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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Georgian Stepney

Which side of the street to do you choose to look at...

This is my latest outlook on life, along the lines of is the glass half full or empty. In my quest to not get sucked into the English doom and gloom machine, and living in what can be a gloomy wintery East end with horrific 60's council flats, I choose to focus on the historic Georgian terraces that many people pass by. Often facing an estate, like many interesting London buildings you could easily pass them by if you didnt take time to stop and look. Much of Stepney was unfortunately bombed quite badly, such as the street my Dad grew up on, but many fine buildings remain.

On my way to the tube from home and just round the corner I pass Stepney Green, the street after which the tube was named and the most desirable one in the area, fronted by a cobbled lane and gardens Also a Peabody Trust late Victorian housing estate building. The Peabody trust was set up in the area and there are many housing estates in London from this period that have loads of character and are lovely places to live if you are lucky enough to get on the list and get mega cheap period living. Sadly in later decades architects almost seemed to out do each other for the sheer ugliness of their mass housing projects.

On the Mile End road itself you have another couple of fantastic buildings that im sure most people walk past without giving a thought. Peering through the foliage clad gates of one to its tumble down steps, reminds one of the house in Great Expectations. Actually if you squint at some of the streets you could picture Dickensian London quite easily. Also on the Mile End / Whitechapel road you have Trinity Square - Alms houses from the late 1600's. The proposed demolition of which in the 1800's caused the start of the listed building program in England. Just next door is a memorial to William Booth, this was where the Salvation army started.

In the other direction towards Limehouse, across the park, you have Arbour Square, which could easilly have been used in period dramas, still retaining gas lamp style street lighting and build round a beautiful square. Again on one side the orginal buildings didnt make it, but in this case at least the Estate is 30's deco rather than 60's mass ugliness. Across the other side of Commercial road is yet another beautiful Georgian square.

So what do you choose to focus on when you wander around your area - the good, the bad or the ugly? Sometimes even the Ugly has a certain charm. Ive chucked in a crumbly down East end pub on the end of this slideshow. I think it has a certain character even if theres a good chance it had a Kray twin or two in it at some point!.


Fiona said...

What I love about London - and Portsmouth is the kinda lumpy bumpy mix of old, new, beautiful and ugly.

I prefer looking at the more beautiful sides of cities and palces obviously!

In Portsmouth you can go through the horriblest ugliest and probably the roughest council estate possible and suddenly you're walking past a row of pretty Georgian houses... and then back to ugliness.

I kinda like seeing beauty in shambles though...

Oh and speaking of Dickensian... Dicken's birthplace in Portsmouth is just like that. It's in this little walled off pocket of Victorianess that looks like it's from an entirely different age. It's just a little square of these really old houses including Dickens'... to the left is the big smelly road out of Portsmouth, and to the right is a really rough end of the city. It's like walking into an oasis.

I think it's more beautiful in a way, these pockets of beauty.

Jon-Bear said...

Maybe there is something in that. Maybe you feel a bit more like its your discovery when you find a diamond in the rough and appreciate its beauty.

London is certainly a mish mash. I took the bus to Islington the other week. There it is predominantly the other way round mostly period loveliness but also the odd estate and ugly building developement in there. What is also interesting is peoples perceptions of architecture. i walked past George Orwells house in Islington - on beautiful square worth millions now, yet he based Winstons house in 1984 on his own house when he lived there and had no money. Similarly im sure when my Dad was growing up before the bombings and it was a poor slummy area, people were not aware they were living in des res perfect Georgian houses with high ceilings and sash windows and appreciating them. Surely they were better of than the people who came later and had to living in the estates with wee smelling lifts and external balconies with all the front doors on,

Fiona said...

Have you been to st dunstan of the east? An old bombed out church not far from the tower of London? It's so beautiful, peaceful and green.

I found it whilst searching out Pepys' church where he was buried (St Olaves, always closed!) pretty spot. Pepys mentioned it in his diary too apparently... hehe.

Jon-Bear said...

I think I might have been there years ago Fi, but will have to recheck! i seem to remember some good photos


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