Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Fifty years ago, at the end of March 1965, the Home Counties nudged a lot closer to central London than they do today. Those living to the east of the River Lea were still in Essex, including everyone in Stratford and Walthamstow. Residents of Bexleyheath and Orpington were still very much in Kent, while the population of Wimbledon and Richmond belonged wholly to Surrey. Meanwhile Middlesex still existed as a crescent-shaped swathe to the northwest of the capital, including the suburbs of Acton, Golders Green and Tottenham. Middlesex was an ancient county of Saxon origins, bounded by the Colne and Lea, with parliamentary representation since the 13th century. By the 20th century it was one of the smallest counties in England, behind London and the Isle of Wight in terms of area, and with its own administrative HQ on Parliament Square. And fifty years ago today it only had one more day to go.
Fifty years ago tomorrow, on 1st April 1965, Greater London was born. This enlarged administrative area extended the old County of London by including almost all of Middlesex, plus large chunks of Essex, Surrey and Kent. Potters Bar in Middlesex escaped, transferring to Hertfordshire, while Barnet Urban District switched the other way from Herts to London. Essex had already lost control over West Ham and East Ham, long since unitary authorities, while Kent surrendered only a small fraction of its land. Surrey found itself in the most awkward situation, with its county council now based extraterritorially across the border in Kingston upon Thames. All in all more than fifty boroughs and districts from the shires found themselves in Outer London overnight. Here's an overview of what ended up where.
Waltham Forest = Chingford + Leyton + Walthamstow
Population 1965: 241,000 / Population 2015: 266,000
Chingford: The old Town Hall on The Ridgeway has been converted in the last couple of years into five luxury flats.
Leyton: Leyton's eclectically Victorian town hall on Adelaide Road is now a library, a heritage pub and rococo entertainment space.
Walthamstow: The first town hall on Orford Road (1876) was replaced by an art deco beauty on Forest Road in 1941.
Redbridge = Ilford + Wanstead and Woodford + Dagenham (part) + Chigwell (part)
Population 1965: 248,000 / Population 2015: 288,000
Ilford: The ornate Renaissance style town hall, begun in 1901, has been retained as Redbridge town hall.
Wanstead and Woodford: The council used to meet on the High Road, South Woodford, their ceremonial mace presented by local MP Winston Churchill.
Dagenham: "The boundary between Redbridge and Barking shall be such as the Minister may by order determine on or near the general line of Billet Road."
Chigwell: Only 81 acres of Chigwell Urban District, around Hainault, transferred to London in 1965 (the remainder stayed in Essex).
Havering = Romford + Hornchurch
Population 1965: 246,000 / Population 2015: 242,000
Romford: Upgraded to a municipal borough in 1937, the competition-winning art deco town hall is still used by Havering council.
Hornchurch: In 1965 this was one of the most populous urban districts in England. The council's offices were at Langton's, an 18th century mansion, now a register office.
Barking = Barking (part) + Dagenham (part)
Population 1965: 170,000 / Population 2015: 194,000
Renamed Barking and Dagenham in 1980
Barking: Barking's Town Hall was built overlooking the abbey as late as 1958, and thankfully got more than seven years of use.
Dagenham: Combining Barking with Dagenham very sensibly brought the Becontree estate under a single administration. The long low art deco town hall (opened in 1937) has become the Barking and Dagenham Civic Centre, and thankfully won't now be sold off as a new school.
Newham = West Ham + East Ham + Barking (part) + Woolwich (part)
Population 1965: 254,000 / Population 2015: 318,000
West Ham: In 1901 over a quarter of a million people lived in West Ham, making it the ninth most populous district in England. It was governed from an Italian Gothic Town Hall in Stratford, built in 1869.
East Ham: West Ham plus East Ham equals New Ham, geddit? East Ham's St-Pancrassy Town Hall now serves as Newham Town Hall.
Barking: "The boundary between Newham and Barking shall be such as the Minister may by order determine on or near the general line of the River Roding and Barking Creek."
Woolwich: Until the 19th century these two tiny detached parts of Woolwich were usually described as 'Woolwich in the parts of Essex'. Read more here.
Bexley = Bexley + Erith + Crayford + Chislehurst and Sidcup (part)
Population 1965: 215,000 / Population 2015: 237,000
Bexley : At the start of the 20th century the Council offices moved to Broadway, Bexleyheath.
Erith: Erith's Town Hall, plus a bit of an extension, became Bexley's Town Hall.
Crayford: The 100-year-old Town Hall (and library site) is being transformed (in two phases) into 188 new homes, a new library, "modern community facility", health centre and shops.
Chislehurst and Sidcup: Mostly the Sidcup bit, to the north of the A20.
Bromley = Bromley + Beckenham + Orpington + Penge + Chislehurst and Sidcup (part)
Population 1965: 301,000 / Population 2015: 318,000
Bromley: The former Bromley Town Hall, opened on Tweedy Road in 1907, was built "in neo-Wren style using red brick with stone quoins and window dressings".
Beckenham : <insert interesting fact about the Municipal Borough of Beckenham here>
Orpington: Created as an urban district in 1934 from parts of the abolished hinterland of Bromley Rural District, which explains Greater London's largest concentration of remote villages.
Penge: Up until 1866 Penge was officially part of Battersea, a detached hamlet no less.
Chislehurst and Sidcup: Mostly the Chislehurst bit, to the south of the A20.
Croydon = Croydon + Coulsdon and Purley
Population 1965: 326,000 / Population 2015: 373,000
Croydon: This being a historically important settlement, the first Croydon Town Hall is thought to have been built in either 1566 or 1609. The present (enormous) Town Hall was opened in 1896. Croydon first bid for city status in 1954, and is still trying, whenever.
Coulsdon and Purley: In a familiar tale, Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council Offices on Brighton Road, Old Coulsdon, have been transformed into 24 flats.
Sutton = Beddington and Wallington + Carshalton + Sutton and Cheam
Population 1965: 166,000 / Population 2015: 196,000
Beddington and Wallington : The council was initially based at 37 Manor Road, before opening a new Town Hall on Woodcote Road, Wallington, in 1934 - still used for council meetings until 1977.
