From Leake Street to Hounslow and Bethnal Green

Saturday, May 14th 2016

As we had no fixed plan for today, we could afford to follow up on whatever ideas came to mind as they occurred to us. The first idea was Waterloo and breakfast. Near Waterloo Station, in a street quaintly named Lower Marsh, is Marie’s Cafe which leads a slightly schizophrenic, but seemingly harmonious, existence as a Thai restaurant in the evening and an English greasy-spoon cafe by day. There we  breakfasted and, thus fortified, set out to see what we might see next.

Finding ourselves in Waterloo, we were of course irresistibly drawn to Leake Street, that curious passage that was once a thoroughfare but is now closed to traffic and has found a new destiny as the Graffiti Tunnel, a place where street artists may freely practise their art. We went down to see whether there was anything new. Here, below, is a selection of what we saw. I have given the artists’ names where I know them.

Airborne Mark (left) and Olivier Roubieux

This piece of wall is shared by two artists. On the left is a pistol fashioned from US banknotes by Airborne Mark who tends to include the tag ‘Origami Riots’ in his paintings, while on the right is a work by Olivier Roubieu, famous for his lyrical portraits of women.

Jane Mutiny aka Jane Laurie

In this painting  the word ‘LOVE’ is spelt with letters containing animals. It is by Jane Mutiny aka Jane Laurie, who tags her works with the phrase ‘LOVE WILDLIFE’ to remind us of the chronic danger of wildlife caused by our inconsiderate treatment of the environment.

Ceiling painting by unknown artist

I don’t know the name of the artist who painted this picture of two male figures on the ceiling of the tunnel. It was awkward enough photographing them and I shudder to think how uncomfortable it must have been to actually paint them.

Wall painting by unknown artist

This compact but flowing monochrome was painted by an artist unknown to me.

Painting by ELNO

This striking and colourful face with a somewhat hypnotic gaze is by ELNO, a Spanish artist currently resident in London.

Black Book by unknown

This humorously sinister face, decorated with a skull, is by an artist whose name I do not know. The painting in tagged ‘Black Book’, the term given to the sketchbook in which an artist draws the preliminary designs for a work.

Portrait by Keshone

The above dramatic portrait is by Keshone (which, I think, should be pronounced as though the second syllable is the numeral ‘one’) who, with Wilbo, forms the Krooked Heroes.

Ceramic by Chinagirl Tile

Chinagirl Tile is unusual among the street art throng in that she uses ceramic rather than paint. Her works often feature an animal accompanied by an object that contrasts with it, perhaps dramatically in some cases as here with the rabbit sitting beside a hand grenade.

Having finished our exploration of Leake Street, we reflected on where to go next. Somehow the idea of going to Hounslow presented itself. An advantage of this choice was that we could take a train there from Waterloo Station. So that’s what we did.

Hounslow is to the west of Greater London, of which it forms a part. The name is pronounced as you would expect from the way it is spelt, and is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon words hundes and lawe. The word lawe means a rise or mound, while hundes refers to dogs (‘hounds’). The name could therefore mean ‘mound/rise of dogs’ but some speculate that it could also refer to a man called Hund, whether this was his real name or a nickname. In that case, Hundeslawe would mean ‘Hund’s mound’. If so, what was his connection with the mound? Did he farm it? Or was it perhaps his burial mound? We can only speculate.

What did we find in Hounslow? If I am honest, not much. I don’t doubt that the citizens of Hounslow are fond of their town and know more about it than we could glean in a short visit. Perhaps too, we missed all the best bits. On the day, though, we found little to detain us. Here below are a few things I noticed.

Early 19th-century house
Early 19th-century house

Notice on the gate

According to lettering on its front door, this house is at number 1 Whitton Road. If that is correct, then, together with number 3 (not visible in the photo), it is a Grade II listed building and is described by Historic England as dating from the early 19th century. It is a sober though comely house. Currently residential, it was at some point the offices of a firm of solicitors, to judge from the somewhat tetchy notice posted on the gate. (See left.) Enter who dares.

Parish Church of the Holy Trinity
Parish Church of the Holy Trinity

We discovered the parish church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, with the war memorial beside it. The church management claims that the church’s history dates back to 1211 but this is a little misleading. What was built in 1211 was the chapel of the Holy Trinity Priory which would, of course, have been Catholic. After the Reformation, the chapel became the property of the  manor who allowed for limited use of it by parishioners of Isleworth and Heston who lived locally. In 1816, it was bought by the vicar of Heston who rebuilt it in 1828. It became the church of the parish of Hounslow when this was created in 1835. The present church was built in 1983 after the vicar of Heston’s church was burned down, apparently by two schoolboys.

