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Petherick’s London Characters

November 18, 2017
by the gentle author

These London Characters were drawn by Horace William Petherick, a painter and illustrator who once contributed pictures regularly to the Illustrated London News. He also collaborated on some children’s books with Laura Valentine, who wrote under the pseudonym Aunt Louisa, and the prints you see here are the product of such a collaboration.

When I first came across these pictures in the collection at the Bishopsgate Institute, they caught my eye at once with the veracity of their observation. I am fascinated by all the prints that were made through the ages of the street people of London, and I have seen so many now that I have learnt to recognise when these images become generic. Yet, although in form and composition, H.W.Petherick’s London Characters draw upon the  traditional visual style of the Cries of London, there is clear evidence of observation from life in his vibrant designs.

The subtleties of posture and demeanour in each trade, and the fluent quality of vigorous movement, are true to those of working people. He captures the stance that reveals the relationship of each individual to the world, whether haughty like the Beadle, weary like the Dustman, playful like the Acrobat, deferential like the Cabman or resigned like the old wounded soldier working as a Commissionaire. In these images, they declare themselves as who they are, both the products and the exemplifiers of their occupations.

It was the Lamplighter that first drew my attention, gazing with such concentrated poise up to the light, which is cleverly placed outside the frame of the composition – indicated only by the cast of its glow. In the foggy street, the Lamplighter pauses for the briefest moment for the flame to catch, while a carriage rolls away to vanish into the mist. An instant later, he will move on to the next lamp, but the fleeting moment is caught. All these Characters are preoccupied with their business – walking with intent, pouring milk steadily, carrying a loaf carefully, cutting meat with practised skill, scrutinising an address on an envelope, pasting up a poster just so, or concentrating to keep three balls up in the air at once.

They inhabit a recognisable city and they take ownership of the streets by their presence – they are London Characters.

The Butcher Boy

The Milkman

The Baker

The Cat’s-Meat Man

The Waterman

The Street Boy

The Dustman

The Chimney Sweeper

The Cabman

The Orange Girl

The Turncock

The Navvy

The Lamplighter

The Telegraph Boy

The Beadle

The Muffin Man

The Basket Woman

The Postman

The Fireman

The Railway Porter

The Policeman

The Newspaper Boy

The Bill Sticker

The Costermonger

The Organ Grinder

The Commissionaire

The Acrobat

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may like to take a look at

Henry Mayhew’s Street Traders

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

Aunt Busy Bee’s New London Cries

Marcellus Laroon’s Cries of London

John Player’s Cries of London

More John Player’s Cries of London

William Nicholson’s London Types

John Leighton’s London Cries

Francis Wheatley’s Cries of London

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana of 1817

Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

More of Thomas Rowlandson’s Lower Orders

Adam Dant’s  New Cries of Spittlefields

Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Churches

November 17, 2017
by the gentle author

St George’s, Bloomsbury 1716 – 1731

In 1711, Nicholas Hawksmoor was fifty years old and, although he had already worked with Christopher Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral and for John Vanbrugh on Castle Howard, the buildings that were to make his name as an architect in London were yet to come. In that year, an Act of Parliament created the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches to serve the growing population on the fringes of the growing city. Only twelve of these churches were ever built, but Nicholas Hawksmoor designed six of them and – miraculously – they have all survived, displaying his unique architectural talent to subsequent generations and permitting his reputation to rise as time has passed.

Living in the parish of Christ Church and within easy reach of the other five Hawksmoor churches, I realised that sooner or later I should make a pilgrimage to visit them all. And so, taking advantage of some fleeting spells of sunlight and clear skies in recent days, I set out to the west, the south and to the east from Spitalfields to photograph these curious edifices.

In 1710, the roof of the ancient church of St Alfege in Greenwich collapsed and the parishioners petitioned the Commission to rebuild it and Hawksmoor took this on as the first of his London churches. Exceeding any repair, he remodelled the building entirely, although his design was “improved” and the pilasters added to the exterior by fellow architect Thomas Archer, compromising the clean geometric lines that characterise Hawksmoor’s other churches. His vision was further undermined when the Commission refused to fund replacing the medieval tower with an octagonal lantern as he wished, so he retained the motif, employing it at St George-in-the-East a few years later. Latterly, the tower of St Alfege was refaced and reworked by Hawksmoor’s collaborator John James in 1730. Yet in spite of the different hands at work, the structure presents a satisfyingly harmonious continuity of design today, even if the signature of Hawksmoor is less visible than in his other churches.

