Category Archives: history

Beefeater Gin Distillery

Kennington is the Home of Gin – Burnett’s White Satin gin was made in West Kennington from 1750 onwards, and London’s last surviving gin distillery, Beefeater, has been located on Montford Place since 1958 when it left Chelsea in a bid to move upmarket.

Beefeater Gin Distillery -

As part of their ongoing commitment to Kennington, Beefeater recently opened a visitors’ centre, so naturally we went along for a tour.

The museum part of the tour has plenty about the dark history of gin in London, when it was known as mother’s ruin.

Here are some different eras of Beefeater bottles:

Beefeater bottles through the years -

Only four people know the recipe for the Beefeater blend  – the master brewer Desmond and his three stillmen, Keith, Maxim and Leeroy. They all have to have their noses insured and under no circumstances are they allowed to visit Walworth. The visitors centre are happy to tell you the flavourings anyway, and let you sniff them: Seville orange peel, lemon peel, bitter almond, liquorice, orris root, angelica seed, angelica root, coriander, and of course juniper:

Beefeater gin distillery flavourings -

Then you step through into the distillery itself:

Beefeater gin stills -

Beefeater are aiming to make 36 million bottles this year, all of it distilled here, although then they transport the highly alcoholic distilled liquid to Scotland to mix it with water there.

Naturally the tour begins and ends in the gift shop, which plays heavily on the patriotism:

Beefeater patriotic gift shop -

They have a new brew called London Garden which is inspired by the flower garden in Kennington Park, and is only available from the distillery.

The visitors centre is open every day except Christmas Day, and costs £12 for adults, £10.80 for concessions, and is free for under 18s, although they miss out on the free gin and tonic at the end. From mother’s ruin to kid’s day out.

The Imperial War Museum finally re-opens today after a £40 million refit

It now features a transformed atrium space and new World War One galleries, which are trailed in this film by Aardman, the company behind Wallace & Grommit:

The current exhibition is Truth and Memory; British Art of World War One, and they’re selling a limited edition Bob & Roberta Smith print commemorating the lost artists of World War One, so they are really trying to make up for lost time with the WW1 commemorations.

The museum is open 10am to 6pm with last admission at 5.30pm. Welcome back ILM. We will be visiting soon and will report back from the recreated trenches on the new look cafe and the rest.

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners – the only place to watch the World Cup Final

If you’re going to be in London rather than Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, there’s only one place to watch the World Cup Final – London’s premier German gastropub, Zeitgeist in North West Kennington.

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners -


Zeitgeist is located at The Jolly Gardeners pub on Black Prince Road, which has 120 years of history as a pub. In common with every Kennington pub of a certain age, Charlie Chaplin’s dad used to drink there, and scenes from the films Snatch and The Calcium Kid were shot there. Since Zeitgeist moved in, the colour theme is black, inside and out – not so jolly anymore. But the schnitzel, schweinebraten, leberkaes, and German beers like Weihenstephaner and Krombacher will soon cheer you up.

They will be showing the World Cup Final on their 4 x 3 metre screen and their 60″ TV. Pay £10 in advance and you will get guaranteed entry, a shot of Vodka Brause and a Currywurst/Bratwurst roll. More info from their black website.


Cycle the Greater Kennington alphabet

Join Kennington cycle warrior Charlie Holland (the force behind the Kennington People on Bikes blog) on an Alphabetical Adventure in the Greater Kennington area this Sunday 27 April. Taking in the districts formally known as Vauxhall and Waterloo, Charlie has planned a route with 26 stops of historical, cultural, scientific, or other significance across his patch, all traversed in alphabetical order. These look set to include the grand entrance to Necropolis, and the well-hidden North-West Kennington William Blake mosaics.

Blake tile

We note that the letter X has been left with apologies, presumably for lack of inspiration. In light of this, Kennington Runoff would like to suggest a couple of possibilities in X for Xanax at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and X for Edward Cross, the man who brought giraffes and tigers to Kennington Park Road.

