Central Tube line walk 14: Loughton walk to Epping

Walk 14
LOUGHTON walk to EPPING
3 hours

This was originally a suburban train line built in 1865 as an extension of an existing line beyond Loughton to Epping and Ongar. The line was converted to the Central Line in 1949.

Routing note: This walk connects in Loughton with Central line walk 13.

As there are very few buildings of interest in this part of Essex, I have chosen to route you through the countryside. The route uses mostly public footpaths across fields and green spaces, so that you definitely need waterproof shoes. Footpaths tend to be waymarked in Essex, but you can check them easily also on http://www.openstreetmap.org

LOUGHTON

The station was the original terminus of a suburban railway from London via Stratford that opened in 1856. It was a large station with a sizeable goods yard but also had something unusual. It had a special platform away behind the goods yard that was used for excursion trains as the area was thronged with excursionists aiming for Epping Forest. This platform even had its own ticket hall.

The station was rebuilt when the line was extended towards Epping in 1865. The station building itself was rebuilt in 1940 in preparation for converting the train line to the Underground Central line, which happened only in 1947 due to World War II.

The station building is listed and was designed by a leading architect of that period, John Murray Easton. He was well aware of Art Déco but his design is clearly different from those by the London Underground house architects. The grey-yellow bricks are laid in an elegant, regular pattern, and the ticket hall has a very geometric shape, a square box with a clerestory window in the shape of a half circle. There are no additional volumes such as a tower or a side box that might distract from the geometry. I have no pictures of the platform awnings, but they are distinctive as well, having rounded ends that remind of the deck of a steamship. This was very fashionable in the 1930s.

Exit the station and turn R
Walk along the tracks on the public footpath
R under the tracks on Roding Road
Just before house nr 54 L into a cemetery access
Before entering the cemetery R on the public footpath along the fence
At the end of the footpath ahead in Southview Road
Ahead into Roding Valley Recreation Ground

Roding Valley Recreation Ground

Walk down to the river Roding
L along the river all the way to the main road near the motorway exit

River Roding
River Roding

L up Chigwell Lane
Just before the railway bridge R up the stairs and along the embankment for

DEBDEN

Debden Underground station

The station opened in 1865 together with the suburban railway line. It was called Chigwell Road for 6 months and then Chigwell Lane. The present name was chosen by London Underground in 1949 in order to avoid confusion with Chigwell station.

The present station building is a modest brick box with a low additional glass box set on top. Modest design was unavoidable in 1949 due to the budget difficulties after World War II.

Take the freely accessible footbridge over the tracks.
L for a few yards and very soon R on the continuation of the footpath
At the end ahead (this is Torrington Drive)
At the end R on The Broadway

The Broadway in Debden

I have not seen this type of shopping arcade often in London. It is an endless row of shops with a very plain set of brick residential buildings above. The concept was already frequent in Victorian times but every shop was part of an individual property, often with a separate gable or some decoration showing the limit between two tenants. Here, the row of flats is completely unbroken. This refers to northern European Art Déco from the 1930s but looks boring in a residential suburb instead of looking dignified on a public building.

At the end, walk ahead into the open green space to the brook
R along the brook (this is a public footpath although you just walk on grass)
The footpath crosses under the tracks and ends near a small footbridge over the brook

Crossing under the tracks along the brook

L on the next footpath, going slowly closer towards the motorway (there will be stiles to cross a meadow)
Continue on the footpath along the motorway to the next footbridge
R across the motorway and ahead on the farm lane
At the end R on Abridge Road (busy country road, but there is pavement for most of the way)

Roding valley near Abridge
Pub and bridge in Abridge

Abridge has an imposing pub on the other side of the bridge. It was actually a coaching inn and dates back to the 18th century even though the black timber reminds you of medieval castles. There are a few other houses from the same period in the village and the bridge is also from then. It was originally just a coaching hamlet, the parish being 3 miles away.

Just before the bridge over the river Roding L on the footpath along the river
The path ends on Epping Lane
Cross the road and the footpath continues along a seasonal brook
(there is wooden signpost; the path itself is very faint as farmers tend to plough and plant over them)

View back from the Theydon Bois hill

Follow the brook to the end of the footpath, here L on the next footpath
Cross under the motorway towards the cemetery
Just after the underpass L on the signposted footpath, turning R at every opportunity in order to keep along the fence of the cemetery
At the corner of a wood, the main path turns L. Continue instead ahead along the edge of the wood into the other path.

Near Theydon cemetery
Pond in Theydon Bois

At the end L towards the end of a farm lane
Walk down the farm lane towards the road, keeping on the left-hand branch
Go the main road and continue L along the main road
Soon R in Station Hill
(no street sign, but quite obvious as it is just before the railing of the main road bridge over the tracks)

If you want to go to the station, cross the footbridge ahead and turn R along the tracks

THEYDON BOIS

Theydon Bois Underground station

The station opened in 1865 together with the suburban railway line. It was called plain Theydon for 6 months and then Theydon Bois. It is a minor station with no staff.

The station building (on the northern side of the tracks) is a typical Victorian minor suburban train station. The main detail is the combination of yellowish and reddish bricks.

If you did not go to the station (or coming back from the footbridge), take the paved path parallel to the tracks.

A few yards after the station, take a footpath branching off to the R along a ditch

Open fields in Theydon

At the next footbridge over the ditch L on the footpath
This leads pretty much straight ahead to a footbridge over the M25 motorway

Underground train in rural Essex

Just after the footbridge R on the footpath along the motorway.
The footpath ends with a sharp corner, turning L across a golf course (
there are other footpaths turning L before, but they would be suboptimal).

Leaving the Roding Valley along the golf course
Footpath across the golf course in Epping

L on Stewards Green Road for a few yards
Ignore the access road for a few houses that first comes up R
Shortly thereafter, follow the wooden signpost into the next footpath along a brook

Fields in Epping

At the end of the footpath R uphill along the road
Soon L into Hillcrest Way (there is a signpost for the station)
Cross the tracks for

EPPING

Epping Underground station

The station opened in 1865 together with the suburban railway line that ran beyond Epping to Ongar. When the train line was converted to the Central Line, the section between Epping and Ongar remained temporarily a train line (with steam-hauled services rather than electricity). The Central line was extended to Ongar in 1957 but the section between Epping and Ongar was served by a separate shuttle service and was closed in 1994.

Busy terminus in Epping

Rush hour services tend to be overcrowded because London Underground fares are much cheaper than those on train stations located in the vicinity. This is due to a quirk in the tariff scheme. In counties outside of London, transport zones do not apply, explaining the higher train fares, but Central Line stations are an exception to this and remain in zone 6.

The station building is a substantial Victorian combination of buildings, as can be expected from a former junction with significant demand for transport of goods (particularly milk and produce). But the shapes and the materials are quite plain.

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Central Tube line walk 13: South Woodford walk to Loughton

Walk 13
SOUTH WOODFORD walk to LOUGHTON
2 3/4 hours

This was originally a suburban train line linking Stratford with Loughton. It was converted to the Central Line in 1947.

Routing note: This walk connects in South Woodford with Central Line walk 12, in Woodford with Central line walk 11 (from Fairlop) and in Loughton with Central Line walk 14.

Because this route uses a number of unsigned public footpaths and forest tracks, you might want to check occasionally with GPS positioning that you are walking in the right direction. Alternatively, the Openstreetmap.org website shows clearly the paths I mention although they can be a little more confusing locally. Most tracks are hardened but not paved and can be a little muddy.

SOUTH WOODFORD

Western building of South Woodford Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station called “George Lane” in 1856. The name was changed to “South Woodford (George Lane)” in 1937 and shortened to the present name by London Underground in 1947.

Eastern access

The station can be accessed from both sides of the tracks as the footbridge is a public footpath outside of the ticket-controlled area. The eastern building is a small brick box. The western building was the original station but is still a modest affair also in red bricks. The station was renovated in 2006 because the underpass to the central platform had been the location of a number of robberies targeting travelers.

Exit the station on the western side towards the shopping parade
Ahead on George Lane away from the tracks
L Cleveland Road
R Clarendon Road
Ahead Broadwalk

Woodford Road

Woodford is an interesting suburb, you often get the feeling of leafy, wide roads, but this is partly an illusion because developments along side roads are less remarkable. When you cross the main highway, Woodford Road, the leafy aspect is very much in evidence. This is also understandable because you are getting closer to Epping Forest and properties directly on the edge of the woods are logically very upmarket.

At the end L High View Road
Soon R between houses into Epping Forest

Although southern parts of Epping Forest are partly open meadows or former parkland, the section you cross on the present walk is wooded. The word “forest” did not refer originally to woods, it was a legal description for land where the hunting rights belonged to the Crown. The land was owned by private persons, usually manor lords, and the local peasants had rights of usage comparable to a common (grazing, firewood etc).

Go first ahead to a clearing, then R on a wider official path
After leaving the clearing, take the next larger path L towards Woodford New Road

(a section of the path is unofficial but the direction is easy to keep)
Cross the busy road (DANGEROUS !)

In the 19th century, landowners were sorely tempted to sell out to developers, but this implied first that the Crown give up the hunting rights, which was no real issue, but also that Parliament curtail the rights of usage. This was normally done by giving some small piece of land to the local parish in full ownership, which was financially honest but useless for the local residents deprived of essential access to resources.

Ahead on an official path that turns R past a covered reservoir
Cross a road on a footbridge
Ahead on the official track, turning slightly R

In the case of Epping Forest, local landowners encountered some serious opposition in Parliament because the forest was also a very popular leisure area for urban London residents who did have some influence on elections. Parliament finally felt compelled to act when enterprising residents began seriously damaging the forest by taking excessive advantage of their right to dig and sell gravel for construction purposes. Parliament voted to have landowners sell the remaining parts of the forest to the City of London. This corporation had excess funds that could be well used to police and protect the forest.

Cross the motorway on the second footbridge
Ahead on the footpath

The Act of Parliament also gave the City instructions as to what to do with the forest. A core article states that the City is supposed to keep it as close to natural state as possible, which gives extensive rights nowadays to exclude polluting activities, prevent inappropriate leisure pursuits (such as open fire barbecues or swimming in ponds) and limit road construction. This is also the reason why you have so few paved paths in an area which is actually quite close to central London.

Marshy pond in Epping Forest

On this particular walk, you do not come close to many ponds. This is because there are actually few natural ponds on the top of a hill. Most ponds in Epping Forest are either former ornamental ponds for mansions like Wanstead House, or are the result of digging for gravel, which was obviously easier to do close to main roads in the southern part of the forest. The further north you go in the forest, the more the ponds are natural hollows with water levels fluctuating according to seasons. This is actually a very good natural effect as many plants and amphibians love such seasonal ponds.

The path leads parallel to Lodge Villas and ends near a large crossroads
Cross the two first roads walking counterclockwise
Enter the Green and cross the open space lengthwise

Fountain on Woodford Green

The Green is a plain open space; it is an example of land given to a parish in exchange for developing the area between the Green and the train line. The only item of interest on the Green is a small drinking fountain. They made much sense in the late 19th century as most people had no running water and used private wells in their courtyards. The fountain gave water to field workers and labourers who had no access to these private wells. Because of climate warming, there has been increasing interest in public fountains in recent years, but boroughs cannot use the old fountains as they are usually not linked to the drinking water supply network.

Row of mature trees along Woodford Green

The Green is now old enough to have nice rows of mature trees all around. It was not usual in the 19th century to plant trees in the middle as well as this would have made grazing more complicated.

At the northeastern corner, cross the road into Broomhill Road
R Snakes Lane West

Estate tower in Woodford

It is a little surprising to see the one or other estate tower in a suburb like Woodford. The suburb was actually developing quite fast in the early 20th century but development is limited by the county border with Essex, which is quite close to the train line. Essex is very cautious about allowing development in the Green Belt close to London unless they are private villas in sizeable grounds.

WOODFORD

Woodford Underground station

The station opened in 1856 on what was a suburban train line running to Loughton. The branch towards Hainault and Ilford opened in 1903, closed again in 1908, then re-opened in 1930. Both the main line and the Hainault branch were transferred to the Central Line in 1947/1948.

I think some of the station building might be original. The taller building has the right size for a Victorian suburban train station with a goods yard and the peculiar roof eaves are similar on stations from the same period. The part that is now used for passengers is a plain brick and glass rectangle, but with a pyramidal roof that would not be used nowadays. There have probably been several refurbishments.

L just before reaching the station into The Broadway
L Monkham’s Avenue (the road sign appears some 100 yards after the junction…)
R Monkham’s Drive, the road turns later L (do not take Princes Avenue !)

Property in Monkham’s Drive

The three Monkham’s are not very exciting in terms of walking and could be leafier, but you will see many fine houses if you pay attention to the properties. The best have some feeling of Arts & Crafts, which means they have been built by skilled craftsmen and architects have included some elegant one-off detail such as a glass panel or a special roof shape.

Arts & Crafts House in Monkham’s Lane
Prime Minister Attlee’s house

More average houses like the ones on the third picture are just repeating the typical fashionable decoration in aspirational suburbs of the 1930s, neo-Tudor wooden beams on a white background. The blue roundel tells you that the house was the domicile of Prime Minister Attlee. This in itself testifies to the suburb being not exactly chavvy.

R Monkham’s Lane
Shortly after Forest Way, walk L into Knighton Wood

Path in Knighton Wood

After a short while into the wood, you reach a crossing with an official trail. If you can find markings, I suggest you follow this “Rowan Trail” clockwise around the woods past ponds until you come close to the playground. If you are tempted by this option, I suggest you also refer to the Epping Forest document about the trail. The link is http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/Green-Spaces/rowan-trail.pdf . The document says that the trail is waymarked.

Pond in Knighton Wood

If you do not trust the official trail or want to shorten the walk, turn right into the track and walk straight ahead to the edge of the wood near the playground.

The wood has a double name because it straddles the county limit between Essex and Greater London. In London, it is called Knighton Wood. In Essex, it is called Lord’s Bushes. The Knight and the Lord are the same person, both woods belonged to a local mansion.

Track in Lord’s Bushes
Clearing in Lord’s Bushes

Do not exit the wood near the playground, walk a few more yards downhill to the main road
Ahead to the footbridge over the tracks
After the tracks L Buckhurst Way

Development from 2006

Near the church, I noticed an interesting development from 2006. The metal cladding is quite unusual and the proportions are unusually pleasing for a commercial project, with rounded sections just the right size to give a feeling of movement within a building that is not too large for the suburban environment. Prices in Buckhurst Hill are upmarket but still within levels affluent professionals working in the City can afford. It does not reach the outrageous level of luxury flats for investment bankers.

Near the church L Lower Queen’s Road
At one end of the row of shops, you will find the access to a subway under the tracks
Ahead after the subway to the road
R Victoria Road
The road passes the station forecourt

BUCKHURST HILL

Buckhurst Hill Underground station

The station opened in 1856 on what was a suburban train line running to Loughton.

The station building is a simple but elegant late Victorian structure from 1892. Alternating colours on the neo-romanesque arches were very fashionable at that time.

Just after the station R across the tracks on the road bridge
Continue ahead on Roding Lane
L on the track across the recreation ground
. You reach first a playground. You can detour here R towards the lake walking around the cricket club pitch

Roding Valley Recreation Ground

You could actually walk for a long distance on either side of the river Roding, passing many sports facilities and enjoying the nature reserve on the other side of the river. My walk leads you away because you would otherwise miss the Underground station. Walk 14 will route you through the nature reserve.

The lake you see on my picture features on some maps as a marsh. This refers to the reed beds along the edges, a valuable nature feature where waterbirds can hide their nests.

Lake in Buckhurst Hill

On the other side of the cricket ground L towards the pavilion
Leave the recreation ground on a footpath called Greenwalk

Green Walk in Loughton

I have not seen many public footpaths using this particular design, a wide strip of grass with a small paved path and rows of trees. I suggest this is a heritage of the Garden City movement of the 1930s. It aimed specifically at finding a good balance between nature and housing in new suburbs developed in counties outside of London, as it the case here in Essex.

It crosses two roads, the second one with traffic lights
After the second road crossing, continue a few yards to the meeting of footpaths
R on this second footpath
Ahead Danbury Road
At the end of the road, ahead on a short footpath

Great Eastern Path

When you reach the next meeting of footpaths, L between gardens and then along sports grounds to the footbridge over the tracks (this is Great Eastern Path)

This is more a typical footpath, not a garden city feature. But the simple fact that the sports grounds are separated from the footpath by a natural hedge rather than by a metal fence testifies to the lower pressure on ground prices in the outer suburbs.

Sports Grounds in Loughton
UFO Supermarket in Loughton

From the station forecourt, you can see a supermarket. I don’t normally pay any attention to such commercial buildings as they are usually particularly uninspired cheap boxes. This particular one is an exception, it answers to the conspicuous shape of the Underground shapes by playing with similarly rounded geometrical designs. The white roundel is very Art Déco, with a long band of glass windows enhancing the geometrical character. The copper roof on the left was a popular touch of colour in the 1990s (and in the 1900s as well actually), but the small protruding feature in the middle looking like the captain’s outlook on a steamship is again a typical Art Déco design. Really unusual building.

The station is just to your R

LOUGHTON

Loughton Underground station

The station was the original terminus of the suburban railway from London via Stratford that opened in 1856. It was a large station with a sizeable goods yard but also had something unusual. It had a special platform away behind the goods yard that was used for excursion trains as the area was thronged with excursionists aiming for Epping Forest. This platform even had its own ticket hall.

The station was rebuilt when the line was extended towards Epping in 1865. The station building itself was rebuilt in 1940 in preparation for converting the train line to the Underground Central line, which happened only in 1947 due to World War II.

The station building is listed and was designed by a leading architect of that period, John Murray Easton. He was well aware of Art Déco but his design is clearly different from those by the London Underground house architects. The grey-yellow bricks are laid in an elegant, regular pattern, and the ticket hall has a very geometric shape, a square box with a clerestory window in the shape of a half circle. There are no additional volumes such as a tower or a side box that might distract from the geometry. I have no pictures of the platform awnings, but they are distinctive as well, having rounded ends that remind of the deck of a steamship. This was very fashionable in the 1930s.

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Central Tube line walk 12: Leytonstone walk to South Woodford

Walk 12
LEYTONSTONE walk to SOUTH WOODFORD
2 1/4 hours

This was originally a suburban train line linking Stratford with Loughton. It was converted to the Central Line in 1947.

Routing note: This walk connects in Leytonstone to Central Line walks 9 and 10, but the connection in South Woodford with Central Line walk 13 will be more convenient because of the way I wrote the routes.

As walking on paths through a bit of Epping Forest might feel confusing, you can rely on your GPS positioning when in doubt, but there are enough roads that you will not feel lost for a long time.

LEYTONSTONE

The station was originally a suburban train station opened in 1856. It became a Central Line junction in 1947.

The station building was designed in the late 1930s in the spirit of Art Déco, with clear geometric shapes and no unnecessary frilly decoration. Because of limited funding after the economic crisis in the early 1930s, it is a modest building and does not compare with the imposing Art Déco buildings on the Piccadilly line.

