Saturday, February 13th 2016
We were meeting friends at London Bridge Station for a joint expedition and so, after a leisurely breakfast at Pret, we crossed the Thames into South London. We met our friends at the station and set off on foot for our destination. Much as I dislike the Shard, considering it a blot on the landscape and, worse, on the skyline, I stopped to capture this view of it as seen along London Bridge Street. This interfering giant of a structure is all too visible from many parts of London.
We passed into Bermondsey which in the 19th and early 20th centuries was dominated by the leather industry. We stopped in a district still known as Leathermarket and found this sculpture in the grounds of the Tyler Estate. Called Shared, it was created by Austin Emery in collaboration with members of the local community. You can read about it in more detail on AUSTINEMERY, the sculptor’s Web page.
Our destination was Bermondsey Street and the FTM, the Fashion and Textile Museum. In particular, we had come to see the current exhibition, Liberty in Fashion. The ‘Liberty’ spoken of here is not a euphemism for ‘freedom’ but the name of a famous department store. Liberty’s began trading in 1875 but acquired the status of department store in 1885 when it moved into larger premises in Regent Street. The store quickly gained a kind of cult status that it still enjoys today. The exhibition provides a historical panorama of Liberty’s fashion clothing for women.
I am in the curious position of liking the museum while being indifferent to most of the subjects of its exhibitions. I compliment the museum on the fact that not only was photography allowed (without flash) but that they informed us of this without being asked. It would be good if other museums and galleries were to follow suit.
My aforementioned indifference embraced today’s exhibition as I have no interest whatsoever in fashion, whether masculine or feminine, and was therefore somewhat bored and glad to leave once my companions had satisfied their curiosity. I shall make no attempt to describe or explain the exhibition but just show you a few photos. I found the ranks of headless women somewhat strange and unnerving. I wonder whether you, like me, find that there is something sinister about shop dummies.
After viewing the exhibition, the question of where to have lunch posed itself. Tigger, remembering previous visits to a certain restaurant in Covent Garden and thinking that our friends might like it too, proposed that we make our way thither. For the first part of the journey, we went on foot, meaning to catch a bus in Southwark Street.
We passed along Guy Street and on the corner of that road with Kipling Street stands a Victorian pub or, rather, what was originally a Victorian pub. In its present form it was probably built in the 1870s or 1880s and managed to continue trading until the 1990s when it finally closed. Today it has been converted to residential use.
A tiled panel shows that it once received its beers from Courage and perhaps the brewery owned it and rented it to tenant managers. Its name, in its glory days, was the Guys Arms. The pub may have taken its name from the street or the street could have been named after the pub. It’s not always easy to know. Either way, the Guy in question is no doubt Thomas Guy who founded the hospital nearby.
We walked through the campus of Guy’s Hospital now part of King’s College. The building shown above is Shepherds House, built in the late 19th or early 20th century as a nursing college but now diverted to other uses. It is a handsome structure, dedicated to noble purposes.
Thomas Guy founded his famous hospital in 1721 to care for incurable patients discharged from St Thomas’s Hospital. Since then, many changes have occurred in both structure and policy. The Colonnade was part of the original hospital and is thus one of the oldest remaining parts.
Beside the Colonnade stands a structure that was once part of old London Bridge, demolished in 1831. It takes the form of an alcove.
The alcove now resides in a garden or courtyard and serves as a covered bench. It now has a permanent inhabitant, a seated bronze statue. The sculpture, in the likeness of Romantic poet John Keats, was made by Stuart Williamson and was unveiled in 2007. Keats studied at Guy’s to become an apothecary, the forerunner of the modern GP, but gave up a medical career in favour of poetry.
The splendid main entrance of Guy’s Hospital in not quite the earliest part of the structure, having been built in 1728. It was designed by Thomas Dance and is today Grade II* listed. A statue of Thomas Guy surveys all comings and goings through the courtyard.
(Corrections applied on February 25th 2016.)