Opened in 1855, Dorking Cemetery now has somewhere for everyone: it’s multi-faith. Despite its location on the busy Reigate Road, upon entering through the archway of the lodge an air of tranquillity prevails. A sculpture park for the dead has the rolling Surrey Hills as a backdrop. The pretty flint faced (red roofed) lodge, the (gable ended) Anglican chapel and the (high hipped) nonconformist chapel were all completed the following year. The builder was Cubitt and Sons; the architect, Henry Clutton (1819 to 1893). The same year the cemetery opened, Henry Clutton along with William Burges won a competition to design Lille Cathedral. But after much brouhaha and not a little anti-English sentiment, the executed scheme was built to the design of local architect Charles Leroy, despite him only coming third place.
Company founder Thomas Cubitt (1788 to 1855) was a highly successful housebuilder and developer, best known for developing Belgravia and Lower Belgravia (Pimlico). Stuccoed neoclassical terraces are synonymous with his surname. There’s a statue to Thomas Cubitt in the centre of Dorking: “A great builder and a good man.” He lived just outside the town. Thomas Cubitt has the double honour of having a gastropub named after him on Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, and being the great great great grandfather of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Cubitt and Sons continued as a building company for several decades after his demise.
It’s as if the word ‘enclave’ had been invented just for Crescent Grove. So near the madding crowd yet a world away from it all. The pairs of houses marking the entrance to this exclusive residential area may be visible from the Bedlamic High Street but the only nightlife you’ll find in Crescent Grove is the odd owl in the trees. Today, as the Wolf Moon waits for twilight, the winter sun casts long shadows darkening leafy foregrounds and sharpening stuccoed corners.
Clapham street names like to state the obvious: Long Road, bisecting the Common, isn’t short; The Pavement is pedestrian friendly; The Polygon is an irregular five sided block; and Crescent Grove – guess what? – is a curved terrace opposite a group of trees. Although the latter also has a straight row of attached houses on the opposite side of the miniature woods. The enclave radiates old money: gentlemen here are more likely to drive their convertible than board the omnibus. Crescent Grove is a reminder of Clapham’s historic origins: sects in the city began in SW4.
The author continues, “Crescent Grove, comprising an elegant curved terrace on one side and semidetached houses linked by coach houses on the other was laid out in 1824 by Francis Child. The entrance to the estate was through ornamental gates flanking the two larger houses facing South Side. Child was concerned to keep his estate exclusive and all but four of the houses were conveyed to other members of his family.”
The day ain’t over yet. Like social moths fluttering below a dusty light, we’re off to Belgrave Square as guests of the Italian Embassy. To quote Lady Colefax, “We’ve of course slipped back into the ballet, opera, dining whirl which is very pleasant.” Seven-o-clock shadow. The Italians aren’t the only overseas residents to occupy Cubitt’s hallowed 1820s quadrilateral, a paean to pillared neoclassicism. International neighbours include Alderney bankers (Barclay bros), oligarchs (Oleg Deripaska), Qatari royals (Sheikh Jassim) and Dubai head honchos (Sheikh Mohammed). Having the coffers to cough up £60 million over a coffee (cold milk, coloured sugar crystals thanks) on a coffered terraced house is their one thing in common. Quick! Time to absquatulate. Dring dring, dring dring. What would Jacqueline Duncan think? Mrs Duncan to you. “I’m interested in taste,” says the founder of Inchbald. “My school is about philosophy.” At day’s end, before we close the wooden shutters on our stream of consciousness, we reflect on the ostensible realism and symbolist deployment of our structural patchwork. Thank goodness there’s only one shade of Grey Gardens. We twirl.
First things first. Clapham Junction is not in Clapham. Never was, never will be. When the railway station was first built in Battersea, the Victorians had the bright idea of calling it after Clapham which is 1.5 miles away. The former was a no go zone; the latter as respectable as could be expected south of the river. How things change! Local campaigns regularly erupt proudly claiming back Battersea to where it belongs. Take note Clapham Cluttons on Northcote Road. Never mind all that. At least agents agree the best real estate in SW11 is “Between the Commons”. It’s a heated up toast rack of roads lined with handsome houses cushioned betwixt Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common. For Wandsworth read Battersea. So no matter what side you’re on you’re a winner. As for the Clapham Omnibus it’s long been replaced by the South Chelsea Tractor. This is after all Yummy Mummy Nappy Valley Uppity Middle Class central. Upmarket has gone downstream.
Aside from Battersea Rise the other boundaries of this low rise swathe of bedknobs and broomsticks land are Clapham Common West Side to the east, Bolingbroke Grove to the west and Nightingale Lane to the south. Social distractions aren’t new. William Wilberforce lamented in 1791, “I find that I must as little as is really right ask people to Battersea Rise to stay all night as it robs and impoverishes the next morning… in this way I love my time, and find indeed that less is done at Battersea Rise than elsewhere.” The competition’s stiff, but really, for boys who brunch there’s nowhere quite like Sinabro at 28 Battersea Rise. It’s a reality. It’s a dream. It’s a paradox. Welcome to Parisian Battersea. Francophile Marianne Faithfull’s As Tears Go By aptly plays softly in the background. Do turbot and merlot rhyme? Halibut and Malibu? In Paree do you drop the t? What about Moët? Hard or soft t? But soon life’s perpetual worries and other first world concerns subside and fade away.
“We moved to Battersea three years ago,” relate Yoann Chevert and Sujin Lee, the owners of Sinabro. “We fell in love at first sight with this area because of its urban and suburban mix. We didn’t so much choose Battersea Rise for our restaurant as it chose us. We’ve been looking for premises for four years in London and had several abortive cases.” Sinabro is Korean for “slowly but surely without noticing”. Manager Sujin, originally from Seoul, explains, “This pure Korean word resembles us. We work hard as ants or bees collecting their foods by instinct!” There are just 29 covers in the sparely decorated restaurant: 16 at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, eight in a private space to the rear and the remaining at small tables overlooking Battersea Rise. “We have two, three and six course menus,” says Chef Yoann, originally from Loir-et-Cher. “Eventually it would be good to keep only the six course tasting menu. Our customers say each of our ingredients in a dish have strong intense flavours yet are delicate.” The Michelin Guide says, “Confidently prepared dishes that rely largely on classic French flavours but are modern in style.”
The Connaught. One of London’s oldest hotels, it’s the perfect pit stop for a sybaritic Bolly or four before full steam ahead to the soft opening of London’s newest hotel. The Beaumont. Fedoras at the ready. Restaurant royalty Jeremy King’s and Chris Corbin’s first hotel, the Art Deco styled Colony Grill Room is painted with Twenties American sporting activities. The adjacent Cub Room continues the theme but with a fine line in American whiskeys stops hospitably short of Prohibition. A HemingwayDaiquiri (£11.75) of Maraschino, rum, grapefruit and lime juice hits the spot. Across the bar sit modern writers Dylan Jones and Caitlin Moran. Overlooking the discreet oasis of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair, but just a Celebrations Cracker’s throw from Selfridges, The Beaumont possesses that frequently sought yet rarely achieved blend of intimacy and grandeur. The 73 bedrooms and suites range from £395 to upwards of £2,250. Breakfast is included.