The Chronicles of Kennington

In some ways this series of lunchtime strolls round Kennington in South London represent the missing chapter from my book This Other London – adventures in the overlooked city. Chapter 9 was originally built around seeking out the location of the classic, but overlooked sitcom 15 Storeys High, written by and starring Sean Lock. I would write in the evenings after the family had gone to bed, fueled by cheap IPA in the last hour at the pub, and push through till around 2am. As this routine gradually took its toll, I got myself through the night by rewarding every 200 words written with an episode of 15 Storeys High. So it seemed fitting to use it as the basis of one of the final walks in the book.

Brandon Estate, Kennington

Brandon Estate, Kennington

I can’t quite remember why this never happened, I think it had something to do with wanting to head out in the company of my old City Poly room-mate from his flat in Camberwell, and him continuously delaying. Something like that anyway. But now, serendipitously, these walks around Kennington, that include a visit to Brandon Estate where 15 Storeys High was shot, coincided with the paperback publication of This Other London.

Oval gasholder

We didn’t get too far with the first walk, simply walking past the ground that was once occupied by the palace of The Black Prince, and taking in the pub named in his honour that was used as a location in The Kingsmen. We had a look at one of Charlie Chaplin’s two Kennington homes before looping through the backstreets and grabbing some lunch.

Walk two took us down to the Imperial War Musuem and then to Elephant and Castle. But Keaton lost the windmuff from the Edirol meaning we had to backtrack to the Imperial War Museum where it lay on a path like a lost Tribble.

Cleaver Square

The final walk was by far the most productive, taking in the second of Chaplin’s homes, Cleaver Square, The White Bear, Kennington Park, Brandon Estate, the Oval Cricket Ground, and the Oval gasometers. It would have made a great chapter in This Other London, but these things happen for a reason and I’m glad it was still waiting to be explored in the company of Keaton to celebrate the publication of the paperback edition.

Old West Ham to Stanley Kubrick’s Beckton

Here’s some footage from the walk I did for Chapter 2 of my book This Other London in the summer of 2012, just before the London Olympics – starting in Leytonstone then going past West Ham Church and the site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey onwards to the site of Beckton Gas Works where Stanley Kubrick shot much of his Vietnam War movie Full Metal Jacket.

Beckton Gas Works

I’ve been sitting on over 4 hours of footage shot on the 10 This Other London walks slowly filtering out a few short videos but much of it remains unseen. The video footage, photos and notes took on an almost entirely different form once processed into a book, they’ve served their purpose and can stay in the bottom drawer. But every now and again I’ll dip back into that archive and release some of those raw video notes back out into the world.

You can download the audiobook of This Other London here

What Is A City For? KERB crates talk Kings Cross

This is an extract from a 20-minute talk I gave the other day stood on a soapbox in the KERB food market on Kings Boulevard, Kings Cross. Stood there amongst the rising towers of mammon you see parallels with the same landscape where Blake saw the golden pillars of Jerusalem rising in the field beneath Islington.

THE FIELDS from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,
Were builded over with pillars of gold;
And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.

I naturally talked about the Pen Ton Mound and Merlin’s Cave, the legend attached to St Chad’s Well just over the road from the station and also about Tooting Crater on Mars named after an area of South London. All from my book This Other London.

Urban Ramble on Absolute Radio with Geoff Lloyd

The other week I took Geoff Lloyd for an urban ramble round Soho for his show on Absolute Radio and chatted about psychogeography, topography, old maps, and the fate of Madame Jo Jo’s.



Remembrance Sunday Walk

Hanwell Map

Map illustration by Nicolette Craven from This Other London – adventures in the overlooked city

This is the walk I did on Remembrance Sunday in 2012 following a neolithic trackway from Sudbury Hill to Hanwell. A walk that takes you over the summit of Horsenden Hill, according to legend the final resting place of the Saxon chieftain Horsa. Then down through Perivale where Sylvester McCoy’s Dr Who kept visiting in the late 80’s with one episode spookily referencing Horsa’s ghostly steed as told in The Legend of Horsenden Hill. Perivale was also where Horsa’s wife consorted with the little folk giving the name of ‘Fairy Vale’  (ok, there are more prosaic and plausible explanations for the name such as ‘Pure Vale’ for the quality of the corn grown there – or ‘Pear Vale’ due to the orchards).

St Mary's Perivale

Through the lychgate of St Mary’s you find this ancient church dating from 1135 with a C16th white weatherboard tower.

You pass through ‘Blood Croft’ where the bodies of seven Saxon warriors were excavated still wrapped in hemp cloaks fastened by bronze brooches (did they die in the epic battle between Horsa and his rival Bren who had married then dishonoured Horsa’s daughter Ealine? The point where Bren forded the river and was slain in battle took his name – Brentford)

The walk ends beneath the great cathedral of the Industrial Age – Brunel’s Wharnecliffe Viaduct opened in 1837 – the first Grade I listed building in the country. Stand beneath its cavernous arches and hear the whoosh of the turbo trains bound for Slough.


From This Other London – adventures in the overlooked city