The abandoned farm

I am reblogging this post from 2016 for the benefit of anyone who has followed my blog since it was originally posted. It is the third most popular photo post on my blog, and is viewed every day, without fail.

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Ollie had to go to the Vet again today. Yet more treatment for the ongoing ear infections that just won’t seem to go away. As usual, he was very well-behaved, so I thought I would give him a longer walk, and go somewhere different. All the photos are large files, and can be clicked on for detail.

Crossing into Mill Lane, and taking the path through the fruit farm fields, we headed out in the direction of Gingerbread Corner, in warm afternoon sun. The fields have all been harvested, and only the plums await ripening and picking. We circled the edge of the wheat fields, all just stubble now, and used the small gap in the hedgerow to access the main road. Taking the shady path behind Gingerbread Cottages, we soon came to the old abandoned farm.
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The story is that the farm belonged to two elderly brothers. When they…

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Art Deco London In Photos

Regular readers might recall that the architectural style of Art Deco is my personal favourite. To save me typing out a lot of stuff, here is an idea of what Art Deco means. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Deco

When I still lived in London, spotting buildings in this architectural style was always a passion of mine. So I thought I would share some with you.

The Black Cat Building, Camden, NW1.
This former cigarette factory has been lovingly restored. It now houses small businesses, conference rooms, and a popular gym.
From 2000 until 2012, I lived in the street just behind it, and walked past it all the time.

West End Central Police Station, Savile Row, W1.
I worked in this police station from 2001-2004. It made going in to work a pleasure.

Senate House, University of London, WC1.
I used to often walk past this building on my way down to Soho. I always stopped to look at it.

The offices of McCann-Erickson, Bloomsbury, WC1.
Another beautifully-restored office building on my walking route into work.

Arnos Grove Station, N14.
Many of London’s Underground (Subway) Stations are Art Deco delights.
This is Arnos Grove, north of the centre.

Florin House, EC1.
Luxury apartments in Charterhouse Square, EC1.
If this looks familiar, it was the on-screen home of ‘Poirot’, as played by David Suchet in the long-running TV series.

Kensal House, W10.
At the other end of the housing market, Kensal House. Social housing in the Art Deco style in Ladbroke Grove, W10.

The Hoover Building, West London.
The former vacuum-cleaner factory of Hoover, in Perivale, west London.
With the facade preserved by law, and beautifully renovated, it once housed a large supermarket.
I understand that it has now been converted into very desirable apartments.

Just a glimpse of a few of the Art Deco wonders still standing in London.

My London Life

I was reflecting on my life in London this morning, and in particular about where I lived for the sixty years I was a resident. Looking at Google, I was able to find images, in some cases of the actual house or flat. I know some readers enjoy seeing photos of London that are not the familiar tourist sights, so here is a chronological tour of the architecture I lived in.

As a baby in 1952, I was brought home to a two-room flat, upstairs in a house in Storks Road, Bermondsey. My grandmother lived across the road, on the corner with Webster Road. This house in the photo is the one she lived in. The one we lived in is no longer there, but it was the same style.

Photo copyright Stephen Craven.

We moved from there to a house in Bush Road, then in Deptford. The houses were later demolished, and a McDonalds now stands on the site.

Photo copyright Stephen Craven.

In 1960, we moved to a brand new maisonette in Balaclava Road, Bermondsey. I was eight years old. This recent photo is of the actual block. We lived on the first floor, halfway along.

We lived there until I was fifteen. Then my parents bought a house in Bexley, which was then in Kent. It is now a London suburb. This is not the actual house, but is an identical style.

After my parents split in 1976, I moved with my Mum to run a shop in south-west London. In 1977, I got married, and my wife and I bought a flat in the area between Putney and Wandsworth. Although it looks like a house, it was divided into two flats, and we lived upstairs. This is the actual house.

After a year, we sold that, and bought a three bedroom house in the very nice district of Wimbledon Park, close to the famous tennis courts. It was built in 1901, and had many original features. The parking sign for Resident Parking didn’t exist then, but it is the house on the left. My ex-wife remarried, and later had the loft converted. You can see the windows in the roof.

When my marriage ended in 1985, I took what money I had, and bought a one-bedroom house on the newly-built London Docklands Development in Rotherhithe, across the road from the River Thames. My house is second from the left, in this photo. It is directly opposite the tree, which had just been planted when I lived there.

In 1989, I married for the second time, and we lived in that house for a year. But it was too small for comfort, so we bought a bigger house literally around the corner. It doesn’t look very attractive in the photo, but it was huge inside, and had a separate garage in the street behind. This is the actual house, in Redriff Road, Rotherhithe.

When we split up in 1997, I moved outside London, into a succession of rented accommodation, as I no longer had enough money to buy a property that I wanted to live in. After three years, I used my job as a government employee to apply for a subsidised flat in Cumberland Market, Camden, close to the centre of London. I lived in the block on the right, on the third floor, and as you can see, there are extensive allotments for use by residents who want to rent one. The tall building in the distance is the iconic Post Office Tower. That gives some idea of how close to the centre I lived.

Photo copyright ALondoninheritance

I stayed there for twelve years, before retiring from work, and moving here to Norfolk. With one exception, every property I ever lived in still stands, and is still lived-in, to this day.

Sandwich: Finishing my crusts

After my last three posts about this town in Kent, I thought I had more or less played it out. However, I have now decided to add the final photos, those omitted from the previous posts, for reasons of space, or interest. These will be the last ones, I promise.

