Wednesday, September 23rd 2015
After work we paid a visit to Goodman’s Fields. Today, the name seems deceptive because it is attached to a newly developed and thoroughly built-up urban area. So why the pleasantly rural name?
Back in 1293, Edmund, Duke of Lancaster and brother of King Edward I, established the Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare at Aldgate. The nuns, also known as the Poor Clares, were brought from France and the Abbey was granted considerable privileges. The abbey is remembered in the name of one of the nearby streets, Minories.
The abbey was granted farmland and employed labourers to work it, presumably to provide food for the nuns and for sale to help the finances. Later, the land was let out to tenant farmers, the first recorded being one Trollope. In due course, the land was sold to a man called Goodman, whose name remains attached to it until the present day.
We may assume that Goodman made a success of his farm – John Stowe records how he used to buy milk there – but his son seems to have done even better. Goodman Junior, rather than farm the land himself, rented it out to others and the incomes was such that it is said that he was thereafter able to live ‘like a gentleman’.
Among Goodman’s tenants was one who for a while grazed horses on his patch, a fact that is relevant to the appearance of the Fields today.
Sculptor Hamish Mackie was commissioned to create a large-scale public sculpture in the square. He took his inspiration from the horses grazed by that unknown tenant farmer. A plaque explains the artist’s intentions thus:
…having escaped from their livery stables, six horses gallop through the streets of London. Careering through crowds of pedestrians they are finally brought to a halt by the traffic flow on Leman Street…
Running through the square is a ‘water feature’ imitating a rocky stream. For added drama, the horses gallop through this in their quest for liberty.
You may remember that back in July, we toured the sculptures forming this year’s Sculpture in the City event (see Sculpture in the City 2015). At that time, as I mentioned in the post, only 13 of the intended 14 sculptures was in place, the last one, number 11 by Ai Weiwei, being held back until the opening of the sculptor’s exhibition at the Royal Academy. This evening we finally got around to visiting Ai Weiwei’s exhibit.
I have added the sculpture to the original blog where you will also find the official explanation of the work. I have also updated the link to the page About the Artwork and Artists.