Sunday, September 8, 2019


This is the third station I have visited on the District Line. The station at Hornchurch opened in May 1885. The District line was the second underground suburban railway to be constructed in London and opened in 1868 between Westminster and South Kensington by the Metropolitan District Railway. Metropolitan District trains began services to Upminster in 1902 but it wasn't until 1933 after a number of different railways amalgamated that it became the District Line. The line is the green one on the Tube map.

On leaving the station I turned left towards the town

Just a short distance from the station is the aptly named Railway Hotel. Tried to discover some historical details but sadly all I could find were details of the prosecution of the manager and chef in 2012 when one person died and numerous others suffered from food poisoning. Not a great claim to fame for a pub!

The familiar blue light sign for the police station.
I passed a number of restaurants and pubs and realised that Hornchurch was much bigger than I expected. It was a Friday and the High Street was busy with shoppers.

 Pie and mash shops have been around since the 19th cent. The pies are usually minced beef served with mashed potatoes and an eel liquor sauce which is a green colour (from the parsley). Eel pies were a favourite of the working class during the Victorian era as eels were plentiful, being the only kind of fish that could survive life in the polluted River Thames. Nowadays the shops tend to sell either steamed or jellied eels to go with the pie and mash. Neither of which appeals to me.

There are lots of eating places here including Tea Island which apparently does very good afternoon teas.
Just beyond the High Street is the Queen's theatre. A large 500 seat complex.
Across the road from the theatre is this beautiful Georgian building which is now the arts centre. The door was open so I wandered inside. In one room there was a painting class taking place. They pointed me in the direction of the annex.

In the annex was a photographic exhibition which happened to be about travel. I found it very interesting.
A little further on was Langton House and gardens. When Hornchurch town centre was redeveloped in the late 60s and 70s many older buildings were demolished to make way for more modern shops etc. Fortunately Langtons 18th century building escaped the developers and is now the local registry office.

A house has stood on this spot since the 15th century. In the 18th century the house was rebuilt into a two storey structure with wings, an orangery, stable block and lake. In 1929 Langtons was gifted to the council and in 1976 became Superintendent Register Office, wedding venue and function hall.

Swans, geese and ducks on the lake made it a very picturesque spot.

Just behind the house is a delightful courtyard with a tea shop.

Couldn't resist a slice of mango cake and a pot of tea.

I left the gardens and crossed back over to the theatre and walked back to the High Street via North Street.

I passed the library, built in 1967 and refurbished in 2007 adding a new tower with lift and stairs.

A supermarket with a Baptist church above.

This beautiful listed building used to be the King's Head pub but as you can see is now a Prezzo restaurant (Italian chain). You would have thought they could have designed a sign more in keeping with the building.

I walked back past the station as I wanted to have a look at Hornchurch Country Park. When I left the station this morning I had noticed a signpost  for the park. It was one mile from the station, a little further than I would normally go but I was interested to see what it was like. The park is on the former site of Sutton's farm airfield from which biplanes of the Royal Flying Corps took off to defend London in WW1. The airfield later became RAF Hornchurch; fighter squadrons from Hornchurch were prominent in the Battle of Britain and it became the most renowned spitfire station in Fighter Command.

There are still relics of the site's RAF history visible in the park. These are type 22 Pillboxes. They provided protection from air-raids and 360 deg visibility for riflemen defending the airfield from ground attack.

This type is hexagonal with iron reinforced concrete walls 30cm thick and a central blast wall. The Pillbox would have been camouflaged painted.

I have seen a number of Pillboxes before but not one of these. This is a Tett Turret named after their inventor H.L.Tett. The turret provided protection for one gunner. They were mounted on a ball race, allowing it to be turned easily, on a brick or concrete chamber which housed extra ammunition and a second person (gun Loader). They were manufactured in Surrey during the invasion crisis of 1940-41 and had a number of advantages as they were easy to conceal and cheap to produce.

The Ingrebourne marshes

The Lake

By 1944, Hornchurch's role as a fighter aerodrome was coming to a close as the squadrons moved out and prepared to move south, ready for D-Day and the invasion of Europe in June that year. After the war ended in May 1945, Hornchurch reverted back to a peacetime station and through the 1950s was used as the RAF's main Aircrew Selection Centre until 1956. Hornchurch Aerodrome closed in July 1962. The London Borough of Havering decided to remember the airman that had flown from RAF Hornchurch by naming streets, roads and avenues after them in their honour.

I spent a couple of hours wandering around the park finishing at the cafe in the visitor's centre.  An excellent way to end my day in Hornchurch.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Upminster Bridge

 This is the 2nd station on the District Line when travelling westwards. It is one of the least used stations on that line with less than 1.5 million entries and exits compared with 5.5 million at Upminster.

This shows all the other stations on the District Line. I wonder how long it will take me to complete it. I am hoping to have finished this line by the Summer of 2021!

 Upminster Bridge station  was constructed in 1934 by the London Midland& Scottish Railway. The Underground took over the station in 1969. Many of the station's original features still exist including these oval seats.

and the cream and red tiled interior and tiled floor in the entrance.

The reversed swastika pattern on the floor of the ticket hall was a popular decorative design at the time the station was constructed.

Upminster Bridge is the only underground station with a red telephone box. However, it no longer has a telephone inside.

Just outside the station was a sign for one of the sections of the London Loop walking route. The London Outer Orbital Path (Loop) is 150 miles long. It circles the Greater London area and takes you through ancient woods, parkland, farmland as well as alongside rivers and canals. I have walked along parts of the Loop when I have visited the outer reaches of the tube line.

The station is named after a crossing over the River Ingrebourne.  The River formed the boundary between the ancient parishes of Hornchurch and Upminster with the station on the Hornchurch side. As there has been a bridge there since 1299 I was very keen to see it..

Turning left onto Upminster Road from the station I walked past The Windmill pub which used to be called the Bridge pub because of its close proximity to Upminster Bridge. If I continued walking along Upminster Road it becomes St Mary's Lane where the windmill is located  which I wrote about in the previous post.  The pub wasn't open when I visited but it looked pleasant enough from the outside.

Then I came to the bridge - not quite what I was expecting!  In 1782 it was suggested that a stone bridge was needed over the river instead of a wooden one but the plan was rejected. As a consequence it had to be repaired many times. It was another 100 years before a stronger crossing was built following flooding. The new bridge was twice as wide as the previous one and had a time capsule of local documents and publications sealed into the foundation below the road surface. However, I must admit I was expecting a slightly more impressive bridge than this tarmacadam road.

 I did wonder if this was the right place but on one side of the bridge is this pedestrian walkway where you can clearly see the River Ingrebourne beneath.

The river passes through the Borough of Havering travelling from the north east to the south west and then flows into the River Thames at Rainham Creek.

I walked round the corner off  Upminster Road onto Bridge Avenue.  At the end of the Lane is the ground of the non league football side AFC Hornchurch.  It is also home to Havering Athletics club stadium.

A path from the football club's car park takes you to Gaynes Parkway, an open green space running alongside the river. 

Tempted though I was by the rope and tyre swing, sense prevailed and I left well alone.

I walked as far as the next footbridge  and then crossed to the other side of the river and followed the road back onto Upminster Road.
The area is very residential with street after street of 1930s housing.

The local shops are more business premises than traditional retail food shops.

I walked down the main road as far as St Andrew's church. There has been a church on this site for over 800 years.

One very unusual feature of the church is the horned bull's head mounted on the east end of the wall. In 1158 King Henry II granted the church and land to the monks of St Bernard in Montjoux who built Hornchurch Priory which survived until 1390. The monk's seal was a bull's head and it is possible  that might be why a horned bull was put on the church. One can also assume that is where the name of Hornchurch originates. In 1610 it was thought the horns were made of lead but when they were repaired in 1824 it was discovered that they were in fact copper. In 1999 the copper horns were stolen and never recovered. They were replaced in 2001.

The lychgate and the war memorial were erected after WW1.

A lychgate is a covered gate at the entrance to a churchyard. Lych means corpse and the gate was traditionally the place where the corpse bearers laid the body of the deceased. The priest would then carry out the first part of the burial service under the shelter of the lychgate. They are usually made from wood and are prone to decay. Consequently many lychgates are modern reproductions.

 St Andrew's churchyard was the only place authorised for burial in this area and it is thought the monks from the Priory in the 13th and 14th century were buried here.

The cemetery at the back of the church looked overgrown and quite a few of the gravestones had been moved by tree roots.

I was surprised to see this gravestone in the churchyard as I would have expected it to be in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery which is nearby in Hornchurch Cemetery. Eric Arthur Dunlop served with the Canadian infantry and died, aged 23,  on 20th April 1918.

The immaculately manicured Commonwealth Graves section in Hornchurch Cemetery which is next door to St Andrew's churchyard.

I spent less than a couple of hours wandering around Upminster Bridge. Although it was pleasant enough, sandwiched between two larger towns of Upminster and Hornchurch, it is mainly a suburban housing area.