Currently showing blog posts for: November 2018 - . Go BACK to view all posts.
Peter Murray

Based on his site investigations and knowledge built up through his career – with involvement in such major developments as Camden Lock market, Gabriel Wharf, Spitalfields Market and Trinity Buoy Wharf – Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Ltd. continued our look at London’s markets with an illustrated talk at Allies & Morrison’s offices in Southwark Street. Brian Whiteley reports.

Eric’s theme was that railways radically altered all London’s produce markets, with their long distance speedy supply removing the old requirement for cows to be kept close to the city in order to provide fresh milk as it had to be produced and consumed without refridgeration (e.g.right up to the 1890’s cows were kept in basement dairies in Spitalfields); fish could come from Aberdeen without being smoked or smelly; potatoes from Lincolnshire without wearing out teams of horses.

Once the major railway termini arrived on central London’s outskirts in the nineteenth century its traditional central markets gravitated out to them. The Great Northern Railway Company took a major first step in developing a series of warehouses and markets on land at King’s Cross. By the 1860’s the “Ten O’Clock Road” siding to the north of the station saw 39 warehouses located along it, each with its own branch line to take individual types of produce. In 1865 it handled such traffic as 85,000 tons of potatoes and 400 trucks of celery daily – and in the 1920’s recorded seasonal deliveries of 50 tons of rhubarb and 300 trucks of green peas.

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Peter Murray

Thanks to Studio Egret West for hosting Alec Forshaw’s talk on Smithfield. Brian Whiteley reports on the evening’s talk.

Historical Background / Evolution – Smithfield (originally “smooth field” in old English) started out as a Friday livestock market outside the Roman city walls – probably around 1000 years ago – making it the oldest surviving London market still trading in its original location. By the Tudor period, it started to expand to eventually trade five days per week, dealing in livestock, meat and vegetables. The land for the market was given to the City Corporation by the Crown in a Royal Charter of 1638. Today the land could still revert to Crown ownership if a market ceased to permanently operate there.

Its location outside the original city walls probably saved the market from the 1666 Great Fire and by the early 19th century, it found itself at the centre of a rebuilt and rapidly expanding city. Such was demand from London’s growing population that animals were being driven increasingly great distances (e.g. Scottish cattle) to be marketed there and then slaughtered and butchered. At the time, a common sight on the suburbs’ main routes was of cattle, horses, geese, etc. being herded down, e.g. along Edgware Road or Holloway Road en route to Smithfield.

By the mid 19th century writers such as Charles Dickens were highlighting the market’s ramshackle buildings, the dirty and dangerous conditions there for animals and humans and in particular the unsanitary conditions the meat slaughtering was having at the heart of the city in Newgate Street – with waste going directly into the Fleet and Thames. The noise and bustle of livestock and traders assembling there, together with the associated streams of animals coming through the suburbs was causing widespread concern. A major public gathering – St Bartholomew’s Fair every August – was also held at Smithfield. The noise, drunkenness and misbehaviour it brought merely added to public concern about the need to take action.

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Peter Murray

 

The Society’s new motto of “Valuing the past; looking to the future” will be apparent in everything we do in 2019, with talks, lectures, debates and panel discussions that will look at the future of London through the lens of our city’s history.

The main themes this year include the use and development of Parks and Open Spaces in the capital. The green space in the city is the envy of other capitals, but government cost-cutting has had a negative impact on local authorities’ maintenance budgets and at the same time there is local resistance to the increasing number of events in public parks. This year the Society will have a series of talks and visits around the subject, as well as an ‘ideas competition’ to ask how parks can meet the needs of visitors, residents and fund raising.

We also have a great series of talks, walks, tours and other events on the evolution and challenges to London’s high streets. It’s a truism that London is a collection of villages and neighbourhoods, and vibrant high streets are important to the individual character of each area. How do these places survive? What can planners, architects, local and national government, and us as individuals, do to keep these centres vibrant and thriving.

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Peter Murray

 

Over 200 members gathered at the Jarvis Hall in Portland Place to hear Ben Derbyshire, President of the RIBA, talk about ways to deal with London’s housing crisis, and the challenges faced by architects and planners. Barry Coidan reports.

Building Greater London – or how do you make our city better when nobody wants new neighbours?

In setting the scene Ben painted a less than rosy picture of London’s housing. We have a broken housing market. The supply of new homes is well short of the target of 66k a year set by the Mayor of London. Rent takes up far too much of people’s take home pay – averaging around 57% with “Buy to Let” landlords unwittingly exploiting those who can’t afford to buy.

You could characterise London as a divided city. Divided over new developments with opposition to almost any – the haves excluding the have nots. Yet there’s space to build. London’s housing density compared with other major capital cities is much lower: outer London boroughs average 16 dwellings per hectare. London is also aging, in terms of its population and major infrastructure.

The capital has so much going for it! It is creative, it is sharing, energetic and productive. Ben’s manifesto “Let the People Build” drew on this energy and creativity to show how London could accommodate its growing population in a humane and invigorating environment.

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Peter Murray

In the latest talk in our ‘Planning for 10 Million’ series, Alex Lifschutz (Lifschutz Davidson Sandiland) and Colin Wilson (London Borough of Southwark) discussed the recent history of “Affordable Housing and the Planning System from Margaret Thatcher to James Murray.” Barry Coidan reports.

