Artisans and History at the London Design Festival

London Design Festival ….. one of the most important fixtures in the Design World calender. Two districts significant for their rapid and relatively recent reputation as centres for innovative design are the Shoreditch Triangle and Clerkenwell Design Quarter.

In close proximity to each other both areas were the focus of slum clearance in the nineteenth century becoming largely industrial combining skilled craftsmanship with the poorest workers engaged in the sweated trades.

Shoreditch was renowned as the centre of the furniture trade; cabinet makers; upholsterers; French polishers and all the associated peripheral trades of that industry.

In latter years the beautiful SCP showroom has been at the heart of the Shoreditch Triangle showcasing new and established talent in design. Established in Curtain Road by Sheridan Oakley in 1985 in a building originally a cabinet makers and then by the early twentieth century an upholsterer’s.  SCP’s commitment to support British manufacture brings the story of furniture design in Shoreditch full circle into the twenty-first century.

Rivington Street described by Niklaus Pevsner as a good example of ‘authentic and varied nineteenth century industrial building’ is home to many designers amidst the iron pillars and remaining wall cranes that provide a very distinct character to this part of Shoreditch.

Lee Broom  London Design Festival 2012

Lee Broom
London Design Festival 2012

Walk along Old Street towards the City to find  Clerkenwell Design Quarter in a district which became the centre for workers in precious metals,  wanting to practice their craft outside the restriction of the City. Rising as the heart of the watch and clock manufacturing in London the district became almost entirely industrialised during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Reviving the tradition for bespoke jewellery design and silversmiths in the Clerkenwell Design Quarter is the Goldsmiths Centre in Britton Street designed by John Lyall architects and incorporating the conversion of a Grade II Listed Victorian Board School.

Goldsmiths Centre Eagle Yard Clerkenwell

Goldsmiths Centre Eagle Yard Clerkenwell

Illustrating print in its most skillful and innovative form is the Imprint Exhibition at Craft Central. Showcasing jewellery, ceramics, textiles and prints in the Gallery at 33-35 St. John’s Square.

Also on Thursday 19th September is the opportunity to visit jewellery designers at their benches within the Craft Central studios.


Join me with Creative Clerkenwell during London Design Festival and discover the warehouses behind the design studios of Shoreditch, the French Polishers Beer Strike, ghosts of the Old Nichol and see inside contemporary artisan studios.

Cornwell House and Pennybank Chambers

Cornwell House and Pennybank Chambers

Gin in Clerkenwell and Chelsea

Events for Clerkenwell Design Week 2013 and Chelsea Fringe have found boz metaphorically and literally immersed in Gin over recent weeks ….. in the interests of research naturally …

Beginning in Clerkenwell for Clerkenwell Design Week 2013 in conjunction with Creative Clerkenwell was a short taster walk around the area finding the illicit gin shops and nineteenth century distilleries which are an integral part of the history in that district of London.

During the Gin Craze 1721-1851 it was estimated that in the area of St. Giles, William Hogarth’s chosen location for Gin Lane in 1851 one in four houses were premises for the sale of gin. Nearby in the slums of Clerkenwell and particularly the notorious quarters around the Fleet ditch and Red Lion and Cowcross streets a similar proliferation for gin prevailed.

A far cry from the sweet viscous spirit originating with Dutch Geneva, every slum back kitchen that could find a pot to distill in would be producing base and frequently toxic spirits sold loosely under the guise of excise free ‘gin’ much of which had never seen a juniper berry. Frequently sold on the streets as well as licensed premises with added turpentine to improve the ‘flavour’.

This was the stuff that gave rise to the term ‘Mother’s Ruin’ and which fuelled the campaign to staunch the craze for unregulated gin distilling. Additional taxes and licensing laws did little to prevent the sale of the roughest gin, although restricting the distillers of good gin, whilst the consumption of bad spirits continued to rise. Finally culminating in the 1751 Act the campaign for which included two prints from the hand of William Hogarth ‘Gin Lane’ and ‘Beer Street’ commissioned …. not unsurprisingly …. by the brewing industry. Hogarth’s beautifully depicted pieces of propaganda are such well known widely available images that boz finds nothing to be gained from reproducing them here …. although the original copper plates for the engravings can not be viewed in London being part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Following the 1751 Act, regulation of the industry saw the establishment of the large distilleries and in the nineteenth century the development of a superior refined clear spirit London Dry Gin. The distilleries that were to become the household names of Booth, Nicholson, Tanqueray and Gordon all established in Clerkenwell by the mid-nineteenth century and continued there until after the Second World War. Magnificent and rapidly expanding buildings as the industry grew and those still standing are notable for their contribution to architectural merit in Clerkenwell.

