Monday, 1 June 2009

The Number 14 Route

Warren Street Station to Putney Heath (Green Man) on Tuesday May 26th 2009

Though we left home in heavy rain it was just drying out as we embarked.

Jo still being in Australia (but keeping up with our progress) and Mary doing good grandmotherly things for half-term I was joined for the Tuesday following the Bank Holiday by another follower – Sue G, whose expertise lies in all things 20th century, as she is a fully paid up member of the 20th Century society.

There were a row of 14s raring to go but they, and much other traffic, were held up as a woman had collapsed in the middle of the road – though only 10 metres from the front entrance of the spanking new University College Hospital police etc were waiting for an ambulance to pick her up! One way Gower Street (had we been doing the reverse journey we would have come down Tottenham Court Road) slices through Bloomsbury and university land – we noted University College London (UCL) is now calling itself the ‘Global University’, so there’s clearly some re-branding going on, but this is actually where we boarded at 10.45. Gower Street is stiff with Blue Plaques, and even so we probably missed some.
George Dance (the younger) Architect 1741-1825
1st Anaesthetic given
Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1913) International Hostess & Patron of the Arts
Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (Suffragette and we had heard of her) 1847-1929
Lord Eldon Lord Chancellor 1751-1838
and a lesser
plaque to Richard Trevithick of the steam engine.

Gower Street is still an unbroken terrace, largely intact, and must have escaped war damage and for cheaper terraced housing has well stood the test of time. Before the main sign to the British Museum we also noted one to the Petrie Museum, which has an Egyptian collection too.

We flew down Charing Cross Road passing that old favourite – the unchanged umbrella shop – James (Jas) Smith and later the Oasis swimming pool – still run by Camden council and offering a unique city centre rooftop swimming pool.

For anyone in the market for eye-catching modern furniture we spotted Molteni and Dada on Shaftesbury Avenue. This was an odd street fellow to the ‘Hôpital et Dispensaire Français’ (a Francophone facility now relocated to Hammersmith), and later in Lower Oxford Street the very Thirties frieze on the Odeon Cinema. Surprisingly we were not slowed down at Piccadilly (see previous trips) but admired the concave windows of Waterstones, which of course used to be the much more upmarket store Simpsons – Sue having bought an early work suit there. Piccadilly has a mix of shop front airlines (I don’t suppose anyone was buying tickets for South Korea on the day their neighbours launch missiles and test weapons) and various upmarket arcades and hotels. Sue had been to breakfast at 'The Wolseley' previously a car showroom and one built by a 20th century favourite architect, Curtis Green.

Talking of Green the park was very but the tube station (Green Park) is having some kind of major make-over and is closed to underground trains. Still on tube stations we noted ‘Pizza on the Park’ (if you enjoy reading bad restaurant reviews click here) – by now we’re opposite Hyde Park – has a tube-style frontage – maroon gloss bricks favoured by the District Line. Before long we are well into Knightsbridge – some of it, like the Park Lane casino, quite hideous. The windows at Harvey Nichols were stunning though difficult to capture on camera from a moving bus. Interesting though Knightsbridge is with its big stores, there are many chain stores easily found elsewhere so it was illuminating to get to beyond South Kensington (traffic currently a nightmare) and the more quirky and independent shops of the early Fulham Road. . Butler & Wilson for e.g. are renowned for their 20th century jewellery. The wealth apparent in the houses round Onslow Square – a row of iced cakes so white – and Elm Park Mansions beggars belief. More wealth – fewer blue plaques.

Being upstairs it was never very busy though the bus serves the Marsden, later Chelsea and Westminster hospitals, and of course Chelsea FC (Gooners – we have to be even handed here). Fulham Broadway (still fairly familiar from the recent Number 11 trip) offered us a classic Town Hall, the Oswald Stoll Foundation, a charity which provides housing and other help for disabled ex service personnel, and some quirky pubs. On down the Fulham Road in SW6 with tantalizing glimpses of the side roads and their memorable names – Shottendene, Purser’s Cross and of course the independent butcher The Parson's Nose at Parsons Green adding to the villagy feel. However we did not feel any amount of trendiness justifies renaming a perfectly good ‘King’s head’ into ‘The Ramshackle ‘ pub… Fulham Football club have a supporters shop too…

We swept past the end of the New Kings Road wondering if the once close by Chelsea and Fulham Potteries accounted for the decorative porcelain over several shop fronts?

Putney High Street, which carries on in a straight line from Putney Bridge, is a more mixed and down to earth affair with the new ‘Putney Exchange’ built 1991 taking pride of place. Past the ‘Spotted Horse’, across the South Circular and up Putney Hill to the ‘Green Man’, which to our great delight is still a sturdy little pub with garden (for details of these and other pubs click here) wedged between some mansion flats (Manor Fields) the Heath itself and a very salubrious bus terminus offering high-tech whizzy loos, a shop/café, and a bench where we could eat our sandwiches. We noted twice as many 14s as 37s, and the fact the drivers really only had time for a loo before being expected to turn round. If ratings were allowed this would get a high 9/10.

Our trip had taken from 10.40 to 11.55 – exactly the time estimated by tfl.

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