On the South side of Blackfriars Bridge there is a church amongst trees. This is Christchurch Blackfriars Bridge.
This is the south side of the church, showing its open door. I went in. This is a very welcoming church. I passed three separate notices telling me I was welcome. Inside it is calm, warm and light. There are benches to sit on. There are marvellous stained glass windows. They show not saints and Bible stories, but Londoners. They show builders and printers, river workers, and engineers. There is a power station worker looking at a bank of rotary dial telephones, and a queue of people waiting for a red London bus. All these are beautifully done in stained glass.
This church accepts the idea that people might be “spiritual not religious”. Between 12noon and 2pm: they offer a “lunch time silent space”, and there are other events that include meditation and silence.
A detailed history of the church is in British History Survey of London: ‘Christ Church’, in Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside (The Parishes of St. Saviour and Christchurch Southwark), ed. Howard Roberts and Walter H Godfrey (London, 1950), pp. 101-107. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol22/pp101-107 [accessed 16 January 2022].
Here is how it looked before 1941.
It was completely gutted by incendiary bombing in April 1941. The 1950 “Survey of London” cited above describes it as a “shell”. The present church was completed in 1960, according to Pevsner (The Buildings of England, London 2: South, by Nicolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry, page 275). The architects were R Paxton Watson & B Costin.
The church is now surrounded by buildings and trees and is very much alive. Here is the view from the North:
The outside air temperature was 3 degrees C and the paint wasn’t drying. Also I was very cold. I went for lunch in “Greensmiths”in Lower Marsh, and finished the painting there.
Here is work in progress on the sketches, and some maps to show where this church is.
There were some spectacular shadows that day:
The church community hold some of their events in the adjacent pub, the Rose and Crown:
Here is a view of the London Television Centre, 60-72 Upper Ground, SE1. It is on the South Bank of the river Thames, a little to the East of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall. It was completed in 1972 to the design of Elsom Pack & Roberts.1
Appreciate this building while you can – it is bring demolished. Admire the variety of the sloping roofs, the unexpected angles, the terraces overlooking the river. Appreciate the unexpected finish: it is covered in tiny, white, glistening tiles.
The planning application reference is “21/02668/EIAFUL” submitted to Lambeth Council on 5th July 2021. It says:
Demolition of all existing buildings and structures for a mixed-use redevelopment comprising offices, cultural spaces and retail uses with associated public realm and landscaping, servicing areas, parking and mechanical plant.
Interestingly the status, as of today, is “awaiting decision”, which is strange because when I was sketching the site earlier this week, demolition was definitely in progress: both visible and audible.
For the record, here are some pictures of the current building (click to enlarge):
The proposed new building will be taller than the current tower, and the current low-level buildings are to be replaced by a wide block.
Here are some maps to show where this is:
I drew the picture from the inclined plane leading up to Queens Walk by the river. There must be a splendid view from the adjacent IBM building. If you work there and you’d be prepared to host me so I could draw from the balcony, then do please get in touch.
Here are some photos of my work in progress on the picture. It was cold, wet and windy, and there were a lot of seagulls. I put the seagulls in the picture, to the right of the tower. I finished the colour at my desk.
I have also drawn Colechurch House, another 20th Century building in the area due for demolition:
Aficionados of 20th Century brutalist architecture need to hasten to appreciate Colechurch House. It is due for demolition and redevelopment. This month’s post in the marvellous “London Inheritance” site informed me about the planning application, so I rushed over there to draw a picture before the building became swathed … Continue reading “Colechurch House, London Bridge SE1”
“When London Weekend Television decided to build its own modern studios, it chose a site on the South Bank close to the National Theatre. The architectural practice of Elsom Pack and Roberts were commissioned to design the building. Originally known as Kent House, their building involved a 21 storey tower rising above a podium that houses the television studios. Construction started in 1970 and the first transmission was in 1972. It became known as The South Bank Television Centre and it was considered to be the most advanced television centre in Europe at that time.”
Note 2: Picture of the new building and plan from the Statement of Community Involvement, downloaded 2 Dec 2021.
