Archive for August, 2023

Epping Forest Centenary Walk

Thursday, August 31st, 2023

Epping Forest Centenary Walk 2009: London is in some ways a ‘green city’ with over 3,000 parks of varying sizes within the boroughs which make up Greater London. These range from pocket handkerchief areas to large commons and royal parks such as the roughly 2500 acre Richmond Park.

Epping Forest Centenary Walk
Wanstead Flats

London Mayor Sadiq Khan supported London being designated as the world’s first National Park City in 2019 and announced plans to increase the amount of ‘green space’ to 50%. This isn’t a huge target as according to the capital’s environmental records centreRoughly 47% of Greater London is ‘green’; 33% of London is natural habitats within open space according to surveyed habitat information and an additional 14% is estimated to be vegetated private, domestic garden land.”

Epping Forest Centenary Walk
One of the Montague Road Estate flats had misssiles on its roof for the Olympics

In order of size, starting with the largest they categorise this as Other Urban Fringe, Parks And Gardens, Natural And Semi-natural Urban Greenspace, Green Corridors, Outdoor Sports Facilities, Unknown and amenities with other minor contributions. Some 22% is classified as Green Belt which gives some quite strong protection against development, though my borough is currently proposing to build on a little of it.

Epping Forest Centenary Walk
The walk goes on a bridge across the North Circular Road

The protection of green spaces in and around London has a long history, back to the Norman conquest when kings set up royal hunting grounds convenient to their palaces in Westminster and further afield. These were called forests, though most were mainly open land rather than full of trees; the name was a legal term meaning only the king had the right to hunt deer in them. One of the larger areas, established by Henry II in the 12th century was Epping Forest, part of an even larger Forest of Essex.

Epping Forest Centenary Walk
Memorial to a famous evanglalist Gypsy Rodney Smith born in a bender here

Enclosures began to threaten the future of the forest at the start of the 19th century when around a third of the remaining forest was allowed to be privatised for building development and farming by the lords of various manors in the forest. By 1870 around two thirds of the forest had been enclosed.

Warren Pond

By this time many people had become worried about the loss of the commons, particular after neighbouring Hainault Forest had been sold off by the Crown, the trees removed and the area turned into poor agricultural land. More and more people were coming out from London during their free times to enjoy the green spaces in the outskirts and preservation societies were set up.

Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge

The City of London became involved after it bought land at Manor Park for the City of London Cemetery. Traditonally the city had organised Easter Monday stag hunts in the forest, but they now became commoners with the right to graze animals, and began legal actions agaimst lords of the manor who had enclosed forest land. Eventually Acts of Parliament allowed them to purchase the forest manors and an court in 1874 ruled that all enclosures made since 1851 were illegal.

Under the Epping Forest Act 1878 the forest ceased to be a royal forest and became managed by the City – as it still is. The Crown lost its right to venison and commoners lost some of their rights too, but the City Conservators were obliged to “at all times keep Epping Forest unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people.”

The preservation of Epping Forest was the first major victory in Europe for the modern environmental movement. Four years later it was endorsed by Queen Victoria, who although it was no longer royal but in the hands of the City of London, nevertheless stated “It gives me the greatest satisfaction to dedicate this beautiful forest to the use and enjoyment of my people for all time“.

On the 100th anniversary of the Epping Forest Act in 1978, the Friends of Epping Forest began a annual series of anniversary walks from along a route they established from Manor Park Station to Epping. The Friends were originally formed to oppose the routing of London’s orbital M25 through the Forest, leading to it being put in a tunnel. But they have been less successful in opposing some other breaches of the 1878 Act, and in 1989-94 a large section of the south of the forest was lost to build the M11 link road, and during the London 2012 Olympics a temporary police station was allowed to be built on Wanstead Flats.

Epping Station at the end of our walk

I walked the Epping Forest Centenary Walk with some of my family and a friend on Bank Holiday Monday 31 August 2009, and you can download a leaflet including a map (though I’d advise also having the OS Explorer 174) of what has now been renamed the Epping Forest Big Walk. According to this it is 14.1 miles (22.7km) but we managed to walk rather further, possibly partly because we got a little lost at times. Of course you can do the walk in stages rather than all on the same day. If you want to walk with others you can join the free Big Walk this year on Sunday 17th September 2023 to be led by experienced guides!

