Unveiled just nine years ago, this bust in Bayswater commemorates George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 15th century Albanian lord who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire(and who later became a central figure of inspiration in the Albanian National Awakening of the 19th century).
Located on the corner of Inverness Terrace and Porchester Gardens, the bronze bust was created by Kreshnik Xhiku.
An inscription on the front reads “George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, 1405 – 1468, invincible Albanian national hero, defender of western civilization.”
It was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence on 28th November, 2012, with Westminster City Councillor Robert Davis and Albanian Charge d’affaires, Mal Berisha, in attendance.
The bust was installed as part of Westminster’s City of Sculpture initiative.
Famous for his reform of the postal system, Sir Rowland Hill was a national celebrity during the Victorian era.
Born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, on 3rd December, 1795, Rowland was the son of schoolmaster Thomas Wright Hill. Educated in his father’s school, Hill Top, in a Birmingham suburb, it was determined he would follow in his father’s footsteps at an early age and by the age of 12 had become a student teacher and in 1819 helped his family establish new model school, Hazelwood, in Edgbaston near Birmingham. In 1827, he was also involved with his family in establishing another new school, Bruce Castle School, in Tottenham, Middlesex.
That same year, Hill married Caroline Pearson, who originally came from Wolverhampton, and together they had four children – three daughters Eleanor, Clara and Louisa and a son Pearson.
In the following years, Hill became involved in campaigns to colonise South Australia and in 1835 he joined the South Australian Colonisation Commission as Secretary, a role which he held until 1839 (interestingly and perhaps not surprisingly given his interest, Hill’s sister Caroline would later emigrate to South Australia with her family).
Hill was in his early 40s when he became interested in reforming the postal system – what to be his life’s great work. In 1837, he published his influential pamphlet, Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability, in which he argued for consistency in the system including pre-payment of standardised charges for sending mail.
Hill believed that if letters were cheap to send, more people – including the poorer classes – would send more and thus the profitability of the system would increase (a thought which proved true). It’s said, although whether it’s true or not is uncertain, that Hill became interested in reforming the postal system after he noticed a young woman who too poor to claim a letter sent to her by her fiancé (at the time it was usually the recipients who paid for the letter’s mailing).
Only three years later, Parliament passed the Penny Postage Act which saw the world’s first official postage stamps – the penny black and the two-penny black – issued. Hill and his family had by then moved to Orme Square in Bayswater (there’s now an English Heritage Blue Plaque on the property).
After the new government of Sir Robert Peel took office in 1841, Hill was dismissed and, joining the London and Brighton Railway as a director in 1843, relocated to Brighton.
But Hill was able to resume his postal reform efforts in 1846 after another change of government saw him appointed Secretary to the Postmaster-General. In 1854, he was appointed Secretary to the Post Office, a job he held until his retirement in 1864 due to ill health.
Hill was knighted in 1860. He spent the last 30 years of his life at Bartram House, Hampstead, and it was there he died 27th August, 1879 (a plaque now marks the house). He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
There are several public statues commemorating Hill include a bronze which, created in 1881, stands in King Edward Street in London (pictured).
His name was once given to a prominent London fortification, Baynard’s Castle, and now lives on in a City of London ward – Castle Baynard. But who was Ralph Baynard?
A Norman nobleman, Baynard was among those who accompanied William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066.
He was rewarded with a barony centred on Little Dunmow in Essex; the parish church was founded by his wife, Lady Juga, in 1104, and their son Geoffrey founded an Augustinian priory dedicated to St Mary there in 1106.
Ralph Baynard was also granted permission to build Baynard’s Castle in the City of London – it sat where the Fleet River entered the Thames. He is said to have died in the reign of William Rufus, aka William II, who ruled from 1087 to 1100.
Baynard’s Castle in London was eventually razed by King John in 1213.
Baynard’s name, meanwhile, may also live on in the district of Bayswater.
The ice skating season is upon us so we thought it timely to take a look at where the oldest rink is located.
QUEENS: Skate, Dine, Bowl at 17 Queensway in Bayswater houses what’s generally said to be the oldest surviving ice skating rink in London, having opened its doors as QUEENS Ice Club on 3rd October, 1930.
It was the work of architect and entrepreneur Alfred Octavius Edwards who apparently had a passion for ice skating.
It was apparently the first rink used by the BBC for televised ice skating and a number of world and Olympic champions have skated here.
