It is almost fifteen years ago to the day that my family moved into our flat in Belgravia. However, this was the first time that I really went about searching for the history of the area. I have always know little facts about my local area, such as Kings Road was were the first miniskirt was shown off by Mary Quant and so on. I have inserted a full route of my walk to show exactly where I walked and the distance of the walk.
My walked started a familiar spot and one that is great to point out to visiting family members. This is the place where Mozart composed his first symphony. I have always regarded this plaque as a simple fact, but for the first time I decided to investigate and find out more information about it. What I discovered for myself is that Mozart family embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1763, and that they had arrived in London in 1764. During this time Mozart’s father had fallen ill and this led to Mozart decision to start writing a symphony. At this time he was not know as much of a writer of music, more of a performer.(1) So my initial research had found how Mozart ended in London and with in this specific house. As researched more I found that 180 Ebury Street is now a Grade I listed building due to the fact Mozart is associated with it. Also you may noticed that in the photo below, the plaque marking the residence is brown. However, in 1939 it was a blue English Heritage plaque which was sadly destroyed in the Second World War.(2) The new plaque was put in place in 1951. Learning that the building was damaged during the Second World War led me to investigate how and when the area was bombed during the War. I went to the website bombsight.org for more information. What I found was that several High-Explosive bombs were dropped on Ebury Street between October the Seventh 1940 and June the Sixth 1941.(3) So from a small plaque on the outside of a building I have learnt so much about my area. And this is just the first step on my walk.
I continue to walk down Ebury Street and here I pull out Charles Booth’s map of London and begin to compare his poverty map to what I see around me now. Immediately it is easy to tell that in some regards Booth’s map still holds true. As I walk down the street there are many houses that I would regard as Middle-Class and well to do. Booth’s map is mainly dominated by these red and pink areas but there are still a mixture of colours in the surrounding area.(4) For the most part I would say that Booth’s map holds true in the modern day. There still the middle class streets in my area, such a Bourne Street and Ebury Street but on these streets there is several flats that owned by the Council of Westminster. Demonstrating that Belgravia is a mixture now as much as it was back in 1898-99.
I continue my walk and end up on Kings Road. This is street that is familiar to me, as this is pretty much the local high street, where all the supermarkets are, and so on. Again, this is never a place I ever gave much thought about, so it was interesting to learn about. It turns out that Kings Road was in fact a private road used by King Charles the Second. It was used to travel in between his palaces in Whitechapel and Hampton Court. The road remained private up until 1830. Kings Road was flung into international recognition during the ‘swinging’ sixties. What was key for the road was when Mary Quant opened Bazaar in 1955.(5) This would then lead plenty of boutiques opening on the road and pulling several influencers. By the 1970s, punk culture had taken Kings Road by storm and Vivian Westwood and Malcom McLaren were key to the roads popularity.
I take a left off Kings Road and head down towards Albert Bridge and the river. A bridge I had crossed plenty of times. It was easy to guess why the bridge is called what is but I began to investigate the origin of it. During the mid-nineteenth, there was two bridges on this specific part of the Thames. Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Bridge. Battersea Bridge was made of wood and considered unsafe by many. So the only other option was to cross the river with Chelsea Bridge. However, many did not like this either, due to the fact that it was congested.(6) So it was Prince Albert’s suggestion to building a third bridge on the Thames.(7) This decision was met with some hostility from the operators of Battersea Bridge as they were afraid they would lose money from the building of a new bridge. In the end an agreement was agreed and the bridge was built.(8) Something which is fun to note is that Albert Bridge was nicknamed ‘the Trembling Lady’ because it was shake when troops were crossing it, so a warning was put on the Bridge telling troops not the march in step when crossing the Bridge.(9) Albert Bridge was initially a toll bridge however this failed and the bridge was eventually made public in 1879. However the tollbooths on the bridge were kept as a reminder and the only surviving bridge tollbooths in London.(10)
I decide to take a walk through the park and because of this my walk becomes less concerned with History and more concerned with what sorts of people are walking through the park at two in the afternoon. I see plenty of people walking their dogs and older couples together. There are also several people working out. I start asking myself how these people manage to find the time to do such activities during this time of day. They could range from rich to unemployed and yet they are all enjoying themselves in Battersea Park at the same time as myself. I do not begin constructing stories about them, but I do wonder why they are here. It was interesting to think about.
On the last stretch of walk, I pass where the old Chelsea Barracks used to be and I start wondering how my local area is changing around me. Soon the site where the Barracks once stood will change into some high priced apartment which will change the area drastically. Just behind our block of flats, a similar one was demolished and replaced with apartments that cost up to four million pounds. I start to wonder if something similar will happen to our flats and if we will be pushed out. Only time will tell, but I am glad to have taken this walk and learned more about my local area.
(8) Cookson, Brian, Crossing The River (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2006)
(9) Cookson, Brian, Crossing The River (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2006)
(7) Davenport, Neil, Thames Bridges (Kettering: Silver Link Publishing, 2006)
(10) Quinn, Tom, London’s Strangest Tales (London: Robson, 2008)
(6) Roberts, Chris, Cross River Traffic (London: Granta, 2005)
(1) Sadie, Stanley, Mozart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
(2) [http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/mozart-wolfgang-amadeus-1756-1791] Accessed November 1 2016
(3) [http://bombsight.org/bombs/15697/] Accessed November 1 2016
(4) [http://booth.lse.ac.uk/cgi-bin/do.pl?sub=list_postcodes&arg0=SW1W+8UP] Accessed November 1 2016
(5) [https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/vmtours/chelseawalk/vm_cw_kingsroad.asp] Accessed November 1 2016