I had heard on the grapevine that Pages of Hackney, a very nice, small, well stocked, independent bookshop on the Lower Clapton Road had opened a branch in Cheshire Street off Brick Lane. I went to investigate. It’s devoted to women’s literature and writing across a wide range of subject matter, including a small art section at the back:-
Every time I write something about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, I am impressed by the scale of the response. Yesterday, it was all over the twittersphere: a sense of pain and anguish that we have somehow allowed a working Foundry, which has been in continuous existence for over four hundred years and produced the bells of Big Ben, to be closed down and sold to a New York venture capitalist to be butchered as a boutique hotel. But worse than this, it has been done with the consent and co-operation of the authorities: Historic England, who believe that it is better to co-operate with the destroyers, rather than, as is their moral and statutory duty, resist them.
I hope that now at least there is a possibility that local democracy will come into play and Tower Hamlets will do what it can to reinstate the Foundry by supporting the detailed plans which have been drawn up by the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust, following the model of what they have done at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.
I was invited to Hereford Cathedral to see the stained glass window and commemorative monument which John Maine RA has done to celebrate – and commemorate – the close association which the cathedral and city have with the SAS, which is based locally.
The monument – if it’s allowed to be called a monument – is highly abstract, its special quality deriving from the juxtaposition of different stones, most especially the beautiful, highly polished, deep blue Syenite, quarried in Brazil and polished in China, juxtaposed with, on the one hand, a roughly faced sandstone base from Clashach, near Elgin and, on the other, a smoothly polished, dark grey slate base for the inscription:-
A detail of the Syenite:-
Above is a deep, dark blue stained glass window, also designed by Maine, although one might not guess it, as the idiom and execution is so radically different in style and feel. Here it is, as seen from a distance, through a window across the cathedral close:-
This is a detail of the double skin of stained glass, made by the Derix glass studio, near Frankfurt:-
The Gentle Author, who has been a great stalwart in mobilising public opinion on saving the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a proper working Foundry, not a boutique hotel, has discovered that if enough people living in Tower Hamlets sign the attached petition, it will be discussed at the next meeting of Tower Hamlets Council and could then become Council policy, which would most likely scupper the unholy plans.
If you live in Tower Hamlets, do please sign it and, just as important, encourage others to as well.
If not, do please forward it to anyone in Tower Hamlets you know.
Back in London (boo hoo), I am somewhat consoled by finding the published volume of papers of a conference held in May 2016 on Leonardo in Britain: Collections and Historical Reception, edited by Juliana Barone and Susanna Avery-Quash and published by Leo Olschki.
The volume includes a paper I gave on ‘Attitudes to Leonardo at the Royal Academy’ which traces the changes in attitude from the 1770s when the Academy acquired the so-called Leonardo Cartoon without any record of its acquisition, hanging it behind the door in the Antique School, to 1821 when it acquired the early copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper at considerable expense and hung it in a place of great honour behind the chair of the President in the Great Room, so that the Academicians and students could see and admire it during their lectures and meetings.
The volume also includes an admirably detailed account of the provenance of the copy of the Last Supper by Pietro Marani, how it was acquired by the Certosa di Pavia in 1591, stolen in 1796 following the Austrian suppression of monasteries in 1790, and sold to Defendente Sacchi, a critic and author of a biography of Leonardo. In January 1817, when Stendhal saw it while doing research for his biography of Leonardo, it belonged to Stefano Maria Pezzoni, a ‘negoziante di drogherie’ and friend of Giuseppe Vallardi, a collector of Leonardo’s drawings. It was already in London in late July 1817, when, according to the Literary Gazette, it was exhibited at the British Institution, where it was seen and admired by British connoisseurs of the time, including Charles Long, Joseph Farington and Thomas Lawrence. But who was H. Fraville (or Fréville) from whom the copy was bought in 1821 ? And how had he acquired it from Pezzoni ? I don’t think we know.
We went back to the track which leads down to the Straits from Llanidan old church, which feels like an old road through the woods, down to the ferry which used to take the Brynsiencyn quarrymen on their weekly crossing to Felinheli and on to the Dinorwig quarry above Llanberis:-
The planting in the adjacent fields presumably dates from the late eighteenth century when Llanidan Hall was leased by Thomas Williams, agent to Lord Uxbridge, the owner of Olas Newydd, and a partner in the Parys mountain copper mine:-
On the Straits, one looks across to Llanfair Hall, an 1830s villa with later Victorian belvedere tower attached:-