Carshalton : The former town hall on The Square, Carshalton, is now the local library.
Sutton and Cheam: The parish of Cheam was added in 1928, nabbed from Epsom.
Merton = Mitcham + Merton and Morden + Wimbledon
Population 1965: 185,000 / Population 2015: 203,000
Was nearly called: Morden
Mitcham: Founded in 1915, this local government district has now been extinct for the same amount of time as it existed.
Merton and Morden: After World War II the council moved into Morden Hall in Morden Hall Park, now a post-Whitbread husk. Merton's modern civic centre rises nearby above Crown Lane.
Wimbledon: The original Town Hall was on The Broadway, replaced by a new building on the corner of Queen's Road in 1931.
Kingston Upon Thames = Kingston upon Thames + Malden and Coombe + Surbiton
Population 1965: 145,000 / Population 2015: 167,000
Kingston-upon-Thames : This ancient borough received its charter in 1484, its royal title confirmed by George V in 1927. The council governed from the quaint Market House up until 1935, and then from the Guildhall, designed by Maurice Webb. Unlike its modern successor, the pre-1965 borough had hyphens.
Malden and Coombe: <insert interesting fact about the Municipal Borough of Malden and Coombe here>
Surbiton: The parish of Chessington was added in 1933, nabbed from Epsom.
Richmond Upon Thames = Barnes + Richmond + Twickenham
Population 1965: 180,000 / Population 2015: 192,000
Barnes : Pre-war the HQ of this urban district was a Georgian house at 123 Mortlake High Street. Upgraded to a municipal borough in 1932, you can watch two minutes of the Charter Day celebrations here.
Richmond: The old town hall near Richmond Bridge, opened in 1893, now houses the Information and Reference Library, the Local Studies Collection, the Museum of Richmond and the Riverside Gallery.
Twickenham: In 1926 the urban district council purchased York House, a stately home by the Thames, which remains the council's ceremonial hub. Except hang on, the Municipal Borough of Twickenham was in Middlesex, not Surrey, and there's no way I'm going to get through all of Middlesex in today's post. Time for a 50-year-old break.
posted 00:50 :
Monday, March 30, 2015Fifty years ago, at the end of March 1965, London was a lot smaller than it is today. The County of London was home to just over three million people, and stretched from Stoke Newington in the north to Streatham in the south and from Putney in the west to Plumstead in the east. It had been created as part of the Local Government Act 1888, taking over the administrative area of the Metropolitan Board of Works, an unelected body charged with coordinating London's infrastructure, particularly sewerage, parks, streets and bridges. Through administrative inertia its 1855 boundary somehow survived for over a century, until the London Government Act 1963 grasped change and extended the capital's area fivefold.
Fifty years ago this week, on the 1st April 1965, Greater London was born. This enlarged administrative area extended the old County of London by including almost all of Middlesex, plus large chunks of Essex, Surrey and Kent. The capital now consisted of 32 new boroughs, each created by combining two or three existing boroughs or districts - a mighty complicated jigsaw. In the process all 28 metropolitan boroughs of the County of London were extinguished after 65 years in existence, and most of their Town Halls rendered surplus to requirements. Today I'm looking at what ended up where in what's now Inner London, and tomorrow we'll move onto Outer.
Westminster = Paddington + St Marylebone + Westminster
Population 1965: 266,000 / Population 2015: 227,000
Paddington: Originally the Vestry Hall and dating from 1853, Paddington's classical Town Hall on Harrow Road was enlarged in both 1900 and 1920. Reorganisation in 1965 led to its closure, and it was demolished four years later to make way for the Westway urban motorway.
St Marylebone: Designed following a competition in 1911, but not opened until 1920, the classical Graeco-Roman town hall on the Marylebone Road is faced with Portland stone. The building is now Westminster Council House, and contains not just the main council chamber but also a register office suite in which numerous famous people have been married (currently closed for refurbishment until 2017).
Westminster: This metropolitan borough became a city in its own right in 1900. An early town hall, known as Caxton Hall, lay round the back of St James' Park station and was opened in 1883. Also famed in its time as a high society register office, it was converted into luxury flats in 2006. Meanwhile Westminster City Hall, a Georgian building by Nash, still stands to the north of St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square.
Camden = Hampstead + St Pancras + Holborn
Population 1965: 236,000 / Population 2015: 230,000
Hampstead: The Old Town Hall on Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, is now the Interchange Studios, home to performing arts association Wac Arts.
St Pancras: Neoclassical St Pancras Town Hall on the Euston Road, built 1934-7, is now Camden Town Hall.
Holborn: Comprising only 400 acres, Holborn was the smallest of the County of London's metropolitan districts. The Portland stone-fronted town hall on High Holborn (opened in 1908) might since have become a hotel, but was instead redeveloped as offices (and the Shanghai Blues restaurant).
Islington = Islington + Finsbury
Population 1965: 243,000 / Population 2015: 216,000
Islington: The town hall on Upper Street was opened in 1923, and continues in use to this day.
Finsbury: Now almost a forgotten placename, the borough of Finsbury comprised the urban quarters of Clerkenwell and St Luke's. Its town hall on Rosebery Avenue, opened in 1895, is an art nouveau delight with a wrought iron and glass canopy out front and chandeliers within. The building now combines life as a dance studio for the Urdang Academy and a premium hire-out-able event space.
Hackney = Hackney + Shoreditch + Stoke Newington
Population 1965: 251,000 / Population 2015: 258,000
Hackney: The 'French-Italian' style town hall in Hackney Grove was replaced in 1937 by an Art Deco town hall in Mare Street, and retained as the Town Hall for the modern borough of Hackney.
Shoreditch: The magnificent town hall on Old Street started out as a Vestry Hall in 1865, and became an independent arts venue following a major refurbishment in 2004.
Stoke Newington: In 1900 this was the London borough with the smallest population, a mere fifty thousand. The town hall on Church Street was built in the mid-Thirties in an English Renaissance style with art deco interiors, then restored by Hackney in 2009 with the Council Chamber and Assembly Hall now available for hire.
