Exploring London in 1987 – walk # 1

When moving to a new place, its important to have a good look around and get to know where you live. In London there is no shortage of places to explore. Having visited London prior to moving here I had a bit of an idea of things. But there is always more to see and do. Before moving here I found this wee gem:


The 1980s Automobile Association Book of London.

This was purchased by my maternal grandparents when they came over to visit London in 1987. My Grandparents had both visited London during and after the second world war. My Grandad was stationed in North Africa and Italy for much of the war. My Nana was a Sargent at Trentham Army camp in Upper Hutt. After the war she visited London for the Victory Parade:

Above Left The London Victory Parades 1946, Right my Nana Pat Oram (nee Darroch) in her Army Sargent’s Uniform while in London.

40 years later my grandparents decided to come back to the the UK. This would be their last visit as they both died a few years later. I was 5 years old at the time and vaguely remember them being away.

Nana and Hilda 1987

Above, My Nana Pat Oram with her pen friend Hilda in Halifax in 1987

So 30 years later I was curious to see how accurate the The Book of London of the 1980s still was. There was no London Eye, no Shard, and no Walkie Talkie building. The Jubilee line stopped at Westminster and Surrey Quays station was still called Surrey Docks (should have kept that name according to the locals). Coventry City F.C were the FA cup victors and Sananda Maitreya’s Wishing Well was top of the pops. Much had changed in 30 years, but just how much?

Walk 1 in the 1980s book was of Westminster and Millbank. The walk commenced at Westminster Station and headed to the Cenotaph. The book advised the following:

In the centre of Parliament Street is the Cenotaph, a simple yet moving pillar of Portland stone, that was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1920 on the anniversary of Armistice Day. It was originally built to the memory of the men who lost their lives in World War 1. Now memorial service for the dead of both world wars are held here in every year on the second Sunday in November.


Above: The Cenotaph, Parliament Street London. Photo taken 6/1/2018

30 years later it would be great to report that this monument was to a time when humanity fought and killed each other. That his practice has now ceased and that humanity has learned to live together in peace and harmony. Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Somalia, Yeman, Israel/Palestine, Congo, Chechenia, Macedonia…I could keep going

The next stop was Downing Street:

This world famous street was built by Sir George Downing, a secretary to the Treasury, in about 1680. At first it was an unimportant residential street with a pub – the Cat and Bagpipes – on the corner. In 1732 Gorge II offered No 10 to Sir Robert Walpole as a town house and since then it has been the official residence of the

British Prime Minister. No 11 is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The buildings themselves have unpretentious Georgian facades, but have been extensively modified inside.

Above: Downing Street 6/1/2018. Neither Theresa May nor Philip Hammond invited me in for a cup of tea – rude!

Next stop was the Government Offices:

Sir George Gilbert Scott, the distinguished Victorian architect designed this imposing building. His first designs were in the Gothic style and Lord Palmerston rejected them all. He insisted on something Italian, so Scott bought some books on Italian architecture and ‘set vigorously to work to rub on up it,’ with the results that can be seen today.


Above: Scott vigorously rubbed on up the Italian style – this was the result. 

Next is Parliament Square:

In and around Parliament Square there are many statues of British Politicians. Foreign statements men are also represented, and include Field-Marshal Smuts by Jacob Epstein, and (outside the old Middlesex Guildhall) a rumpled figure of Abraham Lincoln. The latter is a copy of the statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Chicago.

Above – Parliament Square 6/1/2018. Today Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Winston Churchill stand tall in the square. What happened to Smuts? Is he now in storage somewhere? Or was he melted down to make frying pans and sold at Tesco’s? 

Next the Middlesex Guildhall:

This Renaissance-style building was opened in 1913, and stands on the site of an earlier guildhall. It once functioned as the administrative centre for the old country of Middlesex. The friezes on the facade depict Magna Carta, Henry II granting charter to Westminster, and Lady Jane Grey accepting the crown from the Duke of Northumberland.


