Yesterday evening we passed by Laycock Green where this little notice board stands amid a stretch of greenery.
It tells us that this area of the Green has been sown with a variety of grasses and wild flowers as part of the project (in cooperation with the RSPB) to find out ways of encouraging house sparrows in the hope of halting the decline in their population. Underneath, an anonymous annotator has added the comment “excellent for BEES”.
My eye was then caught by these apartment blocks. Intended for people of modest means, they are unusually handsome and stylish. There are several similar blocks on this estate.
Inscriptions over the windows facing the main road give a clue the the origin of the estate. It was built in 1910, financed by a trust set up in the will of Samuel Lewis. Lewis’s life corresponds exactly with the Victorian age for he was born in 1837 and died in 1901.
Born in Birmingham, Lewis started out selling steel pens, later opened a jeweller’s shop and eventually became a financier and, ultimately, a philanthropist. As a millionaire he was able to dedicate what was for the time a huge sum of money for the building housing for the poor. He might have been proud to know that this, his first building, is now Grade II Listed.
This morning I went off to Almeida Street, as I shall explain, and on the way saw this old shop in Theberton Street. Once a dairy and provisions shop, it seems to be a dwelling today, the original name sign protected by a thick layer of varnish.
At either side of the shop is a pair of pretty pilasters with a handsome lion’s face at the top. Note also the aeration grill running across the top of the window.
Almeida Street is a cul de sac for traffic though not for pedestrians. Walk down to the end and you find this narrow walkway called Almeida Passage. At first out in the open, it then runs through the buildings, a fact that has gained it the popular local name of “the hole in the wall”. Inside the “hole”, the walls are painted black but the paint is very patchy. I suspect this is the result of painting over repeated graffiti.
The hole in the wall takes you into Milner Square. Like many Georgian squares, this one has a central garden surrounded on four sides by terraces of houses. These are unusually tall and imposing, in contrast to the garden which is dominated by a tennis court and is rather plain.
I was given to understand that this once upper crust neighbourhood had “gone down” and had become a dodgy area where disaffected youth lurked. I didn’t see anything of this during my visit but I did notice that every front door had at least two locks and usually three.
Next to Milner Square is Gibson Square. The garden is prettier and better tended than Milner Square’s but at the moment part of it is screened off by works whose nature I didn’t stop to find out.
While I was taking photographs, I noticed a lady sitting on a bench. Beside her was a long-haired cat and a few feet away, another similarly long-haired feline was grooming. Having given me the hard stare as cats are wont to do, they took no further notice of me and I did not intrude on their privacy either.
After a while, the lady got up from the bench and walked towards the gate. The cat followed along and it was obvious from the way that the human waited when the cat paused in its progress, that they were together. I thought how nice it was to be able to go for a walk in the park with your cat!
My last photo of the walk was this old pub, The Rainbow, dating from 1879. It stands on the corner of Liverpool Road and Barnsbury Street. No longer a pub, it has served as offices but I am not sure what it is used for at the moment. The pub, and the people who have worked or drunk in it, must collectively have lived through some momentous times. Will it ever become a pub again? On current showing, what with the decline in the industry, that seems unlikely.
Update July 6th 2015
In a comment today, Julie Elizabeth asks “There seems to be some kind of plaque overhead in the hole in the wall, when walking from almedia street into the square. I can make out the word immigration or immigrants and 24 June 1964. Cannot find any details about this – any ideas?”
When I took the photo, I didn’t notice the ‘plaque’ but Julie’s question intrigued me enough to persuade me to go and take a look. Here is a larger view of it.
We can see that it isn’t a plaque at all but an image impressed on a board set in the frame of what was once a window. It is rather dirty but that’s not the reason why it is hard to read. The image itself is far from sharp. So what is it?
At the top we can see the word IMMIGRATION and, at the bottom, AUSTRALIA. The text seems to read as follows
24 JUN 1964
I can’t read the number or word or code below ‘Sydney Airport’. Maybe it is the code for that immigration office.
The answer to the above question, then, seems to be that this is an enlarged picture of the stamp placed in someone’s passport on his/her arrival in Australia on the stated date. Why anyone would take the trouble to create this memorial, I do not know. Your guess is as good as mine.
If anyone reading this knows the answer, do please get in touch!