is used by the London Overground between Clapham Junction and Peckham Rye. If you want to combine the present walk with an other one, you can join here the Victoria train network walk 7 or 8.

R Canterbury Crescent

Former school in Canterbury Crescent

The nice brick building at the corner with Pope’s Road was originally the seat of St John’s the Divine Church of England Primary School and dates back to 1850. The school had to move because it outgrew the premises and the building was converted to luxury flats. A 3-bedroom property at this address was offered in 2014 for a modest 1,850,000 £, showing that Brixton should not be associated only with the “vibrant immigrant community” I mentioned.

Palladian pub building

Just opposite the brick building, you can notice the upper floors of a pub, painted in elegant pale yellow. The windows have alternatively pointed and rounded lintels, a typical reference to 17th century neo-classicism as defined by Italian architect Palladio. I guess such a refined building was intended to be connected with a parade of similar façades along Pope’s Road.

L Wiltshire Road (when the priority road turns R, keep on Wiltshire Road in front of you)

The road runs on the back side of Max Roach Park, which I visit on the Victoria train walk 7 mentioned above. There are several strips of green and small parks along the East side of Brixton Road between here and the corner of Loughborough Road. They were created by demolishing some of the derelict early 19th century houses along the road. Most of them were refurbished by the council in order to create subsidised housing in a particularly deprived area of London.

Max Roach Park

The three strips of greenery are united under the name Max Roach Park after a leading American jazz musician. I am a little surprised that the borough could name the park after a living person (he inaugurated the park himself in 1986 while he died only in 2007). In some European countries, this is considered a big no-no because it might induce some rich or influential people into bribing or coercing local authorities.

In the southern section of the park, you will find a grassy mound with what looks like the ruins of a substantial brick building, but this was planned by the landscape architect from the onset as a playground.

Mural in Villa Road

At the end of the park, you can have a look at the start of Villa Road. There is an interesting mural painted on the first of a row of renovated Victorian houses, showing the sun and stars. It is very unusual to see a mural painted directly on bricks as it is much easier to develop a design if you paint a background colour first.

The church you pass afterwards is St John’s Angell Town; the parish church for Brixton is actually near the town hall. The name of the parish comes from Mr Angell who donated the ground. The church is a normal neo-gothic building from 1853 and is normally closed except for services. It does have a rather substantial church tower with a surprising battlement at the top. The four finials are less unusual, they are inspired by a design often seen in French gothic cathedrals.

St John’s Angell Town

At the end L Peckford Place

Estate in Peckford Place

The housing estate along this minor road is worth a look. It represents the more modern version replacing derelict Victorian housing. The lower level used for garages is interesting, being not so deep into the ground as to be dark and attractive for illicit activities. In addition, the strip of green with trees in the middle of the road immediately gives a more pleasant feeling.

Ahead across the small park to the main road

R Brixton Road

Former factory on Brixton Road

You pass two additional sections of Max Roach Park. They are actually just wider strips of green with a few trees, but are still more pleasant than the pavement. At the level of the second one, I noticed an interesting old building marked “Eagle Printing Works” and dated 1864. This is the type of business that made Brixton a lively suburb. My picture is several years old, the lintel with the date was taken away since. By the way, there was a hairdresser’s in the building at the time. Like many outfits in this trade, it advertised itself as “unisex”. I must say I find the wording extremely amusing knowing the reputation some male hairdressers have in the gay crowd.

L Robsart Street

There is an unusually ornate brick building at 2 Robsart Street. I have found no information about the building and it does not look very old. It shows about every type of decoration you can do with bricks.

Ornate brickwork in Robsart Street

R into Slade Gardens

Slade Gardens

The park was landscaped when the borough bought and demolished derelict Victorian housing. It opened in 1962. It is just a normal neighbourhood park with grass, a few trees and a playground. It is actually a themed playground with an amusing yellow submarine structure. I did not notice flower beds or exciting planting although the website extols orchard trees.


Yellow submarine in Slade Gardens

Exit the park near the church on the western side. St Michael’s Stockwell is an early neo-gothic structure already opened in 1841 and is rather modest.

Stockwell Park Crescent Conservation Area

Take either R or L in order to reach the road that runs behind the church, called Stockwell Park Crescent. There are substantial town houses in the quiet road, showing that you have really left Brixton behind you.

Towards the end of the road, you pass a small church building, the “Stockwell Spiritualist Church and Healing Centre”. Mediums offer for a modest charge “special evenings of clairvoyance”. Belief that you can communicate with spirits of deceased persons was quite popular in the late 19th century and there are many references to this in novels from the period. The name on the Continent is “spiritism”. It was discredited by some fraudsters in the 1880s (and you know what is implied when your money is “spirited away” by your investment scheme) but retains followers primarily in the United States and in Britain. As a European, I am not that surprised considering the British fascination with ghosts.

