Thursday 24 July 2014
CONTACT | RSS
ABOUT | CATEGORIES | PAGINATED INDEX
Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.

Great Britain

About
A writer, blogger, and historian, born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, now based in London. read more
Links
Blogs
Reviews & Periodicals
Church
Arts & Design
Scotland
Africa
Cape of Good Hope
France
Netherlands
Mitteleuropa
Scandinavia
Muscovy
India
Argentina
The Levant
Knickerbockers
Academica

The Crowned Banner

The Emblem of the Scottish Parliament

Legislatures often have their own symbols. Often these are appropriated or stylised versions of national emblems. Stormont uses a flax plant. Some time ago Westminster adopted the Tudor portcullis which now represents the Parliament of the United Kingdom — in green for the Commons or in red for the Lords.

In Scotland, however, the unicameral parliament has adopted a crowned banner as its distinctive insignia. (For previous posts on prominent emblems of modern Scottish design, see the Clootie Dumpling and the Daisy Wheel). The crown expresses authority — ultimately the sovereign power of the monarchy — while the corded banner hanging from a pommelled pole displays the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag. While early versions of the emblem were in blue, it is now standard that the symbol be depicted in purple, long a colour associated with Scotland through the national florae of heather and thistle. (more…)

January 27, 2014 1:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

A Bunny Rampant

The carto-heraldic creativity of MacDonald Gill

If anything, I am a lover of maps, and as a cartophile it’s a fine thing that I spend half my life in South Kensington. Here you will find two of the best antiquarian map merchants around: the Map House on Beauchamp Place and Robert Frew across from the Oratory and right next door to Orsini. Milling about in front of church after mass today I received a tip-off from a friend suggesting I have a look at the window of Robert Frew, as there was a London Underground map with coats of arms of mostly abolished boroughs.

“Sounds like the sort of thing MacDonald Gill would do,” I said, and sure enough upon investigating earlier tonight it is the work of that inventive designer (and brother of Eric Gill).

The most splendid and ridiculous aspect is that in the central place among the municipal heraldry was a putative coat of arms MacDonald Gill thought up for the Underground: a rabbit rampant. Indeed, given the twin characteristics of being speedy and digging the earth, the rabbit is a perfect animal avatar for the London Underground to adopt. Don’t go looking for this design anywhere in the rolls of Garter King of Arms, though: it’s merely the invention of the creative mind of master map-maker MacDonald Gill.

January 5, 2014 11:20 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Flags, Northern Ireland, and the Union

Flags have been in the news of late, perhaps as a late hangover of the disruptive protests over Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall only on the United Kingdom’s designated flag-flying days. Ironically, this would have brought the Six Counties further in line with normal British practice, but disgruntled unionists viewed it as a diminution of “their” flag and a bit of a fracas ensued with the once-traditional death threats and intimidation returning.

The BBC raised the issue of how Scottish independence might affect the Union Jack. (Pedants only refer to the British flag as the “Union flag”, but the Flag Institute points out both terms are perfectly acceptable). Scottish independence would have no automatic effect on the flag whatsoever, but it has provoked a round of speculation over what changes, if any, should be made to the Union flag.

Then Richard Haass, the American diplomat charged with chairing the inter-party talks on unresolved issues in the Six Counties, waded into matters vexillological when he wrote to party leaders seeking their views on the possibility of a new flag for Northern Ireland. (more…)

December 12, 2013 11:10 am | Link | 3 Comments »

No. 6, Burlington Gardens

Sir James Pennethorne’s University of London

German university buildings are an (admittedly unusual) obsession of mine, and I’ve often thought that No. 6 Burlington Gardens is London’s closest answer to your typical nineteenth-century Teutonic academy’s Hauptgebäude. And the connection is appropriate enough, as No. 6 was built in 1867-1870 for the University of London in what had once been the back garden of Burlington House (which at the same time became home to the Royal Academy of Arts). Despite the building’s Germanic form, the architect Sir James Pennethorne decorated the structure in Italianate detail, providing the University with a lecture theatre, examination halls, and a head office. Pennethorne died just a year after drafting this design, and his fellow architects described it as his “most complete and most successful design”.

