Friday, 17 October 2014

Autumn on my street

Coats are taken out of the wardrobe, mornings are chilly and you'd be foolish not to carry an umbrella.
Autumn has most certainly arrived.
Even a short walk down my street is full of colour.

That crazy bottle brush bush!

And the beauty of decay.

Can you see the arrival of autumn on your street.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Just looking

On Looking: About Everything 

There is to See

I like to think that I'm an observant walker. That I notice the unusual, the out of place and the weirdness of everyday life. That I take pleasure in spotting small flashes of extraordinary beauty in my neighbourhood. 

However, reading Alexandra Horowitz's book has made me wonder how I would see my streets if I was a geologist, an ornithologist, a toddler. 

This book goes some way to telling me. 

A 'boring' street is a riot of colour, shape and interestingness to a small boy or girl with little language; it is a dog social network every bit as exciting to a canine pal as Twitter. To someone who know all about beetles, bugs and butterflies, it's a living habitat, literally buzzing. A birder will spot the sounds and traces of our feathered friends. To a geologist it is a map of thousands of years of Earth history - yes, even tarmac. 

There were chapters of the book I was less interested in, such as the medical one although there were lessons to be learned about observing people as individuals and not simply obstructions, or the walk with the artist where I didn't feel particularly convinced by what she'd learned (except to never pass up the opportunity to poke your head around an open door) but others, such as observing how people *behave* on the street, I found utterly absorbing. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will probably re-read certain chapters. It has certainly inspired me to make a New Year's resolution to take time to stand and stare and to see familiar routes as constantly refreshing and renewing themselves across days, weeks, years. 

Or to take a quote from a writer, John Burroughs, mentioned in the book, "To find new things, take the path you took yesterday."

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A trip to the top of the Hornsey Church Tower

On Saturday 10th June, the girl and I took a walk up the Hornsey Church Tower. We were not disappointed. Some great views from the top and some very interesting snippets of history uncovered in the tomb trail we did afterwards.

The Tower is all that is left of the medieval church of St Mary when Hornsey was a small rural village in Middlesex. The lower part of the tower dates from around 1500 and there is a particularly fine Tudor fireplace in the basement entrance. Ascending the stairs to the Ringing Chamber, you notice the tell-tale red brick of the Tudor period.  On the walls of the Ringing Chamber, boards commemorate notable peals by the bell ringers. The bells were removed in 1968 and melted down to make a new peal for St George in the East, Stepney.

As you climb, the red brick gives way to yellow stock brick used for making the Tower higher in 1833, when architect George Smith created the top of the tower in a Gothic Revival style, passing the timber bell frame in the belfrey tower

and getting a little giddy on the stone steps.

Finally you arrive on the roof, repaired in 1995 and take in the magnificent views of green and pleasant Haringey and beyond.

Towards the city 

Wood Green and the Hornsey Gas Tower

Ally Pally (naturally)

and as far as the eye can see.

Back at the bottom, we popped into the chapel where the War memorial, rescued from the demolished Victorian Church, is hung.

and picked up a tomb trail which highlights 11 graves of particular local significance

or which are especially poignant.

We found the tomb of poet Samuel Rogers, famous in his day, but largely only remembered now because of his association with more famous poets.
Mine be a cot beside the hill,
A bee-hive's hum shall sooth my ear;
A willowy brook, that turns a mill,
With many a fall shall linger near.

and a link with slavery days at the tomb of Jacob Walker.
"In America The Faithful Slave,
In England The Faithful Servant"

Refreshing ourselves with teas and home made cakes, we rested in the pleasant gardens before making our way home.

Many thanks to the Friends of Hornsey Church Tower for a super open day. The next open day will be in September for the London Open House Festival. I heartily recommend you find time to visit this lovely spot on our doorstep.

