Sunday 31 August 2008

The setting of this church is just - wow!

St John's Church in Downshire Hill, Hampstead NW3, is one of the loveliest urban settings for a church.

Built in about 1823 it is a proprietary chapel - privately owned - chapel - the last one in London (?).

The building was completed in 1823 with the first service on 26th October.

The churches website reads: "From its earliest history, St John's was founded within an Evangelical tradition to preach the good news about Jesus Christ clearly and faithfully from the Bible to all who might enter its doors and to those in the surrounding vicinity."

"As a proprietary chapel, St John's is recognised as a church within the London Diocese of the Church of England but has complete independence in financial matters. It receives no support from and makes no contribution to Diocesan Funds. It is entirely self supporting and all costs, including staff and building costs, are borne by the congregation which has owned the building since 2003 when they bought it from the family trust which had owned it and leased it to them since the First World War."

It is a Grade I listed building and in 2004 had a major refurbishment whcih included the provision of underpinning of the church and in the process adding an undercroft which extended the facilities of the church. But most of all is it's magical setting, against the heath and due to the nature of the landscape the sky arches over it magnificently.

Down with the nation's princess, up with the local mistress

Who would have thought that the name of a local pub could be so controversial - and not just today.

On the corner of Belsize Road and Abbey Road is The Cricketers pub - this is not a new pub but it is a new name.

Now I'm nostalgic and like 'old things' but I find it a real shame that pub names are just changed like this. But of course in this case it's not a new thing...

The pub is in fact built under Emminster House and came into existence in 1969 with the redevelopment of the estate. But before that the pub was the Princess of Wales.

Now I suspect that the Cricketers is a marketing play to make the pub more of a venue for those wanting to watch sport, and a calculation the people today don't know who Lillie Langtry was.

But of course the great historical and local connection is that Alexandra Road - just over the road is indeed after the Princess of Wales and dates from her marriage to the future King in 1863. But of course one of the residents of Alexandra Road ironically was the future mistress Lillie Langtry, the story goes that Prince Edward actaully visited Lillie here at Leighton House (now gone).

The interesting short-hand relating to the pub here is that the change the name of the pub from Princess of Wales to the Lillie Langtry was to replace the wide of Edward VII with his mistress!

All good story telling stuff - my interest now is that the pub sign doesn't just disappear with the change to The Cricketers.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Kilburn has above average number of great quality pubs per head of the population

The crucial nature of the achitecture of pubs within the community is often under-estimated...

And Kilburn has a good haul of quality pubs - various inspectors, audits and census's have identified Kilburn as having above average number of pubs per capita - what that doesn't draw out is that it has above average quality and design features.

So here we feature the Prince of Wales, 11 Cambridge Gardens, South Kilburn - easily found as it is immediately on the right as you come out of Kilburn Park tube station.

The building is grade two listed and you can see why...

Built during the 1860's as the kilburn park estate was being laid out - the pub was very much part of the local landscape and design. Edwin Charles White was licensee in 1872, according to the Traditional Pubs of Kilburn, volume 1, Cliff Wadsworth, Willesden Local History Society, and was followed by Israel Blewitt Griffin, Edward Corish, J Ranson, Walter F Clark and Arthur Smith at the end of the 19th century.

The area gained signigicance when the tube opened in 1915 and this was when the pub received its last most signifcant face-lift and exterior improvement.

I noticed the other day that the pub sign is missing - I'm slightly worried by the number of old pub signs that are gradually going - of course the Colin Campbell has been taken down - but here the overhanging metalwork is still there waiting for a Prince of Wales sign... hmmm.

Friday 29 August 2008

Cleaning up after the party and securing the toilets

It was the Notting Hill Carnival and so a day out not to be missed - not sure I had appreciated the full scale of the event - you hear the numbers of people attending in press reports but it isn;t until you are there that you see the full true scale.

This event is huge and the impacts upon the local area, the community are huge.
Just walking to the Carnival from where I live you could sense the growing crowds - Kilburn High Road was busier and had greater traffic - as we got to Kilburn Lane you could see the pubs were fuller and as you got to Harrow Road the queues at the bust stops were visible and vast.
For some in the community the experience has been err... negative.
There has been a bit of an elongated battle for the residents of what is called the Kensal Triangle trying to get toilet provision during the period of the carnival - well thanks to lots of noise, hassling and most especially the work of local councillor Simon Green this festival had toilets - and here are people queueing up to use them.
The are of course by the great local graffiti whihc has survived so far...
For me the carnival was fun and lively and great music - but my enjoyment was partly based on the sure knowledge that I didn't have to be ivmoplved in the clean up - just how much jerk chicken can a street cleaning load into a rubbish bag?

