Posts Tagged ‘Horace Jones’

A guest blog post by London Historians member the artist Liam O’Farrell who describes a London Historians tour of  Smithfield Market in August this year. 

The tour I attended was for Smithfield Market and St John’s. The St John’s Gate visit was just as interesting though for the sake of this blog I have just featured Smithfield Market, and the painting of Smithfield Market.

Arriving at Smithfield Market
The Market opens at 2am would you believe? This is far too early for a visit for even the most intrepid tourist that said we were all still mustered outside Barbican Station at 7.00. I am not a morning person at all though thankfully Peter Twist is, and got us all up and rolling in no time at all.

About Peter Twist (London Historians member)
Peter is a qualified as a City of London Guide since 2012. You may recognise him from the recent groundbreaking Channel 4 show, The Audience. He is a retired Metropolitan Police Senior Officer and brings a wealth of life experience and good humour to bear upon his guided walks.


Peter Twist leading a group around Smithfield, here at the modern poultry market.

About Smithfield Market
Once on site Peter took us over the history of the market. A livestock market occupied the area as early as the 10th century. That said, it was always a bit of a butchers’ yard as this was where London performed its most gruesome executions. Here in 1305 William Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered after upsetting Edward I. Wat Tyler too met his end here in an equally revolting fashion after leading the ‘peasants revolt’. You can add to this the protestant martyrs and lord knows how many others.

Thankfully public executions have long since come to an end, and the site we have here today was opened in 1868. It was designed by The City Architect, Sir Horace Jones. In true Victorian style he saw the new meat market as a cathedral of meat complete with its own grand avenue. No expense was spared over its ornamental cast iron, glass, stone and red brick features. Time has proven that from did follow function though the form is certainly impressive.

Once the talk on the history and the outer buildings were complete we passed through the cast giant cast iron doors into the main part of the market. These doors weigh 15 tons each, yet they are so well balanced that you can open them with one finger.

The painting of Smithfield Market
As Peter took us around the market I busied myself in making written notes and drawings around the site, and inside too. The view I finally chose was the three quarter view showing the majestic sweep of Horace Jones’ design with the towers on each corner.



I produced a small watercolour on site to add to my notes and produced a larger one back in the studio. A print of Liam’s painting will be one of London Historians’ December prizes, see forthcoming newsletter for details.

Inside Smithfield Market


Once you are inside the market you can really see the advantages of a tour guide as opposed to a guide book. Over the years Peter has got to know many of the market traders and they are more than willing to share stories and traditions of the market.



The self-styled ‘Biffo’ is more than willing to hold court, and told us that if someone is getting married they are likely to be stripped and covered in flour below the market clock.

He recalled when he first joined workers would fight each other for the best jobs. It was a heavily unionised, hard man’s world. Not a place for a sensitive artist!

In the old days things could seriously get out of hand between the traders to such an extent that the market still has its own police station and police force too. The current police force no longer have powers of arrest, though they can occasionally still be called on to sort out disputes.

The traders and workers traditionally have almost all been white, male, Londoners. These days the market is much more cosmopolitan with even the occasional woman. Biffo said that without the foreign workers willing to do the punishing hours the market would simply die.

Peter took us around the whole site and despite the tough reputation of the market it has a very friendly atmosphere and all the traders were very willing to chat to you about their work and their families’ history of the market.

Visitors are often surprised to know that the market is not totally wholesale. There is no minimum spend and some real bargains can be had. It is not all traditional goods either, as on a few days a month even seagulls eggs can be purchased.

Once the tour was complete we were all pretty hungry and were ready for a big English breakfast at one of the traditional cafes on the square. I stuffed myself!

I can really recommend this tour. There is a real advantage in having someone on the inside to guide you around the real nooks and crannies of the market. It really made the tour work, and that’s coming from someone who hates mornings!

The City Guides offer a walking tour of Smithfield Market. Tours take place once a month, starting at 7am and lasting an hour and a half. Booking is essential.

Liam O’Farrell
Liam is an extremely talented painter and illustrator who specialises in landscape and cityscape scenes, many of which are on London subjects. His web site.


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The most famous of London’s many bridges celebrates its 120th birthday this year. Horace Jones’s masterwork was opened by the Prince of Wales on 30 June 1894, nine years after the Act of Parliament was passed to bring it into being.

