It is interesting what one can spot when walking leisurely along a street
CALLCOTT STREET IN Notting Hill Gate is only 76 yards long. It contains two lampposts that provide evidence of Kensington’s administrative history. Once, this street was in the Borough of Kensington, which was incorporated into the larger Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (‘RBKC’) in 1965.
Most streetlamps in RBKC, are marked with the letters R, B, K, and C, intertwined. However, one of the lampposts in Callcott Street is marked with ‘RBK’, without the ‘C’. The other lamppost in this short thoroughfare is marked with the letters ‘KV’. This stands for Kensington Vestry. In the 19th century and probably earlier, local affairs were governed by the local vestry. This was a meeting or council of parish ratepayers, which often met in the local parish church or its vestry. In the case of Kensington, there is a fine Victorian building, now a branch of the Iranian Bank Melli, which used to serve as the Kensington Vestry Hall. Before this was built (in 1852), the local vestry used to meet in a room attached to the nearby St Mary Abbots church.
In 1901, the Metropolitan Borough of Kensington was granted the status of ‘Royal Borough’ and was known as the Royal Borough of Kensington. So, the streetlamp marked with ‘RBK’ must date from between 1901 and 1965, and the one with ‘KV’ is even older.
A LARGE GOLDEN SWAN with wings outstretched towers over the small town of Buckingham, once the county town of Buckinghamshire (until the 18th century, when Aylesbury took over this role) and now home to a respected private university, with whose founding my late father was to some extent involved. The gold-coloured copper swan surmounts a clock above the roof of an elegant late 18th century building on Market Square. Built in about 1783, this is The Old Town Hall, but not the oldest that the town has known.
The Old Town Hall was built to replace an even older one constructed in 1685 at the instigation of a local Member of Parliament, Sir Ralph Verney (1613-1696), during whose life the Civil War occurred. Initially on the side of the Parliamentarians, he fell out with them and fled abroad for a few years. After King Charles II gained the Throne, Verney returned to England where he served his people and the monarch.
In 1882, the clock was added above the Old Town Hall and upon this was placed the Swan of Buckingham, the borough’s crest. The wrought iron canopy over the main entrance was added early in the 20th century. The façade of the Old Town Hall faces another building, a well-known landmark and tourist attraction in the town, The Old Gaol, built in 1748 with its façade added in 1839.
The Old Town Hall was used for municipal administration until the 1960s when the local government headquarters were established elsewhere in the town. Now, the building is home to a firm of solicitors and the large metal swan high above their offices provides a nice perch for groups of the town’s pigeons.