Central Tube line walk 1: Oxford Circus walk to Holland Park

Walk 1

OXFORD CIRCUS walk to HOLLAND PARK

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. The Central line had never been keen on cooperating with other lines, never connecting to other networks for example, and ended up being taken over by the main competitor.

Routing note: This walk connects in Oxford Circus to Central line walk 6 and in Holland Park to Central line walk 2. 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), and in Notting Hill Gate with my Circle line walk 1 (continuing towards Paddington rather than Holland Park).

My time estimate can prove wrong depending on how much time you will be spending walking around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. In addition, I preferred to keep Kensington Palace for my Circle Line walk 1 but you can easily visit it on the present walk and this may take you at least an hour.

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.

Oxford Circus

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 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.

Exit the station on Oxford Street

Regent Street


Before starting the actual walk, the crossroads gives you an interesting lesson in urban planning. Oxford Street is a jumble of uncoordinated commercial buildings whose owners and developers are primarily concerned with maximising short-term profit. Buildings use cheap materials, are built as quickly as possible and are pulled down as soon as retail fashion suggests an other setup in the building would be more profitable. The tenants sell cheap fashion to mass market customers, aiming to sell a large number of cheap items. Consumer brands will have a shop on Oxford Street if they aim primarily at showcasing their brand (e.g. makers of sports goods), but they will have a shop on Regent Street is they aim primarily at attracting affluent shoppers to a flagship store.

Typical grand building on Regent Street


Regent Street is planned as a series of imposing stone buildings using materials meant to last 100 years and more. The owner (the Crown Estate) aims at a reliable income from long-term tenants with a good reputation. These will usually be shops catering more to affluent or aspiring customers and attracting them on the merits of their choice of goods and quality. They are satisfied with the street being less crowded as most shoppers are likely to spend more significant amounts. Aiming for such shops and shoppers forces the Crown Estate (who is also its own in-house developer) to make sure that buildings are solid and inviting, not cheap and shoddy.

Britannia ruling the Empire


The rather heavy neo-classical style with columns and cupolas may remind a little of Georgian neo-classicism as the street was originally developed in the 1820s but the style was again fashionable when the present buildings were redeveloped in the 1920s. The picture showing decoration details shows references to the Empire and to the colonies, indeed a popular source of pride in 1920 Britain.

Walk west on Oxford Street
Very soon L Swallow Place (a narrow passage)
R Princes Street
Walk diagonally across Hanover Square

Leave first the square southwards on St George Street in order to have a look at the parish church.

St George’s Mayfair


The church of St George’s is one of the churches built under Queen Anne in 1724. The Queen was a staunch defender of the Anglican faith and made sure that a church was built in this newly developing part of Westminster. The church tower is quite typical for the baroque style popular at the time while the neo-classical portico is particularly large and overwhelming. This was done on purpose because many parish residents were influential people who were not impressed easily.

St George’s from 1724


The layout inside is quite normal, with gilt capitals you can see in many other churches from the same period. The church has a particularly large organ, probably because many upper society weddings take place here and wish a suitably imposing musical atmosphere.

Walk back to Hanover Square Gardens, turning L in the square

Hanover Square


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

Talleyrand House in the background


Most buildings overlooking the square were redeveloped over time but a few Georgian properties are still standing. Number 21 is one of the finest with elegant stone lining on the corners and a roof balustrade. As a blue roundel mentions, it was the residence of Prince Talleyrand, the French ambassador to Britain in the 1830s. He was feared in all of Europe for his subtle diplomatic skills and his London residence can be credited for being probably one of the main locations where Belgian independence from the Netherlands was decided upon in 1831.

Leave the square on Brook Street

Bank buiilding on Brook Street


You walk past a particularly ornate example of the 19th-century neo-Renaissance style, now used by a bank. The bank has a particularly generic name (United National Bank) and is actually headquartered in Pakistan.

R New Bond Street
L Blenheim Street

Art Déco seat of an auction house


At the end of the road, you can notice the headquarters of auction company Bonham’s, located in a fine Art Déco building from the 1930s. Typical features of the style include the glass column in the middle of the façade and the use of round shapes to bring some movement into the flat wall. Fussy decoration was completely out of fashion and playing with geometrical shapes was therefore a sensible alternative.

Follow Blenheim Street as it turns R but turn then L into a footpath towards Sedley Place
L in the courtyard into Globe Yard
Ahead Haunch of Venison Yard
At the end R Brook Street
R South Molton Street

Although probably not a famous street (less so than Savile Row for example), this pedestrianised street is one of the most elegant shopping adresses in Mayfair. Most shops are individual boutiques as they are too small to be attractive for chain stores (those stay on Oxford Street) or luxury brands (those prefer New Bond Street). In turn, South Molton Street is probably a good place to look for something unusual, interesting but not too flashy.

Stratford House


At the end of the street, you are back on Oxford Street opposite a narrow street that leads to a courtyard with the elegant neo-classical front of Stratford House, built in the 1770s by a leading architect of the time, Robert Adam. The front is still in the same style (just that there were no columns originally) while it was redeveloped several times inside. The house is now used by the Oriental Club, an exclusive institution that owes its name to the fact that it was intended originally to enable networking among people involved in the British colonies in Asia.

L on Oxford Street past

BOND STREET

Bond Street Underground station


The station opened in 1900 on what is now the Central Line. Platforms for the Jubilee line opened in 1979.

The original station building was demolished on the occasion of the 1979 extension and was replaced by a boring commercial building with just an entrance porch for the station. An awning was added to mark the entrance but it is a rather artificial gimmick as it has no actual roof and therefore no sheltering function. An additional access was created recently with a small actual awning but is not much more impressive.

Front of department store Selfridge’s


Before leaving Oxford Street, you come close to the most impressive building on the whole street, department store Selfridge’s. The store was built in 1909 and is now owned by a Canadian billionaire. The building is quite unusual in that it combines a very heavy set of stone columns, seen as necessary to show a solid business to conservative customers, with what is actually a very simple steel structure behind it. It was the first major example of steel construction in Britain at the time and was designed by an American architect. Similar buildings on a smaller scale existed in France and Belgium but were considered a bit “industrial” and more appropriate for wholesalers than for retailers.

Art Nouveau clock marking the main entrance


The fame of the Selfridge’s building is also linked to its conspicuous clock with a complex design of a woman on a ship prow. The sculpture is one of the best instances in London of an Art Nouveau sculpture in the public domain. Typical for the period are the elaborate combination of colours and the flowing shape of the garments. The sculptor was Gilbert Bayes, an important artist whose long and fruitful career lasted over 50 years.

L Duke Street

Brown Hart Gardens


Walking down the street, you reach Brown Hart Gardens. You don’t actually see the gardens because they are hidden on a raised terrace behind an elaborate dome. There is not much to see, it is just a plain paved terrace with a few benches, but the “gardens” have a curious origin. The ground owner, the Duke of Westminster, asked the developer in 1889 to include a garden in order to make the surrounding residential buildings more attractive. In 1903, his son decided to lease the ground to an electrical company who promised a juicy rent.

This caused outrage among the local residents even though they had been complaining for years about the “disorderly boys” and “verminous women” that supposedly haunted their nice garden. The electrical substation was built into the ground, explaining the arches at ground level, while a terrace was reinstated above, but without plants. There are peculiar bylaws applying to this private ground and you are not allowed to sing, practice gymnastics or use a perambulator on the grounds.

Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile


A bit further on, you walk past a large church with a rather traditional neo-gothic appearance. It is the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile since 1967 but was originally built for an English Congregationalist church, explaining the not very Ukrainian appearance. As you might know, the Ukraine has both a Catholic church and a larger Orthodox church. Catholic Ukrainians were in the 1920s often refugees who had fled the war over western Ukraine between Poland and the Soviet Union, explaining the choice of the Holy Family in Exile.

R along Grosvenor Square

Italian embassy on Grosvenor Square


You are here in one of the main locations in London for embassies, the other being in Belgravia. Embassy buildings seldom reflect the architecture of their owners because they are often historical buildings that cannot be changed much in outside appearance. Nonetheless, the Italian embassy does look a bit more Mediterranean than what was the neighbouring Canadian embassy and the US embassy reflected very well the superpower status Americans see themselves as being entitled to. The Canadian embassy has moved away and is being rebuilt while the US embassy has moved as well but is a listed building. It may appear downright ugly in our eyes but is a typical testimony of the style of the 1960s, using unadorned concrete, and was designed by leading architect Eero Saarinen.