Saturday 16 August 2008

The coursework towards good grades...

It's something that I haven't done enough as a School Governor of but at the end of the last School term I managed to get to some of the art shows and displays at Hampstead School to see the pupils' work.

Now I should be very clear at the start - I'm not creatively artistic, I enjoy art, galleries, museums, I can pick out what I like, but I can't do the application of paint to canvass or its' equivalents. Which considering that my Father is a high quality artist and my sister has a really strong creative and artistic streak is all a bit unfair. :-)

But, the work of the pupils was stunning. The bit that struck me was just how provocative and evocative it was.

Hampstead School is just amazing and has a great creative tradition - that combined with the stunning diversity of the pupils and you have a riot of potential. I was totally stunned by just how simple and how effective and essentially chilling this piece were (two pics left) - all it was were a series of envelopes with the addressses cut out. Censorship, dehumanised, de-personalised, annonymous - it was brilliant and awful...

But the good work didn't stop there and there was a real range of displays and work - I always feel slightly awkward flicking through the work book but it is essential to see how the piece of expression came about, where it comes from.

There was another pupil who had some great stuff on Finchley Road and it used the David Hockney technique of taking lots of photo's and then overlaying them to give a greater whole through a formation of collage... Quite simple, inherently difficult to do well and in this instance very successful. The best bit was watching his Mum cooing with pride!

But here are two more pieces (pictured left) that I managed to capture - the cascade of suspended plates and cutlery in different colours was very eye-catching and feel essentially fun and contrasted with the construction of landscape through blocks of minimal features.

It just seemed right that at the time of results I reflected the exhibition I had seen and the coursework that often goes past almost unoticed in the declaration of exam results... Keep up the great work Hampstead School.

Friday 15 August 2008

Just popping to the corner shop for some grain?

Preparing the corn and grain in The Gambia was really hard work - but this gathering of women, sort of singing and extensively chatting was a ritual gathering by the shore in Bintang Bilong.

I joined in and it was easy to see how it was exhausting, intense and highly necessary - it wasn't long after that the vultures gathered to hoover up the remnants.

But it's this sort of activity that is so taken for granted - in an age when I can just go and buy virtually any food, pre-prepared and eat immediately or microwave it to completion, I can't help but sense that this manual preparation is far more sustainable and healthier...

Wednesday 13 August 2008

William Friese Greene - Kilburn as the home of cinema?

So, does Kilburn have the claim to be the home of William Friese-Greene and cinematography? There are certainly enough traces and claims that are fairly easy to track down.

The Tricycle Theatre has a plaque on it's wall for the grand opening that pays tribute to Friese-Greene's work.

But none of the biographies I have found to date suggest or confirm a north london connection and not yet a Kilburn link... other than the Kilburn plaque...

Well in fact at the bottom of the Kilburn High Road, where it becomes Maida Vale I found Friese-Greene House - nothing special or flashy but very much there...

So clearly the rumour, the story, the myth and the tradition that he was Kilburn has some credence, supporters or validity.

It is suggested that Kilburn High Road was the location for Friese-Greene's studio's - and that the Tricycle is on the site of the those. These were not successful cinema's and Friese-Greene's role in the development of cinematography. His supporters suggest that he in fact effectively invetned the moving picture and that Thomas Edison secured the patent... other suggest that he was heading on the right lines but his lack of success, business acumen and inability to secure the patent that took off means his reputation has been dimmed and then controversial.

In tradition with all great inventors (it would seem) he died in dramatic circumstances whilst addressing a convention of film enthusiasts so his place in history has been at least noted and enhanced.

The main claim to his story lies with Brighton who are very keen to secure him:

But there is one further piece in the Kilburn claim... just down the Kilburn High Road, a few yards from the Tricycle there is a row of late victorian buildings that has some stone tracery - in the form of film rolls! Now I am not suggesting that this is some kind of subliminal tribute to Friese-Greene, though it is possible (esp. given the lilely operational dates in Kilburn of 1888-1891), but I am saying that it feels like it adds some voracity to the claim that Kilburn has a cinematic tradition. It might be all those cinema's, but it might be the film experiment and development studios... any insights out there?