The University of London was founded as a federal entity in 1836 to grant degrees to the students of the secularist, free-thinking University College and its rival, the Anglican royalist King’s College. It now is composed of eighteen colleges, ten institutes, and a number of other ‘central bodies’, with over 135,000 students.

Since its founding, the University had been dependent upon the government’s purse for funding, as well as for housing. Accomodation was provided in Somerset House, then Marlborough House, before evacuating to temporary quarters in Burlington House and elsewhere. It was not until the 1860s that Parliament approved the appropriate grant for a purpose-built home for the University to be erected in the rear garden of Burlington House. (more…)

May 29, 2013 4:30 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

HOLYROOD IS SUCH a pleasant spot, despite the recent intrusion of an ostentatiously ugly government building designed by a Spanish architect. The other day, while visiting Edinburgh, I heeded the recommendation of the Prettiest Schoolteacher in Clackmannanshire to sample the burger at the Holyrood 9a. It was quite delicious, though not perfect, and was splendidly washed with a pint of Kozel (most un-Caledonian, I concede, but you can get Deuchars in London, you know).

Afterwards, our little party decided to have a little wander down Holyrood Road towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the epicentre of the Scottish monarchy.

Nestled between Calton Hill and Salisbury Crags, the Palace sits at the end of the Royal Mile that runs between it and Edinburgh Castle. With the Old Town to its west, the expanse of Holyrood Park flows off to the south and east of it. (more…)

April 21, 2013 9:44 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Lady Altar

The Oratory Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Brompton Road, London

In the south transept of the Brompton Oratory is the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, perhaps the finest altar in the entire church. It is a favourite place for getting in a few prayers and offering a candle or two or three or four. At the end of Solemn Vespers & Benediction on Sunday afternoon (above) it is where the Prayer for England is said and the Marian antiphon sung.

The Lady Altar was designed and built in 1693 by Francesco Corbarelli of Florence and his sons Domenico and Antonio and for nearly two centuries stood in the Chapel of the Rosary in the Church of St Dominic in Brescia. That church was demolished in 1883, and the London Congregation of the Oratory purchased the altar two years beforehand for £1,550.

The statue of Our Lady of Victories holding the Holy Child had previously stood in the old Oratory church in King William Street, and the central space of the reredos was slightly modified to house it. The Old and New Worlds are represented in the flanking statues, which are of St Pius V and St Rose of Lima — both by the Venetian late-baroque sculptor Orazio Marinali. The statues of St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena which now rest in niches facing the altar were previously united to it, and are by the Tyrolean Thomas Ruer.

April 7, 2013 11:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

London Lately

From a Pimlico rooftop, Friday afternoon.

At lunch, Friday.

A Saturday Mass in St Wilfrid’s Chapel, the Oratory.

A surprisingly sunny afternoon, yesterday in Ennismore Gardens.

February 18, 2013 5:30 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

A Rainy Day in Winchester

IT WAS LATE summer, neither particularly warm nor cold, and a bit rainy. I hadn’t seen Nicholas in a while but he wasn’t particularly keen on travelling into London. “Why not meet in Winchester?” he suggested, and, never having been to England’s former capital, I thought it was a good idea. I popped on the tube to Waterloo, got on a train, and in no time at all was in the county town of Hampshire. It’s a humanely size town, admirably located, and most famous for its medieval cathedral.

The thieving Protestants, not content with stealing all the cathedrals we built throughout the width and breadth of the land, highten the insult by charging admission to these former shrines and places of worship. I had arranged to meet Nicholas in the Cathedral, though, and the blighters got a good £6.50 out of me. I had a good wander round, though.

These mortuary chests contain the remains of the Saxon royalty of the kingdom of Wessex and later England.

Norman architecture is woefully underappreciated, and might form a useful style to return to today given its relative simplicity. So much Norman architecture was destroyed and replaced by Gothic during later periods of medieval prosperity, but at Winchester the Norman transepts remain.

William of Waynflete, buried here, was a high-flyer in his day. He was, varyingly, Bishop of Winchester, Headmaster of Winchester College, Provost of Eton, Lord Chancellor of England, and founded Magdalen College, Oxford. Not a bad innings.

Richard Foxe chose a more macabre memorial, but enjoyed similar success in this world: he was Bishop of Exeter, then of Bath & Wells, then of Durham, and finally of Winchester. He was Lord Privy Seal and founded Corpus Christi College at Oxford. Foxe and Erasmus sometimes wrote to eachother, and his elaborate crozier is on display at the Ashmolean.

