3-5 St John Street – William Harris

These glorious buildings are at the south end of St John’s Street. This is the view looking north from the Smithfield Meat Market, Central Avenue.

3-5 St John St EC1, 18th March 2022 3:30pm, in Sketchbook 11

It’s a busy corner. I tried to show some the street life: couriers cycling, people sitting at the café, and people, like me, standing and looking. A little further up St John Street, on the right, is construction work.

There was a blue sky as I drew. But do not be deceived: it was cold, as you see from the person on the right, hunched under their coat.

Here is a work-in-progress photo and a map:

This is an ornate buildings: lots of fluting and complicated brickwork. Who thought all that was a good idea? Who could afford it? Number 1, on the left, slightly more restrained, was built for a Frederick Goodspeed, a grocer, in the mid 1880s. The architect was S.C. Aubrey. (reference 1 below)

Numbers 3-5, the building on the corner, has chimneys with all kinds of complicated brickwork, and a highly decorative frontage onto Smithfield. It was built in 1897 for William Harris, the “Sausage King”. He was a sausage manufacturer, and proprietor of a chain of restaurants specialising in sausage and mash. Mr Harris was evidently quite a character. He named all his three sons William, and all his four daughters Elizabeth (reference 2 below). This may have had practical problems, but it meant he and his sons could have fun with the Magistrates:

Woolwich Gazette – Friday 10 November 1905 from “https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk”

The “Sausage King” was somewhat eccentric, but this was to a large extent due to his love of “personal advertising,” which was his motto for business success. At all times of the day he wore a sort of evening dress, with an opera hat, and a blazing diamond in his white shirt, even when buying in the market, and he used not a scrap of writing or wrapping paper that did not bear his photograph. His trade mark, which he registered about forty years ago, depicts him winning the “Pork Sausage Derby” on a fat porker. His principal catch-phrase was “Harris’s sausages are the best,” and it spread the fame of his sausages all over the world. He also composed a lot of poetic advertisements, which caused much amusement.

This snippet from “London Standard, via the Montreal Gazette, 3 May 1912” reporting his death (reference 2).

He died in April 1912, leaving a considerable fortune. His death was reported far and wide, including papers in many parts of England and Ireland.

London Evening Standard – Thursday 06 June 1912 from “https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk”.

Note the reference to “William Harris No. 2”, that is, his second son, to whom he left all his property. I wonder what all the other sons thought – and the four daughters?

I am glad that the flamboyant house of this extraordinary man still stands. The architect was Francis John Hames, who also designed Leicester Town Hall. So you see what kind of league Mr Harris was in.

Reference 1: Thanks to British History Online who alerted me to The Sausage King: ‘St John Street: Introduction; west side’, in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell, ed. Philip Temple (London, 2008), pp. 203-221. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp203-221 [accessed 8 April 2022].

Reference 2: The piece from the Montreal Gazette is online at https://charlespearce.org/people/william-harris.html

I have drawn extensively in this area, both in St John St and around the meat market.

Here are my drawings of and around Smithfield meat market:

Langton Arms, Norman St, EC1

In the late afternoon, I walked round a corner near St Luke’s, and noticed the pub sign.

Langton Arms, Norman Street, EC1 sketched 29 Jan 2022, 4:15pm, in Sketchbook 11

The pub closed sometime around 1989, according to https://pubwiki.co.uk. It is now residential flats.

The pub was in existence in 1842, according to “closedpubs.co.uk”. There was a nearby Langton Street, shown on a map from the British Library dated 1901. The Langton Arms is marked “PH”.

1901 map. Langton Arms circled. Insurance Plan of London North District Vol. D: sheet 17 (British Library) Shelf mark: Maps 145.b.23.(.d)

See how dense the housing was in this area in 1901. Here is the same area today. Langton Street has disappeared.

Norman Street area, 2022 (c) Open StreetMap, Langton Arms circled
Pub sign today

I sketched the closed-down pub at around 4:30pm, as the light faded. The pub sign is still there, but eaten away at the lower edge now. The street sign “Norman Street” is the same one as shown in a photo from 1958. It has “Borough of Finsbury” written above the street name. The Borough of Finsbury was absorbed into Islington in 1965.

This picture is a story of vanishing: vanishing street, eaten away pub sign, closed down pub, a missing borough, sun setting in January. Behind me as I sketched I could hear the squeak of gym shoes on hard floors, the other side of the closed steel doors to Finsbury Leisure Centre.

