EUSTON walk to ARCHWAY
2 3/4 hours
This Underground line opened in 1907 with Archway as a terminus. It was integrated into what is now the Northern Line complex in the 1920s. The line was not a big success because there was much competition from cheaper private bus companies and it was bought by the Government in 1933.
Services called between Camden Town and Kentish Town at an additional station called South Kentish Town. The station opened in 1907 but traffic remained very low and the company used the occasion of a strike in a power plant to close the station in 1924. The building has been let to retail businesses ever since.
Routing note: This walk connects in Euston to Northern line walks 5, 9 and 10, to Victoria Underground walk 3 and to Euston train network walk 1. It connects in Kentish Town with Blackfriars train network walk 1 and finally in Archway with Northern line walk 2.
The route bypasses the touristy area around Camden Lock as this features in other walks. My time estimate does not include time spent visiting Hampstead Cemetery as this will be heavily dependant on your personal taste for memorials of celebrities.
The station opened on the account of two different Underground companies in 1907; both lines are now called Northern Line but are actually two separate lines. An interconnection was put in place in 1924 in order to enable trains to switch from the one line to the other. The Victoria line platforms opened in 1968.
The station is entirely underground and has no dedicated entrance at street level. It is accessed through the Euston train terminus, a gloomy concrete structure from 1968.
There was a separate station building for the Underground originally and it is still visible at the corner of Melton Street with Drummond Street. Like most stations on this Underground line, it was designed by Leslie Green, the company architect, who used a standard scheme as he was supposed to design no less than 50 stations within a few years. The scheme involves a steel frame housing the concourse, which made it cheap and quick to build, with outside walls covered in glazed terracotta. Most stations then have some minor one-off decoration details. In Euston, it was a neo-baroque scroll bearing a semblance of a coat of arms.
With the train terminus to your back, turn R to the next road, then R again (along the tracks) in Melton Street
L Drummond Street
R North Gower Street, ends as a footpath
There was a very nice green space in this area until recently. St James Gardens were an old burial site with interesting monuments, many mature trees as well as a pleasant central flower bed. All of this was taken away in order to build the new high-speed train line between London and Birmingham. There is no doubt that this is very sensible infrastructure. It just makes you think about how a city changes and how hard it is to give up on something familiar. When the French Railways had to decide about similar measures in Paris, they decided that the high-speed lines would start some 10 miles from the terminus. I guess this is difficult in London because the power system used on high-speed lines such as Eurostar is not compatible with that of suburban lines.
The path merges into Hampstead Road, later crossing train tracks
Walk along small Harrington Square Gardens
This is just a pleasant neighbourhood square with a nice central flower bed.
The long, colonnaded building overlooking the square on the other side of Hampstead Road is a famous landmark of the Art Déco style. There is an excellent description under http://www.modernistbritain.co.uk/post/building/Arcadia+Works/
In short, the building was originally a factory commissioned by the Carreras Tobacco Factory in 1928. Most of the ornamentation was taken away when the property was sold in 1959 but a new owner decided in 1996 to bring back the original appearance as much as possible. This won the architects several prizes and ensured that tenants in what is now an office building were of sufficient standing.
The central part of the building is neoclassical in design with columns spanning the whole height. This was quite popular at the time; because it was used a lot to glorify fascist regimes in the 1930s, we forget that it was used in many other locations as well, for example at the Paris world fair in 1936. For Britain, it was a welcome contrast to the bombastic style used for many official buildings, in particular war memorials and cenotaphs, by followers of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
What sets the factory apart is the colourful Egyptian scheme. The black cats were the trade mark of the flagship product of the company but the Egyptian style comes primarily from a decoration craze of the 1920s following the much publicised discovery of pharaoh Tutankhamun’s grave in 1922. The style is more commonly found on film theatres.
Ahead Hurdwick Place (the same main road actually)
The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line.
The building is a typical Leslie Green design. The flat roof was an integral part of the design because the company hoped to build office buildings above in order to generate rental income. This did not happen here because the area was a sort of transition zone between industrial premises and residential streets. The station had limited opening hours until 1992 but was rebuilt in 1998 into a normal station with a view to alleviating congestion in nearby Camden Town station.
