Saturday 1 August 2009

NatWest Tower, Bishopsgate EC2

The two right-hand bays of the old National Provincial Bank were added by the original architect, John Gibson, in 1878. Unfortunately, the sculptor of the other panels, John Hancock, had died so Charles Mabey was brought in.
Mabey clearly did not want to continue the angel theme, and his panels are in higher relief, otherwise they match Hancock's work remarkably well.
The first is Shipbuilding. A rivetter wields a socking great hammer while a shipwrights use a saw and an adze. An arty-looking gent holding a hammer and chisel considers his next stroke on the decorative carving on the bow.
The clothing is interesting. The rivetter wears a cloth cap, has his shirt open and his braces dangling - clearly a manual worker. The shipwrights are more tidily dressed, showing they are tradesmen - one wears a rather battered bowler.. The sculptor, almost a gentleman, wears no hat and also sports are rather stylish cravat.
The end panel is Coal Mining, the ultimate source of the wealth and power of Victorian Britain. Two miners hew at the coal face, two others loading an iron bucket on chains to be winched up to the surface.


CarolineLD said...

Thank you for these: next time I'm passing by on the bus, I'll get off and take a closer look!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this stuff - Charles Mabey was my great-great (great?) grandfather, and my info is very sketchy on his work. I know that he (or his son) also modelled the original Dolphin lamp-posts on the Embankment too, and that one of them also had something to do with the sphinxes next to Cleopatras Needle.