Britannic House and Angel Court

Here is a view of Britannic House, 1 Finsbury Circus, from the back entrance of Moorgate Station.


It was 5 degrees C. I was standing outside 45 Moorfields, at the junction with New Union Street.

Behind the blue hoardings is the Crossrail site. When the buildings above Crossrail are finished, this view will have gone.

As I was drawing, young people emerged at intervals from Moorgate Station, pointing their mobile phones like laser guns. They glanced up from the screen, and chose New Union Street. This is a poor choice. New Union Street doesn’t go anywhere you want to go. It joins Moor Lane about half way along Willoughby House in the Barbican. Then you have to turn either left or right. Either way is a long draughty walk.

Nobody asks for directions these days. Eventually a young woman hesitated. My curiosity overcame me. I asked if she needed directions. “No”, she said, “I’m just going to “Bad Egg”. It’s that way, isn’t it?” She pointed down New Union Street, no doubt following the advice of her phone. “Well, no,” I said, “You’re best off going this other way, and across the Piazza”. She looked doubtful, and glanced again at her phone as if asking it for permission. But she followed my instructions. She will get there ahead of the people in front who are walking three sides of a square. The phone doesn’t know about the Piazza in front of City Point, which is where “Bad Egg” is located. “Bad Egg” is a very noisy restaurant. I walk past it on the way to Moorgate.

I carried on drawing. More young people emerged and set off down New Union Street. I let them go. Then a woman emerged and walked in the other direction, pointing her phone at the Moorgate Crossrail site. She kept walking until she was right close to the hoardings, and then stopped. She looked accusingly at the hoardings. They should not be there. She should be able to walk south unimpeded. But there is a huge Crossrail site in the way. Evidently this feature was not apparent on the online map. She rotated gently, but still the reality on her phone refused to match the reality on the ground. She made an impatient gesture and walked out of sight, towards Moorgate.

After I finished the drawing I wondered what the tower was that is behind Britannic House. So I walked in that direction, and found it is “Angel Court Bank”, a multi-use office space.

It soars up, planted in a very ancient part of the city, near the Bank of England. Angel Court itself is an alley way which joins Copthall Avenue with Lothbury.

I liked the disjunction between the smooth modern architecture and the decorated banking halls on the other side of the alley. The black thing on the pavement is a hunk of black granite intended as a bench. It has slots cut in the side to stop skateboarders using it as a jump.


In this picture you see the modern tower “angel court bank” on the left. It is also called “One Angel Court”. It slopes outwards, as you see, and is totally smooth, made of curved glass, which must have been really hard to assemble. On the other side of the street are old banking halls, once grand. Number 11 is the one which is ornate, in the centre of the picture. It is dilapidated, apparently empty. Its pillars really are green and white marble, albeit that one of them is held together with a rusty iron band. On the right of the picture is Numbers 9-10. I was surprised to see the bikes locked to its iron railings, as this practice is generally frowned on, and bikes are cut down. This building also looks empty, but a notice in the window declared that it was inhabited by “live-in guardians”. A note on the letter box instructed the Royal Mail where to put the post for residents. The bikes, evidently, belonged to the live-in guardians. They have great place to live, for the time being.

I was really cold by this time and my eyes were streaming. So I came home.

I have down Britannic House before:

1 Finsbury Circus, across the Crossrail site


Here’s a bit, from the “Open House” site, on Angel Court:

Original design
Fletcher Priest Architects, 2017
Fletcher Priest Architects, 2017
Restaurant/bar, Offices
  • Overview

    Fletcher Priest has completed Angel Court for Mitsui Fudosan UK and development partner Stanhope. The last tower of the ‘first generation’ of tall buildings in the Bank of England Conservation Area, Angel Court is located at heart of the City’s financial district.

  • Refurbished

    Extensive studies were initially carried out to examine new-build, re-build and refurbishment options for the 1970s structure before it was decided to replace all but the core and foundations of this 25-storey building, increasing the net area by 60%. The new tower hovers above pedestrianised Angel Court, formerly a cut-through from Lothbury to Copthall Avenue, now improved to create 40% more public realm.

  • The Translucent Building

    The most noticeable aspect of the tower is its skin, which flows as a softly curved homogenous surface around the walls and roof of the original octagonal form. During the day, glimpsed through the close-knit grain of the City’s streets, its translucency gives it a distinctive, light presence. These effects come from a double frit, a ceramic dot baked onto the glass surface, which allows views from inside to out and offsets solar gain. The sculpted lower garden floor buildings with deep-set windows faced in rough-hewn Carlow Blue limestone sit comfortably in their context and contrast with the softly curved tower. At night, the tower transforms to reveal a simple square grid to match the lower buildings, unifying the whole composition.




