A House in East London

Here is a Victorian terraced house in East London.

A House in East London, 9″ x 12″ 21 January 2023. [commission]

This was a commissioned drawing. Thank you to my client for the commission and for their permission to post the picture here.

There were two interesting challenges in this drawing. One was the fact that the front of the house was obscured by parked cars. The other was the characteristic colour of the brickwork: a clean and lively yellow. I wanted to draw the fence without the cars, so as to show the whole house. And I wanted to get that yellow right.

I was stationed on the other side of the road. There were cars parked nose-to-tail on both sides of the road. To draw the part behind the parked cars, I crossed the road and had a look then come back and sketched and then wandered about sketching and trying to get it right, gradually becoming skilled at envisaging the fence behind the car. Fortunately it was a quiet road. The few passers-by took a friendly interest, bemused by an itinerant artist in their street.

To match the colour of the brickwork, I equipped myself with a colour chart of all the yellows I possess. Usually, old London brickwork is Mars Yellow. But in this case I discovered that it was Naples Yellow, a cleaner, paler colour, less orange than Mars Yellow, more orange than Nickel Titanate Yellow. Naples Yellow also has a pleasant chalky texture, which made it perfect for this brickwork .

Most of this picture was painted in 3 basic colours: Ultramarine Blue, Naples Yellow and Burnt Umber. Here are the detailed colours, all Daniel Smith:

  • Sky: Mostly Ultramarine Blue, plus some Lavender and Cobalt Teal Blue
  • Brickwork: Mostly Naples Yellow plus a bit of Mars Yellow in the darker places
  • Window surrounds and plasterwork: Buff Titanium (very dilute)
  • Green door: Serpentine Genuine
  • Terracotta chimney pots: Fired Gold Ochre
  • All greys and shadows: a mix of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.

The paper is Arches Aquarelle 300gsm Cold Pressed in a block. The ink is De Atramentis Document Black, applied with a fountain pen.

I did a preliminary sketch to understand the perspective and the proportions. Here are some images of work in progress. This was January and very cold. I managed to complete the pen and ink on location and then added the colour at my desk in the warm when I returned home.

Pen drawing, before the colour went on.

Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, London E1

What an amazing building! It presides over a corner of Shadwell Basin, surrounded by a high wall. I spotted it on a long weekend run, and went back later to sketch it.

Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, sketched 1 Jan 2023 in Sketchbook 12, 7″ x 9″

What’s a Hydraulic Power Station? Well, in the late nineteenth century, London’s industry needed a way to exert mechanical force: to operate a printing press for example, or to raise heavy weights, for cranes and metal forming. Also, passenger lifts had been invented, and building engineers needed a way to exert force to operate the lift. One way would be to have a steam engine on site. This wasn’t always practical. Steam engines are noisy and dirty and you don’t want one next to your desirable residence, or even cluttering up your dockyard. So here’s the next idea: instead of lots of little steam engines all over the place, we’ll have a big steam engines in just a few places, and we transmit the power from them by using water. Water? Yes. The big steam engines push water at high pressure down strong cast iron pipes, and the lift engineer at the far end effectively turns on a tap and the force of the water pushes the lift up. That’s the principle.

This sounds utterly implausible, but it worked. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was a great network of pipes all over London, holding water at high pressure. This water was used to raise passenger lifts, operate curtains at theatres, and to drive printing presses. It was used for cranes and other static machinery which required a strong, steady force. It’s a steampunk dream. Here’s a map. These pipes were everywhere.

The network of pipes supplying hydraudic power.
Map from https://www.subbrit.org.uk/features/hydraulic-power-in-london/

The plaque you can see in the centre of my drawing says “London Hydraulic Power Company 1890”. This was one of the big power stations driving the water along the pipes. The power came from a coal-fired steam engine.