Tower Hamlets = Bethnal Green + Stepney + Poplar
Population 1965: 200,000 / Population 2015: 273,000
Bethnal Green : Smallest of the three constituent Tower Hamlets boroughs, its Town Hall in Patriot Square was opened in 1910 and extended in the late 1930s. In 2010 the building was reopened as a luxury apartment hotel, retaining much of the original art deco interior, but a world away from the community it was built to serve.
Stepney: This slum-packed borough declined significantly in population over the first half of the 20th century. St George's Town Hall on Cable Street is most famous for the Battle of Cable Street mural painted on an exterior wall.
Poplar: A long thin borough, stretching south from Bow to the tip of the Isle of Dogs. Its first town hall in Poplar High Street was recently flogged off cheaply to a friend of the current Mayor, while its 1938 replacement in Bow Road was unashamedly modern and is now the Bow House Business Centre.
Greenwich = Greenwich + Woolwich
Was nearly called: Charlton
Population 1965: 231,000 / Population 2015: 264,000
Greenwich: Until 1939 the town hall was at West Greenwich House on Greenwich High Road, now home to the West Greenwich Community and Arts Centre. A larger Art Deco Town Hall and Borough Hall was then opened further up the road - the brick edifice with the tall rectangular tower - now occupied by Greenwich School of Management and Greenwich Dance Agency.
Woolwich: A peculiarly-split borough, with a tiny fraction to the north of the Thames. North Woolwich had been part of Kent since the 11th century, thanks to William the Conqueror's allocation of land to his lords, becoming part of south London in 1889, then Newham in Outer London in 1965. Woolwich's ultra-ornate Town Hall is now the administrative centre for the borough of Greenwich.
Lewisham = Deptford + Lewisham
Population 1965: 286,000 / Population 2015: 286,000
Deptford: A borough covering the parish of Deptford St Paul, its grand baroque town hall was built with maritime flourishes between 1903 and 1905 on New Cross Road. Now owned by Goldsmiths College it was very recently restored as a 'cultural hub', and even more recently occupied by angry students.
Lewisham: The first town hall was built in Catford in Gothic Revival style in 1875, replaced by a complementary building nextdoor in 1932 (now the Broadway Theatre). Lewisham's new town hall, on the same spot as the first, is more of a Sixties monstrosity, and Sir John Betjeman campaigned (unsuccessfully) against its development.
Southwark = Bermondsey + Camberwell + Southwark
Population 1965: 301,000 / Population 2015: 299,000
Bermondsey: The Victorian town hall on Spa Road was bombed during World War II, so was replaced as seat of government by the Municipal Offices nextdoor. Post-1965 Southwark Council used the building as offices, before selling the lot off in 2012, and now (of course) it's 41 loft-style apartments with a mighty grand entrance foyer.
Camberwell: The lofty Town Hall opened on Peckham Road in 1934. A redevelopment project is currently transforming the building into 149 student accommodation rooms, a café and art gallery, and rehearsal space and for Theatre Peckham nextdoor. Meanwhile council staff were shifted to 160 Tooley Street in 2009.
Southwark: Originally the Vestry of St Mary Newington, Walworth Town Hall (and the Cuming Museum collection) was heavily damaged by fire a couple of years ago. Plans are afoot to create "a new, world class civic centre" with a library "space" and museum "space".
Lambeth = Lambeth (+ some Wandsworth)
Population 1965: 331,000 / Population 2015: 315,000
Lambeth: The modern borough is unusual in that it comprises just one pre-1965 borough plus the eastern slice of sprawling Wandsworth, essentially Clapham and Streatham (more specifically "so much of the metropolitan borough as lay east of Hazelbourne Road, Cavendish Road, the railway between Balham and Streatham Common stations and the railway between Streatham and Mitcham Junction stations"). The Town Hall in central Brixton is constructed from red brick and Portland stone, topped off by a 41m high clock tower, and was completed in 1908. A current austerity-inspired project aims to condense 14 council buildings into just two, to create Your New Town Hall.
Wandsworth = Battersea + Wandsworth
Population 1965: 326,000 / Population 2015: 311,000
Battersea: The former Battersea Town Hall on Lavender Hill (opened in 1893) is now the Battersea Arts Centre. Alas the building was ravaged by fire earlier this month, destroying the Grand Hall and Lower Hall and causing the central tower to collapse.
Wandsworth: Covering 37 square kilometres, this was the largest borough in the County of London. Hence it got split, with a little given to Lambeth and most being combined with Battersea. The town hall on Wandsworth High Street is architecturally restrained, with "historic scenes in stone bas reliefs running the length of the facade", and was opened in 1937.
Hammersmith = Hammersmith + Fulham
Was nearly called: Riverside, or Olympia
Renamed Hammersmith and Fulham in 1979
Population 1965: 211,000 / Population 2015: 179,000
Hammersmith: The dominant partner in the 1965 merger, the new borough retained Hammersmith's 1930s 'Swedish Georgian' town hall and added a modern extension on King Street.
Fulham: The 19th century Vestry Hall on Walham Green was sold off by the council in 2011 to an American property developer who plans to convert it into "a shopping arcade and a revitalized place in which to live, work, play and relax; along with a quintessentially British shopping experience", god help us.
Kensington & Chelsea = Kensington + Chelsea (obviously)
Population 1965: 215,000 / Population 2015: 156,000
Kensington: A royal borough since 1901, at the posthumous request of Queen Victoria who was born at Kensington Palace. The Italianate town hall, built in 1880, was controversially demolished in 1982 and replaced by a bland shopping parade opposite High Street Kensington station. Its replacement up Hornton Street is one of Sir Basil Spence's brickier behemoths.
Chelsea: Chelsea may have been the minor partner in the merger, in both population and size, but somehow retained its name, this being the only one of the 1965 boroughs to namecheck both of its constituent parts. The old town hall on the King's Road is hired out by the council as an events venue.
posted 00:50 :
Sunday, March 29, 2015What happened next?
