Thursday, July 18, 2024

St George's Garrison Church

St George's Garrison Church Entrance
St George's Garrison Church.

I had read quite a bit about St George's Garrison Church and its history, but I had never been to visit it, until now.

As it is only open to the public on Sundays, unless for an exhibition or special event, it has always been difficult to find the time to get there. Fortunately, I was in the area as I had just visited Severndroog Castle, just down the road, which has a viewing platform that is only accessible on, you guessed it, a Sunday.

St George's Garrison Church Gate
One of Church gates.

It was beautiful noon day as Keilyn and I wandered through the gates into the garden of this ruined church, the sun illuminating the gold mosaic above the altar, ahead of us. The canopy, above the remains, filtered the light making the whole place glow.

St George's Garrison Church Canopy
The canopy protecting the ruins.

The mosaics are stunning, with the St George mosaic being my favourite along with the Victoria Cross Memorial.

St George's Garrison Church Altar
The mosaics glinting in the diffused light.

The walls, pillars and columns are all still in place creating a wonderful place to reflect.

Monday, July 15, 2024

'Demon with Bowl' by Damien Hirst

Demon with Bowl by Damien Hirst
'Demon with Bowl' by Damien Hirst.

Walking around the Greenwich Peninsula you will discover that the area is full of Public Art. Whether it be a small sculpture, interactive installations, a slice of a ship or a signpost, there is a lot to discover. 

Many of these are created by internationally renowned artists, that include Anthony Gormley, Alex Chinneck, and Damien Hirst.

Demon with Bowl by Damien Hirst
Keilyn with the 'Demon with Bowl' sculpture.

It is the latter that has installed an 18 metre (60 foot) sculpture on the peninsula, outside the Greenwich Peninsula terminal of the London Cable Car.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

'Staff Letters' Boxes

Staff Letters Box
A 'Staff Letters' box on the Piccadilly line - photo © Keilyn J. A. Morrissey.

Normally I only spot interesting things when walking the streets of London. 

On this occasion I was travelling on the Piccadilly line when I noticed these boxes, as we stopped at various stations. As the boxes were never opposite where we were sat, it took a while to work out what was written on them. 

Fortunately, as we pulled into one station, the box was almost directly outside the carriage, so Keilyn jumped off the train, took the photo and jumped back on, all with a big grin on her face.

It took a bit of research, when we got home, but theses boxes are exactly what they say they are... Letter boxes for staff.

Monday, July 08, 2024

More Than Just a Statue to a Great Man

James Henry Greathead statue
Greathead's tunnelling shield in action.

Across the road from the Bank of England, on Cornhill, there is a statue of a man, atop a tall plinth, which allows him to gaze down on to the street below. The man is wearing a fedora and appears to be holding some sort of map, giving him a kind of 'Indiana Jones' appearance. The man is James Henry Greathead, who was born in South African in 1844. 

So what is it about him that demands a statue on such a large plinth in this area of the City of London? 

Well. James Henry Greathead moved to England in 1859, where he studied under the civil engineer Peter W. Barlow. This was a great era for tunnel diggers, what with Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard, having tunnelled beneath the River Thames and created the first tunnel beneath a navigable waterway, in 1843.

Brunel had designed and patented an 'Iron Shield', for his tunnelling, which Greathead, along with Barlow, greatly improved upon. Their project would be London's second tunnel beneath the River Thames and was called, unsurprisingly, the Tower Subway, as it would carry 12 passengers along a narrow-gauge railway from Tower Hill to Tooley Street.

The tunnelling shield was an immediate success, considering that the majority of London's underground lines had been built with the 'cut-and-cover' method, up to this point.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Severndroog Castle and Tea Room

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle.

Sunday June 30, 2024.

It was a beautiful summer morning as Keilyn and I visited Severndroog Castle and Tea Room, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It was a place that I wanted to visit for a while, but finding a Sunday when we were both free, plus ensuring that we picked a clear day, had always been tricky. 

We took the Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, where we changed to the Jubilee line to North Greenwich. From here we clambered aboard the 486 bus towards Bexleyheath, grabbing the front seats on the top deck, at which point the heavens opened and it began to rain... hard.

