Around Trafalgar Square, then Camden Town

Saturday, August 1st 2015

We didn’t have any special plans but took a bus to Holborn to look for breakfast. We found a French restaurant and thought we would try it. As I stepped through the door, I somehow caught my foot on something and fell, crashing spectacularly into some chairs. The day had started well!

Happily I was not hurt, though I have achy ribs on the right side. I was surprised at how concerned and helpful the restaurant staff were but later I thought, a little cynically perhaps, that they were worried that I might sue them… I have no intention of doing so because, though I have no idea how the fall occurred, I am satisfied that it was clumsiness on my part.

The London Coliseum
The London Coliseum

The restaurant was in St Martin’s Lane and when we left we continued walking along that street towards Trafalgar Square. The picture shows the London Coliseum with its globe-topped tower and the spire of St Martin-in-the-Fields. (The church is still there but the fields are long built over.)

In case you are interested, the above photo is a composite made by stitching together two photos that I had not taken for that purpose. The stitcher – MS Image Composite Editor – managed to combine them. The resultant photo had some garbage in the top right corner but I was able to cover it up.

Carved door, London Coliseum
Carved door, London Coliseum

The London Coliseum was built 1902-4 and was designed by perhaps the most famous of theatre architects, Frank Matcham. Today it is the home of ENO, the English National Opera and the building itself is Grade II* listed. I don’t know whether the doors are original but expect they are. They are fine pieces of work.

Brydges Place
Brydges Place
Reputed to be London’s narrowest public passage

Brydges Places was named after Catherine Brydges (1580-1656 or 1657), daughter of the 3rd Baron Chandos and wife of the 4th Earl of Bedford. (Brydges Place runs into a street called Bedfordbury which in turn runs into Chandos Place.) For modern urban explorers, the most interesting feature of the passage is that at its narrowest point it is just 15 inches (38 cm) wide. Have I been through it? Yes, but not today – see From Holborn to OXO for a description of the experience and more about Brydges Place.

Edith Cavell Memorial
Edith Cavell Memorial

The modernist memorial to Edith Cavell, by Sir George Frampton, was unveiled in 1920 and is today a Grade II listed building. Edith Cavell was a British nurse at the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussells. When the First World War broke out, she treated wounded soldiers irrespective of which nation they belonged to. She assisted Allied sildiers to escape from Belgium, then under German control, and for this was court-marshalled, found guilty of treason and executed by firing squad on October 12th 1915. The inscription quotes Cavell’s own words:


Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Nelson’s Column and statue of George IV

We walked along the northern edge of Trafalgar Square. We had intended to catch a bus and continue our journey but were stymied by the Prudential Ride London cycling event. Why they have to schedule these self-indulgent but otherwise pointless events in the centre of London, I don’t know. Why can’t they hold them on the periphery or better still, send them to some other town that wants to get noticed? Just because the Mayor of London is a keen cyclist and likes to promote himself as such, we have to put up with blocked streets and disrupted bus services.

The National Gallery
The National Gallery
From Trafalgar Square

We popped into the National Gallery while thinking what to do next. The Gallery originated in 1824 when the House of Commons agreed to purchase the art collection of banker John Julius Angerstein. The collection soon outgrew its original accommodation and the present building, designed by William Wilkins (and now Grade I listed), opened in 1838.

Interior, the National Gallery
Interior, the National Gallery

The above picture of the interior of the gallery is no doubt a less than conventional view.

Wheelbarrow art
Art at the Wheelbarrow

In the evening, we paid a visit to Camden Town and took a look at the current street art works on display beside the Wheelbarrow pub. We have already been here and I wrote a post about it, Street Art at the Wheelbarrow. I have described street painting as the ephemeral art because works, no matter how good, enjoy a relatively short lifespan before being over-painted with new works1.

Art at the Wheelbarrow

The alley does not show a name but it may be a continuation of Miller Street. Then again, it may not. I therefore group these paintings under the name of the pub, whose wall forms part of the collection. I am still referring to it as the Wheelbarrow though I think it has been renamed the Beatrice – I’ll check next time.

SArt at the Wheelbarrow

As an example of over-painting (partial in this case), you may care to compare this scene with the one taken in February.

Art at the Wheelbarrow

Street paintings vary greatly in size. We can compare the above painting of two men apparently engaged in a furious dispute and which scales the ground and first first levels with the following pair of faces that are roughly life-size.

Face in relief Skull face

Or with the following that is just a few inches tall.

Jester on a skateboard

This appears to be a court jester on a skateboard, a rather intriguing mixture of symbols.

Eau de Pardun
Eau de Parfum

Street art is produced by a variety of means. While direct painting onto a prepared surface is the most usual, we also find reliefs (like the face and skull above) and paste-ups. The latter are paintings done on paper or similar material and then glued to the wall much as advertising posters are affixed. The paste-up allows the artist to proliferate a given image in many copies over a wide area. Sometimes, all the images are identical and at other times they differ from one another. The above bottle of ‘Eau de Pardun’ is by Endless. I posted a photo of another similar work of his – see Heat wave Sunday or click here. The similarities and differences are easy to spot so I won’t catalogue them.

Arlington House Arlington House
Arlington House

Still in the category of art, albeit in a more formal vein, I photographed the entrance to 220 Arlington Road, also known as Arlington House. It opened in 1905 as one of the chain of  Rowton Houses. It has been refurbished several times since, as you might imagine, but still merits a Grade II listing. It has terracotta ornamentation and above the entrance arch a sculpture of the putto supporting a globe. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the architect or of the sculptor. It’s possible that the figure comes from stock architectural ornaments but I rather think that, given its quality, it was sculpted specially for the building.


1It seems the only works the general public gets into a tizzy about ‘preserving’ are those by Banksy. One wonders why. Is it because Banksy is the only street artist the general public knows about? Banksy may have caught the popular imagination but he is in reality only one street artist among the many.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger,, 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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5 Responses to Around Trafalgar Square, then Camden Town

  1. So many architectural details – always something new to see. Be careful out there!

  2. WOL says:

    “put up with blocked streets and disrupted bus services.” By all accounts, London streets are notoriously dangerous for cyclists. The point of the “ride” is to promote the development of bicycle paths and a cycling infrastructure to accommodate cyclist and to raise awareness of cyclists and to get motorists to share the road.
    Nice collection of street art.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The Prudential Ride London event was not about with cyclist safety. It was a “festival of cycling” and a “mass participation event”. Whatever its merits for cyclists, blocking out sections of Central London for several days with consequent inconvenience to people trying to go about their lives and business seems unwarranted to me.

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