Northern Tube line walk 9: Euston walk to Charing Cross and Kennington

Walk 9

EUSTON walk to WATERLOO and KENNINGTON

1 3/4 hours

The Underground line between Euston and Charing Cross opened in 1907 as part of a suburban line towards Hampstead. The line was extended in 1926 in order to provide a better connection towards the southern suburbs but trains terminate normally at Kennington because the other Northern line branch (Euston to Kennington via Bank continuing towards Clapham and Morden) was a pre-existing railway.

Routing note: Most stations on this section of the Northern line have interchanges so that you can connect with many other walks. As my route descriptions are one-way, not all routes would be convenient to combine with the present one. I suggest combining with the Northern line walk 11 in Kennington or with a walk starting in Waterloo such as Waterloo train network walk 1, the Waterloo & City walk or Bakerloo line walk 1. If you prefer combining in the Euston area, the most convenient combination is with Victoria Underground network walk 2.

My walking time estimate does not include visiting two museums towards the end of the walk. Visiting both may take you up to an hour.

EUSTON

Euston train terminal and Underground station

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.

Original Euston Underground station

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.

Euston terminal seen from the side

Exit the train terminal on the main forecourt towards Euston Road

R along the terminal

Ahead Euston Street

Ahead across Tolmer’s Square

This square is a nice oasis of quiet so close to busy roads. The original development from the 1870s attracted working-class tenants in cramped conditions because of the vicinity of the railway yard and the borough became increasingly inclined after World War II to allow developers to build large office towers in this convenient location rather than keep the derelict housing.

Tolmer’s Square

Students from the nearby university got interested in this controversial urban planning issue and squatted in the derelict buildings for a few years. In the end, the developer who suffered under the economic crisis gave up on the planning permission it had secured as far back as 1959 and sold the ground to the borough in 1975. Camden Borough then replaced the old houses primarily with modern social housing and there is some greenery in the old central courtyard of the complex.

L on the main road (A400) crossing over an underpass

WARREN STREET

Warren Street Underground station

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

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

R along the station building Warren Street

L Whitfield Street

L Tottenham Street

Department store on Tottenham Court Road

When you reach the main road, you face a rather impressive department store building. Heal’s was a major supplier of furniture and decoration items. The company is listed and is actually primarily into online sales nowadays although it retains several shops for display purposes. The building feels a bit Art Déco but is much older (1854) and was built in a very unusual style for the time. The core concept is neo-classical but the columns are not very conspicuous. What I always found pretty about the building are the colourful vignettes. They don’t actually show products (except for the four-poster bed); they refer to trades such as wool (with shearing scissors) or clay (with a potter’s bench).

R Tottenham Court Road passing

GOODGE STREET

Goodge Street Underground station

The station opened together with the Underground line in 1907 and was originally called Tottenham Court Road because it was close to the station bearing the same name on the Central Line. There was no interchange at the time and this caused confusions. As a result, the Northern Line changed the name already in 1908.

The station building is a typical Leslie Green design except that it has the now unusual feature of two separate bays that were used to separate incoming traffic from exiting passengers. The strictly symmetrical design is not very frequent but is quite pleasing to the eye in the cluttered environment of central London. The station hall is the ground floor of an office building, the usual solution when the Underground company could hope to rent the offices above in order to improve profitability.

R Goodge Street

L Whitfield Street

R Windmill Street

Garden in Windmill Street

There is a nice little garden in this street. There are actually few green spaces in this part of London as opposed to the City or Mayfair. In the City, the many former churchyards could be converted to neighbourhood gardens. In Mayfair, development was around central squares with sizeable gardens. Between both areas, commercial interests ran free and left very little room for open spaces. Some office complexes have courtyards or plazas but these are usually fully paved for maintenance reasons.

L Charlotte Street

Ahead Rathbone Place

17 Oxford Street

On Oxford Street, you soon reach one of not many interesting buildings on this very commercial road. It is currently used as an apparel chain store. The street front is overloaded with big columns and all sorts of cornices. I think it is most probably late Edwardian (1920s ?) and is a good example of what I would call “bombastic style”. The one rather pleasant feature is the wrought iron frieze just below the roof level. It has a stylised floral design that is much nicer than the rest. I was unable to find out the original use of the building but the frieze points out to an interesting story.

