So - I am not talking about the liturgy, the services, the theology, the congregation, the mission ... simply the wonderful architecture. Is this the funkiest church in central London? Every time I walk past this chapel (much the better term given its Welsh non-conformist loyalty), I get a bit of a tingle. It's just off the north side of Oxford Street, where Soho starts to shade into Fitzrovia - how is it that the most bohemian haunts in London have the best churches?
The building dates from 1889 - it's now the Welsh Church in Central London or the Eglwys Gymraeg Canol Llundain. As its website explains - here's the link - several Welsh churches in central London have banded together in an initiative aimed at safeguarding their future..
There are plans to renovate the building and adapt part of it to help ease the financial burden of its upkeep.
It's a Grade 2 listed building - there's a really nice etching of the exterior on the chapel's website, and a photo of the interior here.
It's 35 years since I enrolled as a Ph.D. student at Warwick University - and at last, I am about to become a Doctor.
That first attempt at a doctoral thesis ('Popular Politics and Society in late-Victorian Clerkenwell', since you ask) never quite made it.
But a while back, I started pursuing a Ph.D. by publication - based particularly on my book A Mission in Kashmir and a related academic article on the Kashmiri left in the 1940s - and with the support of the Warwick history department, and above all of my supervisor, David Hardiman, I've got there.
I was up at Warwick for a viva in the past week - with two eminent scholars of south Asia, Ian Talbot and Yasmin Khan, as the examiners. That went well, and so - subject only to a few formalities (I hope) - I will at last get my Ph.D..
What will I do with it? No idea, but it is nice to have the recognition - and to tie up a loose end that's been flapping around for well over half a lifetime.
++ And the title of this blog - A&E are the 'accident and emergency' wards at British hospitals, and accidents and emergencies have been Kashmir's fate ever since some time before 1947.
A breakfast bap, Vietnam style
What a great place for a weekend breakfast!
The Cardigan Club Cafe is the latest sign that Tufnell Park is - slowly, slowly - getting there. It's new and serves 'French-Vietnamese Street Food'.
What does that mean? Well, my breakfast Vietnam Bap was an appetising, if rather tough (not for the denture wearing demographic!) piece of pork, with a tasty touch of salad, on a bap with some wholegrain mustard. It was nice!
The coffee was good too. Better than I have had anywhere else in TP.
And the cafe's name? Well, there are quite a lot of cardigans on display. Sounds naff, but works fine.
The whole place has a welcome dash of style. The menu is fairly limited, but I'll certainly be going back until I've tried it all.
It's one of the commanding landmarks of N19 (Upper Holloway to the untutored) - and has a fair claim to be one of north London's most enduring murals.
This 'smiley sun' - and doesn't the reference to "Atomic Power" date it - is painted on a gable wall at the junction of Dartmouth Park Hill and Hargrave Park. I've lived nearby for the last sixteen years, and have driven past this mural and seen it as part of my London since I moved to the city more than thirty years ago.
Various attempts to find out how this smiley sun came into existence - and more details here - have thrown up two facts: it was all about the squatters' movement so evident in north London in the late '70s, and this particular piece of public art was the handiwork of Kelvin 'the mushroom maniac'.
Well, I have now heard directly from Kelvin - it's only taken three years or so to track him down - and here's his account of how this landmark was born:
Thanks for your interest ... in that 'smiley'!
Well, can't imagine how you ever found out, but you were right, twaz me that scrolled it!
How? Well, a lucky combination of circumstance I guess - A copy of that book [John W. Gofman and Arthur R. Tamplin, Poisoned Power: the case against nuclear power plants before and after Three Mile Island, 1971], a flourishing anti-nuclear movement, and me, a young headstrong hothead in thosde days, in love with life and convinced the world could be saved, (and magic mushrooms).
When? Well, I can pin that down for you too - It must have been (incredibly) - 1976. How am I so certain? Well, the man who told me of your website (born at the end of '75) was a babe in our arms at the time. Homeless and living on £5 a week we heard of the incredible squatting community that thrived in that area at that time - and with a massive sign of relief we moved into that house!