The tomb of Henry Cardinal Beaufort is my favourite memorial in the cathedral. Beaufort — a Plantagenet — was Dean of Wells, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Bishop of Lincoln, Lord Chancellor of England, and finally Cardinal Bishop of Winchester. He was a sometime papal legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia, and most famously presided over the trial of St Joan of Arc.

One of the walls was inscribed with graffiti.

The cathedral is also the final resting place for the earthly remains of Hampshire native Jane Austen, but nevermind that.

Tours of the College were available, but we decided to leave it for another visit, and went on a wander in the direction of the Hospital of St Cross.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty is the oldest charitable institution in England and the largest medieval almshouse. The church could be a small cathedral in and of itself, but as we arrived an interment was taking place, so we thought it best that it, too, was left for another day.

February 6, 2013 8:45 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

A Bill Committee in the Commons

A Bill Committee meeting in one of the richly decorated committee rooms of the Palace of Westminster. The Minister is standing, rattling on in an explanatory defence of his government’s bill. Ostensibly these committees exist so that MPs can examine legislation in line-by-line detail and raise questions about whatever points or aspects they believe might cause problems if enacted.

“The question is that Clause 15 stands as part of the Bill.”

The Chairman, an MP of considerable experience, presides, assisted by a retinue of civil servants. He chews a pen and stokes his brow, frustrated by the boredom of the subject at hand. He is perhaps thinking of the weekend and the extreme unlikeliness that he will get down to the coast, and his sailboat, given the inclement weather.

A Scottish Member rises on a Point and the Minister yields the floor. Concerns are expressed about the precise meaning of Subclause 36 Paragraph C and insinuations made about potential costs. The Minister rises and suggests the Member’s criticism is excessively harsh. He then concedes he may have been imprecise in his explanation of the process involved in Subclause 36 Paragraph C.

The Doorkeeper, absurdly and arcanely attired in white tie, tails, and with the royal arms hanging from a gold chain round his neck, wears thick-rimmed glasses and leans back on a desk in a carefree fashion, blissfully paying little attention to the point the Hon. Gentleman has made in response to the proposed amendment.

“Just for the sake of clarity, we are not now talking about Amendment 13?”
“I have no intention of moving Amendment 13.”
“On a Point of Order then, Mr Chair, is it proper that the Member discuss Amendments 21 and 26 when he is not moving Amendment 13, which is the first Amendment to be considered?”

The Chairman corrects that it is perfectly alright for the Member to discuss whichever amendment he would like.

There are at least eleven civil servants in the room. One on the side hands a paper to another. He reads it and nods approvingly before passing it on to the civil servant next to the Chair. Another Member rises to discuss Amendment 54 Clause C.

“There’s an important role for an independent body to exercise scrutiny over this area and it would be wise for it to have a statutory basis.”

The entire proceedings are overshadowed by the continual sound of shuffling papers. One Member doodles on the day’s order-paper. A journalist leaves. The Member stops doodling and consults his iPhone. Then the Minister is grateful for that point. He is surprised but aware, since he was given this junior ministerial role, by the frequency with which this matter has arisen and has spoken before the relevant Select Committee.

Another Member’s face is illuminated by the glow of the iPad he is leaning over.

“Now before I become too Churchillian,” the Minister continues, “I think we’d better turn to the matter of the Amendments. Now the Honourable Member has, perhaps understandably, raised the point…”

A female Member smiles and shares a jest with one of her party colleagues. The Doorkeeper’s shift ends and he is replaced by one of his bearded confrères. The civil servant beside the Chairman folds a paper and stares unthinkingly into the distance.

“In respect for the Hon. Gentleman’s desire for continuing debate and discussion with the relevant authorities…”
“He hasn’t addressed my point about Subsection 2!”

The portly Doorkeeper moves with surprising adroitness in delivering a note from a Member to a civil servant across the room. The Minister’s PPS hands him a relevant paper. The Chairman smiles in response to one of the Minister’s light-hearted remarks.

“I’m sure the Minister will agree that this is not the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning.”
“If only!” a Member interjects.

It is 3:32pm. The MPs will be here for hours yet.

