Old Kings Head, EC2

Here is the Old Kings Head, 28 Holywell Row, EC2A 4JB: ” a family-run retreat from the stresses of everyday life in the proximity of the almighty Silicon Roundabout” [oldkingshead.london]

The Old Kings Head, Shoreditch 26 November 2022 in Sketchbook 12

“Enjoy great beers, ales, spirits and, if you must, soft drinks in the friendliest, happiest, most traditional, greentiletastic and fantastically the least expensive pub in the area” continues their website.

I love “greentiletastic“. The green tiles are indeed fantastic: I have tried to show them in my drawing.

This pub is in a network of tiny streets running at all sorts of unexpected angles. As I sketched, I saw, more than once, an expensively dressed person trailing a carry-on size suitcase, picking their way over the broken paving stones and patched up tarmac, in unsuitable shoes. Usually they were a woman. Ill-advisedly, they were loosely holding their mobile phone and consulting it, while walking. I could not work out where these people were going, or where they came from. Evidently no-one had warned them of the possibility of mobile phone snatches. I wondered if I should do so. But while the thought crossed my mind, the person drifted on, towards Old Street, bearing a dreamy mystified expression, as though these piebald buildings did not quite correspond to the mental image they had of their destination, or, more likely, the street pattern did not correspond to the image on their mobile phone. They saw neither me, nor the pub, but seemed to exist in another reality.

This pub is old. According to “pubhistory.com” the earliest landlord was “James Taylor, victualler” in 1792. This is from insurance records in the Guildhall Library.

It sounds like a great pub.

I drew it standing outside the restaurant “Padella”, next to a narrow alley called “New North Place”. New North Place is the opposite of new, but it does go North. To my total astonishment, a huge lorry emerged from this tiny alley, and blocked my view. This is a common hazard sketching in London. It soon moved on though. I was impressed that the driver had ventured into the alley.

Sketchbook 12

The Griffin, 93 Leonard St, EC2

After I’d sketched The Old Blue Last, I left the thundering traffic behind and walked through back streets of Shoreditch. I encountered “The Griffin”. It seemed like a friendly place, with neat brickwork, and welcoming lights inside. I sat on a low wall, and sketched it, as electric taxis glided past. Or should that be “glid”?

The Griffin, Leonard Street EC2. Sketched on 21 September 2022 in Sketchbook 12.

The pub is built on a slight slope. Ravey Street slopes upwards towards Leonard Street.

Map showing where I sat and sketched “The Griffin”

It’s an area of sharp contrasts. Behind me was the “Nobu Hotel” radically modern. Blackall Street, however, looks unkept, like the seamy side of a garment. The people walking by were various. A group of young people speaking a Germanic language rushed past onto Leonard Street following a route on a mobile phone. Several men in florescent jackets walked towards me in a tight group, studiously conversing and referring to a clipboard which one of them carried. As they passed I realised they were speaking another language, perhaps of a Baltic region, with soft “shh” sounds. A young woman strode past in the opposite direction, frowning, speaking no language but with her mobile phone held at her ear. None of these people paid me any heed. Then a totally different person appeared, dancing a jagged line along the street, with hair in long strands, and a huge smile. He noticed me and marched up, asked how I was, commented on the day, admired my drawing, and offered me a fist to bump in greeting. This done, he completed a 36o degree turn on the spot, and walked loosely on up the street, offering his benign greetings to other bemused passers-by. This is London.

The Griffin is in an area of contrasts.

The area containing The Griffin has recently been totally redeveloped. A new hotel was constructed on Great Eastern Street. These works took place in 2013-5. They included a renovation of the pub itself, and conversion of its first floor into flats. There is extraordinarily detailed research on the whole site done by “The Historic Environment Consultancy”. See this link.

The pub is Grade II listed, the buildings around were unstable, and archaeological investigations were called for. The Historic Environment Consultancy wrote a scholarly account of the state of The Griffin in 2013, in preparation for the redevelopment. They generously put this report online. You can read it on this link or download it here if that link is no longer valid:

The consultant carefully identified the phases of construction of the pub, by looking at details of its structure. For example they observe:

The timbers in the roof are machine-sawn where visible and thus they date the roof to post 1790 and likely to be post 1840.

The Historic Environment Consultancy, Colin Lacey 2013

They conclude that it was constructed in three phases, the first two between 1799 and 1872, and the later one after 1887. This later phase is dated because it included the installation of a Dumb Waiter which was only invented in 1887. It was built as a pub, and has always been a pub.

At the time of their inspection, the consultants noted that the building was on the “At Risk” register:

The building also appears on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register. It is said to be in ‘poor’ condition because, according to the register, of a lack of maintenance.