Nicholsons 1953

Nicholsons Distillery 1953

For Clerkenwell Design Week The Gin Garden arrived to demonstrate contemporary and innovative alchemy with gin. Located in communications agency Lansons pretty courtyard in St. John Street for the three days of Clerkenwell Design Week creating beautiful gin cocktails with a new twist using plant based serves developed by The Herball, this provided the perfect setting for boz to commence a short stroll around the history of gin in Clerkenwell culminating in much sampling of said spirit.

Nettle Gimlet

Nettle Gimlet

Following this it was necessary to attend a further day of research into the new way of Gin in London  with The Gin Garden. This time situated in the very lovely surroundings of Chelsea Physic Garden for a day which included a fascinating and entertaining introduction into botanicals from the very expert herbalist Christopher Hedley and later a visit to the Sipsmith distillery in Hammersmith.




There is still just time to book a day with The Gin Garden as the event will be repeated tomorrow Friday 7th June and also the Gin Garden bar will be open from 4pm – 8pm for visitors to Chelsea Physic Garden

Sipsmith Still

Sipsmith Still

Mixing serves from The Herball

Mixing The Herball serves










This weekend for Open Squares The Gin Garden can also be found at Arlington Square on in Islington on Sunday 9 June from 2pm to 5pm

For World Gin Day Saturday 15th June boz will be returning to Clerkenwell to walk through three centuries of Gin so do join us in  ‘Gin Lanes’ should you be so inclined

Three Mills Bromley-by-Bow

Until the Summer of 2011 boz had no idea of the existence of this tranquil historic oasis. Found by chance whilst pulling off the A12 to wait for Blackwall Tunnel traffic to subside, on a quiet Friday afternoon, before the Olympic Park site had been completed, and hardly a soul about, Three Mills Island almost encapsulates a bygone era.

Clock Mill

Designated as a conservation area by the London Borough of Newham in 1971, Three Mills is a man-made island within the Lower Lea Valley. The conservation area is bounded in the West by the River Lea and the Bromley-by-Bow bridge; to the South by the Channelsea River; and to the North by Abbey Road and the ‘Greenway’ embankment.

Domesday Survey 1086 recorded eight tidal Mills on the River Lea, the sites of five of which are recorded in the Lea tributaries: Pudding Mill; City Mill; Waterworks Mill; Abbey Mill and Three Mills. At Three Mills the mills were built on a man-made island to make the most use of the ebb tide. By the late sixteenth century the area of Three Mills was comprised of two water mills producing corn and gunpowder.

In 1872 House Mill was purchased by gin distillers J&w Nicholson & Co. of Clerkenwell. This was of particular interest to boz as regulars readers will know there is much tarrying to Clerkenwell from this quarter and recent forays into Clerkenwell history are inextricably linked with the history of Gin but that is for another post.

Having obtained this little amount of information about the place, along with the fascinating connections of the gin industry within the familiar  exhibiting environs of Clerkenwell, an invitation to participate in an exhibition at House Mill was accepted with great pleasure. Makers at the Mill Exhibition was created in partnership with the River Lea Tidal Mill Trust and nineteen designers each creating Mill inspired pieces for the exhibition. Such is the presence of this beautiful Grade I listed building the choice of subject matter from the Mill buildings; the largely intact working interior; and the wildlife of the environs was wide and varied.


Hand printed vintage French linen glass cloth Mary Ann Chatterton

In 1728 Three Mills was purchased by the Huguenot partnership of Peter Lefevre and Daniel Bisson, of whom the latter went on to construct House Mill 1776 later rebuilt in 1802 following a fire.This mill served the gin distillery next door on Three Mills Island in addition to flour making and was in operation until 1941.

Clock Mill on the opposite side of the site with its distinctive Clock Tower and bell was built 1817 and in use as a mill up to 1952 now Grade II Listed. Originally a windmill also stood on the site, being the third of the Three Mills and remained to around 1840.

