A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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Kip Fenn
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22 - From Antony and Madge, past Greyhound fare and Streatham waters, to Potter Perrin

At the northwest end of Buckleigh Road, I turn right into Greyhound Lane where there are some pleasant three-storey Victorian houses, complete with pretty arched windows in their gables. These were built in the 1880s and 1890s after the opening of the Greyhound Lane Station (now called Streatham Common Station), at the southern end of the road, in 1862. A huge billboard, way too big for its position, pictures a giant cigarette; flyposters completely obscure the health warning. An odd cottage stands next to it. The lower half is rendered and white painted, the upper half is covered in hanging tiles, most of which have turned black, with age or fire or pollution. The doors and windows are also black with paint. The whole has an ancient ghoulish feel, although I doubt it affects Antony's hairdressing business inside. Opposite on Greyhound Lane and in Pathfield Road is Sanders House. This mansion block contains around 40 flats and was built after Wandsworth Borough Council undertook a 'slum clearance programme' in the mid 1930s. At street level the mansion block houses Sander Parade with the Pepper Tree (Caribbean take-away), Charlie's Hairdressing, Seema Tandoori, Scene Clean, Top Parade Printers, and Madge Hairstylist.

At the corner, set back from the Streatham High Road, stands the Greyhound Pub. A wall plaque tells me - although not with the most eloquent wording - all I need to know and more: 'The top of Greyhound Lane has been the site of at least four different inns with the name Greyhound. Earliest recordings date back to the 1700s. In the 1730s, it was a long low building, replacing an earlier tavern of the same name. During its operating over the decades, it has played host to a diverse mix of clientele. In 1726, this old tavern was frequented by gypsies who used to camp in Lonesome at the bottom of Streatham Vale. Recordings of parish accounts of 1726 make mention of a woman and child being paid 10 shillings to leave from the Greyhound. It was described in 1744 as a 'publick' house which is the common term for all manner of wickedness. The Greyhound was also a popular stop for Parish Officials and at a visitation here in 1769 they enjoyed a sumptuous feast of beef, fowls, bacon, bread and butter, with wine, porter, beer and tobacco. Today some of these culinary delights can still be enjoyed by our customers. In 1829, those 'beating the bounds' of the parish were refreshed with nine gallons of porter valued at 15 shillings, and as much bread and cheese as they could eat. The pub was re-erected in 1871 by Edwin Jones and shortly after rebuilt in 1930 from which the building maintains its original form. The gold painted greyhound and large entrance lantern still stand as a permanent feature and a reminder of the pub's history since 1871.'

The pub building is well maintained and a gold-painted greyhound does indeed stand above the front entrance. Old signs proclaim Barras & Co, and an elaborate gateway at the side, decorated in the colours and style of the pub, apparently leads nowhere.

Across the Streatham High Road - four lanes in either direction at this point - is a pleasant view to Streatham Common. Houses line both sides, along roads imaginatively called Streatham Common North and Streatham Common South. At the top, out of site, is the Rookery, where, in the mid-17th century, a farmer discovered a spring of fresh water with medicinal properties. Soon, it is said, London trendies were flocking to Streatham to partake of the waters (thought to be three times as effective as those at Epsom) and the water itself was being transported into the city for sale in St Paul's churchyard. Just north of the Rookery, also out of site from here, is St Michael's Convent, once an elaborate villa owned by Sir Henry Tate, the sugar magnate and beneficiary of two famous galleries in London, several libraries and much else besides. In the 1880s, Streatham Common, along with other open spaces such as Tooting Bec Common, was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works (from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who else!) to help protect some open space from development and suburban encroachment. Provisions were made for horse riding and cricket, among other activities.

During both the world wars of the 20th century, the Common was used for anti-aircraft guns and floodlights. A War Memorial, erected by the northwest corner after the first war, was very nearly hit by a bomb in the second. Astonishingly, the memorial stood undamaged, as if in defiance of the Germans. Another bomb hit the Common in 1944, in the middle of the allotments that were being used for food crops. Reportedly, the bomb shaved the vegetables to the ground - but they were soon sprouting again.

Walking north along Streatham High Road, I feel compelled to stay on the west side, since this is closest to the 300 easting. There are several mansion blocks in a row, each with shop parades at street level. One, built for P. B. Cow, called Hambly Mansion, stands just north of Barrow Road. The building - with its four storeys, attractive tile hanging and chimneys, a mixture of red and yellow bricks, and an oriel - has some beauty although it's not in the best condition. Potter Perrin Bathrooms and Kitchens takes up the whole ground floor level with four shop windows. Several agents are trying to let flats above. In 177, according to Graham Gower, who has written much on the history of Streatham (for example, 'A Brief History of Streatham' published by The Streatham Society), Hambley House School was established at this spot on the corner of Barrow Road.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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