The establishment underwent a revamp a couple of years ago (although bowling lanes were added as far back as 1994) and now features a wide range of amenities including, as well as the ice rink, bowling lanes, a vintage games arcade and bars and a diner. For more on Queens, see https://queens.london.
No prizes here for guessing that this pub owes its name to the long serving 19th century monarch, Queen Victoria.
There’s apparently a story that the Queen stopped off here on her way to Paddington Station and that, as a result, the pub was named in her honour.
Whatever the truth of that, the now Grade II-listed pub – located at 10a Strathearn Place (on the corner with Surrey Place) – was apparently built in 1838 – the first year if Victoria’s reign (and possibly a more valid reason for its name) and remodelled around the turn of the 20th century.
It features a luxuriously decorated interior with fireplaces, mirrors, and an original counter as well as paintings of the Queen, Prince Albert and their family.
The upstairs Theatre Bar features decorative elements taken from the former Gaiety Theatre which were installed in the late 1950s.
The pub, which was apparently patronised by the likes of author Charles Dickens (he is said to have written some of Our Mutual Friend here), Sir Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin as well as David Bowie – who did a live performance when launching an EP here in the 1960s.
It’s also been associated with more recent celebs like musicians Ronnie Wood and Liam Gallagher, artist Damien First and actor Keira Knightley.
There’s also a story that in 1960s one of the paintings on the walls was found to be a valuable portrait of a member of the Royal Family. It’s now apparently in the Royal Collection.
This important Bayswater thoroughfare, which runs north from Bayswater Road, is one of numerous streets and districts of the city which take their name from the monarch – in this case Queen Victoria.
The street was once known as Black Lion Lane (named after a local inn) and was renamed the Queens Road in honour of Queen Victoria, soon after she came to the throne in 1837. It was changed to Queensway in 1938 to give the name a bit more distinctiveness.
It’s suggested that was reason for the renaming was that the road was one of the Queen’s favourite horse-riding routes when she was living at Kensington Palace (also her place of birth).
The street was the site of an early department store which was opened by William Whiteley and the origins of which go back to the mid-19th century (the building was rebuilt and most recently reopened as a shopping centre in 1989).
Other associations with the street include portrait painter Augustus Egg, who lived in a cottage in Black Lion Lane, and the Hitchcock film, Frenzy, scenes for which were apparently firmed at the then Coburg Hotel on the corner with Bayswater Road.
• Arare ‘First Folio’ of William Shakespeare’s work – widely regarded as one of the most perfect copies in existence – will be available for viewing before an outdoor performance of Twelfth Night next month. Five actors from acting company The Three Inch Fools will perform the comedy in the St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden on 1st June at 7pm, the same garden where Henry Condell and John Heminges, two of the Bard’s co-partners at the Globe Theatre and the men behind the production of the First Folio in 1623, were buried. Those attending the performance will be given the chance to view the folio in the nearby Guildhall Library before the performance. Tickets to this one night only opportunity can be purchased from Eventbrite.
• Author and naturalist William Henry Hudson, whose work so inspired author Ernest Hemingway that his name was referenced in Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises, has been commemorated with a City of Westminster Green Plaque in Leinster Square, Bayswater. Born the son of British parents in Argentina, Hudson came to Westminster after leaving South America in 1874. An early support of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, his books on the English countryside became famous and helped foster the back to nature movement of the 1920s and 1930s.
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Throughout his life – as a child, bachelor, husband and family man, Sir Winston lived in many properties in London (although, of course, a couple of the most famous properties associated with him – his birthplace, Blenheim Palace, and the much-loved family home, Chartwell in Kent – are located outside the city). But, those and 10 Downing Street aside, here are just some of the many places he lived in within London…
• 29St James’s Place, St James: Having been born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and then having spent time in Dublin, at the age of five (1880) he came to live here with his family. He remained here until 1882 when he was sent off to school in Ascot (he later attended schools in Sussex and, most famously, Harrow School). The family, meanwhile, moved to a townshouse at 2 Connaught Place which backed on to Hyde Park.
• 33 Eccleston Square, Pimlico: The Churchills moved here in 1909 and it was here that their first two children Diana and Randolph were born in 1909 and in 1911. The family remained here until 1913. A blue plaque marks the property.
• Admiralty House, Whitehall: The Churchills first moved into Admiralty House – part of the Admiralty complex on Whitehall – in 1913 (from the aforementioned Eccleston Square) after Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty. They remained here until 1915 – years he would go onto to describe as the happiest in his life – before he resigned but returned in 1939 when he was once again appointed to the position.
• 2 Sussex Square, Bayswater: In 1920, the Churchills bought this property just north of Hyde Park which they kept until 1924 when they moved into 11 Downing Street (see below). The property is marked with a blue plaque.
• 11 Downing Street, Whitehall: TheChurchills lived at 11 Downing Street when Sir Winston was Chancellor of the Exchequer, from 1925 to 1929. The property, located in Downing Street, is not accessible to the public.
• 11 Morpeth Mansions, Morpeth Terrace, Westminster: The Churchill family lived at this Westminster address between 1930 and 1939 (prior to him becoming Prime Minister). The property is marked by a brown plaque.
• 28 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington: Churchill died in this Grade II-listed, mid 19th century property on the morning of 24th January, 1965. The couple moved in after the end of World War II and, while it’s not clear whether they fully vacated the residence when he was prime minister between 1951-55, it remained their property until his death 10 years later. The property next door, number 27, provided accommodation for his staff. The property is marked with a blue plaque.
The origins of the name of this inner west London location on the northern side of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens go back to at least the 14th century when it was recorded as Bayard’s or perhaps Baynard’s watering place.
Bayard was the word for a bay-coloured horse but it is thought that instead the name here comes from a local landowner – it’s been suggested he may be the same Baynard whose name is was remembered in the long gone Norman fortification Baynard’s Castle in the City.
The name probably referred to a site where people on their way out of or headed to London stopped for a rest and some water; the water aspect may relate to springs or to the Westbourne Stream which ran through the area.
It’s now known for its culturally diverse population and high concentration of hotels. It’s also known for Georgian terraces – many of which have been converted into flats, mansion blocks and garden squares.
Notable residents have included Peter Pan author JM Barrie and former PM’s Tony Blair and Winston Churchill while landmarks include Whiteleys, a department store which first opened in the mid 19th century (and was later rebuilt after burning down).
In JM Barrie’s 1911 novel, Peter and Wendy (based on the stage playPeter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up), the adventure begins when Peter Pan visits the home of the Darling family.
He secretly listens in – via an open window – while Mrs Darling tells bedtime stories to her children – Wendy, John and Michael – but during one visit loses his shadow and it’s on returning to claim it that he meets Wendy and, well, you know the rest…
Peter Pan is most famously associated with Kensington Gardens – it’s here that we are first introduced to the character of Peter in the book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (in fact there’s a rather famous statue of him there to this day, pictured above) – it’s most often assumed that the Darling’s house must be nearby.
But, in fact, the book Peter and Wendy never states where the Darlings’ house is located exactly – just that it is at number 14 in the street in which they live – while in the 1904 play the address is given as “a rather depressed street” in Bloomsbury. Barrie explains that he placed the Darlings’ house in Bloomsbury because Mr Roget (of Thesaurus fame) once lived there and “we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment”.
Worth noting, however, is a property at 31 Kensington Park Gardens. Once the home of the Llewellyn Davies family, family friend Barrie was a frequent visitor here and in fact went on to adopt the five Llewellyn Davies children following the death of their parents in the early 1900s. The property, which is divided into a series of flats, is, as a result, said to have been something of a model for the Darling’s house.
Barrie, himself, meanwhile, owned a house at 100 Bayswater Road – not far from Kensington Gardens where he first meet the Llewellyn Davies family – but, interestingly, had previously lived in Bloomsbury. The house is marked with a blue plaque.
Another Peter Pan-related address we have to mention is that of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to which Barrie gave the rights to receive royalties from Peter Pan in perpetuity. You can arrange for a tour of the hospital’s Peter Pan-related memorabilia.
Now perhaps best known as a Tube station and a street and square in Bayswater, just west of the City, the name Lancaster Gate was actually first applied to a gateway located on the northern side of Kensington Gardens, close to where the ornamental water gardens known as the Italian Gardens now stand.
The gate is believed to have been named after Queen Victoria, in her capacity as the head of the Duchy of Lancaster (since the days of King Henry IV, the duchy has been the personal property of the monarch).
The nearby housing development of Lancaster Gate, centred on Christ Church followed in the mid 1800s (designed by Sancton Wood). The church closed in 1977 and was turned into housing in 1983; all that now remains architecturally are the church’s tower and spire.
Among people associated with the street is the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie who resided in a hotel here at the start of World War II.
The Tube station where bears the name Lancaster Gate opened in 1900.