84 Clerkenwell Road, EC1

This building is at the junction of Clerkenwell Road and Albermarle Way.

84 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M, 21st January 2022, 14:30, 7″x 10″ in Sketchbook 11

The land, on the recently established Clerkenwell Road, was bought in 1879 by a jeweller, Edward Culver, who funded a new factory for his business on in this rapidly developing area. The building cost £11,ooo, and was finished in October 1879. His business occupied it until about 1894. (from British History online, see Note 1)

In 1915, the ground floor and basement were converted for use by the “London County & Westminster Bank” (Note 1). This turned out to be a long tenancy. A photo in the London Picture Archives shows that a descendant of the same bank, the National Westminster Bank, was there in 1976. (Notes 2 and 3).

The ground floor is now a design company, “Frem”. Before that, it was a hairdressers. The building is labelled “The Printworks” but I am unable to discover when, or indeed if, it was a printworks.

I sketched the building from the corner of the Clerkenwell Road and St John’s Lane. On the other side of the road, I saw a man come and lay out a large flexible chess mat on the stone bench in St John’s Square.

Later, a woman appeared at my elbow carrying a green metal chair. “Would you like to sit down while you draw?” she asked. I would indeed. She told me she was from the café just up the road. Very grateful, I sat down and continued sketching. By the time I’d finished the pen sketch, there were several dozen people clustered round the bench in St John’s Square. There were now many chess sets laid out. And I was very cold.

Roni’s Cafe: warm and friendly

I picked up the green chair and went to the café to give it back. It was warm and friendly in there, so I stopped for a coffee. I learned that the chess players come every Saturday. First there were just a few, now there are dozens. The youngest is 7 years old. As I drank my coffee, some of the chess players came into the café, hopping from one leg to the other with the cold, as I had done earlier. They bought takeaway coffee or hot chocolate, left a phone to charge up by the till, and took off again to join the fray.

The friendly proprietor of the café admired my picture and pointed out that I could see the building, if I took a certain table by the window. “Then you can do the colour”, she said. I could. She brought a cup of water, a porcelain saucer, and a large amount of paper towel. This is a lady who knows what watercolour painters need. A mug of tea arrived as well. Comfortable and warm, I continued my sketch.

If some of these road names seem familiar to you, it might be because this area is the setting for much of the story in the novel “Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling.

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Note 1: 84 Clerkenwell Road, early history: ‘Clerkenwell Road’, in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell, ed. Philip Temple (London, 2008), pp. 385-406. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp385-406 [accessed 22 January 2022].

Note 2: 1976 photo: London Picture Archive, Record 60792, on this link

Note 3: NatWest Group has an excellent History section on its website: https://www.natwestgroup.com/heritage.html?intcam=. The current “NatWest” is the result of the acquisition of over 250 banks over several centuries. The London County and Westminster Bank was one of them.

London & Westminster Bank Ltd (1833-1909) opened in 1834 with a head office at 38 Throgmorton Street and a branch at 9 Waterloo Place. It acquired a succession of other banks, then in 1909 it amalgamated with London & County Banking Co to form London County & Westminster Bank Ltd. London County and Westminster Bank underwent a number of amalgamations and mergers, notably merging with the National Provincial Bank in 1968 eventually to form the National Westminster Bank in 1970.

Guinness Court, Lever Street, EC1

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:

Guinness Court, Lever Street, EC1 24th November 2021, 10:45am.

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:

“Lever Street, Finsbury, 1950” from: https://history.guinnesspartnership.com/the-origins/

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:

Sketches in Finsbury:

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31 Central Street, EC1

This house is on the corner of Central Street and Gee St, London EC1.

31 Central Street, EC1. Sketched 2nd June 2021 on location, 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10

It was a lovely sunny day. I enjoyed the shadows on the house. When I sat down on the wall and got myself organised to sketch I found I had some startling shadows on my page.

While I was drawing, two people came up and chatted to me at different times. A man came, whose young son is a gifted cartoonist and illustrator. We talked about different styles of drawing, and how his son might develop his talent. Later a woman stopped to talk. She used to be an artist herself. She was interested to know why I was drawing that particular house. These people both preserved a respectful distance, but still chatted and appreciated the drawing. I am happy that people are talking again.

Here are some snapshots of work in progress and the location where I was drawing:

This drawing took about 2 hours, sketched and coloured on location.

The colours are: Mars Yellow, Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Perylene Maroon, Pink Rhodenite Genuine, Transparent Brown Oxide. The trees have some Green Apatite Genuine and Permanent Yellow Deep. There’s a Permanent Yellow Deep splatter across the leaves.

Here’s a sketchmap of the location:

Microsketching and memory

Here are some tiny sketches I made as a result of local walks. I have a small sketchbook, about 3½ inches by 5½ inches, the size of a big mobile phone. On my walks, I pause for a minute or so to notice a view, a detail. I make a few marks in the sketchbook, to remind me. Then when I get home, I make the sketch in watercolour, using the marks, and memory. I am trying to train my memory.

Here is the sketchbook:

It is from The Vintage Paper Company of Orkney. It was bound by Heather Dewick, @heatherthebookbinder on instagram. The paper is Saunders Waterford 200gsm Cold Pressed.

A nice small size for all occasions:

Colours are all Daniel Smith Watercolours. Pen is Sailor Reglus fountain pen with De Atramentis Black document ink (waterproof).

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell

Here is The Horseshoe, in Clerkenwell Close.

The Horseshoe, 24 Clerkenwell Close EC1

I enjoyed the way the pub is slotted into that corner space, amongst the taller buildings. The building behind it looks as though it might be older than the pub. The arched window-alcove to the left, above the car, has been partly obscured by the wall of the pub. The purpose of this alcove is unclear. It isn’t an ordinary window, and can’t let much light into the building as it is so recessed. It looks as though it might have had some industrial purpose.

And much is happening at roof level. On the right of the pub, high up, someone has made a roof garden. They have a glasshouse, and a weathervane in the shape of a whale. Behind that, even higher up, is a huge bridge-like construction, with arched supports, which looks as though it is a roof on top of a courtyard, behind the buildings I could see. Notice also the formidable collection of communications equipment: a satellite dish and three aerials near the whale, and on the building in the background there were at least two mobile phone masts, with antennae like loudspeakers, pointing in different directions.

The pub itself has a roof garden, with brightly coloured bunting and many flowerpots. I drew this picture yesterday, during Lockdown 2, so sadly it is closed. However it is going on my “After Lockdown” list.

Here are maps:

Here are sketches of work in progress, and some snapshots of the location. I did a preliminary sketch on brown paper, as you see. It was cold, 6 degrees C. I didn’t manage to finish the colour outdoors, but scuttled home to complete the detail in the warm.

This picture took about 1 hour 45 minutes on location, including a chat with a friend who passed by on his afternoon stroll. Then another half hour at home working on the colour detail. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Burnt Umber (DS), Mars Yellow (DS), Green Apatite Genuine (DS), Fired Red Ochre (DS), with some Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue to get the greys, and a few dots of Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Hansa Yellow Mid, and Green Gold (all DS). The picture is size 7 inches by 10 inches on Arches Aquarelle 300gsm watercolour paper, in a Wyvern sketchbook (Sketchbook 9)

This is one of an emerging series of drawings of pubs in the Clerkenwell area. Here are some others in the series:

The Sekforde, Clerkenwell

I sketched The Sekforde, sitting on a step on the other side of the road. The pub was closed today. It looked like a good pub. While I was sketching I received confirmation of this. Two portly men strolled past, paused, and asked me if I was waiting for the pub to open. I said … Continue reading “The Sekforde, Clerkenwell”

Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St

Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded. I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another … Continue reading “Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St”

Update:

I discovered this picture of the pub in 1972:

The Horseshoe, from https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp54-71

Shepherdess Walk at City Road

This is at the junction of Shepherdess Walk and the City Road.

Shepherdess Café, with Eagle Point and The Atlas Building in the background.

Just off the picture to the left is the Eagle pub. Both the Eagle pub and the narrow building I’ve drawn are remarkably dilapidated, given their location in a trendy part of town, right near Old Street Roundabout. I feel their existences are somewhat precarious. See the huge shiny towers, only a few hundred metres away.

But that building above the café has its dignity, for all that it is cracked, and its walls are leaning several degrees off the vertical. Its windows are surrounded by scrollwork and stucco. It is much used, and much modified. There is a spectacular network of pipes and conduits at the back of the building, and an impressive array of TV aerials and satellite dishes on the front.

The alley on the left of my drawing is Shepherdess Place.

Notices on Shepherdess Place.

The white stone in the brickwork tells us that this small street marks a parish boundary. It says “The Boundary of the Parish of St Luke Middlesex, Ths B Johnson, Rd Phillips, Church Wardens, 1864“, with an additional figure “1” whose meaning is obscure to me. Can we assume “Ths” is “Thomas” and “Rd” is Rudyard? The black notice confirms this boundary “St L-S 1893“, 29 years later.

See how lovely the brickwork is! All those pinks and browns!

Here is work in progress on the drawing and some maps.

Five different buses pass the spot where I was drawing. They all head North up Shepherdess Walk:

  • 21 to Newington Green
  • 271 to Highgate Village
  • 394 to Homerton Hospital
  • 141 to Palmers Green
  • 76 to Tottenham Hale

There is a police station next to the Eagle pub, offices and housing all around. Moorfields Eye Hospital is just across the City Road. It’s a busy corner. The Shepherdess Café was closed because of lockdown.

There are many colours in this picture, all Daniel Smith colours: Lunar Earth, Buff Titanium, Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue for the brickwork, Perylene Maroon is in there too, for the grey and black, and Mars Yellow and Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the street signs. This is in Sketchbook 9 on Arches Aquarelle 300g NOT paper. The picture is 10″ x 7″ and took 1hr30min approx.

Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St

Here is a sketch of The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, Clerkenwell, made as the light faded.

Jerusalem Tavern, 55 Britton St, 16 Nov 2020

I find this a particularly lovely building. The curves over the windows are semicircles and there is a pleasing symmetry to the upper floors. The semicircle over St John’s Passage exactly matches the door to its left, on another lovely house which has amazing tall windows on the first floor.

Britton Street was surprisingly lively on that Monday afternoon. There are offices along the street and people rushed in and out of doors, or came and stood on the pavement smoking. Delivery drivers were the main traffic, both vans and bicycles. They all seemed to know each other. A package was delivered to the office next to me. A woman came out to receive it. It was evidently expected. The driver returned to his van, and sorted more packages inside.

Here are some work in progress pictures and a map. I have just finished reading “Troubled Blood” by Robert Galbraith. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that much of the action takes place in these streets in Clerkenwell. As far as I can work out, all the streets mentioned in the book exist, and the routes described are realistic.

This drawing took about an hour. The colours are: for the walls – Fired Gold Ochre (DS), Mars Yellow (DS) and Phthalo Turquoise (W&N) , for the light in the windows Hansa Yellow Mid (DS). The drawing is 7″ x 10″, done in a sketchbook on 300gsm Arches Aquarelle Paper.

While I was drawing, I detected a movement in my peripheral vision. A spider of alarming size was climbing the wall against which I was leaning. It was making little spurts across each brick, then secreting itself into the mortar, trying to become invisible, before making its next jump. As I watched, it turned around meaningfully, and started heading down towards my rucksack, which was upright on the pavement, open, leaning against the brickwork like a spider-catching bucket. I moved the rucksack, and closed its flap. I was more-than-usually disconcerted, because we had been watching “Dr No” the previous night. I could recall rather too vividly that scene of the poisonous spider which crawls on James Bond while he is sleeping. I stood away from the wall, and monitored the spider’s progress. I did not have long to wait. It reached pavement level, no doubt disappointed that the bright yellow rucksack had somehow disappeared. Then it went into a pavement-level crack to decide what to do next. I decided to stop worrying about it.

To see the spider, scroll down – if you dare. Trigger warning: SPIDER.

Spider. It is about half the height of a house brick. Those are bricks on the wall, against which I was leaning.

Horizon panorama

Some time ago, I was given a Japanese sketchbook, which was in the form of a concertina of doubled paper. In the last few days I drew the world outside, as seen from the windows of this flat. It’s about a 270 degree view, mostly over West and North London.

During these days of indoor confinement, the weather outside has been beautiful. Stunning blue skies. So I put that in using Phthalocyanine Turquoise watercolour.

Then I made a videos. The first one, with the pointer, has an audio commentary. It’s quite quiet, you may need to turn the sound up. The second one is silent. This is the first time I’ve put videos on this site. Let me know if it works.

I added written captions also, as you see in the second video.

Here are still pictures from the panorama with captions.

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