An Eye On London

"The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion." Thomas Paine

Tag Archives: textile magnate

No sense of ‘…being shut up inside South London’

Leg 2 Falconwood to Grove Park (3.4 miles or 5.4km)

The best view of London from the South and to all points North,West and East of the city is from the General Wolfe1 statue in Greenwich Park. At the top of a gruelling hill climb the visitor stands outside the Observatory astride the bifurcating line of the Meridian which is cauterized into the cobbles and asphalt. The burgeoning peaks of Canary Wharf loom before you like something from a Christopher Nolan set or the Metropolis conjured drawn from Fritz Lang’s imagination one inspirational day in Weimar Germany torn apart between two wars. From this eyrie London is set out before you.

From Clapham Common there is no view of London stretching before you hemmed in as you are by the touching trees and paths, traffic and five-story houses that guard the perimeter of the Common. In an article for the LRB Will Self, a denizen of these parts, remarked upon his lack of vision from the Common:

‘..there’s no real prospect of the city afforded – as, say, from Primrose Hill in the north – and if you’re inclined to claustrophobia, the very expanse seems paradoxically to reinforce a sense of being shut up inside South London.’2

Striding along the Capital Ring in the borough of Bromley you emerge from the coiffured lanes of a pampered suburb and step inside a Plantagenet masterpiece which is Eltham Palace. Later it became a hunting palace for Henry VIII before it was built upon by a modern king of commerce. The art-deco addendum pays homage to the wealth of the textile magnate of the 1930s, the Courtauld family. They made a good job of restoring the grounds and the interior of the buildings with their restoration of Eltham Palace.

The verdant fields of the South London suburbs stretch out before you and following the horizon your eyes are guided to the vertiginous peaks of London. Like looking at the Shard through the wrong end of an eyepiece. Though highlights are short on this leg and you may view houses that you think don’t belong in South London there is a genuine sense of surprise when you stumble across the Palace. Make sure you go inside as it’s always worthwhile supporting the fine work of English Heritage and, if for no other reason, there is a superb cafe with waitress service modelled on a Lyon’s tea house of the art-deco period.3

John Furse

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