I did a tour in Golders Green this week, courtesy of London Transport Museum (www.ltmuseum.org) and it was even more fascinating than I expected (thanks to the excellent guide, Mark King). Here are some highlights of the walk, which concentrated on places of worship – and food (a subject for another day):
1. Golders Green was the first suburb to owe its existence to the coming of the Tube. The Hampstead Tube opened in 1907, when the area was mostly green fields. Much of it was owned by the church and ongoing control by the church commissioners means the area has relatively few pubs.
2. The Golders Green Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a 3,000-seat music hall before being taken over by the BBC as a TV studio and convert hall. In the 1970s, acts such as Queen (their first live public recording) and AC/DC appeared there. A Grade II Listed building, the BBC moved out in 2003 and it is now a vibrant Christian prayer hall, after El Shaddai International Christian Centre bought it for £5million in 2007.
3. St. Alban’s Church was 100 years old last year and South Africa’s Desmond Tutu came to preach, as he was curate at the church in the 1960s. (The Nobel Prize-winner recounted how he would ask a policeman in Golders Green for directions just to hear the bobby call him: ‘Sir’.) The architect of the church was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed the red telephone kiosk, and Bankside and Battersea power stations. It has an outside pulpit to allow the vicar to preach to overflow crowds.
4. Originally a Presbyterian Church, the Shree Swaminarayan Temple is now attended by Hindus from all over north London. Inspired by spiritual leader Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa’s liking for bagpipe music, which he heard on a visit to London in 1970, a band was formed soon after by worshippers here. The Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band now has 50 members who dress in full Highland regalia, and play regularly – with a full repertoire of Scottish and Indian tunes – at the temple and at charity events. They are a marching band with 24 pipers and 12 drummers. You can sing along to them here: