Thursday, 31 July 2008

Linking people from history

I'm currently engaged on a project that seeks to Link the Roman Emperor Claudius, with King Alfred the Great and Guthrum the Dane and King Henry I of England...

Unlikely but true and I'm hopeful of establishing the link...

Any suggestions out there?

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Alfred Waterhouse - the greatest name in late victorian architecture?

I pass this church more often than I can recall and have been fascinated by it - it's a great location (esp. with St Stephen's opposite) and so thought it was time to complete the local picture.

For those that don't know it is on the corner of Lyndhurst Road and Rosslyn Hill, just up from the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead.

It was completed in 1884 and was the main congregational church in north london.

It is designed by Alfred Waterhouse (which explains the Waterhouse Close behind the church).

The building is known as Lyndhurst Hall and is since December 1992 the home to AIR Studio's. This is famous for being founded by Sir George Martin, producer to the Beatles. The studios have been inordinately successful...

Waterhouse is more famous for being the designer for the National Liberal Club, Natural History Museum, Manchester Council House and a raft of other classics of the later Victorian era.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Rosslyn Hill windows on another world...

It's one of those great little gems - and is so impressive that my little disposable camera has captured the spirit but not the essence...

But here on Rosslyn Hill in the Unitarian Chapel we have a stained glass window from a Wiliam Morris (1834-1896) and Edward Byne Jones (1833-1898) collaboration.

The delicacy of the colour, the shades and the way they are deployed is quite magical...

The extent to which Morris and Byrne Jones affected design cannot be under-estimated. But it's also important to understand they way in which they moved at the very top of society. Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin were both nephews of Byrne Jones and Morris was an avowed socialist working with Eleanor Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Baldwin spoke at Byrne Jones's centenary exhibition and is quoted as saying
"In my view, what he did for us common people was to open, as never had been opened before, magic casements of a land of faery in which he lived throughout his life ... It is in that inner world we can cherish in peace, beauty which he has left us and in which there is peace at least for ourselves.

"The few of us who knew him and loved him well, always keep him in our hearts, but his work will go on long after we have passed away. It may give its message in one generation to a few or in other to many more, but there it will be for ever for those who seek in their generation, for beauty and for those who can recognise and reverence a great man, and a great artist"

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Tranquil and idyllic thanks to the Northern Line

Hidden away in Hampstead Heath is the magical Hill Garden. It offers a complete contrast to the wild decadence of the pergola.

It is famously quiet and serene and a great place to sit, contemplate, write or paint. It's not unusual to find a painter, sketcher or photographer here enjoying the view and atmosphere.

There is an ornamental fish pond at the heart of the garden and at the far end there is a little alcove with a bench which gives a stunning view of the heath with London as the backdrop.
The pergola itself is the creation of Lord Leverhulme who owned the nearby house, The Hill. Working with architect Thomas Mawson he went on to build this long Pergola. Started in 1904 it came to fruition in 1905 before being extended in 1911 as more land was available. It was built using vast tonnage of earth that had come out of the Hampstead Heath tunnel for the Northern Line!
The pergola itself is a photgraphic dream - more of that to come - but the view over the Hill Garden is beautiful and tranquil. If you don't know it, then it's time for a sunday walk...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

When George IVth came to South End Green?

My history is pretty good so I'm confident that this post in South End Green is not from George IV's time (1820-1830) ...

Can anyone else advise?

I did wonder if it is the fourth year of King George VI... but even then it doesn't feel quite right.

I have a half memory that there was an article in Time Out (London) the other month that talked about street bollards and in th picture was one just like this so it's clearly not unique. But how this one came to South End Green... who knows...?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Butchers - and then there was one

With the closure of Steele's in Flask Walk the end of butchers in north london seemed terminal, when I was reminded that there was a butcher in South End Green - just on parliament hill.

Sadly now long gone, but happily this shop front preserved...

For old time's sake I have put in the link for the Steele's pictures below.

In line with the Ham and High this week I ought to point out that for over 100 years Barrett's have operated in England's Lane and anyone who wants advice and quality from a good local butchers would be advised to head there...

Here is the notice that sat in the window of Flask Walk butchers - currently being used as a store by the local traders... whoever moves in i just hope they keep the blood red tiled interior so typical of old butchers and fish shops.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Our railways have great tradition - it's a shame TfL fails it so often...

This is the wooden edging at Hampstead Heath Overground station (North London Line) and it's a charming reminder of the quality of work and the strength of the London railway tradition in quality.

The effect of the railway upon Britain was dramatic and still the lines they cut across our landscape are deep and significant.

And literally hundreds of us use them every day.

Within that useage are a series of 'givens': we know where to stand on the platform in order to get off at the other end, we know our colour of line (orange, purple, yellow etc), we often see the same pople every day in the same place and equally often don't talk to them over the weeks, months and weeks. Further, we know the weakesses (crime, poor lighting etc)...

So for all of these bits of knowledge what is it about the Transport for London arrangements that makes them so resistant to having and supporting a user group?

The frequency with which staff leave, don't respond or don't have a cultural tradition of working with users is scary. So from 1st September (just before schools come back) they are closing the North London Line Gospel Oak to Willesden Junction and the bus replacement arrangements are... currently undefined! And the refurbishment of Brondesbury station? No consultation plans.

To my mind it's shambolic and an insult to the railway tradition. Several of us have tried to help but frankly I'm at a bit of a loss and think that on this occasion the responsibility lies with Transport for London to show some committment and lead the debate in a way that is inclusive and sincere. It's a high bar and they have failed todate but this a chance to turn a new leaf over...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The grand old country houses in NW6... now extinct?

There was time when the density of population on West End Lane and Kilburn High Road was very different - and not that long ago. Indeed most of both of these roads were lined by large almost county houses...

Maps of the late 19th century show both West End Lane and Kilburn High Road with a series of large detatched houses in garden settings.

So to find the remnants of this still highly visible last weekend was a real treat...

If you're in Kilburn Grange Park looking towards the Kilburn High Road there is a stunning modernist house with a view over the park and then from that house to the main entrance of the park (ie. behind the Black Lion) is a long brick wall with brick built pillars surmounted by large concrete balls.

It clearly isn't part of the park boundary wall and hasn't really been altered since the main High Road was changed into a series of commercial opportunities and rented above the shop blocks. I think this is the old garden wall of Grange House.

As the Kilburn High Road developed so the number of houses dwindled - this was a pretty fast period from the 1860's when the railway boom was underway through to the 1900's as the massive building work of most of the surviving architecture dates from... As I understand the local developments The Grange House, which was a large many bedroomed house, with most of the current Grange Park and more as it's grounds, was one of the last houses to survive.

The economic reality was that such large houses in such high demand development areas gave them high maintenance costs and made them expensive and unfashionable and so over this 50 year period of the second half of the 19th century they were sold, demolished and the arrival of retail and rent...

The Grange House was put up for sale in 1910 and the house was sold almost immediately - the demand to preserve the park was vocal and in 1911 Hampstead and Willesden Council's jointly stepped in and bought the park for preservation.

So that's the context and if you want to see the surviving evidence of the old house - walk into the park and the boundary back wall is there for all to enjoy...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Second largest man in the world?

Yep, it's back to that Kilburn mural - one of the more impressive pieces of street art around.

A full insight into the mural and the project indeed can be found here

But this little pic capture the podium statue of one of Kilburn's legendary characters, William Thomas Ecclestone. He was famed for his cheer and his size and became quite simply 'Jolly Jumbo'.

He had previously been landlord of the Coach and Horses in Stonebridge before taking over the Canterbury Arms in Kilburn. Presumbly near Canterbury Road, just down from the currently Kilburn Park Tube station.

