Richmond Avenue is one of the swishest streets in Islington, and a dozen or so of the houses there feature an architectural embellishment that even the difficult-to-astonish Nikolaus Pevsner describes as 'astonishing'.
They have marvellous black obelisks and sphinxes either side of the porch. I can't think of any residential street in London with anything which remotely matches this.
These Egyptian flourishes celebrate the Battle of the Nile of 1798, when the British navy won a decisive victory over the French at Aboukir Bay, close to the Nile delta.
Richmond Avenue wasn't built, however, until 1841 - and these splendid touches of the desert were the work of the architect Joseph Kay. He is remembered not so much for this eccentricity but for his work on the lay-out of Greenwich and of the centre of Hastings.
Not all the originals are still in place. Some houses have lost the obelisks but kept the sphinxes. One or two have installed replicas of the originals. And a neighbour vouchsafed to me that the sphinx with the painted eyes is not as Kay intended - though it does look, well, eye-catching, doesn't it?
At various times, there has been almost an Egypto-mania in architecture, most obviously expressed in the Carreras (or Black Cat) factory in Camden. But it's not often that residential architecture gets caught up in such passing enthusiasms. Richmond Avenue is something special!
This scene of mayhem and destruction dates from the Blitz. A reader of this blog very kindly sent me this photo which she found in an item bought in a charity shop in the Scottish Highlands.
It's a tiny photo - 8 cms x 5.5 cms - and fairly battered. But for someone it was clearly an important memento of a very painful moment.
But where is it? Well, the back of the photo bears a date but no location. The inscription in pencil reads: 'Bombed by Germans on 13th Oct 1940'.
The Blitz - the 'blitzkreig' or lightning war, a period of intense German air attacks on Britain - began on 7 September 1940 and continued for eight months. London bore the brunt of the destruction, but many other cities and towns - and ports in particular - were also targetted.
13 October 1940 was the date of the Coronation Avenue tragedy in Stoke Newington in North London - the reader who so kindly sent me the photograph had seen a blog here about this awful event and wondered if this is what the photo depicts.
On that day, a bomb hit a five-storey block of flats with shops on the ground floor. It exploded in a basement air raid shelter which was already crowded with people not simply from the flats but many nearby streets. The plaque that marks the spot says more than 160 people died. The memorial in Abney Park cemetery nearby lists 88 dead. The real number will never be known.
The photos below of the site of the Coronation Avenue devastation are from the <horridhackney.com> site.
It strikes me the photo I've been sent very probably does not depict Coronation Avenue. The bombed-out houses look to be a two-storey terrace rather than the more imposing Coronation Avenue mansion block.
But it is a reminder of the devastation caused by the Blitz - a million houses in London alone are said to have suffered wartime bomb damage.
Guy Aldred was a mass of contradictions - from boy preacher to anarchist evangel, from anti-Parliamentarian to a near record number of lost deposits. The only constant was his sense of his own importance.
He wrote several autobiographies during his long life (he was born in Clerkenwell in 1886 and died in Glasgow in 1963). No Traitor's Gait was his final word - published in instalments, and running in all to hundreds of pages.
It's marvellous. Guy Aldred could write. He had a full and fascinating life, tilted at lots of windmills, and met a galaxy of really interesting figures. So I was delighted to pick up recently a bound copy of the first volume of these memoirs, complete with an inscription by the author.
And I think I've worked out who this was inscribed to - R.M. 'Dick' Fox was a contemporary of Aldred's and like him a socialist street orator in London. Both were jailed for their militant opposition to the First World War. Fox wrote a political memoir with the magnificent title of Smoky Crusade.
What's more. Fox ended his life in Dublin - and I bought this copy online from a Dublin bookseller. So nice to solve this puzzle.
If you are curious about Guy Aldred, I once made a radio programme about him. Here it is:
A privilege today to be invited to attend the golden jubilee celebration at the Mount Zion Cathedral in Crouch End of this congregation of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim & Seraphim Church.
The Crouch End congregation is part of a Nigeria-based prophetic church whose services are in Yoruba and English. The congregation has worshipped in the former Congregational church in the heart of Crouch End for most of the time since it was established in 1972. And today, the old church resounded to music, singing, worship - and a real sense of joy.
The church's services are infectiously lively, with a wonderful choir, excellent musicians, colourful garments and oodles of energy.
This video is of the procession which opened the jubilee service, with the choir leading the way:
The supreme head of the church worldwide, Baba Aladura M.I.O. Ebahor-Erebi, was among the visiting dignitaries.
Third in line in the video below of church leaders is Mother Seraph, Prophetess Janet Awojobi, who has been an enduring presence in the church in London and is the matriarch of this congregation. I met her last year when I visited the church while researching Curious Crouch End - and it was good to see her again at such a special moment for her church.
The congregation have taken excellent care of a marvellous church which would otherwise have fallen into disuse. Long may they prosper in Crouch End!
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