Saturday, February 16, 2019

Royal Oak

This is the 28th station I have visited on the Circle Line as part of my 'Above the Underground' challenge. Before 2009 this station was only on the Hammersmith and City Line. Royal Oak opened in 1871 to serve both main line and Hammersmith and City trains and for over 60 years it was the first stop out of Paddington for main line trains. London Transport took ownership of Royal Oak station in January 1970.

It wasn't until 1949 that the Circle Line appeared as a separate line for the first time on the Underground map. In 2009 it ceased to be a continuous loop and it was extended from Edgware Road to Hammersmith. Because of the way the Circle line doubles back on itself I have visited and photographed a lot of this area when I looked around Bayswater station.

Having visited 28 stations on the Circle Line I just have another 7 stations to see before I finish this Underground  Line.

Looking back from the .platform you can see the rail lines going into Paddington mainline station..

It is a small local  station with no ticket office and in 2017 it had just 2.7 million entries and exits.

Royal Oak took its name from a tavern that stood a few hundred metres down the road.  The Royal Oak Tavern stood on a lane that connected the present Bayswater Road with Harrow Road. The Tavern, originally sited in a completely rural setting claimed to have been built on the site of a Royal Hunting Lodge associated with King Charles II..

The old tavern disappeared in the 1870s and was replaced with a Victorian building now known as The Porchester.

Although the station didn't open until 1871, the railway line was extended through here to Hammersmith in 1864 which split the area into two. You can also see from this map the main A40 road which links the City of London and the West End to the M40 and M25 motorways. The road was laid out in the 1920s and 30s but has been re-routed and changed a number of times over the decades.  In the 1960s an elevated carriageway, known as Westway, was constructed to ease traffic to and from the City of London.

You can see the elevated Westway from the station platform.

On leaving the station I turned left along Porchester Road crossing the bridge over the railway lines. Just after the bridge was a small mews.  (A mews refers to stabling built around a yard close to large city houses). During WW2 a bomb fell directly onto the mews and the properties were all rebuilt after the war.  It was a dairy then until 1985 when it was converted into residential units.

 Typical of a mews is the arched narrow entrance needed to allow the horses and carriages into the stables.

On the other side of the road is a large Baptist church and family centre. It is a new construction with a new church, children's library and some offices. Above that are a number of residential flats.

Near the Baptist church  is another centre of worship, the West London Buddhist Centre

Continuing along the road you come to the Porchester centre with its hall, library, Turkish baths and spa. The building is Grade II listed and is an unusual mixture of public rooms available for hire as well as a fitness centre. The Porchester Centre dates from 1925 when the baths were opened. Porchester Hall and the library were added in 1929 and 1930. The centre is owned by Westminster Council. Unusually it has a traditional Turkish baths.with three rooms: warm, hot and hottest as well as steam rooms, sauna and a cold plunge bath. Turkish baths were introduced into the UK in the middle of the 19th century. At a time when the majority of people did not have access to bathing facilities in their own home, public bathhouses were opening up around the country and people were  encouraged to bath regularly and an emphasis was put of the importance of the cleanliness. Turkish baths were also being opened in their hundreds and became very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not many have survived so it is rare to see one that has been so well preserved and still in use.

Around the corner is the entrance to the swimming pools.

Across Porchester Road from the centre is Porchester Square.

Completed between 1855 and 1858, Porchester Square was one of the last areas of Bayswater to be built. The Victorian houses surrounding the square were built by different  builders and although similar their exterior details vary on the houses. The name Porchester comes from one of the Hampshire estates of the Thistlethwaites who with only two or three other families had been the chief lessees of the Bishop of London's land in Paddington since before 1750.

The London County Council bought the leases of the properties in the square which were for sale in 1955 and rehabilitated the buildings.

The garden was for the private use of residents of the square and managed by a residents' committee. The garden was acquired by the local council which opened them to the public in 1955. Only the outer walk is  part of the original layout everything else has since been remodelled.

I left Porchester Square to walk over Ranelagh Bridge. However, I seemed to be walking onto the elevated part of the A40 so retraced my steps back to the station so I could go under Westway and have a look north of the station.

I crossed  beneath Westway and over the very busy dual carriageway of Harrow Road. The Westway is 2.5 mile flyover section of the A40. It runs from Paddington to North Kensington and was constructed between 1964 and 1970 so as to relieve congestion entering central London. The Westway opened in July 1970. Although the route was chosen to follow the easiest path from Western Avenue to Paddington by following the line of the  existing railway it still led to the clearance of a large number of buildings.

Once across the road I entered an open green area surrounded by high rise flats. Westbourne Green open space dates from about 1974 when the area it now covers was the site compound for the building of the A40 Westway and the Marylebone flyover. Once these works were complete the area was laid out as a new open space.