William died in 1915 and it is reported that it took 10 men to carry his coffin and the grave was the widest and deepest dug in the cemetery - he had had the distiction of being classified at the second largest man in the world at the time!

It is great that as someone so large he is credited with having introduced standard training exercises in the arms and was a trainer of running and boxing at his pubs.

Friday, 18 July 2008

When are cobbles not the preferred option?

I'm sure it was intended as an improvement but the fact remains the tarmacing of Perrin's Court, Hampstead, just off of Hampstead High Street and Heath Street, has been clumsy and a PR disaster.

It looks new, that's for sure, but it feels highly inappropriate.

Local community activist David Christie has set the record straight pointing out that though once cobbles covered the whole thing, that a photograph of 1908 confirms the presence of tarmac even then. But has rightly goes on to suggest that when re-doing this surface that residents and traders might have an opinion and that the opporunity to up-grade back to cobbles could have been seized...

It appears that cobbles have now been ordered so hope remains and time will tell.

The lesson of this little issue however remains that the public realm, this sort of topic, does dictate the fabric of an area - it establishes a tone, a pride and an appreciation. Develop that and you come somewhere near to developing what in local government speak is called 'a sense of place' - the power of that notion is too often neglected by those who work on the needs of a budget, the haste of time and the assumption of knowing best or what is easiest.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The sandpit, the cycling and the community choir

The Kilburn Festival is now a fixed date in the annual calendar for north london and this year was no exception.

It was great weather and for one of the most deceptively large parks in north london is was a superb event: dancing, music, stalls, food (wow, food!) it was really good...

A huge thank you to Caroline Bourne and her team at the Kilburn partnership - it was a real credit to their power of organisation, motivation and teamwork.

The festival is is it's ninth year - roll on many many more...

The dancers, the recycling facilities, the youth council, support from Thames Water, the food was just wow - truly - I walked past just inhaling the smells and the atmosphere at least four times! The Community Choir was especially impressive - singers of all backgrounds and abilities and they did rather steal the show. I'm very pleased 'cos i know how much David Abrahams was worrying, but he need not have worried. Oh and we shouldn't forget the sand-pit (thank-you Moran's), the cycling juice making machine (surely shome mishtake!)

Well done one and all!

LATE NOTE: I just want it to be crystal clear that I am in awe of the organisers of festival like this. However, I have failed in my post to name in my thanks the Kilburn Festival Committee - they drove the plans and delivered the day. I thanked others cos I come across them in my role on the Kilburn Partnership, but let the work of others (esp. the committee that actually did the work!!) not go unrecorded. It's a clarfication I'm more than happy to make. :-) Ed

Monday, 14 July 2008

The power of the lyric to capture an area...

Many's the day I took for granted
Breathing the air that silenced some
As the North Wind blew
With its head of thunder
Beating its breast with a war drenched song
Bathe awhile, awash in slumber
Cry what's left to sleep
Where you dream of the love you left forever
But pity no more nor grieve

For we're the kings of it all
For the day we were born
Now we're the kings of the Kilburn High
Sure we'll always take a drop and we'll never leave a sup
Your empty glass is but a tear filled eye
We were the kings of the Kilburn High

Listen to the sound of dead men dying
March as they flee but exiled bound
Their ship once sailed no longer anchors
For gone is the green
And their hallowed gound
Toast to tears of times past glories
This ageless clock chime stalls
Where to kiss the lips of that love forgotten
To fly where no others have soared

For we're the kings of it all
For the day we were born
Now we're the kings of the Kilburn High
Sure we'll always take a drop and we'll never leave a sup
Your empty glass is but a tear filled eye
We were the kings of the Kilburn High

Toast to tears of times past glories
This ageless clock chime stalls
Where to kiss the lips of that love forgotten
To fly where no others have soared
For we're the kings of it all
For the day we were born
Now we're the kings of the Kilburn High
Sure we'll always take a drop and we'll never leave a sup
Your empty glass is but a tear filled eye
We were the kings of the Kilburn High

and see it here:

Friday, 11 July 2008

Empty chair politics from our elected representative

So what is the role of the elected representative in Hampstead, for Camden and across London?

