Sunday, July 21st 2013
After a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Maya (see here), we took a bus to Blackfriars, where we hoped to catch a train to today’s destination.
Before taking the train, we had a little look around the area. In a small park or garden beside the entrance to Blackfriars tube station, I spotted this drinking fountain. It bears the name of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association but I didn’t see a date (or missed it). There is a much more elaborate fountain by the Association on Blackfriars Bridge (see here) and this one seems relatively unknown as a result.
Beside it is the Black Friar public house which, despite the unpromising “cake slice” shape of the building it occupies, is a little gem. The building dates from 1875 but the pub interior was extensively remodelled in the early 1900s with mosaics and figures in an elaborate and colourful Arts & Crafts design. The quality of the decor merits the accolade of a Grade II listing. Whether you drink alcohol or not, this pub is worth a visit just to enjoy the gorgeous decoration. (History and further information may be found here.)
Across the road is a building in an entirely different category. It is huge and designed to make a bold statement. It is what Tigger would call a “Marmite building”, that is, you either love it or hate it. As a matter of fact, I love Marmite but am not sure sure about Unilever House. One of its remarkable features is the curved frontage. To my mind, this adds to the impression of an impregnable fortress of a place, off-putting in its very impenetrability. Welcoming it is not, though it possesses a kind of grandeur. According to the English Heritage listing text (it is listed Grade II), Unilever House was built in 1930-1 “by J. Lomax-Simpson with Sir John Burnet, Tait and Lorne”. I am quoting English Heritage because I believe there may be some disagreement among experts over these details. If interested, you can follow up the discussion, starting with the Wikipedia entry.
On the corner of the building is a sculpture. Being so high up, it is a little hard to see and is not presented to its best advantage, in my opinion. By Sir William Reid Dick, R.A., it is entitled Controlled Energy, and shows a human couple, a man and a woman, with a horse. The powerful horse is being held in check by the man pulling on the bridle (i.e. controlling the energy), thus enacting the title. It might also be seen as an expression of the difficulty of handling powerful machines and methods and the danger that they will escape our control.
Blackfriars station is just emerging from a long programme of rebuilding. Commuter trains to and from London are increasingly crowded and it is desired to run longer trains to help ease the pressure. Blackfriars and other stations are having to be remodelled to accommodate these longer trains. Blackfriars was once two stations, a passenger station on the north bank and a goods station on the south. The new Blackfriars uses both of these (you can enter and leave the station on either side of the river) and stretches across Blackfriars bridge over the Thames. It is something of a novelty to stand on the platform and look at the river views, knowing that there is water below your feet. (I did take some photos of the view but as the glass screens are tinted blue, the pictures look rather dull. Call it an artistic transformation.
The panel of names in the previous picture is composed of stones taken from the front of the original passenger station, first called St Paul’s and then renamed Blackfriars. The stones advertised the destinations served by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, such exotic locations as Brindisi, Rome and Faverhsam.
Our first stop was Wimbledon where we walked along to the Centre Court Shopping Centre and went to Costa for refreshments. Afterwards I took a photo of the entrance with the round floor mosaic. I was standing well out of the way of passers-by and waiting for the floor to clear when a security guard came up and asked “All right, sir?” I was somewhat surprised by this but answered politely. I wondered whether he was going to tell me I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so I held my camera down, close to my body. He went away without more ado so I have no idea why he saw fit to approach me. Later, when the floor was clear, I took my photo.
I must say that I deprecate the by now almost universal habit of greeting people with “Aw right?”, be they friends or strangers. It is a stupid habit and should be dissuaded wherever possible.
In the street nearby is this sculpture. It was unveiled in 1992 and is already a popular favourite. It is known as The Two Fat Ladies and was sculpted by Andre Wallace. I think it’s a very good thing that more and more works of art are appearing in our streets and squares and receiving a welcoming response from the public.
We now undertook a two-bus journey. The day was hot and the buses – especially the second – were crowded, so it seemed like a very long journey. In fact, I think it was a long journey. I began to fret and wonder whether we were ever going to arrive… But we did arrive. Eventually. Getting out of the bus was a blessed relief. It turned out that we were at Brockwell Park.
