Kensington Church Walk and all that

Donnachadh McCarthy

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Kensington Church Walk

Ezra Pound Kensington Blue Plaque

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I was down in High Street Kensington the other morning to interview Donnachadh McCarthy for Drift Report so it seemed apt to drift afterwards in a more literal sense.

Talking to Donnachadh, who is involved in cycle activism in London, may have made me notice the bike by the railings on the busy High Street. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of this rusting, shabby machine surrounded by such glitz and glam – either way I had to photograph it – 4 times. It was only now that I noticed the yellow tag attached with a blue plastic tie – what did it say? I’m tormented by this mystery now. What if it spelt out some cryptic clue or a nugget of wisdom. Actually I’d be intrigued if it was just some sort of municipal warning that the bike would be removed by the Council.

I couldn’t help being drawn up Kensington Church Walk – can’t resist these little byways and alleys. When at home I was sure there’d be something about it or a sketch in one of the old topography books I collect – but there’s nothing. It’s exactly the kind of feature that I would have expected James Bone, HV Morton, or Wilfred Whitten to pick up on – but it seems not.

The American modernist poet Ezra Pound lived in Church Walk – they’ve given him a nice Blue Plaque. He visited TS Elliot in my hometown of High Wycombe – that is my main association with Pound. There’s an article in The Guardian about Pound’s London (no mention of trips to visit Elliot in Wycombe) which throws up the image from his Church Walk days of him “sitting on the bed with a volume of Tacitus on his knee.”

It’s such another world down there around Kensington and Notting Hill – a different city altogether, and not just because of the wealth and the lunching oligarchs – although that does constitute a large chunk of its ‘otherness’. I bought a Sainsbury’s ‘Meal Deal’ and pondered this as I munched on my stroll up to Notting Hill then along Bayswater Road to Queensway. I still haven’t completely worked it out.

The Remains of Leyton FC

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The gate just off Lea Bridge Road was open so I wandered into the old ground of Leyton Football Club. The pitch now a make-shift parking lot, weed-fringed with bare dusty patches, rubbish and building supplies littered all around. The stands and floodlights lie waiting for the Saturday crowds to return.

The original Leyton F.C. was formed in 1868 although the club that played here was a more recent incarnation. The club disbanded in 2011 halfway through the Isthmian League Division One North season.

Modernist wonder of Hermitage Court, South Woodford

It’s a place I’d only glimpsed from the W14 bus on the way back from South Woodford Odeon, one of the other great art deco wonders of Redbridge. But following my nose out to the forest the other week I finally took a closer look at Hermitage Court.

This suburban modernist marvel was built in 1935-6. It sits back off the Woodford Road, emitting a low hum of high architectural class and a sense of mystery brooding behind the net curtains. Lawyer to the Greater Train Robbers George Stanley rented a flat here for his mistress. In his book The Secret Train Robber, Lee Sturley recounts how George introduced Hermitage Court to fellow solicitor Maurice Lesser who apparently fell in love with the place and used it to for liaisons with various boyfriends at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

What other stories does Hermitage Court have to tell? This must just be the tip of the iceberg.

Old photos of Lincoln’s Inn

Lincoln's Inn old photo

On my way to the High Court the other day I cut across Lincon’s Inn Fields and was magnetically drawn into the otherworldly Lincoln’s Inn. Passing through the gate is like crossing a barrier in time – so redolent of a former age is Lincoln’s Inn that it is frequently used as a location for period dramas. One Sunday I walked through they were filming an episode of Sherlock. It has also been used in the Harry Potter films and numerous others.

Lincoln's Inn old photo

These photos come from Wonderful London published in the mid-1920’s. The caption of the above talks of how the chapel was restored by Christopher Wren in 1685. Many anxious words were exchanged between counsel and client walking through the undercroft of the chapel. Pepys recorded walking through here in 1663.

Lincoln's Inn old photo

Lincoln’s Inn Hall

Lincoln’s Inn was established on this site in the early 1400’s. It is unsurprisingly associated with Dickens, given its proximity to the Old Curiosity Shop. The lawyer in Bleak House Mr Tulkinghorn has chambers in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Lincoln's Inn old photo

Lincoln's Inn old photo

This entrance in the bottom photo dates from 1697 and you can see how little changed it us in the video above (1.50). In old maps of London the area south of this gate had been known as Fickett’s Fields and was the tiltyard where the Knights Templar jousted.

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