Angels over the door
Angels over the door

Over the door of the church is a large sculpture of two angles who appear to be dancing. The design is rather modern and stylized (in harmony with the general design of the church) but it seems to have suffered somewhat from weathering. I can find no reference to the sculptor though there must have been one.

Treaty Centre
Treaty Centre

What rejoices in the rather unusual name of Treaty Centre is in fact the local shopping complex. I have not been able to find out the origin of the name and it intrigues me. The façade of the centre is boldly and unashamedly Mock Tudor (or even Mock Mock-Tudor) but it could have been worse if certain modern architects had been let loose on it.

Bath Road Gospel Hall
Bath Road Gospel Hall

My last Hounslow photo is of this sweet little building, called the Bath Road Gospel Hall. I have no idea what flavour of religion it supports or what activities take place here but it seems well looked after and in good order. I haven’t found any historical information on it and though it is referred to the local council’s Bath Road Car Park Planning Brief, the authors seem confused as to its origins, assigning it on one occasion to the late 19th century and on another to the early 20th century. Happily, it seems that there are no plans to demolish it.

Bethnal Green Fire Station
Bethnal Green Fire Station

Our next idea carried us by bus to Bethnal Green. The London Fire Service  station in Roman Road was having an open day and members of the public could freely enter, look around at the exhibits, and be told interesting facts and stories by the firefighters on site.

Wrecked car
Wrecked car

On show were vehicles, protective suits and various kinds of equipment. There were a couple of wrecked cars on show as reminders that fire crews not only put out fires but also have a role in search and rescue when people are trapped in collapsed buildings or damaged vehicles.

The fire dog
The fire dog

Perhaps my favourite ‘exhibit’ was the ‘fire dog’. He was young, energetic and full of fun and enthusiasm. According to his handler, he loves working and gets excited when they put on his special boots whose purpose is to protect his feet from broken glass and other sharp hazards found on the site of a fire. Dogs have an investigatory role in the fire service because their highly developed sense of smell allows them to detect the presence of substances that it would take much longer to find using other means. For example, a dog can quickly discover the presence of accelerants – indicating that the fire had been started deliberately.

Like many districts of London, Bethnal Green was once a rural village that was later swallowed by the expanding metropolis. In the earliest known records, the name appears as variations on Blithehale and this has suggested a derivation from the Anglo-Saxon words healh and blíð. The latter means ‘happy’ (‘blithe’) or possibly refers the personal name Blida, while healh is a word of somewhat uncertain meaning, possibly signifying ‘hall’ or a building of some kind. This has led to suggested renderings of the name such as ‘Happy place’ and ‘Blida’s Hall’. We cannot be more certain than that.

Church of St John on Bethnal Green
Church of St John on Bethnal Green

Where Roman Road meets an important thoroughfare called Cambridge Heath, stands the Church of St John on Bethnal Green. We had seen it from the outside on numerous occasions and today decided to take a look inside.

Interior of St John's Church
Interior of St John’s Church

This Grade I listed church was built in 1824-5 (Historic England) or 1826-8 (the church’s own Website) to a design by Sir John Soane, though with later additions. It features galleries on either side of the nave, presumably as a means of separating the rich from the poor.

Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child

St John’s seems comparatively ‘high church’ to judge from signs such as this colourful effigy of the Virgin and Child, complete with candle rack, and the recently commissioned set of Stations of the Cross painted by Chris Gollon.

In the tower
In the tower

As the staircase to the tower was open to the public, we decided to go up. We reached the first level where there is what I might describe as an exhibition space. That was the end of our journey because, to go any further…

Ladder to the tower
Ladder to the tower

…we would have had to climb up this ladder, something we preferred not to do. In any case, it was probably not open to the public, anyway.