Before Hawksmoor’s involvement with St Alfege was complete in 1716, he had already begun designs for St George-in-the-East, St Anne’s Limehouse and Christ Church Spitalfields. In each case, he was constructing new churches without any limitation of pre-existing structures or the meddling hands of other architects. These three churches share many characteristics, of arched doorways counterpointed by arched and circular windows, and towers that ascend telescopically, in graduated steps, resolving into a spire at Christ Church, a lantern at St George-in-the-East and a square tower at St Anne’s. This is an energetic forceful mode of architecture, expressed in bold geometric shapes that could easily become overbearing if the different elements of the design were not balanced within the structure, but the success of these churches is that they are always proportionate to themselves. While the outcome of Hawksmoor’s architecture is that they are awe-inspiring buildings to approach, cutting anyone down to size, conversely they grant an increased sense of power to those stepping from the door. These are churches designed to make you feel small when you go in and big when you come out.

In 1716, Hawksmoor began work on what were to be the last two of his solo designs for churches, St Mary Woolnoth and St George’s, Bloomsbury. Moving beyond the vocabulary of his three East End churches, he took both of these designs in equally ambitious but entirely different and original directions. St Mary Woolnoth in the City of London was constructed upon a restricted site and is the smallest of Hawksmoor’s churches, yet the limitation of space resulted in an intense sombre design, as if the energy of his larger buildings were compressed and it is a dynamic structure held in tense equilibrium, like a coiled spring or a bellows camera held shut.

St George’s Bloomsbury was the last of Hawksmoor’s churches and his most eccentric, completed in 1731 when he was seventy as the culmination of twenty extraordinarily creative years. Working again upon a constricted site, he contrived a building with a portico based upon the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek and a stepped tower based upon the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus which he adorned with a statue of George I upon the top, flanked by the lion and unicorn to celebrate the recent defeat of the Jacobites. Undertaken with such confidence and panache, Hawksmoor’s design is almost convincing and the enclosed location spares exposure, permitting the viewer to see only ever a portion of the building from any of the available angles.

The brooding presence of Hawksmoor’s churches has inspired all manner of mythologies woven around the man and his edifices. Yet the true paradox of Hawksmoor’s work stems from the fact that while he worked in the Classical style, he could never afford the opportunity to undertake the Grand Tour and see the works of the Renaissance masters and ruins of antiquity for himself. Thus, he fashioned his own English interpretation which was an expression of a Gothic imagination working in the language of Classical architecture. It is this curious disconnection that makes his architecture so fascinating and gives it such power. Nicholas Hawksmoor was incapable of the cool emotional restraint implicit in Classicism, he imbued it with a ferocity that was the quintessence of English Baroque.

St Alfege, Greenwich 1712-16

St Mary Woolnoth, Bank 1716-24

St George-in-the-East, Wapping  1714-1729

St Anne’s, Limehouse 1714-1730

Christ Church, Spitalfields 1714-1729

You may also like to take a look at

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

Spires of City Churches

In City Churchyards

Singles Night At Novelty Automation

November 16, 2017
by the gentle author

Comic genius and Professor Branestawm de nos jours, Tim Hunkin has patented a punch card match-making system and is launching it next Friday 24th November with a SINGLES NIGHT from 6-9pm at Novelty Automation, his satirical amusement arcade in Holborn. This is your chance to be among the first to try the punch card system for yourself. Whether you are seeking romance or just happy to make new acquaintances, it promises to be a lot of fun.

Tim Hunkin makes a few last minute adjustments to his Instant Eclipse machine

Tim Hunkin’s multiple choice match-making cards

Drawings copyright © Tim Hunkin

NOVELTY AUTOMATION, 1a Princeton St, Holborn, WC1R 4AX

You might also like to read about

Tim Hunkin, Cartoonist & Engineer

At Tim Hunkin’s Workshop

Tim Hunkin’s Housing Ladder

The Gentle Author’s Wapping Pub Crawl

November 15, 2017
by the gentle author

Four-hundred-year-old stone floor at The Prospect of Whitby

Tempted by the irresistible promise of the riverside, I set out for Wapping to visit those pubs which remain in these formerly notorious streets once riddled with ale houses. Yet although there are pitifully few left these days, I discovered each one has a different and intriguing story to tell.