Three rooftops. This shows the metal cupola of St Peter’s Church. Taken from a distance, it also shows the distinctive styles of rooftops in the town. One tiled, one made from stones, and the metal church roof. Like all the other photos that day, it would have looked so much better, had the weather been a little nicer.

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This circular room above what is now a gift shop looked suitably nautical. I wondered what it might look like inside.

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Holy Ghost Alley looks very much like the sort of alley where you might well encounter a ghost.

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This house dates from 1774, and is called Serpentine Cottage. Despite the 18th century construction, it is very much in the late Tudor style. It must have been the house of someone wealthy or important at the time.

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This addition to St Peter’s church is in the style know as ‘Dutch Gable’, so is probably 17th century, much later than the original church building.

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That is the last post about Sandwich, with all the photos I am happy to add to the blog. I am very pleased that so many of you have enjoyed these, and hope that this final collection is similarly well-received.

All the photos are large files, and can be enlarged by clicking on them. I am happy to report that they have retained a considerable amount of detail, even at maximum resoluiton.

Architectural admiration (6)

For this part of the series, I will concentrate on places and structures found in Great Britain. This country has a lot of wonderful sights to see, and those that follow are just a few of them.

The Tyne Bridge, Newcastle, England.

Some cities are defined by a single structure. You only have to see a picture of a building, or famous statue, and you immediately recognise the location, even if you have never been there. One of these is Newcastle, where the distinctive Tyne Bridge is identifiable to almost anyone in the UK. There is a good reason for this too. The bridge connects the city with nearby Gateshead, and this industrial centre of the North-East of England has associations with ship-building, trade, docks, and mining. The imposing through arch bridge straddling the River Tyne is itself industrial in appearance, strong and purposeful, very much like the city that it is a part of. It is not the only bridge crossing the river, but was opened in 1928, to assist with increasing traffic, and to avoid tolls on other bridges. If you think it looks a bit like a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you would be correct. It was designed and built by the same company.

http://www.newcastlegateshead.com/things-to-do/tyne-bridge-p603151

Southgate Underground Station, London, England.

With the large expansion of the underground railway network in London during the 1920s, many stations on the outer edges of London at the time were constructed in unusual modernist styles. By far one of the best remaining examples is the station at Southgate, an area mostly now part of the London Borough of Barnet, close to the northern limits of the city. This amazing building resembles a spacecraft. The circular design, appearing to be supported by a row of windows, is topped with an unusual ‘spike’, with a ball on the end. This is surrounded by circular lights, giving a futuristic look to the whole structure. Best seen illuminated at night, it looks for all the world like a flying saucer, just about to take off.

http://modernarchitecturelondon.com/pages/lu-southgate.php

Neasden Hindu Temple, London, England.

Sandwiched between the busy North Circular Road, and the undesirable dwellings of the sprawling Stonebridge Park Estate, the once-leafy suburb of Neasden is no longer the place it once was. Factories, industrial complexes, and high-rise homes make it an unlikely place to find something as wonderful as this bewitching temple. But it is worth the effort to visit this least-likely tourist destination in north-west London, to be enthralled by what you will see there. The very fact that it is so alarmingly out of context in this otherwise depressing area, just adds to the effect. Built and funded entirely by volunteers from the community, this temple really does take your breath away. Opened in 1995, it was then the largest Hindu temple outside India. Standing before it, you have to look around, finding it hard to believe that you are still in London. From the gleaming white exterior, to the intricate carvings inside, it is a complete feast for the eyes. Non-Hindus are made very welcome too, and someone will happily show you around. It really is one of the most amazing things to see in London, and outside of the local community, one of the least known modern wonders of that city.

http://londonmandir.baps.org/the-mandir/

The Town Walls, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England.

As one of the main border towns between England and Scotland, Berwick has had a violent past, and a history of conflict. Constantly fought over by the English and Scots, it has been part of England since 1482. Due to its strategic position straddling the River Tweed, less than three miles from the Scottish border, it is a place that has always been heavily defended. It still boasts a fine example of an 18th century barracks, but its Elizabethan Town Walls and fortified ramparts remain as one of the best examples in Britain today. They are a fascinating look into the warlike past of these islands, and remarkably well-preserved. They are still free to walk around, and you can do it in less than an hour. The views are spectacular, and there is much else to see in this interesting market town.

http://www.visitnorthumberland.com/historic-sites/berwick-elizabethan-town-walls

The National Wallace Monument, Stirling, Scotland.

Unfortunately, the film ‘Braveheart’ has created and perpetuated many inaccuracies concerning the Scottish noble and warrior, Sir William Wallace. During the 13th century, he rebelled along with other Scottish nobles and landowners, against the English rule of their country. In 1297, he led the Scots to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, near to where his memorial is sited today. Despite defeating a much larger English army, the Scots failed to secure independence, later losing a major battle at Falkirk. Wallace was captured in 1305, and executed by the English, for the crime of Treason.
In 1869, a memorial to Wallace was opened, at the top of Abbey Craig, offering dramatic views from the top. Although perhaps intended to resemble a castle tower, it is somewhat Victorian Gothic in style, described as being ‘Scottish Baronial.’ The memorial serves well as a viewing platform, if you can manage all the steps to the top, (246) as well as a fair ascent from the car park. Each floor also has relevant exhibits, including Wallace’s sword, so it is entertaining for all ages.

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/wallace/

The Hoover Building, Perivale, Middlesex.

