The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were a place to lose oneself. Laid out among Lambeth’s green fields as an escape from 17th Century London, over the following 200 years they became a virtual town in themselves, an unrivalled destination for music and theatre, drinking and bear-baiting.
But there was seclusion and shadow amid the noise. Dark, tree-lined alleys were a favourite haunt of the amorous.… Read more
(Part one can be found here)
Upstream, where the suburban boroughs of South West London merge into Surrey’s monied greenery, a number of small islands dot the Thames. Raven’s Ait, Lot’s Ait, Oliver’s Island: the names alone beckon, and these islets have long been a source of legend, carrying stories of secret underwater tunnels and Crusoe-style recluses.
But the river may hide something stranger.… Read more
London is melting. In a shady corner pub along the South Lambeth Road, large open windows bring a warm, welcome breeze. Jason Allen, who has just cycled from the Brixton primary school he works in, discusses the weather we’re currently hiding from. Its slow, entropic quality has stirred in him thoughts of an even hotter fortnight – the record-breaking heatwave of June/July 1976 – and the strange other world he associates it with.… Read more
The recent silencing, for maintenance reasons, of the bell known as Big Ben met a suitably muted response from the nation. A half-hearted effort by a handful of MPs to lend the moment significance faded on the wind. But, on the day the last chimes rang across Westminster – and the small group held their vigil outside the Big Ben tower – it seems that inside the Houses of Parliament, a disruption may indeed have been felt.… Read more
In the course of our attempts to catalogue London’s inter-dimensional gateways, PoL has learned to keep an open mind. The unpredictable happens when a Londoner treads too close to the city’s precarious dimensional bounds. We are accustomed to the scattershot nature of the resulting stories.
But it seems we may not be the first to try to impose a sense of order on this chaotic history.… Read more
“The starry mills of Satan are built beneath the earth and waters of the mundane shell”.
Matthew Lindon eyes me over his omelette and chips.
“That was another one of Stewart’s things, the poetry. He’d launch into it on tea breaks. All sorts, but William Blake, mainly. Dark Satanic Mills and all that. He was proud of Blake’s connection to Lambeth”
Matthew speaks often of Stewart, chief mechanic – and, the way Matthew tells it, guardian spirit – at the small metal-pressing workshop under the arches of Waterloo station, where Matthew worked as a young man.… Read more
There is much to be written about the drifts of psychic memory that swirl through Crystal Palace Park. The famous dinosaurs are a petrified glimpse into the knowledge and preoccupations of Victorian science. A deserted and beautiful subway lies hidden under an A road, a reminder of the long-demolished railway station it once served. And root-mangled stairways lead to shabby remnants of 20th Century concrete utopianism.… Read more
Halfway along Stoke Newington Church Street is a rift. A lost world of leaf, iron and stone; a crouching, brooding interruption in the row of high-end bakeries, fashionable cafes and designer home-ware shops:
Abney Park Cemetery.
One of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ garden cemeteries built when Victorian London was too full of the dead, Abney Park’s garden element has, over the years, assumed feral dominion over the dwindling numbers of burials.… Read more
The following is a transcript of a cassette recording sent to us anonymously. There were a few brief notes attached. The audio consists of a call to a late night show on a popular London radio station. The radio station concerned has pulled the audio from their archive and asked PoL not to mention them by name. In the interest of protecting the caller’s identity, we present a transcript in place of the audio.… Read more
Stroll east along the Strand, on the side of the street closest to the river, and go past Somerset House. When you see a gap between two buildings, turn river-ward. After ducking beneath an old watch house you will find yourself in a steep, narrow alley. Suddenly you are a world away from the busses and taxis, from the harried tourists and coffee-seeking office workers.… Read more