Moving pictures

When I am travelling, I am sometimes tempted to take photos through the train, bus or taxi window, but this is generally a frustrating enterprise. For one thing, the windows are often dirty and for another they cause reflection.

Reflections on the window
Reflections on the window

To overcome this you perhaps try to shade the camera with your sleeve or coat, but shading the camera is usually not very effective as even black material will be reflected in the window on a sunny or bright day.

Shading the camera can also cause reflections
Shading the camera can also cause reflections

Another way to avoid reflections is by putting the camera lens directly against the glass of the window. This tends to produce a slight loss of definition but the main problem is that it restricts the viewing angle. You are always looking directly sideways from the vehicle, which does not always produce the most interesting view!

Looking sideways: not always the most interesting view
Looking sideways: not always the most interesting view

Vehicle windows often slope inwards slightly from bottom to top, forcing the camera to look up at an angle above horizontal. While this restricts the view, out in the countryside it is also apt to include too much sky, darkening the landscape.

Too much sky darkens the landscape
Too much sky darkens the landscape

You may be able to overcome this up to a point by using exposure compensation (if your camera has this) or by post-editing, but it’s not easy to get it right.

Blurring caused by speed
Blurring caused by speed

The faster the speed of the vehicle, the more likely it is that the photo will be blurred. Looking out sideways because the lens is pressed against the glass provides the worst possible viewing angle in this respect. It can be mitigated by concentrating on distant subjects but even then, the foreground will still show blurring.

Movement causing sloping verticals
Movement causing sloping verticals

Depending on the mechanical properties of your camera, you may find that movement causes sloping verticals. This is because it takes time to record the image across the sensor and some parts are recorded slightly later than others. With static scenes, this doesn’t usually matter, but when movement enters the equation the image may become deformed.

A tree throws itself in front of the camera
A tree throws itself in front of the camera

From the point of view of the travelling photographer, one of the most annoying features of the landscape is – trees! Now, I love trees and I know it’s not their fault, but they do have this annoying habit of throwing themselves in front of the camera just as I press the shutter release!

To be fair, the same can be said about any trackside objects – including telephone poles, signals, bridges, etc – but trees tend to be large and bushy and therefore more able to conceal the view. The problem is the lag between the release button being pressed and the photo actually being recorded. The interval is small but in a fast moving vehicle it is long enough for the scene to change radically.

Landscape from the train
Landscape from the train

If I do take photos from the train, I usually take them with my mobile rather than with my camera because it is easier to press the phone against the glass. Some turn out reasonably well, such as the above, from yesterday’s post. I find that the lower resolution of the mobile’s camera produces a soft image, almost like an impressionist painting. This can be quite pleasant in the case of landscapes.

Unexpected farm buildings
Unexpected farm buildings

Taking photos from fast moving vehicles adds serendipity to the mix. When I pressed the shutter release for the photo above, I was looking at a completely different scene from the one one that came out. What actually resulted was a surprise, but I am not displeased by the result.

This was obviously not a complete treatise on the problems of photography from moving vehicles and much, much more could be said. As a quick roundup of some of the difficulties I have encountered perhaps it will have provided some amusement for the reader, whether a photographer or not.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 2 Comments

Friends, swingers and the security conscious

Today was a slightly mixed day, as you will see. It started with a trip to Archway tube station and from there I walked up the hill to the Whittington Hospital to collect a new supply of batteries for my “dolbies” (hearing aids). On the way I noticed this building.

Royal London Friendly Society, Junction Road
Royal London Friendly Society, Junction Road

I had already walked past it many times but, for some reason, only really noticed it today. Perhaps the idea of a “friendly society” appealed to me.

The name, proudly displayed
The name, proudly displayed

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about the RLFS – or the Royal London Friendly Society For Granting Policies Of Insurance To The Working Classes, to give it its full title – except that it was around in the days of Charles Dickens.

The Society's main entrance
The Society’s main entrance

Nor do I know the date of this building, though it looks  Victorian to me. The door is nicely decorated but perhaps a little understated – perhaps they wanted to avoid overawing “the working classes” coming in for their insurance policies. Buildings belonging to the society survive in other parts of London and in other towns.

