29 April, 2012

Mysterious message

The unsigned text message arrived late on Friday: 'Meet me Strawberry Hill Station @ 1007 Saturday. This msg will self destruct in 15 seconds.' How could I not go to this very leafy, well heeled suburb after a message like that! I boarded a train at Waterloo with a lot of people going to the Army and Navy Rugby match at Twickenham. Some of them had even been drinking at that time of the morning! Not just the men. Anyway they got off at Twickenham. I arrived at Strawberry Hill station and got off the train. Who should be waiting there but my friend Jackie who announced a seven mile walk around Teddington in the rain. Unfortunately the walk managed to miss one of the best features of Teddington - Strawberry Hill House, simply affording a back view of St Mary's College. Still there are good points in Teddington - the Parish Church of St Mary was built in Tudor times and eventually became too small, leading to the Parish building another church - reminiscent of Lancing College Chapel on an adjacent site. This became too big and was taken over as the Landmark Arts Centre and services reverted to the original church. Teddington High Street has some old cottages covered in wisteria and a very unusual looking branch of Lloyds TSB. The picture was taken by Jonathan Cardy.. After the high street and Carnegie library,
with a bust of local boy made, maybe, good - Noel Coward, it was on to Bushy Park. Missing the Diana fountain and the deer we entered by one gate and left by another on the same side of the park. By chance we stumbled across a USAAF and RAF memorial, but that was all of interest. Pinewood Teddington had some plaques on the wall to dead comics Kenny Everett, David Nixon and Tommy Cooper were all represented and there were some real hollywood style flats nearby - a fitting place for a British film star.
. After a while we came to Radnor Gardens with some historic gazebos and a summer house. We missed the school with a plaque to the villanous Labouchere whose amendment to an act got Oscar Wilde prosecuted. Walking back to the station gave another tantalising glimpsette of Strawberry Hill house. My pictures were not good today so many thanks to those who provided them.

22 April, 2012

A wander in Whitechapel

A visit to the Whitechapel Art Gallery led to a bit of a wander through Whitechapel itself. There are some bits of heritage, for example there is on one building the ghostly lettering 'Working Lad's Institute' with separate doors leading to the Gymnasium and the Lecture Hall but one building has been going since 1570 - it's the Whitechapel Bell foundry that casts bells for the world (except the one for the Olympics that is being cast in the Netherlands). The firm even had responsibility for recasting the bell for Big Ben when it got cracked after testing. The bell was first cast in Norton-on-Tees. It always seems closed when I go past, and I don't think they have a lot of work on, but I suppose what they do is very profitable and with the number of bells around the world there must be some demand for new ones most of the time.

14 April, 2012

Hornchurch - Cultural quarter

Another of the Havering Council walks, this time around Hornchurch, so called because the church has a bull's head mounted outside. It's an old church with a memorial to William of Wykeham but the horns are just there, not sure if anybody knows why. This is where the walk began and I then walked through a rough piece of ground called 'The Dell' or 'Mill Field' where the Stepney born boxer Daniel Mendoza fought John Jackson in front of 3000 spectators in a fight that lasted 10 minutes. Unfortunately Mr Mendoza who had been the odds-on favourite lost, no doubt to the relief of the bookies. One of Daniel Mendoza's descendants is Peter Sellers. The walk then led me up the High Street (I've blogged about Hornchurch before) with the usual plethora of shops and eateries all a bit identikit and through some thoroughly suburban housing to reach Langtons House and Gardens.  Both Parson and registrar were plying their marriage trade so I couldn't go in the church or the registry office which is Langtons House but the gardens were pleasant enough with a lake and an orangery and other things I didn't see.

Next on the list of items was Fairkytes Arts Centre, for amateurs whereas the professional 'production' theatre in Hornchurch is the Queens Theatre.  Originally opened in the Coronation year of 1953 the present building was purpose built in 1975 and opened by Sir Peter Hall.  Very pleasant it is too.
And that was it. I was hungry after my walk so I decided to have my first attempt at that east end favourite - Pie and Mash, as I had noticed a pie and mash shop on the high street. Expecting a waitress to come out I sat down. Then I realised you go to the counter, ask for what you want (as long as it is a combination of pie and mash) pay and eat. I declined both liquour (not sure about that) and gravy and had 1 pie and one mash although 1 pie and 2 mash would have been better and only 80p more. I have to say this was a remarkably cheap meal and fine to eat although don't come anywhere near my pie with the liquour.

01 April, 2012

East Wickham and Welling

I went on a walk for health today, one of a series issued by the Green Chain Working Party to encourage walking, especially in the South East London Green Chain. All this has rather the atmosphere of 'graded' walks for tuberculous patients of the early twentieth century and indeed the walks are graded. I was on the eighth out of ten today. East Wickham open space is really not very interesting although I did see some robins and perhaps a wren - it was very small. Also a Brewer's Georgian pub. The medieaval church at East Wickham was too small for the influx of congregation for new housing so they built a new one adjoining the churchyard.

The new church's foundation stone was laid in 1932 and was one of the 25 new churches built as a result of the Bishop off Southwark's appeal for funds for the project. Very little money was available for the church here so that the design brief was to keep it simple and austere. The church outside is unchanged but the interior has been altered since the 1930s

There - much bigger!
After a pleasant pizza and tiramisu lunch in Welling I walked on to Danson Park to get in some sunbathing. The Old English garden was, as always, quietest and I had a pleasant half hour sitting in the sun looking at a sundial that had been presented to the Borough on and for the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's golden wedding in 1997.

Hardly anybody came into the garden. I sat on a seat in memory of a councillor who was 'first substitute charter Mayor' when the Urban District of Bexley was incorporated as a borough in 1937. The oak tree where this icorporation took place still lives in the park and is also emblazoned on the municipal coat of arms.

Bexley was home to William Morris the interior decorator (although he would probably hate that term) and social reformer who lived at the Red House. It is a little incongruous to walk along a suburban street of ordinary semis and detatched houses and suddenly find a house in a strange mix of Art and Crafts and Gothic styles. Designed for him by Phillip Webb in 1860 William Morris lived here for 5 years until 1865. In spite of the picture which makes it look as though it is built of London Stock Bricks, it is very red.