Grosvenor Square


Grosvenor Square was first developed in the 1720s like Hanover Square and was even more popular with high society due to the vicinity with Hyde Park (for riding) and Buckingham Palace. The buildings you can see now were nearly all rebuilt after World War II in order to better accommodate modern offices and use a standardised neo-Georgian appearance with somewhat inappropriate details like the double row of windows at roof level.

The garden in the square is really large but is a rather unexciting landscape with grass, mature trees and a small pavilion in the shape of a Greek temple reminiscent of 18th century parks. The private owner saw no need to spend money on flower beds or amenities that could attract noisy, dirty or “inappropriate” activities. Discussions are ongoing to make the place a little more welcoming.

Ahead Upper Brook Street
R Park Street
L Oxford Street

Dinosaurs on Oxford Street


I cannot resist showing you a picture that you could not take now, showing dinosaurs in Oxford Street. It was a temporary attraction using an empty building lot while the developer was negotiating the conditions for a new shopping centre. The attraction was actually a good idea because there are not many places where you can show children real-size reconstitutions of actual dinosaurs.

MARBLE ARCH

Marble Arch Underground station


The station opened in 1900 together with the Underground line.

The original station building was demolished in 1932 and the main access is now an inconspicuous porch under an office building. The modest, ugly awning is nearly invisible below the ponderous decorative columns of the building.

Walk around Marble Arch into Hyde Park past Speakers’ Corner
Look at the park map and take the alley leading to the Reformers Tree

Marble Arch


The Marble Arch has a distinguished history, it was actually built as the state entrance to Buckingham Palace in 1827. When Queen Victoria moved into the palace with a large family, she needed significant construction works; the arch proved an obstacle and was relocated in 1851. This history explains why it is supposedly forbidden to drive or ride under it unless you are a Royal or his/her escort, as does happen on some state occasions.

Marble Arch gates


The arch is clearly an imitation of the triumphal arches built for Roman emperors but the original design was also very close to what Napoleon had had built for himself in Paris (the Carrousel arch). The decoration is not particularly impressive because the budget was quite exhausted in the 1820s; you may wish to look primarily at the iron gates designed in a rather nice neo-classical taste. I am not sure that it is the design from the 1820s but this is well possible.

Typical path in Hyde Park


Hyde Park and neighbouring Kensington Gardens constitute together the largest park in central London but there are some differences between them. Their origin is the same, they were a hunting park where King Henry VIII stocked deer. The two parks became separated in the 1730s when Queen Caroline had a lake landscaped in the middle of the hunting park. The eastern section was henceforth Hyde Park. It has extended open areas as well as lightly wooded sections and alleys run in straight lines in a radial pattern from either a central roundabout or the different gates. The large open spaces make Hyde Park convenient for some seasonal fairs and it was also used for large open-air concerts in the past. Notable rallies in recent years included political rallies against the war in Irak for example.


The section closest to Marble Arch was famous throughout the civilised world as the Speakers’ Corner, the one location where critical rallies could take place with limited interference from the police as long as reasonable limits were respected. Now that everyone can use the Internet to comment on current issues in whichever critical manner they like, the Speakers’ Corner has fallen in disuse.

Reformers Tree is just a location where several alleys cross but it is indeed linked to the Speakers’ Corner. A large tree grew here in the 19th century and had become the rallying point for protests. The “reform” was a demand in 1866 that Parliament should extend the right to vote to all male citizens (women being apparently considered inferior animals did not get the right to vote until nearly a century later, long after they had achieved it in New Zealand or Luxembourg). A mob got once out of control and burnt the tree down.

Turn then slightly L aiming for the dam of Serpentine Lake

Serpentine Lake


The Serpentine is not really a lake in the form of a serpent as there is just one mild long curve in the middle. The shape of the lake was considered excitedly novel at the time as baroque parks normally boasted strictly straight canals in order to enable sweeping perspectives like in Versailles. The lake was created in the 1730s and is now replenished by pumping water from wells. This is necessary in order to ensure the water remains clean and does not get overgrown with algae. The lake is used obviously for boating.