Pro-Consul (John Negroponte)
Pro-Consul (John Negroponte)
May Ayres

At the bottom of the staircase we found this sculpture by May Ayres. Its official title is Pro-Consul but it portrays the American envoy and ambassador, John Negroponte. If you think the representation is somewhat sinister, then you are right because that is intentional. Negroponte is, shall we say, a controversial figure to human rights supporters. Affixed to the wall behind the sculpture is a printed sheet describing the work and providing background information. I will quote just the first paragraph:

Pro-Consul
(School of the Americas)
2010

The seated figure is John Negroponte who served as US ambassador to Honduras in the 1980’s and earned a reputation for ignoring widespread human rights abuses and campaigns of terror in Honduras. Negroponte was known in Honduras as the Pro-Consul, a title given to powerful administrators in colonial times.
He was appointed US ambassador to Iraq in 2004 following the 2003 invasion of that country and presided over the largest US embassy in the world, manned by thousands of employees, fortified within the Green Zone in Bagdad.

The columns themselves depict victims of empire, most;y unnamed and unknown but include Margaret Hassan, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Sister Dianne Ortiz.

There are plenty of references to John Negroponte online if you wish to form your own assessment of the man and his role in world affairs.

On this sombre note, our outing concluded and we found a bus to take us home.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Art and about 2

Sunday, May 8th 2016

Following on from my first Art and about post, here is a further selection of street art seen on our rambles. As before they are dated but uncommented.

Sunday, May 1st 2016
(Leake Street)

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Street art

Wednesday, May 4th 2016
(Shoreditch)

Street art

Sunday, May 8th 2016
(Croydon)

Street art in Croydon

Street art in Croydon

Street art in Croydon

Street art in Croydon

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 6 Comments

Brighton and Kemp Town

Saturday, May 7th 2016

The weather was sunny and warm and we hadn’t been to Brighton for a while so that seemed to be a good destination for today’s outing. When we reached ‘the queen of watering places’1, we found the city alive with football supporters and I assume that Brighton & Hove Albion were playing at home. We spent the day dodging the crowds of supporters, tourists and day-trippers and this determined, in part, why we wandered off to the east and visited areas we had not seen before.

Sir Nigel Gresley
Sir Nigel Gresley
Hazel Reeves, 2016

We were going to catch a train from St Pancras but passed through its neighbouring station, King’s Cross, on the way. There we found a new addition to the decor. This very lifelike (if slightly larger than life-size) statue of Sir Nigel Gresley had been unveiled on April 5th this year. It was sculpted by Hazel Reeves and commemorates the engineer who designed a number of famous steam locomotives including the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard, the fastest steam locomotive in the world. As chief engineer for the Great Northern Railway and then the London and North Eastern Railway, Sir Nigel worked in an office on this station. You will find more about him here.

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed the row of four toy ducks on the ground beside him. This is a small but colourful protest. Sir Nigel used to breed waterfowl – hence the name, Mallard, of his famous creation – and the statue was originally intended to be accompanied by a mallard duck standing just to Sir Nigel’s right. Two of his grandsons apparently considered the presence of the duck ‘demeaning’ and for that reason it was omitted from the final installation. A protest has been mounted against this decision and in favour of restoring the duck to its intended position. You will find details (and an opportunity to sign a petition, should you be moved to do so) here. Personally, I think the duck is a nice touch and I hope it regains its place.

Brighton Street art
Street art in Gloucester Road

We first did a quick tour of some of the areas where we know street artists have been active in Brighton. Here are a few of the paintings seen.

Brighton street art
Street art in Trafalgar Lane
Signed by Dahkoh, The Real Dill, Tony Boy, Captain Kris and Obit

Street art Brighton
Street art in Trafalgar Lane
Signed by Snub23

Brighton street art
Street art in Kensington Street

My favourite, partly because it is of an animal and partly because of its apparent whimsicality, is the one below. (Unfortunately, I do not know the identity of the artist.)

Brighton street art
Camelopardalis
Trafalgar Lane

This painting depicts a rather odd-looking giraffe with what resembles a camel’s hump. I think we have to take it together with two other items on the wall. Firstly, there are words to the right of the giraffe’s chest, ‘The Camelopardalis or Giraffe’. This reads rather like a label on a specimen in a museum. Next is the poster advertising an exhibition by Brighton Museum called Exotic Creatures. The exhibition was on the theme of Royal menageries and zoos and mentions the first live giraffe to reach Britain, a gift to George IV by the Pasha of Egypt in 1826. These three items fit together to suggest a work inspired by the exhibition but there’s slightly more to it than that. I serendipitously discovered tweets by Alexandra Loske in which she shows that the painting is based on a woodcut by Thomas Bewick and is one of the illustrations in his 1790 book, A General History of Quadrupeds (see here). It seems clear that Bewick had never actually seen a giraffe and was working from written or verbal accounts – and hence what I perceived as the ‘whimsical’ character of the picture. (This is an example of how consideration of works of street art often draw us into hidden depths!)

Rock Ola, a retro coffee bar
Rock Ola, a retro coffee bar
with adjoining record shop

It was time for a rest and refreshments. Passing along Tidy Street, we chanced upon the Rock Ola coffee bar and I am very glad we did. The cafe’s furnishings and decor are all of the 50s and 60s, with an American flavour. Adjoining the cafe is a record shop accessible through a door in the cafe itself.

Some of the knick-knacks
Some of the knick-knacks

You could, I think, spend hours examining the fascinating collection of pictures and knick-knacks lining the walls. At present there seems to be something of a vogue for recreations a classic American diners and we have visited a couple ourselves (see, for example, Trinity Buoy Wharf), but this one has a character all of its own.

A bolder than average gull
A bolder than average gull

Where Tidy Street meets Gloucester Road is an area that is busy on Saturdays with stalls and sightseers. We there encountered a herring gull. Though gulls have become used to prospecting and scavenging in areas where there are people, they are much more cautious than pigeons, for example, and tend to keep their distance (apart from the occasional piratical grab at food in someone’s hand!). This one, though, seemed bolder than most and I was able to approach quite close to take a photo.

The Chatfield Drinking Fountain
The Chatfield Drinking Fountain

Near St Peter’s Church, we found the Chatfield Drinking Fountain. I’m a littkle ashamed to say I did not previously know of its existence, though it has been around for 145 years. It is a Grade II listed building but seems to have suffered damage of late: the metal plates shown to be present on earlier photos are now missing, presumably stolen by metal thieves.

Surmounted by an obelisk, the fountain has two basins for humans to drink from, two curved troughs for cattle and horses (now used as planters) and some lower troughs for smaller animals. The fountain is listed by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association so was presumably commissioned by them though it was paid for and gifted to the town in 1871 by Frederick Chatfield. A note by the MDFCTA indicates that it was originally flanked by four gas lamps. It would in its time have been a handsome and useful piece of street furniture and it deserves to be better looked after than is currently the case.

The Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

The Prince Regent (later George IV) may have been a spendthrift, a glutton and many other things, but his self-centred passions have left us an inestimable treasure in his ‘summer cottage’, the exotic oriental Royal Pavilion. We did not visit it today, as we usually do, and so I made do with  photographing it from a distance (the only way you can capture all of it, anyway).

Redroaster Coffe House
Redroaster Coffe House

It was a very warm day and by the time we reached the lower end of St James’s Street, we were ready for a rest and a drink. We entered the coffee house with the colourful name of Redroaster. It was crowded but we found a table free. Normally I dislike crowded places but the Redroaster has a pleasant atmosphere and the high ceiling helps to make it feel roomy. We drank coffee and I took this scan shot of the interior.

We progressed up St James’s Street, which contains an intriguing mix of shops and eateries. In fact we stopped at one of the latter for lunch. St James’s Street also takes you into the heart of Kemp Town.

To the west of Brighton is Hove, which, though now forming a single continuous conurbation with Brighton, is really a separate town in its own right with its own character. Though less well known, Kemp Town occupies a similar position on the eastern side of Brighton. Kemp Town was originally developed in the 19th century by Thomas Read Kemp, from whom it takes it name, but has grown much since then. Some distinguish Kemp Town (two words), the original development, from Kemptown (one word), the expanded modern district.

We had not visited Kemp Town, or Kemptown, before, so this was our first brief look. Perhaps we will come back another time to see more of it.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Kemp Town
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Kemp Town

We arrived at the Church of St Mary the Virgin to the sound of music. This year’s Brighton Fringe is currently in progress (May 6th to June 5th) and the South London Jazz Orchestra was rehearsing in the church. The music was (to my ears) cacophonous but the church was magnificent. Unsurprisingly, it has Grade II* listed status.

St Mary the Virgin, interior
St Mary the Virgin, interior

Designed in Gothic Revival style by William Emerson, the church was built in an 18-month period from 1877 to 1878.

