DISCOVERING ISLINGTON ON FOOT

Anne WeymanGilbert VieriThe Discovering Islington and nearby on Foot group’s walks enable members to get to know the nooks and crannies of Islington and neighbouring boroughs through a 1-1½ hour walk.

 

Group Coordinators: Anne Weyman & Gilbert Vieri (click to contact)
When

Generally the morning of the second or third Wednesday in the month.
Where

Mostly in Islington and neighbouring boroughs, with the occasional visit being a bit further afield.


Walks usually start at 10am and last for up to an hour and a half and finish at a café for refreshments and the opportunity to talk about what we’ve seen. Most walks are led by an iU3A member who is knowledgeable about the area being visited but sometimes the leader is from another organisation.

If you would like to become a member of this group please use the email link above to contact the Coordinator.

The next section shows the visits planned and if it is open for sign-up yet.

Booking for each visit will open at the beginning of the month.

 

Our Programme
Full details on 'Beacon' here.

Recent Visits
Our second October visit 'From Ghetto to GGhetto to Graffiti October 2019raffitti' took us on a fascinating tour of the areas around Spitalfields and Brick Lane. With our wonderful guides, iU3A members Chris and Daphne Steele, we set off from Liverpool St Station by the touching kindertransport bronze commemorating the station's role as the terminus for thousands of Jewish children fleeing from Nazi persecution. We walked down some of the old narrow lanes and alleys in the area that remain despite all the modern redevelopment. In Widegate St (which is very narrow) on the wall of what was originally the Nordheim Model Bakery we saw the blue and white ceramic sculptures of bakers performing four different stages of bread making. We continued into Artillery Passage, with its original shop fronts which served as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

The building, on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier St, epitomises the three different ghettos of the Huguenots, the Jewish and the Bangladeshi communities. Built by French-speaking Huguenots in 1743, it later became a Wesleyan chapel and in 1898 it became the focus for East End Jewish life as the Spitalfield Great Synagogue. In the 1970s it was bought by the Bangladeshi community and refurbished to become a mosque. In Brune St we saw a handsome building with ornate lettering which identified itself as a Jewish Soup Kitchen. Opened in 1902, it was one of several charity soup kitchens for the Jewish poor.

In the 1620s silk weaving was established in the area by Dutch immigrants and later it was carried on by the Huguenot weavers. The weavers were poorly paid by the piece work system which was controlled by rich City merchants and there were frequent weavers' riots due to poverty. We saw the tenter ground, where cloth was taken out and stretched on tenter hooks to dry. Later we walked down Fournier Street, a short row of eighteenth century houses built by rich City silk merchants, which over time have been home to a succession of poor immigrants and refugees. We noticed particularly No 14, a mansion house built around 1726, which is one of the finest Georgian houses in Spitalfields. On the corner, rising above, we saw the spire of Christ Church Spitalfields, one of Nicholas Hawksmoor's city churches. Club Row and Sclater Street bird and animal market was London's oldest live animal market. You could buy just about any animal there, even tiger cubs. It sold many singing birds, canaries but also wild songbirds, which were especially popular with the weavers. In those days Princelet Street was full of songbirds hanging in cages. Thankfully the market was closed by the government in the 1980s.

We left the crowded alleys and streets behind as we walked down Buxton Street to the City Farm. It is home to many creatures including some delightful donkeys and goats. It was almost like being in the country as we walked along Allen Gardens but it was here that we saw amazing displays of some of the most impressive graffitti of the walk. There is so much to see in this vivid community area that it is worth a visit in its own right. We are very grateful to Chris and Daphne for sharing with us their deep knowledge and passion for the area and to Sylvia Whitehouse for this account of a wonderful morning.


Crystal Palace — October
: Before anything else, Crystal Palace Oct 2019many thanks are due to Tim Lund for a great visit of the park and for setting up the collaboration of Ellinor Michel who shared her expertise in the dinosaurs. How lucky this group was: it seems the heavy rains of the previous few days had stopped specially for our enjoyment of the park and its numerous attractions.

This is what Tim wrote about the visit: The rebuilding, at even greater scale, of Paxton’s revolutionary glass house for the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the top of Penge Common transformed this part of SE London. It became an instant destination, and one of the smartest areas of the imperial city. The fountains far exceeded Versailles, and at the far end a dinosaur lake, with contemporary interpretations of the living originals of the fossils challenging Victorian scientists, can be seen as the world’s first theme park. Before long the Crystal Palace struggled to break even, and since it burned down in 1936 the park has seen various attempts to find a new identity, such as the modernist National Sports Stadium in the 50s and 60s. Today it is maybe just another of London’s popular parks, somewhat reluctantly looked after by the London Borough of Bromley, but at almost any point in it there is history to be seen.

