A couple of sculptures

Thursday, July 24th 2014

This evening we happened to find ourselves in the area around St Katharine’s Dock and we went in Thomas More Square. There we found a couple of sculptures. The sun was sinking and the shadows lengthening, making the light very contrasty. Did this detract from the sculptures or did it enhance them in some strange way? You be the judge.

Angel Musician Angel Musician
Angel Musician
Carl Milles (unveiled 1991)

The curious thing about angels is that they are supposed to be sexless but that they are almost never so represented in art. They are either aggressively masculine, as in the representations of St Michael trouncing the Devil or, when they appear on tombs in cemeteries, voluptuously feminine. This one seems to have taken the form of a skinny teenager but his gender is obvious.

To Meet Again
To Meet Again To Meet Again
To Meet Again
Michel Beck (1990)

I am not sure whether the couple, who seem to be staring deeply into one another’s eyes, are on the point of parting or whether they are meeting again after a separation. The title seems to allow either. Perhaps we choose whichever meaning is uppermost in our own mind.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Three to be going on with

Wednesday, July 23rd 2014

It has been hot lately, hot enough to act as a disincentive to activity outside that which is essential, such as work and shopping. We haven’t made our usual visits and haven’t taken many photographs. I am not going to grumble about the heat, though, because it will break soon enough and we shall then start grumbling about the cold and wishing it was warm again!

Just to be going on with, here are three photos taken at odd moments during this time of heat and inactivity. They were taken at different times and there is no connection between them.

The Big Issue seller and the pigeon
The Big Issue seller and the pigeon

Near Fenchurch Street Station I noticed this vendor of The Big Issue. There are many such at large in London but what attracted my attention in this case was the man’s companion. On the pavement beside him was a pigeon. Pigeons are hardly rare in London either, but this one was standing quite still and was gazing at the man as though waiting for something. Used to seeing pigeons actively bobbing about, I found this expectant stillness unusual. I can only guess that the magazine seller is in the habit of sharing his lunch with the pigeon and that the pigeon is waiting for that happy moment. I hope so.

The green bicycle
The green bicycle (Clerkenwell)

A green bicycle is propped against a post in the sunshine while the owner is in the shop. What’s the story? There isn’t one. It’s just a green bicycle in the sunshine. It attracted me, for some reason, perhaps because of the unusual colours (it looks hand painted) and its somewhat “retro” design. You would have seen bicycles like this trundling around Cheltenham under ageing bottoms in the 1950s. It is a sedate bicycle for a lady in a hat and a flowing skirt.

Wall painting by Endless
Wall painting by Endless

There is a cafe in St John Street that we frequent from time to time. The other day, the owner pointed out to us a painting that had appeared on an end wall nearby. He was mystified by it so I photographed it and looked up the artist. It is by a street artist who works under the name of Endless. He seems to practise stencil work and paste-ups as well as direct painting. You will find some information on the artist here and his Facebook page here.

Endless is a member of a growing band of street artists who bring to their labours true artistic ability though their creations often have a spontaneous, finished-in-a-hurry look. Their works are sometimes on a grand scale occupying whole walls or building façades. It is an ephemeral art because their works often become obscured by graffiti and tags or are covered over by new paintings. While “Banksy” is well known to the public and has attained cult status, he is far from alone in his endeavours and other artists bring equal dedication and edgy inspiration to their often impressive artworks.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Vauxhall City Farm

Saturday, July 12th 2014

Britain has been languishing under a heat wave these last few weeks and this has token its toll on our activities. The heat, combined with that traditional bugbear of these islands, the humidity, has disinclined us to engage in more than minimal activity. This afternoon, however, we gritted our teeth and set out. Where were we going? I’m not sure, but we ended up south of the river in Vauxhall.

This strange name, now applied to a railway station and the area around it, is said to derive from Falkes de Breauté, a henchman of King John, who had a manor or hall hereabouts. By the 13th century, this was known as Faukeshale (“Falkes’ Hall”), later Foxhall and, eventually Vauxhall.

Tree stump dragon Tree stump dragon
Tree stump dragon
Commemorating the St George’s Day Festival, 2014

We walked across Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, today a pleasant park, but  which, from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century had been a famous gardens and place of entertainment. It was said to be a favourite of Sir Christopher Wren. We discovered this rather fine piece of wood carving protruding from the grass. It looks as if it is the stump of a tree that has been carved to represent a fire-breathing dragon. I could not see any indication of the artist’s name but engraved below it are the words “Saint George’s Day Festival 2014”.