Entrance to Roydon Mansions
Entrance to Roydon Mansions

According to the cartouche above it, the other door gives access to Roydon Mansions, presumably living or office accommodation included in the original building to raise a little extra income.

New name on the letterbox
New name on the letterbox

I do know that the Friendly Society mutated (in 1908, I think) into the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society and is today part of the Royal London Group. The building is currently occupied by a firm of solicitors.

Cleaning the Heron Tower
Cleaning the Heron Tower

In the evening, we changed buses beside the Heron Tower and I was amused to see these window cleaners swinging from side to side as they washed the window frames. Their cables go all the way to the top of the tower, so that when they swing sideways they move almost horizontally.

"When I'm cleaning windows..."
“When I’m cleaning windows…”

It was interesting to see how each man arranged his kit differently and how they swung so nonchalantly from side to side, even sometimes crossing over one another.

Later we walked through Finsbury Square where the massive Britannia House forms the corner with City Road. We started photographing the sculptures that decorate the façade in such profusion.

Floral man

lady with trousers Floral lady

We got thus far when we were challenged by a security man who shot out of a door to confront us.

“Why are you photographing the building?” he demanded to know.

“Er, because we like it,” I replied, not finding anything more convincing on the spur of the moment.

That seemed to satisfy him, however, and he explained that photographing a building was “a security issue”, though without explaining exactly how. He then asked if we would like brochures about the building and fetched one for each of us.

This ridiculous obsession with “security” is a modern form of social hysteria. What is silly is that you can click away happily if you use a pocket camera but if you use a “professional” camera, you will be often be challenged, whether by the police or by private security officers. This encounter ended peacefully, though, and we parted on amiable terms.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Courier run to Poole

Today’s run was to Poole, which is in Dorset, not far from its more famous neighbour, Bournemouth. It sits on the side of a large natural harbour within which lies Brownsea Island, today a resort but made famous by Robert Baden-Powell who initiated the Boy Scout movement by holding the first Scout camp there in 1907.

As usual, Tigger sped off to catch the early train leaving me to follow in due course. I was ready to leave well before 8:30 when I was hoping the workmen would arrive to fit the new staircase, as explained in yesterday’s post.

countryside
Somewhere near Winchester

At 8:50 I was still waiting and becoming increasingly anxious. I had to go to Waterloo first, and then take a two-hour train journey and I could feel the day slipping away. I called Partners on the phone and asked to speak to the team concerned. Sorry, came the answer, customer services are all in a meeting so I can’t get a message to them.

This was the last straw. I took a look outside to see whether anyone had arrived but there was nobody. I wrote a hasty note, stuck it to the doorbell buttons and left. They would have to manage without me. I thought about taking a cab and saw one with his sign alight, waiting at the traffic lights. By the time I reached a position where I could hail him, however, he had gone.

Will we have sunshine?
Will we have sunshine?

I continued towards the Tube station, keeping a lookout for a cab but saw none. I dived into the Underground… You need either two or three tube trains to get to Waterloo from the Angel, depending on which route you take. I elected to take the Northern Line south to Elephant and Castle and change to the Bakerloo Line.

Bournemouth's handsome station
Bournemouth’s handsome station

I deliberately refrained from checking the time during the journey as this would serve no purpose and only make me more anxious. At Waterloo, the exit from the tube station brings you to the high-numbered platform end of the station. My train was due to leave at 9:35 and the clock showed 9:33. I had to go to the far end of the departures board to find information about my train. It was shown to leave from platform 7. I was sure I had missed it but took to my heels, sashaying around the rush-hour people who seem to wander around in a daze. I fumbled for my ticket to work the automatic gate. The train was still there with the guard standing beside an open door. I ran for the door and leapt aboard, then collapsed in the first available seat. Time: 9:34.

After a moment or two I recovered my wits and realized that I was sitting in First Class. I walked to the next carriage and found a good seat in Standard class. My nerves were still jangling as the train pulled out and started its journey.

Parkstone Station, the last stop before Poole
Parkstone Station, the last stop before Poole

The day started dull and it looked as if rain was coming but as we speed through the countryside, the sky lightens. We halt at Woking and pass through Basingstoke without stopping (which, I think, is the best way to treat Basingstoke). Now the weather gods seem to be squabbling over whether to make it sunny or cloudy. First one wins, then the other. As we approach Winchester, we are told that we have lost time owing to “emergency speed restrictions in the Wimbledon area”, and as we leave the station, we are running 9 minutes late.

