Saturday 31 May 2008

The Gambia and the wonders of west africa

The west african bug is back and it feels like a deep hold...

A trip to The Gambia was as magical as could be expected - great weather, stunning scenery and just wonderful people.

We managed to get off of the beaten track and go up-river. the costs is strongly touristed so it was good to use to the local bus-taxi's (bus's to us) as that gave a much more real flavour of the country and the people - they were also great places to chat to people.

Our visit co-incided with the visit of President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and with a time when President Jammeh is trying to establish himself and is entertaining visits from all of his West African neighbours.

It is always easy to say the people are great - it's actually true of most places i've been - but in west africa there is a joy and a charm that is infectious and really quite special.... sigh! When to return?

Pciture: Ed Fordham in Bintang Bolon with a gaggle of local children

Friday 30 May 2008

Do pavement surfaces really matter?

It's quite simple - the paving stones were damaged - largely by the resident, others in the street and indeed those visiting the street (sometimes with deliveries).

The Council comes along and takes out the broken stones and replaces it with tarmac.

All very straightforward except when the residents complain. Now there is a bit of an issue with York stone paving and people want the high quality maintained, but the main beef if that you end up with a totally hopscotched pavement surface.

I'm not saying that this pavement (location un-identified) isn't going to be replaced soon, but it just raises the spectre of does it matter?

What do the panel think...?

Ed Fordham

Thursday 29 May 2008

"Evening all!" in olde Hampstead Towne

No particular point of issue here, but this just seemed such a great picture to take.

It's the lamps at night outisde Hampstead Police Station and i just think it is great - it's just a shame that whilst the lights are on and people are at home the front desk is closed up and there is no public access...

It's quite easy to worry that if you hammered on the door you might not get a response.

But I guess that's one of the reasons why so many of us care so much about local policing and are prepared to fight and fight...

The old blue lamp though was one of the great signs of public reassurance in victorian and edwardian London. Considering that fear of crime is still one of the great worries of urban London, you would think that the Metropolitan Police Authority would have a greater understanding of the concerns of residents who are faced with police station closures!

Wednesday 28 May 2008

The National Ballroom WAS The Grange Cinema

The interest in old cinema's is fascinating - perhaps it's the 50's traditional off seeing the matinee and that generation of people are still around to take close interest - but I still get the biggest response when I post stuff about the local cinema's.

The Kilburn High Road is especially rich pickings in this regard and I posted earlier about the National Ballroom.

Well I was passing this weekend and nopticed that in fact my hunch that it was called The grnage was right (i've clearly read or been told this before) because nestling behind one of the high growing trees you can still see the name of the cinema in the external stucco plaster work.

The window's as well are really stunning and would benefit from a serious decontamination of the pigeon army and then lighting from within - at least to get the pictures taken of them in full glory.

I have now been contacted by quite a few people willing to share their memories of the cinema's - i can see quite a piece of oral history ahead of me - who knows where this sort of historical capture goes? I sense that this is an especially good seam and that the Kilburn High Road is rich pickings in this regard...

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Another underground WWII tube bunker on the Northern Line

I had done any earlier (much earlier) post last year about the war storage capacity on the Northern Line.

Indeed the deep bunker is still visible from the road-side on Haverstock Hill.

What I hadn't appreciated is that there are in fact two and it was only when I was in Russell Nurseries that I spotted this second bunker visible. Wandering down the path next to Belsize Tube station there, bold as brass, is the entrance to the second bunker.

Now I really do have to do some serious research to understand the architecture and useage. And probably chase up the whole upkeep and graffiti etc here.

Saturday 24 May 2008

The National Ballroom could make a comeback...

I'm told you could see queues down the Kilburn High Road at the peak of the cinema going 40's and 50's and oft course it is easy to forget that there were at least 4 cinema's.

The National was one of the most grand (though not as grand as the Gaumont State) and is still there today - only now as a church not a cinema.

Taking a walk around it you realise just how large and in fact dominant it is - an entire island off Grangeway that looms over Kilburn Grange Park.

Now it's a bit tatty and feels like it would benefit from a spruce up, but all the features are still there including the coloured glass windows.

It was first known as the Kilburn National Ballroom, then later as the Kilburn National Club, the National, with its distinctive dome, has played host to hundreds of major rock bands, from The Smiths to Nirvana to Blur.