Alpaca
Alpaca
Vauxhall City Farm

On the east side of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is the Vauxhall City Farm. Our first glimpse of the inmates was of this alpaca grazing in its compound. How many city farms are there in London? That’s not an easy question to answer because it depends on how your define a city farm. It’s probably safe to say that there are more than 12 and fewer than 20.

Black and white sheep
Black and white sheep

It’s also not easy to say what animals you can expect to see in a city farm. There will usually be examples of the more common farm animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, ducks and chickens though relatively few seem to have cows or bulls. In addition, they may have more exotic species such as llamas, alpacas, guinea fowl and runner ducks.

Pony Pony
Pony

City farms are characterized by their educational intent which covers not only animal welfare but also general environmental concern. There is usually plenty of information on display and staff, who present more like keepers in a zoo than farm hands in the traditional sense, may give talks and be on hand to answer questions.

Bug hotel
Bug hotel

An indication of wider environmental concerns is the presence of “bug hotels” to provide living quarters for the smaller members of the community.

Having a drink together
Having a drink together

It is not always easy to get a good photo (or even a good view) of your favourite animals because they usually reside in comfortably sized enclosures and move about freely within them. You have to keep a watchful eye and take your chance when it comes.

A goat and an audience
A goat and an audience

Something else that makes life a little difficult for the photographer is that city farms are likely to be crowded, especially at weekends and in fine weather. Many a good shot has been ruined by people stepping in front of the camera at the critical moment! This is a good, though, because it means that people are interested in seeing the animals and by doing so they learn about them. Surveys have shown lamentable ignorance among school children who were unaware that milk came from cows or could not put a name to sheep and other common species.

Begging for titbits
Begging for titbits

A clear difference between the traditional farm and the city farm is how the animals react to you. On a traditional farm, a stranger in unlikely to get anywhere near the sheep as these shy creatures will run away from him. The opposite occurs on the city farm: even the sheep will approach you and make eyes at you! This is cupboard love, of course, as they are hoping for a snack.

See how magnificent I am!
See how magnificent I am!
Click to see the slide show

There are more ways of reacting to a human audience than asking for food. This turkey cock, for example, seeing that he had an audience, began his display routine, as he would in front of a hen. He was clearly saying “Look how magnificent I am!” (Click to see the other pictures.)

Rarin' to go
Rarin’ to go

City farms are busy places and, as on any farm, there is a lot of work to do. They run on a shoestring and welcome volunteers to support the regular staff.

I don’t know where this pair of goats was off to but the animals were obviously excited and rarin’ to go. This energy and interest shows that the inmates are well cared for and are healthy.

We decided we had had enough of the heat and took a bus home for a rest and a cup of tea!

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 2)

Friday, July 11th 2014

This evening, on the way home from work, we had the opportunity of completing our viewing of the sculptures forming this year’s Sculpture in the City 2014. This is Part 2 and for Part 1 see here: Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 1). You will find maps of the locations of the individual sculptures here and here. As before, I will give the titles of the works I show you and the artists’ names but for a description on each work, see the City of London’s About the Artwork and the Artists.

There are 14 works on show and in Part 1 I showed you 8. Below are pictures of the remaining 6 sculptures. In line with modern usage of the term, “sculpture” is given a broad interpretation. In some cases, the word “installation” might seem more appropriate (for example, see item 12) but in modern art, it doesn’t do to split hairs. One of the most exciting things about modern art is the way that it jostles and overturns traditional categories.

As before, I present the works in the order in which we visited them, not in numerical order, and I show three views of each.

(11) Kiss
(11) Kiss (11) Kiss
(11) Kiss
Nigel Hall (2000)

(10) Southern Shade I; Southern Shade V
(10) Southern Shade I; Southern Shade V (10) Southern Shade I; Southern Shade V
(10) Southern Shade I; Southern Shade V
Nigel Hall (2012)

In between the two parts (see top picture), you can see the white enamelled “lectern” that displays information on the neighbouring artwork and a map showing the locations of all the sculptures.

