Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Oxford Circus

Oxford Street station is number 30 out of the 49 stations on the Central line but is also on the Bakerloo line so I have already researched this station. However, since I visited it in Feb 2015 I need to update the information as history was made on the weekend of 19/08/16 when the Central Line became one of the first tube lines to be open 24 hours a day at weekends. The publicity surrounding the event was all based around this station with the new night tube roundel on display.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tottenham Court Road

Arriving at Tottenham Court Road Underground station is a colourful experience. The walls of the station have been decorated with mosaics. Designed by the British artist Eduard Paolozzi they were installed on the platforms and entrance halls in 1984. I think they are the most popular of the Underground Art installations.

They bring the platforms to life with Paolozzi's interpretation of life above ground.

More artwork awaits the traveller as they ascend the escalators. The bold simple shapes of Daniel Buren's design transforms an otherwise dull exit. Tottenham Court Road station is undergoing a major transformation as the new Elizabeth Line  (Crossrail) will be stopping here as well as the Central and Northern underground lines

Directly opposite the exit from the station is The Flying Horse pub. Its heritage dates back to 1790 and is the last remaining pub on Oxford Street.

The very tall building next to the station is Centre Point one of the first sky scrapers in London . In the early 60s it was thought to be a good idea to erect tall buildings at major traffic intersections with no thought to the narrowing of pavements for pedestrians.The 33 story office block was completed in 1966 and  remained empty until 1975. It was controversial from the start being empty for almost a decade during a housing shortage whilst land and property prices rocketed. It is now being converted into luxury apartments which is par for the course in London.

Walking away from the station around the construction site I noticed this property where the facade is going to be preserved. Beyond it are the colourful buildings of Central St Giles.

The multi coloured exterior of these office blocks is like a slap in the face when you first see them. Designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano I still can't decide whether I like them or not. No doubt he wanted to make a statement with his first London project. (His next design was The Shard).

At ground level are the usual coffee shops and food outlets as well as the swirling winds that surround  these tall buildings.

 Across the road from this burst of colour is St Giles in the Field church. The church was founded in the 12th C as part of a leper hospital. The present Palladian style church was built by Flitcroft in 1770-73. During the 18th C and 19th C the population of the parish grew enormously exceeding 30,000 by 1831. This area known as the 'Rookeries'  was an overcrowded and lawless part of London. The construction of New Oxford Street in 1847 was designed to improve transport connections from the City but had the added bonus of clearing the slums. William Hogarth featured the steeple of St Giles in many of his prints depicting the debauchery of 18th C London.

Nowadays the church and churchyard have become a haven away from the hustle and bustle of this busy part of town.

Next to the church on Flitcroft Street is Elms Lester painting rooms. Built in 1904 the painting rooms supplied all the West End theatres with their theatrical backdrops. By the early eighties the building was almost derelict but a major renovation saw the four electrically operated paint frames working again and the scenery painting business up and running alongside the Art Gallery.

Continue walking down Flitcroft Street and you arrive at Phoenix Garden. Created in 1984 by volunteers on the site of a former car park, it is often referred to as the Secret Garden.

Around the corner is the Phoenix Theatre  opened in 1930 with the play 'Private Lives' by Noel Coward, starring Noel Coward.

The theatre was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Cathedral and the K2 red telephone box.

Leaving Phoenix Street I turned right onto Charing Cross Road well known for its numerous book shops. However I did not want to stray to far from Tottenham Court Station so I turned right into Denmark Street.

In the 50s and 60s this short street was the centre of the UK music industry. The New Musical Express and the Melody Maker magazines had their head offices here and the recording studios on the street were used by the Kinks, Rolling Stones and Elton John.

Continued my walk onto Shaftesbury Avenue with the Shaftesbury theatre on the corner. I am in theatre-land now with six theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue. There are 38 theatres just in the West End so you are never short of something to see.

Close to Shaftesbury Avenue on Little Russell Street is The Cartoon Museum. A small museum but full of original British cartoon and comic art from the 18th cent to the present day. 

