Not being able to wander London’s streets during Lockdown is a bit of a problem for a tour guide, and obviously the lack of customers is also a disadvantage. So, my time is spent online, researching, writing and generally indulging in all thing London (Geek).
When I come to plan A London Miscellany tour, the quickest way of putting the structure together is to use Google Maps Street view and find the best way of linking the points of interest that are on the tour. It’s surprising what other information you can pick up while traversing the streets virtually.
So, I had a thought; why not try putting a tour together, which would allow people to read my notes while walking the route using Google Maps Street View?
To get something up and running quickly I’ve used part of an existing tour that I did for a group and is not available from the list of tours that I will be offering when all this ends and some sort of normality resumes.
It may be a little clunky, especially if you’re not used to navigating with Street View, but with a bit of perseverance, you’ll get the hang of it.
I’m going to start off with a few photographs of locations, but after a while I leave you to find your own way around and discover the locations for yourself, that’s part of the fun!
TOUR: A PASSPORT THRU PIMLICO
Open GoogleMaps and in the search box enter Warwick Way London SW1 or follow this link. You should see this on your screen.
Take the little yellow Street View man at the bottom right of your screen, then drag and drop him just after the intersection of Warwick Way and Cambridge Street. You should see a similar view as below. Make sure the little man’s arrow is pointing roughly Westward and that you’re facing the large block of flats.
Ok, you’re now ready to start the tour.
Let’s start with a brief history of Pimlico, which is an area of centralLondon in the city of Westminster, built as a southern extension to neighbouring Belgravia. It is known for its garden squares and Regency architecture. Its boundaries are roughly to the north by Victoria Station, the riverThames to the south, Vauxhall Bridge Road to the east and the Grosvenor Railway Bridge to the west.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Manor of Ebury was divided up and leased by the Crown. The area of modern day Pimlico was known as The Five Fields.
At some point in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, the area ceased to be known as Ebury or “The Five Fields” and gained the name by which it is now known. The origins are sketchy but the two most plausible seems to be based on an Inn Keeper named Ben Pimlico who was renowned for his Nut Brown Ale, or alternatively from the Carolina Algonquian language called Pamlico. There were wharves along the Pimlico stretch of the Thames that traded with the Americas, so it could be an explanation.
During the nineteenth century, the area was ripe for development and in 1825 Thomas Cubitt was contracted to develop the area. He developed a grid of handsome white stucco terraces and garden squares. An 1877 newspaper article described Pimlico as genteel, sacred to professional men… not rich enough to luxuriate in Belgravia proper, but rich enough to live in private houses.” Its inhabitants were “more lively than in Kensington… and yet a cut above Chelsea, which is only commercial.
Although the area was dominated by the well-to-do middle and upper-middle classes as late as 1889, parts of Pimlico are said to have declined significantly by the 1890s into slum dwellings.
Pimlico survived the World War 2 with its essential character intact, although parts sustained significant bomb damage. Through the 1950s these areas were the focus of large-scale redevelopment. A lot of the bigger houses were divided up into flats and bedsits and it is in the 1950s through to the late ’70s that Pimlico had a reputation for being shabby and just a little sleazy. In the intervening years, a strong residence association has helped to lose the negativity of the early post-war years, although the area still has the epithet of being the poor man’s Belgravia.
- Move along Warwick Way towards the block of flats and stop just after the junction of Warwick Way and Alderney Street.
- Alderney Street is the first street you come to.
- As you move along, look around at the type of houses that line the street and the architecture in general.
You should be seeing something similar to this.
As described earlier the area of Pimlico was relatively undeveloped until the early nineteenth century. Warwick Way’s predecessor was known as The Willow Walk, which ran along the same axis as now. On either side of the walk were the Osier or willow beds. The willow was regularly coppiced but would have grown up to around 2.5 metres (about 8 feet), so we would be walking through a corridor flanked on either side by young willow trees. Much of the area then was laid out to market gardens known as Old Neat House Gardens. The soil especially close to the Thames was of a very good quality and the area produced an abundance of fruit and vegetables. The area, however, was still very remote even though it’s only about twenty minutes’ walk today to the Palace of Westminster, and residents would not venture out after dark unless they could possibly help it.
Coming right back up to today, as we walked along Warwick Way, you may have noticed that most of the buildings were in the Georgian or Victorian style. As you see this unbroken line of eighteenth and nineteenth-century houses end abruptly just here to be replaced with a modern post-war development on both sides of the road. The reason for this is solely down to the German Luftwaffe.
The right-hand side of Alderney Street was hit by a parachute mine in the vicinity of Gloucester and Cambridge Streets at 1.55am on 16 October 1940. The explosion demolished or badly damaged as many as 150 houses, leaving around 300 people homeless and seeking sanctuary in local shelters.