First sight: a view of Poole from the platform bridge
First sight: a view of Poole from the platform bridge

Our train arrived at Poole at about 11:45 and I took the above photo from the pedestrian bridge on my way to the exit where Tigger was waiting for me. We took a bus to the town centre in search of… yes, I’m sure you have guessed: lunch!

Once a library, now a pub
Once a library, now a pub

I always stop to photograph this rather noble looking building. Today it is a Wetherspoon’s pub called the Lord Wimbourne, but it was built in 1887 as a free library, a gift to Poole from a John J. Norton Esq. This is a reminder that the Victorian Age, though one of industrialization was also an age of great philanthropists. It is a pity that in our age, the former seems too often to have triumphed at the expense of the latter.

A mystery attaches to this building. The white plate you can see below the leftmost front-facing window declares this to be Lagland Street but, in fact, Lagland Street is elsewhere and this is North Street. There is probably a sensible explanation.

The High Street
The High Street

We walked along the High Street which is a pedestrianized shopping street. I approve of this and wish there were more, especially in the centre of London. Although the usual retail suspects are well represented, there is also a fair sprinkling of more individual shops to add interest to the walk.

Frontline Army Surplus store
Frontline Army Surplus store

Here is an example of the latter type. Army surplus stores are not rare, of course, but, on the other hand, not many inhabit such intriguingly decorative premises as this one.

panel1
Tiled panels

On a wall nearby, we saw these two pretty floral-patterned tiled panels, though some insensitive person had spoilt one by attaching what looks like a flag holder.

The Guildhall or Market House
The Guildhall or Market House

This striking building is today referred to as the Guildhall but when it was built in 1761, it was designated a “Market House”. This is because the end of the ground floor (to the right in the picture) was then open so that market trading could take place within.

Curved staircases to the upper floor
Curved staircases to the upper floor

These elegantly curved staircases lead to the upper floor which was originally used for offices of Poole Corporation and the debating chamber. Since then, the building has been used to serve many different purposes and today houses the Registry Office.

The well preserved commemoration plaque
The well preserved commemoration plaque

This well preserved commemoration plaque explains in gratitude who funded the building of this handsome and useful structure.

Almshouses dating from the reign of Henry V
Almshouses dating from the reign of Henry V

plaque1904Even older are these splendid old almshouses built sometime during the reign of Henry V (reigned 1413-22). According to the plaque, itself dating from 1904 and an historic document in its own right, the almshouses were purchased by the Corporation in 1550 and have been maintained by them since then. They have been housing deserving poor for nearly 600 years.

The Custom House, 1813
The Custom House, 1813

The fine old custom house was built in 1813 to replace an earlier one. It was needed when Poole was a thriving port, receiving goods from this country and abroad and exporting the famous Poole pottery clay. No longer needed for its original purpose, the Custom House is now a cafe-bar and restaurant.

Poole Museum
Poole Museum

Poole Museum (the photo shows the old part) occupies a 19th century quayside warehouse. It was provided in 1890 by John J. Norton, who also gave the town the free library (see above). The museum, including the new part, extends over several floors and gives a good survey of the history of Poole from Roman times. If you are tall like me, however, you will probably get tired of bending to pass under the low beams. These are padded but I still managed to bang my head painfully.

Traditional Poole pottery with captions
Traditional Poole pottery with captions

Clay mining has long been an important – and dangerous – industry in Poole. The clay is still being exported today and we saw in the quay a ship being loaded, a ship registered in Delft in the Netherlands, no less!

Stained glass, Poole coat of arms
Stained glass, Poole coat of arms

The Quay, once a busy port, is still home to craft of all sorts from pleasure yachts to working boats. It’s also a pleasant place to stroll or sit and watch the world go by.

The Quay, still home to many kinds of craft
The Quay, still home to many kinds of craft

There are cafes and restaurants of all kinds, too, and – unsurprisingly for a port – more pubs per square yard than you would find in most town centres.