More Carnival – Children’s Day 2009

Wednesday, August 30th, 2023

More Carnival – Children’s Day: On Sunday 30th August 2009 I spent a few hours in Notting Hill and took a lot of pictures – here are just a few of those I liked. I can’t remember why I didn’t get around to putting them on line in 2009, but I only remembered them again in 2014 when August bank holiday was so wet I stayed home and didn’t go to carnival.

More Carnival - Children's Day 2009
Liquid Gold. I think it washed off me without too much difficulty
More Carnival - Children's Day 2009

I thought again this year about going to Notting Hill for Children’s Day when it is a little less crowded than the Monday. But there was engineering work on the railway with no trains from my station for over a week, only rail replacement buses.

More Carnival - Children's Day 2009

It would still have been possible to make the journey, or to take a bus and then the Underground, but having to do so on both the outward and homeward journey would add considerably to my journey times. I decided my trip to Notting Hill wasn’t essential.

More Carnival - Children's Day 2009

I’ve taken enough pictures of Carnival over the years since 1990 to satisfy me for my lifetime, and it’s hard to find anything really new.

Though I do regret having been put off from going to Notting Hill before 1990 by the media coverage which concentrated on the few violent incidents and painted a picture of street violence and mayhem. It’s really more of a huge outbreak of celebration.

There was a huge tightly packed crowd dancing to Sancho Panza

And I did photograph some children, though its clear my mind was largely on other things.

Many more pictures at Notting Hill – Children’s Day.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims – 2012

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims: On Wednesday 29th August 2012, the day that the Paralympic Games opened in London, disabled activists held a vigil to remember those who have died as a result of the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Paralympic Sponsor Atos, delivering a coffin to their head office. The vigil was a part of a week of action organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

I met with the activists in the two two coffee shops on Triton Square to prepare for the vigil shortly before they moved out towards Atos. It was raining steadily but fortunately there was an area under cover in front of the Atos offices where the could set up a PA system, an electronic organ, a lectern and an altar.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

The event began with a speaker (and a signer) explaining the problems with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as delivered by Atos, “a relentless health and disability assessment regime which has been used to slash vital benefits from hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people” and where assessors are told they have to reach strict targets in failing the great majority of claimants, finding ways to fill in the relevant boxes on the forms and often deliberately misinterpreting the claimants responses and misrepresenting their medical condition.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

Stories were read out about people who had committed suicide after incorrect Atos WCA assessments and where there was evidence that this had been at least part of the direct cause of their deaths.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012
Claire Glasman of Winvisible holds a poster about June Mitchell, found fit to work when dying from lung cancer

Four disabled people in wheelchairs or mobility scooters then brought a coffin to the vigil and people came forward to lay flowers on it.

The coffin was then carried to be put down directly in front of the Atos office entrance, and more flower petals were then thrown over it.

In 2012 I commented:

The event was a solemn and moving reminder of the scandal of the work capability assessments and the terrible effect they are having on the disabled. Many are losing the allowances that enable them to travel to work, others housing benefits, and are being told they are fit to work when patently they are unable to do so. One of the protesters had a placard with a list of some of the cases, “a suicidal woman – a man with FATAL heart condition – rape survivor of Rwandan genocide – man with kidney cancer – woman with sever MS”. It is a list that could be extended almost indefinitely – and now includes a man in a coma.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims

Despite Atos having been discredited, repeatedly been accused of dishonesty and associated with the deaths of disabled people, according to Disability News Service it earned over £465 million before withdrawing from the WCA contract in 2015.

Atos were left out of the awards for disablity assessment contracts worth over £2billion announced this year for 2024-9, with the contracts going to Capita, US company Maximus and Australian multinational Ingeus. But Atos may eventually get one of the five contracts, as they took the DWP to court after losing out to Serco for the southwest England contract, claiming the evaluation of the bids had been unfair. The court action ended with the DWP agreeing to reassess the decision, and the £338m contract may yet go to Atos.

As Disability News Service points out, both Capita and Maximus also been linked to the deaths of disabled claimants. Capita also has had serious data protection problems and has failed to meet acceptable quality standards of its PIP assessements and has been linked to “widespread reports of dishonesty by its healthcare professionals“. Despite this, these companies continue to be rewarded by hugely lucrative contracts. Privatisation apparently saves money but only by providing a service which employs staff often without adequate qualifications, forces them into dishonest practices and shoddy work and claimants pay dearly for this, sometimes with their lives.

More at Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims.

Notting Hill Carnival 2006

Monday, August 28th, 2023

Notting Hill Carnival 2006: On Monday 28th Aug 2006 I went to photograph Notting Hill Carnival, working with both black and white film and digital colour. In most of my carnival pictures I’ve concentrated on the people attending the event rather than the costumes and I did so on this occasion with the black and white, but for the colour I decided to mainly photograph those taking part in the carnival as the pictures here show.

Notting Hill Carnival 2006

Rather unusually my August 2006 page only starts on Friday 25th, when I went to Greenhithe & Swanscombe Marsh. I’d been away from London most of the month, holidaying with friends in Kent, visiting Paris and staying with family in Beeston and decided it wasn’t appropriate to post pictures from these locations on My London Diary.

Notting Hill Carnival 2006

In 2006 I went on both Sunday 17th, the Children’s Day and the main carnival event on the Monday, but the pictures here are all from the Monday. You can see those from Children’s Day on a link from the August Page of My London Diary.

Notting Hill Carnival 2006

I’ve always had a fairly elastic definition of London, and it stretched some way out along the River Thames both upstream and down, and also taking in the London Loop, a section of which I walked with family the following day.

Notting Hill Carnival 2006

Sunday had been a busy day too. Notting Hill only really gets going after lunch, so I had time to go to East Ham in the morning for the Sri Mahalakshmi Temple Chariot Festival and then call in at Bromley-by-Bow and walk to Stratford and photograph again the Bow Back Rivers before going to Children’s Day.

So I think I was probably fairly tired by the time Monday came around, having done rather a lot of cycling and walking over the past three days, as well as taking a great many pictures.

As I pointed out, it was “two years on from when I last photographed the event.” The previous year I had “tried to go, dragging myself to the station with a knee injury, but the pain was too much to continue. This year my knee held out, though I was glad to sink into a seat on the Underground at Latimer Road at the end of the day.

I also wrote “when I’ll get round to processing the film is anyone’s guess” and the answer was not for a very long time – and then I sent it away for processing rather than do it myself. By 2006 I had almost completely committed to digital for its many advantages and this was one of my final flings with film. The “more pictures soon” with which the piece ends was an aspiration never fulfilled online and I’ve yet to print any of the black and white pictures.

Perhaps the reason for this – and why I probably won’t get to Carnival this afternoon – is “because I’m getting older … I didn’t get the same buzz from this year’s event as in previous years, though most of the same things seemed to be around. perhaps there lies the problem; most of them did seem to be the same.”

But Notting Hill Carnival is still one of London’s great spectacles – and a great fashion show on the street. If you’ve never been it’s very much worth attending.

More pictures on My London Diary.

Capital Ring – South Kenton to Hendon

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

Capital Ring – South Kenton to Hendon: Monday 27th August 2018 was August Bank Holiday, which for many years meant if I was in London I was in Notting Hill for the carnival. But I think the last time I went was in 2012, when I went on Children’s Day and then wrote “either I’m getting too old for it, or perhaps carnival is changing, and this year I found it a little difficult. So I went on the Sunday, stayed around three hours and didn’t really want to return for the big day. So I didn’t.

Capital Ring - South Kenton to Hendon
Welsh Harp and West Hendon Waterside

Since then I’ve been out of London in several years and in the others I’ve thought about going to carnival again, but decided instead to go out for a family walk. And in 2018 with my wife we walked the section of the Capital Ring from South Kenton Station to Hendon Station.

Capital Ring - South Kenton to Hendon

The walk itself is only 6.2 miles, but walking to the station at the end and the kind of wanderings that all photographers indulge in it got a little longer. I’m not the kind of walker for whom a walk is a route march from A to B, but rather someone who likes to go where his eyes lead him in search of interesting views and places.

Capital Ring - South Kenton to Hendon

Unlike some sections of the Ring which are almost all woods, fields and trees this one has a wide range of different areas, all of some interest, beginning with South Kenton Station itself, the Windermere pub next door and the whole area of 1930s development.

Capital Ring - South Kenton to Hendon

I don’t think my two pictures of The Church of the Ascension really do this interesting 1957 building by J Harold Gibbons justice, but they do give some idea of how unusual it is.

We had the guide to the whole walk around London by Colin Saunders which saves having to carry maps and gives usually clear route descriptions as well as a few snippets of interesting information – such as the fact that this pond on the top of Barn Hill was a part of a huge landscaping project by Humphrey Repton, much of which was covered by housing in the 1920s and 30s and includes Wembley Stadium.

From here we were a little let down by the walk instructions and ended up wandering around a little lost in Fryent Country Park, but eventually with the help of the map and a little guesswork found the correct exit.

