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Route 19

No. 19 Route

Battersea Bridge South Side – Beaufort Street – Chelsea – King’s Road – Sloane Square Station – Sloane Street – Knightsbridge – Hyde Park Corner Station – Piccadilly – Green Park Station – Piccadilly – Piccadilly Circus Station – Shaftesbury Avenue – Charing Cross Road – Tottenham Court Road Station – New Oxford Street – Bloomsbury Way – Vernon Place (for Holborn Station) – Theobald’s Road – Clerkenwell Road – Rosebery Avenue – St. John Street – Angel Station – Islington High Street – Upper Street – Highbury & Islington Station – St. Paul’s Road – Highbury Grove – Highbury Park – Blackstock Road – Rock Street – St. Thomas’s Road – Finsbury Park Station Station Place

I always feel that where a route travels between north and south the narrative should lead the same way. However being myself south London born and bred, on this occasion I am going to describe the journey Olive used to work from south to north instead.

Many Routemasters have run on several different routes around London in their years and Olive is no different. She started out in service on route numbers 5 and 249 operating out of West Ham. After spending brief spells in Camberwell, Croydon, Hornchurch, Poplar and Leyton she finally ended up in Battersea from 1993 and started work on her last route the 19.

As far as I am aware in Olive’s time on the 19 she would not have gone further than the south side of Battersea Bridge. However, I believe that long ago, this route did extend down to Tooting Bec Station and on Sundays onwards to Tooting and Streatham Garage.

So let’s get under way and tell you about the sights Olive trundled past daily as a working girl. Our first stop is on Battersea Bridge Road and the only time that we spend south of the river. From here we cross the Thames via Battersea Bridge, which gives us sight of all the houseboats moored alongside Cheyne Walk. The present bridge was built in 1886 after the previous toll bridge had been bought from Earl Spencer (I guess an ancestor of Princess Diana’s family).

We now move into Beaufort Street heading up to where we join onto King’s Road, which during the hippie and punk eras, was a major centre for the counterculture. But sadly Olive missed the party for those times and only travelled here once it had become synonymous with chic boutiques.

With a stop just outside the department store Peter Jones, Olive must have been a shopper’s delight. But we carry on round the corner and into Sloane Square notable in my view for the Royal Court Theatre, which in 1973 saw the premier of the Rocky Horror Show.

We leave the square on the northern side via Sloane Street and head up towards Knightsbridge. We pass on the right The Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, which is sometimes known as the “Cathedral of the Arts & Crafts Movement” from the number of great artists involved in its construction. Our last stop on Sloane Street puts us outside another well know department store Harvey Nicholls, beloved of Patsy and Edina in the comedy Absolutely Fabulous!

From here we turn onto Knightsbridge itself and head off towards Piccadilly. As we navigate Hyde Park Corner the imposing building on the left hand side is Apsley House former home of the Duke of Wellington. For over 200 years, this great metropolitan mansion has been known colloquially as ‘Number 1 London’, because it was the first house encountered after passing the tollgates at the top of Knightsbridge.

From Piccadilly and its Circus we head into the heart of the City and West End theatre land driving along Shaftesbury Avenue we turn left onto Charing Cross Road directly outside the Palace Theatre. I mention this theatre specifically above the rest as both my father and I worked there back in the days when Sir Emile Littler was the impresario in residence.

From here the route scrapes past the eastern end of Oxford Street and we turn right into New Oxford Street and onto Bloomsbury Way. At this stage we are a stones throw from the British Museum where I have spent many hours fascinated by the exhibits especially the mummies.

Heading onwards we move into Theobald’s Road and then turn in a slightly more northerly direction as we get to Rosebery Avenue. More theatrical connections for Olive as we stop outside Sadlers Wells where there has been a theatre since 1683 mainly specialising in Dance.

From here we head north again turning onto St John Street and then into Upper Street past Angel as mentioned by Dickens in Oliver Twist.

We turn right at Highbury Corner and head still north into Highbury Grove. Sometimes the route was curtailed here outside the pub Highbury Barn, apparently this pub is still popular with matchgoers even though the home Arsenal football team is now further away. I profess very little knowledge of football but at least Arsenal play in Olive’s and my favourite colour red!

Our journey moves onward and northward into Blackstock Road until we reach Olive’s final destination for the day, Finsbury Park. Where the conductor would customarily shout out “End of the line, everybody off!” and so ends another journey along route 19.

Historical route information courtesy of Ian’s Bus Stop