Alex Lifschutz bravely began by describing a planning/regeneration project that went badly wrong. His firm was involved in the original plans for the “Regeneration of King’s Street, Hammersmith.” On paper there was nothing wrong with it. Affordable housing along with less affordable homes with the development centred on Hammersmith Town Hall and a fine old cinema. Unfortunately, the scheme was overblown the local authority wanting to get as much out of the development (and developers) as possible. There were two plans, there was massive opposition by residents. The much loved local Cineworld cinema was at risk. The second plan, however, was approved at a stormy Council meeting and the cinema was to be razed to the ground.

New developers moved in and demolished the Cinema. Control of the Council changed hands and the new Labour administration stopped the development. Anger and disappointment followed. Planning and design had played second fiddle to commercial interests. That imbalance proved disastrous: the outcome was a much loved cinema demolished and nothing for the Community.

Thankfully we moved onto an uplifting success story. Coin Street Community Builders. Twenty years ago this area of London was bleak, unattractive, with few shops and restaurants, a dying residential community and a weak local economy. Today it is thriving mixed and balanced neighbourhood: a destination for millions of Londoners and visitors from overseas, with a thriving residential and business community benefiting from ever-expanding community facilities and services. How did that happen?

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Peter Murray

 

London National Park City will be launched in May 2019. The concept already has a large following among Londoners as well as the support of Mayor Sadiq Kahn, and was covered in a London Society event earlier this year. The enthusiasm with which the idea has been received reflects the importance that we collectively place on green space in the capital.

Next year, one of the key strands of the Society’s programme will be around the topic of our legacy of squares, parks and metropolitan green spaces. We’ll look at our regional parks in the Lee, Wandle and Colne Valleys and at our common lands and forests.

But also we’ll study the problems that our local parks are facing because of cuts in borough funding; we’ll discuss the frustrations of park users when they find their ‘public’ space enclosed in order to accommodate a pop concert or a winter fair and we’ll look at the management of privately-owned, publicly-accessible space (POPS).

Green space is just one of the key London issues we will be focusing on over the next 12 months. I hope you will join us to share thinking and debate their role in delivering the sort of capital we want to live in.

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Peter Murray

 

A new book has a slightly different take on the capital, looking at the life of the city through the eyes of 24 individuals (one for each hour of the day). Tim Barron reviews the book.

“London Lives –   24 iconic people & places around the clock” is exactly what it says it is, 24 times and locations in text and photographs summing up the life of the capital’s working inhabitants.

The photo locations often dictate who is interviewed but sometimes it is the other way round. So we meet Tower bridge keeper Chris Earlie (overseer of 900 bridge lifts a year) and Zandra Rhodes, fashion designer (self confessed Princess of Punk), in their respective work places. Danny Rosenbaum’s text meshes with Tom Vandervell’s detailed large format photography often evoking memories. For example, for me the view from the General Wolfe statue in Greenwich park (surely the best view of London ) recalls happy times spent at the Royal Observatory and the shot of St Paul’s Cathedral choir stalls takes me back to graduating as a London Blue Badge Guide. That is one of the joys of this lavishly illustrated work, finding the familiar alongside the newly discovered. There are plenty of “Oh I didn’t know that” moments, for example did you know there are Yoga classes on Tower bridge glass walkway 42 metres above the Thames?

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Peter Murray

 

a5-christmas-flyer_r2front_hr-copy-2If you know someone who loves London, why not give them a membership to the London Society this Christmas?

They’ll get all the benefits of membership – reduced rate tickets for talks and lectures, priority booking for walks and tours, an invite to the summer party and the Banister Fletcher lecture, plus the Society Journal.

And there’s a little something extra if you give a gift subscription before 16 December.

We’ll mail you a bonus issue of the Journal and a card so you have something to wrap and to send to the lucky recipient.

Gift memberships run from 25 December for 12 months, so new members will get a full year’s worth of events to take advantage of.

You can give either an individual membership or a dual/family membership, just click on one of the images below.

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Gift membership – dual/family

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Gift Membership  – individuals

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Peter Murray

 

There was a full house last night for this year’s Banister Fletcher Lecture given by Ben Derbyshire, President of the RIBA. We hope to have a write-up of the talk on the blog very soon, along with the slides from the presentation.

Ben mentioned several papers and projects in his talk, and we thought it would be useful to make some of those links available.

  • The London Society ‘Green Sprawl‘ paper is now out of print, but you can download a PDF here>>
  • Ben’s paper ‘Building Greater London‘ can also be downloaded (or you can buy a print copy) here>>
  • There’s more on the ‘Supurbia‘ concept on HTA Design’s site here>>
  • The RIBA paper ‘Ten Characteristics of Places Where People Want to Live’ is to be found here>>

We’d also be very interested to find out your views about the London Society and ways in which we can improve what we do – if you have ten minutes to spare, please have a look at our survey.

And don’t forget to nominate London’s Worst Public Sculpture – more information on that can be found here.

Finally, if you’re not currently a member of the Society we’d love you to join. Full details are here.

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Peter Murray

 

Help us find out a little more about you – as a member, ex-member, follower, occasional site visitor – and you could win a bottle of champagne just in time for Christmas.

Please spare ten minutes to take our survey and give your opinions on the Society: your views will help develop our programme of events; ensure the Journal is interesting and informative; make sure the Society is covering the ground that you wish us to.

The Society has grown considerably over the past few years and there are now many more events than previously – but what do you think about what we do and how could we improve?

All replies will be treated in the strictest confidence, but your responses will help build a picture of what appeals to you and to others, so that the Society may continue with its work of “valuing the past; looking to the future”.

Anyone who takes the survey before 11 December can go into the prize draw, and we will send out a bottle of good French fizz to one person at random after the closing date. Just click the button below to get started.

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