Thursday: TfL's status update for bus route 25 now states "Buses are subject to diversion via Bow Flyover in both directions until 1600, Friday 26 June"
Friday: TfL's webpage for the Bow Flyover bus stop no longer shows the 25 stopping there
Friday: TfL email East Londoners to tell them that "bus route 25 has been diverted via the Bow Flyover in both directions until further notice"
Saturday: Someone puts in an FoI request to ask TfL why they've started calling the capital the Capital
Saturday: Londonist reports on a £3.6m lottery grant for Harrow Museum, in zone 5
Sunday: Time Out's blog reports (briefly) on the catering at Heathrow Airport, zone 6 (summary: it hasn't changed)
Sunday: TfL's status update for bus route 25 no longer mentions the Bow Flyover diversion (meh, that didn't last long)
posted 14:00 :
THE WASTE OF DAYLIGHT
Everyone appreciates the long light evenings. Everyone laments their shrinkage as the days grow shorter, and nearly everyone has given utterance to a regret that the clear bright light of early mornings, during Spring and Summer months, is so seldom seen or used.
Nevertheless, standard time remains so fixed, that for nearly half the year the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep, and is rapidly nearing the horizon, having already passed its western limit, when we reach home after the work of the day is over. Under the most favourable circumstances, there then remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.
Now, if some of the hours of wasted sunlight could be withdrawn from the beginning and added to the end of the day, how many advantages would be gained by all, and in particular by those who spend in the open air, when light permits them to do so, whatever time they have at their command after the duties of the day have been discharged.
By a simple expedient these advantages can be secured. If we will reduce the length of four Sundays by 20 minutes, a loss of which practically no one would be conscious, we shall have 8o minutes more daylight after 6 p.m. every day during May, June, July and August, and an avenge of 45 minutes more every day during April and September.
I therefore venture to propose that at 2 a.m. on each of four Sunday mornings in April, standard time shall advance 20 minutes; and on each of four Sundays in September, shall recede 20 minutes, or in other words that for eight Sundays of 24 hours each, we shall substitute four, each 20 minutes less than 24 hours, and four each 20 minutes more than 24 hours. (Another means of arriving at approximately the same end would be to alter the clock thirty minutes on only two or three Sundays.) This is the whole cost of the scheme. We lose nothing, and gain substantially. Having made up our minds to be satisfied, on four occasions, with a Sunday of 23 hours and 40 minutes, the advantages aimed at follow automatically without any trouble whatever; everything will go on just as it does now, except that as the later hours of the day come round, they will bring more light with them.
from a pamphlet by William Willett of Chislehurst
Father of Daylight Saving (died March 1915)
» The Willett Way, Petts Wood
» Walking the Willett Way
» The Clocks Go Forward Tonight (Stephen Fry, Radio 4, 30 mins)
posted 02:00 :
Saturday, March 28, 2015The name of our capital changed last month.
It's now the Capital.
I don't know if you'd noticed.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "An extension of the Bakerloo line will provide a vital new transport link for the people of south London and help to spur jobs, new homes and regeneration in this part of the Capital." [27th March 2015]
The public body making the name change is TfL, in what appears to be a deliberate and carefully planned move.
And it's not just press releases. Somebody's been through the TfL website updating mentions of 'the capital' to 'the Capital', and probably adding a few extra ones for good measure.
• "Currently, 8.4 million people live in the Capital."
• "See the Mayor's proposals to revolutionise transport in the Capital"
• "The Emirates Air Line is the latest addition to the Capital's transport network."
• "There are a number of potential sites for a new hub airport located to the east of the Capital, including in the Inner Thames Estuary."
• "We support the Mayor of London's manifesto commitment to reduce the Capital's CO2 emissions by 60% (against 1990 levels) by 2025."
• By conserving and explaining the Capital city's transport heritage, London Transport Museum offers people an understanding of the Capital's past development and engages them in the debate about its future.
I don't know about you, but calling our capital the Capital looks distinctly odd.
You'd normally capitalise a proper noun, such as the name of a place or building, but not the noun category to which it belongs. London deserves its capital letter because it's our capital city, but capitalising Capital sounds presumptuous, even snobbish, because our capital is one of many.
And yet this must be a deliberate move on behalf of TfL. Their press office checks what it publishes exceptionally carefully, with never a spelling mistake to be seen, meeting proofing standards that must be the envy of other public bodies. If they're now saying London is the Capital, they mean it.
A couple of years ago, in one of their press releases, they suddenly started calling the New Bus For London a New Routemaster. This turned out to be the first phase of a total rebrand, applied relentlessly across all media, so thorough that even the metal plaques on the bus's rear staircase switched from "New Bus For London 2013" to "New Routemaster 2014".
What can we expect in the next phase of capitalised Capital rollout? Consistent usage in all of TfL's press releases, yes, but are there plans to spread this over-pompous wording elsewhere? The Capital Overground? The New Bus for the Capital? Visit the Capital? The Tower of the Capital? Might TfL even transform into TfC - Transport for the Capital?
No, probably not. But something recently inspired TfL to rewrite their style guide, whatever that reason might be, and however ridiculous the outcome might look. Our capital is not the Capital, surely, whatever this whim of capitalisation might suggest.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, March 27, 2015Sorry.
I was going to blog today about how a ride on the cablecar now gets you 20% off your bill at the local Harvester restaurant (honest, it does), but thought better of it. You must be tired of hearing about the Dangleway by now, but then I said that earlier in the week.
Indeed it's been a week for apologies, and rightly so. Over the last seven days I've brought you reports from Birmingham, Hackney Downs, the rural outskirts of Hillingdon, the cablecar and 'my local bus stop'. It's not exactly a cavalcade of riches.
When most people read about London, they want to read about the central bit. That's where most of the big and popular stuff is, and the bit that most people live closest to. By contrast there's nothing much on the edge of the capital, relatively speaking, and once you head across the boundary, who cares?
Which got me wondering about where I blog about. Do I drone on about the periphery too much, or are my eyes fixed further within? Have I so run out of things to talk about in the centre of town that I'm now subjecting you to umpteen reports from the Home Counties instead? So I've done a survey.
I've counted back through the last 100 posts of mine with a specific geographical location to see where they were based. For classification purposes I've plumped for seven spatial areas, the first a 'local' zone for whenever I blather on about postcodes E3, E15 or E20. The next three I based on TfL ticketing zones, that's Central London (Z1), Inner London (Z2-3) and Outer London (Z4-6). I divided the rest of the UK into 'counties touching London' and 'everywhere else'. And I finished off with 'rest of Europe', for those rare occasions where I travel abroad. Results as follows.
