Cromer Street isn't the prettiest corner of central London, but I'm rather fond of it. There's the wonderful Anglo-Catholic (much nicer from the inside) Holy Cross church ... an excellent cafe, Casa Tua ... the historic 'Boot' public house, which Dickens knew and seems to have been standing at the time of the Gordon Riots almost 250 years ago ... and the Hillview estate, sturdy mansion blocks which have been (a rare mix) renovated but not gentrified.
And this is all just a couple of minutes stroll from King's Cross, on the south side of Euston Road.
There's now another reason to head to Cromer Street - this stand-out mural by Mohammed Ali.
This is what the Love Camden site says about the mural:
This wall art explores stories of journey, arrival and hope by people making Cromer Street their home. It was made by aerosol artist Mohammed Ali who worked with residents to reveal stories from the neighbourhood.
You can experience this artwork in augmented reality by downloading the Camden People’s Museum app which will launch on the 13th of October. You will hear the voices of Cromer Street residents, sharing their experiences of living in Camden.
Mohammed Ali is a British-born internationally acclaimed aerosol artist working across the world. His work attempts to build bridges between different communities.
UPDATE Dec 2020: The Charlotte Despard could still be brought back to life - there's a Crowdfunder page here to support this indie pub, please do give it your backing!
If you haven't raised a glass to Charlotte Despard in the Islington pub that bears her name, you've missed your chance. It's closed! Part of the winnowing out of London's pubs. A pity to lose it - not least because there aren't many pubs named after women suffragists, communists and republicans (not even in Islington).
The pub was on Archway Road, not all that far from the Whittington hospital and from Archway tube station. Its website gives the impression of business as usual - but I guess it shut quite a while ago. It looks as if (I hope I'm wrong here) a row of properties are destined for the bulldozer.
Charlotte French, born in 1844, married a wealthy Anglo-Irish banker, Maximilian Despard, who died at sea in 1890. It was only when a widow that Charlotte Despard got involved in politics.
She was an active opponent of the Boer War and at various times supported the Social Democratic Federation, the Independent Labour Party, the Women's Social and Political Union, the Women's Freedom League, Sinn Fein, the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain.
She was a prominent suffragist and pacifist and remained active into her nineties. She died in 1939.
There are two London streets named after Despard - one in Battersea, and the other adjoining the Despard Arms in Archway. So it's reasonable to assume that the pub took its name from the street. Though it's just possible that the pub is a direct successor to the (alcohol free) Despard Arms in Cumberland Market, set up during the First World War in the building which had housed Mary Neal's Esperance Club (more details in Curious Camden Town).
The pub signboard captures something - something - of Charlotte Despard's toughness, though even by the modest standards of this art form, it's not exactly stand-out. Still, for a while at least she still gazes out onto Jeremy Corbyn's backyard.
Mr dear wife Carrie and I have just been a week in our new house, 'The Laurels' ,Brickfield Terrace, Holloway - a nice six-roomed residence, not counting basement, with a front breakfast-parlour. We have a little front garden; and there is a flight of ten steps up to the front door, which by-the-by, we keep locked with the chain up. ... We have a nice little back garden which runs down to the railway. We were rather afraid of the noise of the trains at first, but the landlord said we should not notice them after a bit, and took £2 off the rent. He was certainly right; and beyond the cracking of the garden wall at the bottom, we have suffered no inconvenience.
This is the opening paragraph of a comic classic, George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody - which was first published in Punch from late 1888 and appeared in book form in 1892. It's a glorious comedy of manners and suburban social pretension with illustrations by Weedon Grossmith. And it immortalised the hapless City clerk, Charles Pooter, whose self-important diary we are invited to dip into .
But - where was the Pooters' new home, 'The Laurels'?
This is the most favoured model for 'The Laurels' - it's 1 Pemberton Gardens, close to St John's, Upper Holloway, on Holloway Road. It's not an exact match of either the description in the book's opening paragraph or of Weedon Grossmith's drawing, as you can see, but it's not far off - and it does back on to the rail lines at Upper Holloway station.
The truth is, of course, that there is no exact match - The Diary of a Nobody is a pastiche of lower middle-class Holloway of the 1880s not a documentary.
I went for a walk today around 'Mr Pooter's Victorian Holloway' and Jane, our guide, came up with an alternative theory. She believes that some of the houses fronting on to the west side of Holloway Road, close to the junction with Tavistock Terrace, are a really good fit - even though there are no railway lines to the rear. What do you reckon?
This is a good match for the architectural details in Weedon Grossmith's drawing. But the Grossmiths lived in Canonbury and he may well have drawn from houses in his own backyard for the Pooters' home.
Does it matter much? No - but it is quite fun looking for Mr Pooter's "Laurels".
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