Posts Tagged ‘Belgrave Square’

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick – 2013

Saturday, March 16th, 2024

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick – Saturday 16th March 2013 saw me travelling around London to cover three events, starting at a march against hospital cuts, then a march supporting the Syrian revoltuion on its second anniversary and finally an Irish parade on the day before St Patrick’s Day.

Whittington Hospital March Against Cuts – Highbury & Islington

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick

Dick Whittington, more formally Sir Richard Whittington (c1354 – 1423) was four times Lord Mayor of London and did a lot for the medieval city, including financing drainage systems in its poorer areas and setting up a hospital ward for unmarried mothers and leaving his considerable fortune to set up a charity which still 600 years later helps those in need.

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick

He made his fortune as a mercer, importing luxury fabrics such as silk and velvet and exporting English woollen cloth and later as a money lender to wealthy noblemen and kings. It isn’t clear if he ever had a cat, but the legend about him fleeing London with one and turning back when he heard Bow Bells from Highgate Hill first made it to print in 1612.

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick

The Whittington Stone was placed at the foot of Highgate Hill in 1821, though earlier it had been the base of a cross there; it only gained a cat on top in 1964. But Whittington’s name is remembered in a number of pubs across the country, including The Whittington & Cat on Highgate Hill, which closed in 2014. Islington Council and local residents fought to keep it, and prevented its demolition in 2012 by declaring it to be an asset of community value, but it became a flooring shop.

Whittington, Syria and St Patrick

More importantly Whittington’s name became that of the major hospital formed when earlier hospitals on three nearby sites were amalgamated when the National Health Service was formed in 1948.

Three years before this march, huge local oppositin had forced the cancellation of plans to end Accident and Emergency, Paediatrics, Maternity and Intensive Care at the Whittington Hospital, but now it was threatened again by a new hospital trust with plans to reduce maternity services, close wards, provide fewer beds for the elderly, cut 570 jobs privatise some services and sell off around a third of the site, closing all onsite accommodation for nursing staff.

I met several thousand protesters close to Highbury & Islington Station where they were preparing to march to a rally outside the hospital. Among those marching were local MPs, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, Bruce Kent and various celebrity supporters of the campaign, as well as the truly remarkable Hetty Bower, born in 1905, who became a pacifist at the time of the ‘Great War’, and took part in the 1926 General Strike.

You can read more about the event and see my pictures of many of the marchers on My London Diary. I left the march shortly after it started to go to my next event.
Whittington Hospital March Against Cuts.

Syria – Two Years Fight for Freedom

I arrived outside the Syrian Embassy in Belgrave Square while the rally before the march was taking place with members of the Syrian Community in Britain speaking.

Most of the speeches and chanting were not in English, and the Free Syria campaign appears to have little support from the British left who might have been expected to support their freedom fight. There were a few protests at the start, but often confused and mainly opposing any involvement in Syria by British forces.

The Syrian revolution against the Assad regime had also received little actual support from the UK Government and US support seemed halfhearted. When Assad began using chemical weapons against the Syrian rebel held areas there was strong condemnation but no action and any threats soon melted away once Russia became involved in supporting Assad.

One of the placards carried by marchers included a question which now seems particularly relevant in view of what has been happening in Gaza: ‘Hey World, How Many Kids Should Be Killed Before You Do Something?’

I walked with the marchers on their way to Downing Street as far as the Hyde Park underpass where it looked impressive as it made its way under the Hyde Park underpass, fairly densely packed and with flags waving it spread wide across the road, stretching back into Wilton Place over 200 yards away. Then left for Willesden Green.

Syria – Two Years Fight for Freedom

St Patrick’s Parade Brent – Willesden Green

For several years I had enjoyed the Brent St Patrick’s Day parade, sometimes going together with friends including John Benton-Harris who had photographed St Patrick’s Day here and across the USA as well as in Ireland over many years. The parade in Brent, usually on the day itself, had always seemed rather more authentically Irish than the larger London parade held on the nearest Sunday since Ken Livingstone introduced it in 2002 and I made some pictures.

Brent Council had a fine record of supporting cultural events celebrating its various communities including the Irish, but with government cuts since 2010 no longer had the funds to do so.

This year too, the main London event was taking place the following day, St Patrick’s Day itself, so the Brent event was on the day before. So the crowds were rather thinner than in previous years, and the poor weather may have put some off too.

More pictures at St Patrick’s Parade Brent.

