Category Archives: Architecture

How high, why and by who?

The façade of the Cock and Hoop Tavern: A crime against architecture

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The old façade of the Cock A Hoop tavern in Spitalfields

When developers buy old buildings, there is often fear of what will become of them. Depending on what protections have been put in place by local councils, some can be changed beyond all recognition or even demolished. However, some buildings can be mostly destroyed with only the façade remaining. Sometimes this can be done with great sensitivity and the modern building can complement the older. However, there are some pretty horrendous examples of ‘façadism’, one of which I’m going to look at in this post.

Gun St facade © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The windows of the façade don’t line up with the modern windows of Lilian Knowles House

Spitalfields is one of my favourite areas of London – I love the architecture, the history and the atmosphere. Admittedly there has been a lot of development in the past 10 years especially, both good and bad. However, when wandering around the back streets of the area, I often sigh when passing by this shocking example of façadism.

On the corner of Gun Street and Artillery Lane stands what remains of the Cock A Hoop tavern. Today, only the 19th century façade remains, with the modern Lilian Knowles House student housing behind. What is so bizarre, is the windows of Lilian Knowles House don’t even line up with the façade’s windows so residents would have limited lighting and views of brick walls… a very strange design decision.

When I attempted to research the history of the building, there wasn’t much around. The Cock A Hoop tavern was established in 1810 and was first run by publican Joseph Hammond. I’m presuming (although please comment if I’m wrong!), that name referred to an earlier building on the site and the current façade we see today is the second building. The pub belonged to Meux’s Brewery, owned by brewer Henry Meux (1770-1841) and subsequently his son, MP Sir Henry Meux (1817-1883). Although the brewery no longer exists, its name became infamous due to the London Beer Flood of 1814. At the time, the company was named Meux And Company and its brewery was based on Tottenham Court Road – around the current site of the Dominion Theatre. Surrounding the brewery was the incredibly impoverished slums of St Giles. On 17 October, one of huge vats ruptured, spilling 323,000 imperial gallons of beer onto the surrounding streets. The beer flooded basement homes and destroyed several buildings, resulting in the deaths of eight people, half of which were children. Meux and Co were taken to court, but amazingly managed to escape prosecution, with the judge and jury claiming the spill was an ‘Act of God’. The brewery was later demolished in 1922, with the Dominion Theatre going up on the site in 1928-29.  Read the rest of this entry

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Open House Junior 2017: Inspire little Londoners at the capital’s architecture festival

© Open City

Get your kids into architecture at Open House Junior

Open House London is a great opportunity for Londoners to have a look inside buildings normally off-limits to the public. While many parents will be looking forward to exploring the capital’s history and architecture, they may be wondering how to occupy the kids too during the weekend. Thankfully, Open City are making architecture accessible for young as well with the Open House Junior programme, which runs alongside Open House London.

From 16 – 17 September 2017, a selection of free activities and trails will help to inspire a generation of little Londoners. Open House venues, including City Hall, Paddington Central and The Leadenhall Building will be hosting activities, where you can drop in with your children.

Among the events and activities include:

  • City of a Thousand Architects @ City Hall
    Become an architect for the day! Plan, design and build a future London skyline from the heights of City Hall.
    City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA. Nearest station: London Bridge.
  • Build a View Shaper @ The Leadenhall Building
    As part of the City of London’s Sculpture in the City programme, children can create a framed view of the city, inspired by the sculptures around The Leadenhall Building.
    Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall St, City of London, EC3V 4AB. Nearest station: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Bank.
  • Junior Activity Hub @ Paddington Central
    Paddington Central is joining the Open House Junior programme and inviting families to explore, design and create.
    Paddington Central Canalside (by the Westway), Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • On your marks, Get Set, Lego! @ Kingdom Square
    Join this quick-paced race to build the biggest and best LEGO structure. Enter your creation into the competition and be in for chance to win exciting prizes.
    Paddington Central, Kingdom Square (outside 4 Kingdom Street), W2 6BD. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • City of Bridges @ Paddington Central
    Be inspired by Paddington’s many bridges, and using an engineering toolkit, come along and add to the gigantic city of bridges in the striking Paddington Central amphitheatre.
    Paddington Canalside (outside Beany Green), W2. Nearest station: Paddington.
  • Playmake @ Sheldon Square
    Play. Make. Create! Paper forests, tinsel towers, and luminous lava fields. The Archivate Collective crew – a team of architects and designers – will be helping children make their city.
    Sheldon Square, Paddington, W2 6PY. Nearest station: Paddington.

Speaking about the event, Open City director Rory Olcayto said: “The more of us who participate in debating, shaping and mending the cities we live in, the better they will be, and the more reflective of our communities they will be too.”

  • Open House Junior takes place during Open House London on 16 – 17 September 2017 from 11am-4pm (some times and age suitability may vary). Events are free. For children aged 5-11 and their families. For more information, visit the Open House London website.

For Metro Girl’s tips and highlights of this year’s Open House London, click here.

For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.

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Fitzrovia Chapel: A beautiful hidden gem

Open House London 2017: Highlights and tips to make the most of the weekend

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Step inside some of London’s special buildings, such as 18th century Drapers Hall

History and architecture buffs rejoice – Open House London is returning. Now in its 25th year, the weekend is essentially a festival of design, history and architecture. Over 16-17 September 2017, around 800 homes, government buildings, offices and more will open their doors to the public for free. While some usual fee-paying museums won’t be charging during the weekend, there are also rare opportunities to visit some very special buildings, such as 10 Downing Street or the clock tower of St Pancras, that are usually off-limits to the public. Some buildings, such as the latter two just mentioned, are only entry by ballot or booking in advance. However, most you can just turn up and enter. Some popular venues, such as the Gherkin and the Billingsgate Roman Bath House, are likely to have a long queue. With that in mind, here’s my guide to making the most of Open House London. This guide lists what I consider the highlights of this year’s event, although the following section featuring reviews and photos of buildings already visited by Metro Girl, includes further highlights too.

Highlights of Open House London 2017

30 St Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin. Iconic skyscraper in the City of London, built in 2003. Open Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm (long queues likely). 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP. Nearest stations: Bank, Aldgate or Liverpool Street.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Hindu temple, built in 1995. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden, NW10 8LD. Nearest station: Harlesden.

Drapers Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.

Finsbury Town Hall. Art Nouveau, Victorian building from 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon, EC1R 4RP. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel.

Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden.

Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. Victorian brewery, built in 1828. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (booking required). Chiswick Lane South, W4 2QB. Nearest station: Stamford Brook or Turnham Green.

Guildhall. The City’s base of their municipal Government since the 12th century, built in 1440/1789. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Gresham Street, City of London, EC2V 7HH. Nearest stations: St Paul’s, Mansion House or Moorgate.

Home House. Georgian townhouse with fine interiors, built in 1776. Open Sunday 3pm-5pm (book tour in advance). 20 Portman Square, W1H 6LW. Nearest stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch.

Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s London home, dating back to 13th century. Open Saturday 9am-2pm (book time slot only through website). Lambeth Palace Road, Lambeth, SE1 7JU. Nearest station: Lambeth North.

Masonic Temple. Greek Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, built in 1912. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. Andaz Liverpool Street, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7QN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.

One Canada Square. Nineties skyscraper in Canary Wharf with tours to the 39th floor. Open Saturday 10am-4pm (book in advance). One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB. Nearest station: Canary Wharf.

Rudolf Steiner House. Unique example of expressionist architecture, built in 1926-1937. Open Sunday 1-5pm. 35 Park Road, Regents’ Park, NW1 6XT. Nearest stations: Baker Street or Marylebone.

St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Visit the Great Hall and Maggie’s Centre at the 18th century hospital. Open Sunday 10am-5pm (book in advance). West Smithfield, City of London, EC1A 7BE. Nearest station: Farringdon.

Two Temple Place. Victorian office/residential building in an Elizabethan style, built in 1895. Open Sunday 10am-5pm. 2 Temple Place, City of London, WC2R 3BD. Nearest station: Temple.

Underground Bunker. WWII bunker 40ft underground, used by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet, built in 1940. Open Saturday 8.30am-5.30pm (book in advance). 109 Brook Road, Neasden, NW2 7DZ. Nearest station: Neasden or Dollis Hill.