The font The font
The font

The church was never completed. The projected budget of £12,000 proved to be a gross underestimate – the final cost was £20,000 – and as a result certain planned features were never realized. Perhaps the most important of these was the large tower intended for the north-west corner which never came into being.

Sussex Dairy premises
Sussex Dairy premises

A shop with the rather incongruous name, The Boozy Cow, inhabits a building with Grade II listed status. Originally, the premises was a house, built in the early to middle 19th century but in early 20th, the Sussex Dairy Company took it over and pebble dashed  the upper storeys, implanting the company name and a panel showing a cow with two roundels. Placed fore and aft of the cow, they each contain a Tudor rose and an inscription, ‘Established 1860’ and ‘Rebuilt 1904’, respectively. 1860 is presumably the date when the Sussex Dairy Company was founded and 1904 the year when the house was converted into the company premises (though Historic England dates this event to 1908). As far as I know, the Sussex Dairy Company has disappeared, perhaps bought out by others, leaving thid nostalgic historic trace behind it.

Former Bristol Street Methodist Church
Former Bristol Street Methodist Church

This building no longer shows any sign, apart from the general design, of its religious past. It was built in 1873, designed by Thomas Lainson, and was known as the Bristol Street Methodist Church, one of six in the general area. It continued in its original purpose until 1989 when it closed as a church and was converted into a recording studio. At present it belongs to Brighton College, though for what purpose I do not know.

Brighton College
Brighton College

In Eastern Road we came upon this lengthy façade, much too long to be photographed comfortably in its entirety, given the relative narrowness of the street. This is part – an impressive part – of Brighton College, the first public school to be set up in the county of Sussex.

The college was founded in 1845 and this building was completed in two stages, 1848-66 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and 1883-7 by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.

Gateway and Tower
Gateway and Tower

I believe that the handsome gateway was the work of Jackson. Though the design is obviously all of a piece, the sharper-eyed among you may notice that the fabric of the upper part is of a slightly different hue from that of the lower part. The reason for that is that the gateway was not completed in 1837 but went up only as far as the first set of windows above the arches. Work ceased at that point for lack of sufficient funds to continue. Funding having become available, the work was finally completed in November 2014, 127 years later.

Church of St George the Martyr
Church of St George the Martyr

I had time only to take a quick photo of the exterior of this rather shoebox-shaped church. Dedicated to St George the Martyr and built in 1824-5, it was designed by Charles Augustin Busby who was commissioned by Thomas Kemp himself to build a church for his new estate. The interior is probably quite interesting but we had to leave it for another time. The building has been given a Grade II listing.

Former Sassoon Mausoleum
Former Sassoon Mausoleum

Our final discovery turned our to be a fascinating piece of exotica. Looking somewhat like a fragment that has fallen off the Royal Pavilion, this building would not look too out of place near that palace where other examples of Eastern-inspired Regency architecture still survive but it seems misplaced out here in the relatively ‘new’ Kemp Town.

Next door to it in a more conventional row of houses is what used to be a pub called The Hanbury Arms and the building under discussion was for a while known as the Hanbury Ballroom. Now, though, both the pub and the onetime ballroom have been absorbed into a new entity called Proud Cabaret. Of course, none of this explains how the building came into existence in the first place.

For this we have to go back to the last decades of the 1800s when Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon (1818-96), a wealthy  businessman, settled in Britain and bought a house in Eastern Terrace. It was he who built this structure in 1892 as a mausoleum for himself and his descendants. He was indeed buried therein upon his death in 1896 and his son, Edward, joined him there in 1912. In 1933, however, Sassoon’s grandson, Sir Philip, sold the property and the bodies were transferred to new accommodations in London.

Paston Place entrance
Paston Place entrance

During WWII, the structure was used as an air-raid shelter and later was bought by the Kemp Town Brewery which turned it into the Bombay Bar, whose name can still be seen above the Paston Place entrance. What would Sir Albert Sassoon think of that?

Brighton seafront and pier
Brighton seafront and pier

Paston Place leads down to Madeira Drive which overlooks the sea. While waiting for a bus to begin our journey home, I took this somewhat hazy view along the seafront with the pier in the background.

Though I lived my early life in Brighton and have returned numerous times, I continue to make new discoveries and hope to make more in days to come.

________

1An oft quoted epithet first coined by Horace Smith (1779-1849) in Horace in London, Book 1, Ode IV.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , | 4 Comments