The station is known for several mosaics in the ticket hall showing scenes related to film director Alfred Hitchcock, who was born in Leytonstone in 1899. The mosaics were not an idea by London Underground, as opposed to the decoration of some central London stations. In this case, they were commissioned by the borough in 2001. I am not familiar enough with the biography of the famous film director, but I give you several examples and you might recognise the scenes.

Hitchcock directing
Hitchcock as a child in Leytonstone

Exit the station on the northern side of the tracks (through the bus station)

Pile of buses in front of Leytonstone Bus Station

On the bus station forecourt, I notice a delightful sculpture with brick buses piled into a pyramid. It is supposed to remind you of the changing shapes of buses over a century but it also provides a rather convenient bench on the lower level.

United Free Church in Leytonstone

When you pass Wallwood Road, you also walk past a “United Free Church”. I paid attention primarily to the building with its large glass front and a nice little mosaic. Historically, the United Free Church was a Scottish presbytarian denomination now merged into the present Church of Scotland. I suppose the Leytonstone church belongs to an other denomination, perhaps an evangelical movement.

Cross the road into Fairlop Road
At the very end R Hainault Road (no street sign but it is obvious)
At the end L Colworth Road (again no street sign, follow the blue cycle sign for Leytonstone school)

School in Leytonstone

The school is in a rather impressive dark red brick building. What I found interesting about it is the set of triangular gables with a black and white chequered pattern. It reminds me of Elizabethan patterns of decoration, but looks a little unexpected as an isolated decoration element.

After the church R on a footpath across Epping Temple Forest
The footpath should end on Whipps Cross Road opposite to a car park
Cross the road into the car park
L along the shore of Hollow Pond, passing a smaller (now closed) car park
When you reach traffic lights, R on the path across Epping Forest

Entering Epping Forest

Epping Forest is not really a continuous set of woods. The legal definition of a “forest” until the 19th century was land where the Crown owned the hunting rights but where local residents could use the resources in a way similar to a common (firewood gathering, cattle and pig grazing etc). This limited significantly the rights of the land owners who started campaigning in the 19th century to be allowed to sell the land to developers. The Crown was not much bothered about its hunting rights while the local residents were often incensed about losing their access to valuable resources.

Old oak in Epping Forest

In the case of Epping Forest, Parliament decided in 1878 that the rests of the “forest” were to be managed by the City of London in order to ensure that it remained similar to a common but also well policed. The City was chosen as the new owner, buying out the other landowners, because this was a sensible use of the budget surplus this particular corporation had. The City tries to keep Epping Forest quite close to a natural environment: there are paths but many are informal and there are for example very few paved cycle paths across the forest. One of my pictures conveys this through a majestic oak tree.

The path comes later quite close to the pond again but continues away towards a car park

Hollow Pond

Hollow Pond is not a natural lake although the winding shoreline and small islands might give you the feeling. When the forest was still open to exploitation under the old legislation, enterprising locals dug large quantities of gravel, taking advantage of their rights as residents and of booming demand for construction purposes. Gravel pits were obviously left bare afterwards, becoming such an eyesore and occasional danger that they contributed to Parliament’s decision about managing the land better.

Walking on thin ice on Hollow Pond


Water was allowed to gather in the pits. Now that trees have grown and that waterfowl has colonised the ponds, it is actually both a lovely place and a natural asset. As you can see on one picture, people try to skate on the pond in winter. I expect this is definitely not permissible according to the rules set by the City. Boating is usually forbidden as well as this would disturb the waterfowl nests. To be honest, forbidding any activity near the water probably also feels quite convenient in that it lowers the risk of being sued for allowing dangerous activities.

Hollow Pond without ice

Shortly before reaching the car park, R on an other main path, crossing a brook
The path keeps parallel to the car park road and reaches Eagle Pond
Go to the road that runs along the pond

Eagle Pond

This is obviously a formal, dammed pond as it has straight shorelines. Despite some unclear documents, it is generally accepted that it was part of the grounds of Wanstead Mansion and was probably landscaped around 1735. Large parts of the grounds were sold around 1800 to developers to pay debts incurred by the owner of the mansion, so that the pond seems to lie quite far away from present Wanstead Park, but the distance would have been normal for pleasure grounds of a representative mansion in the 18th century. Eagle Pond actually has a more natural western end despite the straight dam on the northern side.

Snaresbrook Crown Court

On the other side of the pond, you can see a rather imposing mansion built in 1841. It has actually never been a mansion, it was built originally as an orphanage by a millionaire who obviously thought it was good to show his elegant taste along with his laudable philanthropic efforts. Critics commented at the time that it was quite barren and soulless inside, not holding the promises of the external appearance.

The building was designed by a very popular architect of that period (young George Gilbert Scott, later the ubiquitous specialist for neo-gothic churches in England) and the central section in particular is inspired by Jacobean castles. The building became a school in 1938 and is a court house since 1974.

R Snaresbrook Road along the pond

Pub in Snaresbrook

Before turning right at the end of the pond, I noticed a rather elegant villa on the corner of the two roads. It is actually just a pub but it does have a elegant balcony and a tasteful cream-and-black colour scheme.

At the end R Hollybush Hill (no street sign but obvious)

Former Snaresbrook fountain

There is an other cutesy appliance on this road, the former local fountain. It has a particularly complex pagoda-like roof with a golden flag showing the direction of the wind.

L High Street Wanstead

SNARESBROOK

Snaresbrook Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station called “Snaresbrook for Wanstead” in 1857. The name changed slightly to “Snaresbrook & Wanstead” in 1898 and reverted to the old name in 1929. It is London Underground that simplified the name to Snaresbrook in 1947 because a new station called Wanstead opened at the same time on the Hainault branch of the same Central Line.

The main station building is the original Victorian suburban train station, the use of yellow-grayish bricks being quite popular at that time. The most interesting detail is the roof eaves. London Underground added a small ticket hall entrance in 1948 that is of no particular interest except for the garish colour of the steps and door iambs. Experts note that the platforms have some interesting Victorian details.

Snaresbrook Memorial Ground

Continue past the station on High Street
After crossing an other main road half R on the footpath to the church. The path actually merges into a short road called “Church Path”.

Before reaching the short road, you are crossing the Snaresbrook Memorial Ground, just a pleasant open space typical of zone 4 suburbs.

Walk past the church keeping it to your R

Christchurch Green

After the church, you are in Christchurch Green, the largest of the three greens in this part of the borough. George Green is the third one, but you do not cross it on this particular route.

When you reach the end of the recreation ground, go back to High Street and walk further away from the station

High Street ends at a major crossroads near Wanstead Underground station, that you can ignore on the present route

Pub near Wanstead station

What is more difficult to ignore is the very large pub on the highway corner. It is a good example of Edwardian confusion about architectural styles. The colour scheme (red bricks with creme highlights) is typical. You then have Tudor-style fluted chimneys, a main gable in the style of Dutch Renaissance houses and corner towers with pointy domes faintly reminiscent of Indian mosques. Very eclectic overall.

L Kingfisher Avenue (parallel to the motorway)
Near the footbridge L in Nutter Lane (again no street sign but quite obvious), later turns R as a Byway
At the end of the byway, enter Roding Valley Park and turn R along the sports field and later parallel to the motorway

Roding Valley Park

The “park” is more a wilderness extending on both sides of the Circular Motorway. Originally, the river Roding tended to overflow frequently in winter because the ground further upstream is heavy clay on which water just flows and cannot percolate. When the authorities decided that it was necessary to improve traffic in London by building a circular motorway through the suburbs (of which only some sections were built in the end), buying built land was just way too expensive. The valley of the Roding was then drained by forcing the river between ditches and the rest of the flood meadows became available as a park.

Walking along the river Roding

Cross under the motorway on the cycle lane
L on the cycle lane along the river (unpaved in places)

This section is actually the nicer one as the river brings some variety compared to plain former meadows.

Continue along the river past footbridges until you are able to cross again under the motorway

Footbridge over the river Roding
River Roding with Victorian substation

When you cross the river, you can see further upstream a sizeable Victorian building with neo-romanesque arches. This was the typical architecture used to house machinery, in particular pumps but sometimes also electricity substations.

After the underpass R along the motorway until you reach the flyover

Motorway flyover

The flyover gives you a clear feeling for the river Roding flooding risks.

L away from the motorway through a short wooded section until you reach a stile and leave Roding Valley Park

Leaving Roding Valley Park

L along Chigwell Road for a few yards
Soon R Granville Road
L Ashford Road
Soon R Beechcroft Road
L Woodwille Road
Across Victoria Road into Cowslip Road
R George Lane to the station

SOUTH WOODFORD

South Woodford Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station called “George Lane” in 1856. The name was changed to “South Woodford (George Lane)” in 1937 and shortened to the present name by London Underground in 1947.

Main building of South Woodford station

The station can be accessed from both sides of the tracks as the footbridge is a public footpath outside of the ticket-controlled area. The eastern building is a small brick box. The western building was the original station but is still a modest affair also in red bricks. The station was renovated in 2006 because the underpass to the central platform had been the location of a number of robberies targeting travelers.

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Central Tube line walk 11: Fairlop walk to Woodford

Walk 11
FAIRLOP walk to WOODFORD
3 hours

This was originally a suburban train line opened in 1903 but it closed again in 1908 because it was not profitable. It was then reopened in 1930 once enough suburban developments had taken place. It was converted into a Central line branch in 1947 and was operated until about 1990 in two separate sections: trains from central London ended at Hainault and the section from Hainault to Woodford was served by a shuttle service. Many trains still end in Hainault and only few trains run over the whole line. Services run every 20 minutes, which is a very long interval for an Underground line.

Routing note: This walk connects in Fairlop with Central line walk 10 and in Woodford with Central line walk 13.

Most of the (few) unpaved sections of the route are on sandy tracks, but one section is on the grassy edge of fields and may be muddy after rain.

FAIRLOP

Fairlop Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 with services now running towards Leytonstone instead of Ilford. The station is actually of limited use, being away from residential areas, and is used by only about 2,000 commuters a day.

The station building is the original train station, a modest brick cottage abutting the train embankment with the platforms at the top of a flight of stairs.

Exit the station and turn L crossing under the tracks

Forest Farm

The open meadows to your left belong to Forest Farm, apparently more a shop and garden centre nowadays. The name goes back to the times when this area was Crown Land. It was partly wooded but the word “Forest” was a legal word and meant an area where the hunting rights belonged to the Crown and not to the local landowner. In a “Forest”, residents from nearby villages were allowed to gather firewood and graze cattle. When royal hunts became less frequent, Parliament started suggesting more profitable uses for the land. In this case, after lots of procrastinating, the woods were turned in 1851 into farmland that could be leased. It remained owned by the Crown, which explains why little real estate development took place.

Follow Forest Road until you find a small blue signpost R for Fairlop Waters, originally on a sandy track along the road behind a low hedge

Fairlop Waters Country Park

Fairlop Waters Country Park is a result of the land being owned by the Crown. During World War II, the farmland was appropriated as an annex to a Royal Air Force base. After the war, farming on the outskirts of London had become difficult to combine with mechanisation and the borough was allowed to landscape a country park. A significant part is now a publicly owned golf course and the rest is a strip of open land around an artificial lake using for sailing. This made sense as there are very few places in London where sailing is possible (mostly Welsh Harp Reservoir in Brent). I find the water enjoyable but the landscape remains quite bleak and would be much improved by more trees and hedges, also from a nature conservation point of view.

Fairlop Waters with gulls and sailing boat

The track crosses an access road and turns partly R towards the lake
R along the lake, turning slowly L
Near a “boulding park” and before reaching the sailing centre, leave the lake and exit the country park on the access road
L Forest Road
R Access Road marked “Ilford Wanderers RFC”
There is also a not very visible corner sign saying “London Marathon Playing Field Redbridge”

Reminder of the old “Forest”

These playing fields give me an opportunity to mention that “Fairlop” refers to a country fair held annually near a specific oak tree. It was an extremely popular entertainment venue in summer and explains the discussions in Parliament about the use of the land. The general public enjoyed the fair and the partly wooded landscape made sense in this respect, but they often trespassed on land reserved for other purposes and court cases led Parliament to convert the land to farms, also because this gave an excuse to snuff out the fair and potential disorderly conduct.

Continue ahead along the hedge when the road ends, it is a paved path with public lighting. The path along the hedge ends in Inverness Drive
L Walden Way
R Lancelot Road
At the end L New North Road passing

HAINAULT

Hainault Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903 but the line closed in 1908 due to insufficient numbers of travelers and did not reopen before 1930. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 with services now running towards Leytonstone instead of Ilford.

The present station building is an inconspicuous brick box abutting the train embankment with the platforms at the top of a flight of stairs. According to pictures on the Internet, the platform shelter on one of the platforms is an interesting, rare example from the 1930s, similar in shape to the ticket hall of Redbridge station.

Typical housing estate path

R Thurlow Gardens
At the end ahead on a paved footpath
Exit the parking lot (called Southdale)
L Copperfield (a curving road)
Opposite Amanda Close R on the footpath across the central open space of the housing estate

Contemporary style of estate with architecture gimmick


The housing estate has a variety of buildings, some of which are quite recent. There is a feeling of garden city and it is obvious no private developer was involved or he would have insisted on packing many more buildings instead of the large open spaces.

Keep the same direction, aiming just a little to the R. Aim for the building you see on my picture with three levels of red-lined windows. Stay to the L of the building and turn afterwards R towards the road

Colour contrasts
Neo-Tudor on Manor Road

L up the hill along the road, ignoring the mini-roundabout
R View Close
After house number 27 L on the footpath to Millwell Crescent
Slightly R and uphill on Millwell Crescent
At the end of the crescent R on Manor Road

The area starts to feel very rural, even the properties on the side of the road have the kind of neo-medieval decoration you might associate with country pubs.

Manor Road passes the station

GRANGE HILL

Grange Hill Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903 but the line closed in 1908 due to insufficient numbers of travelers and did not reopen before 1930. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 and was served most of the day by means of a shuttle running between Hainault and Woodford. All services run through to central London since the 1990s.

The original station building was destroyed by a bomb in 1944 and the present one is therefore from the late 1940s. It has a very simple rectangular design but the upper rectangle has clerestory windows and the proportions are good.

Grange Hill tunnel

From the bridge over the tracks, I found the view towards the tunnel quite nice. You can see that it was originally a suburban train line because the tunnel opening is much higher than would be necessary for the compact Underground carriages.

L on the access road marked “Chigwell Cemetery” (called Froghall Lane but there is no sign). When you reach the cemetery, continue ahead along the hedge on unpaved Froghall Lane. As my picture shows, it is pleasantly rural but can turn decidedly muddy. The lane is a public footpath.

Froghall Lane

After the cemetery L along the cemetery hedge.

Fields in Essex near Chigwell

This is also a public footpath, shown on maps as a track although it is more a strip of grass along fields. Farmland here does not feel at all like a transport zone 4 suburban area and this is actually very unusual so close to central London. I cannot resist a few pictures for your enjoyment.

At the end of the footpath, do not cross the tracks, continue R along the Underground cutting. The path turns R away from the cutting but you reach shortly afterwards the track along the cutting branching away L

When you reach a road, turn R for a few yards

Cottages on Hainault Road

There a few lovely listed cottages along this road. I am not sure what they were used for but they were obviously designed as one set with two symmetrical buildings, each with protruding aisles and awnings.

Soon L Station Road

The road runs along the station green, a large green space with a few mature trees.

Chigwell station Green

CHIGWELL

Chigwell Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903 but the line closed in 1908 due to insufficient numbers of travelers and did not reopen before 1930. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 and was served most of the day by means of a shuttle running between Hainault and Woodford. All services run through to central London since the 1990s.

The station building looks very much like an Edwardian suburban train station. The combination of reddish bricks and some stone details in contrasting pale grey is typical of Edwardian taste. What really sets the building apart are the really quirky gables inspired by Dutch Renaissance houses.

L across the Underground tracks on High Road (A113)
Walk for quite a distance along High Road, looking at the elegant villas on both sides of the road

Mansion on High Road

This is obviously a delightful, very desirable suburb. The large freestanding villas stand on sizeable plots that look like they are tended by professional gardening firms. Comparing with some other seriously affluent suburbs in London, it is conspicuous that residents to not all feel the need to hide behind high brick walls. This is probably influenced by American suburbs of the 1920s and by the garden city movement.


I give you a few pictures but you will obviously pick your own choice among the villas. They do not strike me as being remarkable from an architectural or decorative point of view.

After the brook R Luxborough Lane (a narrow road)
You walk for a long distance along the lane on a narrow pavement, but it is a very quiet access road and has nearly no traffic
The road crosses the motorway and ends at a footbridge over the River Roding

Epping Forest seen from Luxborough Lane

From the motorway bridge in particular, you are high enough over the valley to have a good view of the layout of the land. The higher, heavily wooded hills in the background are the core part of Epping Forest.

From the bridge over the river, I found the Underground viaduct quite nice. Look at the way the bricks over the arches are laid in a radial rather than horizontal pattern. This is obviously due to the need to ensure stability of the brickwork and was a pattern already discovered by the Romans in antiquity. But it was designed very elegantly in such a way that the radial pattern is exactly as wide as the pillars.

Viaduct over the River Roding
River Roding

The river Roding is a tributary of the Thames and was notorious for flooding the meadows. This is due to the fact that it comes from a part of Essex with very compact soil where rainwater cannot percolate and just runs over the surface. By the way, Chigwell is located in Essex and the bridge here is the border crossing back into London. This also explains why Chigwell is still much more rural and less developed, the county having strict regulations regarding developments.

Cross the river and follow the riverside L until you reach a farm track and the parking lot for playing fields

Walking on the flood embankment along the river, you have a nice view of how the borough tries to manage the river bed as an efficient nature reserve. For the time being, there is no real connection between several sections of path along the river, but this is definitely something being worked on. This would provide eastern London with a corridor for wildlife and leisure similar to the very popular valleys of the Ravensbourne (through Lewisham and Sydenham) and Wandle (through Wimbledon and Morden) rivers.

R on the paved track along the sports ground
Ahead Cherry Tree Rise
The station is on your right at the end of a signposted access road

RODING VALLEY

Roding Valley Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station called Roding Valley Halt on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1936, long after the construction of the line. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 and was served most of the day by means of a shuttle running between Hainault and Woodford. All services run through to central London since the 1990s. It is the least used station of all London Underground stations and it had no ticket barriers as recently as 2010.

The station building is a very modest structure from 1949. Because of the scarcity of funds and building materials directly after World War II, but also because it is such a minor station, a small brick box was deemed sufficient.

Continue on Cherry Tree Rise, turns L after the station
Cross Buckhurst Avenue into Hawthorn Road
R Prospect Road
L Oxford Road
Ahead on a track along sports grounds, the track turns R when it enters Ray Park

Entering Ray Park

The park is the remnant of a manor park that extended on both sides of the river. When I walked through the park, it was a modest neighbourhood park.