Wrotham Park. Privately-owned Georgian, Palladian mansion, built in 1754. Open Sunday 10am-3pm (book in advance). Wrotham Park, Barnet, EN5 4SB. Nearest station: Hadley Wood or Potters Bar. Read the rest of this entry

Crystal Palace Subway: A hidden survivor of a lost Victorian train station

Expanding my skills on a London Landscape Photography class with Obby

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

One of my photographs on the London Landscape Photography Course
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

I’ve long had an interest in photography and have been feeling pressure to take quality images for my blog since I started it five years ago. Of course, circumstances – such as bad restaurant lighting or a grey, cloudy day – can hamper a photograph from reaching its potential. After years of half-heartedly considering doing a photography course, I recently came across Obby – a community marketplace offering classes and workshops.

Although I initially was looking for a photography course, I found my appetite whet for others classes by the huge selection. As well as photography, there are also workshops in arts, crafts, drinks and tastings, food, health and beauty. There was a range of photography classes available, however I decided on the London Landscape Photography Workshop, which was most relevant to me as a blogger. Booking was super easy, I scrolled through the available dates and booked with a credit card. I liked that my class was confirmed straightaway and it wasn’t a voucher that I’d have to use with a second party, like other experience websites.

London photography course St Paul's Millenium Bridge © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A much derided building, the ‘Walkie Talkie’, actually looks pretty cool from the right angle
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The workshop itself was a seven-hour class with Steve Hedges Photography. Our small group of five (including myself) met Steve at Liverpool Street station armed with our cameras and tripods at 9am on a Friday. The first part of the workshop was sat around a laptop going through the basic rules to follow when photographing landscapes and seeing examples of the powerful differences that depth and angle can make. I am currently between cameras so had borrowed one which I wasn’t so familiar with, but by the end of the class knew the settings so well I was able to teach the camera’s owner how to use it!

During the workshop, we stopped to photograph the Leadenhall Building, the Lloyds Building, the ‘Walkie Talkie’, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. The class was a mix of learning practical camera skills, but also developing our ‘eye’ for a great shot. We were taught about aperture, shutter speed, exposure, filters, ISO numbers, among other features of the camera. With the class so small, our instructor had enough time to give us individual feedback as we photographed each building. While there was a lot to take in, we were given frequent opportunity to really let what we were learning sink in and be put to practice. Although the weather weren’t on our side – it was a grey, cloudy day with occasional light rain – I’m happy with what I photographed throughout the day. There’s a selection of images I was really pleased with (such as the two I have published here), and some I wasn’t so enamoured with. However, that’s the whole process of photography, it’s all about the right light, conditions and angle coming together to create the perfect shot. There was so much things to think about afterwards. the most challenging one I think will be patience, it takes time to get the right photograph. While I would never consider myself a good photographer, I completed the workshop feeling more knowledgeable and confident with my skills going forward. Steve was a great instructor – patient, encouraging and full of experience. I thoroughly recommend the workshop and whole Obby booking experience. Now what am I going to learn next..?

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A rare chance to get up close to the painted ceiling at the Old Royal Naval College

Serpentine Pavilion 2017: Seek shelter under a canopy of triangles

Charles Dickens Museum: Discover the man behind the books at the author’s only surviving London home

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Charles Dickens Museum is situated in one of the author’s former homes in Bloomsbury

Charles Dickens is without a doubt one of our greatest authors. Although he was born in Portsmouth and died in Kent, he spent an awful lot of his life in London. During his decades in the capital, the writer lived in many residences, most of which no longer exist.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The desk where Dickens wrote Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Today, the only remaining home is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The author and his wife Catherine (1815-1879) moved to 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury in March 1837 – just a few months before Queen Victoria came to the throne. Previously they had been living in rented rooms at Furnival’s Inn in Holborn, but the birth of their first son Charles Jnr (1837-1896) meant they required more space. He signed a three-year lease on the five-floor Georgian terrace, costing around £80 a year. Built in 1807-9, the building is now Grade I-listed.

During the Dickens family’s three years in Doughty Street, Catherine gave birth to their eldest daughters Mary (1838-1896) and Kate (1839-1929), as well as raising their son Charles Jnr. Mrs Dickens’ 17-year-old sister Mary Hogarth also lived with the couple to help them with their expanding brood. Charles became very attached to his sister-in-law and she died in his arms following a short illness in May 1837. She is believed to have inspired several of his characters, including Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist and Little Nell Trent in The Old Curiosity Shop, among others.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Drawing Room on the first floor includes some of Dickens’ actual furniture

While living at the Bloomsbury terrace, Dickens completed The Pickwick Papers (1836), wrote Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39) and started on Barnaby Rudge (1840–41). As he became more successful in his career and his family expanded, Dickens and the family left Doughty Street in December 1839 and moved to the grander 1 Devonshire Terrace in Marylebone. They lived at Devonshire Terrace until 1851 before moving on to Tavistock House, where the family remained for a further nine years. One Devonshire Terrace was demolished in the late 1950s and now an office block called Ferguson House stands on the site on Marylebone Road.

While most of Dickens’ London residences are long gone, the Doughty Street premises nearly ended up consigned to the history books as well. By the 1920s and 1930s, demolition of Georgian properties was becoming popular with the government, the majority of those being part of the ‘slum clearance’ programme. Many homes from this period had not been maintained well over the decades, providing unsanitary and unsafe living quarters for predominantly poor Londoners. Forty-eight Doughty Street was ear-marked for demolition in 1923, but was fortunately saved by the Dickens Fellowship, founded 21 years earlier. They managed to buy the property and renovate it, opening the Dickens’ House Museum in 1925. In 2012, the museum was re-opened following a £3.1million restoration project and now encompasses neighbouring No.49.

After having it on my ‘to do’ list for some time, I finally paid a visit recently and really enjoyed it. Upon entry you are given an audio tour which guides you around the five floors, including the kitchen and the attic. The museum really brings to life the man behind the books – his complicated private life, his feelings about his tough childhood and his many inspirations. The rooms have been decorated as the author may have known it, in a typical Victorian style and often with his actual furniture – many of which had been bought from Gad’s Hill Place – the Kent home where the author died in 1870. If you’re a fan of Dickens or history, I highly recommend a visit.

  • Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 2LX. Nearest station: Russell Square or Chancery Lane. Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Tickets: Adult £9, Child 6-16 years £4. For more information, visit the museum website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The basement kitchen

For a guide to London’s Dickens landmarks, click here.

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Granada Tooting: A neo-renaissance cinema masquerading as a bingo hall

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The interior of Gala Bingo Club in Tooting – formerly the Granada Cinema

In cinemas’ heyday in the early half of the 20th century, there were film theatres on every high street, often several on the same road. However, in recent decades, a host of cinemas have been bulldozed or converted into bingo halls, churches and even pubs. However, while one such venue is no longer screening movies, the stunning, original interiors have been largely preserved.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The grand entrance features four Corinthian style pillars

In the heart of Tooting stands a very grand branch of Gala Bingo. Located on Mitcham Road, Gala is residing in the former Granada Tooting, a Grade I listed, Art Deco cinema. Although bingo players are welcome to visit during game-playing hours, I joined a guided tour early one Sunday morning during Open House London for a more in-depth look and to find out about the history.

The cinema was originally built as one of a chain, owned by Essex-born media baron Sidney Bernstein (1899-1993) and his younger brother Cecil (1904-1981). After his eldest sibling Selim was killed during World War I in 1915, as next in line Sidney inherited the family business following the death of his property tycoon father Alexander (1870-1922). The business included several music halls and the Empire group of ‘Kinemas’ in Ilford, Plumstead, East Ham, West Ham and Willesden. Together, Sidney and Cecil established the Granada Cinema chain – named after the Spanish city of Granada after the former had been there on holiday. Granada is home to the stunning Alhambra complex, so the name would have sounded very exotic to the average early 20th century Brit, most of whom would have never been abroad. Sidney wanted people to be drawn to the cinema itself, rather than the film, and thought of his businesses as temples of entertainment. Although his initial ‘Kinemas’ were converted music halls and theatres, his first purpose-built cinema was the Granada Dover, which opened in January 1930 (it was demolished in 2014). Read the rest of this entry