Above: Middlesex Guildhall 6/1/2018

Next the Methodist Central Hall:

Built in 1849-51, the Methodist Central Hall stands across the road in Storey’s Gate. It was once a meeting place for the infant United Nations Organisation.


Above: The Methodist Hall

Next, Little Dean’s School Yard and Westminster School

Westminster Abbey probably had its own school before 1200. When the abbey became a cathedral in 1540, the school became the King’s Grammer School, with 40 scholars. It was re-founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1560. The custom known as Pancake Greeze is observed here every Shrove Tuesday. The cook, dressed in a cap and apron, comes in with a frying-pan and has to toss a pancake over the 16-ft high iron bar which separates the old Upper and Lower Schools. As it falls, representatives from each form scramble for it, and the boy who gets the biggest piece get a guinea from the Dean. On the north side of Little Dean’s Yard is Ashburnham House, built shortly after 1662, and the best example in London of a stately mid-17th century house.


Above:  Me and Julio down by the (Little Dean’s) school yard. 

Next Barton Street:

Barton Street contains some exceptionally well-preserved Georgian houses. Nos 1-14 (except for Nos 2 and 8) are original and carry a tablet dating them to 1722. T E Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) lived at No 14. An inscription on the wall of No 2 reads ‘Peace on Thy House O Passer-by.’

Above: Barton Street, and Lawrence of Arabia’s old digs. 

Next, Smiths Square:

This square is named after Sir John Smith, who owned and developed the land. Some of the houses were rebuilt after World War II, but NO 5 dates from 1726. In the centre of the square is Thomas Archer’s fine church of St John. Concerts are often broadcast from the church, which has been specially adapted for the purpose. St John’s also has its own orchestra, now of international repute. Other buildings in teh square include the headquarters of both the Labour Party (Transport House, in the south-east corner of the square) and the Conservative Party (No 32).

Above: Left – The church of St John. Right- Building in South East corner of Smith Square, was the Headquarters of the British Labour Party in the 1980s. In 2018 it is now Europe House, London Headquarters for the European Union. This building appears to the the patron saint of lost causes. 

Next, Vauxhall Bridge Garden

A large bollard here marks the approximate site of Millbank Penitentiary from which, between 1816 and 1867, convicts sentenced to transportation embarked on their journey. The garden also contains a sculpture by Henry Moore, foundations and seats.

Above: Left – view of Vauxhall Bridge from Vauxhall Bridge Garden, Right Henry Moore’s sculpture. This Garden no longer contains a fountain and the seating looks uncomfortable – the results of austerity no doubt. 

Next, Lambeth Palace:

Much of this historic structure, which has been the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 700 years, was rebuilt during the 19th century. Extensive damage was caused by bombs during World War II. Of the old place, the most interesting parts are the Lollards Tower and the Gatehouse, both of the 15th century, and the 13th-century Chapel Crypt. Parts of the palace, and its grounds, are open to the public. Adjourning the south gateway of the palace is the former church of St Mary, now being restored as Museum of Garden History in memory of John Tradescant, Charles I’s gardener. Captain William Bligh, of the Bounty, is buried here.

Above: Lambeth Palace

Next, Victoria Tower Gardens

In the thin Triangle of Victoria Tower Gardens are the Buxton Drinking Fountain, Commemorating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, a statue of the Suffragette Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928); and a copy of the famouse statue by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) called ‘The Burghers of Calais,’

Above: The Buxton Memorial, Victoria Tower Gardens.

Next, the Jewel Tower

This inconspicuous moated tower is in fact a survival of the medieval Palace of Westminster. It was built in 1365 to house the monarch’s personal treasure, and this remained its function until the death of Henry VIII. It now houses a collection of pottery and other items found during the excavations in the area, and is open to the public.

Above: The Jewel Tower, very inconspicuous. 

On conclusion of this walk, I was freezing cold. I caught a tube home on a line that wasn’t build until 1999. Some things had changed in 30 years, but overall walk 1 was pretty close to how it would have been in the 1980s. Would the other walks be the same?


































































3 thoughts on “Exploring London in 1987 – walk # 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s