I’m reading my first Stella Rimington novel, so it’s appropriate I should have snapped MI6’s building on Sunday. Stella, as Director General of MI5, worked across the river at Thames House.
I’m only a short way into the novel, which is entertaining and readable, and Vauxhall has had a few mentions. I wouldn’t have bought it were it not for the author, and even then, only because it was one of those ridiculously cheap Kindle book offers.
Vauxhall is a funny place. The heart of it was torn down and replaced by the huge traffic junction and accident black spot that is Vauxhall Cross. Photographs of it before redevelopment show a thriving shopping street, completely at variance with today’s multi-laned highway. In earlier times still, it was the site of one of the most famous of London’s pleasure gardens. This scruffy piece of land on the other side of the railway is part of those gardens.
In more recent years it found fame as the place from which the IRA launched a rocket attack on the MI6 building. I see that Spring Gardens now has some friends, so perhaps things are looking up. Across the street, looking like a survivor from a bomb blast in glorious isolation, is this teahouse.
Like so much that is positive in Vauxhall, it is a community venture. In the side streets, anything with colour or vibrancy seems to be run by volunteers and community groups, or groups of people promoting arts and culture; putting the heart back into the a community.
The tall blocks make interesting shapes for photos, but I am glad I don’t live there.
Yet we’re only a hop skip and a jump from the leafier part of Kennington, where a two bedroom cottage on the Duchy of Cornwall Estate will set you back more than £500,000.
One of the longest standing and most successful community ventures is the City Farm.
With its rabbits, ponies and pigs, cows, ducks and chickens, llamas, sheep and guinea pigs, the farm has introduced countless local children to animals and animal husbandry.
Close by, this stone vulture sits on a roof.
It’s on the House for Nicaragua, built between 1984 and 1981 to celebrate the revolution, and sold to support community projects in Nicaragua.
But one of my favourite stories about Vauxhall, and I heard it first on Radio 4, so it may even be true, is that a Russian delegation visited Vauxhall Station, and mistaking “Vauxhall” for the English word for a train station, the story goes, they took it back with them to Russia as vokzal, which has remained the word for railway station in Russian to this day.