The walk continues through a number of suburban streets, not without some interest, eventually coming to Church Walk. Kingsbury does of course have some remarkable architecture but this lies some distance off the route. Fortunately I’ve photographed it on other occasions.

There are two St Andrew’s churches a short distance apart. The ‘new’ church is rather larger and was actually built around six miles away in Wells Street Marylebone in 1844-7 and moved here stone by stone in 1931-3. I haven’t posted a picture of this Grade II* building by S Daukes as it just seemed to me another Victorian gothic church. Probably I would have been more impressed had it been open and I could have seen the interior. A short distance away is the old St Andrew’s, a rather more quaint building with a Grade I listing, dating from the 12th-13th century though with some 19th century restorations.

St Andrews Old Churchyard, now left to nature as a ‘Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation‘ is also full of interest, with no less than five Grade II listed monuments and tombstones including this one for “Timothy Wetherilt (d.1741). Portland headstone with upper relief of cherubs amid rays, set between auricular scrolls below an upper cornice enriched with egg and dart mouldings.”

A short walk (with some deviation to a garden centre for its toilets) took us to the Welsh Harp – Brent Reservoir, built in 1835 to supply water for the Regents Canal which had opened in 1820. It got its name from a nearby pub and both pub and lake were for many years a popular leisure destination for Londoners. In 1948 the rowing events for the Olympics were held here, while for 2012 Eton College provided its Dorney Lake, completed in 2006 costing the college £17 million, though we paid through Olympic funding for the finish tower, a new bridge and an upgraded approach road and more.

At the east shore of the lake was Barnet Council’s West Hendon Estate, sold off to developers and now West Hendon Waterside. The pleasant and well-loved council estate with 680 homes in decent condition was sold for a quarter of its value to Barratt who describe it as “170 hectares of beautiful green surroundings overlooking the Welsh Harp reservoir” (see top picture.) Some of the council estate was still occupied, overshadowed by new towers with a crane looming over. The development will result in more homes, but few will be social housing, and the so-called affordable properties are beyond reach of the current residents, with many probably bought and left empty by overseas property investors.

We walked past what was an impressive 1930s cul-de-sac when I photographed it in 1993, but a little less so now as the distinctive metal windows with curved glazing on the bays have been replace by double glazing, though this must make the occupants rather more comfortable.

We walked on to Hendon, stopping for an ice-cream at Hendon Park Cafe, “the first kosher park café to open up in the UK” and admiring Hendon Park Holocaust Memorial Garden and the buildings arond Hendon’s Central Circus before catching a train on our way home.

More pictures on My London Diary at Capital Ring: South Kenton to Hendon.

On My Brompton in Essex – 2004

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

On My Brompton in Essex: On Thursday 26th August 2004 I went for a ride on my Brompton in Essex on the north bank of the Thames, in an area sometimes known as the Thames Gateway. If anyone doesn’t know, the Brompton is one of the best folding bikes around, with 16 inch wheels, folding quickly to a fairly small package which can be carried onto trains and buses. I don’t ride it so much now, as I find it rather heavy to carry, particularly when loaded with my camera gear.

On My Brompton in Essex
Chafford Hundred, Grays, Essex

I bought the Brompton at the end of 2002, and spent a lot of time riding it for exercise on doctor’s orders during recovery from a minor heart problem at the start of 2003. It coincided with the purchase of my first digital camera capable of professional results, the 6.1Mp Nikon D100 DSLR.

On My Brompton in Essex
Royal Victoria Dock

For a year or two I worked with both digital and film, particularly because at the start I had only one Nikon lens, a 24-85mm zoom, giving an equivalent on the DX format camera to 36-128mm on full-frame, but I used a range of wider lenses on film. By 2004 I had added the remarkable Sigma 12-24mm (18-36mm equiv) to my bag, and many of the pictures I made that day were taken with that lens. I think it was the first affordable ultra-wide zoom, and certainly the results on DX format were very usable.

On My Brompton in Essex
Channel Tunnel Rail link under construction at Purfleet

As well as the Nikon I also had a film camera, a Russian Horizon 202 swing lens panoramic camera. You can see some of the pictures I made with this among those on the Thames Gateway (Essex) section on the Urban Landscapes site.

On My Brompton in Essex
Dartford Bridge and Channel Tunnel rail link, Thurrock

I began taking pictures that day at Victoria Dock in Canning Town, having taken the Brompton on the train to Waterloo and then the Jubilee Line there, before cycling to West Ham station to catch the C2C rail service to Rainham, all on a Travelcard. It’s something of a blow that TfL now intends to discontinue the Travelcard, which provided relatively cheap and simple travel for most of my photography.

