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Archive for January, 2012

Another record month for the blog, deep and humble thanks for your support. Let’s wrap it up with some more funnies from this series of early 20C cartoons from the New Punch Library. The blurb in the frontispiece says:

Presenting the cream of national humour contributed to “Punch”  by our leading draughtsmen and humorous writers from the year 1900 to the present.

mr punch in london town

LONDON LIFE A Professor of Deportment giving a lesson to Members of Parliament in the art of "Crossing the floor of the House". by George Morrow

mr punch in london town

Now then, Mr Three-a-Penny, wot d'yer mean by knockin' the bottom out of the bloomin' market? by Philip Baynes

mr punch in london town

TRADES UNION OFFICIAL: How many men have you got working here? FOREMAN: About 'arf of 'em. by Frank Reynolds.

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Today being the last Sunday in January, the English Civil War Society held its annual parade to commemorate the regicide of Charles I on 30 January 1649. Only the Royalist half participates; the Parliamentarians get their turn later in the year. Their task today was to serve as stewards in hi-visibility yellow bibs, and they did a great job, not intrusive or bossy at all, as one might expect from Puritans! Fiona and I took well over 250 pictures. Here is a selection. I’ll dump more on Flickr later along with some movie footage which I’ll put on YouTube.

It’s a pleasure to be able to write so little and just let the pictures do the talking. Such a fun and interesting parade to watch. Hearty congratulations to the ECWS for putting on such a superb show: hugely impressive.

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

The King's Army Annual Whitehall Parade, 29 January 2012

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lion gate, syon park, isleworth

Doing some casual swotting on architects and London, I found this drawing, which I recognised as being the so-called Lion Gate at Syon Park, Isleworth, just up the road: I’ve driven past it hundreds of times. It’s sometimes referred to as a screen and you’ll find very little information on it, even on Syon Park’s own web site. But it’s by Robert Adam, from 1769. He also decorated many of rooms at the house.

lion gate, syon park, isleworth

And here it is, this afternoon: the pixels are still wet. You can see it’s very much the same as Adam’s drawing. The only real difference is that Adam’s lion has a realistic wavy tail, whereas on the actual gate, the lion has the bizarre-looking stiff  horizontal tail, the emblem of the Percy family, who have owned the estate for many centuries.

Overall, the gate appears to be in good condition, but could do with a little TLC to bring it up to scratch. Perhaps the Duke of Northumberland might invest a little from the new Waldorf Astoria hotel which was opened on the estate last year.

lion gate, syon, isleworth

lion gate, syon, isleworth

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john julius angerstein

John Julius Angerstein (1790) by Sir Thomas Lawrence. National Gallery, London.

Here’s a name I’ve found cropping up frequently as I meander aimlessly through the corridors of London history. First time was about a year ago at the fabulous Sir Thomas Lawrence exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Angerstein was a patron and friend of the portrait genius, and sat for him several times. Amazingly, he was also remembered in oils by Sir Joshua Reynolds almost thirty years earlier in 1765 – some feat.

John Julius Angerstein (c1732 – 1823) was born in Russia, nobody seems quite sure when. He arrived in London in his teens and got a job in the counting house of Andrew Poulett Thompson, a Russia merchant widely believed to be the lad’s father.

Like many a London magnate, Angerstein made his fortune in marine insurance. He became well-established as a successful broker in the 1760s. During his career he was a partner in many brokerages and by the time he retired in 1810, he was handling over 200 accounts. He was instrumental in securing premises for the New Lloyds Coffee House at the Royal Exchange, an institution normally not particularly welcoming to brokers. In fact, it was largely thanks to Angerstein that marine insurance emerged from its murky past of coffee house operators of dubious practice to respected pillars of the financial community.

Angerstein was a very sociable man. Despite lacking the classical education of most contemporary movers and shakers, he was well-liked and a frequent fixture in the salons of London society: money talks. Although sober of habit and dress, he didn’t mind splashing the cash. He had handsome properties in Pall Mall and Blackheath, but more important than this he was a collector of fine art and a patron of artists. Angerstein’s collection, which included masterpieces by Titian, Poussin, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez, and Van Dyck, was acquired by the government in 1824 to form the ballast of the new National Gallery.

He lived to a very ripe age of 91. Ish. He is buried at the lovely Hawksmoor church of St Alfege in Greenwich, where he had served as a churchwarden.

