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London City Mission on a Sunday morning

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Sunday 21 March 2004 10.26am

I've just come back from walking the dog and this morning I decided to have a look at the park which surrounds the London City Mission on Tower Bridge Road.

The last time I deliberately walked in this park was over two years ago and it was, then, a rather miserable and depressing space. Recently there has been a substantial investment programme for the Park and I wanted to experience the outcome. The transition is remarkable and I strongly recommend it to anyone wanting to walk to and from the river's edge. Its quite wonderful.

The pathways are well defined, the seating has been improved and there is a small grove of trees planted in the south east corner adjacent to the Tower Bridge Road/Druid St junction. The grave stones that once languished over on the north side have been resited and made a part of the definition of the Park's boundary.

But don't depend on my observations, try it for yourselves.

Sunday 21 March 2004 3.40pm

Have they restored the formerly derelict parish Watch House (predecessor of police stations) as part of the restoration?
Or did it eventually fall down around a decade ago? I hadn't realised how long it is since I last went into the park!

[i) Historical digression]

The park is the former churchyard of St John Horselydown (sometimes spelled Horsleydown), a church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James in 1727 and mostly destroyed in the Second World War. The bizarre steeple in the form of a tapering Ionic column was a famous landmark.

Despite some Googling, I can't find a link to a picture of it!

The 1970s offices for the City Mission are built on the foundations of the church. It was not a candidate for reconstruction after the war, probably because of leading postwar architectural historian Sir John Summerson's description of St John's Horselydown as "a church of supreme dullness ... (and of the steeple as) the most improper thing in the whole of English architecture" (James Maude Richards,ed., The Bombed Buildings Of Britain; A Record Of Architectural Casualties:1940-41, Cheam,Surrey:1942)

My 1953 edition of Summerson's Architecture in Britain 1500-1830 attributes St Johns to William Tuffnell. I rather suspect that the tower and steeple might have been rebuilt if Hawksmoor's involvement had been known.

[ii) Psychogeography digression]

However, Google did lead to a really bizarre Dutch site with what appears to be a tour following key pages in "From Hell" - graphic novelist Alan Moore's Jack the Ripper masterwork (with a Hawksmoor fixation as well as masonic conspiracy theories)

Direct link to St John Horselydown page for the impatient

Post edited (25 Mar 04 10:07)
Monday 22 March 2004 1.57am

As I understand it, the building to which you refer is the building which stands at the edge of the onetime churchyard on Fair St. I believe that this building has been in private ownership for some years and has just appeared in Estates Gazette 'for sale' with offers invited of +1M.

Maybe the renovation increased the value so much that it was hard to resist.

Regards to all.

Monday 22 March 2004 9.17am
Niall - did you spot a fig tree there?

Monday 22 March 2004 11.20am
The present owners of the Watch House, who bought it after it was burnt out about 10 years ago, have put in a couple of planning applications over the past year, the first involving building a glass first floor extension, adding an external staircase and felling a large tree (which obviously failed to get permission), the current application is just for change of use to residential and the opening up of a bricked up window. This all makes sense now, knowing that they have put the building up for sale.

The park looks brilliant now, did you notice the magnolia Niall? There is another one on its way soon and in a couple of weeks when all the bedding plants are in and the blossom is out it will look beautiful, especially at night under those spotlights!

ps, I hope you are a responsible dog owner Niall ;)

Post edited (22 Mar 04 11:21)
Monday 22 March 2004 8.11pm
Regarding the Figs and Magnolias
I'm sorry to say that I was too captivated by the whole experience to get too specific but there is yet time.

On the subject of dog poo
I will risk the wrath of fellow dog owners by suggesting that many of our parks and open spaces are significantly undermined by irresponsible owners who don't clear up after their poochie-woochie.

This next bit may come under the heading of 'too much information' but I'd like to suggest something to other dog owners. Less Pedigree Chum and more dry biscuit makes clearing up rather easier.

I have been thinking about sourcing some of those outsized lollipop sticks and having them printed on the end with a poo warning. Then we could mark offenses in our parks and draw people's attention to the scale of the problem.

Its a dirty job.......but someone has to do it.

Monday 22 March 2004 10.22pm

I agree on the dog poo front - we are not as bad as paris or venice (yet) but oh yes - i would be prepared to signpost the poop!
Tuesday 23 March 2004 3.48pm
I was very pleased to see that the park re-opened last week, so was my dog!
What a fantastic job they have done, impressed that they re-turfed the whole park. I sort of felt a little guilty whilst walking on it...didn't want to ruin it! It does feel & look lovely though....

With regards to the Dog Poo subject - I always pick up, no matter what its state(Kylie has a very fussy diet..sorry!), I'd feel extremely embarassed not to.
After all the time & effort in redeveloping the park - I noticed this lunch time, that it has already been stained by many remnants of irresponsible dog owners. Have these people ever trodden in this stuff? I've picked up my own dogs do, & only too find, I've just gone & trodden in some other as I've walked away....GRRRrrrrrrrr!
With summer on its way, & a nice new park to sit in, a little respect for all other park users wouldn't go amiss....
Lollipop patrol - here we come!!

Wednesday 24 March 2004 9.02pm
I thought The Watch House was at the corner of Bermondsey street and Abbey street (corner of St. Mary Magdalen Bermondsey Street.) Or is that another one?
Thursday 25 March 2004 7.45am

LR referred to the building in the London City Mission park as a Watch House and I don't have any specific knowledge of its history. However, given the proximity to Guys Hospital, many of the old graveyards needed guarding at night so I wouldn't be surprised if that was its historic purpose.

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