#70: Kennington – 15/10/2019

Now I know some of you will ask yourselves after looking at the tube map that ‘…hang on, Kennngton isn’t at the end of the line!… BUT then there are a few out there who know differently, and I became one only recently after reading about the Kennington Loop. You too can read about it here.

I resisted the temptation of riding the loop when I alighted at Kennington, but I’m sure it could have been an interesting ride. Anyway, that’s why I’m here; so please read on…

The Station

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the station which sits at the junction where the Charing Cross and Bank branches meet, and the building remains largely unaltered since it was opened in 1890. A Victorian building stylised in classic London red brick with a domed lift shaft.

The fate of the Kennington Loop is somewhat uncertain as work on the Northern Line Extension will see trains from Charing Cross branch being extended through Nine Elms to Battersea Power Station, and utilise some of the loop’s infrastructure. Although not due to complete until 2020, work is well advanced as evidenced in the building works in and around the Kennington Area.

Although not connected with the station, I spot these colourful artworks on the side of a neighbouring corner shop by a local artist, Sevan Szekely.

Kennington as a Community

The area is predominantly residential with local shops scattered around serving the main A3 road. It’s a leafy area with wide avenues lined with a variety of trees with large town houses now converted into multi occupation flats.

The main roads feed smaller residential streets with a mix of typical London terraces and a variety of local authority style flats probably now privately owned or managed by responsible social housing organisations. No doubt the location and immediate surroundings help shape and determine how their residents live, and this example of Calstock House, just off White Hart Street has a poignant tribute to one of its lost residents: Mary ‘Mhairi’ Veronica Mackinnon, who died in 2017.

A wall plaque lays tribute to her time as ‘…someone who gave so much time and love to the community and surrounding gardens…’ Alas, the gardens seem to have fallen into neglect as I suspect no one has picked up the trowel to continue with the green fingered care. I don’t know if this chair was hers, but its positioning directly under the wall plaque would seem to indicate it was.

Another example, this time at Read House in Clayton Street which is within catching distance of a ‘6’ being hit out of  the Oval cricket ground, demonstrates the practical needs of those living within.

Nearby the local Durning Library is a powerful example of how one person’s philanthropy has benefited the wider community. In the guise of Jemima Durning Smith, a lady of means who created a legacy of free libraries across the south of London. This one, built in a gothic style and carries a relief of her on the outside, is now being used as a multi purpose venue. The library staff were kind enough to allow me to photograph inside the building.

Kennington is somewhat defined by two large spaces, the Oval which I touch upon later, and Kennington Park, a large open space of fields, walkways, play & sport areas and formal and informal gardens. It is a busy thoroughfare for those cutting through the park, and with those enjoying the tranquility and calmness away from the main road: casual walkers, dog walkers, mothers with children, and sadly the rough sleepers.

It’s an attractive park with many items on display, and this one in particular caught my eye because of its significance today. The stone memorial, which carries a quote from Maya Angelou, an American civil rights activist and poet, and outlining the plinth is an inscription remembering those who were killed 69 years ago. I pay my respects as it now seems a forgotten memorial, albeit it in a prominent place, as there is no other acknowledgement of the day’s significance.

‘…to commemorate the wartime suffering of the people of Kennington & in particular over 50 men women and children who were killed on the 15th October 1940 when a bomb destroyed and air raid shelter near this sport. Rest in peace…’

The Kia Oval

A visit to Kennington wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the home of Surrey County Cricket, but alas I wasn’t allowed in as there are no planned tours scheduled today. Instead I circumnavigate its outer walls and gates and in true ‘visitor style’ I spent my time peering through the railings and captured this view.

Not just of the cricket ground, but also as seen in the background, a diminishing reminder of the country’s once dependence on coal gas where the manufactured gas was stored in large tanks supported by the iconic metalwork. Such architectural structures have fallen by the wayside to developers, but a few can still be seen as preserved heritage reminders.

I’m also surprised to find The Oval has its own version of the ‘Angel of the North’ as depicted here. Well, it’s my take on one of the floodlight towers that adorns this cricketing arena, but when viewed from below, it does (I think) present a vague similarity.

Extinction Rebellion

Throughout my tour of the area, I begin to feel a little paranoid as there’s a police helicopter circling overhead, And no matter where I am, the helicopter seems to be following me. It’s only as I approach Vauxhall station, later in the day I get a sense of what’s happening. The roads leading to the station are awash with police and police vehicles which have a notice inside their windscreen something along the lines of ‘…patrol no. xx for removal of arrested protestors…’

It’s only as I turn into Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens I realise what’s afoot. The Extinction Rebellion, who have over the past week or so, demonstrated across London,  have partly decamped right across the gardens.

But the police are invoking a civil order to disband the gathering of many hundreds of protestors who have clearly made the gardens their home in the past week. This is a peaceful engagement between the police and protestors, and whilst there is continuing reluctance to move, the protestors do gradually and slowly move on.

Electric Cabs

My encounter with a black cab driver earlier in the day seems to balance the Extinction Rebellion’s cause quite nicely as it brings into play the, albeit, slow growth of electric cars in response to the climate change challenge.

I see a cab pull up next to an electrical charging point so I wander up to ask the driver about his experiences with his cab. Peering inside the cab, I see how technical an electric black cab has become as there are at least four separate touchscreen displays. The cabby is quite candid about his experiences and says it would be foolish to buy one of these new cabs at a cost of £60,000. This is because their technical immaturity still cause breakdowns, and in his view, there are discrepancies too between the limited liability of aftercare and the potential cost of fixing such repairs. Such is the plight of those who chose to be early adopters of new technology products, but because of that, he has chosen to rent his cab which offers him the safeguard against maintenance and breakdown costs.

He explains a full battery charge can take up to an hour to complete, and I noted during my 10 minute conversation, the battery charge indicator has increased by about 20%. He also explains that a full charge will give him about 400 miles of driving; this is of course subject to weather and driving conditions, and is enough for about half a day’s driving. He was, however, positive about the transition and saw only opportunities for improvement in the coming years.

Picture of the Day

Today’s picture is simply taken; but it achieves ‘my picture of the day’ status as there’s an interesting back-story behind it. The artwork I’ve captured here is found at the entrance to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens just east of Vauxhall Station. The history of the Pleasure Gardens dates back to the 18th Century when they became popular with the urban middle classes as places for paid entertainment. Vauxhall also had a seedier reputation for prostitution here too.

For those who saw the recent dramatisation of Vanity Fair by William Makepiece Thackarey, you’ll be familiar with the vision of fun and frollicking within the context of a fairground – then that’s how I imagine the pleasure gardens to have been.

The picture I’ve taken shows two sculptures atop tall plinths. The sculptures recently erected in 2015 represent the coming together of Vauxhall as seen today with its historical significance. Let me explain: the artwork depicts the figures of a lady in 18th century garb being offered a flower from a young man from the present-day; and shows a representation of a silent conversation between the past and present in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

I take several shots in colour and black & white and feel this grainier image depicts the scene best, with a slight homage to the modern day with the building crane in the middle foreground and the scaffolding on the right.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 50mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Camera setting – grainy B&W

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