This is a picture from the early twentieth century. The chimney is from the steam engine room. The tall tower houses the “accumulator” where water under pressure is stored as a buffer against variation in demand. It is a sort of “battery”. A big weight sits at the top of a column of water. The weight is raised by pumping water in using steam power. The big weight then rests on the top of the water, keeping it under pressure and forcing it down the pipes.
This drawing is from roughly the same place where I did my drawing. Note the sailing boats in Shadwell basin, to the right and in the background. The Thames is off the picture, to the left. Picture from: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/File:Im1893EnV75-p43.jpg#file (creative commons)
Map showing where I stood to do the drawing, which is also the approximate view point of the early twentieth century picture above.

Here is a summary of the history of the building, gleaned from various web searches:

  • 1890: completed and started working. In use until 1977.
  • September 1973: first listing
  • June 1977: use discontinued
  • December 1977: Grade II* listed, including the machinery (listing ref 1242419)
  • 1993-2013 – owned and operated by Jules Wright as “The Wapping Project”: an art and entertainment venue.
  • 2013: Sold to UK Real Estate Limited
  • March 2019: planning application for an office building in the courtyard, retail and restaurant space and changes to the interior
  • October 2020: planning permission approved (ref PA/19/00564/NC and PA/19/00571/A1), despite objections from The Victorian Society and the Turks Head Charity.
  • Meanwhile – it’s an event space.

The Wapping building still has its machinery inside. It’s awaiting redevelopment. You can hire it for your fashion shoot, Christmas Party or product launch. The photos below are from the agencies advertising the use of the space: Canvas Events, and JJ Media It looks totally amazing! If you book your event there, please can I come and sketch?

The project sheet for the planning application is here: https://www.cma-planning.co.uk//images/projects/wapping_hydraulic_pumping_station/Wapping_Hydraulic_Pumping_Station_Project_Sheet.pdf

If that doesn’t work, here’s the file:

Here are some snapshots taken while I was drawing. The chimney shown in the early twentieth century drawing has vanished.

Colours used in the drawing:

  • Fired Gold Ochre
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Burnt Umber
  • Some Transparent Pyrrol Orange, but not much.

The Eagle, Farringdon Road, EC1

Here is “The Eagle” 159 Farringdon Road, London, EC1.

The Eagle, Farringdon Road, October 2022, 12″ x 9″ [sold]

I painted this as a commission. My client liked the pub and asked for a picture which showed the liveliness of the place. I sketched it from the other side of the Farringdon Road.

There was certainly a lot of activity in the pub. As you see in the picture, people arrived and occupied at the tables in the street, even though this was October, and quite chilly. The lamppost by the door was soon adorned with a collection of bikes.

Here are some details from the picture:

Here is work in progress:

I completed the pen drawing on location and added the colour later:

Thank you to my client for this commission, and for allowing me to post the picture here.

Bishopsgate Institute EC2

Here is the Bishopsgate Institute entrance, seen from the other side of the road.

Bishopsgate Institute, west entrance, 28th Dec 2022 in Sketchbook 12

The Bishopsgate Institute opened in 1895, as a centre for adult learning. Amazingly, it continues this mission to this day, with a huge range of courses and classes, as well as a library and an event programme: https://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/

The Institute was founded by Reverend William Rogers (1819-1896), a clergyman who took action to improve the lot of London’s poor and provide educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds. He secured funding for his educational initiative by using charitable funds from the City of London:

On arriving at St Botolph’s, Rogers discovered that a pot of charitable donations had been accumulating in the City for over five hundred years. These donations were often death bed bequests, with the donor hoping to secure his or her place in heaven by making a gift of money to the poor.

In Rogers’ view, these funds were no longer being fairly distributed. Rather than going towards “jollies” for the local great and the good (one purpose to which he suggested they were being used by the nineteenth century) he believed the bequests should be redirected towards his proposed polytechnics of the people scheme.

William Rogers began exploiting personal connections established at school and university to petition his friends in high places to introduce a change in the law that would make it possible to divert the City’s charitable income towards educational initiatives. He was successful in this.

