Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Have you looked at the walls of St Leonard’s? (again)

Two years ago, I wrote the first of these articles about things to see in St Leonard’s, and that was about the garden and property walls around the neighbourhood.  This month, I would like you to look at the same walls, again, to see features that were not included first time around. 

As I wrote then, a great deal of the history of a wall can be gleaned by looking at the way it develops from ground to top.  Many local walls have foundations of one kind of material, with further layers added over time.  But this time, why not look along the length of the walls that face our streets, and you will find traces of the history of the street, and of the properties in the street. 

We can start with Magdalen Road, in the village.  Because we come to shop, most of us pay little attention to the walls of the houses that front onto the road, but there is variation along its length.  You will find, roughly, three sections.  The first, towards Fairpark, has sandstone walls; then a section of brick, and after Wonford Road, there are walls of a hard grey stone.  As each section runs in front of several properties, the sections are an indication of phases of development of the houses there.  Within each of these three parts, there are signs of change over time.  You can find a stone wall patched with brick, rearrangements to the walls as access to the house has changed, and repairs with newer materials.

Beyond the junction with St Leonards Road, the wall shows several stages of development.

Friars Walk and Lansdowne Terrace are among several local roads which show similar variety in front of the older houses along their lengths.  In front of the terrace of Colleton Crescent there is a fine example of a wall and railings which have not been significantly changed since the crescent was built.  The greensward opposite retains a fragment of a wall and ironwork in the same style, but sadly there are several parts of the railings missing.  Does anyone know whether the railing was spared being salvaged during the last war?

The walls around The Maynard School in Denmark Road, Barnfield Hill and Spicer Road give other opportunities for detective work about changes along their lengths.  In Denmark Road, there are distinct breaks in the style, one obviously for the garden on the corner of Denmark and Spicer Roads, and another further along, hardly noticeable under the trees.  Besides the modern break for the electricity substation in Barnfield Hill, there is a change from stone walls to brick part way up the hill.  And in Spicer Road, there are reminders of former gateways for the private houses which were there.

In Melbourne Place, the wall includes stones which once formed the lintel of a door.  This has been blocked; there are a few other walls with disused doorways around the neighbourhood.

While thinking about walls, there is an archway in the wall on the north side of Bull Meadow.   Presumably this is where the stream once ran, before being put into a culvert.  The first chapter of the popular history book, “The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer opens in the valley of this stream.  “Four hundred yards from the city gate, the muddy road you are following crosses a brook.”.  The author’s imaginary traveller would then have climbed along the line of Holloway Street but would not have seen the distinctive mural, created at the end of the 1970’s and recently restored. 

That slope up to the city along Holloway Street possesses another wall that shows signs of change over the last few generations.  It is the wall of the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, occupying the former premises of the Holloway Street Schools there.  Sections of the wall have been replaced over the years; does anyone have old photographs that predate the conversion to a place of worship?

(For those who may have missed any of the earlier articles, all are on the website
David Smith (Neighbourhood News, January-February 2012)