Radical Stroud Comes To Town: London Pub and Literary Walk, November 29th

London Walks, Psychogeography

Radical Stroud Comes To Town: London Pub and Literary Walk

We are not sure when we shall make this trip (WE DO NOW: NOV 29th), but I thought I might post it for others to enjoy, recce and navigate. The walk takes in pubs with noteworthy interiors as well as two or three short literary pilgrimages.  If half-pints of beer were to be slowly consumed at the pubs on our trail, together with soft drinks too, then memory should be active and, inebriation, as well as bladder, controlled. We recommend an early train: all these precautions should avoid any spoonerism on the return journey. No town drain for our party. Alternatively, if you don’t trust yourself, take two days over this public house peregrination.

  1. Assuming you arrive from the West Country and into Paddington, then let’s take the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus and a trip to the Argyll Arms, Argyll Street (by Oxford Circus tube):

‘The interior dates from 1895 and has been described as ‘one of the most magnificently decorated pub interiors in England’; it has unusual small cubicles in the front bar, with cut glass screens, decorative mirrors and elaborate mahogany. The Luftwaffe as well as Modernity managed to miss this example of fin de siècle social stratification.’

  1. Next up: the Tottenham in Fitzrovia, 6 Oxford Street. It’s going to be busy but early doors might allow us to enjoy the Victoriana in this grade 2 listed building.
  1. We then walk past old haunts around UCL to get to 7 Roger Street and the Duke of York. ‘A grade 2 listed art deco treasure.’
  1. It’s now time for a pub break and a bit of culture and so we then walk to 48 Doughty Street and Charles Dickens’ house and museum.
  1. After that, we toddle off to High Holborn to sample the delights of the Cittie of Yorke (1920s) (number 22) and the Victorian Princess Louise (208-9).
  1. Next, a visit to Clerkenwell Green for both a literary and historical pilgrimage. It is here where the Artful Dodger and Fagin led Oliver Twist into pickpocketing; it is here where radical Lollardy thrived: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then he gentleman?’ It is here where Chartism was nurtured in the 19th century and it is here where Marxism was also fostered: we’ll look at 37a Clerkenwell Green, the Marx Memorial Library, as well as the Crown Tavern at number 43 (where legend has it that Lenin and Stalin had a chinwag in 1905).
  1. We’ll also make a trip to Spa Fields behind Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. This was the site of the radical meeting for extension of the vote in 1816, when Henry Hunt spoke in favour of a peaceful widening of the franchise. Revolutionary followers of Thomas Spence marched on to the Tower, robbing a gunsmith’s en route. The Spenceans were a revolutionary group dedicated to equality, but were infiltrated by agents provocateurs. Executions occurred after the Cato Street Conspiracy (meeting place near the Edgeware Road) of 1820, when the group planned to assassinate the Cabinet.
  2. Now it’s time to go to Fleet Street and the Old Cheshire Cheese at 145. Rebuilt after the Great Fire and no natural lighting inside today; lots of gloomy rooms; lots of 19thcentury paneling; cellars possibly 13th century (site of a Carmelite Monastery); regulars have included Goldsmith, Twain, Tennyson, Conan Doyle, Chesterton, Dickens (a scene from A Tale of Two Cities also set here) and possibly Johnson.
  3. Talking of which, it’s now time to visit Dr. Johnson’s house just over the way in 17 Gough Square, off Fleet Street. Then off to:
  4. Blackfriars Pub, 174 Queen Victoria Street; Art Nouveau pub; saved from demolition in the 1960s with support from John Betjeman.
  5. Then a walk to the Old Mitre Tavern, Ely Court, Ely Place, Hatton Garden, Holborn Circus: ‘There’s a sense of discovery when you find the Old Mitre Tavern. It’s hidden down an alleyway between 8 and 9 Hatton Garden, marked by an old crooked street lamp and a small sign in the shape of a bishop’s mitre, the arched alleyway entrance has a sign above stating “Ye Olde Mitre 1546”. Despite these clues many who work in the area don’t know it exists. This tiny pub is a real hidden gem. ‘
  6. Now to Bunhill Fields Cemetery, City Road EC1:

‘This old burial ground, shaded by mature plane trees, is situated on the edge of the City. Bunhill Fields was first set aside as a cemetery during the Great Plague of 1665. The ground was never apparently consecrated and twenty years later it became a popular burial ground for Nonconformists, who were banned from being buried in churchyards because of their refusal to use the Church of England prayer book. Bunhill Fields was soon known as ‘ the cemetery of Puritan England’. Although much is now cordoned off, it is still possible to walk through and find monuments to John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake, as well as to members of the Cromwell family. John Milton lived in Bunhill Row, on the west side of the cemetery, from 1662 until his death in 1674. Some of Milton’s greatest works were written here, including ‘Paradise Lost’. Across the road from Bunhill Fields is the Methodist Museum and John Wesley’s House. ‘

  1. And so to the Salisbury, 90 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden:

The building went up in 1892, a restaurant by the name of the ‘Salisbury Stores’ (see the double ‘S’ in the windows); it was converted into a pub in 1898, hence the massive mirrors, eye catching fitments and art nouveau ambience.

  1. Now on to the Hand and Shears, Cloth Fair, 1 Middle Street, EC1:

‘This delightful little pub is a good example of an early nineteenth century alehouse. Its plain and simple interior has matchboarded walls and an oak floor. Although small, it is divided into four bar areas, each served from the central bar island. One snug is so small, it can hold only about eight customers.
A 12th century alehouse stood here, in the precincts of St. Bartholomew’s Priory. In August 1133, the first cloth fair was held at Smith Field nearby. Tailors and drapers came from all-over the country to ply their trade. By Tudor times the Cloth Fair had taken on an official role for Merchant Tailors, whose officers would check cloth with a yard stick. Offenders caught giving short measure, were brought to the alehouse and their case heard in a court upstairs. The guilty were put in stocks or whipped.

Eventually the alehouse was officially adopted by the Merchant Tailors of London and was allowed to display the guilds sign, the ‘hand and shears’. The Lord Mayor opened the fair from the steps of the pub. The last one was held in 1855. Poet John Betjeman who lived nearby was a regular.’

  1. Next stop: Viaduct Tavern, 126 Newgate Street – ‘This impressive corner pub faces its famous namesake, Holborn Viaduct. Queen Victoria opened it in 1869, the Viaduct not the pub, although they were both opened in the same year. Holborn Viaduct was the world’s first flyover, connecting Holborn with Newgate Street, avoiding a deep dip in the road caused by the River Fleet. Although this striking Victorian pub has a large curved frontage, the interior is surprisingly small. Many of the original features have survived. On one wall, three paintings of wistful maidens represent agriculture, banking and the arts. The ‘arts’ was attacked (some say shot, others bayoneted) by a drunken First World War soldier, and she still bears the scar.’
  1. Now to the Dog and Duck, Bateman Street, Soho:

‘Many famous historical figures have enjoyed the hospitality of The Dog and Duck, including John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and George Orwell. The pub was originally built in 1734 on the site of the Duke of Monmouth’s home. The present building was built in 1897, and is considered to have one of London’s most exquisite interiors of the period, characterised by thousands of highly glazed tiles.’

  1. Next up: The Red Lion, St James’s:

‘One of London’s most magnificent pubs, a real must on any visitor’s list. From the outside it looks pleasant enough, plain brick with some ornate ironwork, typical of many in town; inside there’s a wonderful and surprising contrast.
Dazzling ‘brilliant-cut’ mirrors cover the walls, their intricate patterns sparkle as they catch the light, giving the impression of a much bigger space. This pub is really quite small and it seems remarkable it was once divided into several smaller bars. The island counter made from rich polished mahogany adds to the glare. Glass and mirrors were very fashionable in the late 1800’s and as the technology improved, the designs became more ornate and intricate. To modern tastes it may seem almost too garish.
Built in 1821 on the site of a previous pub, the Red Lion was redesigned in the 1870’s. It is often described as a ‘gin palace’ but was refitted long after the ‘mother’s ruin’ gin era. This pub was designed to impress and create an aura of opulent respectability. It served the staff of the surrounding grand houses and, in its own way, provided some of the sumptuous ‘above stairs’ living for those ‘below stairs’.’


The below could be a bolt-on or it could be part of a separate journey; it involves London’s lost rivers, together with Highgate , Kentish Town and Hampstead.

Nicholas Barton’s ‘The Lost Rivers of London’ is, of course, a watery mine of information: the River Fleet rises in Highgate and Hampstead and those sources fuse at Camden Town (old prints show it flowing between what is now Camden Tube station and The Mother Red Cap pub – but then, the tube station was the site of St. Pancras Workhouse). The river now winds its way below Kentish Town Road, St. Pancras, under the Regent’s Canal, King’s Cross, then west of King’s Cross, under Farringdon Road, Holborn Viaduct (Holborn = Hole-bourne = stream in the hollow) and so to the Thames.

The River Tyburn has two sources in Hampstead and Belsize Park. It flows down through Swiss Cottage to Regent’s Park, across the Regent’s Canal by aqueduct, with its old eastern bank denoted by the winding line of Marylebone Lane (St. Mary by the bourne); then along Baker Street to Piccadilly (Tyburn Road is now Oxford Street); then east of Grosvenor and Berkeley Squares, below Lansdowne Passage, under Piccadilly, down Green Park towards Buckingham Palace and so to the Thames (btw, the Tyburn Tree gallows were near what is now Marble Arch and Tyburn Lane is now Park Lane).

We can pick up some of this on our pub walk but we may also want to visit Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery (close by social-Darwinist Herbert Spencer’s grave: Marx and Spencer) and have a walk around Kentish Town and Hampstead to see John Keats’ house and that nightingale tree.

This might necessitate a visit to the wonderful Holly Bush in Hampstead.

Finally, when we are out east, we have to think about the River Walbrook, flowing into the City (have a look for Bloomfield Street and Curtain Road) and when we return to Paddington, we have to reflect on the River Westbourne and the prevalence (eleven) of street names in the Paddington area denoting that lost river, whilst there is also a Bourne Street in Chelsea, near the river’s destiny at the Thames.

Walking a metaphor

Walking a metaphor (With thanks to Jacqui Stearn) From Purgatory to Paradise    a company of artists, poets, writers,    young and old, walked in discourse and delight. In Purgatory woods through, which our human line snaked,  and before emerging onto the hill of swifts read more

Church Walk

It was a sunny enough April day but the chafing easterly wind cut your cheeks to shreds. People in the streets of Stroud had donned hats of every shape, size and elevation, in the forlorn hope of keeping heads and ears warm, but their faces bore the tell-tale brunt and burden. Everyone was wondering when spring would finally and decisively take its place amongst us – or would this bitter winter defiantly and continuously persist?
But as the day progressed and the sun rose higher in the sky, so the patches of blue grew ever wider, and the clouds changed shape to ‘traveller’s joy’. Snowdrops were still abundant, but primrose, violets and even a solitary cowslip reminded us of how Spring will, every year, eventually hammer the final nails into Winter’s coffin.
And so it proved, as we walked out from Arts and Crafts Sapperton to St. Mary’s at Edgeworth. This is a church well worth a visit. The path takes you past Pinbury Park, once the home of John Masefield, then through hollow-ways, green lanes and four-ways-went. There is a distinct DMV vibe about the rolling greensward here; so many paths intersecting in the middle of nowhere; big sky country with the occasional big ploughed open field; the ghosts of medieval peasants turning up the stones: “When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?”
The contentment continued at St. Mary’s: a carved Saxon stone in the porch; a stained glass window from betwixt the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt; a local cured of leprosy at Canterbury through the Thomas a Beckett cult; pews marked ‘Manor’ at the front of the nave with ‘Cottagers’ at the back; a plethora of 17th century gravestones and a wooden seat in the sun. What more could you ask for?
Only to visit this place again. The village is ‘said to be the most remote in the Cotswolds’; it is about 8 miles from Stroud and 8 from Cirencester. This makes the church feel even more adrift in time and space – but death linked even this isolated village with the Bay of Bengal and also with the Great War. The Empire and the European Balance of Power are present even here, with melancholic inscriptions, in this wind-blown graveyard, high up on the wolds.
Also present were memories of our recent trip to Cusop, near Hay on Wye. There we had linked arms around thousand year old yews: it took 6 adults to encircle one of those venerable trunks. That
worked out according to my rough mathematical arboreal abacus at about 160 years per adult. We had also looked at the 12th century frescoes at Kempley, near Dymock, the day before. 5 adults did the trick there. It seems as though we may have a ready reckoner similar to the hedgerow calibrator – I’m sure you know about the old adage of 100 years for each species of tree or shrub in a 30 metre stretch of country hedgerow.
We returned to Sapperton via the Daneway: as good a pub as you can find on as good a walk as you can make. Tea and beer were taken before walking along the canal, the vanishing Frome and through the field where the horses and donkeys were led as the bargees legged it through the tunnel. Perhaps King George 3rd became as perplexed as we did about the whereabouts of the Frome, when he visited here in his annus horribilis of 1788, and so began to first lose his mind.
But it was near here that my aunt and father used to play when they moved to Frampton Mansell after the First World War. This was one of their favourite spots. My Auntie Kath wrote the following poem some 50 to 60 years later.


For My Brother

When we were young and full of fun
And all our days were carefree,
Do you remember that September
We climbed the old pear tree?

The finest crop grows at the top,
That bramble jam we ate,
Our mother made and carefully laid
On shelves with name and date.

We took a stick and went to pick
The biggest blackest berries,
Pulling down to near the ground
Clusters hung like cherries.

Remember the gate where we used to wait
For the early morning light,
To show in the field the wonderful yield
Of mushrooms, gleaming white.

The nuts we found so full and round,
And filberts too, so rare,
That lovely autumn on Sapperton Common,
What joy we used to share.

Wild harvest brings a host of things,
Mushrooms, nuts and fruit,
But best of all, with every fall,
Comes memory, absolute.