For comparison, here are the two views – the proposed development and the current view from Victoria Embankment. The visual of the proposed development shows various tall buildings which do not yet exist. The “Doon St Tower” is a proposed 43 storey tower on the inland side of Upper Ground from the National Theatre. It has planning permission (2010) but has not been built. Another tall building shown on the view of the proposed development is “Elizabeth House” a.k.a “One Waterloo”. This is set of buildings, 15 to 31 floors, next to Waterloo Station. It also has planning permission (19/01477/EIAFUL Feb 2021) but has not been built.
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Guinness Court is a group of low-rise blocks between Gambier House and Galway House, in Finsbury. A resident writes that it is a lovely place to live, with an “inner communal garden with trees and squirrels”.
Here is Guinness Court from Lever Street:
You see Grayson House just peeping over the roof.
Guinness Court is owned and managed by Guinness Partnership Limited1.
“Guinness was founded in 1890 to improve people’s lives. And that’s still what we’re about today. In 1890, philanthropist Sir Edward Cecil Guinness donated £200,000 to set up the Guinness Trust in London, with an additional £50,000 for the Dublin Fund, which later became the Iveagh Trust. He wanted to help improve the lives of ordinary people, many of whom couldn’t afford decent homes. He wanted to improve people’s lives and create possibilities for them. We’re proud that thousands of families have benefited from this vision.” [https://www.guinnesspartnership.com/about-us/what-we-do/our-history/]
Sir Edward Cecil Guinness was the grandson of the founder of the Guinness brewery.
The original Guinness Court on Lever Street was built in 1890. Here is what it looked like in 1950:
The current building was constructed in 1976, according to “Streets with a Story – The Book of Islington” by Eric A Willats FLA. I cannot discover anything about the architect or the plans – or why the Victorian building was demolished. If anyone has access to the current building and can spot a foundation stone or information plaque, please let me know?
I made the sketch from a bench dedicated to the memory of Betty Brunker, “a good friend and neighbour”, 1930-2005.
Note 1: The Guinness Partnership Limited is a charitable Community Benefit Society No. 31693R registered in England and is a Registered Provider of Social Housing No. 4729. [https://www.guinnesspartnership.com]
Note 2: There are a number of buildings called “Guinness Court” in London. For example there is Guinness Court in Mansell Street E1, not far away, and Guinness Court, Snowsfields, Southwark SE1, on the other side of the river.
I have done a number of sketches in the Finsbury area:
This building is on the Rue des Rasses, in Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland. For maps, see end of this article.
There is much that is interesting about this building: there is the building itself, a 1930s marvel, there are the original occupiers, and there are the current occupiers.
The building was constructed in 1929-1930 as a factory for Reuge, the music-box makers. Reuge had already been operating for some 55 years by that time, starting with a pocket-watch shop in 1865. The factory operated for 85 years, until 2015, then they moved production to another site. Here is a picture of the factory fully operational, from a Reuge publication dated 2007 1
In June 2016, Reuge still owned the building, even though they’d moved their production out. They still used the wood-panelled showroom to demonstrate their music boxes. Here are some pictures from when I visited the empty building at that time:
Since around November 20193 the building has been occupied by a group called “le Baz”. They are a self-governing collective, who have created a “ZàB” in the former Reuge building. “ZàB”, their website2 explains, stands for “Zone libre à Bâtir”:
C’est une zone autogérée d’expérimentation, d’émancipation, de solidarité et de lutte, et pas un espace de consommation passive. Elle est ouverte à toutes et tous à toute heure décente. Et ce pour souffler, partager, apprendre ou transmettre de manière spontanée. Toute personne présente devrait pouvoir répondre à vos questionnements concernant le fonctionnement. Tout comme vous, elles ne sont ni responsables, ni programmateurices, ni animateurices, mais ni plus ni moins que les acteurices d’une création collective.