This magnificent building is one of the best preserved Art Deco constructions from the 1930s. It is situated on one of London’s busiest roads, The Westway, and provides a welcome sight in an otherwise uninspiring landscape. Built in 1933 to house the UK factory for Hoover vacuum cleaners, its colourful designs and unashamedly ornate features divided opinion at the time. After it closed down in 1982, there were fears that it would be demolished, and a local campaign to save it had some success. It was bought by the huge supermarket chain, Tesco, and after ten years of neglect, it was fully refurbished, and opened as a supermarket. Fortunately, the exterior had been listed, so was retained by the new owners, who built a conventional shop inside the walls. It is a true wonder in West London, and delightful when illuminated at night. There is a song about it on this link that you may not like, but watch the video, for the different views.

http://hidden-london.com/the-guide/hoover-building/

Tilbury Fort, Essex, England.

Where the River Thames widens, to the east of London, you will find the Port of Tilbury. For many years now, this has been an important container terminal, and landing-place for many of the imports that arrive from overseas. It is an industrial area, and even the most ardent lover of the place would be hard pressed to find it attractive. During the many wars involving England throughout its history, the strategic importance of this area was always apparent. The first fort was built here by Henry VIII, and was later reinforced and improved, until appearing in the star-shaped form we can still admire today. It was here in 1588, at the height of the war with Spain, and under threat from the Armada, that Elizabeth I gave her famous rallying speech to the assembled troops. This fort holds a special place in the history of England, and as a result, is now owned and maintained by English Heritage, as a museum in perpetuity.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/tilbury-fort/

I hope that you enjoy this selection. Next time, I will be including some more from further afield.

Architectural admiration (4)

For the fourth outing in this series, I am sticking with buildings or structures that I have actually seen, or been inside. Apologies for the bold type. Try as I might, I cannot get rid of it in edit. Grrr!

Bluebird Garage, Chelsea, London.

King’s Road in Chelsea, is now considered to be a very fashionable place; home of designer shops, smart boutiques, and stylish restaurants. During the Punk phase, it was frequented by many adherents of this style, who would visit the shops run by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren. Decades earlier, in 1923, the Bluebird Garage was built at number 330, in the very latest Art Deco style of architecture. It had petrol pumps on the forecourt, and sold and serviced cars too, as a main agent for Chrysler. I had always liked this unusual building, painted white, with the obvious Deco references. When I first joined the London Ambulance Service, it had been taken over by the Greater London Council. They had put an Ambulance Station on the lower floor, and used the upper areas for the storage of the vehicles used to take children to school. On my first day after qualifying, I was told to report there, to meet the divisional officer in charge. I later worked out of there on many occasions, and we even used the petrol pumps to fill up our ambulances. When a modern Ambulance Station was later built in Fulham, the building was closed up. It was later acquired by Terence Conran, and extensively redeveloped into the Bluebird Cafe and Restaurant. This name was from the connection with Donald Campbell, who was one of the owners of the original garage. Luckily, the facade is listed, so it remains available to see in all it’s glory, to this day.
http://www.bluebird-restaurant.co.uk/gallery/

Church of St Joan of Arc, Rouen, Normandy, France.<

Rouen is a place full of history. Crammed with wonderful buildings, home to a huge cathedral, and enjoying a picturesque riverside location on the River Seine. It is a place that I would really recommend you visit, the next time you are in northern France. In the former ancient market place, is the site of the execution of Joan of Arc, later St Joan. This legendary young woman led French resistance against English occupation during the early part of the fifteenth century. She was later betrayed, and given over to her enemies. They tried her as a heretic, and burned her at the stake. A large cross marks the exact spot where she died. In 1979, a new church was opened in her name. It was a striking design of modern architecture, yet used the traditional feel of an upturned boat, one of the earliest styles of Christian churches. Inside, the nautical theme continues with the exposed wood, but there is also the delightful addition of original stained glass windows, from the 16th century. Kept safe during both wars, these windows were installed in this new building, and are a marvellous complement to the 20th century design.

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/France/Haute_Normandie/Rouen-94667/Things_To_Do-Rouen-Eglise_Jeanne_dArc_Vieux_Marche-BR-1.html

A La Ronde, Exmouth, Devon.

Many years ago, I visited this house as a tourist, and it has always stuck in my memory. It is unusual, in that it has sixteen sides, giving a circular appearance, hence the name. Built in 1796, it was the home of two spinsters, and contained twenty rooms. They helped conceive the design, and worked with local architects to realise their dream. If you can imagine two children designing the perfect dolls house, and then living in at as adults, you will get the idea. They decorated the interior with souvenirs of their travels, including feathers and shells, creating a gallery entirely covered in shells in the process. They used the redundant triangular areas for storage, and even included diamond-shaped windows in the design. The house has been owned by The National Trust for many years, and has recently been extensively refurbished. It is due to open to visitors again this year.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/a-la-ronde/

Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

There are lots of castles in Wales. Most were erected by the Normans, and later English rulers, to help subdue the rebellious Welsh. Many of them are more impressive than Manorbier, and lots more are better restored, and often suitably imposing too. But this small castle has something great going for it. it is on the beach, almost literally, as the sand is a stone’s throw from the walls. It is privately owned, and inside, there is still private accommodation for the owner. But it is open to the public, and well-worth a look. Despite being damaged after the English Civil War, the battlements, towers, and main gate are all still impressive. When I went there in the late 1980s, visitors could walk anywhere they pleased too, a nice bonus. It is one of those few places where I would love to live. I would close it to the public though, and just be my own version of the Lord of the Castle, wandering around the fortifications, and making the most of the coastal outlook. What a place!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manorbier_Castle

The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London.

