London Off The Beaten Path

  • Tower Subway
    Tower Subway
    by Balam
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    Touring Royal Court Theatre
    by spidermiss
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    Bedford Square, Central London
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Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in London

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    It chimed for Six O'clock

    by sourbugger Updated Apr 1, 2014

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    Glockenspeil in Leicester square

    There was a group of us heading towards the restaurant for the BIG london meeting of 21/01/06. As we passed by the Swiss Centre in the NW corner of Leicester square the distinctive clanging and chiming of the clock on the side of the building began. The little figures proceeded with the Swiss like clockwork regularity. (not seen on the photo)

    Sad to say, no one took a photo - the call of the restaurant must have been too great.

    UPDATE 2014 : The clock was saved ! and is now a free standing structure in the same area

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    Tower Subway

    by Balam Written Apr 1, 2014
    Tower Subway
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    Not off the beaten path really, in fact its very much on it but most people will not even notice it.

    About half way up tower Hill there is a small red brick building that marks the entrance to THE WORLDS FIRST UNDERGROUND TUBE RAILWAY, the TOWER SUBWAY. It was constructed in 1869 using a new tunnelling shield to build the tunnel under the Thames and was the first Tunnel ever to be lined with cast iron instead of brick.
    At first cables hauled tram carriages which carried 12 people at a time through the tunnel but it was later converted to a foot tunnel with steam powered lifts at either end. The tunnel was closed in 1896 when Tower Bridge opened and people could cross the river for free.

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    Murder On The Hackney Express.

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 24, 2014

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    Hackney Central, E8.

    The Borough of Hackney is crossed by three train tracks. The oldest of which, now the North London Line, was build to connect London's docks. It opened in 1850 and ran in a circular route to Fenchurch Street every fifteen minutes. In 1864 one of its carriages was the scene of the first murder on a British Railway, the crime being reported at Hackney Central.

    A shorter rail link to the City of London was constructed in 1865, and ran along the east side of Kingsland Road to Broad Street. Now the East London Line, it was one of London's busiest routes, with, on week days in 1903, 322 trains terminating at Broad Street Station. Cheaper fares for workmen were first introduced on this line on some daily trains.

    The newest line, opened in 1872 by the Great Eastern Railway, ran north from Liverpool Street up the eastern side of London Fields.

    All three railway lines opened up Hackney and beyond to train travellers, and ensured that the remaining field and grazing land of rural Hackney were transformed into bricks and mortar, never to return.

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    Watercress Fields . . . Forever!

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 24, 2014

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    Tesco's, Morning Lane, E8
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    If you want to buy watercress in Hackney these days, you might well go to the local Tesco's in Morning Lane. But over a hundred years ago you would have been able to pick your own on the same site.

    The Morning Lane area's fertile soil made it an ideal place for market gardeners to supply the City of London with fresh fruit and vegetables, and this together with a plentiful water supply, provided by the Hackney Brook, also made it a good location for watercress beds.

    Watercress production had taken place in the area since medieval times, but during the 19th century things began to change. The coming of the railway in the 1840s and the culverting of the flood-prone Hackney Brook were set backs to production, but the industry still continued.

    In a 1874 book called 'The Wilds of London', the author describes a Hackney watercress seller he met one frosty November evening. 'That bent-backed old fellow whom we now see looming in the evening twilight (and sober and punctual man that he is, he is inevitably seen looming at this time), is not a picturesque object, and his shrill harsh voice as he shrieks, "Wat-ter Kress-eses" is decidedly owlish . . . He is 76 next birthday, and has been a soldier . . . ' When asked why he didn't buy his watercress at the market, the old man replied that it was cheaper to get it fresh, making as much as three or fourpence difference to a days takings.

    Over the next twenty years the Morning Lane beds were decimated. It was more profitable to build on land than farm it, and by the 1890s many of the watercress beds were lost under new housing in Chalgrove Road.

    The final death-toll for what remained of Hackney's watercress beds came in 1903, when there were two major outbreaks of typhoid. The Borough's Medical Officer for Health, J. King Warry, reported that discounting milk, ice cream, fried fish, shellfish and defects in drainage as possible causes, there were a high number of watercress eaters among the victims. He traced the watercress as having come from beds on the border of Hackney and West Ham which were irrigated by the River Lea, which in those days was more or less an open sewer.

