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

All Hallows’ Eve

In searching for a publication or writings of some description pertaining to the metropolis on the evening before All Saints Day, although no doubt there are many in existence, only one was readily apparent for the time being. Written by Charles Williams  All Hallows’ Eve (1945)  was apt for the subject of today’s post at least in terms of title and setting if nothing else.

Charles Williams was born Islington 1886 living in Holloway until 1894 when his parents moved to St. Albans from where they ran a shop selling art materials. Later returning to London to study at University College. In 1908 he began work as a proof reader for Oxford University Press at the London offices in Paternoster Row moving to Warwick Square 1924 where the name Amen Corner given to the warehouse on the site of the old Newgate Prison still remains. Rising to editor Williams worked in London until 1939 when the outbreak of the Second World War saw the publishing house relocate the London arm of the business to Oxford. The move to Oxford was instrumental in Williams becoming a member of the Inklings literary society formed by C. S. Lewis which included J. R. R. Tolkien in the group.

Charles William’s tale of All Hallows Eve was not to the taste of boz. Supposedly a story of divine love triumphing over evil; this reader found it to be sickening and trite. In the intentions of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers Fat Boy “I wants to make your flesh creep” it succeeds but in that it  makes the reader uncomfortable in the manner of voyeur not because it is a frightening narrative. However it is not for boz to impose unasked for opinions on the readers of this post therefore for those not familiar with Charles William’s All Hallows Eve (1945) it may be read here:

All Hallows Eve takes in some parts of the City beginning on Westminster Bridge continuing the narrative encompassing St. Paul’s, Holborn, Tooting and Highgate Hill. Central to the story is a hall described as being ‘Behind Holborn, close to Great James Street, in a short street undamaged by the raids’. The reality of this imagined street could be any of a half dozen in that neighbourhood, however for the purposes of this post it is well suited to the convenience of boz to suppose that it may well have been Dombey Street. The reason for this is nothing to do with the street’s 1936 renaming after a novel by Charles Dickens. This thoroughfare was formerly known as East Street and as we have been disappointed with fictional tales we may conjure some factual horrors for All Souls Eve in the form of the building practises of Nicholas Barbon who obtained the reversion of a fifty one year lease for the development of East Street in 1684. Of the original houses put up by Barbon only numbers nine to fifteen have survived as a result of restoration much as took place in Red Lion Square for any who recall last weeks post.

The major source of biographical information on Nicholas Barbon is from The Autobiography of the Hon. Roger North‘s who wrote of him:

“. . . . with his much dealing in building, and consequently transacting with multitudes, he was exquisite mob master, and knew the arts of leading, winding, or driving mankind in herds as well as any that I ever observed. “

And a description from purchasers of two of Barbon’s houses:

“were very incomplete, imperfect and unfinished, and such works as were done were so ill and artificially done that the same were found to be new done and amended and repaired, several of the piers being cracked, the floors shrunk, and the house in some places in danger of falling . . . the vaults thereof are not tight but are so built whereby the rain comes in to them whereby the defendants cannot lay any goods in them.”

This related from PRO Chancery Cases within an excellent account of both Nicholas Barbon and speculative building in the eighteenth century The Birth of Modern London (1999) Elizabeth McKellar.

Being not currently in possession of any pictures of Dombey Street we will make do with a photograph of a street which at the time of capturing boz did not take care to note so beyond recalling that it is very near the locality of Red Lion Square it will remain uncatalogued until a return to that district is made. Should it be identified by any observers in the meantime that would be most useful in facilitating the correction of such negligible reporting.

Street WC1

Attempting to remain on the subject of grimness whilst not straying into the occult and also inspired by the site of the Oxford University Press warehouse; we will finish (as finish we must or this post will lose a little of its pertinence beyond midnight) with an account of Newgate Prison:

“It was a spacious, bare, whitewashed apartment, lighted of course, by windows looking into the interior of the prison, but far more light and airy than one could reasonably expect to find in such a situation. There was a large fire with a deal table before it, round which ten or a dozen women were seated on wooden forms at dinner. Along both sides of the room ran a shelf; and below it, at regular intervals, a row of large hooks were fixed in the wall, on each of them was hung the sleeping mat of a prisoner; her rug and blanket being folded up, and placed on the shelf above. At night these mats are placed on the floor, each beneath the hook on which it hangs during the day; and the ward is thus made to answer the purposes both of a day-room and sleeping apartment.”