To mark the occasion, the Guildhall Art Gallery has just launched an exhibition of representations of Tower Bridge down the years. Like Sir Charles Barry and others before him, Jones didn’t live to see the completion of his most prestigious project. He is remembered here at the entrance to the show with his most famous portrait along with that of his engineer, John Wolf Barry, son of Sir Charles himself.

Tower Bridge, Guildhall Art Gallery

Charles Pears (1873-1958), Blitz. Our London Docks, 1940, oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

After this, the bridge itself is the only star. There are many dozens of depictions spanning over a century. They include water colours, oils, pencil drawings, and photographs. Most notable of the latter are an amazing survival from the early 1890s of the bridge being built and we are reminded that for all appearances, this is a steel bridge with cladding. There are also fine engineering plans of the towers, along with ephemera relating Tower Bridge’s earliest days: invitations and programmes for the opening and even for the laying of the foundation stone. Incredibly elaborate items where Union flags abound. This was, after all, to be the new front door of  the capital of the world’s greatest power at its mightiest.

But by far the biggest element of the show are the paintings. They are in a multitude of media, taken from every viewpoint: the pool of London; Wapping; Rotherhithe; and at least one from the bridge itself. The London skyline, an evocative addition to any landscape features varyingly. But there is another star of the show: it is, of course, the Thames. And with the Thames come boats and boatmen. All subject matter that is a gift to the painter: if you think about it, nothing possibly can go wrong for any artist. There was only one picture I thought was not particularly good, but even it looked delightful thanks to a quite nice tugboat centre stage: it was very much the exception.

So an exhibition featuring images of the most photogenic (and yes, there are old photos too) bridge in the world is hardly going to struggle. But they still have to be sourced, chosen and displayed in a coherent way, and variety here is key. Moody here, frivolous there; the highly detailed rubs shoulders with the broad brush approach. The arranging is broadly chronological without being slavishly so.  The gallery and curator have got this all completely right and the result is delightful. You’d be mad not to go: entrance is free.

120 Years of Tower Bridge (1894-2014) runs from 31 May – 30 June, so not particularly long.

Tower Bridge, Guildhall Art Gallery

William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931), The Opening Ceremony of the Tower Bridge, 1894-5, oil on canvas.
Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

Tower Bridge. Guildhall Art Gallery.

Frank William Brangwyn ARA (1867ÔÇô1956), The Tower Bridge, about 1905, oil on canvas.
Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

Tower Bridge, Guildhall Art Gallery

James Page-Roberts (b. 1925), Self-Portrait with Tower Bridge, 1965, oil on canvas. Copyright The Artist.

Tower Bridge, Guildhall Art Gallery.

Judith Evans and Arthur Watson (b. 1949, b. 1946), The Spirit of London, 1981, oil on canvas.
Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.

Tower Bridge, Guildhall Art Gallery

Mentor Chico (b. 1963), Forever Imagical Tower Bridge 2014, 2014, oil on canvas, copyright The Artist

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tower bridge, horace jonesToday is the architect Sir Horace Jones‘s birthday. He was born in 1819 in the City of London. He also trained in the City before opening his practice in Holborn. He was architect and surveyor to the City of London from 1864 until his death in 1887. A Londoner of Note indeed.

Much of Jones’s work has survived both the Blitz and the wrecking ball, notably the Temple Bar memorial along with Billingsgate, Leadenhall and Smithfield Markets. He loved iron and steel. But most sensational of all was Tower Bridge.

In the late 19C, London’s rapid expansion required yet another bridge to link the City to the Surrey side downriver of London Bridge. The difficulty was that this could potentially block the old Customs House and its surrounding wharfs from offloading vital cargo – food and fuel – to supply the city’s massive populus: shipping needed to pass by the bridge. Many wacky and bizarre plans were put forward, along with more practical ones by the great Joseph Bazalgette, Horace Jones, and others. In 1884, Jones’s design was given the nod. It was essentially a drawbridge idea, the key difference being that it was based on a bascule (see-saw) principle rather than chainlift. The power that drives the bascules up and down is provided by hydraulic chambers filled by water pumps, originally steam but electric from 1976.