(14) Parallel Field
(14) Parallel Field (14) Parallel Field
(14) Parallel Field
Anthony Gormley (1990)

(6) Shapes in the Clouds I, IV, V
(6) Shapes in the Clouds (6) Shapes in the Clouds I, IV, V
(6) Shapes in the Clouds I, IV, V
Peter Randall-Page (2013)

(13) Time here becomes space, Space here becomes time

(13) Time here becomes space, Space here becomes time (13) Time here becomes space, Space here becomes time
(13) Time here becomes space, Space here becomes time
Cerith Wyn Evans (2004)

(12) False Ceiling
(12) False Ceiling (12) False Ceiling
(12) False Ceiling
Richard Wentworth (1995)

Taken together Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 1) and Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 2) show all 14 sculptures. If you can visit the artworks yourself, I encourage you to do so, but if not, then I hope my pictures will give you some idea of them. Sculpture is a three-dimensional art (one of the reasons why I find it so fascinating) and nothing can replace seeing a work from all different angles. A group of three pictures can but give an impression of the real thing. I hope that is better than nothing.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Underground in Rotherhithe

Saturday, July 5th 2014

We are taking a friend to Rotherhithe to show him the Brunel Museum there. We have already visited this museum ourselves (see May Staycation 2013 – Day 7) and exhausted its treasures – at least, the treasures that lie above ground. Today we are hoping to enjoy a more subterranean adventure.

Rotherhithe Station
Rotherhithe Station
Now part of the Overground service

Rotherhithe is on the south side of the Thames and can be reached by taking the Overground train service to its Victorian station, though that’s not how we came here today. We chose to use the buses instead. The station first opened in 1869 when the East London Railway reached here. In the 1880s it became a stop on the then newly built Metropolitan Line, the world’s first underground railway system.

St Olav's Norwegian Church
St Olav’s Norwegian Church
Inaugurated in 1927

Not far away from the station is the Church of St Olav, a Norwegian church. Designed by John Love Seayon Dahl, its foundation stone was laid in 1926 by its patron’s namesake, Prince Olav, who later became King Olav V of Norway.

Plaque to King Olav V of Norway Viking Ship on the Spire
King Olav and a Drakkar

On the wall is a plaque to King Olav V (1903-1991), while the spire is topped by a rather fetching model of a drakkar, or Viking dragon ship, a pretty if somewhat sinister reminder of past relations between our two nations.

In Albion Street we found a small street market where all the stalls had tent-like roofs. It didn’t seem very busy but perhaps trade picks up later in the day.

Street Market
Street Market
Street Market

Beside the Brunel Museum, which is accommodated in what was originally Brunel’s engine house, is the shaft that he dug in order to begin boring his tunnel under the Thames. The shaft, a circular hole in the ground lined with two layers of bricks and strengthened with metal supports, was put in place by an entirely novel method invented by Brunel. Instead of digging a hole and lining it with bricks as the depth increased – the method universally adopted up to that time – Brunel built a circular tower on the surface, making it heavy enough to gradually sink into the soft wet soil. A fuller description of the process is given here.

After the tunnel was completed, the shaft, fitted with a staircase, was used for public access to the tunnel. When the public was no longer allowed into the tunnel, the shaft was closed and remained so for about 145 years. It has recently been decided  to open it for for guided tours.

Panoramic view of the shaft
Panoramic view of the shaft
Click for a larger view

We bought our tickets and were asked to wait until the tour began. When we were called, we found that we were at the end of a very long queue of people who had already started to go down. I wondered why progress was so slow but eventually found out: the entrance was not a door but a square-section hole through the thick wall. If you were short and limber, you could probably walk through this passage (about six feet in length) as long as you bent double, but I was too tall to do that and had to go down on my hands and knees and crawl through.

Down in the shaft 1
Down in the shaft 1

I do have a touch of claustrophobia and had to grit my teeth to get through, telling myself it would be fine once I was inside. Emerging from the passage, I found myself at the top of a temporary staircase built of scaffolding and planks. Looking down between the scaffolding rods, I could see below me a crowd of people seated in rows on chairs. Instead of making me feel better, this for some reason made me feel worse and I seriously thought of turning around and crawling out into the daylight again. However, tickets were a touch expensive and our friend had paid so I felt I ought not duck out.

Arriving down below we found that the tour guide had not waited for us and had already begun his lecture. The acoustics were poor and we could hear what he said only when he turned his head on our direction. My companions only heard half of what he said while I understood nothing at all because of my bad hearing.

I kept thinking of the narrow passage and the length of time it would take for us all to leave the place. What if there were an emergency? I steeled myself and determined to sit here until everyone else had left when I would have a confidence-boosting clear exit.

Down the shaft 2
Down the shaft 2

The lecture, seemingly as interminable as it was incomprehensible, finally came to an end and the audience began to trickle out like sand grains through the neck of an hour glass. Some people hung back talking to the lecturer and asking questions. When the exit at last seemed clear, I made a dash for it, crawling on hands and knees along the passage, gratefully emerging into daylight and fresh air.

