I THINK it true to say that the once widely-held belief that St.
]ohn’s Wood is the capital of Middlesex has been exploded.
But there are other myths still wearing their thin disguise.
Many who think that Lord’s is the cradle, if not the home, of cricket
will be surprised to learn that it is nothing of the sort. Lord’s is the
ruling body of county cricket, nor has its administration been an
unmixed blessing, according to some of the people in counties
north of the Thames.
Like many other decorative bodies, it is largely self-appointed
in its position in regard to cricket, yet its writ runs far and wide
over the game. Lord’s has little to boast of in regard to age. And if
you are in any doubt about that, ask any of the Hambledon
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St. ]ohn’s Wood, the scene of our visit, owes its development
more or less to the Prince Regent. His (temporary) dream of a
palace in a north-west suburb resulted in a dash by the society
which hung on to his coat-tails to the vicinity of what was then
Marylebone Park, but which was opened to the public in 1838 as
The society that went to Marylebone was, in all probability,
Whig society. They included artists and writers (we must remember
that for all his tiresome habitsthe Regent was a not undiscriminating
patron of art and letters), architects, musicians, and no doubt one
or two not entirely disinterested politicians. There was too a military
and naval colony; and the law was not unrepresented.
We may as well mention a few of the notabilities of this neigh-
bourhood. Thomas Hood died in the Finchley Road. Among the
artists who lived in and loved “the Wood” are Romney, Landseer
(highland cattle at dawn), Phil May, Laura Knight and Frank
Beresford. The studio of Sir William Reid Dick is just opposite our
ultimate port of call.
Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft
Stage folk included Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft, Sir John
Martin Harvey, Sir Charles Wyndham, Owen Nares and Leslie
We could go on for many more pages. But we do want to see the Wood as wll as the trees.
Talking about the Wood reminds us
of the oldest of its surviving hostelries, The Knights of St. john tavern.
It is the only tavern in the country, so far as I know, with this
lovely name. It is also probably the only tavern whose billiard room
has stained, glass windows, the designs of which are masonic. Since
the tavern was built in 1820, there seems to be some ground for
the theory that Mine Host was then an ardent Freemason.
We have, of course, already come across some interesting
The sign at The Knights must be almost unique. It
takes the form of a frontage fresco representing the old-time warriors
of the Holy Church engaged with that virile foe “the paynim”.
The sign alone is worth a visit.
Sheila, the bull terrier.
And now we meet the canine, Sheila, the bull terrier.
Sheila is a considerable lump of canine loveliness. She is the
type of dog, quite apart from her highly honourable breed, that
many a dog lover dreams about: so well behaved is Sheila that a
lead is an insult to her street manners. Sheila, in fact, goes further
than that”she hardly ever wears a collar. Her ﬁgure is not all it
might be, but that doesn’t worry Sheila who pads along in her
self-complacent way. The morning walk over the Heath does her
master almost as much good as it does her.
There are many reasons for visiting this pleasant tavern. There
is the prospect of Middlesex putting up a brave but generally
unavailing front to Yorkshire; there is the joy of the Whit week-end
game with Sussex, and there is plenty of beer with which to conduct
a post-mortem on the game, including the belief (happily not put
to the test) that you and I could somehow do better.
~ And of course there is always Sheila, who is quite neutral on
the subject of ,annelled gentlemen.