I have been asked whether or not it is appropriate for members of the public to attend the public inquiry about the future of the Bell Foundry. Here is the answer, as below. Yes, it is. I gather that there is a strong feeling on the part of our legal team that good public attendance by the public will help to demonstrate to the Inspector the strength of public feeling. I will hope to be there as much as possible myself.
We had the second meeting yesterday of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry’s Development Board, which has been given the task of raising £150,000 by the beginning of May to fight the legal case. We’re off to a flying start with an anonymous gift of £25,000, another of £5,000, and a promise of another £25,000, but this still leaves another £95,000 to raise.
I am posting this in the hope that it might catch the attention of potential donors in Toronto, Philadelphia, New Zealand and other parts of the world who care about church bells. We need money ! All amounts great and small are welcome as it’s a way of showing support for the cause.
The funding is being collected by the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust. Sort code: 60-40-05. Account number: 32067062.
I had lunch yesterday in the Coal Office, a fine mid-nineteenth century building at the southern end of Coal Drops Yard, facing on to the canal. It’s thought to have been designed by Lewis Cubitt, the younger brother of Thomas, who was responsible for so much of the construction of Belgravia. Lewis built both London Bridge Railway Station in 1844 and then King’s Cross and the railway yards beyond it, including the Coal Office and Coal Drops Yard where coal from Yorkshire and the north-east was temporarily stored before being made available to the London market. The Coal Office was burnt out in 1985, but has now been restored as Tom Dixon’s headquarters and a fancy restaurant where you can eat tahini overlooking the gasometers and canal:-
I called in on Cathie Pilkington’s small, surreal and surprisingly intense exhibition upstairs in two small rooms at 44, Lexington Street, above Andrew Edmund’s print shop. She makes use of photographs by Pierre Molinier, a Surrealist erotic photographer whose work is easier to study in the accompanying booklet, and creates an atmosphere of dolls, blankets and bondage:-
Hearing John Summerson criticised from the pulpit of the Paul Mellon Centre more than twenty five years after his death made me feel tenderly towards his memory. Not that I knew him. But I was brought up to admire him from afar and remember seeing him in a Breton cap in the streets of Cambridge and walking at speed round the book stacks of the London Library when he was in his eighties: an Olympian figure, ‘Coolmore’ as John Betjeman always called him, the pseudonym that he used in his 1930s architectural journalism and which stuck to him because it conveyed his character of intellectual detachment. Nor do I think that bringing qualities of critical evaluation and judgment to the writing of architectural history is necessarily a bad thing, even if some of his judgments read quaintly after nearly seventy years.
I attended an unexpectedly vehement hatchet job on the writings of John Summerson by Steven Brindle who has been commissioned by Yale University Press and the Paul Mellon Centre to write a successor volume to Summerson’s great and much revised Pelican History of Art on Architecture in Britain 1530-1830, which was kept in print for nearly fifty years. It is probably necessary if commissioned to write a new version of a much loved and admired book to feel strongly about its defects: its tendency to sometimes too sweeping critical judgment and its focus on issues of design and style more than construction and use. But this was the nature of the era from which it sprang: the introduction of Wolfflinian criticism to British architectural history and an attempt to relate changes in British architecture to what was happening in Europe. As Elizabeth McKellar pointed out, who is writing Summerson’s biography, it was probably part of Pevsner’s brief for the Pelican histories that they should be critical surveys, informed by visual judgment, different in style and character from the traditional English archaeological and antiquarian approach.
It was the opening last night of an exhibition at the Garden Museum of the work of ‘Artist-Gardeners 1919-1939’ – a generation of artists who retreated to houses in the countryside not too far from London, where most of them did part-time teaching. They had been trained to observe nature and draw plants and many of them turned to the cultivation of their gardens. Some of this group are well remembered and have already been the subject of scholarly study, including Edward Bawden at Great Bardfield and John Nash at Wormingford. But some deserve the attention which the exhibition gives them, particularly Charles Mahoney, a talented student of William Rothenstein at the Royal College of Art, who moved out to Wrotham in Kent and taught at the Royal Academy Schools where he is remembered for his emphysema (too much smoking) and grumpiness. It was a generation which was displaced by the artists of the 1950s and is now being resurrected deservedly.