Thursday, September 15, 2016

Marble Arch

Can't believe I'm visiting the  32nd station on the Central Line already. The Central line has 49 stations almost double the number on the Bakerloo line which took me 18 months to complete.

This photo shows all the  stations I have visited on the Eastbound side with the remainder still to visit on the Westbound route.

Exiting the tube train you are greeted with decorative enamel panels based on an arch. Designed by Annabel Grey they were fitted in 1985. This is the best I could do as I couldn't step back any further to take a photo of the whole design without falling onto the track.

There are three exits from the station, the main one exiting next to a major road junction of Oxford Street,  Park Lane, Bayswater Road and Edgware Road

Of course the station is named after Marble Arch. Made from white marble the arch was designed by John Nash in 1827. It was built to be the state entrance to Buckingham Palace but with Queen Victoria's large family the Palace needed to be extended and the Arch was dismantled and relocated as a ceremonial entrance to Hyde Park. When Park Lane was widened in 1960-64 it left Marble Arch stranded as a traffic island.

The bronze gates to the Arch showing the lion of England, the cypher of George IV and the figure of St George and the dragon.

In the middle of this traffic island at the corner of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road lies the site of the Tyburn tree gallows.

A plaque in the paving stones marks the site of the gallows. Between 1196 and 1783 criminals, religious martyrs and political prisoners were executed here. They were brought be cart from the prisons mainly Newgate (now the Old Bailey) along Tyburn Street which is now Oxford Street. It is estimated that 50,000 prisoners were hanged here. Hanging days became public holidays and crowds of up to 200,000 gathered here to witness the event. Eventually the tree was replaced by moveable gallows when a toll-house was built on the site. By around 1780 Oxford Street was fully built up as a residential area and the last public execution took place at Tyburn in 1783.
A little further along Bayswater Road is the Tyburn Convent. From 1535 to 1681, 105 Catholics were hanged on the Tyburn Tree Gallows. The convent was founded here in 1901 and has relics of bones and clothing from the Tyburn Martyrs  in the crypt. The convent houses a cloistered community whose main occupation is prayer. There is always a nun praying in the chapel. The public may also worship there during certain times of the day but behind a grill, out of sight. I went into the chapel but felt it disrespectful to take a photo of the nun praying at the altar. Sitting in the silent chapel I was surprised by the rumbling of the Central Line tube trains travelling below the convent.

Walking by Marble Arch you cannot miss the large drinking horse sculpture by Nic Fiddian Green
I crossed over into Hyde Park. Here in the North East corner of the park is Speakers' Corner. In 1855 a large number of protest meetings were held in Hyde park. In 1872 the right to free assembly was recognised. Since then anyone has had the right to say what they like at Speakers' Corner provided they do not break the law.

I exited the park onto Park Lane to visit the Animals in War Memorial which is located on an island in the middle of the road. It is a powerful and moving tribute to all the animals that served, suffered and died alongside the British, Commonwealth and Allied forces in the wars and conflicts of the 20th cent. Some eight million horses, mules and donkeys died in the First World War.

Crossing Park Lane I went down Brook Street and walked through these back streets which are just a couple of minutes walk from Oxford Street. Once the homes of the rich and wealthy, nowadays many of them are owned by companies, embassies or split into apartments. I meandered through the streets and although the traffic was heavy there were very few pedestrians. The only people I saw were builders working on conversions and renovations.

I walked back to Marble Arch station and used the pedestrian subway to cross the busy Bayswater Road.
These 1962 mosaics which combine traditional and experimental mosaic techniques, brighten up an otherwise very dull passageway

Back at Marble Arch I walked passed Cumberland Gate and the Lodge. For about 100 years from 1851 it  was  a Public Convenience (toilet) on Park Lane but then the building was moved here on North Carriage Drive by Cumberland gate. I believe it is now used as a home for the assistant park manager.

Just through Cumberland Gate inside Hyde Park is this futuristic drinking fountain. Made from stainless steel it has four drinking fountains at different levels.Unveiled in 2009, it was the first drinking fountain in Hyde Park for 30 years. It was donated to the park from the developer Michael Freeman who is a regular jogger in the park. The idea of the fountain is to encourage more drinking from the fountain and less from plastic water bottles.

Leaving the park I walked along the Bayswater Road and noticed the plaque outside this building.

I turned onto Albion Street passing the Mews There are numerous Mews in this area. The Mews were the stable blocks for the numerous wealthy families that lived in this affluent area. Now the Mes have been converted into homes.
I walked round the corner onto Connaught Street. This road refers to itself as Connaught Village and to be fair it does have  lots of individual shops, eating places and numerous hanging baskets overladen with flowers giving the area a villagy feel.

This is Connaught Square. Like so many other garden squares, the garden is reserved for residents only. I walked round the Square looking for places of interest and noticed that one of the houses had two armed police on duty outside. I assumed this was a consulate building or such like but as there was no plaque outside I was intrigued. I was not foolish enough to stop and photograph the building but made a mental note of the address to search online. I discovered that it is the family home of the ex Prime Minister Tony Blair.

I crossed over Edgware Road onto Upper Berkeley Street

You will find restaurants from around the world here.

This is the West London Synagogue on Upper Berkeley Street. It is a Reform synagogue and is one of the oldest synagogues in the United Kingdom.

Turning onto Seymour Place you find The Carpenters Arms, established in 1776 and rebuilt in 1872. This traditional pub is also home to the London branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale).

From an artisan bakery to a Lindy Hop dance club, this road very close to Oxford Street is devoid of tourists yet full of interesting shops and eateries.

Back towards Marble Arch  I passed the large Neo- Gothic church of the Annunciation.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bond Street

This is the 31st station I've visited on the Central Line and it is in the middle of one of the busiest shopping streets in the world, Oxford Street. Bond Street station, services both the Jubilee and Central lines.

As with many underground stations in Central London there is no surface building. Before emerging onto the street you enter the West One Shopping Centre which is usually crowded but it is early Sunday morning and the shops are not yet open.

Sunday morning before the shops are even open and Oxford Street  still busy with queues building up outside some shops.

Almost directly opposite the station is Stratford Place which is so peaceful and quiet. Here there are the Botswana and Tanzania High Commissions, the former home of the 8th President of the USA ( Martin Van Buren) and an impressive  mansion at the end of the cul-de-sac which is now the Oriental Club. The club is a Private Members Club and is open to those who are proposed and seconded by current members. Definitely a case of who you know or which public school you attended if you wish to have access to this club.

Back onto Oxford Street and a short walk takes me to an alley leading to St Christopher's Place.

More like a piazza surrounded by individual shops and eating places and in its centre a Victorian public convenience

The largest store on Oxford Street is Selfridges. In fact it's the second largest shop in the UK after Harrods.  It must be one of just a few stores to have  a TV series written about it (Mr Selfridge).

Built in 1909 by the American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge it is a huge building taking up the whole block.

Above the main doors is the The Queen of Time sculpture with a large bell above chiming the hour.

I left Oxford Street via Fitzhardinge St to Manchester Square, Just a couple of minutes away from the congested Oxford St is this private garden square. By private I mean that the garden in the centre of the square is only accessible to residents of the square.

At the Northern end is a Museum housing the Wallace Collection of art treasures, furniture, porcelain and armour. It is free to enter and well worth a visit.

Leaving the square via Duke St I entered Wigmore St. This large distinctive building occupies almost a whole block and is completely clad in white Carrara tiles by Doulton. Built in 1906 it was the Debenhams building. It is still an office block  but is no longer connected to the Debenhams Department store chain.

Perhaps the most well known building on Wigmore Street is Wigmore Hall. Built in 1901 by the German piano maker Bechstein next to its showrooms. It used to be called Bechstein Hall but its German ownership meant that it was seized during WW1 and didn't reopen until 1917 when its name was changed to Wigmore Hall. Its acoustics have earned it the reputation of being one of Europe's best small venues for classical music.

Standing alone behind the stores of Oxford St is St Peter's church  Vere St designed by James Gibbs. Opened in 1724 as Marybone Chapel. In 1952 it became a chapel of ease and then in 1983 it  became the home of The Institute for Comtemporary Christianity. I had never heard of a chapel of ease so had to look it up to discover that it is used in place of the main church as it is more accessible.

Moving on I crossed Oxford Street to explore south of Bond Street station starting with New Bond Street, home to art galleries and auction rooms

Turned left onto Brook Street where Handel lived for 36 years at No 25 until his death in 1759. It was here he composed many of his great masterpieces including theMessiah and Music for the Royal Fireworks.. The house is now a Museum which you access from an alley behind the building. Many years later in 1969 another musician was to live in the house next door and that musician was Jimi Hendrix.

Further along Brook Street is Claridges Hotel. It started life as a single house in the early 1800s before Marianne and William Claridge decided to expand their business by buying 5 adjoining houses in 1854. In 1856 Claridges was born and it wasn't long before it gained a reputation as a hotel for royalty and European heads of state. Many exiled heads of state used it as a refuge during WW2. The Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia remained there for the duration of the war.

Across the road from Claridges is Davies Street with Grays Mews Antique Centre

Bernie Gray rescued this magnificent building in 1977. Built in the 19th C for J. Bolding and sons, it was originally a plumbing manufacturer.

 Left to go to ruin it was later found flooded with the basement under six feet of water. This was discovered to be the famous hidden River Tyburn, a tributary of the Thames. The river still rises at Shepherds well in Hampstead and flows through Regent's Park and the West End into the Thames. However, over the years as these areas have built up, the river was culverted but there is one place that the clean running water of the Tyburn can still be seen and that is in the basement of Grays Mews.

The Tyburn Brook as it was known gave its name to Brook Street and until the 18th C Oxford St was known as Tyburn Road. This led to Tyburn Lane (now Park Lane) and the Tyburn hanging gallows at the site of Marble Arch.

Hanging criminals from the Tyburn gallows, also known as the Tyburn tree, was a popular form of entertainment from 1196 until 1783 when the executions were moved to Newgate Gaol as the large crowds were becoming unruly.

Continuing my walk along Brook Street brings me to the second largest garden square in London, Grosvenor Square. First developed in 1725-31, it was one of the most fashionable residential addresses in London. The buildings surrounding the square have been rebuilt several times and are now mainly neo-Georgian mansion blocks. The exception being the US Embassy which has been there since 1938. It was also the site of General Eisenhower's headquarters during the Second World War.

The Embassy is a massive building with the street between the embassy and the square blocked off. Guarded like a fortress it dominates the square. The US Embassy is moving next year into a purpose built, highly secured glass cube structure by the Thames near Battersea which has a moat surrounding it as part of its security features. The Grosvenor Square  building will not be demolished as it has Heritage status and no doubt will become more luxury apartments.

As part of the peacetime celebrations in 1946, it was decided to make Grosvenor Square a public space. Originally it was reserved for the use of the residents of the surrounding houses. In 1948 the British memorial to president Roosevelt was unveiled. Further memorials include the Eagle squadron monument and a D Day landing commemorative stone.

On the Eastern side of the square is a memorial garden created in memory of all those who lost their lives in the September 11  terrorist attacks. The memorial consists of a wooded temple embraced by two pergolas. Three bronze plaques within the temple remember the 67 British citizens who died during the attack.

In front of the temple is a memorial stone inscribed with an excerpt of a poem by Henry Van Dyke. A section of a steel girder from the World Trade Centre is buried beneath the stone.

I left the Square and made my way up Duke Street and came across Brown Hart Gardens

In 1886 a communal garden was laid down between two large residential buildings for the benefit of the residents of the flats. This garden was dug in in 1903 to make way for an electrical sub station but with great vision and forethought Stanley Peace designed a raised paved Italian garden above the sunken sub station with a domed neo-Baroque pavilion at either end.  Made from Portland stone with plenty of seating on either side, it's a great place to rest and have lunch within a two minute walk of Oxford Street.

According to British History Online  the garden is perhaps the only place in London where quarrelling is specifically forbidden by law!

Walking down the steps from the garden I noticed this huge sculpture which appeared to be an extension of the hotel. I discovered that this 3 floor high sculpture is by the artist Anthony Gormley and is called ROOM.. From the outside a sculpture but from the inside it is the bedroom of a one bedroomed suite. The hotel is the Beaumont opened in 2014 so a recent addition to the many hotels in this area. The building itself dates back to 1926 when it was originally built as a car park. If you would like to stay in ROOM it would cost you £1575 per night. Other suites and rooms available from £395 a night.

I made my way down Balderton Street onto Oxford Street and home.