London Off The Beaten Path

  • Soho Theatre, Soho, London
    Soho Theatre, Soho, London
    by spidermiss
  • Meard Street, Soho, London
    Meard Street, Soho, London
    by spidermiss
  • St Giles in the Fields Church Courtyard, London
    St Giles in the Fields Church Courtyard,...
    by spidermiss

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in London

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    Soho Theatre

    by spidermiss Updated Mar 9, 2014

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    Soho Theatre, Soho, London

    Soho Theatre presents an variety of productions ranging from new works along with comedy and cabaret. The theatre encourages new writing and development of up and coming artists.

    The theatre is home of the Soho Theatre Company which was founded in 1969 by Verity Bargate and Fred Proud and relocated to the current theatre in Dean Street in 2000. The theatre has a 140 seat auditorium and an 85/100 seat studio. The Soho Theatre Bar is opening all day serving food and drink. Please check out the website for further information.

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    Quintin Hogg Statue

    by spidermiss Updated Mar 9, 2014

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    Quintin Hogg Statue, Portland Place, Fitzrovia
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    I came across this statue of Quintin Hogg at Portland Place on my wonders in Fitzrovia. He was a philanthropist and known as a benefactor of the Royal Polytechnic Institution (Now University of Westminster) at Regent Street.

    He was an accomplished sportsman (especially football and cricket) and he was a key player forming the Association Football. He was a senior partner in the tea and sugar productions. Later on his life he got involved with philanthropy and formed the York Place Ragged school in central London and the opening Men's Christian Institute followed. Hogg was an alderman of the first London County Council and promoted the founding of future polytechnics.

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    All's Ship-Shape in the Park.

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 9, 2014

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    Haggerston Park, Hackney E2
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    The original site of Haggerston Park, like much of Hackney, was agricultural land, producing meat and vegetables for the City of London. As Hackney expanded the farmland was lost and the Regent's Canal was built through it, housing was created and various industries moved in.

    The largest industry was the gas works, built in 1821. Coal was transported by barge, along the canal and into the purpose built Haggerston Basin, to feed iron retorts where gas was produced before being stored in an enormous cylindrical holder. Production at Haggerston Works continued until the 1940's when the site was hit by a V2 rocket during the Blitz in 1944.

    The gas works finally closed in 1949, and the canal basin was filled in. The land was cleared, but remained unused for ten years, when the London County Council decided it should be used as a 25-acre public park.

    The design, by Rupert Lyell Thorpe, was based on a nautical theme with a flagpole representing a ship's mast, the sundial it's compass, curved brickwork outlining the life boats and a balcony along the original wall of the gas works representing the ships bridge. There was also formal landscape planting, a sunken garden where the canal basin once stood, and a canvas covered entertainment area on the site of the old gas holder.

    Haggerston Park was gradually expanded over the years as more land became available. Today there are football and cricket pitches, a table tennis table, BMX track and a playground alongside a pond and woodland conservation area. The park was awarded a Green Flag in 2006.

    Open - 7am - 4pm in winter, 7am - 8pm in summer.

    Address - Haggerston Park, Whiston Road, Hackney E2.

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    Tales from the Crypt.

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 9, 2014

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    All Hallows-by-the-Tower, EC3.
    The church of All Hallows is built on the foundations of a Saxon Church and is rumoured to be the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart. There is a small museum of Roman and Saxon artefacts in the crypt, including a well-preserved section of Roman pavement. Free guided tours are available most weekdays 2 - 4pm between April - October.

    St John's Waterloo, SE1.
    This nineteenth century church has a vast crypt due tot he fact that the marshy ground on which it is built required deeper than usual foundations. The crypt is rarely open to the public but in it's day, it was used for the interments of the upper classes. The church was bombed during World War II and the crypt was more or less gutted. An open pipe in the floor of the crypt shows how close to the surface the water table lies, which is of great concern as the church is supported by 200 year old oak piles.

    Carmelite Monastery, Magpie Alley, EC4.
    Visible through a large picture window beneath a modern office building, are the remains of the Carmelite Order of the White Friars monastery. From 1253, the White Friars held a large plot of land between Fleet Street and the Thames, on which were built a church, cloisters, cemetery and herb and vegetable gardens. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the ruin you can see today was used as a coal cellar.