If you wonder at the colour of the above photos, this is because technicians were lighting the place with projectors with coloured lights. Why they would do this, I don’t know. If they thought it made the place look pretty, they were wrong. If anything, it gave the place a sinister atmosphere, like a pantomime representation of Hell.

Incidentally, the line you see on the wall snaking its way down from right to left is the trace of the old public staircase.

Engline house chimney
Chimney of the Engine House, now the Museum

Although it was a dull day with the threat of rain, I was happy to stand out in the open, breathing fresh air while our friend had a look round the museum. It was at this point that Tigger spotted something odd in a tree in the museum garden. Perhaps you can see it in the photo below.

Is that a bird I see before me?
Is that a bird I see before me?

Tigger asked me whether I thought that the object in the tree was an ornamental wooden bird. It was too still to be a real bird so perhaps it was a model. But why would there be a wooden bird in the tree, in any case? We spent a while amusedly trying to make up our minds about it and then approached closer in order to resolve the question.

No, not a bird
No, not a bird

No, it was not a bird but just a chance alignment of features of the tree that had no relation to one another (other than that of belonging to the tree). A pure optical illusion.

St Mary's Rotherhithe
St Mary’s Rotherhithe
Burial place of Captain Christopher Jones

Near the museum is the 18th century Church of St Mary’s Rotherhithe. The church likes to boast of its connections with the Pilgrim Fathers but the only real connection seems to be a  burial in its graveyard. The Mayflower certainly set sail from near here, accompanied by the Speedwell, on the first leg its journey but that’s a tenuous enough link. The Master of the Mayflower was Captain Christopher Jones and he certainly was of this parish and he ended up buried in the burial ground.

Christopher Jones Monument
Christopher Jones Monument
Jamie Sargeant (1995)

Jones was buried here subsequent to his death at the age of 55 in 1622. The monument to him, by Jamie Sargeant, was erected in 1995. Well might the good captain enquire “What took you so long?”

St Mary's School
St Mary’s School
A Bluecoat charity school

Opposite the church is a compact but handsome house that was once home to St Mary’s School. As the pair of figures set between first floor windows indicate, this was a Bluecoat School. These were charity schools and took their name from the uniform usually worn by pupils, a blue frock coat for boys and a blue dress for girls. (Blue was used for charity as blue was the cheapest dye.)

Founded in 1613
Founded in 1613
Moved here 1797

As the plaque beneath the figures indicates, the school was founded by Peter Hill and Robert Bell in 1613 as a free school, became a charity school in 1742 and moved to this house in 1797. The figures vary slightly from school to school but are always very similar to this pair. Both hold a Bible (or prayer book) in their right hands and the boy holds his cap in his left while the girl carries a scroll. Here it is blank but in other cases it has inscribed on its important dates in the school’s history.

The Watch House
The Watch House
Now a coffee shop

London’s urban burial grounds were all closed in the 1850s and either then or more recently have been landscaped and turned into gardens for the public to enjoy. The burial ground of St Mary’s Rotherhithe is no exception but there remains an important reminder of the days when it was still in use. This small building, now a coffee shop, bears a plaque that identifies it as a watch house and dates it to 1821.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century there was a high demand for corpses to be used for medical research by anatomists. The only legal source of corpses was of people condemned to death and dissection by the courts and demand far outstripped supply. Anatomists could not afford to be too fussy as to where the corpses came from and there grew up an active illicit trade in bodies. In some case, body snatchers murdered people in order to sell their bodies but freshly buried corpses would also be dug up and so the watch houses were set up to guard graveyards. Some of these buildings still exist though now put to rather less dramatic uses.

St Mary's Rotherhithe
St Mary’s Rotherhithe
Engine House, 1821

In one place, the enclosure of St Mary’s burial ground consists of the orphan façade of a small building. Seeing on it the words “ENGINE HOUSE”, I first assumed this had something to do with Brunel and his tunnel, even though it is some distance away. That is not the case, however. The building to which the façade belonged was apparently erected to accommodate a fire engine that serviced the Rotherhithe area. The size of the doorway suggests that it cannot have been a very large appliance.

A view upriver
A view upriver
From Blackfriars Bridge

I took my last photos from Blackfriars Bridge where we bade goodbye to our friend and caught a bus to start out journey home.

So, what of the day? Was it worth the trouble of going to see Brunel’s shaft, despite the inconvenience and annoyance? Altogether, yes, I am glad I went, though I think they could have organized things better. The ticket price was far too high given that we could hardly hear what the guide was supposed to be telling us. I understand that easier access is being planned so that future generations of visitors, unlike me, will not have to crawl on their hands and knees. The important point, though, is that the speaker should wait for everyone to be assembled before he begins and should be able to make himself heard and understood.

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 1)

Thursday, July 3rd 2014

The City of London is preparing its annual Sculpture in the City event. Sculpture in the City 2014 is the fourth in the series and many of us have been looking forward to it. The artworks, 14 in number, are placed at strategic points around the City in settings where they will be seen to their advantage and people can interact with them.

The Corporation of the City of London has produced a map showing the locations of the artworks but as this is not obvious from the main page of their Sculpture in the City 2014 Web page, I link to it below.

Boundary Map of the City of London
Boundary Map of the City of London
Click to see a zoomable version

There also exists a panel showing both locations and titles of the artworks and I reproduce this below. You might want to copy it onto your tablet computer or even your smartphone as a guide to your explorations of the sculptures. The image is not as sharp as I would wish but may serve its purpose. (If you’re using your smartphone you may need a magnifying glass!)

Sculpture in the City 2014
Sculpture in the City 2014
Locations and titles of the artworks

After work today, we decided to change buses in the City and to look at how work was progressing on the installation on the sculptures. Some have been in place for several weeks while others are still incomplete or hidden behind scaffolding or barriers. We followed a somewhat erratic path (which is probably the only way you can see the sculptures!) and photographed those of which we could get a clear view. We will come back later for another instalment.

The works below appear is the order in which we saw them, rather than in a numerical or other logical order. The panel does not describe the individual works (though each sculpture is accompanied by a descriptive panel) but you will find a page with a description of each of the artworks on the page About the Artwork and the Artists. I am not going to copy those descriptions, much less attempt to make a précis of each, so you will need to refer to that page if you want information on the individual sculptures.

As I have said before, sculpture is a three-dimensional art and sculptures are meant to be seen from different angels. Except for the first and last items, I give three pictures of each work. Even a collection of many photos of a work fails to capture its entire essence, so please visit the sculptures themselves if you can. If my pictures seem poor in comparison, then that is to be expected.

(3) Deadly Nightshade
(3) Deadly Nightshade
Julian Wild (2012)

(4) Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall
(4) Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall (4) Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall
(4) Flow; Edge; Flux; Within; Fall
Paul Hosking (2012-3)

(5) Salvia
(5) Salvia (5) Salvia
(5) Salvia
Julian Wild (2012)

(9) High Wind IV
(9) High Wind IV (9) High Wind IV
(9) High Wind IV
Lynn Chadwick (1995)

(2) Stairs
(2) Stairs (2) Stairs
(2) Stairs
Lynn Chadwick

(1) Secret Affair (Silver)
(1) Secret Affair (Silver) (1) Secret Affair (Silver)
(1) Secret Affair (Silver)
Jim Lambie (2007)

(8) Work Scaffolding Sculpture
(8) Work Scaffolding Sculpture (8) Work Scaffolding Sculpture
(8) Work Scaffolding Sculpture
Ben Long (2013)

It may not be obvious at a casual glance (and is not mentioned in the descriptions) but in the right light one can make out the letters

WO
RK

on the front of the sculpture.

(7) Box Sized Die
(7) Box Sized Die featuring Unfathomable Ruination
João Onofre (2007-2014)
Performance times: 3 July at 6 & 7pm, 4 July-1 August 2014 at 6pm Wed-Fri

The Boxed Sized Die is little more than a plain black cube until a performance takes place. The members of death metal band Unfathomable Ruination are shut inside the box. The box is sound-proofed so little can be heard from outside. The musicians play until they run out of oxygen and the door is then opened. To get some idea of what a performance is like, visit “No more air guitar: Band are sealed in a box and play until their oxygen runs out” (Daily Mail).

We managed to see, and photograph, eight of the 14 works. All being well, we shall complete the set soon by capturing the remaining six.

For the remaining sculptures, please see Sculpture in the City 2014 (Part 2).

Copyright © 2014 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A king’s town named after its river

Saturday, June 28th 2014

We had not visited this northern city before and so it seemed worth the longish journey there and back. You have probably decoded my title but, if not, bear with me while I explain. In the late 12th century, the monks of Meaux Abbey (‘Meaux’ is apparently pronounced ‘muce’) needed a port from which to export the wool on which they depended for a living. What better place to build such a port than a site at the junction of two rivers, the Humber and the Hull? In these early days, the town was called Wyke, which is the Anglo-Saxon work meaning ‘settlement’ or just ‘place’.