Serpentine solar boat

As a popular lake in central London, it was considered a perfect location to showcase an exciting novelty in the 2000s, a boat powered by solar cells. This innovation did not prove widely successful, solar panels remained much more expensive than diesel engines. The trend is probably going more towards electrical motors on boats as this enables feeding the motor batteries with power from whatever electricity source is cheaper depending on the weather and situation on the grid.

Serpentine boat shed


For leisure boats, there is a lovely small shed on the shore of the lake with wooden beams on the walls and a thatched roof. It is not the only cutesy amenity in Hyde Park, most public conveniences are nice pavilions reminiscent of some farm building in the countryside.

Conveniences in Hyde Park

Serpentine lido


On the opposite (south) side of the lake, you can see a sturdier building called Lansbury’s Lido after the gentleman who designed the amenity. The lido was created following repeated suggestions by clubs who wanted more opportunities to practice healthy sports in the open air. A particularly vocal club advocated swimming “in the state of nature”, a widespread recommendation among more progressive circles between the world wars, and this was indeed difficult to organise in existing lidos.

Lido seen from the other side of the lake


The lido opened in 1930 with a Unique Selling Proposition, it enabled men and women to swim in the same lake (but apparently not nude like the club had hoped), something that was not possible in other park lidos like on Hampstead Heath. Swimming in the lake is actually forbidden nowadays for hygienic reasons but the members of a swimming club headquartered in the lido are allowed to for a few hours at breakfast time.

R along the Serpentine
Ahead along the upper lake (The Long Water)

Long Water and Serpentine Bridge


The road with the bridge over the Serpentine is the limit between the Serpentine and the Long Water. The change in names reflects the fact that the Serpentine is part of Hyde Park while the Long Water is part of Kensington Gardens, originally the “house park” of the royal palace of Kensington. The Gardens are indeed enclosed and close at sunset while Hyde Park remains accessible in the evening. Because the Long Water belongs to the palace, there is one spot where you have a typical baroque perspective linking optically the glittering lake with the palace.

Perspective in Kensington Gardens

Ahead past the Italian Gardens for

LANCASTER GATE

Lancaster Gate Underground station


The station opened in 1900 together with the Underground line.

The original station building was demolished in 1968 and the main access is now a low glass structure with hardly an awning hidden within an outstandingly ugly technical building front belonging to a hotel. The cheap looking materials were fashionable in the 1960s when you did not want to use concrete for whatever reason.

Walk back towards the Italian Gardens, keeping the gardens on your left-hand side.

Italian Gardens in Kensington Gardens


The gardens were landscaped in the 1860s in this location where it was convenient to put fountains with the runoff feeding the Long Water. The design is very similar to the one that existed at Osborne House, the mansion on the Isle of Wight used by Queen Victoria during the summer holidays, and it is said that the garden was intended by Prince Albert to bring to London on a lasting basis the remembrance of the pleasant holiday season.

Italian Gardens with pomp house


The layout is rather simple, a series of basins with little fountains fed by a pump house hidden in the mock temple. There are no flower beds here as they tend to be rather ancillary in classical Italian gardens. You get instead a collection of neo-baroque urns and balustrades.

You might wish to check on the park map that my directions are clear enough.
Ahead along The Long Water until you reach the Peter Pan statue

Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens


The statue was commissioned in 1912 by Mr Barrie, the author of the well-known fairy tale. The writer lived in the neighbourhood and the first appearance of Peter Pan in his writings mentions that the boy lives in Kensington Gardens. The author actually suggested himself the appropriate location for the statue. The bronze figure is by George Frampton, a major sculptor actually better known for very serious and somewhat lifeless official monuments.

Peter Pan squirrel


This more playful work reflects the aesthetics of Art Nouveau, paying great attention to flowing shapes and seeking inspiration in everyday nature like the squirrel on the picture. The statue was very well received, probably because so many people just loved the book. Barrie himself was apparently less convinced, finding the boy not mischievous enough.

After the statue, leave the lake taking the alley in front of you towards the Serpentine Gallery (there should be a black signpost pointing the way)

Queen’s Temple in Kensington Gardens


On your way, you walk past the so-called Queen’s Temple. It is an important remnant of the original palace park from a time when parks were equipped with a number of pavilions where you could retire and relax with a pleasant view such as here towards the Serpentine. When Queen Caroline had the former hunting ground landscaped into a park in the 1730s, she selected this location for a summer pavilion.

