I was walking through Mile End Park when I spotted in the distance what looked like unfamiliar turrets above the rows of standardised terrace housing to the east of the park. It turned out to be an early Board School at the junction of Ropery Street and Southern Grove, part of which was designed by E.R.Robson, but the bulk of it by T.J. Bailey, who had worked previously as Draughtsman and then as Assistant to Robson in the London Schools Board. A pretty grand piece of Edwardian Tudorbethan, it shows the ambition of the Schools Board:-
Just north of the Bethnal Green Road is Queen Adelaide’s Dispensary, which first opened in 1850 following a cholera epidemic in 1849 and acquired a grand new building in 1866 designed by Lee & Long in neo-Renaissance style with a bust of Queen Adelaide in the pediment:-
Years ago, I went to a talk by Anthony Burton, the then Director of the Bethnal Green Museum, about the Bethnal Green Road. He treated it as a foreign country. Since I have been forced to think carefully about the cultural consequences of a vote for Brexit (I’m on a podium about it on Wednesday), I thought I would take a walk down it to see how the Bethnal Green Road has changed.
I had my first cappuccino in Jonestown, a neo-1950s, new wave coffee bar:-
It’s a while since I’ve been on a tour of our building project in Burlington Gardens. A lot has happened in the intervening two months.
The scaffolding is up:-
I have become negligent in writing about buildings between Stepney and Burlington House because the number of those that I haven’t already written about inexorably shrinks. But yesterday I was walking up Bond Street and saw a building that was shown in a presentation last week and which I didn’t recognise. It’s towards the north end of New Bond Street (I was also encouraged to differentiate between New and Old), known as Medici Court. I assume from its name that it must be the building which was originally occupied by Joe Duveen, no less, and commissioned by him from the architect W.H. Romaine-Walker, who himself belonged to a family of art dealers. It’s in the style that I realise lots of people hate, but adds pomp and ceremony to Bond Street:-
This should probably be the last of my blogs about the firm of Ramsey & Muspratt, but I have now had a chance to read two books, Karl Sabbagh’s Shooting Star: The Brief and Brilliant Life of Frank Ramsey and Peter Stansky and William Abrahams, Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War, which together help to explain Lettice Ramsey’s life and character and put it into context.
Not long after the episode with Margaret Pyke (unconsummated as Karl Sabbagh has pointed out), Frank Ramsey met Lettice Baker, who was an old Bedalian (this may help to explain her liberal approach to sex). She had read psychology at Newnham, worked for a period in vocational guidance in London and then returned to Cambridge to work in the Psychology Library. They met in G.E. Moore’s rooms in Trinity. Not long afterwards, she describes how she went to dinner at King’s and ‘decided to go to bed that evening. I saw no particular reason to put it off longer & Frank was very impatient to do so. He was far too nervous to copulate in King’s so we went round to my rooms in Trinity Street’.
They married, but he was quite quickly unfaithful to her and insisted on telling her the details of his affair, which may have encouraged her to be unfaithful to him, which he bitterly resented. Their mores are those of Bloomsbury, but neither were initially associated with Bloomsbury and Frank’s relentless truth-telling was presumably much more a result of him being an Apostle.
At the time that she set up Ramsey & Muspratt, Lettice was having affairs with both Julian Bell, then an undergraduate at Kings, and Richard Braithwaite, a Fellow. So, she was indeed, as she described herself to Helen Muspratt, very well connected.
I suppose it was inevitable that, in wanting to find out more about Lettice Ramsey, I should have got interested in Frank Ramsey, her short-lived husband, who translated Wittgenstein’s Tractato Logico-Philosophicus into English, having learned German in nine days, and is now regarded by philosophers as having contributed as much to the subject before he died aged 26 as Wittgenstein himself. What intrigued me was a passage from his diary which records a holiday with a girl called Margaret Pyke, ‘One afternoon I went out alone with her on Lake Orta and became filled with desire and we came back and lay on two beds side by side she reading, I pretending to, but with an awful conflict in my mind. After about an hour I said (she was wearing her horn spectacles and looking superlatively beautiful in the Burne Jones style) ‘Margaret will you fuck with me?’ Isn’t this a slightly unusual chat-up line for a Wykehamist and brother of a future Archbishop of Canterbury ?
Alongside the little pack of photographs which I inherited from my mother was one which won’t have come from her because she had nil interest in my father’s side of the family which is partly why I have. It’s of my great grandfather photographed in Anstey Hall in Trumpington outside Cambridge (I can’t remember the family connection) together with his seven daughters and one and only son, my other grandfather, Hubert. It was taken according to an inscription in Christmas 1897 when they must have been visiting from Australia. I’m posting it in case it’s of interest to my Australian cousins:-
I went in search this morning of my Ramsey & Muspratt photographs and discovered in my filing cabinet a cache of photographs which I inherited when my mother died and which look very much as if they came from her bottom drawer. Apart from a photograph of me as Lady Macbeth, I did discover a photograph of my grandfather which, from the inscription on the back, looks as if it was sent out in his memory after his death. Is it by Lettice Ramsey ? I don’t have a good enough sense of their style to know for sure. Looks like it was shot in natural daylight, but it’s definitely a studio photograph and would have been taken in Cambridge. Incredibly sharp focus on the eyes and tie:-
I realise that in my blog yesterday I didn’t really do justice to Helen Muspratt, other than being deeply impressed by the quality of the photographs in the small Pallant House exhibition – their intensity, the interest of the sitters, her use of solarisation, and my wrong understanding of Ramsey & Muspratt as relatively conventional studio photographers (I thought they must be because of the family photographs). In fact, now that I have read the excellent biography of her by her daughter, Jessica Sutcliffe, Face, Shape and Angle, her life was obviously as magnificent as her art: a daughter of the raj, brought up in Swanage, she studied photography at Regent Street Polytechnic and then set up a successful studio in Swanage. When she moved to Cambridge in 1932 to join forces with Lettice Ramsey, she became an ardent communist, made friends with many of the young communists of the time (there are photographs of the Apostles with Anthony Blunt looking wet) and ended up travelling to the Soviet Union and marrying an Old Marlburian communist, Jack Dunman, who was a friend of John Betjeman. Quite a life !