This 1836 account by Charles Dickens taken from Chapter twenty two of Sketches by Boz alludes to a scene which could be considered if not cheerful then one could certainly forgive the reader for believing the establishment described to be warm and well ordered in fact rather more welcoming than most workhouses at that time if this observation is accurate. For now the benefit of the doubt must be granted so we will return to Newgate at a later date when there has been time enough for a little research away from the rose tinted glow of Dickens spectacles.
For quite some time now the spectre of the Shard has afforded some fascination in these quarters. So on an evening of apparitions will bid farewell with a night time view; taken from the gutter whilst looking at the stars; the wisps are likely to be from the smokers in the alleyway but can be viewed as something more whimsical should it so please.

Shard from the gutter

A Walk through Town I

It has taken a little time for this post to be compiled as a result of an eclectic collection of snapshots taken on a warm Spring evening 26 April this year. The only connection between the photographs is that boz paused long enough to look and wonder on the way from Clerkenwell to a destination in Covent Garden.

First stop Red Lion Square which has since resulted in a confusion with numbers. Being a rare occassion when not in a hurry to be elsewhere, it was possible to stop and photograph two buidings I have oft admired. The first being a rather nice example of interwar architecture at number 25 Red Lion Square:

Conway Hall

Building commenced 1926 and completed 1929 for the congregation of the South Place Ethical Society, a group of non conformists formed 1795 known as the Philadelphians or Universalists. Originally based in a building at 11 South Place, Finsbury  where William Hazlitt was a regular attendee and from which they retained the name on moving to the larger premises at Red Lion Square. Apparently Red Lion Square was numbered differently with the site of Conway Hall being number  37 not 25 as it is today. Have been unable thus far to find any evidence of renumbering and no Census from 1881 to 1911 lists a number 37. The site of Conway Hall was supposedly purchased as a tenement block but again no such building is in evidence by 1911.

The Charles Booth notebooks have little to say about Red Lion Square though do note the existence of flats and a lodging house:

“A few inhabited homes. Many are business premises. At the corner of Leigh Street are flats. Pink as map. There is a common lodging house on the NE side of this square which is not registered because it takes a stipulated sum per week and does not put more than a given number in a room. This seems to be the difference between lodgings and a common lodging house.”  Booth Notebooks B354 p21 As observed by George Duckworth walking with Police Constable Turner Tuesday July 12th 1898.

It is doubtful that the flats noted are the tenements that later became Conway House being that Leigh Street was on the opposite side of the Square. It is likely that the lodging house that perplexes George Duckworth was the Girls Friendly Society lodgings at number eleven present until the 1911 Census with boarders being young women only. Any information as to the renumbering of Red Lion Square would be very well received.

The development to build Red Lion Square was commenced 1684 on the site of Red Lion Fields by Nicholas Barbon, a surgeon who diverted into speculative builder, notorious for his sub standard buildings and dubious land acquisitions. As a result not many of Barbon’s buildings have stood the test of time and most houses in Red Lion Square were rebuilt throughout the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The exception being numbers fourteen to seventeen which remain the originals built by Barbon refronted in the nineteenth century of which number seventeen is well known:

17 Red Lion Square

17 Red Lion Square

It is here that Danté Gabriel Rossetti is reputed to have briefly lodged in 1851 and later recommending the same rooms to William Morris and Edward Burne Jones in 1856 which were apparently damp and decrepit. Given that these were within the original building the condition is to be expected of Nicholas Barbon’s standard of construction indeed it is to be wondered upon that the house was still standing at all in 1856. 1861 saw the firm Morris, Faulkner & Co. established at number 8 Red Lion Square.

