What truly wonderful murals - or perhaps mosaics might be more accurate! This is on the east side of Holy Cross church on Cromer Street. It's a late Victorian Anglo-Catholic church which describes itself as 'the church in the heart of King's Cross'.
Holy Cross has a very curious history - being in part funded by the Goodenough family in memory of one of their number who was killed while snooping around in the Solomon Islands (his ship's bell is still used to summon the faithful). And then almost a century after its consecration, in November 1982, it was the scene of a renowned two-week occupation by the English Collective of Prostitutes. But more of that another time ...
The mosaics on the gable wall are in a small garden which is usually firmly locked. But the other day, the gate was open - volunteers were in there, tending the garden and promoting what's described as a green gym.
With their blessing, I popped in and took some close-up photos of the stunning, and very well kept, mosaics.
The panels were created in 1988 by the artists Dave Bangs and Diana Leary - there's more detail here - and the church garden was opened by the Eastenders and Are You Being Served? actress Wendy Richards.
It is a peace garden - and the mosaic below intrigues me the most, featuring a gun and also a poppy flower which seems to be in the shape of a fist. The artists specialised in radical murals and mosaics - Dave Bangs was responsible for the wonderful though now fading mural on Copenhagen Street - and there's certainly a message here.
Do go and have a look - if you're lucky the garden will be unlocked, but you can still get a fairly decent view through the railings.
I've just discovered that Anthony Kirk-Greene - a colonial administrator who became an exacting historian of colonialism - died last month. He was 93. Tony spent the 1950s helping to govern northern Nigeria. (I seem to remember he told me he was once a district officer - a foot soldier of the colonial endeavour). After Nigeria became independent, he taught at Ahmadu Bello University. He was fluent in Hausa.
I came across Tony when he taught me for the 'Imperialism and Nationalism' special subject in the final year of my history degree at Oxford. It was the most exciting and rewarding part of my studies there. I'd never been to Africa, or indeed anywhere outside Europe - but I really took to the subject, and especially the rise of nationalism in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tony suggested that I consider doing a PhD - he wanted me to look at the rise of Nyerere's TANU in what is now Tanzania. I didn't bite - but the confidence he showed in me did encourage me to pursue postgraduate research, though in British social and political history rather than Africa during colonialism.
I do wonder whether the interest stirred and nurtured by Tony Kirk-Greene made me more open to living and working in India and to becoming immersed in its history and politics. We didn't keep in touch after I left Oxford, and it's chastening to realise that Kirk-Greene, when he was my tutor, was about ten years younger than I am now.
But let me, belatedly, say thanks to A.H.M. Kirk-Greene. I'm grateful to you!
The Land of Liberty Peace & Plenty - a bit of a mouthful, but what a brilliant name for a pub. And there's a remarkable back story, too ...
And it's on the tube - on the outskirts of Chorleywood, a twenty minute walk from the Metropolitan line, and flanking the M25, London's orbital motorway.
The signboard is modern; the name is of some antiquity, and pays tribute to the Chartist land settlement here at Heronsgate which for a few years at the close of the 1840s was a beacon of British radicalism.
A plaque on the village hall at Heronsgate pays tribute to the community's founder, Feargus O'Connor, an Irishman who was the most renowned leader of Chartism.
O'Connorville was the first of these Chartist land colonies to be established. Eventually five were set-up. Several hundred Chartists moved into these communities. But all failed within a few years - the land company was declared illegal, the cultivators had little agricultural knowledge, and the plots (none above four acres) were too small, and too remote, to sustain a family.
Heronsgate - the name of the area before the Chartists arrived, and the one to which it has reverted - is now a hugely exclusive and wealthy community. But much to my surprise, several of the Chartist-era buildings still stand. The one above is, I think, the only small cottage that remains which is identifiably Chartist in origin.
Here's a side view of the same building - the modified 'H' sign on the gable seems to feature on all the Chartist buildings at Heronsgate. On the plan below, I suspect this was the cottage attached to the two-acre plot marked as '1 ii'.
Most of the cottages had two storeys and were semi-detached. Here are some that I spotted - what a joy that they have survived for 170 years.
I suspect there are a few more survivals of O'Connorville hidden behind high hedges and long, twisting drives and disguised by extensions. And in addition to the plaque on the village hall, there are other indications that some of the current residents value and honour their community's heritage.
The road names in Heronsgate seem to be another survival from the 1840s - Nottingham was Feargus O'Connor's Parliamentary constituency, while Halifax, Bradford and Stockport were all northern Chartist strongholds.
And to end where we began, the Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty was emphatically not part of the Chartist colony (though its name is clearly respectful rather than mocking). O'Connor once warned in his newspaper, the Northern Star: 'Is a beer shop near your land? Avoid it as a pestilence. The one enemy which can ruin settlement life is drink. It leads to poverty, crime, disgrace.'
He also kept churches and chapels out of O'Connorville, advising: 'Don't let a religious man come among you.' But there is now a small Church of England church, St John's, in Heronsgate - so another of O'Connor's principles has been overturned.
The pub, by the way, is a gem - well worth a visit. And Heronsgate, too, deserves a pilgrimage. Here's some details to help you on your way!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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