As your guide, I will be giving you a very personal tour, reflecting my own interests, not just the history and my volunteering activity in the park. These include its plants, and we will be joined by Ellinor Michel of the Natural History Museum, who has developed a ‘paleo-planting scheme’ for the dinosaur lake, including some Wollemi pines, a living fossil recently discovered in Australia. A circuit of the park will be about 4km, and quite up and down. You will arrive at one of the grand Victorian stations, and shown some remains of another. I am negotiating for special access to the Crystal Palace Museum, normally only open at weekends. You will pass by where W.G Grace once played cricket, FA Cup finals were played up to WW1, where Seb Coe raced, and of course the somewhat desolate expanses which were once the terraces of the Crystal Palace, joining some restored sphinxes to look out towards the North Downs.


In September our tour took us on the comparatively uStrand Sept 2019nknown wedge of land between the Strand and the river, which most of us probably follow without recalling the rich history from mediaeval to Georgian, Victorian and modern times. The Thames was perhaps three times wider than it is now, bounded by the Embankments on both sides. The Watergate is one of the few indicators of its width. This led to the property of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, a favourite of James 1 and Charles 1, and many streets here are named after him. The Victoria (& Albert) Embankment was built to create space for the sewer designed by Bazalgette (a huge step forward in sanitation and health), as well as a new road, and tunnels for the new underground railway, which now include beautiful gardens with many commemorative statues.

Behind them, little remains of the Adams brothers’ Adelphi (1768-1772). A corner of a town house shows the quality of building, the first to be influenced by classical art and architecture. Not much remains of the original. Notable residents included J.M Barrie, Richard D’Oyly Carte, John Galsworthy, David Garrick, Thomas Hardy and G.B.Shaw. In the 1930s part of the Adelphi was demolished, and the ‘New Adelphi’, an Art Deco building, replaced it.

This district has been the site of aristocrats’ palaces and town houses. The Savoy got its name from Peter, Count of Savoy. Somerset House, on the site of John of Gaunt’s palace, was a focus for the Peasants’ Revolt and was razed to the ground. Henry VII funded a hospital for the poor on the Savoy site, and the Queen’s Chapel of Savoy is a relic of this (it is open to the public for Sunday services and other times — check their website) and is part of the Theatre District; as well as D’Oyly Carte’s theatre, the Savoy, there are commemorations to W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Sullivan’s death was mourned nationally: he was Victoria’s favourite composer. The Savoy was the first public building in the world lit by electricity and was the first hotel to have en suite bathrooms. Sullivan had been a composer of hymns and oratorios; Gilbert was a playwright and humorist, and their first real success was H.M.S Pinafore. D’Oyly Carte financed the building of the theatre and the hotel, with the aid of his popular comic operas.

We paused at King’s College, founded in 1829 (12 Nobel Laureates, including Francis Crick, James D. Watson, Desmond Tutu, Mario Vargas Llosa). Across the Strand is Bush House, until 2012 home to BBC World Service. It also incorporates India House, the Indian High Commission. Our final call was the Royal Opera House, first opened in 1732, and burned down three times. The new architect was Edward Barry, who gave it the large neo-classical portico. Since the 1980s the ROH has undergone much renovation and ‘rejuvenation’ to create new performing space and open public space.

As with all of central London, a lot of history is crammed into a small space.


King's Cross Development:
In July our annKing's Cross Development July 2019ual visit to see the latest stages of this wonderful example of sensitive urban development again took our breath away. Each year the site's imaginative planting becomes more mature and magnificent. This time the reflections from the mirror structure in the Gasometer Park were particularly impressive (see photo left). The striking red geraniums in the Coal Drop area showed off this new amazingly extensive area of interesting shops and restaurants superbly. It would be possible to spend hours here just looking around. Building activity is still intense: the structure of Google European headquarters is rising and the housing at the northern end of the site is also advancing. There are still several years to go until everything is completed and we look forward to another tour with one of the Visitors’ Centre brilliant guides next summer.


Hyde Park:
in June we enjoyed another very informativeHyde Park June 2019 walk led by Elizabeth Mansbridge, this time from Marble Arch to Wellington Arch, both of which we learnt were originally entrances to Buckingham Palace. Our walk took us through Hyde Park, which was a hunting ground of Henry VIII and is now one of the Royal Parks.

At Speakers' Corner, we learnt that not all free speech is allowed! We passed the Parade Ground where the last Royal Salute was for Prince Philip’s birthday and the Old Police House to the Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary, also known as the Epstein Atrocity. Unfortunately, the design of this memorial does not actually attract birds. The weather was kind to us despite the forecast as we strolled round the Serpentine to Rotten Row, the Holocaust Memorial, a very impressive weeping beech tree and the beautifully laid out Rose Garden. Whilst making our way to the magnificent statue of Achilles cast from captured cannon we were lucky to catch sight of the Queen’s Guard returning to their stables. We walked on to the Queen Elizabeth Gates and then to the end of our walk at Wellington Arch just as it started to rain.