February 4, 2013 10:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Don Bosco in London

Just went to venerate the relics of Don Bosco, which are doing a UK-wide tour organised by the Salesian order. There was quite a crowd waiting for the Saint’s earthly remains to be unveiled at 2 o’clock — suprising for early afternoon on a workday. Before the relics were even made viewable there were pilgrims huddled around the veiled reliquary, whom the organisers eventually had to shoo away in order to organise some proper veneration.

The faithful are able to venerate the relics at Westminster Cathedral from 2:00pm to 8:30pm today and tomorrow only, after which they will spend the next two days at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark before returning to Italy.

January 11, 2013 3:20 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Fit for a Duke in Covent Garden

Russell House, No. 43, King Street

This apartment occupies the piano nobile of a 1716 house designed by Thomas Archer for the Earl of Orford, then First Lord of the Admiralty. He obtained the lease for the site from his uncle, the Duke of Bedford, on condition he tear down the house located there and build a new one. Batty Langley, the eighteenth-century garden designer and prolific commentator hated it, and devoted over 200 words of his Grub Street Journal (26 September 1734) to slagging it off. The Grade II*-listed building looks onto Covent Garden Piazza and has seen a number of uses over the years. (more…)

November 13, 2012 9:03 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

London’s Fallen Water

A cursory investigation into the metropolis’s drinking water yields results that veer towards the somewhat disturbing

by ALEXANDER SHAW in London

UNDERSTANDING enables self-preservation, but occasionally leads us out of Eden too. Thus, I’m not encouraging you to understand how London’s water is recycled, I’m merely tempting you to.

Education is like lighting a fire, not filling a bucket. One realisation leads to another:

Q: What happens when the ice cubes melt in a brimming Tumbler of Scotch?
A: Nothing – so the disappearance of the polar icecap won’t raise sea levels. So I can drive an eight-litre Bentley after all.
Q: What happens when two cars each travelling at 30mph collide head on head?
A: The Bentley’s CD player skips a track and someone spends the afternoon picking a Nissan Micra out of the radiator.

Point by point, basic wisdom allows us to unpick the paranoid egalitarian ideas subversively presented by the Marxist GCSE Physics curriculum.

However, I am horrified that, even with my impeccable logic, it has taken me three years to realise that London’s recycled potable water supply harbours a rather dirty secret. It was the lime scale in the kettle which gave it away. We all know that, as with many cities, London recycles its water. But why, after the process of evaporation and recondensation, does limescale remain in the supply? The answer, to my unutterable horror, is that it is not recycled by evaporation.

I’ve given up trying to get straight answers from Thames Water about exactly what goes on. Like the pro-choice lobby and socialist economists, they gloss over all manner of sins with a vast lexicon of euphemisms.

For ‘carbonaceous waste,’ read: diarrhoearic faeces comprised of doner kebabs and salted French fries, crammed past cankerous lips by nail-bitten greasy fingers of obese female students in bus stops at 3am. For ‘nitrogenous waste,’ read: cheap lager, churned through proletarian digestive systems whose uncircumcised owners moan with relief as the steel urinal tangs of ammonia – gobs of chewing gum and Mayfair fag butts collecting at the foot of the drain. After a brief sifting and filtering, these ‘wastes’ then gush out of London showerheads. The final confluence of the city’s vomit is on my own pale, patrician flesh.

It might not disturb me so much if the water were sent back to the same house, or even the same postcode. At least in Chelsea, we would be drinking the urbane fruits of some anorexic supermodel’s colonic. But no, the city’s water is pooled in something called the ‘Thames Water Ring Main,’ which sounds ghastly, and is so huge that it reaches down to somewhere called ‘zone four.’
I have read an account of the process used to purify our sewage on Thames Water’s website. First they filter it ‘through a rake’ (right, OK), and then ‘most of the solids are removed by settlement.’ After that, they skim off the cleaner bit of what, by then, is basically an un-shaken-up shit smoothie and pump it through a gravel pit of bacteria. Then they send it back to my house.
The internet consensus seems to be that, on average, our tap water has gone round this system approximately seven times and, for those who still have diehard faith in the system, people start to feel nauseous when they drink 11th generation water. So yes, it does get muckier each time.

