Marlow House, Hallfield Estate

The Hallfield Estate is a modernist estate in Bayswater, W2 6EH. It’s a short walk south from Royal Oak Station on the Hammersmith and City Line.

It was constructed in the 1950s, to a design of Berthhold Lubetkin. The construction was supervised by Lindsey Drake and Denys Lasdun. Now it’s Grade 2 listed. Here’s what the listing says:

Reasons for Designation

The fourteen blocks and laundry at Hallfield Estate are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Architectural interest: a sophisticated and distinctive aesthetic approach to social housing, whereby the facades are treated like works of abstract art;

  • Planning: the estate fulfilled its brief to provide mass housing and open space in a crowded urban borough, in a plan inspired by Le Corbusier’s ‘Radiant City’

  • Authorship: designed by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton, and constructed under the supervision of Lindsay Drake and Denys Lasdun, the estate is the work of some of the C20’s most significant architects;

  • Historic interest: a seminal post-war housing estate that was widely exhibited and published, and provoked divergent contemporary responses which illuminate post-war architectural theory.

Here is a sketch of Marlow House. I drew it standing on a strange hummock, a small hill, inside the estate near the Battle Bridge Road.


“The estate presents a convincing riposte to criticism that postwar council housing is grey, drab and utilitarian. At Hallfield, the exteriors of each block are treated like works of abstract art – some are patterned with a chequerboard of blue and red brickwork; others have a zigzagging screen of white concrete panels. The estate now exists amongst an elite group of 16 listed post warhousing estates estate in London – estates that are successful as places to live and are cared for by their residents.” Hannah Parham, the English Heritage Designation Advisor (2011).

Shown in my picture is the “zigzagging screen of white concrete panels”.

The gardens were beautiful, and well maintained. The buildings themselves are showing signs of wear. Tiles are chipped and cracked at the edges, and staircases look covered in soot from a previous era. But it’s still a stately collection of buildings. The white tiling is a work of art. On Marlowe House, the frame of the building is covered in ivory tiles, in squares of 25 tiles arranged in 5×5 grids, which are themselves arranged in a grid. So the effect is that of graph paper. I was impressed that these tiles are carefully made, and the edge ones are shaped, with rounded edges.

I also enjoyed the pillar, in the lower left of my drawing. It is fluted.

Fluted pillar. The lighting conductor rather mars the effect.

The stairwells are completely open. I could have gone up, but I didn’t. The postman did, however. While I was drawing I saw him doing his rounds, his black woollen hat moving along the balconies, passing behind the facade and down the stairs.

Here is a map and work in progress. Click to expand the picture.

Drawing took 1½ hours, drawn and coloured on location.

Gaslight in Guildhall Yard

There are quite a few gas lights in London. I aim to draw as many as possible before they are taken out of service. It’s quite remarkable that there are so many still in operation. This one is in Guildhall Yard, in the City of London. St Lawrence Jewry is in the background.

Gaslight, and St Lawrence Jewry, from Guildhall Buildings


Here is the gas light close up, drawn from Guildhall Yard, looking south.


Written on the little blue canister are the words:


It is a timing device. According to the marvellous website “Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History”,  in 1904 the Horstmann Gear Company patented….

“…the Solar Dial which automatically adjusted lighting times at dusk and dawn throughout the year. It was the start of nearly eighty years of Horstmann’s manufacturing involvement in the street lighting controls market.”

However before this innovation, the gas might have been lit by a person, because there is the arm for the ladder, as shown in my drawing. Perhaps that arm was always there, though, even after automation, in case someone needed to inspect the light. The North face of the light, the one shown in my picture, includes hinges on the left, and evidently could be opened.

I do not know if this light still functions. I shall take a diversion that way in the night, and let you know.*

I have drawn another local gas light, which does still function, off King Edward Street.


All pictures drawn and coloured on location. Pen and wash.

*Update: It works!

06:45 15th October 2019, Guildhall Buildings


Canterbury Cathedral Cloisters

There’s a lot of restoration work going on at Canterbury Cathedral at the moment. The ceiling of the main nave was covered up, and one of the towers was wrapped in scaffolding. Also, it being Sunday, a part of the nave was occupied, reasonably enough, with a service. There was much to see, notably the quiet and dimly lit crypt, where there are huge strong pillars, marvellous mathematical curves and stone carvings which delighted the medievalist amongst us.


