The Griffin, 93 Leonard St, EC2

After I’d sketched The Old Blue Last, I left the thundering traffic behind and walked through back streets of Shoreditch. I encountered “The Griffin”. It seemed like a friendly place, with neat brickwork, and welcoming lights inside. I sat on a low wall, and sketched it, as electric taxis glided past. Or should that be “glid”?

The Griffin, Leonard Street EC2. Sketched on 21 September 2022 in Sketchbook 12.

The pub is built on a slight slope. Ravey Street slopes upwards towards Leonard Street.

Map showing where I sat and sketched “The Griffin”

It’s an area of sharp contrasts. Behind me was the “Nobu Hotel” radically modern. Blackall Street, however, looks unkept, like the seamy side of a garment. The people walking by were various. A group of young people speaking a Germanic language rushed past onto Leonard Street following a route on a mobile phone. Several men in florescent jackets walked towards me in a tight group, studiously conversing and referring to a clipboard which one of them carried. As they passed I realised they were speaking another language, perhaps of a Baltic region, with soft “shh” sounds. A young woman strode past in the opposite direction, frowning, speaking no language but with her mobile phone held at her ear. None of these people paid me any heed. Then a totally different person appeared, dancing a jagged line along the street, with hair in long strands, and a huge smile. He noticed me and marched up, asked how I was, commented on the day, admired my drawing, and offered me a fist to bump in greeting. This done, he completed a 36o degree turn on the spot, and walked loosely on up the street, offering his benign greetings to other bemused passers-by. This is London.

The Griffin is in an area of contrasts.

The area containing The Griffin has recently been totally redeveloped. A new hotel was constructed on Great Eastern Street. These works took place in 2013-5. They included a renovation of the pub itself, and conversion of its first floor into flats. There is extraordinarily detailed research on the whole site done by “The Historic Environment Consultancy”. See this link.

The pub is Grade II listed, the buildings around were unstable, and archaeological investigations were called for. The Historic Environment Consultancy wrote a scholarly account of the state of The Griffin in 2013, in preparation for the redevelopment. They generously put this report online. You can read it on this link or download it here if that link is no longer valid:

The consultant carefully identified the phases of construction of the pub, by looking at details of its structure. For example they observe:

The timbers in the roof are machine-sawn where visible and thus they date the roof to post 1790 and likely to be post 1840.

The Historic Environment Consultancy, Colin Lacey 2013

They conclude that it was constructed in three phases, the first two between 1799 and 1872, and the later one after 1887. This later phase is dated because it included the installation of a Dumb Waiter which was only invented in 1887. It was built as a pub, and has always been a pub.

At the time of their inspection, the consultants noted that the building was on the “At Risk” register:

The building also appears on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register. It is said to be in ‘poor’ condition because, according to the register, of a lack of maintenance.

The Historic Environment Consultancy, Colin Lacey 2013

This poor state is evident from the photos they include in their report, which show plants growing out of the roof, and crackling stone work.

When I sketched it, the pub was in an excellent state of repair, very neat looking, with beautiful patterned brickwork. Worth a visit.

I drew the pub in pen and ink on location and completed the colour at my desk.

The colours are:

  • Ultramarine Blue, Lavender and Burnt Umber for the sky
  • Fired Gold Ochre and Mars Yellow for the brickwork
  • A mixture of all of the above plus Perylene Maroon for the tiled ground level
  • All blacks and greys are Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Umber

The drawing is done on Arches Aquarelle 300gsm cold-pressed paper, made into a sketchbook by the Wyvern Bindery. The pen I use is a Lamy Safari with a fine nib and De Atramentis Document Black waterproof ink, both from “The Writing Desk”.

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.

Bastion House EC2 from 88 Wood Street

I sketched this from the outside tables at 88 Wood Street. A small coffee shop run by Dartbrooke Coffee has opened in this office block. The coffee was superb, the welcome warm, and they had a selection of food. Also they had tables both indoors and out. Here’s the view from an outdoor table overlooking London Wall.

Bastion House EC2 from 88 Wood Street, 6th September 2022 in Sketchbook 12

I liked all the angles.

