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.

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.

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.

Cornwall Road, London SE1 – packaging print

Here is another packaging print. This one shows Bridge ELR-XTD Structure 20 on Cornwall Road (N) between Charing Cross and Waterloo East, South East London. The road that leads off to the left is Sandell Street SE1. The road under the bridge is Cornwall Road.

The print is made using the intaglio process. The plate is a milk carton.

Railway bridge on Cornwall Road, SE1, Packaging print made on 3rd September 2022, about A3 size

Here is the plate, front and back:

The plate is made by peeling away the metallic substance inside the milk carton, then painting it with shellac to make it stronger. I describe the process in this post.

I used traditional etching ink, “Shop mix – Bone Black” from Intaglio Printmaker, whose shop, as it happens, is not far from this railway bridge.

Here’s a video of the print being peeled away:

Here is the print and the plate:

Plate (left) and print (right)
Print (left) and plate (right)

The plate made 8 prints.

Here is detail of the print:

For more of my prints made with packaging material, click on this link:

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):

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.

Great Suffolk Street, Railway arch

Huge brick arches carry the railway lines into Waterloo Station. Here is a view looking North up Great Suffolk Street.

Great Suffolk Street railway arch, monoprint #3 of 6. Printed image size 12″ x 9″. On Fabriano Unica paper, 20″ x14″

This is a packaging monoprint. It is an intaglio print from a “plate” made from a milk carton. Here is the plate:

I’ve described the process in this blog post: Print plates made of packaging. The basic method is to use the shiny metallic surface inside the carton. I cut out the shapes I want and peel back the shiny surface to reveal a rougher surface which takes the ink. The yellow colour you see on the plate is shellac, a varnish that I paint on to make the plate last a little longer.

The plates are quite fragile, and can only make a limited number of prints. Here is number 6:

Great Suffolk Street railway arch, monoprint #6 of 6. Printed image size 12″ x 9″. On Agawami Washi Kitakata Japanese paper, 20″ x1 4″

I made all the prints on the Henderson press at East London Printmakers, Stepney. I used Chabonnel F66 traditional oil-based etching ink.

The Horse & Groom, EC2

The Horse & Groom pub is on Curtain Road in Shoreditch.

The Horse & Groom, EC2. 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 12. Friday 10 June 2022 12:05

The Horse and Groom describes itself on its website :

Since opening our doors in 2007 the Horse and Groom has grown to be one of East London’s best loved pubs. Recognised as the original entrance for Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre, in 2012 we were protected as a venue and we look to keep Shoreditch drinking and dancing for a long time yet

TheHorseandGroom.net

The reason why the pub’s future might need to be mentioned is clear from the modern map. As you see from the 2022 street map, the pub and its neighbours are surrounded on three sides by a huge office and residential development “The Stage”.

The Horse & Groom (left) and its neighbours are surrounded by new build.

The pub not only survives, it thrives. Squaremeal.co.uk, a review site, says “The rickety Georgian boozer’s twin dance floors get hectic and steamy at weekends, when house, funk, and rare garage rule….”

Sketching in Curtain Road

I sketched The Horse & Groom standing in Curtain Road. At first I had a clear view, but cars gradually arrived, and vans, and delivery vehicles. I finished the drawing at my desk.

The pub is number 28. The building next door, number 26, is, or was, “Cincinnati Chilibomb”. One of the vans that arrived discharged a consignment of building materials. Construction workers started shifting tools and materials into number 26. So maybe there will be a change of use.

The building next to that, on the right of my drawing, must be number 24. Numbers 24 and 26 are listed, Grade II, Listing NGR: TQ3326982177. I cannot find any listing for the pub.

No 24: early C18, 3 storeys and attic, 2 windows. Rounded gambrel roof, tiled, with dormer. Painted brick with parapet front. Gauged segmental arches to later sash windows. Early-mid C18 shop front, with slightly altered glazing, on ground floor. No 26: house of early C19 appearance, possibly with older core, 3 storeys and attic, 2 windows. Stock brick with parapet, slated mansard with dormer, Gauged near-flat brick arches to modern plate glass windows. Ground floor mid-late C19 shop front.

Historic England listing

Number 24 is a fascinating building. What will happen to it? Currently it is gradually falling derelict:

Click and enlarge the pictures to appreciate the amazing carved woodwork on the door.

The huge buildings behind are described on the website for “The Stage”. The development has “over an acre of public space and landscape gardens surrounded by luxury apartments, cutting edge office space and prime retail…”

London is certainly a city of contrasts.

Here you can see the pen-and-ink drawing and the colour side-by-side:

pages in Sketchbook 12
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