Quite interesting aside: Angerstein put up most of the reward money to apprehend the so-called Newgate Monster in 1790.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required), profile by Sarah Palmer.

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Today, 26th January, is the anniversary of a notorious sword fight which took place in 1765  in a London pub and resulted in the death of a man called William Chaworth. His killer was William, 5th Baron Byron, a loose cannon of a man who was known as “the Wicked Lord” or “the Devil Byron”, epithets which he liked and indeed encouraged. Byron was the great uncle of the famed poet and adventurer who succeeded him to the Baronetcy in 1798, the 5th Baron’s own son and grandson both having pre-deceased him.

Byron and Chaworth had been drinking in the Star and Garter tavern (sometimes described as a hotel) in Pall Mall. They had neighbouring estates in Nottinghamshire and indeed were kinsmen. They were in the company of other Nottinghamshire worthies who met for dinner and drinks every month. Fully refreshed with wine, the two men got into an argument about wildlife management, and specifically who had more deer on his estate. They decided to have it out with swords in an upstairs room of the pub and Chaworth was mortally wounded, dying the following day. Byron, far from showing any contrition, mounted his sword in pride of place on the wall in his home. He was found guilty of manslaughter by his peers in Westminster Hall and given a small fine. One would love to have been a fly on the wall on the fateful day. There is a fuller account based on contemporary articles here.

On another occasion, Byron killed his own coachman, plonking the dead man’s body on top of his wife as he continued the journey at the reins himself. In the 1770s he expended much energy destroying his own estate, Newstead Abbey, in order to ensure that his estranged son (who had eloped with his own first cousin) inherited only debt. This backfired badly when the young man died in 1776: Byron didn’t really think that one through.

On the plus side, the Wicked Lord was a founding Governor of the Foundling Hospital.

For another famous duel on this blog, read Pistols in Putney.

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london underground david longWith this new book, prolific London history author David Long returns to the London Underground (an earlier work, The Little Book of the London Underground (2009), is a compendium of interesting facts, stories and statistics about the network).

This is the first book on the topic which I have read that focuses purely on the aesthetics of the system. Except in passing, you will find very little in this book about engineering, trains, timetables and the like. It is – as the title suggests – all about architecture and design. We learn about the two main architects of the 1900s and 1930s generations of stations, Leslie Green and Charles Holden respectively. We find out how the Underground’s “target” logo came into being. We read all about Edward Johnston, the typographer who devised the ubiquitous typeface on all Underground signage. And, of course, the draftsman Harry Beck, who gave not only London but most city transit systems worldwide the method of creating an easily understandable, diagrammatic map.

We Londoners like to grumble about the Tube. Despite its faults, most of us secretly love it and are proud of it; in our hearts we know it is a wonderful system. For despite its complexity, it is easy to understand and use. The credit for this goes to a handful of architects and designers who did their work almost a century ago. And at their centre was one man, the hero of the book: Frank Pick.

Pick was not an artist, a designer or an architect. He was, in fact, an administrator who rose through the ranks. But he had an instinct for talent-spotting and knowing what needed to be done. In the early decades of the 20th Century the tube system, comprising various different railway companies with different cultures and modi operandi were integrated into one unified organisation. Operationally, this was a challenge. But equally important was how this was presented to the public, how it was sold, how confidence in the system was built.

More than any marketing man or advertising guru, Pick understood the value of branding. It was he who set the standard for buildings, signage, advertising and posters – ensuring compliance and attention to detail to the nth degree. The result could have been disastrous except in the hands of a man of taste and discernment with natural  empathy for the age, a man both of his time and ahead of it. The result is that London’s urban transport system – including our red buses, of course – is one of the most recognisable brands on the planet. This book tells the story.

London Underground is richly illustrated with  hitherto unseen 1970s black and white photographs by Jane Magarigal which provide a nice nostalgic touch for those of us who wish the Tube still looked like it used to.

London Underground. Architecture, Design and History  is published by the History Press. List price is £18.99, but available for around £13.00.

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heathrow plane spottingLast Sunday we went plane-spotting at Heathrow. And today is the anniversary of the belly-flop crash-landing of BA38 in 2008, you probably remember it. Fortunately there were no fatalities. I’ve been thinking about Heathrow a lot lately.

