Hetton Historical Walk (Heritage Open Days)

Hetton-le-Hole Walking Map
Hetton-le-Hole Walking Map

With the onset of September it was time once again for the national Heritage Open Days, which take place each year up and down the country. This year I happened to be at home, but being too lazy to get myself to Newcastle or Durham to check out what was on offer, I ended up only attending one event. This was a historic walk around Hetton-le-Hole, where several members of my family live, grew up and are otherwise associated with.

1872 school house
1872 school house

We met at Hetton Centre, a fairly recent building that happens to be on the site of the old Hetton Hall. The exact date of the Hall’s construction is uncertain but it was built in the classical style. It had become dilapidated by the end of the nineteenth century and was demolished in 1923. We headed to the centre of Hetton, passing the old school house (opened in 1872), before stopping off at the point where the first moving locomotives ran, taking coal from Lyons Colliery to the River Wear.

Signpost towards the Wear
Signpost towards the Wear

The street is still named Railway Street, and just beyond there are still sleepers from the Hetton Railway. The line was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1822 and was supervised by his brother Robert. Our guide took us to nearby Fairy Street, and explained that it was so-called because of the large hillock here nicknamed the Fairy Cradle, which supposedly dated from the Iron Age.

Fairy Street
Fairy Street

We stopped off at the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Primitive Methodism reached Hetton in 1823 and this chapel was opened in 1858. I’ve been here plenty of times over the years for weddings and funerals, but this was the first time I had the chance to look around and take things in from a historical point of view. The church was built entirely by the miners. Interestingly, there used to be a public house attached to the church – not owned by it, just next door – somewhat ironic as Methodists are teetotal!

Primitive Methodist Chapel
Primitive Methodist Chapel
Inside the Chapel
Inside the Chapel

Heading beyond down the road we ended up in a part of town I’d never seen before, and a beautiful though rather run-down building, the former Pavilion Theatre and Cinema, built by Ralph Barton in 1909. The first manager was Linden Travers, father of the actor Bill Travers.

Pavilion Theatre and Cinema
Pavilion Theatre and Cinema

We then stopped at the site of the former Anglican church, now sadly reduced to rubble. A nearby house (Laburnum House) has a blue plaque with details about Nicholas Wood, friend and colleague of George Stephenson, co-founder of the Institute of Mining, and partner in the Hetton Coal Company from 1844, whose grave is in the nearby churchyard.

Site of Anglican Church
Site of Anglican Church
Nicholas Wood's blue plaque
Nicholas Wood’s blue plaque
Nicholas Wood's grave
Nicholas Wood’s grave

Crossing the road, we passed the Wesleyan Chapel in Front Street (built in 1824) then ventured towards the oldest part of town, taking in Hetton House, one of the oldest houses in the town, dating from approximately the 1720s and bought by the Lyon family (the Earls of Strathmore) in 1746. The house has two extensions, one dating from the 19th century and one from the 20th. It was most recently used as council offices and closed in 2010. Nearby is the former Standard Theatre, built in 1874. It was converted to a bus garage in 1916.

Wesleyan Chapel
Wesleyan Chapel
Hetton House
Hetton House

The tour ended in style as we stopped at the 18th-century Old Smithy which has recently opened up for occasional open days once again. I really enjoyed the tour and I learned a lot.

Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Inside the smithy
Inside the smithy

Cross Bones Christmas Ghost Walk

I signed up for a Christmas ghost walk to explore Southwark, run by poet John Constable who wrote The Southwark Mysteries. The walk began near Borough Station and ended at Cross Bones Graveyard.

There was a Dickensian element to much of the walk: it began at the St George the Martyr Church, where Little Dorrit once fell asleep in Dickens’ novel of the same name.

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St George the Martyr

Nearby was the site of the Marshalsea prison, in which Little Dorrit’s father lived: Dickens’ own father was imprisoned here for debt when Dickens was a child. The wall used to be the original wall from the prison, but it has been rebuilt recently.

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Wall of the Marshalsea prison

We were shown a pub nearby that is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered by her husband. The ghost of a crying baby has also been heard there, although no one is quite sure what connection the baby has to events.

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Haunted pub

On the same street that Dickens lived when he was a young boy and his father was in prison, we saw the National Trust houses established by Octavia Hill.

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National Trust houses

Travelling towards London Bridge, we passed the location of the inn at which Chaucer’s pilgrims set off on their travels.

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Chaucer plaque

We then popped into the George Inn, London’s only surviving galleried inn, and heard a few more ghost stories.

