The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, EC2

Yesterday, I went to look for “The Old Blue Last”, a pub which featured in a book I was reading.

“The Old Blue Last stood at the top of Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, a snub-nosed, imposing three-storey brick building curved like the bow of a boat…..”

‘Career of Evil’ by Robert Galbraith, Chapter 12.
The Old Blue Last, Great Eastern Street, London EC2. Sketched on Wednesday 21st September in sketchbook 12.

I sketched standing outside the estate agents Fraser and Co.

Map showing where I was standing, outside Fraser and Co, and my viewpoint. I later sketched “The Griffin” which is marked also.

This pub is now owned by “Vice Magazine” (“VICE is the definitive guide to enlightening information.”). Their website helpfully publishes a history of the pub:

“…in 1576 a venture capitalist named James Burbage built a venue called The Theatre where The Old Blue Last currently stands…..Eventually Burbage pulled down The Theatre and moved it south of the river, where it became The Globe….in 1700 a bar was built on the site of the old theater. It was called The Last, which, remarkably boringly, refers to a wooden block that a shoemaker uses to mold a shoe. The Last was owned by a brewer named Ralph Harwood, who went on to achieve a small level of fame when he was pronounced bankrupt one day by Gentleman’s Magazine…..In 1876, Truman’s brewery took over the pub. They pulled The Last down and rebuilt it as The Old Blue Last, which means “the old blue wooden pattern that is used to mold(sic) the shoe….Eventually Truman’s went down the toilet and Grand Metropolitan Hotels took over the OBL…[1970s, 1990s] —At that point, The Old Blue Last was a rough place full of rougher men and people who were afraid of being beaten up by them. It housed an illegal strip club and brothel, which was on the second floor…” [https://www.vice.com/en/article/ex575k/how-vice-bough-a-brothel-v10n12]

“Vice” bought The Old Blue Last in 2004 and turned it into a music venue.

“Anyway, it’s a great bar, all the gigs are fun, and it’s right by our office.” [https://www.vice.com/en/article/ex575k/how-vice-bough-a-brothel-v10n12]

“It’s not about great food, beer connoisseurship or child-friendliness (it’s very much 18+): it’s about atmosphere, which it has to spare, and dedication to live music…” [https://www.datathistle.com/place/54846-the-old-blue-last-london-ec2a/]

Great Eastern Street is a very busy thoroughfare, taking buses, lorries, delivery vehicles and cars between the Old Street Roundabout and places East. I noticed the crowd of street furniture outside the pub. See the lamp post, which, though modern, attempts to imitate some of the Victorian features of the pub. The CCTV camera next to it, however, is strictly utilitarian, on its unadorned pole. I wonder why they didn’t put the security camera on the lamp post. They are only about 3 feet apart.

I tired of the pounding noise of Great Eastern Street, despite the friendly location outside Fraser and Co. One of their employees, mobile phone clutched in his hand, paused and commented favourably on my drawing, as he re-entered the office. People passed by wrapt in intricate conversations about modules, funding agreements and childcare issues. After I finished the pen drawing, I retreated into the quiet back streets.

I added the colour later, at my desk.

The colours are:

Ultramarine Blue and Lavender for the sky and street signs, Mars Yellow and Burnt Umber for the brickwork, with some Fired Gold Ochre. The black is made of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. There’s some Cobalt Turquoise Light on the Colt Technologies building behind the pub. I used acrylic gold paint by Liquitex to pick out the gold on the pub, including the lettering.

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