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In William Blake’s Lambeth

March 10, 2023
by the gentle author





Glad Day in Lambeth

If you wish to visit William Blake’s Lambeth, just turn left outside Waterloo Station, walk through the market in Lower Marsh, cross Westminster Bridge Rd and follow Carlisle Lane under the railway arches. Here beneath the main line into London was once the house and garden, where William & Catherine Blake were pleased to sit naked in their apple tree.

Yet in recent years, William Blake has returned to Lambeth. Within the railway arches leading off Carlisle Lane, a large gallery of mosaics based upon his designs has been installed, evoking his fiery visions in the place where he conjured them. Ten years work by hundreds of local people have resulted in dozens of finely-wrought mosaics bringing Blake’s images into the public realm, among the warehouses and factories where they may be discovered by the passerby, just as he might have wished. Trains rumble overhead with a thunderous clamour that shakes the ancient brickwork and cars roar through these dripping arches, creating a dramatic and atmospheric environment in which to contemplate his extraordinary imagination.

On the south side of the arches is Hercules Rd, site of the William Blake Estate today, where he lived between 1790 and 1800 at 13 Hercules Buildings, a three-storey terrace house demolished in 1917. Blake passed ten productive and formative years on the south bank, that he recalled as ‘Lambeth’s vale where Jerusalem’s foundations began.’ By contrast with Westminster where he grew up, Lambeth was almost rural two hundred years ago and he enjoyed a garden with a fig tree that overlooked the grounds of the bishop’s palace. This natural element persists in the attractively secluded Archbishop’s Park on the north side of the arches in the former palace grounds.

To enter these sonorous old arches that span the urban and pastoral is to discover the resonant echo chamber of one of the greatest English poetic imaginations. When I visited I found myself alone at the heart of Lambeth yet in the presence of William Blake, and it is an experience I recommend to my readers.

‘There is a grain of sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find”

These mosaics were created by South Bank Mosaics which is now The London School of Mosaic

You may also like to take a look

The Songs of Innocence

The Songs of Experience

3 Responses leave one →
  1. March 10, 2023

    Quite extraordinary and incredible. This is the sort of marvel that, unless you knew it existed, you would not seek but might just stumble across. The beauty of the mosaics contrasts well with the tiled walls and urban grime. I don’t think anyone would be sitting naked in any apple trees today though – far too cold! Thanks GA for another hidden gem.

  2. Betsy Barker permalink
    March 10, 2023

    How utterly wonderful and astonishing. Thank you for sharing such as these for those of us unable now to discover them ourselves.
    Cheers, Betsy xx

  3. Pauline Taylor permalink
    March 10, 2023

    Thank you for sharing these, so many of my ancestors lived in Lambeth but I have only visited once. My great grandmother was born in a house that overlooked the Archbishop’s garden and a much earlier ancestor was responsible for organizing an Archishop’s funeral at the Archbishop’s request. I believe that that archbishop is one of those whose coffins were recently found in a long lost crypt underneath St Mary Lambeth. A story that I think William Blake would have been able to illustrate as the photo of the coffins in the crypt is very macabre and one that sent shivers down my back as I pondered the thought that my ancestor may have placed that mitre on that coffin !!

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