There was even a short-lived music television programme broadcast live from the place in the 1980s.

In 1999 it was closed down after long legal battles over noise levels, and was converted into an evangelical Church which continues today.

Cinema's arouse great passion:

Friday 23 May 2008

Long live the fresh fishmongers shop!

It might be considered sentimental, it might be slightly daft, but my deep affection for local independent shops is at the core of my political beliefs.

This fishmongers in Kilburn, on the High Road, encapsulates it for me - local, genuine, fresh, popular.

The whole notion of what makes up a strong thriving community is demonstrated by this fishmonger - for me it is as important as the butchers was in Hampstead (before it closed!).

So it's really very simple - use it or lose it. I use it - please do go along - they're friendly, helpful, informative, great value...

KILBURN: the closer you look... the better it gets!

Thursday 22 May 2008

When Hampstead Borough was bombed in WWII

For the London Borough of Hampstead the war was pretty eventful and some of the consequences can still be seen in gaps in lines of terraces, new blocks (relatively) amongst older ones..

When I pass Sidney Boyd Court on West End Lane now I now understand that it was a matching terrace but was bombed out and so later re-built.

But some numbers to think on:

From September 3rd 1939 to May 11th 1941
560 alerts were sounded

During the period August 15th 1940 to end of June 1941
569 alerts lasting 1427 hours 13 minutes
The alert in this period sounded in 237 days
During 80 of those alerts 466 incidents of damage or injury occurred in the Borough

From August 30th 1940 to May 11th 1941
310 high explosive bombs (34 unexploded)
8 parachute mines (3 unexploded)
41 oil bombs
53 anti-aircraft shells (34 unexploded)
approx 4,000 incendiary bombs were reported

The first casualty was on September 9th 1940.
Between then and April 17th 1941, 141 persosn were killed or died in hospital, 161 received hospital treatment and 259 attended first-aid posts

330 houses were destroyed or so damaged that they had to be destroyed
474 houses and flats had to be evacuated
10,611 houses were recorded as receiving some damage

This was just phase one of the bombing!

Yep, I'm reading Hampstead at War, Hampstead 1939-1945 by Camden History Society, first published in 1946 and re-printed in 1977, 1979 and 1995.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Where does the river flow?

It's not the most obvious shot of a river but that's exactly what it is - the location of the river in Kilburn.

I remains slightly unclear as to the definition of river versus tributary and whether it is the Kilbourne river, the Westbourne or a feeder from or to the Fleet.

What I do know however, if that if you stand above this set of drains at the bottom of West End Lane but the old Bird in Hand Pub you can hear the river flowing beneath you.

I'm told that this is the river that feeds the Serpentine eventually and that in fact you can later 'see' the river as it crosses a major tube station in a metal pipe south of here in Kilburn. But is opening up our waterways something we should be considering - it's certainly been a thread brought up in sustainability discussions and it sounds an attractive notion but is it in any way possible now they have lain underground for so long?

Tuesday 20 May 2008

At home with George Orwell

I have posted before about the shop in South End green where George Orwell worked - well of course, if he worked there - he must probably have lived nearby?

And sure enough up on Parliament Hill is the answer...

This house right at the top of the road is the house - currently a multi-occ house. it got me thinking about what it was like when orwell lived there - was it a student house, rented to 6-8 people who didn't really know each other, who just perched here in one of london's many student houses... he would have been 30-32 years old.

Of course the plaque is great - I'm a great supporter of commemorative plaques but it doesn't record the nature of the stay and I'm reminded the several houses of John Constable, from a time when he moved around a lot and they effectively reflect his summer haunts.

This is the house where he is credited with writing 'Keep the apidistra flying' and the plaque at South End Green hints at my hunch that this was a place of residence for say 9-18 months before he moved on...

Monday 19 May 2008

A day out in the graveyard...

It might sound a bit daft but a day out in a graveyard is one of the most interesting things you can do...

The achitectural styles, the faux gothix design, the inscriptions and stories that surround the individuals and the respective fame of some of those interned.

It all makes for a great insight into a community.

Hampstead Cemetery, West Hampstead, is no exception - it's on Fortune Green Road and is well worth the time in terms of having alook about and appreciating it's charm and depth.

If you click on these pictures they should opne up full size and you can enjoy the details - especially interesting for me are the range of designs - the gothic, the egyptian obelisk, the more traditional victoiran, the religious angel, the egyptian style tomb and the great piece of art deco green copper 1920's art.