EU 2015 10 22 28 25 6 6 3
And that wasn't as bad as I was expecting. A quarter of my posts are about Central London, extending to 60% posts being about Zones 1, 2 and 3. A quarter of my posts come to you from the outer suburbs, which actually make up the majority of the capital by area. And only 15% of posts are from beyond the London border - which is a relief, it sometimes feels much more.
Having decided this was quite interesting, I then wondered whether my geographical spread has altered over time. So I went back five years, and then ten years, and did the same thing again. I tallied up the 100 posts prior to 27th March with a specific geographical location, and these are the results I got.
EU 2005 15 46 18 11 7 3 0 2010 14 25 27 18 7 5 0 2015 10 22 28 25 6 6 3
So, yes, it seems that only around 10-15% of my posts are especially local, with the slight recent drop probably because the Olympics are over. I used to focus a lot more on Central London than I do now, with almost half of my posts ten years ago based in crowd-pleasing Zone 1. I'm definitely focusing on Outer London more than I used to, with the proportion of these posts increasing from a tenth to a quarter since 2005. But my postings from outside London haven't changed that much, still hovering in the region of 10-15%.
One big difference is in the frequency with which I post geographically-based posts. Back in 2004/5 it took me eight months to publish 100 posts about places. By 2009/10 that was down to seven months, and in 2014/5 it's only taken me four and a half. I used to blog a lot more about general stuff, like life and music and TV, but now I blog a lot more about places I've been. It's quite a significant shift in focus, all told, and may or may not be what you like to read.
Then finally I thought I'd analyse two of the most popular London blogs in a similar way. First of all that's Londonist, who fire out a dozen thoughtful London-based posts daily, and then Time Out's blog, the wonderfully titled Now Here This. I looked back at the last 100 posts on each blog that focused on a single location, and made a note of which TfL transport zone that location was in. Here are the results, zone by zone, with my scores along the bottom for comparison.
Z1 Z2 Z3 Z4 Z5 Z6 Z7+ Londonist 72 19 6 0 0 0 3 Time Out 55 35 7 0 0 2 1 This blog 22 21 17 7 6 12 15
I should say straight off that I omitted a lot of summary/compilation/list-type posts, in which several London locations were mentioned, and that a number of these ticked off locations further out towards the suburbs. But the overall pattern revealed is a relentless focus on what's going on in the centre of town and immediately round about, and not much else.
Almost three-quarters of Londonist's single-location posts are about somewhere in Zone 1, very often a show to see, a museum to visit or food to eat. I couldn't find a single post in the last three weeks that focused on a location in zones 4, 5 or 6 (the closest hit being a literary festival in Hendon). Time Out had a more equitable split between zones 1 and 2, generally because no East London pop-up seems to go unreported. But again the outer London suburbs barely merited a mention, the only features in the last month being a cereal cafe in Kingston and the woodpecker-riding weasel in Hornchurch.
It's Greater London's 50th birthday next week, so it'd be nice to think that media purporting to be about London would more frequently remember that the outskirts exist. But then how many people are genuinely interested in Enfield, Croydon or Hounslow, not when there are hipsters serving cupcakes and craft beer from a kiosk in Shoreditch. There's a good reason why house prices are highest in the centre of town, and that's because it's the cool, hip, buzzing and better-connected nucleus of our capital.
In the meantime I shall continue to report on footpaths in Harefield, buses in Stratford and riverbanks in West Wickham. Sorry.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, March 26, 2015Sorry, this is a hyperlocal post, of interest only to those who live near the Bow Roundabout and those who ride the busiest bus in London.
I'm talking about the 25, the bus from Oxford Circus to Ilford, which carries about 25 million passengers a year. On its way it crosses the Bow Roundabout, this via the roundabout's slip roads rather than the flyover, because passing through at ground level best serves local passengers. Or at least it did until last week. Suddenly for no readily explained reason the 25 has been diverted across the flyover, where there are no bus stops, and those who live nearby are missing out.
Here's a map to show you what I mean. Heading east the 25 stops at the cluster of red dots to the left of my map, that's around St Mary's, the church in the middle of the road. It then usually stops outside the McDonalds drive-through, which is the first black cross, then usually stops again near the entrance to Marshgate Lane, which is the second. But as of last week the 25 is instead taking the flyover and skipping these two black crosses, stopping next at the farthest red dot near Warton Road. And that's a half mile gap where you can't get off and you can't get on. And that's not nice.
If you're waiting at either of the two black cross bus stops it's not the end of the world. Three other buses still travel eastward via the roundabout, the 276, 425 and D8, so to get to Stratford you simply wait for one of those. You'll probably have longer to wait than normal, and if you're going further than Stratford you may end up paying twice. But TfL have been very clear about what's going on, slapping a big red cross on the bus stop to show that the 25 doesn't stop, and sticking up a poster that says "Route 25 diverted". "Buses will be unable to serve this stop" it says, adding "Buses will be diverted via Bow flyover." But it doesn't explain why the 25 is taking a sudden shortcut, merely that it is.
If you're aboard the 25, however, things go wrong. And they go wrong because three of TfL's proudest digital systems don't work properly. The TfL website doesn't know about the stop closures, the Countdown indicators at bus stops remain silent, and the on-board announcements don't tell you enough until it's too late.
I thought I'd take a ride on the 25 to discover the true inconvenience of what's going on. Boarding by Bow Road station there was no indication that anything might be amiss a few stops up the road. A scrolling message on the Countdown display provided information about a bus stop in Aldgate that's currently closed, but that's not even in the right direction, so this was an essentially pointless message. Somebody in a control room somewhere needs to think more carefully about what they display.
Once on board the bus the audio announcements correctly ticked off each stop as we approached. But there were no passengers waiting at the last stop before the diversion, at Bow Church, so we didn't stop, and no words of warning cut in. We crossed over onto the flyover, which is not what the 25 normally does, while the non-25 bus in front continued down to the next stop as usual. Bow Flyover, flashed up the on-board display, so I dinged the bell. Bus stopping, flashed up the on-board display, but the bus didn't. After passing the stop, but now several feet in the air, up flashed Marshgate Lane on the on-board display. So I dinged the bell again, and again the display flashed up Bus stopping, and again of course it didn't. It couldn't because the flyover ends a few metres beyond this particular bus stop, so that was two stops we'd completely missed.