The borough has since invested in a modern café to serve the users of the many sports facilities. It was built in 2009 as an experiment with ecological concepts. The distinctive roof shape is an attempt to maximise the use of the roof: the steeper sections let daylight enter the building while the flatter sections bear solar panels. The building is presented by the galvanizers’ association as an interesting test case.

Ecological pavilion in Ray Park

Cross the length of the park along the main track
R Snakes Lane East for quite a long distance

Church of St. Barnaba’s Woodford

The road leads you past the church of St Barnaba’s Woodford, a so-called “Anglo-Catholic” church. It is difficult to say whether this is a specific denomination, it sees itself in the continuation of the original Henry VIII concept of Anglicanism as a Roman Catholic church without powers for the Pope. The movement seems to be closer to the Anglican church in terms of morals and ethics (regarding issues like homosexuality or women in clergy) but closer to Rome in terms of theology and rite.

The building is quite peculiar. When it was built in 1910, the architect used shapes made popular by Arts & Crafts: rather plain walls, a moderate use of well crafted medieval shapes, no interest in frilly neo-gothic spires. The front to the street in white concrete is from 1963 from a time when architects loved naked concrete.

WOODFORD

Woodford Underground station

The station opened in 1856 on what was a suburban train line running to Loughton. The branch towards Hainault and Ilford opened in 1903, closed again in 1908, then re-opened in 1930. Both the main line and the Hainault branch were transferred to the Central Line in 1947/1948.

It is difficult to say whether some of the station building might be original. The taller building has the right size for a Victorian suburban train station with a goods yard although the roof eaves look a bit peculiar and may be from a later point in time. The part that is now used for passengers is a plain brick and glass rectangle, but with a pyramidal roof that would not be used nowadays. There have probably been several refurbishments.

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Central Tube line walk 10: Redbridge walk to Fairlop

Walk 10
REDBRIDGE walk to FAIRLOP
2 1/2 hours

The section between Redbrige and Newbury Park was a new branch of the Central line completed in 1947. The section between Newbury Park and Fairlop was part of a pre-existing suburban railway running from Ilford to Woodford that was converted to the Central line in 1947.

Routing note: This walk connects in Redbridge with Central line walk 9 and in Fairlop with Central line walk 11.

If you walk this route on a Monday or Sunday, Valentines Mansion should be open, but check beforehand for the opening times. The visit is not included in my time indication. There is an unpaved section of a few hundred yards towards the end that may be muddy after rain.

REDBRIDGE

The station opened together with the new Central line branch in 1947.

The building is a typical design by Charles Holden and quite similar to his famous Piccadilly line designs. My picture unfortunately does not render a good impression of the very clear geometric lines, here a cylinder with a rectangular tower in the background. The ticket hall is worth a look inside, it might remind you a little of Southgate station. It is also built in bricks and it also has a row of clerestory windows to let natural light enter from above, a typical hygienist concern in the 1930s.

Exit the station and walk towards the large pub on the street corner
R past the pub, then L past the Clayhall information board on Roding Lane
R Corbetts Avenue
First L Mighell Avenue (the street sign might be missing)
The road turns slightly R

This road is not very interesting for a walking tour but this is typical of the eastern suburbs developed around 1900. They were aimed at the lower middle class, with houses being not too tiny but saving costs by minimising individual decoration. The urban planning was standardised according to a grid: main roads with shops and where possible train stations were set about every 3/4 mile, with the ground within this space served by straight roads and identical houses. In the middle of the grid sections, there would be a sizeable park. Schools were located on a more flexible basis.

The concept implied that people going to the station, to the park or to the shops (which had to been done daily as there were no refrigerators) walked about 10 minutes each way. This was considered reasonable and was well accepted. It is interesting to note that about 1/3 of suburban car traffic nowadays is done on such short distances. Have we grown a little too comfortable, accepting high petrol costs and accident risks?

At the end R and directly L Braintree Avenue
At the end L Keswick Gardens, leads to Redbridge Recreation Ground

Redbridge Recreation Ground

This is primarily a plain open space convenient for informal sports. The borough has planted a variety of trees along the northern edge in order to provide some variety and a shelter for birds. This is touted as an arboretum.

Keep in the open space more to the right-hand side
At the other end R on Woodford Bridge Road
Ahead Lodge Hill

Lodge Hill


The houses on this road and on the raised area to your right are a little more upmarket than those you saw before the recreation ground. In line with taste at the time they were built, there are additions such as bow windows and triangular pediments with neo-medieval details. This makes houses more substantial and more individual. The developers could justify this choice through the vicinity of the school and of the park, this making the area more desirable.

R along the divided highway past the bus stop until you reach the subway
Cross the main highway and exit on the left-hand ramp
away from the highway on Lord Avenue
Soon R into Clayhall Park

Entering Clayhall Park

This park is a not a borough flagship park but it is one of the more important “centre-grid” parks. The borough bought it from the developer in 1899 in order to ensure a green space in the middle of the new suburb. The borough then invested in a pergola leading to a circular rose garden, a very popular amenity at the time. Pergolas were sought after because they enabled women to remain in the shade, avoiding suntan which might have been seen as a sign that they were poor sods working open air like peasants.

Clayhall Park Pergola
Rose garden in Clayhall Park

As I walked through the park in the middle of winter, I cannot give you a feeling for the flowers although it is probably quite pleasant. The borough website also mentions a pagoda; I don’t remember noticing it locally.

Cross the park diagonally and exit at the eastern corner. Take L (east) on Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens


There are again some nicer houses directly near the park whereas the houses you will see later going towards the Underground station are more modest and not very exciting. The area remains considered a little better than before the park because of the vicinity of the station: the houses are larger even though they remain standardised. I noticed these late Victorian developments rarely feature footpaths away from roads. This is due to the fact that it is former farmland away from villages, so that there were few public paths used to go for example to church.

R Northwood Gardens
At the end R Glenwood Gardens
L Kenwood Gardens, the road turns L
R Shere Road
R Gaysham Avenue
At the end L, you will soon find a sign for the station access subway

GANTS HILL

Gants Hill Underground station

The station opened together with the new Central line branch in 1947.

There is no building, the station is entirely underground, which is actually very unusual for a suburban station. There is no really convincing reason for this choice and it was apparently an experiment inspired by the Moscow underground.

Platform in Gants Hill Underground station


In Moscow, the whole decoration effort was concentrated on the platforms rather than on buildings (like in London) or on access halls (like in Stockholm). In line with the Moscow concept, the design in Gants Hill is all about a spectacular central platform under a barrel vault extending to both tracks and supported by pillars. Instead of lavish mosaics like in Moscow, cost-consciouness only allowed in London an effort on lighting, with very elegant Art Déco fixtures on thin columns. The station is not listed as it is distinctive but technically unremarkable.

Exit the subway on the opposite, southern side of the roundabout, taking the right-hand stairs

Real estate in the 2000s

Just for the sake of an interesting picture, I give you a glimpse of a modern building framed by the access ramp. I would argue this is probably a commercial development with offices as balconies overlooking a busy roundabout would not be very pleasant for residents. The shape, very simple and a little bit agressive, is very “capitalism in the 2000s”.

Compare the new building with the period buildings around the roundabout such as the bank building. It is much lower: height was inconvenient in the 1930s due to lifts being a very expensive novelty, particularly in newly developed suburbs where the ground was affordable. It is mostly built in bricks, the cheaper material (like steel and glass nowadays), but there is an effort to enliven the wall by a series of mock columns. The corner is stressed not by an agressive triangular point but by a more homely rounded shape dressed in stone. Stone is more expensive than bricks but costs remained under control by avoiding any costly decoration. The shape is more 1930s while plain stone fronts are more 1920s.

Gants Hill roundabout

Ahead and soon L into Cranbrook Road (going south, there is also a road sign for A123 Ilford))
After the shops and a side road L into Valentines Park

I suggest you walk first around the canal and ornamental water, then counterclockwise around the park, passing the larger south lake, then the bowling green and finally the small eastern pond near the tennis courts

Valentines Park (not to be confused with nearby Valence Park) is possibly the borough flagship park. It consists of a mansion with its grounds. Valentines Mansion was built in 1696 for the widow of the archbishop of Canterbury and remained private until 1906, when the borough was able to buy it on occasion of the death of the owner. The borough was more interested in the park than in the mansion, used for a variety of purposes over the year. Part of it has been refurbished recently in order to be able to rent it out for ceremonies.

There is something interesting about the advertising website for the wedding rentals: all pictures show white people although the majority of residents in the ward around the park are of foreign descent (particularly from South Asia). One picture does show awareness for politically correct diversity by showing two gentlemen holding hands. When the mansion is not needed for such an occasion, it can be opened to the public for free, usually on Sundays.

Kitchen in Valentines Mansion

If this fits in your programme, don’t hesitate to have a look inside. There is a nice Victorian kitchen with some impressive cast iron implements, a lovely glass window in the main staircase inspired by Arts & Crafts and a reconstituted master bedroom with a collection of furniture from different periods. The bed reminds you that it was difficult to heat rooms in old times and that to be protected from the cold air was very valuable when in bed.

Staircase with glass window in Valentines Mansion
Period furniture in Valentines Mansion
Former master bedroom in Valentines Mansion
Horse Pond with Mansion in the background

The mansion is only ancillary to the park which has many attractions. When you enter the park, before going to the mansion, you walk along a set of three lakes, the Horse Pond, the Long Pond and the Fish Pond. The Horse Pond is quite small but is pleasantly shaded by mature trees; I suppose it was used as the name says to water horses away from the mansion.

The Long Pond is a sort of artificial canal, an extremely popular feature in the 18th century after French king Louis XIV had launched a fashion for this in Versailles. When the pond was long enough, it was used for boating, but it is too small for this purpose here and is purely ornamental. A modern millionaire might make a swimming channel with artificial current out of it in order to develop the kind of upper body muscles people like Russian President Putin are fond of showing off.

Long Pond with walled garden and grotto
Jacob’s Well in Valentines Park

On the side of the canal away from the mansion, there is a modest ornamental well. The interesting thing about it is the name; Jacob’s Well refers to a Biblical story, as befits a mansion built for the wife of an archbishop. In the story, Joseph is thrown into the well by his brothers. The well here is way too small for this and looks more like holy springs you find frequently in Brittany or Ireland.

Mosaic on Bishop Walk


In the background behind the well, further from the mansion, there is an alley lined by formally planted trees called Bishop Walk for no real reason. In the middle of the alley, a mosaic roundel was set in the ground to remind people of the time when the park was landscaped in the 1760s. The mosaic shows a bishop’s mitre (the pointy hat) and a band with typical rococo ornaments.

Fish Pond in Valentines Park

The Fish Pond is just what is says, a circular pond with an island and many ducks. In season, you can enjoy a few rhododendron bushes, plants that are very fond of a moist environment and are often planted on small islands in ponds. This also has the advantage that the island controls naturally that they do not spread too much, a problem if they are planted as underbrush in a wood.

Fish Pond with rhododendrons
Grotto in Valentines Park

From the Fish Pond, you can see that the Long Ponds ends with an ornamental grotto decorated with many shells. The fashion for this also comes from Versailles where there was a magnificent “Bath of Apollo” in this style since about 1700. The ultimate grotto was large enough to have seats and take refreshments, but having a more modest version was already a sign of sophistication since the owner of Chiswick Park had introduced this item. Interestingly, it was still fashionable in Victorian times and only fell out of fashion in parks around 1880.

Walled garden in the Arts & Crafts style


The Long Pond runs along the walled gardens. These include a kitchen garden, a rose garden and an “Old English Garden”. The latter was redesigned in the style of the 1900s, inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement. It involves a clear design of individual beds lined with rows of low boxes and a different combination of natural looking planting in every flower bed. As usual, I give you a number of pictures showing the garden in different seasons.

Rose garden in winter

The rose garden is actually one of the nicest suburban gardens of its kind: it has a variety of planting including both climbing roses and lower bushes, and it also has lavender bushes than provide a colour contrast and actually make sense in gardening terms (they help protect against pests due to the smell that repulses some insects).

Valentines Mansion with queue on Open Day

When coming closer to the mansion, you will walk past the typical ancillary buildings such as stables (used as a café) and a dairy (directly annexed to the main building). A dairy enabled you to have fresh milk from your own cows rather than possibly adulterated or rancid milk from a street trader. French queen Marie-Antoinette also had launched a fashion for ladies of standing to tend to lovely little lambs and calves and to chat while preparing fresh cheese in deliciously “peasant” clothes. You needed an equipped dairy with a tiled trough and running water for this activity.

Dovecote in Valentines Park


The nicest ancillary building is the dovecote, interesting for the pointy arches over the flight holes that remind me of Islamic architecture. Dovecotes were useful as a sort of private mail system with your other countryside properties. They also contributed to soil betterment by making use of the bird dejections and the doves were happy to eat all sorts of unpleasant insects attracted by horse dung and cattle manure. Finally, dovecotes were a status symbol in some countries where only nobility was allowed to have one – I don’t know about England in this respect.

Boating Lake in Valentines Park

After dealing with the mansion, I suggest you walk towards the southern part of the park where you will find playgrounds but also a boating lake. This part of the park is the first one to be bought by the borough in 1899 and was therefore equipped with the amenities parks were supposed to have at the time, such as a boating and swimming lake or a kiosk. You will be able to see the rowing boats. I think swimming is not allowed any more (1. the water is not too clean, 2. people might sue the borough for allowing dangerous activities without proper supervision if drunk partygoers drown) but there is a very nice pavilion with a clock on a faintly Chinese looking tower.

Former swimming pavilion in Valentines Park

The flower beds near the boating lake are more modest than near the mansion, but still worth enjoying.

Wycliffe House

While near a park exit, you can have a look at a somewhat imposing property just outside the park. This looks very much like a church; as it is named Wycliffe House after a famous protestant theologian, it was indeed a church when it was built in 1907. It has been converted to luxury flats. The most interesting part is the church tower, combining the uusal neo-gothic details with streamlined shapes in the Arts & Crafts tradition. The developer’s website describes this as “Art Nouveau” but I think this is not a very appropriate description.

Holocaust Memorial Garden in Valentines Park

Back in the park but quite close to the entrance, you will find the Holocaust Memorial Garden, a welcome change from the war memorials many parks in the eastern suburbs have been equipped with. Holocaust memorials are always one-off designs; the one in Valentines Park has just raised plaques and four small raised plant beds around an evergreen tree.

Azalea Garden in winter

Walking away from the memorial garden into the park, you remain in an area with evergreen planting. This is actually an other of the amenities that were very popular around 1900, an azalea and rhododendron walk. It is not particularly large, but the riot of colours in May is worth a detour.

Azalea Garden in bloom
Cran Brook

The boating lake is fed by a brook, the Cranbrook that gave its name to the local ward. Walk up the brook through a glade that has an interesting feeling. The brook is lined with concrete steps, enabling you theoretically to sit close to the water, and the tall but loose trees give spotty shade that is very pleasant in summer. This is not typical of English garden architecture and is inspired by the feeling you get in Italy under pine trees or in islamic countries along narrow ornamental canals.

When you reach the end of the brook, continue ahead along the edge of the park towards the exit.

Cross the parking lot and exit on Perth Road, turning R
L Quebec Road
R Cranley Road
At the end L Ley Street crossing the main highway

Modern fast food in mock medieval pub

The busy corner of two highways unsurprisingly attracts shops. What amused me is how a large pub was appropriated by a fast-food joint. The pub shows all the signs of the mock Tudor architecture popular in the 1930s when people a bit fed up by modernity and ever faster life where tempted by the “good old times” such as under “good old King” Henry VIII (actually a shameless womanizer and later a cruel despot). The fast food company branding with flashy colours actually harmonises very badly with bricks and mock Tudor wooden beams.

Ahead Horns Road
R Perrymans Farm Road (there is a small sign for the Underground station as well)
R Bluntingridge Road (ignore here the sign for the station)
After house number 78 R into a short access road for the Ilford War Memorial Gardens

I have taken no pictures but the small park has a really interesting history. Local citizens formed a committee and collected funds successfully as soon as 1918 while the war was not even finished. The committee included widely different people such as a committed pacifist minister and former Army officers. After much squabbling and many difficulties to gather funds, they compromised on building a children’s hospital dedicated to the new generation as well as an obelisk with a bronze soldier to commemorate the fallen.

Many people found the location far away from the core of the borough in what was little more than a “cabbage patch” less than dignified and impractical, while the borough argued that it was the growing part of the borough and would soon be very lively and central (which it actually still is not really apart from highway traffic). The hospital was demolished in 1992 when it had become obsolete.

At the end of the garden L along the main highway
L after the tracks for

NEWBURY PARK

Newbury Park Underground station entrance

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903. It was converted to a Central line station in 1947 with the Underground tracks taking a direction west towards Leytonstone rather than south towards Ilford.

The original station building, dating back to the suburban railway, was demolished in 1956. The station is now accessed through a small opening under the bus station awning.

Newbury Park bus station awning

The awning though is a truly spectacular structure designed by Oliver Hill, an architect specialising otherwise in luxurious mansions. Charles Holden, the usual architect for the Underground at the time the station was designed, did not need to be consulted as there was an actual station building at the time. Oliver Hill clearly was inspired by aircraft hangars, one of the most spectacular type of construction in the 1930s, when aviation was incredibly exciting and prestigious. Few such hangars are still in existence as airplanes are now way too big to use the old hangars, so that the station awning is deservedly listed. The very simple, rounded geometric shape and a touch of luxurious materials (here the roof cladding in copper) are typical of Art Déco.

Continue for a few yards along the main highway
L Crowfield Avenue, the road turns R
L Oaks Lane
The road turns into a narrow lane with a footpath along it behind a hedge
When the lane starts to run along a green open space with tennis courts, you can walk on the grass keeping parallel to the lane

Public baway through Aldborough Hatch Farm

Follow the lane as it turns R after a playground
L onto the access road for Aldborough Hatch Farm (there is a sign, but it is hidden in the greenery)
Just before the farm buildings L on the paved footpath with the wooden sign, then again L on the narrow, unpaved footpath shortly before reaching the actual farmhouse

Open fields

That you are crossing actual farmland in transport zone 4 is not very frequent in London, particularly not in eastern London. That it was not built upon like the areas just to the west or south is due to discussions in Parliament. The ground was originally Crown land used for hunting, which allowed people from surrounding areas to make use of the forest to graze pigs or gather firewood. Parliament started discussing in 1819 a more profitable use, but there were no private landowners (as opposed to Epping Forest) and the final decision taken in 1851 was to convert the woodland to farmland and to lease it. There were no private landowners clamouring for an opportunity to sell out to developers and convincing Parliament to pass a law on selling the land promised to be a lengthy, controversial affair, so that the farmland remained farmland.

Fairlop Water Golf Course

If you wonder about my pictures being blurred and dark, it is just because I wanted to finish the walk on that day with some natural environment after lengthy walking along suburban roads, so that I continued walking a little bit after sunset.

The footpath turns L on reaching a golf course fence and merges into Station Road
The station is after the tracks down a dead end on your left

BARKINGSIDE

Barkingside Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903. The train company expected to stimulate urban development in the area, as had been done successfully in other suburbs, but success was limited due to some of the surrounding area being Crown land that was not easily accessible to developers. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 with services now running towards Leytonstone instead of Ilford.

The station building is still the sizeable structure designed by the optimistic train company. It has a cute small cupola over the main ticket hall but experts like to point out rather to the hammerbeam ceiling in the hall, a rather pretentious type of ceiling for a suburban train station and the reason why the building is listed.

Continue on Station Road
Ahead Carlton Drive, soon turns R

Former Barnardo’s orphanage

At the end of the road, you can see a bit further behind the open space a large complex with a high wall and a quaint clock tower. Most buildings are in the Mock Tudor style I already mentioned and the design is actually quite old for this particular style, dating back to the 1880s rather than to the 1930s. The complex of buildings was primarily used as an orphanage set up by Barnardo’s, a well-known charity that deserves some comments.

It was founded by Mr Barnardo, who intended first to learn medicine but then thought about missionary work before finding his calling helping orphans from the East London slums. He was also gifted at harvesting funds, helped by the fact that many rich people (or their wives, who were not allowed to work and had time to bother) saw generous charitable gifts as a status symbol. He founded a whole number of orphanages, organising small groups of children into surrogate families with a single lady as the replacement mother. This was quite innovative at the time instead of an “army dorm” setting and also gave sensible employment to single ladies. Many children remained keenly conscious all their life that they had been lucky to be sheltered in this manner.

But the charity did not escape controversies that show it concentrated maybe too much on its core work without thinking much about societal ills. For example, in the 1880s, it was accused of kidnapping children whom its staff felt were neglected by “dangerous” parents (still a difficult issue for social services nowadays). In the 1920s, it was accused of sending teenagers to Australia after they had outgrown the orphanage without realising that many of them would be shockingly abused and even raped by their employers in the Dominion. Until the 1950s, it appears the managers did not pay enough attention and that many orphans had to live in unhealthy conditions, do very hard work and suffer abuse. Very recently, it was accused of condoning the Government’s policy of putting children of asylum seekers in prison camps near airports by organising activities for these children inside the facilities.

I remember meeting the husband of a Barnardo’s orphan who told me his husband had to live a hard life on construction sites but was happy to have been saved from very difficult conditions as a small child.

I mention so much about Barnardo’s because the seat of their charity is in Barkingside. The buildings you see from where you stand have been converted to luxury flats and villas, enabling the charity to fund its core activities while sheltering orphans in more modern buildings.

R Craven Garden (the larger road, no street sign here)
Soon R on an access road, then soon L on the footpath with a clear sign “Footpath Nr 85”.

Sports Ground for King Solomon School

It is quite impressive to see the size of the sports ground to your right. Pupils of English schools do spend a lot of time running after footballs and playing rugby. The school was founded by Orthodox Jews and Jewish studies are an important part of the curriculum, but it is part of a movement that looks for a sensible balance between the commands of religion and the requirements of modern life. This includes advocating equal education for girls, for example.

The footpath merges at the end into Starch House Lane.

Fulwell Cross Library

At the end of the road, you see a roundabout on your left with a rather unusual circular building. This is Fulwell Cross Library, an iconic building designed in 1968. High clerestory windows under the roof bring natural light into the building, as already advocated in the 1930s. The material is plain concrete, very much in line with fashion in the 1960s when covering the concrete with something else was seen as unnecessary and even dishonest. The round shape had some takers at that time (in particular for churches) but was not used much later on because it does not make optimal use of expensive ground compared to a square shape. When used like here in a secular setting, it was amusingly nicknamed “UFO style”.

At the end R on Forest Road

FAIRLOP

Fairlop Underground station

The station opened originally as a suburban train station on the line linking Ilford with Woodford in 1903. The station was transferred to London Underground in 1948 with services now running towards Leytonstone instead of Ilford. The station is actually of limited use, being away from residential areas, and is used by only about 2,000 commuters a day.

The station building is the original train station, a modest brick cottage abutting the train embankment with the platforms at the top of a flight of stairs.

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Central Tube line walk 9: Leyton walk to Redbridge

Walk 9
LEYTON walk to REDBRIDGE
2 3/4 hours

This section of the Central line opened in 1947. The section between Leyton and Leytonstone was part of a pre-existing suburban railway inaugurated in 1856 while the section between Leytonstone and Redbridge was a new branch built by the Underground in the 1930s to serve newly developing suburbs. Because of World War II, the branch was not completed before 1947.

Routing note: This walk connects in Leyton with Central line walk 8, in Leytonstone with Central line walk 12 and in Redbridge with Central line walk 10.

Please note that my route uses unpaved woodland and parkland paths. I recommend sturdy shoes as this is a flat area where the ground gets muddy quite often.

LEYTON

Leyton Underground station

The station was originally a suburban train station opened in 1856 and called Low Leyton. It was renamed in 1867 and rebuilt in 1879. The train line was replaced by the Central Line in 1947 with the station remaining in use.

Although the core of the station building is still from 1879, the cladding must have been renewed much later, possibly in the 1960s. I have read that a new ticket hall is to be built while the old station building would only remain as shop premises.

Exit the station and turn L away from the tracks
Very soon L down the stairs in Goodall Road, continue L along the street
The road turns R as Elmore Road
This road merges into Langthorne Road turning slightly L

Arts & Crafts church in Leyton

The church at the corner of Elmore Road and Langthorne Road is an unusual building from 1889. At a time when most denominations preferred more or less conspicuous neo-gothic architecture, this particular building is in the Arts& Crafts tradition, very austere outside. The church is now used by an evangelical movement.

You can have a look L into St Patrick’s Cemetery. There is only one gate, so that you will come back to Langthorne Road

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic cemetery


Roman Catholic cemeteries are extremely unusual, there are only two of them in London. The established Anglican church saw them as a very suspicious attempt to compete for souls (and tithes, donations etc). But the tide of Irish immigrants who did not want to be “appropriated” by the church of the hated English occupants justified opening the “sectarian”, “popish” outfit in 1868.

Ferrari Memorial in St Patrick’s cemetery


If you have a walk around, you will obviously notice many of the somewhat sentimental monuments people liked in Victorian times, but you will also probably notice the strikingly contemporary monument for a Mr Ferrari. It has the fitting shape of a tent, shelter in the desert as mentioned often in the Bible. But the shape is also very similar to an icon of catholic religiosity, the Virgin Mary’s blue cloak sheltering the people.

L North Birkbeck Road
Ahead to L Hollydown Way

Climbing rocks in Cathall Green


On the right-hand side, the open space is Cathall Green. It has an interesting feature I have not seen often in London, climbing rocks that are probably very popular with children. The second picture shows the green with the estate it belongs to, the combination is not bad.

Cathall Green

Cross the roundabout into Marchant Road
L Mayville Road
R Norman Road
L across the tracks using the footbridge (near house number 165)
R on the footpath along the tracks
R across the tracks using the next footbridge
L along the tracks to the station (first on Harold Road, then on Vernon Road, then on Church Lane)

LEYTONSTONE

Leytonstone Underground station

The station was originally a suburban train station opened in 1856. It became a Central Line junction in 1947.

The station building was designed in the late 1930s in the spirit of Art Déco, with clear geometric shapes and no unnecessary frilly decoration. Because of limited funding after the economic crisis in the early 1930s, it is a modest building and does not compare with the imposing Art Déco buildings on the Piccadilly line.

A. Hitchcock’s childhood in Leytonstone


The station is known for several mosaics in the ticket hall showing scenes related to film director Alfred Hitchcock, who was born in Leytonstone in 1899. The mosaics were not an idea by London Underground, as opposed to the decoration of some central London stations. In this case, they were commissioned by the borough in 2001. I am not familiar enough with the biography of the famous film director, but I give you several examples and you might recognise the scenes.

“Independent” building on Kirkdale Road

On the corner of Church Lane with Kirkdale Road, nearly opposite the station, I noticed a building with a somewhat strange caption. It says “Independent building”. It is of minor interest, with just faint traces of Art Déco decoration, but I did wonder what “independent” can mean in this particular case.

Walk away from the station down Church Lane

Parish church of St. John the Baptist’s Leytonstone

The church in the road name is St John the Baptist’s Leytonstone, the primary parish church. It is not very old, the very first church in the village dates only back to 1749 and caused quite a number of problems: the local lord of the manor forced temporarily its closure in order not to have to pay a minister, the local vicar was worried that his income would be affected, and the chapel could not be consecrated because the ground was leasehold and not full ownership of the parish. A more successful attempt could not be started before 1831. The present church is to a large extent from 1890. Because of the lack of a long tradition, there are no features of particular interest inside.

R High Road Leytonstone
Soon L Harvey Road

South African pub in Leytonstone

I took an interesting picture of a pub at the corner of the two roads. The building is not really special, a late Victorian structure with some fashionable neo-gothic details. What amused me is the large flag combined with the frieze above the ground floor columns. You don’t see ethnic South African designs very often in London. The shield with crossed pikes is actually not really South African, it is bantu and is also a popular symbol in Eastern Africa, for example in Kenya.

Leytonstone mosque

A little further on, you see at the end of a side road the Leytonstone mosque. It dates back to 1976. Interestingly, it was built on a site where there has been a church at some point before. This reminds me of the conflicts in India between extremist Hindus and Muslims about who is more entitled to the use of specific sites where houses of worship of both religions have existed in the past. I actually find the architecture of the mosque very nice: on the one hand, it respects the heritage of the area, using red bricks and elongated shapes. On the other hand, it uses the colour green a lot, which has an important symbolic value.

At the end of the road, continue ahead using a footpath under a council estate building. The archway is marked “St Augustines Court, Mornington Road”
Ahead Leyspring Road
Ahead into Bush Wood, a part of Epping Forest

Entering Epping Forest

You cross only a very small part of Epping Forest on this walk and I comment more in detail about it on a Liverpool Street train walk. The “forest” includes both meadows and woods as the word forest refers primarily to the legal status. In the 19th century, the Crown allowed owners of forest land to sell off their properties to developers, which deprived residents from nearby, fast growing suburbs from enjoying this rare natural area. What remained was saved by having the City of London being allowed by Parliament to buy the properties in 1871. The section you cross is the southernmost end of the “forest”. It has nice mature trees and a marshy pond.

Bush Wood Pond

You need to aim slightly L towards the pond, but it will probably be easier to follow first a clear track R and then to turn into the next clear track L
Continue beyond the pond in the same direction towards a large crossroads
Ahead to L along Blake Hall Road (not along Bush Road)
R Felstead Road

Etched glass house entrance

I noticed a nice property in this road. Number 2 has a very elaborate entrance with etched glass panels showing ferns. There are many sizeable freestanding houses in the area, as befits a suburb close to large green spaces.

L across George Green to the station

George Green

The green is a plain open space, it was part of Epping Forest. On the corner of the green, there is a lovely drinking fountain built for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in the typical neo-gothic style of the period. It has an interesting shape as it is three-sided, forcing the masons to pay a little more attention than usual. Drinking fountains were very useful in the late 19th century as most people did not have running water, with a well in one’s own courtyard or garden being already a sign of affluence.

Wanstead fountain

WANSTEAD

Wanstead Underground station

The station opened together with the new Central line branch in 1947.

The building was designed in the early 1930s by the chief architect for London Underground, Charles Holden, and you definitely recognise his style. He liked the Durch and Scandinavian type of Art Déco, involving a combination of large cubic shapes. You find similar shapes on his Piccadilly Line designs. What sets Wanstead apart is that the station was not built in bricks but rather in a newfangled material, concrete. Official buildings from this period were often painted white but Holden chose to leave the natural grey colour of the concrete.

Wanstead Golf Course

Walk past the station a few steps along the main highway
R Mansfield Road
L Redbridge Lane
R Warren Road

The large green spaces on the left-hand side are tempting, but they belong to a golf course and stray balls would be a hazard.

Opposite house number 99, L into Wanstead Park. Look at the information board to get a feeling for the layout of the park.

Entering Wanstead Park

Wanstead Park was originally the park of Wanstead House, a luxurious mansion that was said to be one of the most stately in the kingdom in the late 18th century. The lady who inherited the mansion married an adventurer who squandered her money and left her for an other woman, and she was left with debts she could not pay. The creditors were prevented from selling the mansion by legal complications and had it demolished instead to sell the building materials, actually getting very little money back. The ground was sold later to the City of London who manages it like Epping Forest.

Many bluebells in season

I suggest you walk to the lake shore and then turn R along the shore

Ornamental Water in Wanstead Park

The park of the mansion included a very fashionable landscape with several lakes. The first one you reach was called the Ornamental Water and was primarily used for boating and recreational fishing. It has curving shores with paths enabling you to stroll and enjoy the ever changing views, a very popular feature in the late 18th century. It is actually the only large London park landscaped according to this fashion, most other parks stress perspectives and straight alleys used for riding.

The Water is fed by the river Roding that otherwise runs along the edge of the park. This explains the elongated shape of the lake, following the lay of the ground. Landscaping the water involved creating a number of small islands and a certain number of follies, a fake ruin called the Grotto being the only one that is still visible.

The lake continues as a canal that turns R and feeds two additional ponds. Unless you are in a hurry, continue along the waterside ignoring the bridges and dams.

Wanstead Park Temple

You can detour R at one point towards the Temple. This is a park folly and is the only remnant of the mansion. The temple was used as a pavilion affording a pleasant vista towards the lakes while drinking luxurious, fashionable beverages like tea and cocoa. A few years ago, the City converted it into a small museum. Unfortunately, opening times are very limited, primarily to some summer weekends.

Perch Pond

The second pond is the Perch Pond, dug like the other ones in the 1730s. It is a more open lake than the Ornamental Water, with just a few islets at one end. They do not look very useful and experts think they were added in order to provide a more pleasing view hiding the barren dam that separated the Perch Pond from the next one. The name “perch” hints to fishing, which is actually allowed here with an appropriate permit.

Heronry Pond

The third pond is the Heronry Pond. In the 19th century, the dam between the Perch Pond and the Heronry Pond had been breached in order to drain part of the pond and provide more grazing meadows for the farmer who had leased the land. The dam was rebuilt around 1900 in order to reinstate the Heronry Pond as a sensible swimming and boating lake, but also because the labour-intensive earthworks were a good way to provide jobs during an economic crisis. Economists actually recommend public investment schemes during recessions in order to smooth the labour market (with the state supposedly slowing down expenses when the economy booms again, although this is not often done for electoral reasons).

View towards the Temple

The name Heronry is understandable as herons like to build their nests on tall trees on islands in the middle of a pond stocked with fish, which is exactly what this particular pond provides. Towards the end of the pond, you can get a glimpse back towards the Temple, one of the focused panoramic views 18th century parks were very keen on providing.

Cross a paved cycle path and continue along the last pond, Shoulder of Mutton Pond

Shoulder of Mutton Pond


The pond is outside of the core park area, on the other side of an old estate road. It may indeed have been dug as an afterthought and is fed by a brook coming from the west and not by the river Roding. When the City started to manage the park, it was the pond set apart for swimming. The pond is more or less circular, so that you wonder where the name comes from.

This pond has no outlet. Continue walking along the pond turning slowly L until you are walking back East on the other side of the pond. Continue now East along the same ponds you walked along on the other side.

After passing Perch Pond, you reach a small footbridge. Turn here R to leave Wanstead Park.
At the edge of the wood, L on the official footpath until you reach a footbridge over the river Roding.
L along the river on the embankment

Roding River embankment

In this area, you are outside of Wanstead Park in the flood plain of the river Roding and you actually walk most of the time on top of the embankment that normally contains the water. Like many rivers on the northern side of the Thames, the Roding tends to overflow after heavy rains and a relief river bed needs to be provided.

River Roding

The walk along the dam is actually quite pleasant. At one point, you glimpse through the trees a straight water course. This is the Wanstead Park canal. Straight canals had become fashionable after one built at the palace of Versailles for French king Louis XIV and used to stage firework shows or naval battles. He also imported gondoliers from Venice and this particular use of ornamental canals, namely manned boating, became very popular.

Wanstead Park canal

You are then forced away from the riverside and along tennis courts towards a motorway exit with a large roundabout.
When you come close to the roundabout, continue L on the footpath behind the wall in order to reach a first underpass.

Redbridge motorway flyover

The flyover across the roundabout carries the North Circular Road, a controversial traffic scheme from the 1960s. The idea was to build an urban motorway enabling cars to travel through the suburbs without clogging central London. In the end, local opposition and the high cost of buying the ground left only isolated sections of the original scheme. In this particular area, the motorway was easier to build as it uses the river Roding flood bed, but it had to be an a high embankment or on stiles in some locations.

Cross under the first leg of the roundabout, turn R, cross under a second leg, turn L, cross under a third leg and go up the stairs for

REDBRIDGE

Redbridge Underground station

The station opened together with the new Central line branch in 1947.

The building is a typical design by Charles Holden and quite similar to his famous Piccadilly line designs. My picture unfortunately does not render a good impression of the very clear geometric lines, here a cylinder with a rectangular tower in the background. The ticket hall is worth a look inside, it might remind you a little of Southgate station. It is also built in bricks and it also has a row of clerestory windows to let natural light enter from above, a typical hygienist concern in the 1930s.

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Central Tube line walk 8: Mile End walk to Leyton

Walk 8
MILE END to LEYTON
2 3/4 hours

This section of the Central line opened in 1946 between Mile End and a temporary terminus at Stratford. The extension towards Leyton opened in 1947.

Routing note: This walk connects in Mile End with Central line walk 7 and in Leyton with Central line walk 9. Connections that work well considering the way I wrote the routes are in primarily in Stratford: to Liverpool Street network walks 9 or 14 and to DLR walks 4 or 7.

MILE END

Mile End Underground station

The station opened in 1902 together with the District line extension. Additional platforms for the Central line opened in 1946.

The station building is a simple but well proportioned building covered in white tiles with a blue band. It reminds a little of stations from the 1930s on the Northern line but it was renovated several times and I cannot tell how old it really is. The colour scheme is actually unusual and people familiar with London Underground branding schemes can probably pinpoint the construction date easily.

Exit the station and turn L towards central London, passing under the park footbridge

Mile End pedestrian bridge

The footbridge was built in 1999 on a design by an architect who worked a lot in the Docklands, Piers Gough. The curvy shapes and strong colours were quite popular at the time. The bridge obviously connects two sections of elongated Mile End Park and is very convenient in particular for cyclists. But it works also as a beacon drawing attention to the park in an area of London with few large green spaces.

Mile End Park


The idea of linking the Thames with upstream Lea River green spaces via a park was first mooted after World War II because there was an opportunity to clear buildings damaged by bombs. Not much action was undertaken because some of the landowners preferred to rebuild factories and trade premises. When those closed in the 1970s in connection with industry moving to industrial parks with better motorway links, the borough started reviewing old plans and the present park was landscaped in connection with the remodeling of the Docklands in the 1990s.