Book a free place on the ride at Cycle Confident and then meet at 10am on Sunday for a quick bike check before departing by 10.15am, to finish by 1.30pm. The ride starts on the segregated cycle track by Lassco, 30 Wandsworth Rd, SW8 2LG. Would recommend eating breakfast first before embarking on the ‘dozen or so’ miles, but not at Brunswick House or you’ll miss the ride.


Fashion & Gardens at the Garden Museum?

No, us neither, but it’s worth going to visit the Garden Museum while the Fashion & Gardens exhibition is on (until April 27th) to see floral artist Rebecca Louise Law’s installation called ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’. She has hung over 4,600 flowers from the roof of the museum (a former church), and it’s quite something.

The Flower Garden Display'd by Rebecca Louise Law at The Garden Museum -

Join Rebecca Louise Law under ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ for a discussion with photographer Rachel Warne about The Beauty of Decay, dying flowers and the afterlife of gardens, on Tuesday at 6.30pm (tickets £10).

The museum is open every day and admission costs £7.50 for adults, but it’s free if you just want to go to the cafe, which is good and vegetarian, and you’ll walk under ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ on your way through.

On your way out, you can check out The Garden Museum’s expansion plans, which involve re-creating part of Tradescant’s Ark. Tradescant’s Ark was Britain’s first museum open to the public, started by John Tradescant and his son John Junior, who are buried in what is now the garden of the Garden Museum. The original Tradescant’s Ark was in North West Kennington and featured a stuffed dodo, drums from Africa, weapons from Java, and a series of complaints from Walworth.

Lambeth Walk

Lambeth Walk was immortalised in a music hall song from 1937. When the song was written, 159 shops lined the street and catered for every need, including eleven butchers, two eel and pie shops (one with a tank of live eels outside), a bird dealer and a tripe dresser. To read about the history of the street, go here or to this site which has some great old photos and maps, dating back to a time when it was surrounded by fields.

While the street declined in the second half of the last century, it’s on its way up again, along with the rest of North West Kennington, with lots of cool, creative businesses opening up nearby such as architects, a violin maker, a poetry school, pop up bars, and of course Damien Hirst’s new gallery coming soon.

Here’s the former Pelham Mission Hall, now the Henry Moore Sculpture Studio which is part of Morley (adult education) College:

The Pelham Mission Hall, Henry Moore Sculpture Studio -

On the left of the photo, on the first floor, you can see the outdoor pulpit, once used to offer two-for-one perfumes to the market-goers below in exchange for their attendance at church.

(Incidentally, there’s a Henry Moore sculpture on display close to Kennington, in the middle of the Brandon Estate.)

Lambeth Walk’s other great surviving building is the former Lambeth Baths, which since 1971 has been the Lambeth Walk Group Practice award winning GP surgery (who knew that there were awards for GP surgeries?):

Lambeth Walk Group Practice -

Winter Screen

The spirit of the pleasure gardens is seeping back into West Kennington, if not quite reaching the decadent heights of its prime when Duchesses (including Georgiana of Keira Knightley fame), Princes and other notables – including Samuel Johnson, Handel and Dickens – would flounce around what is now Spring Gardens in hot air balloon races, watch cats dropping by parachute, and marvel at the Lilliputian King in the human zoo.

Spring Gardens was also the setting for a series of summer film screenings earlier this year, such a success that they are being reprised this week in the arches of Vauxhall station with a festive Christmas theme. Complementing the Winter Screen series is a Christmas market dishing up mulled wine or cider to raise your body temperature before you sit down, and blankets to keep you from going numb while you watch the film. We are hoping that local author Will Self will honour the spirit of Dickens and Thackeray and the original pleasure gardens and settle in to watch Elf with a mega bucket of popcorn.