Having been saved from demolition by the Passmore Edwards Museum Trust in the 1970s House Mill passed to the Tidal Mill Trust. Work on the building commenced 1989 and whilst the fabric is now fully restored, the project to reinstate all four water wheels and restore some of the mill machinery continues. Footage of the restoration project and an insight into the workings of the Mill can be seen here:

The fascinating and atmospheric interior of House Mill  and the beautiful grounds set within the conservation site proved a wonderful source of inspiration for the designers exhibiting in Makers at the Mill exhibition

Millstone by window

Mill Stones in Chains – Rosemary Lucas

Mill Window etching and aquatint – Jim Churcher

The House Mill etching – Paula Duggen

Mill Pigeon

Mill Pigeon – Nick Darrieulat

Millers – Gudrun Sigriour Haraldsdóttir

The buildings to the east of House Mill and Clock Mill which originally housed Nicholsons Gin Distillery are now home to 3 Mills Studios the largest film studios and rehearsal rooms in London and benefitting from a perfectly placed setting

The cobbled causeway leading from Three Mill Lane to the film studios is a bustling lively thoroughfare especially during the day. Part of the waterside footpath which serves the film studio staff; cyclists; dog walkers; visitors to House Mill; customers for the friendly café in the Millers House adjoining House Mill; and the excellent tours which regularly take place, of which details can be found here:

The proximity of the Olympic Park has inevitably brought with it much regeneration of the area adjacent to the conservation site in a part of London which drew little attention prior to all that will now be marked in history as ‘London 2012’. This lesser known East End, further out than the now fashionable streets of what were once slum quarters for for urban missionaries and social reformers, is comprehensively explained in Neil Fraser’s recently published book Over the Border, The Other East End

Three Mills – Jane Young

Makers at the Mill exhibition continues until 9 September 2012, ten per cent of all sales go towards the House Mill restoration project. With well deserved thanks to curators Paula Duggen, Rosemary Lucas and Mary Ann Chatterton, it has been a wonderful experience to exhibit work in such a unique and beautiful setting, made all the more enjoyable by the fabulous dedicated staff and volunteers at House Mill.

CurioCity – A Review

Popular in the nineteenth century as a means of cheaply distributing popular culture in print was the chapbook. Small in size, thus suitable for pocket or purse, frequently printed on a single folded sheet of paper.

Launched in September 2011 there is,  for London in the twenty-first century, a new superior hybrid of chapbook and map in the form of CurioCity.

Edited by Henry Eliot & Matt Lloyd, CurioCity comprises beautifully executed vignettes of an eclectic mixture of London ephemera, contemporary and historical, also printed on a single sheet, presented duodecimo in a convenient and clever origami package befitting of the sub title London Unfolded.

Delighted to be furnished with Issue B to peruse, it may be useful to note that the card casing was sufficiently sturdy to withstand the chaotic disorder of that unruly item of luggage which doubles as boz’s handbag.

Do not be fooled into thinking that the compact size of this tiny publication is indicative of insubstantial, flimsy content. To the contrary it is packed full of miscellaneous snippets of informative; factual; entertaining; whimsical and occasionally weird insights into little known gems of London minutiae.

Contributions to Issue B include an article on the delightful Seven Stars public house and a list of risqué Tube Station sobriquet from Matt Brown at  along with tales of St. James’s Park and London’s oldest street art by Peter Berthoud  Additionally, such diverse subjects as a Book Barge, secret entry to see trading at the London Metal Exchange and the Crossbones Graveyard in Southwark.

The latter is a pertinent subject as the site is being marketed for redevelopment. Should any reader wish to sign the petition that is part of the campaign to protect Crossbones you can do so here: and for further reading on this and other At Risk heritage sites in London, boz can do no better than recommend the excellent articles to be found at

The inside of Curiocity is given over to a specific theme illustrated in mapping format, which for the current issue is London the Zoo: drawing the reader through a labyrinth of creature related curios to be found for the looking within the metropolis.