A popular expression in many crafts and trades, is ‘Less is More.’ This simple memorial, designed by Lutyens, and erected following the Great War, in 1920, is a good example of the wisdom of that saying. This monument only really gets the attention it deserves once a year, when it is featured as the centerpiece of the Remembrance Day Parade, on the closest Sunday to November 11th. It is on one of the busiest streets in London, but can be approached easily, and anyone can stand safely in front of it. The building material is Portland Stone, seen on many of London’s finest structures. This replaced the wooden structure that was there the year before. Simple carved wreaths, and the words ‘The Glorious Dead’, are the only decorations, though flags are also placed on it too. It is not very tall, and could even go unnoticed by someone passing in a car or bus. It is dignified though, understatement making the most powerful statement possible, about the tragic loss it reminds us of. It is just right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cenotaph,_Whitehall

Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain.

High on one of the hills that surround the center of the Catalan city of Barcelona, you will find Parc Guell. It is hard to describe this public park; part fairy-land, part acid-trip, part childish fantasy, and I am still not close. It is none of these however, but an architectural oddity designed by the famous Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. This man is synonymous with the city of Barcelona, also designing the famous Sagrada Familia Church, The Palau Guell, and the Casa Mila, as well as many other outstanding buildings. Any visitor to the city will soon be familiar with his unusual style, which is definitely unique, and also in the ‘love it, or hate it’ category. With the Parc Guell, built over fourteen years, and not officially opened until 1926, he let his fertile imagination run riot. I have honestly seen nothing else to compare with this unusual place, and I am struggling to describe it in a way to do it justice. There is a heady mix of religious symbolism, iconography, and surrealism, that just seems to all come together so well. Colourful mosaics, unusual features, and panoramic views all add to the experience. Have a look at the link, and then look at Google Images. If you have never been there, I am sure that you will be amazed. I was.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_G%C3%BCell

The Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg, Russia.

When I visited this place, the city was still called Leningrad, and in my mind, it will always be that.
This was first created by Peter The Great, in 1703, as a bastion against attacks from Sweden, then a major player in international events. It was later rebuilt in stone, and has existed pretty much unchanged, since 1720. As well as its intended military purpose, the complex has also been used as a prison, and a garrison for the city militia. During the early days of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the fort was captured by the Bolsheviks, who imprisoned many Tsarist officers there. In the Second World War, the famous siege of the city by the German Army resulted in a lot of damage to the buildings, all of which was carefully restored after 1945. In the grounds is the marvellous cathedral, burial place of many former Tsars. It has a gold cupola, and a huge spire, visible from much of the city. Situated where the Riva Neva opens towards the gulf of Finland, this really is a striking and historically important building, and one well-worth your time to visit.

http://www.saint-petersburg.com/museums/peter-paul-fortress/

There you have seven more architectural recollections from my travels over the years. I hope that you find some of them, if not all, enjoyable to read about. Please click the links to see more. This has been quite a popular series, so I will be sure to add part five, in due course.

Architectural admiration (3)

Here are seven more feats of architecture and design that I have been privileged to see. Spanning many centuries, and a variety of styles, they all have their singular merits. I hope that you enjoy them.

The Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

When I visited Uzbekistan, in the late 1980s, it was still a part of the Soviet Union. Since 1991, it has been an independent country. It has a southern border with Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan is to the north. The city of Samarkand was well known in the west as the central point of the Silk Road, halfway to China, and it was also one of the most important centres of Islamic studies. The Registan is the large public square of that city, including the three buildings that housed madrasahs, schools of Islamic teaching. Built from 1410-1660, these similar buildings are all in an identifiable Islamic style of architecture. The complex includes dormitories, classrooms, minarets, and a large mosque. Arriving on a warm evening in late summer, I was struck by the wonderful colours of the mosaics that decorate the exteriors. I was doubly pleased that the vista from our hotel room balcony gave us a good view of it to savour too. Touring the buildings in a small group the following day, there were few tourists or visitors there; so the large area was a place of great peace, full of wonderful sights. This link has day and night photos. Please explore them.

http://www.topbeautifulplacesworld.com/the-most-beautiful-places-tourism-of-the-world/the-registan-ancient-city-of-samarkand-of-the-timurid-dynasty-uzbekistan/

Michelin House, London.

On the corner of Fulham Road and Sloane Avenue in Chelsea, stands this unique building. It is now called Bibendum, (The name of the Michelin Tyre man) and houses an up-market oyster bar, restaurant, and delicatessen, developed by Sir Terence Conran. Once the home of the UK branch of the French tyre company, Michelin, it appears to have been lifted from fin-de-siecle Paris, and transplanted in this unusual location. The style is somewhere between Art Noveau and Art Deco, with an individual twist. The building was opened in 1911, and boasts three large stained-glass windows echoing advertisements of the time. Exterior lighting appears to emulate stacked tyres, and the central area once housed a large tyre fitting bay. At one time, it had an oval track on the roof, where cars could be tested. In 1985, Michelin left the building, and it was sold to Conran, a style guru, and furniture designer. He and his partners developed the whole complex into a shop, restaurant, and oyster bar, retaining and renovating almost all of the original features. Just to gaze at it is an amazing experience. If you can afford the price of a snack or meal inside, despite wallet-emptying prices, so much the better.

http://www.bibendum.co.uk/index.html#.VJNhVF4hNA

The Forth Rail Bridge, South Queensferry, Scotland.

