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Spend the day…..on the Circle Line (Part 5)

Even a London walking tour guide like myself can see the benefits of sitting in a tube train and making your way from A-B, or in this case A-B-A as you go full circle on the aptly named Circle Line.

If you were to just sit on the train and do the loop it would take you just over an hour to pass through the 28 stations, which in itself can be an enjoyable way to spend the time, people watching, reading or even having a little snooze, safe from whatever the weather has to offer outside, but I’m proposing a full day out visiting each station and seeing something of it’s locality. There are links to help you get more information, and I’ve purposely left out all the major tourist attractions, as you can decide for yourself if you want to include them in this tour. Here’s the fifth and final part. Previous parts can be found at Part one, Part two, Part three, Part Four

Edgware Road: Apparently so good they named it twice! Well not in the New York sense. The station you are exiting was part of the world’s first underground railway when it was opened as part of the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon on 10th January 1863. Some forty years later during the construction of the Bakerloo line a station was built on the opposite side of the Edgware Road. Wanting to utilise the popularity of the name, The Baker Street and Waterloo Railway who had built the line called it Edgware Road. This has caused much confusion over the years. Sadly, as in a previous part of the tour the station you are currently at is the site of another of the bombings on the 7th July 2005 which killed 6 passengers just as the train was drawing out of the station. It is thought that in it’s aftermath rescue services were delayed in reaching the scene, as they we unsure as to which station had been targeted. Just to confuse things slightly further, there is a third station, this time called Edgware, ten miles to the north of here. Exit the station into Cabbell Street and follow the street crossing over Chapel Street in the process. Initially the area will probably seem the most urban visited on these tours, but behind the main streets are areas that although considered lower class when built are now much sort after and in most cases protected from development. Continue along until you reach the Old Marylebone Road and you’ll see the St Mark’s church in front of you. Cross the road and keeping the church on your left follow the road round bearing left into Edgware Road, a short distance along turn left into Crawford Place. The street and the adjacent streets to the east of Edgware Road were laid out in the first decade of the 1800s as an area of “fourth rate” terraced housing when it was known as John Street West. Much of this area is now within the City of Westminster’s Molyneux Street Conservation Area which aims to keep the character of the 1800s and later development intact. The Larrick pub further down the street has been designated a building of merit and is worth a visit. The origin of the name is unclear as it could come from an old Cornish family, but the best guess is that it is the Scottish word for the Larch Tree. Passing Brendon Street you will see on your left is what remains of the Christian Union Almshouses. Founded in 1832 they were built “to provide an asylum for poor and aged believers in full communion with some Protestant church”. The Almshouses gave charitable support and shelter to the poor, most of whom were retired female servants. Opposite the building you enter the short covered entrance to Cato Street. As you pass through you will see a small building on your right which was the site of the final act of what became known as the Cato Street Conspiracy. Continue to the end of the street and turn right as you emerge into Harrowby Street which you will follow all the way to it’s junction with Edgware Road where you’ll turn right. Edgware Road follows the route of the Roman Watling Street. Before the Romans, today’s Edgware Road began as an ancient trackway within the Great Middlesex Forest. Many centuries later, the road was improved by the Edgware-Kilburn turnpike trust in 1711, and a number of the local inns, some of which still exist, functioned as stops for coaches, although they would have been quite close to the starting point of coach routes from London.During the 18th century, it was a destination for Huguenot migrants. Keeping to the left side of the road continue along until you reach Praed Street which is just before the large Hilton Hotel. Follow Praed Street bearing right slightly into South Wharf Road which will bring you into the heart of the St Mary’s Hospital complex. On your left just before the red footbridge is the building in which Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin. Continue past the modern St Mary’s building turning right just by the information sign and the building with the etched glass windows. This scruffy alley will bring you out into the heart of Paddington Basin. Having looked around the area enter Paddington underground station which is situated on the left bank of the basin.

Bayswater: At the time of the Domesday book the area currently known as Bayswater belonged to the Abbey of Westminster. The tenant holding the most land was called Bainiardus who gave his name to Baynards Castle which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. It is understood that the area, well known for its excellent sources of water supplied water to Bainiardus and that over time, his name was abbreviated to create the name Bay’s Water. Exit the station turning right as you do so and follow Queensway until you reach Bayswater Road which you will cross to enter Kensington Gardens. Keeping Queensway on your right walk the short distance to Broad Walk on your left and head into the park. Further on there will be a cafe and seating area on your right, walk into the area with the tables and in front of you will be the Elfin Oak. Should you have the time, then the park is a great place to wander around. Take a walk down to the Round Pond and just beyond it the Kensington Gardens Bandstand. Queen Victoria gave permission for music to be played in Kensington Gardens in 1855. But before a concert could take place, permission was rescinded because of protests from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said music in the gardens would be “unseemly”, and the Keeper of the Privy Purse who thought working people could do without band concerts. Retrace your steps back towards the Elfin Oak, but take the left hand path before you reach it. At the junction with the north south path you will see a small plaque titled Limes from Berlin. Keeping the plaque on your left head up the pathway back towards Bayswater Road which you will cross over to the entrance to Orme Square with it’s magnificent Eagle standing guard at the gates. The square takes it’s name from Edward Orme who amongst other things developed quite a lot of Bayswater. Take a left at the next street, Orme Court. At number nine was the writing office of comedy genius’ Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes. The two men shared the office (in Spike’s case he actually lived there for a time and is probably the reason he helped secure the future of the nearby Elfin Tree) for over fifty years. As you continue along Orme Court you will notice how the housing changes abruptly as soon as you enter Bark Place. This is due to a high explosive bomb that landed here in early 1941 and two subsequent bombs that fell later that year. Bayswater as in other parts of Westminster had it’s fair share of bombs and also a V1 rocket that landed in the block next to Orme Court totally destroying the surrounding buildings, hence the post war Caroline House development. What is surprising is that the bombs fell very close to Queensway which was the location for Whiteley’s Department Store. This fantastic retail palace rivaled Selfridges, Liberties and Harrods for opulence. The building was coveted by Adolph Hitler, who wanting to use it as a Nazi Headquarters after the invasion of Britain, gave orders that no bombs should fall in the vicinity. I would like to tell you to go and take a look, but sadly the building is being redeveloped and has been demolished. At the end of Bark Place turn right into Moscow Road and then right onto Queensway to enter Bayswater underground station.

Notting Hill Gate: Most people from outside the metropolis will have heard of the area through the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill staring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The gate from which the local of the station takes it’s name was a small Turnpike Gate and humble countryside village. The surrounding area itself has a long and nuanced history where its name derives from a former manor in the area that was previously owned by the Earl’s of Oxford. Throughout history the Manor had numerous owners and was previously known as “Knotting-Bernes” or “Knotting Barnes”. Notting Hill was known for its piggeries and artisan potteries. It was also known as a locale of ill repute. Notting hill was also noted to be a suburb that maintained various Inns and Taverns. These dwellings are noted to have been occupied by highway men who had business in surrounding areas like the Harrow Road or Uxbridge Road. However, despite this reputation for thievery, the area in the early 18th century had become a popular residence for artist and sculptors. Perhaps it is this prevailing association to the arts and other cultural activities that Notting Hill is widely known for today. The contemporary version of Notting Hill is highly affluent and chic, albeit there are little known hidden side streets and pockets of social deprivation in the area. Notting Hill is internationally renowned for the ‘Notting Hill Carnival’. The Carnival is an annual event taking place over two days in August, which celebrates the culture and history of London’s Caribbean population. The Carnival itself has a deep rooted and contentious history as it was founded in response to the 1958 Notting Hill Racial Riots. Take the right hand subway stairs to exit the station and pass by the office block of Newcombe House and the palm trees that stand outside to take the first right into Pembridge Road, shortly bear left in to Kensington Park Road and walk past the Green Cabman’s Shelter. Take the second turning on your left, Ladbroke Square and the gardens that occupy the area. Exit the park back onto Ladbroke Square and keeping the park on your right head off down the road crossing over Ladbroke Grove into Lansdowne Walk. Since you entered the area of Ladbroke Square you will have seen rather grand houses of the late Victorian and early Edwardian period. One such house is 19 Lansdowne Walk. From the outside the building fits in nicely with it’s neighbours, however internally things could not be more different. The house is known as The Cosmic House and is the creation of Charles Jencks. It is a museum and has recently reopened although open days are limited to a few times every month. Continue along Lansdowne Walk and turn right into Clarendon Road. When you reach it’s junction with Ladbroke Road pause on the corner outside number 13, the big white house with what look like Grecian urns adorning the roof. Sadly this is the last stopping off point on the tour utilising the Circle Line, and it’s always best to go out with a bang (terrible pun, sorry) for number 13 was the setting for what the papers in 1919 were calling the “West End Tragedy“.

Once you’ve finished outside number 13 continue down Clarendon Road to the junction of Holland Park Avenue where you will turn right. A short distance along will be Holland Park underground station, which will put you on the Central line and it is only one stop eastwards until you’re back at Notting Hill Gate and the Circle line if required. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. If you’ve done all five sections, then well done and if you’ve dipped in and out of parts then you have some left for a rainy day which I hope you’ll return to later.

I frequently host guided walking tours of London which you can find at either A London Miscellany (there’s also a page there for self guided audio tours) or alternatively take a look at my Eventbrite page.

Thanks again for wandering the streets with me, it’s so much nicer to do it with company.

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