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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
67 - From the A1 to Vincent Van Gosh with advice from Dr Stopes and lunch for the Queen
I turn left into Holloway Road, once called Hollow Way. This is the original A road, the A1, and has been an important traffic route since, at least the beginning of the 14th century. I pass Nid Ting Thai Restaurant, Holloway Food Centre, and British Bathroom Centre which is also a trade DIY store and seems to take up most of the block. The shop fronts protrude far out from the original tall 19th century terrace behind. One of the facades still shows off - in large engraved letters high up - its original trade: 'The Norfolk Arms - rebuilt 1900 AD. Whitbread Fine Ales.'
The owner of British Bathroom Centre, Chris Stevens, made a strenuous appeal against a decision, in the early 1990s, to turn Holloway Road into a red route (no car stopping for any reason). His petition, supported by 436 signatures, stated: 'We are an important local trader with spin offs for other trades e.g. newsagents and cafes. The red route is affecting all local trade and may mean closures in some cases. This has a serious effect on local businesses and the local community. We are also seriously concerned about pedestrians using the zebra crossing near us, women, children and older people are particularly at risk from the traffic speeds and the inability of some traffic to pull up easily. Wherefore your petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the Secretary of State for Transport to abandon the A1 Red Route pilot scheme now and protect our local shopping. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.'
At the corner of Rupert Road, which is now only a few yards long having been truncated in the building of Whittington Park, stands a large Irish pub called The Flóirín. Until very recently, though, it was The Mulberry Tree. A large sign on the windowless side elevation tells me it used to sell Watney Coombe Red. I cross Holloway Road and walk along Fortnam Road and then Kiver Road, both with mid-Victorian terraces, although Fortnam Road has two 1960s blocks of flats, with four storeys and balconies. On the corner of Kiver Road and Marlborough Road, there's a small run-down block of flats with old shop fronts - once a sweet shop and a grocers - at street level. A Typhoo Tea transfer is still stuck on the window above one of the doors. Today, Philip Holden sells handmade furniture from here.
Also, on the wall, there's a plaque, barely readable. It tells me this is 61 Marlborough Road, a historic house where Dr Marie Stopes first opened her mothers' clinic in 1921. The clinic offered free advice on family planning and contraception to married women. In 1925, it moved to a more central location, in Whitfield Street. Subsequently, Stopes went on to set up a whole network of clinics, and her ideas, strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, were to have a significant influence on Church of England policy. Stopes studied at universities in London and Munich, achieving a doctorate in botany at the latter. In 1911, she married Reginald Gates, but the marriage was unhappy and, in 1916, it was annulled. Two years later she married Humphrey Roe, cofounder of an aircraft firm. Roe helped fund the clinic in Marlborough Road. Later in her life, Stopes took her message about birth control overseas, especially to the Far East. She died in 1958. Today, the Marie Stopes International Global Partnership still operates from Whitfield Road, as well as in over 30 countries. But, given that it is such a big organisation, why can't it afford to celebrate its origins - the place where it all began. This property could do with some attention. Somebody, please, at least give the plaque a clean.
I cross over Marlborough Road, pass the entrance to the gated off Marlborough Yard with its fancy roof gardens, and turn right along Hatchard Road. On the left is St Gabriels Community Centre, a huge electricity sub-station and some modern neo-Georgian housing, all of which back on to a railway line. On the right, though, are the older Victorian houses with good-looking doors, and heavy window entablatures.
Hatchard Road leads into Sussex Way opposite Duncan Primary School. I'm not sure whether the 15-20ft high grill fencing is to keep brats in or out. A teacher called Ms Godfrey is fondly remembered by ex-pupils as a kind person but also one who trained students not to forget their swimming costumes by suggesting they'd have to swim without them! The school had a visit from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on 23 February 2000. They stayed for a lunch given by Community Service Volunteers. After a busy day, the couple went home and hosted a bigger reception at Buckingham Palace for UK voluntary organisations. During the morning, the Queen had attended an event at the London Marriott prior to meeting Victim Support volunteers, and the Duke had visited the Camley Street Natural Park and Arsenal Football Stadium. More recently, in Autumn 2003, the school hired a company called Arts Desire to liven up a redundant area of the playground by building a climbing wall. It was decorated, with the help of the school's pupils, in the style of Van Gogh, using black metal crows and ceramic sunflowers. Arts Desire called it 'Vincent Van Gosh'.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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