diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random borough (30): Havering (part 1)

Havering's on the eastern fringe of London, where the residents still wish they were part of Essex. It's big, the third largest borough in London. It's mostly Green Belt and packed with parkland. It's very suburban, very 'estate', very white. It's precisely where EastEnders should be set, full of Mitchells and Brannings who fled inner London two generations ago. And it's a borough without a Tourist Information Centre, which suggested that finding things to see might be a challenge. No such worries, I was kept more than busy throughout, from top to bottom.

Somewhere to begin: Havering Museum
Yes, there's a Havering Museum, not that most folk outside the borough would know. It's new, only been open a year, tucked in on the site of the old Romford Brewery. And it's all here thanks to the devotion of a bunch of volunteers who put the paperwork together for a Lottery grant, assembled a collection with the proceeds and now staff the galleries four days a week. This museum was Big Society before the phrase was even born. And, unlike Wandsworth's lame attempt out west, I'm pleased to say that this place has got it right. There are two main galleries, exploring local history through a collection of objects ranging from Roman shards to old football programmes. Pubs and brewing take centre stage in one part, as you might expect, but it turns out that Havering had its fair share of proper history well before industrialisation and commuting came along. Each part of the borough gets a look-in, while around the walls are more thematic displays covering education, waterways, industry and the like. It's informative, it's modern, and it doesn't go too over the top with touchscreen interactivity. I was pleased to see there were more visitors than volunteers, which was impressive for a Saturday morning in a facility you might think most would overlook. And I especially enjoyed the temporary exhibition in the gallery out back, even though it was little more than several printed sheets stuck on display boards, so much so that went off and investigated the geographical subject further later in the day. You're very unlikely to visit, I realise that, but for two pounds fifty Havering has a engaging community resource of which it can be justly proud.
by train: Romford   [website]   [blog]   [twitter]

Somewhere pretty: Havering-atte-Bower
Triple-barrelled, no less, Havering-atte-Bower is a delightful little village in the northeastern corner of London. A proper hilltop village with a green and a twisty street, plus royal connections going back almost a millennium. Edward the Confessor established a timber lodge here, which became the centre of hunting grounds known as The Royal Liberty of Havering. Later a proper palace grew up (to which the 'atte-Bower' suffix relates), and several monarchs including Henry VIII stayed overnight here. It's all vanished now, every last stone, but the parish church is built on the site of the old palace chapel. [photo]

I had precisely twenty-five minutes to explore Havering-atte-Bower. It's served by one of London's least frequent buses, the 375, so I had only the time it takes for the bus driver to reach the first roundabout in Essex and turn round. Off by the village green, start the clock, go. A sweet row of cottages looks out across the grass, which is not quite round enough for a game of cricket, hence the cricket club is tucked up a lane on the way to Harold Hill. There's a great view from the boundary, as the hillside tumbles down towards Romford, intermediate suburbia and the Thames. A white-painted water tower rises from a nearby field [photo], but there was no sign from the lane of the Round House beyond. This unusual 18th century home once belonged to Joseph Pemberton, one of the UK's foremost rose growers (and isn't round, it's elliptical). A little further on is Pyrgo Park, site of the estate where Tudor princesses Mary and Elizabeth spent much of their childhood... but I didn't have time to get that far (and only two gateposts remain, so I didn't miss much). Back on the village green I nearly missed the stocks and the whipping post - not the medieval originals but still most unlikely survivors in a London village. The village sign is new, Boris came to unveil it last autumn, just across from the pond which may or may not have been used to dunk witches. I couldn't get inside St John's, only through an arch beneath the tower and round the back of the churchyard. Here I found the Havering Park Riding School, so busy on a Saturday that it merits its own greasy spoon trailer (Den's Nosh) frequented by horsey folk and welly-wearers. There was no sign of any other shop in the village, only two pubs and an Indian restaurant, but maybe I'd have found one if I'd ventured further down the main street towards the Essex border [photo]. No time, twenty-five minutes up, bus due. Next time maybe I'll come back and do the full walk, as recommended in this council leaflet, and see how much of this charming village I can fit in before the next-but-one bus arrives.
by bus: 375   on foot: London Loop 20 and 21

Somewhere sporty: Romford Greyhound Stadium
They take dogging very seriously in Havering. Romford has one of London's three last greyhound stadia - the only one north of the river now that Walthamstow's looking increasingly like flats. Come on a Saturday evening and the place is heaving, the streets too, as punters from all over make their weekly pilgrimage to the hare-chasing circuit. One of the best views is from a passing train, looking directly into the heart of the stadium, although only for a couple of fleeting seconds. For the proper experience, and to discover which dog won, you need to walk surprisingly far back from the station and find the turn-off past the bath showroom. Or drive - they drive a lot in Havering - and troop with the rest of your extended family down the lane to the stadium. It's a great Saturday night out, I can attest, so long as you enjoy a flutter, a beer and all your food served with chips. Stake a few coins on a hunch, or study the form seriously and gamble on win or place. The atmosphere by the trackside is electric as twenty-four legs race past to a chorus of raucous encouragement. Who's in the lead... no, who won... now who's got a lucky winning ticket? Not so on a Saturday morning. The stadium is silent, with only the front door at reception swung open revealing staff inside. I can stroll right up to the Main Stand and Chase Restaurant doors, or peer through a gap in the blue gates at the deserted arena within. Not a bark, not a cheer, not even the low hubbub of blokes in sportswear discussing latest form. And yet when I got home later, I discovered that a fourteen-race meeting was indeed underway, with victories for Regal Prince, Taxi Boss and Scrubit Maurie, amongst others. This was a made-for-TV occasion, satisfying punters in betting shops up and down the land, with only a handful of Romford locals entering through reception to watch events live. A free taster solely for those in the know, who can't wait until evening to properly go to the dogs.
by train: Romford   by bus: 86

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream