Francis Carnwath (2)

Over the years, I have heard lots of subtly different accounts as to who it was who first identified the old Bankside Power Station as a potential site for Tate Modern, the honours shared equally between Gavin Stamp, who loved its architecture and was making a film about it when he suggested it as a potential location for what was then going to be called the Tate Gallery of Modern Art, Francis Carnwath, and Nick Serota. But I have discovered one of the more vivid descriptions of exactly what happened in a collection of memories of Carnwath in which Suzanne Freeman who worked for Nick Serota described how ‘Of course we all remember quite clearly the day Francis went down to Bankside, with his English Heritage hat on, and had the opportunity to see inside of the Power Station and the turbine floor for the first time.   I remember how animated he was on his return to the office at Millbank.   He was excited about the building and the open space surrounding it.   He loved that the power station was also on the river (linking it with Millbank), with views over the Thames to St. Pauls and the City.   He could not wait to tell Nick about it…’


Francis Carnwath (1)

I heard last night, which I had not previously registered, that Francis Carnwath, the benign and knowledgeable former chairman of the Spitalfields Trust, and much else, had died. He was an interesting character who was recruited by Nick Serota from Barings to reform the administration of the Tate as its Deputy Director; and it was Carnwarth, who as a member of the London Advisory Panel of English Heritage recommended that the Tate looked at Bankside Power Station as the location for its new modern art gallery, first surveyed it with the engineer, Alan Baxter, and negotiated its first £500,000 from Southwark Council to make its bid credible with Nuclear Electric who owned it. He did much else, including setting up the Greenwich Foundation and helping the Royal Academy with fundraising for Burlington Gardens, but it will be as a pioneer in historic buildings conservation, chairing fortnightly meetings of the Spitalfields Trust for sixteen years, that I will remember him.


Gidea Park

I had arranged to go to Gidea Park. It was a long cycle ride, further and further east, like a cartoon strip of the Essex suburbs, starting with Stratford, now full of high-rise apartment blocks, Forest Gate, with flanking Victorian churches and Edwardian public libraries, round Ilford town centre because its High Street is pedestrianised, on through Seven Kings as the architecture turns from late Victorian terrace housing to 1930s, and then strangely one passes a farm just before getting to Romford.

Gidea Park is really just a posh suburb of Romford, laid out in 1911 on the best current principles of town planning, with plenty of space for tennis courts, an adjacent golf course and roads laid out on a grid, but not too obviously. I had high hopes of it because of the beautiful photographs in Tim Brittain-Catlin’s book on The Edwardians and their Houses, which of course shows the best of the houses in splendid isolation, without the amount of later infill. Also, the rustic dreams of these Edwardian pioneers, with ample brickwork and a bit of pargetting became the standardised vernacular of later suburban building, so it is not always possible to distinguish the true from the fake. I picked out a few, but am not always able to identify the architect.

A house at the corner of Meadway and Parkway:-

Further up on Parkway:-

29, Reed Pond Walk by Edwin Guns:-

A house by Baillie Scott with pargetting:-

And some detailing in Meadway:-


The Timing of Lockdown

I find the quotes in the accompanying article slightly terrifying because they assume that the Prime Minister – he is, after all, called PRIME Minister – does not accept responsibility for the actions of his own government and is trying to shovel off responsibility on the poor hapless, former Head of the Civil Service who has already been fired – sorry has agreed to part company – for his pains.

But it is all so recent. We all remember the bumbling incompetence, the prevarication, and the Cheltenham Races, when the rest of us were desperately trying to avoid infection long before lockdown was finally and belatedly declared. Did the Prime Minister not learn from his expensive education that the captain of the ship is responsible if it runs aground and looks even more treacherous, as well as ridiculous, if he tries to evade responsibility ?


Mile End Road

Attached is one of the Gentle Author’s daily regular posts, which I particularly appreciate for the way he finds the work of previously unknown photographers, who have documented the look and feel of the local streets as they used to be. I especially enjoyed today’s post, because if you scroll down, you can find a picture of our house before the second story was reconstructed by the Spitalfields Trust in the late 1990s, when there were shops in front of the house (A.Leaver Ltd.), and when there was still nothing next door because of bomb damage thirty years before.


