Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Dead Pool 2020

2019 may have seen the demise of democracy but from my list we lost only Doris Day. So my entry for 2020 (assuming no one else on the list expires in the next five and a half hours) will be as follows:

Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (Pilot & Record-breaker)
Neil Percival Young (Musician)
Leslie Samuel Phillips (Actor & Author)
Gina Lollobrigida (Actress, Photojournalist, & Sculptor)
Kirk Douglas (Actor, Producer, Director, & Author)
James Earl Carter Jr. (39th POTUS)
Vera Lynn (Singer, Songwriter, & Actress)
Philip Mountbatten (HRH The Duke of Edinburgh)
Michael Caine (Actor)
Anthony Dominick Benedetto a.k.a Tony Bennett (Singer)

and may all the above have a happy and healthy 2020.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

An Urban Ramble, Art Deco Factories and Charles Holden stations.

Osterley Station to Acton Town Station

4.9 miles, about 1h 40m. Mostly level but with three flights of steps.

In theory urban walking means not getting muddy but that probably depends on the weather and time of year. My shoes will need to be cleaned.

This gentle urban ramble links five Piccadilly Line stations, three of which were designed by Charles Holden and two of which look like they were but in fact weren't. It also passes along part of the Brentford "Golden Mile" of Art Deco style factories.

Osterley station is the starting point for this walk.

Starting in the station car park, exit up the ramp and turn left. If you want a better photo you'll have to run across the Great West Road but in spite of the trees the concrete illuminated obelisk on top of Stanley Heaps' 1934 station building stands out. This is one of the not-Holden stations but in the same modern European style that Holden employed elsewhere.
Walk East along the A4 Great West Rd towards Thornbury Road. If you want to take a look at the former Osterley & Spring Grove station, which is now a book shop then head north up Thornbury Rd. and then come back to rejoin this walk.

Sticking up between the pre-war semis on the far side of the road is the St. Francis of Assisi church which opened in 1934 and was designed by Ernest C. Shearman, who also designed a number of similar churches in the London area.
More about its history can be found on the church's own web site.

Gillette Corner marks the western end of the Golden Mile beyond which the land belonged to the Church Commissioners, who would allow no factories to be built.

The Gillette Factory, designed by Sir Banister Flight Fletcher in 1936–1937. Gillette stopped using this factory in April 2006, moving production to Poland. The building was sold in 2013 for conversion into a mixed use complex with a hotel and residential apartments. It has also been used as a filming location.

The Coty Cosmetics Factory, 941 Gt. West Rd., designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners opened in 1932. The building now operates as BMI Syon Clinic. The factory was used for the manufacture of Coty soaps, lipsticks, scents and creams until 1979.

Only the boundary fences an gateways remain of the Firestone Tyre Company factory. Built 1928, designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners.The building frontage was demolished in an act of corporate vandalism by contractors working for Trafalgar House Plc. during a public holiday in August 1980, shortly before a preservation order was due to be served on it to retain the Art Deco architecture. What a bunch of bastards ☹️ The Art Deco gatehouse was demolished in 2004 to make way for increased parking facilities. The remaining gates, railings, and piers are in a Jazz Modern style and are Grade II listed.

The Pyrene Fire Extinguisher Company, 981 Gt. West Rd., built between 1929 and 1930, designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. Pyrene established the concept of major fire demonstrations with the construction of a large demonstration ground alongside the Brentford factory, to simulate an oil storage depot. Now called Westlink House and available to let if you fancy it.

The Currys Factory and head office, 991 Gt. West Rd., built in 1936 as the distribution centre for Curry's chain of shops a wide variety of goods including bicycles, toys, radios and gramophones. Curry's started as a bicycle makers but are now much better known as an electrical retailer - Currys PC World. Now Grade II listed, the front office building was restored by Foster & Partners between 1997 and 2000 for JCDecaux.

Just before the A4 crosses the River Brent take the stairs on the left down to the Capital Ring walk and continue along the riverbank and over the river via the footbridge to enter Boston Manor Park.

Continue diagonally across the open area following the worn and at the time I was there rather muddy path that passes under the M4 motorway.
There is a rather unsettling rattling from the motorway bridge above as vehicles pass overhead.
The park was created in 1924 from part of the historic estate of the 17th-century stately home Boston Manor.

 The manor house itself was swathed in scaffolding and plastic sheeting but the lake was busy with gulls, and the gullible feeding them.

