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Adam Dant & The Budge Row Bibliotheque

January 25, 2015
by the gentle author

Contributing Artist Adam Dant has installed a life-size replica of a cabbies’ shelter as the centrepiece of his new exhibition at the Bloomberg Space in Finsbury Sq. Adam’s proposition is that these cherished landmarks are reliquaries which contain the collective unconscious of the city, where only those initiates possessing ‘the Knowledge’ may enter. Yet at the gallery all are invited to step inside the shelter to hear a litany of archaeologists’ dreams recorded by Adam as manifestations of the urban imagination at work.

Complementing the cabbies’ shelter, the walls are hung with a series of the vast intricate drawings for which Adam is celebrated, rivalling Piranesi and Hogarth in their audacious scale and overwhelming detail. The largest of these is entitled ‘The Budge Row Bibliotheque’ which envisions the hole that comprises the largest building site in the City of London at present, filled with a surreal sequence of simultaneous events selected from the last two thousand years of history and lore.

Adam Dant at the Cabbies’ Shelter in Warwick Avenue

The Budge Row Biblotheque (Click image to enlarge)

Post debt crisis restructuring: Fleet Place (Click image to enlarge)

Effigy at Ludgate Circus (Click image to enlarge)

The Abandoned City: Guildhall (Click image to enlarge)

Dismantling the printing presses at Paternoster Square (Click image to enlarge)

An Anecdotal View of Walbrook (Click image to enlarge)

Drawings photographed by Dave Morgan

You can visit the cabbies’ shelter and view The Budge Row Bibliotheque at Bloomberg Space, 50 Finsbury Sq, EC2A 1HD – Monday-Saturday 11-6pm until 15th March 2015

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Imaginary Libraries in the City of London

The Cabbies’ Shelters Of Old London

January 24, 2015
by the gentle author

Inspired by the life-size replica of a cabbies’ shelter that Contributing Artist Adam Dant has installed as the centrepiece of his new exhibition at the Bloomberg Space in Finsbury Sq, I set out to photograph those still to be found on the streets of London.

Created between 1875 and 1914, sixty of these structures were built by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund established by the Earl of Shaftesbury to enable cabbies to get a meal without leaving their cabs unattended and were no larger than a horse and cart so they might stand upon the public highway.

Today, only thirteen remain but all are grade II listed and, on my chilly pilgrimage around London in the winter sunshine this week, I found them welcoming homely refuges where a cup of tea can be had for just 50p.

Thurloe Place, SW7

Embankment Place, Wc2

Wellington Place, NW8

Chelsea Embankment, SW3

Grosvenor Gardens, SW1

St Georges Sq, SW1

Kensington Park Rd, W11

Temple Place, WC2

Warwick Ave, W9

Russell Sq, WC1

Kensington Rd, W8

Pont St, SW1

Hanover Sq, W1

The shelter attendant at Wellington Place has special spoon-bending powers

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The Pumps of Old London

East End Entertainers Of 1922

January 23, 2015
by the gentle author

Given that this is officially the most depressing week of the year, I thought it was high time we brought on some entertainers to banish those January blues and cheer us all up, so I consulted the Concert Artistes Directory of 1922 in the Bishopsgate Institute to see what local talent was on offer.

















Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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Music Hall Artistes of Abney Park Cemetery

John Hall, Accordionist & Ambulance Man

January 22, 2015
by the gentle author

John Hall

Contributing Artist Lucinda Rogers took me to visit her friend John Hall, the Piano Accordionist, in Haggerston and she drew this portrait while John and I enjoyed a chat. We sat in John’s new flat, replacing his former home in Samuel House that was demolished last year when the Estate was cleared, to be replaced by a much larger development including a significant number of private flats.

From John’s flat in the completed building, housing the former tenants of Samuel House, we looked across to the construction site where another building will rise, eating up almost all the green space of the old Haggerston Estate and we wondered what the future will bring. All around, John was surrounded by musical paraphernalia attesting to his remarkable talent that has brought him new friends and enlivened his social life over the last forty years.