That’s rain you see in the sky. I had to pack up quickly as the rain came down.

Rain on the painting!

This picture took 1hour 10 minutes up to the point in the photo above when it started raining. Then another 20 minutes at my desk to finish off.

Here’s a map. The building on the left of my drawing is 200 Aldersgate, a huge office block.

Map showing where I was sketching and my viewpoint.

Bastion House is the monolith in the centre of the picture, with the Barbican Highwalks below leading to the Museum of London.

Bastion House, the Highwalks, and the Museum of London are all under threat of demolition by the City of London and replacement with three huge office blocks, overshadowing the Barbican. All the bridges will be removed, and all the highwalks in this area. This is not a good idea, in my view, and I support the residents’ call to the City to stop and think. Do we need yet more huge office blocks…really? Can we not refurbish the existing buildings, as has happened successfully to nearby blocks?

Here are some other sketches of Bastion House:

Bastion House from Podium Level

Bastion House aka 140 London Wall is a huge modernist monolith, reminiscent of the monolith in “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. I couldn’t find a site to draw…

Keep reading

Bastion House, London Wall

I hastened to draw the magnificent Bastion House, on London Wall. It is due for demolition. In the foreground you see the balcony and privacy screen of the…

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The Globe Moorgate, and Crossrail buildings EC2

The Globe Moorgate is a magnificent Victorian pub, standing boldly on the corner of London Wall and Moorgate. As you see, it is in the midst of more recent developments. The huge office block you see in the centre left of my drawing is still under construction. It is above the new Crossrail station at Moorgate. Crossrail is now called “the Elizabeth Line”. In the background there are two further blocks going up. These are 22 Ropemaker, on Ropemaker Street.

The Globe Moorgate, EC2, sketched on 29 August 2022, at 5pm in Sketchbook 12

There are various curious things about The Globe. On the corner is the prominent number “199”. You’d think that was the street address, but no, the Globe is 83 Moorgate. I can’t discover where this “199” came from.

The corner of The Globe: “199” in huge lettering. But the Globe is number 83 Moorgate.

Here’s a 1904 map. The street layout was different then. Fore Street went all the way to Moorgate. But still it’s easy to identify the Globe. On this map it is numbers 11 and 13 Moorgate, certainly not number 199.

Here’s a map from the Historic England Listing entry for the Globe. This is a 2022 map. The Globe, ringed in red, is shown at number 83.

https://mapservices.historicengland.org.uk/printwebservicehle/StatutoryPrint.svc/390651/HLE_A4L_Grade|HLE_A3L_Grade.pdf
The Keats bar: the plaque is on the second storey

Another interesting thing about the Globe is that it recently absorbed an adjacent pub. There used to be a pub right next door called the John Keats. This was absorbed by The Globe in 2008, according to this Evening Standard article. The connection to John Keats is described on a plaque high up and difficult to read. It says:

IN A HOUSE ON THIS SITE
THE “SWAN & HOOP”
JOHN KEATS
POET
WAS BORN 1795

I sketched The Globe from across the junction of London Wall and Moorgate. As it was a Bank Holiday the junction was not as busy as normal. But it was still pretty busy. After a while I had had enough of the people passing in front of me, and the buses and the noise, and I packed up and finished the drawing at my desk. Here is work in progress and another map, showing the direction I was looking.

Here are all the buildings, labelled:

The office block above the Crossrail station is a stupendous feat of engineering, because essentially it is built across a great hole in the ground. From the Barbican Podium on the other side, I saw the great struts, spanning the gap. It is built like a bridge. I drew a picture in this blog post (May 2020):

Turks Head Wapping, E1

I walked to The Turks Head Wapping: a restaurant among trees. After a splendid lunch, I sketched the building.

The Turks Head Wapping E1, 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 12, 26th August 2022, 16:30pm

The drawing took me about 50mins on location, pen and ink. I added the colour when I got back to my desk.

Before and after the colour went on.

Marvellous chimneys!

The chimneys are Transparent Pyrrol Orange. Other colours are: Green Serpentine Genuine, Mars Yellow, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Yellow Deep, and Perylene Maroon to get the darker tiled walls. The blacks and greys are Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Umber. These are all Daniel Smith watercolours. The paper is Arches Aquarelle 300gsm NOT, in a sketchbook made by the Wyvern Bindery in Hoxton.

Here is work in progress:

This is a wonderful café-restaurant – recommended. It is east of Tower Bridge, about a 45 minute walk from the City.

Dip pen and W&N drawing ink.

I’ve drawn the Turk’s Head before:

Turks Head Café Wapping

Here is the marvellous Turks Head Café, Wapping, rescued from demolition by local residents in the 1980s. Inside, I found warmth, quiet tables, and the gentle murmur of conversations: people actually talking to each other.…

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The Brunswick Centre, WC1

The Brunswick Centre, in Bloomsbury, London has been described as a “heroic prototype for a holistic community” [levittbernstein.co.uk]. There are 560 flats, a cinema, a medical centre and offices in a single development: hence “holistic”. It was radical in that it differs from the Georgian and Victorian houses all around.

Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, 13:50 9th August 2022, in Sketchbook 12

It was designed by Peter Hodgkinson during 1966-1970. The original plan was to extend the development all the way up to the Euston Road. There was a significant renovation in 2006 by the architects Levitt Bernstein. They made the shop fronts extend into the plaza in the middle, renovated the flats and added an “anchor supermarket” (Waitrose) at the northern end.

Where I did the drawing

I sketched the pen and ink on location, then repaired to the Store Street espresso on Tavistock Place to do the colour. There are very few colours in the picture: Buff Titanium, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber and a tiny bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange.

Bastion House, 140 London Wall

Earlier this month, I made a quick sketch of Bastion House, from London Wall.

140 London Wall, Bastion House, sketched 2nd August 2022 from London Wall, in sketchbook 12

Here’s a map:

The architect was Philip Powell of Powell and Moya. The building was completed in 1976. I like this building. It reminds me of the “obelisk” in the film “2001 – A Space Odessey”.

The City of London have the idea that they are going to demolish this building, and the Museum of London next to it, and build three large office blocks: bigger and wider than the existing buildings, providing some 750sq ft of commercial office space.

This mystifies many of us, as we witness empty office blocks all around this location. It also angers us, as such huge buildings will take sun from the residential estate to the North. There seems to be a case for pausing the proposed project, and considering renovation of the existing buildings. Renovation would be better from a carbon emissions point of view, as demolition and construction are a large source of carbon dioxide emissions.

There is a co-ordinated movement to ask the City of London to think again. The website is here: https://www.londonstartshere.co.uk/

I have sketched these threatened buildings before:

Bastion House, London Wall

I hastened to draw the magnificent Bastion House, on London Wall. It is due for demolition. In the foreground you see the balcony and privacy screen of the flat in Andrewes, whose leaseholder had kindly hosted me. The line of red brick, and what looks like chimneys, in the foreground are the rooftops of a part of the Barbican, “The Postern”. Behind them is the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall on Monkwell Square,…

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Bastion House from Podium Level

Bastion House aka 140 London Wall is a huge modernist monolith, reminiscent of the monolith in “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. I couldn’t find a site to draw the monolith part today, so here is a view at Podium Level, looking West towards the Museum of London. You see the dark undercroft, walkways and a road to a car park. Also you see the bridge that crosses London Wall. http://postwarbuildings.com…

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St Pauls and Bastion House

I am sketching the views out of the window. Just visible over the top of Bastion House is the top of “OneBlackfriars”. In the foreground: Mountjoy House, Barbican, on the right. Along the bottom is the Barbican Highwalk which joins Mountjoy House and Wallside. I have drawn Bastion House before: This drawing took rather a long time as I stopped a couple of times. As a result, by the time…

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St Giles and Bastion House

Today Urban Sketchers London held a “sketch crawl” in the Barbican. So I joined them. An astonishing number and diversity of people assembled inside the entrance of the Barbican Centre at the appointed time of 11am. I counted about 35 and then another dozen or so joined. All shapes and sizes of people, tall, short, studious-looking or flamboyant, quiet or talkative, smart or windblown, old or young, all were there.…

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The Museum of London EC2

From the highwalk on the Rotunda there is a really amazing view of the Museum of London and Bastion House. This whole view going to change radically, if the City of London plans are approved. The Museum of London is in the South West corner of the Barbican. It was designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya. The Museum opened in 1976. The City of London plan to close it…

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Buildings in Yorkshire

Have you seen this amazing annex to the Theatre Royal in York?