More than the average number of pubs
More than the average number of pubs

Out in the bay is Brownsea Island. We did think of taking a ferry to the Island but decided that it would take too long. We’ll try to visit it another time. Brownsea Island for ever links Poole to Robert Baden-Powell and the Boy Scout movement that he founded.

Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement
Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement

Baden-Powell himself, at least in effigy, sits on the quay, casting an avuncular gaze out across the water. He is perhaps supposed to be remembering Brownsea Island and the first scout camp.

Baden-Powell's head
Baden-Powell’s head

As the sun declined, the temperature dropped and we felt we should start back. Nonetheless, we found time to stop off for tea and toasted tea cakes before returning the the railway station!

The journey home was uneventful as there is a good train service between Waterloo and Weymouth (a couple of stops beyond Poole) with a train every half an hour or so.

When we reached home, however, a strange sight awaited us…

Despite my not being there, the workmen had obviously been able to gain access and they had ripped out the diseased stairway and the cupboard full of fungus in the basement. A new staircase was lying on its side in the corridor, ready to be installed… at some point.

Stairway to nowhere!
Stairway to nowhere!

We managed to see quite a lot of what Poole has to offer but by no means all of it. Like any town with a long history behind it, Poole contains interesting historic vestiges and fine old buildings. The museum exhibits provide a set of hints to get you started but it is also fun just to stroll around and be happily surprised at what jumps out at you here and there.

Guarding the front door, St James House
Guarding the front door, St James House

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , | 2 Comments

One on the way home and one tomorrow

Courier runs, that is.

Tigger offered to deliver a package this evening to an address that was almost on our route home. She left work at 4pm and the deadline was 5pm. Normally, that would be fine but, of course, today, it wasn’t fine. First, our usual bus didn’t turn up on cue,  so we had to improvise and take a different one; then the next bus didn’t go where we thought it was going despite the driver saying it did. So we had to bail out in a hurry and call a cab at the kerb.

The spire of St Mary's from Upper Street
The spire of St Mary’s, from Upper Street

Traffic at that time of the evening is heavy and we caught every red light along the way. At last we turned into the destination street and while Tigger dashed into the building to hand over the package I paid the cab fare.

One good thing was that the cabbie recognized us as a business people and offered a receipt without us having to ask for one. He also made a little reduction on the fare too! I have often been critical of cabs and cabbies and am glad to be able to pay a compliment on this occasion!

On reflection: the BT Tower
On reflection: the BT Tower

Tigger was able to call HQ and report the package delivered by 4:35, well within the deadline. Job done!

We now walked back to the City Road and took the 205 bus. This takes us back to the Angel but we didn’t stop there. Instead we continued on to King’s Cross station. We needed to buy train tickets for the second courier run tomorrow, this one being out of town.

Friends' Meeting House, Euston Road
Friends’ Meeting House, Euston Road

Unfortunately, there is a problem. You may remember the long saga of the fungus of the stairs. (Here is a reminder: Fungus, the saga continues.) They now say that the growth is a severe form of dry rot. I don’t know whether that’s right or not, but tomorrow workmen are coming to install a new staircase and I agreed to be there first thing to let them into the house. I will therefore not be able to follow Tigger until the workmen have arrived.

They only need access the common part of the house, not our flat, so once they get here, I will be able to leave. I just hope they come early as they promised, otherwise valuable time will be wasted.

Mud, grass and buses, Euston Square Gardens
Mud, grass and buses, Euston Square Gardens

Where are we going? I will describe our journey in due course and in the meantime leave you a clue or two. Our destination town is on the south coast and has a harbour from which ferries sail across the Channel. It also has an historical connection with the Boy Scouts.

There! That should be enough to help you find the answer. Alternatively, you can wait until I publish the blog.

The Shard from London Bridge
The Shard from London Bridge

If you are wondering how the pictures are related to the text, the answer is that they are not. They are photos taken while I was out and about yesterday and today.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 9 Comments

Ealing curiosities

As the weather was fine (not sunny but at least not wet), we set off as soon as we were ready, stopping for breakfast along the way at EAT on the corner of Kingsway and Parker Street in Holborn. Porridge, croissants and coffee filled the bill.


Logo of the British Electrical Federation Ltd.

Logo of the British Electrical Federation Ltd.