Titian (2)

I was asked at the weekend how it was that Titian’s poesie, mostly painted for Philip II, are now so widely distributed in collections around the world.  

The Danaë in Apsley House I assumed correctly was part of Wellington’s loot after the Battle of Vittoria, which he was allowed to keep by Ferdinand VII.

Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto were nearly given to Charles I when he visited the Spanish court in 1623, and were subsequently presented by Philip V to the French Ambassador in 1704.   They soon became the property of the Duc d’Orléans and were acquired after the French Revolution at the Orléans sale in 1793 by the Duke of Bridgewater.  Exhibited at Bridgewater House up to the Second World War and in the National Galleries of Scotland thereafter, they were acquired jointly by the two National Galleries from the Duke of Sutherland in 2009 and 2012 respectively (the National Gallery website oddly does not record this fact as part of their provenance).  

Perseus and Andromeda was bought and sold over and over until acquired by Francis Conway-Seymour, later 3rd. Marques of Hertford who was one of the founders of the Wallace Collection.  

The Rape of Europa was also sold as part of the Orléans collection and acquired by the Earl of Berwick, who exhibited it in his gallery in Attingham, and then by Lord Darnley for Cobham Hall, whence it was sold in the 1890s, when the National Gallery was short of funds, to Isabella Stewart Gardner for £20,000 with Bernard Berenson acting as agent.

The Death of Actaeon was acquired from Titian’s studio by the Duke of Hamilton who was executed in 1649. It then went by way of the Archduke Leopold William to the collection of Queen Christina in Rome till 1721 when it was acquired – surprise, surprise – by the Duc d’Orléans. After the sale of the Orléans Collection, it was acquired by Sir Abraham Hume, who wrote a book about Titian, and then by descent to Lord Brownlow, who offered it to the National Gallery in 1914 for £5,000. The trustees turned it down. In 1971, it was sold by Lord Harewood for 1.6 million guineas, which the National Gallery managed to raise by public appeal after it had been offered to the J.Paul Getty Museum.

Sorry, it’s a bit of a long answer and I can now see why the National Gallery might not want to spell out the convolutions of their former ownership.


Titian (1)

We went to see the Titian exhibition at the National Gallery, which opened just before lockdown and had to be closed soon after. It was the exhibition I most missed, so the utmost pleasure that it has been kept on.

Danaë (c.1551) from Apsley House:-

Diana and Actaeon (1556-9):-

Diana and Callisto (1556-9):-

Perseus and Andromeda (1554-6), lent (for the first time) by the Wallace Collection:-

The Rape of Europa (1559-62) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum:-

And The Death of Actaeon (1559-75):-


Square Haunting

I’ve been reading, on the recommendation of Jean Walker, a reader of my blog, the book Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars by Francesca Wade which was published earlier this year. It uses Mecklenburgh Square as the architectural setting for the common threads which tie together the work of five women writers, all in different ways freethinkers and pioneers, including Dorothy Sayers who wrote books which were much more intellectual than pure crime fiction, Jane Harrison who broke into the closed shop of classical academia with new ideas about religious ritual, Eileen Power, a great medievalist, and Virginia Woolf, who is more obviously pure Bloomsbury than the others who are more academic, more political, more LSE. I greatly enjoyed and admired the way it weaves together social geography, the history of ideas and feminist belief.


Travelodge (2)

They have been building a new Travelodge nearly next door to us all through lockdown, even in spite of reading that the company itself is in administration. They have just taken the scaffolding down and to our amazement, it is a perfectly respectable building, much superior to Topps Tiles which it replaced, brick clad, maintaining the street frontage and showing how it is possible to maintain the character of the existing surroundings, helped by the fact that Spitalfields Trust gave advice on the detailing. I cynically thought that the so-called community consultation was mere window dressing to get it through planning, but they do seem to have paid attention to what was requested:-