When you reach the canal bridge, R on the towpath – there is a staircase just before the bridge with an arch marked “Regent’s Canal”
Walk along the towpath, or parallel to it in the park when you feel like it.

Graduate Centre of Queen Mary University

The park can be described as a set of discrete sections separated by highways and by railway tracks. The different sections are linked by the towpath along the canal. You first walk towards a canal lock. On the other side of the canal, the buildings belong to the campus of Queen Mary University. As is often the case on campuses, there is quite a variety of buildings built over time that showcase some architectural ideas without trying to fit them into a coherent ensemble.

Regent Canal lock


The quirky slanted building directly near the lock is a graduate center, a location for seminars, while the surrounding buildings are student accommodation in classical late Victorian architecture. The larger modern building clad in turquoise blue tiles is a typical structure from the 1990s, when strong colours were fashionable. The inspiration comes from the Netherlands, where there is a tradition for blocky shapes making optimal use of the expensive ground, but combined with strong colours useful in the dreary weather of seaside winters.

Student accomodation for Queen Mary University
Art Pavilion in Mile End Park

Opposite the turquoise building is a garden with a pond and a pavilion. You can climb on the roof of the pavilion to enjoy the view as it is a garden as well. Many structures in Mile End Park were environment-aware experimental buildings. The garden on the roof tests whether this provides sensible insulation for the arts pavilion below as exhibition rooms can waste heating due to the very large windows needed to ensure good visibility for the works of art. The pond in turn lowers air conditioning requirements in summer as the evaporating water refreshes the air. The gardening itself is kept to a minimum, it is more about planting low-maintenance bushes. I have never been inside the arts pavilion but the borough holds exhibitions of local artists on a quite regular basis.

Ecology pavilion in Mile End Park

After passing on the towpath under the train tracks, you reach the next section of the park devoted to the “Ecology pavilion”. This reflects heightened interest around the year 2,000 in educating citizens about these issues at a time when it was of limited interest in the media and in general politics. The pavilion is built in a manner similar to the arts pavilion but is obviously devoted to education activities with the park rangers. There is a larger pond here with a variety of reeds and wild flowers that have encouraged creepy crawlies. It is worth a stroll over the bridges and the two islands.

Pond in Mile End Park

The towpath continues under a main road and reaches Wennington Green, an older green space that has no particular landscaping and is used for informal sports.

When you reach the canal junction, continue ahead past the lock.

Canal junction with Hertford Cut


The canal you walk along is the Regent’s Canal, completed in 1820 to provide a shortcut for commercial barges between the lower Thames and the Midlands. Before this, barges had first to cross the extremely crowded harbour area, then to navigate under the central London bridges avoiding clashes with ferries, and to pay attention to the tidal flow that may strand them.

The canal branching off to the right is the Hertford Union Canal, opened in 1830 in an attempt to make premises on the river Lea better connected to the popular Regent’s Canal. The scheme proved a commercial failure, the river Lea businesses finding it more useful to send their goods via the river Lea to the harbour. After the canal junction, Regent’s Canal feels increasingly like a leafy, residential suburb link with many house boats, a contrast with the downstream canal that looked more businesslike.

Regent’s Canal along Victoria Park

Take one of the paths R that give access to Victoria Park. I suggest you walk around the park or at least around the lake clockwise.

Welcome in Victoria Park

Victoria Park is a large park with many attractions. It was first discussed in the early 19th century when an 1839 report found out that people in the eastern suburbs died much younger than in the rest of London, presumably because of the overcrowded slums and unhealthy air around the many industrial premises. It sounds absolutely shocking when you read that there were 400,000 people living in dark hovels in the slums of east London at that time. More than 10% of them signed a petition to the Queen asking for a park as there was none.

Victoria Park


Parliament voted in 1841 to purchase a large tract of derelict gravel pits that were not really close to the slums but the only ground available for a reasonable price. The park is considered to be the first example in the world of a park set up by public authorities specifically in order to improve the living conditions of people. The park was so popular that is was already much used before the landscaping work was finished. The park was extended in 1872 and inaugurated by Her Majesty, a rare honour at that time.

Former boating lake in Victoria Park


Because of World War II bomb damages and cost-cutting in the 1970s, many Victorian amenities have disappeared although some have been renovated in recent years. The park is made of two sections, the smaller western one where you start and the larger eastern one you will go to afterwards. In the western section, the main attraction is the lake.

In Victorian times, lakes were extremely popular, with people bathing in summer, skating on the ice in winter and boating. As most people had never learned swimming, some drowned from time to time, but everyone felt accidents had to be accepted as part of life. Nowadays, boroughs would be sued for allowing dangerous activities, so that bathing, skating and boating is very rarely allowed.

Lakeside pavilion in Victoria Park

The lake is landscaped with a small island bearing a pagoda, retrieved from a Chinese exhibition that had taken place in 1847. It is actually a reconstruction, the original item having been left to decay. The cafeteria at the other end of the lake has a similarly exotic dome, probably inspired by moghul architecture in India.

If you chose to walk around the park rather than only around the lake, you will walk past popular statues of dogs, the Dogs of Alcibiades. They are copies of a well-known hellenistic sculpture that is now in the British Museum. They are actually cheap recasts of the copies as vandalism forced the removal of the copies in 2009. Vandalism was also a frequent problem in Victorian times, but surprisingly less so in public parks.

Flower beds in Victoria Park


After the dogs, you find a little further on your right several flower beds. They include a rose garden, like in many London parks, but also elegant, formal gardens. Victoria Park was originally given a very elaborate set of formal gardens, showcasing the latest fashion and displayed in all specialist magazines at a time when gardening was an extremely popular pastime. Continue walking around the park afterwards in order to come back to the lake.

Roundabout at the entrance of Victoria Park


When you reach the boat hut, walk L to the next park exit, cross the road and enter the second section of Victoria Park. The roundabout between the two sections has a nicely gardened central reservation.

Look at the map near the gate to make sure that you find the amenities I mention. They first include a somewhat pretentious neo-gothic structure that is surprisingly just a drinking fountain. It was gifted by an heiress and philanthropist, Baroness Coutts. Due to vandalism issues, it was inaccessible behind tall railings for many years.

Victorian drinking fountain in Victoria Park
Pont in Victoria Park East

Just a little further, you reach a smaller lake. This one was probably not used for boating, just as a landscape feature. The main attraction of the eastern part of Victoria Park is just a little bit further. It is called quaintly the Old English Garden because it is inspired by 17th century fashion for flower beds lined by low box hedges. The garden is small but extremely well maintained and is a nice place to stop for a little while if you find an available seat.

Tree alley in Victoria Park

The rest of the park towards the exit is a wide open space with alleys lined by mature trees although some of them were uprooted by a storm in 1987. At the time, the borough was very short of funds due to the general attitude of the central government towards the funding requirements of local authorities and there was some thought given to fund restoration works by selling off tracts of land to real estate speculators and building more roads across the park. This plan was fortunately defeated by concerned citizens.

Former warden lodge near St. Mark’s Gate


Exit the park through St. Mark’s Gate at the eastern corner
The access road is also called St. Mark’s Gate
It then merges into Wick Lane

Wood cladding in Wick Lane


You might notice an interesting small estate along this road with outer walls clad in wood. Wood has become increasingly popular with architects since the 2000s because it is considered more ecological (forests regrow) and healthier (good insulation compared to unprotected brick walls, less noxious fumes from chemical glue used in isolation materials). Use was slowed down by fears about fire hazard and potentially lower load bearing abilities, so that it was only used as cladding. In European countries that have a considerable supply of wood like Scandinavia, engineers have developed appropriate technology and wood can now be used for massive construction schemes, but this makes less sense in Britain where wood has to be imported.

Wick Lane crosses over a canal, then under a motorway and rises slowly
L onto a wide paved footpath marked by totem poles

The strip of green is called “The Greenway”. It soon crosses the Lea River

The Greenway is a long paved path and cycle lane built on top of an embankment that crosses large parts of the eastern suburbs. The embankment itself hides the main Northern Outfall Sewer, built in the late 1860s to bring effluent to the Thames far donwstream of the harbour. Before that, effluent was disposed of directly in the river. This contributed significantly to a large outbreak of cholera in 1853 but Parliament actually only felt forced to take action after the summer of 1858. A long spell of hot weather had made the Thames water so disgusting that the “Great Stink” forced the closure of the Houses of Parliament.

Old Ford Lock

From the Greenway, you have a good overview of the Old Ford area, where you can see a lock on the river Lea. The lock lies between a derelict industrial area and an abandoned area that has developed into a wildlife reserve. Looking downstream instead of upstream, you see blocks of flats. I noticed that none of the corner flats felt the need for curtains despite being very visible from the Greenway. This would be found atrociously embarrassing in France while this would be approved wholeheartedly in the Netherlands. It reminds me of discussions about privacy in Internet. Do you think people should be fully transparent because those who ask for privacy are suspicious of having something to hide ?

No curtains for privacy
London Stadium seen from the Greenway

After the Old Ford, you soon come in sight of the London Stadium, built for the 2012 Olympic Games. It cost a rather excruciating 537 million £. This is partly due to the government changing the building programme several times and being forced to deal with one single contractor as no other came forward. The stadium is supposedly easy to dismantle in the case it should be converted into an other large facility, but this would still be quite expensive.

Olympic Stadium under construction


The public authorities have tried to lease the stadium and recover at least some of the building cost but have been forced to bear the ongoing costs. The main tenant, a football club, pays only a nominal rent, and a commercial manager had to be bought out after a very short period as the facility was loss-making. The design of the stadium is quite clean but has been justifiably criticised for being far from iconic.

Waterworks River


The Greenway is blocked at one point by train tracks. Follow the signposted diversion (it says “Stratford”) to the next underpass
Directly after the bridges L up a ramp to get back to the Greenway (signs are missing here).
Walk on the Greenway until you reach a busy highway just after crossing a river

This is Waterworks River, but it is actually just one of several arms of the Lea River. In medieval times, this area was a marshy area, the mouth of the river, and it was crossed by a number of fords.

Spirit of Stratford tower


L down the stairs to the riverside path
When you reach a narrow green space near a sign “Spirit of Stratford”, turn R towards Warton Road
Cross the road and walk past the playground along Friendship Way (a footpath along school grounds)
At the end ahead across a small green space towards a parking lot
L on Doran Walk along an other small green space

Doran Walk


The area is a bit surprising, with low rise housing surviving between very tall towers full of luxury flats. This shows quite well the attempted rejuvenation of the eastern suburbs. It does raise a question about whether the buyers of the new flats expect to stay there for decades like the residents of the low-rise housing intended to do and usually indeed do. Can you create a community spirit with people who are only staying in the flats for a few years until they can afford the downpayment on a house with garden in the outer suburbs (or until they can afford to retire with 40 on a former farm in the South of France) ?

Crossing the Jubilee Line tracks


At the end R, the footpath merges into Wilmer Lea Close
At the end L Jupp Road
R across the tracks using the footbridge
L Station Street

STRATFORD

Stratford station


This very important interchange is one of the oldest train stations in London as it was opened along with the train line to East Anglia in 1839. The station has a very complex layout on two levels. The low level includes the terminal of London Underground Jubilee line and two platforms used by the DLR line from Canning Town to Stratford International.

The high level includes the terminal of the DLR line to Canary Wharf, two platforms used by the London Underground Central line, two platforms used by London Overground trains towards Richmond and four platforms used by trains from London Liverpool Street towards East Anglia. There is an isolated platform at the rear of the station used as the terminal for train services towards Tottenham Hale. Interestingly, there are even two platforms that are unused as plans to run trains from London Fenchurch Street to Barking via Stratford in the 1940s were abandoned despite finishing construction.

The station was rebuilt several times due to the considerable extension of interchange possibilities. The current building is an imposing contemporary construction meant as a gateway for the 2012 Olympics visitors.

Routing note: Looking at a map, you might feel tempted to walk through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park rather than through urban developments in Leyton. You need to be aware that the park is not well linked with Leyton and that you would end up going on a significant detour as a result. The park is more logically crossed on my Liverpool Street network walk 9.

Walk past the station forecourt
Ahead along Great Eastern Road (
do not cross the tracks via the staircase)

Stratford Theatre

After crossing Angel Lane (a highway crossing the tracks), you are opposite Stratford Theatre. You might not expect a theatre in a Victorian working class suburb, but Stratford had enough middle class residents such as shop owners to justify building a commercial theatre as early as 1884 despite some objections from the more pious part of the community. At that time, there was a justified suspicion that gentlemen might be tempted to entertain unmorally close friendships with actresses and dancers. As the picture shows, the front is not particularly remarkable but a modern sculpture gives a nice framing.

L Grove Crescent Road, the road turns R
L The Grove

Victorian building in The Grove

I noticed a delightful late Victorian building on this road, now a health centre. It was obviously something else originally, but it is difficult to guess what. It is too low to have been a church or a pub and it is too elegant to have been stables. Maybe just a store.

Just after the train bridge L on Windmill Lane
R Waddington Road

St. Paul’s Stratford


The church of St Paul’s Stratford is not in line with the architecture of the surrounding area because it had to be rebuilt in 1953 following bomb damages. The very simple shapes and the standard material (red bricks) are due to building material and fund shortages after World War II. The church caters particularly to Eastern Europeans with services held in bulgarian. I did not expect this as Bulgarians are normally Orthodox Christians and not Anglicans (the majority being not very religious anyway due to 50 years of communism).

Ahead Community Road
L Henniker Road
R Major Road

Drapers Field Recreation Ground


At the end of the road, you reach Drapers Field Recreation Ground. I am not exactly sure, but I think the origin of the open space would have been a waterside location where drapers left freshly worked cloth to dry in the sun. At the time I took the picture, it was a very plain neighbourhood open space. As an effort to let the eastern suburbs take advantage of the general upscaling linked to the Olympic Games facilities and parkland, the borough got funds to relandscape the park, now described officially as a “rolling alpine landscape with large timber play equipment”. Describing gently undulating grass as “alpine” sounds a little like saying your house is like Buckingham Palace, but well…

Ahead High Road Leyton

Leyton mosque

Shortly after the Drapers Field, you walk past the narrow frontage of the Leyton Mosque. The actual building is in the back but I find the front integrates very nicely in the street. East London mosques were built in order to serve in particular communities from South Asia that “spilled over” from the Shadwell area. Interestingly, Leyton has become more mixed from 2000 onwards with numerous immigrants from Eastern Europe taking advantage of the lower rents.

LEYTON

Leyton Underground station


The station was originally a suburban train station opened in 1856 and called Low Leyton. It was renamed in 1867 and rebuilt in 1879. The train line was replaced by the Central Line in 1947 with the station remaining in use.

Although the core of the station building is still from 1879, the cladding must have been renewed much later, possibly in the 1960s. I have read that a new ticket hall is to be built while the old station building would only remain as shop premises.

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Central Tube line walk 7: St. Paul’s walk to Mile End

Walk 7
ST PAUL’S walk to MILE END
2 1/2 hours

The Central line opened in 1900 but had its original terminus in Bank, just one station beyond St. Paul’s. It was extended to Liverpool Street in 1912 to provide the obviously useful interchange with suburban and long-distance services. Plans to extend the line into the eastern suburbs were delayed by the two World Wars and the line to Mile End only opened in 1946.

Routing note: This walk connects in St. Paul’s with Central line walk 6 and in Mile End with Central line walk 8. Other connections that work well considering the way I wrote the routes are in Bank with Northern line walk 10 coming from Euston, with Northern line walk 11 continuing to Oval, with the Waterloo & City line walk coming from Waterloo, or with the Docklands Light Railway walk 1. Connections in Liverpool Street include Circle Line walk 2, District Line walk 11 and Liverpool Street railway walks 1 and 13. Finally, there is a convenient connection in Mile End to District Line walk 12.

The area being served by a large number of lines, the present route comments only on some of the interesting buildings, comments on other buildings being left for other routes as appropriate.

ST. PAUL’S

St. Paul’s Underground station

The station opened in 1900 and was originally called “Post Office” because a train company used a terminus called St Paul’s in the vicinity, potentially causing confusion. Both the train terminus and the underground station were renovated in the 1930s and renamed. Actually, the station is not at all in front of the cathedral, causing occasional confusion with gullible tourists who expect station names to be logical.

The concourse is entirely underground like on a few other Central Line stations, one of the reasons being that the tracks were laid along public roads as much as possible in order to avoid paying compensation to ground owners, so that there was no necessity to purchase plots of land on which to build stations. In order to make stations visible enough and to protect access stairs from slippery rain and sludge, it was nonetheless sensible to build small booths or awnings. The one at St Paul’s is a plain metal box.

Exit the station and turn R towards the apse of St Paul’s Cathedral. The road continues as “New Change” along a school building but you may prefer to use a footpath across the former churchyard between the cathedral and the school.

Apse of St Paul’s Cathedral

I comment more at length on St. Paul’s Cathedral on the occasion of a District Line walk, but it is worthwhile to have a look at the apse because it is so much more customary to show the grand entrance or the dome. If you ignore the nave and dome, the apse looks quite similar to a royal palace from the late 17th century and this is actually typical of baroque architecture. The role of the church in society had dwindled compared to the Middle Ages and architects therefore spent little time on developing an architectural language specifically for churches. The one exception in Europe, the Jesuit style, was obviously not well received in Anglican lands.

Festival Garden

There are two nice little gardens behind the apse of the cathedral either side of New Change. The one closer to the cathedral is Festival Gardens, landscaped on 1951 when rubble caused by bombs was carried away. The City used the opportunity to open up the area a little. The name Festival comes from a celebration of the return to better times after the War, the Festival of Britain. The garden is actually quite formal and is purely for decoration.

The other garden, further from the cathedral, is a more typical square with a curving alley and banks to sit on.

Watling Street Garden

On reaching the gardens, L into Watling Street (walking along a shopping mall)
As the start of the route is a little confusing, check that you have indeed found the right street !

Monument to the Founding of Australia in Watling Street


While walking along Watling Street, you might notice a bronze plaque commemorating the “founding of Australia”. It is an interesting wording that implies that Australia did not exist until a British captain took possession of it in the name of the King. Aborigines obviously lived on the Australia continent but you would argue that they did not constitute an “Australia” as an entity. The plaque itself is quite nice.

L Bow Lane (a narrow pedestrian lane)

St. Mary-le-Bow


The church at the end of the street is St. Mary-le-Bow, arguably the most important parish church in the City of London. It had to be rebuilt after bomb damages and opened in 1964 but the design is identical to the previous one, proposed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. Inside, the gilt capitals and heavy cornice below the curved roof are typical of late 17th century fashion. I was amused to read that the church caters in particular to financial industry professionals and therefore proposes particularly short prayers before and after stock exchange times (the gentlemen are too busy speculating and fleecing savers to spend more time praying).