There are undeniably much grander bridges in the UK, and across the world. Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge, the list goes on. I have not seen them, but I have seen The Forth Bridge, which I first saw in 1964, on a family holiday in Scotland. I was struck by it then, and despite crossing alongside it on the road bridge, or passing over it in a train, a total of perhaps forty times since, I still think that it is an imposing and wonderful structure. Spanning the Firth of Forth, a few miles from Edinburgh, it was opened in 1890, for use by the railway companies to reduce the travelling time between London and Aberdeen. It is of cantilever construction, and still considered by many to be one of the finest examples ever built, as well as a monumental feat of engineering. With its distinctive red oxide paint finish, it is best viewed near sunset, and it has enough popularity as an attraction in its own right, that there is a car park close to the south side, and a visitor centre is currently in the planning stages. Just to the west of this rail bridge is the road bridge, a suspension bridge, built in 1964.

http://photosofedinburgh.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/photographing-the-forth-bridges-a-quick-location-guide/

The Moscow Metro, Russia.

This is not so much about a building, but an underground architectural marvel, beautifully preserved to this day. The underground train system of the city of Moscow was opened in 1935, under the Stalinist regime. No expense was spared to make it a showpiece for the Russian capital, and it is unlike any similar system you will see anywhere. Stations have marble floors, tiled walls, mosaics, reliefs, chandeliers, statues, friezes, and incredible lighting. They appear to span every style ever known, from Byzantine to Art Deco, and beyond. Heroic figures, propaganda-style pictures made from small tiles, even stained-glass windows, it is all there. And this in a system serving a huge population, used extensively every day. I managed to find a link with some very good photos. There are lots of them, but if you have never seen this wonder, please try to view as many as you can.

http://www.beeflowers.com/moscowmetro/index.htm

Windmills, Norfolk, England.

I have always enjoyed looking at windmills. Many countries have them, but here in East Anglia, we have them in abundance. Once the essential hub of farming communities, they are now mostly used as accommodation, restored as museums, or occasionally used as working examples of the millers’ craft. Norfolk has many fine examples, including Cley-Next-the Sea, Burnham Overy, Stow, and Sutton Mill at Hickling. There is a recently restored windmill near to our home, in Dereham, somewhat incongruously situated in the middle of a modern housing estate. Fortunately, most are listed buildings, so cannot be demolished, or substantially altered. Some are brick-built, others made of wood; many are painted white, others black, with white sails. Some lucky families enjoy living in one as their main residence, and many others take great pleasure in renting one as a holiday home. They are one of the most constant reminders of the past still with us, and stand proud above the generally flat landscape of the eastern lowlands. Here is a link to some good photos of Norfolk windmills. There are many others to explore.

http://www.tournorfolk.co.uk/windmills.html

County Hall, Norwich, England.

Opened in 1968, the administrative headquarters for the large county of Norfolk covers an area over thirty acres, to the south of the city centre. To call it incongruous would be an understatement. This huge slab of a building dominates the southern approach to the city, and is generally detested by its inhabitants. So why is it included here? I actually like it. Maybe it it the brutalist style that appeals, or the uncompromising way it is allowed to overwhelm its surroundings. You could be forgiven for presuming that it is home to the Secret Police, or a clandestine government organisation. It is far removed from the Victorian and Edwardian edifices that normally serve the purpose of housing County Councils, and it seems that it would be more at home in Soviet Russia, or North Korea. However, it is easy to forget that many buildings revered today were considered monstrosities when they were built over 100 years ago. I believe that County Hall will stand the test of time, and emerge as something regarded with affection in the future.

http://www.nps.co.uk/getintouch/23/

SIS Building, London.

Talking of clandestine government organisations, the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) building at Vauxhall Cross, London, must be one of the world’s worst-kept secrets. Home to MI6, one of Britain’s two major spying and intelligence networks, it is so well known, it has even been featured in a James Bond film. But this post is about buildings, and what a building it is. Like something of a cross between an Aztec temple, and a Las Vegas casino, it is unique on London’s riverside. It stands in an unattractive area, opposite an ugly modern bus station, and adjacent to the 20th century Vauxhall Bridge, that crosses the Thames into Pimlico. The building was opened in 1994, and immediately drew criticism from many detractors, being described as ‘Babylonian’, (not a bad thing, in my book) and also as ‘Legoland.’ The cream-coloured stone, together with green tinted windows, sets it apart from anything else in the city. Best viewed from north of the river, I think that it is one of the finest modern buildings in London, and something that will go down as a marvellous architectural achievement. Here is a link to its use in that James Bond film. It shows it off well.

http://jamesbondlocations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/mi6-headquarters-sis-building-vauxhall.html

I hope that you are continuing to enjoy this series. I have more to offer, so look out for them in the future.

Architectural admiration (2)

As I received enough positive feedback for the first post in this series, I have decided to compile some more, starting now. They will still be, for the moment, things I have actually seen, and stood before. The selections will continue to be varied, both chronologically, and architecturally, so please bear with me.

Fort La latte, Brittany, France.
This Breton castle is an absolute delight. Built in the 13th Century to defend the coast of Brittany from attack by the English, it is remarkably well preserved. The coastal location also provides amazing views over the sea, and it is small enough to enable the visitor to get a real feel of life for the defenders. If anyone has ever seen the 1958 film ‘The Vikings’, with Kirk Douglas (and who hasn’t?) it will be immediately familiar, as the scene of the climactic battle. I first visited this castle in the early 1980s. when staying in a gite nearby. I was entranced by it then, and I still am today.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort-la-Latte

Frinton Park Estate, Essex.
Back in the 1930s, and Art Deco houses, with no apologies. The Frinton Park Estate contains some of the best remaining Art Deco housing in England. Built in 1934, in the sedate seaside town of Frinton, on the Essex coast, this development is just breathtaking. A series of Art Deco and Modernist housing, all still occupied, and as pristine today as when they were built. I made a special trip to this sleepy town, just to enjoy and photograph these houses. I could happily live there, and if I ever win the lottery, I just might.
http://www.art-deco-classics.co.uk/frinton_artdeco.php