Saturday 17 May 2008

When did the local sports culture start in NW3

It was meant to be provocative and get my attention and it worked:

So off I set on the virtual tour to find Hampstead Rugby Club - note the occurrence of the White Horse Pub in South End Green...

There was an article a while back in Time Out that claimed that NW3 (Hampstead) was a great place to live but lacked sports clubs - all complete tosh of course - I have lived in few places where the sporting opportunities are so legion...

Their website deserves fully quoting here:
"Hampstead Rugby Football Club is one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world although it has only been active in its current form just over 30 years, having been reformed after a gap of 56 years following a 'temporary' dissolution of the Hampstead Heathens Sports Club at the start of the First World War.

"Harlequins and Rosslyn Park are two other clubs to have emerged from Hampstead Heathens at this time and - although not previously so well known - Hampstead is one of the most active clubs in London and the only senior club located in what can only be described as Central London. "

But of course there is competition in this world of local Hampstead sports heritage:

"The club was founded in 1879 when a group of young cricketers decided to form a football club in order to stay together during the winter months. They had originally played their scratch games of cricket in the grounds of Rosslyn House, part of the Rosslyn Park Estate and had therefore taken the name “Rosslyn Park” for their cricket club. When they formed their rugby club they took the same name. Some histories have tried to link the club with the Earls of Rosslyn. Whilst Baron Loughborough, the first Earl of Rosslyn once lived at Rosslyn House, its name was only changed from ‘Shelford Lodge ‘ to ‘Rosslyn House’ after his death. And in any case he died more than 60 years before the club was formed! Neither the football club, nor the cricket club once formed, ever played at Rosslyn Park.

"In 1879/80 matches were played at South End Green on a pitch 100 yards or so south of Hampstead Heath station. A room was hired in the White Horse pub at £5 a year to provide a changing room for the players and storage for the club’s temporary goalposts. The touchlines were marked by a V-shaped rut cut into the turf, but in wet weather this soon disappeared. The pitch was not ideal; it was often water-logged and the adjacent pond was smelly and stagnant. The area was, in any case earmarked for a depot when the tram reached Hampstead.

"So in 1880/81 the club moved a mile or so further up Fleet Road to Gospel Oak, where a field was leased from a local farmer. That, too, proved unsatisfactory and in 1885 the club moved again to share a ground with West Middlesex Cricket Club in Gunnersbury Lane, Acton. In 1894 the club moved to the Old Deer Park, Richmond, which it shared with Old Merchant Taylors for many years as tenants of Richmond Cricket Club. The Club remained after OMT moved out, staying until they had the chance to own a ground of their own at Roehampton in 1956.

"The minutes tell us that for the first two years the uniform was a ‘navy blue jersey with a white Maltese Cross sewn upon the front, until such time as more desirable colours might be decided upon’. No one knows why the Maltese Cross was chosen. However, in 1881 the colours were changed to the present ones.The first subscription was 5/-(25p) for players and 3/- (15p) for non-players, the rent of the pitch was £5, the total receipts for 1879/80 were £15.12.0 (£15.60p), the surplus was 7/2d (approx. 35p) and there were 43 members.During the first ten years most of the matches were against the second teams of the then leading clubs. Until 1890 the longest away fixture was in Greenwich but in that year we played South Northants in Northampton. We scored two tries to their one but there was no winner because no goals were scored. 1890 was a turning point. Fixtures were arranged with Oxford University, London Scottish, Blackheath and Richmond. In the following year Harlequins and London Welsh came on to our list.

"On 18th April 1892, we became the first English club to play rugby in Europe when we played against Stade Francais in Paris. The press thought the fixture unwise, and one scribe wrote, “it might lead to international complications”.

By 1900 we were running up to 4 teams. In 1902/3 disaster struck. 54 matches were played and only 7 were won. It was at that stage that H. A. Burlinson (Team Sec. Of the 2″ XV) became Hon.Sec., an office which he held until his sudden death at the Old Deer Park in 1948. ‘Burly’ was a lovable man but could be ‘crafty’. If the Committee passed a resolution of which he disapproved he would not record it in the Minutes, and so when at the next meeting someone got up and said, “I thought we resolved at our last meeting to…………” Burly would say “I have no record of that” and that was that!