Fortunately it stopped as we stepped from the bus, at Memorial Hospital and walked the 10 minutes to Castle Wood and Severndroog Castle.

Severndroog Castle
A covered area to enjoy tea and cake.

We stopped for a hot drink in the Tea Room before we ascended the spiral stairs to each of the floors, checking out the shop and various rooms, before we went up on to the viewing platform.

View from Severndroog Castle
Looking out across London.

Although the rain had stopped it was still slightly overcast, but the views were quite impressive. 

Keilyn atop Severndroog Castle
Keilyn is Queen of the Castle.

A volunteer was on hand to point out various locations, relating to the James family, along with pointing out the landmarks that could be seen. There was even a box of binoculars, which Keilyn enjoyed looking through.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Walking with Keilyn: Severndroog Castle to Woolwich... and beyond

Royal Victoria Docks
Royal Victoria Docks from Connaught Bridge.

Sunday June 30, 2024.

It was a slightly overcast morning as Keilyn and I hopped into a taxi and headed to Watford underground station, to start another epic walk.

Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, then Jubilee line to North Greenwich and finally a 486 bus towards Bexleyheath, grabbing the front seats on the top deck, although our walk would start form Shooter's Hill.

As soon as we boarded the bus the rain, which had been threatening all morning, finally made an appearance, but it didn't dampen our spirits, as the bus meandered its way towards Shooter's Hill. Thankfully, as we alighted from the bus, the rain stopped and slowly the clouds began to lift, as we made the short walk to Castle Woods and our first stop of the day... Severndroog Castle.

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle.

Now, this is not really a castle, but a folly or memorial, and it is unique in design, being three-sided. It is an 18th century Gothic Tower, with a viewing platform on its roof, which, on a clear day, allows you to look out across London to the edges of the six counties that surround her (seven for those who still include Middlesex).

Due to staffing and technical issues the Castle was late opening, but we could still avail ourselves the use of the Tea Room, which we promptly did. 

Suitably refreshed we were informed that the Tower was now open. So, with Keilyn leading the way, we made our way up the spiral staircase and found ourselves in the Lady James Room, where a small shop was set out, with information boards and a model of the Folly. It was here that we purchased our tickets for the viewing platform. Thankfully I had some cash on me, as the card machine was still causing issues for the volunteers.

Severndroog Castle Donation Box
This model is actually a money box.

We then headed up to the next floor and the William James Room, which is now a community, learning and exhibition space. 

Severndroog Castle Viewing Platform
Heading up to the Viewing Platform.

Then it was up to the roof, where we discovered that, although it was still overcast, the views were incredible. A volunteer handed us both a pair of binoculars and began pointing out various points of interest, related to the James family, along with other landmarks. 

As the viewing platform is 151 metres (496 feet) above sea level, you can see out over the tree canopy of Castle Wood and Oxleas Woodlands, which is one of the last remaining ancient woodlands in London, Parakeets flew by, below us, while a Woodpecker could heard somewhere in the trees ahead of us, too. We took our time checking out the view, as with every passing minute the clouds lifted a little more, until we could see Battersea Power Station, the mast at Crystal Palace and so much more.

The View from Severndroog Castle
Slightly overcast, but still an incredible view.

Once we had seen all that we could we thanked the volunteer and made our way back into the folly, stopping to sign the visitor's book and peruse the shop, before heading back out into Castle Woods, ready to begin our walk proper.

Royal Military Academy
The Old Royal Military Academy.

Reaching Shooter's Hill we followed the road westward, before turning north onto South Circular Road, heading towards Woolwich. We passed the old Royal Military Academy, which has now been turned into private apartments, before we reached our second place of interest... St George's Garrison Church.

St George's Garrison Church Exterior
The exterior of St George's Garrison Church.

This was another place that I had wanted to visit for quite a while. But, like Severndroog Castle, it is only open on Sundays. 

St George's Garrison Church Interior
The ruins and the memorial gardens.

Making our way through the gates we made our way to what is left of the church, with its canopy protecting the mosaics and brickwork from the elements. As I studied the mosaics and the Victoria Cross Memorial, Keilyn took herself off to look at the Memorial Gardens. 

St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens
St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens.