Jones died only two years after work began on the bridge, but his technical partner, the engineer John Wolfe Barry saw the project through to completion in 1894, when it was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 30 June. Barry had also been responsible for the mechanism and hydraulics systems for the bascules.

tower bridge, horace jones

tower bridge, horace jones

London Historians had a group visit to Tower Bridge last month where we visited the museum and walkways along with the rest of the public, but we were also shown the modern engine room, the old control room, the storage tanks for the hydraulic lift system and, crucially, we went down into one of the bascule chambers. A week or two previous to that, I had the enormous privilege of raising the bascules myself from the modern control room. Here follows some pictures from these visits, but I’ve put a larger set on our Flickr space here.

tower bridge, horace jones

London Historians on the pedestrian walkway.

tower bridge, horace jones

Instruments in the old control room.

tower bridge, horace jones

Engine Room.

tower bridge, horace jones

Hydraulic Accumulator.

tower bridge, horace jones

In the bascule chamber.

tower bridge, horace jones

Old steam engine in the Tower Bridge Museum.

tower bridge, horace jones

Author in the safe hands of engineer Charlie Harrison in the modern control room.

tower bridge, horace jones

All my own work.

Tower Bridge Trivia:

Tower Bridge, John Wayne, Brannigan

John Wayne: Duke of Hazard.

  1. On full lift, the bascules are 77° to the horizontal except when the monarch passes through: 87°.
  2. Between 1894 and 1976 the bridge had over 300,000 lifts without a failure.
  3. In 1940, an anti-aircraft gun was removed from the bridge after damaging one of the towers.
  4. The pedestrian walkways were closed in 1910 due to lack of use.
  5. In 1968 a disgruntled RAF pilot flew a Hawker Hunter jet through the bridge.
  6. Raising the bascules for shipping is a free service.
  7. Shipping always has priority over road traffic (1885 Tower Bridge Act).
  8. In 1952, London bus driver Albert Gunton famously jumped the gap between the rising bascules after the traffic management system failed. He received a £5 reward.
  9. John Wayne drove a yellow Ford Capri – simulated – across Tower Bridge in the 1975 movie Brannigan. Clip.
  10. In 1997 the motorcade carrying Tony Blair and Bill Clinton was split by a bridge lift, leaving the leaders on opposite sides of the crossing. An international incident almost occurred when the bridge team, to prevent making matters worse, refused to stray from the procedure.


On behalf of London Historians as a group and me personally for my lifting the bascule experience, a big thank-you to the City of London who manage Tower Bridge, in particular Chris Earlie, Iain Stanford and Charlie Harrison who are directly involved in the day-to-day running of the bridge, all highly professional, knowledgeable and welcoming.


Tower Bridge Exhibition.

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IMG_0550bReaders will know that I’m quite the fan of the Guildhall. This position was strongly reinforced yesterday when I had the massive privilege of a tour of the Library with its Principal Librarian, Peter Ross.

The Guildhall Library was founded in the 1420s thanks to an endowment by that man, Richard Whittington, the wealthy Lord Mayor of London. It was, of course, a manuscript library to begin with, until print technology entered the picture at the turn of the 16C.

Then disaster struck in the late 1540s when scalliwag of history the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector, decided to help himself to all of the collection, transporting it to his palace in three large carts, as recorded by John Stow. There is no record of what became of the collection thereafter. One would like to think that his demise at the executioner’s block was some pay-back for overdue books.

And that was the end of that until a library at the Guildhall was revived in 1820s. A little later a purpose-build home was constructed in 1870 to the East of Guildhall, designed by Horace Jones, the Tower Bridge man. Luckily it took just the one hit during the Blitz, although the books had been removed to safety.

In the 1960s the current library was built as an extension to the West of the Guildhall. Among much else, it houses the records of about 80 of the City’s 108 Livery Companies; records of Lloyds of London; records public companies within the Square Mile; admin records from the Stock Exchange. Plus, of course, many thousands of books and manuscripts, posters, broadsides and miscellaneous ephemera going back centuries. Other functions of the Library are materials conservation and protection, and it has a budget to acquire any historical printed matter relating to the City which comes onto the market.

It is the largest library in the world devoted to a single city.

The Guildhall Library is open to all and welcomes the opportunity to help members of the public with their research. It also hosts small exhibitions and displays (currently there is one featuring objects from the Worshipful Company of Bowyers (ie bow-makers)). There is a programme of talks by academic historians and authors.

My sincere thanks to Peter Ross and Anne-Marie Nankivell for their hospitality. I’ll explore the possibility of arranging a similar thing for a group of LH Members. Keep an eye on the web-site!

Except where stated, all pictures by Anne-Marie Nankivell. 

guildhall library

guildhall library london

Treats in store

guildhall library london

guildhall library london

guildhall library london

guildhall library london

Pic: M Paterson

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