“Well, if we don’t get ill it must be alright,” a friend of mine concluded, taking a defiant swig of the tap water she’d just ordered in a café. It seems this may also be the underlying philosophy of Thames Water. I find it an unsettlingly laissez faire approach.

The U.S Geological Survey discovered that the dozens of trace chemicals – often derived from medication – which slip through modern filtration processes amount to ‘only a thimble full in an Olympic pool.’

Only!?! If that thimble were of blood, a shark would smell it. If it were Polonium 210, it would be enough to wipe out the entire city. And, heavens above, any folk who take homeopathy seriously will consider that sort of dilution the medical equivalent to downing a pint of dysentery or bathing in the cesspit of a Kinshasa prison.

Furthermore, the ‘fresh’ water that is brought in to our supply from the Thames contains the only-slightly-treated sewage of the settlements upstream. I’m going to guess that 95% of the female populations of Reading, Cowley, Slough and Swindon perform some type of medical injunction upon their reproductive system every Saturday (or Sunday morning, God forbid). And, of course, what goes in must come out.

A Drinking Water Inspectorate report submitted to Defra in 2007 proclaims that our UK filtration techniques ‘can result in removal rates of more than 90% for a wide variety of pharmaceuticals.’ Oh, good! Only less than 10% gets back in! Further down the report, we read: ‘Very limited data were available for the concentrations of pharmaceuticals or illegal drugs in UK drinking waters, but data from the rest of Europe and the USA have shown that concentrations in finished drinking water at treatment works are generally =100 ng.l-1’ (which sounds like another euphemism to me). The report continues to say that the filtration processes are ‘not specifically designed to remove pharmaceuticals and several compounds have been reported in finished drinking water.’

The report is available in summary here. I was retching and gagging by the third paragraph.

It comes as little surprise to me that our perverse society seems more preoccupied with the treatment of the ‘sludge’ which is siphoned out, than the ‘water’ which is pumped back in to our taps. The Thames Water reports abound with the ‘European Sludge Directive,’ the worthy ‘good chemical status,’ and not forgetting, of course, the all-important ‘Safe Sludge Matrix.’ I have already expounded upon the true meaning of ‘carbonaceous’ and ‘nitrogenous,’ so I will spare you my reflections on ‘sludge.’

In order for my water to be clean, it must be broken down to a molecular level, de-ionised, re-ionised, blessed by a bishop, and prayed over by a virgin.

However, I have identified two brands of bottled water which almost meet the standards which we must now demanded from natural sources: Tasmanian Rain ($11 a bottle), is captured from the ‘purest skies on earth,’ and doesn’t touch the ground before it gets to the bottle. Only problem is: what if a bunch of Aussies on stag-night fly a smoky old Cessna over the rain catchment facility? Perhaps better is 10 Thousand BC ($14 a bottle) – or the hippy’s dilemma, as I call it – because it’s extracted from a glacier and derives its purity from having been frozen since before the fall of man.

Or, of course, you could just give up drinking water, as I did years ago.

October 30, 2012 8:38 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Marlow’s St Paul’s Capriccio

William Marlow (1740-1813), Capriccio: St Paul’s and a Venetian Canal
c. 1795; oil on canvas, 60 x 41 in.; London, Tate Gallery

The view of St Paul’s Cathedral as if it had been completed according to the original plans of Wren and with Hawksmoor’s baptistry (which I posted yesterday) reminded me of this capriccio by William Marlow. And then this in turn recalled my 2005 post If London Were Like Venice.

August 7, 2012 3:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Little Ben

WALKING THROUGH Victoria recently, I was horrified to see the recent renovations and street improvements have led to the disappearance of ‘Little Ben’, the small Victorian clocktower that sat in a traffic island halfway between Westminster Cathedral and Victoria Station. Little Ben is a convenient meeting place in a district that is rather uninspiring and surprisingly lacking in conveniences.

Why, for example, is there no decent pub in Victoria? If you need a meal, Grumbles of Pimlico is walking distance, and they treat you well at Il Posto. But a decent pub atmosphere is not to be had, unless you fancy The Pub Formerly Known as the Cardinal (now styling itself as ‘The Windsor Castle’).

Happily, a simple Google search reveals that Little Ben’s absence is merely temporary: indeed, Little Ben is taking a rest-cure. The goodly folk at Wessex Archaeology have informed us as such.