St Giles and Bastion House

Today Urban Sketchers London held a “sketch crawl” in the Barbican. So I joined them. An astonishing number and diversity of people assembled inside the entrance of the Barbican Centre at the appointed time of 11am. I counted about 35 and then another dozen or so joined. All shapes and sizes of people, tall, short, studious-looking or flamboyant, quiet or talkative, smart or windblown, old or young, all were there. I knew I was at the right place because everyone had a very obvious “drawing bag” or rucksack, and some were sporting a neat red Urban Sketch London badge.


A few words and then off we all dispersed. To my surprise I found a good place very quickly. A wall, at ground level, looking over the Lakeside Terrace and St Giles. I liked the way St Giles was surrounded by Bastion House, and framed by the massive concrete of Gilbert Bridge. I also thought I would be sheltered from the wind. I was wrong about that. In fact, the location seemed to be at the bottleneck of a wind-funnel, and at times the wind was painful, as well as being very inconvenient for my drawing materials, which shifted about and jumped down off the wall.


Another Urban Sketcher came up and elected to draw the same view. She had an interesting concertina type sketch book, which she said was her “collage sketchbook”. The wind very soon got under that and unravelled the concertina right across the walkway. She got it under control though, and finished her sketch. She was doing a number of sketches in different locations. I did just the one.

I finished it at 12:50. By that time I was thoroughly cold, and glad to go back inside the Barbican Centre. All the levels were by now densely populated with people participating in all sorts of events. The Urban Sketchers, by some alchemy, found each other again and we put up our sketch books for everyone to see.

Everyone’s sketches were of interest. People had done very different things. I suppose that’s obvious, but it was startling how different they were. One person had made very precise and delicate engineering drawings of brackets. Another had a wonderful atmospheric wash of the church. Someone else had done the fountains and their environment, in firm black lines against a shadowy orange background with white water. Others had outline drawings in crayon, or detailed drawings in sepia ink, and someone had done a sketch on their iPad.

One of the organisers made a panoramic film of the drawings so I look forward to seeing them on the Urban Sketch London website.

It was a good experience and I’ll aim to go to another later in the year.

Great Arthur House from the Barbican Podium

Here is Great Arthur House from the podium ramp near Blake Tower. You can see Blake Tower on the left. At the bottom of the picture is the ramp that goes down into the Car Park at Bunyan Court.

Several stories below me, at ground level, there was an assortment of discarded furniture and paint tins, and a huge skip full of Christmas Trees being collected for recycling.



It was really cold out there. I saw a black cat sliding in between the debris.

This picture done on Fabriano Artistico loose sheet,  8inches by 10 inches. About an hour, on location.


St Bartholomew the Less – etchings

This morning I made an etching based on a sketch of St Bartholomew the Less.


Here’s the original sketch, which was made from the top of Maggie’s Centre in St Bartholomew’s hospital, by kind permission of the staff of the Centre.

The sketch was to explore the proportions, before making the more detailed watercolour drawings on this post:

St Bartholomew the Less

I thought the sketch was rather lively and might make a good etching. Here’s the copper plate I made:

And here are some of today’s prints: (click to enlarge)

The plate needs a bit more work I think. The background could be darker and perhaps some shading on the tower itself. My idea is that I will print it with perhaps chine-collé. So I want to keep the design simple.

I just had the morning at the print studio today.

The paper is Chinese paper from Great Art. Numbers 11369 (soft), and 11565 (white, with a slight grid). The ink is Intaglio Printmaker Shop Mix Bone Black. The plate is 10cmx15cm copper plate from Great Art, which I prepared with hard ground 28 June 2018. I used the Rochard press at East London Printmakers.


St Bartholomew the Less

St Bartholomew the Less is a Chapel of Ease in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City. It’s just to the right of the main entrance from Smithfield.  You might not notice the door in the wall. Sometimes they put a board outside. I’ve been in a number of times. It’s a very peaceful, welcoming, place. Somehow, one feels the need to visit a place of prayer before, or after, a hospital visit.

I was invited to draw pictures of the church. The City Music Foundation, a charity, wants to use my pictures in its publicity. They are going to be based in St Bartholomew the Less. So the Managing Director of the Foundation, Clare Taylor, contacted me. She’d seen the pictures I’d done of The Charterhouse.

