Norbury

I was asked to give a talk at a girl’s school in Norbury yesterday.   It was unknown territory to me, just off the road to Brighton, heavily built up, but also unexpectedly green and with views up to Sydenham.  I liked the signs on the barbers at the railway station:

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And one of the exaggerated neo-Georgian doorways on the road to the school:

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The view of the allotments:

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And the setting sun:

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Charrington’s

Living near what was once one of the main breweries of Bass Charrington, now a retail park, I am interested in the history of the brewery.   Its origins lie in a brewery in Bethnal Green founded in the early eighteenth century by Robert Westfield.   He teamed up with Robert Moss in 1757 and they established the original Anchor Brewery in Mile End.   They then joined forces with John Charrington, the son of a vicar.   Charrington was running a brewery in Islington.   Together, they established Westfield, Moss and Charrington, becoming Charringtons after Moss retired in 1783.   John’s brother Henry ran the brewery from a nearby house on the Mile End Road.   It was the second largest brewery in London, a massive operation of which now only the adjacent offices, designed in 1872 by Snooke and Stock, remain:

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Haggerston Public Library

The other building which impresses on the Kingsland Road is the building which used to be the Shoreditch and Haggerston Public Library, now apparently apartments, but a monument to late Victorian spirited baroque.   It was originally designed as a private house and then adapted into a public library by Richard J. Lovell (he trained at the Royal Academy) in 1893.   It’s also a monument to the philanthropy of John Passmore Edwards, the great Cornish journalist, reformer, proprietor and champion of the working classes, the second of the libraries that he funded after Whitechapel the year before:

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Christ Apostolic Church Bethel

I have been meaning to find out the name of the large Victorian church up the road from the Geffrye Museum.   The answer is that it is now a branch of the Christ Apostolic Church Bethel, but was originally opened in the 1860s as St. Columba, complete with School, Clergy House and Mission House next door.   It was designed by James Brooks.   I remembered seeking it out in the early 1970s, inspired by Ian Nairn’s description of it as ‘a dusky, grubby working church that could as well be in the  Ruhr or an industrial suburb of Paris’:

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Geffrye Museum

One of the pleasures of today was walking past the Geffrye Museum and seeing how the crisp November sun lit up the space in front of the early eighteenth-century almshouses.   They were built out of a bequest from Sir Robert Geffrye, a big wheel in the Ironmonger’s Company, Lord Mayor in 1674 and died in 1703, leaving the residue of his estate to be used to construct fourteen almshouses, with a chapel in the middle and a statue commemorating the founder:

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Truman, Hanbury and Buxton

A morning recording session in the Kingsland Road meant that I was able to investigate the premises of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton in Brick Lane, which was empty on a weekday morning.   The origins of the brewery go back to 1669 when Thomas Bucknall established a brewhouse on ‘Lolsworth Field at Spittlehope’.   The business was then taken over in 1694 by Joseph Truman.   His son Benjamin became a partner in 1722 and helped build production up, particularly of porter, such that they were producing 83,000 barrels a year in 1766 (not just porter, but also three types of stout and a mild ale).   He became a country gentleman with an estate in Hertfordshire, was painted by Gainsborough, became High Sheriff, and was knighted by George III.   In 1775, he wrote his credo on a page of the company accounts:  ‘there can be no other way of raising a great Fortune but by carrying on an Extensive Trade.   I must tell you Young Man, this is not to be obtained without Spirrit and  great Application’.   Following his death in 1780, the Quaker Hanburys bought into the firm.   Sampson Hanbury, whose father Osgood was a banker and mother Mary a Lloyd (of the banking family) is said to have been a brilliant businessman, buying a steam engine in 1805, producing 200,000 barrels by 1820, and buying a country estate at Poles in Hertfordshire in 1800.   In 1808, his nephew Thomas Buxton joined the firm, reformed its management, encouraged literacy in the workforce and entered parliament as MP for Weymouth in 1818.   There are black eagles, the sign of the brewery:

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This is the sign of The Jolly Butchers up the road, one of many pubs now closed:

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Art and Public Projects

I started the day by attending a discussion with the All-party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group about the relationship between art, design and architecture in major infrastructure projects, like the Jubilee Line, the Olympics, Heathrow Airport and now Crossrail.   There was interesting discussion about the merits (or otherwise) of the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing:  designed by an artist (Ai Weiwei), but apparently regarded by engineers as an inefficient use of metal.   If it’s a choice between Heathrow Terminal 2, an architecturally worthy but dull building with an exciting art project by Richard Wilson, and Terminal 5, an architecturally very exciting building without such evident public art, I’m for the latter.

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