It is a self-organised space for experiment, emancipation, solidarity and struggle, and not a place for passive consumption. It is open to everybody, at any reasonable time. It’s where you can breath, share, learn or communicate at will. All the people here should be able to answer your questions about how it works. Just like you, they are not the managers, nor the schedulers, nor the facilitators, but no more and no less than the participants in a collaborative creation.
I took them at their word, and showed up at an “heure décent”, which as it happened was about midday. As I hesitated in front of the door, a young man asked if he could help me. I said yes, would it be possible to go in? He said yes of course, had I not read the notice on the door? I said I had. But he was already about his business, rushing ahead of me, and had left the door open. So I went in.
I walked around the empty spaces. It was all clean and organised. Someone had recently been working on the wall murals: there was a smell of paint. There are huge areas of blank wall and vast empty rooms. There is a “magasin gratuit” where you are invited to take what you need or bring goods to donate. A handwritten notice explains how it works.
I didn’t meet anybody.
On the way out, I did meet someone. This was a young woman, who smiled and asked if I was visiting: “Vous faites le tour?” I said yes I was. She recognised me, because she’d seen me drawing, three days previously. We chatted for a bit. She explained some of the history. The town had been opposed to their use of the site. Some people thought we were squatters, she said: “ils pensent qu’on fait le squatte”. But no, she said, we are not squatters. In principle, “no-one sleeps here the night”. And they have the permission of the owner. Well, they had the permission of the owner. But things have changed…. so the situation now is, well, “un peu ambigue”, a bit ambiguous.
She smiled. She liked it there. She said that it was surprising how little one needed, just “les un ou deux trucs” a few things needed for existence.
“And friends,” I suggested.
“Yes,” she agreed, “and friends.” She told me her name and asked me mine. “Come back,” she said, “any time. Boir un café.” And she set off down the slope, towards a young man waiting patiently below, by the collection of wooden outhouses.
Here is the picture I had been drawing when I first met the woman.
In this view you can see evidence of the current occupiers. They have built a fence, made of wooden pallets, on top of a concrete platform which is part of the original building. On the concrete wall are inscriptions in a flowing calligraphic script I did not recognise, and a large symbol in a roundel.
Here are some external views and work in progress on the drawings:
Here are maps:
Reuge, the Art of Mechanical Music, Secrets of the Reuge Manufacture, published by Reuge in 2007. Picture of the factory in the snow is from the frontispiece.
The local newspaper <<24 heures>> carries articles about how the current occupiers took over the buildings and disputes between the current occupiers and local residents. See for example the article by Frédéric Ravussin, 22.11.2019, 06h51. These newspapers are available on the marvellous digital resource: Scriptorium from the University of Lausanne.
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It is a Victorian seaside resort, with a sandy beach, and parks and a bandstand. The beach is below chalk cliffs, and those earnest Victorians provided their citizens with a fine lift to bring people between the sandy beach and the cliff top attractions. I was delighted, and surprised, to find this lift in full working order. While I made the drawing, the lift was used by a continuous stream of people.
The whole time I was drawing, music floated down from above, a series of 1950s and 1960s classics, including Elvis’ rendering of “You were always on my mind”. This seemed somehow very poignant as I sat there in the sun on the sand.
When I finished the drawing, I used those sculptural stairs on the right of the lift to climb up to the top. A young family were waiting at the bottom. One of their number, a lad of about 8, came rolling along the boardwalk in his bright green wheelchair. He expertly negotiated the narrow door to the lift and shot inside. I reached the top as they all emerged, and the lad zoomed off along the smooth tarmac into the labyrinth of parks and bandstands at the higher level.
The citizens of Broadstairs have fought hard to keep their lift open. The lift was declared “permanently closed” earlier this year (2021), and only re-opened after a sustained campaign by local people, notably “Access Thanet” (pictured)
I walked from Margate Railway station to Botany Bay. Out on a headland, I encountered this extraordinary building. Later, I went back to draw it.