There is a green gym in the park with lots of different exercise machines. You can't see from this photo but the  machines were being well used. However, being so close to heavy traffic on Westway and the Harrow Road I am not convinced that it will do much for your lung capacity.
Moving on through the park I passed St Mary Magdalene's Church. The church was completed in 1878 by the Victorian architect George Edmund Street and is considered to be one of his best churches. When the church was built it was surrounded by a mass of densely populated but affordable housing for the impoverished workers. The increase in population was the main reason for building the church here and during the late 19th century was attracting up to 400 worshippers to the Sunday service.
The church survived the bombing of WW2 but by the middle of the 20th century the houses surrounding the church were declared unfit for purpose and demolished as part of the slum clearance programme. It left the church standing isolated with a new estate growing up around it.  
The new blocks of flats went up quickly as soon as the rubble had been cleared from the old houses. People from the slums were being rehoused into the new flats as quickly as possible or were moved to new developments outside London. The proposals affected 6700 local residents and included the creation of 1127 new dwellings, the majority of which would be located within new blocks.  The church was left standing isolated on the edge of Westbourne Green open space and the high rise flats of the Warwick Estate. In more recent times the church has been on English Heritage's 'Heritage at Risk Register' since 2005. The St Mary Magdalene's Project is trying to address the problems of a dwindling congregation by adding a new Heritage and Learning centre and introducing programmes that attract and serve all members of the community.

The scheme also included the creation of a riverside walk and some much needed green space.

I hadn't realised I was so close to the Grand Union Canal. Walking right would take me to Little Venice and the Paddington Basin (already explored). I turned left to walk alongside the canal for a couple of hundred metres.

The Grand Union Canal has several branches, known as 'arms'. Its main line connects London and Birmingham stretching for 137 miles with 166 locks along its route. At the London end the Grand Union connects into the River Thames at Brentford in West London. Work started on the canal in 1773 and was completed in 1805. The canal provided a key means of transport for bringing goods into London such as minerals, building materials, timber and foodstuff.

This mural was made  by a local youth club alongside artist Kevin Herlihy using litter collected from the canal.

There is a lot of housing overlooking the canal.Some more attractive than others.
At first I wondered what this was jutting out over the canal and then realised it was the Westway flyover.

Nestled between Westway and the Grand Union canal is the Great Western Studios. Made up of 104 studios which are placed around a central atrium which serves a s a communal space. The building also has a gallery which houses exhibitions by renowned artists.

Looking back along the towpath, I left the canal at this point to walk back to the station.

The Westminster Academy is one of the newest buildings in the area. Completed in 2007, it won the RIBA award for architecture in 2008. A colourful building with glass panels and bands of terracotta tiles, it stands out amongst the grey tower blocks.

On my way back I had a closer view of one of the blocks of flats. From a distance I thought they had some kind of pattern on the side of them but then realised it is the removal of external cladding that has left the marks. In June 2017 fire broke out in the 24 storey Grenfell Tower. Outside cladding enabled the fire to spread quickly throughout the building. 72 died, another 70 were injured and 223 people managed to escape.

As I walked back under Westway I noticed this poster on the hoardings around construction work. Currently under construction to the west of Royal Oak station is the western tunnel entrance for the new Crossrail railway. The first two tunnel boring machines, Phyllis and Ada began tunnelling from Royal Oak towards Farringdon in 2012. The Elizabeth Line, as Crossrail is to be called, will not be stopping at Royal Oak.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Great Portland Street

This is the 26th station I have visited on the Circle Line. There are 35 altogether on this, the yellow line on the tube. Great Portland Street station is on the Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith and City lines.
It is sandwiched between Regent's Park  (Bakerloo Line) and Warren Street (Northern Line) and so once again I needed to restrict my walk to the area between the stations.
The first station on this site was opened in 1863 as 'Portland Road'. It was part of the world's first underground railway.

A new station building was erected on a traffic island site in 1930 between Marylebone Road, Great Portland Street and Albany Road. When the building originally opened it had a car showroom above
the ticket hall.

The circular building became a listed Grade II building in 1987 . It is a steel framed structure clad with cream coloured tiles.

It has a number of art deco features and original signs.

Inside the ticket hall.

Many stations have a quote for the day. They are not the same quotes. I wonder if the station staff take it in turns to find a quote or whether one person takes on the responsibility. Next time I'm in a station with a quote I will ask!

I left the station and walked down Great Portland Street. The street goes down to Oxford Street and this end is predominately large Edwardian buildings. By the end of the 19th century the street was full of shops selling paintings and sheet music but after WW1 the street had a number of car showrooms and became known as 'Motor Row'. The motor showrooms have long since gone and behind the large showroom windows are bars, restaurants and offices.
  The Smiths building, built in 1913 was a motor industry landmark. This was the head office of S. Smith and Sons which produced  the first ever speedometers.