There is of course much more of interest in Red Lion Square and numerous notable residents, but that is not for this post lest we forget that we are on a walk and dusk is approaching so must continue our journey en route to Seven Dials. Down Red Lion Street and along High Holborn takes us by Grape Street where it is deemed necessary to capture the stage door of the Shaftesbury Theatre. Although disappointingly lacking in thespian activity at such an early hour in the evening it does retain a couple of original sash windows (to the right of the picture) sash windows being of particular attraction for boz. Opened 1911 as the New Prince’s Theatre and becoming the Prince’s Theatre 1914 it was acquired by EMI 1962 to be renamed the Shaftesbury Theatre 1963. The Booth notebooks make little mention of this site as the area was being rebuilt as our guide George Duckworth notes on his travels of 1898 with Grape Street as yet not in existence.

Srage Door at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Across Shaftesbury Avenue into Neals Yard. Colourful now but according to George Duckworth report for the Booth Notebooks all stables in 1898 the Poverty map showing Black edged with Purple.

Neals Yard

Continuing onto Long Acre via brief visit to Stanfords’ excellent emporium of maps and printed goods back into Rose Street by the establishment of the Lamb and Flag public house. Being suit time on a clement Tuesday evening there is a throng at the bar spilling into the street. Reputedly the oldest pub in Covent Garden although records are sketchy, the earliest date at which the house is recorded as licensed premises in the Greater London rate books is 1772  as the Cooper’s Arms. According to Strypes Survey 1720 Rose Street was originally named in two parts as White Rose Street being the northern arm and Red Rose Street the southern part over time the distinction is lost. Another example of confusion with numbers the building which is the Lamb and Flag at number 33 was originally 11 Rose Street and listed as such in the 1881 Census with one Caleb Cullen and his wife Hannah in residence as wine and spirit merchants.

Whilst considering if time would permit the wait to be served at the bar, and reluctantly conceding that it would not; a hitherto unnoticed building was observed:

Westminster Fire Office

At the time of taking the photograph it was not realised that the building would be later encountered in researching the career of Arthur Rackham; stalwart readers will recall this from the last post as being the one time workplace of the illustrator. Now part of Garrick House which incorporate numbers 27-32 King Street and housing solicitors offices. It should be noted that the rather unnecessary and quite dreadful plastic bunting to the left of the picture was a temporary nod to patriotism given impending nuptials and fortunately not a permanent fixture.

From here through Mercer Street where we find a lovely example of the work of Ben Eine:

Ben Eine Mercer Street

For the best available accounts of the work of Ben Eine I can do no better than refer you to the inimitable writing of the Gentle Author to be found within the highly esteemed                 Spitalfields Life

Onward to Shorts gardens almost at the destination. Dusk is by now apparent serving to enhance the light in the shop windows making one notable cheesemonger appear quite magical:

Neal's Yard Dairy Shorts Gardens

This shop which opened and took its name from Neals Yard in 1979 later moved to 17 Shorts Gardens 1992. There is no number 17 Shorts Gardens listed on the 1881 Census as yet it is unclear if this presents another instance of renumbering. Of the area the Booth Archive Police Notebooks have this to say:

“small shops, Irish, rough poor, working class, ‘fling bricks at the police but are not criminal’ DB (Dark Blue) as map.” Booth Notebooks 354 p107

Thus noted George Duckworth citing Police Constable Tait’s observation 26 July 1898.

Being much too interested in the business of others boz wonders if the flat above number 17 is now let; who has taken it; what sort of a person they are. In pondering this the journey ends at the Crown in Monmouth Street so must take leave with a sketch for now.

Little bit of a big print

Illustrated News

There has been a distinct lack of posts for the duration of August and September although it is hoped that the narrative for October may be a little more prolific, beginning with two small acquisitions to the bookshelf. A slight anomaly in fact as boz does not as yet have book shelves in the building site, rather disorganised stacks that are there to be tripped upon and apt to topple when searching in haste for a particular tome.

In recent weeks the electronic auction house has been visited and two purchases made to further add to said precipitous pile. The first purchase was a faithful reproduction of a title to which it is perhaps surprising to have hitherto not been in possession of a copy.

A new acquisition

Despite being very familiar with most of the chapters contained therein these have been largely gleaned from perusing  articles, contained in issues of the Pall Mall Gazette and Morning Chronicle and the Monthly Magazine for the greater part, in archive offices and local studies libraries. In existence are many pages of cheap photocopies dog eared and tea stained from many years of recourse.

