The fenland town of King’s Lynn has a long history, and unsurprisingly a few dark tales have been remembered and passed on through generations of townspeople over the years. Once a thriving port and a member of the prestigious medieval Hanseatic League, King’s Lynn (known as Lynn to locals) retains many of its historic buildings. One such building, an unassuming 17th Century cottage huddled close to the churchyard of St Nicholas’ chapel, is known as the “Exorcist’s house.”
The period between the two World Wars was one of massive expansion for London. The city’s population grew and grew, peaking at 8.6 million in 1939 (a total not surpassed until very recently), and new housing was built at a rate never seen before to accommodate this growth. These new homes, council houses and private houses alike, contained modern facilities such as indoor toilets, making them attractive to those living in older, less well-equipped homes. But a new housing development in East Sheen, in south west London, had yet another desirable feature for potential buyers: as the fear of war grew in the 1930s, St Leonard’s Court came with its own purpose-built air raid shelter.
On a hillside overlooking Windermere is a spectacular house. That in itself is not surprising, as in the 19th and early 20th Centuries wealthy business owners from the north west of England flocked to the Lake District and built comfortable homes for their families – retreats from the noise, soot and pollution of the industrial cities. But Blackwell, the house we’re exploring today, is quite remarkable – within its Grade I listed walls is an exceptionally-preserved Arts and Crafts interior.
Among the smart suburban homes of Twickenham is a very strange house. Gleaming white walls, battlements, Gothic pinnacles and a round tower stand out against more restrained neighbours. Strawberry Hill House, home of the eccentric man of letters Horace Walpole during the second half of the 18th Century, is arguably the birthplace not only of the Gothic revival, but also of the Gothic novel. I visited Strawberry Hill on a very gloomy Saturday afternoon, which didn’t really do the house’s bright white walls justice, but the house had only reopened a few weeks earlier after an extensive restoration and despite the grey weather the house was clean and jewel-bright – and quite possibly one of the oddest homes I’ve ever visited.
I first came across this beautiful street while a tube strike was in progress – disruption to my usual route to work meant that I had travelled on a National Rail service into Waterloo, and had then covered the rest of my journey to work on foot. Turning off the busy Waterloo Road into a maze of residential streets, following the people heading in the direction of the City, I found myself on Roupell Street and felt as though I had stepped back in time.
It’s quite easy to get lost in the maze of highwalks in London’s Barbican Estate, and to some it may be disorientating to discover a medieval church in the middle of the Barbican’s brutalist sprawl. St Giles without Cripplegate is a rare survivor of the Great Fire – even if it didn’t fare too well during the Blitz – and its name is one of the last remaining references to this ancient corner of the Square Mile.