More on William Friese-Greene can be found here: which is a pretty balanced account.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Down at the Old Bull and Bush

Florrie Forde at her singing best...

This is of course the Bull and Bush pub in Hampstead North End. It has been a pub since about 1721 (earliest recorded license) and became a popular day trip location for londoners and accepted travelling parties and visitors.

The pub is listed and has just enjoyed a major refurbishment. Hogarth the artist is amongst those credited with drinking here...

The lyrics in full:

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, have some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,

Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
down at the Old Bull and Bush.

Talk about the shade of the sheltering palm
Praise the bamboo tree with it's wide spreading charm,
There's a little nook down near old Hampstead Town,
You know the place it has one great renown,

Often with my sweetheart on a bright Summers day,
To the little pub there my footsteps will stray,
If she hesitates when she looks at the sign,
Promptly I whisper, "Now do not decline.

Come, come, come and make eyes at me
down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Come, come, have some port wine with me,
Down at the Old Bull and Bush,
Hear the little German Band,
Just let me hold your hand dear,
Do, do come and have a drink or two
down at the Old Bull and Bush.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Off to Washington!

I don't know if there is a local CAMRA branch - I assume there is - but wow could North london benefit from a local pub guide.

There are some great local hostelries and this one in England's Lane is no exception.

The Washington is always assumed to be named after American President George, but in fact it's not at all.

The pub is in fact named after Mr Washington who was the principle builder when the development of Eton Avenue was taking place.

Edward Bliss was the landowner who led the redevelopment of England's Lane and was probably the era at which Mr Washington was 'a building' (1815-1825 ish)

It's a great misunderstanding and one that is widely perpetuated, not least by the slightly mournful picture of American George on the corner/front of the building in the pub-sign.

Either way at least it's not the carrott and lettuce!

Thursday 7 August 2008

The lovely rural scenes of North West London

Is this the best park ever or am I biased? I love Kilburn Grange Park for it's history, I love Fortune Green for it's community focus, West End is superb for it's sheer cheek and atmosphere.

But as an all in one Queen's Park is pretty impressive. It's owned/run/maintained/held in trust by the City of London Corporation:

But crucially it is deceptively large - when you stand at the corner of say Kingswood Avenue you can see the whole length of it, but when you actually walk about it is much much larger than the eye at first appreciates - this is further enahnced by the way in whcih it is lovingly tended with different sections and components.

One of these is the bandstand - charming, used, and very very colourfully maintained - it's one of the features that makes the park stand out and was one of the mainstays of the centenary celebrations.

Councillor Mark Cummins was a leading light in those celbrations and has been a hugely interesting font of information on both the pak, it's iconic significance to the community and also his own role (which he plays down).

It's now 20 years since he was first elected as councillor and I guess I wanted to take this small chance to thank him and place on record my own appreciation for his work.!OpenDocument

Other posts about the Park:

Did you know that at one end of the park there is underground drainage - in order to cope with the naturally boggy ground - when it was the grand exhibition it became so boggy and wet that the area was almost unuseable - there is some story about Queen Victioria not visiting due to the poor ground!

Monday 4 August 2008

The monster that lives in Agamemnon Road

Is this the best hedge topiary in town?

It's pretty much of a wow and clearly lovingly tended on an ongoing basis...

And sure enough there is a page on the oracle:

This one is hiding in Agamemnon Road and is surely a prize effort.

Competition for the best suggested name? Ideas in this team have been:
  • Oscar
  • Clementine
  • Andreas the amazing animal hedge
  • Firaz

August is clearly here...

Friday 1 August 2008

Political art on the streets - is that graffiti?

I was having a quiet drink in the King William IV (Kensal Green, Brent) and there on the junction with Harrow Road and Warfield Road are three newish pieces of political contemporary comment - or graffiti as it is more fashionably and dismissively referred to.
Now let's be clear - I loathe graffiti - it's destructive, mindless, scruffy, unecessary and when it becomes a plague, the effect on a local community can be quite debilitating.
So when I saw these three I hesitated - all within 50 yards it causes you to pause and think - how do you define the criticism, where do you draw the boundaries, was it with consent, what if it was without consent but the community like it - does that in itself set a precedent...? All valid questions and largely without obvious or simple answers.
i assumed that someone soonish will be along to clear them off, paint them over so I'm glad I captured them on my lil-ol-digital...
Just so you don't forget Warfield Road is of course named after the landlord of the King William who rebuilt the current pub and they named the local road after him - must have been hell of a fella with a good reputation!