Saturday, March 10th 2018
The weather has continued cold with intervals of very cold, and this has proved a disincentive to wandering the streets. Today we made the effort, however, largely because Tigger had an Idea in Mind. As usual, I did not enquire what this was but waited for it to materialize. The first item on the agenda, though, as usual, was breakfast.
We went first to King’s Cross Station and looked around at what was on offer. There were several choices but we eventually plumped for Giraffe on the upper level in the departures hall. Unlike most branches of Giraffe, where you are served at your table by waiters, in King’s Cross you order and pay at the counter and are given a number on a stalk to stand on your table. Waiters then bring your items to you. This is perhaps a more efficient way of serving large numbers of people, many of whom are in a hurry, having trains to catch. Through the window, you can glimpse the famous tree-like support for the roof of the departures hall.
In the old days, both departing and arriving passengers all passed to and from the platforms in what is now the arrivals-only hall but in 2012 a splendid new departures hall was opened which attracted admiring comment for its unusual system of roof support. Instead of supporting the roof with pillars which would have obstructed movement, an overarching tree structure was created which left the area beneath it unencumbered. At certain times, the ‘trunk’ and ‘branches’ of the tree are illuminated with lights that change colours. I wrote a post on the new departures hall soon after it opened to the public – see A look at new King’s Cross.
After breakfast, we took a bus to Willesden Green. I used to live in Willesden Green but that was a long, long time ago. The area feels much the same as it did then and most of the buildings are the same but so much has changed that, for me, visiting it is like being in a place I have not seen before.
Like many London suburbs, Willesden’s main streets are lined with Victorian and Edwardian houses and shops. The sometimes garish modernized shop fronts and signs contrast oddly with the sober but elegant design of the buildings of which they are part. Not all buildings have a visible date like the one above, but where they do appear, one can often trace the development of an area by the dates that gradually change from one end to the other.
The original Willesden Library was built in 1894 and extended in the 1970s. That extension has been replaced by another one, using the car park for extra space. Happily, the Victorian library has been preserved.
It’s good to see a public library surviving and thriving when so many have been closed down.
Next to the library and separated from it by a path or road is an apartment block. I think this was created jointly with the new library extension.
In Sidmouth Road, we discovered this topiary cat’s head in front of an apartment block. It was obviously created and continues to be maintained by someone who has a talent for that kind of thing.
I was intrigued by this building on the corner of Sidmouth Road and Donnington Road. At first glance, I thought it was a single-occupancy dwelling and wondered whether it had once been a pub. Closer inspection, however, showed that it accommodates several apartments or maisonettes. Quite how they all fit together, I don’t know.
The corner block is part of a row of houses stretching along Donningtom Road that are all similarly styled. I don’t know when they were built but I would guess that they are Edwardian. (Just a guess, mind!)
We stopped to photograph these two cats sitting together on a garden wall. We spoke to them but neither showed any interest in responding. The tabby kept a watchful eye on us (though not evincing either interest or concern) but the black and white avoided eye contact and looked only at the tabby. When the latter moved to a new resting place, the black and white followed as though attached by invisible strings.
194B Chamberlayne Road (right next to the Constitutional Club) is, I think, an unlikely location for a cinema but there is one, the Lexi Cinema. to give it is name. I don’t know how long it has been a cinema or what the building was originally. I suspect it might have been a chapel or a church hall but can find no evidence of its past life. Fans speak enthusiastically of the Lexi which, as well as showing films and hosting ‘events’, is also a charitable organization. devoting all of its profits to good causes. For more information, visit the Lexi’s Website.
Chamberlayne Road is quite long and seems even longer when, on a not very warm day, you are walking down it looking for something and are not sure where it is. What we were looking for was Tigger’s Idea in Mind. We found it at last and sampled its wares but I am not going to name it because it made us cross and we vowed not to go there again.
I will just say that it is a cafe bar purporting to sell food of a certain (European) ethnicity which was what had attracted Tigger to it in the first place. We ordered coffee and chips with mayonnaise (one of its ‘ethnic’ menu items). The chips were, frankly, a let-down and not at all of the quality of those that they were supposed to emulate (and with which we are quite familiar, having visited their supposed country of origin on several occasions). There were one or two other irritations that I won’t bother you with and then, to cap it all, a waitress came and in surly tones announced that our able was reserved and we must leave. Yes, just like that. We politely pointed out that there was no card indicating that the table was reserved nor had any other staff mentioned the fact to us. This cut no ice and we were summarily dismissed.
Maybe the waitress was having a bad day but even so I do not think that such rudeness is justified. Had we been approached politely and with consideration then we would have responded accordingly and might have returned on other occasions. As it is, we have been left with a bad impression of the establishment and will not return, much less recommend it to others.
Continuing along Chamberlayne Road, we came upon what is now called the Manor School. From 1870 to 1904 or so, there was a programme of school building in London and many of those schools still remain extant today, still in use as schools, albeit refurbished and extended. Such schools usually have a built-in panel showing the year of completion and the name of the London School Board, which was responsible for creating them. Manor School looks very much like one of the LSB’s productions but I could not find any identifying panel. Reading between the lines, I think it may have been built in 1904 and was then called Chamberlayne Wood Primary School, though I am open to correction (or confirmation!). It nice to see this substantial structure, with its separate doors inscribed ‘GIRLS’ and ‘BOYS’, still performing as a school 114 years after it first opened.
At one end of the site is this little gem of a building, finished in the same style of the school and labelled on the gable as ‘CARETAKER’S RESIDENCE’. The TV aerial on the roof (impossible for the original builders to have imagined) suggests that the handsome cottage, like the school, still serves its original purpose.
Houses like these are no longer in fashion but I like them. They are solidly build and have a small amount of discreet decoration. I can forgive the ‘Tudorbethan’ woodwork on the gables! From what period do they date? I don’t know but suppose they are early 20th century, perhaps Edwardian or post Great War.
We made our way to a bus stop to start our journey home but first, there was that church on the corner…
Though obviously intended as a local church of modest capacity, it has a rather striking spire. These days it is known as the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration but, designed by the Bradford architect W.G. Morley, it started life in 1899 as a Methodist Church, under what name I do nor know. Presumably the Methodists declined in numbers and could no longer keep it up. The Catholics have had it since 1977 and gave it a major refurbishment in 2010.