Saturday, November 22nd 2014
We awoke to another dull, damp Saturday. This will probably be the trend now until the season changes. The Angel Crossroads presented a gloomy aspect.
The air was charged with rain and the sky was dull and leaden – not good conditions in which to take photos!
We caught a bus to Islington Green. or Islington Memorial Green, as it has now been named, and found Gallipoli open, where we cheered ourselves up with a Turkish breakfast with grilled Halloumi and Turkish tea.
The triangular open space, usually simply known as the Green or Islington Green, is now called Islington Memorial Green, presumably because part of it is occupied by the war memorial. Though commemorating the fallen in both World Wars, this structure dates only from 2006 when it replaced a previous monument called the War Shrine. This was erected in 1918 as a temporary memorial but survived 87 years or so until it was thought to be in sufficiently bad condition to need replacing. I did not manage to photograph the old memorial but found a short piece of film made at the time of its dedication and you can see it here.
This new monument by John Main, was controversial and some people referred to it (and still do) as “the doughnut”. I am not sure what it is intended to represent unless it is a slightly abstract wreath. Last year, repairs had to be made as the monument was sinking, a circumstance blamed on inadequate foundations. For a while it was supported by a steel frame that, ironically, took the form of the CND logo. You will find the Islington Tribune’s report on the matter, together with a photo, here. For now at least, the memorial seems to have recovered its aplomb.
Later we found ourselves in Fitzrovia where I took the above photo of Margaret Street. The street’s skyline is dominated by a church spire though, from this angle, the church itself is hard to spot.
The church is slotted in among other buildings in such a way that it presents a fairly modest entrance to the street. The gate leads to a small courtyard and thence to the church door. As well as the church, the complex includes a vicarage and a choir school. The church’s information board says the church is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm but we were unable to gain access.
Completed in 1859 and designed by William Butterfield, this church is regarded by Simon Thurley as one of the ten most important buildings in England (see here). Another admirer, poet laureate John Betjemen, credited All Saints with starting the revolution in church building that gave us so many Gothic Revival masterpieces.
Not being able to see the interior, which I hear is splendid, we made do with a few photos of exterior details such as this relief of an angelic visitation, which I imagine is a representation of the Annunciation.
The 627 ft (191 m) tall BT Tower is a brooding presence in Fitzrovia, appearing again and again in street views. In the above photo we are viewing it along Berners Street. Completed in 1964 as the Post Office Tower, it later became known as the London Telecom Tower and, more recently, as the British Telecom or BT Tower. In 2003, it became a Grade II listed building.
On a dull day, the bright red door and gleaming brasses of the entrance to York House added a welcome splash of colour and vivacity.
Just opposite in Berners Street is the Sanderson Hotel. This 1950s building takes it name from the original commissioning owners, Arthur Sanderson & Sons, manufacturers of wallpaper, fabrics and paint. The building itself is listed Grade II*, no doubt as much for its historic importance as for its aesthetic appeal which I failed to notice. The hotel is currently hosting a four-day event called the Frieze Festival with exhibits of modern art. Items include this pair of horses placed outside the hotel. They are by Mr Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, an artist said to have been born in Paris and to be now resident in Los Angeles. Others claim that he is in fact street artist Banksy engaging in an extended parody of himself. The horses, made of crockery shards, are quite lively and attractive.
Now for our “Last Chance to See” spot: three buildings that are about to disappear never to be seen again. Should we be sad about this? You be the judge.
The three buildings in question are shown in the photo above. The two on the right perhaps have their merits but the one that is attracting most attention is the one occupying the greater part of the photo and boasting a curvy roof canopy. It is known as Copyright House.
This office block was built in the 1950s by controversial architect Richard Seifert. Widely criticised for what were considered ugly buildings, Seifert has more recently gained something of a following and increasing interest is being shown in his works. For example, I hear that the Twentieth Century Society has made a bid to have Copyright House listed and thus to save it from demolition. Why anyone would wish to have this impressively nondescript heap saved for future generations is not clear to me (unless it is the fear of something even worse being put in its place) but I will just quote the Latin maxim, De gustibus non est disputandum, and pass on.
I much preferred this pretty apartment block with shops on the ground floor. It is called Berners Mansion and was built in 1897 to a design by George Dennis Martin, who seems relatively little known. This building is not listed but as it resides within a conservation area, its immediate future seems assured. It replaced a previous 18th century building whose demolition possibly stirred up the same sort of resentment that we see today in the case of Copyright House. Plus ça change…
Opposite Berners Mansion, on the terrace of a restaurant, is a fine life-size sculpture of a bull. I am sure it is a favourite with customers which perhaps goes some way to explaining the curious notice affixed to the wall beside it.
THE BULL DO SO
ENTIRELY AT THEIR
I am not sure how one typically “engages” with a sculpted bull but to do so is obviously a risky business, especially (one might conjecture) if one has sampled the no doubt excellent wines served by the restaurant.
On the corner of Newman Street and Eastcastle Street is a pub called the Blue Posts. In front of it, this post box caught my eye. Some decades ago – in the 1950s, possibly – there was a concerted plan to place on top of every pillar box a sign pointing the direction to the nearest post office. These signs did not last very long and by now have virtually disappeared. Modern pillar boxes show no trace of them but older ones often display the remains of the bracket that once held the sign. The sign on this post box still survives, perhaps because it is of a robust design in metal whereas most were boards with metal brackets. So many post offices have closed down in recent years that even where such signs still exist, it is a matter of chance whether they actually do point to one.
Before turning for home, we decided that a warming beverage would be welcome. Tigger remembered that nearby was a branch of Yumchaa, the no-tea-bag tea house. Perhaps because of the weather, the place was packed and we were about to leave unrefreshed when a table became free. They had run out of Russian Caravan but I choose a fragrant Oolong instead. Just what you want to fortify you for the bus ride home!