I stopped to take a photo of the logo of the British Electrical Federation Ltd. over the door of their old premises. I was intrigued by the way the wheel projects out from the shield. I know almost nothing about the BEF, but believe they were a federation of electric tram companies – hence the flanged wheel. The Kingsway Tram Underpass starts just a few yards along the road.


Old Ealing Broadway Station

Old Ealing Broadway Station

We took the Central Line to Ealing Broadway. The picture shows the old Broadway station, not the modern tube station which is an ugly piece of work and does nothing to enhance the area.


Haven Green

Haven Green

Haven Green pigeons

Opposite the tube station is a pleasant park called Haven Green and we walked right around it.

The Green is home to a flock of pigeons who seem well fed and healthy. The sun had come out and the pigeons were taking advantage of it, preening, resting and courting.


Victorian Cattle trough

Victorian Cattle trough

I have been taking an interest in the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association lately and thought this might be one of theirs. It doesn’t belong to them and bears a simple inscription “Given by Mrs Walter Wilson 1898”. I assume this gift was intended as a memorial to her husband and, if so, it has faithfully performed that task for 112 years so far. Unfortunately, I cannot find out anything about Walter Wilson himself, or indeed about his wife.


Ealing Dolls House Museum

Ealing Dolls House Museum

We also found this curious little establishment. It purports to be a dolls house museum but in reality is more like a disparate collection, albeit a big one, of dolls and other small objects and toys of the sort you might find in gift shops or on shelves and in drawers in people’s homes.

Shopfront Shop window

C.L. Lewis, Chemist, c1900

C.L. Lewis, Chemist, c1900

We came upon this fine old chemist’s shop. The elegant woodwork was in perfect condition and in the tiny entrance hall, a pair of pigeons had found beautiful surroundings in which to take up residence. I am glad to discover that this shop is a listed building and is therefore safe for the time being.


Ealing's Victorian town hall, 1888

Ealing’s Victorian town hall, 1888

Another grand building is Ealing’s town hall. It was opened in 1888 and was built to replace the existing town hall that had become too small. It was also meant to send a message, that of civic pride and confidence. It is a well proportioned structure with the solidity of a medieval castle about it.


Entrance steps and arches

Entrance steps and arches

Look at the harmonious shape of the arches and the decorative flower-shaped mouldings on the windows.


Only the façade is left

Only the façade is left

Across the road was this strange sight. A steel skeleton had been erected in front of what appeared to be a building but a closer look revealed that only the façade remained and that the rest of the building had been demolished. Perhaps it was an old cinema or theatre and its site is being developed. The façade with its fine columns has obviously been deemed worthy of saving to front whatever structure is built on the site.


City Radio Stores, 1929

City Radio Stores, 1929

We had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant and then set out again, pausing to admire this characterful radio shop that opened in 1929 and still seems to be going strong. We then went on to Ealing Green.


**Title**

Pitzhanger Manor-House

Beside Ealing Green stands this gateway and the remarkable building that it frames in the picture above. This is Pitzhanger Manor-House, now owned by Ealing Borough Council. It is free to visit and – yes! – photography is allowed in the house (though not in the attached PM Art Gallery, reasonably enough).


Approaching Pitzhanger - the PM Gallery is on the right

Approaching Pitzhanger – the PM Gallery is on the right

Pitzhanger Manor has a long history, probably with several episodes of building but it sprang to prominence when it was bought by architect Sir John Soane in 1800. He demolished most of the existing house and rebuilt it to his own design as an out-of-town family residence.


The Eating Room

The Eating Room

The house (for its history see here and here) was completed in 1804 and sold again in 1810. In 1900, it came into the ownership of Ealing District Council who opened the grounds as a park in 1901 and the house as a public lending library in 1902.


The Small Drawing Room

The Small Drawing Room

Since the library moved in 1985, the house has been undergoing restoration to reveal its original beauty and splendour.


Curved ceiling, Small Drawing Room

Curved ceiling, Small Drawing Room

Ornate ceilings are a feature of this house. Soane typically designed curved ceilings with embossed motifs.

Angel ceiling motif, breakfast room
Angel ceiling motif, breakfast room

Soane used big windows to let in plenty of light and installed mirrors to maximize its effects. This creates an effect of luminosity but the photographer has to choose his viewpoint carefully to avoid appearing in – and spoiling – the photo!