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Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell.
Protests in London on 14th April 2018 calling for Land Justice, against Turkey’s support of Assad in Syria and ten months after the Grenfell fire.

The Landlords’ Game – Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

I photographed a tour of London’s wealthiest areas led by the Land Justice Network which reminded us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

This unequal ownership of land is the basis of our class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

The tour began in Mayfair, where the land is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with much more of the London borough, although the family’s Grosvenor Group Limited has diversified and according to Wikipedia also owns properties in other parts of Britain and Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Asia Pacific region and parts of Europe.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell
British Virgin Islands is an offshore tax haven where 23,000 properties in England and Wales are registered as a tax scam

From a rally at its meeting point in Brown Hart Gardens where there were songs and speeches by the Land Justice Network, the Landworkers Alliance, the tour including activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group marched to Grosvenor Square where we listed to a surprisingly lucid account of the anti-Vietnam war protest there on 27th October 1968. I think I was there too, but other than a vague recollection of wildly charging police horses and panic can remember little – and in those days I didn’t even have a camera that worked.

We moved off, stopping briefly at a house known to have been left empty for around 15 years, one of many such empty properties in a city with a huge housing shortage to call for councils to be able to levy truly punitive council tax or requisition long-term empty properties.

A short distance along the road we stopped at ‘Grouse House’ owned by Odey Asset Management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds for what is wrongly called sport.

There was a speech by Private Eye journalist Richard Brooks who with his colleague Christian Eriksson set about untangling the great offshore corporate web that covers the country – and you can download his report Tax Havens – Selling England By The Offshore Pound from the Private Eye web site.

Kat from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) also spoke, reminding us that the CIty of London is a huge3 tax haven and the money laundering capital of the world.

The tour continue to Park Lane, where there was a short protest outside estate agent Foxtons which sells and rents some of the most expensive property in London, and Class War were prominent in pointing out that both the Tory government and the Labour local authorities have relied on estate agents to direct their housing strategies.

The tour stopped again on Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel, the venue for the notorious annual Property Developers Awards before crossing into Hyde Park, open to the public since 1637, but where we were reminded of the battles to make many other parks public, and how now many have only been saved by the growth of groups of volunteer ‘Friends’. We also heard a plea for more free public toilets. Many were closed in the 1980s because of a ‘gay scare’ and others such as those at Hyde Park Corner now charge for use – 50p a visit here.

Across Knightsbridge we walked along one of the most expensive streets in Britain, Grosvenor Crescent to a statue of the first Marquess of Westminster on the corner of Belgrave Square, which has a plaque stating the family came here with William the Conqueror. He divided out the conquered land and many great estates date from then, though the Grosvenor Estate holdings in London came to them when 3rd Baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, the heiress to the 500 acre Manor of Ebury in 1677. He was 21 at the time, but she was only 12. The estate, then largely swamps later became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia.

A left the tour here for a few minutes to photograph the Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest outside the Turkish Embassy, but rejoined it later at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate which includes the wealthiest parts of Kensington & Chelsea. Much of the money which enabled Sir Hans Sloane to buy the Manor of Chelsea came from African slave labour on sugar estates in Jamaica. His daughter Elizabeth Sloane married Charles Cadogan in 1712.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey – Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, Sunni Muslims who call for the restoration of the Muslim caliphate which whose armies conquered much of the Middle East in 632-661CE, were protesting against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests and calling for Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who “are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime.”

Women were strictly segregated from men at the protest and some stewards were unhappy for me to photograph them.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state “whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine” and call on “Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE.”

Grenfell – 10 months on – Kensington Town Hall

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

A large crowd was assembling at Kensington Town Hall for the monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster. They hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

Five years later a public inquiry is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, and there have been no prosecutions of those responsible for approving and installing the highly dangerous cladding on the tower block, for cutting costs, for failing to install the cladding properly, for governments cutting out essential safety regulations which their friends in the building industry thought were ‘red tape’ hampering profits and it looks unlikely if there will ever be justice. Instead we have seen politicians trying to blame the residents for not leaving the building and almost entirely unjustified criticism of the fire service.

There were some speeches, poetry and music before the silent march began, and then a very noisy protest by bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

The long silent walk towards Grenfell Tower began immediately after the bikers left, and I followed it for a short distance before turning away and leaving to make my way home.

