Tag Archives: teddington

Foulwell and Kingston-Upon-Railway

The suburbs are weird, aren’t they? I mean, by their very nature. Central London has long been a well-defined place. City walls, city gates, parish boundaries, main roads and the river have meant that for centuries the different places in London have been pretty clearly delineated. Granted, there’s the occasional dispute about, e.g., where the West End ends, and there are new places like Fitzrovia and Chinatown to contend with, but by and large you know where you are.

The suburbs, though, are different. You can’t really have suburbs until you have decent transport, so the area we now tend to think of as “suburbia” didn’t really exist until the 19th century. And I know I go on about the railways in London quite a lot, but the fact is that they were absolutely instrumental to the formation of Greater London.

For instance, take where I live – Colliers Wood. Where is Colliers Wood? It’s at the southern end of the Northern Line (incidentally, it’s a geographical irony that the Northern Line goes further south than any other Tube line). When was it founded? Well, basically, Colliers Wood-the-place didn’t exist until 1926, when the Tube station was opened. The area wasn’t exactly desolate and uninhabited, but this place as a whole was known as Merton. Colliers Wood was a local landmark that hadn’t existed for about fifty years when the Tube came along. Had the Underground station been named something different, I might well consider myself a resident of Merton Abbey, or Haydons Road, or Tooting-on-Tube.

The last may seem like a flight of fancy, but know this – there nearly was a suburb with an equally stupid name. When the London and Southampton Railway opened their station a little way south of the busy market town of Kingston, they planned to call it Kingston-upon-Railway. Because it sort-of served Kingston, but not quite. Good sense eventually prevailed, and it was renamed in 1869. The original Surbiton was a small village, also not-quite-served by the new station. However, the station and its railway line were very convenient for commuters, and so a town grew up around the station. The station was called Surbiton, so, inevitably, was the town around it. What if the station had been called something else? Would we even have a Surbiton today? Would we think of Kingston-upon-Railway as the main town, and Kingston-upon-Thames be relegated to the status of “Old Kingston” or some such?

I suspect a few of the suburbs, such as Hampton Wick, wouldn’t really be anything more than a theoretical concept were it not for their railway stations. Hampton Wick has little by way of a focal point other than its station. Certain other suburbs, lacking notability, were absorbed by others as the commuter towns expanded – Lonesome being a case in point, once a village in its own right and now just a part of Streatham.

And this brings me on to the strange case of Fulwell. Fulwell is one of those places that always feels as if it’s on the verge of vanishing, as I had cause to reflect when I went there for a party on Saturday. It’s quite old, its name may have derived from “foul well” (so good work on getting that renamed, I suppose). It doesn’t really have a high street to speak of – a few shops, but nothing to distinguish it from the outlying parts of Twickenham or Teddington, on whose borders it lies. Its major landmark is the bus garage, pictured above right, but that’s more of an obstacle than a focal point. There is a railway station, sure, but it’s an unmanned two-platform branch line affair in a back street. I’m not clear exactly where it begins and ends. I reckon that, were the station to be renamed, the town would cease to exist altogether, torn between Teddington and Twickenham. It’s usually at this point that a bunch of angry residents of the area post a huge rant in the comments section about how I’m wrong and stupid, so scroll down to skip straight to that.

Yet right next to Fulwell, but a short walk from the station, you have Hampton Hill – nothing but a high street really, yet nobody would dispute the validity of its existence. Damned if I understand the suburbs.



Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Geography, History, London, London Underground, Psychogeography, Suburbia, Transport

South West Pains

As you may be aware if you read this blog on a regular basis, I’m a great enthusiast for rail travel. But it can’t be denied that it’s not always perfect. I would like, if I may, to have a little rant. If I may not, then screw you and get your own blog. As you please. Anyway, after rehearsals (for the play I’m in) on Thursday, Hurricane Jack and I made our way to Teddington Station, near the rehearsal venue. It was a little after eleven, for we had stopped at a favoured hostelry for a swift pint. The indicators weren’t showing any trains, but on the other hand, they weren’t specifically not showing any trains – that is to say, no notifications that there was anything wrong. In any case, there were at least two trains due to go to Wimbledon that night and another to Kingston, both of which would suit me nicely. I’m not some greenhorn, I have a black belt in commuting.

We waited. The train didn’t come at the appointed time. Well, that’s not necessarily a problem, I mean trains sometimes do get delayed a bit. No doubt if anything was showing on the indicator, this fact would have been reflected.

