Monday, June 8, 2015

Willesden Junction

This is not only an underground station but also a major British  Rail station and an Overground station. Consequently it is a large station with platforms on a high and a low level. It also has toilets on the platform, very useful for the tube traveller.

This is the path from the railway station. I was walking along it at midday but there is no way I would walk there at night. It felt desolate and threatening. The steps at the end of the pathway take you to Harlesden town Centre. I was surprised thinking that I as I had just arrived at Willesden Junction I would be in Willesden but no I am in Harlesden.

Harlesden started life as a rural village but with the coming of the railways and 3 stations within close proximity to one another it soon grew and in the Victorian times became part of the ever growing London conurbation. In 1999 Harlesden had the highest murder rate in the UK. but things have improved over recent years. Walking along the high street there were a number of fresh food shops including this fishmongers and its wonderful display.

There are far more hairdressers and hair shops than I have ever seen on other High Streets.This one had a huge number of  wigs on display.

Harlesden is an ethnically diverse community. In the 60s many Irish and Afro - Caribbeans arrived to work on the railways and in the McVities biscuit factory. More recently Brazilians, Portuguese, Afghan, Polish and Somalian communities have settled in the area.

The Royal Oak built in 1892 although there has been a building on the site since 1757

The salvation Army Hall which offers Christian services as well as children's play groups and other community activities.

On the front of this building is a blue plaque celebrating the formation of the UKs first Reggae band.

In the centre of the town is the Jubilee clock to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee erected in 1887

On the right is the  old Willesden Junction  station. Across the road from the old station is Le Junction a gastro pub which was once the  Willesden Junction Hotel.

Walking from the present  Willesden Junction station in the opposite direction to Harlesden Town Centre it looks very different. 

You can now see the houses that were built for the railway workers.

The alleyways that run between the backs of the terraced houses are no longer the back yards that would house the lavatory but bijou patios with potted plants.

Just past this group of railway houses we come to the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal

Looked picturesque from the bridge but down on the tow path it is not so pleasant with rubbish strewn in the undergrowth along its banks.
Looking closer, this isn't discarded rubbish but is where someone has been living.

Following the canal it takes me to the next station on the Bakerloo line - Harlesden.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kensal Green

This is the 17th post in my series on 'Above the Underground'. I am out of Central London now and the trains no longer  travel underground. Arriving at Kensal Green station was different, as the train is much lower than the platform so it was quite strange to step up onto the platform.

The driver has a large mirror to help him/her ensure passengers alight safely.

Opera was drifting down the stairs as I made my way to the exit not something I was expecting, nor was the beautifully written thought for the day on the notice board. In 2005 London Underground announced that it would 
play classical music at problem stations to dissuade youngsters from loitering and causing a nuisance. This station achieved notoriety in 2006 when a young lawyer was brutally murdered by two teenagers. His killers were traced from CCTV footage at the station where they had previously mugged a passenger prior to committing the murder. The station was declared unsafe as it was unmanned at night and the ticket barriers were left open. The two murderers are currently serving life sentences. Is the station still unmanned at night? I doubt it  but I won't be travelling there to find out.

The station frontage is so different from the ox-blood red tiled buildings of the previous stations. This  new station replaced the old one in  1980 and has no charm at all.

Kensal Green is probably best known for the large cemetery there. It is the largest of the ring of 'Magnificent seven ' cemeteries that were built to cope with the lack of space in parish churchyards in the mid 19th cent. There are a few well known personalities buried here including the engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father; the inventor Charles Babbage;Charles Blondin who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope; Sir William Beatty surgeon to Admiral Lord Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar.

Sir Archibald Galloway (1779-1850) He was director of the East India Company and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1848.

There are some very large mausoleums at the cemetery including this one of the Duke of Cambridge.

This is the Dissenters' chapel completed in 1834 and was well used until it was bombed in the WW2. The cemetery allocated 39 acres of consecrated ground and 15 acres of unconsecrated ground for those who were not of the Anglican faith. The chapel is now used for the community with lectures and exhibitions organised by the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery.

This is the Anglican chapel


There have been stone masons and sculptors in the Landers family since at least 1676. Everywhere you look in the cemetery there is evidence of their work. Originally from Dorset they moved to this area in 1832 and work from this listed building next to the cemetery.

Not far from the cemetery is a small street with 2 pubs. This one has the unusual name of 'Paradise by way of Kensal Green'. The phrase is from a poem by GK Chesterton and Kensal Green is referring to the cemetery.

The Rolling English Road
Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.
His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.
My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

On the door at the side of the pub is evidence of its previous name, Ye Old Plough

The other pub on the same street is The Grey Horse which has some good reviews for its food

Running alongside the cemetery is the Paddington branch of the Grand Union canal

This is the local library

This former old warehouse next to the canal has been converted into cafes and design studios and offices.

This white building on the corner of Kensal Road is known as 'Fruit Towers' and is home to Innocent the makers of fruit smoothies. The company was started by 3 graduates who began on a very small scale making smoothies from just fruit and no additives. They sold them at a stall at a music festival and asked their customers to put their empty bottles in either a 'yes' bin or a 'no' bin depending on whether they thought the trio should leave their jobs to concentrate on making smoothies. At the end of the day the 'Yes' bin was full and so began a very successful business. So successful that it has now been bought by 'Coca Cola'. I wonder if their smoothies are still so Innocent!

Returning to the station I passed this building on the Harrow Road. It is the main factory of Holland and Holland Ltd Gunmakers. The building was deliberately built to be tall and slim with large windows to give as much light as possible. There is no signage on the building advertising its usage.