Charles I

A rare visit to my bank gave me an opportunity to have a good look at the equestrian statue of Charles I which sits in the middle of the roundabout at the top end of Whitehall and must be one of the most difficult works of art in the world to see and appreciate.   The statue was commissioned by Charles I’s Lord High Treasurer in 1630 for his country house at Roehampton (the date 1633 is inscribed on the horse’s front foot).   It was sold during the civil war to a metalsmith called John Rivet, who instead of breaking it up, hid it, pretended to sell spoons made from it and enabled it to be re-erected in 1675 on a pedestal, now very worn, by Joshua Marshall:-

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Berry Bros. & Rudd

I had lunch yesterday at Berry Bros. & Rudd which, rather amazingly, was founded in its current premises at 3, St. James’s Street in 1698 by the widow Bourne to supply coffee to the neighbouring coffee houses, as well as the Court.   It began by selling groceries of all sorts and continues to trade under the ‘Sign of the Coffee Mill’, but graduated into selling mainly wine under the aegis of George Berry who started working for the firm in 1803.   In the 1840s, it was the home of the Texas Legation which rented space upstairs.   Now they own a stake in the Anchor Steam Brewery:-

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Piers Gough

It’s not often that I go to Westbourne Grove, but whenever I do, I like and admire Piers Gough‘s public lavatories in the middle of the street, still as smart and urbane as when they first opened in 1993, commissioned by the local residents who didn’t like what was proposed by the Council, with glazed bricks by Shaws of Darwen.   It only cost £190,000:-

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Stepney Green

In what may be the last of the summer heat, I appreciated the greenness of Stepney Green, a surviving strip of municipal park in amongst the industrial dwellings.   It is shown in John Roque’s 1744 as Mile End Old Town, built up only on the east side, with fields to the west and what is now Redmans Road called Mile End Green Lane.   It was used for political campaigns in the nineteenth century when candidates would speak from hustings and in 1872 was made into a public park, following a campaign to protect it from further development:-

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Grinling Gibbons

We went to a Christening in St. James’s, Piccadilly.   The font, like the great limewood reredos so much admired by John Evelyn, is by Grinling Gibbons – a wonderful piece of naturalistic carving in marble, looking as it is a piece of art nouveau, rather than done in 1686, the gift of an anonymous donor in the reign of the Catholic King James.   The stem consists of the Tree of Knowledge, flanked on either side by Adam and Eve, and the bowl has delicate relief carvings of Noah’s Ark on the east side and the Baptism of Christ on the north west.   Blake was baptised in the church in 1757 and Angelica Kauffman was married there in 1767:-

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Ebrington Church

I’ve been at the funeral of Romilly’s aunt, starting in a crematorium in a wood near Leamington Spa – shades of The Loved One – followed by a church service in Ebrington where she retired after a lifetime as a Nightingale nurse, Fulbright scholar, work as a civil servant in the Department of Health and then internationally as a hospital planner.   I had been in the church many times over the years, but never registered the quality of the church monuments, nor the benefaction of William Keyt who left ‘the milch of ten good and sufficient milch kine to the poor of Ebrington’:-

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Burlington Gardens

I have gone slow on doing posts about our building works in Burlington Gardens, only because I realise that there is a limited appetite for views of construction.   But we continue to make progress in Week 39 of the project, with 22 tons of steelwork going into the Lecture Theatre:-

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Cutler’s Hall

I had never seen Cutler’s Hall, just north of Paternoster Square, designed by T. Tayler Smith and with a terracotta frieze by Benjamin Creswick, a young knife-grinder who turned sculptor under the tutelage of Ruskin and died in 1946, having been Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Birmingham Society.   The frieze shows the craft processes of the cutler – forging, grinding, hafting and finishing:-

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30, Old Bailey

Since it was such a beautiful morning, I took a slight detour to see 30, Old Bailey, a recent building by Sauerbruch Hutton on a site just west of Paternoster Square, where the scale of the building is masked by the use of coloured fins:-

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Grange Park Opera

We went last night to Tristan and Isolde, the final performance of Grange Park Opera at the Grange, before they move to a brand new grand opera house at West Horsley Place, outside Guildford and closer to London (phew !).   According to Simon Freakley, the chairman, who stood on stage before the performance, they have had 50 productions over 18 years.   Now, their lease has been terminated.   It was in some ways a sad occasion, standing on the terrace of William Wilkins’s great Greek Revival house, built for Henry Drummond in Roman cement in 1804, just after Wilkins had returned from three years travel in Greece and Asia Minor.   But Tristan and Isolde was more tragic:-

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