Still we waited. To sate our curiosity as much as anything else, I pressed the Information button. For those of you unfamiliar with railway stations (you hoity-toity rich bastards), they typically have a little white box that allows you to link to an information centre. They go by the name “Help Points.” These points have two buttons on them – one labelled “Information” and another labelled “Emergency.” I’m not sure what the latter does, but I’m told it does cause the CCTV cameras to automatically stare at you. Anyway, I pressed the Information button, which beeped annoyingly and went unanswered. I considered pressing the Emergency button and informing the operator that the Information person had died, but decided to wait until the facts were in.

Still, there was no sign of the train. The Fat Controller would most certainly not have stood for this. There were quite a few other people on the platform by now, equally puzzled. The indicator board still carried no indications, but did suggest that if we still needed information, we should ring a number that would charge us for the privilege of finding out the information that should be displayed for free.

In desperation, I pressed the Information button again. This time, I finally did get an answer. The conversation ran thus:

YR HUMBLE CHRONICLER: “Hello, are there any trains to Wimbledon?”

WOMAN ON OTHER END: “Where are you trying to get to?”

YHC: (patiently) “Wimbledon.”

WOOE: “Well, there are a lot of delays at the moment due to the earlier fatality -”

YHC: “Fatality?”

WOOE: “- the 10.30 train is currently running 40 minutes late…”

YHC: “It’s 11.30…”

WOOE: (after a pause) “Well, the next train would most likely be the one to Shepperton – it’ll go down the line and come back.”

YHC: “The 11.45 to Shepperton?”

WOOE: “Yes.”

YHC: “Right.”

WOOE: “You might want to go to Kingston. Trains are running from there. You can get a taxi and post the receipt to South West Trains tomorrow.”

YHC: “Okay. You know, there’s no information here to say any of that – I mean, there are quite a few people waiting for the train and there’s no indication that there’s even anything wrong -”

WOOE: “I don’t deal with the indicators.” (hangs up)

Not being a taxi-using person, particularly given that Teddington to Kingston is basically walking distance, I went with Hurricane Jack’s suggestion that I just get a couple of buses. It would come to the same amount of time and considerably less hassle in the end.

And so we left, pausing only to explain the situation to our fellow passengers. South West Trains should really have been the ones to do that, what with it being their station and their train and all. I guess we’re just that much more civic-minded. Christ, when Hurricane Jack and I are the civic-minded ones in a situation, you know things have gone badly wrong.

Then we got followed by what Hurricane Jack initially thought was a headless cat. I hate Thursdays.

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Filed under Current events, London, Suburbia, Transport

Together at last

Yr. Humble Chronicler is no stranger to bizarro treats. In fact, I tend to view weird food as kind of a challenge. So when I came across this chocolate bar…

Mo's Dark Bacon Bar

I must admit that my curiosity was piqued. A chocolate bar containing bacon sounds like the kind of idea you only come up with when stoned. In theory, a great idea – chocolate = good, bacon = good, ergo chocolate + bacon = very good. In practice, this sort of equation does not necessarily work out, as I discovered for myself when trying to combine puppies with jet engines.The question is, would this be a successful combo of good things that brings great joy (like Star Wars Lego) or a terrible idea that induces vomiting (like Alien vs Predator)? At the risk of encroaching on The Hungry Sparrow’s territory, I felt it was my duty to investigate.

First, though, a little bit of background. According to sources, bacon was invented in 1610 by Sir Francis Bacon, pictured right [citation needed]. It’s a delicious and flavoursome cured meat – one of Yr. Humble Chronicler’s vegetarian friends has said it’s the only animal product that has ever made her tempted to abandon her principles. It’s spawned an entire cultural movement, Bacon Mania, devoted to the dead pig derivative in all its forms. We’ve seen the arrival of the Bacon Explosion, bacon vodka and even the bacon alarm clock among many other exciting if cardiologically inadvisable innovations. Yr. Humble Chronicler has watched with interest, partly due to the diet – when you’re calorie-counting, articles about bacon are the equivalent of hardcore pornography.

Bacon’s position in our collective culture is nothing new – after all, it’s a central part of both the Full English and Full Irish breakfasts. And what’s more satisfying on a cold early morning than a hot bacon roll (I’ll have mine with HP Sauce and a hot coffee, please). I didn’t add a question mark there, because it’s a purely rhetorical question – nothing is more satisfying.