I drew a picture from the cloisters.


It was perhaps unwise to start drawing those ogee* arches with their crocketing**, but I accepted the challenge. The building in the background is The Old Palace, which is the main residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was built between 1193 and 1228, and has been modified and restored since, most recently in 2006.

I drew this picture sitting on the stone surrounds of the cloisters.


Here are some maps to show where I was drawing.


Here is work in progress. The drawing took an hour, pen and ink and watercolour on location.


*ogee arches are arches with those fine points

**crocketing is the series of knobs which are often seen on spires and arches of gothic style buildings

Lincoln Cathedral

Here is a sketch of Lincoln Cathedral tower, drawn from the cloisters.


Lincoln Cathedral was originally built in 1072, as part of William the Conqueror’s programme of cathedral-building in England after his 1066 invasion.

It was partly destroyed in an earthquake in 1185. It might be more accurate to say that parts of the cathedral fell down at the time of the earthquake. The cathedral had construction faults, and the earthquake may well have triggered a collapse that was in any case imminent. The earthquake was something like 4 or 5 on the Richter scale. It’s interesting to note that such (natural) earthquakes are quite common in the UK and seem to happen every two years or so.

Then it was rebuilt in the current ornate style in around 1200.

We went on a tour. Here are some of my very quick sketches as our guide, Paul, took us around the cathedral.

After the tour I went to the cloisters and finished my picture of the tower. Here is work in progress.

We went to Lincoln by train. It was pouring with rain but we still enjoyed the cathedral. We shall go back when we can see the sun pouring through the stained glass windows.


See also my post on Durham Cathedral.


Urban Haiku

This little landscape book arrived. It arrived with a suggestion that it be used for poems or haiku, with illustrations.

The book is a gift from my Japanese friend and mentor, whose work can be seen on Instagram here. It is bound by hand, and contains very thin, fine paper, in a concertina, a zig-zag. In an attempt to honour the generous gift and the inspiration, I made some urban haiku, about September in London. Here they are.


My idea was to observe the following constraints. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, I am someone who finds constraints useful. Here’s the form I tried to follow:

  • 5-7-5 syllables
  • some, may be oblique, reference to the season
  • in the present tense
  • nature is in there

Post Office Tower (BT Tower)

Today we went up the Post Office Tower.

I have drawn the Post Office Tower from the outside.

For London “Open House” weekend the BT Tower runs a ballot (lottery) for tickets and chance had favoured us.

I drew the people.

Also I drew the view out of the window. The viewing platform rotates. So the view keeps shifting. Fast sketching required.



Here’s a link to to a previous post about the Post Office Tower:

The Post Office Tower from Lloyd Street WC1

Paul Street, Shoreditch

Shoreditch, in East London, is a mix of a place. In this view you see many of the constituents of the mix. IMG_3731

The staircase on the right is “Development House” 56-64 Leonard St. It is boarded up, and adorned with graffiti. It is not, however, empty. I saw several sets of people descend the stairs while I was drawing. It was not at all obvious what they were doing there. I could not tell if they were residents, security guards, architects, property investment professionals or graffiti artists.

There is an unremarked and very lovely statue on the side of Development House. It shows people helping each other climb a steep staircase. I can find out nothing about it. It’s an inspiring image. I hope it doesn’t get scrapped when the site is re-developed.*

The glorious brick wall on the left of the drawing is the back of a warehouse at 62/72 Tabernacle Street. It looks as though it might still be a warehouse, since the signboard at the front says “EMA Textiles”, and cardboard boxes are stacked behind the windows. Next to it, further left out of the picture, is 52-60 Tabernacle Street, which is also a warehouse, but that one has been renovated and all the brick is marvellously repointed and neat: “warehouse space to lease” says the notice.

The red brick building is on the opposite side of Tabernacle Street. It is “McQueen” which is a night club and bar. The gap between Development House and the nightclub is what looks like an old bomb site. It is now a car park, and is a sunken area, with remnants of walls, and buddlia bushes. It all looks rather provisional, but it’s been like that for years. Sometimes there is a dance venue in the sunken area. I’ve drawn in this area before. See this post:  Shoreditch skyline

The modern buildings in the background are “White Collar Factory” on the left, a multiple occupancy office space, and the Bezier Building on the right, with the flagpole or antenna. It doesn’t look like a flagpole.

The ecclesiastical building in the centre is part of the Central Foundation Boys School, a state school.

I drew this picture standing up overlooking the litter strewn area by Development House. While I was drawing, a horn bleeped. A car drew up, running its engine. The bleep had come from a motorbike behind the car. I saw to my astonishment that the back of the car was connected to the motorbike by a strap. The car was trying to tow the motorbike. This was obviously not working out well. They had stopped to reconsider. The motorcyclist dismounted and removed his helmet. Manoeuvring followed. I returned to my drawing. They tried this twice more before giving up.

When I’d finished the pen and ink I crossed the road to a little restaurant with wooden slatted tables outside. I gestured to the table, and smiled at two people of asian appearance behind the window.  They nodded and smiled and continued their dialogue with the mobile phone screen. I sat down and got out my watercolours. Before long, a smiling person appeared and asked what I wanted. I said tea. She said “Bubble tea?”. I did not know bubble tea. It was 4pm and I am English so I said “ordinary tea”. This caused her to nod, smile and disappear. She came back with a menu. I pointed to the only tea I recognised, which was “oolong tea”. “With sugar?” she said. I smiled and said no thankyou. I went on with my painting.

What appeared at my table was not what I expected. I was expecting a teapot, or a mug. Steaming. Hot. Fragrant. With a spoon, perhaps. No. What appeared was a bottle. Chilled. “Oolong tea, no sugar,” announced the server, placing the bottle ceremoniously on the table.  She smiled. I smiled. She went back inside. I cautiously opened the bottle. It was indeed tea. Cold tea in a bottle. Not what I expected, but pleasant, and plentiful.

Cold tea in a bottle.

The restaurant was “Buy and Bite: Popular Taiwanese Street Food”. A new experience for me. And only a short walk from home. The food looked really good. To try. Another time. Amazing London.

*Redevelopment of “Development House”

Online I found a planning application [Development House, 55-64 Leonard Street, London Borough of Hackney Local planning authority reference: 2017/4694] for demolition and rebuilding on this site, dated 2017. Here’s what the proposed building will look like:


But since the website declares “completion in 2018” and it is now 2019, there may be a subsequent scheme. Here’s an extract from the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris website.

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (architects)
Melvale Holding Ltd with client representative Darmouth Capital
The proposal for the new Development House will replace the tired and almost empty existing building with a new 100,000sqft per nine storey building of office with A1 activities at ground floor that will activate the frontage along Leonard Street and Circus.

Melvale Holding Limited is a company incorporated in Jersey, with a registered office in Jersey which has an address in common with a large number of other registered companies: Equity Trust (Jersey) Limited.  “Melvale Group”, which may well be related, describes itself as ” a diversified management, international trade, foreign direct investment and financial advisory consulting organisation and we work for both the Private and Public enterprises and institutions.”. But I am no further on. This Melvale Group has an address in Cobham in Surrey.

Dartmouth (not Darmouth) Capital is based in the City of London. They list “Development House” in their “portfolio”, and say about it, on their website:

The scheme prepared by local architect Waugh Thiselton is for an impressive new office development of circa 90,000 sq ft which will include ancillary retail space at ground floor level. The Shoreditch area is at the heart of the Technology, Media and Telecoms sector and enjoys demand for offices, particularly for unique buildings, and is a market with limited supply.

The scheme by Waugh Thiselton is quite different from the scheme above, and pre-dates it.  Here’s their 2016 proposal:


They say:

“This nine-storey timber-framed office block will be the tallest engineered timber building in London, and a beacon building for Shoreditch.”

They propose a whole lot of green and environmental ideas. But since the Allford Hall Monaghan Morris proposal is later, then that’s the one we’ll get, most likely. The street which goes back on the left of the building in their drawing is the one where I had my oolong tea, and did my drawing. None of these proposals say what is going to happen to the statue.