But back to the plane-spotting. I love watching aircraft in the sky, I love airports, I love Heathrow. I’m firmly in the 3rd runway camp. If you think about it, most of us only see planes up close from inside the cabin, or far away in the blue. You don’t experience up close the raw power and illogicality of these massive metal objects full of people and cargo escaping gravity or returning to Earth. For that you have to join the “anoraks” on the perimeter fences, armed with the accoutrements of their hobby: binoculars, long-lens cameras, video cameras, notebooks, high-frequency radios etc. They are all men and they mostly have beards. Some wear baseball caps and combat trousers.

On Sunday afternoon we set forth, beautiful clear day, but very nippy. Just 20 minutes on the Tube to Hatton Cross and there we were on the South Perimeter Road. Most of the time, the planes land from this end, but today they were taking off. Not everybody’s bag probably, but for me it was exhilarating. Not being a plane-spotter, apart from the obvious 747s, I couldn’t tell one plane from another. It doesn’t really matter, but I recommend it as cheap entertainment if you ever find yourself at a loose end. Here are some pictures, and a wonky video clip.

heathrow hatton cross

Hatton Cross, Heathrow's original tube station. Not pretty.

heathrow hatton cross

Tile mosaic at Hatton Cross platform, recalling BOAC's old Speedbird logo.

heathrow

Here she comes...

heathrow

...camera wobble...

heathrow

...magnificent!

Heathrow
Londoners in general are not especially proud of Heathrow, the world’s busiest International air terminus. In fact, mostly we like to moan about it (I’ll have a little moan later!). I find this both surprising and a little disappointing: maybe it’s an English thing.  I worked at Heathrow for six years between 1982 and 1988, and loved it, such a vibrant working environment, everything was on the clock, everyone was rushing. Concorde was in her pomp. Terminal 4 was opened during this time, but much has changed since, and continues to change. The mighty Terminal 5 was opened in 2008. The old Terminal 2 and Queens Building have quite recently been razed and the site is being re-developed. When done, Terminal 1 will be demolished and the new “Terminal 2” extended across the area. After that, I imagine the ageing Terminal 3 Arrivals and Departures will not be long for this world.

In 1929 Charles Fairey of Fairey Aviation in Hayes built an airstrip near the village of Heathrow to test his planes. It was later requisitioned by the government who, in 1944, decided to lengthen it to accommodate bombers. But the war ended before the work was complete. Post-war, the government decided to develop the site for passenger aviation in place of RAF Northolt, Hendon, Croydon etc., and London Airport was born, later Heathrow (LHR). It was decided to have the passenger terminals in the middle of the complex, hence Heathrow’s road tunnels with which we are familiar. The airport’s passenger terminals were opened as follows:
Terminal 2: 1955 (formerly Europa building, now demolished)
Terminal 3 Departures: 1961 (formerly Oceanic building)
Terminal 1: 1968
Terminal 3 Arrivals: 1970
Terminal 4: 1986 (south perimeter)
Terminal 5: 2008 (west perimeter)

As denizens of the 21st Century, we take air travel for granted. It’s just another form of commuting. We take airports for granted too, as – in my opinion – do architects. Why are no airport terminals as beautiful and memorable as St Pancras, Paddington, the old Euston, Temple Meads etc? Unsurprisingly, there are no latter-day John Betjemans leading campaigns to “Save Terminal One” or “Save Terminal Two”!

Heathrow serves 176 destinations in 89 countries. It has parking (stands, as they call it) for 200 aircraft. In 2010, Heathrow had 65.8 million passenger movements from a peak of 68.1 million in 2007. These were derived from 449,220 traffic movements. There are an estimated 76,000 jobs directly associated with Heathrow. See the links below to check out some more astonishing Heathrow stats.

Given the magnificent history and achievements of Heathrow, it is a great pity that it has no museum. It had a visitor centre but this has recently been closed. Apparently, it had information boards and some quite interesting artifacts. It does have a viewing lounge, however. But guess where? Not at any of the terminals where passengers or their friends could readily visit, but in a building on the A4, miles away! The same building where the visitor centre was sited: no wonder it closed! No wonder plane-spotters hang out freezing on the south perimeter road! If BAA wish to succeed in their lobbying for 3rd runway (or anything else), it would do their cause a world of good to have a viewing lounge, visitor centre and museum close by one of the main terminal areas. The cost, surely a spit in the bucket compared to the investment going into current and future expansion.

Come on BAA. How about it?

Sources:
Wikipedia (good)
BAA Heathrow web site (stats page)

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