The bacon mania concept appears to have come about in the 1990s. One popular theory has it that it’s due to the rise of the Atkins diet, a terrible idea that excludes carbohydrates but allows high-protein, fatty foods (though regular readers of this blog will recall that this idea is nothing new). Personally, I favour the idea that it has arisen for the opposite reason – as a rebellion against healthy food. Just as the rise of French haute cuisine led to the creation of the bluff, basic and patriotic Sublime Society of Beefsteaks in 18th century Britain, and just as the strait-laced chastity of Victorian England led to some truly perverted underground movements (no, you can’t have a link to those), so people’s dislike of puritanical diet movements has created a demand for gluttony on an obscene level. This, one presumes, is at least in part the origin of such concepts as the doughnut burger and the giant Jammie Dodger.

Of course, examples like the above are extreme – you have to really want to stick it to the diet faddists to go to that kind of effort. Ben Goldacre achieves much the same thing by dissing Gillian McKeith in his blog on a regular basis, which I include purely because it’s funny. Bacon, on the other hand, requires little effort. Throw it under the grill, heat it to taste, put between two slices of bread, lovely. No embellishments needed, it’s delicious enough on its own. Dieticians will shake their heads sadly at you, but really screw them because you’re eating bacon and you can’t be bothered now.

So, back to my point. The whole bacon mania thing appears to be largely a North American phenomenon, at least when it comes to some of the crazier concepts arising thereof. So when I was strolling through Teddington the other day on the way to rehearsals for the play I’m in, I was intrigued by the sight of the aforementioned chocolate bar in a shop window. I strolled in, paid really quite a lot of money and walked out with a bacon-containing chocolate bar.

So how was it? Well, not as bad as you might think. The chocolate was absolutely gorgeous – really rich, and sweet enough to take the edge of the bitterness but not enough to overwhelm it. But as for the addition of the bacon? Well, I’d give it a resounding “meh.” There isn’t really enough bacon in it to make a difference – in fact, the chocolate is so rich that you can barely even tell that it’s bacon in there. At best, at its most concentrated, the bacon adds a slight saltiness to the bar. So, my conclusion basically would be that “it’s alright, but it would be better without bacon in it.” And this is why I’m not a food critic.


Filed under Current events, Fashion and trends, Food, Suburbia

I am hardcore

It’s been a funny sort of week, comrades. My grandpa’s funeral was on Tuesday, Hurricane Jack returned to the country on Friday, work has been stressy as the Dickens and in between a lot of strange things have been happening. The plan this weekend was therefore to relax as much as possible, which hasn’t quite happened.

Friday, as I say, was marked by the return of Hurricane Jack, who has been mentioned in passing in these pages before. This was celebrated in the traditional manner, i.e. helping to take care of the nation’s alcohol surplus. During the course of this evening, I was introduced to a place in Twickenham known as the Koyote bar. I suspect I was not really the target audience for the place, which is rather noisy and features scantily-clad young ladies dancing on the bar. On the plus side, it’s open late, entry is free and alcohol is at pub prices – I think most of the people in there who weren’t actively on stag nights were taking advantage of these facts, though there were one or two who seemed to be entirely there for the femininity on display. Why they’d go there when there’s a strip club down the road I don’t know.

The night ended with a trip back to Hurricane Jack’s place in Teddington, where we talked a lot of crap, ate some food and watched Thunderbirds at four in the morning. We speculated that Gordon Tracy has so little to do that he actually purposely loses his family’s possessions so that he can “rescue” them later in front of everybody. Sad really.

I eventually got to bed at six, which I believe officially means that I was up all night (Yeah! Still got it!), and strolled into Kingston via Hampton Wick, pausing only to stick my head into the vintage shop that’s opened there. No menswear, though, so continued into Kingston. I bought a really rather delicious brownie in the market, which I will pretend I did because I needed to get rid of the hangover and because I was supporting independent traders or something, but in reality it’s because I just like eating brownies. Brownie as in interestingly-textured chocolate cake, not as in young girl scout. I mean, obviously, right?

I came across a Louis Wain print in the antique market, which I would dearly love to own but can in no way justify spending money on. If any of you have enjoyed this blog so much that you’d like to give me £90 for no reason, drop me a line.

The evening was set aside for a Boys’ Night In at Shoinan’s place out in West London. Shoinan himself describes the area as being undistinguished, but I think it has a certain J. G. Ballardesque charm, but then, as I’ve described in previous entries, my taste in urban landscapes may not be entirely normal.

As well as shooting the shit, drinking a lot of beer and getting through enough Mini Cheddars to kill lesser men, we watched a few of those movies that between us, we missed out on.

Brief review:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall = Good

Scott Pilgrim vs The World = Alright, but definitely a case of style over substance.

Black Dynamite = If you have not seen this film, I order you to go away right now and watch it.

