24 December, 2008

A Christmas message from me and Dulwich Park

May peace prevail on earth!

Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

From Travels around London

Dulwich: G*ds Gift.

A Christmas eve visit to one of the far reaches of the borough I live in – although you wouldn’t think it was the same one. Several posts ago I visited Margaret Thatcher’s former constituency – this time I visit her [former?] home.

Dulwich is a suburb that pretends it is a village. I set out from East Dulwich Station early in the morning and started walking down Lordship Lane, Dulwich’s main drag. It being Christmas eve, people were out doing their last minute shopping and in particular there was a very long queue, 3 shops long in fact, outside the organic free range butcher and poulterer. This I thought typical of Dulwich. Lordship lane winds its way up the hill to come to the part of Dulwich where there is a library and the Dulwich Park. The fledgling LCC laid out Dulwich Park in 1889 after a public campaign against the governors of Dulwich College who owned it. Considering the increase in values of their property that the park has guaranteed at no cost to the Governors this seemed to be a remarkably short sighted resistance. Never mind the park is now preserved for ever with a lake, sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, bicycle hire to imperil life and limb, and rivulets, a cascade and old oak trees. The Lordship Lane end of the park has a nice, but ordinary development of houses: the Dulwich Village end arrives in a different world.

The Dulwich College Estate totals three square miles and is the largest single estate in London, its profits dedicated to the education of the wealthy children of wealthy parents and charitable causes. The estate is the gift of Edward Alleyn,
From Travels around London
(not G*d – although it bears the motto G*ds gift) a friend of Shakespeare, an actor, theatre proprietor and keeper of the Kings Bears. He died without issue and left a college for 12 poor scholars and an almshouse for 16 old people, the master of both Alleyn insisted should bear his name. There is also a girls school in Bermondsey named until recently, when it was sold to the Harris family, Alleyn’s school.

The village is pretty and has curious finger posts to point the way. The little grammar school survives as an estate office,
From Travels around London
and the almshouse block still houses old people as intended, with their chapel open to all to worship with them on Sundays. In the village is St Barnabas’s Church a very modern edifice with a slender and transparent spire. This church is beautiful.
From Travels around London

Dulwich College also owns a small art gallery (admission charged), which is the nucleus of an art collection ordered by King Stanislaus of Poland for a polish national gallery. When the Kingdom of Poland was broken up there was nowhere to send the collection so it came to Dulwich via a quite circuitous route and is housed, together with the bodies of its founders, in the first purpose built picture gallery which was designed by Sir John Soane. The gallery was closed today.
From Travels around London

The buildings of Dulwich College, which can now hold 800 boys (hopefully 12 of them are poor, but I suspect that's not the case), are a little way out of the village on a toll road, which costs £1 for cars but is free if you’re walking.
From Travels around London

From Travels around London

From Travels around London

Walking away from the college towards west Dulwich I noticed a large church set up on a hill for all to see. This was All Saints Church that has recently been rebuilt after a fire. I didn’t go into the church because a baptism was taking place but the fire had destroyed much of the Victoriana and left the church much more dignified and open. The acoustics from the new choir gallery must be fantastic. The new communion table and lectern are simple wooden forms and there is a charred black cross in the apse. They still are paying for the work so you may wish to donate. Their website is http://www.all-saints.org.uk/

After that it was time to come back home again, the queue had diminished in the organic free range butcher and poulterer so it was now only one person out of the door.

22 November, 2008

Brentford and Chiswick

I went to Brentford and Chiswick - they were shut!

Brentford is the county town of Middlesex until the county ceased to exist in 1965. However the County Hall, the Middlesex Guildhall, was and still is in Parliament Square Westminster, so it does not have grand civic buildings to captivate the eye.

Leaving the station I came to a civic group comprising a library and public baths. The Public baths foundation stone was covered in graffiti but the baths seemed to have been declared open in the 1890s. Needless to say they were closed and boarded up now. The Brentford library was a shadow of what it had been but was warm and had some books on the subject of Brentford although not very many. Turning off the street where the library was I came to The Butts, a village green of eighteenth century houses, where archers once practiced although long before the eighteenth century. More a car park now than a village green and it was hard to imagine a cattle
market there as there once was. The Butts led into the high street. There were very few shops, people in Brentford seem to want Fibreglass - really there was a fibreglass shop- furniture new and secondhand and tyres. Most of the other shops were shut - on Saturday morning too!