Here is what I wrote about the day back in August 2004 – with minor corrections, particularly changing to normal capitalisation.

I like to make good use of my Travelcards, so Rainham, the last station out of Fenchurch St in zone 6 is a good destination. I pointed the Brompton first to Purfleet, to take a look at the state of play on the high-speed rail link, and also a new development in the old chalkpits, then on towards the Dartford bridge.

The Bridge Act obliges the operators to transport cycles and pedestrians across free of charge, and I cycled up the path towards it to claim this right, before changing my mind and deciding i didn’t want to go to the other side. Instead I took the new road through the West Thurrock Marshes industrial area and on to St Clements church, now a nature sanctuary, in the middle of a detergent factory.

It’s a quiet and pleasant place to eat sandwiches, though the smell of the perfuming agent is pervasive. There I planned a route largely along side roads, cycle paths and footpaths to Upminster, taking in Chafford Hundred, South Ockenden and Belhus Park and woods. It made a pleasant ride, though I had to make a few detours, and the B isn’t too stable on slimy mud, so some paths made for interesting riding, with the added pleasures of bramble thorns and nettles.

My London Diary

All of the pictures on this post were taken on the Nikon D100. There are a quite a lot more on My London Diary.

More Stockwell Green & Mary Seacole

Friday, August 25th, 2023

My walk which began in Clapham on Sunday 4th June 1989 continues in Stockwell. The first and previous part was Light & Life, Pinter and Stockwell Breweries.

Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-51
Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-51

The decorations at right are on the fine frontage of The Marquess of Lorne pub. The Grade II listing for this mentions is fine terracotta window surrounds and these panels in green, gold and brown glazed tiles. The pub has the address 51 Dalyell Rd, but this side is in Combermere Rd. The Marquis of Lorne is a title given to the eldest son and heir of the Duke of Argyll (in full Marquis of Kintyre and Lorne.) The decoration on the building includes the name of the Licensee in 1881 although a licence for the pub was refused ten years earlier. CAMRA note that as well as the fine Victorian exterior decoration much of the inter-war interior refitting remains.

Probably the pub name dates from 1878 when John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell, later 9th Duke of Argyll but then Marquess of Lorne was made Governor General of Canada. He was married to Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, who has a rather fine pub named after her in Holborn.

The decoration on 20 Combermere Road at left has also survived. This is a Laundromat and dry cleaners.

Hargwyne St, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-52
Hargwyne St, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-52

A street of solidly built late Victorian houses. Their plain elegance is relieved by leaf decoration on three sides of the the first floor windows and dentillation above the ground floor bays. A boy plays with a ball outside in this quiet street. I can’t find any explanation of the street name.

Shops, Brixton Station Rd, Brixton Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-53
Shops, Brixton Station Rd, Brixton Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-53

I made a detour into the centre of Brixton, probably to use the public toilets in Brixton Market, taking a picture of the block of shops on its north side between Brixton Road and Beehive Place, before returning to Combermere Road. I made more pictures in Brixton the same day on another camera, either on this detour or later in my wanderings on the day but I can’t now remember which – I’ll include these in one of the later posts on this walk.

Stockwell Depot, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-42
Stockwell Depot, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-42

Another view of the former Waltham’s Brewery in Combermere Road which was for many years a Lambeth Council Depot and has since been replaced by housing. Although I wasn’t able to view the interior, this seemed to me to be a good example of a relatively early industrial building, few of which have survived.

New Queens Head, pub, Stockwell Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-43
New Queens Head, pub, Stockwell Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-43

The pub is still there on Stockwell Road, a short distance east of the corner of Combermere Road, and still looks similar though it has lost the ‘New’ and is now longer a Courage pub. The name board between the two first floor windows is gone, now just dull brown empty paintwork and the ground floor paint is all over, no longer emphasising the panels and door and window frames. It used to look rather smarter. Perhaps the beer is better.

Perhaps surprisingly this building is Grade II listed, described as a “Building of Regency appearance with alterations.” The listing states it is included for group value and my picture shows some of that group.

Mary Seacole Mural, Stockwell Green, Stockwell Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-44
Mary Seacole Mural, Stockwell Green, Stockwell Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-44

I moved a few feet west to include a better view of the Mary Seacole mural on the west corner of Combermere Road. Not only has the mural now gone, so has the building on which it was painted.

Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) was born in Jamaica, her father a Scots soldier and mother a free Creole. She became a nurse and a doctor using natural herbs, learning her skills from her mother who ran a house looking after injured soldiers. In 1854 she applied to the War Office to go as a nurse to the Crimean War (1853-6) but was rejected as she had no formal training. So she made her own way there.

In the Crimea she met Florence Nightingale who refused to let her work in the hospital there, so she set up her own British Hotel near Balaclava to look after sick and recovering officers, also going to nurse wounded soldiers on the battlefield, sometimes under fire.

In the Crimea, ‘Mother Seacole’ gained a reputation among the soldiers rivalling that of Florence Nightingale. She returned to England after the war in poor health and destitute, but thousands who knew what she had done for our soldiers set up a festival and collection for her in 1857. At the time William Russell who had been in Crimea as War correspondent for The Times wrote “I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

But somehow, probably because of her colour, Mary Seacole more or less disappeared from our history books, and this mural and a memorial garden close to where she was buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Kensal Green were part of a campaign to revive the memory and reputation of this “Black lady of compassion” and Black history in general.

In 2016 a memorial statue to her was erected in the grounds of St Thomas’s Hospital, the first in the UK to a named black woman. There was opposition to the erection of a statue to her, led by the the Nightingale Society.

More pictures from my walk on 4th June 1989 in a later post.

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over 2008

Thursday, August 24th, 2023

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over: On Sunday 24th August 2008, fifteen years ago the Olympics were officially handed over from Beijing to London. To mark this, events were arranged in Hoxton, part of Hackney, one of the three London Boroughs in which the main Olympic site was being developed.

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over
A critical point in the slow race at the Hoxton Austerity Olympics

Hackney Council hoped that they would gain some money for regeneration from the huge Olympic spending, though it is difficult to find much evidence that it did in any way improve the borough. They had arranged what turned out to be a very boring event in Shoreditch Park with a giant TV screen showing events from Beijing and some performances and speeches. It was very poorly attended – probably only by a few council officials and families of the local kids who ran a few races or took part in the displays and singing. I took a few pictures – including one showing both the Union Jacks being waved in the park, but soon left for the more interesting local event – a 1948 Street party – in Hoxton Street.

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over

The previous London Olympics in 1948 were arranged on a shore-string budget when the whole country was still under rationing and still recovering from the war. They made use of existing facilities and were truly an ‘Austerity Olympics’. But they were also a very successful event.

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over

Back then the athletes were truly amateurs, taking time off from work to compete and training outside their work hours. Now, particularly since lottery funding it is a massively professional affair, with billions going into Olympic sports, and little if any of the original Olympic ideals remain.

Hoxton Olympic Hand Over

Studies published in 2016 reveal that London 2012 was the most expensive Summer Olympics in history, costing $15 billion, overrunning its original budget by 76%. The organisers doubled the estimate after winning the bid, then claimed that they had come in under budget in what the study describes as “deliberate misinformation of the public about cost and cost overrun” saying it “treads a fine line between spin and outright lying“.

But the figures are actually a huge underestimate of the actual cost, as they exclude “indirect capital costs, such as the money spent on upgrading the local transport infrastructure”, much of which is inappropriate to current needs or the future development of the area.

In contrast, the total spending on the 1948 Olympics was £732,268, equivalent in 2012 allowing for inflation to around £16 million, only just over one thousandth of the cost of London 2012. And the 1948 cost was a little under budget and was more than paid for by ticket sales – there was a profit of over £29,000.

Hoxton had decided to put on a ‘1948 Street Party’ in the area of Hoxton St where the market takes place, and there were shops, museums and various local organisations taking part and putting on events and displays.

Back in 2008 I wrote:

I’d had a very nice cup of tea served in 1948 style china by a “nippy”, and in the street were tea parties (with free cakes) and displays of boxing, jitterbugging and various objects from the 1940s kitchen (almost all of which we still use here, including a pastry blender – and no, it isn’t used to make bread.) Pearlies came in force and had a sing-song round the joanna.

Of course there was a bar, and there was also a little welcome madness in the section of road where the Hackney Austerity Olympics was taking place. It was of course highly appropriate, as the last Olympic Games held here were very much run on a shoe-string in 1948.

There was dancing on the street and everyone was having a good time. Including the ‘Free Hackney Movement’ Space Hijackers who arrived in what they call a tank to celebrate the handover of the protest torch for the Olympics from the Free Tibet protesters to Free Hackney.