I don't take that close or especially active role towards the Greater London Assembly: I vote, I campaign in the run-up, I know the result, I know who my representative is, I look at the website occasionally. So I'm active but not obsessive.

I would rather hope that my elected representatives were a little more engaged.

So, on Wednesday I went to see the GLA in Plenary Session for the session of Questions to Deputy Mayor and Assembly Member Kit Malthouse on policing and crime issues .

This has been a major topic locally in Hampstead and Kilburn with the proposal to close Hampstead Police and reduce services at other stations with a central warehouse.

Indeed the whole MPA Estates Strategy has been contentious, badly handled etc etc. And the major development was the confirmation on Friday that the Consultation has been so poor that it was being suspended - so this was the first and only chance to discuss this in public with the Deputy Mayor responsible.

So when I arrived at the GLA session my elected representative saw me and nodded hello, he clearly must have known why I was there, so it was to my amazement that when police questions started he left. I sat open mouthed - he then returned as questions carried on and then when Dee Doocey started questions on the Estates Strategy he left the chamber again!

Now look, I don't expect miracles but this (policing) has been the single biggest issue facing our local patch and yet our elected representative left the room. He did it knowingly both to the topic and our presence (it wasn't just me watching).

So I photographed his empty chair (pic top right and right - immediate in foreground - Dep Mayor Kit Malthouse can be seen at the far side of the room taking questions) so he can't wriggle out of the self evident truth.

In a nutshell I'm furious - I think he let down the people of Hampstead and the Borough of Camden, I think he has proved the words of the local Conservartive Party to be shallow and hollow, I think he has shown himself to be ineffective, disinterested and revealed for being aheckling grandstander. it's poor form and it's poor representtaive democracy.

Sorry Brian Coleman - it was embarrassing and given a chance to stand up and be counted - you failed.

On this issue and for the future I now know and have seen for my own eyes that you can't be trusted. You're happy to stand up on a street corner and shout through a megaphone for the camera's, yet when faced with the job you are elected and paid to perform for us - namely to hold officials and the administration to account for us - you chose to have an empty chair. Pathetic!

I should add for the record that no other Conservative Assembly Member asked a single question on the estates strategy which was proposing the closure of 60 Police Stations across London - so much for the principled stand they claim to be taking!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Thanks to Dee Doocey and Caroline Pidgeon

The future of local police stations have been hanging in the balance since the Metropolitan Police Authority confirmed the proposed closure of Hampstead Police Station.

This has been a major issue and residents have been very against the plans.

To that end we submitted the FOI request which confirmed the closure plans, led the media campaign, submitted a massive petition to Sir Ian Blair and the MPA, have consistently kept residents informed of what is going on.

So yesterday was the plenary session of the Greater London Authority with Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse answering questions on policing and crime.

My huge personal thanks to Assembly Members Dee Doocey and Caroline Pidgeon who spoke up and asked detauiled questions on the MPA Asset Management Plan. It was confirmed that it was being put on hold, that there was now more time and that the consultation was flawed. Of course Camden looked pretty good as we accounted for 55.2% of all of the submissions across London.

Here are the main reports:

You can see here the pic of myself and fellow police campaign Jo Shaw (Holdborn and St Pancras) with Dee and Caroline. It was great that they stood up for us and really reassuring that we have at least three months to get a meaningful dialgoue back on the table.

What puzzled me - and more on this to follow- was why there was so little questioning from the Conservative mnembers of the authority - this has been one of the biggest issues facing the area and yet they sat there in silence... all slightly bizarre.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The importance of ye olde community festival

For me the community is a crucial piece of philosophy - I believe that decisions are best taken at the lowest possible level to whom they affect, that activity and initiatives are instinctively best bottom up, that activism is a virtue...