As mentioned about Euston, Leslie Green added to the standard design the one or other special detail in some of the stations. In Mornington Crescent, it is a set of wooden gates with stylised flowers, a typical Arts & Crafts ornament. The wrought iron panels above also have stylised flowers.
Continue along the main road turning slightly L, this is Camden High Street
One of the most conspicuous buildings on the crossroads at the start of High Street is the former Camden Theatre, built in 1900 but converted to a film theatre as early as 1913. It is a listed building that has always been used for entertainment purposes, unlike many theatres turned into bingo halls or evangelical churches. The latest incarnation as Koko was opened in 2004 and it remains a leading venue for high profile music artists. Interestingly, it seated 2400 people in 1901 while it seats about 1400 nowadays. The architecture is typically 1900s with grand columns and a copper-covered dome.
In the centre of the crossroads, there is a statue of Richard Cobden, who played a very important role as a Member of Parliament. In the 1850s, it was common for industrialists in Britain as well as in Europe to insist on protecting their home markets from foreign competition by high tariffs. Mr Cobden managed to convince the French Emperor and the British Prime Minister to set a maximum tariff at 30%, signing the first international free trade treaty. This enabled both countries to double their exports into the other. France repealed the treaty in 1892, partly because both countries needed trade less as they were concentrating on their respective colonial empires. Interestingly, the issue of free trade vs. protection of the home market continues to be one of the hottest topics in international politics nowadays although it should be clear that all sorts of consumer goods like textiles and electronics would be much more expensive if they had to be produced locally rather than imported.
When you come closer to central Camden and reach Greenland Street, you walk past an interesting brick building with a corner gable in the German Renaissance style. The numerous, conspicuously large windows were typical for department stores and the goods sold inside in the 1900s are still written in old-fashioned script above the windows (Draperies, Beddings etc). Note the locomotive and the oriental looking boat, meant to inform you that you could buy exciting, imported textiles inside. The colour scheme combining red bricks and light stone, extended even to the window bows, is typically Edwardian.
Architects got fed up with the style after World War I and started looking for cleaner, functional shapes. They also felt that frilly colour games were out of order. You get a good example for architecture from the 1920s at the next street corner, Britannia Junction. The shape is based on pure geometry and there are no columns or moulded ornaments breaking the flat concrete surface. Ornamentation is now concentrated in isolated reliefs themed in accordance with the function of the building, here trade.
As an aside, note the black device attached to the lamp post in front of the building. It looks to me decidedly like a chimney sweeping broom but it is apparently the bona fide decoration chosen for this part of the local High Street. As you can see on the picture, the shops in the vicinity are about as tacky as the decoration. I know tons of people walk through such shopping streets every day, to the point that it is a very well-known tourist attraction.
I wonder a little how many people or what category of people actually buy these products in these locations. I agree that the borough manages to take away some of the tackiness by encouraging the very conspicuous decoration on the walls above the shops. It is quite creative, particularly combined with the bright colours, so that I give you a few examples.
The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line with trains continuing north either towards Archway or towards Golders Green. An additional branch opened in 1924 linking Camden Town with Euston without passing Mornington Crescent station. Because of the extremely popular Camden Market attracting considerable crowds on weekends, the station is the most congested on London Underground and often has to be closed or restricted for safety reasons. Plans have been proposed to build a new, larger concourse. This would imply building a new station with the present building being left as a historical relict only.
The building is a typical Leslie Green design and the flat roof indeed enabled here to add an additional level for offices generating rental income.
R Greenland Road (takes along a pub called “The Worlds End”)
The pub is quite conspicuous from outside and does not actually look like a pub inside, more like a converted factory or garage. Such conversions are very fashionable actually.
At the end R Camden Street
Detour R into St Martin’s Gardens
The gardens were originally a cemetery set up in 1802 for the parish of St Martin’s in the Fields, better known for the name of a classical orchestra. The land was later used in part to build almshouses, still visible at the back of the garden. It was converted from a cemetery into a small park in 1889. Although it is very close to the pandemonium of Camden Lock and Market, it is a rather quiet location with less louts and lounging addicts than you might fear.
