The Fox and Anchor EC1

…its varnish was peeling but it was heavy and strong….

I set off on a warm afternoon intending to sketch a pub in Clerkenwell Green. On the way there, I walked along the north side of Smithfield. Down a side street I spotted a lone chair, placed as if waiting for me. It commanded an excellent view of the Fox and Anchor. I tried out the chair. Its varnish was peeling, but it was heavy and strong.

So I settled myself down and drew the Fox and Anchor. This is a very decorative pub. Pevsner* says it has a “joyful front of Doulton’s coloured tiles”. That’s Royal Doulton, the pottery company. I recommend the startling Royal Doulton building in Vauxhall, on the corner of Black Prince Road and Lambeth High Street. This is even more elaborate than the Fox and Anchor pub, since it was a living advertisement for the wares of the firm.

The Fox and Anchor dates from 1898. This date is on the tiles in that magnificent halo on the top, together with a picture of the Fox. The date is written in such flamboyant Art Nouveau script that it’s difficult to read. The whole of the front is tiled with ceramic tiles, in wonderful shapes, including tiles which go around the window frames. There is a dragon either side of the pub sign.

Fox and Anchor pub and hotel, EC1. Sketched 5th June 2021, 17:30 in Sketchbook 10. 8″ x 10″

This is a Young’s pub, open now. The Fox is shown on the pub sign, but not the Anchor. It has a special Smithfield licence, which means that it can offer beer for breakfast. This special licence is historically for serving the night shift meat workers at Smithfield. Someone of my acquaintance recounts stories of financial services workers in the City celebrating the end of projects with the Full English at the Fox, complete with pints of beer.

It is also a hotel. “Boutique” rooms are offered on its website. It must be a great place to stay!

I drew this picture between 4 and 5:30pm on a Saturday. The area was already becoming lively. A crowd spilled out of the “Be At One” cocktail bar.

Outside the Fox and Anchor people sat at tables quietly taking in the evening. And observing the person sketching, sat on a chair on the pavement opposite. As I noticed with my drawing earlier in the week, Londoners are losing their fear and are starting again with the social interactions. Several people came to say hello as I was working on the picture. Someone had seen me looking repeatedly up at the building and down at the picture. They had been discussing with their companion why I didn’t use a photograph. So they came and asked me, which was nice of them, and provoked an interesting discussion. Part of the answer is because “I like sitting here looking at the building,” and another part of the answer, which I struggled to express, is that I get a very different picture if I work from a photograph.

Another person came and asked technical questions. They use watercolours for life drawing, and wanted to know the name of the brown colour I use, which is Fired Gold Ochre. They also admired my paintbox.

Here are pictures of work in progress and my drawing location:

Here is a map showing the line of sight of the drawing. The nearby street is called “Fox and Knot Street” which is intriguing.

The picture took an hour and a half, all on location. The colours are: Fired Gold Ochre, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Buff Titanium, Mars Yellow, Permanent Yellow Deep. and some Perylene Maroon to make the grey colours. The yellow lines on the road are Naples Yellow.

I have sketched other pubs in the area:

*p454, “The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London, by Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner. 1999 edition.

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