L Oxford Street passing

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD

Tottenham Court Road Underground station (old access)

The Northern Line platforms opened without an interchange to the pre-existing Central Line station in 1907. The Northern Line stressed that no interchange was available by calling the station originally Oxford Street. The interchange opened in 1908 and the station name was duly changed.

The original station building, a Leslie Green design, was demolished later on in order to enable the construction of a large office building. The access to the Northern Line is now through the Central Line ticket hall. 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.

Platform at Tottenham Court Road station

As you can see on the other picture, there is an interesting design on the platforms. The materials are contemporary but the decorative elements are very 1930s, particularly the sun rays above the middle of the arch.

When you reach the corner of the main roads, you can have a look at the Dominion Theatre. It opened in 1931 and was used for many years both as a film theatre and as a venue for live musicals. This was not unusual for major venues at the time as musicals seldom ran for more than a few months. It is one of the larger theatres in London with over 2,000 seats and belongs to a large American corporation.

Dominion Theatre

The architecture is a little similar to that of the apparel shop I pointed to just before: quite bombastic with columns and a roof cornice in light grey stone. The wrought iron decoration at roof level may be geometrical but may also remind of peacocks, an appropriate symbol for Soho actors.

R Charing Cross Road

Cross the large square towards the apse of the church (this may be temporarily impossible due to a large construction site. In this case, continue on Charing Cross Road and turn then R into Manette Street and R again into Greek Street in order to reach Soho Square)

R along the church Sutton Row

Walk around Soho Square and take the third road L

Soho Square

Soho Square is on the edge of what we call now the Soho entertainment district, most of which is located south of the square all the way to Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. The word Soho is of unclear origin and may have been just a hunting call. The square can be pleasantly quiet in daytime with four symmetrical flower beds around a cutesy mock Tudor structure that was built in 1926 to hide an ugly industrial vent. There is also a somewhat weathered statue of King Charles II. In the evening and on weekends, the square is often crowded and not too clean.

Pietà in St Patrick’s church

The most interesting building overlooking the square is St Patrick’s church, originally built in 1792 as one of the very first Roman Catholic churches to be authorised in England. It was rebuilt in the 1890s and is worth a short look if you find it open. Roman Catholic churches are normally open during the day but St Patrick’s is closed when there are fears of disturbances through unruly crowds in the entertainment district. The most interesting features inside are the impressive marble pavement and a curious Lamentation statue where Jesus is not held by his Mother but by a topless male angel. Knowing the cautious learnings of the Roman Catholic church on the topic of homosexuality, the statue shows a rather open mind.

 

Office building on Soho Square

A building of more minor interest on the square is 27 Soho Square, a refurbished office building with a conspicuous concrete decoration around the doors. The tiered design reminds faintly of an inverted pyramid and this is on purpose because there was a big fad in the 1920s for Egyptian and Mayan pyramids.

L Frith Street

This minor street crosses soon Old Compton Street, the core of the entertainment district and also the one street in London with a concentration of establishments catering to male homosexuals (pubs primarily). Many patrons like to stay on the pavement rather than in the crowded and overheated venues so that it may be interesting to walk through the street on a Friday or Saturday evening if you are not familiar with the metropolis version of this way of life.

Old Compton Street

 

Former hotel in Old Compton Street

The best known pub in this category is Comptons, a gay institution that was actually a hotel originally when it was built in 1890. The time of construction is reflected in the seriously overdone mass of decoration details. It is just a pub since 1986. Despite being very well-known, also with tourists, it changed ownership surprisingly often. The last owner was a smaller private company that ended up being wound down for not paying overdue taxes.