Spiritualist Church on St. Michael’s Road

Leave the crescent into St Michael’s Road

R Stockwell Road

Art déco nightclub in Stockwell

Just before reaching the station area, you pass a long, slick building with a rounded prow over the crossroads. This is obviously an other Art Déco building from the 1930s, stressing the horizontal this time. There is a pretty decorative band at the upper floor level depicting a swan; this refers to the fact that there was a pub here using this name. It is now a nightclub and is apparently very popular with the Irish community.


Stockwell station

The station opened in 1890 on the Northern line and the Victoria line platforms opened in 1971. The Victoria line platforms have a themed decoration, a swan referring to the nearby pub.

The station building is a 1926 work replacing an older building. It has typically horizontal shapes and is built in dark red brick, a popular early Art Déco style comparable to the old Greenwich town hall from the same period. But it is very plain and does not have the towers often built in the 1930s as local landmarks. The reason is that it was planned just after World War I while the economy was still recovering.

Stockwell war memorial and bomb shelter

With your back to the Swan nightclub, walk a few yards north along Clapham Road. You will soon reach the borough War Memorial. It is a very heavy-set column in white stone, typical for the imperial style of the 1920s.

Just behind the memorial, there is a rotunda painted with poppies. They are repainted regularly because they tend to fade from dark red to cutesy piglet pink rather quickly. I have always been surprised at the role of poppies in remembering World War I as most European countries do not use similar symbols. The rotunda was the entrance to a large bomb shelter built during World War II. Like seven other similar shelters, it was built after London citizens tried desperately to shelter in tube stations in 1940. Each had room for 8,000 refugees because they were large enough to be possibly used for tube line construction at a later point in time.

Take Lambeth Road along the memorial, leaving the rotunda on your right.

L Lansdowne Way passing a bus depot

Lansdowne Way bus depot

The bus depot was an architectural achievement when it opened in 1952. It was at the time the largest unsupported roof span in Europe with a length of 59 m. Because of the large British steel industry, most public buildings included a lot of steel until the 1970s, but there was a shortage just after World War II and the roof was built in concrete. At a time when engineers had to make all calculations by hand, planning such a roof was remarkable.

Soon R Lansdowne Gardens passing a landscaped roundabout

Lansdowne Gardens

As before in Stockwell Park Crescent, this is a very nice area with well kept early Victorian houses. Most of Lambeth and of Stockwell was a poor area and you will find many council estates along the main roads, but some areas were reasonably middle class. A bit after the roundabout, I noticed two houses painted in pastel colours. This was never done in 19th century cities because of soot from coal heating but it was popular for country mansions in the 1820s. It is still quite rare in London nowadays as it is more expensive to maintain than plain bricks and too flashy for the borough of Westminster. You do find similar colours in Primrose Hill and Notting Hill Gate.

Pastel-coloured houses

At the end R Thorne Road

Ahead Aldebert Terrace

At the end L Albert Square

Albert Square

This conservation area was built as a smaller speculative development in 1851 around a central garden. This is a private garden that is only planned for decoration purposes and is not an actual park. It is a very English concept, linked to the fact that speculators were able to buy large tracts of land and do some measure of urban planning (although they did ignore completely the issue of shops and schools).

L Wilkinson Street

Monument to John Tradescant

At the corner at the end of the street, you might notice a modern sculpture. It was commissioned by a local residents’ association, an extremely unusual occurrence at the time although they did receive a grant from a public foundation as well. The sculpture was unveiled in 1988 and shows wild vegetation. It honors John Tradescant, a botanist who travelled worldwide in search of rare plants.

The somewhat confusing building just behind the sculpture is the entrance hall to the parish church of St Stephen’s Lambeth. If the church is open, it is definitely worth a look inside. The original neo-gothic church was destroyed by accident in 1940 and the new church from 1967 is one of the most striking and unusual examples of contemporary Anglican architecture in London. The extremely austere look is not my personal taste. Note the light opening above the altar area serving as a chancel; the symbolism of light from above was ubiquitous in the 1960s.

St Stephen’s Lambeth

R Bolney Street

L Dorset Road

R Meadow Road

L Rita Road, turns R

Ahead into Vauxhall Park

Vauxhall Park

The park was landscaped on land that the borough was able to buy back from a speculator who had acquired the whole area. The borough did not have the funds for such a purchase, but money was put together from a number of sources under different legal budget provisions and a special Act of Parliament proved necessary in 1888. Although the park was rather plain at the beginning, it had been patronised by all sorts of influential philanthropists and was opened by a whole set of princes and princesses and by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Model village in Vauxhall Park

The park was improved after World War I and was the largest park in the then borough of Lambeth. In 1947, a retired engineer who loved building miniature houses offered to build a model village in three parks (Finsbury Park, Brockwell Park and a park in Australia). The Brockwell Park village was considered too large and the borough donated part of the buildings to Vauxhall Park in the 1950s. The houses were actually built by Edgar Wilson in 1943 and renovated in 2002. They are in excellent shape because they have been filled with sand and concrete in order to ensure stability.

Model village and springtime flowers


Western edge of Vauxhall Park

Apart from the lovely model village, there is also a lavender garden and a pleasant rose pergola. Pergolas are typical for Edwardian parks but had stone pillars. Pergolas with wooden posts like this one are the contemporary version.

