Kerry Downes (3)

Now that I’m back in London, I’ve been looking back at Kerry Downes’s books, following his death on August 11th.

The best account of how Downes came to study Hawksmoor appears in Owen Hopkins’s book, From the Shadows: The Architecture and Afterlife of Nichooas Hawksmoor, which, based on letters Downes wrote to him, describes how he and his father, who was organist at the Brompton Oratory – this helps to explain his susceptibility to the baroque – visited the Hawksmoor churches on cycling expeditions – they were long ones – from Ealing, where they lived and where Downes attended Ealing Priory School. What I had forgotten is that there was a plan to pull down Christ Church, Spitalfields in 1960, which led to the establishment of The Hawksmoor Committee, with John Betjeman, of course, as its chairman and Kerry Downes as an active member, organising a small exhibition of Hawksmoor drawings for the Arts Council in September 1962. Hard to remember that there was a time when Hawksmoor was not so appreciated.


Hereford Cathedral (3)

Now that I have acquired a more recent edition of Pevsner – the revised 2012 edition – I can add a few more pictures of Hereford Cathedral.

As seen from Church Street:-

A coffin-lid in the north-east transept, described as late 13th. century, but which we both thought looked earlier:-

A fifteenth-century statue of John the Baptist down in the crypt:-

And the walls of the corridors in the College of the Vicars Choral, where twenty-six vicars lived in cell-like accommodation:-


Pages of Cheshire Street

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:-


The Bell Foundry Petition (2)

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.

Do please sign the petition if you’re eligible.


Hereford Cathedral (2)

I didn’t feel that I knew Hereford Cathedral at all well, although I must have been several times over the years, but never previously in the company of the Precentor.

The best view is from the College of the Vicar’s Choral:-

We entered by a door in the south-east corner, so I saw the Lady Chapel first, with its complex, thirteenth-century, decorative window shafts:-

Behind is a view of the chancel:-

The north transept is thought to have been planned (but this is based on Pevsner in 1963) by Bishop Aquablanca who died in 1268:-

It was only then that we arrived at the nave, truncated by the collapse of the west tower in 1786 and reconstructed at its west end by James Wyatt:-

And the Norman font:-

Two curiosities. A stained glass memorial to Thomas Traherne, by Tom Denny:-

And a picture of Roy Strong, who is 84 today:-


Hereford Cathedral (1)

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 Bell Foundry Petition (1)

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.