Once again, I totally failed to get to bed at a sensible time, this time finally crashing into bed at some time after seven. I am officially hardcore. What this did mean was that my original plans for today had to be curtailed somewhat – I did have to nip into town. On the way I fed my burgeoning addiction to frozen yogurt at Yog, a small chain of whimsical frozen yogurt shops that should in no way be confused with Snog, which is a small chain of whimsical frozen yogurt shops.

The Byocup

While in Fitzrovia, I saw a product known as the Byocup on sale in one of the shops. This is essentially a response to the problem of wastage that comes about as a result of the huge number of disposable coffee cups that get thrown away every day. The idea behind the Byocup is that it’s like a disposable coffee cup, except that it’s reusable. It’s made of silicon, and so won’t burn your hands when filled with hot coffee. Whereas you would throw a disposable coffee cup away, with the Byocup you simply wash it and reuse it.

Actually, I had a similar idea myself about a year ago. Although I thought that, given that the cup was supposed to be a lifetime’s possession, I could go to town a bit more on features – not slavishly adhere to the design of the disposable cup. My version was ceramic, and had the added design features of a sturdy base and a handle. A photo of the prototype may be seen on the right.

After sticking my head into Cass Art in Berwick Street, I encountered a drug dealer who tried to sell me some hash. I didn’t actually realise he was talking to me – he just sort of ambled around in a circle that happened to intersect with my path while mumbling about “hash” and “weed.” When I didn’t react, he became upset and accused me of being rude and snobbish. This means that I achieved the unusual accolade of being one of the few people against whom a drug dealer felt able to take the moral high ground. I am a “bad ass.”

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Filed under Booze, Current events, Fitzrovia, Food, Literature, London, Psychogeography, Rambling on and on, Randomness, Soho, Suburbia, Weird shops, West End

Go West, young man

By happy coincidence, shortly after writing the last entry, I found myself heading into the Western suburbs, or the “wild west” as they are popularly known. I figured I could take some photos to illustrate the last entry, which was visually very lacking. But I also found some other items of interest.

img_0386Fans of Culture Club may recognise this boat. It was used in the video for ‘Karma Chameleon’ and is available to hire from Turk Launches of Kingston. Boy George lied to you – that video wasn’t filmed in Mississippi at all.


Teddington School. A number of Yr. Humble Chronicler’s friends went there (as children, not recently). Probably the most famous pupil of recent years was someone called Keira Knightley, to whom they have actually put up a plaque. A friend holds the distinction of having actually turned Keira Knightley down when she asked him out. To be fair, at the time the only big thing she’d done was The Phantom Menace, and it’s not like you want to be known as someone who dated a minor cast member in that. For those of you who are interested, she played Sabe. I’m not sure which one that was, but she was one of the people whose job was to look like Natalie Portman.


Teddington Studios has had so many famous comedians that they can actually use blue plaques as wall decoration. Some of the names commemorated here include Tony Hancock, Sid James, Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper and Kenny Everett.

Interesting fact about blue plaques: anyone can put one up. I thought there was some sort of law, but turns out not. If you really wanted to stand out, you could even hang one on your house. Then people could look at it and say, “Wow, I’ve never heard of them!”


The weir at Teddington Lock, limit of tide.


Fans of Monty Python may get a vague twinge of recognition at this. This is where the Fish Slapping Dance was filmed. The event is commemorated with, yes, a blue plaque. It’s just visible there in the window, having been presented to the lock keeper by Michael Palin.

Behind that is the boatyard of the Tough Bros., who were among the organisers of Operation Dynamo during the Second World War. Operation Dynamo was the occasion when, following a spectacular defeat at the Battle of Dunkirk, it became necessary to evacuate thousands of Allied troops. In a strategy believed to have been borrowed from an Ealing comedy, 0ver 700 “little ships” were pressed into service. Everything seaworthy, from tramp steamers down to fishing boats, from pleasure cruisers to private yachts, took part. The end result was not only a successful evacuation, but a perverse propaganda triumph for the Allies. The wonderfully-named Tough Brothers assembled over 100 of the final total at their wharf.

img_0401Peg Woffington Cottages. Margaret Woffington was a star of the stage in the 18th century, one of the best-known actresses of her day and apparently something of a hottie.magwof It is known that she moved to Teddington after 1744, following a celebrity split with David Garrick, but it’s not clear exactly where she was. The above cottages are one popular suggestion. In their defence, it’s no less likely than anywhere else. Let them have their fun. Also, I’m told the tea room that is now there does some excellent cakes.


Search term that brought people here:

“bald headed old men”

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Filed under 18th century, 20th Century, Arts, Film and TV, History, Kingston, London, Notable Londoners, Photos, Rambling on and on, Randomness, Suburbia, Thames, Transport