Victor Margrie (2)

I’m so pleased to have been sent the attached admirable account of Victor Margrie’s role in supporting the crafts in the 1970s through what became the Crafts Council. It tells one a lot about what happened to transform public perception of the crafts during his tenure.


Liverpool Street Station (5)

The Liverpool Street campaign is gathering steam.


Hammersmith Mall

It’s a long time since I’ve walked along Hammersmith Mall: a place with memories; the Dove Press; the Dove pub; the William Morris Society, whose meetings MI5 attended; the house where Maria Bjørnson died in 2002; the boat race:-


John Wonnacott: A Biographical Study (8)

I was pleased to see my John Wonnacott book in the best possible company in the new books section of Hatchard’s – and on the third floor too:-


Liverpool Street Station (4)

I have now realised why I had not known about the scale of the planned redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station – that is, images of the plans have only just been published and put on display at the hotel next door for all of two days, for purposes of public consultation. They show the scale of the scheme by making the tower blocks transparent, which feels a touch disingenuous. They presumably won’t be transparent when they are built:-

The people who have done the CGI’s have gone to great lengths to make it all look clean and glitzy:-

It is described by James Sellar, the developer, as ‘having a touch of Victorian ambition about it’.

Of course, what it really does is abolish the Victorian character of the surviving station and adjacent hotel and replace it with a dream of twenty-first century commercialism.


Liverpool Street Station (3)

As ever, the Gentle Author is way ahead of me because I discovered that he had already found a photograph of John Betjeman during the campaign to save Liverpool Street Station during the 1970s – an image of Betjeman’s picturesque, but determined dishevelment which helped to protect the station then. Of course, he was passionate about railways and everything they stood for:-


Liverpool Street Station (2)

I could not remember the name of the photographer who illustrated John Betjeman’s book about London’s Historic Railway Stations. The book was published by John Murray in 1972 with photographs by John Gay, who was German, born in Karlsruhe, came to London in 1933. He immortalised Liverpool Street Station as it used to be:-


Liverpool Street Station (1)

I had not appreciated until this evening the enormity of the planned changes to Liverpool Street Station and, based on the accompanying article (assuming you are able to open it), it is hard to judge.

On the one hand, Liverpool Street is now surrounded by massive skyscrapers. Herzog and de Meuron are still amongst the best of the international big name architects, having started their career by designing a beautiful signal box in Basel. And I am perhaps unusual in being an admirer of the Shard, which was put up by Irvine Sellar, who founded the Sellar Property Group. Should one just accept that the City has now so changed its character that fighting to retain an important Victorian building is just hopelessly retardataire ?

On the other hand, I remember the late John Chesshyre fighting to preserve Liverpool Station in the 1970s, as did John Betjeman. They won ! The station has been preserved, a monument not least to the kindertransport, recorded in Sebald’s Austerlitz. Now, it is going to be totally submerged within a monster new development.

I am not convinced it’s a good idea.


Henry Flitcroft

I have been reading Gill Hedley’s manuscript on Henry Flitcroft in advance of its publication. I found it fascinating how much can be discovered about a significant , but perhaps not earth-shattering architect who seems to have been successful not because he was in advance of taste, but precisely because he followed it and was able to provide fashionable architecture in a slightly cut-down fashion which very much appealed to his clients, but perhaps not to architectural historians. I recommend it.


Looking to Sea

I have been reading Lily Le Brun’s Looking to Sea with the utmost pleasure: it’s so calm, so lucid, so well informed and beautifully well written. I have been trying to figure out its influences: not academic art history, because it is so much better written than most current art history, not trying to show off its learning, but actually a model of cultural studies – demonstrating how the way that particular, carefully selected and sometimes unexpected artists in the twentieth century, including Bridget Riley and Hamish Fulton, have responded to the sea can illuminate so much about the ways in which we view and respond to the environment more generally.