Queen's Park has a real charm about it - one of London's nicest small parks. It's a compact thirty acres in the west of London.
This is the novelist's Zadie Smith's home ground. And talking of home grounds ... Queens Park Rangers, founded in 1886, take their name from this area, though they had no enduring home until moving to their present stadium, Loftus Road in White City, in 1917.
The park is run by the City of London - the desperately undemocratic Corporation which runs the Square Mile at the heart of London's business district. They also manage Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest and Highgate Wood. Why the devil gets all the best parks, I just don't know!
Happily, they do have a sense of history - and a board at the entrance to the park sets out the Queen's Park story.
The surrounding area is London border land - not on the margins of London, but where rival bailiwicks meet. The northern part was Willesden and is now part of Brent - the southern part was Paddington and now is in Westminster. Some who live round here would say they are in North Kensington or Kilburn or Kensal Green or Brondesbury.
The stand-out highlight of Queen's Park is its cast iron bandstand, completed in 1887, gaudily repainted and now Grade II listed.
Close to Queen's Park on Chevening Road is an Islamic Centre which has been described as Britain's premier Shia Muslim mosque.
Here's a view you don't often get to see. This is the top of Maiden Lane reservoir, the covered reservoir on Dartmouth Park Hill (as this stretch of what was Maiden Lane is now called).
The crown of the reservoir is strictly off-limits - I've lived here more than twenty years and never got more than a glimpse of the turf on the top. The slopes are a local park, however: Dartmouth Park. This is not how the Dartmouth Park locality got its name but rather seems to have been a case of grasping a name that was appropriate and unused. Until this space surrounding the reservoir was christened Dartmouth Park (perhaps when the area was opened to public use in the early 1970s) there was no park in Dartmouth Park.
The photo is taken from the top floor of our friends' house on Dartmouth Park Hill and shows the view east over the reservoir. It also shows a feature that you can't otherwise see - what looks like an inspection pit or access point adjoining the top of the reservoir.
To help you get your bearings, here's another photo from the same vantage point.
And once upon a time, I did a panorama video of the vista from the far bank of the reservoir - one of the most marvellous views of the city. And since you ask (you did ask, didn't you?) - here's that video!
But back to the reservoir ... it was built in the 1850s when the surrounding area was largely green fields. The reservoir is still in use and was renovated back in 2012. The company that did that work - and if you believe their website, they completed the project five months before they started - said this:
'Maiden Lane Reservoir is situated on Dartmouth Park Hill in the London Borough of Islington in Central London. The reservoir is a brick-built covered service reservoir which was completed in 1855. It is composed of two separate structures, known as the north (Cell A) and south (Cell B) compartments, which together have a capacity of 68,200 m³. The depth when full is about 6.7m.'
But let's take a look at the history of the reservoir and surrounding area through maps - some of which I have been introduced to on the warmly recommended 'Archway Revisited' Facebook page, and by people I have been in touch with through that group or as a result of earlier blogs.
This map was surveyed in the mid-1860s. Dartmouth Park is largely undeveloped - St Mary's Brookfield had not been built (it opened in 1875) - nor had Dartmouth Park Road nor Laurier Road nor York Rise.
The grounds of the reservoir extended as far as Junction Road. here's a blow-up:
This map below is thirty years later - an Ordnance Survey map of 1895. The area has become much more extensively developed ... though much of Cathcart Hill had still to be built and there are a few gaps in the housing along Dartmouth Park Avenue.
As you can see, the reservoir had relinquished a lot of surrounding land for a tram depot and I imagine stabling for the horses. And on Dartmouth Park Hill, diagonally opposite St Mary's, there's a building - Reservoir Cottage. I hope to return to that in a future blog.
And then a leap of another sixty years or so to the Second World War - and a map of local war damage prepared by London County Council
You can see from the colour code of the map that the reservoir suffered a narrow miss - the brunt of a V1 attack being borne by buildings on the other side of Dartmouth Park Hill where blocks of post-war flats now stand.
The tram depot is still there - but disused. And the reservoir cottage is still shown.
And this is what the area looks like today, courtesy of Google Maps
It's often described as the best ever anarchist journal - in English, at least. Colin Ward's monthly Anarchy - published by the Freedom Press - got going with this issue in March 1961. It survived until the close of that tumultuous decade. A second series under new editorship, nothing like as good, survived into the '80s.