Unable to run to a proper first edition boz was very pleased to happen on the above, quite by chance whilst seeking a cast iron down pipe for the building site. Cheaply bound, with a strange flimsy bonded leather almost soft cover, a 1907 reprint of the original publication. It is likely to be little used as old habits die hard and the tattered photocopies of individual articles retain their place for now. Nonetheless it has proved a very satisfactory purchase and has now completed a collection of Dickens works, all of which are a hotchpotch of mismatched editions spanning more than a century and several publishing houses.

Part of  the appeal of this volume was that it holds facsimile prints of the illustrations by George Cruikshank including a reproduction of the original drawing for the wrapper to the first complete edition published in one shilling monthly parts by Messrs.  Chapman and Hall from November 1837 to January 1839.

Design for wrapper drawn by George Cruikshank

Cruikshank was Dickens’s illustrator from 1836 for the first and second series of Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist (1837) after which he did not illustrate any of Charles Dickens other serials being engaged exclusively by the publisher Richard Bentley for Bentley’s Miscellany when it was founded in 1837. Cruikshank did however redraw his original illustrations for the Chapman and Hall 1839 edition of Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People along with a new frontispiece for that edition:

Facsimile title page of Edition of 1837

George Cruikshank 1792-1878 was London born and very familiar with its low life. Frequently likened to Hogarth, although perhaps lacking that particular artist’s finely wrought skill and tender detailed observations. In Cruikshank’s illustrations for Pierce Egan’s Life in London a monthly shilling journal published from 1821 there begun what might be considered one of the first attempts in “establishing forms of pictorial realisation that became such an important feature of Victorian publishing.”  as described in the synopsis for Unkown London: Early Modernist Visions of the Metropolis, 1815-1845 (2000) John Marriott, Masaie Matsumura, Judith R. Walkowitz. An unrivalled anthology of literature and illustration on the Metropolis with an introductory chapter from John Marriott exploring the significance of the rare texts which laid the foundations for Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew and their successors.

Cruikshank was for the most part a caricaturist and the personal preference of this boz has always been for the more ethereal illustrations of Dickens’s next illustrator Hablot Knight Browne 1815-1882. As a child often walking along Ladbroke Grove one particular house bearing an English Heritage Blue Plaque inscribed with the name “Phiz”  possesed an enchanting curiosity long before ever having heard of any such person as Charles Dickens.

If we continue along Ladbroke Grove this will bring us close by to Kensington Gardens and thus to the second acquisition. The next small purchase was the result of trying to research some Arthur Rackham illustrations online and deciding that a printed version would be preferable. Although it would appear that the difficulty  may rest with a requirement for  spectacles rather than the computer screen.

The illustrations sought were those created by Arthur Rackham for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906). J. M. Barrie, published in response to the success of the play Peter Pan The Boy Wouldnt Grow Up which debuted at the Duke of York’s Theatre St. Martin’s Lane 27 December 1904. The play was a different story to the first publiaction of the book. Barrie’s original version was part of a dark novel for adult readers The Little White Bird (1902) from which chapters thirteen to eighteen were republished under the title Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) containing fifty colour plate illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

The very inexpensive version obtained by boz is not so grand, being a 1951 reprint of a 1929 edition and ‘Retold for Little People by May Byron with the permission of the Author’. It does however contain eight of the Rackham colour plates including one particular favourite:

Altered the hour on the board

Also therein are some reproductions of Rackham’s charming drawings for the 1912 edition:

Kensington gardens are full of dogs, and fairies, and children

Arthur Rackham 1867-1939 was born in Lewisham and studied at the City of London School and would have been a pupil at the original site in Milk Street off Cheapside, where he became known for his art. In 1885 he obtained work as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and continued to study part time at the Lambeth School of Art. Making occasional sales as an illustrator for magazines this led to employment with a weekly magazine the Westminster Budget as an illustrator in 1892. By the 1906 publication of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Arthur Rackham was already a successful and known book illustrator going on to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907).

The purchase of the 1959 copy with its few colour plates was to provide inspiration for a new screen print A London Fairytale:

Sketch for A London Fairytale

The rough sketch is the beginning of the screen to be completed soon and will be found: ‘Second to the right, and straight on till morning’.