Peter Murray

Don Brown (@donbrownlondon) reviews ‘Bus Fare: Collected Writings on London’s Most Loved Means of Transport” by Travis Elborough and Joe Kerr, published by AA Publishing.

More than the tube, more than the car, more than the railways, or the bicycle, or the cab, it is the bus that moves London. Over 8,000 scheduled buses across 700 different routes lead to nearly 2 billion bus journeys being made every year.

And the red double-decker is an instantly recognised symbol of – in fact, a shorthand for – the capital, featuring on countless postcards and uncountable photographs.

We can thank George Shillibeer who, 190 years ago – 4 July 1829 – introduced the first service (based on the Paris ‘omnibus’) running from Paddington to Bank along the New Road (now called the Euston Road). The fare was one shilling – a reasonable sum, and beyond the pockets of the working class.

How this bit of inspired entrepreneurism from a Bloomsbury coach-builder grew to its current network is told in an excellent new book called Bus Fare, a collection of reportage, fiction, history, letters, biography, facts and figures, and other writings on and about buses and their cultural impact, edited by Travis Elborough (who has form, having previously published a book on the Routemaster) and Professor Joe Kerr, “an architectural historian and bus driver at Tottenham garage”.

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Peter Murray

 

Peter Murray, Chair of the London Society, explains the thinking behind our new motto.

“So what’s our elevator pitch?” said Darryl. “What do we say when someone asks what the London Society is all about?” “Antiqua Tegenda, Pulchra Petenda, Futura Colenda”, I answer.

Darryl is not impressed. “Nah! That’s no way to get younger members to join up. Or to get anyone to join up for that matter. Too ancient!”

While the translation of our motto – “look after the old, seek the beautiful, cultivate the future” – might still hold good, we felt we needed something more engaging if the Society is to achieve is aim of growing its membership and increasing its relevance in the discussion around planning and architecture in the capital. We wish to engage the widest possible groups in that debate, so clarity is important.

We asked ourselves: why are we are running the Society and what is the thinking that drives our programme? We picked up on the theme that was as relevant when the Society was founded in 1912 as they are now: that London’s future must be shaped by both contemporary culture as well as its rich and layered history.

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Peter Murray

 

The 2019 events programme is taking shape, with a range of talks, debates, schools, tours and walks currently being slotted into next year’s calendar. To make sure you know when booking opens for each of our talks, sign up for our newsletter.

There are three main themes for next year – London’s High Streetsand Parks and Open Spaces are two, and the third is Engineering and Infrastructure. Sarah Yates explains the thinking behind the series and some of the events to look forward to.

During 2019 one of the main themes that the London Society will be exploring is the capital’s engineering and infrastructure – the ‘underpinning’ that enables us to live, work and move around the city every day.

The history of London’s infrastructure dates back centuries, as the natural resource of the River Thames, its tributaries and springs provided citizens with their water supply. As the capital expanded, road and utility networks also grew. By the 19th century engineering had become an area in which the UK – and London – led the world in innovation and technological achievement.

Among the most renowned of these are of course the Thames Tunnel, the world’s first tunnel built under a navigable river, between Rotherhithe and Wapping, by Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In addition, Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s revolutionary system that diverts sewage to outfalls east of London solved the huge problem of infectious disease outbreak and pollution of potable water supplies.

Today the Thames Tideway Tunnel scheme seeks to upgrade this system for the 21st century in the light of climate change and another further wave of massive population growth. In the same way, the long-awaited Elizabeth Line is hoped to provide much-needed extra capacity for London’s overburdened public transport system.

Although 2018 was officially designated the ‘Year of Engineering’ by the UK government, 2019 will see not only future expansion with the arrival of the Elizabeth line but also, looking back, the 125th anniversary of the opening of Tower Bridge and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bazalgette.

Through a full programme of walks, talks and tours, and partnerships with engineering institutions, the Society will celebrate the best achievements of London’s greatest engineers while also exploring how the engineers of today are generating solutions to help make London a sustainable and liveable city in the future.

Talks include:

  • London’s infrastructure history, with Alistair Lenczner
  • Tower Bridge and its 125th anniversary
  • Why is London’s railway network the way it is? Is it still right for London
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Paddington railway station with historian Steven Brindle
  • Waterloo (Ladies) Bridge with Karen Livesey
  • ICE engineering walks, to be led by ICE London Graduates and Students

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Peter Murray

 

The 2019 events programme is taking shape, with a range of talks, debates, schools, tours and walks currently being slotted into next year’s calendar. To make sure you know when booking opens for each of our talks, sign up for our newsletter.

There are three main themes for next year – Engineering and Infrastructure, and Parks and Open Spaces are two, and the third is London High Streets. Jane Clossick, lecturer in Urban Design and resident high streets expert at Cass Cities, London Metropolitan University explains the thinking behind the series.

The London Society High Streets series of walks and talks will offer an insight into high streets across London and the UK. High streets are very much on the political and cultural agenda. In July this year, local growth and high streets minister Jake Berry announced an expert panel to ‘diagnose issues that affect health of our high streets and advise on the best practical measures to help them thrive’. There is much talk in the media of saving the high street, and anguish about the loss of big retail chains like Maplin and Toys ‘R’ Us. 

In the Society High Streets series, architects, academics, civil servants and activists will give their take on the state of the UK high street, in a series of high street walks in between presentations and cross-disciplinary discussions, each with three presenters. Join us to find out about the high street’s spatial, social, economic and cultural functions and to participate in a conversation about its future. 

The first talk in the series is High streets: Resilience and resourcefulness with more events to be added before the end of the year.

You can contact Jane for more information about the series, or if you’d like to get involved, via Twitter @jane_clossick. The series is supported by The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, and you can find out about many more events at The Cass at www.cassculture.org.

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Peter Murray

 

The 2019 events programme is taking shape, with a range of talks, debates, schools, tours and walks currently being slotted into next year’s calendar. To make sure you know when booking opens for each of our talks, sign up for our newsletter.

There are three main themes for next year – Engineering and Infrastructure, and London’s High Streets are two, and here Peter Murray talks about the third, Parks and Open Spaces.

London is a greener city than most. Our squares, parks and green belt are sources of urban envy. Mayor Sadiq Khan has nailed his colours to the mast to make London the “greenest global city” – planting more trees in our streets as well as tackling climate change, reducing waste and cleaning the air. He is backing the idea of London as a National Park City, which will help all Londoners have free and easy access to high-quality green space – a similar aim that the London Society had in the 1930s when it pushed for the creation of the Metropolitan Green Belt.

But in spite of these positive policies, the capital’s existing parks are under threat from Government cost cutting, severely impacting on local authorities’ maintenance budgets. At the same time there is local resistance to the increasing number of events in parks, which provide valuable income but upset local residents because they restrict access, are sometimes noisy and damage planting.

So we are planning a series of talks, visits and an ideas competition around the subject of Parks and Open Spaces. We’ll be asking borough politicians about the problems facing Councils where budgets have been cut by 47% in real terms since 2010. In the past four years spending on open spaces, allowing for inflation, has fallen by 18% – with a drop of more than 10% in 2014/15 alone. Local parks should be the pride and joy of neighbourhoods, but without the money to provide sufficient love and care they soon lose their attraction.

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