City Hall, London.
This building was created for the new Greater London Authority, in 2002, on land adjacent to Tower Bridge, called Potters Fields. It was designed by Norman Foster, one of Britain’s most famous architects, and though it does not have any connection with the City of London at all, it serves as the meeting place for the Greater London Assembly, and houses the office of the Mayor of London. (Though not the Lord Mayor, who is Mayor of The City). It is confusing for non-Londoners, I appreciate that!
The building stands alone, and is easily viewed from outside, or from the nearby vantage point afforded by Tower Bridge. It seems to be collapsing, as the various layers appear to be incapable of supporting its weight. This is part of the architectural genius behind the design, and serves to make it all the more appealing. (At least to me.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Hall,_London

Thiepval Memorial, The Somme, France.
Another Art Deco structure, but with a solemn difference. Opened in 1932, and designed by the marvellous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, this is a memorial to over 72,000 British and Colonial troops killed during WW1 who have no known graves. I cannot describe the feeling of the first viewing of this memorial, one foggy day in November. It loomed from the mist, like a cathedral to the fallen, and made me stop and stare. There was a lump in my throat as I approached it, and I found it hard to speak, as I walked beneath the central arch. I cannot say a lot more, in all honesty. Few structures have ever moved me with their magnificence, and their palpable sense of importance. This is one to experience, and perhaps to feel it as I did that day.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiepval_Memorial

Trellick Tower, London.
Designed by the wonderfully named Erno Goldfinger, this 1960s ‘Brutalist’ tower block was finally opened for habitation in 1972. Dominating the surrounding area in the Ladbroke Grove district of west London, it remains as one of the largest and most iconic housing developments anywhere in Europe. Love it, or hate it, you cannot ignore it. Although nominally having 31 floors, the design of the flats, many having an upstairs section, makes it a lot higher. The lift tower is separated from the main block, meaning that access is provided by a walkway, affording amazing views over London. Originally designed as a community in the clouds, it once had laundry rooms, a community centre, and its own extensive car park. Though much of this is no longer used, the tower is still a very desirable place to live, and much sought after by local residents.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trellick_Tower

Hotel Ukraina, Moscow.
Since I first saw this imposing building in 1977, it has been much improved, and re-named. Now known as the Radisson Royal Hotel, it is a five-star luxury hotel, on a par with anything on offer in the West. On the banks of the River Moskva, this amazing Stalinist edifice, opened for business in 1957, after Stalin’s death, is enough to take your breath away, with its sheer size, and belated Art Deco architecture. Like many buildings in Russia, since the end of WW2, it is enormous in scale, and built with no expense spared. Until 1976, it was the tallest hotel in the world. I haven’t seen it inside, since the redevelopment, so I can only go by the pictures available, to admire its current opulence.
http://uk.hotels.com/ho133660/radisson-royal-hotel-moscow-moscow-russian-federation/

Tower Bridge, London.
I did say that there would not be any Victorian Gothic architecture included in these posts, but this is an exception. Often wrongly believed to be ‘London Bridge’ by outsiders, this iconic structure is immediately identifiable with London, and unique the world over. Not only does it span the Thames, it is the first bridge visible on arrival in the city, and it also opens in the centre, to allow tall ships to pass into the Pool of London. I was brought up a stone’s throw from the south side of this bridge, and it was a part of my life for sixty years, until I moved to Norfolk. I can honestly say that I love nothing more about London, than this wonderful bridge. It looms over the nearby Tower of London, and dominates the surrounding area, in an imposing fashion. For those interested in detail, it is a bascule suspension bridge, opened in 1894, near the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. Since 1977, parts of it have been painted in red white and blue, to celebrate the jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. It houses a museum, and is one of the premier tourist destinations in the capital.
But forget all that. It is simply wonderful.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Bridge

There you have seven more to consider. there will be more to come, another time. Please enjoy these, and do explore the links.

Architectural admiration (1)

I freely admit that I know almost nothing about Architecture. I have never designed so much as an extension, let alone a massive building or structure. I just know the sort of thing I like, so have carried out a little research in those areas. As I have mentioned before, I have a great admiration for the styles of Art Deco and Modernism. I also cannot disguise a fondness for the 1960s buildings, often described as ‘Brutalist’, along with some housing developments derided as ‘concrete canyons’. Of course, I don’t have to live in them, just admire them from outside.

As a diversion from the usual subjects featured here, I thought that I would discuss some buildings and houses, and attempt to explain why I like them so much. There will not be much Victorian Gothic featured, and you may notice a distinct absence of Edwardian Villas too. I will give some examples though, and if it is well-received, I may well post a follow-up, another time. I will try to only comment on those that I have actually seen, though the Internet, and the availability of images, make it possible to feature almost anything anywhere, I feel that the experience of looking at them can add something to the telling of the tale. They will mostly be in England, with some exceptions that I have admired in other countries too. I will also not restrict myself by sticking to dates or periods, and I will not feature them in any chronological order. The list will appear as it did in my head.

In the tradition of this blog, no photographs will appear. (Except for the Oyster Bungalow, that just popped up!) This will require the small task by the interested reader, of clicking on a link that will appear at the end of each section.

