From Peter Pan to Skanderbeg and some fake windows

BETWEEN LANCASTER GATE and Queensway, at the corner of Bayswater Road and Leinster Terrace, there stands number 100 Bayswater Road, which was built in 1820 and was the home of the author JM Barrie (1860-1937) from 1900 onwards. It was here close to Hyde Park that he wrote “Peter Pan” as a play in 1904 and as a novel in 1911. It is worth wandering along Leinster Terrace and its continuation Leinster Gardens.

Almost opposite Barrie’s home but a little north of it is number 74 Leinster Terrace. It was here that the American author Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902) lived and died. He had settled in London in 1885. Northwest of this house and on the south corner of the Terrace and a passageway called Craven Hill Gardens, there is a Greek restaurant that has long intrigued me. It is called Mykonos and has the Swedish words “Kalle på Spången” written on it in several prominent places. This is the name of a well-known Swedish film made in 1939, in which a character called Kalle owns and runs a pub. Formerly called Zorba’s, it was closed in 2017 because of hygiene problems. Now (2022) called Mykonos, it looks as if it is no longer in business. It also bears a sign with the name of a Swedish County, Skåne, in which the inn that figures in the film was located. Unless it was to attract Swedish tourists, I am not clear why this Greek restaurant associated itself with a Swedish film. North of the restaurant, Leinster Terrace becomes Leinster Gardens.

Real windows on the left and fake windows on the right

Much of the west side of Leinster Gardens is lined by Victorian terraced housing with neo-classical features.  Close examination of numbers 23 and 24 reveals that unlike their neighbours on either side, the windows do not have glass panes. Where the windowpanes should be, there are painted blanks. These two houses in the terrace were demolished when the subterranean London Underground lines were being built in the 1860s. The façades of numbers 23 and 24 have no building behind them. They hide a ventilation shaft that provides air to a section of the Circle and District lines running between Bayswater and Paddington stations. By walking along Craven Hill Gardens west to Porchester Terrace, which runs parallel to Leinster Gardens, you can see the featureless rear of the fake façade and beneath it you can just about see the tracks of the railway.

Moving north along Porchester Terrace, you can see number 30, which is adorned with a sculpted lion and some lion heads. It was here that the family of the author Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) moved from Hampstead in 1830, when he was six years old. Collins’s father, William Collins (1788-1847) was a painter, whose paintings at one time exceeded those of John Constable in value. Another artist, John Linell (1792-1882), a friend of William, lived a few doors north of this at number 36 from 1830 until 1851. Many years later, this house was occupied by the photographer Camille Silvy (1834-1910) between 1859 until 1868.

Not far away from Porchester Terrace and close to Queensway, a sculpted bust of a man in a distinctive helmet stands on a plinth at the corner of Inverness Terrace and Porchester Gardens. This depicts Albania’s most highly regarded hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (1405-1468), who defended his native Albanian territory from the invading Ottoman armies for a few years.

Between Peter Pan’s birthplace and the monument to Albania’s national hero is a few feet more than one third of a mile on foot. Yet in this short distance, there is much to see. This is what makes London such a fascinating place in which to live.

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