84 Charterhouse Street, EC1

This building is at the junction of Charterhouse Street and Albermarle Way.

84 Charterhouse St, 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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The Crown Tavern EC1

Here is The Crown Tavern in Clerkenwell Green.

The pub frontage dates from 1900, according to the historic buildings listing1. The building is Grade II listed. There has been a pub here for a lot longer than that, though. A Freemasons Meeting here is recorded in 17862

The Crown Tavern EC1, sketched 9th June 2021, 12 noon, 10″ x 8″ in Sketchbook 10.

I sketched the pub on a sunny Wednesday lunchtime. Building work was in progress on the site behind me. The cafés opposite were open and people were sitting outside.

I moved my position several times while sketching this. First I stood by a hoarding, where I had an unobstructed view and something to lean against. After 15 minutes a big car came and parked on the “Parking Suspended” bay in front of me. It was a mini-cab. It sat there, its engine idling. Will someone please explain to me why drivers leave their engines running while stationery? It was a beautiful pristine summer day. And now I had diesel fumes. I considered various courses of action, including abandoning the picture, remonstrating with the driver, or starting my picture again from the other side of the road. I did none of those things, but moved a few paces so to get fresher air and a better view of the top of the building. 15 minutes later, the mini-cab circled round Clerkenwell Green, and came to rest in a new place. I think they were avoiding the traffic warden, who had appeared on a bicycle.

I continued my drawing standing up and then moved to a nearby bench which did not have such a good view, but where I could do my watercolours a lot more easily.

The pub itself was dark and silent until suddenly, at 12 noon exactly, the lights came on and a person emerged and placed the menu board outside.

“Taken fromSt Paul’s letter…”

Under the lamp a beautiful piece of signwriting reads, in gold:

” Taken from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews Chapter 13 Verse 2″.

I could find no indication of what had been “taken from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews”. So back in my office I looked it up. Verse 2 reads:

“Forget not to shew love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”

This is my old school Bible “being the version set forth AD1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised”. Online, the New International Version gives “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”, which sorts out the double negatives a little better. But the thought that we might have ” … entertained angels unawares” is so succinct and entrancing that it stays in my mind as a beautiful image.

I finished off the drawing at my desk. The pub name is done in “pebeo drawing gum”. This is a synthetic rubber resist solution. I painted the letters with the drawing gum using a fine brush, on the white paper. It takes about 15 min to dry. Then I painted the dark background. Then that has to dry. Then I can rub off the drawing gum to reveal the white letters. It’s like magic.

The colours are, for the main picture: Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Fired Gold Ochre, Perylene Maroon, Mars Yellow, Lunar Earth. Lunar Earth is a strange granulating colour, it dries to a mosaic-like finish, which you can see in the brickwork of the pub.

I added highlights in Green Gold, Permanent Yellow Deep, and Transparent Pyrrol Orange. The pub lettering has some Iridescent Gold.

Here’s a map:

Sketch map showing the sightline of the drawing.

If you have been reading the Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling novel “Troubled Blood” then you will recognise these street names. The novel is wonderfully accurate in its geography.

I have drawn some other pubs and restaurants in this area:

Notes and references:

  1. The Crown Tavern Grade II listing is here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1195546
  2. Freemasons meeting is recorded in “Lane’s Masonic Records” here: https://www.dhi.ac.uk/lane/record.php?ID=1034

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:

St John Bar and Restaurant EC1

St John Bar and Restaurant EC1, 20 May 2021, 5pm. 8″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10.
A photo on location in the rain.

Yesterday I went out for a walk with my sketchbook. I sat on the edge of a low stone wall and started drawing St John Bar and Restaurant. Then the fine rain came. It was blustery and I thought it would blow over. It did not blow over. It became a maritime wind-blown spray. I protected my drawing as best I could with a screen made from a bag I was carrying. It didn’t protect it very well.

The ink I use is waterproof ink. This means that once dry, it does not run if water is added. The key phrase here is “once dry”. In the fine rain the ink didn’t have a chance to get dry. It was diluted as I put it on the paper, so my lines became a rather subtle grey, and somewhat blotchy.

…lines became a rather subtle grey, and somewhat blotchy…
…like drawing on blotting paper…

The paper I use is Arches Aquarelle. It is what is called “heavily sized”, which means it has substances added to make it partly water resistant. This is so that watercolours stay on the surface. This sizing has the useful consequence that rainwater beads on the surface, at least initially. This is not advertised in the description of the paper, but is useful for those of us who try to paint outdoors in the UK. After a while, however, it yielded. The rain penetrated. The paper became soft and absorbent, and the lines from my pen became blotchy, like drawing on blotting paper: possible, but you get some unwanted effects. It also became rather hard to see what I was doing. My glasses were wet with raindrops and are not equipped with windscreen wipers. So at that point I stood up and packed up. Rainwater fell off me in rivulets, dangerously close to the place where the sketchbook sheltered under the rucksack. This sketchbook contains earlier drawings done in watercolour. I had visions of the previous drawings becoming blotchy abstracts.

At home I laid everything out carefully on the floor to dry out. The paper admirably remained flat. The previous drawings were not damaged.

I dried out. Everything dried out. Then I added the colour.

This picture took 45 minutes on location, colour took another 45 mins at my desk. The colours are Phthalo Blue Turquoise, Perylene Maroon, Buff Titanium, Transparent Brown Oxide, Mars Yellow. For the tree leaves: Green Gold and Permanent Yellow Deep.

The Jugged Hare, from the Podium EC2

Here is the view looking North along Silk Street, from the Barbican Podium, next to Cromwell Tower.

The Jugged Hare from the Podium, 29 April 2021, 6pm, 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10

The buildings are, from left to right:

  • the operations centre of a bank, the building with the arch
  • The Jugged Hare, on the corner, with the pub sign
  • The Brewery, the red-brick building
  • Linklaters, a legal firm, on the right with the squarish windows.

On the sky line, the tall building is “HyLo” (or HiLo?) under construction on Bunhill Row, and the magnificent chimney of The Brewery.

In front of the chimney there is a whole superstructure on the roof of the Brewery which covers various industrial kitchen fans and ducts. These fans and ducts made a lot of noise, irritating neighbours. So last year they put a fence round, as you see in the picture in grey. Currently, both the Brewery and the Jugged Hare are closed, so it remains to be seen if the fence reduces the noise.

I drew this picture from the podium. Here is work in progress.

Here’s a rough sketch map, showing the viewpoint of the drawing.

Clock Tower, Caledonian Park

Here is a sketch of the marvellous Clock Tower, which is on the site of the former Metropolitan Market, now called Caledonian Park, N1.

Caledonian Park, Clock Tower. 9″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 9

We ran past this tower on a long run last weekend, and it was looking particularly splendid against the dark sky. I took a photo and later made this sketch.

This clock tower was the centre of the Metropolitan Cattle Market, opened in 1855. The tower was refurbished using a £2M lottery grant, in 2019, and was opened for public viewing.

The history of this market, park and tower are set out in the beautifully researched blog by “A London Inheritance”, in an article written in October 2015

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

The Eagle, 2 Shepherdess Walk

Here is The Eagle.

The Eagle from Shepherdess Walk

This is a very old pub, located at a significant junction on City Road.

In the picture above, the alley on the right of the pub is called “Shepherdess Place”. It leads to a police car park, and several office blocks. I went down there to draw a picture of The Eagle from the other side.

The Eagle from Shepherdess Place. The plants on the right are some sort of vine, climbing on, or falling off the building. In the background are the towers of the new development 250 City Road.

The Eagle is mentioned in the nursery rhyme. We used to sing it as children without the least idea what it meant.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice, 
half a pound of treacle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel
Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

This needs translation. I don’t know what the reference to “tuppenny rice” means. It could simply mean “rice” of course, but given that the rest of the song is in rhyming slang, I wonder what ‘Tuppenny rice’ might mean. Tuppenny is “two pence worth”. That would be old pennies, of course, pre-decimal.

“Treacle” is rhyming slang: “Treacle tart”. Hence “treacle” is an affectionate term for “woman”, or perhaps “female sex-worker”. I have been called “treacle” by the market traders where I used to live. It was a friendly kind of a word. “Weasel” is rhyming slang: “Weasel and stoat”, hence “coat”.

So my translation is:

A little bit for food, 
A little bit for the lady-friend
Then I don't have any money left
So I pawn my overcoat
Having visited the [betting?] shops on the City Road
and partaken of refreshment in the Eagle
I don't have any money left
So I pawn my overcoat
“Grecian Theatre Pleasure Grounds,
Grecian Saloon and Olympic Theatre”.

The Eagle was not just a pub. It was also a theatre. I wonder if the huge pitched roof I have drawn (top right in the second picture) covers a large hall. According to a plaque on the outside (pictured)

The Eagle Tavern, Grecian Theatre Pleasure Grounds, Grecian Saloon and Olympic Theatre, stood here 1825-1899. Here Marie Lloyd, music hall artiste, made her first public performance in 1885.

I wonder what “Grecian” meant in this context?

Here are some pictures of work in progress.

This junction is changing rapidly. The empty site on the other side of the road, an old bomb-site, now has construction vehicles in action. I took some photos just for the record, and found out a bit more about the site. See the page on this link if you are interested, and please comment if you know more.

Here are some other drawings I have done in the area:

Shepherdess Walk at City Road

This is at the junction of Shepherdess Walk and the City Road. 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 … Continue reading “Shepherdess Walk at City Road”

Gambier House from Shepherdess walk

Gambier House constructed 1968, 20 stories, 115 flats. Owned and managed by Islington. Planning proposal for external cladding, 18 Sept 2014. Eagle Dwelling 212 City Road, on the left of the picture, is a “specialist supported housing scheme for single homeless people who may also have additional complex needs”. It seems to be owned and managed … Continue reading “Gambier House from Shepherdess walk”

Courage on Nile St N1

This is the view looking West from the junction of Nile St and East St, in the borough of Hackney, London N1. I was leaning against a wall on a wide pavement, on the corner. I judged that I was easy to avoid there, and social distance could easily be maintained. In fact, there were … Continue reading “Courage on Nile St N1”

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