Otherwise opposite the access for the Gardens into Georgiana Street
At the end L across the canal into St Pancras’ Way, passing later under train tracks
You cross here the Regent’s Canal, opened in 1820 in order to create a faster link between the Midlands and the London docks, bypassing the winding, tidal and crowded river Thames. Now that the many factories and warehouses have closed, it is only used by the occasional house boat. The towpath is an extremely popular walking and cycling route that I do use on other routes.
The pub at the end of the bridge is interesting for the reference to Charrington’s, a completely forgotten company nowadays. It was actually the core of the largest beer company in Britain back in 1967 when it was called Bass Charrington.
R Agar Grove
Half L into a short footpath marked as a cycle route towards Tufnell Park. The footpath merges into Stratford Villas
Ahead Camden Square
This is a leafy road with an elongated green space between the two strings of the road. The individual houses are about as elegant and as expensive as those along squares in Belgravia or Kensington, the difference being that they are larger, stand-alone properties rather than part of terraces. There was originally a typical suburban church at the upper end of the square but this had to be demolished after bomb damages during World War II and the replacement building is a nondescript, low concrete hall.
When the central square ends, continue on the left-hand side
L Cantelowes Road
R Camden Mews
As the picture shows, you definitely don’t expect such a street so close to the touristy parts of Camden. The cobblestones in particular are quite a rarity nowadays. This is a good example of the suburban version of mews, the narrow alleys built at the back of sizeable houses in order to give access for deliveries and to stables without disturbing the more elegant front on the main road. Obviously, you only get mews in suburbs that were built before the 1920s, when horses were replaced by automobiles, and London did not have so many suburbs at the time.
L Camden Park Road (there is no road sign here but you cannot miss it as it is the first road that you reach)
Cross the main road into Torriano Avenue
L Busby Place
Just before the church R into Oseney Crescent
Ahead Islip Street
At the end R Kentish Town Road
The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line, offering a connection with the existing suburban train station opened in 1868 between St Pancras terminus and Hendon. The train station was demolished in 1983 and the Underground station is now used by all travelers.
The building is a typical Leslie Green design with four bays instead of two due to the expected traffic level.
The most conspicuous building in the vicinity of the station is the impressive Assembly House, built in 1898 as the public house it still is. It never housed anything remarkable but was clearly planned as a landmark for the suburb. The architecture is again typically Edwardian in terms of colour scheme, moulded decoration items and haphazard mix of details from different periods (the turret may be medieval in inspiration while the roof windows are Dutch Renaissance).
If you want to see a little more architecture linked to entertainment, there are two venues a few yards north of the Underground station at the start of Highgate Road. One is a pub painted in very lively blue and gold. It is one of the older buildings in this suburb, erected in 1871. Just beyond, the much larger, hulking shape belongs to a former film theatre converted into a music venue. It is interesting as a typical example of Art Déco cinema built in 1934. If you remember the Carreras factory at the start of this walk, you find here again the row of huge columns while the flat roof is marked by a conspicuous horizontal cornice.
Just after the station R into Leighton Road
This is a road with a rather interesting mix of buildings. It was one of the main roads in the old village of Kentish Town and avoided thus the typical terrace developments. Among a number of listed buildings, you might notice for example houses number 27 and 37, late Georgian houses built respectively in 1828 and 1824. Nearly opposite, property number 30 is an elaborately decorated building from 1903 with coats of arms and nice old railings. It is actually an official building as it is a mail sorting office.
A bit further on, the estate opposite number 80 is a particularly well-kept former council estate. It is quite typical for the 1930s with the rounded balcony ends so beloved at the time. I really liked the small garden with a few flowers and sitting opportunities.
L Leighton Grove
Ahead Carleton Road
L Huddleston Road
I took the picture at the corner of Huddleston Road with Anson Road. It is an other good example of an Edwardian property with a mix of style elements from different periods of the history of architecture. Pointed frames around the roof level windows refer to Dutch or German Renaissance depending on the exact shape and may have been popular because this was a link to the Kingdom of Hanover from which the royal family came originally. I already mentioned before the typical colour scheme with red bricks, changed from yellow bricks in Victorian times.
