Iain Sinclair – Living with Buildings

“I use my own ways of digressing and picking up on other stories that you don’t expect to find by walking and wandering over the ground that’s been described by other people.” – Iain Sinclair

July 2018 and I found myself back out walking with Iain Sinclair, this time retracing one of the walks in his latest book, Living with Buildings and walking with ghosts. We met by Canada Water Station and Iain explained how the book was associated with the Wellcome Collection exhibition of the same name, but was its own beast driven by Iain’s narrative.

John Evelyn's Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

John Evelyn’s Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

We proceeded past the old Evening Standard printing works, now slated for development, through Greenland Dock bound for the Pepys Estate – once the home of film-maker Andrew Kötting and featured in the book. After paying homage we moved on to the next key location in this particular chapter of Living with Buildings – John Evelyn’s Mulberry tree at Sayes Court Park.

Iain Sinclair Living with Buildings

Walking with Iain is always a magical experience, layers of London history and lore kicked up and chewed over with every step along the way.  The book, in some ways, is Iain Sinclair’s most traditionally psychogeographical work, exploring the very tangible relationship between the built environment and  human health and psyche.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to further discuss the book and Iain’s work in general at the brilliant Wanstead Tap when Living with Buildings was published in October – as you can see in the video below.

Wanstead Slip

Wanstead Slip

Chatting with a couple of members of the congregation at the beautiful St. Mary’s Wanstead, I wondered whether the parish boundary included the Wanstead Slip, that curious parcel of land on the other side of Wanstead Flats around Cann Hall, Leytonstone. They weren’t sure, and asked for further explanation about what exactly the Wanstead Slip was and how it came to be, and I had to admit I wasn’t sure.

Thankfully,  A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6, published by Victoria County History in 1973 has this note on the Wanstead Slip:

“Wanstead lies about 7 miles north-east of the City of London. (fn. 1) It is a dormitory suburb straddling the arterial road to Southend and Colchester and forming part of the London borough of Redbridge. The ancient parish extended from Wanstead Flats north for about 4 miles to the boundary with Woodford. The western boundary marched with Leyton and Walthamstow, and the river Roding formed the eastern boundary. The south-west of the parish comprised a spur called the Wanstead Slip which ran south of Leyton down to the marshes near Temple Mills, and included a small detached part locally situated in West Ham. This was more or less coterminous with the manor of Cann Hall, which was originally in Leyton but appears to have become part of Wanstead by the early 13th century. (fn. 2) The main body of the Wanstead Slip (207 a.) was merged in Leyton sanitary district in 1875 and was constituted a separate civil parish (Cann Hall) in 1894. (fn. 3) The detached part of the Slip (38 a.) was merged in West Ham local government district in 1875. (fn. 4) In the same area a small adjustment of the boundary between Wanstead and West Ham had been made in 1790. (fn. 5) In the south-east corner of the parish Aldersbrook appears to have been transferred from Wanstead to Little Ilford early in the 16th century. (fn. 6) That substantial change evidently took place without legal formalities and caused boundary disputes at later periods. (fn. 7) Later boundary changes included the transfer of 96 a. of Wanstead Flats to East Ham in 1901.”

And there is a further reference in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5, in an article on the Hundred of Becontree:

“Domesday Book lists some 19 estates in Becontree hundred, containing 104 hides in 10 villages distinguished by separate names. (fn. 1) Most of these villages later gave their names to the parishes of the hundred, but there were some exceptions. Ham was subsequently split into the two parishes of East Ham and West Ham. Higham later became part of Walthamstow parish. One of the estates in Leyton later became Cann Hall in the neighbouring parish of Wanstead, forming the anomalous ‘Wanstead slip’. Dagenham, which certainly existed in 1086, and which became a separate parish, is not named in Domesday, no doubt because it was then, as later, part of the manor of Barking.”

 

Save St. Luke’s Gardens

  
A lunchtime diversion round Ironmonger Row Baths took me past Burnhill House, Islington where the residents have draped banners on the balconies in protest against Islington Council’s redevelopment plans for the St. Luke’s area. Early proposals threaten to cast St. Luke’s Gardens and Burnhill House into permanent shadow it seems. London is annotated with hundreds of such conflicts. 

You can read more here

And there’s a petition on Change.org 

  

Walk along the Walbrook – the City of London’s Lost River

I first did a version of this walk along the Walbrook back in November 2011, but was keen to return starting nearer to one of the supposed sources and also visit the recently opened London Mithraeum that sits upon the banks for this ancient stream. The route I followed in early December, drew from two principle sources – Nicholas Barton’s classic book, The Lost Rivers of London, and a sketch map of London Under Henry II by Marjourie B. Honeybourne from Norman London – An Essay by Professor F.M Stenton (pub. 1934). Stenton’s essay and the map is informed by a contemporary Norman description of London by William Fitz Stephen.

