MORNINGTON CRESCENT Northern Line (Charing Cross branch)
LONDON TUBE RAMBLES WALK
(about 1½ miles, but allow pottering time)
A wander past an old cigarette factory guarded by cats, a circular piano factory and some of the glorious buildings round Regent's Park - ending up at Camden Market.
The station itself is one of the Edwardian red tiled ones. It has been refurbished, but period details have been carefully preserved. The ticket hall sports a blue plaque commemorating Willie Rushton, who immortalised the game Mornington Crescent on the BBC’s ‘Just a Minute’.
As you come out of the station look left across Hampstead Road and you will see one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London, the old Carreras factory, now offices (Greater London House). Cross over the main road to get a closer look. The building dates from 1928 and apart from its amazing appearance is remarkable for being the first pre-stressed concrete factory in Britain and the first to have air-conditioning installed. Moreover, the company was the first to provide full welfare provision for its employees. Following an unfortunate conversion into offices in the 1960’s, the facade of the building was restored to its full splendour in the 1990’s and now its dream-like Egyptian style frontage is a joy. Two giant black cats – the Carreras trademark - guard the entrance, while more cats gaze down from under the eaves. When it opened in 1928 this was the largest cigarette factory in the world. The unusual décor was inspired by the discovery in 1920 of Tutankamun’s tomb plus the temple of Bubas the cat-headed goddess. After paying your respect to the felines, walk back towards the Tube and left into Mornington Crescent itself. Dating from the 1820’s it is quite a modest affair, though there are some delicate iron balconies. It seems an odd place to build a factory - apparently the communal garden was sold off by the borough council – the residents of the time can’t have been too pleased. Before entering the crescent, glance right towards Camden High Street where you will see a statue of Richard Cobden, the nineteenth-century statesman and advocate of Free Trade.After a few steps turn into Arlington Road on the right, go left down Mornington Street, cut short by the widening of the Euston railway line. Continue, crossing Mornington Terrace, and go over the railway, noting the handsome lamps as you step onto the bridge. Turn right into Park Village East, a slightly odd stretch of road running parallel to the railway. It was begun by John Nash in 1824 as an extension to the area of grand buildings round Regent’s Park. The cream stuccoed houses are described in the names which appear as reliefs on the facades as ‘cottages’ and established the concept of the comparatively small suburban villa.
To resume the Mornington Crescent trail, continue walking on to Gloucester Avenue. Cross over carefully and go past North Bridge House School to the Parkway – a pleasantly busy street which has a good mix of small independent shops, cafes and pubs with interesting frontages - the Spread Eagle in particular has unusual windows. When you have explored this area, return to Gloucester Avenue/Oval Road. After a few metres turn right into Gloucester Crescent where you will find vast buildings erected in the late 1840’s. They lack the elegance of the Nash designs, being heavy Italianate terraces and linked villas with somewhat clumsy tower-like structures. The writer Alan Bennett wrote ‘The Lady in The Van’ while living here. It was based on the real-life story of a woman who, with his permission, lived in a van parked in his front garden for fifteen years. At the very end of the Crescent the scene changes and there are several Victorian industrial buildings – all converted to modern use now. The most striking of these is the old Collard & Collard piano factory – a large circular (technically polyagonal) building dating from 1851 which ceased production in the 1920’s. There were several piano factories near the canal, providing Victorians with the means for home entertainment. You are now in Oval Road again. Turn right and soon you will see yet another surprising building – a pirates castle! Built in 1977, this is a canalside venue for community groups where the young can enjoy water based activities such as rowing, canoeing and kayaking. Continue to Gilbey's Yard, named after the local wine and spirit merchants who manufactured Gilbey's London Dry Gin. There was once a large goods yard here which stretched all the way to the Round House in Chalk Farm Road. Note the old railway lines. You may wonder why there is a series of circular cast-iron grilles sunk in the cobbles. These provided ventilation for the remarkable horse tunnels below, constructed to give safe passage to the working animals to and from their stables.
Don't miss the sign 'Engines must not enter this shed' on the red brick Interchange Warehouse (1905). Return to the bridge. Before going down the (steep) steps* by the 'castle' to the towpath have a look at the stone gateway marked 'LMS'. This refers to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway who owned the adjoining warehouse (now apartments). When you reach the canal, turn left, passing the LMS building. The small bridge you will soon cross goes over a vaulted area in the Interchange Warehouse where goods were unloaded from the canal. Next comes Camden Lock and the famous markets. Part of this complex once provided stabling for the railway horses mentioned above - there was even an equine hospital. Further details can be found in the Camden Town entry.
*Those wanting a quicker way to the Underground, or wishing to avoid the steps down to the canal, can access the market, canal or Tube via a turning off Gloucester Terrace, Inverness Street (marked ‘Inv. St’ on the map.) This leads to Chalk Farm Road. Turning right will take you to Camden Town Underground station, go left to find the markets and canal.
Photos:(Click on photos to enlarge)
Mornington Crescent Tube Station/Old Cigarette factory
The Black Cat
Mornington Crescent/Milkmaid fountain
Old piano factory
Interchange Warehouse (click to enlarge to see sign)
Mornington Crescent is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to www.londontuberambles.co.uk to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!