Monthly Archives: April 2019

Warren Street and J.Evans, Dairy Farmer

Warren Street is probably better known by the underground station of the same name, at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road.

Warren Street runs parallel to Euston Road between Tottenham Court Road and Cleveland Street and my reason for being in Warren Street was to track down the location of one of my father’s 1980s corner shop photographs.

This is the corner shop of J. Evans, Dairy Farmer on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street, photographed in 1986.

Warren Street

The same location, 33 years later in 2019, now occupied by The Old Dairy coffee shop.

Warren Street

The shop front and the railings are Grade II listed. The listing states that the building was constructed around 1793 with the shop front dating from 1916. I suspect that J. Evans was one of the Welsh dairy farmers who set up shop in London. The inside of these corner shops are very similar, shelves packed high with tinned and packet goods.

An enlargement of the view through the door shows a wonderful tiled picture of a field and cows, part of a set of scales can be seen to the right and the shop assistant is behind the counter.

Warren Street

This was only 33 years ago, but this type of local shopping is now dominated by the big supermarket brands, and a small store like this could probably not afford the rent or business rates.

The tiled picture of fields and cows could have been the scene where Warren Street is located back in 1746. At the time when John Rocque complied his map of London, the city had not yet reached as far as Warren Street and the area was still mainly fields, with some limited building just north of the future junction of Tottenham Court Road and Euston Road. In the following extract from Rocque’s map, Tottenham Court Road is on the right. I have marked the approximate location of Warren Street with red lines, running across the full width of a field.

Warren Street

One hundred years later, and all the fields of Rocque’s map would be buried under a significant northward expansion of the city. The following map extract from Reynolds’s 1847 map (now I have the map out the shoe-box for last week’s post, I will use it more) shows Warren Street just above the centre of the map, with building covering the entire area (apart from the corner of Regent’s Park shown top left).

Warren Street

Warren Street was built between 1790 and 1791. The street is named after the daughter of Sir Peter Warren, Anne Warren the wife of Charles Fitzroy, the 1st Baron Southampton who was the owner and developer of the land on which Warren Street was built.

Warren Street is relatively quiet, a mix of architecture, but retaining many original buildings.

The street runs parallel and a short distance to the south of the busy Euston Road. Standing in Conway Street and looking across Warren Street, Euston Road can be seen, along with the new office buildings of the Regent’s Place development.

Warren Street

Looking south down Conway Street from Warren Street and a mainly original street plan and buildings survive.

Warren Street

In the above photo, the J. Evans corner shop can be seen on the right. Note the lighter bricks on the second and third floors.  The difference in bricks is due to a mid 20th century re-build of the top two floors.

The London Metropolitan Archive, Collage site has a couple of photos of J. Evans shop. The following photo dates from 1978.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_337_78_689.

A couple of large adverts are on the Warren Street facing wall. Also note that just along Warren Street were some other shops. Difficult to see exactly what they are selling, but they look to be typical of the shops serving the day to day needs of local residents that were once found all across London. Today, these shops have been converted to a couple of private clinics.

The buildings in which these other shops were located have what appears to be a secret entrance to a different place – this is the entrance to Warren Mews.

Warren Street

Warren Mews is a short street, even quieter than Warren Street, although I dread to think how much the houses that line the mews cost.

Warren Street

After having found the old shop frount, I walked back down Warren Street towards Tottenham Court Road, viewing an interesting series of buildings as I walked.

The Smugglers Tavern:

Warren Street

I do get depressed when walking the streets of London looking at the loss of one off shops, specialist shops and businesses, however in Warren Street I found a survivor. This is the London premises of Tiranti – a UK manufacturer and supplier of Sculptors equipment.

Warren Street

The business was founded in High Holborn by Giovanni Tiranti in 1895.  The business relocated to a number of different locations over the years, and whilst the main business is now located in Thatcham, Berkshire, Tiranti still retain a London premises.

The shop window of Tiranti in Warren Street:

Warren Street

Tiranti has a fascinating history. Their web site can be found here, and contains an “About” page with a history of the business and their moves across London.

Although Tiranti has survived, another specialist business in Warren Street recently closed.

At the junction of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street is a large corner store, currently occupied by the Loft furniture business as their London showroom.

Warren Street

Until early 2017, this was the building occupied by French’s Theatre Bookshop:

Warren Street

The French’s business was established in London around 1830. The bookshop occupied several locations across London and moved to the Warren Street / Fitzroy Street location in 1983, so whilst not a long term occupier of the site, it was good to find a specialist business serving the acting community of London and further afield.

After closure, French’s went fully online, but has now reopened a bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre.

A few years ago I photographed the original entrance sign for Samuel French. It is remarkable how quickly places change.

Warren Street

The LMA Collage site identifies the same corner shop, now occupied by Loft, previously by French’s Theatre Bookshop, was in 1972 occupied by a second-hand car business.

Warren Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_340_72_1023.

Used car dealing was a specialty of Warren Street for much of the first half of the 20th century with car dealers occupying many of the buildings and also second-hand cars for sale lining the street. The business on the corner with Fitzroy Street must have been one of the last in operation on the street.

The car dealing business in Warren Street attracted a number of dubious characters, one of whom was Stanley Setty, a car dealer who operated outside a cafe on the corner of Warren Street and Fitzroy Street (on the opposite  side to the above photo) . Setty dealt in cash only and was always in possession of large amounts of cash.

He had an associate in Brian Donald Hume who dealt in black market goods. In 1949, after an argument and a fight, Setty was murdered by Hume, who disposed of his body parts over the Essex Coast from a hired plane.

The Daily Herald on the 24th October 1949 included a graphical report of the murder (©British Newspaper Archive)

Warren Street

Hume was found not guilty of the murder, only the lesser offence of being an accessory to the murder by disposing of the body. After his release from prison he was happy to report to the press that he had carried out the murder – the defence of double-jeopardy protecting him from a new trial.

Warren Street is a very different street today.

On the Fitzroy Street side of the Loft / French’s Theatre Bookshop building is a blue plaque which has an interesting connection to recent excavations.

Warren Street

Captain Matthew Flinders was instrumental in identifying Australia as a continent, by being the first western explorer to circumnavigate the land, which he would also play a part in naming.

His name was all over the media earlier this year when his grave was discovered during the excavations of St James’s burial ground as part of the HS2 extension to Euston Station, a short distance along the Euston Road from Warren Street.

Captain Matthew Flinders (source here).

Warren Street

Warren Street has some interesting shop fronts:

Warren Street

Original terrace of houses, shops on the ground floor, offices and / or flats above. Work on the buildings over the years shown by the different brick colours.

Warren Street

At the junction of Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road is the underground station that bears the street’s name.Warren Street

The first underground station opened here in 1907, with the current building dating from 1934.

The station is on the Northern and Victoria lines, and is a very busy station during week days.

Large numbers of people use the station for the offices at Regent’s Place, University College Hospital, University College London, and the businesses that line Tottenham Court Road and the surrounding streets. It is a station I have used many times and during the early morning peak hours the automatic ticket gates are usually left open to speed passengers through from the escalators to the street.

Since being a field on the northern edge of John Rocque’s London, Warren Street has been home to some lovely late 18th century buildings, the discoverer of Australia as a continent, the arrival of the underground, used car dealers, and J. Evans – Dairy Farmer, the shop that was the reason for my walk along Warren Street.

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Reynolds’s Splendid New Map Of London

I have a real addiction to maps, almost any type of map. Folding maps, maps in books, street maps, transport maps – they all fascinate me. Whenever we go anywhere new, other people will be using their phone to guide them, I will have brought a paper map.

I probably have far too many maps of London, hidden away in shoe boxes in a cupboard. I feature John Rocque’s map and the 1940 copy of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London frequently in my posts, however I use many other maps to learn about how an area has evolved.

For a change, for today’s post, I thought I would feature one of these maps. This is “Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements for 1847”.