    St Pancras New Church, NW1.
    Crypt burials were always popular among London's well-to-do and continued to be so until they were banned in London in 1854. Up until then, 557 bodies had been interred in the church's crypt. The crypt also served as an air raid shelter during both World Wars and, today has been turned into an unusual but popular art gallery.

    St Bride's, Fleet Street.
    The crypt of St Bride's was such a popular place for burials, that, when his brother died Samuel Pepys had to bribe the sexton to 'justle together'; the bodies to make room. Evidence has been found that at least seven different churches have stood on this site dating back nearly 1,400 years and evidence of London's first community of Irish settlers has also been found here. Tours are held on Tuesdays afternoons between 3.00 - 4.30pm and cost £6.00 per person.

    Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, SW1.
    The last surviving remnant of Cardinal Wolsey's riverside palace at York Place, this unique Tudor crypt is not ordinarily open for public viewing. Following the acquisition of the palace by Henry VIII, it was incorporated into Whitehall Palace and became the King's private wine cellar. It survived the massive fire that destroyed Whitehall Palace in 1698, and was only re-discovered in the 1930's when work started on the new ministry building.

    St John Clerkenwell, EC1.
    St John's Clerkenwell is one of the few survivors of Henry Viii's ransacking and destruction of the monasteries. The church's famous St John's Gate was built in 1504 and formed part of the Clerkenwell Priory, the English wing of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. In later years it became a tavern and then the headquarters for the St John Ambulance Association. The church was badly damaged by bombing in 1940 and was substantially rebuilt. Because of this, the Norman crypt of the nearby church of St John is now the oldest and most original remaining part of the priory. The church itself has been much restored, but escaped destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries because Henry VIII used it to store his hunting tents.

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    The Case of the Missing Rivers

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 9, 2014

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    The rapid expansion of London from medieval times onwards meant that once clear, sparkling streams quickly turned into open sewers and were then converted into closed ones. Their names are often commemorated in the streets and areas above, meaning their sources can be traced although the rivers are rarely, if ever seen.

    Earl's Sluice.
    The Earl's Sluice rises near Denmark Hill and flows into the Thames at Rotherhithe after joining the River Peck (which gives its name to Peckham). The mouth of Earl's Sluice is by Surrey Quays, where in days of old, whalers used to moor. It is named after Robert Fitzroy, an illegitimate some of Henry I.

    The Effra.
    The Effra flowed from Upper Norwood through Dulwich and Brockwell Park into Brixton and under Oval Tube Station. It joins the Thames at Vauxhall, but this small stream doesn't do justice to its name, which is a Celtic word meaning 'torrent'.

    The Fleet.
    The Fleet, the most famous of the missing rivers rises on Hampstead Heath (near the bathing ponds) and flows downhill via King's Cross, Holborn and Clerkenwell to join the Thames at Blackfriars. The name is from the Anglo-Saxon for estuary - 'fleot'.

    The Grand Surrey Canal.
    The Grand Surrey Canal was built to link the county of Surrey to London. Building got as far as Peckham before it was overtaken by the railways. The canal closed in 1971 and has since been filled in.

    The Tyburn.
    The Tyburn rises in Haverstock Hill and flows through Marylebone, down what is now Avery Road in Mayfair, past Shepherd Market and beneath Buckingham Palace. A small section of the river can be seen in the basement of Greys Antiques on Davis Street, and its outflow beneath Grosvenor Road can be seen from the opposite bank of the Thames.

    The Walbrook.
    The Walbrook was once an important source of fresh water for the City of London. The river entered the Square Mile close to All Hallows London Wall (Hence its name) and flowed into the Thames west of Cannon Street Station . The Walbrook's fate has been the same as most of London's forgotten waterways, it's now called the London Bridge Sewer.

    The Westbourne.
    The Westbourne had its origins in Hampstead and the short-lived Kilburn Spa and flowed through Maida Vale and Bayswater and into Hyde Park. Partly dammed to make Long Water, it resumes its course beyond Sloane Square, travelling over the station platforms in a pipe, then flows into the Thames by Chelsea Bridge.

