Ever wonder why Mill Hill East station exists? Well in the first episode of the Unfinished London video series, Jay Foreman takes a look at the Northern Heights plan. While the video was originally published over 4 years ago, I'm hoping you may not have seen it. But even if you have, it's worth a second viewing.
Far from being a boring history lesson, Jay instead looks at the more humorous aspects of London's quixotic approach to planning. Just a few of the gems you'll see in the video:
Evidence of a former railway you can see on Google Earth.
Revealing footage of Dr. Beeching.
A bunch of bridges over nothing.
Clues as to where the new line would have gone.
Why a certain useless bus stop exists on the A41.
The Green Belt's role in all this.
How a poster destroyed the very area it was designed to promote.
Why all houses in suburbia look the same.
What Bushey Heath station might have looked like.
Why any attempt to complete the Northern Heights plan today, would mean Jay's grandmother would be forced from her home.
Today is the final Secrets of the Underground video in the series. In this video Geoff Marshall looks at the Waterloo and City Line, the Tube's shortest. Now you'd think there wouldn't be too many secrets on such a short line, but Geoff's been very sneaky and manages to uncover the following:
The duration of a trip between the two ends of the line.
In his last Unfinished London video, Jay Foreman looked at why London has so many airports. In Unfinished London - Episode 3 (Part 2) above, he looks at what the future may hold for London's airports given the crazy situation we find ourselves in.
Heathrow expansion, Boris island (which could cost more than £100k) and the frankenstein of Heathwick are all given a look. However, at the end of the day we may not know what the right solution should have been for another 30 years or even if we needed to do anything at all.
What do you think we should do? Or do we need to do anything at all?
The concept is simple: meet at a station on a Friday evening (private tours available on other dates), find Vic (not difficult as he had bright red hair when I met him), let him take you to 5 or 6 pubs. As an added bonus he'll give you drink recommendations at each pub and also tell you a bit of London history along the way.
In my experience London tour guides generally fall into either the entertainer or professor category. Vic is very much the entertainer and is quite the personality. While he certainly knows his history and will point out many interesting things along the way, the main focus is the pubs. This is for the best though, as after 2 or 3 pints most people won't be listening to the history part anyway.
So if you're looking for an in-depth historic lecture or conversely a straight no nonsense pub crawl, these tours are not for you. However, if you're looking for a tour with nice mix of history, pubs and drinking then I certainly recommend giving Dragon and Flagon London Pub Tours a try.
On a lovely sunny Friday 3 weeks ago, I went on his A Tale of 3 Bridges Tour. Now I won't spoil it by revealing everything that's on it, but I did manage to take a few photos using my new Nexus 5 phone (so apologies if the quality is not that great).
Outside St. Paul's with Vic (red hair) and other tour members.
St. Paul's and the Thames
The Golden Hinde
Old Billingsgate Fish Market
The Tower of London
The Queen's barge?
The Final Stop
Dragon and Flagon London Pub Tours cost £10 per person and tour dates are available on on the website. Be aware that these are walking tours so sensible walking shoes are recommended.
Full Disclosure: Vic generously offered to allow me to come on his tour free of charge with no obligation to write anything about it. I genuinely enjoyed it and would say it's well worth the money if you're in town when he's holding his next one.
The Empire Windrush arrived in the "mother country" 66 years ago today
The really important historical trends that shape our lives, such as technological, economic and social change, usually happen at such a gradual pace that we tend not to notice them on a daily basis. Yet in the long run, they often have a more profound impact than any singular event.
Nevertheless, humans seem to have a need to point to an event and say, "That's when everything changed." This despite the fact that the event in question may not have seemed all that important at the time.
Take for example the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush to Tillbury on June 22nd, 1948. The boat carried 492 people from the West Indies who were actively encouraged by the British Government of the time, to come to the "mother country" to help fill labour shortages that existed after World War 2.
It is now widely seen as the the event that symbolizes the beginning of mass, non-white immigration to the UK.
However, at the time - as the British Pathé clip below shows - it was seen as less important than the arrival of Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock at Heathrow to film the now largely forgotten Under Capricorn.
Skip to 0:47 for the arrival of the Windrush
The video mentions a few interesting things, such as: the fact that the arrivals are mostly ex-servicemen, that they know England (aka the "mother country") well, and that the Colonial office had to be prodded into giving them a cordial reception.
Yet, the true highlight is the king of calypso, Lord Kitchener singing: "London is the place for me ... I'm glad to know my mother country." Ultimately, Lord Kitchener would return to Trinidad in 1962, but the majority of those who came on the Windrush stayed in Britain.
Today over 1/3rd of Londoners were born outside the UK and over 40% classify themselves as non-White. This makes London one of the world's most multicultural cities and is arguably it's greatest strength. You can't call yourself a global city if you don't have a significant number of representatives from all over the globe living in it.
Yet, the road from there to here has not always been a smooth one. The 1958 Notting Hill and 1981 Brixton Riots are but two examples of the racial tensions that to some extent still exist in London today.
These tensions were in evidence right from the moment the first workers from the Windrush set down on British soil. While they were invited to come to work in the UK with promises of being part of the British colonial family - they faced discrimination from a local population that was often hostile to their arrival.
London Underground and British Rail are often held up as two of the model employers in the story of immigration to the UK, because they provided many of the first jobs to the new arrivals from the West Indies. Yet, here again the story is a little more complex.
While it's undeniable that both organisations did provide employment, it was not always a smooth process. Blacks were mostly given the least desirable jobs and that was if they could get them.
This 1956 clip from the BBC's Panorama shows just how much of an up hill struggle most new immigrants faced in London.
Given the treatment they received, I find it amazing that they decided to stay at all. Fortunately, they and waves of immigrants from all over the world since have. London would be a much worse place if they hadn't.