“I was born in a prefab in the Old Ford Rd in 1947. They were built as temporary accommodation after the bomb damage in the war, and they had everything you needed – even gardens. My dad was given one when he came out of the Navy, though I don’t remember it too well because we moved when I was small to Reginald Rd E7. Originally he had been a furniture van driver but he took over a little corner shop. A lot of people had the idea that we had it easy  because my dad ran the shop, but it was hard work, we always came home from school and had to work behind the counter. The shop was open from seven until nine every day. I was the third of four children – Lesley the oldest, Linda my elder sister, then me and Peter, my little brother.

When I was at school, I was good at metalwork and I had no trouble getting a job because in those days you had all this manufacturing in the East End. For a spell, I was in the services and I went to Berlin but they found I had bronchitis and I got discharged in 1968.

My grandmother was a classical pianist but I didn’t discover music until my teens when I saw Allodi’s Accordions in Finsbury Park. I just remember looking in the shop window and seeing these piano accordions and deciding I wanted to learn to play one. I went to have lessons above the shop given by Mr Allodi’s son, and I took to it naturally. This was in 1971 when I was working as an ambulance man, after joining the service in 1968. I played the accordion at The Talbot in Englefield Rd and I used to play at the Ambulance Service Social Club in Highams Park in variety shows. In the early seventies, I had a significant social life. I wanted to try busking, so I went down to Ezra St next to Columbia Rd and I was there for ten years. That’s where I met David Bailey. He told me to look in the lens and he snapped me. Then he came back the next week with an autographed print. I like his pictures because they are very clear.

After eleven years in the ambulance service, I went into anaesthetics and I worked at the East London Chest Hospital, it was a very homely place in those days. In 1980, I moved into Samuel House in Haggerston. They had some flats that were described as ‘hard to let’ and it was quite run down in those days with lots of broken windows, although it wasn’t too bad. Four flights of stairs is no problem when you are thirty but I couldn’t make it now. I was having trouble getting up there.

These days, I am in a wheelchair and I live in a flat on the ground floor of the new building. The old flats were very draughty and the double glazing here helps enormously. But it’s sad in a way, I miss some of those people, those that died. They went through a lot but they never got a new flat.

I still play the accordion occasionally.”

Customers at John’s family corner shop in Reginald Rd

John and his younger brother Peter

John in a sharp suit in the sixties

John experimented with sideburns in the seventies

An early photo of John with his piano accordion

John as an ambulance man with John Rose (standing) and David Komble (right)

John plays piano accordion at Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green

John in the Samuel House days

John shows David Bailey’s photograph of him playing the accordion in Ezra St

Drawing copyright © Lucinda Rogers

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So Long Samuel House

More Of Paul Sandby’s Cries Of London

January 21, 2015
by the gentle author

“Turn your copper into silver before your eyes”

Last week, I published Paul Sandby’s twelve plates of Cries of London, 1760 and today I present a gallery of his sketches held by the Yale Centre for British Art, selected from around a hundred drawings Sandby made of the hawkers and vendors he encountered in the streets around his house in Carnaby Market. The dirty realism of Sandby’s portraits of street traders proved unpopular among the print buyers of his day and he never published any more engravings from his watercolour sketches. He had already designed the title page for another series with the intention of turning all his sketches into prints, yet – ironically – the unsentimental quality of Sandby’s human observation that rendered these Cries a disappointment in his day is precisely what makes them appealing to us.

Hawker with donkey and panniers

Flower Seller

Seller of pots and pans


“Lights for the cats, liver for the dogs”

Shoe cleaner

Seller of laces

“Do you want any spoons?”

“All fire and no smoke”

Black-hearted cherries

Man with a bottle

“Throws for a ha’penny. Have you a ha’penny?”

“Any kitchen stuff”

Muffin Man

Tinker and his wife

“Small coal or brushes”

“Last dying speech and confession”


Orange Seller

Old Clothes Seller

Milk Maid

“Fun upon fun!”

“My Pretty Little Ginny Tarters for a Ha’penny a Stick or a Penny a Stick, or a Stick to Beat your Wives or Dust your Clothes”

Images courtesy Yale Centre for British Art

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Paul Sandby’s Cries of London, 1760