Why'd I graffiti my own house? Hard to say, perhaps having just got back from a nightmare demo at Aldermaston - where I'd experienced the most hideous mushroom induced vision I'd ever had in my life - (before or since) - may have had a little something to do with it! - ...
Where? how? Having come across a few tins of old paint while on another blindingly enlightening anti-nuclear trip I was suddenly seized with the absolute necessity to do something about it then and there - so, in the middle of the night, much to the misgivings of my long suffering wife and convinced I'd be getting busted for it in the morning (if not while doing it) I grabbed a ladder from a building site opposite and dashed it off. (If I'd have known it was to last half a lifetime I may just have taken a little more care over it! I was in such as hurry I remember I nearly fell to my probable death in the process! - anyway,
There's your story.
And it's a great story, Kevin. Thank you!
Books for Free
'Books for Free' is back, close to Tufnell Park tube station. It's been closed for the past month while moving a few doors down from its old haunt. I'm so pleased it's returned. Every time I go in there, I come across the most tremendous finds.
This morning I picked up thses two Fabian pamphlets from just before the First World War. Nice. And the provenance makes them even nicer. They appear to come from the library of G.D.H. Cole (1889-1959), himself a prominent Fabian, economist, historian and political theorist. A left-wing polymath, in other words, and one of the most influential socialist intellectuals Britain has seen.
The right-hand of the pamphlets has Cole's signature at the top right. Very nice!
And the Fabian slogan of that time: 'Knowledge is Power'.
Mid-summer madness in Bloomsbury
In a back street of Bloomsbury last night, I chanced across the London Pride Morris Men in full plumage - what better way to wile away a mid-summer evening.
A young death in 'desolated' India
If you scout around the grander London churches, you can find quite a few memorials to Company wallahs and the like - the officers of the East India Company and other servants of the Raj. But they don't come much nicer and grander than this.
It's in All Souls, Langham Place - just by Broadcasting House. A touching memorial to William Richard Moore, the son of a director of the East India Company, who was killed in the Rebellion / Mutiny of 1857. He was 24 when he died, and is buried where he served - in Mirzapur in what's now Uttar Pradesh.
One of the more captivating aspects of the memorial is the grieving woman - I'm not clear whether this is a classical allusion, or an Indian 'bivii' mourning her partner. It's probably the former. 1857 marked a dividing line - before that almost all East India Company officers and Imperial civil servants went out unaccompanied, and it was unexceptional for them to have an Indian wife either for the duration of their posting or as an enduring marriage. After 1857, such liaisons were frowned upon, and more British women went out to India accompanying their husbands.
The inscription on the tablet - tellingly tragic - is worth careful reading. It's posted below. As you will see, it records that Moore was 'barbarously and treacherously murdered', being 'among the early victims of the fearful mutiny which desolated India in 1857'. And his epitaph:
"His sun is gone down while it was yet day"
Clouds over Tottenham Trades Hall
The Tottenham Trades Hall on Bruce Grove has clearly seen better days. It's a listed building, Georgian, and almost four years ago, the local press was reporting than a plan for renovation and restoration had been approved. It doesn't seem to have got very far.
The building, now largely obscured by boarding, hosts one of the more remarkable of London's blue plaques. It commemorates Luke Howard, 'namer of clouds'. And no, this isn't a try on - he really did exist, and he really did name clouds..
Luke Howard died in this building at the age of 91 in 1864 - and it seems that his system of cloud classification was his lasting legacy.
Horse and Motor Contractors
Spotted yesterday evening just off Great Ormond Street - about as evocative a ghost sign as you could ever wish to find.
The Danish Church
I bet you didn't know there was a Danish church in London. Well, there is - slightly hidden away on the edge of Regent's Park. It's an imposing building, 200 years or so old, leased by the Danish Church in London from the Crown Estate.
The church is St Katharine's. A Danish congregation moved in here in 1952. Not long ago they held there summer fete, and put banners up on the Albany Street side of the church - without which I would never have know that there was a Danish church here.
If you look closely above you can see a dash of red, the limp Danish flag on perhaps the warmest and most breezeless day of the year to date.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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