The terms of the City of London Parochial Charities Act (1883) allowed Rogers to work with like-minded educationalists to draw up a visionary plan of action. According to this plan, three new learning institutions would be built in the City: the Cripplegate Institute, the St Bride Institute, and our own Bishopsgate Institute.

https://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/our-history/william-rogers (downloaded 29 Dec 2022)

The building was designed by the architect Charles Harrison Townsend. I particularly enjoy those complicated spires, which Pevsner describes as “sturdy, oddly detailed spires” [Nicolas Pevsner, City of London, p288]

The blue van is a police vehicle. There is a police station just south of Middlesex Street, so the police vehicles park on Bishopsgate.

Here is work in progress on the drawing:

It was cold and raining, so I completed the pen on location and then did the colour at my desk.

Great Arthur House, Golden Lane Estate, EC1

Here is a view of Great Arthur House from Crescent House, on the Golden Lane Estate, London EC1.

Great Arthur House from Crescent House, sketched 6th Dec 2022 in sketchbook 12

Here are the names of the blocks you can see:

The round objects in the foreground are ventilator shafts for the car park below. You can also see the route underneath Great Arthur House.

I’ve sketched in the Golden Lane Estate before: see this link for more drawings.

Here is work in progress and a map.

St Martin-in-the-Fields, WC2

On the way back from a visit to the West End, I passed St-Martin-in-the-Fields, standing out against the cold sky.

St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. Sketched 2nd Dec 2022, in sketchbook 12

The statue in the foreground, left, is the Edith Cavell Memorial, seen from the back. Edith Cavell (1865-1915) was a British nurse. In German-occupied Belgium, guided by her principles of humanity and her Christian faith, she provided medical care to soldiers irrespective of which side they were on. She was executed by a German firing squad 1915, because she had helped Belgian, British and French soldiers to escape the German occupation and reach Britain. Her grave is in Norwich Cathedral.

I sketched standing on a corner of the Charing Cross road, see map above. This turned out to be a very noisy location. The National Portrait Gallery is being refurbished and there was continuous drilling and banging. Buses and cars ground their gears, and thundered past, rushing through the traffic lights to shriek to a halt at the next junction.

But St-Martin-in-the-Fields rose above it all. The inscriptions which faced me on the Edith Cavell Memorial were: “Determination”, “Fortitude”.

Old Kings Head, EC2

Here is the Old Kings Head, 28 Holywell Row, EC2A 4JB: ” a family-run retreat from the stresses of everyday life in the proximity of the almighty Silicon Roundabout” [oldkingshead.london]

The Old Kings Head, Shoreditch 26 November 2022 in Sketchbook 12

“Enjoy great beers, ales, spirits and, if you must, soft drinks in the friendliest, happiest, most traditional, greentiletastic and fantastically the least expensive pub in the area” continues their website.

I love “greentiletastic“. The green tiles are indeed fantastic: I have tried to show them in my drawing.

This pub is in a network of tiny streets running at all sorts of unexpected angles. As I sketched, I saw, more than once, an expensively dressed person trailing a carry-on size suitcase, picking their way over the broken paving stones and patched up tarmac, in unsuitable shoes. Usually they were a woman. Ill-advisedly, they were loosely holding their mobile phone and consulting it, while walking. I could not work out where these people were going, or where they came from. Evidently no-one had warned them of the possibility of mobile phone snatches. I wondered if I should do so. But while the thought crossed my mind, the person drifted on, towards Old Street, bearing a dreamy mystified expression, as though these piebald buildings did not quite correspond to the mental image they had of their destination, or, more likely, the street pattern did not correspond to the image on their mobile phone. They saw neither me, nor the pub, but seemed to exist in another reality.

This pub is old. According to “pubhistory.com” the earliest landlord was “James Taylor, victualler” in 1792. This is from insurance records in the Guildhall Library.

It sounds like a great pub.

I drew it standing outside the restaurant “Padella”, next to a narrow alley called “New North Place”. New North Place is the opposite of new, but it does go North. To my total astonishment, a huge lorry emerged from this tiny alley, and blocked my view. This is a common hazard sketching in London. It soon moved on though. I was impressed that the driver had ventured into the alley.

Sketchbook 12

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…

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