So for me the Jester Festival is a crucial piece of life for my local community - we (local Liberal Democrats) have a cake stall (also selling bagels, jams, books, homemade lemonade) - but it's a chance for people to come together, socialise and chat.

The selling of the cakes is a great fundraiser, but it's also a great piece of team glue.

We have a great team locally, they are committed, fun, vibrant and it's festivals such as this that help that notion grow and cement itself...
So roll on Kilburn Festival, Swiss Cottage Festival and Belsize (?). It's the year off for South End Green.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Jester Festival triumph

It's always great fun and this year the West Hampstead Jester Festival was no exception.

The Festival takes places (every year since 1973) on Fortune Green - which is the green at the top of Fortune Green Road, by the cemetery and near the Greek Streets (Ulysses and Ajax etc) .
So much, as with all street festivals is weather dependent and this year we got away with it - just. There was some drizzle but there was more sunshine.
The things that shone through for me were the acts - an amazing array of local talent - singers, guitarists, bass, dancing and ukelele (sp?) and more.
Some of the groups who entertained the crowd:
- Miss Cookie (wow what a voice...)
- Illegal Immigrant
- Young Music makers
- West hampstead Hooley Band
Who could not admire the Emmanuel school choir? And the lad with the hair and the guitar in the three piece rock band - wow... Pictures to follow (they're on a different camera).
Well done to one and all - a great team of local volunteers, hardy regulars and the strong network of local organisations. Special thanks to the West Hampstead Business Networkand Dutch and Dutch for their sponsorship and to all the other businesses that also gave their support in such a variety of ways...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

A time to dawdle in south and west hampstead

Usually I'm full of praise of the natural environment or the pure design - but I'm really struck by the late victorian brickwork of West Hampstead/South Hampstead - it's actually incredibly ornate and deeply impressive.

I'm no historical architect by it feels like much of it was the work of one firm - both in style and in type - but considering we are looking at bricks it has a flair that is unexpected and impressive.

We're looking at a period of about 1882 - 1894 - the ones here are illustrated with date plaques that give them precise dates of 1887 and 1889 - and I reckon they are not just the sme style but in fact by the same craftsman - that certainly would fit with the perception. That teams of men (often Irish labourers) were crewed together and worked in areas for period sof 5-10 years during the construction.

Considering the buildings are four stroises high, often with basements too, you get a sense of just how laborious they would have been - and the intensity of the development is amazing - the streets would have been busy, packed and at times highly congested. It made me think, as I had heard that on some estates such as this the brick kilns were constructed on site to save the time. My instinct here though is that due to the good transport links the brick kilns of the midlands in fact serviced these building sites and there would not have been much local generation.

The speed of growth of the South Hampstead estates was pretty impressive so it should come as no surprise to find this quality of workmanship.

Tkae awalk down any of these streets - Canfield, Broadhurst, Goldhurst - there is so much to see and enjoy - I find it one of the most pleasurable dawdles around...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A school with environmental trimmings?

So when did trimmings in school architecture go the way of the dinosaurs? Was it with the end of the Victorian and Edwardian obssession with education.
The building of a new school was a major things - supported by benfactors, enthused by the population - it was part of an aspiration that lifted people up and out.

Now there feels like no such pride - schools are protected by a moral good, a sense that whilst we want standards to rise schools are not to blame and teachers have made a vocational choice.

Yet I am convinced that much is in fact dictated by the quality of the environment and so the built environment. There are discussions progressing in Camden and Brent about building new schools - both under the aegis of this Labour Government have to explore academies - so quality of build will be important.

So when it comes to new build - will we see the extra trimmings - such as in this door way here - or the ones below (from the school on Salusbury Road, Queen's park IIRC) - or will we, as I hope, see long lasting serious environmental measures? Measures such as rainwater collections, inbuilt recycling capacity, waste reduction measures, on site combined heat and power plants... surely we will...