I dinged the bell again. This time the next stop was Warton Road, and we really were going to stop there. But Warton Road is a long way up Stratford High Street, past one, two, three separate sets of traffic lights. When we finally arrived it was at least a five minute walk back to the previous closed stop, and nearer ten to get back to the first, which required an awkward crossing of the Bow Roundabout. I'm fit and able so I coped, but for someone considerably less mobile this would be an unpleasant inconvenience.
Because what had happened didn't seem right, and being a glutton for punishment, I decided to repeat the experiment. This time the bus was packed, so did stop at the last stop before the diversion, and this time something different happened. The next bus stop is closed, announced the on-board display. The next bus stop is closed. The next bus stop is closed. The next bus stop is closed. Four times is a bit much, I thought, but at least they've announced it this time. Even so, I had two problems with the announcement. Firstly the next bus stop is not closed. Three other Stratford-bound buses still stop there, it's just that somebody's decided to reroute the 25 elsewhere, so you're on the wrong bus. And secondly, the next-but-one bus stop is also closed, but this never gets a mention. If you'd sat in your seat expecting to get off at Marshgate Lane as usual, your reward would have been an unexpected diversion and a long walk back.
And could I have spotted anything about this closure on the TfL website before I travelled? Well let's have a look. The year-old mobile-friendly TfL website doesn't have a single list of bus diversions any more. But it does have special pages for individual bus routes, and it does have special pages for individual bus stops. Let's take them one at a time.
» Checking the webpage for route 25 reveals three status alerts, each of which (somewhat annoyingly) has to be clicked on before you can read it. We discover that buses will be subject to delays on Drake Street WC1 until October 2016, for Crossrail reasons. We discover that Route 67 will be unable to serve stop 'F' at Aldgate East station until 14th April due to footway works, which isn't of relevance to route 25. And we discover that route 25 will be unable to serve stop 'R' on Aldgate High Street until 24th April due to a reduction of kerb space. We discover nothing whatsoever about the diversion in Bow.
» The webpage for the Bow Flyover bus stop appears to show business as usual. There is a little exclamation mark symbol by the route 25 marker, but clicking on this merely drags you off to the route 25 status alert page discussed earlier, and that's no help. Meanwhile the list of buses and departure times at the foot of the page suggests that the 25 is stopping at the Bow Flyover stop as normal. At time of writing there's apparently a 25 bus stopping in 4 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 13 minutes, 15 minutes, 19 minutes, 20 minutes, 22 minutes, 26 minutes and 27 minutes. In reality, none of these buses are stopping here at all.
And this is no brief deviation, this is a three month diversion, running from 8pm on Monday 16th March to 4pm on Friday 26th June. I know this from the yellow sign posted up at the two out-of-commission bus stops, which appear to be the only places with any information about what's going on. What's odd is that nobody has chosen to explain why the 25 has to use the flyover. It can't be for any genuine physical reason, because the 425 still goes via the roundabout and that's a double decker too. It might simply be an attempt to speed up the 25 by skipping over the traffic queues at the Bow Roundabout. Or it might be a temporary balancing act to maintain the 25's overall timetable during the reconstruction of Cycle Superhighway 2. Slower progress through the roadworks at Aldgate might potentially be cancelled out later in the journey by speeding passengers quicker over the Bow Flyover. Which would be fine, indeed might even be good, so long as passengers didn't want to get off the bus in the meantime.
Sorry, this has been a hyperlocal post, of interest only to those who live near the Bow Roundabout and those who ride the busiest bus in London. But there is a wider message, which is that a long-term change to an important means of transport has been under-communicated. Whoever's job it is to post physical information at bus stops has done a good job, and nobody waiting at one of the affected bus stops should be in the dark. But whoever maintains TfL's digital services has missed the ball completely, with nothing on the website, nothing on Countdown displays and inadequate information on the bus. Just because something's flashy and electronic doesn't necessarily make for a good customer experience if nobody's fed in the appropriate information. And in this case the important message should be This bus is on diversion, not The next bus stop is closed.
Late night update
» the webpage for route 25 now says HIGH STREET, E15 ROUTE 25: Buses are subject to diversion via Bow Flyover in both directions until 1600, Friday 26 June.
» the webpage for the Bow Flyover bus stop no longer shows the 25 stopping there.
» An email arrives from email@example.com: "Dear DG, I am writing to let you know that bus route 25 has been diverted via the Bow Flyover in both directions until further notice. This is due to Cycle Superhighway 2 works. During this time, route 25 will not serve the bus stops on Marshgate Lane and Bow Flyover.
(Only two weeks late, but thanks)
(But hang on, did you just say "until further notice"?!? Sigh)
posted 00:25 :
Wednesday, March 25, 2015Sorry, I wasn't intending to write about the cablecar again so soon. But then this happened.
• 'Night Flights' will be offered with later opening until 11pm on Friday and SaturdayYes, from this Saturday the cablecar's opening hours are to be extended later in the evening. An extension normally happens at this time of year as the service switches from Winter to Summer timetable, but the newly-announced closing times will be one, two, even three hours later than before. Be warned that closing time will revert to 8pm in October. Opening times remain the same.
• From Sunday to Thursday closing time will be extended to 10pm
Closing time Winter Summer New Mon-Thur 7am 8pm 9pm 10pm Friday 7am 8pm 9pm 11pm Saturday 8am 8pm 9pm 11pm Sunday 9am 8pm 9pm 10pm
As an indication of the scale of the change, the cablecar currently runs 88 hours a week, but from this Saturday it'll run 104 hours a week. For comparison, the Waterloo & City line crosses the Thames 108 hours a week, and the 108 bus crosses the Thames 168 hours a week.
For comparison, over the same time period the Waterloo & City line has carried about 45 million passengers beneath the Thames, and the 108 bus has carried about nine million passengers, so five million perhaps isn't all that great.
