Whetstone to Kings Cross

Whetstone to Kings Cross – photos

Well – they are both on the Northern Line!

Whetstone at Totteridge and Whetstone tube station is the penultimate stop on the Northern Line – Barnet branch – and so is one of North London’s outermost areas. Indeed one of my photos shows a footpath from Whetstone which goes all the way to the northern section of the London Loop – that walkway that (sort of) mirrors the M25 for walkers.

Whetstone is not an exciting area – it is quiet and middle class – in an ordinary sort of way – not some posh middle class area like parts of Kensington and Chelsea. It is the sort of area the produces the backbone English Middle Class.

I have compared it with the large scale – but very pleasant – redevelopment of the Kings Cross area which started with the station itself and now encompasses a large geography to the north of the Station, totalling 67 acres.

The station both the inside and the front of Cubitt’s great building (which cost more to build originally than the vastly more ornate St Pancras over the road) are improved beyond recognition and the front of the station – removed of it’s awful former clutter – is particularly fine. The new part of the station with its splendid roof structure is designed by John McAslan and Partners.

North of Kings Cross was for years a complete mess and a dump. The very large scale redevelopment of the area is one of the most pleasant redevelopment areas in London with a mixture of shops, offices and housing, together with the main campus for the University of the Arts London. One of the main new office occupants will be the UK HQ of Google.

One of the most interesting developments is the housing built inside the frameworks of the former gasometers – a development that I wasn’t sure would work – but from an outside view, at least, certainly does.

I have taken a number of photographs of the cleaned up Regents Canal – which was for years in this part just a dumping ground. I took a photo (not shown) of a swan and its cygnets on the canal as an indication of how cleaned up here it has become.

I do not know the date when the Kings Cross development will be fully complete – but it is well worth a walk around even as it develops.

40 Soho Shops

40 Soho Shops – Photos

I have taken some photos of some of Soho’s shops largely because Soho – like so many other areas is subject to change and many new buildings are going up. They are not, of course, skyscrapers – but the new nature of the buildings – often with residential on the higher floors – means that any new retail units are set to be expensive. This means that the traditional Soho shop (I am not talking about sex shops!) is finding life increasingly difficult. The chains are perhaps able to afford the new retail units – but if Soho ends up as just chains it will loose much of its character.

Recently there has also been concern about the market in Berwick Street. (I have not photographed the market but have a number of photos of Berwick Street shops). Westminster Council are considering “privatising” the running of the market and many of the traders are concerned that this may lead to its demise – see the Guardian.

It is possible, of course that with the slowdown in the commercial property market that appears to be now underway that the pace of change in Soho will slow down and thus help to preserve its present character.

Dulwich Village & Clockwork Orange

Dulwich Village & Clockwork Orange – photos

My photos this month are of Dulwich Village and the Thamesmead Estate – which is where the film Clockwork Orange was shot.

Dulwich is one of the nicest and poshest suburbs in London, looking as if it were almost a completely separate town – a jewel in the crown of the London Borough of Southwark. It is almost completely white middle class – the only non-white people that I saw were two young very middle-class black ladies emerging from Pizza Express discussing what cakes they had been asked to bake for their school-fete.

Thamesmead Estate – which straddles the Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley is really quite gruesome and one of the worst example of poor quality Town and Country Planning that I have seen. My photographs of it are some in colour and some in black and white – reflecting the gloomy mood it put me in.

Thamesmead is going to be completely re-built by the Peabody Estate over an extended period. The nearest station which is at Abbey Wood is being completely re-built as it is to become a station at the end of one of the Eastern branches of Crossrail. The station will become a double decker station so that it will achieve the height of the motorway style overpass of the A2401 – the Harrow Manor Way – which forms the main means of egress to and from the Thamesmead Estate.

At the moment, you either have to use a car or a bus or walk along the narrow pavements of the A2041 to get to the Estate. Many of the residents are poor West African immigrants and either they have to spend money on bus fares or walk with – it seemed to me – usually a kiddie push-chair along the narrow pavements of the A2041 with fast traffic zooming past.