More at:
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game

More Belgravia – 1988

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Pantechnicon, Motcomb St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-14-positive_2400
Pantechnicon, Motcomb St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-14

Until I photographed this building I had no idea of the origin of the word ‘Pantechnicon’, though I had heard it used to describe the large vans used for house removals. Seth Smith, (1791-1860) a vicar’s son from Wiltshire came to London and became one of the leading property developers of the West End in the 1820s, turning what had been a crime-infested lower-class swamp into the fashionable area with more than its fair share of respectable and immensly wealthy criminals we know now.

He filled an awkward triangular site left over by his other developments with a large building with an impressive Greek style facade of Doric columns for selling carriages and storing furniture for the wealthy residents of his new housing, and included an art gallery, coining a new upmarket name for it from the Greek pan (all) and techne (arts). Only this Grade II listed facade remains of the original building, most of which was destroyed by a fire in 1874.

Large furniture for large houses needed large vans to transport it, and the Pantechnicon company produced what were monsters for the age, up to 18ft long and 7 ft wide with a high roof and a lowered floor for extra height and easier loading – and their name large on the sides. Other removal companies were soon making similar large vans and the name ‘pantechnicon’ moved into general use for large furniture removal vans.

Belgrave Square, Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-31-positive_2400
Belgrave Square, Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-31

Smith was responsible for much of the development of Mayfair, though most of his work there has been demolished, and also parts of Belgravia, although Belgrave and Eaton Squares were laid out by Thomas Cubitt, working for the Grosvenor Estate, which still owns much of the area, after an 1826 Act of Parliament allowed Lord Grosvenor to drain the infamous ‘Five Fields’ area and raise its level.

St George's Hospital, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-36-positive_2400
St George’s Hospital, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-36

At the back of St George’s Hospital, probably in either Grosvenor Crescent or Lanesborough Place. You can see the building behind – now a hotel – from Grosvenor Crescent. I’m not sure whether this rather bleak looking structure was simply for taxis or was used by ambulances – which now form long queues outside A&E. But for me it seemed like some infernal processing machine, taking in at the left and vomiting out its results at the right.

Belgrave Square, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-42-positive_2400
Belgrave Square, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-42

Belgrave Square is Embassy Country, and in more recent years I’ve photographed protests outside many of them. Bahrain, Brunei, Germany, Ghana, Malaysia, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Syria, Trinidad & Tobago and Turkey all have their embassy (or High Commission) in the square and Austria, Italy, Romania, Côte d’Ivoire, Italy, UAE, Spain and probably a few others have embassies, legations or cultural centres within spitting distance. I think there are probably a few more I’ve forgotten too!

Belgrave Square, Halkin St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-43-positive_2400
Belgrave Square, Halkin St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-43

Some other houses are also the official residences of ambassadors – this on the corner with Halkin St is that of the Mexican ambassador. The architect of this grand terrace of houses (Grade I listed) and the others around Belgrave Square was George Basevi.

Wilton St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-54-positive_2400
Wilton St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-54

It’s something of a relief to turn away from the overpowering and grandiose Belgrave Square and walk down Wilton St, where the houses, though still large are on a less grand scale, with stucco only on the ground floor. This house still stands out, though I think has lost its unusual knotted door, as it seems to have slipped down a few feet from the rest in the street, the only one with a few steps leading down to the door.

Upper Belgrave St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-64-positive_2400
Upper Belgrave St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-64

Upper Belgrave St continues the pattern of Belgrave Square, linking it to Eaton Square.

St Peter's, Church, Eaton Square, Upper Belgrave St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-65-positive_2400
St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, Upper Belgrave St, Belgravia, Westminster, 1988 88-3m-65

And it leads to St Peter’s Church, built by architect Henry Hakewill in a neoclassical style when the area was being developed in 1824-27. Fortunately his drawings were still available when the building burnt down in 1837 and one of his sons used them to rebuild it. Sir Arthur Blomfield worked his worst on the church, enlarging it in 1875, but fortunately leaving it largely intact on the exterior.

The church was again badly damaged by fire the year before I took this picture and was apparently only a shell, with the interior and roof devastated. The fire was deliberately started by an anti-Catholic arsonist who mistakenly thought it was a Catholic church. I can’t find the details of the case but I think it was started by a 21-year-old man who had also started fires at several other churches, including another London church the previous night. Rebuilding began in 1990 and the church – with a simpler interior – reopened in 1991.

These pictures are from my album 1988 London Photos and clicking on the pictures, which will take you to larger versions in the album from where you can browse other images.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.