Exit the park at the other side of the lake onto Boston Manor Road and turn left. Continue past the suburban semis, some of which have heavy iron chains that appear to hold up their porches but are almost certainly only decorative. Eventually you reach Boston Manor Station.

Originally opened in 1883 by the District Railway, Boston Manor station was reconstructed in 1932 to a design by by architect Charles Holden, the Art Deco styled structure features a tall tower which acts as a landmark of the area and is Grade II listed. If you cross the road in front of the booking hall and (if you're tall enough) look over the bridge parapet you get a good view of Northfields Train Depot, the other side of which is our next destination, Northfields station. Head back down Boston Manor Rd. on the opposite side to the station and turn left through the iron gates into Blondin Park.

 Continue past the allotments on your left and into the open space of the park. The land was acquired by the Municipal Borough of Ealing in 1928 and opened as a public park called Northfields Recreation Ground. In 1957 it was renamed Blondin Park after Charles Blondin the famous French tightrope walker, who lived locally in Niagara House. Exit the park into Blondin Avenue and at the end of the street turn left and walk up the road to Northfields Station.

The current Northfields station opened in 1932 replacing that of around 1911. Located on the east side of Northfields Avenue, the new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Like the stations at Sudbury Town, Sudbury Hill, Acton Town and Oakwood that Holden also designed, Northfields station features a tall block-like ticket hall rising above a low horizontal structure that contains station offices and shops. The brick walls of the ticket hall are punctuated with panels of clerestory windows and the structure is capped with a flat concrete slab roof. Our next stop is not far away. Turn left out of Northfields station and left into Bramley road. Continue straight ahead into Airedale Road and at the end of the street turn left. Soon you will come to South Ealing Station.

The platforms of Northfields and South Ealing are only 300m apart. For the story of why they're so close see here.
South Ealing isn't a Charles Holden design but does have a little tower in his style even though the building only dates from 1988. Since our next stop is a bit further away this is a good place to stop for a coffee in one of the cafes in the parade of shops either side of the station. Once refreshed cross the road and walk south, turning left into Sunderland Road. Continue into Maple Grove and when you come to the open grass area of Village Park Recreation Ground take the path diagonally across it and walk up Almond Ave. Turn right into Elderberry Rd. passing the huge Ealing Electricity Substation on your left and being glad you don't live in one of the houses opposite. At the end of the road turn left onto Popes Lane and cross the road.

Follow Popes Lane for about half a mile. It's not the most interesting road to walk along being mostly semi detached houses on the right and sports grounds on the left. I've not been able to determine which Pope gave it its name either.
Eventually however it will bring you to Gunnersbury Park.

I've covered Gunnersbury Park in more detail in a previous posting. It's worth diverting into the park for a look around before continuing this walk, and both refreshment and relief may be obtained therein subject to opening hours. If you've more time to linger then a visit to the museum in the large mansion will well repay your time spent inside.

Onward to the final leg. Turn right out of Gunnersbury Park onto Pope's Lane (or if you didn't go in, then carry on along Pope's Lane) and cross over the A406 Gunnersbury Avenue dual-carriageway into Gunnersbury Lane.

About five minutes further walking brings you to our last stop, Acton Town Station, on your right.
Acton Town station was opened as Mill Hill Park on 1 July 1879 by the District Railway (now the District line).It remained as a terminus until on 1 May 1883 and 23 June 1903 the DR opened two branches from Acton Town to Hounslow Town and Park Royal & Twyford Abbey respectively. On 4 July 1932 the Piccadilly line was extended to Acton Town and now it serves both Piccadilly Line and District Line trains. The original brick-built station was built in 1879 and in February 1910 the station building was reconstructed. In 1931 and 1932 the station was rebuilt again in preparation for transferring the Uxbridge branch service from the District line to the Piccadilly line. The new station was designed by Charles Holden in a modern European geometric style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. Similar to other Holden designed stations, Acton Town features a tall block-like ticket hall rising above a low horizontal structure housing the station offices and shops. The ticket hall has a projecting London Underground roundel sign over a canopy, the brick walls of the ticket hall are punctuated with panels of clerestory windows and the structure is capped with a flat concrete slab roof. It was given Grade II listing in 1994.

From Acton Town you can either get the tube back to Osterley or... well the world's your lobster really ☺️

More photos, a Flickr Album:

Urban Ramble. Osterley to Acton Town

Monday, 9 December 2019

London - Portrait Of A City

Monday 9th December 2019

The latest exhibition at Clerkenwell's London Metropolitan Archives deals with images of the capital from the 11th century to the present day.

From wax seals to digital photographs, images of London and Londoners are displayed on the walls and in glass cases of the small exhibition space and the stairs.

There are drawings, paintings, and prints, along with film and sound from the LMA's extensive archives. They are displayed by image-making technique with explanations of how the different technologies work. That's something that you don't usually get at an art gallery and it makes this an informative exhibition well worth visiting.

The LMA is a slightly odd place to visit. It's very low-key, the entrance in Northampton Road opposite Spa Fields is an unobtrusive doorway into what looks like just another office block save for a couple of vertical banners o the wall above and discreet "City of London" and "London Metropolitan Archives" signs over the door. On entry there's just a small reception/security desk where people coming in to access original material from the archives sign in but visitors to the exhibition are allowed through unmolested. I was asked if I'd visited before, which I had, once, and that was it. If you've not been before it might not be obvious where to go next - there's no big "To the exhibition" sign that you might expect. Take the stairs (or lift if you can't do stairs although some of the exhibits are on the walls in the stairwell). There's a Visitor Lounge n the mezzanine floor where you are able to leave coats and bags in free lockers. The rules say you must do this if going into the study areas but it's not clear if that applies to the exhibition as well. Do it anyway, it doesn't cost anything and you'll be more comfortable.

Most of the exhibition is on the first floor outside the doors to the information area and is well laid out if not particularly well lit. There are paper exhibition guides in standard and large print varieties which replicate the information in the displays but also contain a little map of the exhibition area. The toilets are adjacent to the exhibition area, should you need them.

I reckon you should allow an hour to study the pictures and read the words, and there is a short film to watch and some audio too. This is I have to point out not the sort of exhibition which is going to excite small children. As a somewhat older child I found it interesting and informative. If you're interested in London's history in pictorial form go and take a look. You've got until July the 8th when no doubt it will be replaced by something new and probably equally excellent. You'll be too late to get your name on the first line of the visitor comments book though cos' I've already done that 😀

London - Portrait Of A City
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 0HB
9th December 2019 to 8th July 2020
020 7332 3820

Sunday, 1 December 2019

The lights, the lights!

Sunday 24th November

It is that time of year again. You can barely move it the supermarkets for piles of tat that no one needs to buy (the war against single-use plastic seems to have been temporarily suspended) and the shelves are full of festive fayre much of which will have passed its use by date before the big day.

On the plus side however it's also the time of year that the lights go on. Town centres - or their modern replacement, Shopping Centres - across the land put up their best seasonal illuminations in an effort to draw as many spenders as possible in competition with other local towns. So far, so standard.

As well as your usual Christmas Lights from Bromyard to Oxford Street there are more ambitious, or maybe more artistic displays. Canary Wharf has "spectacular light installations and interactive art"  but you'll have to wait until January to see that. In the meantime you can already see some spectacular light installations and interactive art by heading up the Metropolitan or Jubilee lines to Wembley Park. (Other transport choices are available if not coming from central London.)

For here near the home of English football (that will probably be disputed by those in the north) and the London Designer Outlet, is Winterfest 2019. Or Christmas in technicolour as it says on their website. The website also says that you can, "Experience Wembley Park’s first-ever immersive winter lights trail. Artists from all over the world have curated light and sound artworks that will transform Wembley Park into an immersive playground of unique art installations, combining light, sound and touch into a truly multi-sensory experience. From the acclaimed Sonic Runway, making its European debut in Wembley Park via Nevada’s Burning Man festival, to London’s tallest-ever LED light Christmas Tree, get ready to be enveloped by a technicolour trail of lights and interactive sounds."

And that's a pretty good description, as I discovered on a Sunday evening with nothing better to do. Here's a flavour (with cheesy music but no sleigh bells I promise) of what I found:

Winterfest is on until January 3rd so they'll be hoping you'll come and see it and spend money on Christmas presents and in the Boxing day sales. Or you could just go and see the lights - there is no admission charge. I succumbed to the lure of a Pret filter coffee as it was a chilly night so I suppose they acheived their aim of attracting more trade to the tune of £1 😀

Season's Greetings.