Saturday, 24 November 2018

The NUMBER 11 Route

Fulham Broadway  to  Great Winchester Street (Liverpool Street Station  )
Thursday November 22 2018

When we did this route in 2009  we had been joined by my late mother, then aged  89 and a sprightly bus user; we also started at the neat Liverpool Street Bus station,  so today saw us heading to the  other end – namely Fulham Broadway which  had been an old cut and cover station  now totally enclosed with a shopping centre (and toilets) on the way out.  Just as well, we thought four hours later…

Opposite Fulham Town Hall had been our advised starting point but then we discovered Fulham Town Hall has two facades – the older  commissioned building opposite the Underground with a newer extension on Harwood Road , where indeed we found  our stop and our bus. The Fulham Society describes the Town Hall as ‘unloved for seven years’ from which I take this listed building has not found any takers prepared to respect its integrity in any future development. 

No time to linger though as we sped east along the Harwood Road – I was always under the impression that Fulham had been the kind of working and middle class support (ie the ‘downstairs ‘ to Chelsea’s upstairs)  to neighbouring  rich Chelsea and the rows of modest houses seemed to reflect this though I doubt the  area is quite so mixed nowadays. As we approached World’s End the bespoke shops became even glossier – Bagno design is not, as you might think, a designer handbag shop but the kind of bathroom outlet that sells huge freestanding roll top baths, all of which necessitate  large rooms.  Between the furniture design shops we admired a householder who had managed to tame his olive tree into a screening hedge – a strangely English approach to a Mediterranean shrub – not that today felt at all Mediterranean with near zero temperatures.

Indeed one might be grateful for a garment made of Alpaca as sold by the Peruvuian Connection (we have local living  Alpacas in the Horniman gardens)and more chandeliers than in a BBC period costume drama (you know, the one with the ball scenes) or more conventional cashmere from Brora – you can tell the upstairs of the new Routemaster is not very warm as we yearned for something cosier. The former Post Office gave us a warm glow though I doubt the posties woudl recognise it! 

By now we had been joined by four travelling companions – three of them Australian by their accents and at least two in the front seat tourists, for whom this is an excellent route. There used to be some difference between the World’s End part of Chelsea and the rest of the King’s Road but it was hard to detect today in the range of luxury shops. Limelight Movie Art stocks all kinds of vintage film posters which seems a little ironic given that the Curzon Cinema closed in March of this year but seemingly with plans to be  reborn as part of a major new development 
Still on a cinematic theme there was a Blue Plaque for Carol Reed , film director.

Well all good window shopping must come to an end and once we were down by the Saatchi Galleries
 (very extensive) and Peter Jones we had reached Sloane Square and our right turn down towards but not quite all the way to the river along Lower Sloane Street – the large red brick Victorian mansion blocks lining the road seemed to have remained unscathed by WW2 bombs and thus redevelopment – their interiors presumably served by a range of antique shops along Chelsea Bridge, then Ebury Bridge roads.

We changed drivers at Victoria  but this was not the cause of slowness, which rather seemed to be sticky traffic in Victoria , most of which seems to be a quite complex one way system that takes the 11 right up to the back walls of Buckingham Place before coming back round . The route passes both coach and train services and there has been much building close to the station, which is also having a makeover.  We spotted a penthouse which must just about be able to peer over the Palace walls?

Once we were on Victoria Street we made better progress – incidentally we had been here the previous Saturday on a Hidden London tour of 55 Broadway – TFL’s beating heart , which also happens to be  in what they call London’s first skyscraper, completed 1929 and thanks to a recent demolition site visible from this route.

Our Australian fellow passengers were benefiting from this two cathedral (Westminster & St.Paul’s) and one Abbey route.  Sadly Westminster is a mess with the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the bridge all having fabric or road works. That did not seem to deter the tourists who were milling around as ever. Fortunately this route does not cross the river so  we had a reasonable run down Whitehall passing a very fenced off Downing Street and just missing the 11 o’clock Changing of the Guards. The wreaths from the Remembrance Day ceremonies were still looking in good order. We fared far better than last week crossing Trafalgar Square though the Strand was slow as always, improving after Aldwych. Our fellow passengers became quite excited as we passed Australia House, which itself is celebrating a centenary. One Australian passenger pointed out to her companions the shrapnel holes in St Clement Dane’s Church and when Jo nodded her assent they asked her if she had been in London for the Blitz! No, we are not quite that old.  The RAF are rightly proud of their church with its older and more recent history

 Fleet Street has a really good range of street clocks, some of which still work. I suppose it was important to know the time for erring journalists to meet their deadlines?  The other passengers got off at St Paul’s, and as this had been a pretty quiet bus we were alone now until the end of the route.

There had been  a lot of police and security personnel round St Paul’s for no evident reason, whereas they needed to redeploy  a couple of them up to the  multiple junction by the Bank of England/ Royal Exchange. This has been a bicycle and bus only crossing for some months now in an attempt to reduce cycling casualties (and improve air conditions presumably) with other vehicles banned between 7am to 7pm. However in the space of waiting for  the lights to change we spotted two cars – one sneaked across in front of us – as for the other our driver leant out of his cab and told them what was what and they did do a U-turn. However as there did not seem to be anybody policing this we can only hope there is an ANPR and fines get sent out? 

The bus did not go far beyond  the Bank of England (another worthwhile Museum visit) before it stopped quite a way short of Liverpool Street outside a relatively modern block calling itself the Pinners Hall, or rather the site where their hall had been. I am not sure if this particular city guild still functions. To be honest we felt a little stranded and Liverpool Street was further  than we thought.

This very pleasant route taking in some of the classiest shopping and the best known sites of London had taken us 1½ hours from West to East and was to prove to be the star of the day…

1 comment:

  1. The police and security activity outside St Paul's was because a service was held there for Americans as it was Thanksgiving. St Paul's has The American Memorial Chapel which commemorates the 28,000 American Service Personnel who died in WWII while they were based in Great Britain.