83 casualties were reported including 23 fatalities. One of the fatally injured was a stretcher-bearer who refused to leave his stretcher case despite witnessing the approach of another parachute mine. This was the first parachute mine attack to devastate a heavily populated area in the City of Westminster. ARP (Air Raid Precautions) personnel worked throughout the night to rescue as many as possible: 11 of their number were found to have been killed by mine blasts. Whilst working in Alderney Street, wardens witnessed another parachute mine descending on the already destroyed area. This time the mine was illuminated by searchlights and destroyed by anti-aircraft fire.
- Turn around and move along into Alderney Street on your right (It’s the corner with the two rubbish bins.
- Stop outside number 36, which will be on your right.
In 2010, Gareth Williams was staying at Flat 4, 36 Alderney Street. He was a mathematician and employee of GCHQ (Government Communications HQ) seconded to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6). Flat 4 was a Security Service Safe House.
Police visited Williams’ home during the afternoon of Monday 23 August 2010, as a “welfare check” after colleagues noted he had been out of contact for several days. His decomposing naked remains were found in a red The North Face sports bag, padlocked from the outside, in the bath of the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom. Despite many theories as to who was responsible for his murder, the case remains unsolved.
- Continue along Alderney Street crossing the junction with Clarendon Street.
- Stop at the junction of Sussex Street.
- Face the building on your left situated at the corner of Sussex and Alderney Street. This is No. 99 Alderney Street.
In 1876, number 99 was home to wealthy builder John Collins and his wife. He was known for his financial astuteness, his property portfolio and his reluctance to spend a sixpence if he could help it. Since Collins did not trust banks, he kept his entire fortune locked up within the house.
On 14 December 1876 the house was visited by a young man, Edward Tredaway, who had been introduced to them by some relations. The following morning Tredaway returned to No.99 without an invitation. Mr Collins was out at the time, so Mrs Collins showed Tredaway into the dining room, where he promptly fell asleep in a chair. When Mr Collins returned he woke Tredaway and a conversation began. Mrs Collins asked Tredaway if he would like some broth to which he replied he would, so she left the room to tell the cook. On entering the kitchen she heard a gunshot, and running back to the dining room saw a wild-eyed Tredaway brandishing a revolver, and Collins slumped in a chair with blood pouring from a head wound. She went to his aid and Tredaway fired at her but missed. She bravely tackled Tredaway and a struggle ensued in which she was badly beaten before Tredaway made his escape. Despite her injuries, Mrs Collins pursued Tredaway shouting “Stop Thief”. A young man pursued Tredaway as far as Ecclestone Square but lost him in the crowds. When the local constable arrived at No.99 he found Mr Collins dead from the gunshot and Mrs Collins in a state of hysteria.
After Mrs Collins had given a description and Tredaway’s name to the police it was widely circulated and train and omnibus stations had detectives on surveillance. Within 24 hours of information being received the police raided an address in Isleworth where they found the fugitive Tredaway.
At the trial at the Old Bailey, the case against Tredaway looked cast iron. He had purchased the gun the day before and Mrs Collins testified about the incident pointing him out as the assailant. The defence tried a plea of insanity, with family members testifying that Tredaway suffered from fits, which he theatrically endured while in the court and that insanity ran in the family. His defence claimed he had bought the gun to commit suicide. The Jury took half an hour to bring in a guilty verdict and he was sentenced to be hanged. There was a lot of speculation in the medical press about the case, with emanate professionals arguing Tredaway’s case based on his epilepsy defence.
He was due to be hanged on the 26th February 1877 at Newgate, but two days before the hanging he was reprieved by the Home Secretary on medical grounds and his sentence changed to life.
- Continue along Alderney Street, crossing Sussex and Gloucester streets until you reach the T junction with Lupus Street.
- Turn left onto Lupus Street and continue along the street until you reach the traffic lights at the junction with St George’s Drive on your left and Claverton Street on your right.
- Turn right onto Claverton Street
- Continue down Claverton Street until you reach the last block of flats on your right, just before the traffic lights on the junction of Grosvenor Road. It’s a long road and you’ll have to click to advance quite a few times.
- You should be looking at a block of flats called Whitley House which has a Hertz rental van parked outside. This is where number 88 stood up until post-war redevelopment. If you swivel round 180 degrees, number 88 would have looked similar to the terrace on the opposite side of the road.
Number 88 Claverton Street was the location of the Pimlico Mystery or the Pimlico Poisoning Mystery. It relates to the circumstances surrounding the 1886 death of Thomas Bartlett, probably at the hands of his wife, Adelaide Blanche Bartlett.
A fatal quantity of chloroform was found in Mr Bartlett’s stomach, despite having not caused any damage to his throat or windpipe, and no evidence of how it got there. In fact, several eminent surgeons of the time were called as prosecution witnesses, and under cross-examination confessed that they were baffled as to how the Chloroform had been administered, with one saying, “If she did do it, I’d like her to show me how it was done”.
The prosecution alleged Adelaide had asked the Reverend George Dyson, the couple’s ‘spiritual counsellor‘, and, quite possibly, Adelaide’s lover, to buy large quantities of chloroform from several local chemists in the weeks before the incident. She was tried for murder and was acquitted, partly because the prosecution could not prove how Mrs Bartlett could have committed the crime. Strangely the charges against Dyson were dropped, despite his part in the alleged crime.
After the trial both Adelaide Bartlett and Reverend George Dyson vanished from public notice. Some rumours say that they married, others that they went their separate ways, with a suspicion that Dyson may have murdered again while in the USA.
- At the end of Claverton Street turn left onto Grosvenor Road. Don’t wait for the traffic lights to change, it’s a very long red.
- Move along the street and opposite the Shell petrol station, you will see a very large brick building.
- Move along the front of the building until you reach the triple arched entrance to Dolphin Square.
Dolphin Square is a block of luxury flats built between 1935-37. It contains 1,250 units and was at one time the largest block of self-contained flats in Europe. The site of Dolphin Square sits on top of the Works that Thomas Cubitt used to develop the area in 1825.
The estate contains a swimming pool, bar, brasserie, gymnasium, and shopping arcade. In the basement are a launderette and car park. A tennis court and croquet lawn overlook the River Thames.
Because of Pimlico’s proximity to the Palace of Westminster and the headquarters of the intelligence agencies MI5 (aka the Internal Security Service) at Thames House and MI6 (aka the Secret Intelligence Service) at Vauxhall Cross it has attracted many politicians, peers, civil servants and intelligence agency personnel. Past residents include Harold Wilson, David Steel and William Hague.
Dolphin Square has had an unusually colourful history. During World War Two, “blackshirt” leader Oswald Mosley was arrested in his Dolphin Square flat and driven to prison. MI5’s Maxwell Knight recruited the author Ian Fleming to the Secret Service from a flat a few doors down. Winston Churchill’s daughter Sarah was evicted from the square for hurling gin bottles out of her window.
Dolphin Square played a bit part in the John Profumo scandal that damaged the Conservative government in 1963. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, the young women at the heart of the scandal, were sub-tenants in the Square, but no one seems to remember which flats they occupied; some say Keeler lived in 501 or 601. Charles de Gaulle based his Free French government in the square during the war. Two decades later the Soviet spy John Vassall was living in the square when he was arrested for treason.
Sounds like an idyllic place to live. If you were lucky enough to find a flat for sale on the open market, you would get very little change out of £500,000
- Continue along Grosvenor Road until you come to the first major turning on your left, which is St. George’s Square.
- Enter the street and move about halfway along it.
St. Georges Square Gardens is probably the finest garden square in the locality. Designed by Thomas Cubitt it was originally laid out in 1839 as two parallel streets running north-south but by 1843 had been developed into a formal square lined on the two long sides and also the north. It was London’s first residential “square” open to the River Thames. The gardens were for residence only when first built, and the earliest occupiers were personally given a key to the gate by Thomas Cubitt. The author Bram Stoker died at number 26 in April 1912, and Dorothy L. Sayers lived in an unfurnished room for three months in 1920.
- Continue along the street until you reach the church on the right hand side. You should be standing on the junction with Lupus Street.
- Cross the road into the northern part of the square and follow the road until it meets Belgrave Road.
- Turn left, then immediately left again into Moreton Street.
- Move down the street and take the first right into Moreton Place which has the Pimlico Tandori on the corner.
- Stop outside number 7 Moreton Place. You will see a Blue Plaque on the wall of the house.
Number 7 Moreton Place is remembered as the birthplace in 1862 of William “Billy” Hughes who served as the 7th Prime Minister of Australia between 1916-1923. Hughes was born to Welsh parents and emigrated to Australia at the age of 22. However, the house was the site of a rather sad story that dates from when this part of Pimlico had lost its original grandeur.
In the 1970’s Moreton Place was a shabby down at heel row of houses many of which were converted into dingy Bedsits. One such was the home of Albery Cox a retired Night Porter who was somewhat of a recluse, but an identifiable local character when he did venture out, dressed in a raincoat, Trilby and old fashioned NHS spectacles. He was also in the habit of carrying large sums of money in his wallet.
On the 4th March 1972 neighbours alerted police that Cox had not been seen for several days and that he had not answered his door. On entering the flat, Cox was found dead, bound and gagged to a chair and had died by suffocation.
The case didn’t attract much media speculation and the Police were clueless, in fact, not a single person appears to have been a suspect for the crime.
The house now bears a plaque to William Hughes, but there is no memorial to Charles Cox a harmless old bloke in a trilby callously murdered for a couple of hundred pounds.
Further along the street at number 22 was the home of actor Wilfred Bramble who lived here in the basement flat from the early 1960’s until his death in 1985. He is most famous for playing old man Steptoe in classic television sitcom Steptoe and Son.
- Retrace your steps and at the corner of Moreton Place turn right into Moreton Street.
- Follow Moreton Street to its junction with Moreton Terrace, where you will turn left.
- At the end of the terrace turn left into Lupus Street.
- Continue along the street towards the church spire you will see in the distance. When you are alongside the church, stop.
- Take a look at the other side of the street and you will see a green coloured hut. Move along until you are opposite it.
The hut you are looking at is one of the remaining Cabbies’ Shelters that are dotted around London.
Because cab drivers weren’t allowed to leave their vehicles when parked at a stand, it was difficult for them to get a hot meal while at work, so the Earl of Shaftesbury (God bless ‘im) and a few philanthropic chums decided to create a cabbies’ charity in 1874. Entitled the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund, the charity set out to construct and run shelters to provide cabbies with ‘good and wholesome refreshments at moderate prices.’ Between 1875 and 1914, a total of 61 shelters were built at cost of around £200 each. Because the shelters stood on a public highway, the police stipulated that they weren’t allowed to be any larger than a horse and cart. Even with those restrictions, the huts still managed to wedge in a working kitchen and accommodate between ten and thirteen men. Most were staffed by an attendant who sold food and (non-alcoholic) drink to the cabbies and were provided with a kitchen in which the attendant could cook this food and also food provided by the cabbies themselves. The attendant was not generally paid but was expected to make an income from these sales. The shelters were also provided with seats and tables and books and newspapers, most of them donated by the publishers or other benefactors. Gambling, drinking and swearing were strictly forbidden. Thirteen of the shelters still exist and are still run by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. All are now Grade II listed buildings.
- Continue along Lupus Street until you see the entrances to Pimlico Underground station on either side of the road.
- Continue into Bessborough Street.
- Just after the hexagonal brick building on your left, stop. You will see a rather strange piece of artwork standing just before the traffic lights.
This is a piece of sculpture by Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi. Installed in 1982. It is a cast-iron relief covering a ventilation shaft, just above Pimlico Station. This is classic Paolozzi. Cogs, gears, satellites, insects, anonymous machine parts. Paolozzi also designed the cover of Paul McCartney’s album Red Rose Speedway.
- Retrace your steps from the ventilation shaft, back past the Underground station.
- Turn half-right and cross Rampayne Street and enter Tachbrook Street (by the public toilets).
- Move along Tachbrook Street keeping the parade of shops on you right. The last premises on the Parade is the Pride of Pimlico Public House. We can stop here for a virtual pint if you like?
Since we entered Tachbrook Street, on our right has been the Lillington Garden Estate, which was built in stages over ten years from 1961, it was one of the first low-rise, high-density housing estates in London and were made a conservation area in 1990. Some parts are grade II listed. Pre-war, this was an area of high density housing with two further streets, Lillington and Garden running parallel to Tachbrook.
Both of these streets no longer exist as at 12.50 am on 17 April 1941 a parachute mine landed on Lillington Street damaging a number of houses in the street and killing 41 residents. Two nights later the street was again hit during a raid, but luckily casualties were lighter than the previous raid. Surrounding streets were so badly damaged that they were left as irreparable and only a few remain in name only.
- We’ll now turn right and move down Moreton Street until we reach the church which is on the left hand side.
We’re now standing outside the Church of St James The Less, which came through the bombing relatively unscathed.
In 1859 three tenacious sisters Jane, Penelope and Mary decided to honour the memory of their father Bishop James Monk by building a church here in one of the poorest parts of London. There is a plaque to them and their achievement in getting the church built inside. The Monk sisters managed to persuade Westminster Abbey to give them some land and they immediately commissioned Bristol Cathedral’s architect George Edmund Street. Street also designed the Law Courts in the Strand. Back in 1917, Canon Thorndike was the vicar here, and his daughter was the famous screen actress Dame Sybill Thorndike. One night in October 1917, Canon Thorndike announced the opening hymn to the congregation gathered before him and then dropped down dead beside the font. Another vicar died the same way – Geoffrey Pollard, in September 1986 after conducting an evening service. Poet Sir John Betjeman helped to save the church from closure in the 1960s.
And so that concludes our tour around the streets of Pimlico, thank you for your time. I hope you’ve found it enjoyable, and will perhaps consider a real tour in the near future. Visit the website to find out more https://www.alondonmiscellany.com/