A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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57 - Another campaigning Mary, a Railway Oscar and a Chartist major

My way does not take me past the BMA, but straight along the southern edge of Tavistock square (past the Tavistock Hotel, built on the site of where Bloomsbury's most famous writer - Virginia Woolf - lived for a while) on across Woburn Place, once called 'The Duke of Bedford's New Road' and now the A4200, and down Tavistock Place. Of note here are numbers 5 and 15, both on my left, on the north side of the road. Number 5 is the Mary Ward Centre, designed by Dunbar Smith and Cecil Brewer, young architects who won a competition chaired by Norman Shaw. The building, which is both striking and original although not particularly large, dates from the 1890s. It was built on a site provided cheaply by the Duke of Bedford, and paid for by John Passmore Edwards. Although it is considered one of London's best Art Nouveau buildings, it lacks any of the fancy stylised exterior decoration one finds on celebrated Continental buildings of the period.

Mary Ward, like Eleanor Rathbone and Mary Sumner, was a pioneering woman (although, interestingly, she was strongly anti-suffrage). She began her innovative work, which involved teaching young children, in University Hall on Gordon Square, and then moved to Marchmont Hall in Marchmont Street. As a result of Edwards' philanthropic gesture, and the opening of what was then called the Passmore Edwards Settlement, Mary Ward was able to open the first permanent play centre in the country, and to provide equipped classrooms for disabled children. Shortly after Ward's death in 1920, the Settlement was renamed the Mary Ward Centre. In recent times the building was used by the National Institute for Social Work, but this closed down (transferring its responsibilities to the Social Care Institute for Excellence). Now, at 5 Tavistock Place, you can contact the British Association of Art Therapists, or take a Salsa class on Sunday nights.

The British Transport Police (BTP), based at number 15 Tavistock Place, provides a policing service to rail operators, their staff and passengers throughout England, Wales and Scotland. It is also responsible for policing the London Underground system, the Docklands Light Railway, the Midland Metro Tram System and Croydon Tramlink. Between them, these rail businesses move some five million people every day. The organisation counts on over 2,000 police officers and 500 civilian support staff. In 2003, it won a 'Railway Oscar' at the National Rail Awards, organised by Rail Magazine and New Civil Engineer Magazine. Of the 14 available awards, BTP's London South Area, in partnership with South West Trains, won the Robert Horton Safety Award for their TravelSafe scheme. As agents of the railways, TravelSafe Officers can enforce the railway bylaws as well as provide support and assistance. They also take part in police operations to catch offenders and in a school visit programmes.

The south side of Tavistock Place is taken up with a series of hotels with such names as Athens, Roma, Acorns and Goodwood. I turn left into Marchmont Street, past a range of shops and a cafe that seems popular with taxi drivers, South Crescent Mews which is no more than a driveway today, and the Lord John Russell pub. I swing left into the crescent part of Cartwright Gardens, to take me back towards the 300 easting. This area was farm land until 1807, part of the Skinner's Company Estate, and known as Sandhills. A map dating from 1800 shows only 'The Duke of Bedford's New Road', the 'Bedford Nursery' and a couple of buildings called 'Bowling Green House' and 'The Boot' in the vicinity.

Cartwright Gardens used to be called called Burton Crescent, after the builder James Burton, until it was renamed in memory of Major John Cartwright, a man who was influential in the early 19th century working class movement (Chartism), and who lived at number 37. A bronze statue, by George Clarke, stands in the gardens, which are otherwise given over to tennis courts. While bomb damage wrecked the original buildings on the east side of the gardens, the crescent side consists of two curving terraces with continuous iron balconies. The southern section is all hotels, with the names emblazoned in large letters along the balcony railings (Harlingford, George, Avonmore, Menton, Euro, Crescent, Avalon). Several of the houses in the north terrace have been joined together to form the Jenkins Hotel, with all the original front entrances now fire exits. University College employs some of other houses in the terrace as halls of residence. Burton Place (formerly Crescent Place), which divides the two terraces, leads to the attractive back wall of Tavistock House. Before leaving Cartwright Gardens it's worth noting that, during the 1830s century, number 2 is thought to have been occupied first by Dr David Cooper, the naturalist and author of Flora Metropolitana, and then by Sir Rowland Hill, the postal reformer who introduced postage stamps.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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