 

Recess at the Prince Edward Theatre

There are of course many other venues that have no special orientation and the street tends to be incredibly lively and crowded on weekends. One interesting building is a mock tudor house, a style you don’t actually see very often in central London. Nearly opposite, the Prince Edward Theatre was built in 1930. It was an important venue in the 1950s because it was the main London site for a new film projection concept called Cinerama that involved several projectors and a complex sound system. This was cumbersome and expensive to operate so that the building was converted back to a musical venue. The building is interesting for the peculiar neo-classical front where the traditional stone columns have been replaced with unusual brick pillars. My picture shows the patrons during a recess and may help you understand how lively the street gets in the evening.

L Shaftesbury Avenue

Soon R Gerrard Place

Gerrard Street

You are entering here the London Chinatown, made of about three streets. The original Chinatown was close to the Docklands as it catered primarily to sailors. The present version started more or less by chance in the 1980s and nearly all houses in the street now have a Chinese restaurant (a few do have travel agencies or medicine shops catering to Chinese requirements). To be honest, I always wondered how you are supposed to choose which restaurant to try as they look similar and have similar prices.

Chinese-style gate in Gerrard Street

 

Interestingly, Chinatown as nearly the only place to go for Chinese food seems to be a US and UK concept. In most of Europe, Chinese restaurants spread over cities and even rural towns even if there might be a specific area in large cities like Paris with a concentration of specialised shops for Oriental goods. From a commercial point of view, spreading the restaurants over a larger area sounds reasonable, as Indian restaurants indeed do in England.

Chinese communities have been considered by authorities often with a dose of caution. On the one hand, European police and immigration officers have difficulties identifying people with certainty despite passport pictures and this makes authorities very distrustful. Chinese businessmen also have the reputation of being a bit too willing to enter shady dealings or to exploit shamelessly new immigrants if authorities do not crack down regularly and efficiently. On the other hand, Chinese immigrants tend to work hard towards founding successful, tax-paying businesses and their children are often among the star pupils in any school or university because education has a very high value in Chinese society.

R Gerrard Street

At the end L Wardour Street

Former wigmaker shop in Wardour Street

Number 41 Wardour Street has a blue plaque commemorating Willy Clarkson, who was a well-known costume designer and wigmaker who died in 1934. The sign on the house is in French for effect (“costumier” is obvious, “perruquier” is wigmaker). In his time, the street was known for businesses selling antiquities of occasionally somewhat shoddy provenience, which was obfuscated by using effete turns of phrase.

Mr Clarkson delivered disguises to Scotland Yard detectives… but also to gangsters. He was a rather unsavoury character, having women work on Sundays although this was illegal, having 11 of his 12 successive business premises burn down mysteriously at great expense to the insurers, and cavorting with lowly persons in an infamous lavatory in the area.

 

Teenagers looking for a celebrity to mob

Wardour Street is part of Chinatown in the lower area you cross while the upper area further North is very popular with the creative industries including a number of film studios. My picture shows accordingly teenager girls that think they have identified some celebrity in the van and trying to mob him while the traffic jam lasts.

L Lisle Street

R Leicester Place (not Leicester Street !)

Notre-Dame de France

Please distanciate yourself now from the many entertainment and gastronomic pleasures you might have been looking at since entering Soho. You are now reaching an interesting religious building, Notre-Dame de France. As the name says, it is a Roman Catholic church catering to the French-speaking community. A look inside is definitely to be recommended.

The church was converted in 1865 from a tourist attraction that is a bit difficult to imagine nowadays, a so-called panorama. There were many of those round buildings where owners would present circular paintings of some important event like a battle. This replaced pictures and films that did not exist, so that these particular paintings were made as detailed and dramatic as possible.

 

Inside Notre-Dame de France

That the church uses a former panorama is obvious when looking at the circular shape of the building, a very rare shape for a church in England. The columns all around are of cast iron and not of concrete, the very first church in London built in this manner. Due to heavy damages during World War II, all furnishings were replaced in the 1950s and the French embassy gave commissions to leading artists of the time such as Dom Robert (for the tapestry) and Jean Cocteau (in the Virgin Mary chapel). I apologise for not taking pictures of their works.