Serpentine Gallery


Your path leads to Serpentine Gallery, a pavilion that looks historical but is an imitation from 1934. Since 1970, it is an art gallery managed by a foundation. The original endowment was provided by philanthropists, one of which proved seriously controversial. The Sackler family owes its financial resources to an American pharmaceutical company accused later like many in the sector of manipulating doctors and patients into using too many dangerously addictive products. Such ex-post criticism is a little too easy in my opinion and it would be more urgent to find a solution for the very real problems facing millions of Americans unable to pay for basic medical services.

Serpentine Gallery


The Serpentine Gallery has a long tradition of exciting shows of contemporary art, sometimes even involving some temporary additions to the building itself. As entrance is free, you could definitely have a look if an exhibition is on.

Continue past the Serpentine Gallery to the next crossing of paths
R along Flower Walk
While walking down the path, you can go on a short detour L to see Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial


Queen Victoria was only 42 when she lost her consort Prince Albert in 1861. When consulted on how he should best be remembered, she suggested a traditional memorial (rather than an award scheme like the Nobel Prize for example). It was paid by public suscription and took 10 years to complete due in part to the complex design of the neo-gothic spire. The design was fully in line with the fascination architects had at the time for gothic architecture and imitates to some extent medieval shrines. I took no pictures of the many figures depicted on the frieze but you can obviously have a closer look yourself.

The most pleasant statues are those depicting the four continents (Oceania was known but was not considered a continent in its own right). I like the details on the numerous figures but it is overall a very static and traditional representation, as was often the case in the 19th century. The figures devoted to Europe are particularly stern and regal, somehow not fitting too well with the bull despite the allegorical connection.

Europe
Egypt standing for Africa
America
Asia

Flower Walk in Kensington Gardens


Flower Walk is one of three displays of flowers in the Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens complex. One is near Hyde Park Corner, one in front of Kensington Palace and one is Flower Walk. Why the gardeners chose to plant the flowers along this long straight path I cannot tell as this is a rather unusual idea for a royal park. Apart from the flowers, you might also pay attention to the many trees lining the path. Some look like they are prevented from growing at full potential by having too many neighbours but there is an interesting variety of trees. The flower display is impressive as always in royal parks, I guess the pictures speak for themselves.

At the end of Flower Walk R all the way across Kensington Gardens

Queen Victoria in Kensington Gardens


I suggest you ignore the Round Pond on your right as you will have an opportunity to walk around it later on. On your left, the main attraction is a massive statue of Queen Victoria. It is quite interesting for having been sculpted by a daughter of the queen, Princess Louise, in 1893. The Queen was 74 by the time but is shown here as she appears on her coronation portrait aged 18. This may sound strange but the statue was commissioned on the occasion of the 1887 coronation jubilee, therefore the youthful appearance, and the princess had submitted an anonymous proposal to the design competition, so that no undue favoritism was involved. You might have read about Queen Cleopatra having a famous nose. It seems this statue also has one: it was damaged in 1945, redone in 1952 and remodeled again in 2012.

When you reach the end of the broad path, the station is just on your right on Bayswater Road

QUEENSWAY

Queensway Underground station


The station opened in 1900 together with the Underground line. It was called originally Queen’s Road and was renamed in 1946. The station gave rise in 2006 to one of the most egregious examples of mismanaged privatisation causing considerable problems: the Underground infrastructure company had been privatised and the Underground operator was dependant on it doing whatever works were agreed.

In the case of Queensway, the infrastructure company managed to delay the reopening of the station by more than a month, probably because of cutting corners with subcontractors and prioritising cost over timeliness. There was an obvious governance problem with five shareholders with differing interests (three building contractors, a water utility and an electricity utility) but at least four of them were accused of similar mismanagement of public contracts in other instances anyway. The infrastructure company had to be renationalised in 2008 at a considerable cost of over 400 million £.

The station is integrated within an office building like in Oxford Circus and is also the original design from 1900. The materials are different (stone instead of glazed tiles) but there is about as much somewhat disorderly decoration.

