Iain D, our Chairman, went on this ride led by Ian M, our Treasurer, and writes:
Six of us gathered in the now-traditional meeting spot at the western edge of Euston Station for Northampton CTC’s third annual London sightseeing and tourist ride.
First off to Primrose Hill and Cecil Sharp House, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and a quick rundown on how Morris Dancing, as well as folk music, was kept alive in England (mainly, it turns out, by luck!).
But Ian M had also woven some political history into this ride to complement the cultural history so our next stop in Primrose Hill was Friedrich Engels’ old gaff, where the man regarded by Lenin as the finest scholar of the modern proletariat seemed to entertain all and sundry in a most bourgeois way. And since Engels was living a mere ten minute walk from Karl Marx at the time, we headed next up to Maitland Park where Marx’s old residence has, somewhat fittingly, been removed to make way for social housing.
Moving north again, we made our way up – and I do mean up – to Highgate where the cemetery hosts not only Karl Marx’s tomb but that of many other political, and literary, figures (Eliot, Adams), so we went in on the political thread and came out on the literary one.
And up the rest of Swain’s Lane (and I kid you not, I saw the same rider passing the cemetery when we came out as I did when we went in. Have these people nothing better to do with their day? 😉 ) at the top of which Ian M had laid on a twofer. Two blue plaques on one house. Not only was the building the one-time home of Samuel Taylor Coleridge but J B Priestley moved in some time after Coleridge departed. Then on around the corner to A E Housman’s former residence where A Shropshire Lad was created.
Returning down the hill – with some speed – we swept into Little Green Street, a road pretty much unmolested for the last 200 years and often seen on TV and film, and through to its modern equivalent, Ingestre Road, which doesn’t look half as photogenic. (That’s not to say it isn’t a pleasant place to live, of course). We headed next eastwards and southwards to The Emirates, Arsenal’s mega-stadium replacement for Highbury where suitable tribute has been paid to Northampton Town’s former manager Herbert Chapman, the first man (according to our leader anyway) to professionalise football management and who is responsible for a fair proportion of Arsenal’s silverware bringing, as he did, his lessons from Northampton to the management of Arsenal FC in the 1920s and 30s. We then retired for lunch in a nearby tavern.
Our next port of call was south of the river, so we crossed Blackfriars Bridge after a short diversion and headed for a Soviet T34 tank parked just off the Old Kent Road and then across to Burgess Park.
I doubt anyone outside of SE London has even heard of Burgess Park but with a café, toilets and Georgian almshouses surrounding a lovely bit of garden it’s a delightful place to take a break and catch some sun, of which we had plenty on the ride.
From there we moved quickly to the Soviet War Memorial in the Imperial War Museum’s park and then on to the Surrey Oval (or Kia Oval as it currently is) where Ian M was able to regale us with a list of firsts: First test match, First FA Cup Final, First rugby international, etc.. And for those wondering why Surrey would play at The Oval in London, it wasn’t in London when it was built (1845) as the County of London didn’t pop into existence until 1889 (and Greater London not until 1965). Kennington was in rural Surrey at the time, something that’s hard to imagine now.
We passed Battersea Power Station and Dogs Home without comment then were brought to a halt alongside Battersea Park by one of the Bromptons losing air, which cost us a bit of time but these things happen. Once mended, we were able to continue onto Albert Bridge – a beautiful structure that’s been in trouble since it was built. It was reinforced with a secondary support system in its second decade of existence, propped up by piers in 1973, had a new deck in 2010 and currently has a two-tonne weight limit in the hopes that that may help the bridge survive a little longer. It really comes into tis own at night though, with thousands of lights covering its structure making it a tourist sight in its own right.
Another twofer followed – our second football ground of the day (Stamford Bridge) but only briefly, and our second cemetery – Brompton, resting place of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and epidemiologist Dr John Snow amongst others. Then it was up towards Hyde Park for our last scheduled stop and one of the most beautiful buildings in London (in my opinion anyway): The Royal College of Organists, which sits right next to The Albert Hall and never seems to get a look in.
That concluded the scheduled sights and we made our way northwards towards the stations but turning off Marylebone High Street, one of the Bromptons made that hissing sound again. “Whoops!” thinks I, “We must have left the problem in when we changed the tube,” but no! this time the air was escaping the other end of the vehicle. How unlucky is that? Anyway, that delay meant there was little time to take in the scale of the Post Office tower as we shot past to meet trains before they departed but, as I said, these things happen.
All in all, an excellent day out, well-prepared by Ian M and enjoyed by all.