If you are a long time reader of this blog and are partially familiar with the lay of the land in Shepherd's Bush you will have worked out by now that my nest and perch was located in The Grampians building on Shepherd's Bush Road.
When I first moved to Shepherd's Bush I lived on Cathnor Road (oh it's all coming out now!). I loved that road because my neighbours were a real mix of young and old, families, singles and couples and aside from a few very rare and thankfully minor incidents (a local drunk of no-fixed-abode spending the night in my car being the worst to affect me) it was a safe and happy road.
However, after two years it was time to find another flat. As I'm sure every person who rents property in London has experienced, the mission trying to find a special place in Shepherd's Bush and surrounding areas at many moments seemed an impossible one. In Acton, Hammersmith, Chiswick and White City we viewed a wide range of sh*t holes (sorry Mum!) before one chance find on Gumtree saved the day.
As soon as I realised which building the flat was in I felt my heart jump a bit. I love art deco architecture and style and The Grampians is classic 1930s art deco. I think one of the reasons I like buildings from this era is because compared to other styles there is comparatively less of it in London because there wasn't the same demand for roads and roads of new homes like there had been in Victorian and Regency times, and of course economically the 1930s were a tough decade in between two wars. There is the damage caused by the Second World War. In short, apart from some lovely notable exceptions, art deco is more rare and therefore more special, at least to me and I had always stared longingly at The Grampians wanting to know what it's like inside.
Well for those of you also wondering, The Grampians is not all Poirot-esque glamour inside. It's actually very basic, or "stark Modernist", but there is still charm to be found. Not least the two lifts which are predominantly the very ones that were installed in the 1930s featuring open fronts and only a retractable "cage" door separating you from the lift shaft. I also love the "Goods" written on the floor of the Goods lift, which funnily enough was broken on Saturday when we moved out making us very unpopular with other residents in the building. Actually this is a lie. In all my two years living in The Grampians I have only once come across an unhappy or angry person. (The man in question was both. Upon seeing Mo and I press floor number 7, this middle aged man of floor number 6 turned on us demanding to know which flat we lived in. Somewhat in shock we told him and he grunted in response. I asked why he wished to know and he said that he wanted to find out who was living in the flat directly above him because they "constantly wear high heels or stilettos or heavy shoes of some sort and clomp around all day and night long keeping me up." Needless to say it wasn't us - we lived quietly and in slippers on the other side of the building.)
Some time ago I researched the building, which is Grade II listed and found out that it was designed by an architect called Maurice Ernest Webb, son of Sir Aston Webb who was a very famous architect of his time, who included the redesigning of the East Facade of Buckingham Palace and designing Admirality Arch on the Mall in his portfolio. But back to Maurice, who was hardly small fry compared to his father; he also designed the Presidential Palace in Nicosia Cyprus as well as the original Bentalls department store in Kingston-upon-Thames.
The Grampians, which was built over two years from 1935 until 1937, was built on land previously occupied by a railway line, which was part of the London and South Western Railway running alongside Shepherd's Bush Road. The timing of the building's completion is interesting as it would have been roughly the same time as the White City Estate was being built and, I suppose, in many ways confirmed Shepherd's Bush's inclusion as part of urban central London. The Grampians, I understand, was specifically intended as affordable housing for "lower middle class" families and most flats have a small balcony, like ours where I have taken numerous photos of the world going by and most often beautiful sunsets.
Not unsurprisingly it's not just me who loves the building. When I told friends I was leaving my flat, two promptly made dates to come round and say goodbye to it (nice to know my friends are as irrationally emotional as I). It is just a very special place. A few months after moving in I was proud to find out from a black cabby that The Grampians is taught in The Knowledge. Furthermore, my colleague recently told me that it is mentioned in an episode of Minder and one of my neighbours also told us that Jeremy Vine used to live in our flat.
It was unfamiliarly hard leaving this flat because I don't think I've loved any other physical property as much, apart from perhaps the house I grew up in. However, once our furniture and belongings had been removed and our voices began to echo around the empty rooms, it already felt like we had overstayed our welcome. Just as I'd seen it literally happen a hundred or more times from that balcony, the sun was now metaphorically setting on our time in The Grampians.
I will hold my hands up and admit that yes, I do get very attached to material things; clothes, books, photos, cars, etc. But although it may not be healthier, I do get much more attached to people and knowing that Mo won't be in that flat any more and instead would be having a wonderful time living in her own lovely place, helped confirm that leaving wasn't the wrong thing to do at all. I so want her to be happy in her new adventure. Furthermore, I have a lovely NewMan and the lovely world to go have a wonderful time with.
And yet, I'll never forget my time in The Grampians.