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OPEN HOUSE 2009
So as promised, here’s my post on this year’s Open House weekend. I have been going to it for about 10 or 11 years and have seen some incredible places over the years (St Pancras Chambers, Middle Temple Hall, Freemasons Temple, Charterhouse Square and many more), so each year I have to come up with new and interesting places to visit. So I got the booklet and went through what was on offer for 2009. I have visited most sites in the City of London, Camden and Westminster of note, so my choices were a little more eccentric for this year. On Saturday, I had to go on my tod but I still wanted to get as much as I could out of the weekend because I am working on a book on Open House, so I planned to see at least two places on the first day: Swakeleys House in Middlesex and The Hurlingham Club down in Fulham just near the river. So I made it to Swakeleys House in Ickenham, Middlesex just as it was opening. Built in the 16th century, the house is no longer a private residence but was recently owned by Proctor & Gamble and is now owned by another company. Much of the house is unchanged although it did have some restoration work carried out on it in the 20th century. We got to see the hall and staircase which was rather spectacular. When I got chatting to someone at Swakeleys, he told me that I should also check out Cranford Park, just round the back of Heathrow. So since Middlesex was just a little bit north of there, I thought ‘why not?’ It was a nice bright day and that’s part of the joy of Open House. So I finished at Swakeleys, jumped back in the car and then spent a little time battling the traffic to get from northwest to west London. I also got horribly lost trying to find Cranford Park and eventually someone told me that it was literally just off the M4 motorway and it was easy to miss. Heathrow Airport is surrounded by loads of little areas that are hinterlands on the very outskirts of London and they all look quite similar, so it is easy to get confused. But I did find Cranford Park and it was just about worth a visit. It was the site of a house at one point, which was levelled in the 1940s but the stable block is still there as is a 16th century church, St Dunstans, which is a very attractive church. It’s also set in grounds which you could walk in for miles, as it meets up with the Grand Union Canal. There was a bikers meeting on the day I went, so I got to see some nifty bikes when I was there. The church also had a small but atmospheric churchyard. So my second stop was somewhere I’ve never been to in London before so that was interesting and worthwhile even though the house is no longer there. My final port of call was the Hurlingham Club, down in Fulham and this was relatively easy to get to as I just got on the M4 and headed south towards the river. This is a fairly exclusive club with sports facilities founded in 1867, with a waiting list of 18 years to become a member, set in 42 acres of amazing grounds just off New Kings Road in Fulham. It is the kind of place that you wouldn’t find unless you knew it was there. It has tennis courts, a restaurant and it is also the place where the rules for Polo were invented. It is used for professional tennis tournaments as well throughout the year and it was a very impressive and imposing place, as its surroundings totally insulate it from the rest of London. So that was my first day at Open House 2009. I’ll be posting something on the Sunday in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, here’s a few photos taken at the three sites I went to on the Saturday…















GOTHIC SPLENDOUR
For three days this week, I’ve been at the London Book Fair. I have had three great meetings with book publishers and as a result, it looks likely that I’ll have two more books out at some point in the future. One of those meetings also means that we have lined up a long term guide to European Comics that will be running in TRIPWIRE, which is exciting. I did take photos but, to be honest, when you’ve seen one poorly lit conference centre, you’ve seen them all. But on Tuesday afternoon and then again on Wednesday for about an hour, fed up with being indoors when the weather has been like Summer (in the Seventies), I took a wander from Earl’s Court to Brompton Cemetary. A classic Victorian cemetary, Brompton is fantastic. Dating from 1836, notable figures buried here include suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, actor Brian Glover, ship owner Samuel Cunard and Sioux Indian Chief Long Wolf, over here with Wild Bill in late Victorian England. The long avenues lead to this grand circular area, based on St Peter’s in Rome. There is a Dissenters Chapel and a huge domed building in its grounds too. I have walked through Kensal Green and I’ve been to Highgate a number of times but Brompton is amazing. It even has a Brigade of Guards Monument with soldiers from the First World War buried here. So here’s a selection of shots I took there. Spring is always my favourite time of year…













A WORD IN YOUR SHELL-LIKE
Today I went to this Nikon camera show at Olympia in one of the smaller conference rooms. It was alright except I’m not ever going to be one of these people who spends £10,000 on his camera so it was a little bit pointless for me. That’s why I’m never going to be a professional photographer, that and the fact that I’d have to focus (pardon the pun) on photography solely. But I did give my card out to a couple of magazines so there may be soem subbing work from it. I also walked through Holland Park to find the tortoise statues I last photographed about 3 years ago. They are perfect for the Odd London book. Luckily I did track them down although as you can see here, they’re not the only bizarre manmade objects in the park…





















A BLATANT REGARD FOR HISTORY PART THREE
After I left Marble Hill House, I headed back towards central London and crossed Putney Bridge towards Fulham Palace. I parked near the Palace entrance and walked into the Bishop’s park and I was blown away by the beauty of the courtyard. I knew of Fulham Palace Road but didn’t even realize that there was a palace still there. The building is a mix of Georgian and Tudor but it has a lovely square courtyard. There’s been a Bishop’s Palace since the 7th century and its gardens are rather nice complete with many rare plants. It was such a pleasure to discover this gem in West London and right next door is the elegant church of All Saints, which is a fabulous Victorian Gothic church. So here are some photos of both places for your delectation…




DOWN BY THE RIVER
I met up with Dave Morris in Paddington on Monday and then went on to spend time at the Dove pub in Hammersmith to discuss Hidden City. The weather was mostly shite but there was an hour or so when the sun tried to fight through the clouds so here are a few photos I took by the river in Hammersmith, east of Hammersmith Bridge…