L Cranbourn Street passing

LEICESTER SQUARE

 

Leicester Square (Northern Line) Underground station

The station opened in 1906 on the Piccadilly line with platforms opening on the Northern line in 1907. Like many other stations on the line, it originally used lifts but congestion forced the operator to build escalators in 1935. They were the longest ones on the network with 54 m until longer ones were built at Angel station in the late 20th century. There are two station buildings, one for the Northern line and one for the Piccadilly line.

The Northern line station was rebuilt in the 1930s and is now a reasonably modest Art Déco design, a pure concrete cube at the street corner. The style was also used on some stations at the southern end of the Northern line extension towards Tooting and Morden.

At the 6-way crossroads R into St Martin’s Lane

Noel Coward Theatre

This road is home to several theatres, marking the southern end of the core entertainment district. The Noel Coward Theatre opened in 1903 under the somewhat boring name “New Theatre”. It was renamed in 2006 after the actor because he played here to great acclaim in 1920 in a play he had written himself. Like many theatres in London, it staged both serious dramas and entertaining musicals over the years. The building is typically Edwardian with rather heavy shapes and a mix of heterogeneous decoration details from baroque to neo-classical to Renaissance.

 

Duke of York’s Theatre

The Duke of York’s Theatre further down the street opened in 1892. It has staged musicals on occasion but has a more distinguished tradition as a venue for “classical” theatre. The architecture is neo-classical as usual for theatres at the time but I find the proportions and the colour scheme particularly well thought through. Even the columns respect quite well the size and details of Greek originals, the only concession to showy Victorian taste being the gilding of the capitals.

Towards the end of the street, you reach the grandest of the theatres. The London Coliseum is the largest theatre in London with over 2,300 seats. It was built in 1904 as a “music hall” with the intention of offering lavish entertainment suitable for families. It became well known for pantomimes and later on for dazzling shows from America. It is called the National English Opera since 1974 and houses the English National Ballet.

London Coliseum

Gates of London Coliseum

Keeping in mind the intention of the original owner, it is not surprising that the theatre was built to impress and awe. This includes a tall tower with a neo-baroque gallery and at the very top a globe.

There is nothing to link the building to the name “Coliseum”, which was a circus in ancient Rome. The street level doors look a bit strange with columns and arches in weird grey-purple marble. Pictures of the interior are very impressive, on par with many European opera houses from the late 19th century.

St Martin’s Vestry Hall

St Martin’s Lane is unsurprisingly named after St Martin’s in the Fields, the church at the end of the street on the right-hand side. I comment on the church in a Bakerloo line walk. You could have a short look at the vestry hall, a very nice neo-classical building with an elaborate set of columns around the porch and a stucco medallion in the gable. This is obviously a design of grace and restraint and it is indeed an 1830 design by star architect John Nash. It reminds a lot of the terraces around Regent’s Park, his better known work.

L William IV Street (called incorrectly Williams Street on some online maps)

R Adelaide Street

Cross the main road for

CHARING CROSS

Charing Cross Underground station

The Bakerloo line platforms opened in 1906 under the name “Trafalgar Square”. A separate nearby station was opened in 1907 by the Northern line under the name “Charing Cross” as it was closer to the train terminal. An interchange was built in 1979 and the opportunity was taken to rename the Bakerloo line station “Charing Cross”.

There is no station building and all facilities are underground. If you have an opportunity one day, go and have a look at the platforms. Some of them (I think it is on the Northern line but I am not sure) show evocations of paintings held at the National Gallery or at the National Portrait Gallery. I think it is an excellent idea and some Underground networks in Europe are serious tourist attractions because of the interesting decoration or art in the stations (Helsinki and Stockholm in particular). Paris holds it like London, it is just an occasional idea for appropriate stations.

With the train terminal in front of you, take the left-handed street down towards the Thames passing under the small hotel footbridge. This is Villiers Street

Charing Cross hotel footbridge

The footbridge linking the train terminal with part of the hotel is a detail not many people notice although enclosed footbridges are actually very rare in London. It was usually more profitable to build a full-size structure, leaving a passage or even a tunnel for the street.

Before reaching the next Underground station, you walk past a shopping arcade. I don’t think it warrants special comments but I like my own picture. A big gloomy.