The present residential blocks on the estate look about as welcoming as you might expect from Clockwork Orange. Indeed when they were first built all manner of problems came up – including leaking rain. Because the area was liable to flooding most of the walkways on the Estate are built at first floor level.

The Town Centre of Abbey Wood is very poor with few shops and facilities and apart from a large Sainsburys along the A2041 there is little in the way of shopping facilities. There is no sign of the gentrification or middle-class-isation (if there were such a phrase), despite Crossrail, in Abbey Wood and so even with the re-building of Thamesmead it will be a long time before this part of London becomes a “desirable” area.

I did not enjoy Abbey Wood and the Thamesmead Estate and was glad to leave it, not because I felt in any way threatened, but because it was so very depressing.

Special Edition

I have been taking these photographs for five and a half years and have collected nearly 14,000 of them. I have almost certainly taken over 25,000 – but I am rather stringent about the quality of the ones that I keep. This blog has been around for less than five and a half years and on it I show only a very small percentage of the photos that I have shot.

My main interest has been – and continues to be – in the development of London which over this time span has been dramatic and very large scale. Not all of the new architecture is brilliant, not all of it is socially valuable but most of the new architecture has changed London in huge ways. Vast areas have been (and still are) subject to complete re-development. New skyscrapers are springing up everywhere.

There is just one photograph in this Special Edition – of a new speculative development – only 16 stories – next to Old Street Roundabout – nowadays called Silicon Roundabout, because of the huge amount of new high tech companies in that immediate area. It was taken just two days before the Referendum.

White Collar Factory – photo

The building is one that will provide office/workspace for some of these high-tech companies. It will be called The White Collar Factory and of course the developers hope that it will be a success with some of these growing high tech companies. It is not a particularly exciting snap that I have taken, but I have presented it to show my concern that such speculative development, which is reported to be a £200M development, and which is merely one of very many in the city, might rapidly come to an end now that we have foolishly voted to leave the EU.

We shall all be very much poorer when much of such development does stop – and I am sure it will over the next few months. We have been taken over by buffoons, liars and fools who have ignored over 600 of the best economists in the country and we are probably now set for a major slowdown in the development of London.

Tilbury and Gravesend

Tilbury and Gravesend – Photos

Everybody in thinking about the London docks tends to think that all the docks nowadays have been rebuilt as skyscraper offices or swanky housing. Of course many – perhaps most – have, but Londoners, like the rest of Britain, like their new flat screen tellies and other home comforts which are imported from elsewhere. Moreover, believe it or not, London alone produces quite a few physical exports that have to go either by air or by boat.
Tilbury is one of the two London docks (apart from Heathrow) from which they come and go. The other is the new London Gateway dock, further down river at Stanford-le-Hope, apart from the oil terminal of Purfleet a bit higher up the river from Tilbury

Tilbury can be reached either directly on the north side of the river or via a short ferry from Gravesend. It is impossible to get into the docks from Tilbury itself (north of the river) and the best photos of the docks I managed were to be found using a long lens from Northfleet – at the western end of Gravesend. I had to walk down a rather grotty lane that hardly deserved the elevated title of industrial estate and poke the camera lens through some iron railings. Unlike the docks of old, Tilbury is modern, and more investment by Tilbury has been announced just recently. They are intent on buying the disused Tilbury Power Station site next door (of which I have a couple of photographs) to expand the docks.

Gravesend where a ferry is found – quite a busy ferry at that – to take you over to Tilbury – is an old river Thames port – and nowadays quite a surprisingly poor town for a place which is just a short distance beyond the Greater London Authority area. It has very high levels of non-European immigration(14% of the population at the 2011 census) and a lot of deprivation, but for all that some of the streets of the old town remain attractive.

I have taken a number of photos of Gravesend from the ferry and one of them shows the small pleasure boat Princess Pocahontas. Pocahontas (1596-1617) was captured by European Virginia settlers in one of their wars with local North American Indians and she became a Christian and married a tobacco planter (whose descendants still are around today). They came to England and she died on board a boat on the river at Gravesend and is thought to be buried at the church shown in my photograph – but the exact whereabouts of the grave are not known. The Princess Pocahontas pleasure boat makes trips up-river to Tower Bridge and down to the mouth of the river at Southend. I intend to try the trip to Southend some time in the summer.

A Few Saturday Afternoon Snaps

A Few Saturday Afternoon Snaps – Photos

On Saturday 11 April I had intended to go to take some photos after catching a train from Charing Cross but when I got to Charing Cross I discovered that the station was effectively closed – with no trains until the next Monday, due, I think, to the rebuilding work at London Bridge Station. Feeling rather disgruntled and thinking at first just to return home, I walked across the Strand and caught the first bus in the direction of the City but quickly got off in the Fleet Street bus jam at Shoe Lane and thought I would meander round what might be called the Northern part of the City.

The photos are nothing much more than a few Saturday afternoon snaps, which I have mixed up quite a bit just to make them more interesting.

The two photos of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church in Holborn show the main church building and just one view inside which is peopled by musicians preparing sound equipment and their musical instruments for a concert that evening; indeed the church is nicknamed The Musicians Church.

The other church I have photographed is St Bartholomew the Great Church sandwiched between Barts Hospital and the Cloth Fair alleyway. It was difficult to successfully photograph inside because the main lights were off and yet strong light came in through the upper windows providing heavy contrast.

I was lucky to be able to snap the striking gold sculpture by Damien Hirst – on loan to the church by Damien Hirst for the second time. The sculpture is titled Exquisite Pain and is a sculpture of Saint Bartholomew.

One of the photos in the church shows the Tomb of Henry I (and for those who have forgotten their mnemonic verse of the English monarchs) he was the son of William the Conqueror.

There is also a picture of Madonna and Child and this is a modern painting by the Spanish Artist Alfredo Roldan.
The Church is thought to be the second oldest building in London (apart from Roman ruins) after the Tower and it has withstood the Great Fire, the First War Zeppelin raids and the Blitz. It has been subject to many alterations over the years – but alterations which have made it ever more interesting and the Church is much used by film makers.

Apart from the Church, the picture in green with a large modern sculpture and chairs and tables is, I think, a breakout area for one of the offices in that area.

I walked through to the Barbican and took some snaps of some of the new office buildings going up along London Wall and finally walked down to Bishopgate to see that the main core of 100 Bishopgate is now going up (no photo).

I’ll try again for my journey from Charing Cross in the near future!

SW1 and SE15

SW1 and SE15 – Photos

Last month I had some contrasts between old and new London.
This month represents the contrasts between perhaps rich and poor – or at least between Posh and not Posh. The two areas I have taken photos of are Westminster – the Victoria part – and Peckham – mostly of Peckham Rye. There are in the part of Westminster that I have photographed some local authority housing buildings and a Peabody estate – though many of the local authority flats will have been sold under Right to Buy – so it is not simply rich – but never very far off. Peckham – never minding the joke statement from Only Fools and Horses that This time next year Rodney we could all be millionaires – is almost certainly the seeding ground for some future London millionaires in spite of some of its appearance at the moment.

As before, I have interspersed the photographs – first one from SW1 followed by one from SE15

The first photo I show is of the developments on the South Bank towards Waterloo taken from Vauxhall Bridge – so they are not of SW1 but rather SE1. Once you cross Vauxhall Bridge to the north bank you are in SW1. The next one (the first from Peckham) is of a typical council high rise – the sort that the Trotters lived in…though nowadays many of them will be privately owned via Right to Buy.

Most of the rest of the photos of SE15 – Peckham – are in and around Rye Lane in Peckham Rye and are of the shops and market stalls of that area.

