Thursday, 11 March 2010

Greenwich Tea Time

Watch out if you're ever in a car with me and you haven't been driven across Blackheath before. The chances are I will suddenly hang a right (or left) at the roundabout and head through the gates of Greenwich Park. At the end of the long tree-lined drive is one of the best views in London, down across the park to the Queen's House, Greenwich Hospital, the Isle of Dogs and that glorious sweeping bend of the Thames. To one side is the Royal Observatory with its one o'clock timeball, and everywhere else two thousand backpackers not looking at anything much at all unless it's each other. I was down here on Monday, and after dodging a traffic warden hiding amongst the trees I spotted this little tea pavilion and thought "I really like this". The shape, the use of render and red brick, the judicious lettering and of course that lovely little dovecote perched on top. I don't think much to the injudicious planters, but I could happily spend an hour or two in here, hands round a warming mug of Bovril waiting for the timeball to drop.

10 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

What a little gem. And I'm ashamed to say I don't remember it. Perhaps I was too concerned that my then small son and his mates were terrorizing the squirrels to notice, though why I should be concerned about the squirrels is beyond me, frankly.

Quick, pass the Bovril, or Johnston's Fluid Beef as it was once known.

Jane said...

I believe the tea house was designed by a Mr Goodwin when he was the borough surveyor. I used to know his son.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Jane. It's so good to know these things, because generally we don't know who designed these delightful, almost incidental, buildings.

DC said...

The planters look as though they have been put there to deter either ram-raiders or gung-ho council lawnmowing operatives.

Apropos the Fluid Beef, there used to be a competitor to Bovril called Ex Ox, which I always thought rather poignant! I used to (curse that 'used to'!) possess one of their old advertising mugs which was adorned with a very solemn (as well it might be!) bovine face.

Jon Dudley said...

V. nice pavilion Mr.A. Ain't it lovely up on Blackheath? Your description of the view of the bend in the Thames takes me back to when my dad used to stop up there after having made the passage through Blackwall Tunnel en route to Kent (blogs passim).

Another a propos re. Bovril. Remember the BSE business when Bovril turned vegetarian until it all blew over? (!) I could detect no discernable difference in the taste - presumably due to the four trillion grammes of salt used in the manufacture of each small jar. I see now that the legend 'BEEF' appears on the label... as indeed it should.

Peter Ashley said...

I love Greenwich for all kinds of reasons. I once went to hear a Dixieland jazz band at a riverside pub in a cobbled back street near the power station, and I would always request Slow Boat to China because the concave-chested singer would cock his thumb over his shoulder at the Isle of Dogs when he came to the line "...far away shore".

Anonymous said...

"concave-chested"? Sounds most unhealthy. More Bovril for him!

Hels said...

The trouble with tea pavilions is that the owners don't know if they are to be permanent fixtures or not. Sometimes they seem to be built quite quickly and cheaply, perhaps with a view to serving a summer time population for a just a couple of years.

All the pavilions that I have photos of, admittedly in Australia and not Britain, were built in the 1925-39 era. They were either modernised and saved for other purposes, or they look pretty dismal now.

Peter Ashley said...

That's a very astute observation Hels. And for an exquisite description of just such a summer months only cafe, read The Lighthouse, a short story by H.E. Bates.

Eigon said...

When I read this last week, I had no idea that I would be visiting this building over the weekend! You're right about the amazing view - and the Observatory was brilliant fun, especially the performance by the Lady who Sold the Time to London, Miss Ruth Bonville (from 1908).