Just around the corner on Great Russell Street is the British Museum. Founded in 1753, the Museum's collection spans over 2 million years of history and culture. It is here you will find the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering hieroglyphics.

Across the road from the Museum is Bedford Square.
Built between 1775 and 1783 it is a very elegant square facing a residents only garden square

All this and much more within a five minute walk of Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Now that I am in Central London and the tube stations are closer together, I only walk a few minutes in each direction from the Underground stations but even so there is so much I want to record in these posts. I always like to find at least one thing that is new to me and hopefully new to those of you who know London.

I have now reached Holborn, the 28th station I have visited on the Central Line. The station has been in the news this year as customers have been asked to stand on both sides of two 'up' escalators for a six month trial. It is normal for customers to stand on the right allowing others to walk on the left. This understanding is adhered to at all Underground stations and visitors to London are soon asked to move if they stand on the left whilst on the 'up' escalator! It is hoped that by getting people to stand on both sides of the escalator it will reduce congestion. However I noticed no difference as people stood on the right whilst others continued to walk passed them  on the left.

The station is on the corner of High Holborn and Kingsway and serves both the Central and Piccadilly Lines.

 Holborn station is one of the busiest on the tube network with more than 56m customers a year.

Kingsway is a wide tree lined busy road. The road is 30m wide with large Edwardian commercial buildings on either side. Underneath the road is a disused subway for trams which runs the full length of Kingsway.

 At the north end of Kingsway you can see where the trams used to enter and exit the subway. Peering through the railings I could see the old tram lines running along the cobblestones down the ramp into the tunnel. The tram network was discontinued in the 1950s.

There are one or two buildings of interest on Kingsway. This one is part of the facade of the old Holy Trinity church. The way the building curves has always interested me. Its interior was incorporated into a supermarket in the 1990s. The original Holy Trinity church was built in 1830 but had to be demolished in 1909 after work on the Piccadilly Line undermined its foundations. A new church was built in 1909-11 but was closed in 1991.Not a great history for a church.

This building on the corner of Kingsway and Lincoln's Inn fields used to be the Public Trustee Office but is now the New Academic building for the LSE (London School of Economics). Whilst the outside retains its Edwardian heritage, peering through the windows I could see a very contemporary and ultra modern inside.

On the corner of the building is this sculpture by Richard Wilson entitled 'Square the Block'

Lincoln's Inn Fields is London's first garden square. It was laid out in 1640 and by 1658 there were houses on three sides of it. The fourth side is taken up by Lincoln's Inn(see previous post). The garden is now enclosed by railings but is open to the public with a central bandstand, cafe and tennis/netball courts. It was here I used to play for the GLC netball team in the early 70s.

It is still the largest public square in London.

There are two museums in the square both of which have free entry. The Hunterian is within this building which is the Royal College of Surgeons . No photography allowed which is just as well as some of the exhibits are pretty gruesome.The Museum includes the collection of the surgeon John Hunter whose prize possession was the skeleton of Charles O'Brien a 7ft7in giant of a man. It is said that Hunter hung around O'Brien's sick bed desperate to have the body. O'Brien gave instructions that his body was to be buried at sea in a lead coffin but Hunter paid the fishermen £ 500 for the corpse. Other items to be found in the museum are Lister's first antiseptic spray and Winston Churchill's false teeth! There are many other things preserved in jars which are better left to the imagination.

As these items were in a glass case just outside the entrance to the Museum I assumed it was OK to photograph them. They are corrosion casts by D. Tompsett done between 1942 and 47. He developed the technique of injecting resin into the blood vessels, tubes and cavities of human and animal specimens. The surrounding tissue was then dissolved with hydrochloric acid. These photos are a horse's heart and lungs. These were used as teaching aids for surgery.

On the opposite side of the square is Sir John Soane's Museum. Sir John was an architect and is probably most remembered for designing the Bank of England. There are three houses which form the Museum, although the front half of number 14 houses the Adam study centre. The museum is where Soane's lived and worked and kept his collections of art, sculpture, furniture and much, much more. Many of his architectural drawings as well as models are also displayed. No photography is allowed so I can't show you the inside of the building. Only 70 people are allowed in at any one time so often there is a queue outside. It is free entry and definitely worth a visit.

