Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Pemberton House, Pemberton Row EC4

This muscular, indeed almost muscle-bound figure is a printer. I met a few printers in the dying days of Fleet Street and frankly none were at all like this. Too much indulgence in late night beer and meat pies.
But I mustn't carp. It is a beautiful sculpture, Youth,  by Wilfred Dudeney, commissioned in 1955 to stand in front of the headquarters of the Starmer Group, owners of local newspapers across the north country.
Dudeney was an academic and teacher, and this statue is a lovely example of the figurative tradition advanced by modern influences. It is hard to imagine what Henry Moore or Elizabeth Frink might have said about it.
When Wilfred Dudeney carved this coat of arms to go on the new Fleet Street HQ of a provincial newspaper group in 1956, he cannot have predicted that the story of printing there was almost at an end.
The figure on the left is probably Caxton, but they may both be representative printers.
On the ground behind Caxton is a typecase, which in those days would have held both capitals and minuscule letters. Only later did compositors get tired of faffing about sorting out the letters and stored them in separate cases, one for the capitals and another, the lower case, for the minuscules.
Nowadays we still call minuscule letters 'lower case', correctly, but it is WRONG, yes TOTALLY WRONG, to refer to capitals as 'upper case'.
I don't know why this annoys me so much.
The world these carvings represent has vanished totally. The printers have disappeared and the newspapers are fast following them down the plughole of destiny. Pemberton House itself has been converted into flats for bankers and lawyers. We live in degenerate times.


Hels said...

I donÂșt know about degenerate times - definitely destructive and wasteful times. I realise "the printers have disappeared and the newspapers are fast following them down the plughole of destiny". But good buildings can be recycled and renovated for newer uses (as you noted) and the decorative arts retained to reflect their original eras of creativity.

Art and Architecture, mainly

Anonymous said...

Wilfred Dudeney was the principle at Isleworth Polytechnic while I was studying there in 1964/5. He was also responsible for throwing me out of the college for a misdemeanour I did not commit. Beautiful sculpture though.