From Saturday 28 March, the Emirates Air Line will offer a new 'Night Flight' experience with later opening hours, a longer flight time and complementary music and video entertainment in cabins and at the terminals.Of course 'Night Flights' already exist, because it gets dark well before closing time during the winter. What's new is the 'Night Flight experience'. A crossing will now take longer after 7pm, and there'll be mood music and videos to accompany your passage.
I'd bet good money that the 'video entertainment' will feature promotional material from nearby attractions such as The Crystal, The O2 and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The cablecar's so-called feature tour turned out to be promotional material for nearby attractions, the Snowman and the Snowdog flew over the same nearby attractions in cartoon format, and even the Valentine's Day love-in featured the same nearby attractions with hearts on. It'd be a genuine turn up for the books if the 'Night Flight' evening extravaganza failed to mention The Crystal, The O2, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, etc, in passing.
The later opening will ensure customers can sit back, relax and enjoy the unique aerial views of fantastic sunsets or the spectacular lights and colours of London after dark, throughout the summer. From Sunday to Thursday, passengers will be able to fly until 10pm and on Friday and Saturday nights the Emirates Air Line will close at 11pm.The rationale here is to offer an after dark ride on the cablecar throughout the year. Currently that's possible between the start of October and the end of March, because sunset is always earlier than the 8pm shutdown. It's also been possible in spring and autumn, with closedown at 9pm, but between 26th May and 26th July sunset falls annoyingly later than the last flight time and a few customers may have been disappointed. But rejoice, because in future you need never worry. Whatever day of the year you'll always be able to think "hey, I fancy an after dark flight on the cablecar tonight" (weather permitting).
To allow more time to enjoy the experience, journey times will also be extended every day after 7pm. A round trip will be extended from 20 minutes to 25 minutes (12-13 minutes for a single crossing).This extended journey time is the ultimate abdication of the cablecar as a serious public transport option. Imagine if TfL announced that they were slowing down any other form of public transport so that reaching your destination took longer, there'd be an outcry. Not so for the Dangleway, where the key selling point is the pretty view and very definitely not getting from one side of the Thames to the other as quickly as possible.
Approximate crossing time 2012-14 Now Future Morning peak 5 mins 5 mins 5 mins Daytime 10 mins 10 mins 10 mins Evening peak 5 mins 10 mins 10 mins Evening 10 mins 10 mins 12½ mins
A big change to timings has already happened, unannounced, with the 5 minute express crossing removed from the evening peak and now restricted to 0700-0900 Monday to Friday. Outside this limited window it's the leisure traveller who has priority over the commuter - most likely because incredibly few commuters exist. And now the evening ride is to be slowed down too, bringing better value for money to the sightseeing experience. But I'm intrigued by precisely what journey time you'll get, given that the current default crossing time is 8½ minutes not 10, suggesting Night Flighters on a return journey probably won't be getting the advertised 25 minutes in the air.
There have been over five million passengers on the Emirates Air Line, the UK's first urban cable car, since its opening in June 2012. Customer Satisfaction Surveys show that around half of all users of the Emirates Air Line are Londoners and satisfaction scores remain very high at 93 out of 100. This demonstrates what a successful addition it is for both Londoners and visitors to the Capital.This press release paragraph features some of Dangleway management's favourite statistics. The five million passengers we've already discussed. Of course this is the UK's first urban cable car, because who'd ever build a second? As for half of all the users being Londoners, this also means that half of the users are from elsewhere, again cementing the cablecar's credentials as an inessential transport connection. And whilst that Customer Satisfaction rating remains impressively high, what else would you expect from a means of transport that flies through the air, and which customers make a voluntary decision to ride?
Since opening, the Emirates Air Line has helped customers celebrate special occasions, including marriage proposals and welcomed numerous famous faces including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan and Novak Djokovic.If you're excited by the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of these thrilling celebrities then congratulations, you're target audience. Please report for duty at North Greenwich and help TfL make a return on their investment as soon as possible.
The Emirates Air Line was built to support current and future regeneration in east London and its popularity means that it is more than covering its running costs while encouraging a new footfall of visitors to both the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula.It's worth remembering that while one and a half million passengers a year might sound paltry, their fares (plus commercial sponsorship) are indeed covering all the operating costs and the wages of the multitude of staff at each end. Indeed for those of you who think I'm always relentlessly downbeat about the cablecar, my 2012 report on TfL's business case made it clear that low passenger numbers were always part of the plan. Once the masts and terminals are paid for, the daily running costs for the cablecar are relatively low. TfL's chirpiness almost sounds as though we should be building cablecars everywhere, if they're really this good at covering their costs.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'The Emirates Air Line has been a fantastic addition to the Capital, boosting regeneration in the east and providing a unique way to view our fabulous city. Five million people have taken to the skies already and customer feedback over the last two and a half years remains overwhelmingly positive. Extended opening hours will now give even more people the chance to see one of the most beautiful views in London.'I see no sign as yet that the cablecar has brought any meaningful regeneration to East London. What it has done is given tourists somewhere new to go, and delivered a few extra customers to the luxury halal burger van on the northern shore. As for the idea that the extended opening hours are somehow giving more people the chance to visit the cablecar, that's clearly rubbish, it's merely giving the same number of people longer to turn up.
