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.

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’.

Town Mouse

Many thanks to the Gentle Author of the wonderful blog Spitalfields Life for drawing our attention to the beautiful illustrations of London Life by Joanna Moore.

LondonKillsMe wantonly abandoned Christmas orders yesterday to visit Joanna’s exhibition in Spitalfields before it ends this Friday 18 December 2010.

The exhibition is a stunning display of distinctive drawings which perfectly capture scenes of daily life and buildings in the metropolis.

Joanna with Bar at Captain Kidd and St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London, by night in the background.

Each picture is drawn from observation and the delightful story of how this impressive collection came about can be read in You can find Joanna’s own perfectly illustrated blog Town Mouse @

Tomorrow 18 December is the last day of the exhibition and well worth making time to visit before it closes.

City Sketches is housed in a beautiful setting, more of which to follow, at:

Town House, 5 Fournier St. London E1 6QE

10-18 December 11.30 am – 5.30pm

Snapshot of the exhibition refelected in the rear window of the beautiful Town House building at 5 Fournier St, London E1 6QE