Tuesday, 27 November 2018

London in verticals

Still channelling Miroslav Šašek, now looking for those sights that might have appealed to the author of This is London back in 1959, those tall verticals... Today's walk began at Chancery Lane and ended at Leicester Square, taking in the Strand and the Charing Cross Road.

Left: this is the entrance to the Strand Campus, King's College London, built in 1831, as London was just getting its first university (the fourth in England, Durham being founded around the same time). Three hundred years earlier, England had but Oxford and Cambridge as seats of learning, while Scotland could already boast three - St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

The first half of the 19th century saw London fill up with neo-Gothic and neo-Classical styles, befitting the Capital of Empire.
Right: a conjoined Type C pillar box today separating the stamped from the franked mail. Once the distinction was between mail intended for the capital and for further afield (marked 'London' and 'Country'). The EIIR under the crown says this item is relatively modern; VR cyphers can still be seen on 19th century postboxes around the UK.

An icon of Britishness, how long will they remain in use with so many letter-writers switching to emails and bulk-postage going out from warehouses?

Below: a familiar London landmark on High Holborn (pron. Ho'b'n), this was Staple Inn, built in 1585, now an arcade of shops. Originally it was where wool was weighed and taxed.

Left: a familiar tube station to me, just down the road from where I worked for 16 years. From pavement level the top of the Charing Cross Road entrance is rarely seen - using my superwide lens and some perspective straightening, here's the entire facade. Built in 1935 as part of the Piccadilly Line modernisation. Older entrances (from 1906) lie across the road to the north and west of this one.

Below: should you ever need robes for court or state or academia, this is where you need to go if you want to look like batman in a cape with a long white hat. London's oldest tailor (est. 1689). Ede & Ravenscroft's Oxford outlet serves as tailors to the Bullingdon Club.



Right: the second-oldest vehicle I saw in London today, the oldest being a 1964 AEC Routemaster bus. Here is a Vespa 50L scooter dating back to 1969 (half a century old next year), with an original white-on-black number plate.

Owners of classic/vintage vehicles have a duty of care to future generations to ensure that these wonderful pieces of engineering soldier on. As well as road tax exemptions, their owners should be encouraged to keep their heritage vehicles going for as long as possible - and to sell them into good hands if they can't.
Left: the Royal Courts of Justice, photo taken from where Fleet Street ends and the Strand begins. Two surviving red phone boxes, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. You may think that in 1924 when they were introduced, they must have shocked traditionalists. Yet the neo-Gothic Royal Courts of Justice were opened a mere 42 years earlier. The pace of technological advance must have felt as rapid then as it does today.
Right: just off the Strand, a view of the back of the building of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The building, which dates back to 1774, was designed by the Adam brothers, Robert and James. The Scottish architects and furniture designers were responsible for popularising neo-Classical architecture in Britain. The RSA itself dates back to 1754, and is "committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges". Notable past fellows include Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith and indeed Karl Marx.
Left: the Wellington pub on the corner of the Strand and Aldwych is every inch what a tourist thinks the typical London pub should be like. The Edwardian building maintains many original features and is worthing popping in for a swift half and the hopes of catching the atmosphere of 1902.

This part of London has a broad range of architectural styles from across the centuries. Most passers-by - tourists as well as office workers - are focused on eye-level - shop fronts, restaurants and bars - but to capture the city's real character, its visual wealth, you have to look up, above the garish displays.
Right - perhaps the most famous of London's closed underground stations. This is Aldwych, which was served by a short spur of the Piccadilly line from 1907 to 1994. The original name 'Strand' is visible today - it was renamed Aldwych in 1915. The line from Holborn was envisaged to continue south under the Thames to reach Waterloo; it never did.

By the time I went to work in London in the early 1980s, this station was only served at peak hours, by a shuttle train that ran from Holborn and terminated here. Because it was not heavily used, Aldwych Station was often (and continues to be ) used as a film set, complete with a working Tube train permanently kept here for that purpose.

My walk today took in around 8,000 paces in central London and a further 4,000 in Ealing. Walking is the best way to really get to know a city.

This time last year:
Roadblock and railfreight

This time two years ago:
Sunny morning, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

This time three years ago:
Brentham Garden Suburb

This time four years ago:
Ahead of the opening of the second line of the Warsaw Metro 

This time five years ago:
Keep an eye on Ukraine...

This time six years ago:
Płock by day, Płock by night 

This time seven years ago:
Warning ahead of railway timetable change

This time 11 years ago:
Some thoughts on recycling

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