London's St. John's Wood is a green oasis just 5 kilometres from Trafalgar Square. Its resident Tatyana Vlasyuk, a London art historian, guide, and founder of the Art Walks in London project, told us why it is worth a walk there and what there is to see.
St John's Wood is located at the northernmost part of the central Westminster area and is adjacent to Regent's Park on its western side. In the Middle Ages the land belonged to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, leading to its modern name, which literally translates as 'St John's Wood'. Later the land was given to the crown and turned into hunting grounds for Henry VIII (he hunted wherever he went!). In the early 19th century, however, a gradual development of the area began. At the time the Eyre family owned much of the land: the brothers Henry Samuel II and Walpole decided to design an ideal immediate suburb of London. Their vision defined the appearance of the area for many centuries to come. To many, St John's Wood still resembles a secluded country house village with private homes and its own grounds in central London.
The area begins with St John's Church. The church began life as the parish chapel to St Marylebone Church and was built in 1814 by Thomas Hardwick (he also built the present St Marylebone Church at the same time). In 1886 the cemetery located by the church became a public garden, but there is still the grave of Joanna Southcott, who in 1792 declared herself a woman banished to the wilderness from the Book of Revelation and became one of the most prominent con artists of the early 19th century. Ancient graves sit alongside a children's playground and picnic tables, which were a great help to locals during the lockdowns. And it was in this church that Paul and Linda McCartney were blessed with a marriage in 1969, which became one of the most harmonious unions in the music world.
St John's Wood is full of memories of the legendary Liverpool Four. After all, it's home to the studio where the Beatles recorded many of their most popular hits. The picture shows John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison crossing Abbey Road in the direction of the studio. By the way, the shooting was done in just ten minutes and six takes. The legendary photo of the Beatles is more than 50 years old, but the crossing is still a place of pilgrimage for beat lovers from all over the world, copying the Liverpool quartet. World celebrities have been photographed here, and countless memes have been spawned. The location of the crossing has now changed slightly since 1969, and what's happening at the crossing can be watched online in real time.
A legendary crossing leads directly to the Abbey Road recording studio. And just a five-minute walk away is Cavendish Avenue, the quiet mansion street where Paul McCartney bought the house in 1965, after which it was often used by the Beatles as a resting place both before and after recording. Paul still owns the house.
St. John's Wood is often referred to as a Jewish neighbourhood, although the percentage of Jewish people living here is not very high. However, in a small area, there are three synagogues representing the most important streams of Judaism. The Orthodox synagogue of the United Contemporary Orthodox Church is of great importance to them, so that on the Sabbath all worshippers can walk to their synagogue on foot. They observe all the restrictions, but they also live a normal life. The Orthodox Synagogue was once London's main synagogue and still holds the signed seat of the Chief Rabbi, and is also very proud of its largest collection of 160 stained glass windows by the distinguished twentieth-century artist and scholar David Hillman, whose work can be seen in many other London synagogues and around the world, including Jerusalem. Many important and profound thoughts go into these stained glass windows.
Until 1964, the historic 1882 building on Abbey Road was home to an Orthodox synagogue. However, it is now home to the New London Synagogue, representing Conservative Judaism - Masorti.
The very first and largest Synagogue of Liberal Judaism in Britain has also found its home in St John's Wood. Liberal means that this place tries to combine science and religion, modern and religious lifestyles, and uses English more actively during services than other movements. Men and women here have long been given equality, sitting together and participating equally in rituals. It also has no restrictions for LGBT people, up to and including wedding ceremonies. And this synagogue also has a Russian-speaking rabbi, Igor.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was one of the highest paid artists of the Victorian era, so in 1883 he bought a house in Grove End Road and set about radically remodelling it to his own design. The remodelling of the house cost the equivalent of £6.5 million today - it had 66 rooms finished in an eclectic style. The entrance was modelled on the porticoes of Pompeian houses, and the door hammer was similar to an ancient one. There were three studios, collections of Japanese and Chinese art and a collection of Greco-Roman antiquities, as well as copies of famous works. Alma-Tadema's workshop was decorated with a half dome, and in the apse was placed the inscription: "Life is short, art is eternal".