Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Guided Walks day

beautiful Hiroshige wave, originally uploaded by supafly.

Last Wednesday was a day of guided walks. I started the day near Red Lion Square by the Holborn Station tube. The Holborn Street Rangers, a group that provides information about the Holborn neighborhood and patrols the area, led a free tour of the Foundling museum and hospital today. It started at the intersection of Lamb's Conduit street and Guilford Place by the entrance to Coram's Field, which is seven acre playground for children. Unfortunately, I couldn't enter because adults can only enter when accompanied by adults. I couldn't even look in because it is completely covered by a large fence, wall, and shrubs.

We started by taking a brief tour of the Foundling Museum, which tells the history of the Foundling Hospital. This was the first home for abandoned children in London. It was started in 1779 by Thomas Coram, who had been a sea captain in the 1700's. Interestingly, Georg Friedrich Handel helped raise money for the Foundling Hospital by holding benefit concerts where his piece the Messiah was performed.

The original hospital took in over 27,000 children in the 200+ years that it was in operation. Because so many more children needed their help than could be taken in, mothers had to enter a lottery when trying to leave their children there. A white ball meant the child would get a medical exam and would most likely be admitted. A red ball meant that if any of the children with white balls did not get admitted, they would be next in line. A black ball meant they were denied entry. The most interesting part of the museum were the Foundling Hospital tokens that were on display. These were small objects that mothers would leave with their children so they could identify them if they cam back for them. Some were homemade, like a heart sewn out of scraps. Others were just bits of what might otherwise be considered garbage like the label off of a bottle of ale.

After the tour, I walked back down Lamb's Conduit street and checked out the many interesting shops there. There was a charity shop (neighborhood thrift store) which tempted me with books. There was also an adorable bookstore called Persephone books, which publishes forgotten twentieth-century books written mostly by women. The books are beautifully published and every book comes with a bookmark that matches the unique endpaper of the book.

After also stopping in at a bicycle shop, a beautiful little boutique, and an organic food store, I turned on to Theobald's Road and stopped to grab a bite at the Fryer's Delight, which was recommended as a good fish and chips shop. I ordered rock fish - I don't know what that was, but it was too greasy and had a huge vertebrae. The shop was nice though and I rested my feet in a spacious booth that could have seated six.

On the way home, I stopped at St. James' park. It was the most crowded park I had been in yet, but I was still able to find an empy seat on one of the many benches lining the paths. There were some beautiful black swans in the pond there, as well as pelicans and cranes. There was a nice little cafe that had an elevated platform overlooking the pond, as well as big green cushions you could sit on while you enjoyed refreshments. My favorite part of the park was a little cottage off of the pond where the plants were beautifully overgrown.

In the evening, I took my second guided walk of Camberwell (and my second guided walk of the day). This one was on the history of Camberwell, primarily the many Huguenots (French Calvinists) and Germans who moved into the area many years ago. The walk started in Ruskin Park and I hurried up Denmark Hill to get there before it began. Ruskin Park, like Burgess Park, had been made from demolishing homes, many of which had been destroyed during World War II. There was still a remnant left of the house at 170 Denmark Hill . The German composer Felix Mendelssohn had stayed in a neighboring house, which belonged to a relative. While there, he composed a song that he first called "Camberwell Green." He later changed the name to "Spring Song." It's a familiar piece of music that I often used to hear during Looney Tunes cartoons.

Our next stop was a pub called The Fox on the Hill. In 1786, it was the site of the largest entertainment hall in England (at the time). It was called the Denmark Entertainment Hall in honor of the King of Denmark, who was visiting England when it was being built. We walked up Champion Hill to view the Platanes, the only surviving mansion from 1882. There were many other large mansions still up there that had been build at other periods of time. Mr. Herman Kleinwort, the merchant banker who had the Platanes built, moved to Champion hills for the clean air and healthy breezes. From there, he would walk to work in Central London, crossing the London Bridge over the Thames.

Next, we walked through what had once been the mews (and was now dirt road alley) for the grand house and estate of a Huguenot family that had lived in the area. We stopped at what had been the Lettson Estates. Dr. Lettson had been a quaker physician who encouraged people to live in the area because he believe it to be healthy due to the winds and fresh air. He was also a great philanthropist who ended up losing his estate because of his generosity. After passing many more interesting sites (the old dispensary, the minet/cat architecture near Myatt's Field), we ended up at the Sun and Doves (a pub that also displays art, shows films, and has live music), where there was an opening party for the first Camberwell map. They offered us all free food and drinks, a wonderful end to the day! (On the way home I saw a beautiful painting of Hiroshige's wave on the side of a building off of Coldharbour Lane.)

No comments:

Post a Comment