The Free Hackney protest sees London 2012 as a great opportunity for property developers to rip us off and make obscene profits building luxury flats in the area, while at the same time restricting public access, closing down the existing free facilities and demolishing social housing and local businesses. So far its hard to argue against their case given the closure of local sports facilities including the closure of the Temple Mills cycle circuit and the removal of the Manor Gardens allotments and the wholesale clearance of small local firms which were based on Stratford Marsh.

There are a few locally based companies that have done well from their move, but more that have moved outside the area or closed down, with a loss of jobs in the area. There has also been considerable development of tall blocks of flats, but mainly for private sale or student accommodation which has done little if anything for the huge housing problems faced by local residents who want to remain in Hackney, Tower Hamlets or Newham.

Of course the London 2012 Olympics did give pleasure to many in the UK and around the world who watched the events, including the relatively few who bought tickets and watched them live. But any overall economic benefit for the UK – as claimed by the government – is debatable and given the extreme cost in any case marginal. Personally I find the media induced hysteria generated by the media around sporting events such as this objectionable and feel it is bad for the moral health of the country which needs a greater emphasis on the social and less on individual achievements of a tiny minority.

More at
Free Hackney Movement
Hoxton Handover – 1948 Street party

Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence: London is a relatively safe city compared with most large cities around the world. It’s murder rate of 1.38 per 100,000 population compares favourably with most others, and it is nowhere close to those in the top 50 -which all have rates over 28 times as high.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It is also considerably lower than any large city in the United States – which occupy eight places in the worst 50 cities for murders – with New Orleans at 70.56 near the top – only lower than some Mexican cities.

Hackney Million Mothers March

I’ve walked the streets of London carrying expensive cameras since the 1970s and fortunately have yet to be mugged or attacked. I have had my pocket picked a couple of times, seen drug dealers at work and refused offers from them and women offering me a good time, been threatened and assaulted by right-wing thugs and policemen (part of the job if you photograph protests) but generally London is a safe city.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It annoys me when some Americans keep asking about ‘no go’ areas in London (or other UK cities.) There are none. London is a city you can generally safely go anywhere in the public realm, though of course if you ask for trouble you can find it.

Hackney Million Mothers March

London isn’t crime-free. And there are some people who are more at risk than others. Women walking alone at night in lonely places do sometimes get attacked by male sex offenders. Many are sexually assaulted and a few are horribly killed. Some of these murders make the national headlines, such as that of Sarah Everard, killed by a police officer. But rather more women are killed in their homes, most often by men they know – a problem of male violence rather than London streets.

In one recent year there were over 18,000 reports of sexual assaults in London. But sexual assaults often go unreported, and it is difficult to know how many of these were on our streets. And although it is a disgracefully high figure it actually shows London as below the rate for the country as a whole.

Most at risk of being murdered on London’s streets are teenage males. Most are stabbed in crimes relating to gangs and drugs. There were 12,786 knife offences in London in the year ending March 2023, a little down on the figures for 2017-2020. The figures include those carrying a knife, owning a banned knife, trying to buy a knife if you are under 18, and/or threatening, injuring or fatally wounding someone with a knife. 63 of these offences killed someone in London.

Of course one murder is one too many, and all result in the waste of a life and a great deal of grief for the families and friends of those killed. There have been various local initiatives and groups set up to try to cut down the deaths, and some have at least some small effect but generally the numbers keep rising – though Covid saw a fall. Various newspaper articles and TV investigations have covered aspects of the subject, such as this in a series from Channel 4 News.

I’ve photographed a number of the protests and marches, often organised by bereaved families and its not possible to be unmoved, though sometimes I’ve felt that the solutions some of those speaking suggest would have little or no effect.

Knives are important in all of our lives, and in the average kitchen you can find quite a set of knives which could easily be used to kill. We need to change society more generally and importantly the way we raise, teach and occupy young children, giving them a better purpose in life and a sense of their own worth and abilities.

All the pictures here come from the Hackney Million Mothers March on Sunday 23rd August 2009, taking place as a part of an international peace parade to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Mothers Against Violence, mothers from bereaved families who are having a real impact in reducing gun, gang and knife crime, and to pledge action in Hackney over the issue.

The march was organised by Songololo Feet, Friend’s Charity, Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (HCVS), International Action against Small Arms (IANSA), St. John’s Church and The Crib, a local community group which “delivers creative and inspiring projects for young people in Hackney”.

More pictures at Hackney Million Mothers March. You can also read about a related event I photographed the day before this on 22nd August 2009 at LIVE & FAME Against Knife Crime.