Shopping arcade off Villiers Street

EMBANKMENT

Embankment Underground station

The station opened first for the District line in 1870. At the time, it was called Charing Cross because it enabled interchange with the nearby train terminus. The deep level platforms for the Bakerloo line were added in 1906 and this station was called “Embankment” because the Bakerloo line stops separately for Charing Cross terminal. When platforms opened for the Northern line in 1914, both existing stations switched to “Charing Cross (Embankment)” to emphasize the interchange opportunity. This turned into “Charing Cross” in 1915 and reverted to Charing Cross Embankment in 1974. The present name came about in 1976 exactly for the reasons given in 1906.

The station building is a 1915 structure built on the occasion of the opening of the Northern line platforms. It was seen at the time as a very elegant neo-Renaissance structure with columns, spiraling gable ends and baroque scrolls. There are large slabs of plain concrete as well, announcing the Imperial style popular in the 1920s.

Cross through the station concourse

Climb R up to the pedestrian walkway along Hungerford Bridge. Do not cross under the train tracks for the time being.

 

Golden Jubilee Bridge (downstream bridge)

The bridge you are on is often called Hungerford Bridge, but this applies officially only to the railway bridge. The pedestrian bridges on both sides are the Golden Jubilee Bridges. A simple walkway along the tracks existed before but it was necessary to reinforce the old pillars anyway and this was a good opportunity. The new footbridges are technically complex structures as the walkway is suspended to cables that are held by oblique pillars that cannot be fully integrated into the railway bridge pillars. They make for interesting pictures although it is difficult to find a lull in the considerable foot traffic. The northern bridge you are using is the busier one.

Cables of Hungerford Bridge

 

Charing Cross terminal complex

Looking back, you get the best view of the Charing Cross station complex. Actually, it is a large office building over the train terminal. The complex interplay of different geometric shapes (slanting, vertical or rounded) is recurrent in the work of star architect Sir Terry Farrell. You may have seen similar shapes in the MI6 complex in Vauxhall but the Charing Cross design is better integrated into the general riverside landscape. It was one of his earlier major projects, inaugurated in 1990. The style is called “post-modernist” because “modernist” means big steel and glass boxes.

View from Hungerford Bridge downstream

The view from the bridge is familiar to London residents and tourists alike. It does not give a very good view towards the landmark buildings in the City as most of them are hidden behind the bend of the river. One conspicuous detail is how low the St Paul’s Cathedral dome appears compared to the skyscrapers behind it.

On the northern bank, the view is towards the large hotels along the Strand, huge stone piles towering above the riverside trees. You see them closer on my London Bridge network walk 1.

Hotels on the Strand seen from Hungerford Bridge

On the southern bank, the view is towards the cultural institutions of the South Bank, on which I comment in detail on my Waterloo & City walk.

Royal Festival Hall from Hungerford Bridge

After the bridge, continue ahead along the train viaduct.

Just before the big roundabout, there is a short passage (Sutton Walk) crossing under the train tracks towards the main terminal

WATERLOO

Central entrance of Waterloo Underground station

The Underground station opened for the Waterloo & City underground railway shuttle in 1898. It was then extended as true Underground lines were built: Bakerloo line in 1906, Northern line in 1926 and Jubilee line in 1999. The location of the platforms and the length of the corridors is such that you could argue for three separate stations: the Northern and Bakerloo lines are located at the western end of the train terminal, the Waterloo & City platform in the middle and the Jubilee line at the eastern end.

There is no separate building for the Underground stations as there was enough room in the arches below the train terminus access road. As a result, what you see from the road is just a porch. By chance, the iron girders bearing the structure are painting red and this fits more or less with the Leslie Green colour scheme.

From the most ornate corner of the train terminal with the grand staircase, come back a short way to York Road and cross York Road using the footbridge

L along York Road

R Chicheley Street walking towards the London Eye

Shell headquarters and Jubilee Gardens

The road skirts a green space, Jubilee Gardens. It was landscaped when buildings used in a 1951 exhibition were demolished. There is not much to see except grass and a few larger trees transplanted here in 2012. It is actually not advisable to develop the park much because it is extremely heavily used in summer by tourists relaxing and snacking before or after their London Eye experience. From the gardens, you have a good overview of the massive concrete tower built in 1962 as headquarters for Shell.