Map of London

James Reynolds was a London mapmaker with a shop at 174 Strand. The 1847 map was one of his first publications, and he would go on to produce regular updates to his London maps throughout the 19th century, also gradually incorporating colour into the maps. It is fascinating watch how London evolves with each new issue of Reynolds’s London map.

Many of his maps are online, however there is nothing better than the feel of an original paper map and to imagine the people who have used these maps to navigate the city – I did admit to having this strange addiction.

The map show features that have long disappeared and areas where key features have yet to be built.

Take the following extract showing Westminster and Millbank.

Map of London

The most distinctive feature is the hexagonal shape in the lower centre of the map. This was the Millbank Penitentiary or prison which occupied the site adjacent to the approach road to Vauxhall Bridge for much of the 19th century.

Although Vauxhall Bridge crosses the river, the rest of the river looks rather empty until Westminster Bridge, however look midway between the two bridges and there is the location of a “Proposed Bridge”. This was the site of the future Lambeth Bridge which would open in 1862.

The area occupied by the prison can be easily located today, by referencing Vauxhall Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge Road, although the rest of the area has changed considerably. The following map extract shows the area today with the location of the prison now occupied by the housing to the north of Bessborough Gardens and up to Tate Britain. Map  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Map of London

The geometrical shape of the Millbank Prison is shown in the following drawing from An Account of Millbank Penitentiary by G.P. Holford, dated 1828 and shows how the prison was divided into six pentagons arranged around a central chapel.

Map of London

The following print from 1829 shows the prison – it must have been a forbidding place to be sent to – often before transportation to Australia (©Trustees of the British Museum).

Map of London

The prison has a considerable history and a couple of traces of the prison can still be found today – a subject for a future post.

Let’s now head to the east of the map and visit the Isle of Dogs in 1847:

Map of London

Nearly all of the Isle of Dogs is still marked a being “Marshes”. There is some building along the western edge and a couple of roads leading to the southern tip where the ferry provides a crossing of the river over to Greenwich.

There are a number of interesting features on the map. The limit of building on the eastern edge was this little row of buildings, with the label “Police”. This was the location that the recently established Police force operated from before moving a short distance north to Coldharbour. Their primary aim was preventing theft from the shipping moored in the River Thames, the Docks and Warehouses.

Map of London

The first docks had opened at the start of the 19th century and would continue growing across the Isle of Dogs for the rest of the century. The following detail shows the West India Import and Export Docks. The full South Dock had not yet been built, the space being occupied by the Canal (which also served as a dock) that led between the east and west sides of the Isle of Dogs and the Timber Dock. Poplar Dock had yet to be built just to the north of the Basin on the right.

Map of London

How the area looked when dock building had completed and be seen in the following map from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas, showing the same area as the above 1847 map.

Map of London

In the 1847 map extract, on the eastern edge of the Isle of Dogs between the Basin entrance and the Ship Yard is a street labelled Cold Harbour, with some building along the street. This is one of the earliest built streets on this stretch of the river.

The artist William Daniell produced a series of prints of the new docks in 1802 and the following print shows Coldharbour as a line of buildings along the river front, between the entrance to the Blackwall Basin on the right and the South Dock to the left. (see my post where I explored the area which can be found here).

Map of London

Industry has started spreading along the western edge of the Isle of Dogs. The following extract shows an iron Foundry and Oil Manufacturers, along with a couple of the windmills that once lined this edge of the river.

Map of London

At the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs was a ferry across to Greenwich. The following extract shows the location of the ferry. The map also highlights the reason why much of the Isle of Dogs was labelled as Marsh as the land was below the high water mark – 7 foot at the southern tip.

Map of London

Billingsgate in the City was not the only place in London where the name could be found – look across the river from the Ferry in the above map and there is a Billingsgate on the river bank at Greenwich.

Maps also show where the boundaries of the city’s growth were, and looking at maps over the years shows how the city gradually expands. In the following extract we can see that much of the land north of Limehouse and Poplar and east of Stepney was still open land in 1847. Bromley New Town has a few buildings, and to the north there is limited construction following the route of Bow Road.

Map of London

The detail below from the above map shows the late 18th century Limehouse Cut running between the river at lower left and the Lee Navigation / Bow Creek at top right. The Limehouse Cut was built to provide a route to the River Thames whilst avoiding having to travel around the Isle of Dogs, and also avoiding the multiple bends in the lower section of the Bow Creek.

Map of London

Industry alongside the Limehouse Cut includes a Rope Walk, Pearl Ash manufacturers, and a Patent Cable Manufacturer. Also, to top right, Bromley Hall is labelled. I found this building a couple of months ago when I walked from Bromley-by-Bow to the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. The hall has survived to this day:

Map of London

Crossing the river we can look at how far the Surrey Docks had developed by 1847.

Map of London

The first docks were in place, and the Grand Surrey Canal provided a transport route from the docks to industries inland, reaching up to Peckham.

The map below from the 1940 Atlas shows the same area as the above map. The docks were at their peak and the rest of the land had been built up between 1847 and 1940.

Map of London

Zooming out there is another interesting feature. In the map below a long black lines stretches from upper left to lower right. This is the brick viaduct carrying the London & Greenwich Railway from the location of London Bridge Station out to Deptford and Greenwich. Much of the route is still through open land – this would soon be developed.

Map of London

Heading back north again, and we can see one of the many developments across London where a name was given to a specific area. Many of these names can still be found in use today. In this example, we can see Globe Town.

Map of London

The railways had not yet made their mark along what would become Euston Road. In the following map, the station that would become Euston Station is the black rectangle on the far left of the map.

Map of London

St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations have yet to be built. The reason that stations were built along Euston Road was a recommendation from an 1846 Royal Commission into the various railway schemes proposing stations in central London.

The Commission recommended that on the north of the river, railways should not be built through a central area of London  bounded by the streets that would later become Euston Road, Marylebone Road, City Road, Bishopsgate which is why the stations serving central London form a ring around the outskirts of what was the centre of London in the 1840s.

If you look to the left of Euston Station, you will see St. James Chapel. The top right corner of the graveyard has already been lost to the first incarnation of the station, and the graveyard is currently being excavated today ready of the HS2 extension of Euston Station.

As well as stations not yet built, the 1847 map shows stations that have since disappeared.

The following map is an extract of one of the maps above and shows the London & Greenwich Railway as the straight line running from Deptford off to the right and London Bridge off to the left. Below this straight railway is the curved route of the Dover Railway, which ends at Swan Street Station, alongside what is now the Old Kent Road.

Map of London

I have only seen the station called Swan Street Station a couple of times, it is better known as the Bricklayers Arms Station after a nearby pub.

The station was built by the Croydon and South Eastern Railway Companies, opening in 1844. The station was their alternative to the London & Greenwich Railway’s terminus at what is now London Bridge.

The station was advertised as a terminus for the West End and omnibuses were arranged to meet trains arriving at the station and take passengers onward to the City and West End. It was not a success and the passenger services ended in 1852 (apart from a brief resumption between 1932 and 1939). The station continued in use as a goods depot.

The Bricklayers Arms continued in a variety of railway related services until closure in the late 1970s and the sale of the land to developers in the early 1980s. The station and spur of the Dover Railway to the station has been demolished and replaced by commercial premises and housing.

If you look at the straight railway line above and to the right of Swan Street Station is another lost station – Spa Road Station which I wrote about here.

Spa Road Station as it appeared in 1836, eleven years before Reynolds’s map:

Map of London

I have not really concentrated on the central city, rather focusing on the edges of the map as these were the area that were starting on their development from open land to the built-up  city we walk around today. Another example can be found at the top right corner of the map where the original buildings of Bromley and Bow can be found.

Map of London

Note that at the time, the River Lea formed the boundary with Essex. Greater London has since pushed many miles to the east.

One final look at something yet to be built in the following map extract with the Tower of London in the centre right of the map.

Map of London

The landmark that is missing is Tower Bridge. In 1847 when the Reynolds’s map was printed, London Bridge was still the most easterly bridge over the River Thames.

