We started the day by taking the bus to Camden Town for breakfast. The plan was to go to Bar Solo in Inverness Street, as we have often enjoyed their excellent breakfasts and hadn’t been there for a while. Naturally, we dawdled along the way…
Camden Town is an amazing place and now known worldwide for its markets. Specializing in modern and alternative, it is flexible enough to deal in antiques too.
While Camden Market is an obvious target for the market lover, there are others.
There is Inverness Street, smaller, but with an interesting range of clothes and other goods, as well as a string of cafes with distinct personalities – which is where we find Bar Solo.
Then there is Camden Lock, beside the Regent’s Canal, as big as some town centres, selling everything from second-hand books through jewellery and clothes to all sorts of exotic items, and with cafes, bars and restaurants and open-air food stalls if you need rest and refreshment.
Apart from these markets, the whole of the upper end of Camden High Street is one big market, with open-fronted shops rather than stalls. The crowds testify to its popularity. Just take care crossing the road…
There are more fads and fashions on display in Camden Town than you could shake a copy of Vogue at. The emphasis is on youth and alternative.
On the bridge over the canal, there was even a town crier today, who with the aid of bell and bugle, cried out his announcements and posed for photographs.
When we reached Bar Solo, we found it altered. The decor was different and the atmosphere had changed. The breakfast was similar to what it used to be, but seemed like an imitation rather than the genuine article. Sadly, I don’t think we shall return.
After breakfast, we passed Arlington House, a huge building with a beautiful doorway. Built in 1905, this was one of the Rowton Houses, a set of hostels for homeless men, created by the philanthropist, Montagu William Lowry, Lord Rowton. This is the last Rowton House still operating as a hostel and it has a remarkable history behind it.
Along the way, we suddenly came upon a gruesome sight: an execution by hanging!
Further inspection revealed that the victim was a large teddy bear. Even so, I imagine that could be quite an upsetting sight to a child.
The site of the “execution” is a pub once called the Devonshire Arms (the original sign is still in place), which became a famous Goth pub for a number of years. I am told it has moved on since then and become more “alternative”, whatever that means exactly. Probably not a place to go if you happen to be a teddy bear.
Next, we went to the Barbican to visit the Museum of London, which is always an entertaining place to go. The site includes the residential Barbican Estate, the Barbican Arts Centre and the Museum. You access the Museum along a first-floor walkway which offers views of the inner courtyard of the estate and of the 1920s Ironmongers’ Hall, sadly squeezed by the proximity of new building.
The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. Known originally as the Ferroners, the Ironmongers received their Royal Charter in 1463.
The Museum of London, in which photography (without flash) is allowed, is a wonderful place to visit. It has all sorts of exhibits from the glass-case kind through models and mock-ups to free standing objects like the above clock.
In the museum, you can follow a theme – such as Roman Britain or Social and Working History – or you can browse and look at whatever catches your eye. The following photos show a few of those that caught mine.
This figure, from a niche on the front of Basing Hall, represents Gerard the Giant, said to have dwelt therein. John Strype, the 18th century historian, reports being shown a pole 40 feet long and 15 inches in girth as the Giant’s jousting staff. He not unnaturally regarded this assertion with some scepticism.
Interactive displays, which are touch sensitive, prove an excellent way of communicating information with text and pictures. Users can choose their own path through the data and study the topic deeply or briefly.
This model provides a scale reproduction of a street of houses in exquisite detail. (There is inevitably some reflection off the protective Perspex screen.
Wren’s St Paul’s was completed in 1710, after considerable discussion, not to say argument, over possible designs. In semi-darkness, this model floated into view like a ghost.
On show too, is this luxurious and magnificent coach, dating from 1765, that is still used by the Lord Mayor of the City of London for ceremonial occasions, notably during the procession associated with the annual Lord Mayor’s Show. The coach was paid for by the aldermen of the City and cost £1,065, about £120,000 in today’s value.
In November (see A Saturday Walk), I reported seeing and photographing the coach in action.
Before returning home, we took tea in the museum cafe and had a good rummage in the museum shop which, among other things, sells a very good range of books on the history of London.