A century or so later, King Edward I was embroiled in wars with Scotland and needed a port from which to supply his army. He appropriated Wyke (some say he bought it) in 1293 and it became known as Kyngeston (‘King’s Town’). The King went on to form the borough of Kingston upon Hull and this also became the formal name of the town, remaining so up to the present. However, the town – now a city – is universally known simply as Hull, despite this being the name of its river.

The Station
The Station
Kingston upon Hull

Hull’s first station was built in 1848 but there was a major rebuilding in the early 20th century which included construction of the rather impressive arched roof. More recently, the adjacent 1930s bus station and the railway station has been brought together and renamed the Paragon Interchange. If you are interested in the details of this, you will find more information here.

Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
Martin Jennings (2010)

An item of more immediate appeal, perhaps, is the station’s sculpture of the poet Philip Larkin (1922-85). Though born in Coventry and a graduate of St John’s College, Oxford, Larkin spent his working life in Hull as librarian of the University’s Brynmor Jones Library, and there wrote most of the poetry for which he is famous. The oddly posed sculpture (to my eyes, he looks as though he is about to leave the ground and float away) is supposed to represent Larkin hurrying for a train. It is by Martin Jennings who also made the much loved sculpture of John Betjeman on St Pancras Station. (For example, see here.)

Orchard Cafe
Orchard Cafe
Popular with the upper age range

Because of the time taken travelling, it was already a little late so we looked for somewhere to have lunch. There wasn’t a lot of choice in the area where we found ourselves so we tried the Orchard Cafe. This turned out to be quite a popular place, especially with people at the top end of the age spectrum. Apart from that, nothing about the experience was memorable.

Paragon Arcade Paragon Arcade
Paragon Arcade

We set out to do a little exploring before heading for our prime destination (more of that later). We soon discovered the first of our Victorian shopping arcades, Paragon Arcade. It was built in 1891 to the design of a local architect, A. Gelder, and though it has suffered transformations in the 20th century, is still a good enough example of its kind to be awarded a Grade II listing by English Heritage.

We found our way to Queen Victoria Square where there are a number of interesting buildings. Unfortunately, there was some sort of “event” in progress, one of those that requires giant screens showing the stage where a group of people are yelling to overloud music. What might have been a pleasant square at other times was crowded and obstructed with all sorts of temporary installations.

City Hall City Hall
City Hall
No longer the administrative centre

We spotted the City Hall and decided to take a look inside. The statue is one of a pair beside the entrance. This one, a female figure holding a pair of masks representing drama, is appropriate as the City Hall is no longer an administrative building but hosts events of various kinds. A banner proudly proclaims that Hull has been elected UK City of Culture for the year 2017.

Atrium and staircase
Atrium and staircase
Hull City Hall

The Baroque Revival style City Hall has been given a Grade II* listing and when we entered and looked around, we could see why. We were given permission to take photos. It was designed by the City Architect Joseph Hirst and built between 1903 and 1909. The statue, in case you are wondering, shows Anthony Bannister (1817-78), JP and at various times Alderman, Mayor and Sheriff, whose effigy was financed by subscription in recognition of his years of service to the City of Hull.

Punch Hotel Punch Hotel
Punch Hotel
A fine Victorian pub

Other sights around the square include the elaborately styled Victorian (1898) pub, Punch Hotel (Grade II listed) and

Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum
Once the Dock Offices

and the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned clutter, I was unable to get an unobstructed view of this rather fine structure. The museum was founded in 1912, as the Museum of Fisheries and Shipping and moved here in 1974. This beautiful building dates from 1872 when it was opened as the Dock Offices, the headquarters of the Hull Dock Company. We did not go inside but perhaps we will on a subsequent visit to Hull.

Princes Dock
Princes Dock
Partially obscured by intrusive building

Hull started as a port and grew to prominence through its maritime trade. It still has a trading port and runs ferry services. The Princes Dock is a branch of the old docks that reaches into the centre of the town but is no longer used. Sadly, city planners have allowed it to be partially obscured by a shopping centre on stilts, spoiling it visually and as an amenity. I often wonder how people, who supposedly have the interests of their town at heart, can show such appalling bad taste. Money talks, I suppose.

Hepworth's Arcade
Hepworth’s Arcade
Silver Street

We found our way along Silver Street (one of my favourite street names!) where we found our second Victorian shopping destination, Hepworth’s Arcade. This pretty complex was built in 1894 and was designed by A. Gelder who was responsible also for the Paragon Arcade.

