Chelsea Embankment then Piccadilly and Fitzrovia

Tuesday, December 27th 2016

This morning was bright and sunny and we set out in high spirits. We first made our way to Pret in St John Street for breakfast and on the way stopped to photograph what Tigger refers to as ‘Our Favourite Building’.

The Angel
The Angel

Standing on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road, this beautiful Grade II listed building is variously known as the Angel Hotel or more plainly as The Angel. It occupies the site of the original Angel coaching inn which was the terminus for stage coaches from the North. (Passengers had to make their own way from here to the city, travelling along City Road which in those days ran through open country, the haunt of muggers and highwaymen.) It was the Angel Inn that gave its name enduringly to the district.

The present building was erected in 1903 as an hotel and public house for Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Company. The architects were Frederick James Eedle and Sydney Herbert Myers, and J. C. Edwards of Ruabon supplied the fine terra cotta. I don’t know whether the hotel was a success or not but in 1921, the premises were taken over by J. Lyons and Company as one of their famous Corner Houses.

In 1959, the building was sold to the London County Council who planned to redesign the road junction. The plans called for the Angel Hotel to be demolished and this, of course, stirred up local opposition. Plans for the junction were shelved and the building returned to private ownership. It currently houses the local branch of the Co-operative Bank on the ground floor with offices above. It is becomingly illuminated at night to show off the beauty of the terra cotta.

Battersea Bridge
Battersea Bridge

After breakfast at Pret, we caught a bus to Chelsea Embankment and visited the area of the Battersea Bridge. The present bridge dates from 1890 and was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It was commissioned to replace the previous bridge at this position, London’s last wooden bridge, by then considered too narrow and dangerous. The bridge is Grade II listed.

The name Chelsea, incidentally, is believed to derive from the Anglo-Saxon Cealc-hyð, meaning ‘chalk wharf’.

Riverside panorama
Riverside panorama

This view across the Thames from the southern end of the bridge shows a stretch of the north bank. (Click to see a larger version.) The scene is besmirched by ugly tower buildings, an increasingly common plague in present-day London.

Albert Bridge from Battersea Bridge
Albert Bridge from Battersea Bridge

We walked across the bridge, enjoying the river views. To the east (downstream) we could see the pretty Albert Bridge which we intended to visit next.

Looking upriver from Battersea Bridge
Looking upriver from Battersea Bridge

The river here has a different feel from lower down. It is quieter and there are fewer boats moving back and forth though there are moorings here too.

Crosby Hall
Crosby Hall

We began walking west along Chelsea Embankment and stopped to admire this fine building near the bridge. The photo is a composite and it was a struggle to make it because of the traffic continually rushing past in both directions or stopping to queue at the traffic lights. I managed to get some clear shots but also cut off part of the building on the left.

Crosby Hall would be remarkable just for its history alone. What remains today it is the Great Hall of a mansion built in 1466 by wool merchant John Crosby. One can now only wonder what the complete building would have been like. But there is further cause for wonder: Crosby originally built his house in Bishopsgate, in the City, as was only logical for a merchant. However, in 1910, the Hall was threatened with demolition because its site was to be developed.To save it, Crosby’s Hall was moved, brick by brick, to its present site. The work was done by Walter Godfrey who added structures around the original parts so I think that what we see today from the outside is mainly his work which is at least ‘in the manner’ of buildings of the time.

Approaching Albert Bridge
Approaching Albert Bridge

As we walked beside the river, I took photos of Albert Bridge from difference distances. I have combined five of them into a slideshow to give some impression of approaching the bridge. (Click for larger version.)

Chelsea Old Church
Chelsea Old Church

On the other side of the road is Chelsea Old Church. You may think that the ‘Old’ in the name clashes with the relatively modern design. You would be right. The church merits its ‘Old’ title in that churches have existed continually here from at least the 12th century. The building that existed just prior to World War II was, like many ancient churches, a mixture of parts from many episodes of rebuilding. During the war, the church suffered extensive bomb damage and a nearby hospital had to be used for services. Though the church still contains ancient parts, what we see today is largely the result of rebuilding in the 1950s.

Albert Bridge in silhouette
Albert Bridge in silhouette

Albert Bridge is, I think, London’s prettiest bridge. It is also the most vulnerable to deterioration. When first built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873, it was found to have serious structural weaknesses and was strengthened by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1884-7. Modern traffic caused further problems and concrete piers were added to support the central section in 1983. Originally, a toll was charged for use of the bridge and the toll booths can still be seen in place. This venture proved a failure commercially, however, and the bridge was taken into public ownership. It remains weak with a tendency to wobble so that notices at either end warn marching soldiers to break step while crossing. The fabric unfortunately continues to deteriorate and the bridge’s days are no doubt numbered. It is Grade II listed.

Climbing Boys Lamp Post
Climbing Boys Lamp Post

The lamps and lamp post along the Thames probably merit a study of their own with their curious designs and historical references. I noticed this one particularly because it is the only one I know of that is painted bright green. In fact, though it is indeed a lamp, it is not only a lamp. It is also a memorial as the inscription tells us:

CHELSEA EMBANKMENT
OPENED MAY 1874
LIEUT. COL. SIR JAMES MACNAGHTEN HOGG K.C.B. M.P.
CHAIRMAN OF THE METROPOLITAN BOARD OF WORKS
SIR JOSEPH WILLIAM BAZALGETTE C.B.
ENGINEER

The sculpture shows two boys climbing a lamp post decorated with flowers, fruit and cornucopias. The date 1874 appears back and front. The name of Coalbrookdale, the place where the article was cast, is moulded into the base but it seems that no one knows the name of the artist who designed it. English Heritage likes it enough to award it a Grade II listing.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti drinking fountain
Dante Gabriel Rossetti drinking fountain

Another memorial, this time a little more personal, takes the form of a drinking fountain. It was unveiled in July 1887 by William Holman Hunt to honour the Pre-Rafaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) and stands outside the artist’s house at 16 Cheyne Walk. The artwork was by Ford Maddox Brown. The bust is shown placed upon two of Rossetti’s best known books, Dante and His Circle and Ballads and Sonnets. The monument is Grade II listed.

Courtyard, Royal Academy of Arts
Courtyard, Royal Academy of Arts

Moving gradually north-east towards home, we stopped off in Piccadilly and peeked through the gate of the Royal Academy. There were some large artworks in the courtyard and people milling around. Perhaps we should have gone in and taken a look but we did not feel sufficiently energetic at this point. I did, however, photograph the carving on one of the columns in the gateway:

Column, Royal Academy gateway
Column, Royal Academy gateway

Then I noticed something unusual on the other side if the road. I thought at first that I must be hallucinating but then realized that I really was seeing what I thought I was seeing.

Figures by Lynn Chadwick
Figures by Lynn Chadwick

Seated upon the canopy above the main entrance of Fortnum & Mason was a pair of sculpted figures, unmistakably the work of Lynn Chadwick. It turns out that the famous store is currently playing host to a number of works of art from the collection of Frank Cohen in an exhibition entitled Fortnum’s X Frank.

By now, we were feeling that it was time for a late lunch and so we disembarked at Percy Street in Fitzrovia where there is a South Indian restaurant called Chettinad. In addition to the food, we discovered something else of interest.

Wall panel of dancers, Chettinad Restaurant
Wall panel of dancers, Chettinad Restaurant

The panel, in deep relief, shows eight female dancers, portrayed in lively fashion, full of movement, and lit so as to show the details of the carving. It is a very unusual piece of work and rightly takes pride of place on the end wall.

Copyright © 2016 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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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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