I left Lincoln's Inn Fields via a small alleyway in the North West corner. Here you will find the Ship Tavern. Established in 1549 it was much smaller then it is now and initially was used by farm labourers. It has always been a public house but in the reign of Henry VIII, it was used as a shelter for Roman Catholic priests and services were secretly held here. If the priests were caught they were executed on the spot. Some say the place is haunted with the screams of the priests, even though the pub was rebuilt in 1923!

The narrow alleyways a reminder of a time gone by. I came out of the alleyway onto High Holborn. This road dates back to Roman times. Holborn was mentioned in 1086 in the Domesday Book and then of course in the 14th and 15th when the Inns of Court were founded near by it became the centre of the legal profession.

At 252 High Holborn is the Rosewood Hotel. This building used to be the headquarters of the Pearl Assurance Company. Built in 1914 it was expanded over the next 50 years and has a number of heritage features including the Grand Staircase and the Baking Halls. The conversion into a luxury hotel  was consequently overseen by English Heritage.

Across the road from the Rosewood is Templar House. This was the site of the Royal Amphitheatre and circus. The first boxing match under the Marquis of Queensbury rules was fought here in  1867. It is now home to Transport For London
Very impressive door with this sign inside the doorway.
It must be the only place in London that has the Underground sign not related to an Underground Station

I turned off High Holborn onto Procter Street. Unusual as you walk or drive underneath the office block which is built over the road.

Red Lion Square on Procter Street is a typical London Square public garden. The trees provided well needed shade on a hot day.

This is Fenner Brockway ( Nov 1888- April 1988) a British anti war activist and politician. During the war pacifists were handed white feathers by girls in the street as a sign of cowardice It was
said that Fenner was proud of the number of white feathers he received. He later became a labour Member of Parliament and formed the charity 'War on Want'

In the NE corner of the square is the Conway Hall, the only remaining Ethical Society in the UK!

Close by are the beautiful elegant houses in Bedford Row.

On Theobald's Road is this  barber's shop which has an old world charm surrounding it. I imagine gentlemen can still get a traditional wet shave in here.
On the corner of Theobald's Road and Southampton Row is this Grade II listed building, a stunning neoclassical landmark constructed in the 1920s. It was extensively remodelled in 2003 and now houses offices and leisure facilities..

 The back of Victoria House faces Bloomsbury Square.
On the corner of Bloomsbury square is a phone box which sells salads and other food twice a week. I love to find something different on my 'Above the Underground' walks and this is definitely different. Only sorry it wasn't open but I will be returning to this spot for lunch one day soon.

Bloomsbury Square will be the place to sit and enjoy one of those phone box lunches.
Just off Bloosbury Square is this long alleyway leading to Pied Bull Yard.
I decided this courtyard was the place for lunch today mainly because it was quiet and had this spacious outdoor seating area. There was a price to pay for this peaceful hideaway and that was the cost of the sandwich I had from the Le Cordon Bleu kitchen!

I walked back to Kingsway through the Sicilian Arcade. A pedestrianised avenue with a number of restaurants to tempt you.
I walked down Kingsway to Great Queen Street.

This building which is part of the Grand Connaught Rooms is where The Freemasons' Tavern stood  which has its own place in history. On 13th Nov 1807 the first geological society in the world was inaugurated there and on 26th Oct 1863 The Football Association was formed here

Next to the Connaught rooms is the Freemasons' Hall,  headquarters of the Grand Lodge. Built in 1933 it is a classic example of an art deco building. It is assumed that Freemasonry originated with the stone masons who built the great cathedrals and castles during the medieval period.  Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest, non-religious, non-political charitable organisations
 This was another interesting find as I always thought that the Freemasons was a very secret society but at their headquarters in the heart of London is a Museum with lots of items on display. I did go in for a look round and will post some photos of what I saw on my other blog.

There were a number of interesting shops on Great Queen Street including a hat shop with some unusual designs.

Enough window shopping, time to go home.