I soon joined her, before we started talking with a volunteer who explained what and how the Trust worked and their plans for the future. There is a lot going on with this historic ruin, that will preserve it for future generations, and I cannot wait to go back and see how it all turns out.

St George's Garrison Church Mosaics
St George's Garrison Church Altar and Mosaics.

On leaving the ruin we continued towards Woolwich High Street, where we bought lunch and rested, as the sun had now burnt through the clouds, raising the temperature, allowing us to remove our jackets.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Tower House

Tower House
The Tower House, built by William Burges.

Wandering through the Holland Park district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, you will find this Victorian era house, with a cylindrical tower and conical roof. It is distinct from the others houses on this street and really catches the eye.

William Burges purchased the leasehold to the land in 1875, from the Earl of Ilchester, and began designing the Tower House as his own private residence. By 1878 the exterior and much of the interior were completed, but decoration, furniture and furnishings were still being designed up until his death in 1881.

It is a red brick building with dressing of Bath stone and Cumbrian green roof slates and was Grade I listed in 1949. 

It has a basement with a kitchen and other utility rooms, while the ground floor has the hall, dining room, drawing room and library. The first floor has the main bedroom, guest room, bathroom and an armoury. The staircase is built into the cylindrical tower.

Tower House
A late Victorian townhouse, with a tower.

Following his death, Richard Popplewell Pullan, Burges's brother-in-law, inherited the lease. Pullan would go on to complete some of Burges's projects. The author, Colonel T.H. Minshall then purchased the lease, before selling it on to Colonel E.R.B. Graham, in 1933.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Royal Parks

Greenwich Park and the Royal Obseervatory
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park.

London is full of parks and green spaces, both large and small, that offer quiet areas to relax in relative tranquillity, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

These parks stretch from the City of London out to all Boroughs and come in all shapes and sizes. Some are well known, while others are only known by those in the know.

St Dunstan-in-the-East
A quiet place for contemplation.

Ruined churches, pocket parks and even cemeteries offer green spaces in which to sit and contemplate your day. Such as, Postman's Park, St Dunstan-in-the-East, Bunhill Fields and 

Holland Park
Holland Park.

Then there are the larger parks like Battersea, Gunnersbury, Holland, Olympic, Southwark or Victoria Parks, with their long and storied histories.

Gunnersbury Park Lake and Orangery
The Orangery and lake, Gunnersbury Park.

Many of these have playgrounds, for children, but others offer just peace and quiet.

However, the best known of these green spaces are the Royal Parks, of which there are eight. These Royal Parks contain memorials, ancient trees, historic buildings, flower gardens, palaces, deer, lakes and much more.

Below are the eight Royal Parks, with a little information about each one.

Bushy Park is the second largest of London’s Royal Parks and is home to wild deer and the Diana Fountain.

  • Location - North of Hampton Court Palace
  • Area -1,100 acres
  • Date - Circa 1500s
  • Open (pedestrians) - 24/7 
  • Open (vehicles) - 06:30-21:00
  • Rail - Hampton, Hampton Court, Hampton Wick, Teddington
The Green Park is a peaceful triangle of mature trees and grasslands and is home to the Bomber Command Memorial. It is here that you can see the Royal Gun Salute, performed by The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
  • Location - Next to Buckingham Palace
  • Area - 47 acres
  • Date - 1660
  • Open (pedestrians) - 05:00-00:00
  • Open (vehicles) - n/a
  • Rail - Green Park
King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery
A Royal Gun Salute in Green Park.

Greenwich Park is part of the UNESCO Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site. A mix of 17th-century landscape, stunning gardens and expansive views over London, plus it is home to the Old Royal Naval College, Meridian Line, National Maritime Museum, the queen's House and the Royal Observatory.
  • Location - South of the Old Royal Naval College
  • Area - 184 acres
  • Date - 1433
  • Open (pedestrians) - 06:00-21:30
  • Open (vehicles) - n/a
  • Rail - Greenwich, Maze Hill, Greenwich Pier
London from Greenwich Park
An impressive view of London, from Greenwich Park.

Hyde Park is home to a variety of gardens, children’s playgrounds, sports facilities and historic monuments. It is also where you will find the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, Speaker's Corner and the Royal Parks Shop.
  • Location - Northwest of Buckingham Palace
  • Area - 350 acres
  • Date - 1637
  • Open (pedestrians) - 05:00-00:00
  • Open (vehicles) - n//a
  • Rail - Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch
The Serpentine in Hyde Park
The Serpentine, Hyde Park.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Horsleydown Old Stairs

Horsleydown Old Stairs
Looking up Horsleydown Old Stairs, from the foreshore.

Back when the River Thames was a working river, there were countless stairs that workers could use to access the foreshore. Over time, many of these stairs were removed or access restricted. Some, like Horsleydown Old Stairs, still give access to the River Thames.

Tower Bridge from below
City Beyond the Bridge.

One of the reasons that I love using these stairs, to access the foreshore, is the unique views you can get of the historic Tower Bridge. Plus, there is a wide swathe of the foreshore to explore, where pieces of clay pipes are in abundance, along with other artefacts favoured by mudlarks.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

'Modern Marriage' by Simon Fujiwara

Modern Marriage top view
'Modern Marriage' by Simon Fujiwara (2015).

Wandering around the Nine Elms Regeneration Zone, Embassy Gardens, surrounding the Embassy of the United States of America, you will notice some pieces of public art on display.

These works of art are on display along a Linear Park, which, when completed, will be a green walking route linking Battersea Power Station to Vauxhall.

One of the pieces that I find most interesting is 'Modern Marriage' by Simon Fujiwara.

This sculpture of a dismembered left foot, lying on its side, looks, at first glance, to be just a sculpture of a foot. However, on the sole of the foot there is a gold wedding ring embedded in the skin.
Modern Marriage bottom view
A wedding ring embedded in the sole of the foot.

It is an intriguing piece, that I find endlessly fascinating.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Southwark Park

Caryatids of the Old Rotherhithe Town Hall
The Caryatids of the Old Rotherhithe Town Hall.

Opening to the public on June 19, 1869, Southwark Park covers 26 hectares and is Grade II listed. It stretches from Jamaica Road, to the north, to Hawkstone Road in the southeast.

Southwark Park, has two entrances on Jamaica Road, Christchurch Gate, named after a nearby church, and Paradise Gate. Christchurch Gate was designated an entrance in 1903, but following damage in World War II it was replaced with a new gate, modelled on the original, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration in 2001-2002.

Southwark Park Bandstand
Southwark Park Bandstand.

Entering through Christchurch Gate the path divides, with one that leads you on a tree-lined avenue around the park, while the other leads you to the Bandstand. This Bandstand was acquired, in 1884, from the Great Exhibition in South Kensington and placed in the park. During the summer months free concerts are held here.

Caryatids. One representing Oak and the other Laurel.

Continuing south from the Bandstand you suddenly come across some stone pillars, hidden among the trees. These are Caryatids that originally flanked the the main entrance of the old Rotherhithe Town Hall. They were placed here in 2011. Continuing on there are tennis courts to the west, while a bowls club, hidden behind manicured hedges, takes up a small area at the centre of the park. 

Jabez West Drinking Fountain
Memorial to a working-class man.

Then there is the polished grey granite Jabez West Drinking Fountain, which is a memorial to a working-class man. 

Gateway from Carriage Drive
A simple gate.

Jamaica Gate stands at the west end of Carriage Drive, which now divides the park into separate spaces.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

'Real Time' by Maarten Baas (Man in a Clock)

Real Time by Maarten Baas
The man trapped in a clock, Paddington.

At the corner of Eastbourne Terrace and Craven Road, in Paddington, on the front of the EFL building, you will find a clock.

Now, clocks are everywhere, so why is this one so special? Well, this one has a man trapped inside it.

Yep. As you peer up at this clock, a man appears and cleans the clock face, from inside, rubs out the hands and then repaints them... every minute.

It is part of an art installation entitled 'Real Time', by Dutch artist Maarten Baas.

The first 'Real Time' piece, entitled 'Sweeper's Clock', was produced in April 2009 and consisted of a video of road sweepers moving rubbish around to create analogue clock hands.

Maarten Baas followed this up with a person painting a digital clock from behind a translucent screen and then a man painting analogue hands on a grandfather clock, from behind a screen.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Gnome Land

Gnome Garden
Gnomes relaxing in the afternoon sun.