Scale Lane Oldest Domestic Building
Hull’s oldest house
Scale Lane

Silver Street leads into Scale Lane. Here we are approaching the river and the oldest part of town. These narrow streets are quiet today but were probably livelier in times past. Here, at number 5, we find a small but venerable building dating from the 15th century and reputed to be Hull’s “oldest domestic building” (from the adjacent blue plaque). It has suffered alteration several times, being “modernized” in the 18th and 19th centuries and then restored to its 19th century appearance in the 1980s. However, something of merit must still remain because those arbiters of historical worthiness, English Heritage, have awarded it a Grade II listing.

Nelson Mandela Gardens
Nelson Mandela Gardens

We turned northish along the High Street and thus came to Wilberforce House and Nelson Mandela Gardens. The gardens are enclosed by walls and this gives them a pleasant domestic feel.

Mohandas K. Gandhi
Mohandas K. Gandhi
Jaiprakash Shirgaoankar

I did not see any sign of Nelson Mandela but did encounter Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, otherwise known as Mahatma Gandhi, or rather, a bust of him made by Mumbai sculptor Jaiprakash Shirgaoankar, unveiled in 2004.

Reflective Colours
Reflective Colours
Sue Kershaw

Also present in the garden was this fine fellow, a mosaic toad. The information panel seems to indicate that this has something to do with the project Larkin with Toads, which was part of the Larkin 25 programme, commemorating the quarter century since the death of Hull’s most famous poet.

Three-wheeled Hansom cab
Three-wheeled Hansom cab
Streetlife Musem

Adjacent to the gardens are not one but two museums. The first is the Streetlife Museum which, as the name suggests, shows exhibits and tableaux of life in Hull in times past. Some of the more interesting items on show are vehicles and mock-ups of once typical scenes and of shops. The exhibit above taught me that in addition to the traditional Victorian two-wheeled Hansom cab, there also existed a three-wheeled version. These were introduced in the 1900s with a view to increasing the cab’s carrying capacity. They were designed to carry 4 people with luggage on the roof and, unlike the traditional Hansom, the driver sat in front. They proved not to be very stable and few were made.

Ryde Pier Tramcar
Ryde Pier Tramcar
Built 1867

Then there was Britain’s oldest surviving tramcar. This was built in 1867 for the Ryde Pier Company and is made of mahogany with beautiful carving work. It continued in service until 1935 – then being the oldest tramcar in service – but was damaged beyond repair in a collision with the buffers. No longer fit for service it found new life as a museum exhibit.

Victorian Chemist's Shop
Victorian Chemist’s Shop
Preserved after 133 years of existence

The chemist’s shop run my Mr Castelow at 159 Woodhouse Lane had existed for 133 years before it came under threat of demolition. Mr Castelow realized its historic interest and left provision in his will for it to be preserved by being transferred to a museum. In 1976, Mr Castelow died and the work of measuring, photographing and recreating the shop could begin. Standing in the recreated establishment and looking at the stock on the shelves and in glass-fronted cabinets, one can imagine people coming here for headache powders – or something a little stronger – while Charles Dickens was still a lad.

Street scene
Street scene
With bus, shops and level crossing

I must admit to enjoying exhibits such as these where you can almost imagine yourself wafted back to some earlier age.

Virtually next door to the Streetlife Museum is the Hull & East Riding Museum. Admission to both of these museums is free and, as you can see, photography is allowed. This museum outlines the history of the area from ancient times.

Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth (reconstruction)
Lived during the last Ice Age

“From ancient times”, indeed: I was captivated by this lively reconstruction of a woolly mammoth, a species which roamed our then desolate land during the last Ice Age, 250,000 years ago. If there is one extinct animal that I would choose to see brought back to life, I think it would be a mammoth.

The Hasholme Boat
The Hasholme Boat
Dating from the Iron Age

The genuine article this time but more difficult to photograph behind its protective screens, the Hasholme boat was found buried in silt and thus preserved. Dating from the Iron Age, the hull was hollowed out from a massive oak tree. Removed from its burial place, the boat would soon have dried out and disintegrated and so techniques similar to those used in the preservation of the Marie Rose have been employed to prevent it deteriorating. The boat would have been used for transporting people and perhaps cargoes, probably by crew members who plied their paddles from a standing position.

Roman mosaic
Roman mosaic
In a room setting

The Romans were active in this area as in the rest of Britain, and Roman remains abound, though it is still exceptional to find something like a room-sized mosaic in near perfect condition. The Hull & East Riding Museum has several examples and this one has been displayed in a schematic room setting the better to help us imagine how it might have looked in use.