A Solitary Ramble Round Stroud

I remember studying Charles Lamb’s “Essays of Elia” and William Hazlitt’s essays for A Level; I loved them all, but especially Hazlitt’s piece on walking. It struck a chord back then and just the other day, as well: “One of the pleasantest things in the world is going a journey; but I like to do it myself. I can enjoy society in a room; but out of doors, nature is company for me. I am then never less alone than when alone…” So, “dear readers”, as Mr. Lamb used to write, here follows an essay on the joys of a solitary ramble around Stroud. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy walking and thinking at two and a half miles an hour with friends and family, but sometimes it’s a joy to do it like Greta Garbo, but with the script of Hazlitt.
So let’s hear from the man himself again, for one last time: “Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the green turf beneath my feet…Instead of an awkward silence, broken by attempts at wit or dull common-places, mine is that undisturbed silence of the heart which alone is perfect eloquence”.
With this in mind and a welcome day off, I walked down Rodborough Hill and into town. It was a Tuesday, but memories of the 1831Captain Swing Riots passed through my mind: “No work today, boys, it’s Rising Monday!” The pre-industrial tradition of Saint Monday floated around my head too, when handloom weavers and so on would take the day off if they fancied it; a pastime destroyed by the tyranny of the factory clock and hooter. But hey ho, in these days of the post-industrial service economy, I had Tuesday off and was free. A walk beckoned, but first I had to deal with William Blake’s “mind-forg’d manacles”, or rather what we today call, a list of things to do.
Now there’s another way to look at lists rather than through the Blakean trope, and that’s the Sergeant Pepper Day in a Life style: a sort of stream of consciousness Zen type thing, but with a periodic break with pen and paper to maintain a list of musings, events and reflections – the sort of thing that can be done only on one’s own. And having serendipitously read Katie Kitamura’s thesis the weekend before in the Guardian, as to why lists are a raging against the dying of the light: “…as long as we’re making lists…we’re keeping faith with some idea of perpetuity”, what chance did I stand?
Whatever. Off we jolly well go. I walked down the Slad Road, past the tumbling stream, an old mill or two, Uplands Post Office at Springfield House, and then turned right into Libby’s Drive. I bumped into Tony, who suggested I call in to see his wares at “Trainspotters”, but couldn’t find the right warehouse, so hearing the sound of saw and hammer, wandered into an old mill for directions. “No speak English,” said the carpenter, but I managed to locate Tony’s bazaar (“I am setting up a series of Love Walks, some of your group might want to join us…walks for single people”) before turning up a lovely old footpath, past the evocatively named “Dyer’s Mead”.
This footpath felt venerable and worthy of veneration: telegram boys in the Great War; cloth mill workers; handloom weavers; medieval peasants; stone age itinerants – who knows in whose footsteps I trod that day, on that worn down, polished-stone pathway. But the crumbling dry stone walls, all dripping with moss, did not prepare me for the shock of the signpost, with news of the threatened development of Baxter’s Field, just down below Summer Street.
Oh Cider. Oh Rosie. O tempora. O mores.
I walked a few metres along Summer Street, before finding the footpaths that took me up to Bisley Old Road, turnpiked Bisley Road and thence Stroud Cemetery. These secluded footpath-thoroughfares are a treasure: Troy Town wooded nooks and crannies, rus in urbe brick and stone, chickens and woodland. They lead past streets with names like Belmont Road and Mount Pleasant, past whistling builders playing out the Ford Madox Ford painting of “Work”. This walk to top of the town Stroud in February sunshine, with its Five Valley cyclorama and River Severn panorama, has that unique and distinctive charm of the mill town in the Cotswolds vibe that makes Stroud Stroud.
I walked through the Cemetery, past the unnamed pauper burial area, past Great War gravestones, past crocuses and snowdrops, down through the gate and left towards Horns Farm. Here the walk takes you right, into the woods, past an old quarry and where, on this cloudless late February morning, wild garlic was just beginning to show. I sat down on a wall eating a cheese and onion sandwich, the ground dry as a bone above the spring line, but below, one could hear the characteristically talkative Five Valley trickle.
The walk then takes you up the hill and into shadow, and on this late winter day, across the frost’s Plimsoll Line, and into the land of frozen water. The arc of this walk then takes you back towards Stroud; glance to your right and hold the old workhouse in your thoughts, as you take in the beauty of the landscape. When the Poor Law Amendment Act was brought in in 1834, the driving force was to make conditions inside the workhouses worse than the worst paid job outside, and to prevent poor relief occurring outside the workhouses. Think of that as you enjoy the wide sweep of the expansive view; workhouses were often designed to prevent inmates having any view of the outside world at all, in the attempt to criminalise and punish poverty.
The mind can turn in on itself when it has no window on the world, but when out walking, the mind can wander creatively, therapeutically and laterally – when you don’t have to continually look at directions, instructions or a map: the “skull cinema”, as John Hillaby once put it. This Zen-like mindfulness and absence of adult cares are some of the joys of solitary walking; I’d reached Claypits Lane without realising it: another wonderful name derived from the fundamentals of the landscape.
I turned around to see a pale moon rising above the equally appropriately named “The Heavens”, before dropping down the hill to reach the main road and the “Shop’N Drive”. It all started to go wrong here: garages and cars and a text from my daughter saying she needed to borrow money; but a glance up towards Butterow and a sight of the Primitive Methodist Chapel and nearby toll house sent the mind off again, away from the petty mundane material concerns of the here and now. Farewell mind –forg’d manacles and hello Hazlitt.
I reflected on the significance and meaning of it all as I walked the canal towpath. What could be the synopsis of the wonders of this day’s solitary walking? What Twitter style summary could I write about all the variegated events, thoughts, events, observations and reflections involved in this individual ramble?
You Never Walk Alone.