Wednesday, 7 September 2011

That's my home...

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.


  1. my friend (a plane spotter) lived there for two years. With binoculars ever ready at the window, tick list and pen, and radar for tracking planes.

  2. I've always wanted to live there... not too sure how compatible living in that flat with a kid would be though! And is the balcony big enough to stand out on, and hang your washing or put some plants?

    Show us pics of the inside!

  3. You're always welcome for a visit back Bird when you're missing it.

    Albeit the view is not quite as impressive from the fourth floor...

    Lovely post!

  4. Lovely comments thank you fellas...

    Wildman - it is indeed the perfect flat for trainspotting... should have got involved as I have the perfect pink cagoule too!

    Mr Twitty - don't actually have that many photos of the inside of the flat (and probably most aren't fit for sharing in public). It is a lovely building though and lots of young families live there...

    Jim - ah I may well take you up on your kind offer. Am a bit sad I didn't bump into you and the Missus more often

    Bird x

  5. I think there was more building in the 1930s in north London. There are loads of blocks from that era in St John's Wood and thereabouts. My father used to say that he could remember that area being fields when he first came to London in the '30s. All ancient history now though.

    Thanks for the info about the architect. His father, Sir Aston Webb, is closely linked to my workplace, so that is really interesting.

    1. I think you're right about more 1930s builds in north London, and actually there are a fair few down near Clapham, they just sadly aren't as grand as my beloved Grampians!

  6. Ah, what a lovely post. I get attached to buildings, photos and places too, but not clothes :) So I think I know how you feel about leaving what is a wonderful building. The station used to be on the opposite side of the road to you, and there are some good pics here if you scroll down.

    The very best of luck in your new adventures. It's fantastic to have known you even though it has been a short time. Hopefully we will hear from you on your travels.


    1. Ah Stuie, I never replied. Very naughty! It's lovely to look back at this blog and re-find all the lovely things you said and the links to more info you shared, Thank you! x

  7. hiya B. thanks so much for your illuminating blog. i live inWaterloo but have always liked Shep Bush and am seriously considering a move, i really love The Grampians. the idea of living in an Art Deco block really appeals as well despite the unexceptional interior. was over st friends in Goldhawk Rd last night and stopped to look at the exterior. so lovely.
    hopefully. thanks again B. hope you are well and happy in your new home. Jez

    1. Hi Jez, thanks for your comment and glad you found the blog. It's a wonderful building and I think will always be one of my most favourite flats that I lived in. Perfect as the young bachelorette that I was! Let me know if you do make it in there. I'd love to know the building is still as friendly as I remember,

      Keep up with my travels at

      Birdie x

  8. Just found your blog, slightly late it appears!

    I lived in The Grampian for about 2 years in the early 90s.

    Loved the building, the shit plumbing, the noise & dirt, but best of all the location.

    You could get a tube to anywhere, a kebab & a drink 24/7 (you always need a drink to have a kebab), and that lovely green space in slightly off centre - London!!!

    All the very best to you

    Gert xxx

    1. Hi Gert! And thank you for finding my blog, albeit yes a little late, sadly.

      It's great to hear that someone else loved living in the Gramps as much as me - crappy plumbing aside! The location was perfect in so many ways. It sounds like you have fond memories of the Bush like many do.

      Thank you for commenting! x

  9. Lived on Shepherds Bush Road from 1945-1950 and my bedroom window faced the Grampians. Had many friends in the Grampians and longed to live there. Us children flashed torches and signalled one another. Happy Days!