The Guildhall The Guildhall
The Guildhall
Council headquarters

We began making our way back to Queen Victoria Square as there was an establishment there that we wished to visit. On the way we passed and photographed the Guildhall. It is this, not the City Hall, that serves as the administrative centre for the Council. In Baroque Revival style, it was built between 1906 and 1914, though restoration work was necessary in 1948 to repair war damage. By Sir Edwin Cooper, it has been described as a “tour de force” (Pevsner). English Heritage agrees and gives it a Grade II* listing.

Ferens Art Gallery
Ferens Art Gallery
The gift of philanthropist T.R. Ferens

We had come to visit the art gallery shown above, whose sober classical lines suit the character and life of the philanthropist who gifted it to the city. T.R. Ferens was a remarkable man who lived through some of the most momentous years of our history and literally worked his way up from the bottom, starting at 13 as a clerk and becoming an industrialist, MP and philanthropist, in the service of his adopted city. (See more on T.R. Ferens here.)

The foundation stone was laid in 1926 and the Ferens Art Gallery opened to the public in 1927. Admission is free and photography is allowed in the permanent collection but may be restricted in visiting exhibitions.

General view
General view
Medieval and Renaissance Gallery

The gallery holds a broad range of art works and also has practical sections where people are encouraged to try out techniques and make their own art. It is not possible to do full justice to it and so I will show you just three items that caught my attention.

Portrait of a Lady of Elizabeth's Court 1595
Portrait of a Lady of Elizabeth’s Court 1595
William Segar c. 1554-1633

I was caught and held by the narrow and authoritative gaze of this Elizabethan lady painted by William Segar. The sitter remains unidentified but was obviously a person of wealth, power and privilege. Her rich clothing is deliberately designed to be ostentatious, a challenge to other would-be high-ranking courtiers, a “Match this!” in fabric and jewels. Looking into those eyes, you known she would brook no interference with her designs and would be quite ruthless in seeking her ends.

Lion at Home (Le lion Chez Lui)
Lion at Home (Le lion Chez Lui)
Rosa Bonheur

This painting of a family of lions is by Rosa Bonheur (1822-99) and was painted in 1881. Bonheur was an extraordinary person. A declared lesbian, she wore men’s cloths, smoked cigars and was the first woman to be awarded France’s Légion d’Honneur. The daughter of a painter father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, she soon outshone him in reputation as an artist. Though Bonheur worked with a range of themes and subjects, she remains best known as an “animalière”, a (female) painter and sculptor of animals. Clearly fascinated by animals, especially the larger wild species, Bonheur kept her own menagerie which included a lion. She made several paintings of lions, including a portrait of a pair belonging to the lion tamer, François Bidel (Portrait de Sultan et Saïda, 1888). This painting Lion at Home (Le Lion Chex Lui) is perhaps a touch sentimental, portraying the male and female as a caring couple relaxing en famille with their cubs, but the details are accurate and the poses charmingly natural. Bonheur no doubt spent time observing her and other people’s big cats.

Working Model for a Seated Woman
Working Model for a Seated Woman
Henry Moore (1980)

Much as I love good paintings, I must admit to a particular interest in sculpture. A sculpture such as the above, by Henry Moore, has a presence that a painting cannot quite achieve. You can (in principle, at least) walk all around it and see it from different angles, each of which will be a new experience and will express something about the work as a whole. There is a challenge to photographing a sculpture and therefore the greater satisfaction when you manage to get it right. Lighting in galleries often works against you. This piece by Moore is entitled Working Model for a Seated Woman, so it is a sort of preliminary sketch for the finished work that is to come, though it looks pretty accomplished to me.

Queen Victoria Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria
Henry Charles Fehr (1903)

Our visit to the Ferens Gallery concluded, we stepped out into Queen Victoria Square again. You would expect that in a square thus named there would be a statue of that Queen and, in this case at least, you would be right. I was only partially successful in my attempts to photograph it because of the crush of people attending the event in the square. The sculpture, with the Queen at the top and two allegorical figures at the base, is by Henry Charles Fehr, known for his many war memorials, and was made in 1903. Statues of Queen Victoria are not rare in town centres but there is something slightly odd about this one: beneath the monument are public toilets which were added in 1929. Not that I disapprove of public toilets – quite the contrary, as I have often been grateful for their presence. It just seems odd to join them to a monument to Queen Victoria, something of which that lady would no doubt disapprove.

We rounded off our visit to Hull with a walk to the station – or Paragon Interchange – where we caught a train back to London. We covered a lot of ground on this, our first trip to Kingston upon Hull, and thus spread ourselves a little thinly. We discovered that there is a lot to see in Hull and will no doubt return one day to continue our explorations.

Goodbye to Hull
Goodbye to Hull
At least, for today…

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