Here is the view from Graham St Garden, Finsbury, on the way to Kings Cross.
I sat on a bench dedicated to the memory of someone called Rick Clarke. It was a new bench, in a lovely position. May Rick Clarke rest in peace. I am grateful to those who knew him for putting the bench there.
Graham St is the extension of Central St northwards, and I was on my way north to Kings Cross to meet someone at the Skip Garden. But the Skip Garden was closed on Mondays, and my friend was waiting outside. We adjourned to the marvellous new development “Coal Drops Yard”. This is a 21st century adaptation of old coal sheds. The old sheds are turned into two levels of shops and restaurants, but in the modern way, old brickwork and chunks of Victorian cast iron are retained. Most spectacular is the roof.
The architects were Heatherwick Studio. On the right of the drawing people were experimenting with strange rotating chairs, also designed by Heatherwick Studio, and other people were watching them.
You see Galway Street on the crease of the map, in the centre about a quarter of the way down. Below it, to the right is the “Bank Printing Works”.
In 1959 the London County Council sought to purchase the Printing Works site and use it as an annexe to Covent Garden. This was opposed by Michael Cliffe, MP for Finsbury and Shoreditch, on the grounds that it would create unacceptable traffic congestion, especially at the Old Street Roundabout.
Mr Cliffe is quoted in Hansard:
“…London County Council (General Powers) Bill, …. The Council, through the Bill, sought powers to acquire and redevelop St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe of Covent Garden Market….. I would ask the Minister what is the point of spending millions of pounds in trying to solve the problem of congestion in Central London if we are to convert the St. Luke’s Printing Works as an annexe to Covent Garden in an area where we know it must inevitably cause the kind of congestion that we are trying to avoid and which we are discussing every day. As the number of vehicles increases, further problems will have to be solved. Surely we do not want to create further difficulties after our experience gained in the past?” [Hansard: HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1738-47]
Mr Cliffe must have prevailed. I feel an affinity with him because earlier this week I drew Michael Cliffe House.
The Printing Works building was demolished in 1963. At around that time Finsbury Council was building council houses, including the 4 tower blocks in the area: Gambier House, Grayson House, Godfrey House and Galway House. So somehow the Council must have acquired the Print Works site. I can’t find the history online so I’m going to visit the London Metropolitan Archives and the Islington Museum.
The Towers also were allocated to different Estates: Galway is in the “St Luke’s Estate” which includes the Printing works Site, Gambier is in the City Road Estate and Grayson and Galway are in the Pleydell Estate.
From “Streets with a story, The book of Islington” (1986) by Eric A Willats FLA I learn that: “Messrs. Emberton, Franck & Tardrew were the architects of Galway House (Pleydell Estate)”.
Here is Michael Cliffe House, in the Finsbury Estate, from Tysoe Street.
The lower level block in the low centre of the picture is Joseph Trotter Close, also part of the Finsbury Estate.
While I was drawing the picture a man came and told me that he had seen the original architect’s drawing of this low level block. In the architect’s vision it was “sleek and wonderful”. But the man said the reality was very different. The concrete had worn badly and the building had not succeeded, in his opinion.
Earlier a woman came when I was at the pen-and-ink stage. She said that her 11 year old grandson had started painting, which pleased her very much. She bought paints for him. I asked if she painted too. She said no, but she was inspired by her grandson and might now have a go herself. “After all,” she said, ” he just paints anything, and I could do that too!”. I agreed.
The drawing took two hours. After I finished I went to have a look at Joseph Trotter Close. I saw a low-level set of bungalows, all very much inhabited, with children’s play things and outdoor chairs on the lawn. It may not be sleek, but it looked as though people enjoyed living there.
The entrance to Michael Cliffe House was cramped and congested, with cars manoeuvring awkwardly and a dark, obscured, entrance. Lovely typeface though.
The real surprise was inside the entrance. There, uncelebrated in the underpass, were some amazing mosaics of dancers.
Michael Cliffe (1903-1964) was a Labour councillor for Finsbury, Mayor of Finsbury (1956-7), and an active Labour MP (1958-64).
The Finsbury Estate was built by Finsbury Borough Council in 1965. The architects were Emberton, Franck & Tardrew. Finsbury Borough council was absorbed by Islington.
Later note (7th Feb 2019): There is detailed information on the Finsbury Estate on “British History online” – try this link, which starts with a history of Spa Green, and goes on to describe the Finsbury Estate.
On the right is Godfrey House, Bath Street, Islington, part of the St Luke’s Estate managed by the London Borough of Islington. It’s former “council housing” built in 1965. Today many of the flats are privately owned, as is evident from the number listed for sale.
On the left is the Atlas Building, on City Road, nearing completion. Atlas is taller than Godfrey House, but further away. Atlas Building is 52 floors, of which 38 are residential, Godfrey House is 21 floors.
“Atlas epitomises luxury-living in an exciting and vibrant urban landscape. Standing tall with 38 residential floors of exquisite apartments, Atlas stretches across London’s prominent skyline” (from the Atlas Building website)
In the foreground is the roof of Saint Luke’s Church of England School.
I drew this picture sitting on a stone in Radnor Street Gardens, off Lizard Street. After a while I noticed that the place smelt of dog excrement. It has rained recently, after a dry spell.
At 6pm a personal training session started behind me. A large man was training a slim woman. They were doing kick-boxing. Between rounds, she told him about government procedures to find out about your earned income, and thus check your tax payments. They can access your bank accounts, she warned him. He laughed and said, “Hey, that’s not making me feel good. I thought you’d have some good news for me.”
“Tower Block UKis a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, bringing together public engagement and an openly-licensed image archive in an attempt to emphasise the social and architectural importance of tower blocks, and to frame multi-storey social housing as a coherent and accessible nationwide heritage.”
Here is a link to a Freedom of Information request which gives a very detailed map of the estates in Islington (2010): FOI request from Mr I Agar
I continue to work on my “Towers Project”. The idea is to document the towers of Finsbury, Islington and Camden, or at least the ones I can see from my window.
I did a “Skyline” previously which you can see on this link.
Here are two smaller etchings, Towers East and Towers West, both 10.5cm by 15cm. I finished Towers West yesterday.
These two together form a panorama. I used Towers East in a Chine Collé course. See this link.
The two prominent towers at the front are part of a Peabody Estate, the “Roscoe Estate” on Roscoe Street. The one on the left is “Peabody Tower” and the one on the right is “St Mary’s Tower”. The low house at the very front on the left is Fortune House, on Fortune Street. I have drawn Peabody Tower in an urban sketch, see this link.
These etchings are aquatint on copper. Here is work in progress on “Towers West”.
Drawing “Towers West” on hard ground using an etching spike.
“Towers West” print: hard ground etching
I drew the picture in hard ground using an etching spike, then etched it in acid called “Edinburgh Etch” for 20minutes. The resulting print is shown above on the right.
Then I put resin dust, called Aquatint, on the plate, and set it with a gas burner. I paint varnish on top of the Aquatint, to make the shapes, then dip in acid, then paint more, then dip. Towers West is 6 dips. The sky is a technique called “spit bite”: I just paint the acid on, wait 20 seconds, and wash it off.