After the church R Cheapside

Example of Neo-Renaissance building

On the corner of King Street, you have a good example of neo-Renaissance architecture. The ground floor has a simplified rustico pattern of large stones while the upper floors have the typical pattern of triangular and rounded cornices over the windows as introduced by Palladio in early Italian Renaissance. The corner columns are not inspired by Renaissance, columns were actually never built on corners before the 19th century as there was no reason to include them. The balustrade under the roof is a baroque design. I find it difficult to pinpoint the time of construction, it is likely to be a late 19th century structure but is very similar to Mansion House that dates back to the 1740s.

Ahead Poultry

Collection of colonnades

Coming closer to the busy Bank crossroads, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the many buildings featuring heavy columns. Any company wanting to project an image of stability and power would use them as a reference to the glorious time of Greek antiquity. At least four of the six corner buildings have oversized colonnades: the head office of a large bank, the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange and Mansion House.

BANK

Bank station entrance

The station opened in 1900 on the new extension of a line coming from the southern suburbs and ending temporarily at Moorgate before being extended the following year to Angel (now part of the Northern line). Platforms opened for the Central Line a few months later, also in 1900. The station was then linked to two other Underground stations that have their own name: a connection opened already in 1900 with the pre-existing City terminus of the Waterloo & City railway, and a connection opened much later (in 1933) with Monument station on the District Line. Finally, platforms opened on a completely new line in 1991, the Docklands Light Railway.

A station building had originally been intended in 1900, but this would have forced the demolition of a church and the railway company was only allowed to use the crypt as an entrance. As a result, the station is entirely underground with no building above.

Mansion House

There are three public, colonnaded buildings around the crossroads. Let us begin with Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and therefore a building used for important official ceremonies. For example, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer both give here an important annual speech about the state of the country. This is considered weird by many Europeans as they expect such speeches to be held only in Parliament out of respect for the representatives of the people.

Mansion House was built in the 1740s on a pattern similar to the office building I pointed to before: rustico ground floor, palladian windows for the main floor, balustrade at roof level. But you also have the addition here of a neo-Greek colonnade in order to project power. The City of London was not keen to finance this grand building but found a devious and pretty dishonest way to gather the funds.

In the 1700s, there were more than 100 livery companies business people more or less had to be a member of. Only Anglicans could be elected to higher offices in the companies. The City first passed a regulation levying high penalties on people who refused to stand for election or accept the position. It then instructed the livery companies to elect many non-Anglicans. As they could not accept the positions, the City collected the penalties. This was obviously a dishonest way to tax on a religious basis but suing the City was a highly risky and very expensive affair. In the end, someone did dare it and won after 20 years of procedure but the City was not required to reimburse those victims who had not dared sue.

Mansion House has a well-known collection of Dutch paintings but is obviously not open to the public.

Bank of England colonnade

Opposite Mansion House is the more subdued colonnade of the Bank of England, visible above a massive curtain wall that had to be build after riots damaged the offices in the mid-19th century. I comment more in detail on the institution on my DLR walk 1 but it is worth looking at the colonnade added in the 1920s. In line with the rejection of fussy decorative detail typical of the interwar period, the triangular crowning is nearly devoid of statues. You do have good examples of Art Déco statues in a row underneath the colonnade, probably symbolizing trade and agriculture. I noticed that the males are very naked, muscled, heroic dudes while the ladies are partly veiled by fluid clothing.

Naked blokes at the Bank of England
Royal Exchange

The other neo-Greek colonnade belongs to the Royal Exchange. The present building dates back to the 1840s and the front towards the crossroads is typical of that period. Anything Greek was highly fashionable since writers had popularised the struggle of Greek orthodox Christians to regain independence from the muslim Ottoman Empire. The institution itself dates back to the 16th century and was meant as a place where traders could meet to discuss business, a little like a stock exchange but dealing with goods. It became later an exchange for naval insurance contracts and is now an office building with a shopping mall.

Enter the Royal Exchange (this is technically a shopping mall)
If the mall is closed, walk along it on the left-hand side
Exit the Royal Exchange at the opposite end
L through the open space
L for a few yards on Threadneedle Street
Soon R Bartholomew Lane

This road runs along the Bank of England building and a modest door gives access to the Bank of England Museum, opened in 1988. Entrance is free and you can learn lots of things about the financial history of England, so that it is definitely worth a visit. You can also see how the building looked like when the bank was in charge with paying interest on public debt to the savers who would queue at a cashier’s office. You can also see old coins, banknotes, gold bars etc. Altogether well made, better than the museums of central banks in Europe.

At the end R Throgmorton Street
L Throgmorton Avenue (a private road with gates)

Garden of the Drapers’ Guild

The small garden at the corner of Copthall Avenue with Throgmorton Avenue belongs to the Drapers’ Guild. Considering land values in the City, the small patch of greenery indeed proves considerable wealth. It was originally the garden of a mansion bought by the guild in 1543 as their new seat. When it is open, it provides pleasant sitting with no noisy traffic in sight. There are several mulberry trees in the garden; this has been a tradition since the drapers followed the lead of the king in encouraging the local silk industry around 1600, mulberry trees being essential for providing the necessary raw material.

Same garden in winter

At the end R London Wall

Garden of All Hallows on London Wall

You might notice a narrow flower bed along the road just before the modest church of All Hallows. The church is listed because it is a 1767 work by a well-known architect (George Dance) but it is inconspicuous otherwise. It is now used primarily as the seat of Christian charities. The wall behind the small flower bed looks old and might actually be part of the original City wall.

Soon L Blomfield Street
Very soon R New Broad Street
Ahead under a building and then through Bishopsgate Church Yard

Former “turkish bath”


Before reaching the garden, you walk past a quirky modest building that definitely looks exotic. It was originally a Victorian bath house (we would say a “hammam”); the mock-turkish architecture would have appealed to gentlemen who had lively fantasies about the supposedly relaxed way of life in oriental cities and particularly about harem concubines. It is now a restaurant and the decoration is kept in good shape as it is a listed building.

St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate


At the end of the former churchyard, you reach the church of St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate. As the name says, it is located outside of the former City wall and St Botolph was chosen because the saint is the patron saint of people who need to cross borders. Think of him the next time you stand in an endless queue at the passport desk in the airport ! The church was rebuilt in 1727 and is usually closed.

At the end L Bishopsgate passing

LIVERPOOL STREET

Entrance of Liverpool Street Underground station

The station opened originally as a temporary terminus of the Metropolitan line in 1875 under the name Bishopsgate and trains soon continued to Aldgate although there was still a single terminus platform until 1974. Trains could also switch from the Circle line to the suburban services through Liverpool Street main line station until 1904.

When this connection was severed, the Metropolitan Railway feared that travellers might not associate its Bishopsgate station with the opportunity to switch to long-distance trains and the station was renamed “Liverpool Street” in 1908. The deep-level platforms used by the Underground Central Line were added in 1912.

Considering the pre-existing station and the train terminus, no Central Line building was needed to frame the access to the concourse. I therefore chose to give you a picture showing the access within the train terminus. I don’t comment here on the train terminus itself (one of the more interesting ones in London actually) as I do so in my Liverpool Street network walk 1.

Swedeland Court

Just after a bus stop, you can peek at a remnant of old town planning, Swedeland Court. This is a very narrow alley; most of them have now been buried under office buildings or give access to an actual passage, but this particular one remains a dead end. Apart from giving access to less valuable properties without a main street frontage, they played in role in lowering the risk of fire spreading from a house to the next. There are delightful details about the Court under http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/articles/londons-alleys-swedeland-court-ec2-28886

Bishopsgate Institute


You soon reach a peculiar building from 1895 that houses the Bishopsgate Institute. This is a charity devoted to adult education. The building is a design by Charles Harrison Townsend who had a very idiosyncratic approach. He acknowledged general Victorian trends, making use of historical forms like the romanesque arch, but he was also aware of Arts & Crafts, eschewing unnecessary frilly decoration, and paid attention to the heightened interest in designs taken from nature. This was to become the Art Nouveau style, very popular in Belgium and Eastern France, and it is unusual in London. Both the wrought iron gate and the tree pattern around the arch are typical of the style.

Art Nouveau details

R Brushfield Street

To visit Spitalfields Market, use one of the paths on the left-hand side. The market is hidden behind the first row of buildings. Come back to Brushfield Street afterwards.

Shoreditch Market

A market was opened here in 1682 when the king allowed a local merchant to open it in order to redevelop the area after the Great Fire of 1666. It became a very popular market, also because many textile craftsmen had workshops nearby. This link to the textile trade also explains why many Jews settled here at the end of the 19th century. A market building was erected in 1893 to house the very popular market for food and produce; it became so popular that traffic congestion forced a relocation to Leyton in 1991.

Shoreditch Market

Development of the area then lasted some 18 years but the result is an attractive market space where you can browse among stalls selling handicrafts, gadgets, second-hand clothes and similar items. There is also a large number of food stalls popular with office workers at lunchtime. The market is closed on Saturdays and Mondays. There are a number of works of art in the open spaces around the market.

Christ Church Spitalfields


At the end of Brushfield Street, you reach Christ Church Spitalfields, one of the best examples of early 18th century baroque style in London. The architect is Nicholas Hawksmoor, commissioned by Parliament in 1711 when Queen Anne asked that fifty churches be built in working class suburbs in order to ensure sufficient oversight over the moral development of the populace (only 12 churches were built in the end in order to allocate funds to other purposes). The location was chosen in order to remind the many French immigrants who had settled in the vicinity that the government would very much wish them to convert to the Anglican faith rather than keep their French calvinistic worship.

Christ Church


Hawksmoor liked very uncompromising designs with extremely clear shapes, here a plain rectangle with very few niches for statues. The spire was seen as a little strange as it reminds of gothic churches, a style considered antiquated at the time. Domes were much more trendy. Hawksmoor did add a neo-Greek colonnade in order to stress the dignity and power of the church. Inside, the shapes are just as clear as outside: tall columns in a rectangular box, a flat rather than vaulted ceiling, little gilt decoration compared to Wren’s churches 50 years earlier.

Detail of ceiling

Interesting details include the elaborate flower designs of the side nave ceiling and the organ case, a major work by Richard Bridge from 1735. It remained the largest organ in Britain until the 1830s. The curving shapes acknowledge Italian baroque much more than the church’s architecture.

Organ case in Christ Church

Ahead directly along the church on Fournier Street
At the end L Brick Lane

At the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Street, the large building with an elevated walkway crossing Brick Street is the former Truman Brewery. The company was founded around 1666 taking advantage of an artesian well (no reference here to pure mountain water like German breweries like to refer to). It soon held a Royal Warrant and became at a point the largest brewery in the world as it produced Porter, the first beer that could be produced in an industrial manner. But it was unable to adapt when Brits fell in love with lager and was taken over in 1971 by a group that torpedoed the brand (the usual behaviour of British brewing oligopolists trying to achieve economies of scale), leading to the closure of the brewery in 1989. Truman beer was better known as “Black Eagle”.

The jumble of industrial buildings has been converted into one of the hippest areas in London for artsy things and nightlife. On weekdays, it is only lively in the evening. On weekends, there are four different markets concentrating on food stalls, design and lifestyle, kitsch and knickknacks, and vintage clothes respectively. You may end up needing a lot of time to take full advantage of the offerings !

Mosaic on BrickLane

Follow Brick Lane for quite a distance until you cross under train tracks. There is a nice mosaic at some point along the road.

L Sclater Street
At the end of the road, turn R and directly L into a leafy side street
(Club Row, but I am not sure there is a street sign)
R around Arnold Circus

Boundary Estate

The central reservation of the circus looks curiously raised above the surrounding street level. It was an innovative scheme devised in 1890 to make use of the rubble excavated in order to build the surrounding council estate. The estate itself (Boundary Estate) is one of the first ones built by public authorities rather than by philanthropists. Until then, the area had been a slum with the ground owner, the local parish, being unwilling to bother as the people living there were not considered worthy of much consideration. The situation changed in 1890 because of a law reorganising borough administration in London.

The slum dwellers were expelled to slums further from central London and the new estate was used to lodge what we would call “essential workers” such as policemen and nurses. Living here meant close supervision by authorities in order to ensure proper behaviour by the tenants and to prevent alcohol abuse, a major concern of well-meaning upper classes at the time. The unusual pattern, radiating around the central circus, was found out to enable more dwellings per square meter of ground. Although not as comfortable as more modern buildings, the estate remains popular because of the central, quiet location, and because the stone buildings are well maintained.

Arnold Circus bandstand

There is a nice bandstand on the central circus, but there is no room for flower beds or a playground.

R Palissy Street
R Shawfield Street
Very soon L Brick Lane
When the road turns R, turn L on the footpath along a small parking area
At the end R Chambord Street

Green space off Chambord Street

You cross many housing estates in this area of London, but it is interesting to notice that many of them have strips of greenery around the low-rise buildings. As a result, walking along the streets has some variety. This contrasts with Victorian developments of endless straight rows of identical houses with no front gardens. This area of London was not developed by Victorian speculators because it was largely industrial and because the ground did not belong to large private landowners who would be able to sell it in one go.

When the street turns L, take the next footpath that allows you to continue in the original direction
The footpath merges into Gosset Street, continue in the same direction

“The Lesson” on Gosset Street


On the corner with Turin Street, you walk past one of the small green spaces I mentioned before. This one even has a statue called “The Lesson”, a work by Franta Belsky cast in 1956. The sculptor is originally from Czechia and his work has a rather European flair. He had to emigrate to London in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Bohemia and was not welcomed by the communist regime after the war. Such sculptures were part of a scheme set up by the London City Council in the 1950s to bring art closer to the people.

When you reach Squirries Street, you can have further options for greenery, with small Warner Green to your left and small Pollard Square to your right. Urban planners calculated when the slums were cleared that estate buildings were tall enough to house the same number of people without clogging the ground with buildings and parking lots.

Former Queen Adelaide Dispensary


The most interesting building in the vicinity is on Pollard Row (the next street that crosses Gosset Street). It has been converted into flats but it is originally the Queen Adelaide Dispensary, built in 1866. The local vicar had set up a charity after the cholera outbreak of 1848 in order to cater to the poor people who lived in the surrounding slums. The building is a nice example of a neo-Renaissance design on a human scale, the upper floor window design being typical. The one part that looks a little useless is the tower, but it provided the space for an inscription relating to the royal patron.

Ahead Old Bethnal Green Road

Middleton Gardens

The road passes a slightly larger green space, Middleton Gardens. It is a modest neighbourhood square but it does have a few flowers and a playground.

R just before the railway line into Poyser Street

This is a service road past light industrial premises. It has the advantage of being quiet, particularly on weekends. You can otherwise walk along the main road on the other side of the train embankment.

There was no technical necessity for an embankment here, the only advantage being possibly to avoid level crossings in a busy part of London. The train company chose this design because it calculated that it could lease the arches under the tracks and recover in this manner the cost of buying the ground.

The street turns later L under the railway line
R Cambridge Heath Road
(the very busy main road, there is no street sign here).

York Hall


At the beginning of Old Ford Road, you might notice an imposing building called York Hall. It was built in 1929 as a sports centre but also includes a hall used for shows and a spa. The building surprisingly shows no reference to popular architectural styles of that period, be it the boxy concrete shapes of the 1920s or the neo-classical style with athletic statues of the 1930s. The reason may be that the budget was very limited in this working-class borough and that a traditional brick design was cheaper.

Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood


Soon after Old Ford Road, you reach the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood. It is housed in an exhibition building originally used in the 1870s in Kensington. It may look a little like a factory but there are ornamental plaques on the sides showing different trades. The museum specialises in toys and similar exhibits since 1974. The displays are enjoyable but it is difficult to feel really enthusiastic about such things in glass cases. It is more akin to a study library in a way. I spent a good hour there but did not feel moved to come back for a second visit.

Continue along the large gardens until you reach the church and the Underground station.

Bethnal Green Library


The Gardens take the place of the former “Green and Poor’s Land”, an area bought in 1678 by the owners of the nearby houses to prevent development. It has been in a trust from 1690 until 1901 and the only parts that have been built upon are now the library, the church and the museum. The plot where the library stands is the oldest as there was first a mansion (Kirby’s Castle) and later a lunatic asylum (the park is occasionally called “Barmy Park” because of this). The library is actually a building built by the asylum in 1896.

Bethnal Green Gardens


In 1901, the park passed into the control of the new borough of Bethnal Green: Bethnal Green became a parish in 1743 and a borough in 1900. The name Bethnal is a derivation of Blithehale, a hale being a heath and Blithe being possibly a Saxon name.

St John parish church was built in the 1820s and is one of the more interesting suburban churches. It was built on plans by Sir John Soane, showing that the commissioners of the parish had both money and taste. Unfortunately, the inside burned down in 1870 and the restoration was done by a local architect whose plans are fully in line with standard Victorian concepts. But the outside appearance remains in the impressive style of Sir John Soane.


The gardens are quite large and feature several nice flower beds in the style of royal parks, i.e. blocks of colour and a tiered design with a taller central feature, here rather unexpected palms.

Bethnal Green war memorial


In a corner near the library, I was surprised to find a small war memorial. You expect such structures to be conspicuous in order to enable worthies to lay wraiths and hold emotional speeches in front of veterans. You also seldom see a small memorial in the middle of a flower bed.

BETHNAL GREEN

Bethnal Green Underground station

The station opened in 1946 when the Central Line was extended into the eastern suburbs. Although there is also a suburban train station called Bethnal Green, they are located quite far from each other and there is no interchange.

The station is notorious for being the site of the worst disaster affecting civilians during World War II. It was only due indirectly to enemy action: an air raid warning had called citizens to seek shelter and a panicked crowd fell down the station stairs, causing a horrible 173 deaths. The authorities prevented reports on the disaster until two years later and officially denied any panic, the Prime Minister saying later that he had feared that the German air force might have tried to time attacks in order to cause similar panics. The cover-up enabled victims to sue the government and some were awarded some smaller amounts.

Like in several central London stations of the Central Line, all facilities were kept underground in order to use the space below roads rather than buy and rebuild existing properties. There are only modest access staircases with the logo used at that time on small masts.

Cross Roman Road near the church and continue in the park until you reach the Library. Then
L Cornwall Avenue, merges into Braintree Street

Estate gates off Cornwall Avenue

I noticed an interesting estate gate on Cornwall Avenue. The geometrical design is probably one-off, which is quite an investment for such a purely practical item.

Cross a larger road and walk along the parking spaces of the residential estate
At the end L Globe Road

London Buddhist Centre


Before turning right, you can notice in the distance at the end of the road the imposing building of the London Buddhist Centre. As you will easily imagine, this was not the original use of the building, it was actually a fire station from 1888 until 1969. The contrast of white windows with a reddish background was very fashionable at the time of construction. The particularly pointy and complex roofscape is quite amusing and would be fun to draw if you are into such artistic pursuits. The slightly overdone mix of decorative shapes was often part of architectural designs in the 1880s as architects thought this showed their knowledge or mastery of past styles. Creativity was less in demand.

R Digby Street
Ahead Knottisford Street
Ahead past the estate on the footpath
At the end R Usk Street
Enter Meath Gardens

The gardens have a peculiar history. The grounds were originally an investment by the local MP, who had bought the land in order to open a cemetery. This was considered a profitable commercial venture in the 19th century even thought the MP forgot to have the ground consecrated (boo !). The area proved badly chosen, being unattractive for relatives of affluent deceased persons, and the cemetery went bankrupt in 1853. A law forbid construction on former cemetery grounds in 1884 for hygienic reasons and this means the only alternative was conversion into a plain open space. The borough did not bother much about this remote location near slums until much later.

Turn R near the playground and exit the gardens into Walter Street
L Warley Street (no street sign but obvious)
R along the railway embankment, then cross under the tracks at the next opportunity
L along the tracks Bancroft Road, the road turns later R

Jewish Cemetery in Bancroft Road

The road passes a small cemetery. This one is definitely something special as it is a Jewish cemetery, implying that it cannot be converted into anything else in perpetuity. It was opened in 1810 by a synagogue but was full by 1907 and is now a peaceful, somewhat forgotten plot. The reason so many tombstones have fallen on the ground is that they were toppled by bombs during World War II with no relatives available to fund their reinstatement.

Borough Archives


Further along the road, the neo-Renaissance building housed originally the parish vestry and later a borough library. It has several details reminiscent of the very first neo-Renaissance building I mentioned on the present walk and is from 1865: ground floor rustico (here only on the columns), Renaissance window shapes on the first floor and corner columns. You can easily see here how Victorian architects planned a showy street front while building the side and back walls in plain bricks. This is less done nowadays because plots of land usually cover the whole ground between streets, so that all four sides can be showy.

The road gives access on the L to the university campus and you can use this as a shortcut, exiting the campus on Mile End Road near the head office of the university. Here is a link to a campus map:
https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/qmul/docs/about/Mile-End-cam
pus-map.pdf

Queen’s Building, headquarters of Queen Mary University

The head office is the Queen’s Building, opened under the name “People’s Palace” in 1887. It had to be rebuilt in 1934 following a fire. The architecture is a little strange for Victorian times, reminding me more of a luxury hotel in a mediterranean resort. The top floor is more typical in that it overflows with frilly decoration including garlands, friezes, rows of pointy shapes along the roof, baroque scrolls and an exotic turret.

At the end L Mile End Road

MILE END

Mile End Underground station

The station opened in 1902 together with the District line extension. Additional platforms for the Central line opened in 1946.

The station building is a simple but well proportioned building covered in white tiles with a blue band. It reminds a little of stations from the 1930s on the Northern line but it was renovated several times and I cannot tell how old it really is. The colour scheme is actually unusual and people familiar with London Underground branding schemes can probably pinpoint the construction date easily.

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Central Tube line walk 6: Oxford Circus walk to St.Paul’s

Walk 6

OXFORD CIRCUS to ST PAUL’S

2 1/2 hours

This section of the Central line opened in 1900. It was originally very successful, taking many clients away from the steam-hauled, slow trains on the Circle line. Once the Circle line had reacted by electrifying its line in 1906, the advantage was lost but the Central line remained a little more successful because it ran closer to many useful destinations in central London. Out of fear of having to share fees, the Central line was never keen on cooperating with other lines, with platform connections to other networks, if available at all, often involving long corridors and many steps. It ended up being taken over by a competitor.

Routing note: This walk connects in Oxford Circus to Central line walk 1 and in St Paul’s to Central line walk 7. Other connections that work well considering the way I wrote the routes are in Oxford Circus with my Bakerloo line walk 1 (coming from Elephant & Castle) or with my Victoria Underground line walk 2 (coming from Pimlico), in Tottenham Court Road with my Northern line walk 9 (coming from Euston) and in Holborn with my Piccadilly line walk 1 (coming from Piccadilly Circus).

My time estimate does not include visits in the three museums located on the route. This particular route does not deal with St Paul’s Cathedral either as it features on a District line route.

As usual in Central London, construction works may force you on short diversions. The speculators and real estate tycoons apologise for any inconvenience caused. The route crosses Inns of Court and you should be aware that some or all of the accesses can be closed in a not fully predictable manner.

Finally, please do not make use of the pictures I took inside the British Museum as they are likely to be subject to copyright regulations.

OXFORD CIRCUS

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.

The station has two main entrances because the Central line and the Bakerloo line did not want to have a common ticket hall. The Bakerloo line building (shown on the picture) is a listed structure by architect Leslie Green while the Central line building is a listed structure by architect Harry Bell Measures who used cream-coloured glazed tile, a popular material and colour at the time. He did indulge in a large collection of unnecessary ornaments from neo-classicism to baroque in a very Edwardian manner.

Take the exit on the corner of Oxford Street with Argyll Street (if you take an other exit, aim for the easily visible dark red front on the picture)
R down Argyle Street

Palladium Theatre on Argyle Street

The Palladium Theatre is one of the larger theatres in London and was a leading venue in the 1960s. A show recorded in the theatre in 1963 included a gig by The Beatles and was the occasion on which the expression “Beatlemania” was launched. The neo-classical front is older than the theatre itself and goes back to the mid-19th century, when anything aiming at the educated middle class had to include Greek columns (just look at the developments in Belgravia).

At the end R Great Marlborough Street

Liberty’s Department Store on Great Marlborough Street


The timbered building is obviously a fanciful rendition of Tudor urban architecture. It was opened in 1924 because the department store it belongs to needed to renovate its main building on Regent Street. The architect used timber from two seagoing vessels and Tudor imitations (derided as “stockbroker Tudor”) were the height of fashion in the upper middle class in the 1920s. Note the interesting bridge connecting the two buildings; it has a nice clock with gilt decoration and a statue of St George, reminiscent of the clocks with automats popular in late medieval cities (particularly in Germany and Bohemia where this was an important industry with high levels of technical achievement).

St George clock over Kingly Street

The department store, Liberty, was possibly the most fashionable in London at the time. It had an unrivalled choice of goods from India and China and had exclusive agreements with some of the most influential designers. In Italian, the “estilo Liberty”, an important form of Art Nouveau, is named after this department store and particularly after floral prints it made popular. Like most department stores, it had difficulties adapting to the era of suburban malls and is now owned by a private equity speculator. The decoration inside the department store is less exciting than the timbered front.

Soon L Kingly Street (a narrow pedestrianised street under the clock)

The first building you are likely to notice is a pub with an impressively gilt front and lots of decorative scrolls typical of Late Victorian taste. It is otherwise nothing special, part of a big chain. The name is a little unusual for London and the original name was more classically “The Bricklayers’ Arms”, obviously not a very aspirational name for fashion victims and Regent Street shoppers. A clachan is a small gaelic settlement.

Kingly Street is not particularly exciting but leads to an interesting a maze of narrow streets and passages to your left. Together, they build a large shopping centre devoted to high quality fashion. One of the streets, Carnaby Street, has become a popular indirect reference when speaking of affluent fashion victims. If you can save the time, it is actually quite pleasant to walk around, enjoy canopied Kingly Court and wonder whether you actually would want to be seen in some of the clothes on display.

At the end L Beak Street
L Carnaby Street (pedestrianised)
R Broadwick Street

Mural in Broadwick Street

On the corner of both streets, you can see one of the most intricate murals in central London. Unfortunately, there are so many people represented and so many small scenes that you would really need an explanation sheet or panel to enjoy it fully. I wonder why boroughs are keen on murals that show too much at the same time. What the mural does not show although you are actually quite close is a reference to Soho as a particularly open-minded place to socialise at night.

R Berwick Street (pedestrianised as a row of market stalls)

Pub with copper roof in Berwick Street

On the corner of Broadwick Street with Berwick Street, you can see a pub that looks strikingly different to the gaudy one you walk past in Kingly Street. It has a more genteel look, hiding partly behind greenery. The reason I mention it is the green copper roof, unusual on a commercial property as it is quite expensive and needs regular maintenance. It is funny how the colour we call “copper” is very different from the colour the metal copper takes when exposed to the air.

L Peter Street
Soon L Wardour Street
R St Anne’s Court (a footpath)
At the end L Dean Street
Soon R Carlisle Street

French Reformed church on Soho Square


The street brings you into Soho Square, on the edge of the part of London usually called Soho. The weird name goes back to the 16th century, “soho” being used as a rallying call on hunts or in battle. The area was developed in the 1680s, including Soho Square, but the owners were unable to attract the upmarket clientele they were hoping for and Soho became popular with immigrant tradesmen like French protestants expelled by king Louis XIV, so that the French protestant church is still located on the square to this day. The present building has a distinguished front in red stone with romanesque details; as French protestants have very strict opinions against fussy decoration for houses of worships (like the scottish Kirk), it is less ornate than many buildings from 1893, the period of construction.

St Patrick’s Roman Catholic church on Soho Square

Affluent classes bothered little about Soho in the 19th century as it was neither really in Westminster nor close to the City, so that it was convenient for people who needed an urban location but could not really afford it, such as artists, entertainers, unconventional people and prostitutes. Immigrants from Ireland were also attracted by the lower rents and this is the origin for the Roman Catholic church of St Patrick’s also located on the square. The church reminds inside of designs from the late 17th century like the Greenwich hospital chapel. What I noticed most is a somewhat ambiguous statue of a swooning Christ held by an androgynous angel. Without it being intentional, I find it quite suitable for a church so close to many establishments aimed at the gay clientele.

Statue of Christ in St Patrick’s church

Normal route, currently blocked by construction
Cross Soho Square ahead into Sutton Row (along the church)
L Charing Cross Road passing the station

Temporary diversion
Exit Soho Square on the northern side into Soho Street
R Oxford Street
L Tottenham Court Road

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD

Tottenham Court Road Underground station (old access)

The station opened in 1900 on the Central Line. Northern Line platforms opened without an interchange to the pre-existing Central Line station in 1907 and the Northern Line stressed that no interchange was available by calling the station originally Oxford Street. The interchange was initially resisted by the Central Line but did open in 1908 and the station name was duly unified.

The original station building, a Leslie Green design, was demolished later on in order to enable the construction of a large office building. My picture shows a somewhat tired but elaborate office building combined with a cheaply garish plastic awning. This has all disappeared with the construction of new office blocks and the only remnant over ground is a glass box sheltering the access stairs.

The concourse has been decorated with a lovely mosaic evocative of the entertainment venues located in the vicinity.

Mosaic in Tottenham Court Road station

Ahead Tottenham Court Road

Art déco details on a theatre in Tottenham Court Road

The Dominion Theatre near the start of the road is a large venue opened in 1929. The front is typically Art Deco and I took the picture in such a way that you can focus on typical details like sunrays, mock columns and geometric friezes. I have read that it retains a number of Art Deco features inside as well.

R Bedford Avenue
L Bloomsbury Street walking along Bedford Square

Georgian houses on Bedford Square


Bedford Square is a sizeable development of Georgian houses around a large open space. In line with fashion in the 1770s, houses are in dark bricks with flat fronts only enlivened by the house porches. The roof is partly hidden behind a cornice although you do see it in this case. The vicinity to the Inns of Court means that a number of important gentlemen lived in the houses.

Private garden in Bedford Square


Like in Belgravia (developed about 50 years later), the large central garden is not open to the general public. It is actually used little and has no remarkable amenities, such gardens being originally used by nannies to cater to the small children of the residents in a safe environment but being nowadays primarily a way to ensure pleasant views from the living room windows.

Ahead Gower Street
R Keppel Street
R Malet Street
L Montague Place
Soon R into the British Museum
Cross the covered courtyard of the museum
(this is actually a designated public footpath but you may need to go through security) in order to leave the building

The British Museum is obviously worth a comment. It is a very large museum, but it does not pretend to cover the entirety of human civilisation and is much smaller than the Louvre in Paris or the Hermitage in St Petersburg. The British Museum does not show fine arts, shows only a little bit of applied arts and concentrates in the main on antiquities and non-European civilisations. Entrance is free for the permanent collections and I went there on numerous occasions.

If you do intend to take an hour of your time to visit a little bit, I suggest one of three strategies.
1) You can try to see the “25 most popular items” in order to take selfies and make your Chinese friends jealous. Go to the information desk and pick up the leaflet with the popular items. As you will be walking quite a lot through the galleries, I suggest you don’t spend too much time studying the explanations.

Rosetta Stone essential in deciphering the ancien Egyptian hieroglyphs


2) To get a good overview of the variety of things a museum can do, you could concentrate on the Enlightenment gallery. It explains how people started around 1800 to move from collecting curiosities to storing items for scientific study and later to organising them in a way the public can learn useful things. This single gallery has a very pleasant mix of things that you can enjoy without specialist knowledge including polished stones, Greek vases, Maori heirlooms from New Zealand etc.

Enlightenment Gallery

3) If you are tempted to look more closely at just one or two intriguing and unusual collections, good candidates include Anglo-Saxon antiquities, Renaissance jewels (dazzling !), the Benin bronzes (unique !) and the Maya items.

Bronze plaques from the palace of the kings of Benin


4) If you are with a teenager, there are quite a number of artifacts that will appeal to his/her curiosity for the uncovered human body. Good places to look for nudes and even embarrassing activities are Greek vases, antique statues and roman silverware.

Grisly display potentially appealing to teenagers on Halloween
Potentially appealing to teenagers interested in the naked human body
Central courtyard of the British Museum

The museum was founded in 1753 and was the first in the world to be considered property of the Nation and opened to everyone. Tue building is a complex set of galleries added over the years and is organised around a covered central courtyard. The large round structure in the middle of the courtyard is the library, a very well-known building only accessible to the general public when it is used as the setting for important temporary exhibitions.

Exit the museum grounds

British Museum main entrance colonnade

You exit under a huge colonnade and I already mentioned how educated people in the 18th century held neo-Greek architecture for the only suitable reference when dealing with knowledge and history. In addition, the British Museum does show many antiquities from Greece (the Greek people being actually quite critical of British refusal to discuss whether these antiquities really have to be exhibited so far away from their places of origin and were acquired legitimately).

L Great Russell Street
R Bloomsbury Square

Bloomsbury Square

This is one of the earliest squares in London and has been developed originally in the 1660s. It was popular with the upper class at the beginning but lost its appeal in the 19th century. The massive neo-classical building on the eastern side, Victoria House, was built as an office building in the 1920s with little regard to architectural fashion of the time. The company wanted to project an image of solidity and wealth without spending more than necessary.

Cross the main road into Southampton Place
L High Holborn

HOLBORN

Holborn Underground station


The Central Line opened originally a station called British Museum in 1900 located a little bit further than the present site. In 1906, the Piccadilly line opened a station nearby called Holborn but it proved inconvenient to organise an interchange because the Piccadilly line already had a complex layout with tracks branching off towards Aldwych (a branch closed in 1994).

Because of delays caused by World War I, the Central Line was unable to rebuild its own platforms before 1933. It then closed British Museum station, opening Holborn station platforms instead. The station was officially named “Holborn (Kingsway)” but the brackets soon fell into disuse.

The station was rebuilt when the connection between the two lines was finally set in place. It is integrated into an office building as usual in central London and the front is a very clean, geometrical structure. Instead of Art déco, it refers rather to the Bauhaus school, advocating very logical, simple lines and many glass panels to let healthy sunlight into buildings.

Former church on Kingsway

R Kingsway

Nearly opposite the station, you can see an elegant round colonnade at number 125. This building now called Aviation House was originally a church and it is much younger than it looks. It was built in 1911 and the colonnade is a near-copy of a baroque church in Rome. The wall on both sides and above is in a plain, massive style that was to become very popular in the 1920s. The building is now used for offices.

Britannia ruling the world on Africa House in Kingsway


Just a little bit further, 120 Kingsway is an imposing building from 1920 called Africa House. The very heavy shapes and the grey stone are indeed typical of the time and the frontispiece at the top over the entrance is a typical reminder that Britain was a proud empire at the time, expressed here by Britannia assisted by a soldier with a colonial hat and lording over gentlemen in Arab clothes. An elephant, a lion and a crocodile add a macho touch, as befitted an office building at the time.

Next door is the modest entrance of the church of St Anselm’s, built in 1909. Kingsway as a road was built by demolishing the whole area and this explains why all buildings are from the same period. The church was built by well-known architect Frederick Walters, who designed churches in very different styles according to the wishes of the parish councils. This particular one is inspired inside by the Italian Renaissance, using a combination of unusual arches.

Soon L Gate Street (soon pedestrianised), the street turns R
At the end L Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Lincoln’s Inn Fields


This large green space (the largest urban square in London) was used first as pastures, explaining the name. When houses started to be developed around it, it remained popular for sports and public events. Because it had attracted vagrants and homeless people in the 1980s, it is now fenced off and closed at night. There are no significant amenities as it is not a park but there are a few flowers in season on the eastern side.

There is a large variety of office buildings around the fields, some of them historical, but two stand out. On the southern side, you can find the Hunterian Museum (closed for renovation, it is supposed to reopen in 2023). This is a surprisingly interesting and definitely unusual museum based on the considerable collection of Dr Hunter, who had collected innumerable specimens of sick and healthy organs of both humans and animals. After looking at syphilis-affected organs, you do think again about sexually transmitted diseases. A bit grisly. I also learned there that surgery as we understand it was hardly possible. It would have been difficult to patch an opened body together again and surgeons had very little practical information or experience about how it looks like inside a body.

On the northern side of the fields, the building that should not be missed is the delightful Sir John Soane’s Museum. Mr Soane was a leading architect who died in 1837. He loathed and disowned his son, bequesting instead his sizeable house and his considerable collection of art and antiquities to the Nation. A provision was that the house and display must remain unchanged and Mr Soane’s very quirky way of combining his overflowing collection with a convoluted set of rooms is uniquely fascinating. You do not need to be particularly keen on paintings or roman statues to enjoy this peculiar private house. You must be aware though that only a very limited number of visitors can be admitted simultaneously. I therefore suggest you call the reception desk beforehand and enquire about times less likely to keep you queuing.

At the end R along the eastern side of the green space
L into the grounds of Lincoln’s Inn, cross ahead towards the chapel

Lincoln’s Inn Library from 1845

Lincoln’s Inn is both an institution involved in the governance of the legal profession in England and a set of office buildings, most of which were built some time between 1780 and 1850. The name “Lincoln’s” comes from the original ground owner.

The buildings that dominate the view when you come from Lincoln’s Inn Fields are the library and great hall, built in 1845. They are actually rather nice neo-gothic structures with clear shapes and ornate brickwork inspired by Tudor architecture. The crenellations and finials are obviously pure decoration, but do not distract from the main shapes.

Beautiful wrought iron fencing in New Square

Once you get into the courtyard, you see more clearly that the Inn is a combination of many smaller office buildings added around courtyards over time. One detail you may decidedly have a look at is the extremely intricate wrought iron fence with abstract motives, one of the best examples in London of contemporary design for such an item.

Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, partly from 1489

At the end of the courtyard, you find the chapel and the old hall. The old hall has some bits dating back to 1489 but has been renovated many times. If you look at the brickwork, at the windows and at the crenellations, you can see that the great hall took its inspiration from the actual historical building. The great hall is the one used for ceremonies and larger gatherings while the old hall is now just a room you can hire for private events.

