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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
38 - From a lost cherub to Horseferry Court shenanigans via a fifty grand car
I turn left into Marsham Street and through the tidy Millbank Estate buildings (including Millais House). This was one of the first estates built, at the turn of the century, for working class people, by the London County Council (which also designed the Norbury Estate further south, on the 300 easting, in Croydon) as a result of slum clearance programmes. Further on, at number 121, is the Marsham Street Community Child Centre. The words 'Child Welfare' etched into the stone above the porch and an old circular teak/bronze sign protruding from the wall (which proclaims 'Children's Welfare Centre' and may once have had a cherub attached) indicate that the building's use hasn't changed much over the years.
The southern section of Marsham Street leads me almost directly north. On the west side is Page Street along which I can see the renowned Lutyens-designed Grosvenor Estate with its chequerboard pattern of brick and white-painted plaster and subtle stone decorations. Raised flower-beds in the front courtyards and miniature greek-temple shops between the buildings do little to dispel the rather stark feel around the estate, especially at the backs and sides. Towards the east, Page Street used to lead to the Westminster Hospital, until it closed in the 1990s, nearly 300 years after its origins in Petty France. An edifice which used to house the hospital's Queen Mary Nurses Home stands on the Page Street-Marsham Street corner. And, a BMW sales outlet called 'Park Lane' takes up the street level of one whole block on the west side of Marsham Street. An E65 730i Sport sells for over £50,000. A city commuter wanting something nippy, but a little smaller, wouldn't get much change out of £20,000 for a Mini Cooper S from the same showroom.
I cross over Horseferry Road, along which the plane trees have not been pollarded, and try to imagine riding my horse eastward and on to the cross-Thames horse ferry that used to ply its trade where Lambeth Bridge now makes the journey somewhat easier. I turn right into Romney Street, round the side of the Horseferry Road Magistrates Court building. Since 1 April 2001, this court, along with 21 others in the capital city, has been managed by the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority (GLMCA). The GLMCA services the largest of 42 criminal justice areas in England and Wales. Nineteen out of every twenty criminal justice cases are, according to the GLMCA, dealt with in such magistrates' courts.
Over the years, however, the Horseferry Road court has attracted more than its fair share of loony and or/colourful characters. In 2001, Diana Ross and Sherlock Holmes apparently helped the Elvis and Beatles shops successfully defend themselves against a prosecution by the Blue Meanies, aka Westminster City Council, for leaving an advertising sign unattended outside Madam Tussauds! In 2002, there was a May Day protest because seven members of the anti-capitalist Wombles group were on trial for public order offenses after one of them allegedly made an obscene gesture at a police van in Oxford Street.
And the Forensic
Science Society reveals this disarming tale on its website. In 1997,
the Metropolitan Police seized 138 shawls made of under-belly hair from
Tibetan antelope - an endangered species. Such products are prohibited from
international trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. At the time, the seizure was said to be
world's largest - valued at upwards of £300,000. When the case was
heard at Horseferry Road, the Mayfair trading company, Renaissance Corporation,
pleaded guilty and was fined the paltry sum of £1,500. It was estimated
that up to 1,000 antelopes were slaughtered to make the shawls, a large
dent in the global population of only 70,000 animals. This case highlights,
the Forensic Science Society says, the low level of appreciation among magistrates
about the illicit wildlife trade and its far-reaching impacts on species
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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