Senate House. (University of London)
Long before I had any idea what this building was, I was taken by its sheer presence, and the way it dominated the surrounding area in Bloomsbury. Completed in 1937, the Art Deco structure was a true skyscraper at the time. It was the second tallest building in the whole of London, overlooked only by the uppermost level of St Paul’s Cathedral. It reminded me of a medieval castle, the symmetrical rows of windows reminiscent of loopholes in an ancient fortification. Even today, it is still visible from most high points around the city, and its imposing stance has made it popular for use in many television and film productions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_House_%28University_of_London%29

Rowley Way, North London.
An experiment in communal living, The Alexandra Road Estate was opened by Camden Council, in 1978. Now commonly known as Rowley Way, this provided over 500 homes, a school, community centre, youth club, and even boasted its own heating system. Built in the style of a stepped pyramid (Ziggurat), the central area is pedestrianised for its entire length, as car parking is incorporated below the apartments. Despite backing on to a busy railway line, the main thoroughfare appears peaceful, and lots of planting gave it a garden feel. Opinion about the use of untreated concrete is still divided. This did not weather too well, and can make parts of the complex appear neglected. Social problems with some tenants also gave the estate a poor reputation, and many did not want to take up the offer of homes there. A stone’s throw from multi-million pound dwellings in St John’s Wood, one of the most desirable parts of London, the change in the law that allowed tenants to buy at a discount has changed the face of this development. To buy a three-bedroom apartment there today would cost a cool £500,000.
http://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/the-alexandra-road-estate-camden-a-magical-moment-for-english-housing/

Oyster Bungalows.
The quieter seaside towns in southern England were often developed and expanded during the years between the wars. Pevensey Bay is probably best known for being the site where William the Conqueror landed in this country, before the decisive battle near Hastings, in 1066. The area is overshadowed by its proximity to the larger and more popular town of Eastbourne, so it never really expanded as a resort; though Pevensey Castle still attracts visitors. Built in the 1930s, hoping to capitalise on the popularity of seaside holidays, the Beachlands Estate is home to a collection of Modernist and Art Deco homes, all on a small scale. Included in this development are the famous Oyster Bungalows. I have never seen their like anywhere else. Small two-bedroom bungalows on tiny plots, each built in the shape of an oyster. The living area bulges outward, narrowing towards the back. They might actually be better described as Scallop Bungalows, as their shape more obviously resembles the shell of this animal. However, whether by accident, or design, they were called Oyster Bungalows, and they are delightful.
An "oyster" bungalow, Beachlands

The Royal Crescent, Bath.
Just to show that I don’t only like 20th century architecture, feast your eyes on this 18th century marvel. Bath is a city that is so full of interesting buildings, it demands a visit. From the ancient Roman Baths, The Pump Room (made famous by Jane Austen), and the wonderful Pulteney bridge, with the shops built into it, the whole place is a touristic delight. The Royal Crescent, dating from 1775, is a sweeping terrace of houses in the Georgian style. These days, there is a museum at Number One, as well as a luxury hotel at Number 16. The whole row of houses is listed of course, and beautifully preserved. Essentially unchanged since the time it was built, this is a true look at architectural history that is still living and breathing today.
http://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/the-royal-crescent-p56191

Bodiam Castle, Sussex.
Back even further in time, to the 14th century, we find the exquisite moated castle of Bodiam. This is the embodiment of every castle I ever wanted to visit, or to live in. In a near-perfect setting, well-preserved in part, and also sympathetically restored, it is now owned and run by the National Trust. The imposing battlements have witnessed so many upheavals in our history, from the Wars of The Roses, to the English Civil War. On the losing side in that war, much of the castle was demolished, until later rebuilt to its original plan, in 1829. Despite its military appearance, the castle is not well-designed for war, and is more of a stylised ideal, than a practical fortress. Nonetheless, it is simply sublime.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodiam_Castle

St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow.
Many churches of the Orthodox religion feature the distinctive ‘Onion’ dome in their design. However, there are few churches, or any buildings for that matter, as unusual and as easily recognised as St Basil’s in Red Square. Built during the 16th century, to commemorate the victories of Ivan the Terrible, it has nine domes, and two spires. The domes are coloured and patterned, with the effect that the whole building appears to be about to float into the sky, attached to a series of balloons. Since 1928, it has been a museum, owned by the Russian state. Illuminated at night, this iconic building is simply breathtaking, and remains as the instant connection with the city of Moscow, known the world over. (Click small icon to see a photo)

The De La Warr Pavilion.
For the last entry in this first post about architecture, it is back to England, and the 1930s. If I could choose to live anywhere, it would certainly be to own and live in this marvellous Modernist building in Bexhill, on the south coast of England. Inside as well as out, it typifies everything I adore and admire about this style and design. I could write a post about the staircase alone. The interior light, the feel of space, the flat roof terrace and outside balcony, all are just divine. Unfortunately it is not a house, and it is not for sale. It was built in 1935, to serve as an entertainment centre for this sedate seaside town. It houses a theatre, a gallery, and a popular restaurant, as well as exhibition rooms, and a gift shop. Since 1986, it has been listed as a Grade 1 building, so can never be altered. It will remain as it is, for as long as it stands. It is one of my favourite places, anywhere in the world.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_La_Warr_Pavilion

So, there you have my first seven choices. I don’t for a moment expect everyone to agree with them. But please have a look at the links, if you don’t already know these places, and see what you think. Feel free to suggest your own preferences, and I will happily investigate them. I have plenty more for consideration, but seven is enough to be getting on with. If you like this idea for a series of posts, let me know. I will be happy to write more.

Non-Tourist London: A London Walk

Euston to Clerkenwell Green: A circular route.

These are not two areas of London that might spring to mind as destinations for a tourist, or visitor. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or seeking unusual opportunities for photographs however, they may well provide some nice surprises. The walk is essentially flat, and not at all arduous. If not wanting to spend time in any of the museums, you could easily do this in a half-day trip. It is probably best done after 10am, when the busy period of the rush hour has abated, and before the afternoon exodus from the capital begins.