London the Zoo

London Unfolded

Also included therein, is a Mythical Beast Safari taking a tour of lesser spotted dragons and gargoyles lurking in the capital. At number thirteen in this entry boz was most entertained to discover old friends Gog and Magog, having just undertaken illustration of said giants in miniature for the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Gog and Magog in Miniature

A regular visitor at the Guildhall and coincidentally avid collector of chapbooks was Samuel Pepys. The greater part of Pepys’s chapbook collection he acquired in the 1680s and had bound into genres. The collection of bound volumes is now kept at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Part map; part book; part curio; should you wish to obtain a copy of this highly entertaining publication it is readily available at these well reputed London stockists: including one eminent purveyor of maps Established 1827, or can be ordered online at

Having enjoyed the second issue, boz will en route to Covent Garden, secure a copy of CurioCity London Unfolded A, as in the event a collection might end up in an illustrious archive, it had better be complete.

Purveyor of Maps

Age of Elegance in Guildhall Yard

An exhibition has opened at the Guildhall Art Gallery on 11 February just past;                 Age of Elegance: 1890-1930.

This exhibition showcases many fine paintings in the City of London Corporation collection that have been hidden away in storage for decades. These works are now on display as intended and form an impressive collection.

One such painting has an enchanting story attached that boz has so far failed to find much about. The Garden of Eden (1901) Hugh Goldwin Riviere (1869-1956) centres on a young couple walking in the rain apparently in a London park, boz has thus far been unable to ascertain which particular London park is the setting for this work so it seems a visit to the Guildhall Library must be in order. A tale found on the internet suggests that the artist Hugh Goldwin Riviere created the painting to provide financial assistance for its subjects. He a City clerk and she ….. an heiress disowned by her family for choosing a suitor far removed from her social status. ‘Adam’s’ station in life is clearly conveyed through the absence of gloves and the turned up trousers. A depiction which, with the addition of the rain and folded umbrellas, puts one in mind of the moment the unfortunate clerk Leonard Bast meets Helen in E. M. Forster’s slightly later novel of 1910 Howard’s End.  ‘Eve’ however does not conjure up a vision of a disowned heiress, sporting a prim hat, plain coat and woollen neck scarf in the manner of a respectable domestic servant on a half day holiday.

Hugh Goldwin Riviere was the son of Royal Academy painter Briton Riviere (1840-1920) and the family for some time resided at 82 Finchley Road and are listed at that address on the 1881 Census Return. So might the park in the painting be one Riviere was familiar with as a young man or perhaps a green space in the City near to where such a clerk might be employed. The everyday scene is illustrated with charm whilst the lucid green light that emanates from it is quite worthy of comparison to the Grimshaw collection that were very recently hanging in the same spot. It now has an added attraction of a real story and if any reader of this post can furnish further details of this it would be of great interest.

Although the Garden of Eden hangs in the central exhibiting space one of the enclaves is given over to paintings of London. This area includes a very fine example of the work of Sir Frank Brangwyn, Tower Bridge c[1905] and a romantic view over the City of London The Heart of the Empire (1904) Neils Moeller Lund. Another small glimpse of the City to be found, not with the London canvases but hung in the corner of the room showcasing portraits of Corporation dignitries is Guildhall Yard

'Guildhall Yard' c1905 Copyright City of London

A small unassuming painting attributed to William Luker Junior (1867-1948). The scene, of a bustling Guildhall Yard contains great attention to detail, being most taken with this painting boz is intriuged by the slightly vague provenance. William Luker Junior was, as one might expect, the son of William Luker Senior (1828-1905) and one time Royal Academy painter. William Luker II came from a family of artists. His mother Ada was an accomplished still life painter exhibiting at the then British Gallery, later to become the Royal Academy, until she married William Luker and  was not to paint again. William was the eldest son in a large family and his sister became known as the portrait and miniature painter Louie Burrell (1873-1971)

William Luker Junior comes across as not the most worthy character and boz was a little disillusioned to find that the creator of this much admired painting was something of a disappointment in life. It will serve no purpose to relate a biography when the original story can be much better read here.

Engraving 1891 for Leadenhall Press

Having read this family history boz has begun to hope that ‘attributed to’ might mean it is possible that the lovely Guildhall Yard could yet turn out to be from the hand of a somewhat  different personality. There is another work on the subject known to be by William Luker printed in Paris for Leadenhall Press (1891).

Such is my admiration of the painting am most delighted that a small sketch by boz is now available in the Guildhall Art Gallery shop in card form:

Yard Birds 2012 Copyright Jane Young

The Age of Elegance: 1890-1930 has been beautifully  executed by Sonia Solicari, Senior Curator at the Guildhall Art Gallery. The paintings described here are but a few of the many on display and well worth going to see, not least because this is the first time these works have been freely accessible in many years.