The clock owes its creation to Gillet & Johnston of Croydon, who built Little Ben in 1892 and erected it in the middle of Victoria Street. It fell victim to a road-widening scheme and was removed in 1964 but, after sitting in storage unappreciated for some years, it was finally renovated and restored to its original location in 1981.

Transport for London is currently working on a significant upgrade to Victoria Underground Station, including a rearranged traffic alignment on surface level, in addition to new entrances and exits and a great big whopping ticket hall sous la terre. When all is finished and done and in tip-top shape, Little Ben will be returned to his traditional location, and some semblance of order will return to this sector of the most unglamorous Victoria Street.

July 29, 2012 8:48 pm | Link | No Comments »

Tretheague

Stithians, Cornwall

It having just been St Pirran’s Day recently, why not have a look at some Cornish property up for grabs? Just southwest of the Cornish village of Stithians is this curious little house named Tretheague, now up for sale from Savills with seventeen acres attached. Stithians is known for its agricultural show held every July since 1834 and “one of the largest and best-known ‘one-day’ shows in the West Country” according to the agents’ propaganda tells us.

“The Manor of Tretheague” the propaganda continues, “was owned by the ancient Cornish Beville family until the end of the 16th century. Philip Beville of Killygarth died leaving the property to his son in law, Sir Bernard Grenville of Stowe, who sold off various tenements and dismembered the manor as such. The family of Tretheague lived at the property for three centuries until Walter Tretheague died around 1602. They were followed by the Morton Family who did well from mining interests in the county until another wealthy tin adventurer, Nicholas Pearce, who developed Wheal Maudlin at Ponsanooth, took over the old manor in 1690.”

“John Pearce rebuilt the house the year before becoming High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1745 and his descendants sold the property to J M Williams in 1872, another member of a famous Cornish family that prospered from the Cornish mining boom. Under the guise of Williams Cornish Estate the property was sold privately to Bernard Penrose in 1962 who then spent almost 20 years restoring this somewhat unique and unspoilt gem that had remained almost unaltered since the time of its construction.”

“The house standing replaced an Elizabethan house that was recorded as having seven chimneys in the tax of 1660, although only small fragments of mullions and cut and chamfered stone survive. The major rebuild took place around 1744, almost certainly designed and overseen by the famous Greenwich architect Thomas Edwards who presided over several commissions in Cornwall for a period when rich County families and well-to- do mining adventurers felt it necessary to show off their new found wealth and elevation in Cornish society.”

“The house overlooks beautiful parkland which borders the drive and separates the house from the country lane. This parkland has been the scene of summer cricket matches from time to time and now contains individual specimen trees of lime, Canadian maple, beech and horse chestnut.”

“An imposing set of granite steps with wrought iron railings rise to the entrance which is at upper ground floor level. Inside the house much of the original period detail is intact, and on the upper ground floor the hall, panelled dining room and magnificent shallow-rise turning staircase feature fine plaster ceilings with modillions and Rococo detail.”

I like the exterior and setting, but from the photos the house feels curiously small on the inside. I somewhat dislike such primly contained box plans, and prefer a bit of awkward additions and extensions from centuries of use. Treatheague seems a bit too clean cut, but worth a look at least.

March 25, 2012 8:22 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Admiralty Arch for Sale

Sort of: Queen Offers Long Leasehold of Edwardian London Landmark

SIR ASTON WEBB’S great Edwardian Baroque office-building-cum-triumphal-gateway, Admiralty Arch, will be offered up for a long leasehold by HM Government. The Grade-I listed building, constructed between 1910 and 1912, is one of the best-known in London for finishing the long view down the Mall from Buckingham Palace and connecting it to Trafalgar Square beyond. Admiralty Arch features 147,300 square feet across basement, lower ground, ground, and five upper floors.

Savills have been appointed as the sole exclusive agent to seek interest in the long leasehold. “The Government’s objective is to maximise the overall value to the Exchequer from the re-use of Admiralty Arch,” the Savills press release noted, “and to balance this with the need to respect and protect the heritage of the building, now and in the future, enable the potential for public access and ensure awareness of, and be prepared to respond to, potential security implications.”

Our prediction: oil money from abroad will turn it into a hotel. Boring, I know!