    The Grosvenor Canal.
    Only a few hundred yards long, the Grosvenor Canal, London's shortest canal, once served the Chelsea Waterworks Company. In the 1820s the company incurred royal displeasure when its steam pump sent clouds of noxious fumes over Buckingham Palace. The waterworks was the first to use iron pipes in place of wooden ones until new regulations banned using Thames water for domestic supplies. One end of the canal then disappeared beneath platforms 15 - 19 at Victoria Station, but part of an old arch which barges used to pass through can still be seen by Bridge House on Ebury Bridge Road.

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    Want A Bargain? . . . Go Down The Lane!

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 8, 2014

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    Brick Lane Market, London E1
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    Brick Lane market is located at the northern end of Brick Lane and along Cheshire Street, Tower Hamlets in London's East End. Originally a 17th century lone farmers market, it was held on a Sunday due to the religious observances of the areas then mostly Jewish community. The 'Lane', as it is known locally, has, in the past, been known as a place where 'off the back of a lorry' (stolen goods) were sold. But following a police crackdown a few years ago the flogging (selling) of stolen goods has decreased significantly.

    You can find almost anything 'down the lane' from toiletries to antique books, retro clothing to gas masks, skulls to cd's and collectables, such as postcard and tea cards, to furniture. I bought some sets of Brooke Bond tea cards for £1 per set and the stall holder even threw in a few packs for free. (I've since found out that they are valued between £5 - £12.50 per set. How's that for a bargain!)

    I also saw something which I have not seen for years, namely a group of Pearly Kings and Queens, a rare sight in London these days. The Pearlies were collecting for charity and they didn't mind me taking their photo in the least. Naturally, I put some money in their collecting tin and was thanked in the time honoured manner, 'Gawd Bless Ya Girl!'

    Feeling peckish? . . . Not to worry, there are plenty of places to get something to eat. There's the excellent Beigel Bake (see separate tip) and many stalls selling everything from pulled pork sandwiches and jerk chicken to miniature fish and chips to fancy cakes and bread. There are also plenty of greasy spoons (cafes) in the area where you can get a strong cup of Rosie Lee (tea) and take the weight off your plates of meat (feet) after all that bargain hunting.

    Open - Every Sunday 9am - 5pm

    Transport
    Nearest tube - Liverpool Street
    Nearest rail - Liverpool Street, Shoreditch High Street
    Buses - 8, 388

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    Menier Chocolate Factory

    by spidermiss Updated Feb 27, 2014
    Candide at Menier Chocolate Factory, London
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    I recently saw The Menier Chocolate Factory's production of Candide in January 2014 at its theatre in Southwark. The off-West End theatre comprises of a 180 seat auditorium along with a restaurant and bar. It's located in a former 19th Century Menier Chocolate Company factory. The company produces a wide range of productions including staging plays, comedies and musicals.

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    Back Stage Tour of the National Theatre

    by spidermiss Updated Feb 27, 2014

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    National Theatre across the Thames, London
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    For sometime I always wanted to visit the National Theatre to either see a play or tour the venue. I only recently had begun looking into the National Theatre and decided on a recent trip to London that I'll book myself on a tour.

    The National Theatre organisation began in 1888 then officially founded in 1963. The intention of the organisation was to host Shakespeare repertoire but at the same time encouraged new and creative writing for the new nation.

    The current location is situated at South Bank, across from the River Thames, and it's an area which was heavily bombed during World War II. Decades following the war intensive rebuilding took pace including the National Theatre which opened it's first theatre in 1976. Laurence Olivier, an English actor, was the first artistic director with the new theatre.

    The tour took us to two of the three theatres in the venue, Oliver and Lyttleton Theatres, and we learnt more about the theatre themselves. We went backstage of the Lyttleton Theatre and also visited the carpentry, painting and props workshops. We had an opportunity to learn how the props are made for the plays.

    The National Theatre has foyer/public/exhibition spaces, known as the 4th auditorium, where the public who aren't planning to see a play can visit and socialise.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and look forward to seeing a play there in the not too distant future. Unfortunately photography is forbidden so pictures were only taken from outside the theatre. The tour cost me 8.50 gbp (November 2012) and it's strongly advisable to book in advance as tours sell out quickly.

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    A Step Back In Time #2

    by HackneyBird Updated Feb 25, 2014

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    Elizabethan Hall, 1630
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    When you walk through the entrance of The Geffrye Museum you find yourself in a reception area manned by a helpful member of staff. As you walk in the door the cloakroom is on your left and the galleries on your right. I had no need to use the cloakroom and so I headed straight for the galleries.

    The first exhibit is a display of chairs down the ages. The displays are very well labelled and there is even a museum trail for children.

    The first room you enter is an Elizabethan hall dating from 1630. The viewing area in this, and all the rooms is quite narrow, so you might have to move around a bit to allow people to come and go.

    In between each period room there are small areas with displays of items that might have been used to furnish the preceding room. There are samples of textiles, flooring and even period newspapers that you can read on the walls and the induction loop is also situated here.

    The museums reading room is well stocked with books on everything from interior decorating to architecture, and I even noticed some gardening and cookery books here. There is also a good selection of children's books relating to the home. The walls of the reading room are hung with paintings from London houses.

    At the centre of the museum lies the chapel. It used to be the chapel for the almshouses and the museums founder, Sir Robert Geffrye, is buried here.

    The restaurant is situated just before the section of the museum that houses the 1935 to 1998 exhibits. It was quite full on the day I visited, and although I use it, the smells emanating from it made me feel quite hungry. The museum shop is also situated here. The shop hasn't got a great selection of goods for sale and is quite expensive. I did go in to buy a selection of postcards to add to my collection for the princely sum of 60p each.

    The museum is not very big and it will only take you about an hour or so to go round it. You can take photographs and their are plenty of members of staff around to answer your questions.

    Entry to the museum is free but donations are welcome. There are donation boxes on the reception desk and just outside the restaurant. Suggested donation is £3.00.

    If you would like to see some more photographs of the exhibits please go to my travelogues 'A Step Back In Time'.

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    A Step Back In Time. # 1.

    by HackneyBird Written Feb 23, 2014

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    The Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, London.
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    The Geffrye Museum was originally 14 almshouses mainly for ironmongers' widows. They were built in 1715 at the bequest of Sir Robert Geffrye, a former Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Ironmongers' Company. The museum conversion was completed in 1914, after the almshouses had been bought by the London County Council.

    The museum itself is situated behind a high wall which, when you walk through the gates, reveals a pleasant, tree-lined, grassy courtyard with plenty of benches to sit on and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

    The museum is devoted to the history of domestic interiors and it's permanent displays consist of fully furnished rooms dating back from Elizabethan times, with added examples of staircases, wood panelling and paintings from old London houses.

    The museum also has a restaurant, a museum shop and a reading room.

    In the grounds behind the museum there is a garden which reflects the period rooms and shows the changing function of gardens through the ages in relation to home life. Sadly, the garden was closed when I visited in February 2014.

    One of the original almshouses has been restored and is open on selected days of each month. For a small fee you can take a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived here. The almshouse was also closed on the day I visited.

    In December each year the displays in the main part of the museum are decorated in the authentic festive style of each period to reflect 400 years of seasonal celebrations.

    The museum regularly hold special activities, workshops and exhibitions and this year, 2014, marks two special anniversaries. It is 100 years since the museum first opened and 300 years since the opening of the almshouses. (See website for details).

    Address - The Geffrye Museum of the Home, 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA

    Admission - free
    Open - Tues-Sun 10am-5pm.
    Closed - Mondays (unless Bank Holiday), Good Friday, 24, 25, 26, December and 1 January.
    Shop - 10am-4.45pm
    Restaurant - 10am-4.45pm
    Gardens - April to October 10am-5pm

    The museum is accessible to wheelchair users and parking for disabled visitors is available in front of the museum between 10am-4pm.

    Facilities include accessible toilets, lift and induction loop for talks and lectures.

    Transport
    Rail - Hoxton Station
    Tube and Rail - Liverpool Street, Old Street
    Buses - 67, 149, 242, 243, 394

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    ENJOY THAI FESTIVALS at BHUDDHAPAPIDA TEMPLE

    by davidjo Written Jan 25, 2014

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    unusual to find a Buddhist Temple in London
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    Take a trip to Wimbledon and celebrate Songkran (Thai New Yera) or Loy Krathong (Floating Crown Festival) at the Buddhapapida Temple. There are different types of entertainment and stalls selling Thai food and handicrafts.
    I used to go there in the late 80s to brush up on my Thai. The abbot used to give Thai lessons on Sunday afternoons and in return you would help doing odd jobs around the temple, but not sure if this is still available. The temple is open for visitors every day.
    There are meditation classes and other courses available at the temple
    http://www.buddhapadipa.org/activities/

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    Samuel Johnson's Statue

    by spidermiss Updated Jan 13, 2014
    Samuel Johnson Statue, St Clements Dane, London
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    I came across Samuel Johnson's statue whilst on my wanders from St Paul's Cathedral to The Strand (January 2014).

    A bit about Samuel Johnson

    Dr Samuel Johnson was born in the 18th Century and was known for his legendary contributions in English Language and Literature as a lexicographer with which A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It changed the English Language forever from the success of the publication and set a standard in the literary critics circles from that point forward.

    The statue was designed by Percy Fitzgerald and erected by Reverend S Pennington, then rector of St. Clement Danes in 1910. You can read more about Samuel Johnson here.

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    St Clement Danes Church

    by spidermiss Updated Jan 13, 2014
    St Clement Danes, Strand, London

    I went passed this church on my wanders from St Paul's Cathedral to the The Strand (January 2014). The church is adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice. A church has been on this site since the 9th Century by the Dames and Christopher Wren designed the current building in the 17th Century.

    The church was bombed in World War II (in 1941) and restored in 1958 when it served as the Royal Air Forces's central church. Still today services are held regularly to commemorate the RAF and other organisations concerned. It's claim to fame was when it was featured in the Oranges and Lemons (....the bells of St Clement's), an English nursery rhyme and the church bells do play the tune. However St Clement Eastcheap disputes and also claims to be the church featured in the rhyme.

    I didn't have time to look inside the church but will plan to on a future trip to London.

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    Kenwood House – House on the Heath

    by MaaikeSchmit Written Jan 13, 2014

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    The Kenwood House

    A mere 15 minute Tube ride from the energy of central London, Hampstead Heath sits as a tranquil oasis in north London. Not only does the heath boast of swimming ponds, dense woods and plenty of paths for joggers and dog-walkers to enjoy, it also holds a stately home open for the entire public – free of charge!

    Kenwood House recently went through an extensive renovation project. Previously it felt a bit worn and a tad unloved, but now the house is back to its glorious grandeur. Visitors can admire the majestic rooms and sumptuous decor with plenty of English Heritage staff to provide answers to your questions. If you’re not careful, you may miss out on some of the outstanding works of art, including a Rembrandt self-portrait and Vermeer’s ‘The Guitar Player‘.

    My favourite room of Kenwood House is the library. It’s everything what I imagine my ideal library to be – full of leather bound books, stunning paintings and plenty of light.

    For those who prefer live music over paintings, the grounds of Kenwood House play host to a series of summer concerts. Just don’t forget your umbrella for the English summer!

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    Painter Man, Painter Man.

    by HackneyBird Written Jan 8, 2014

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    The Colourworks Building, Ashwin Street, Dalston.
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    If you've ever had a Reeves paint-box or set of crayons in your Christmas stocking when you were a child, you can bet a pound to a penny that it was made in Ashwin Street, Dalston.

    The Reeves Company was founded in about 1766 in Wells Yard, near St Bartholomew's Hospital, London by William Reeve and his brother Thomas. By 1857 the market for paints had declined and the company was forced to move into smaller premises in Cheapside. They started to produce cheaper paints and by 1868 the demand was so great that they were able to move production to a purpose built factory in Ashwin Street.

    The factory was one of the first to be built in what was then a residential area, and provided local employment in the grinding and mixing of paint colours. There was also room to install steam-driven machinery, which earned the factory the name of 'Reeves Steam Colour Works'.

    On 12 November 1940, during the Second World War, the Ashwin Street factory was bombed and severely damaged and many members of staff were killed. Although the company recovered it relocated to Enfield.

    Today the Colourworks building, with its distinctive frontage, enjoys a thriving new, existence as the home of the Arcola Theatre.

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London Off The Beaten Path

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There are many well-beaten paths in London as befits one of the major travel destinations in the world, but that is not the whole story.  Visitors may well visit Buckingham Palace,  the...

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