Here are the first two pictures of St Bartholomew the Less:

It was founded in 1123, by Rahere, a “courtier of Henry I“, according to the leaflet. The tower dates from the 15th century. “The three bells in the tower include one dating from 1380 and another from 1420” says the leaflet. I was interested in Rahere, because there is a Rahere St and a Rahere House which I have drawn.

Since the Foundation is a music foundation, I thought it would be a fun idea to draw the bells. By kind permission of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), whose representative efficiently produced a key, I was able to go up into the belfry. Bells, I found, are not so easy to draw as you might think. Like the human form, they have curves. And unless you get the curves exactly right, they look like a different character. Also, the belfry contained not only very ancient bells, but also 600 years of dust. It was indescribably dirty. But amazing. And very quiet inside, with all the noise going on outside. I wedged myself into the wooden frame, braced my back against a metal rod, and got started.

The platform into which I was wedged was not very big. I manoeuvred very slowly because I didn’t want to knock anything, such as a paintbrush, down into the depths. The best medium seemed to be black ink. Ink is a bit dodgy to manage at the best of times. But keeping it upright on an ancient wooden raft, in the semi-darkness, verged on the farcical. No-one was there to sympathise, except the bells, and they’d seen it all before.



Welsh Church and Great Arthur House

Here is the Welsh Jewin Church seen from Brackley Street.


This is one of those ephemeral views: a huge new building is about to go up behind the hoarding, and this view will be completely obscured.

The church is Eglwys Jewin, the Welsh Church. I have drawn it before, from Fortune Park. Here’s the link – Eglwys Jewin from Fortune Park

Map showing Golden Lane Estate. credit: Wikipedia.

In the background is Great Arthur House, on the Golden Lane Estate. This estate was designed by Chamberlain Powell and Bon, before they did the Barbican Estate.

As I was drawing, a man came and told me about Great Arthur Tower. It was the tallest residential building at the time of its completion (1957).  At the top is that strange construction which I was told was described by the architects as a “brise de soleil”, a sun shade. Nicholas Pevsner, the architectural writer, was scathing about it, saying that there wasn’t much sun. However, as the man and I agreed, today was very sunny, and the sun shade was needed.

Great Arthur House has recently been refurbished.

“JRA has designed the new curtain walling to replace the original cladding, mirroring the bright yellow panels that have distinguished it since the 1950s. The Grade II listed residential tower had become environmentally inefficient in recent years leading to the residents’ discomfort due to water ingress, heat loss and condensation. Replacement curtain walls for the West and East elevations, double glazed timber balcony doors, external redecorations, localised external concrete repairs, and a cleaning and maintenance system for the new façade are also being provided to help revive the landmark building.” JRA website, 30th Sept 2016

Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 19.13.00

And then insulation was removed after the Grenfell Tower fire. Here’s a cutting from CityMatters, the local paper:

As I was packing up a woman came and asked, “Can I be curious?” I said she could indeed, and showed her the picture, which she admired. She looked at other pictures in the book, including one of Peabody Tower. “I look at that, from my window”, she said, “I’d love to live there. I see a balcony with flowers….”. I said it was called Peabody Tower, and the other, similar one was St Mary’s Tower. “Oh! Are they Peabody buildings?” she asked. I said they were, part of the Banner Estate. She lives in Tudor Rose Court. This is the building on the left of the picture, in yellow brick. She’d just been to see a film. She found the ticket to show me the title. It was “Distant Voices, Still Lives”, about a family in Liverpool, she told me. She loves Liverpool.

This picture drawn and coloured on location, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.


1 Finsbury Circus, across the Crossrail site

Here is the building 1 Finsbury Circus, called “Britannia House”:

“Fronting the northwest quadrant of the oval, with fronts on roads entering the Circus from the west stands Edwin Lutyens’s massive Britannic House (1921–25, listed Grade II), designed for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which became BP; its free-standing architectural sculptures are by Francis Derwent Wood. It was built on the site of the last remaining original houses, and is now home to international law firm Stephenson Harwood.” (Wikipedia)

Behind it, buildings under construction on Bishopsgate, and the Gherkin on the right.


I enjoyed the contrast between the careful detail on the Lutyens building (1920s), and the more brutal façades of the 21st century buildings. The totally functional windows of the temporary construction buildings are in front.

The black thing on the left is some sort of storage tank.

Drawn from the Barbican podium, looking East across the Moorgate Crossrail site.

About 1 hour.

Here is another drawing of the Crossrail site I did a while back, showing the bridge across New Union Street:


This bridge is due to be removed:

CityAM 22nd January 2019