The building was heavily criticised at the time but not for the reason you might think. Few people objected against the massive cubic shape or the height. They did not like that the building was clad in stone rather than in sleek, modern glass. Shell used a number of buildings around the tower but relocated many employees and developed the vacated area into a typical shopping centre-luxury flats complex.

London Eye

Walk to the riverside, coming close to the London Eye. It is nothing else than what our grandparents would have called a Ferris wheel, named after Mr Ferris who installed the first one in the USA in 1893. It was the largest Ferris wheel in the world when it opened in 2000. Wheels in China and in Las Vegas are now larger, but the London one is the tallest that is held only on one side (“cantilevered”). It is the busiest attraction in the United Kingdom with more than 10,000 visitors a day on average. To some extent, it is not really interesting as many monuments are better seen from other locations and for free, but it is a must-see item for tourists and is a useful landmark as Big Ben and St Paul’s Cathedral don’t stand out as much in the landscape.

L along the Thames all the way to the second bridge (Lambeth Bridge)

Former London County Hall

Just after the London Eye, the large somewhat bombastic building on your left is the former London County Hall, built from 1911 until 1922 to house the London County Council, the body that oversaw the different London boroughs. In other urban parts of England, the council body was later merged with the individual municipalities into “unitary authorities”. In London, the central government feared that such a merger may make the unitary authority very powerful; as a result, the government scrapped the council in 1985 and devoted all powers to the individual boroughs. Where boroughs had to cooperate (on issues like public transportation or river management), they were expected to do this through special purpose bodies. This ended up being so cumbersome and complex that the council body was resurrected in a somewhat different manner only 15 years later.

Central section of County Hall building

By the way, I think this story shows an interesting concept of democracy compared to Europe: the central government can scrap or merge local authorities pretty much as it wants without consultation of the residents. I think modern voters want to be consulted on important issues. A binding referendum can have unintended consequences (voters might vote on the overall popularity of the government rather than on the issue at stake) but a consultation makes sense with transparent discussions on the consequences if the referendum result is sufficiently clear. I think Britain would have been better off considering the divisive and not very clear referendum on Brexit as consultative. This should then have started a large-scale social dialogue at regional or local level on the issues citizens were really worried about.

To give an other example, several French councils (département) rejected a merger with the upper body (région) so that the government changed the competences of both levels and merged regions while preserving councils. In Luxembourg, citizens occasionally reject mergers between neighbouring local authorities and mayors then open discussions with other local authorities in order to achieve a more acceptable merger.

Evening light on County Hall building

To go back to County Hall, it had become vacant in 1985. Because of the conspicuous location and old-fashioned layout inside, it appeared inappropriate to lease it to some commercial corporation for headquarter purposes and it ended up being converted piecemeal into a variety of uses including flats, a hotel and a number of tourist attractions. Most of those don’t last for decades and are not exactly highbrow, fitting with the normal London Eye tourist. To some extent, the use of County Hall reminds me of 19th century attractions like Alexandra Palace and Crystal Palace. A large part of the building remains unused.

Original official entrance of County Hall building

Where the architecture is concerned, the building was designed to be conspicuous and impressive. This is achieved by sheer size and huge columns. Fashion around 1910 was for an overload of heavy decoration inspired from all sorts of historical styles while fashion around 1920 had turned to blocky shapes with decoration being much less conspicuous. County Hall has the massive shape of a 1910 building but the more subdued decoration of a 1920 building.

Opposite County Hall on the other bank of the Thames, you have a good view of Whitehall, more precisely of the sprawling complex used by the Ministry of Defence. It was designed in 1915 and this explains the rather geometrical shapes. It was not actually built before the 1940s. The style had fallen completely out of fashion and was heavily criticised.

Ministry of Defence in Whitehall

The building needed to be refurbished in the 2000s and this was done in form of a public-private partnership: the works were paid by private investors and the Ministry repays the debt in form of a long-term rental contract. The advantage is that the government does not need to declare such a contract as a debt for national account purposes. The disadvantage is that the rental fee necessarily includes a sufficient interest for the investor, and this is higher than government would pay for direct debt. In this particular case, the additional cost was analysed to be reasonable considering that this ensured speedy and professional management of the refurbishment works. In other cases, particularly for easily manageable projects like schools or bridges, taxpayers often end up paying much more to the investor than would have been necessary.

Houses of Parliament in the evening

Continuing along the Thames, you soon walk under Westminster Bridge and get the postcard view of the Houses of Parliament. I comment on them on a Jubilee line walk. I think the possibly more interesting view is from further up the Thames just before Lambeth Bridge. You get a different feeling for the towers.

 

Houses of Parliament from Lambeth Bridge

L Lambeth Road walking along the garden of the former church

Gate of Archbishop’s Palace in Lambeth

Before reaching the church and the small green space, you cross in front of the somewhat forbidding entrance of Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is a good example of early Tudor architecture dated in the 1490s. Royal palaces usually had such defensive works at the time due to the risk of attacks during civil wars. The Archbishop needed similar works because he was at risk of attack by popular mobs complaining about excruciating church taxes.

 

Courtyard of Lambeth Palace

Obviously, the Palace itself cannot be visited as it is used regularly as an actual residence. There are occasional guided tours. The one time I could go inside is on occasion of an exhibition held in the library, a very large hall rebuilt in 1663 with a magnificent gothic hammerbeam roof. Such roofs were actually very old-fashioned at that time and the Archbishop will probably have wanted to rebuilt the hall in the ancient style as a reaction against the Cromwellian puritans who had destroyed the previous structure.

St Mary at Lambeth

The small church in front of the palace is St Mary at Lambeth, rebuilt in 1851. The church tower is much older as the core of it goes back to 1377. The church has been converted into a Garden Museum because the churchyard houses the monument for important 17th century horticulturalists, John Tradescant Sr and Jr. I have never been inside because pictures don’t look too exciting when you take into account the entry price.

Monuments in St Mary’s churchyard

 

Garden Museum

I also think it is more fun to see actual gardens interpreted in historical styles as is the case at Hampton Court, at Kensington Palace or in a very intelligent and pedagogical manner at Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. What I did in Lambeth was have a look at the museum garden in the former churchyard although I did not find it overly exciting.

Soon R Lambeth High Street

L Old Paradise Street

After passing under the train tracks L into Lambeth Walk

R Fitzalan Street

The road runs along Lambeth Walk Doorstep Green all the way to the main road

Lambeth Walk Doorstep Green

This is a sizeable neighbourhood garden. It has been landscaped carefully and the backdrop of a contemporary school building is interesting for the jumble of shapes and the use of wood paneling. I noticed how building site rubbish was cleverly spread over the garden in order to create some hummocks. I have been wondering whether this idea is also an elegant manner to deter teenagers from playing football too close to house windows.

Hummocks in Lambeth Walk Doorstep Green

At the end R Kennington Road

L Chester Way

L Kennington Lane

R Cottington Street

Local garden in Kennington

There is a very nice little park at the end of this street with an entrance porch and a pergola. It does not have a name on borough maps and may be part of the nearby estate.

Same garden off Othello Close

Ahead Othello Close

R on the main road for

KENNINGTON

Kennington Underground station

The Underground station opened in 1890 on what is now the Eastern branch of the Northern Line (Euston to Kennington via Bank). The platforms towards Charing Cross opened in 1926.

The station building is a quite unique design. At the time, the company operating the line was using a very innovative technology (it was the first deep-level electrical line) and the stations were expected to be just “different”. The red and white colour scheme was quite common for commercial buildings at the time; as opposed to later fashion in the 1900s, the decoration remains subdued, just a few details in the neo-classical style. The really striking element is the large dome with a somewhat playful, unnecessary open gallery at the top. It actually housed the lift machinery.

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