Hammersmith(District and Piccadilly Lines)

Hammersmith throws up the second of my deja-vu moments on the journey so far, as it is counted as two distinct stations for the purposes of Underground methodology.  There is no within station interchange between the two so changing here from say the District to the Hammersmith and City line involves exiting either station and then crossing a busy roundabout.

This was the second of the two to open, on 9th September 1874, serving the Metropolitan District Railway and acting as the terminus of the line’s extension from Earl’s Court.   The snappily titled Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway(now the Piccadilly Line) arrived here in 1908.

The station was demolished in the early 1990s and rebuilt incorporated into the then new ‘Broadway Shopping Centre’ . You can see the massive construction site in the opening titles for the BBC Comedy ‘Bottom‘  which was set in these parts.   Some heritage features from the old station were preserved, such as the old wall tiles included in the gallery.

As you exit the mall, you are greeted by a rather curious statue.  It is called ‘etcetera’ and was designed by the excellently named Crispin Guest, who sounds like he should be a Tory MP for somewhere in the Home Counties. I’m not sure whether it beats Edgware Road’s window cleaner mind you..

The Pub: The Swan, 46 Hammersmith Broadway, W6 0DZ

Leaving the station via the main entrance to the shopping mall, you’ll see the pub The Swan straight ahead of you on the other side of the road.  The Swan is a fairly typical Nicholson’s pub, with a spacious downstairs bar area and an upstairs room reserved for diners.  Like most in the Nicholson’s family, it has the usual range of ales such as Doombar and London Pride.

It seems like it was refitted fairly recently as I don’t remember it being so bright and abrasive, decor wise, last time I visited.  The shiny gold touches felt particularly overdone in my opinion.

According to the pub’s own website, The Swan has its own unique link to Underground history.  Back in the day, it was frequented by Edward Johnston who designed the iconic Underground roundel  which bar a few cosmetic changes, remains in use across the network to this day.

Don’t get me wrong,  The Swan is perfectly fine for a quick pint.  But if you’re in the Hammersmith area and fancy a more engaging venue,  I’d thoroughly recommend visiting The Hop Poles,  from my previous visit,  which boasts a roof terrace, garden and less shiny gold..

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West Kensington

West Kensington tube station opened on 9th September 1874 on the Metropolitan District Railway as ‘Fulham – North End’, as part of the extension of the MDR to Hammersmith.  It gained its current name in 1877.

It felt like quite a small station when we dropped in, the station building itself was rebuilt in 1927 to a design by Charles Holden, who we came across earlier at St. James’s Park and will encounter again on many of the 1920s/30s era stations.

I’m afraid I don’t have too much to say about West Kensington. I couldn’t really find too much of note here!

The Pub: Famous 3 Kings, 153 North End Road, W14 9NL

Leaving the station,  we found ourselves on North End road, a short distance away from the busy A4.  Given this was the last stop on our trip that evening,   we went for the first pub by the station –  Famous 3 Kings.

It lists itself as a top place to watch sports, and there are certainly plenty of screens to catch the football, rugby and handball(so their website promises you..).   The pub itself is fairly spacious with both a downstairs and upstairs seating area.

Quite a few ‘sports venues’ don’t really do much on the ale front, but to give the F3K credit they had a decent selection, including Brains SA(the pride of Wales) and a ‘Black IPA’ called Conqueror.

Curiously enough, there was a Slovakian flag on the wall. I initially hoped we had stumbled on a Slovakian ex-pat pub but sadly the barmaid told me it was just because the owner was supporting the Slovakians in the Ice Hockey.  No sooner did she explain that than a group of happy Slovakian fans arrived.   In retrospect having looked up the scores from that night, it seemed they lost to Latvia but they still seemed rather chipper about things.

I didn’t mind this pub. I usually roll my eyes at ‘sport pubs’ because they are usually rather grim with rubbish beer.  This place seemed alright so if you do have a yearning to watch an obscure sport in the West Kensington area then you’ve found your spot!

Visit their website(note, this just appears to list all the sport they are showing!)

Earl’s Court

Earl’s Court station first opened on 30th October 1871 on the Metropolitan District Railway.  During its early years, a service known as the ‘Super Outer Circle’ operated between St Pancras to Earls Court, travelling via Cricklewood and South Acton.  Unsurprisingly, given the distance involved, the service only lasted between 1878 and 1880.

The Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway(now the Piccadilly Line) arrived here in December 1906. Shortly after that comes a piece of tube history I wished was true, but sadly no evidence seems to exist to back the story up.   Earl’s Court was the site of the first escalators on the tube network, which were installed in 1911.  The rumour went, and one that a particularly cheery District line driver recounted once on a train I was on via the PA,  that Transport bosses hired a gentleman, Bumper Harris, to demonstrate the safe operation of the device to cautious Edwardian passengers.  Rather regrettably for the whole endeavour, Bumper himself only had one leg.  Sadly no evidence of this has been found by the London Transport Museum.

Earl’s Court(sub surface) station is particularly, especially following an extensive refurbishment in recent years. Another piece of tube history survives in the shape of the ‘next train’ indicators on the District Line platforms.   These pre date the electronic dot-matrix displays and indicated, via the means of a lit up arrow,  the destination of the next district line train.

The Pub: The Blackbird, 209 Earl’s Court Road, SW5 9AN

Exiting Earl’s Court station onto Earl’s Court Road,  The Blackbird is a short distance away.  Of note here is a mock up Police Box or TARDIS, for all you Doctor Who fans. It has been there for several years now so I assume it has something to do with the Doctor Who exhibition that has run at the Earl’s Court exhibition centre.

The Blackbird is a fairly smart Fullers pub with traditional decor.  Given its location, it’s another tourist trap but feels more authentic than the other pubs dotted round there.

One thing that certainly rankled with me was the price,  two pints of London Pride came to well over £8!  I like a pint of Pride as much as the next man, but even I found that rather eye watering.   We stumbled on a nice, if unintentional heritage touch. As you’ll see in the gallery, The Blackbird has a rather old school lift. I assume this is merely for access to the cellars, but I didn’t give it a try.

This is a decent, well maintained pub. But it is a bit steep, price wise! Unless you’re nearby,  I wouldn’t advocate popping in..

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Royal Oak

Royal Oak Station opened on the Hammersmith and City railway on 30th October 1871.  At the time, a station also opened on the Great Western Mainline out of Paddington. These services ended in 1934 and you still see intercity trains whoosh past the station.

The station isn’t far from Paddington and you can clearly see its distinctive roof in the near distance.    Royal Oak is also the site of a major Crossrail construction site as the Royal Oak portal will be the Western tunnel entrance for the scheme.

Royal Oak is perhaps one of the most apt stations on this journey, seeing as it got its name from a local pub!   When I was doing my undergraduate degree, several of my exams were in Porchester Hall, right by the station.

The Pub: The Porchester,  88 Bishop’s Bridge Road, W2 5AA

This is the pub that gave the station its name – it is now known as the The Porchester.  To reach the pub,  head south down Porchester Road and the pub is on the junction of that road with Bishop’s Bridge Road.

It had a lively atmosphere when we visited on a Thursday night and a pub quiz was in full swing, complete with quizmaster with Lady Gaga style headset microphone.  It has a decent selection of ales, with standard staples such as Youngs complimented by offerings such as the marvelously named Waggle Dance.

It’s decked in a smart, contemporary fashion.  There are plenty of comfy seats but these were filled by the quiz teams so we perched by the quiz machine, embarking on another unsuccessful round.  We did however successfully guess ‘Great Balls of Fire’ during the song introduction round of the quiz.

The pub is also well stocked with plants and I even spotted a cactus towards the edge of the room.  It also has a decent sized ‘secret garden’ with some nice traditional adverts on the wall.  Sadly as if often the way when I visit pubs with gardens on the journey so far,  the weather outside resembled a scene from Blade Runner but fortunately this garden is partially covered from the elements(and I hope, the replicants…)

All in all, this is fine pub.  If you find yourself within the vicinity of Royal Oak, it’s well worth a visit.

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Mansion House

Mansion House Station first opened on 3rd July 1871, as the new terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway, following the construction of the extension from Blackfriars.

The station itself retains few historic features as it was comprehensively rebuilt at the end of the 1980s to facilitate the construction of a new entrance. Talking of the 1980s, there is a very ’80s clock at platform level…

Mansion House is perhaps best known as the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London(no, not Boris..) and where the Chancellor of Exchequer gives his annual speech on the state of the economy. In recent years these speeches have no doubt caused many to head to the nearest pub to drown their sorrows..

The Pub: Ye Olde Watling,  29 Watling Street, EC4M 9BR

Ye Olde Watling is very close to Mansion House station,  if you head up Cannon Street and then turn onto the historic Watling Street, the old Roman Road from the City.  This is a pub steeped in history, located right next to Sir Christopher Wren’s St Mary Aldermary Church. A church stood here prior to the great fire of London but was badly damaged and effectively rebuilt by Wren, reopening in 1682.

The pub itself claims to date back to 1667 and was a watering hole of Wren’s. Indeed it is said he worked on the plans for the nearby St Pauls Cathedral in the room above the pub.   It still has a very traditional vibe with wooden beams throughout the interior – according to the pub’s website it said it was built with old ships’ timbers by Wren himself.

On our visit,  it was heaving with the post-work trade and you can imagine it is a very popular venue throughout the week. As a Nicholson’s pub, it was throwing a bit of a party to mark the 1st birthday of Nicholson’s Pale Ale. The Ale is brewed by St. Austell’s, the brewery behind that fine pint ‘Tribute.’ They were offering raffle tickets with each pint, we won 20% off our next round!  As well as the busy main bar, there is a back room where we found a seat as well as an upstairs for private hire.

This is a great atmospheric pub in the heart of the City of London, I strongly recommend a visit.  But please do bare in mind that as a city pub,  it closes at 8pm on Saturdays and 5pm on Sundays.

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Blackfriars

Blackfriars station opened on 30th May 1870 as the terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway’s extension from Westminster.  The station itself feels very modern as it was closed from 2009-2012 and comprehensively refurbished and upgraded as part of the major redevelopment of Blackfriars rail station.

The rail station contains a rather curious display, preserved from the original building. Back in the day, ‘boat trains’ from Dover used to depart from here. As a result, the rail company displayed the locations you could reach not only by train, but by boat too.  As you can see in the gallery, it gives you combinations such as Sittingbourne and Marseilles, and my personal favourite, Westgate on Sea and St Petersburg!

The Pub: The Blackfriar, 174 Queen Victoria Street EC4V 4EG

Leaving Blackfriars, you can’t miss The Blackfriar pub. It’s opposite the mainline station, perched as one of the few remaining traditional buildings within a sea of modern office blocks, with a suitably ornate exterior.

I first came across this pub on a random TV documentary I stumbled on hosted by Adam Hart-Davis, that enthusiastic chap who did a lot of history programmes several years back. He certainly got enthusiastic about this place, and it’s not hard to see why.  The interior is a real treasure trove with monks on the ceiling and other classical touches.  The back room(currently given over to diners) has a particularly endearing relief with more monks up to no good, as well as such good advice to us all as ‘don’t advertise, tell a gossip.’  There is a similar message above the bar ‘Tomorrow will be Friday’, if only that were the case!

It’s s Nicholsons pub so you get the standard range of ales and a similarly typical food menu. Given its lavish interior this pub attracts a lot of tourists, I’m certainly glad they see this rather than many of the ‘pseudo’ traditional pubs that lurk around Central London.  There is also a fair sized outside seating area for sunny days.

Believe it or not, this pub was under threat from demolition back in the 1960s but was saved by a campaign led by Sir John Betjeman – who also helped save St Pancras station and lends his name to the pub I visited at that station.

With grand mosaics and excellent location, this gem of a pub is well worth a visit!

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Temple

Temple Station opened as ‘The Temple’ on 30th May 1870 on the Metropolitan District Railway. Like Embankment before it, its construction coincided with that of the Victoria Embankment.  There are plenty of heritage features at both platform and station level.

The Station serves an area best known for the legal profession, with the ‘Inns of Court nearby.’   Somerset House, one of my favourite buildings in London, is also nearby. You are also very close to Waterloo Bridge which for my mind is the best in London in terms of the view you get of the City.  It’s ideally placed so you can see both West towards Parliament and Westminster and also East towards the City and Tower Bridge.

The Pub: The Temple Roof Cafe, Temple Place, WC2R 2PH

As Temple Station is pretty much right beside the Thames, there aren’t that many pubs in its immediate vicinity.  There are plenty of good ones are you head towards the Strand and Chancery Lane.  These would fall under the remit of other stations for the purposes of this blog.

The most obvious choice for a pint here is the Walkabout.   We were all prepared to enter only to find out it was closed for a private function but their roof terrace bar was open. I wasn’t even aware they had one!

As you can see from the photos, you get a great view up there. Temple is in a fine position perched halfway along the Victoria Embankment with London looking glorious, bathed in the May sunshine.  The beer selection was limited, only Heineken available on tap on our visit.  That said, this is a place you come to for the location rather than the beer.

Before we left, we noticed plenty of cameramen lurking about and a TV truck. Apparently the downstairs bar had been hired out for a TV special on Rugby.   Plenty of people in England Lions shirts were making their way up to the roof terrace as they left.

I’ll be honest, if you’re after fine cask ales, this isn’t for you. But if the sun is out and you want a beer in the sun, this is a great spot!

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