L Tufnell Park Road
The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line.
The building is a typical Leslie Green design. As in many other stations, he added a special decorative detail, the very nice wrought iron frieze above the three entrance bays. They show stylised flowers typical of the Arts & Crafts movement. Mornington Crescent station also has flowers but of a different design. This is typical for Arts & Crafts, where you want to avoid the impression of standardised industrial ornaments.
As in Kentish Town, the junction in Tufnell Park is dominated by a conspicuous public house called here the Boston Arms. It is a rather well-known music venue and some internet comments mention that it attracts boisterous crowds, particularly when the programme appeals to Irish citizens. Irish already had a mixed reputation in this respect in the 19th century when they were considered the typical working class immigrants. Better classes were put off by the Irish being “in thrall to popish mummeries” and supposedly prone to heavy drinking and fighting. I’d say they are just less stuck up. The building dates back to 1899 and the architecture reminds a little of a central London theatre with columns and a corner dome.
R Dartmouth Park Hill (check with the road sign that you do take the correct road)
After climbing for a lengthy distance, you walk along a reservoir. You can detour into the park on the right-hand side at the very end of the reservoir, coming back afterwards
The reservoir is obviously in the logical place for a water supply installation. It was built in 1855 when this was still a completely rural area and the grassy banks have not changed since. The reservoir has a cover in order to protect water quality and this enabled local authorities to give access to some of the slopes, opening Darmouth Park in 1972. The primary attraction is a rather extended view towards Arsenal Stadium to the east, the Canary Wharf cluster of office towers to the southeast and the City to the south.
Downhill L Chester Road, turns later L along a cemetery
Chester Road has a rather strange mix of styles with a very modernist building at the start, a typical Victorian library further down and innovative contemporary estate architecture opposite the library. The library is from 1906 but is surprisingly modest for Edwardian times. It is mainly neo-Romanesque except for the roof balustrade. The windows take up an extremely large part of the street front, which is very sensible in order to bring more light to people reading inside but was actually unusual because it raised heating costs considerably.
At the end of Chester Road, you walk between a cemetery to the right and a peculiar gated estate to the left. The estate called Holly Village is definitely worth looking at the building, which is fortunately easy to do as the fence is low enough. I found an excellent comment on http://www.victorianweb.org/art/architecture/darbishire/1.html. I quote excerpts from this webpage where you also get good pictures. Please respect the website author’s copyright.
Holly Village, designed by the architect Henry Astley Darbishire for Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, consists of a group of eight buildings built around a green, comprising four detached houses and four pairs of adjoining cottages. The houses were apparently intended (though there is some dissent here) as an economic rather than a charitable venture — as Camden Council puts it, for “private rent to those on considerable incomes.”
The development would have been visible from Holly Lodge, the Coutts’s splendid country villa on Highgate’s West Hill (…). Thus Darbishire (…) was here requested to create a sort of Gothic fantasy which could be enjoyed both as a view and as a residential community for future tenants. No expense was spared in the materials, which included fine quality teak wood and Portland stone, and Italian craftsmen were employed for the wood carving. Both in the stonework and the woodcarving there are many “picturesque and fanciful” details (…), including contrast patterning in the exterior walls, crenellations, pinnacles, dormers, small heads (on window corbels etc.) and small animals e.g. as gargoyles (…).
(…) The sculptures on either side of the archway are idealised, classically-robed representations of Burdett-Coutts herself and her governess and long-time companion, Hannah Brown. Burdett-Coutts holds a pet dog, and Mrs Brown holds a dove. With its “huge indulgence in flamboyant detail” (…), Holly Village is a unique example of full-blown Victorian Gothic in a residential complex. The wrought iron gate beneath the entrance archway makes it perhaps the first example of a gated housing development.
At the end R Swains Lane
L Langbourne Avenue (it is part of a gated estate but access is always available for pedestrians)
Holly Lodge Estate is named after a property that was put on the market in 1907 after the death of its owner but did not sell because it was considered too far away from central London. It was finally sold to developers in 1923 and is a single property (which enables residents to close the road it irregular intervals in order to prevent a public right of way from emerging).