You can see – I hope – that my viewpoint was low. I was sitting on the ground by the side of the road. The road is frequented by dog-walkers. I learned something from this low viewpoint: civilised dogs are not used to people sitting on the ground. Many of the dogs were loose, and came rushing up to me, barking in admonition, or alarm, or delight. The owner hurried after, calling in vain after their hound. The dog sat next to me, barking in alarm, or pride, depending on the breed. Either “Danger! Danger! There’s someone sitting on the ground!!” or, if an ancestral hunting dog, “Look, revered owner, what I have cleverly found here on the ground. You must have shot it. It’s my job, I think, to bring it to you?” The owners argued in vain against these inbuilt instincts, and eventually had to drag the dog away from its enemy, or its prey, depending on outlook and breeding.
I went on drawing. A man came by, without a dog. He looked at me, and looked at the building, and looked at my picture. Then he gave a kind of shrug which said “OK, right, I get it, you are drawing the sewage station.”
I replied to this implied comment by saying that it was an interesting building, or rather, I found it interesting. His response was, “1960s Soviet Brutalism without the politics” and I said yes, that put it well.
He said, without breaking his step, “I am good with words”. He said it as a matter of established fact, not a brag, not a hope, nothing sheepish or apologetic, just a description. I silently wondered if I should have recognised him: was this a well-known playwright, a poet, a newspaper columnist? He stopped for a moment. “But just with words,” he continued, with a gesture towards my painting equipment, “Not with a paintbrush.” He paused, to make sure I’d heard. Once his words had reached me across the still air of the road between us, he declared, “I’ll leave you to it!” and he strode off, leaving me puzzling. I think I’d just heard a compliment, but I wasn’t quite sure.
When I walked along this road in the daytime, I saw that there were a large number (about 8) of contractors’ vans and lorries parked outside the pumping station. The blue/grey rectangle in front of the pumping station is some kind of portakabin or works area.
I found out later that this pumping station had failed during the summer (2021), and let sewage into the sea, rendering local beaches useable. Southern Water issued an apology which said, amongst other things:
“Wastewater releases at times of heavy rainfall happen across the UK to protect properties from flooding. The release that happened overnight on 16 June was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and lightning strike during the storms which caused a short power failure and affected systems on site at our Margate Water Pumping Station. Back-up generators are in place. As part of our preparations for the predicted thunderstorms and heavy rainfall we also had a team standing by in the area. These additional precautionary measures meant we were able to immediately begin work restoring the site to full operation. Unfortunately, we had to make this emergency release to protect local homes and businesses from internal flooding.”
A big notice on the pumping station said: “Margate and Broadstairs Resilience Phase 2, upgrade and improvements”. It seems as though improvements are much needed. I can start to understand how local people might have been a bit surprised that I was drawing this pumping station, cause of a recent local disaster.
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Here is the North West corner of the Guildhall Yard. The modern part is designed by Richard Gilbert Scott (note 1). What we are looking at, in pale concrete, is the Guildhall Library, and offices of the City of London Corporation. Behind it, you see the tops of the buildings on Wood Street.
In yellow stone, on the right of the drawing, is the old Guildhall, built in 1411 (note 2).
In the foreground you see the chairs, generously provided in the Guildhall Yard by the City of London, for public use. I commandeered a chair and a table and set myself up in a nice shady position next to the South East wall of the yard, between two gigantic plant pots.
While I was drawing, someone took up residence the other side of the gigantic plant pot, and started a long and fascinating conversation on their phone. They were a recruitment agent, and embarked on a forceful sales pitch to a potential recruit. They were recruiting on behalf of a large bank in the City. They described the proposed future restructuring of said bank, and the nature of the forthcoming vacancy that was to be filled. They named the bank, which I will not do here. They aired details of the potential salary and work locations. After completing this gripping conversation, they immediately called a work colleague and gave an alarmingly candid opinion on the potential recruit they’d just been talking to. If you are thinking of having a conversation of this nature, the Guildhall Yard is perhaps not the most discrete place to choose!
At 3:45pm precisely, workers arrived and removed the chairs. I completed my drawing sitting on the flagstones.
This drawing took about 1½ hours, sketched and coloured on location. The main colours are Mars Yellow, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, and Transparent Brown Oxide, with some Perylene Maroon to make the greys. The chairs are Transparent Pyrrol Orange.