London Mithraeum

The route starts at St. Leonard’s Church Shoreditch, and goes past the Shoreditch Holy Well in Bateman’s Row. From here it follows the course of the river down Curtain Road to Blomfield Street where it was partially excavated during Crossrail works. Then we cross London Wall and go through Angel Court where another part of the river was uncovered in the 1970’s. We go behind the Bank of England at Lothbury then follow the buried river down Walbrook to the Temple of Mithras. From here we go down Dowgate Hill to where the Walbrook makes it’s confluence with the Thames near Canon Street Station.

 

Click here to see my video of another walk along one of the ‘Lost rivers of London’ – the Tyburn

 

Welcome to the (Waltham) Forest

Welcome to the Forest

Waltham Forest’s year as London’s first Borough of Culture got off to a spectacular start on Friday night. The launch event ‘Welcome to the Forest’, struck exactly the right tone, illuminating the Walthamstow sky, creating magic among the trees of Lloyd Park, and turning the modernist facade of the Town Hall into a kaleidascope of sound and image merging the urban with the sylvan in a glorious pulsing palimpsest. It was spine-tingling evocation of the Borough we love.

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Welcome to the Forest, Walthamstow

Welcome to the Forest, Walthamstow Town Hall

Welcome to the Forest, Lloyd Park, Walthamstow,

Welcome to the Forest John Rogers

I had some films showing in the brilliant Stow Film Lounge’s Silent Cinema, a special experience to mingle with the other viewers on the Lloyd Park tennis court listening to the soundtrack via headphones. John Smith’s Blight has never sounded so good.

Welcome to the Forest, Walthamstow, Borough of Culture, Friday 11th March 2019

Families meandered through the night garden of Lloyd Park marvelling at the light show, and interacted with the steampunk animals snorting out plumes of fire on Forest Road. An all ages crowd boogied on down at the Disco Shed.

2019 is going to be a special year – the forest is coming home.

 

Welcome to the Forest runs until Sunday 13th January 2019, 6.30-9.30pm

London walk 28th December

Old Red Lion pub

It’s become a tradition of mine of over the last 15 years or more to head into Central London late in the afternoon one day between Christmas and New Year to wander the streets around Holborn and Bloomsbury. I started at Chancery Lane and was drawn along Red Lion Street, not noticing before the many times I’d passed this way, that the Old Red Lion pub was the place where the exhumed body of Oliver Cromwell had been stored before his rotting corpse was executed at Tyburn 2 years after his actual death. I can imagine business at the pub was slow during the period that his cadaver would have stunk the place out.

Old Red Lion Cromwell

Orde Hall Street WC1

Orde Hall Street WC1

I turned off Lamb’s Conduit Street into Dombey Street and then followed the curvature of Orde Hall Street. According to UCL’s Bloomsbury Project this parcel of land had originally belonged to Rugby School since the 16th Century and had gradually been developed over the ensuing centuries.

“It was built in 1882 and replaced the former slums of Little Ormond Yard, purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works to improve housing in the area
It was named after John Orde Hall, member of the Holborn District Board of the Metropolitan Board of Works
It was designed for respectable working people.”

Orde Hall Street

Orde Hall Street Camden Council Estate

Queen Square

Queen Square

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Queen Square

Queen Square always makes me think of Geoffrey Fletcher who I’m sure drew the gas lamp above although I can’t find the reference right now. The square was built in the early 18th Century and is notable for the various medical institutions that surround it, the most interesting to me being the elaborate Italian Hospital which closed in 1990.

Queen Square

Queen Square

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The British Museum

I wanted to visit the British Museum to look at the Romano-British burial urns and grave goods for a video I was in the process of editing. The extra security checks now mean that the queues to enter stretch back along Great Russell Street.

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Despite my focus on the Roman Britain rooms I can’t help being drawn in by the Anglo Saxon artefacts. We visited Sutton Hoo at exactly this time 3 years ago and the impression has never left me. The intricacy and beauty of even everyday objects seems so at odds with the Victorian image of the Anglo-Saxon era as dark and barbaric.

Supreme Store Soho

Supreme Store Soho

I passed through Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia and crossed into Soho. The spectacle of the queues outside the Supreme Store have become one of the tourist sights of London gauging by the twenty or so people stood opposite taking pictures.

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I then traversed Leicester Square and crossed Charing Cross Road to Cecil Court where the shops were all shut, which is just as well as I may have been tempted to part with too much money for this lovely copy of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho, a story of London’s Beat Generation.

Brydges Place

Brydges Place

I couldn’t resist being drawn along Brydges Place despite the foul stench of urine, accumulated over centuries. It delivered me to the rear of The Harp, one of central London’s finest real ale pubs, where the drinkers gathered in the alley and out the front. It was the perfect end to this winter wander.