The central piece of the exhibition is a painting by artist Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) of his wife Hazel Portrait of Lady Lavery (1926)

Hazel in Rose and Grey 1922 Copyright City of London

From this painting contemporay designers have drawn inspiration in creating pieces to complement  the exhibition. As such, boz & co. were very pleased to collaborate with good friend, colleague and accomplished jeweller Rosemay Lucas.

Hazel Stole in Rose, Trudeau Necklace, Trudeau Earring Trio

Hazel Fascinator

The Age of Elegance:1890-1930 remains open until 28 May and if you should find yourself in the vicinity of Guildhall Yard do go and have a look. If you are a little further than that it is certainly worthwhile making a special journey to see the exhibition.

This Year Past

To welcome the arrival of the new impending year a pause to consider a few things of note such as have taken place in the preceding twelve months:


At the start of the year a very enjoyable comission for the shop at Strawberry Hill House Trust commenced. To this end some interesting time was spent in research of the history of the house. There will perhaps be more on this in greater detail for another post, however, for the time being the wonderful restoration project that has been undertaken by the Trust can be seen here 


This month saw another interesting museum commission which has taken until now to complete. The  Museum of the Order of St. John is in the heart of Clerkenwell and again will be the subject of another post. In the meantime it is well worth a visit, the charity dates back over nine hundred years. Entry to the museum is free although any donations are of course welcome

St. John's Gate print


Most uneventful in terms of research or any new sketches. It is though, during such quiet months that small steps of progress are to be made to the building site. Some rather lovely salvaged cast iron fireplace inserts were installed in two rooms and tested for efficiency. These inserts are quite wrong in period for the late Victorian terrace having come from an older property but nonetheless fit in rather nicely. Nine months on the associated chimneypieces are still waiting to be fitted but fortunately the fireplaces work quite adequately without ornamentation in the meantime.

Fire in the Building Site


Much of this month was taken up exhibiting in Clerkenwell which will be returned to another time. An April excursion a walk through town has already been illustrated in a previous post. This year Easter fell within this month and was a beautifully warm weekend during which boz dined at Butler’s Wharf with some dear friends and a wonderful view. It is likely the photograph being out of focus is due to the good quality of the company and the associated quantity of wine.

Tower Bridge from Butler's Wharf


Four further exhibitions in Clerkenwell and in consequence numerous visits to the charming hostelries of the area, also to be saved for another post for another day. So a simple photograph …. also a little out of focus….  of the flower that boz associates with the month of May in a vase in the Three Kings Clerkenwell



A local event Faircharm Fair at Creekside, Deptford entailed a most pleasant walk along Deptford Creek for photographs to illustrate  flyers for the event.

Ha'penny Hatch


Faircharm Fair Flyer











On Tuesday 26th July boz went on a walk Waterloo by Maplight and most excellent it was too. It would not be correct to describe the route or the details here as you may at some point wish to experience it first hand which is to be highly recommended. The walk is one of several available here where you will find Ken Titmuss provides a most interesting take on a guided walk using a series of old maps to transport you through many centuries in history of your chosen area and boz is looking forward to attending another of these in the coming year.


A little local walk on a sunny afternoon where an unexpected folly was discovered near to the building site. Set within Oxleas Wood at the top of Shooters Hill is Severndroog Castle. Standing sixty three feet high the tower was built in 1784 under the direction of Lady James of Eltham as a memorial to her husband Sir William James and named to commemorate his most famous exploit in destroying a pirate stronghold on the island fortress Severn Droog on the west coast of Malaba, India in 1755.  The tower is sadly in a state of disrepair and has been closed to the public since 1986. However boz was delighted to find that there is a preservation trust to undertake a restoration project of which more information can be found here:

Severndroog Castle


More exhibiting in Clerkenwell for London Design Festival. A very enjoyable week at the Craft Central Showcase in St. John’s Square. Linen glass cloths depicting Clerkenwell proved most popular as did a new item which we were barely able to keep with demand for ….. a strange little species of bird made of reclaimed slate salvaged from the rooftops of London

Slate Birds


An invitation to attend a meeting for London bloggers. This turned out to be a most enjoyable event both in itself, taking place in a very good hostelry in Pimlico in excellent company, and in the subsequent turn of events to which the acceptance of this invitation has led. The evening was arranged by Pete Berthoud a fully qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who not only runs unique walking tours but writes most eminently on Discovering London which can be  perused in detail here boz is and continues to be particularly taken with the series of posts which deal with The Lost which you will find along with a wealth of London gems.