From Travels around London

St Lawrences church at the top of the High Street was surrounded by an insecurity fence and looking very delapidated when I called. The Grand Union Canal joins the River Brent here, many miles from Braunston and there is a guaging lock where tolls were charged using a special guage to ascertain how low the boat was in the water. Needless to say the historical display about this was closed, with no signs of opening hours.
From Travels around London

George III used to drive slowly through the town's high street because it reminded him of Hanover. Whether it would remind anyone of Hanover now would depend on whether Hanover has a row of 1960s shops, a Somerfield supermarket and a block or three of flats, oh and most shops deserted or closed on a saturday morning. I decided to hasten a carriage to Chiswick and took a bus along the rural looking thames past an old church with eighteenth century school and the very modern looking musical museum. In Chiswick there were plenty of shops including a second hand bookshop. It is also rather near Bedford Park. Bedford Park is the first Garden Suburb, laid out by Norman Shaw with its church (St Michael and All Angels) and its inn, the Tabard all adjacent to the village green. Although Turnham Green is the station nearest Bedford Park, Turnham green is actually north of Chiswick. There are some long streets in Chiswick, and I could not find Chiswick church that must be a lot older than Christ Church Turnham Green.

From Travels around London

Chiswick contains Chiswick House and grounds and Hogarth's House where the painter of scenes such as the Rake's Progress lived and worked. A "County of Middlesex" plaque marks where he lived and worked but the house is closed to the public until 2009, with no warning on the leaflets displayed in the library. Rubbish service from Hounslow Council. As I couldn't see Hogarth's House I decided to go and see Chiswick House. This was also undergoing refurbishment, including most of the park, until 2010. Again no indication until arrival. To get to both these buildings it is necessary to cross the Westway, a major motorway out of London - thankfully by way of a subway.

From Travels around London

This bizarre house was near the Westway but in a much quieter road.

Naturally I was frustrated at this point and caught a bus to go on to another appointment. I should have stayed on the bus to Turnham Green Station where there were more trains, instead of Chiswick Park.

Brentford and Chiswick - don't bother until 2010!

28 October, 2008


A good post about Personchester for once. The Art Gallery was showing an exhibition of preraphaelite Christian art. The originals of the ones I saw at Lee!


20 October, 2008

Lee, on the outskirts of Lewisham

Lee nestles between Lewisham and Blackheath, and can be said to be fairly well to do. Starting at the Old churchyard of St Margaret of Antioch a heritage trail leads to the ice house in Manor House Park. The church of St Margaret of Antioch has clayton and bell stained class and wallpaintings, and an exhibition of christian art reproductions. Well worth a visit.
From Travels around London

the Merchant Taylors and Boone's almshouses have been providing care for old people for 300 years since 1608 including a derby and joan club with a waiting list.
From Travels around London

From Travels around London

12 October, 2008

finchley and the city

A visit to the London Maze, the City of London Corporation's local history fair at the Guildhall, a new building on old foundations (i.e. it was flattened during the second world war) which was interesting in itself. The fair was less interesting although I looked at a book about london housing in the 1930s. £35 was too much to pay though.

From Travels around London

Next on the list of visits was Wesley's Chapel. This was surprisingly like a Church of England church of the 18th century, the only difference being the pulpit directly behind the holy table. The communion rails were donated by Margaret Thatcher, who was married and had her children christened in the chapel.

The Museum of Methodism in the chapel cellar was somewhat confused and confusing with each explanatory board numbered, except when they weren't, but had artefacts and paintings relating to John and Charles Wesley and methodism in general. I'm not sure I came away with a greater understanding of Methodism but it was interesting.

From Travels around London

Afterwards I had a visit to Finchley which was better than I thought it was. The Church, dedicated to St Mary, was almost as long as it was wide, with a fine timbered roof of the 1940s (again the chancel was flattened during the second world war). The church was of 13th century origin but altered in the 19th and 20th centuries. The main drag of Finchley and the housing was pleasant. This was Margaret Thatcher's constituency

From Travels around London
The finchley archer at East Finchley symbolyses rapid transport to central London. Yeah right.

21 September, 2008

London Open House

A weekend long architecture fest. I visited many places, the list is the Old operating theatre and herb garrett, the Kircaldy testing works, St Andrews by the Wardrobe, the City of London School, the Law Society, the Former Public Record Office, the Peckham Pioneer Health Centre, Severndroog Castle, 89 Genesta Road and the Woolwich Garrison Church. Phew!!

From Travels around London

From Travels around London

From Travels around London

From Travels around London

15 September, 2008

Ickenham, Ruislip and Eastcote.

