‘Inky’ Stephens’ House

Thursday, April 26thth 2018

Dr. Henry Stephens, inventor of the indelible ‘blue-black writing fluid’, the ink used by generations of businessmen, civil servants, schoolboys and just about everyone else capable of wielding a pen, in 1844 moved his family to Grove House in Ballards Lane, Finchley, where he could use the outbuildings for experimentation and the manufacture of his famous product.

Upon Dr Stephens’ sudden death in 1864, his son, Charles Henry ‘Inky’ Stephens, took over the running of the business, being already conversant with the manufacture and marketing of the ink. In 1874, having married, he bought Avenue House, a Victorian mansion set in extensive grounds. Stephens set about renovating and enlarging the house and having the gardens restyled by the horticulturist and garden designer Robert Marnock. In his will, Stephens bequeathed the house and gardens to ‘the people of Finchley’ and today it is run by a charitable trust. The grounds are open to the public.

'Inky' Stephens' House
‘Inky’ Stephens’ House

We visited Avenue House and gardens under the misapprehension that the house could be visited. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It can be hired as a venue for weddings, conferences, etc. but not visited.

View of the gardens
View of the gardens

We took a stroll in the gardens which are beautifully set out and maintained. Stephens’ generosity has provided Finchley, and indeed the wider public, with a fine park.

Tree sculpture
Tree sculpture

We found this sculpture that seems to have been carved from the remains of a tree. There was no panel giving the name of the sculptor, just a notice that had slid down onto the ground, reading ‘WET PAINT DO NOT TOUCH’.

The Stables
The Stables

As you would expect in such a property, there was a large building that once served as stables. No horses or grooms are to be found within these days, though.

The Cafe
The Cafe

Instead, the stables have been converted into a very pleasant cafe, just the place to rest and take refreshment after exploring the grounds.

A conversation with Spike
A conversation with Spike
John Somerville, 2014

Near the cafe is this artwork by John Somerville, created as a monument to the comedian Spike Milligan who died in 2002. Entitled A conversation with Spike, it takes the form of a bench, one side of which is occupied by an effigy of Spike Milligan and the other is left free so that, if you wish, you may sit beside the comedian and engage him in imaginary conversation. I am uncertain whether this is amusing or somewhat macabre. The figures carved into the bench represent various episodes of Spike’s life and the shows in which he took part. Spike was a resident of Finchley and president of the Finchley Society which commissioned this memorial.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Brompton Cemetery

Tuesday, April 24th 2018

We started with breakfast at the branch of Leon’s on King’s Cross Station. From there we took to the tube and disembarked at Barons Court Station.

Barons Court Station
Barons Court Station

The tube’s official name is the Underground Railway, but much of it in fact lies above ground. This map shows the system’s open-air sections and I think these are far more extensive than many people realize. If you are travelling from west to east along the Piccadilly or District lines, Barons Court is the last station above ground before you plunge into the tunnels of Central London.

Although the District Railway (now called the District Line) had been established in 1874, the area that is now called Barons Court1 was mainly rural and no need was felt for a station. It was not until 1905 that a station was opened here. It was designed by Harry Ford and features, among other delights, terra cotta facings and Art Nouveau lettering. The station is Grade II listed and the Details section of Historic England’s listing text provides a full description.

Brompton Cemetery on the map
Brompton Cemetery on the map
(Click for Bing Map)

From the station we walked to our destination which was Brompton Cemetery, whose location is shown on the above map. Click on it for the corresponding Bing Map.

Brompton Cemetery is one of what are known as London’s Magnificent Seven Cemeteries which were created from 1832 to 1840 because the capital’s local churchyard burial grounds were becoming overcrowded. The seven are:

Kensal Green Cemetery (1832)
West Norwood Cemetery (1836)
Highgate Cemetery (1839)
Abney Park Cemetery (1840)
Nunhead Cemetery (1840)
Brompton Cemetery (1840)
Tower Hamlets Cemetery, 1841

We visited Nunhead Cemetery in April last year (see Nunhead Cemetery)  though at that time I had not realized its importance as a member of this august group of burial grounds.

Though the main function of a burial ground is to dispose of the dead, they serve other purposes as well. Many are now classed as parks and offer oases of greenery and calm amid the bustle and noise of the city. They also provide valuable refuges for wild life.

Below are some of the photos I took during our visit. Explanations and captions seem as I think the views speak for themselves. A number of famous people are buried here but I have not bothered to find them or feature their tombs.

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompron Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompron Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Crow, Brompton Cemetery

Grey squirrel, Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

________

1If you are wondering why Barons Court – unlike, say, King’s Cross – appears without an apostrophe, then you may care to read Earl’s Court Or Earls Court? A London Apostrophe Guide by the Londonist.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A look at Dartford

Monday, April 23rd 2018

Dartford on the map
Dartford in relation to London
(Click for Bing Map)

Dartford lies in the county of Kent beside the River Darent  from which it is said to take its name, there having been a ford where the settlement grew up. Thus ‘Darent Ford’ became ‘Dartford’.

Façade of Dartmouth Station
Façade of Dartmouth Station

The railway reached Dartford in 1849 and an Italianate station was build to receive it but the station was rebuilt in 2012-3 which accounts for the rather anodyne fish-tank appearance of it today.

Dartford Footbridge
Dartford Footbridge

From the station we set off on foot to explore. A short distance beyond the station we encountered the footbridge but we took the steps instead.

The High Street
The High Street, looking towards Holy Trinity Church

We found ourselves in the High Street, a long street of shops running through the heart of Dartford, now happily pedestrianized.

Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church

At the eastern end of the High Street, resting upon the bank of the Darent, is Dartford’s parish church, Holy Trinity. The original church is said to have been built by Bishop Gundulf in 1080, possibly replacing an earlier Anglo-Saxon church. The Normans added a lot to it and there were further alterations over the next few centuries. It retains a somewhat castle look which derives, I imagine, from the Normans.

Dartford Museum
Dartford Museum

This pretty façade contains the entrance to Dartford Museum. Entering Dartford Central Park to the right of the building, we find a rather similar view.

Dartford Library
Dartford Library

This façade contains the entrance to Dartmouth Public Library. As you have probably guessed, the museum and the library are both part of a single building and there is an interior doorway joining them. The library was opened in 1916 and subsequently extended and the museum came to join it a for years later.

Ceiling dome
Ceiling dome

The library has a decorative cupola and inside this corresponds to a handsome ceiling dome.

Dartford War Memorial
Dartford War Memorial

In the park, the War Memorial stands upon a grassy mound. It was unveiled in 1922 in honour of those who gave their lives in the First World War but, sadly, it had to be modified in due course to record the fallen of the Second World War and the Korean War. The figure was sculpted by Arthur G. Walker, R.A.

High Street, looking east

High Street, looking west

We found ourselves back in the High Street where I took the above photos, looking east (upper) and west (lower).

Decorative façade
Decorative façade

This building caught my attention because of its elaborately decorated façade. I don’t have a date for it but suppose it is Victorian. The ground floor has been ‘modernized’ but the upper floors remain as original. I believe the building was once occupied by a bank and building society.

'Tudorized' building
‘Tudorized’ building

I photographed this, not because I like it but because I was bemused by the half-hearted attempt to ‘Tudorize’ it. I don’t think it ever was a Tudor building, though its history has been obscured by alterations, leaving a rather sad ‘neither one thing nor the other’ mongrel.

Once the State Cinema not the Net Church
Once the State Cinema not the Net Church

This was the State Cinema that opened in 1935. It had an Art Deco interior and was supplied with a theatre organ for incidental music. In 1949 it became the Granada, having been bought by the company of the same name. With the decline in cinema attendance it was sold in 1979 and suffered the familiar fate of old cinemas, becoming a bingo hall. In 2014, its fortunes changed again when it was sold to become a church.

Dartford Methodist Church
Dartford Methodist Church

Recalling somewhat the castle-like form of Holy Trinity, this Methodist Church also sports crenelated towers. It was built in 1844-5 to a design by William Pocock and is Grade II listed.

The Old County Court
The Old County Court

What was once the County Court still retains the royal coat of arms over the door, testifying to its legitimacy. It was built in the 1850s but in the modern era was sold off and turned into a pub. When I photographed it, the place was closed and looking rather abandoned but I believe there are plans to reopen it as a pub. It is Grade II listed.

The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak

Also Grade II listed is the old pub called the Royal Oak. It is a timber-framed building probably dating from the 17th century but somewhat altered, especially in its outward appearance, in the 19th.

Dartford seems a pleasant, quiet Kentish town, well worth a visit.

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