LONDON: Stanwell Place, Stanwell. These ornate gates are concealed in the undergrowth mere metres from the southern edge of Heathrow Airport. They once marked the entrance to Stanwell Place, a country house that was first built in the seventeenth century. During the Second World War, the house and estate played a crucial role in the Allies’ military strategy. Sir John Watson Gibson, who lived at Stanwell Place until his death in 1947, helped design the portable Mulberry Harbours that were used to drop cargo in France after the D-Day landings. And in 1944, the house hosted two crucial military meetings attended by senior US commanders including General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mediadrumimages/PaulTalling/RandomHouse

By Alex Jones

 

THE FASCINATING stories behind some of London’s most neglected buildings are revealed in a captivating new book.

The meeting place of World War Two Allied leaders where crucial plans to draw the conflict to a close were devised; the building which helped stop cholera-related deaths in the UK; and the original home of the icon of the United States’ independence, the Liberty Bell.

Do you pass any of these places on your commute to work?

LONDON: A. Cooke’s Pie & Mash shop in Shepherd’s Bush. Established in 1899, this family-owned pie shop traded from its Goldhawk Road site between 1934 and 2015. In its prime, the café was popular with Queens Park Rangers fans on their way to the nearby Loftus Road Stadium, as well as with celebrity customers including Pete Townshend of The Who and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols. It also features in Phil Daniels’ and Ray Winstone’s scenes in the 1979 film Quadrophenia. Ultimately run by the greatgrandson of founder Alfred Cooke, it was popular to the end and its closure caused a local outcry. Mediadrumimages/PaulTalling/RandomHouse

If you’ve ever spent any length of time in the UK capital, there’s every chance you’ve wandered past a site of immense historical significance and never given it a second glance – especially if that building happens to look particularly worse for wear.

Tour guide and historian Paul Talling is on a mission to educate us on London’s hidden secrets and fascinating tales secreted away in the crumbling remains of the city’s abandoned buildings.

Following on from the huge success of his first book Derelict London in 2008, Paul is now excited to release his latest book Derelict London: All New Edition this summer.

The ‘other’ side of London, the polar opposite of the gleaming skyscrapers and glitzy bars that spring to mind when we think of London, has been a source of fascination to Paul for a long time.

“Early one morning in 2003, while walking home from a nightclub, I witnessed the demolition of an old candle factory in Battersea,” he explained.

LONDON: Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The UK’s oldest manufacturing company operated on this site from 1738 to 2017. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, founded in 1570, cast some of the most famous bells in the world, including Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell and Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. After 9/11, the company made a tribute bell – the Bell of Hope – as a gift from the people of London to the city of New York. The Hughes family, who owned the foundry from 1904, recently sold the premises, citing economic pressures and the poor condition of the building. The very last tower bell to be cast there was for the Museum of London, to which the foundry has donated many artefacts. The site has been bought by a property company, although a conservation group is attempting to have the building listed to prevent it from being redeveloped. Mediadrumimages/PaulTalling/RandomHouse

“Watching such a historic building being reduced to dust made me reflect on London’s industrial past – and seeing its subsequent rebirth as a block of flats raised questions about the future.

“Perhaps, I wondered, derelict buildings can offer a unique insight into how London is changing?

“Soon, my passing interest in derelict buildings developed into a full-blown obsession. I took to wandering the streets with a camera, documenting the abandoned spots I had never noticed before. And I set up a website, derelictlondon.com, where readers could write in with their memories of neglected buildings within (and sometimes just outside) the M25. It was an unexpected hit, and in 2008 I compiled some of the most popular destinations in a book – the first edition of Derelict London.

“Since then, London has changed beyond all recognition. Formerly run-down areas have reached the height of cool, whereas once-proud buildings have fallen victim to the wrecking ball.

“It is time for a book that brings the tale of derelict London up to date.”

LONDON: Lambeth Waterworks. The Lambeth Waterworks Company, founded in 1785, originally occupied the current site of the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. It moved to Seething Wells, Surbiton, in 1852 amidst growing concern over the quality of the drinking water being taken from the Thames. Clean water from Surbiton subsequently played a major role in proving that cholera was a waterborne disease. In 1854, Dr John Snow compared families drinking water piped from Seething Wells with those using water from the Thames. He concluded that people who drank Lambeth Waterworks water did not contract cholera. From 1855, the Metropolis Water Act made it illegal to extract Thames water for domestic use. Mediadrumimages/PaulTalling/RandomHouse

In his new book, Paul takes us on a journey through an oddly familiar land of long-forgotten tube stations, burnt-out mansions and gently decaying football stadiums and exposes the secrets that are all around us, should we only take the time to look.

“This new edition features buildings from the first edition that remain derelict – the poor old Georges Diner in Silvertown, and the neglected VIP Garage in Limehouse, for example,” added the author.

“It also tells the story of a number of buildings whose fortunes have been transformed since 2008 – although spoiler alert, they have been turned into luxury flats with depressing consistency.

LONDON: Book Cover. Mediadrumimages/PaulTalling/RandomHouse

“Above all, it celebrates derelict buildings that have never been featured in print before: from a legendary pie and mash shop and celebrity haunt in Shepherd’s Bush, to a hunting lodge used by King Henry VIII.

“My hope is that each one of these buildings offers a glimpse into a side of London that has, for now, been lost to history. Together, their stories show that London’s derelict buildings deserve to be celebrated just as much as its new ones.”

 

Paul Talling’s Derelict London: All New Edition, published by Random House, is due for release on 11 July. Please preorder here.