Chapel and old hall in Lincoln’s Inn


Just along the old hall, the chapel is less old. The general shape is a design by Inigo Jones from 1620 but I have doubts that the very fine front window is from that period as Jones was definitely not keen on neo-gothic tracery as far as I am aware. The chapel was indeed rebuilt several times. It is closed (except for occasional concerts) but I recommend you walk closer because you can peek at the undercroft. It has a magnificent fan vault, definitely a Tudor design. Whether the individual decorative stone knots are Tudor as well I really cannot tell.

Undercroft of Lincoln’s Inn chapel from 1623

CAUTION: The exit towards Chancery Lane may be closed. In this case, you need to go back to the entrance gate, turn L into Serle Street, then L into Carey Street, then L again into Chancery Lane.
At the end L Chancery Lane
Soon R Southampton Gardens
Ahead into the pedestrianised section of the street
At the end L Staple Inn Buildings (a footpath)

Courtyard of Staple Inn

The path leads along the pretty courtyard of Staple Inn, a set of office buildings catering to legal professionals like Lincoln’s Inn. When you reach the end of the path, you can see quite close to your right a large set of medieval-looking houses with black wooden beams contrasting with the white plaster. These houses are among the very few remaining actual Tudor houses in London, dating back to 1585 even though they had to be partly rebuilt after bomb damage during World War II.

Tudor houses used as the street front of Staple Inn


Inns of Court like Staple Inn (and Lincoln’s Inn) are called thus because students of the law got their education in hostels. As they could buy meals, it became customary to speak of “inns” but the concept is actually more similar to what is called in Oxford or Cambridge a “college”.

CHANCERY LANE

Chancery Lane station entrance

The station opened in 1900. The original access was a little further down the street and the name was changed after the construction of the new access in 1934 to Chancery Lane (Gray’s Inn). Like in Holborn, the brackets soon fell into disuse. A rather unusual accident happened in 1992 in this station when the motor fell down from a train on the tracks, causing many injuries.

Since 1934, Chancery Lane is one of very few stations that don’t have any surface buildings. This is due here to issues with positioning the elevators under the roads and the concourse is fully underground like on a typical Paris Métro station. In the 1930s, this was considered suboptimal in London because of concerns regarding quality of the air and orderly queuing.

L High Holborn
R under a porch (just after nr 19) marked Gray’s Inn


Great Hall in Gray’s Inn

Gray’s Inn was the largest of the four inns of court in the 16th century but lost its preeminence due to disrutions during the civil war and is now the smallest. The present buildings are nearly all from the 1950s due to bomb damages during World War II. You cross first the South Square before reaching the Hall, a reconstruction of the original Elizabethan hall.

Walk past the great hall and cross L under the building into Field Court
R across or along Gray’s Inn Gardens, aiming for the Northwest corner

The Walks in Gray’s Inn


The gardens (called “the Walks”) are the main attraction of Gray’s Inn. They are enclosed since 1598 and controlled access made it a very popular amenity for the more genteel classes. This changed in 1711, when the managers decided that children and women found in the gardens were to be chased away, forcibly if necessary. The pristine, very formal lanes between mature trees are usually not accessible to the general public. It is not a very exciting green space but it is very soothing and elegant.

Deserted garden of Gray’s Inn


As the gardens are usually closed, you will probably have to use a street parallel to them on the western side marked “Atkin Building” and “Raymond Buildings”


R Theobalds Road along the northern fence of the gardens
R Gray’s Inn Road
Soon L Portpool Lane

Verulam Gardens

I noticed a very small green space on the right-hand side. Verulam Gardens manages to have four mature trees in the narrow, dark spot between two Edwardian estates. By the way, Portpool does refer to a pool but not to any port (be it a harbour or a gate, both being a possible use in medieval English).

R Leather Lane
L Greville Street
R Saffron Hill (a narrow road ending with steps)
At the end L Charterhouse Street

Victorian canopy in Smithfield Market


The elongated building on the right-hand side is known officially as the Central Markets, but is better known as “Smithfield’s”. The market was one of the main cattle and horse markets in London as early as the 12th century and it is surprising to note that mileage for the Great North Road from London started as this market (in Paris, it starts more logically from in front of Notre Dame cathedral). The cattle market was replaced by a cleaner shopping market and appropriate halls were built in 1868. They are those you can see today and are a typical iron structure from this period.

The canopy linking the different sections is an interesting example of a Victorian valance, you might recognise the tongues of wood along the lower length as very similar to those on station platforms. As people don’t shop much in central markets nowadays, only part of it is still used for wholesale trade purposes and the rest may be replaced one day by luxury flats or offices.

R across the market on East Poultry Avenue
R Smithfield Long Lane
Soon L Smithfield Street
At the end L Snow Hill, turns slowly R
L End of the road called Holborn Viaduct

Courtyard of St Sepulchre without Newgate

The church on your right is St Sepulchre without Newgate (it is not correct to write St Sepulchre’s as the sepulchre is a location, not a person). The church was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 and again in 1878 but has kept a gothic appearance outside. It is rather neo-classical inside with tall, thin columns. Details of potential interest include regimental flags and a bell that was sounded when a felon from the nearby prison was to be executed. Officially, this was akin to calling to mass for a deceased person but it was actually heeded by most Londoners as an incentive to run to the execution grounds to enjoy the gruesome attraction.

Church of Holy Sepulchre without Newgate

The attraction was so popular that enterprising traders set up temporary booths selling refreshments and finger food. This added to the crowding and lasted until 1868, when 28 people died crushed by a panicked crowd after an accident. Afterwards, felons, staff and the minister used a small tunnel and the lack of a “parade” made the attraction less popular.

Ahead Newgate Street

Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey

The suitably imposing building with the curved colonnade and the neo-classical dome is “Old Bailey” (after the street that runs along one side) and is actually the “Central Criminal Court of England and Wales”. It was built in 1902 in a style that was ubiquitous in most of Europe to exalt the power and role of justice. Trials are public in Britain under normal circumstances and the rooms are quite impressive on photographs but security controls are obviously very thorough and a bit off-putting.

R Warwick Lane


Warwick Square on your right is a short dead end with a lovely small green space. As usual in the City of London, gardeners make optimal use of the small space with colourful flowers, prim bushes and an ornamental colonnade.

Warwick Square

Ahead Ave Maria Lane

Stationers’ Hall off Ave Maria Lane

A little before the end of the lane, you reach a small courtyard with the historical building of the Stationer’s Guild, rebuilt in 1673 after the Great Fire. The inside decoration was reconstructed after World War II damages in the opulent style typical of guild houses. Like all other such houses, it is only opened for private events.

Access to Paternoster Square


L past a conspicuous metallic sculpture towards Paternoster Square

You might associate “paternoster” with a kind of doorless lift used in office buildings until the 1980s, but the name refers in the present case to the Lord’s Prayer, sung in Latin during processions in the Middle Ages.

Relocated Temple Bar

Before crossing the square straight ahead, detour R under the arch to have a look at it from the southern side. This superb baroque arch is the original “Temple Bar”. The word “bar” is linked to a “barrier” across the way and this particular bar, set at the end of Fleet Street, was the main gate into the City of London coming from Westminster. Kings and Queens were expected to stop at the gate for a ceremony with the Lord Mayor before proceeding onwards towards their palace in the Tower. As a result, they often preferred to use a barge on the Thames although passing under London Bridge and its rickety houses was not without risks.

The arch was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 after the Great Fire and indeed exhibits his exquisite sense of proportions. It had to be taken away in 1878 as it was weakening and also hampered traffic. Surprisingly enough, the stones were sold to a businessman who was building a mansion in the countryside. Fortunately, the arch was preserved and was sold back to a trust in 1984 so that it could be set up as a decorative entrance to the new office development around Paternoster Square.

Sculpture in Paternoster Square

Walk to the eastern end of Paternoster Square past the sculpture with a shepherd and his flock. This work by Elizabeth Frink was cast in 1975 and led to many interpretations because she gave the title “Paternoster” rather than “Good shepherd”. It may refer to the former meat market located here. It proved very popular, with several copies being cast for other locations, and people like this sign of life contrasting with the somewhat boring, angular style of the buildings around the square.

Exit the square at the eastern end into Paternoster Row (no street sign on the buildings)
At the end of the footpath L into Panyer Alley

Before taking the Underground if you wish/need to, you can go on a short detour following L Newgate Street for about 100 yards.

Remnant of Christ Church Greyfriars

You can soon see the rest of Christ Church Greyfriars. The church was destroyed by bombs in 1940 and only the tower was kept at the end of a small public garden. The shapes of the tower are obviously baroque and the design is indeed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1687. The church was actually quite large and expensive to build, which you don’t really register looking at the garden.

ST. PAUL’S

St. Paul’s Underground station


The station opened in 1900 and was originally called “Post Office” because a train company used a terminus called St Paul’s in the vicinity, potentially causing confusion. Both the train terminus and the underground station were renovated in the 1930s and renamed. Actually, the station is not at all in front of the cathedral, causing occasional confusion with gullible tourists who expect station names to be logical.

The concourse is entirely underground like on a few other Central Line stations, one of the reasons being that the tracks were laid along public roads as much as possible in order to avoid paying compensation to ground owners, so that there was no necessity to purchase plots of land on which to build stations. In order to make stations visible enough and to protect access stairs from slippery rain and sludge, it was nonetheless sensible to build small booths or awnings. The one at St Paul’s is a plain metal box.

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Central Tube line walk 5: Northolt walk to West Ruislip

Walk 5
NORTHOLT walk to WEST RUISLIP
2 1/2 hours

Most of this line is a railway line opened in 1905 between London and Birmingham, with trains running between central London and Ruislip via Wembley. A junction was opened in 1907 in order to create an additional line via Northolt because of congestion issues. The suburban train services were converted to a branch of the Central Line in 1947.

Routing note: The obvious connection is in Northolt to Central Line walk 4. An other convenient connection is in West Ruislip to Marylebone network walk 3 (continuing towards Denham).

Several sections of my route are away from roads and therefore not signposted in a consistent manner. I suggest you check on an area map when in doubt. Transport for London has convenient free maps (you will need both Local Cycling Guide 3 and Guide 6). Most footpaths I used are not paved and can get quite muddy in rainy weather.

NORTHOLT

Northolt station


The station was originally a modest rural halt on the 1907 train line and was accordingly called modestly Northolt Halt. Later on, real estate development in the area induced a change to a grander “Northolt (for West End) Halt” but this was indeed cumbersome and was simplified to plain Northolt on the occasion of the conversion to the Central Line in 1947.

The station building is a rather plain box using post-War yellowish bricks.

Exit the station and turn R
directly R down a flight of steps into The Farmlands (this is an actual road once you are past the row of garages although it is not signposted)
At the end, turn L into the public footpath
Cross two roads and enter Islip Manor Park. Turn R within the park past the children playground, then L along the edge towards the exit.

Islip Manor Park

As the name says, this was the park of a manor bought by the borough in 1929. It is a pleasant neighbourhood park with a few old trees planted in Victorian times.

From here onwards, you use a section of the official trail called the Dog Rose Ramble. It is signposted from time to time but not in a consistent fashion. I copy here the reliable description from the official website:
Exit the park at the far end and turn left down Islip Manor Road.
Cross the busy Western Avenue via the footbridge

Islip Manor Nature Reserve

From the footbridge, you have a good view on your right towards Islip Manor Meadows, bought by the borough together with the manor house. It is now an open space used as a nature reserve. It is of limited use for the present walk because there is only one access.

Follow a tarmac path between wire fences which switches direction a few times.

West London Academy


The path runs along the grounds of a school. As usual, high wire fences ensure that the children do not get tempted to leave the grounds and do some unspeakable things away from the surveillance cameras. The fences also protect school management against potential liability in case unauthorised persons enter the grounds. The school is named after a businessman who donated a large amount of money and starts its presentation with “traditional values of hard work and effort”. I am sure this appeals to ambitious parents. The building is from 2005 and has an interesting architecture. It is built in the shape of a flattish bow with a central corridor lit by glass and rooms on both sides clad in wood. An unusual design with an ecological touch at a time when this was unusual. The building is flattish because it was planned so that it would be comfortable to use for handicapped students.

View towards Harrow Hill


Leave this path to follow a path on the right through woodland to emerge in the open at the golf course.
The way ahead is less clear here but bear left alongside the hedge also on the left and when a practice area appears ahead bordered by very high netting, follow this around to the right to locate an exit from the golf course through a small section of woodland, then into the open.

West London Golf Centre


The golf course is much more compact than usual and is indeed a 9-hole facility. The West London Golf Centre opened as late as 2015 but replaced an older version called the Lime Tree Park. My pictures are taken on an occasion when you could not see much of a golf course anyway. It felt like an uncharted wilderness and you do have some views from the higher hills towards Harrow and Pinner.

At the end of the footpath (near the car park) R along Ruislip Road
Cross the motorway roundabout using the cycle route
Ahead past the Polish War memorial on West End Road

Polish War Memorial


The memorial is dedicated to the memory of Polish airmen who had fled from Poland and fought in Britain between 1941 and 1945. The rather isolated location is linked to the fact that Polish troops were attached to Northolt Air Force Base during the war. Interestingly, the memorial was organised in 1948 by Poles who had been forced to stay in Britain after the war because Poland had turned communist and treated many war veterans as traitors who had defected to capitalism. Interestingly, the memorial mentions fighters from the “City of Wilno”; this has a strong political undercurrent as Wilno, now known as Vilnius, is now the capital city of Lithuania with Lithuanians being very resentful of what they consider the Polish occupation of Vilnius between 1920 and 1938. There were indeed many Poles living in Vilnius in 1920 along a short majority of Lithuanians.

R Masson Avenue
At the end ahead across Stonefield Park

Stonefield Park


This is just a small neighbourhood park. You have now entered the parliamentary constituency of someone you have probably heard of, Mr Boris Johnson. He came to this park in January 2021, taking time from his normally busy schedule.

Ahead into Cedar Avenue
At the end L Great Central Avenue (not signposted but obvious)

SOUTH RUISLIP

South Ruislip Underground station


The station opened in 1908 as Northolt Junction as this is the place where you can choose between a train to Marylebone terminus or a Central Line service (at the time, it was still a suburban train going to Paddington). The name was changed to South Ruislip & Northolt Junction in 1932 and simplified to South Ruislip in 1947.


The station facilities were rebuilt in 1948 on the occasion of the introduction of the Central Line but were very limited because of past-World War II materials shortages. The conspicuous drum that marks the station now was added in 1960 at a time when few stations were being built. There is indeed an unusual work of art inside, a frieze below the glass drum. It is typical for abstract sculptures of the 1960s, using contemporary materials (concrete and glass chips) . It is a work by Henry Haig, one of the foremost glass artists of the second half of the 20th century. He is better known for many church windows although he was equally interested in lay buildings.

Inside South Ruislip station

R under the train line on Long Drive
At the traffic lights L Victoria Road

St Gregory Roman Catholic church


You walk past a Roman Catholic church. St Gregory is one of the more important churches of this denomination in London, with a very committed following that financed the construction of the church within only 8 years. The church was an architectural landmark back in 1967, being the first church in London built according to the reformed rite from the Vatican II council, following which priests started reading mass facing the parishioners. This is reflected in the round shape, enabling good views from all sides, and in the altar away from the back wall. The bricks are laid inside according to a nice pattern and the church is remarkably airy. The architect, Gerard Goalen, a reputed specialist for church designs, considered St Gregory to be his best design overall.

Inside the church

When the road reaches a brook, turn L on the path along the river (clearly signposted as Jim O’Neil walk)

Walking along Yeading Brook


You walk along a small river called the Yeading Brook. There are nice walkways for several miles along the river linking a large number of open spaces such as Ruislip Gardens that you will be crossing soon. Such riverside paths are a typical feature of London suburbs but you often have to contend with the fact that they are interrupted by train lines. In the present case, the open space between the brook and the underground embankment is quite plain.

Ruislip Gardens


Continue along the river across Ruislip Gardens towards the train embankment
Exit the open space near a small playground
L under the train tracks

RUISLIP GARDENS

Rusilip Gardens Underground station


A station opened here on the existing train line in 1934. The layout is typical for a station added after the construction of the original line as it is an island platform.

The station building is a boring brick box of which part is hidden behind a rather ugly grey metallic covering. It is definitely not an interesting building.

Come back to the bridge over the brook near the station
Take the riverside path away from the train line

“The Point” in Ruislip


The path starts with a small open space with a convenient bench called somewhat strangely “The Point”. The following sections along the brook are pleasantly varied, with the water occasionally cascading over a small weir. After leaving the more built-up area, you enter Ickenham Marsh, a large nature reserve. This area was originally a parish common but was enclosed as early as 1780. It is now a nature reserve and is protected by the fact that it borders an air base and is therefore a noisy area unsuitable for residential properties.

Ickenham Marsh in winter


As you can see on the pictures, it can look a little like Africa in summer with goats wandering through areas of thorny bushes. The view in winter is very different.

Ickenham Marsh in summer

Follow the river, ignoring the first footbridge. When you reach the second footbridge in the middle of the wilderness, R and away from the river on a track called Austins Lane

Farm Hill Lane leaading to Austins Lane


Always ahead along the edge of the open space, continue on Austins Lane when it turns into a paved road

Grounds of Compass Theatre


Just before crossing the underground line, you walk past an open space used as a garden for the Compass Theatre, a small cultural centre built in 1968 by the borough. There is a Georgian country house behind the theatre; Ickenham manor was bought by the borough in 1948 and converted into a youth centre.

Cross an Underground line and continue to the end of the road
Short detour L for the parish church

Ickenham parish church


The church of St Giles Ickenham combines bits and pieces from different periods: the chancel is from 1335, the tower from the 15th century, the north aisle from 1575 and the western section of the nave from 1959. For all this history, the building does look quite well integrated and feels like a nice little country church. In a typically English manner, entrance is via a side porch and not at the end of the nave.


The north aisle was funded by the local lord of the manor but he imposed rather onerous conditions. Parishioners were expected to repay the debt over time, with an amount being deducted when someone from his own family was buried in the church. In exchange, he did fund pews at a time when it was customary to stand or kneel and not sit in church.

Monument in Ickenham cemetery

I was unable to enter the church, as is often the case with Anglican churches in London, but I did notice a few nice funeral monuments outside in the churchyard.

Otherwise R High Road Ickenham

WEST RUISLIP

West Ruislip Underground and train station

The station was opened in 1906 together with the new train line. It was first called “Ruislip & Ickenham” and this was changed to “West Ruislip (for Ickenham)” in prevision of the extension of the Underground Central Line in 1947. Due to a communication mistake, the station signs did not include the extension in brackets and the station is therefore usually called only West Ruislip although this is not its official name strictly speaking.

The station building looks a bit boring for a line terminus and this is due to the fact that it was designed by the architects of the railway company in 1960 (nationalised British Rail at the time). They were rather thinking in terms of an intermediary suburban station and the plain shapes and modest materials reflect this. This being said, the proportions of the awning and of the upper glass panels are quite well chosen.

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