En route through Green Park to Pimlico


Thus the aforementioned invitation led to meeting the wonderful group of people who are members of run by Mike Paterson arranging regular events and a monthly meet up and taking in some rather good public houses en route.  London Historians is open to all and is a most sociable and welcoming organisation and boz is extremely happy to have acquired new friendships along with a shiny beautifully illustrated membership card.

A few London Historians following a Christmas Lights Walk


An enchanting highlight upon which to end the year was a Christmas Lights Walk perfectly orchestrated by Joanna Moncrieff also a qualified City of Westminster Walking Tour Guide and member of London Historians. Beginning in Soho across Regent Street and Oxford Street and finishing in Marylebone the walk took in some beautiful displays in unexpected locations along with Jo’s specialities providing interesting histories of London’s eating and drinking establishments. Further details for these esteemed walks are here WestminsterWalking and a lovely account of our walk on the 29th December can be found here at LondonHistorians

A brightly lit end to the year

So our glass of something is now replete onward to 2012 and a Happy New Year to all

London seen through the plays of Jack Rosenthal

There was much lapsing in Tot Hall last week with very little of an industrious nature being achieved. Visits to hostelries under the guise of research and the perusal of cinematography have taken priority.

Such same perusal of a particular favourite film provided the impetus for this post. The Chain (1984) written by Jack Rosenthal. An engaging tale which follows moving day for seven households beginning in Hackney to Tufnell Park via Willesden then Hammersmith into Hampstead on to Holland Park then Knightsbridge and full circle back to the street in Hackney.

Several of Manchester born Jack Rosenthal’s screenplays centre on London and its suburbs. Each are beautifully executed tales of everyday life narrated with pathos and humility. They are of their time but certainly none the worse for that.

The Chain begins its journey in Hackney, a somewhat different Hackney to the one that has up and come in the intervening twenty seven years since the film was made. The small terraced house that is used for the film set is shown to be 94 Quilter Street. In the screenplay a mother is preparing for the departure of her son, leaving her to await a lodger rather than face an empty house. 1881 finds the house far from empty; the Census for that year records four separate households: A Turner and his wife; Railway Porter with wife and five children; Laundress and daughter a boot fitter; Cellarman and his wife; so almost certainly one room per family in a small house comprising four rooms with a back kitchen and scullery with the only privy in the backyard.

Returning to The Chain we follow the son’s journey to Tufnell Park in a clapped out Morris Traveller. Here we are introduced to a young married couple about to embark on the property ladder with the familiar title that first came into common parlance in the 1980s the ‘first time buyer’. The young man about to move into the tired rented flat with the peeling paint on the window frames is of course suitably overawed by this ‘title’, along with the ninety per cent mortgage they have signed themselves up for. Littered around the scene thus confirming the changes in property fortunes we see the evidence of skips and scaffolding in place as slowly, gradually the once if not grand, then certainly respectable three storey terraces, built for the middling sort, are beginning to be restored to their former glory.

The next leg of the journey in the hired van with our new acquaintances ‘the first time buyers’ leads us to Willesden, where we find a post war low rise block of flats close to Walm Lane. Here we find a very young Phyllis Logan and David Troughton say goodbye to their flat in preparation to go to  a substantial property complete with granny flat in Hammersmith. The house is apparently in Burlington Road at number twenty eight although no such thoroughfare exists in Hammersmith.

A Little Bit of Hammersmith

Having dealt with squatters and cowboy removal companies we are taken to 55 Christchurch Hill Hampstead to persuade Billie Whitelaw in the guise of recently bereaved widow, to relinquish her home with an interior ‘just like Limasol’ and take up residence in a newly purchased house in Holland Park. At this point we all pour into the removal van including the widow and make our way to Holland Park.

Christchurch Hill was Christchurch Road until street renaming around 1938. The house used in the film at number fifty five is situated at the corner of Grove Place in the shadow of a block of twenty eight model dwellings built c.1914 on the site of the Wells’ Bath House.

Model Dwellings Grove Place Hampstead

On to a house in Holland Park ‘The Villa’ which by referring to this most interesting site turns out to be filmed at 87 Addison Road. Depicted in the film as a house of the better sort belonging to an aspirational family as intended when this street was built.                                             The 1881 Census records one Alfred Clark, Varnish Manufacturer and General Merchant residing there with his wife and six children aged twenty-two to four years old. The household included four servants of which one was a groom indicative of ‘carriage folk’.

We leave this house to embark to Knightsbridge where an elderly diplomat in the shape of Leo McKern is returning to his childhood home to die, but this time as a lodger in an unfamiliar house and thus we finish up full circle back in Hackney (Quilter Street). The film will not of course be to the taste of everyone, especially with the odd little moral thread that runs through it portraying the Seven Deadly Sins however the meander through the ordinary houses of the metropolis and within that Jack Rosenthal’s skill in illustrating human nature along the way is perfectly charming.

A Little Bit of Hackney

A slightly earlier production from Jack Rosenthal also centred firmly on London and one of the Capital’s most familiar sights was The Knowledge (1979). Following the ups and downs of four ‘Knowledge Boys’ in their bid to attain the coveted Green Badge and become fully fledged Licensed Hackney Carriage drivers. Known for his attention to detail and creating credible characters, good research played a large part in his writing. In this desire to get his subject right he accompanied London taxi drivers on their journeys and in doing so was granted a honoury taxi driver’s license in the process.

A beautifully written first hand account of the real Knowledge can be found here: alongside a cornucopia of accomplished narratives on life in London.

In Bar Mitzvah Boy (1976  ) the character of Victor Green  is also a London Taxi driver although this film centres around a Jewish family in a London suburb preparing . . . or not . . . .  for a family celebration. From memory boz believes the film location for Bar Mitzvah Boy may have been Neasden but can find no information available to confirm that. There is a recent adaptation for radio by Jack’s playwright daughter Amy Rosenthal which quite coincidently was broadcast this weekend.

Another tale of teenage angst set in 1948 P’tang Yang Kipperbang screened for the opening night of Channel 4 in 1982. Filmed at Wimbleden Chase Middle School and Cardinal Vaughn School, Kensington, the central character Alan Duckworth resides in a house in York Road, South Wimbledon.

Telling the story of the first television broadcast is the Fools on the Hill (1986) set almost entirely at Alexandra Palace with the opening scenes at Broadcasting House, Langham Place. The drama was made to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Television Service in 1986 and can be viewed here:                                          

Persephone and Ariel with Eric Gill - Getty Image taken from BBC website

Broadcasting House was the first purpose built premises in 1932 for radio broadcasting by the BBC. The statue of Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest was commissioned with Ariel being the spirit of the air considered a suitable expression of the essence of broadcasting. The original design for Eric Gill’s statue had to be modified in proportion. Following a question raised in the House of Commons as to the offence on public morals Gill was instructed by the first BBC Director General, John Reith to adjust the dimensions of Ariel’s genitalia to more decent proportions.

Broadcasting House

The venture into television was not to be at Langham Place but in north London at Alexandra Palace. Incepted by the Great Northern Palace Company and originally intended as a glass structure by the name of ‘People’s Palace’, however, lack of finance put a stop to the original proposal.  Alexandra Palace was completed 1875 by Charles and Thomas Lucas who at this time were also building the Royal Albert Hall. and took the name of the park within which it stood named after the newly married Princess of Wales when it opened in 1863.  The British Broadcasting Corporation leased the eastern part of the building from 1936 and aside of the interruption of the Second World War this became the main centre for BBC television production until 1956 at a time when Jack Rosenthal was working in the promotions department of the new Granada Television Company.

Alexandra Palace with Transmitter Mast

Born 1931 in Manchester Jack Rosenthal wrote so much more than the few examples outlined here, many of which included parts played by his wife, actress Maureen Lipman and who also appears in The Knowledge. At his death in 2004 his obituary in The Guardian referred to him as “television’s Charles Dickens” presumably in acknowledgement of his ability to draw out and display the inherent caricature in human behaviour.

To return briefly to the subject of ordinary London houses; for those who paused to wonder at the commencement of this post why boz resides in Tot Hall, then this is Tot:

Expression of displeasure with his building site