Just off Kensington High Street, in the Holland Park area, someone has turned their small front garden into Gnome Land.

Now, these aren't your usual full-sized Gnomes, that many people have in their own gardens, but miniature Gnomes.

Gnome Garden
Gnomes in their natural habitat.

These Gnomes are all busy doing things like having a BBQ, gardening, having a drink at the bar, sunbathing, fishing, shopping, tending to animals and playing on slides.

There are buildings that the owners have created from wood, that include homes, a bar, shop, farm and much more. These are to scale and the planting of shrubs, trees and flowers appear to be in proportion, too.

Gnome Garden
Some of the Gnomes were still going about their business, when I walked by.

It is a small plot of land, but with the miniature Gnomes it looks a lot larger and reminds me of the film Gnomeo and Juliet.

I don't know when it was created, nor why, but I am glad that is there for everyone to see. I am actually looking forward to taking another trip to see it, next summer, to see if it changes each year, or if it stays the same.

One of the signs states...

"We like photos

Share Gnome Land

With the World"

Once I had seen enough I continued on my way gnomeward. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

'Greyscape' Photo Competition Winner

Bastion House
My entry to the photo competition.

Back in April, 2024, I was informed about a 'Photo competition' that was being run by 'Greyscape', a website that celebrates Brutalist, Modernist and Constructivist architecture.

Their competition was for photographs of Bastion House, near Barbican.

Fortunately, for me, I had visited the area while on one of my walks with Keilyn, and so had a couple of photographs that I could use as my entry.

I wasn't particularly enamoured by either of the two photographs, that I had taken, but chose the one that I thought looked the better of the two.

Bastion House
The photo I rejected entering.

Having sent in my entry I promptly forgot about the competition and carried on with my walks and continued to take photographs.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

City of London: 'Ring of Steel'

Police Sentry Box
A City of London police sentry box.

Walking through and around the City of London you may notice that roads, entering the City, narrow and concrete islands have, usually empty, Police sentry boxes on them. 

These sentry boxes are a remnant of far more dangerous times. They were put in place, along with narrower roads and CCTV cameras, as a response to the IRA threats to the City of London from the 1970s through to the 1990s. This initiative became known as the 'Ring of Steel'.

But, this wasn't the City of London's first form of protective security. For that we must go back to the founding of Londinium. 

Roman Wall
The City of London's original defensive ring.

The Romans constructed a wall, many parts of which are still visible, to protect early Londinium from invasion from the Picts, who had invaded northern Britain and overrun Hadrian's Wall. 

To further protect Londinium the Roman's increased fortifications along the wall, as well as increasing the wall's height.

Various Wards were also created within the City walls, ensuring that communities were linked and security could be maintained. These community links are still as important today for keeping the City of London safe.

Terrorism became an issue for the City of London, and London as a whole, when Irish Republicans began a bombing campaign between 1867 and 1885. This was followed by Militant Suffragette actions, along with Anarchist attacks.

The Irish Republican Army started a limited campaign between 1939 and 1940, which became known as the 'Sabotage Campaign',

The most deadly attacks began in 1973 and would continue until 1997, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army began a sustained campaign during what was called 'The Troubles'. This was further exacerbated by attacks related to Middle East politics and more Anarchist attacks.

Police Sentry Box and Police Car
The City of London's 'Ring of Steel'.

It was during the 1990s that a new 'Ring of Steel' was put in place. This involved the narrowing of roads and the adding of small chicanes, which forced drivers to slow down. Concrete medians were also installed, each with a police sentry box manned by armed police. Some roads were closed to traffic altogether.

CCTV cameras recorded vehicles entering, and leaving, the City of London. One of the measures, now used throughout the world, was Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) which was developed in the City of London. Today, the whole of London has traffic monitoring systems which are constantly viewed by police. This data is kept for five years.

Some dissident members of the Real Irish Republican Army and Islamic terrorism has continued to attack locations within the City of London, London and the UK, up to the present day.

Police Sentry Box
Keilyn in a police sentry box.

As new threats are detected new technology evolves. Cameras are moved, upgraded or more are installed. As the City of London changes, with roads rerouted, new businesses moving in or new infrastructure being constructed the 'Ring of Steel' adapts, doing its best to keep us safe.