On a lovely sunny day in May iU3A member EliCanary Wharf May 2019zabeth Mansbridge led a fascinating visit to Canary Wharf and London’s Docklands. We started at West India Dock, the first enclosed dock built. It replaced the previous arrangement where boats had to wait for weeks to unload their cargoes and theft was widespread. Surrounded by high walls with security guards and a tidal lock system to control entry its two (and later three) docks provided a speedy and efficient system for unloading and loading of hundreds of boats.

Canary Wharf’s name originates from the berth for the Canary Islands fruit trade. The Spanish called the islands the Canaries because of the large dogs they found there, and this is also the source for the Isle of Dogs. Canary has one of the UK’s largest collections of public art. As we walked around we enjoyed seeing the various sculptures, including Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Women 1957 and Konstantin Grcic’s Six Public Clocks, which is based on the Swiss railway clock but with each of 12 faces showing a single and different number. In the lower floor of the enormous shopping centre we admired Emma Brigg’s Wharf Walk with floor tiles depicting the trades passing through the dockyards in the past, including python skins as well as wool, the largest import.

Finally we were stunned by the beautiful greenery, including the lovely park by Canary Wharf Underground station and Crossrail Place’s magnificent evocation of ships laden with plants from across the world, the Japanese Maples and the ferns being particularly spectacular.


In April, on a bright sunny morning (but not too Bloomsbury Apr 2019hot for walking) we assembled in the garden of the Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, to start our walk in the gardens and squares of Bloomsbury, led by Lesley, who began by telling us about the garden where we were: the Friends’ Garden had been re-modelled to be an eco-garden, and also to reflect the theme of peace.

Next we visited Tavistock Square, designed in 1806 by Thomas Cubitt, and now in the heart of the university area. It is home to a number of monuments: a most beautiful flowering cherry is the memorial for those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and there is also a large memorial to commemorate the people killed in the bus which was blown up very nearby on 7 July 2005. We went on to Gordon Square, also by Cubitt, the native habitat of members of the Bloomsbury Group, and nowadays of birds, insects, and small mammals, having been designed to be wildlife-friendly. Back in the day, J.M.Keynes and Lytton Strachey lived here, but the most impressive and poignant thing was the bust of Noor Inayat Khan, G.C., M.B.E, Croix de Guerre, executed in Dachau after working behind enemy lines in the S.O.E. Then we visited Woburn Square, another of Cubitt’s, and Bedford Square, which we admired from afar as it is open only to residents. Finally Russell Square, very large and recently restored according to Humphry Repton’s original plan. T.S. Eliot worked nearby. Russell Square is also notable for containing a Cabman’s Shelter, an idea conceived by a Victorian philanthropist and still operational today, where taxi drivers can find warmth and shelter, and non-alcoholic refreshment.

This was the end of the guided walk. Many of us marvelled that the lovely places we had visited have been hiding in plain sight, and even though we might have visited the area before, we had no idea that there were so many beautiful tree-filled squares within such a small area. Many thanks to Lesley.


In March, Barry took us on a fascinating Clerkenwell and Islington Mar 2019whistle-stop tour of Clerkenwell and Islington, focussing on the impact of WW1 on Finsbury and Islington. First stop was a building in Farringdon Road destroyed by bombs dropped by a Zeppelin. Then into historic Clerkenwell Green, for a variety of interesting buildings including the Marx Memorial Library. The Saffron Hill area had many Italian residents; about 100 of them are commemorated in an ornate structure in the porch of the Italian Church in Clerkenwell Road. Another monument outside the GPO’s Mount Pleasant sorting office commemorated all those postal workers who joined up and lost their lives in the conflict. Barry told us how women replaced the male workers — women wielding the whips. The War Memorial in Spa Green Gardens commemorates the Army, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Navy. A small plaque mentioned the disastrous British attack on Zeebrugge in April 1918 — the subject of Barry’s MA dissertation.
 

Up through Myddelton Square for the house of Fenner Brockway, jailed for being a conscientious objector and later MP for Leyton East. Into Cloudesley Place to see where aircraft propellers were made in Dove Brothers yard & workshop (with other aircraft parts made in Highgate). The walk finished with memorials in Islington Green.

Kentish Town BathsFebruary — Curious Kentish Town
. I would like to thank Martin Plaut for guiding us in the discovery of “Curious Kentish Town” and sharing his expert knowledge of this area. If you could not join us or indeed did and want to learn more I would suggest you read his book on this subject.

The walk started in his own garden, which still has one of the Anderson raid shelters. We went on to see what has become of the famous piano factories and learnt about the rent battle D.Cook and A. Rowe fought with the Borough of St Pancras, and the plaque showing where they barricaded themselves in their flat in 1960. One particularly interesting building is the Public baths, which has a swimming pool designed to be emptied so it becomes a public hall. We saw the plaque marking where Boris lived from 1986-1996.  No, not that Boris, but the cat! We passed a few famous historic pubs like the “Oxford Tavern” and “The Assembly House” and saw Leverton Street and its pastel painted houses. We found ourselves in a most unexpected lane where you could not have imagined you were in the middle of London but somewhere else in a little quiet village in the country.

And as a bonus we enjoyed the Spring-like weather. The walk ended in a local bakery.


Canary WharfJanuary
— On a dry but rather cold Wednesday, the group ventured to Canary Wharf, guided by Elizabeth, who had cleverly planned a couple of indoors moments to allow us to warm up. She met us at Angel station, Islington and took us to West Ferry road. That was good news for me as I knew I wouldn’t get lost at Bank as I usually do. From the creation of West India Company to the buzzing financial, commercial and residential centre it has become, Elizabeth’s fascinating commentary gave us a good picture of what life was like for workers in the docks, bringing alive the development of the area with many references to social history. She also pointed to us the variety of that area which we often consider just as one of high rise buildings referring to the extensive public — and very much admired — art collection and showing us the unexpected gardens and greenhouse. We also invaded the shop of Canary Wharf residential to see a model of the whole area. I think the salesman realised we were not prospective buyers but he nevertheless made us feel welcome. The walk ended outside the Museum of London, which some of us decided to visit. Altogether a most interesting walk, many thanks Elizabeth. It attracted a lot of interest and many members only made it to the waiting list. But Elizabeth has offered to repeat the exercise later on this year, so watch this space!

Gem Christmas 2018Christmas lunch —  Several members of the group met at the "Gem", a Kurdish restaurant on Upper Street which seems to have become popular with iU3A, as there were two groups there. It was a happy event, with generous portions of very good food. We started with a selection of cold and hot meze, then there was a main dish we could choose from their specialities and a selection of sweets to end the meal. We enjoyed a relaxed time and I am not sure we could have gone on to further discovery of Islington ON FOOT. To everybody present and those who could not make it I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sculpture in the CityNovemberSculpture in the City: We were just so lucky with the weather. After heavy rains on the day before that were forecast to continue on the day, the sky cleared in time for our 10.00am start and we were gratified with sunshine. OK, it was rather cold but we still enjoyed our walk about the square mile and discovered the installations (twenty in all) of internationally famous artists dotted around the City’s public spaces. My favourite ones were the “Bridging Home” where this Asian wooden house balanced on the bridge in Wormwood makes clear reference to the impact of migration and contrasts with the steel architecture of the area. Another favourite is Marina Abramovic’s tree outside 99 Bishopsgate complete with singing birds (a recording) which could be heard in spite of the heavy traffic. Nancy Rubins’s “Crocodylius Philodendrus” was also very impressive. I can only describe it as an explosion of a variety of metal animals. The picture above will give you a better idea. One item was not part of the exhibition but can be found in that place called “The Garden” where the ceiling of the courtyard inside the building is used to project video clips from nature: trees, water, etc. Fascinating!

To my mind the most striking effect of this open air exhibition is the constant contrasting interaction between the art works, the highrise glass and steel buildings and the little churches and other ancient buildings still standing in the city. There is still time for you to see this exhibition on your own. Just go online to sculptureinthecity.org.uk or visit the tourist office in St Paul’s Yard to pick up a map and more information.

October — Brockwell Park:
The group spent a happy two hBrockwell Park Oct2018ours visiting the Grade II* listed park and historic landscape of Brockwell Park in spite of the continuous drizzle. Our guide Ann Kingsbury, Chair of the Park's Stakeholder Forum, explained that the park’s land had belonged to the mediaeval hospital of St Thomas Southwark until it was appropriated and then sold by Henry VIII. John Blades, an early 19th century glass manufacturer, bought it and built the park’s Brockwell Hall and the Lodge on Norwood Road between 1811 and 1813. 

Norwood’s first MP, Thomas Lynn Bristowe, masterminded the purchase of the estate to become a public park and it was laid out between 1892 and 1910. We admired the magnificent walled garden that he created and the nearby pond and were impressed by the fortitude of the swimmers in the 1930s Brockwell Lido.

Stretching ‘nearness’ to Brockley Park was well worth it. Several of us are looking forward to visiting again in the spring or summer to enjoy the wonderful landscape and the walled garden again and to see the wildflower meadow in bloom. 

Previous Visits
To see our archive for our previous visits have a look by following the links below.
For October 2017 to September 2018 look here.
For September 2016 to September 2017 look here.


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