It was owned originally by a special purpose company that reserved it primarily for single women. It was therefore built in a way comparable to a student residence hall with communal bathrooms and kitchens in most buildings rather than in every flat. A significant part of the estate still has this feature. The owner company could not afford the major repairs needed after the first 50 years of existence and the property belongs now to the borough council. You definitely do not expect the estate to be a council estate when looking at the buildings because they are very well maintained and because the architecture is so conspicuous.
First R Hillway
Along the central road, the estate looks the way it was actually planned by the original developer with individual villas in a garden suburb setting. The building plots sold slowly due to the distance from central London but also due to drainage difficulties on the steep hill. The residents in this part of the estate obviously have the means to ensure proper maintenance of the common parts.
Villas were often built in the 1920s in this peculiar architectural style nicknamed “stockbroker Tudor” to point to the typical buyer. I guess people liked the black-and-white pattern with wooden decoration because it was such a welcome change from austere, dreary Georgian roads, flashy, neo-classical Belgravia terraces and endlessly identical brick houses in developments from the Victorian era. The style disappeared quickly because it was difficult to keep the houses white at a time of frequent smog.
Second R Oakeshott Avenue
L Swains Lane
The road climbs between the two sections of Highgate Cemetery, the only burial ground in London to my knowledge that you cannot enter without paying a fee. It opened in 1839 and was a private commercial operation like a number of large cemeteries founded at the time; the ground was bought by a special purpose association in 1981 that manages it more or less as a nature reserve cum museum.
Part of the cemetery can only be visited with a guide for safety reasons (toppling monuments and protection of nearly undisturbed nature) while the other part works like a normal museum with tickets and self-guided tours. The cemetery attracted prominent burials in the Victorian era. You will see comparable monuments in freely accessible burial grounds like in Kensal Green and Nunhead so that you should envisage a visit primarily if you have a specific interest in some of the celebrities such as Lucian Freud or Karl Marx.
R into Waterlow Park. You should exit at the southeast corner, reached by walking straight ahead across the park, but the park is well worth walking around, particularly on the eastern side. Most of the ground belonged to a sizeable country estate that was extended over time. The property was then given to the London County Council in 1889 as the mansion had become derelict. One of the attractions of the location was a number of natural springs feeding ponds like in Hampstead Heath, a useful feature in older times.
The building you see directly on Swains Lane is just the lodge. It is a fanciful example of neo-gothic architecture, a very fashionable style in the late Georgian period. The chimneys are particularly noteworthy. The mansion itself is located above the ponds on the eastern side of the park; it burnt partly down in 1963 and is now of limited interest despite having some walls from 1580. The real attractions in Waterlow Park are the views towards central London, the ponds and the two nice formal gardens.
One is a kitchen garden converted into an elegant herbaceous border. The other one below the mansion is embellished with lovely baroque statues and urns. It has formal flower beds around a central fountain. Although it is not big and the planting is not remarkable, it really has a good variety of atmosphere and I give you as usual a generous number of pictures in order to give you an idea.
R Dartmouth Park Hill
Just before a church L into Anatola Road
Ahead into Girdlestone Park, exit at the southeast corner near the tennis court
This is just a small neighbourhood open space.
Ahead Vorley Road
L Junction Road
The station opened in 1907 on the new Underground line. It was originally called Highgate because passengers for this village alighted at what was then the terminus and transferred to a cable tramway. The name was changed to “Archway (Highgate)” in 1939 using the name of a nearby pub, then to “Highgate (Archway)” in 1941 when the Underground line was extended towards the new station at Highgate proper. The name was simplified to Archway in 1947.
The original station building was demolished in 1963 as part of a scheme to build a major new urban centre in this area. This involved a shopping centre beneath a bulky office tower, something also done in locations like Elephant & Castle or Hammersmith. The building had become very outdated in terms of insulation and construction materials and was converted in the 2010s to luxury flats. The station concourse is now just a porch within the ground floor commercial area.