The Historic Environment Consultancy, Colin Lacey 2013

This poor state is evident from the photos they include in their report, which show plants growing out of the roof, and crackling stone work.

When I sketched it, the pub was in an excellent state of repair, very neat looking, with beautiful patterned brickwork. Worth a visit.

I drew the pub in pen and ink on location and completed the colour at my desk.

The colours are:

  • Ultramarine Blue, Lavender and Burnt Umber for the sky
  • Fired Gold Ochre and Mars Yellow for the brickwork
  • A mixture of all of the above plus Perylene Maroon for the tiled ground level
  • All blacks and greys are Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Umber

The drawing is done on Arches Aquarelle 300gsm cold-pressed paper, made into a sketchbook by the Wyvern Bindery. The pen I use is a Lamy Safari with a fine nib and De Atramentis Document Black waterproof ink, both from “The Writing Desk”.

The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, EC2

Yesterday, I went to look for “The Old Blue Last”, a pub which featured in a book I was reading.

“The Old Blue Last stood at the top of Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, a snub-nosed, imposing three-storey brick building curved like the bow of a boat…..”

‘Career of Evil’ by Robert Galbraith, Chapter 12.
The Old Blue Last, Great Eastern Street, London EC2. Sketched on Wednesday 21st September in sketchbook 12.

I sketched standing outside the estate agents Fraser and Co.

Map showing where I was standing, outside Fraser and Co, and my viewpoint. I later sketched “The Griffin” which is marked also.

This pub is now owned by “Vice Magazine” (“VICE is the definitive guide to enlightening information.”). Their website helpfully publishes a history of the pub:

“…in 1576 a venture capitalist named James Burbage built a venue called The Theatre where The Old Blue Last currently stands…..Eventually Burbage pulled down The Theatre and moved it south of the river, where it became The Globe….in 1700 a bar was built on the site of the old theater. It was called The Last, which, remarkably boringly, refers to a wooden block that a shoemaker uses to mold a shoe. The Last was owned by a brewer named Ralph Harwood, who went on to achieve a small level of fame when he was pronounced bankrupt one day by Gentleman’s Magazine…..In 1876, Truman’s brewery took over the pub. They pulled The Last down and rebuilt it as The Old Blue Last, which means “the old blue wooden pattern that is used to mold(sic) the shoe….Eventually Truman’s went down the toilet and Grand Metropolitan Hotels took over the OBL…[1970s, 1990s] —At that point, The Old Blue Last was a rough place full of rougher men and people who were afraid of being beaten up by them. It housed an illegal strip club and brothel, which was on the second floor…” [https://www.vice.com/en/article/ex575k/how-vice-bough-a-brothel-v10n12]

“Vice” bought The Old Blue Last in 2004 and turned it into a music venue.

“Anyway, it’s a great bar, all the gigs are fun, and it’s right by our office.” [https://www.vice.com/en/article/ex575k/how-vice-bough-a-brothel-v10n12]

“It’s not about great food, beer connoisseurship or child-friendliness (it’s very much 18+): it’s about atmosphere, which it has to spare, and dedication to live music…” [https://www.datathistle.com/place/54846-the-old-blue-last-london-ec2a/]

Great Eastern Street is a very busy thoroughfare, taking buses, lorries, delivery vehicles and cars between the Old Street Roundabout and places East. I noticed the crowd of street furniture outside the pub. See the lamp post, which, though modern, attempts to imitate some of the Victorian features of the pub. The CCTV camera next to it, however, is strictly utilitarian, on its unadorned pole. I wonder why they didn’t put the security camera on the lamp post. They are only about 3 feet apart.

I tired of the pounding noise of Great Eastern Street, despite the friendly location outside Fraser and Co. One of their employees, mobile phone clutched in his hand, paused and commented favourably on my drawing, as he re-entered the office. People passed by wrapt in intricate conversations about modules, funding agreements and childcare issues. After I finished the pen drawing, I retreated into the quiet back streets.

I added the colour later, at my desk.

The colours are:

Ultramarine Blue and Lavender for the sky and street signs, Mars Yellow and Burnt Umber for the brickwork, with some Fired Gold Ochre. The black is made of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. There’s some Cobalt Turquoise Light on the Colt Technologies building behind the pub. I used acrylic gold paint by Liquitex to pick out the gold on the pub, including the lettering.

St Monica’s Church, Hoxton N1

On a cold day, suddenly the sun came out and lit up the stone of St Monica’s Church.

Bell tower of St Monica’s Church, Hoxton Square. 26th January 2022, 13:40 in Sketchbook 11

This church was built in 1866, to the design of E.W. Pugin. It was part of the Augustinian Priory on this side of Hoxton Square.

E.W. Pugin (1834-75) is the son of A.W. Pugin, who collaborated with Charles Barry on the design of the Houses of Parliament. E.W. Pugin designed a large number of churches, 60 English churches are listed in his Wikipedia entry, with another 6 or so in Wales and Scotland and 16 in Ireland.

Clifton House 75-77 Worship Street EC2

This is the building on the corner of Worship Street and Clifton Street, on the northern edge of the City of London.

Clifton House, 75-77 Worship Street, EC2, 13 September 2021, 7″ x 10″ in Sketchbook 10
Location of the drawing

Holywell Street is to the left of the drawing. I sketched this from a bench in the little pedestrian square that now exists where Clifton Street meets Worship Street.

What is this building? Well, now it is inhabited by an organisation called “NEL NHS” according to the notice on the door. From what I can discover online, NEL stands for “North East London” and the organisation is an in-house consulting organisation for the NHS (the UK National Health Service). They are a “Commissioning Support Unit (CSU)” which means they supply services to, for example, GP practices, and area administrators of parts of the NHS. Computing projects and change programmes amongst the service offerings listed on their website. NEL is quite a big organisation. LinkedIn records it as having 967 employees of whom 457 work in London.

Clifton House circa 1920, from the website of the Tony and Sheelagh Williams Charitable Foundation.

That’s who’s there now. But the building has a history. It was built in 1900, for the printers Williams Lea. Williams Lea printed stamps, newspapers, and foreign language material. In the 1939-45 conflict, they printed UK government propaganda in German, which was dropped into Germany. They also printed the first copy of the Radio Times, in 1923, probably in this very building. Williams Lea has itself undergone various transformations, and is now called Perivan. The Perivan website has a history section which helpfully provided me with this information. (Note 1)

In 1978 Tony Williams took over the family business of Williams Lea. Under his leadership the business flourished. He took the decision

“to establish Williams Lea as a Financial Printer serving the City community with its specialist printing needs. This move coincided with the privatisations of many state-owned industries and utilities and in 1990 Williams Lea was awarded the printing for the privatisation of the electricity industry, one of the largest and most complex jobs of its type.” [https://www.tandswilliams.org/]

It did well. He sold the business in 2006, and with the money established a charitable foundation which exists today.

My drawing took 90 mins on location, with colour added later at my desk.

I spent a long time looking at this building. There are the large windows, which are also doors, so that large items can be lifted out from the different floors. Some of the windows have louvres for extraction fans.

There are many textures in the brickwork. Some cobwebs have been there a while.

Here is a 1945 map showing the location:

Map from “www.maps-of-london.com”

I sketched this location as a “microsketch” earlier this year:

Note 1: History of the building: references.

Pevsner LONDON 4: NORTH, page 525 refers to “Clifton House, at the corner of Clifton Street and Worship Street, another printers, (WIlliams Lea & Co) built 1900, five storeys, with handsome red brick arched windows.”

Perivan website: https://www.perivan.com/about-us/our-history/ Perivan say:

A Mr J E Lea became a partner of the business in 1864, and it was promptly renamed to Wertheimer Lea & Co. When John Wertheimer passed away in 1883, Mr J H Williams purchased his share (great grandfather of Philip Williams, who works within Perivan today). Over the years, J H Williams acquired the rest of the company and in 1899, Wertheimer Lea built a new factory in Worship Street, London, to consolidate 5 production sites. Now central London, at the time the new factory was built, it was possible to see fields from the top floor. The biggest USP was that all the machines were powered by electricity. The business was renamed in 1914 to Williams Lea to reflect the existing founders. A fun fact – Williams Lea printed the first edition of the Radio Times in 1923!……Throughout the wartime years, Williams Lea survived the blitz where many other printers did not. With its specialism in foreign language printing, this was understandably in very high demand at this point in history, and Williams Lea was heavily involved in the printing of propaganda materials in German which bombers distributed by throwing them out of aeroplanes over Germany – containing messages encouraging the enemy to give up. Williams Lee also printed newspapers for governments in exile in London, including Poland and Norway, and stamps for the Post Office.”

On a specialist postage stamp collectors site http://www.bermudastamps.co.uk/info/stamp-printers/ there is a reference to Williams Lea printing stamps:

“Williams Lea & Co
Contractor to De La Rue after their premises were bombed on 29th December 1940. William Lea & Co printed the Bermuda high value stamps during 1941.

Other historical information came from the website of the Tony and Sheelagh Williams Charitable Foundation.

67 Redchurch Street E2, “Jolene” bakery

Jolene bakery is on the corner of Redchurch Street and Club Row.

Jolene, 67 Redchurch Street, from across the road. 19th August 2021. 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 10

This is a lively corner in a street on various edges: on the edge of the City, at the boundary between a new London and an old one, at the intersection of 21st century entrepreneurial culture and 19th century housing projects.

Redchurch Street is just North and West of Brick Lane. There are restaurants, independent clothes designers, hairdressers, and various 21st century businesses I couldn’t identify but categorised in my mind as broadly “creative”. It’s a good place to walk around, and Jolene is a great place to pause for coffee. They close at 3pm, though, so best be quick.

I arrived there at about 1pm today, and sat outside on one of their benches. Here’s the view looking up Club Row.

Looking North up Club Row, from “Jolene” Redchurch St. 9 September 2021, 2:45pm 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 10

Further North up Club Row, to the left of my drawing, is Arnold Circus. This is the centre point of the Boundary Estate which was the London County Council’s first social housing project, completed on 1900. I have drawn there and written about it here:

Plumage House, N1

Here is Plumage House, 106 Shepherdess Walk, London N1.

Plumage House, 7″ x 10″

This was a feather factory. According to Spitalfields Life this operated until 1994. The building is now rather shabby, though in a dignified way.

I wonder what will happen to it?

In the drawing, the main colours are Fired Gold Ochre, Buff Titanium, Phthalo Turquoise, and Perylene Maroon, with Mars Yellow and Green Apatite Genuine for the green.

Shepherdess Walk (the main street North-South) and the location of Plumage House.

Principal Tower and The Stage

If I look East, along a narrow angle, I can see two new tall buildings in Shoreditch: the “Principal Tower”, and “The Stage”. They are on adjacent sites, about a mile away.

Looking East: The Stage and Principal Tower

The Stage is the tall building on the left, under construction. Their website tells me this will be a “dynamic 37 level landmark for luxury living”. The reason it’s called The Stage is because the remains of the Curtain Theatre were discovered on the site. This theatre was a location for the staging of Shakespeare’s plays, and dates back to 1577. The tower is provides luxurious accommodation. The planning report says:

The scheme does not include any affordable housing, and the viability appraisal confirms that it is not possible to deliver any due to the financial burdens of excavation and archaeological work to the remains of Curtain Theatre in order to create a cultural facility.

planning report D&P/2975/02 18 December 2013, Mayor’s decision*

The architects are Perkins+Will. The developer cited on the planning application was Plough Yard Developments Ltd. That company was dissolved on 23rd Aug 2019. The current owner/developer is “The Stage Shoreditch Development Limited” according to the website “New London Development”.

The building with the truncated spire in front of The Stage is “Triton Court”, which is on the North side of Finsbury Square. The little dome is part of the same building. This dome in on the older, western, part, which was built in 1904-5. The taller part with the spire was later, 1929-30. It was the headquarters of the Royal London Mutual Assurance Society. The building interior was redeveloped in 2013-15 and is now an office development called “Alphabeta”

The tall block on the skyline to the right of picture is “Principal Tower”. This is a residential tower which, according to the website:

“..offers the opportunity to own an architectural masterpiece, equivalent to a priceless piece of art that will give constant pleasure and lasting value.”

from the sales website: PrincipalTower.com, copied on 2nd April 2020

The architect is Foster+Partners. The developer is Brookfield Property Partners. Alongside and beneath the residential tower are offices and shops, in a space called “Principal Place”. One tenant of the office space is Amazon.

Here are some pictures from the sales website:

Here are some maps:

My sketch map showing the locations of the towers in the picture
Map downloaded from the Principal Tower website. The brown dots are “cultural locations”. The red arrow shows the sightline in the picture.

The drawing took just over 2 hours. The colours are: Phthalo Turquoise (W&N), Mars Yellow(DS), Perylene Maroon (DS) and a bit of Perinone Orange (DS).

*The document is on the http://www.london.gov.uk site at this link: (downloaded 2nd April 2020) Planning Application 2012/3871

Click to access the_stage_curtain_road_report.pdf

You can download the document here:

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.

Shoreditch skyline


This is a view on an intriguing house which is on Clere Street in Shoreditch. A sort of greenhouse has been built on top of an older Victorian house. Very modern. As far as I can work out it is 17-18 Clere Street. There are various names on the door bell, and the top one is labelled “Nucco Brain”. Nucco Brain is a “visual storytelling company”. They make videos. But this may not be the glass structure, as that looks residential. Hard to tell.

The view is from the corner of Leonard Street and Tabernacle Street, EC2. In the foreground is a sunken bar, and then, amazingly, a bomb site used as a car park. The bomb site and the warehouse building on the left of the drawing are “EMA textiles”, with Acme bar in “EMA House” on the ground floor.

EMA Textiles, based on the edge of Shoreditch and the City of London is a large specialist babywear and childrenswear fashion importer. We have been established for 60 years and successfully supply many high street retailers with a full range of products” (LinkedIn)

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