The Breakfast Room
The Breakfast Room

Undoing the changes that have occurred in the last 200 years requires carefully study. For examples, paint samples have been analysed in order to recreate the original striking colour schemes and designs that Soane was so fond of.

The Large Drawing Room
The Large Drawing Room

While the small drawing room on the ground floor was meant as a cosy living room for the family, the large drawing room on the first floor was designed for entertaining and is big enough to host a glittering event.

Wedgewood inspired ceiling
Wedgewood inspired ceiling

It is lit on either side by windows and has a patterned ceiling that seems inspired by Wedgewood in the contrast between the white tracery and the pastel blue and green background.

Britannia
Britannia

Sculpture is present throughout the house, whether incorporated into the mouldings or free-standing, and no piece is more memorable than this statue of Britannia poised above the stairwell. It is a calmly confident Britannia, assured in her strength and righteousness.

Columns and sculpture: the front entrance
Columns and sculpture: the front entrance

lionball

There is more sculpture and relief work around the front entrance whose elegance is emphasised by four columns. Yet the front door, and the corridor beyond, are curiously under­stated, as though Soane were deliberately avoiding boastful grandeur, to make a house where beauty and harmony are more important than pompous display.

The front gate, now part of a war memorial
The front gate, now part of a war memorial

The front gate, too small for horse drawn carriages which must have entered through the side gate, is a fine one in wrought iron, flanked by columns with urns. Today, the gate has been incorporated into a war memorial commemorating both world wars.

Ealing Green
Ealing Green

Parakeets, Ealing Green

This view from the front gate, across Ealing Green to the shops and houses, must be very different from the view that John Soane would have seen. Something else that he would not have seen here is the parakeets, an escaped exotic species that is now established in parks and gardens throughout the UK, recognizable by their bright green plumage and long tails.

Ealing dates from Anglo-Saxon times, being originally named Gillingas. Like many place names ending in ‘-ing(s)’, the suffice means “people (of)” and is accompanied by the name of the person who was head of the family or chief of the group, in this case Gilla. So the name means something like “(The land of) Gilla’s folk”. Could Gilla ever have imagined that his settlement would one day become an important part of a mighty metropolis?

Lewis name
Lewis name

Copyright © 2012 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Battishill Street Gardens and the Gold Headed Cane

I have twice visited the small Islington park known as Battishill Street Gardens (between Battishill Street and Napier Terrace on the map below) and written about it in A discovery and A quiet visit to a damp sculpture. Today, rummaging around in books and online information about Islington, I discovered an interesting background story to the Gardens. At least, it is interesting to me.

Once the estate of William Pitcairn
Once the estate of William Pitcairn

On the above map, ‘A’ roughly indicates the position of the estate once belonging to William Pitcairn, who lived from 1711 (some say 1712) to 1791. William was born in Fifeshire and was related through his mother to the ducal line. Having graduated in medicine in Rheims, William became the physician to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and was a Fellow, later President, of the Royal College of Physicians. He became the fourth successor to the Gold Headed Cane, which makes an interesting story in its own right.

In the 18th century, it was customary for physicians to mark their standing and authority by carrying a walking stick or cane with a decorated head in ivory or precious metal. It is said that these canes were hollow and were filled with medicinal powder. On entering the presence of a patient, the physician would tap the ferrule of the cane on the floor, causing it to scatter powder about, supposedly disinfecting the premises.

The Gold Headed Cane seems to have originated with the larger than life Yorkshire physician, John Radcliffe (1652-1714) who when consulted by King William about his swollen ankles, made a remark that upset the king so much that he thereafter would have nothing more to do with Dr Radcliffe.

John Radcliffe passed the cane on to Richard Meade (1673–1754) and it became the custom for each holder to nominate the next successor. Thus Anthony Askew (1722-1774) inherited it and passed it on to William Pitcairn. He, in turn, gave it to Matthew Baillie (1761-1823), but here the succession ended, for Baillie’s widow presented the cane to the Royal College of Physicians where it has been kept ever since, though I believe an annual award is made in its name. Thus, the Gold Headed Cane has become a symbol of the art and science of medicine.

A Dr. William MacMichael published an intriguing little story of this object in 1827, entitled The Gold Headed Cane. This book is still extant and the text can be downloaded free, should you wish to read it.

What has this got to do with Battishill Street Gardens, you ask? Well, I’m coming to that. Now, in fact. Upon his retirement in 1785, William set about creating a botanic garden in the grounds of his estate. It contained rare and exotic trees and plants and seems to have acquired the reputation of a fine garden so that a bromeliad was named Pitcairnia in William’s honour.

On his death, William’s estate was auctioned off and the garden fell into neglect, then became a nursery. Houses were built along the Upper Street margin of the property and the modern Battishill Street runs across what would once have been William’s botanic garden.

There, that’s a sufficient clue, isn’t it? Apparently, Battishill Street Gardens stand on ground that was once part of the botanic garden, preserving that corner from the voracious encroachment of bricks and mortar. For me at least, that will add an additional note of interest and pleasure to the experience of future visits.

Modern development, spurred on by commerce and industry often wipes away all traces of previous ages, traces that we would sometimes wish we could have preserved. Just occasionally, however, it is necessary only to scratch a little at the surface to discover a reminder of a past that is really not so remote from us as we sometimes think.

P.S. If you are wondering about the naming of the Pitcairn Islands, that had nothing to do with William. They were named after Robert Pitcairn, a 15-year-old midshipman aboard HMS Swallow (commanded by Captain Philip Carteret), who was the first to sight the islands in 1767.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Islington | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Rockwell comes to Dulwich

We got off to a rather rushed start this morning. We overslept and when we woke up realized we had only an hour to meet our friends in Catford. There was nothing for it but to telephone, apologize and then… rush!

Midland Bank, Princes Street
Midland Bank, Princes Street

We changed buses here in Princes Street, opposite this rather imposing building, once the Midland Bank, also known as Nos 27-35 Poultry, the old name given to the street when the poulterers used to live here. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and completed in 1939. It is now  Grade I listed building, so it should be safe for a while yet.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, the garden
Dulwich Picture Gallery, the garden

At London Bridge station we bought baguettes and coffee for breakfast and took a train to Catford. There we met our friends, took two more buses and finally arrived at the place shown above. The photo shows the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded in 1811 as England’s first public art gallery. You will find an account of its history here. Admission to the main gallery is £5 but there is usually an extra charge to visit special exhibitions.

The main gallery
The main gallery

We had indeed come to see a special exhibition, Norman Rockwell’s America, subtitled “The best-known and most beloved American artist of the 20th century”. Critical opinion on Rockwell has always been divided and there is no doubt that Rockwell is a “popular” artist in the sense of appealing to people who, setting aside over-sophisticated artistic pretensions, enjoy his humorous and tender-hearted pictures of ordinary folk, executed with superb draughtsmanship and colour.

The shop is through the arch
The shop is through the arch

Photography is not allowed in the special exhibitions (though it is allowed in the main galleries), so I cannot show you any of the Rockwell pictures that we saw but you will have no difficulty finding examples on the Web and you may already know his works.

Side gallery
Side gallery

The cooler decor of the side galleries makes a pleasant contrast with the more exciting colour of the main gallery. As well as paintings, the Picture Gallery has on display some items of furniture. In the above photos, the chairs around the perimeter of the room are exhibits, not to be sat on!

French mantel clock, c1725
French mantel clock, c1725

If you go into the Picture Gallery by the entrance that is most visible from the road, this takes you past the cafe to the gallery shop and from there into the main gallery. One of the first things you will see as you enter the gallery, is this beautiful French mantel clock, dating from the 1720s but still ticking away and showing the correct time. If I could take one item home with me, it would be this!

Old Grammar School Lintel inscription
How’s your Gothic? The Grammar School of the College of God’s Gift

On leaving the gallery, we walked into Dulwich Village and enjoyed a meal at  PizzaExpress. On the way we passed the Old Grammar School or, as it is spelt out by the inscription over the door, The Grammar School of the College of God’s Gift at Dulwich.

The College was founded in 1619 and the Grammar School was added in 1841. In due course Dulwich College separated from the grammar school and is today “an academically selective independent boys’ school in south London”, as you will see from its Web page. The Old Grammar school is now the office of the Dulwich Estate.

There is obviously an interesting history behind all this but I have as yet to follow it up.

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