The buildings around the park are a motley collection of uninteresting properties except for a somewhat unusual contemporary estate along the west side. Metal arches have been stuck on the façade in a stange manner but I agree readily that it makes the long building more lively to look at.

Cross the park to the Northwest exit

R St. Lambeth Road (the main road)

British Interplanetary Society headquarters

You reach a very busy crossroads with the seat of the British Interplanetary Society on your right. It is an interesting organisation. It was founded in 1933 as a private club intending to test rockets. This was a serious pursuit at the time and similar societies in other countries were later integrated into official research organisations, but this did not happen in London because the law prohibited experimentation with explosive fuels by private persons. The club worked on several proposals to fly to the moon, which explains the “interplanetary” name. I thought first that it was some sort of wacky intergalactic church, but I was completely off the mark.

Cross the main road following the small white sign for the tube and train station. There are now two subways under the train lines in front of you. Take the quieter one, South Lambeth Place


Vauxhall Underground station

The station opened in 1971 underneath the existing train station and is entirely underground.

Cross the bus station and the main road towards the river Thames

The bus station is dominated by a spectacular double structure above an aluminium core. Seen from the side, the lower part reminds of an American bus from the 1950s. The cantilevered structure has an unexpected practical purpose, it bears solar panels to produce power. It is a bit of a landmark and there were protests when the borough suggested tearing it down to improve the general layout of the area. Tourists were nearly arrested for taking a picture in 2009 as police feared a terror attack, but I suspect this is also linked to police being overzealous because of the vicinity of the secret service headquarters.

Vauxhall bus station

Ahead Vauxhall Bridge

Vauxhall Bridge

The bridge is not particularly elegant. It has very flat arches built in 1906 and replaced an earlier bridge opened in 1816. Technically, it is a rather standard steel bridge because original plans to build in stone were thwarted by issues with the river bed. There was quite a lot of bickering about the costs and agreement was only found in the end for a few statues in bronze. My picture shows “science”. The only way you can see the statues is from a boat or from the riverside, which is a bit sad.

Statue of Science on Vauxhall Bridge


Residential complex in Vauxhall

Seen from the north side of the river, the panorama of the bridge is quite striking because there are huge buildings on both sides of it. The upstream building is a gigantic pile of luxury flats. They are clearly planned to provide excellent views to the residents but it is a jumble of strangely uncoordinated shapes. It was built mostly between 2007 and 2010 and won twice an award by respected magazine “Architect’s Journal” for being “the Worst building in the world”. I agree.

Flashy buildings and Vauxhall Bridge

The building just downstream of the bridge is an other very special building. It was built in 1995 and houses the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). It will not comment on the organisation itself, secret services being subject to controversies by their very nature. The building was planned by Terry Farrell, definitely one of the star architects of the late 20th century. Like his other landmark London building, the office complex above Charing Cross station, the building was planned primarily for commercial offices. Obviously, it was modified according to the security needs of the SIS.

Threatening seat of the Secret Service

From afar, it is to some extent a rather typical neo-classical building of that period. It is strictly symmetrical with some rounded parts that do not break the overall rectangular outline. Seen from closer and below, it is duly threatening. I felt the central rotunda with the protrusions reminded me of a crown of thorns. The side view from the bridge approach is unpleasantly angular, with vertical slabs of dark green glass looking a bit like unhealthy sandwich fillings.

Seat of SIS


The National Audit Office went through the accounts and informed the taxpayers that the cost of the building was about 135 million £. Broken down by the number of employees, this implies about 70,000 £ per employee.

View from Vauxhall Bridge towards Battersea

L Grosvenor Road

Bessborough Gardens

At the beginning of the road, you walk along Bessborough Gardens. The ground belongs to the Crown Estate and the managers decided to build in a manner reminiscent of nearby Belgravia. This implies long rows of tall buildings painted cream around a park. Even if the architecture is much plainer than in Belgravia, it still exudes affluence and distinction. Architects find it boring, residents find it elegant.

The park is primarily a plain expanse of grass with trees around the edge, as in many Belgravia squares. There is a fountain in the middle that was criticised for being boringly traditional. For a public garden landscaped in the 1980s, you indeed wonder why no effort was made to find something mildly more exciting.

R St George’s Square

St George’s Square

This square is not much fun to walk through and this is the case all over Belgravia as you are forced to walk along an endless row of strictly identical houses while the garden in the middle of the development is strictly private and not very exciting anyway. But this is a good opportunity to compare the original 19th century version with the simplified late 20th century version you saw just earlier.

R Lupus Street


Pimlico station

The station opened in 1972 and is the only station without an interchange on the Victoria line. It was considered sensible because of nearby tourist attractions. The platforms have a themed decoration with a carpet of yellow dots, supposedly a reference to contemporary art exhibited at nearby Tate Britain.

The main entrance is a corner hall beneath an office building from the 1970s and is of no architectural interest.


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