Some Fantastic Tales of Bloomsbury

This London walking tour takes us around the fabulous squares of Bloomsbury with its fantastic tales.

Our walk starts with the incredible story of Oliver Cromwell’s body being kept in the cellar of The Red Lion pub in Holborn in 1661 and its possible secret burial. Then in Red Lion Square, we investigate the story that the square is haunted by three ghostly cloaked figures. There’s also Conway Hall and the house inhabited by members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
We move on to Queen Square with the Italian Hospital, Mary Ward Centre, Queen Charlotte, The Queen’s Larder and the Devil’s Dyke. Our Bloomsbury walk passes the Horse Hospital into Russell Square, once the site of a Parliamentarian fortification during the English Civil War. Next we walk along Bedford Way to Gordon Square which is heavily associated with the Bloomsbury Set (Virginia Woolf etc.). The walk ends with a spooky story in Woburn Square.

filmed in September 2022

The most Eastern Point in Greater London

Sometimes quests come to you unexpectedly. I was looking for the source of the Mar Dyke on Google Map and spotted a heritage marker in a field near the village of Bulphan in Essex. Zooming in on the map to see what artefact or building was to be found, it simply read ‘Easternmost Point of Greater London’. I had to go and see what was there.

“Map data ©2024 Google”
“Map data ©2024 Google”

The journey to the eastern edge of Greater London starts on the Romford to Upminster Overground line (to be renamed the Liberty line) and then goes along St Mary’s Lane to Thames Chase Community Forest, crosses the M25 to St Mary Magdalene in North Ockendon then picks up Fen Lane to the border of Greater London on the banks of the Mar Dyke, in the London Borough of Havering.

Socialist Modernism in Ljubljana (and other modernisms)

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
‘Petrol’ station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

I was hoping to find some examples of Socialist Modernism on my recent trip to Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, and spotted this glorious concrete structure, initially from the bus to Lake Bled. Upon return to Ljubljana we doubled back to pay homage to this example of peak ‘Soc Mod’. ‘Petrol’ by noted architect Milan Mihelič was built between 1967–1968 and is located on a main road, Tivolska cesta, that skirts the north of Ljubljana city centre. It was the first of a sequence of modernist petrol stations around the city.

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

The central pillar blossoms out into this giant radial petal with eyes looking down on the forecourt. From underneath it’s quite overwhelming. Viewed from the corner its form seems less organic and more like an alien space craft stranded on the roadside waiting to return to its home planet. It’s one of the most majestic structures I’ve ever seen.


'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

'Petrol' station, Architect Milan Mihelič 1967–1968 
Tivolska cesta 46, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Socialist Modernism
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

The architect Milan Mihelič (1925 – 2021) was a notable architect of post-war Slovenia, when it was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He was president of the Union of Architects of Slovenia in 1963 and 1967, and designed a number of important buildings across the country.

S2 Office Tower, Bavarski dvor Ljubljana 
Architect Milan Mihelič
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
S2 Office Tower, Bavarski dvor Ljubljana

On the way to find the magical Petrol station we passed this striking tower block and residential complex nearby. It turns out to also have been designed by Milan Mihelič. The S2 Office Tower, Ljubljana was designed in 1963 and from what I can find online construction spanned from 1968 – 1980. I’m not sure if Mihelič also designed the blocks of what appear to be apartments behind the tower.

Ferant Garden (1964-1975)
Architect Edvard Ravnikar
Slovenska cesta 9, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ferant Garden (1964-1975), Architect: Edvard Ravnikar – Slovenska cesta 9, 1000 Ljubljana

The next notable example of socialist modernism in Ljubljana we again stumbled upon quite by accident after taking a boat tour along the Ljubljanica River. A ‘business and residential complex’ Ferant Garden was designed by Slovenia’s most prominent post-war modernist architect Edvard Ravnikar, who had taught Milan Mihelič in his studio in the late 1940’s/ early 1950’s. Ravnikar in turn had been a student of the great Slovene architect Jože Plečnik who is credited with introducing modern architecture to Slovenia in the pre-war period, designing some of its most famous buildings such as the Triple Bridge and the Central Market. Ferant Garden has been seen by some as both a bold statement of (socialist) modernism and a critique of the failures of modern urban planning. Intriguingly it’s built on the site of Jože Plečnik’s place of birth.