Turn back into Kensington Gardens on The Broad Walk

Kensington Gardens playground


Directly after the gate, you walk past a very large playground on your right. It has a superb wooden ship that is extremely popular with children – there is often a queue waiting for admission as the number of children inside is limited for safety reasons. Themed playgrounds have become more common over the last ten years or so but ships are clearly very top of the wish list for children. This is all the more striking as most children do not get ships to play with at home (a house, a garage or a space station are more typical). I would be interested to hear from a psychologist what the reason might be.

In order not to use the same the path you used before, you can turn afterwards L towards the Round Pond, then R around the pond until you can walk towards the palace

Round Pond in Kensington Gardens


The Round Pond was part of the improvements commissioned by Queen Charlotte in 1730. Located on a slightly higher part of the grounds, it offered nice perspectives in different directions, something considered very pleasing in baroque times. It is now very popular with model yacht owners as it is large enough but without risk of disturbance by actual rowing boats. By the way, it is actually not perfectly round, it is slightly oval.

After passing the Round Pond, walk along the southern fence of Kensington Palace (this is Studio Walk but there is no sign)

Kensington Palace from the back


I do not comment here on Kensington Palace, where you can spend an hour and significantly more visiting the palace and the lovely sunken garden, because I do so on my Circle line walk 1. I will just mention that the building on my picture is actually the reverse access to the palace. This annex was built over the years to house relatives of the royal family or persons honoured for services to the Crown. Obviously, some of the minor dukes and princes who lived here in the past became notorious for the one or other scandalous involvement, particularly in the 19th century.

Exit Kensington Gardens
R Palace Green (the tree-lined road)
Ahead Kensington Palace Gardens (actually the same road)

Villas on Kensington Palace Gardens


Nearly all the street is lined with large mansions used as embassies and diplomatic residences. One of the few non-diplomats who own a house here is business tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, majority shareholder of the largest listed steel company in the world, who paid 57 million £ for house number 18 back in 2004. You are free to walk along the street but policemen guard very carefully against terrorism risks. I did not dare take a picture of the mansions but they are actually not particularly remarkable. My pictures shows a few of the embassies seen from Kensington Gardens rather than from the road.

At the end L Notting Hill Gate

NOTTING HILL GATE

Notting Hill Gate Underground station


The station opened in 1868 together with the Circle Line. Deeper platforms for the Central Line opened in 1900.

The original station buildings have been demolished in the 1950s and the only thing you see at street level is an access staircase. The whole area was redeveloped at the time and this left us with ugly steel towers and concrete shopping parades. The area is not improved by the fact that Bayswater Road has extremely heavy traffic as it is one of the main access roads into central London from the West.

Soon after the station L in Hillgate Street

Theatre in Notting Hill Gate


At the corner of Hillgate Street with the main road, a lovely building houses the Coronet Theatre. It is an interesting building, having been built originally as a theatre in 1898. Many suburbs had theatres at the time but this particular one was not very successful because the local residents were close enough to prestigious shows in central London. It was therefore converted to a film theatre in the 1920s when this became the most popular form of entertainment.

The owner was a large chain who decided to demolish the building in 1972 in order to develop real estate as had been done around the Underground station, but local residents managed to convince the company to sell the property to an independent operator and later to a church who still let it be used at times to show films. It was finally bought by the present theatre company in 2014. It survived as a building despite the difficulty to operate it profitably because it is a listed monument due to the lovely Victorian decoration. It is particularly well proportioned and fits very nicely in the local landscape.

At the end R Kensington Place
Ahead Aubrey Walk, the road turns R

St George’s Notting Hill


The nice church of St George’s was built in 1864. It was clearly the time when neo-gothic was very fashionable but the architect seems to have been inspired also by Italian romanesque churches because both the shape of the tower and the gallery in front of the church are more romanesque than gothic.

R Campden Hill Square
L along the square
At the end L Holland Park Avenue

HOLLAND PARK

Holland Park Underground station


The station opened in 1900 together with the Underground line.

The station building is the most interesting of the present walk. It is the original Harry Bell Measures design and you recognise the cream tiles. The decoration is more subdued and more unified than at the other stations. Looking at the building, it is easy to imagine that it was actually planned as the ground floor of an office building, but no investor was found in this residential area and the Underground company was stuck with a flat corner building. The steel drum at the back of the building houses the lift machinery. Many stations have such a machine room but it is seldom visible and this one is particular well proportioned.

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