The Crown Tavern EC1

Here is The Crown Tavern in Clerkenwell Green.

The pub frontage dates from 1900, according to the historic buildings listing1. The building is Grade II listed. There has been a pub here for a lot longer than that, though. A Freemasons Meeting here is recorded in 17862

The Crown Tavern EC1, sketched 9th June 2021, 12 noon, 10″ x 8″ in Sketchbook 10.

I sketched the pub on a sunny Wednesday lunchtime. Building work was in progress on the site behind me. The cafés opposite were open and people were sitting outside.

I moved my position several times while sketching this. First I stood by a hoarding, where I had an unobstructed view and something to lean against. After 15 minutes a big car came and parked on the “Parking Suspended” bay in front of me. It was a mini-cab. It sat there, its engine idling. Will someone please explain to me why drivers leave their engines running while stationery? It was a beautiful pristine summer day. And now I had diesel fumes. I considered various courses of action, including abandoning the picture, remonstrating with the driver, or starting my picture again from the other side of the road. I did none of those things, but moved a few paces so to get fresher air and a better view of the top of the building. 15 minutes later, the mini-cab circled round Clerkenwell Green, and came to rest in a new place. I think they were avoiding the traffic warden, who had appeared on a bicycle.

I continued my drawing standing up and then moved to a nearby bench which did not have such a good view, but where I could do my watercolours a lot more easily.

The pub itself was dark and silent until suddenly, at 12 noon exactly, the lights came on and a person emerged and placed the menu board outside.

“Taken fromSt Paul’s letter…”

Under the lamp a beautiful piece of signwriting reads, in gold:

” Taken from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews Chapter 13 Verse 2″.

I could find no indication of what had been “taken from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews”. So back in my office I looked it up. Verse 2 reads:

“Forget not to shew love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”

This is my old school Bible “being the version set forth AD1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised”. Online, the New International Version gives “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”, which sorts out the double negatives a little better. But the thought that we might have ” … entertained angels unawares” is so succinct and entrancing that it stays in my mind as a beautiful image.

I finished off the drawing at my desk. The pub name is done in “pebeo drawing gum”. This is a synthetic rubber resist solution. I painted the letters with the drawing gum using a fine brush, on the white paper. It takes about 15 min to dry. Then I painted the dark background. Then that has to dry. Then I can rub off the drawing gum to reveal the white letters. It’s like magic.

The colours are, for the main picture: Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Fired Gold Ochre, Perylene Maroon, Mars Yellow, Lunar Earth. Lunar Earth is a strange granulating colour, it dries to a mosaic-like finish, which you can see in the brickwork of the pub.

I added highlights in Green Gold, Permanent Yellow Deep, and Transparent Pyrrol Orange. The pub lettering has some Iridescent Gold.

Here’s a map:

Sketch map showing the sightline of the drawing.

If you have been reading the Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling novel “Troubled Blood” then you will recognise these street names. The novel is wonderfully accurate in its geography.

I have drawn some other pubs and restaurants in this area:

Notes and references:

  1. The Crown Tavern Grade II listing is here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1195546
  2. Freemasons meeting is recorded in “Lane’s Masonic Records” here: https://www.dhi.ac.uk/lane/record.php?ID=1034

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