The 1847 Reynolds’s Splendid New Map of London; Showing The Grand Improvements in its full glory:

Map of London

As with photography, mapping today is mainly digital, and rather than exploring London with a paper map, today, visitors to London, or anyone else looking for a new location will almost certainly be looking at their phone.

I wonder how in 172 years we will be able to look back at maps of how London appeared in 2019? I will though continue my addiction and carry on buying paper maps.

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Down at the Old Bull and Bush

For last week’s post I was looking at the building that was once the pub Jack Straw’s Castle. This week, I have walked from Jack Straw’s Castle, along North End Way towards Golders Green to find another famous Hampstead pub. This is the Old Bull and Bush as photographed by my father in 1949:

Old Bull and Bush

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

Old Bull and Bush

If you have not been to the Old Bull and Bush, you probably recognise the name from the music hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” made famous by Florrie Forde in the early years of the 20th century. The song has the following chorus (there are some minor variations, dependent on the source):

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, drink some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
Down at the Old Bull and Bush, Bush, Bush
Come, come, come and make eyes at me

The song appears to date from 1903 / 1904. There is a recording apparently dated from 1903 by a Miss Edith Manley. The song may also been a re-work of a song with much the same words titled “Down at the Anheuser Bush” – a song commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company which also seems to have appeared in 1904.

The Anheuser Bush origin my be correct as the Old Bull and Bush version has a German band reference and the Anheuser Busch company grew out of the 1860 take over of the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis by Eberhard Anheuser.

The song appeared in a number of pantomimes at Christmas 1904, but it was Florrie Forde’s recording of the song and live performances that appear to have given the song popular appeal at the time, and the longevity needed to keep the song in the cultural background 115 years later.

The song may well also be the reason why the Old Bull and Bush did not go the same way as Jack Straw’s Castle.

Florrie Forde  was born on the 16th of August 1875 in Melbourne, Australia, She was the sixth of eight children of Lott Flannagan, an Irish-born stonemason and Phoebe Simmons. Although her last name was Flannagan, she adopted the surname of a later step father to become Florrie Forde.

She had success in Australia, but moved to England in 1897 where she started to appear in London music halls. This was the start of a very successful career which would last until her death in 1940.

Old Bull and Bush

The Old Bull and Bush at it appeared in the first decade of the 20th century:

Old Bull and Bush

The style of the building is much the same as my father’s photo and the pub you will see today, however it has also clearly had some major redevelopment.

Hampstead pubs were major attractions during summer weekends and public holidays, when Londoners would have a rare opportunity to stop work and head to the open space and clean air of the heath. As well as the open space, fun fairs could be found on the heath as well as the Vale of Health and the pubs would always be a popular destination as shown in the following photo where crowds are heading into the Terrace and Gardens which could be found at the rear of the pub.

Old Bull and Bush

An example of the impact that the bank holiday trade could have for the country, and the pubs of Hampstead can be found in the following newspaper report from The Standard on Tuesday 17th April 1906 reporting on the previous day’s Bank Holiday:

“A RECORD BANK HOLIDAY – CROWDS EVERYWHERE – DAY OF SUNSHINE – SIGNS OF PROSPERITY. Absolutely empty was the Londoner’s verdict about London yesterday, as he strolled about the sunny streets of the metropolis. The fact remains that it was a wonderful Easter Monday, and that many holiday records were broken. The weather had a good deal to do with it. It was bright enough for June, and nearly warm enough for July. But the weather was not all. This is a time of good trade, and everybody is doing reasonably well. They are in the mood to enjoy a holiday, and they can afford to do it in ease and comfort.

The railway companies are unanimous in paying tribute to our satisfactory prosperity, as shown by the money we spend on pleasure. The passenger traffic on the Great Western was the highest ever recorded for Easter. Forty-four excursion trains left Paddington during the holidays. Liverpool Street station was a scene of unprecedented activity for the time of year, and 100,000 passengers left it during the week. More people went to Germany by way of the Hook of Holland, than ever before.

Fifty crowded excursion trains poured into Blackpool yesterday morning. 

Coming to smaller matters, the landlords of The Spaniards, Jack Straw’s Castle, and the Bull and Bush at Hampstead Heath, say it was the best Easter Monday they have known for years; and the refreshment and amusement caterers of Epping Forest admit that they have done better than ever before. At a rough estimate, some quarter of a million excursionists have thronged the glades of the forests during the four days of the holiday.”

I am always struck when reading these old newspapers, that whilst some things have changed, so much remains the same. This coming Easter weekend, crowds will not be taking excursion trains, indeed long public holidays are often when stations close for engineering work as Euston is during the coming Easter weekend. However if the weather is good, it is almost guaranteed that TV reporters will be at one of the seaside resorts with scenes of crowded beaches and interviews with ice cream sellers praising the increase in business.  Hampstead Heath will also be busy, as will the Old Bull and Bush and The Spaniards.

To the side of the Old Bull and Bush was the entrance to the Terrace and Gardens as shown in a postcard dated 1906:

Old Bull and Bush

The Terrace and Gardens appear to have been a key part of the success of the Old Bull and Bush. The following view shows part of the gardens. Change the clothing of those sitting at the tables and this could be a pub garden today.

Old Bull and Bush

The above two photos shows lights strung along the gardens. This must have been a popular destination for a summer evening’s drink.

The Bull and Bush as it appeared in the 1880s:

Old Bull and Bush

Some history of the Old Bull and Bush can be found in the Hampstead and Highgate Express dated the 15th September 1888. Note that in the following article the pub is called the “Bull and Bush” so the Old was added at some point between 1888 and the end of the century – an early attempt at marketing the history of the pub to visitors to the heath.

“No tavern situated in the suburbs of London is better known than the Bull and Bush. Contiguous to some of the loveliest bits of Hampstead scenery, and possessing pleasant garden grounds, the Bull and Bush is all that can be desired of an old fashioned, comfortable, roadside hostelry. These characteristics, added to the attractions of its rural surroundings, have made the Bull and Bush a favourite resort for Londoners.

The Bull and Bush was originally a farm house and the country seat of Hogarth (by whom the yew bower in the garden was planted); and which, after its transformation into a roadside place of refreshment, attained some reputation as a resort of the London wits and quality. Tradition informs us that the place was visited by Addison and several of his friends. North-end must have charmed them by the picturesque beauty of its situation.

This feature of the spot still retains, notwithstanding the innovations of brick and mortar, and the construction of roads through regions once sacred to grass and wild flowers. The approach to the Bull and Bush from the town of Hampstead, with its glimpses of gorse and brushwood near Heathbrow, and the foliage in the gardens of Wildwood, remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London.

The Bull and Bush, like other old Hampstead taverns, has many interesting bits of gossip connected with its history.

‘What a delightful little snuggery is this said Bull and Bush!’ So Gainsborough the painter is reported to have said on one occasion, while surrounded by a party of friends, who, like himself, were enjoying good cheer at the tavern.”

The peak in popularity of the Old Bull and Bush appears to have been around the time that Fred Vinall was licensee as the majority of photos of the pub have Fred’s name in large letters along the top of the building.

Old Bull and Bush

I wonder if that is Fred, standing outside the pub in the white apron in the above photo? He took over the pub in 1905.

Comparing the photo above, with the 2019 photo below shows that while the style of the pub has remained the same, the building has undergone some significant redevelopment, including the separation of the pub from the road by the wall and pavement.

Old Bull and Bush

The road to the right of the pub has a lovely terrace of houses. I suspect the buildings on the left were originally stables.

Old Bull and Bush

The attraction of the Old Bull and Bush has always been its location, and the 1888 newspaper article mentioned that the area “remains one of the most beautiful places in suburban London”. Whilst the road heading down into Golders Green is now surrounded by housing, the road continuing up towards Jack Straw’s Castle and then into Hampstead retains the appearance it must have had in the heyday of the Old Bull and Bush.

This is the view looking up in the direction of Jack Straw’s Castle from where I was standing to take the photo of the Old Bull and Bush.

Old Bull and Bush

It is a lovely walk on a sunny day up from the pub to Jack Straw’s Castle and Whitestone Pond.

A short terrace of houses hidden in the woods.

Old Bull and Bush

Which contrasts with the very different view walking down the hill from the Old Bull and Bush towards Golders Green station:

Old Bull and Bush

The street leading down to Golders Green station has a wide range of different architectural styles, probably a result of the speculative building on smaller plots of land that developed the area between Golders Green and Hampstead.

I spotted a couple of Blue Plaques in the street. One for Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina, who spent much of her life living in the Ivy House on North End Road. The following plaque is for the writer Evelyn Waugh who also lived along North End Road.

Old Bull and Bush

The short walk between Golders Green and Hampstead station is a lovely walk. If you start from Golders Green and walk up the hill, the Old Bull and Bush is a perfect stop before the final climb to the highest point in metropolitan London.

If you take the underground, do not follow the instructions in the “Getting Here” section on the pub’s website, which strangely states that the pub is “Located a quarter of a mile from Bull and Bush Underground station” – this was a planned station that was part built but never opened. Intended to serve building on the heath to the north of the Old Bull and Bush, which fortunately was never built. Next time I am in the pub I will have to ask them for directions to Bull and Bush Underground station (there is a surface building for the original entrance shaft, but it is clearly not a station – a subject for another post, even better if TfL could let me see the old station shafts and tunnels!).

It was relatively quiet during my visit, but if we have the same weather as reported in The Standard from 1906 for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a couple of weeks, the Old Bull and Bush, as well as the other pubs around Hampstead Heath will be looking forward to the additional trade that good weather has always generated.

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The Brexit Bridge or New London Bridge

Readers of the blog will be very aware that I spend most of my time in the past, writing about London’s history, and unlike may other blogs I do not explore future plans for London and the many exciting developments in transport and architecture.

Today is an exception, and for an extra post on the 1st April, I have a scoop that I have not yet read about anywhere else.

A couple of week’s ago I was at the end of a walk from Deptford to London Bridge and had stopped in one of the well known coffee chains that frequent the area. I had sat down at a table, drinking tea, looking through the photos on my camera, and started to hear snatches from a rather loud conversation on an adjacent table.

Around the table were six smartly dressed people, who I gathered were from a construction company and an architectural practice. They were about to give a presentation at City Hall, and in a text book example of why you should not discuss confidential business in a public place, they were doing exactly that.

The words that caught my interest were Brexit Bridge, followed by New London Bridge. I now had a challenge to make my almost empty cup of tea last much longer so I could listen in to the discussion, and this is what heard.

The team was about to present their proposals for a new bridge across the Thames and were having a final run through of their presentation, and looking for anything they may have missed to make the presentation, and the proposal for the bridge, more compelling.

The proposal was for a new bridge across the River Thames in the same location as originally planned for the Garden Bridge. Where the bridge would differ from the Garden Bridge is that it would be a much larger copy, with modern materials, of the earlier version of London Bridge when the bridge was lined by houses.

The working name for the project was officially “New London Bridge”, but the team were discussing that the Brexit Bridge would have been a great alternative for the previous Mayor, with an alliterative name, and the option to put his first name at the beginning.

The new bridge would stretch from the South Bank to the Temple underground station and would consist of eight storey houses on either side. These would use modern materials for strength and durability, but from what I could make out of the design from their conversations, would emulate the appearance of the earlier London Bridge.

The bridge would not be open for traffic, pedestrians only and to emulate bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the ground floor would be lined with shops. They expected considerable demand from all the expensive international brands hoping to get a store in such an iconic landmark.

The team had obviously learnt from the issues with the Garden Bridge:

  • The bridge would be self funding as sales of the apartments in the buildings lining the bridge would generate more than enough funding to build the bridge
  • Rental from the shops, and annual maintenance fees from the apartments would more than cover the maintenance costs of the bridge

So no public money, or private donations would be needed.

