diamond geezer

 Monday, February 06, 2012

I've been meaning to run this series of posts on diamond geezer for some years now.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee has given me the perfect excuse.
A report on all the London streets named Diamond Something.
Happy sixtieth, today, Your Majesty.

Diamond Terrace Greenwich, SE10
On the residential slopes above non-tourist Greenwich, a warren of Victoriana covers the hillside. There are some most desirable properties up here, from spacious townhouses to narrow two-up two-downs, all in an ace location that's ever-so estate agent-friendly. We're homing in on one street, if you can call it a street, and that's Diamond Terrace. From Hyde Vale it looks like a private driveway, maybe two, ascending the hill into wooded seclusion. From Point Hill, beside one of the larger stucco lodgings, it looks like a back alley to someone's garage. And so it is, but further along it opens out to form a one-sided semi-private lane, running for a couple of hundred yards along a contour. You wouldn't walk along this unmade road by mistake - indeed the residents would probably rather you didn't walk along here at all. They live in blessed isolation in a motley collection of houses, most with marvellous views (at this leafless time of year) across the immediate skyline. One of London's protected views runs from The Point - at the top of the hill - across to St Paul's and Central London. Both are harder to see from Diamond Terrace because a row of chimneypots gets in the way, but the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are clearly visible from up here, and the Greenwich Clock Tower too. If you're not familiar with the area, you may be surprised how steeply the slopes of SE10 rise up. The street parallel to Diamond Terrace is at least three storeys down, or a similar differential up, depending. You'd pay a panoramic premium to live here, as some of the assorted dwellings make evident. First past the garages are a brief collection of semi-detacheds, with gardens mostly paved, one with a stone cat acting as sentinel by the recycling bins. Then a couple of four-storey Georgian blocks, originally family homes, whose current owners protect their parking spaces with passive aggressive traffic cones. A little grander with a wrought iron balcony for the next pair, very Dickensian, very tastefully done. And finally, alas, I didn't venture right down to the end of the cul-de-sac for fear of looking intensely suspicious, but anywhere with its own heritage streetlamps has be top council tax band, surely. This was the only Diamond-themed street I visited with a lock-up offering Motor Services for classic cars, and also the only place where a faux fur shawl had been dumped in a hedge below the official nameplate. Diamond Terrace could have been snobbishly awful, but I found this back lane individual, withdrawn and understated. Just don't go looking for it on Google Streetview because it isn't there. The camera-van probably never found either of the minor entrances, or else the residents blockaded themselves in to keep this woody enclave a well-kept secret.
[streetmap] [street name] [street photo]

Diamond Way Deptford, SE8
Less than a mile away, on the other side of the River Ravensbourne, lies a very different Diamond. You'll find it in the heart of Deptford, just off the High Street, but don't let that prejudge your expectations. This isn't a row of crumbling terraced houses round the corner from a row of pound shops, nor part of a hinterland of postwar council flats. Indeed Diamond Way isn't a residential street at all, not unless you include dead bodies, because this is the alleyway through the graveyard of St Paul's Church. What a fantastic (and unexpected) church this is - Italianate Baroque, which is rare enough, built of Portland Stone with a circular tower beneath a circular steeple. It looks quite European, surely Roman Catholic, but its origins are wholly C of E. Three hundred years ago this was one of twelve churches commissioned to serve London's growing population, the most famous of which are the Hawksmoors in Shoreditch, Limehouse, nearby Greenwich et al. The architect here in Deptford was Thomas Archer, also responsible for Birmingham Cathedral and bits of Chatsworth House. In 1969 St Paul's entered the custodianship of a new parish priest, the outgoing Father David Diamond. He built up the congregation, repositioned St Paul's at the heart of the local community, even instigated the Deptford Festival, until his untimely death in 1992. In grateful remembrance parishioners named the path along the northern edge of the church Diamond Way. It doesn't really need a name, to be honest, it's merely a cut-through from the High Street to Church Street, and the only street sign is semi-hidden behind railings and a lamppost at the western end. Close by (and facing the bookies opposite) is a red-painted cross, plus crucified Christ, as a reminder of why the church is here. And beyond are numerous stone memorials, gravestones and the like, looking precisely as weatherbeaten as you'd expect after nearly three centuries, and surround by newly laid turf (because pedestrians don't necessarily stick to the paths). It would be so easy to walk along the High Street and never notice this green oasis, indeed not to spot that this part of town has more to offer than non-chain shops and a bustling market. But the church John Betjeman described as the "Pearl in the Heart of Deptford" still thrives, and remembers, along Diamond Way.
[streetmap] [street name] [street photo]

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