No luck with the churches at the end of the Central Line (West Ruislip) but they were quite picture book, with an ancient farm at Ruislip.

13 September, 2008

New Lanark and the falls of Clyde

Roaming in the gloaming
On the bonny banks of Clyde

I was in New Lanark for the UK Society of Coöperative Studies conference on Robert Owen.

From richard 2008 sept

10 September, 2008

Bedford, Where the Messiah will come again?

Bedford, also known as 'somewhere in England' as that was where the BBC used to broadcast music from during the war years. Why they needed to conceal the location of their concerts is rather baffling- it would have been much better to move them around the country if bombing of classical music - very likely by German or Austrian composers - was seen as a difficulty. Bedford was also home to much of the parts of the Second World War the Government would rather have kept quiet about. However that sort of stuff is not my interest in Bedford.
From richard 2008 sept

Bedford was home to John Bunyan, the 'chief of sinners' in his words in his spiritual autobiography. His sins don't seem very sinful to us who are much more versed in wickedness than Mr Bunyan. He played games on the village green at Elstow, enjoyed dancing and rang the bells in the village church. I've indulged in a bit of tintinabulation myself. I would consider the sin was to those listening to me...
However Bunyan, after hearing a voice say "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?" gave up his sin and decided to live in Bedford. His preaching eventually landed him in the County Gaol as he was preaching without a licence, at a time when to dissent from the Established church was to deemed to be traitrous. Bunyan put his time to good use, making bootlaces to support his family and writing the 'Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come' a book translated into almost as many languages as the bible, and usually to be found on protestant book shelves even today.

Bedford honours Bunyan and his statue can be found near St Cuthbert's church (closed when I called). The Bunyan conventicle still meets for worship twice on Sundays.

Bedford does not really honour another religious sect that also has its home there. The last of Joanna Southcott's followers form the Panacea Society, a charity which is 'a religious organisation with a belief in the latter day prophets and the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ'.

They hold Joanna Southcott's box which must be only be opened in the presence of 24 bishops of the Church of England (the full complement at the time of Joanna Southcott) and, not surprisingly, they have been reluctant to assemble to do the honours.
The Society believes that a small piece of cloth in a glass of water may help heal all illnesses. They believe the messiah will return to Bedford.

08 September, 2008

Barrow in Furness

Barrow is an iron and shipbuilding town opened up in the 19th century by the Furness Railway. It is a bit like Middlesbrough but with fewer people.
From richard 2008 sept

From richard 2008 sept

03 September, 2008


There's a famed seaside town known as Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh air and fun.
And Mr & Mrs Ramsbottom,
Went there with young Albert their son.

Well they didn't think much to the ocean,
The waves they was piddling and small.
No shipwrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact nothing to laugh at all.

Well the waves were not piddling an small the day we went to Blackpool. The sea was pretty rough.
From richard 2008 sept
No shipwrecks though but the chips in Harry Ramsdens were rather undercooked. and the rain didn't half come down.

A tramcar ride though and I was happy!
From richard 2008 sept

02 September, 2008

Cartmel Priory and Grange over Sands

From richard 2008 sept

Grange Over Sands is like Switzerland in Morecambe Bay. Lots of chalet bungalows and an aging population give it a decorous but boring air.

Cartmel has a race course and an ancient priory, the only church where I have seen a bread shelf put to its proper use, and two loaves remaining on it.

23 August, 2008

Great Dunmow - another long way to church

Another meadieval town with a bad bus service: I had to change at Stansted Airport. My mate was also being Mr Grumpy today. After lunch in the Saracen's Head - the chefs interpretation of nouvelle cuisine for the value conscious we had a look round the town.

There is a Tudor town hall and a pond on the village green, which was used by a Mr Lionel Lukin to test lifeboats. Funnily enough the vicar of Romsey from 1860, a Mr Edward Lyon Berthon also designed lifeboats.

I saw an old house at the end of the village with gables and a cupola, but the bust of a woman that Arthur Mee mentions as being above a window has gone, or it is not that house. The church is set a long way from the village but is well worth the little walk. Well proportioned with a fine chancel arch, the church is a lovely space, although the vicar expressed regret that the church had been, as he put it, vandalised in various periods in its history.
There is a unique south gallery over the door (as you can see in the picture) which was originally a guild chapel and then a family pew. Now it is just a chapel in the church

17 August, 2008

Southampton (Weston) and Netley

The Weston part of Southampton is across the River Itchen from Southampton, crossing the Itchen Toll Bridge which some see as a barrier and others as a quick and easy crossing into town.
If you're walking you go free. Weston is trying to be a seaside resort with shelters on the rather stony beach on the rather polluted Southampton Water. These have recently been done up with scenes from Southampton's history including the second world war bombing (!) although they lack the old (1980s) slogan of the city 'Southamp-tons more'. My usual walk leads from Sholing to Woolston, down to the shore, up to Netley (more later) and back via Mayfield Park. mayfield park has an obelisk in it bearing the legend 'The earth is the LORD'S and the fullness thereof'. It is a memorial to a whig politician although you'd never know it, mostly just an eye catcher in a bleak part of the park. Mayfield park always seems as though it has a time warp in it because walking through it seems to deliver me with speed to my destination (Thanks Jon and Ray!). It's always much quicker than walking towards it.

Netley is a little village on Southampton Water with a ruined abbey, not as fortunate as Romsey - perhaps they couldn't afford the price if it was the same. Closed at all times except Sundays from 1300-1600 due to antisocial behaviour among the ruins (my mind boggles - What on earth are people doing there?).

The ruins are quite intact as is Netley Castle, once a convalescent home but now a private block of flats with the gardens suitably fenced. Once they were open for all to wander at will.

16 August, 2008

Romsey - Another prosperous market town

Romsey in Hampshire is dominated by its abbey, remarkably intact for a Romanesque church as it was bought for £100 at the dissolution for use as a parish church for the town. As a consequence of this it has no endowments so no money for rebuilding over subsequent centuries.

With only time for the briefest look at the church, including the saxon woman's hair that was found in a lead coffin, all the rest of her having decayed, and the briefest time to look around the town, which is quite dominated by the Mountbatten family (formerly Battenburg)Romsey would no doubt repay another visit.

09 August, 2008

Tottenham Walthamstow and Ilford

Tottenham has Bruce Castle museum within its boundaries, however the opening hours are not for early birds. Wed-Sun 1pm-5pm. So when I arrived at 1100 on Saturday I was disappointed and not really prepared to hang around for another three hours. So I went off to Walthamstow to the William Morris Gallery, which proclaims itself as the only museum dedicated to the life and work of William Morris. William Morris had his childhood home in Walthamstow, when it was nice, and this has been transformed into a museum of his life’s work. This includes furnishing, fabrics, stained glass and wallpaper. The museum also contains pictorial art and a room for temporary exhibitions.

I also went to have a look at Walthamstow Town Hall a 1930s sub totalitarian style building with a pool outside, similar to Rugby Town Hall but bigger with a clock tower and in Portland stone. The technical college next door has sculptural panels depicting activities such as music and swimming that take place (or once did) in the college.

The weather was not promising so I took a bus to Ilford where I got rained on and heartily sick. The Redbridge Borough Museum, which wasn’t bad, displayed a lying notice stating that it’s lunch hour was from 1pm-2pm. On this occasion the museum did not open until 10 past.

Having become sick of Ilford I got on a bus to go back but then noticed that the chapel of St Mary’s hospital, Ilford’s oldest building, was open that day. St Mary’s Hospital was founded as a leper hospital and became an almshouse after the lepers moved out on the dissolution. The flats were made new in 1927, and the chapel was in use as a tea room and market. It wasn’t very interesting.

30 July, 2008

A long walk to church in Reigate

Reigate is a small town in Surrey, which I have visited a few times but been unable to find the church. This time I decided to ask somebody and a very unhelpful woman dierected me first to the methodist church in the High Street. I told her I wanted the Church of England Church and she replied that if I hadn't an address... I would have thought most people would have known where a church was. I eventually found it in Chart Lane, not Church Street, but it was locked up and the church office was closed.

The Priory museum was also closed although the priory park was open. The old Market House is now a cafe nero.

All in all Reigate was a poor mans Godalming

28 July, 2008

East Tilbury: Bataville

East tilbury is a tiny village on the thames Marshes. In the 1930s Bata Shoes built a factory and some dwellings for the workforce there in the modernist style. However, one of the ideals of modernism is supposed to be for form to follow function and for any buildings built in that style that isn't a style to be a model of efficiency for the tenants. Now, according to a planning application in the street of houses, there was a desire to move the bathroom to the bedroom floor, it previously being next to the kitchen. This is not a model of eficiency. The houses look great though.

There is also a statue of Thomas Bata and a Thomas Bata memorial park.