Arrive at Euston Station by main line railway, bus, or underground train. It is one of the easiest destinations to find, on any transport network. Leaving the station by the main exit, the outside food court will be behind you, and the busy bus station will be on your left. Turn left at the main road and walk along to the traffic lights. You will see the bus station on one corner, and opposite you will be the local Fire Station, housed in an old building. Cross the road heading south, and make sure to use the pedestrian lights, as the road is incredibly busy. You will now be at the corner of Upper Woburn Place.  Opposite, you will see the imposing St Pancras New Church, built in 1828. Unfortunately, proximity to traffic has stained the once pristine stonework, but this building is of some importance, and is Grade 1 listed. The church has a crypt, and this now houses art exhibitions. Details can be found on the church website.

Continuing south along Upper Woburn place, look out for an entrance on your left. This is Woburn Walk, a pedestrianised shopping street. One of the best preserved examples of a Victorian street that still exists in London, it is not that well-known, but worth exploring. Often used in film and TV productions, it may seem more familiar than you imagined. It is also the site of the home of W.B. Yeats, from 1895-1919. Leave by the same entrance, and turn left towards Tavistock Square, passing the imposing British Medical Association building on your left, and the large garden square on your right. At the junction with Tavistock Place, turn left, heading east. On the left hand side of this road, you will soon see the unusual building called Mary Ward House. Once the home of that famous novelist and social reformer, the house is now used for functions, and is also a popular filming location. It is one of the most unusual architectural designs you will see in London. Continuing along Tavistock Place, you will find cheap hotels and backpacker hostels, as well as reasonably priced cafes and restaurants. This is part of the University area of London, and is generally very busy.

At the junction with Hunter Street, turn right, and head south towards Brunswick Square. You cannot fail to see the concrete housing estate on your right. Built above a shopping area, in the style of a stepped pyramid, this example of 1960’s brutalist architecture is home to a large amount of social housing, and the style has divided critics over the years. There is an art-house cinema, some trendy shops, as well as some useful shops, and a couple of very decent restaurants, that are not too expensive. I actually like this development, and would urge you to wander inside for a while, to get the feel of it. Across the road is another large garden square, that gives the area its name. At the north-east corner, you will find the Foundling Museum, dedicated to the original Foundling Hospital. This houses many exhibitions, and also tells the story of the founder, Thomas Coram, as well as the history of Handel and Hogarth.

Back south along Brunswick Square, and into Grenville Street. At the junction with Guilford Street, you will see opposite you the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. Turn left, and head east again for a short while, until you see Doughty Street across the road to your right. Cross over into this street heading south, and you will see the Dickens Museum on your left, at number 48. This is a lovingly-restored Victorian house, that was the London home of the famous writer, and where many of his most famous books were written. It is open to the public, and there is an admission fee. After this, continue along Doughty Street until it becomes John Street. At the end, you will be on the busy Theobalds Road. Directly opposite, on the south side, is the large complex of Gray’s Inn. This is one of the four Inns of Court. It is home to this professional body, and also houses the offices (known as Chambers) of many barristers, and others serving the legal profession. Built around a large square garden, this has existed here since the fourteenth century. Just to your right, you will see a narrow road called Jockeys’ Fields. Immediately before this is a walkway that gives pedestrian access to the area, and you can have a look around this unusual and bustling place, with barristers in their gowns and wigs.

Follow this south until it merges with Jockeys’ Fields. At the end, turn right into Sandland Street, then next left into Brownlow Street. At the main road, turn left and head east, in the direction of Chancery Lane Station. Before you get to there, you will see some very old buildings on the other side of the road. Their name is Staple Inn, and they are timbered buildings dating from the Elizabethan era. Once part of the Inns of Court, they survived the Great Fire, and are now home to some incongruous shops, unfortunately. But they will be a delight to the eye, some of the oldest surviving original buildings in London. Continue past Chancery lane Station still heading east. At the junction where the road divides in a prominent fork, take the sharp left, into Hatton Garden. This long street is home to London’s jewellery district and diamond market, including the famous De Beers. Virtually every shop is a jeweller, and it makes for some interesting window-shopping, as well as providing historical interest, as it has been the jewellery district since the reign of Elizabeth the First. To the right is Ely Place, where you can see the oldest Catholic church in England, St Etheldreda’s, dating from the 13th Century.

At the end of your northward stroll, you will arrive at Clerkenwell Road, directly opposite St Peter’s Italian Church. This is the hub of London’s Italian community, who have had a long association with the Clerkenwell area. Built in 1863, it is a modest building, with some colourful exterior decorations. Facing the church, turn right, and head east until you cross the busy junction at Farringdon Road. Take the left into Clerkenwell Green, and you will see the mixture of buildings that once formed a small village, dating back to the Middle Ages. Though the present buildings are home to fashionable offices, the architecture is a pleasant mix, and has the feel of a country village still. The square is dominated by an attractive church, St James Clerkenwell, dating from 1792.

Retrace your steps back to the junction at Farringdon Road, and head south to Farringdon Station. Here you can get a tube or main line train, or take a bus back to wherever you want to go. You will have seen some unusual buildings, a great deal of history, and parts of London far from the usual tourist routes. If you take this walk, I hope that you enjoy it.

Here are some links to points of interest.

http://www.stpancraschurch.org/index.php?id=163

http://londonunveiled.com/2013/07/04/woburn-walk/

http://www.marywardhouse.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunswick_Centre

http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/

http://www.dickensmuseum.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staple_Inn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerkenwell