Tuesday 31 March 2009

St John's, Horseferry Road SW1

The former nurses hostel and medical school next to the old Westminster Hospital, built in 1935 by Lionel Pearson, is now a ritzy block of flats. On the Horseferry Road facade are three heavily-cut heraldic badges of medical institutions.
On the right is the crowned eagle holding a sceptre, the badge of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
In the middle is the University of London's crowned sunburst in the middle of a cross with a book over.
On the left, the one with the hand emerging from a cloud taking a pulse, shows the arms of the Royal College of Physicians.
Many thanks to Rouge Dragon Pursuivant for the identifications.

Monday 30 March 2009

Wandsworth Town Hall, SW18

All the other panels on the High Street facade of Wandsworth Town Hall were carved by John Linehan. This one depicts the people of Streatham, although most of the old parish is now in the London Borough of Lambeth.
From right to left:
Roman soldiers march along the road from London to Brighton that Streatham is named after (Old English street-ham or homestead by the street). Next are Cave Man and Cave Boy, dressed in skins like the Wandsworth stone age people, but with boxer shorts.
St Leonard, the patron saint of Streatham, holds his chains to show he is also patron saint of prisoners. Sir John Ward rides off to join the Black Prince, recognisable by the three martlets on his shield. He paid for the rebuilding of St Leonard's church in 1350.
Now for Streatham's most famous residents: Mrs Thrale entertains Dr Johnson and Fanny Burney to tea, telling Dr J that if he starts one more sentence with "Depend upon it, Sir...." she will rub the tea leaves into his wig.
Two 18th century pleasure-seekers take the waters at Streatham's spa. The pump is behind, guarded by a beadle.
A 19th century workman tries to install a fence post as part of an attempt to enclose Streatham Common, but a gent in a panama hat tells him to sling his hook, saving the common for cricket.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Wandsworth Town Hall, SW18

The facade of the Town Hall to Wandsworth High Street is carved with a pageant of people from each of the ancient parishes that were amalgamated in 1900 into the Borough of Wandsworth. These included Wandsworth itself, Streatham, Clapham, Putney and Balham with Tooting. The infamous Heatho-Walkerian reforms of 1965 added Battersea but lost Clapham and Streatham.
The two panels on the left, on either side of a double-height window, portray the people of Wandsworth. They were carved by David Evans in about 1935.
From right to left:Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone bang wooden piles into the mud of the River Wandle while Wilma makes a pot.
A Viking looks deeply embarrassed. Not only has he been shown wearing a cowhorn helmet (wrong!), Wandsworth's archeology department are saying he carelessly dropped a sword in the river when plundering Wandles Farm when everyone knows that it was the Ancient Britons who dropped swords in rivers deliberately for ritual purposes.
Next along are Huguenot refugees with the mill on the Wandle behind them, and the 'mayor of misrule' with his crown.
A pair of soldiers return from the front, one with a bandaged head, to be greeted by a woman carrying signs of Victory, Peace and a Good Time come the Roaring Twenties.
Behind, a dyer pulls a cloth out of the vat, but nobody seems to notice the smell.On the other side of the window, engineers make stuff with the old horse-drawn iron railway behind. Mr and Mrs Young brew beer. A woman in a hairnet sits down by the river not apparently doing much at all, while a Bishop represents the Middle Ages.
A Roman soldier seems not to notice the Ancient Briton preparing to club him over the back of the neck.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Wandsworth Town Hall, SW18

Councils used to build enormous town halls simply to show off the power, dignity and prosperity of the borough, with lots of sculpture to reinforce that message. The statuary on Victorian town halls usually glorified the local gentry, merchants and industrialists, but by the time Wandsworth Town Hall was designed in the 1930s the working class was king and the stonework reflects this.
The overall design, by Edward A. Hunt, is neo-Georgian with Art Deco trimmings, but these carvings on the keystones of the doorways in Ram Street are pure 1930s. They show Manual Labour (a sturdy bricklayer with a rather wonderful peaked cap, braces and, lordy! a bow tie) and Motherhood, a timeless figure of a young woman supporting a toddler and giving it the sort of look familiar from a million church Madonnas.
The sculptor was the Manchester-born David Evans, who also carved one of the panels on the High Street frontage, of which more later.

Saturday 21 March 2009

St Thomas' Hospital, SE1

Russell Bowes works in the NHS as well as blogging on theatre, and has been spending time at St Thomas' Hospital lately. There are some lovely things inside the rather grim exterior, including a set of Doulton tile murals showing nursery rhymes from the old children's ward, dating from the turn of the 20th century. Here's Little Bo Peep.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Library, Wimbledon Hill Road SW19

Sometimes you shouldn't look too closely. A casual glance registers that the carved heads on the front of Wimbledon Library are Shakespeare and Milton, as appropriate on an institution that the Victorians dedicated to Learning and Culture. Get close up, however, and you can see that the great men have spikes coming out of their heads to keep the pigeons off, making them look like Punk rockers from the 1980s.

Monday 16 March 2009

West Hill SW11

Peterkin Custard was sold under the slogan Eggs is eggs, and so is Peterkin real egg custard, but it consisted mainly of maize starch, a bit of colouring and flavouring, and not more than four per cent dried egg, according to a certificate produced by the Public Analyst when a grocer selling the stuff was hauled before Marylebone Police Court in 1926.
The prosecution said that a pint of egg custard made in the traditional way would contain two whole eggs, whereas the amount of dried egg in Peterkin was just one-thirtieth of that amount.
For the defence, Mr W. Frampton submitted that Peterkin was not as bad as some custard powders which had no egg in at all (he didn't name names but Bird's is one) and with eggs costing tuppence ha'penny each, what did you expect from a packet of custard powder selling at a penny ha'penny?
The magistrate agreed. Case dismissed.

Friday 13 March 2009

Barclays Bank, Wimbledon Village SW19

The Victorian terracotta relief of the Spirit of Banking on the facade of Barclays in Wimbledon High Street has suddenly become topical, even satyrical. It shows Lady Banking holding a tray full of money in her lap. A cherubic saver is emptying his purse into it, and she is gaily dropping coins into the wee money bag of an angelic entrepreneur. So very different from the methods of today's corporate bandits.
Unfortunately, the man who made the mould got the first N in BANKING round the wrong way, an easy thing to do when you are working back-to-front, and presumably when the mistake was noticed it was felt it was not worth the expense of making a new one.