The screens, shown white in my drawing, advertise a performance of dance entitled “Black Victorians”, which is part of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
From the site of the former St Mary Aldermanbury, I looked across towards the Guildhall, the offices of the City of London. It is dark and green in the former Nave of the church, whose pillars you can see on the right.…
At the junction of Love Lane and Aldermanbury in the City of London, there is a small park. If you are in the area, it’s well worth a visit. The parklet is on the site of St Mary Aldermanbury. A large marble…
The winter evening settles down With smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days. And now a gusty shower wraps The grimy scraps Of withered leaves about your feet And newspapers from vacant lots; The showers beat…
In a previous post I presented a drawing of 65 Basinghall Street done from the bridge which is on the North side of the building. Here is the south side. 65 Basinghall Street is the building in front, with the scalloped arches.…
This is a view from the bridge over Basinghall Street, looking at the back of 65 Basinghall Street. There is much of interest in this view. There are the wonderful arching shell-like structures of 65 Basinghall Street. This was built in 1966-7…
Aficionados of 20th Century brutalist architecture need to hasten to appreciate Colechurch House. It is due for demolition and redevelopment. This month’s post in the marvellous “London Inheritance” site informed me about the planning application, so I rushed over there to draw a picture before the building became swathed in plastic.
I drew this picture looking over the railings from London Bridge. This position commanded an excellent view of Colechurch House, but it meant I had my back to the passers-by on the pavement, which made me nervous. I strapped my rucksack to the railing and worked quickly. My drawing makes the building look a little precarious, perhaps that reflects my own nervousness standing in the wind on London Bridge, or perhaps it reflects the nervousness of the building as it awaits imminent demolition.
Here is work in progress. I completed the pen-and-ink on location and the colour at my desk.
Colechurch House was completed in the late 1960s* to the designs of E G Chandler. Pre-pandemic, the area under the building at podium level contained a tidal flow of commuters walking between London Bridge Station and the City of London. The City of London Corporation entity known as “Bridge House Estates” owns the freehold. The site is in the London Borough of Southwark (called “LBS” in the press release below). The planning application is GLA reference 2020/6867/S1 and has been approved. Here’s the plan, according to the summary in the planning application:
“Redevelopment of the site to include demolition of Colechurch House, pedestrian footbridge and walkway and erection of an elevated 22-storey building (+ 4-storey basement) above a public park and providing office floorspace, retail floorspace, restaurant/café floorspace, leisure floorspace (all Use Class E), theatre and a bar (Sui Generis), delivered alongside public realm improvements, roof gardens, cycle parking, servicing, refuse, plant areas and other associated works incidental to the development.”
Here’s a press release from the City of London last year, announcing the development.
*Completion date “late 1960s” according to https://colechurchhouse.com/site, the website of the new development. It also says “It is named after Peter of Colechurch who designed the first stone bridge across the Thames here.”
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An email from an ever-vigilant neighbour alerted me to the Planning Application for City Place House and the adjacent tower, City Tower. This application is currently under consideration. I hastened to go and have a look at the buildings, before they get swathed in white plastic.
City Tower has been there since 1967. It is going to have its lower floors redeveloped but will remain standing. However the more recent City Place House, completed in 1992, is going to be demolished and replaced.
City Place House is a post-modern block of 10 storeys, 8 above ground. It currently houses 1750 workers in 176 600 sq ft. It is going to be replaced by a higher and wider building, which will more than double the capacity, housing 4000 workers in 320 000 sq ft, by more efficient servicing. This is according to the planning application: 21/00116/FULMAJ, “Statement of Community Involvement”. My neighbour comments, “The City’s unerring confidence that numbers of office workers will rebound back to and then exceed previous levels continues to amaze and baffle me given the growing pile of evidence to the contrary. However, that may just be me…”. I have to agree.
Here is what it looks like now:
Here’s a map, also from the planning application. London Wall Place is the building on the left hand side of my drawing.
City Tower is in the background of my drawing, It is interesting because it is one of the last two towers in a grand design. The other tower still standing is Bastion House. The post war development plan had six towers along London Wall:
“In 1954, frustrated at the contemporary efforts of largely piecemeal reconstruction, a group calling itself ‘The New Barbican Committee,’ headed by architect Sergei Kadleigh, unveiled a plan of comprehensive redevelopment on the long derelict site north of St Paul’s. The scheme proposed a vast network of interlocking hexagonal structures of towers and decks over the 40-acre site owned by the City Corporation. This utopian mega structure proved hugely influential and by 1955 a collaborative scheme of comprehensive redevelopment was unveiled by the City’s head of planning H.A. Mealand and the LCC’s Leslie Martin.”
The six towers, their original names, and their fates1:
LONDON WALL (NORTH-SIDE, WEST TO EAST)
Bastion House, 140 London Wall, EC2 1976: Completed. Still standing: Now known as 140 London Wall.
Lee House, 125 London Wall, EC2: 1962: Completed. 1988-92: Replaced by Alban Gate. Now known as 125 London Wall.
St Alphage House, 2 Fore Street, EC2: 1962: Redeveloped as 1 and 2 London Wall Place
Moor House, 120 London Wall, EC2: 1961: Completed. 2002-05: Demolished in 2001 and replaced by a new Moor House.
LONDON WALL (SOUTH-SIDE, WEST TO EAST)
Royex House, 5 Aldermanbury Square, EC2: 1962: Completed. Replaced in 2008 by 5 Aldermanbury Square, EC2.
Britannic House, 40 Basinghall Street, EC2: 1964: Completed. Still standing: Refurbished as City Tower in 1990.
The building which will replace City Place House will look like this. These are drawings from the planning application. City Tower is in the background, its shape is unchanged from now. There will be a new bridge across Basinghall Street. Demolition is due to start soon: 2022. The highwalk route will be out of service until 2025.
A client asked for two pictures. The first was of CityPoint. Here is the second, Willoughby House.
This is a view from the public highwalk under Andrewes House. You see the waterfall into the Barbican Lake, and Speed Garden in the background. That marvellous tree is a feature of Speed Garden. It has white bark.
Willoughby House is a terrace block in the Barbican. The multi-storey flats inside have interesting intersecting shapes, and long views across the water. It was completed in 1971.
Here is work in progress on the drawing.
On the skyline the two towers are the Heron residential tower on the left and CityPoint on the right. City Point predates Willoughby House – it was completed in 1967, although it looked different then. The curved top is a 2000 addition. In the middle is Ropemaker Place. The Heron residential tower replaced the original Chamberlain, Powell and Bon utility building on the same site. This was a brutalist concrete building, matching the Barbican, which housed a Fire Station, registry office, coroners court and mortuary. Milton Court was integral to the Barbican, linked aesthetically and by highwalks. It was destroyed in 2008.
The Heron residential tower which replaced Milton Court was finished in 2013. It is 36 stories and 122 metres high. Its lower floors house the Guildhall School of Music and drama. The upper stories are luxury flats.
CityPoint (1967, refurbished 2000) is office space, with bars and coffee shops at ground level. It is 35 stories and 127 metres high. Ropemaker Place (2009) is 23 stores of office space. It looks smaller because it is further away. It has no bars, no coffee shops, just a straight cliff down to the street.
7 + podium
Office space, bars at ground level
1967, and 2000
Guildhall School and residential
While I was drawing, a fashion shoot arrived. It was a jangling cavalcade of clothes rails, photographic equipment, and a music system on wheels. They set up camp a little way away and starting photographing the scenery, which included me. They turned their attention to the model who placed herself carefully against the concrete wall. Then they upped and went on towards Gilbert Bridge, their music and conversation fading into the perspective lines.
Here is the ink stage. You can compare with the colour by moving the slider.
The colours here are mostly Mars Yellow, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, and Perylene Maroon. The red dots are Transparent Pyrrol Orange. There’s a bit of Green Gold in there too. I started this on location and finished it at home.
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