Liverpool Street to Colchester

Today we met friends for a trip to Colchester to visit the firstsite Gallery. The meeting was to take place at Liverpool Street station and so we went there early in order to have breakfast on the way.

Morning sunlight
Morning sunlight
At Liverpool Street station

Liverpool Street station can become uncomfortably crowded on weekdays, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. This morning, because we were early, there was a different atmosphere. People were in holiday mood, emphasised by the morning sun streaming in through the windows.

Station flower stall

Our goal in Colchester was the gallery built by Rafael Viñoly. firstsite describes its mission thus:

firstsite is a contemporary visual arts organisation based in Colchester with a mission to make contemporary art relevant to everyone.

One of the ways in which it helps make art relevant is by prohibiting photography. You cannot even photograph the inside of the building, let alone its collection a very indifferent and uninspiring "art". Fortunately, admission is free.

The building
The building
Designed by Rafael Viñoly

The building looks like a warped metal box. This is just one more piece of pretentious and over-hyped construction whose architects (if that is the appropriate word for them) seem more concerned to design something unique and eccentric containing “interesting spaces” than in making a building that is both practical and comfortable to use. If you want to know more about firstsite (which follows the illiterate modern trend of writing in its own name and much else in lower case) you will find information on their Web site.

Samba School
Samba School
A colourful display but hard on the ears

As we were leaving, the above pictured group arrived and took up position in front of the gallery. Their costumes seem to be a strange interpretation of a Roman centurion’s uniform. Their drums bore the legend “Boudica Samba School”. They beat out their rhythm on drums of several sizes which made a very loud noise. There were no other instruments. The drum patterns seemed to be directed by the woman on the right of the photo who made hand and finger gestures to the band. There was another female figure in an elaborate costume who danced on her own like the drunk girl at a party whom no one will partner.

East Lodge
East Lodge
A house in Colchester High Street

Despite it being the 1st of October, the day was sunny and very hot, hotter than many summer days. It was humid too, which made conditions uncomfortable and sapped energy.

Town Hall Clock Tower
Town Hall Clock Tower
Seen along the High Street

There has been a town hall on the site since 1160 but the present one was built in 1898 and opened for business in 1902. Its clock tower forms an impressive landmark.

The George
The George
An old and much remodelled inn

The George is, as you might expect, a listed (Grade II) building. Dating originally from the 15th century it has been remodelled in the 17th and 18th centuries, resulting in the not unattractive form we see today.

The Red Lion
The Red Lion
Passageway to Red Lion Yard

The Red Lion is even more impressive. It dates from the 15th and 16th centuries when it was perhaps a house that later became an inn. There are some 18th century additions but it has largely kept its original form and character. It is of course listed (Grade I).

George and the Dragon
George and the Dragon
Bas-relief over the door of the Red Lion

I can’t help wondering whether the Red Lion was once called the George and Dragon because that would seem to be the theme of the bas-relief over the door. The carving is sufficiently old to allow this supposition.

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Above is one of the two figures that flank the doorway. It looks like a royal personage of some sort.

Church tower
Church tower
Lion Walk Church

Walking through Red Lion Yard you come to Red Lion Walk, an open precinct with shops and cafes. The space is dominated by this tall tower or steeple, which seems even taller because of the narrow space. It belongs to Lion Walk Church (United Reformed). We had coffee and cake in the nearby Costa Cafe.

Colourful Shop
Colourful Shop
Estate Agents can be colourful too!

Colchester is of course an ancient town with a picturesque history behind it. A Celtic stronghold, called Camulodunon, existed here long before the Romans arrived and renamed it Camulodunum. A major Roman colonia was established here and was the major town of Britain until Londinium took over that title. It was sacked during Boudicca’s revolt but subsequently recovered.

Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle
Today an important museum

Where the Romans once trod, the Saxons and the Normans followed. There had been a Roman fortress here and when William the Conqueror ordered a castle to be built it was erected on the foundations of its predecessor. Unusually for Norman castles, which were generally built of stone, the builders of this one used stones and tiles from the Roman ruins. As a result, the castle has a rather colourful finish which confers a certain charm despite its military purpose.

Castle grounds
Castle grounds
Once part of Viscount Cowdray’s estate

The castle is set in a park or gardens which are open to the public. On such a warm day, the public was making full use of it. This was once the property of Viscount Cowdray who donated it to the town for public use in 1922.

Castle wall and windows
Castle wall and windows
This shows the almost capricious use of different building materials

The firstsite gallery was a disappointment. Perhaps it will improve with time and experience. Colchester is an interesting town with some historic traces that are beautiful in their own right and worth studying for what they can tell us of the past, though it is not the first town I would think of when planning a day out.

Three famous buildings
Three famous buildings
As seen from Liverpool Street station

By the time we reached Liverpool Street station again, the sky was growing dark and the electric lights were taking over, transforming the city, making both more beautiful and more mysterious.

Eldon Road glimpsed
Eldon Road glimpsed
through the porch of the Broadgate complex

There wasn’t a useful bus in the bus station so we decided to walk through to City Road at Moorgate. We didn’t have a tripod but had a try some at night shots despite that.

Illuminated and deserted
Illuminated and deserted
Whitecross Place, off Eldon Street

The City is crowded during the working day and practically deserted over the weekend. Together with the darkness and the lights, it often acquires a rather allusive, if not poetic, atmosphere.

Offices in the sky
Offices in the sky
The lights are on but is there anyone at home?

Despite it being Saturday and late in the evening, many of the office suites still had all their lights full on. Whether this was because they were being cleaned, whether people were putting in extra hours or whether the last people out had simply not bothered to turn off the lights, I do not know.

Necessities of life
Necessities of life
As is the water hole to wildlife, so is the hole-in-the-wall to urban humanity

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

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Liverpool Street to Colchester

  1. WOL says:

    The Colchester castle is rather an interesting exercise in recycling — not as new a concept as one might think. I like the picture were the low light stanchions cast “bullseye” rings of dark and light on the pavement. Very atmospheric, and again almost abstract in its patterns. The “Boudica Samba School” made me laugh — in Brazil, they have Samba schools that compete each year at Mardi Gras — all with elaborate (and rather skimpy) costumes with feathers and flashy colors, and they work out elaborate routines, and march in parades, and it’s quite a big deal there. But it is a “logical” expression of its cultural context and the particular mix of peoples and cultures that make up Brazil . But “Boudica” and “Samba” in the same sentence — what an amazing juxtaposition.

    • SilverTiger says:

      To be honest, I found the “Samba School” rather preposterous but they were obviously putting their hearts into it.

      London is a good place for after-dark photography because there are so many lights of different colours and at different heights illuminating the buildings but also leaving pools of darkness that there is always something new, mysterious and pretty to be found.

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