The Shard from Borough Market

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Walking back from Intaglio Printmaker in Southwark, I thought it would be a good idea to walk through Borough Market. It was not. The crowds were so closely pressed together, and walking and stopping, that I could make no headway through the main part of the market. So I went round the edge, and glimpsed the Shard, high above the roofs.

The roofs, and the lights, look old but they are not really old. The lights, the nearest ones, are gas lights, with real gas flames. They are recent. The market was re-created and enlarged in the late 1990s. It’s now easy to believe that it’s always been a thriving London market.  But it hasn’t. The “Blueprint” website from developers CBRE says:

In the 1980s, the surrounding area of Borough Market had undergone severe decline. The market’s days as a wholesale hub were threatened by the growth of supermarket retailers and the nearby development of the New Covent Garden market in Vauxhall in the 1970s. By 1994, the market had as few as nine traders and an income of less than £400k per year…..

The first “green shoot” for the market emerged … in 1996. The market had hit rock bottom with little left but a few traders and a mobile barber’s stall operating from a caravan. Neil’s Yard Dairy approached the market seeking additional space in damp conditions for the preservation of their expanding cheese business. Damp space, according to [George] Nicholson [market chairman], “was something we had lots of.”

 

fullsizeoutput_331bI drew this picture standing up in Stoney Street. There was a strong wind. Papers, mostly takeaway food wrappers, rushed along in the air as if they had somewhere to go.

There were huge crowds outside Monmouth coffee. The whole of Stoney Street, to the right of my picture,  was occupied by people.

Astonishingly, cars appeared. This picture took about 45 minutes and in that time I must have seen about 10 cars, one every few minutes. They arrived and stopped, seeing the crowds. Then, no doubt consulting a GPS which said this was indeed a street, they pushed on.

People walked past me, eating food from wrappers or drinking beer from cans. One drinker rolled over to me. “Are you drawing a picture?” he leered, ready to make fun.

“No,” I replied, “I’m riding a bicycle.” In his drink-fuddled haze, he had a problem to process that.

He turned to his fellow drinkers. “She says she’s riding a bicycle,” he announced. His wise companions hurried him on.

 

The Shard from Wykeham House, Union Street, SE1

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A bit of Wykeham House is on the right. It’s a brick built, Art Deco type building. I was sitting on the steps of the flats, behind the iron railing. Twice during my drawing, residents edged past me, very politely, trying not to disturb me.

On an adjacent building, Waynfleet House,  I saw a notice:

“This tablet commemorates the official opening of these buildings by
THE RT REV RICHAD GODFREY PARSONS the Lord Bishop of Southwark
on Saturday 14th May 1938.”

The badge was that of the “Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England”.

In the Southwark Council publication “South of Union Street and North of Borough Road Character Area Appraisal 2007” I read that:

“There are a number of sites which contribute poorly to the character and appearance of the area and the historic environment. As such it is recommended that they be nominated for re-development”.

Wykeham House and its neighbours is so listed. The group is also excluded from the “Union Street Conservation Area” currently on the Southwark Council Website.

This is a pity, in my view. They have these lovely curved bricks which I have tried to draw, and represent this period of architecture well.

From Oxo Tower Wharf, SE1

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On the right, Bargehouse Oxo, with all those colours in the brickwork of the wall.
Ahead, “Sea Containers House” 22 Upper Ground SE1.
This is now a luxury hotel “Mondrian” and office space.

Rising above them, the tower block is One Blackfriars, under construction.

Drawn from outdoors balcony on the first floor of the Oxo Tower, about one and a half hours, drawn and coloured on location.

When I was selling software services to Central Government, in the 1980s, I visited Sea Containers House. It was then the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. The story was that they had accepted this rather swanky hotel in lieu of VAT payment. At that time, the smart offices seemed to have landed from another planet into dilapidated former docks. I picked my way on wooden boards over mud, taking care of my smart shoes. On the door was an officer in a starched shirt, and gold epaulettes.

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Sea Containers House, about 2010

In 2011 Sea Containers House was renovated, and has only recently been completed. The Golden Balls on the river side were removed, and sold.

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Sea Containers House 2017 – minus the decorative golden globes

 

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Golden balls from Sea Containers House, on sale now for £3950
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The smaller globes have already been sold.

 

Postscript:

Walking along a dock in Aberdeen I saw this notice:

Customs, Sea Containers
14 July 2017, Pocra quay, Aberdeen

The notice is dated “March 1995”. The address, “New King’s Beam House” is Sea Containers.