The Central Synagogue  has been on Great Portland Street for over 155 years.  It was decided in 1848 that a synagogue was needed in the West End area for the many Jews who had migrated there since the early 1800s. The original  building was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1848. The current synagogue was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1958.

I turned off down Clipstone Street to look at the BT Tower. Built in the early 60s the British Telecom Tower was the tallest building in London until 1981 when the National Westminster tower was built. As of 2018, the BT Tower now ranks as the 13th tallest building in London.

The original purpose of the tower was to transmit high frequency radio waves to allow for the expansion of the telephone system without having to dig up London to lay more cables. This open section of the tower above the 16th floor is full of antennae, aerials and dishes and still provides telecommunication for TV and internet via microwave radio. Near the top of the tower on the 34th floor was the revolving restaurant but this closed to the public in 1980 after a  terrorist bomb exploded in 1971.  Although it caused a lot of damage no one was injured in the blast but it was decided that the restaurant should close to the general public for security reasons.

In the early 2000s coloured lighting was added to the Tower and although this is not the tallest building in London, the changing colours ensure it still stands out at night on the London skyline.

In the shadow of the Tower is this pub, The Tower Tavern. It doesn't look very attractive or welcoming with its white tile exterior. It seems out of place in an area full of upmarket restaurants and bars. However, it gets good reviews as a locals pub. It was rebuilt in 1970. There has been a pub  on this site since 1776 known as  the 'Bastard Arms'. It was renamed as the 'Fitzroy Arms' in 1826. The present pub was rebuilt in 1970.

 Many of the buildings in this area are part of the University College London. Around the corner from the BT Tower on Howlands Street is the Sainsbury Welcome centre for Neural circuits and Behaviour. Here scientists investigate how brain circuits process information.

There is more to the colonnade than I realised at first. Hanging from the ceiling are one thousand pixels. One side of them has the portraits of the university's Nobel Laureates and on the other side is Johann Sebastian Bach's entire Musical Offering.Built into the walls of the building are a number of display areas with neuro related artwork.

 Convex or concave?

Perspective is everything.

On the corner of Howland Street and Fitzroy Street is this building with, what looks like, a giant bug on its side. It is listed as the London branch of  Arup, a company of innovative engineers which has been responsible for a number of projects in the UK and around the world. The building needed to be a showcase for sustainability. However it wasn't a new build but a refurbishment of an existing 1960s building with the brief 'to link disparate buildings and provide both a striking modern modern image for Arup and flexible and efficient working space ' According to information on their website this design has lowered annual energy consumption by a significant amount (from 425KWhr to 250KWhr).

This is the other side of the building round the corner on Fitzroy Street.

Across the road is a glass fronted building, which is also part of the Arup group.

An interesting display in reception but for some reason it was cordoned off so  I couldn't get much closer.

 Pity as it looked worth a second look.

Even from a distance I can recognise an Anthony Gormley figure.

I continued down Fitzroy Street with its Indian YMCA on the corner of Fitzroy Square. The first YMCA was started in London in 1844. Today there are more than 15,000 local associations with 45 million members in 125 countries. The Indian YMCA student hostel programme started in 1920 and provides a safe home from home for Indian students in London.

On the opposite corner behind some railings is this large statue of General Francisco Mirando.
Francisco de Miranda (1705-1816) was the revolutionary who paved the way for the eventual independence of not just Venezuela but all of South American countries under Spanish control. He lived in London in this house from 1802-1810.

This led me into Fitzroy Square with its large circular garden. It is a beautiful square. Many of the buildings are private businesses, consulates and embassies.  Looking at the houses I could just imagine the horsedrawn carriages pulling up outside in days gone by.

Fitzroy Square was built in the late 18th century by Charles Fitzroy, 4th Duke of Grafton who commissioned Robert and James Adams to produce drawings for two sides of the Square. The architects had designed a number of large buildings but were better known for their style of furniture and interior design.

The Square had some famous residents.

The garden was laid out in the 1790s for the sole use of the residents in the Square.

In the garden is a sculpture by Naomi Blake entitled 'View'  erected for the Queen's silver Jubilee in 1977.

Leaving the Square along Conway Street I spotted the blue glazed tiles of this wonderful Old Dairy which is now a cafe. The original building was built in the 1790s. It is a rare example of an early 20th century Welsh dairy. Having difficulties surviving in Wales  many Welsh dairy farmers came to London from the 1860s onwards to set up dairies in this area, which is close to Paddington rail station with its rail links to South Wales. It is more than likely that Mr Evans would have his milk sent from his farm in Wales on the early morning trains. All early morning trains used to be called 'milk trains'.  It is also possible that he had his own cows for milking in a stable at the back as some of the dairies had.