Full programme:

December 2013

  • Thursday 12th – Miracle on 34th street (7pm)
  • Friday 13th – Elf (7pm)
  • Saturday 14th – A Muppets Christmas Carol (2pm) Scrooged (7pm)
  • Sunday 15th – Home Alone 1 (2pm) Home Alone 2 (7pm)







Ticket proceeds are going to  ‘Thames Reach’, a charity who operate a local homeless shelter.


Arch 50

South Lambeth Place opposite Starbucks

London SW8 1SP

Kennington Park

It’s a beautiful day so, on your way to the Pullens Yards open day, why not take a walk through Kennington Park?

This is is Lambeth’s oldest park, having been established in 1854, and was previously Kennington Common where up to 300,000 chartists rallied in 1848, as well as being the site of many other protests. Nowadays it plays occasional host to fairs and London’s version of Oktoberfest, but the rest of the time there’s plenty to look out for:

There are football and hockey astroturf pitches. Bob Marley used to play football in Kennington Park while recording the Exodus album and staying at the Rastafari temple on St Agnes Place (a long-standing squatted street alongside the park that was needlessly demolished in 2007).

Oh, and Kennington Common was the place where football began – the Gymnastic Society played regularly on Kennington Common during the late 18th century.

There are also tennis, netball and basketball courts, outdoor gym facilities, a community cricket area, a skate bowl, and these outdoor table tennis tables which are a recent arrival:

Kennington Park table tennis -

Delicious local honey from Bee Urban is harvested in the grounds of the Keeper’s Lodge, although, controversially, they are due to be relocated within the park as a consequence of the Northern Line extension. You can purchase the honey from the cafe in the middle of the park, as well as at local fetes, and it really does taste great.

Prince Consort’s Lodge was originally built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 as an example of a “model dwelling” and was re-erected in the model location – Kennington – from 1852-3. It was sponsored by Prince Albert, hence the name:

Prince Consort Lodge, Kennington Park -

Look out for these trees with weird triangular-shaped trunks (technical term), and there’s also a nature trail through the park (look for the silver signs):

Kennington Park triangular tree -

Generally the park looks lovely at this time of year, although the English Flower Garden doesn’t really come into its own until spring:

Kennington Park in Autumn -

So how did Kennington Park become so desirable and have so much going for it? Remember the Friends of Durning Library? Well, there’s another mysterious Kennington organisation that are equally feared and equally powerful – The Friends of Kennington Park – and they have a very informative website here. There’s also an exhaustive and exhausting Kennington Park Wikipedia entry.

Kennigton Park paths -

Pullens Yards

In the early 20th century, East Kennington’s magnificent Pullens Estate, AKA the Pullens Buildings, comprised almost 700 properties and stretched all the way to Manor Place. In the seventies the surviving buildings were threatened with demolition. Residents and squatters fought back (Kennington owes a lot to the preservation efforts of squatters) and thank goodness they did – these are some of London’s last surviving Victorian tenement buildings, and their workshops host a thriving community of creative people, as well as providing film sets for the likes of The King’s Speech (in the scene where the king goes to visit the speech therapist for the first time).

Twice a year they host an open day and their Christmas event is coming up next weekend. It’s the ideal opportunity to look around these unique spaces and pick up unusual Christmas presents. How about some Alex Monroe jewellery for a fraction of the Liberty’s price, or some pottery moulded from vegetables, or a handmade loot, or some architect-designed furniture, or a print of all the regions of the shipping forecast? It’s all here, in the most amazing and rather Christmas-y setting.

Pullens Yard open studios flier

More info here.

Pullens Yard, with workshops along both sides:

Iliffe Yard, Pullens Estate -

An installation of umbrellas from a previous open day, an idea that later made it to Carnaby Street:

Pullens Yard open day -

Naomi Campbell used to live in Iliffe St, below, and, wait for it, the young Charlie Chaplin lived in one of the Pullens Buildings for a while:

Pullens Estate houses, Iliffe Street -

The loot making workshop, who supply all Kanye West’s loot needs:

Loot making tools -

Loots -

Loot making ingredients -

Wood for loot making -