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Peta Bridle’s Gravesend Sketchbook

June 13, 2020
by the gentle author

Gravesend offers an ideal day out from Spitalfields in my opinion, but since I cannot venture there at present it was like a breath of fresh sea air when Peta Bridle sent me these pages from her lockdown sketchbook.

“I have been unable to do etchings while the printers are shut and painting is out of the question with my son Billy bouncing off the walls, so I started going out with my sketchbook.

I was given a couple of Geoffrey Fletcher’s books and he inspired me. Unlike him I cannot stand and draw, therefore my choice of subjects have been governed by finding somewhere secluded to sit. Each picture brings back memories to me now of what I could hear or smell while I was drawing. I had always intended to make drawings of Gravesend, which has numerous picturesque corners, and the lockdown gave me the opportunity.”

Peta Bridle

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Shornemead Old Lighthouse

“It was a lovely warm evening when I sketched this lighthouse, built in 1913 to mark the river bank east of Gravesend and south of Tilbury. Today, the faded red metal tower is stored onshore in the Port of London Authority depot at Denton Wharf.”

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St Peter & St Paul Milton Church

“The sundial above the porch reads ‘Trifle now, your time’s but short,’ with two worn shields and a plaque beneath dated 1797. To the right is a stoop where people can dip their hands to make the sign of the cross before entering the church, which was built in the early fourteenth century. I sat hidden in the churchyard, and could only hear the odd car and people passing beyond the church wall.”

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Gravestones at St George’s Churchyard

“Along the churchyard wall is a long line of headstones. Many are for ships’ captains and river pilots, and I noticed epitaphs to sailors lost at sea or on the Thames.”

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My Friend’s Garden

“I sat within my friend’s front garden next to a salvia bush alive with bees, while behind me I could hear workmen eating their lunch in a van and birdsong from the park across the road. Spot the rainbow in her window.”

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The Lock-Up

“This is in a secluded courtyard and I could not draw all of it because a van was parked in my way.”

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Statue of Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji DFC

“An heroic Royal Air Force fighter pilot and one of the first Sikh pilots to volunteer during the Second World War. He came to retire in Gravesend and today his beautiful statue can been seen in St Andrew’s Garden on the waterfront.”

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Warehouse at the Canal Basin

“When I was drawing this unusual warehouse, a cyclist stopped and told me it was once an aeroplane hangar at Gravesend Airport, which operated between 1932 and 1956. The faded green hangar sits on top of concrete breeze blocks today and forms a narrow street between the Thames and the canal basin, often used by filmmakers and photographers as an atmospheric location.”

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Thames From Shornemead Fort

“I cycled down to Shornemead Fort one evening and sat looking out over the Thames. Rivulets were hissing in the mud and the occasional ship slid past, heading out to sea. Shornemead Fort is home to marsh ponies and a playground for dirt bikers today, but it was built in the eighteen-sixties to guard the Thames against seaborne attack.”

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The Canal Basin

“I sat behind a low wall next to a road, where I got showered with grit every time a lorry went past, while I was drawing this view of the boats moored at the basin with the old corrugated iron warehouses behind.”

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The Marina

“Another view of boats moored at the canal basin. This was made in a hurry due to the approaching clouds and I had to give up when the heavens opened, even though the wind rippled the water surface, creating lots of beautiful reflections. For this subject, I used a brown ink I found instead of my usual blue-black Quink.”

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Eukor at the Tilbury Docks seen from Gravesend

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Cruise & Maritime Voyage Ship Berthed At Tilbury

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“This is the only double page spread in my sketchbook. It shows  the view across to Tilbury Docks but I made two separate trips to draw each of the ships on different days, so the reflections in the water do not match up.”

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Princess Cat

“This is our new cat who appeared at my back door as a very persistent stray last summer. She has managed to get her paws well under the table since then and is now part of the family. She was my model but she kept moving, which was why I ventured out to find new subjects to draw once the lockdown allowed.”

Drawings copyright © Peta Bridle

You may also like to take a look at

Peta Bridle’s New Etchings

Peta Bridle’s Latest Drypoint Etchings

Peta Bridle River Etchings

22 Responses leave one →
  1. June 13, 2020

    Lovely work!

  2. June 13, 2020

    What beautiful sketches, I never realised the beauty within Gravesend. My family moved to Kent in the early 70’s, as my father’s office had relocated to Gravesend. The town’s name made me shudder and when I later went there on a work commitment, it was in the grey wintertime and my earlier ‘mind’s eye’ thoughts were not dispelled … so, thank you for giving me the insight to dispel my historical ignorance 🙂

  3. Kay Rowe permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Beautiful work as always!

  4. Constance Pierce permalink
    June 13, 2020

    I love these sketches! They are filled with gestural animation!
    I am wondering about the media?
    Are they lightly gestured with pencil – then fully fleshed out with brush and wash??
    The brush strokes are so livid and energized and full of suggestive imagination.
    I am also a sketchbook-keeper and I so much appreciate seeing these beautiful pages!

    PS Love the extremely well drawn kitty sketches, as well!

  5. BAM permalink
    June 13, 2020

    How beautiful they all are. What joy to see such lovely work in this stressful world we are living in at this time. Keep up the good work, Peta!

  6. Daisy permalink
    June 13, 2020

    I love the use of the blue ink on the white pages.
    These drawings look really lovely and bring out a new side of gravesend
    Also love the sketches of the cat

  7. Patricia permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Wonderful, vibrant drawings, which shake the mind alive.

  8. June 13, 2020

    Peta, I love your style. My dad’s family (Jarvis) are from Gravesend. Not been there since a child. Your sketches have put it on my list of places to revisit. Take care.

  9. Kelly Holman permalink
    June 13, 2020

    It felt such a privilege to peruse Peta’s sketchbook this morning after a couple of days in bed with a migraine. Absolutely wonderful; I loved each and every one. During lockdown my husband has been researching a relative who was a WW2 pilot so the statue of Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji DFC was of great interest to him. I love the scenes of the Thames. I hope that not too many lorries passed while she was sketching the Canal Basin.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful collection.

  10. Linda kincaid permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Wonderful sketches. I’ve never been to Gravesend but this has inspired me to visit. Thankyou.

  11. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Great sketches full of life and movement – you can feel the wind blowing off the Thames.

    I also agree with Carrie that Gravesend suffers from it’s name as I was pleasantly surprised when I went through it on my way to a supplier and saw lots of interesting architecture. And as Peta’s drawings shows there are plenty of interesting features down by the river.

    I also know it regularly features as the sunniest place in Britain which can’t be a bad thing!

  12. Mark B permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Beautiful, keep producing these lovely sketches.

  13. June 13, 2020

    GA, you’ve introduced us to such a fascinating array of artists, photographers, and makers.
    This was a treat, to see the “inner workings” of Peta Bridle, a master of etching. I love seeing
    sketchbooks, journals, and other preparatory work by artists — Show me a “mood board” and I swoon — and this was especially insightful to compare the feathered line quality of the sketches to the intricacy of the resultant etchings. Both, worthy of admiration.

    Stay safe, all.

  14. June 13, 2020

    What a pleasure to see Peta’s impressions of Gravesend, along with her illuminating notes. The town has a dubious reputation in some quarters – yet as a photographer I have for many years thoroughly enjoyed its unselfconscious charms. There are relics of maritime and military past, remnants of industry, faded Regency terraces just across from corrugated iron sheds, and flashes of unintended surrealism. Several times I have warily trod the forbidding alley that leads from the town to Denton Wharf – and now know the unexpected history of one of the adjacent hangars. Long live glorious Gravesend!

  15. paul loften permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Congratulations to Stray Princess Cat for getting her paws under Petra’s table. Not only that, but she goes down in history as a celebrity of Gravesend !

  16. Mel Besant permalink
    June 13, 2020

    I thoroughly enjoyed looking at your sketches and seeing so many much loved or familiar places through new eyes.

  17. Peta permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Dear Constance, in reply to your question. I first made a very rough pencil sketch using a 2B pencil. Then I filled in the details using a small Chinese caligraphy brush and Quink blue/black ink (fountain pen ink). Thank you for your nice comments. Peta

  18. June 13, 2020

    What Lovely Paintings.🥰😘😊💝🌼🌹🌻👏

  19. Angela M permalink
    June 13, 2020

    What wonderful sketches of Gravesend Peta. It makes me want to visit local places to me to also find such evocative moments in time.

  20. Jacob permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Brilliant!

  21. Jonathan van Halbert permalink
    June 14, 2020

    I have two 1st editions of Geoffrey Fletchers books on London. My favourite is ” The London Nobody Knows”…… Whilst I do abhor Plagiarism, I am not sure that I would send it the fate of Prometheus……

    Jonathan van Halbert.

  22. Teresa permalink
    June 14, 2020

    These sketches are brilliant, they portray a very intimate reflection of the artists experience of Gravesend during lockdown. The great detail in the sketches and the artists use of historical references, enable the viewer to experience and enjoy every scene just as the artist has through her own eyes!

    Great work!

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