The first issue had a lead article on Galbraith's The Affluent Society - anonymous and so I guess by Ward himself. Other contributors included Ward's close intellectual allies, Alex Comfort and Nicolas Walter (whom I knew and admired). There's nothing in this issue to explain the journal's purpose - no political rally-cry - no partisan rhetoric. The contents spoke for themselves.
The cover of this debut issue was by Michael Foreman, The next issue had a cover designed by Rufus Segar - a fairly tame design by his standards; he and the journal later became renowned for the magazine's innovative and striking front covers.
Next year will see the sixtieth anniversary of the inception of Anarchy. I do hope the moment is marked!
I visited Hay-on-Wye in the past week, the celebrated town of books on the England-Wales border, and came away with a few modest purchases. I picked up a first edition of Rumer Godden's 1946 novel The River - which I have already devoured, what a good book! ... not particularly rare but nice to have. And a few political pamphlets. And this copy of the Partisan Review which I got because the excellent, effervescent Colin MacInnes is among the contributors.
MacInnes is celebrated above all as a novelist and the author of Absolute Beginners, such a glorious read and one of my favourite novels. He was also an incisive essayist - Bernard Kops, I know, regards him as a more talented essayist than novelist.
This issue includes MacInnes on 'English Queerdom' - he devised the word 'Queerdom', and this may well be an early instance of a gay writer re-appropriating the term 'queer' in an article intended for a readership beyond the gay/queer community.
The Partisan Review was a curious journal - established in the 1930s as a loosely Communist-aligned publication, it changed its line and in the 1950s and '60s received covert funding from the CIA. This issue acknowledges a link with the American Committee for Cultural Freedom - an organisation which, it later transpired, was in part established and funded by the CIA. There is a rich irony in America's cold war establishment funding the publication of a piece by MacInnes, an anarchist and rebel.
The Review finally succumbed as recently as 2003. Here's MacInnes's sparkling article from 1961 -
It's back! Difficult to believe, but after years of barren, shuttered decay, the Archway Tavern got back in business this weekend.
It's five years at least since anyone popped in here for a pint. Great to have you back!
The building dates from 1888. An imposing edifice in what became the blighted island in the middle of the Archway gyratory system. Now, you don't have to cross the road to get from Archway tube to the Tavern. The area is slowly, slowly on the up. There's even an M&S food store nearby!
The Tavern used to be a big Guinness pub. This was a very Irish corner of North London. It still is - you can buy all the Irish county weeklies at the newsagents nearby. And that Guinness legacy is evident both in the tiles at the entrance (the toucan featured for decades in Guinness ads and promotions) and in the rather decrepit clock on the outside ... it would be so nice if they could restore the clock to its original splendour.
The Tavern has a great location, but it needs a touch more character and charm. And perhaps a few pence off the price of a pint.
For a pub of such size and vintage it would be nice to say a little more about its history, But to be honest I'm not quite sure what there is to say.
The Tavern's main claim to fame is featuring on the cover of the Kinks' album "Muswell Hillbillies" - even though the Kinks' stamping ground of Muswell Hill is a mile or two further out.
All the same, it's good to have one of North London's grand old drinking spots back - not many arise Lazarus-like from the dead in the way that the Archway Tavern has done. Now it's a matter of ... Stayin' Alive!
It's not quite what you expect in the Regent's Canal as you wend your way past disused wharfs and spruced up warehouses. But as you head through Haggerston, across from the tow path there's a shiver (yes, that really is the collective noun!) of sharks. Fibreglass and polystyrene sharks.
I chanced on this curious scene when strolling from Hackney Broadway towards The Angel. A web search reveals that this is an art installation. There will eventually be five sharks, capable of blowing bubbles, singing and making expositions on contemporary architecture.
It's all a little jaw-dropping I know ... it seems the artist, Jaimie Shorten, won a £25,000 prize for an installation to liven up this rather barren stretch of the canal.
The canal's long-term residents - coots, swans and the like - seem to be taking the new arrivals in their, er, paddle.
