Tower Hill

At the moment, the blog is really serving up the extremes.   After being confronted by what felt like the outer limits in Neasden,  my next stop was then straight at the heart of tourist London – Tower Hill.

While the modern Tower Hill Station didn’t open until 1967,  it was built on the site of the Tower of London station, which opened in 1882 on the Metropolitan Railway.  Given that these two are effectively in the same place, I am taking that first date as justifying my visit there.

The Tower of London Station itself was very short lived, closing in 1884 due to the construction work linking the Metropolitan Railway and the Metropolitan District Railway to create the ‘Inner Circle’ – now the Circle Line.  It was replaced by ‘Mark Lane’ Station which was then renamed ‘Tower Hill’ which itself shut in 1967 due to rising passenger numbers and no scope for expansion on that site. This lead to the opening of a new ‘Tower Hill’ station on the site of the old ‘Tower of London’ site.  Simple isn’t it?

After all that, the station building itself is pretty non-descript and ’60s.   It is slap bang in the centre of London so I went for a couple of shots looking out from the station instead!

The Pub: Hung, Drawn and Quartered, 26-27 Great Tower Street, EC3R 5AQ

Hung, Drawn and Quartered is a short walk from the station, passing down Byward Street to meet Great Tower Street. The name apparently harks back to the fact that renowned diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed an execution nearby on 13th October 1660, commenting that the chap looked ‘as cheerful as any man could in that condition.’  I was initially drawn to this plaque as the entry was on my birthday(albeit 327 years before I was born..)

The interior keeps up the historical trend, with paintings of Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell and various other figures from Britain’s past adorning the walls.   There is also a noose above the bar – it certainly made me drink faster when the barmaid called last orders.

As a Fullers pub, it has their standard range of ales.  Topically, there was a cricket themed pint by the name of ‘Sticky Wicket‘. In light of the events at The Oval, perhaps the next one will be called Soggy Wicket or Caught Short?  We went for the tried and trusted ESB and London Pride.

The pub itself is comfy and well maintained. Given the location, it’s very popular with tourists. We visited on a Saturday but I assume it does well on the after-office trade during the week too.

All in all, a good find. Well worth a return visit!

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Neasden

Neasden may only be in Zone 3 but it certainly felt like we were deep in suburbia here.  The station first opened as Kingsbury and Neasden in 1880 on the Metropolitan Railway.  In 1910, Neasden got top billing as the names were reversed to ‘Neasden and Kingsbury’, until the latter vanished in 1932 when Kingsbury’s own station opened.

Like the rest of the Stanmore branch, it was transferred to the Bakerloo Line in 1939 and then the Jubilee Line in 1979.

The station itself felt rather bleak during our visit there, that may have been due to it being boxed it on either side by rather grey office blocks and an industrial estate just across the road.  Wembley’s impressive arch also looms large on the horizon.

The Pub: Charlies, 240-242 Neasden Lane, NW10 0AA

When we first looked at coming to Neasden, I was initially at a loss to where we’d go because there seemed to be a dearth of pubs in the area. After asking the station newsagent where the nearest was, we began heading up from the station towards the north circular.

After a fruitless search for a Wetherspoons that is now a Tesco and dodging a few Irish bars which looked far from welcoming, we ended up at Charlies by the Neasden roundabout.   It was another Irish bar but distinctly lighter than the gloomier venues we had passed before it.

Inside, it’s quite a basic place but in decent enough nick.  There weren’t really any ales on offer so we went for Kronenburg.   The bar staff was friendly and the place itself was quite quiet.  We sat in the side room which was pleasant enough.  The bar’s exterior is covered in vines so I’m not sure if it’s called Charlies Place or Charlies Bar.

Given my expectations were very low for this stop,   Charlies was somewhere we could enjoy our pint without glares from the locals.  I doubt I’ll be back in Neasden in a hurry but I had no complaints with this place.

Neasden, or at least the area we passed through, sadly suffers from the fact it has the North Circular cutting right through it.  It was also a little bit of a walkway maze to get back from the pub to the station. We took a walkway that we thought was heading in the right direction but instead took us to the ‘Neasden Grange Nature Reserve’, located in the middle of the roundabout.

As you’ll see from the dusty sign at one point it apparently boasted a mallard but the pond has now dried up.  There were no crossing points from this green spot,  meaning the only way back was across the walkway.   As much as I welcome the spirit of it, it did strike me as a touch bizarre having a walkway across a busy road that merely led to a forlorn nature reserve.

(No website or Twitter for this pub)

Harrow-On-The-Hill

My journey has now reached Harrow-On-The-Hill,  the first Zone 5 Station I have encountered so far and my furthest pilgrimage North to date.

It first opened on the Metropolitan Railway on 2nd August 1880, gaining its present name on 1st August 1894.   The station building itself has a ’60s air, located in what feels like a mini-shopping arcade.   The station also boasts its own hairdressers for those who want a quick trim before jumping on the Metropolitan Line.

Just opposite the station is a shopping mall.   Its information sign still lists a number of high street stores that have all fallen by the wayside –  C&A, Woolworths and Virgin.

The Pub:  The Trinity,  378-380 Station Road, Harrow,  HA1 2DE

Being this far out,  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew there was a Wetherspoons but am trying to avoid them if possible. Fortunately by luck we stumbled on a pub called The Trinity. From the outside with its black walls, it looked fairly rock.

The inisde to me almost felt more like an American bar than an English pub.   There is some interesting art work on the ceiling which I tried to capture for the gallery. The upstairs had a gig starting at 8pm while we were there and a number of other events take place up there.

The first big plus point for this place came when I got the first round in. When the barman said it was £4 for the drinks, I assumed he only thought I was having the one but it was the price for both!  Subsequently we found out it was £2 Thursday,  with beer and other drinks £2 all night. From their promotional flyers, it seems like this offer runs most weekdays too! On  Fridays, there is even a free buffet before 9!

It also had a good mix of the classics playing downstairs, with selections from the The Jam, Bruce Springsteen and a particular favourite of mine,  ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ by Madness.  Further adding to The Trinity’s charm,  when I went up to get us a packet of nuts, the barman said they were free and filled us out a cup.   A very clever way round the old problem of leaving nuts on the bar/table and all the scare stories of hygiene that used to exist!

Given Neasden was our next stop and our initial search on googlemaps was drawing a blank, we decided to extend our stay at The Trinity and take advantage of the cheapest drinks on the crawl so far.  We even befriended a group of American students. I was quite perplexed how they’d ended up this far out of Central London but it turned out they studied round there and we’d stumbled on their regular haunt.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not sure when I’ll be back in this particular part of Zone 5 again.  But if you’re in the Harrow on the Hill area, drop in The Trinity for good value drinks and classic tunes!

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Fulham Broadway

Fulham Broadway is the closest tube station to Chelsea FC and the ‘Special One’, although I doubt Jose Mourinho is like Christian Gross and uses the tube. The station first opened on 1st March 1880 as Walham Green on the Metropolitan District Railway.  The station gained its current name in March 1952.

The station itself is very modern, located within a mall which opened in 2003 and comes complete with Pizza Express,  Sainsburys.   I last visited this station back in January 2007 when I saw Chelsea beat Wycombe 4-0 in the first leg of the League Cup Semi Finals.   Lots of Chelsea fans afterwards went to the Lloyds in the station mall where there was a rousing rendition of ‘Chelsea Dagger’, which had been a hit a few months previously.

For those less interested in glass noughties malls, the entrance building for the previous station remains.  It dates from 1905 and was designed by Harry W Ford in response to rising demand from the then new Stamford Bridge.

The Pub: The Cock Tavern,  306 North End Road, SW6 1LY

Following a number of recommendations, we set off for The Cock Tavern, a short distance from the tube station on North End Road.  There is a rather proud looking cock(no jokes about Chelsea players please..) on the roof of the building.

Upon entering, we certainly weren’t disappointed. The interior had many quirky features, a small portion of which I’ve captured in the gallery.  As well as seating in comfortable pod looking things towards the back, there are also booths closer to the front.  Each of the booths has an old style telephone on it.   They weren’t working on our visit but the barman told me the idea is you can call other tables, perhaps if you admire one of the people sitting there.  In the era of Twitter and Facebook, it seemed refreshingly old school to me.

It’s a Youngs Pub so you get a solid, strong selection of ales.  Above our table was an impressive tube style map of Youngs Pubs in London and beyond – the sort of epic undertaking I’d be keen to do if I did this thing full time and could get a documentary slot on BBC4.    I can but dream…

There is also a decent enough sized garden at the back, as well as a trusty dart board in the front room.  The food comes in the shape of little platters, almost pub grab tapas if you will.  I went for a Macaroni and Cheese and some Triple Cooked Chips. The various other options looked equally appealing.

I think, if Jose were into English pubs, he would certainly class this as ‘a special one’. But on the off chance he isn’t, I will anyway. Check it out!

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