Ferant Garden (1964-1975)
Architect Edvard Ravnikar
Slovenska cesta 9, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ferant Garden (1964-1975), Architect Edvard Ravnikar
Ferant Garden (1964-1975)
Architect Edvard Ravnikar
Slovenska cesta 9, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ferant Garden (1964-1975), Architect Edvard Ravnikar
Ljubljana Central Market, Architect Jože Plečnik 1931 - 1939
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana Central Market, Architect Jože Plečnik 1931 – 1939
Republic Square, architect  Edvard Ravnikar 1960 - 1983
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Republic Square, architect Edvard Ravnikar 1960 – 1983

We allowed ourselves to drift, spotting a number of interesting apartment buildings that to my eye had modernist tendencies. And then we strolled across Republic Square, designed by Edvard Ravnikar and built between 1960 – 1983. The scene was very much set by a man with a deep voice stood at the foot of the Monument to the Revolution reading out a statement with his words booming out across the open concrete space. I have no idea what he was saying but it seemed quite profound (click on the video below).

Apartments at Brilejeva ulica, 1000 Ljubljana

These strikingly colourful blocks of flats at Brilejeva ulica, were also spotted on the coach journey to Lake Bled. They feature in architectural guides to Ljubljana but I can’t seem to find the name of the architect.
And below we have an assortment of buildings that we saw on our strolls around the beautiful and beguiling city of Ljubljana that had modernist features. I still haven’t recovered from standing beneath the canopy of Milan Mihelič’s Petrol station.

Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024
Ljubljana modernist architecture, Slovenia
Photo by John Rogers April 2024

Walking historic Whitechapel

Join me on a journey through the streets of Whitechapel, one of London’s most vibrant and storied areas. Our East London walking tour begins at Petticoat Lane, a bustling market dating back to the 1600s now known for its lively atmosphere and diverse range of goods. From there, we’ll make our way to Wentworth Street once the heart of the Jewish East End and still a weekday market and centre of textile shops.

As we continue our walk, we’ll visit Commercial Street, where we’ll see Toynbee Hall, a social reform centre that has played a crucial role in the development of the area. From there, we’ll head to East Tenter Street, where we’ll see the impressive St George’s German Church dating from 1720.

Whitechapel Mount according to an 1801 drawing,[1] with the London Hospital to the left
Unknown author - Illustrated London News, 28 April 1862

Next, we’ll make our way to Commercial Road then to the site of the original White Church that gives Whitechapel its name. From there, we’ll visit the iconic Whitechapel Bell Foundry, a historic business that has been casting bells since the 1570s and the site of Whitechapel Fort, one of London’s Civil War defences. Finally, we’ll end our tour at the Whitechapel Mount, located next to the London Hospital.

Throughout our walk, we’ll delve into the rich history and culture of Whitechapel, learning about the fascinating sites and stories that have shaped this vibrant neighbourhood.


Filmed on Christmas Eve 2022

Image credit:
Whitechapel Mount according to an 1801 drawing, with the London Hospital to the left
Unknown author – Illustrated London News, 28 April 1862

Resonance fm fundraiser at Cafe Oto – Richard Dawson

Cafe Oto

9th March: Great scene at Cafe Oto for the Resonance fm fundraiser, Richard Dawson headlining, Kamura Obscura opening the night, Ben Thompson on the decks. Saw some wonderful people in the audience.
Richard Dawson was something else, transcendental, picking, strumming, thrashing that electric guitar and hitting those incredible vocal notes.

Richard Dawson Cafe Oto
Richard Dawson
Richard Dawson Cafe Oto
Kamura Obscura Cafe Oto
Kamura Obscura