Theatre Royal Extension, York. 28 July 2022 in sketchbook 12. 10″ x 7″

It’s a stunning addition to the Victorian theatre next door. The older part of the theatre, on the right of my drawing, is in the Gothic revival style around 1879, designed by the then city engineer G Styan. The modernist extension, whose amazing soaring shapes are on the left of my drawing, was designed by Patrick Gwynne and RA Sefton, in 1967. The whole thing has been redeveloped in 2016, retaining the external shapes. I love the courage of this modernist extension. It’s not far from the station. I sketched it waiting for the train.

The Theatre Royal (in red) is just a few hundred yards from the station.

Here is a 21st century housing estate in the area. It’s an interesting contrast to the Theatre Royal extension. In this case the architects made new buildings which look traditional on the outside. They even have chimney pots. Inside they have 21st century standards of insulation, heating and plumbing. The chimney pots are simply decorative.

21st century housing in Yorkshire, in sketchbook 12, July 2022

Here are some smaller sketches I made touring around:

The Hepworth Wakefield was a revelation: well worth a diversion. It’s a beautiful building itself, which I shall be sure to sketch when I visit again.

Yorkshire – halfway up the UK mainland.

I’ve sketched in York on a previous visit, see this post:

Sketching in York

Here is the “Micklegate Bar”, which is one of the great gates through the old City wall into the centre of York. I sketched this outside a bar called “Micklegate Social”. The staff were inside, cleaning and setting up. They…

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Sketching in Aberdeen, summer 2022

Here is a house in Firhill Place, Aberdeen, near the University.

House in Firhill Place, Aberdeen, 24 June 2022

I sketched it from a coffee shop called “Grub”, on Orchard Street.

Here’s Aberdeen Town House, with its marvellous turrets.

Aberdeen City Council Town House from Broad Street. 24th June 2022

Aberdeen Town House was built in 1868-74 by John Dick Peddie and Charles George Hood Kinnear. It incorporates the remaining part of the Tolbooth of 1615-29 by Thomas Watson of Old Rayne at the east, and includes the City Chambers to Broad Street, added in 1975 by the Aberdeen City Architect’s Department, with Ian Ferguson and Tom Campbell Watson as its chief architects.

https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/200406609-aberdeen-town-house-castle-street-aberdeen-aberdeen

The building on the left of my sketch is the brutalist structure “City Chambers” covered in a tessellation of rectangles of grey marble. Its foundation stone was laid on 17th November 1975, according to the inscription on the foundation stone.

I was on my way to the ferry terminal.

Next stop, Shetland.

Sketching in Norwich

Norwich describes itself as “A Fine City”. Indeed it is. The city centre streets are clean, car-free, and lined with a huge variety of shops, restaurants, and service providers such as key-cutters and barbers. All very interesting. And there’s a lovely river too.

The City of Norwich website tells me: “On 17 July 1967, London Street became the first shopping street in the UK to be pedestrianised. It started a revolution that saw people given priority over traffic in city centres.”

This building stands in London Street, at the junction with St Andrews Hill. It was designed by FCR Palmer for the National Provincial Bank, and was completed in 1925 [1]. The National Provincial became NatWest after a series of mergers and takeovers. NatWest moved out in 2017.

“Cosy Club” 45-51 London St, Norwich NR2 1AG, 19th June 2022 12:15, in Sketchbook 12

I also sketched Norwich Cathedral, from the Cathedral Close.

Certainly a fine city, and one to which I hope to return.

Note 1: History of the London Street bank building from the Norwich Society website: https://www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk/explore-norwich/natwest-building-on-london-street

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