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The George Inn

We stopped off by Southwark Cathedral after walking through Borough Market.

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Southwark Cathedral

By the Golden Hind, we heard a story about the land surrounding Southwark.

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The Golden Hind

We stopped to admire the remains of Winchester Palace.

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Winchester Palace

The walk ended at Cross Bones Graveyard.

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Cross Bones Graveyard

Maggie’s Culture Crawl 2013

I had such a good time on Maggie’s Culture Crawl a couple of weeks ago. Originally known as the London Night Hike, the crawl is a sponsored 15-mile night-time walk around London, with all proceeds going to Maggie’s Centres. These are located in hospital grounds across the country and are designed as places where those affected by cancer can rest, talk and get support – both sufferers themselves and their friends and family. It’s a fantastic cause, although I have to admit it was the walk itself that got me interested – the charity part was a bonus!

I’d received my T-shirt in the post beforehand, with instructions to ‘charge up’ the glow-in-the-dark pattern under a light beforehand. On the night itself, I headed to Victoria Embankment Gardens to register and warm up. There were bottles of water and snacks available, talks from various people and even a little warm up session with music!

Victoria Embankment Gardens
Victoria Embankment Gardens
Getting ready for the warm up
Getting ready for the warm up

We set off at eight o’clock, heading across the river to the first stop which was the London Eye. As part of the walk we were permitted to have a go. I’d not been on it since I was sixteen, and that was during the day, so I thought it would be rather exciting to go on at night I was not disappointed.

London Eye
London Eye
View from the London Eye
View from the London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

After this bit of fun, it was time to walk to the next stop which was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Being in here felt like a huge privilege and the building was certainly beautiful. I also enjoyed the tea tasting, courtesy of Fortnum & Mason!

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The next stop, which was quite a way away, was the Roca London Gallery in Chelsea (near Imperial Wharf Overground station). I was rather bewildered by the inclusion of this stop as it seemed to specialise in toilets (well, bathrooms)! Still, it was decorated pretty well and the dancers performing for our entertainment were really talented.

Roca London Gallery
Roca London Gallery
Inside the Gallery
Inside the Gallery

Maggie’s West London Centre in the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital was another stop. I enjoyed the opportunity to relax in a deckchair, nibble on a cupcake and take a look around the centre, which seems like a really warm, inviting place. Following this, the Royal Geographical Society building near the Royal Albert Hall was another stop – as well as a tea room, this stop had, rather bizarrely, a silent disco! Some people were actually dancing – personally I was glad of the opportunity to have a rest!

Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
Inside the RGS
Inside the RGS
Silent disco
Silent disco

After this, there was an incredibly long stretch of walking. The route took us past Hyde Park Corner and parallel to Oxford Street (it was around 2 am at this point and seeing all the drunk people stumbling out of the clubs was an eye-opener). I was exhausted by this point (I’d totally underestimated how far 15 miles was) but I soldiered on and was hugely pleased to reach the next stop – Bart’s Hospital, the oldest hospital in London and site for a forthcoming Maggie’s Centre.

Bart
Bart’s Hospital

Bart

Bart

Bart

There wasn’t much of the route to go by this point – I struggled on past the Royal Exchange:

The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange

…until I could finally see the end in sight!

30 St Mary Axe - a.k.a.
30 St Mary Axe – a.k.a. ‘The Gherkin’

I was sooo happy when I finally reached the finish. Food chain Leon had kindly provided breakfast, but alas, the veggie option was yogurt – not so great when the meat-eaters got a bacon sandwich. Oh well, I suppose you can’t complain about free food!

At the finish
At the finish

Inside the Gherkin (official name: 30 St Mary Axe) I signed in and was proud to receive my medal. I saw several participants heading home at this point (it was around 4 am after all), but I decided to make the most of the opportunity I had and head up to the top of the building.

The top of the Gerkhin
The top of the Gerkhin

The space set aside for us, right at the top, was oddly calming. Lights were kept low, and cushions had been spread across the floor for us to collapse on to (several people were already asleep). I put my name down for a free massage, and settled down to wait.

Inside the Gerkhin
Inside the Gerkhin

Inside the Gerkhin

A big advantage of hanging around up here was that I got brilliant views over London, and was able to watch the sun rise.

Looking south towards the Shard
Looking south towards the Shard
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
Looking west towards St Paul
Looking west towards St Paul’s
The sun rising
The sun rising

After my massage, it was late enough for the tube to have reopened, so I left – not before admiring these guys:

Dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs!
Raarr!
The Gerkhin in all its glory
The Gerkhin in all its glory

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