In the case of SW1 – Westminster – I walked up Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria Station, then along Victoria Street to Westminster Abbey and Westminster Bridge; over Westminster Bridge and along York Street to Waterloo Station, so my photographs more or less follow that walk. Some of the new developments near Victoria Station and along Victoria Street are of very striking architecture, but, of course some of the older buildings along there that I have snapped such as Methodist Central Hall (every bit as impressive inside) and Westminster Cathedral are also very striking. In the case of Westminster Cathedral you can take photographs inside, unless there is a service taking place – unlike Westminster Abbey where photographing inside the church is not allowed. There was a service when I was there but I shall return and take some photographs of this majestic cathedral in the future.

The contrast between these two areas of London – despite not being simply about between rich and poor – is nevertheless very substantial for two parts that are less than three miles apart.

A suburban church – where Saxon Kings were crowned – to the City’s shining towers

A suburban church – where Saxon Kings were crowned – to the City’s shining towers – Photos

I have interspersed the photos – one by one of Kingston All Saints Church with photos of the City, specifically to show the contrasts that London provides. Sometimes this occurs within a very short distance, but in this case over a distance, as the crow flies, of more than ten miles.

Between 900 and 978 AD there were as many as eight royal coronations in the one time Saxon Church of All Saints – on the very same site as the present day church. In 925 AD the first King of England – Athelstan was crowned at All Saints.

Nowadays the church is very much a part of the local town centre – a major retail area (still about the eighth busiest in the country) and very much open to the public and visitors.

In the City I have photographed a number of the new towers. Many of the new skyscrapers got held up during the recession – notably 100 Bishopsgate – now underway and with the first tenant (Royal Bank of Canada) already signed up, and 22 Bishopsgate planned to be the tallest skyscraper in the City but which got stalled and became nicknamed The Stump. This is now fully under construction. I also show a photo of the (early stages) of the Scalpel Tower at the corner of Lime Street; this is a new 36 storey narrow glass tower for a US Insurance company.

A recent report from Cluttons as told in Property Week talks about office space equivalent to the 166 storey Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest skyscraper – being set to complete in the City in the next two years.

Much as I like the new skyscrapers, I also love the older building such as All Saints Church in Kingston, and what I like best of all is the lovely contrast between the two.

Battersea Powers Ahead

Battersea Powers Ahead – Photos

There was no posting on 1 January. This was because, firstly, December presented a very poor month in which to go and take photos – far too much rain and gloom. Then I got ill over Christmas and New Year with some virus based cough that did the rounds. Finally this was followed by the (quite unrelated) problem of a sceptic toe – caused by an ingrowing toe nail – not the best for walking around taking photos. I am sure that, anyway you all had more interesting things to attend to on 1st January than look at my photographs!

These photos are, in a sense part of a set that may last 20 years – that’s how long the totality of the Nine Elms/ Battersea Power Station redevelopment might take. It really is a vast development site. It covers the whole of the triangle from Chelsea Bridge and Queenstown Road, south to the railway line and east to Vauxhall Station. There are also large areas on the south side of the railway line – including the whole of the New Covent Garden Market – which is being completely rebuilt – almost all the way down to Wandsworth Road – especially again at the Vauxhall Station end.

It was, of course started once in the past – when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister – but that development fell on poor finances. This time it looks as though it is all (well mostly) going ahead (well for the moment). As soon as one site gets started another old site is put under demolition. Even the New Covent Garden Market – which is only 40-odd years old – is being completely demolished and rebuilt.

It’s a bit difficult walking around at the moment to discern the overall plan – I know there is one for the area closest to the Power Station itself – but I am less sure about the total area. Sometimes it looks as though the object is just to cram in as many building as possible – and sometimes as tall as possible (much as I love skyscrapers). Not all of the architecture is bonny – including the new US Embassy – which at the moment just looks like yet another blue office block. The hording adverts for the adjacent Embassy Gardens talk about a “new diplomatic quarter” – a bit rich given only the new American Embassy – and whilst I understand the Dutch are also to build a new embassy there – it hardly rivals areas like South Kensington.

The next to last of my photos is a somewhat boring picture of site huts – but they are the site huts for the new Battersea Tube Station – and similar work can be found on the Nine Elms Tube Station further to the east. The tunnelling for the extension to the Northern Line will only begin next year, but the work on the two new tube halls has now started. On two of the pictures of the Power Station you can see a new raised conveyor belt system which is to take the spoil from the digging out of the Battersea Tube Hall to the river where is will be transported by barge to Tilbury and end up as new farmland in Essex. The river transportation will save 40,000 lorry movements of this good London clay. The tube extension will cost £1Bn and is being funded by the Battersea Power/Nine Elms commercial development. When the extension of the Northern Line is complete, the Northern Line will get new trains – and not before time.

Next to the St George’s Wharf Tower – the residential skyscraper shown on a couple of the photos are being built two further residential skyscrapers by the Chinese Wanda Corporation – one of them will be taller than the St George’s Wharf Tower.

The picture I have (4th one) of the Bondway Self Storage is the site of the potential Aykon Tower – but since the first occupations of this 50 storey tower are scheduled for autumn 2019, one thinks they will have to get a move on.

There are a number of pictures of the power station itself and you can see that one of the chimneys has already been fully rebuilt, another one is completely demolished ready for rebuilding, and the other two are about half way down. Originally Wandsworth Council Planning Department insisted that each chimney should be demolished and rebuilt one after the other but were happy to change this after seeing the work on the first chimney rebuild, and this will help to speed up the total chimney rebuild time. I don’t know if they really are going to be painted blue as shown on the large poster of one of the power station photographs.

This vast redevelopment area does not appear to be very well planned and may just overdo the number of swanky towers in London. One has to be concerned that it may consequently come to grief before it all gets finished. Anyway this vast area of London rebuild is one that I shall visit again – and more than once – to report on how it is progressing.

Under Construction

Under Construction – Photos

My apologies for the rather impersonal emails in last month’s mail out; this was down to a small bout of incompetence here at Lfw Towers.

London is experiencing a major building boom, dominated by residential property, though in the last six months there has also been an 18% increase in office construction – mainly in the West End and City.
I am showing slightly less photos than normal this month, both because I am not sure everybody shares my love of gawping at building sites, and also I have taken photos from
– Albert Embankment
– Canary Wharf
– City
– Croydon
– Greenwich Peninsular
– Nine Elms
– South Bank
and that’s quite enough traipsing about for one month.

Some of the areas – notably Nine Elms and Greenwich Peninsular are set to produce very large amounts of residential. Greenwich Peninsular is now the largest housing development in the UK – with a planned 15,000 residences. It will take up to ten years to complete.
Unfortunately, all too much of the residential developments taking place in London are not set to be for ‘ordinary’ Londoners. The asking prices of the developing skyscraper I have taken on the South Bank at One Blackfriars start at £2.3M, and there are far too many of the residential developments that are like this – way out of the bracket of even quite high earning people. Such places can only be bought by very rich (often overseas) buyers and present a danger that large areas of central London will become “no-go” areas for all but very rich people. There is also another danger that too many of such expensive properties are being built for what the (downturning) markets of countries like China can buy and they will end up empty ghost buildings.

The Government needs to consider the housing situation – the Housing Crisis as many commentators describe it – much more seriously than they do and some sort of national body should surely be set up to ‘police’ the market in a way that is similar to those bodies that monitor and police the financial markets. The market on its own will not solve the housing crisis in which, as a recent House of Commons Library Report has found, couples in London need a joint income of £100k and a £96K deposit to buy one of the Government’s proposed new starter homes. The recent Autumn Statement has placed much emphasis on Housing – but it is yet too soon to be able to understand if the Statement will make a major contribution to the issue.

Going back to my photographs, those that are residential (the majority of my photos) are built with reinforced concrete frames, whereas those for office are steel frameworks. In the City there are quite a number of schemes that were stalled by the recession but which are now once more fully underway – so the City is about to undergo some further major changes over the next three years or so. With both the residential developments and those that are offices, London is changing quite significantly into a high rise city. Some – like me – like that – some do not – but I think it is now both set to happen and inevitable.

On a different matter: When talking to people about my blog and photos, I often get given suggestions for areas of London to visit and photograph. Thank you for these – do keep the suggestions coming.