TfL's Head of the Emirates Air Line, Danny Price, said: 'Londoners, visitors from around the world and celebrities are all enjoying this special transport experience. By passing five million passenger journeys it shows just how popular it is with both Londoners and visitors to the Capital. It continues to cover its operating costs and generates revenue for local businesses through driving new footfall to the local area. We look forward to welcoming the next five million customers on to the Emirates Air Line.'At current rates, the Emirates Air Line should be welcoming its ten millionth customer in the summer of 2018. If Danny and friends "continue to increase customer awareness through initiatives aimed at both leisure and transport users", as the latest TfL Budget document promises, then even more people will be lured in and passenger numbers should start rising a little quicker. But whether your ideal Saturday night includes a £6.80 return flight over post-industrial Silvertown inside an ad-packed capsule, that's yet to be proven.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, March 24, 2015WALK LONDON
The London Loop [section 13]
Harefield West to Moor Park (5 miles)
With the good news that TfL have finally recreated all of the downloadable maps for their seven strategic walking routes, I'm back on the London Loop. Section 13 is a remote beast, threading through only-just-London and barely-Hertfordshire, via woods and fields and a famous sitcom homestead. It's also notoriously muddy, or so the comments section on the Walk London website advised before TfL pulled the plug. Remembering this advice I waited until it had barely rained for three weeks and then set off, fully booted, for ultra-north-west London. [map]
To reach Harefield West, deep in the Colne Valley, you take the U9 bus out of Uxbridge. I had a memorable journey in which the driver first turfed off a teenager for trying to pay with a £5 note ("cash was banned over a year ago," he lied), then launched into a strop with an elderly Harefield resident. Braking sharply caused her shopping basket to fall over, sending a frozen shepherds pie skidding towards the door. Our driver hopped out to rescue it, then noticed the old lady was drinking from a can of lager so grabbed this and threw it outside, deliberately littering the pavement in the process. And I mention not this because it has anything to do with the walk ahead, nor to get the miserable bastard into trouble, but merely to reinforce what great entertainment an outer London bus journey can be.
The bus drops you at a turning circle near the bottom of the hill, where one of Walk London's metal plaques foreshadows section 13, and advises you to ring an unobtainable phone number for further information. The walk sets off up an access road above the river, past some light industrial units being transformed into "contemporary canalside living", then heads up a hillside path in front of some almost-pretty cottages. That's a cattery on the right (no kittens were evident), then the contours steepen on the climb through Old Park Wood. Give it a couple of months and this ancient woodland will apparently be ablaze with bluebells and marsh marigolds, I suspect a local treasure for the handful who live nearby.
Ahead is London's most northwesterly hamlet, with the unexciting (but appropriate) name of Hill End. The approach is past a strip of mishmash allotments over which flutter various threadbare football-related flags. What used to be the village pub became what used to be the village nursery, but is now vacant, leaving a small playground across the road as the only toddler-friendly facility hereabouts. Plough Lane beyond looks almost suburban, until the stile at the end reveals that that we are only three fields from the edge of London. Field one features a suspiciously long shed, and a surprising huge number of geese waddling around a muddy pool. Field two opens up a broad gently rolling arable vista, before field three dips gradually through harvested stalks to a small notched stream. It isn't how you'd picture Hillingdon at all, and is all the more charming for it.
Hertfordshire begins with a stud. On the next farm live equine folk with a penchant for collecting old vehicles, hence the path tracks between grazing horses and the decaying remains of an old army ambulance. Walking down their drive I spotted Rickmansworth's hilltop Waitrose on the horizon, barely a mile distant, but the Loop gives that a miss and instead turns up Woodcock Hill. This is one of those awkward pavementless sections, requiring repeated sidesteps onto the verge to avoid oncoming traffic, or if you're unlucky the two-hourly bus. At a T-junction in the middle of nowhere lies the Rose and Crown, described online as "Real ales and classic fare in a wisteria-clad, 17th-century pub with open fires". It sounded lovely (and looked it too), but alas a sign stuck to the door announced the place's very recent closure (seemingly post-Valentine's), and what should have been a bustling beer garden stood wistfully empty.
From here a footpath strikes off down the edge of Bishop's Wood, affording brief views over one of Moor Park's lesser golf courses. A field's edge gave the first hints of potential mudbath conditions underfoot, thankfully unrealised at present, before the risk evaporated completely ahead. Three Rivers Council have upgraded the main track through the wood over the past few weeks, casting a trail of unnaturally clean aggregate in a broad wiggle all the way to the car park. The works have also refurbished a footbridge mid-wood, but without replacing the London Loop sign thereon, which means this is the first point where you could get horribly lost. You'd never think of taking the minor footpath beside the brook otherwise, nor following it into the trees through increasingly unclear and unkempt undergrowth. Ah yes, here's the muddy stretch, and it must be boot-covering after a downpour.
For reasons that are probably coincidental, the last mile of section 13 follows (almost precisely) a line of electricity pylons. They're well disguised by trees, on the whole, which also blot out sight of Mount Vernon Hospital (which lies just across the road). Further yomping brings you out onto Batchworth Heath, one of my grandmother's favourite picnic spots, though I wouldn't lay down a tablecloth at present. One of the pubs overlooking this traffic blackspot is the over-vowelled Ye Olde Greene Manne, ideally suited to the moneyed clientele at the adjacent Moor Park Golf Club, while across the road the down-at-heel Prince of Wales requires a flashing red 'Open' sign in the window to attract somewhat seedier punters.
The next footpath, from the Coal Tax Post onwards, followed the exact boundary between Middlesex and Herts, and still marks the very edge of the capital. It's a peaceful undulating affair, past white blossom and a pile of rubbish that might be flytipping or could possibly be someone's home. And at the end of the track you emerge into Kewferry Road... a name which stirred a nugget of trivial recognition within me. Isn't this...? I reached for my phone and Googled, confirming with some delight that the very ordinary-looking house two down on the right was indeed incredibly famous. 55 Kewferry Road is where Tom and Barbara Good lived, or at least where all the exterior shots were filmed for The Good Life back in the 1970s. The front garden's no longer ploughed for vegetables, and there's now a Landrover Defender parked outside, but this is very definitely self-sufficiency central, and that's still the Leadbetter's gaff nextdoor. Found you at last!
From borderline Northwood the Loop heads up a gated private road into the exclusive Moor Park Estate. Here the avenues are wide and the houses are big, each set in a plot of at least a third of an acre, and divided from its neighbour by hedges rather than walls or fences. Don't worry, they still get an electricity pylon for their trouble, but I doubt it depresses house prices too much. It was here, amid a land of multi-vehicle front gardens, that I met the first pedestrians I'd seen since leaving Harefield - the byways of Loop 13 aren't busy. And almost immediately I reached the low bridge beneath the Metropolitan line where this section terminates. Section 14 heads off across the golf course, but I instead took a wooded stroll alongside the tracks to Moor Park station, my walking boots still impressively presentable.
» London Loop section 13: official webpage; map and directions; map
» Who else has walked it? Tetramesh, Stephen, Mark, Oatsy, Chris, Tim, Maureen, Richard
» See also sections 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24
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