Tuesday 31 March 2009

Out of the ruins of war and disruption...

This Sunday I was at the 70th anniversary celebrations at Belsize Square synagogue.

It was moving, fun, beautiful and spiritiual.

I wanted to share with readers some of the pictures that I took after the celebration. Including the small plaque that celebrated the 60th anniversary.

It's probably easiest if the history of the synagogue is told in their own words:

Belsize Square Synagogue was founded in 1939 by refugees from Central Europe who came from the continental Liberal Jewish Movement. While those of Orthodox or Reform background could integrate into already well established English congregations, there existed nothing in this country, no congregations, no synagogues which could provide either the spiritual background or form of worship to which they had been accustomed. English Liberalism, on the other hand, was far too radical for them.

A few months before the outbreak of the last war, some men, chiefly from Berlin and Frankfurt-on-Main, got together and, with the help of Miss Lily Montagu, one of the founders of the English Liberal Movement and a lay Minister in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, secured the use of Montefiore Hall (attached to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue) for Friday evening Services.

The first of these Services took place on 24th March, 1939 and was held in the continental Liberal manner. There was no formal congregational organisation. Each Sabbath Eve Service was conducted by a different Rabbi and Cantor recently arrived here. Some of them subsequently emigrated overseas, such as the late Rabbi Lemle who founded a similar congregation in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Others, such as the late Rabbis ltaliener and Van der Zyl, became Ministers in the Reform Movement.

It was in June 1939 that what was more or less an ad hoc state of affairs became organised by the formation of the New Liberal Jewish Association with the Hon. Lily Montagu, J. P. as its first Chairman, and Rabbi Dr. Georg Salzberger (formerly Frankfurt-on-Main) and Cantor Magnus Davidsohn (formerly Berlin) its first permanent Ministers. It was affiliated to the Jewish Religious Union (now Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues). Rooms were rented in the Swiss Cottage area.

In January 1940 the word "Association" was changed to the more descriptive "Congregation" and so it remained during Miss Montagu's life-time, although the words "New Liberal" were widely considered misleading. It was not until June 1971 that the congregation assumed its present title.

In 1951 it acquired its own home, a former vicarage in Belsize Square which was converted to accommodate a modest synagogue seating 80 and communal offices, as well as religion school.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Any letters for the railway staff?

I've passed this virtually every day but it was taken me a little while to do so with the camera...

It's the on-station post-box - now sealed up - for staff letters!

Yep, that's right - on West Hampstead (jubilee line) station platform there is a room currently used as the waiting room (pic left below) and in the wall is a brass letter box - nice patination! - for STAFF LETTERS.

I noticed another since which if I recall correctly was on either Finchley Road or Kilburn platforms too.

It just struck me as quite quaint really - I guess it dates from the 30's (possibly 50's) but also might post to a level of knowledge and contact between travellers and staff that we would dream of now...

Supermarkets went through a phase of notice boards saying who was who and for a time it looked like public transport might follow suit. But that fad has now passed and it's hard enough to get the name of the station manager these days - but they will prosecute if you assault them...

Perhaps this little sealed letter box points to a happier age and interaction from which TfL could take a pointer or two?

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Built in 1939...

The Lido on Hampstead Heath is one of the most popular and busy places in the good weather.

I'm not a Lido user (I'm a very weak swimmer) - I've been to several, but it's not the most obvious place at which I'll be found - but what I do understand is the incredibly laid back leisurely sense of fun that they excude - and this one at Hampstead is no exception.

The City of London is rightly proud of this Lido. It's a Grade II listedbuilding, is an Art Deco pool and was officially opened to the public on 20 August 1938.

This event was described as a grand ceremony presided over by the then-Secretary of the Football Association, Stanley Rouse.

Incredibly, it was the twelfth of a total of 13 such outdoor pools built by the London County Council between 1906 and 1939. With a total build cost of £34,000 it was the most expensive - this was partly attributed to the premier location at the foot of the heath. It's construction was controversial - along the lines of 'stop building on the heath' - but had strong supporters who saw it as facilities for bathing and play for the masses.

Interestingly, the pool remained open throughout WW2 and saw its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. During these decades it saw more than 100,000 visitors a year cross its threshold.

The Corporation wesites records "The lido passed to the Corporation of London (now called City of London) in 1989 when the Corporation took over the running of Hampstead Heath from the London Residual Body.

"Since then, the City has spent almost £3million refurbishing the pool, giving it a state-of-the-art filtration system and brand new, stainless steel lining. The lining has helped raise the residual temperature of the unheated water and to save more than 100,000 litres a day of water that was being lost through tile cracks.

"In 2005 the City Corporation pledged to give £1.425million towards the cost of restoring the historic fabric of this Grade II listed building, on the understanding it would be used to try and obtain match-funding by an external body. The City is now in the process of applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery’s Parks for People initiative for capital funding which, if successful will be part of a bigger programme of works for the entire Parliament Hill triangle area including restoration of the Lido building."

More details here:

Thursday 19 March 2009

How well do you know the Kilburn High Road?

On Saturday 28th March it's the Kilburn High Road Spring Clean
This is a chance to give Kilburn the reisdent and trader led spruce up once a year at least - it's great fun and a chance to pitch in. Stalls and groups will be operating off of Kilburn Square opposite Kilburn High Road Station (Euston-Watford Line) please do come along.

But also we have the Kilburn High Road history tours.
Roman Emperor Claudius, Alfred the Great, Henry I and of course Henry VIII, George Orwell, Ian Dury, and of course the Danes, Irish, Poles - all on one road!
On foot at 10am and 2pm from Kilburn Park Tube (Bakerloo) and by bike at 12noon Kilburn (Jubilee).
All welcome - donation appreciated.
Organised as part of the Spring Clean Kilburn by the Kilburn Business Partnership. More information from Ed Fordham 07974 950 512. Edfordham@cix.co.uk

Thursday 5 March 2009

Swing swing together?

This is a plaque on the wall of a lovely house in Pilgim's Lane and unusually topped by a ships figurehead.

William Johnson Cory was a poet from the victorian era and his principle poem was Ionicus.

Cory is really a person of the victorian era - when classics was a valued form of respect in society - when education was a key part of social standing - when latin verse, indeed verse itself, was currency.

Cory retired to London in the mid 1870's, having left Eton in a bit of a cloud, but he set up home and married and had a family. There was much in Cory's writing about homoerotic thought and relations and his is considered something of a guru on the subject - though nonetheless controversial for all of that...

As a former master of Eton Cory's effect on society was significant - he wrote the boating song, he educated literally hundreds of pupils - many of whom by definition went on to the governance of Britain and indeed then, the empire.

As to the figure above the plaque - presumably from the front of one of Cory's boats from his travels or Eton?

These are called a figurehead, and was not always a woman. It could be a man, or a representation of Neptune or other mythological figure, or a horse, lion or dragon, ie something that suited the name of the ship. For example, HMS Centurion might have the figure of a Roman soldier.


The boating song for those that don't know...
(first verse only!)

Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.

(and yes, there is a Kit and the Widow song to the same tune...)

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Takings pictures is really hard...

This wasn't intended as proof of the problem, but considering Flask Walk in NW3 is one of the nicest passages around this photo reveals the problem.

It's actually very hard to take the picture that captures the charm and the 'olde worldy' atmosphere.

Of course down Flask Walk you have a great bookshop, penshop, cafe, pub, tailor, florist - it's a veritable hive of activity... (sadly no butcher)



It's not without issues and problems and you can see the trade waste piled up.

But if you don't go to Hampstead very often, then why not this saturday wander up there - you're just 2 minutes from the Heath, have the Northern Line and a great range of buses too...

Gwan, gwan, gwan...

Sunday 1 March 2009

The forgotten parish 13 of Hampstead

From worship to residence http://www.gumtree.com/london/21/33854121.html

That's the story of all Soul's Church in Loudoun Road, swiss Cottage. Of course the Estate Agents like to call it St John's Wood - others happy to describe it as South Hampstead (as per the Railway Station).

I've put in the large pic (right) to show the landscape of the station (it's the Euston Watford line) with the small tower block behind it which now dwarfs the church.

The church now is 8(?) flats!

The church dates from 1865 and in 1903 was parish 13 of the Hampstead Deanery. The parish was carved out of St Paul's, Avenue Road, St Mary's Kilburn, and All Saint's, Marylebone.

It has a pretty interesting history and was very much a local church for the area in South Hampstead - so a bit of background:

Founded by Revd. Henry Robinson Wadmore, asst. at St. John's Wood chapel in 1865 and he remained the incumbent until 1890
In 1901 G. F. Terry, was the Vicar until 1909. He was credited with revitalising the congregation and later went on to be canon of Edinburgh.
His brother (!) C. J. Terry, Vicar from 1909-19, increased the endowment.

Attendance in 1886 was recorded as being 274 at morning service.; 176 evening.
By 1903 it had little changed (but was sustained) 294 at morning service; 248 evening.

The church is built of stock brick with bands of red and Bath stone dressings, it seated 600. It is described as being apsidal chancel, aisled nave with bellcot, saddleback tower, and a vestry. Small asouthfacing porch was added in 1903. In 1905 an aditional aisle, tower, baptistery, porches, and choir vestry, giving 250 more seats, paid for by by Sir Charles Nicholson, Bt.

It had a chancel roof decorated like ancient choir roof of St. Albans abbey and the large oak altar installed as First World War mem.

The floor-plan was finally reordered in 1965: the altar was placed in front of the chancel steps, the font was brought forward, and the former chancel arranged as weekday chapel, and a baptistery added for exhibitions before the church closed in the 1970's(?).

A great place to now live in!