The cream and blue tiled walls on the inside seem unchanged from when it was a dairy. Customers would bring their own jugs so that milk could be ladled into them from the churns. The dairy would also sell cream, butter, cheese and eggs.

The tiled mosaic floor was worn away near the door from the customers queuing for their milk over the years.

Beneath the counter there are pictorial tiles showing cows and milkmaids. It is thought this dairy  survived until the early 50s.

I couldn't resist going in for a cup of tea. It was brewed in the traditional way by warming the teapot before adding boiling water and tea leaves.

At the end of Conway Street I came back out onto Euston Road, half way between Great Portland Street station and Warren Street station, opposite the traffic island where the Holy Trinity church stands.

Following the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, a commission was set up to build churches as a means of giving thanks and commemorating the victory. Parliament passed an Act to set aside one million pounds for the building of these churches and the churches became known as 'Million Act churches' or 'Waterloo churches'. Holy Trinity was one such church. The architect was Sir John Soane who built the church in 1826 in the Greek revival style. By the 1930s this Anglican church had fallen into disuse and by 1936 was used as a store for the newly formed Penguin books. Penguin moved to new premises in 1937 and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) moved in and remained there until 2006. Now the church is used as an events venue ranging from weddings to corporate dinners, press releases, exhibitions and charity events.

Behind the church to the right is a large new development called Regent's Place. It is a mixture of homes, offices, bars and restaurants . It accommodates almost 12,000 workers and residents. During the Summer this is where you will find a lot of free entertainment from film screenings to art installations.

Innovative landscaping outside includes these bug hotels which will encourage butterflies, ladybirds, beetles etc into the area.

Seating is hidden amongst these steel poles. Unfortunately, these new developments haven't yet worked out how to prevent the wind whirling around the buildings and blasting you in the face.

Across the road is the White House, a nine story star shaped building originally built as a number of small flats, it is now a hotel. It was designed to allow maximum light into the rooms as well as standing out from other buildings with its cream tiled façade.

Walking down Albany Road I passed The Queen's Head and Artichoke pub. The pub  was once a Royal Hunting Lodge, during the 16th century, situated on land which is now part of  Regent's Park. It was mentioned in a 1753 survey as a 'ramshackle old tavern'. The Inn, along with a number of others was  demolished when Regent's Park was created. It was rebuilt in 1811 on its present site, although the present building dates from 1900. The pub's licence dates back to the Elizabethan Era and its name is attributed to Queen Elizabeth I's  Master Cook and Head Gardener who apparently liked artichokes.

I crossed Albany Road and entered Regent's Park via Chester Terrace. The English architect John Nash (1752-1835) was famous for designing Buckingham Palace, Brighton Pavilion and these elegant townhouses which surround Regent's Park. Last year one of the Nash terraced houses was on sale for £20 million or you could rent it for £35,000 per week. A bargain not to be missed.

Regent's park was also designed by John Nash. Originally the land was leased to the Duke of Portland for hunting up to the end of the 18th cent when it reverted back to the Crown in 1809. Nash had already drawn up plans for a garden city with the perimeter of the park lined with terraces and other villas scattered amongst the trees. In the end it was felt that too many buildings would spoil the scenery and a lack of funding also curtailed the plans. The eventual scaled down design was a great success.

Chester Terrace has the longest unbroken façade in the park. At either end of the terrace is a triumphal arch

The Chester Terrace is nearly 300m long.  Every now and again there are giant Corinthian columns.

It was the middle of January when I took these photos but there was lots of colour to be seen in the park.

On the edge of the park is the Royal College of Physicians, the oldest medical college in England. The Crown Estate gave the Royal College of Physicians permission to build its modern headquarters on this site in the park with the Nash terraces as its neighbour as long as it harmonised with the surroundings. The architect, Sir Denys Lasdun divided the building into two distinct areas: the ceremonial and the everyday. The functional everyday parts of the building are clad in dark blue bricks to match Nash's slate roofs. The historical and ceremonial areas are covered in off-white mosaic porcelain tiles to match the colour of the terraces.

The windows are as large as possible to bring the terraces closer into the new building.

The College is open to the public to view their free exhibitions. When I was there the exhibition was about 500 years of women in medicine. There were a number of interesting exhibits but this letter from Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917),  the first female doctor to qualify in England, I thought worthy of including here.

I left the College and walked back to the station passing this memorial on the way. In August 2017 it was vandalised.

There was a bust of President Kennedy which had been here for 40 years but had to be removed after being vandalised.  Hopefully it will be returned soon. You can see the marks on the plinth which was also damaged.

Just a couple of minutes from the memorial and I'm back at the station, making my way home.