So, where is Brockwell Park? It is in the Borough of Lambeth and is described as being between Brixton, Herne Hill and Tulse Hill. Or is that between Herne Hill, Brixton and Dulwich? Or maybe between all of them. Anyway, just take a look at the above map and make up your own mind (click for an interactive version).
By now, we were beginning to feel as though breakfast was a long time ago. Happily, next to the park we found Steve’s Cafe and had lunch there. This is one of those good old fashioned English cafes that I keep saying I like. The other diners seemed to share my opinion.
After lunch, we went across the road into the park. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, to be honest, because the park was hosting an event called the Lambeth Country Show and I knew that meant crowds of people, a situation I do not enjoy as it both annoys me and makes me nervous. The sight of this row of portable toilets with people waiting to use them did nothing to improve my mood. (Since my operation, I am rather dependent on access to toilets…)
Yes, it was rather crowded, but there were so many stalls and entertainments that the people distributed themselves fairly evenly and were enjoying themselves in a well behaved manner. We even spread a blanket in a patch of shade for a while and enjoyed a little doze…
Two police officers strolled past and seemed quite relaxed. In fact, I didn’t see them again. Tigger tried to lighten my anxiety by promising me we could go and see the animals. Animals? Yes, apparently there were animals brought by a city farm and we could visit them. That cheered me up.
Not that it was easy. When we entered the first marquee where animals were kept, we found a solid wall of humanity blocking the view. Even when they were not looking at the animals themselves, they were quite happy to stand in your way. But, with a bit of pushing and shoving and choosing the right moment to squeeze past, we managed to get a glimpse or two…
I was concerned that the animals might be upset by the presence of so many people peering at them and poking at them but I needn’t have worried. They were obviously used to people and appeared quite relaxed, like this group of sheep gathered together in a companionable heap.
The animals all seemed healthy and well fed. There was a pair of Shetland ponies and this one was contently grazing on the grass under the thin layer of straw.
While this pig was snoozing contently (and I have no idea what breed he is),
this goat, apparently aware of his handsome colours, was strutting his stuff before an admiring audience. But…
…it was this young llama that stole my heart, the one I would have taken home if that had been a serious possibility. (It wasn’t, of course.) Though he (or she?) seemed quite calm and not at all upset by the crowds, he had a bemused expression as though awaiting the answer to a question. If you look closely you can see the lines left by the shears. Such a pretty thing.
Undertaking the long ride home, we changed buses in Brixton opposite this church with the impressive portico. Commissioned in 1818 to meet the needs of a growing population, St Matthew’s, Brixton, was completed in 1824. Interesting as one more early 19th century church is or isn’t, St Matthew’s is accompanied by another intriguing piece of work.
The church stands on a roughly triangular piece of land bounded by three roads, Effra Road, Brixton Hill and St Matthew’s Road. This would all once have been the churchyard and burial ground but at the sharper point where Effra Road meets Brixton Hill, the tip has been broken off, so to speak, to form a public space (the whole churchyard has been restyled as a park). What interests me here is what stands on the detached tip of the triangle.
What I at first sight took to be a war memorial turned out to be something even more interesting. It is well known in the area and is justly famous and listed Grade II. Called the Budd Mausoleum, it provides the final resting place for three generations of the Budd family. You might not guess that it is an actual mausoleum, and not merely a memorial, until you realize that the entrance to the vault is now almost completely beneath ground level (fortunately, perhaps).
The immediate motive for creating the mausoleum was the desire of Henry Budd to provide a grave and memorial for his father, Richard Budd, who died in 1834. One face of the memorial also commemorates Henry’s wife Charlotte who died in 1848. Other names include that of a second Richard Budd, son of Henry and Charlotte, and their daughter Emmeline.
The Egyptian Revival style mausoleum was built in 1835 and its place at one end of the churchyard would have made it dominate this and set the pattern for future burials. Its occupants declare even in death their important and respectable standing in their community. Whether or not we today remember the Budds, their mausoleum stands as a fascinating piece of late Georgian funeral architecture.