In 1912 the club played the first games of rugby ever seen in Prague, Budapest and Vienna. The return journey cost £13 per head! By 1914 there were some 300 members. We were lucky that our ground was not requisitioned and so play was continued throughout the war. The ‘gates’ were donated to war charities. Sixty-five members were killed, many were decorated and two were awarded the V.C. The early 1920s were a rebuilding process. 1926/7 was a record with 20 wins out of 26 matches played. By 1928, 2683 people had been elected to membership.

"During the 1939/45 war, play was again possible, as our ground was not requisitioned. The club opened its doors to all comers.Since 1939 Rosslyn Park has organised and run the Schools Seven Tournament. In 1939, sixteen schools participated. In 1996, 350 schools took part. It is the world’s largest Sevens Tournament. In 1951 there was a further landmark when our Seven won the Ladies’ Cup at Melrose and thus became the first club to bring a trophy south of the border. Those who were there say that our victory was greeted in almost total silence!

"When the RFU introduced its own knockout competition, Rosslyn Park twice reached the final at Twickenham. When League Rugby Union was introduced in the 1980s, Park were allocated to Division Two, but won promotion to the top flight at the first attempt. The march of professionalism has made life more complicated for the club, but at present we are in National League 3 and it is worth reminding ourselves that we are nevertheless among the top 30 clubs in the country with over 800 playing members in the Senior, Ladies, Junior, Youth and Mini Sections."

Well I think I'm going to pause there to head to the pub for a refresher before thinking more about this and how to capture it better!

Friday 16 May 2008

A new definition of the school crossing - Salusbury Road and Winchester Avenue junction

It's interesting how things cluster - in China, for example, towns feel like they are organised by trades - all the butchers are in one street, all the tailors in another - so here in Queen's Park (an unlikely connection I grant you!) I noticed how Salusbury Road was quite a serious municipal heartland upon a time - now much much reduced (just a Police Station and a Library really)...

But the junction of Winchester Avenue, Salusbury Road has maintained the education links it was built with at the start of the last century. College Mansions (1900) - on the southside of Winchester Avenue with the Islamia school now just down the road, the old sixform block opposite on the North side (1901 if i recall correctly) and of course Winkworth Hall opposite (later but in the same tradition).

And the quality of the architecture just feels better - or is that too sentimental a response?

Thursday 15 May 2008

The Royal Free is in Hampstead - isn't it?

It's said that you learn something every day and that's the great thing about this history malarky - you actually do...

So I was dashing through Holborn and glanced up and there it was a plaque to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine (University of London).

I knew about the Eastman, off Gray's Inn Road, and of course the Royal Free Hospital itself of the 1972 construction up in Pond Street, Hampstead... but, of the School of Medicine.

In short the School of Medicine was established in 1874 by an "Act of Faith" and by 1898 was in a small house before moving very quickly to larger premises on the same site but using the Hunter Street entrance. After much fundraising and campaigning and dedication it was opened by Queen Mary on 2nd October 1916 and became one of the leading teaching hospitals in London.

This is straight off my bookshelves: The Illustrated History of the Royal Free Hospital by LA Amidon, Edited by A Northern, 1996, London, ISBN 0-9529009-0-4.

The book has sat on the shelves for a while - purchased at the urging of 'Friend of the Royal Free' councillor Janet Grauberg at one of the Friends Open Days I attended a while back, but has lain at home unread. I have now tucked into it and wow it is a great read and a great story.

Friday 9 May 2008

Those Civil War trusts that are still going strong

The Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust is one of the longer serving features of the local landscape and it occurs in lots of forms in NW3 - street names, landmarks, geographical facets and of course good old plain history...

The Trust in its present form dates only from 1971, origins were in 1698 when the Earl of Gainsborough gave six acres of land for the perpetual benefit of the poor of the Parish of Hampstead.

This became known as the Wells Charity taking its name from the Chalybeate Well (still visible in Well Walk opposite Gainsborough Gardens) built by the Earl of Gainsborough to commemorate the bequest.

In 1880 the Wells and Campden Charity was established.

The origins of the Campden Charity date back to the early days of the English Civil War when Lady Campden (a member of the Gainsborough family) made a bequest of £200, which together with two further bequests totalled £250.