Click on any photo to view on Flickr. Some photos have further info

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Sadness and Rejoicing in a Tottenham Churchyard: A walk around All Hallows

In 1851, London finally banned burials in churchyards as parish burial grounds in cities became squalid and unsanitary, due the rapid growth of  the population. Burying the dead became the responsibility of out-of-town municipal burial grounds and a burial in the parish churchyard needed special permission. It was the age of the great Victorian necropolis, the sleepy parish churchyard became a symbol of a bygone age.

A 341 bus ride to Lordship Lane and a short walk across Bruce Castle Park brings you to one of the most charming corners of Tottenham and, indeed, Haringey. Nestled between the park and the enormous Tottenham cemetery is the parish church of All Hallows, which has been the site of a church since the 12th century when King David of Scotland bestowed a church upon Tottenham and its people in 1124. Parts of the current church date from the 14th century, with Tudor and Victorian additions and a little bit of 18th century at the top of the tower.

This little sculpture of King David was added in the 1930s, his wife Maud decorates the other side of the door.

Three ages of building: Tudor, 14th century and Victorian.

Surrounding the church is the parish graveyard, a pre Victorian churchyard falling into rack and ruin a little, but nevertheless full of small pleasures for the lover of funerary history. We were led on a walk by Deborah Hedgecock, curator at Bruce Castle Museum on a cold Monday, hoping the rain would hold off (it did). Despite the chill, our party of twenty or so had a lovely time poking around the tombs and gravestones of old Tottenham.

There is much to discover there, but I will concentrate on three discoveries which were of particular interest to me. The first was the tomb of Margaret Lydia, daughter of the Ettrick Shepherd which the Scottish and/or literary types amongst you will recognise as James Hogg. How one of his four daughters ended up in Tottenham is not clear but since it is clearly marked who her father was, Margaret was obviously well known as his child. Sadly, she died young, aged 22 and her elegant tomb can be found on the North side by the church wall.

The second grave was a reminder of the terrible infant mortality suffered before our age of vaccination, scientific advance and universal health care. A grave maintained by Andrew and Elizabeth Johnson contained the bodies of their 10 year old child, and two babies aged 18 and 20 months. This grave is surrounded by similar ones, as whole families are laid to rest often before their grieving parents.

You are also reminded that mothers often followed their infants to the grave following childbirth when you stumble upon this grave of a young mother Ann Deacon (click the link to see a portrait of her by Constable), part of the Quaker family headed by William Hobson of Markfield House, builder of the Martello towers in Napoleonic times. Ann died at 24 at the same time as her infant son.

Many of the graves are too worn away now to read but my third discovery was a small grave on the ‘angel’ side of the churchyard, the South, with a single word Xaipe on it. My classics teacher, OAE, came to my rescue with the translation “rejoice, be happy!” which is a greeting in both Classical and Modern Greek. OAE notes that the 'X' is pronounced 'Chi' as in loch. A simple and elegant epitaph, wouldn’t you agree?

This is a lovely place, with great ancient yew trees, alive with birdsong and full of wild flowers. Stepping back widdershins around All Hallows church from the North, you half wonder whether you’ll find the 21st century back on the south side, or perhaps there will be a few sheep grazing, wandered in from the open fields, and a couple of watchmen keeping an eye open for bodysnatchers.

A short pause to pay your respects at the exquisite and touching Celtic Cross war memorial raised for a son lost at the battle of the Somme and a last look at the Priory, now a vicarage, but once a 16th century farmhouse before heading home (via the wonderful Marmalade cafe in Lordship Lane for a cake and coffee if you have time).

The graveyard needs friends. If you are interested and able to help out in any way with documenting the graveyard then I’m sure Bruce Castle Museum would love to hear from you. I also met Dave Morris on the walk who is resurrecting (pardon the pun) the Friends of Tottenham Cemetery. Look out for further details of that in the near future.

If you’re not too squeamish, Catharine Arnold’s book Necropolis: London and its Dead is a must read.
Click any photo to view larger. More photos on Flickr