Thursday 26 April 2012

1 Poultry EC2

When a range of perfectly respectable Victorian buildings in Poultry including the attractive and appropriate Mappin and Webb building were demolished for no other reason than to enable Peter Palumbo to flex his ego, these charming terracotta reliefs from the shop of Hawes the shirtmakers were happily preserved and erected on the new building.
Made in 1875, they depict Royal Progresses through London. The sculptor was Joseph Kremer, a German who studied in Paris.
The monarchs concerned are:
Top: Edward VI (r1547-1553). The boy king is surrounded by courtiers and preceded by a rather fierce-looking friar on a thin nag, apparently having a confrontation with a citizen. This seems a bit odd - the religious orders had been abolished under his father and he was a staunch Protestant.
Second: Elizabeth I (r1558-1603) carried in a palanquin accompanied by a page carrying something on a cushion.
Third: Charles II (r1660-1685). Charles is announced by trumpeters and welcomed by a lady who seems very obliging. His spaniels frolic at her feet.
Bottom: Victoria (r1837-1901). The Queen rides in a carriage drawn by horses held by top-hatted grooms and escorted by cavalry officers riding very spirited horses.

Monday 16 April 2012

Savoy Hotel, Strand WC2

The hoardings have come down on the Savoy to reveal the newly cleaned statue of Peter II, Count of Savoy, by Frank Lynn-Jenkins.
With its gleaming steel and glowing gilding, the statue seems entirely at home on the 1929 Art Deco canopy but it was in fact made in 1904 for the hotel extension seen behind. Reusing it was a brilliant stroke.
Count Peter wasn't a count at all when he came to London in the 1240s. He was the seventh of nine sons of the Count of Savoy so his inheritance prospects cannot have seemed too bright. He was, however, the uncle of Eleanor of Provence, who had just married Henry III. Henry made him Earl of Richmond and gave him the site on the north bank of the Thames where he built the Savoy Palace.
Peter finally became Count of Savoy in 1263, when he was already 60 years old.
Frank Lynn-Jenkins carved one of the statues on the facade of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Abundance, a group on Thames House in the City. He left for America in 1919 after a furious row with Cardiff council over the commissioning of sculpture for the new City Hall.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Red Lion Court EC4

This elegant little plaque is the sign of a printer, Abraham Valpy, publisher of classical works such as Stephanus's Greek Thesaurus and the monumental Delphin Classics (all 142 volumes), and founder of the Classical Review. He had his premises in Red Lion Court from 1822 to 1837.
As you might expect from this output, Valpy was a cut above the usual inky-handed artisan, having studied at Oxford where he was a fellow of Pembroke College. So his sign is rather superior too - an antic lamp being filled with oil from a nice little jar and the motto Alere Flammam, or 'Feed the Flame' (of knowledge, that is).

Friday 6 April 2012

85 Fleet Street EC4

85 Fleet Street was built in 1934 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Press Association and Reuters, both of whom coincidentally needed headquarters at the time. The design included a figure known as The Herald by Sir William Reid Dick, who had collaborated with Lutyens on the Midland Bank building in Poultry.
The Herald is an angel sitting on the globe, blowing the trumpet of thrice-distilled truth. The Times liked it but the Newspaper World compared it rather rudely to an American Pentecostal preacher sitting on a melon.
The Herald has gone down in the world since he was made. He was originally placed on the parapet but during the war was brought down to the oculus over the front door so more people could see him. And he was originally gilded (at a cost of £100) but no trace of the gilding survives today.
The keystone over the oculus has a rather jolly baroque cartouche with a knight slaying lies and untruth over a monogram of the letters R and PA surrounded by the electric waves that brought their reports from round the world.