    Hackney's watercress industry never recovered, and the remaining beds were eventually sold off as building plots.

    Chalgrove Road was badly bombed during World War II and housing was demolished in the 1980s. An archaeological evaluation prior to the site being redeveloped as a supermarket in 1997, found the last traces of the watercress beds and the marshy ground in which they once grew.

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    Chiswick House

    by Regina1965 Updated Mar 18, 2014

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    The Chiswick House.
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    Chiswick House is a beautiful huge neo Palladian villa built for the 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) in 1726-1729. The villa was built as a showcase for the Earl´s of Burlington´s art collection and beautiful paintings. Imagine that...

    It is one of the finest examples of neo Palladian architecture in Britain. The interiors of the Chiswick House just blew me away. We got a list of the ten most important things to see in the house, but to me the whole house was a piece of art. It is just one beautiful room after another with myriads of paintings and statues and beautiful artefacts. There are red, blue and green velvet rooms.

    In the so-called Lower Tribuna, we encountered a Lead Sphinx statue, which had originally been located in the gardens.

    Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Handel are amongst the guests, who have visited the Chiswick House.

    Strangely enough the Chiswick House became a mental institution in 1892, but it has been cared for by English Heritage since 1984, whidh amongst other things restored the gardens.

    It took us a while getting to Chiswick House. We walked from Hammersmith and got lost on the way ;) So better take the bus 190 Hammersmith-Richmond, which stops very close to the estate.

    The address is: Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4 2RP

    Opening hours: Monday-Wednesday from 10:00-18:00. Thursday-Saturday: closed. Sunday: from 10:00-18:00.

    Admission fee: GBP 6.10

    I would highly recommend visiting the Chiswick House and its beautiful gardens.

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    Chiswick House - the beautiful gardens.

    by Regina1965 Updated Mar 18, 2014

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    The Chiswick House gardens.
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    The Chiswick House gardens are exquisite, a true work of art. They are one of the most historical gardens in England and Wales.

    The gardens were made by Lord Burlington, the owner of the Chiswick House, and William Kent in 1729.

    They added amongst other things an Ionic temple to the gardens and a Doric column. I visited it, but my photos seem to be lost. The river in the gardens is artificial. It is so big and has got so many paths that it is easy to get lost in there.

    The gardens were re-opened in June 2010 after having being restored for a huge amount of money. The gardens are so beautiful that they have been an inspiration for other gardens in the world, f.ex. New York´s Central Park.

    The Chiswich House gardens are the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement.

    The gardens are filled with beautiful statues, lovely ponds and obelisks. They are just a true oasis in the outskirt of West-London.

    The gardens are visited by over million visitors every year. There is no entrance fee to the gardens only to the Chiswick House. The gardens are open every day from 07:00 until dusk, all year round.

    It was a true delight visiting the gardens and I will for sure visit them again and explore them thoroughly. It was so cold when we visited in March, that we were happy to go inside to warm up.

    Address: Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4 2RP

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    Hammersmith Town Hall and Father Thames

    by Regina1965 Updated Mar 18, 2014

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    Father Thames
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    I stayed in Hammersmith for 2 months and spent a lot of time just exploring the surrounding areas of Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. Hammersmith Town Hall was built in 1939. What brought me there was a photo I had seen of the steps leading to the Mayor´s Parlours.

    Flanking the steps are two big carved heads of Father Thames. I just had to see it and wasn´t disappointed when I did. The statues are beautiful. These heads are commemorating the fact the the Hammersmith Town Hall stands next to Hammersmith Creek.

    Hammersmith Town Hall is located in between King Street and Great West Road in Hammersmith.

    I have seen other faces like these of Father Thames, by the river Thames down-town and in Covent Garden.

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    Meard Street, Soho

    by spidermiss Updated Mar 11, 2014

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    Meard Street, Soho, London
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    I came across Meard Street on my wanders round Soho. The partly pedestrianised street is between Wardour Street (West) and Dean Street (East). The street is named after John Meard, a carpenter and a esquire during the 18th Century.

    The street originally consisted of two 17th Century courts (Meard and Dean Courts (1722) which subsequently merged as Meard Street (1732/33).

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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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  • HackneyBird's Profile Photo

    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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    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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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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