The team had also considered other objections to the Garden Bridge and part of their pitch was that the, and I quote “heritage lobby”, could not object as the bridge was a recreation of a historical bridge that once crossed the river.

Other arguments for the bridge consisted of:

  • It would demonstrate that London continues to be “Open for Business”
  • The concept had already been tested with potential purchasers in China, Malaysia, the Middle East and Russia, and there was no shortage of buyers – what billionaire would not want such an address to boast to their peers, so funding would not be a problem
  • It would bring to London a significant new tourism attraction, thereby increasing London’s attraction to international tourists
  • It would provide another pedestrian route across the river

I continued to listen (pretending to drink from an empty cup and looking through my photos for the 10th time) as the conversation seemed to get increasingly far-fetched. They also discussed options for other uses for the bridge, and how potential purchasers could be better served (and charged more).

  • The original London Bridge had narrow arches so the flow of water was constricted, and passing underneath London Bridge could be a dangerous exercise, with travelers often preferring to get back onto land to bypass the bridge before getting back on the river. Modern construction techniques would allow wide arches, however as an additional tourist attraction, technology used at the Thames Barrier in the form of raising barriers could be used to simulate the rush of water under the old bridge, which could provide an additional tourist attraction for the Rib tourist boats that currently ply the river (although the team did expect objections from the Port of London Authority and the RNLI to this feature)
  • Gatehouses would guard the entrance to the bridge. These would provide a security control to check the pedestrians attempting to cross (this would after all be private land), but they were discussing other historical features such as simulated heads on spikes waving above the entrance to the bridge
  • The type of potential client for the apartments on the bridge also have large yachts which could not pass under the City bridges, so the team were planning to make use of the space where the plans for the cruise liner terminal at Greenwich appears to have been abandoned, by providing a dedicated mooring space, with a concierge river taxi service taking clients from Greenwich to their apartments – they estimated that another £5 Million per year per apartment could be charged for this feature

The team finally packed aware their laptops, and with a final few motivational encouragements, headed off to City Hall to make their presentation.

I have no idea of the outcome of their presentation, or whether we may be seeing a future recreation of the following bridge across the river:

London Bridge

The site was chosen as to redevelop the existing London Bridge was not viewed as an option as the bridge was a key traffic route between north and south banks of the river. The proposed location was also wider than the central City location, so could accommodate more apartments and therefore generate a greater return to cover the costs of the bridge and profit for the investors.

The location of the bridge will be across the river in the middle of this photo (only taken a few years ago, but surprising how the City has since changed).

London Bridge

The Serious Bit

The above is my attempt for April Fool’s Day, but there is a serious element to it. The more I thought and wrote about such a bridge, I more I thought that this could actually happen.

The city is growing at a very rapid rate. I took the above photo in December 2014, and less than five years later the number of towers in the City has grown considerably.

Buildings that previous generations could never have imagined have been built across London, and their geographic spread, height and design variations seem to be growing on a monthly basis. The function of areas of the city have also changed considerably – the Isle of Dogs was once devoted to industry and the docks. These disappeared within a generation to be replaced by offices and apartment blocks which continue to be built and spread in area and height.

London has always changed, and what we see today is only a snapshot of the city, a view that is different to yesterday and will be different tomorrow.

I have a theory that our baseline of London is from when we first encounter the city. Mine is from the 1970s, and I still reference changes to what the city was like then. We took our granddaughter up to the Skygarden a few months ago, and she loves the building and the view – this is part of her baseline of the city, where I would consider the building in relation to what was there before and the impact that buildings like this have had.

The city will therefore be very different in the future. Buildings we cannot imagine now will at some point grace London’s skyline. London appears in one of the Star Trek films (Into Darkness) where St. Paul’s Cathedral is surrounded and dwarfed by towers that rise in all directions (see 26 seconds into the YouTube extract which can be found here). This view seems very plausible for the future given the current trend in building.

I have no idea whether a New London Bridge, lined with apartments will ever be built, but with money and the right connections, I am sure there is very little to stop such a construction.

If it does ever get built, just remember that you heard it here first.

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