Town of Ramsgate, 288 Wapping High St. The first alehouse was built on this site in 1460, known as The Hostel and then as The Red Cow from 1533. The pub changed its name again, to the Town of Ramsgate, in 1766 to attract trade from Kentish fishermen who unloaded their catch at Wapping Old Stairs adjoining. Judge Jeffreys was arrested here in disguise, attempting to follow the flight of James II abroad in 1688, as William III’s troops approached London.

The Turk’s Head, 1 Green Bank. Originally in Wapping High St from 1839, rebuilt on this site in 1927 and closed in the seventies, it is now a community cafe.

Captain Kidd, 108 Wapping High St. Established in 1991 in a former warehouse and named after legendary pirate, Wiiliam Kidd, hanged nearby at Execution Dock Stairs in 1701.

Turner’s Old Star, 14 Watts St. In the eighteen-thirties, Joseph Mallord William Turner set up his mistress Sophia Booth in two cottages on this site, one of which she ran as an alehouse named The Old Star. In 1987, the current establishment was renamed Turner’s Old Star in honour of the connection with the great painter. Notoriously secretive about his lovelife, Turner adopted Sophia’s surname to conceal their life together here, acquiring the nickname ‘Puggy Booth’ on account of his portly physique and height of just five feet.

The Old Rose, 128 The Highway. 1839-2007

The last pub standing on the Ratcliffe Highway

The Three Suns, 61 Garnet St. 1851 – 1986

The Prospect of Whitby, 56 Wapping Wall. Founded 1520, and formerly known as The Pelican and The Devil’s Tavern.

What does a cat have to do to get a drink around here?

Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed from The Prospect of Whitby in 1533 upon his ill-fated attempt to discover the North-East Passage to China.

The Grapes, 76 Narrow St. Founded in 1583, the current building was constructed in 1720 – it is claimed Charles Dickens danced upon the counter here as a child.

You may like to read about my other pub crawls

The Gentle Author’s Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Pub Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Dead Pubs Crawl

The Gentle Author’s Next Dead Pubs Crawl

Syd Shelton’s East Enders

November 14, 2017
by the gentle author

Brick Lane 1978

Photographer Syd Shelton‘s enduring fascination with the East End was sparked by a childhood visit from Yorkshire with an uncle and aunt more than fifty years ago. “My cousin was was working in a mission somewhere off Bethnal Green Rd,” Syd recalled, “It was a scary part of London then and I remember my uncle looked out of the window every few minutes to check the wheels were still on his car!”

“The day I left college in 1968, I came down to London and I have worked here ever since, photographing continuously in Hackney and Tower Hamlets,” Syd admitted to me.

In the seventies, Syd became one of the founders of Rock Against Racism, using music as a force for social cohesion, and his photographs of this era include many affectionate images of racial harmony alongside a record of the culture of racism . “It was an exciting time when, after the death of Altab Ali, the Asian community stood up to be counted and the people of the East End became militant against the National Front,” he explained, “In 1981, I got a studio in the Kingsland Rd and I only gave it up recently because the rents became too expensive.”

Syd’s portraits of East Enders span four decades yet he did not set out consciously to document social change. “I never started this as a project, it’s only when I looked back that I realised I had taken swathes of pictures of people in the East End,” he explained, “So now I come back and spend a day on the streets each week to continue.”

“I say I am not a documentary photographer, because I like to talk to people before I take my picture to see what I can coax out of them,” he qualified,“Taking photos is what makes my heart beat.”

Bethnal Green 1980

Linda, Kingsland Rd 1981

Bethnal Green 1980

Bagger, Cambridge Heath Rd 1979

Columbia Rd 1978

Jubilee St, 1979

Petticoat Lane 1981

Brick Lane 1978

Aldgate East 1979

Brick Lane 1980

Hoxton 1979

Tower Hamlets 1981

Brick Lane 1976

Jubilee St 1977

Brick Lane 1978

School Cleaners’ Strike 1978

Petticoat Lane 1978

David Widgery, Limehouse 1981

Sisters, Bow 1984

Sisters, Tower Hamlets 1988

Bow Scrapyard 1984

Ridley Rd Market 1992

Ridley Rd Market 1992

Ridley Rd Market 1995

Whitechapel 2013

Shadwell 2013

Brick Lane 2013

Dalston Lane 2013

Bethnal Green 2013

Photographs copyright © Syd Shelton

You may also like to take a look at

Bandele “Tex” Ajetunmobi, Photographer

John Claridge’s East End

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane