Sweenealogy – Maida Vale to Battersea Part 1

Well, what would Jack and George have made of the last couple of years? Can’t imagine what getting through a pandemic would have been like in the 70s; one thing’s for sure though – it certainly put the brakes on trekking round London in search of The Squad’s old stamping grounds.

The first outing in nearly 3 years was a bit of an epic involving over 15 miles walking, roughly North-to-South but with a lot of back and forth in between, beginning at more or less (‘well the pubs are open’) lunchtime in Maida Vale, having got the train up to Waterloo and then the Bakerloo to Warwick Avenue, followed by a short walk to the first location – appropriately enough, a boozer.

Episode Context – S1E06 , “Night Out”

A bank job is in progress on a Saturday, in a branch next door to a boozer; turns out that one of Regan’s old girlfriends lives in one of the rooms upstairs, so Jack is dispatched to pay her a visit and lie in wait to try and catch the robbers in the act. George and other members of the squad also station themselves in the pub for surveillance and backup (and a pint) – and a fair part of the episode is set in and around the bar, including a final confrontation with shooters drawn.

The pub in question is The Warrington Hotel in Maida Vale (1), a majestic proper old school London pub that – thankfully (and remarkably in this day and age) – has changed very little since The Squad assembled there. The building to the left of the pub as you look down Randolph Avenue, that served as a branch of that recurring Sweeney establishment, the ‘National Anglian Bank’, no longer exists in the form seen here on the left. The view in the second picture is what’s actually next to the pub now, so evidently the old building – which looks like some sort of church or assembly hall – got demolished to make way for more flats:

Panning along to the pub, we see Jack approaching from the Randolph Avenue side – more or less unchanged, though (a common trope) the trees have grown up substantially, and there’s now a garden area outside:

Coming round to the front of the pub on Warrington Crescent, we can see that the ornate columned entrance is still the same as it was back then:

Naturally, as it was opening time, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to wander inside and see if the interior was similarly true to its 70s form; it didn’t disappoint:

(And neither did the pint of Wandle; though maybe a Courage Light Ale would have been more on point.)

I could have stayed for a lot longer, listening to the echoes of the Sweeney’s heyday; however, a pretty full hit-list of places to visit meant that I was on my way after one pint, walking a short way down Randolph Avenue to the next location.

Episode Context – S1E07, “The Placer”

We’re back to the episode where Regan is undercover as a truck driver. He gives a lift to Fran, an associate of the truck hijacking gang they’re trying to break; the location of her flat is on the SE side of Randolph Avenue, just past the turning into Randolph Close (2). We never get a clear look at which number the flat is, but it’s a garden flat in one of the first buildings after the Randolph Close turning (as seen by the ‘hasty exit’ shot below) – so probably number 59 or 57.

There are a number of shots here as George and Det. Sgt. Kent watch Fran leave her flat and drive away:

After which, George goes to break into the flat to look around for evidence:

Unfortunately, Kent is unable to keep hold of the public phone on the corner to alert George of the approach of Kesey, one of the gang members – and after downing Kesey with some quick fists, George has to make a hasty exit:

Exiting the area myself, I headed for a bit of a longer walk to the next location – down through Little Venice and across the Westway to Bayswater, and a little grouping of shots from very close to where I used to work for a time in the late ‘aughts – but had not location-scouted at the time to realise that they were nearby.

Episode Context – S1E02, “Jackpot”

A previous trip bagged the location where The Sweeney ambush a gang of robbers, and in the melee a bag containing 35 grand goes missing. Through filmed evidence (the operation was recorded for training and analysis purposes) and subsequent detective work, Regan learns that one of the gang, Biggleswade, has a sick daughter requiring an expensive operation. During the course of the investigation, he pays a visit to Irene, Biggleswade’s wife, at their flat in Bayswater.

The flat is in Pembroke House, on the Hallfield Estate just south of Bishop’s Bridge Road. In an initial ‘location establishing’ shot, we get a high vantage-point view back to the junction of the A4206 and the B411, with the most notable building in view being the ‘Railway Tap’ pub (1). I didn’t realise it at the time, but I actually drank in there after work a couple of times; sadly, this is one example of a pub that is now spruced up and bearing little resemblance to its 70s self:

To get the ‘now’ shot, I was really keen to get up high and give as faithful a recreation as I could, rather than taking it at ground level; this involved a little bit of front (these types of flats tend to be those where everyone knows nearly everyone else, and a stranger stands out) and a bit of leg-grunt up six floors or so. I think the result was worth it, though. (I think the original must have been shot actually on the roof of the building. That was a little step further than I was prepared to attempt!)

The other shots we have in this location are of The Squad arriving at the flats (2), (3):

And, at the end of the episode, Regan and Irene discuss Sheba, walking in the shadow of the flats (4):

After bagging the flats and aerial shot, it was time for a quick tube ride from Bayswater to High Street Kensington, a hastily grabbed lunch, and then a walk south down Wright’s Lane and Marloe’s Road to the next location at St. Mary’s Gate.

Episode Context – S1E05, “Jigsaw”

In this episode, Regan is certain that Eddie Boyse – a recently released criminal – is responsible for a robbery that has just taken place in which a night watchman was badly beaten; Boyse, however, has a ‘cast iron’ alibi for the time of the job. During the investigation, Jack and George visit the night watchman Fred Steadman in hospital to get a statement. The exterior shots for this scene were taken at St. Mary’s Gate, site of the now demolished St. Mary Abbott’s hospital (1).

It was a bit difficult to get into the correct positions to recreate some of these shots, as the area is now gated flats and the gatehouse is now the site security office; however, you can still see that the basic architecture of the gatehouse, walls, gates etc. are the same, as are the buildings across the street visible in the final shot.

From here it was a bit of a longer walk to the next location at Gloucester Road tube station.

Episode Context – S2E03, “Supersnout”

I don’t really need to provide a map showing the location of Gloucester Road tube station, eh? Anyway, we’re revisiting the episode where a gang of jewel thieves led by Yannos is planning a raid on a city jewellers. Haskins is away at a conference, and his stand-in, Quirk, is obsessed with capturing the one that got away, the so-called ‘Post Office Gang’. Regan’s informant, Stickley, is a member of the gang and George goes undercover as a cab driver to collect him from the tube station for the ‘dummy run’ of the job.

The establishing shots for the scene were obviously taken from a higher vantage point – either a cherry picker or possibly a building on the East side of Gloucester Road; however, the general view of the (mostly unchanged) station front is still pretty obvious.

After the tube station, I had a long (and reasonably pleasant) walk down through Chelsea, across the river to Battersea Park; as this post is already pretty long itself, I’m going to split the journey here and pick up ‘saaf of the river’ in a separate post.

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