Destinations Magazine

Old Kent Road to Whitechapel

By Lwblog @londonwalks
DC Editor Adam writes…

Disaster strikes! Well, when I say "disaster" I'm being a wee bit OTT - I had planned one of my BIG WALKS this week for my day off (today) but I woke up this morning with my knee the size of a basketball (again, a bit of an exaggeration, must be the painkillers going to my head) following a 5K run yesterday. So no 20 mile ramble today, sad face emoji and all that.
Instead I hobbled around the museums in preparation for some course work on the Westminster Guiding course (see earlier posts) and nosed around the bookshops in Charing Cross Road. I'll report back on both activities at a later date.
In the meantime, here's one from the archive - a wander from Old Kent Road to Whitechapel…

Walk: 
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Nearest tube to start: Elephant & Castle
Nearest tube to end: Whitechapel/Aldgate East
Here's my route…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Once the Roman road Watling Street, now forming part of the much less romantic-sounding A2, Old Kent Road is famously the first square on the British Monopoly board…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
And it looks like Romans are still here, although they’ve branched out into the legal profession…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Driscoll House, with its endearingly lopsided sign (top right of pic, below) is nearby…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… is a famed south London institution opened in 1913 as a women's hotel and was taken over by Terence Driscoll in 1965. A basic, hostel-like hotel, the interiors remained largely unchanged (i.e. pretty spartan) until Driscoll's death, at the age of 95, in 2007. A colourful-sounding character, one legend has it that he claimed there had been a vision of the Virgin Mary on the premises and used the tale to discourage "immoral" behavior in the rooms! He gave weekly addresses to the guests on a Sunday and manned the front desk and small gift shop (where one could buy postcards featuring Driscoll himself) right up to the end. The building is now occupied by the Rest Up London hostel.
Visitors to London often ask why our pubs are disappearing. The answer is, like the assassins of the above-mentioned Julius Caesar, manifold.
We pay astronomical amounts for our living spaces in London and, as a consequence, we seem keen, or are compelled, to spend more time in those expensive flats and houses. That we are living more healthily must be a factor, too. I chatted with a publican on one of my tours recently and he simply said, "It's all about the food these days, innit."
The George at 40 Tower Bridge Road in Bermondsey is a great example of an ever-more-rare traditional pub – or "Old Man Pub" as they are sometimes referred (cheek!)…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
(The Truman livery above the pub refers to the famous old Brick Lane-based brewer whose premises can be found near the end of this wander. The old brewery building itself hosts events, club nights and all sorts but the beer is back too! After years in mothballs, the famous name has been revived and it's great to see! Find out more here: www.trumansbeer.co.uk)
The obligatory Shard pops up – is there a single London borough from which it can't be seen?
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Along this route plaques are few and far between – unlike at the other end of the Monopoly board in Mayfair. But when Mayfair was merely open fields, Bermondsey was already thriving and home to a monastery…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
When we do come across plaques in this neck of the woods, they are vivid ones indeed…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
This Southwark plaque at Druid Street Arch marks the spot where 77 Londoners lost their lives on the night of 20th October 1940 in an air raid.
Nearby this playground is named for Alfred Salter…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… local doctor, Labour M.P and campaigner who improved living conditions for working folk in Bermondsey.
Bermondsey Square is often a hub of activity, the very soul of "gentrification", with the weekly antiques market taking place every Friday from 6:00a.m to 2:00p.m (website here: bermondseysquare.net)
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Given my walking habits (both amateur and professional) I really am compelled to nod toward the Society of Chiropodists…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Keep up the grand work, guys. (Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is their patron, dontcha know.)
The River Neckinger flows through South London from near the site of present day St George's Cathedral, joining the Thames at St Saviour Dock…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Russ Willey's indispensible Dictionary of London Phrase & Fable nods to the legend that the Neckinger's name comes from the practice of hanging pirates from a gibbet at the dock, the noose being the Devil's Neckercher (neckerchief). Colourful stuff. He goes on to suggest the slightly less lurid-sounding explanation that the course of the river resembles the shape of a noose, hence the name.
Great views along the Thames soon loom up…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… and with paraphernalia from maritime history "gentrifying" the place…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… and blending with touristy tat…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… we cross the Thames, with a warning: the following bridge may contain nuts…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
St Katherine's Dock is all tiddly-posh these days…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… but was once a hard-working (if small) part of London's Docklands. It closed in 1968.
Our first plaque north of the river on this particular amble marks the Battle of Cable Street…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
…  in 1936 when the march of Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists in to the largely Jewish East End was met with the cry of "They Shall Not Pass!"
A little further along the way we come across a relic of the Jewish East End - the recently closed Fieldgate Street Synagogue…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
A few years ago The English Defence League were made as welcome as Mosley's black shirts…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Nearby, in Henriques Street, a spray-painted tribute to one of Jack the Ripper's victims can be found…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
Elizabeth Stride was murdered on the night of the 30th September 1888.
My ramble ended in Whitechapel Road…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… the second brown square on the Monopoly board, where it meets Vallance Road…
Old Kent Road to Whitechapel
… forever associated with the story of the Kray twins. But that will have to keep for another post.


Old Kent Road to Whitechapel


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