I've been looking for Hope - big lettered 'HOPE' - across Kentish Town and around. As regular readers of this blog will know, I've found four - faint traces of a fifth - and there are at least a couple more out there. Today I zapped around by train from Upper Holloway to Gospel Oak, Camden Road to Hampstead Heath, to see if there was HOPE to be seen from the tracks - keep reading and you'll find out if I succeeded. And then I walked from Camden Road station to West Kentish Town sticking as close as I could to the rail line, wandering to and fro under bridges - and what a joy!
If you don't know the area - and I thought I did, but didn't really - this map may give you a feel for the streetscape (the photo above is Clarence Way, west of the tracks and facing east):
First of all - do you know Ivor Street? If you don't, then don't waste time - get there before HS2 changes it out of recognition. At the western end near the junction with Prowse Place are three entirely wonderful early nineteenth century cottages (see for yourself below):
I came across one of the residents - these are watercress gatherers' cottages dating from 1836 when the Fleet river ran nearby, I was told. The Fleet certainly flowed very close to here, though I wonder whether watercress workers would have had the status that goes along with these fairly commodious double-fronted cottages. I guess the census records could provide the answer.
Prowse Place, still cobbled and with something of the feel of a film set, has one of the most astonishing arches under a railway bridge that I know of in this part of London. Then it's a matter of zigzagging in pursuit of the rail tracks until you chance upon another wonderful backwater.
Clarence Way - featured at the top of this posting - takes you along to a modern cul-de-sac, Harmood Grove, memorable for the most eye-catching piece of modern art I've seen on the outside wall of a north London home. I've been able to find out nothing more from the 'net - so if you know anything, details please:
Just yards away, on Harmood Street, is one of my favourite second-hand bookshops, Walden Books - the name comes from Thoreau and the stock is in that tradition, so good for politics (particularly libertarian - I've bought lots of great pamphlets here), modern fiction, and above all London. I fell for a Pan edition of Colin Wilson's Adrift in Soho, a book of wartime short stories which includes a piece by John Sommerfield, and a printer's reminiscences about Fleet Street and around in the Victorian era - so that was another £20 or so gone by the time I resurfaced.
Heading north, off the east side of Harmood Street, is Powlett Place - not a road but a path with houses on both sides leading to the dead end of the railway line.
The buildings date from the 1840s, though the name came a few decades later. It's difficult to do justice to the Place from the ground - you can probably get a better view from the tracks. It is, in the words of the Camden History Society, 'a pleasant backwater, with small, boxy two-storey Victorian cottages and well-tended front gardens.'
Weaving back to the eastern side of the tracks, Hadley Street is home to one of the area's best, and least well known, pubs - Tapping the Admiral.
The pub hasn't always gone by that name. For its first hundred years or so, it was the Trafalgar.
So Tapping the Admiral is a return to the original nautical theme after an unfortunate interlude where this fine and friendly pub was known as the Fuzzcock & Firkin. The '80s have a lot to answer for!
Avoiding the temptation of popping in for a quick one, the journey to West Kentish Town was all but done, but there was more temptation in the way. For the arches adjoining the station are now home to the Camden Brewery, and its award winning ales including Hell's Lager - there's a bar there too. From the station platform, you look down directly onto the brewery's loading area:
... but no more 'HOPE' and a denial of HOPE
The wanderings - by rail, and on foot - were a great way of spending a sunny Sunday morning. But alas, no 'HOPE' spotted. Indeed the only news to share is a denial.
One of my co-detectives in pursuit of 'HOPE' suggested that the neat, petite Hope Chapel on Prince of Wales Road might be behind the inscriptions. This is now part of the Churches of Christ - I sent them an email and with great courtesy they replied, saying no, not them, but they had noticed and rather liked the HOPE 'hallmark' around NW5.
'They would say that, wouldn't they', said my co-conspirator, a touch uncharitably.
So, we're still seeking HOPE.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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