I’m leading two walks in my home borough of Southwark over the next couple of weeks.
Every December the Walworth walk is timed to coincide with the Open Studios at Pullen’s Yards, a great place to find unusual and unique presents by a range of artists.
The walk starts outside Kennington tube at 10.45 Saturday 1st December and follows a route that includes the site of the zoological gardens, the street where Charlie Chaplin was born, the pub that spawned a county cricket club, a John Soane church and much more
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Across the pond some of my readers are celebrating Thanksgiving this week. I really don’t want to come back as a turkey, it must be a nasty shock to find that evolution has made most people see you as the perfect dinner for family celebrations.
Back in the Second World War this chapel, the Grosvenor, was used by American armed forces vbased in London.
Stories, if repeated often enough, can acquire the solidity of truth. One such story is how the Russian word for railway station, vokzal, derives from Vauxhall, London SW8. Supposedly, a Russian delegation who visited in 1840 to inspect the construction of the London and South Western Railway mistook the name of the station for the generic word for the type of building. This error was then compounded by Tsar Nicholas, who on a visit to London four years later was taken to see the trains in Vauxhall and made the same mistake. Actually the idea that visiting royalty were taken to look at trains appeals far more to my imagination. Perhaps that is just as well, as scholars think the Vauxhall/vokzal story is a more than dubious. Still, I wouldn’t be a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide if I didn’t like stories.
What isn’t in doubt is that Vauxhall gave its name to Vauxhall Motors which started as a local firm. Vauxhall Motors emblem is a gryphon, a heraldic beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
Very quickly, and I hope to expand on this later, I am leading a guided walk around Vauxhall next Saturday.
The Mayor has his eye on it, the Russians visited, a vulture looks down upon it. Vauxhall, home to MI6, gave its name to a car brand, and was synonymous with pleasure gardens. Today it is once more on the cusp of change.
So, if all you know of Vauxhall is what you have seen in the James Bond films, or the current remake of A Very British Coup, come along.
Or maybe you live in the area and can tell me new stories, come along.
If you know nothing at all about Vauxhall, perhaps have never even heard of it, come along.
Bring a camera and make sure you have room for some cake. Continue reading
Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
It is one of the most famous tombs in London, just inside the west doors of Westminster Abbey. Below the black Belgian marble lie the remains of an unknown warrior who represents all those who have lost their lives in the service of their country and lie in anonymous graves.
I defy anyone to visit the Garden of Remembrance on the north side of the abbey and be unmoved. Every year, people place poppies on crosses, crescent moons and stars of David to commemorate the dead of many nationalities and services. Continue reading
Walworth, or Kennington as the estate agents like to call it. A little corner of South London that has somehow managed to stay below the radar. Yet it was the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin and home to Michael Caine. Rumour has it Rio Ferdinand has a flat in the area too.
Walworth was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and for centuries much of it belonged to the Church. It has been mentioned in novels by Charles Dickens and Muriel Spark. It has featured in films, including The King’s Speech, and was briefly home to St Thomas’ Hospital.
Today there’s a City Garden Farm. Walworth developed into an area of open fields and market gardening that helped feed the city.
Walworth Garden Farm
In the nineteenth century, it was home to a music hall and zoological gardens that were for a time more popular than those in Regent’s Park.
Peacock in the Park
The first giraffes in the country were in Walworth, and the cricket connections are first class. I’m typing this on a laptop, and the inventor of the computer lived just up the road. How cool is that?