Intrepid Londoner Paul Talling has been exploring the city's run-down buildings for twelve years now and sharing his findings on his website, Derelict London. Here are 21 highlights from the hundreds of amazing photos and stories he's gathered. Some of the buildings have now been demolished, redeveloped or even restored, but their pasts are just as interesting than their presents.
Paul Talling runs regular walking tours which include visits to some of the venues on the website. Visit Derelict London for details and to book.
Walthamstow Stadium, Walthamstow
'A greyhound stadium where a teenage David Beckham had a part-time job collecting glasses is to close. Brad Pitt attended as a guest of Vinnie Jones when he was filming Snatch, one of Guy Ritchie’s gangster films.Winston Churchill, Lana Turner and Gracie Fields were proud to be seen alongside thousands of East-Enders who flocked to the stadium on a Saturday night.'
The stadium closed for good in 2008 and is currently being turned into a development of 294 homes and community facilities.
The Commonwealth Institute, Kensington
'The building that used to house the Commonwealth Institute is a 1960s Millennium Dome. As with the Dome, image was tripped up by reality. Its content - a series of exhibits about Commonwealth countries - struggled to interest people. The supposed lightness and flexibility of the structure turned out to be an illusion, and, as with the Dome, finding a new use has not been easy. The exhibition space eventually closed as a permanent display when the exhibits were removed in 1996.'
The Design Museum will be moving into this building in 2016.
Marshall Street Baths, Soho
'The first public baths were built on the site by the Vestry of St James in 1850 and the present building, then known as The Westminster Public Baths, was started in 1928 and completed in 1931. The main pool is lined with white Sicilian marble and this marble and Swedish green marble are used on the walls at either end. The bronze fountain in a niche at the shallow end, depicting a merchild with two dolphins, is by Walter Gilbert.'
The baths have been restored and are now part of Marshall Street Leisure Centre.
St Luke's Woodside Hospital, Muswell Hill
'St Luke's Hospital was officially opened in 1930 by Princess Helena Victoria (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) as the Woodside Nerve Hospital. In 1948, on joining the NHS, the Hospital became the St Luke's-Woodside Hospital, the in-patient branch of the Department of Psychological Medicine of the Middlesex Hospital. Serial killer Anthony Hardy (nicknamed the Camden Ripper) was released from St Luke’s shortly before murdering two women in 2002, but despite the bad press that came from the murder, the hospital set amongst its beautiful grounds was still celebrated by those who used it.'
The buildings are being turned into 161 new homes by Hanover Housing Association.
P&O Building, City of London
'Built in 1969, with 15 storeys above ground and three below, this building was considered at the time to be one of the most complex glass-fronted structures in England. It was extensively damaged by a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb attack in 1992, and subsequently had to be reclad. The demolition procedure for the old building is unusual, being conducted from the bottom upwards, rather than the other way round, leaving the building’s concrete core exposed.'
The P&O Building was demolished to make way for the Cheesegrater.
George Moore Menswear, Bowes Park
'This menswear shop has a fully stocked window display but it looks like the shop simply closed one day several years ago and unexpectedly didn't open the next day. George Moore was the original propreitor from 1942 and his son Brian took over in the late 1960s when his dad passed away. Trade slowed down and Brian retired around 1999 and he simply just left all the stock in the window. A gesture of defiance or just sentimentality? He lived in the property until recently and the the mould is really setting in on the fading window display.'
In 2014 the shop was taken over by Nick Holywell-Walker, who was the keyboard player in the band Killing Joke.
Centaurs Rugby Ground, Isleworth
'Here we have an interesting reinforced concrete sports pavilion built in 1935 - It has a tiered spectator stand beneath a cantilever roof with a clubhouse underneath. Set within sports fields that are still in use although the Centaurs relocated elsewhere a while ago. This derelict clubhouse is easily accessible but I declined the opportunity to enter it after seeing a guy crouched in the corner inside drinking a can of Stella though maybe he was more afraid of me than vice versa but its best not to find out for sure...'
The pavilion has now been restored and the pitches are used for five- and seven-a-side leagues.
The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes
'This site in Hayes was created in 1907 for The Gramophone and Typewriter Company, an American manufacturer of the first domestic gramophone players. The "record players" in those days were carefully crafted in wooden cabinets. As the company grew it began to press its own records (using a shellac-based compound before vinyl was introduced) and released them under the new label His Master’s Voice (HMV).'
The site is being used for a mixed-use development called, funnily enough, The Old Vinyl Factory.
Harrow Road Police Station, Maida Vale
'This police station closed in 2013 as part of Mayor Boris Johnson's plans to close 63 police stations across London. The former Harrow Road Police Station building is about to be converted into flats. It was here that the manager of the Manic Street Preachers reported Richey Edwards missing in 1995.'
The building was converted into flats in 2013.
The Crystal Palace, Crystal Palace
'The Crystal Palace had been the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park: an international wonder and a triumph of technology and the ingenuity of its designer, Joseph Paxton. The Palace’s relocation from Hyde Park made this SE London’s major cultural and entertainment centre. It contained arts and architecture from Ancient Egypt to the renaissance, and exhibits from industry and the natural world. It also hosted concerts and circuses. For more than 80 years, the Crystal Palace and its park provided a focus and identity for the area that took its name. In 1936, most of the Crystal Palace was destroyed in the country’s biggest peacetime fire of the 20th century.'
Surviving remnants of the building can still be seen in the undergrowth.
Fire Station, Old Kent Road
'Built in 1903, this fire station replaced an earlier 1868 station on the same spot. I have been told that in the basement there is a plaque recording that this was the site of St Thomas a Watering, the first stop for medieval pilgrims bound for the shrine of St Thomas a Becket in Canterbury, where they could find water for their thirsty horses. The fire station has been disused since 1971. Note the old fire station dummy in the window.'
Part of the building now houses Blue Mantle Fireplaces and Antiques (the largest antique fireplace showroom in the world, so it is claimed).
Surrey Docks Stadium, Rotherhithe
'Fisher Athletic was founded in 1908 by the John Fisher Catholic Society whose aim was to provide football facilities for underprivileged children in Bermondsey. The Fish were as at 2009 the highest ranked football club in London to take their name from a person rather than a place. The 5300 capacity Surrey Docks Stadium in Rotherhithe is the traditional home of Fisher Athletic F.C. since 1982. The club moved out in 2004 to home of local rivals Dulwich Hamlet.'
The stadium is still derelict. Fisher FC are looking for funding to have the facilities renovated.
Capitol Cinema, Forest Hill
'The Capitol opened as a cinema in 1929. Renamed the ABC in 1968, the cinema gave its last picture show in 1973. There were plans to convert and even demolish the building. However, The Capitol opened as a bingo hall in February 1978, closing in the 1996. The building was saved and now bears its original name as a Wetherspoon pub which is situated on the ground floor. However the upper circle remains disused and untouched - all the dusty old seats remain with little metak ashtrays on the back of the seats. There are tales of paranormal activity related to a man who died in the building back in the cinema's heyday.'
Despite rumours that it would be turned back into a cinema, The Capitol's ground floor is still a Wetherspoons.
Battersea Power Station Cranes, Battersea
'Battersea Power Station is without doubt the most famous derelict building in London. Opened in 1937 it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect also responsible for Bankside Power Station and Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and it originally had a chimney at either end. The power station closed in 1983 and plans were made to convert it into a Disney-style theme park, but costs escalated and work stopped in 1989, leaving the building in its present semi-derelict state. Now the building is an iconic image for Londoners but what about these beautiful cranes on the riverside beside the power station in their own state of decay?'
The listed cranes are currently in storage and due to be reinstated by the end of 2017.
Hither Green Cemetery Dissenters Chapel, Catford
'Hither Green Cemetery opened in 1873, this decaying chapel was built in the same year by a building contractor called William Webster. The cemetery itself is quite well maintained though there are a few intriguing overgrown areas. It is also home to one of the largest flocks of ring-necked parakeets in London.'
The chapel is still derelict and fenced off to the public.
Caird & Rayner, Limehouse
'This workshop was built in 1869 as a sail-makers’ and ship-chandlers’ warehouse. It was occupied by Caird & Rayner from 1889 to 1972 and was never substantially altered, so the building retains its original cast-iron window frames and two double loading doors that open on to the Limehouse Cut. The building is the only original sail-makers’ and ship-chandlers’ warehouse surviving in Tower Hamlets.'
The building is still derelict. It's guarded and dangerous to enter.
Carlton Cinema, Islington
'This Grade II listed building was designed by architect George Coles in 1930. Typical of Coles' style such as the Troxy in Stepney Green and some other Odeon cinemas across the UK, the façade of the building is in the form of an Egyptian 'pylon' temple and is decorated with Egyptian iconography including lotus flowers and buds. After this is operated as a Mecca bingo hall, which ran up until 2007.'
The building is currently owned and used by religious group Resurrection Manifestations.
'Opened in 1880, the hotel’s distinctive six-sided clock tower was designed to be seen from passing trains as they ferried commuters over several bridges into central London. In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix was reputed to have regularly jammed there after playing in the West End.'
The building opened as a Wahaca in 2014.
Trattoria Terrazza, Soho
'This was a trendy bar called LVPO serving expensive cocktails to mixed reviews, but this site was more famed for the Italian Restaurant that used to be here – The Trattoria Terrazza opened in 1959 by Mario Cassandro and Franco Lagattolla. This place was responsible for introducing Italian food to many people in London and making it trendy - a restaurant of the modern era making dining less formal. Amongst the real-life royalty, politicians, actors and rockstars who frequented this establishment were Princess Margaret and The Beatles.'
The building is currently being refurbished and is due to open as Le Relais de Venise at the end of 2015.
The Foundry, Shoreditch
'The Foundry was a place where any artist, regardless of experience, could exhibit free of charge. The bar was run really to just cover the costs of the gallery. I attended a few ramshackle but entertaining spoken word nights down here.'
The building is now home to Red Gallery and Hoxton Pastry Union.
Safari Cinema, Croydon
'The Beatles played here the night of March 21, 1963, and their first album, Please Please Me, was released the following day. Cilla Black and PJ Proby also played live shows here.'
The building has now been demolished and turned into flats.
Discover London's best bits
Does London really need a fine dining restaurant at The O2? It’s a question you’ll ask yourself more than once at The Peninsula, which is tucked inside the InterContinental Hotel and promises ‘dramatic views’ over Canary Wharf and Greenwich Peninsula. In truth, the best view you’ll get here is of the food that’s placed in front of you. The dishes are artfully put together and, quite simply, beautiful. A starter of pink and tender Iberico pork fillet combined particularly well with soft pieces of prawn ceviche and some glossy blobs of squid ink, while the other end of the meal featured a sensational vanilla parfait with sticky toffee and tonka crumble that I devoured within seconds. It’s a shame, then, that nobody’s here to enjoy it. Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it’s because the average price of a main is nearly £30. Either way, the lack of bodies gives the place a very strange, stuffy atmosphere. The waiters are outstanding and they do their best to bring some energy into the otherwise silent room, but we can’t help feeling that The Peninsula needs to loosen up a little to attract The O2 masses.
Venue says: “Watching your favourite act live at The O2? Experience our wonderful pre-show menu and enjoy direct access into the arena post dinner!”