Light & Life, Pinter and Stockwell Breweries

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023

Light & Life, Pinter and Stockwell Breweries: A week after my previous walk I returned to South London to take more pictures on Sunday 4th June 1989. I began my walk from Clapham High Street.

Landor Rd, Clapham, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-61
Landor Rd, Clapham, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-61

Landor Road, originally named ‘Stockwell Private Road’ but changed at some date before 1912, possibly after the well-known English writer Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864) runs from close to Clapham North Station to Stockwell Green. I made my first picture roughly halfway between the two at the corner with Hubert Grove. A group of five men standing around a car on the opposite side of the road had probably attracted my attention but I clearly did not want to attract theirs.

Many of the shops here have since been converted to residential use.

Light & Life Full Gospel Fellowship, 105-11 Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-62
Light & Life Full Gospel Fellowship, 105-11 Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-62

A row of four terrace houses here had been converted into the General HQ of the Light & Life Full Gospel Fellowship, and notices gave a full list of activities including Sunday Schools, Divine Worship, Gospel Meeting, Bible Study and Prayer but also Sewing, Cooking, Baking, Musical Rehearsals, Table Tennis , Darts and Snooker. The centre also housed a play group on Monday to Fridays and a Youth Club on Thursday evenings.


The Fellowship is still continuing its mission there, though with new noticeboards, blinds replacing curtains and a new coat of paint.

Kimberley Rd, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-63
Kimberley Rd, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-63

I can’t read the notices in the shop window of 127 Landor Road, but I think they might have indicated that the shop had closed. It was perhaps about to be converted to its current residential use.

Looking down Kimberley Road there are two tall blocks of flats, but from my camera position only one is visible, I think Pinter House on Rhodesia Road, one of three blocks in the Grantham Road Estate. 1890s terraced houses there were destroyed by wartime bombing and the site was used for prefabs. Planning for these towers began in the early 1960s under the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth, but by the time they were completed in 1968-9 they were a part of the London Borough of Lambeth Council.

The three blocks were all named after modern play writers – in this case Harold Pinter. The block was designed by the deputy borough architect George Finch and system built; this 62m high block contains around 92 flats and maisonettes. The flats were refurbished in 2000-2001 after they became managed by Hyde Southbank Homes and now look rather different.

St Andrew's, Church, CofE, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-64
St Andrew’s, Church, CofE, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-64

St Andrew’s Stockwell Green in Landor Rd was built as a chapel in 1767 but there were later additions and the exterior was rebuilt by H E Roe in this Romanesque style in 1867. Vestries and the Lady Chapel were then added in the 1890s.

The building beyond the church was a large post-war bottle store which was replaced in 2010 by the perhaps deliberately rather bland Oak Square development. This had been a brewery site since 1730 and had been taken over as Hammertons Stockwell Brewery in 1868. It was sold to Watneys in 1951 and they used it as bottling stores.

Two Boys, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-65
Two Boys, Landor Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-65

I find it hard to positively identify this street corner though I think it must be than of Dalyell Road, where Landor Road meets Stockwell Green. The building at left is the now-demolished bottle store, and on it you can read the name THE QUADRANT. The corner is occupied by a giant billboard, and shop appears to have fruit in its window, a sack of potting compost on the ground outside and to sell ice cream.

House, 21, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-66
House, 21, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-66

This is a rather unusual detached house on Combermere Road and I think from my picture that it may have been built or later used as a shop. This is a very mixed street and there was nothing like this anywhere along its length.

It is still there, though the windows have been replaced with something looking rather sturdier and the door has a wrought iron grille.

Stockwell Depot, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-56
Stockwell Depot, Combermere Rd, Stockwell, Lambeth, 1989 89-6b-56

Rhodes’ Brewery – Stockwell’s other brewery – took water from an artesian well on this site and was bought by Edward Waltham in 1851. His British Brewery or Half Guinea Ale Brewery in Stockwell Green produced Half Guinea Ale and London Brown Stout at 2/6d per dozen bottles; you paid an extra 6d for the mysteriously named ‘S N’ Stout. It many have stood for ‘Nourishing Stout’, something they also sold as Butler Brand Nourishing Stout.

Back in the 1940s or 50s, my mother, then languishing in hospital, was prescribed a daily bottle of Guinness. As a lifelong total abstainer she refused to drink the demon alcohol, but her Irish nurse had no such qualms.

The buildings probably dated from before 1851. The Lion Brewery bought the company in 1906 and for many years this site was a council depot. It has now been replaced by housing.

To be continued…