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 pub is built on a slight slope. Ravey Street slopes upwards towards Leonard Street.
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 You can read it on this link or download it here if that link is no longer valid: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”.