Little Venice Tour… Houses and Church

Today I went on a walking tour of “Little Venice” which is the area that runs along the Regents Canal and we can get access to it just around the corner.  Houses that look out over the canal are very, very expensive and many very wealthy/famous people live there.

Right next to the Warrington Pub (the one with the Gordon Ramsey restaurant upstairs… where I have taken visitors from the states, when they want to go to a quintessential pub) is where Ringo Starr’s son lives.  We saw where Princess Diana’s thrice divorced brother (I had no idea!) is living with wife number 4, where Joan Collins lives, a guy who owns 1/3 of the West End theater production companies’ home, where the mistress of Queen Victoria’s son Bertie lived (before he was King Edward VII,  I presume), where Paul McCartney lived in the basement flat (pre-riches I presume again), where a young Laurence Olivier would stop for his coffee before heading into the Warwick Ave tube (one of the 14 remaining green “cab stations”), where Edward Fox (actor of “Bridge Too Far” and “Ghandi” fame), and on and on.

There were stops at “blue plaques” which are the blue disks affixed to the front of a building when someone notable lived, worked, or died there.  There are hundreds of these plaques applied for to the English Heritage yearly and only about 15 to 17 accepted.  A blue plaque raises your property value significantly.  The rules are the person must have been dead 20 years or born 100 years ago, a building must exist (not necessarily the same one on the site), and there must be deemed some historical significance.

So the blue plaques in the area included:

Where Alan Turing was born and raised, which is now a hotel. He is the genius who has been called the founder of computer science worked Bletchley Park and the WWII decoding of the Enigma codes. See my post on Bletchley Park visit.  Turing committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple after being convicted of homosexuality (a crime in England at the time… same statute Oscar Wilde was hit with).  The part that I am not sure how my guide would know if it was true is… that the Apple logo with a bite out of it is a nod to Turing as a ground-breaker in computers.  I always thought that was an Adam/Eve bite out of the Apple, but “there you go”, as the Brits say.   The hotel on this site has a restaurant called Enigma.  Gotta go there.

Just around the block is the Prince Albert pub which still has the “snob screens” installed to keep the classes apart from each other.  The guide said that one must actually duck under them to get around the pub.  I plan on taking Barry there to check it out.  It is just as close as The Warrington to our house.

There was also a plaque where Caneletto lived and worked while in London (1746-1755).  How fitting that the famous painter of Venice lived in a place that would later be dubbed “Little Venice”, although quite a bit later… the Regents Canal was built in the Regency period, first section opening in 1816. The same house has a second plaque to a person named simply Tilak, said to be a popular leader in the India Independence Movement.  But interestingly, this plaque does not face outward, instead it is on a wall perpendicular to the street.  It is almost as though the owner doesn’t want it seen. You are not allowed to remove blue plaques completely but moving them is okay, apparently.

Our guide had the keys to let us into St Mary on Paddington Green Church and he said it was okay to take photos.

Sunny outside so the photo looks darker than it was

They found this baptismal in a closet while restoring in the '60's

Note the 1960's clock below the organ

This church site is where Sir James Thornhill (who painted the dome of St Peter’s)’s daughter married William Hogarth, the painter and pioneer of “sequential art”. It is also where John Donne was first an Anglican Priest, before he rose to be the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. The guide recited the famous poem by Donne below, and almost eerily the bells started tolling the hour of 12 noon. Read on to recall John Donne’s poem which has a few lines oft quoted and see why the bell ringing was so weird..

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

– John Donne

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