61 Marlborough Road was where the birth control pioneer Marie Stopes opened her first clinic a little over a century ago. And so it has a place - an important place - in medical, social and feminist history.
Marie Stopes is most famous for Married Love published in 1918 - which was a sex manual and a guide to a good marriage and included advocacy of birth control. The book was a huge success. A few months later, she opened her first clinic - the Mothers' Clinic - in part influenced by a similar endeavour in New York undertaken by Margaret Sanger.
The clinic was run by midwives, with some support from doctors. It was free and open to all married women and offered birth control advice and dispensed cervical caps.
In 1921 the clinic moved from Holloway to near Tottenham Court Road, so this building's pioneering role in women's control of their own fertility was brief - but important all the same as Britain's first family planning clinic.
Stopes's reputation is under a cloud because of her advocacy of eugenics and a biographer, June Rose, has argued that Stopes was 'an elitist, an idealist, interested in creating a society in which only the best and beautiful should survive', and that - at least in part - explains her interest in birth control.
I only came across the place and the plaque because I was cycling around as part of my pandemic 'keep fit' regime - there really is a world out there!
Lavenham is sensational! It's a tiny town in Suffolk - close to Sudbury and to Bury St Edmunds - once made wealthy by the wool trade. And it boasts of the finest array of half-timbered medieval buildings in the country.
All told, Lavenham has 300 listed buildings. Not bad considering that its population is well under 2,000.
The market place alone has a Guildhall built about 1530 ... the ochre-coloured Little Hall dating from 1390 ... a market cross with an original base from 1500 ... you get the picture. If not, take a look -
And the parish church of St Peter and St Paul - parts of which date from the fourteenth century - is bigger than some cathedrals.
Everywhere you turn, there's another exceptional medieval building -
If you have never been to Lavenham - and we hadn't until now - give it a go!
Major John Cartwright (1740-1824) was one of the most prominent and persistent advocates of Parliamentary Reform in the late eighteenth century and through to the Regency era. This pamphlet was published two years before the Peterloo massacre - Cartwright had been expected to attend that Reform gathering in Manchester but in the end didn't.
Cartwright was born into privilege and was eccentric and unbiddable as well as deeply principled. He was a very early British advocate of American independence, and that's - as well as his advocacy of Reform - is what he's celebrated for in the statue of in Cartwright Gardens (he lived and died nearby on what was then Burton Crescent) in Bloomsbury.
In this pamphlet, Cartwright advocates universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts and annual Parliaments and secret polling (though not the use of a paper ballot).
It's a very detailed and prescriptive proposal, and he goes so far as to sketch the lay-out of a polling station (quite a change from the open hustings then common in Parliamentary elections).
If you want to know more about the nature of the Reform Cartwright had in mind, here's the abstract he provided:
It looks like a rural idyll. But this is London - and fairly central too.
The New River opened in 1613 to bring drinking water from Hertfordshire to the growing city - it ended at New River Head near Sadlers Wells in Clerkenwell. The 'river' doesn't now extend beyond Stoke Newington, though you can follow the path it once took through Islington.
Some stretches of the New River are now walkable - and this is a particularly lovely stroll, accessing the New River at Green Lanes, opposite Finsbury Park, and walking alongside (apart from a fairly run-for-your-life crossing of Seven Sisters Road) as it enters the East Reservoir which is now the wonderful Woodberry Wetlands.
The New River is shallow and doesn't have much of a flow, but it is a haven for wildlife. Above all, coots - and my, baby coots make quite a racket ...
There are heron and grebe at the Wetlands, and along the New River I came across this cormorant, perhaps a juvenile, who was entirely undisturbed by the procession of pedestrians on the other side of the waterway. And then there are the swans -
The Woodberry Wetlands were opened to the public in 2016. It covers eleven acres, including the more easterly of two reservoirs constructed in 1833 to store water brought in to London by the New River.
As well as gorgeous views over the water and reed beds, there's also a cafe open seven days a week which does good sandwiches and snacks, which you can eat on the banks of the water.
From these wetlands, you can continue along the New River, skirting the West reservoir - now for water spots - coming back out on Green Lanes by the Stoke Newington Pumping Station, built in the 1850s in the style of a medieval castle and now a climbing centre. But that's for another post ...
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