There was also the bath house that is still remembered in use by many local residents - I think it closed in the 60's and the local area has a range of street names associated.
The Trust is still active today (the plaque above is from the front door of their office on Hampstead High Street) and it's website details it's mission:
a) To help persons who are sick convalescent, disabled, handicapped or infirm;

b) To help either generally or individually persons who are in need, who suffer hardship or distress;

c) To assist organisations or institutions providing services or facilities which help relieve need or distress.

Thursday 8 May 2008

The vexed issue of flags... (great pun!)

Here are two flags I found flying locally - the first is the Green Flag awarded to Queen's Park and the second is the new Union Flag flying from Hampstead Police Station (the team in blue seem rather proud of the new one :-))

So I went back to when flags first came about and their purpose. It all starts in ancient china (don't most things innovative?) and then spread across the far and near east. However, our linguistics gives a clue in that the study of flags come from vexillum - Latin for flag - and the study of flags is vexillology.

The flippant situation is that the flag is just a piece of identifiable cloth - now for identification but of old for signalling.
In medieval and indeed until recent times they were key military identifiers especially on a confused battlefield or at sea where they are lightweight and can therefore be elevated quite high.

But there is also something about the flying of a flag that is quite emotional and raises the heart and emotions. I guess that's how the patriotic dilemna has then kicked in...

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Swiss Cottage - formerly The Swiss Tavern

Swiss Cottage is one of the significant landmarks of London - not least because it is the traffic landmark for many people arriving in London. Certainly when travelling down to see aunts and grandparents as a young boy, we knew we were close when we got to Swiss Cottage.

Now the main landmark is the pub and the tube station - I was discussing yesterday with a friend whether anyone actually lives in 'swiss cottage'. It's also an administrative district for elections - Swiss Cottage Ward in Camden - but as a residential area...

In the Swiss Cottage ward many people consider themselves to live in West Hampstead, South Hampstead, Primrose Hill - the actually definition of Swiss Cottage as a geographic area is very small.

Now Swiss Cottage tube station is a London Underground station at Swiss Cottage. It is on the Jubilee Line, between Finchley Road and St. John's Wood. It is in Travelcard Zone 2.

This picture captures what I think is the great 20s/30s architecture of the tube station escalator... it's really stunning and has actually been well matched by the modern architecture of much of the rest of the jubilee line (esp. at Westminster Station).

Opened on November 20, 1939 on the Stanmore branch of the Bakerloo Line, Swiss Cottage station was transferred to the Jubilee Line in 1979. The station was originally called The Swiss Tavern (after the pub which is early 19th century), but was soon changed to Swiss Cottage.

Swiss Cottage has always been a major transport hub and in the early 19th century saw a couple of parliamentary bills on the Finchley Road toll road (1835).

The Victoria County History records this in full:
"Omnibuses routes were pushed farther north with the spread of building and opening of suburban railway stations after 1855. By 1880 they not only stretched along Kilburn High Road to Brondesbury but also served Kilburn and West Hampstead by way of Abbey Road and the area north of Swiss Cottage by way of Finchley Road as far as Finchley Road station. Later omnibuses were extended along Finchley Road to meet others from Edgware Road along West End Lane, continuing north to Childs Hill in Hendon."

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Thanks for all the ballots

Elections are funny things - huge amounts of effort, energy (esp. nervous energy) and resources - and yet the count is curiously odd.

The London elections being an electronic count are especially odd - the effect of a electronic count is to engender an atmosphere that feels almost anti-democratic.

The process is not open to scrutiny, when the machine jams (which happened quite a lot) and the papers get fed back in you worry that there is double counting... The whole atmosphere is that the bureaucrat knows best (and I like bureaucrats, but in this instance...).

So the count was Friday 2nd May - took literally all day - and felt amazingly lame. The counting was imperceptible, the box numbers didn't tally to anything I recognized and the only checking process that could be scrutinised was for spoilt or unclear papers.

But it is worth saying that Alexandra Palace was an amazing backdrop for an otherwise bizarre event!

So in the previous tradition, here are some shots from inside the count on Friday.

It's good weather now...

After the wet bank-holiday Sunday...

These two pics both reflect the weather we seem to be now enjoying - carpets of pink blossom and a field of blue bells - one in Russell Nurseries (Belsize tube/Haverstock Hill) and the other just behind the wharrie shelter on Rosslyn Hill by St Stephen's church.