February 20, 2012 7:50 am | Link | 5 Comments »

Comper in Clerkenwell

The unbuilt Church of St John of Jerusalem

IN THE REALMS of architecture, the unexecuted project has a certain air of fantasy to it — the allure of what might have been. Ranking high amongst my favourite unbuilt proposals is Sir Ninian Comper’s project for the Church of St John of Jerusalem at Clerkenwell. Comper designed the scheme in the middle of the Second World War as a conventual church for the Venerable Order of St John, the Victorian Protestant revival of the old Order of St John (now more commonly known as the Order of Malta) which was banished from England at the Reformation. The design (below) is a Romanesque-Gothic hybrid, a splendidly exuberant cross-fertilisation of two styles more frequently opposed to one another in the minds of most.

One of the proposals for the serious reform of the Order of Malta in Britain is for the Grand Priory of England to divest itself of its interest in the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth and its associated chapel in St Johns Wood. Owing to a complicated series of events, conventual events are taking place at the Church of St James, Spanish Place already. As the Venerable Order never executed Comper’s brilliant design, perhaps the Order of Malta might consider buying a suitable site in London and making Comper’s fantasy a reality.

Image: Ayla Lepine / Watch This Space

February 6, 2012 9:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

Cardinal Manning

Over at Reluctant Sinner, Dylan Parry has an excellent post on Cardinal Manning, the second man to serve as Archbishop of Westminster. Manning is all too often forgotten, despite being one of the most widely loved and respected men of his generation. His funeral, famously, was the largest ever known in the Victorian era. Besides his wisdom at the helm of England’s most prominent see, the good cardinal’s greatest legacy might be his influence on Rerum Novarum, the great social encyclical of Leo XIII. Dylan is planning on writing further on the subject of Cardinal Manning, giving us something to look forward to. (more…)

January 16, 2012 7:50 pm | Link | No Comments »

St Andrew’s & Blackfriars Hall, Norwich

NORWICH, THAT CITY of two cathedrals, is known for Colman’s Mustard and the television cook Delia Smith (herself Catholic). Unknown to me until recently is that the capital of one of England’s greatest counties is also home to the most complete Dominican friary complex in all of England. The Dominicans had arrived in Norwich in 1226 — the swiftness with which they reached the city comparative to the foundation of the Order of Preachers is indicative of England’s inherent inclusion in the Catholic Europe of the day.

From 1307, the OPs occupied this particular site in Norwich until the Henrician Revolt, when the friary was dissolved and the city’s council purchased the church to use as a hall for civic functions. The nave became the New Hall (later St Andrew’s Hall) while the chancel was separated and used as the chapel for the city council and later as a place of worship for Norwich’s Dutch merchants. (The last Dutch service was held in 1929).

The complex has been put to a wide variety of uses. Guilds met here, as did the assize courts. It was used as a corn exchange and granary. King Edward VI’s Grammar School began here. Presbyterian and Baptist non-conformists worshipped in various parts during the late seventeenth century. William III had half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences minted here. In 1712, the buildings became the city workhouse until 1859, when a trades school was established the continues today elsewhere as the City of Norwich School. The East and West Ranges are now part of the Norfolk Institute of Art and Design. (more…)

December 11, 2011 7:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Burn Baby Burn!

A Burning-in-Effigy at Exposes the Cowardices of Tomorrow’s Politicians

I cannot condemn this in more stringent terms. The Tories at the University of St Andrews have apparently burnt Barack Obama in effigy and then backtracked with all manner of pussyfooting around and the standard issue of apologies. Burning in effigy is a perfectly legitimate form of political expression and has been verified by centuries of tradition.

What’s more, I suspect there’s a bit of the old racism behind the apologies: would anyone have bat an eyelid if Mr Obama’s predecessor had been burnt in effigy by students? I, for one, would have happily joined in both effigy-burnings. The more effigies burnt the merrier. Chesterton remarked “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged”, and I would suggest effigy-burning is a potentially more wholesome if less efficacious alternative.

If you’re going to burn an effigy, burn an effigy and then stick with it. But the weak-kneed, shilly-shally Tories always want to engage in a bit of old-school fun before hoisting up the white flag and issue an “unreserved public apology”. Rank hypocrisy of the highest order! Ye cannae have yer cake an’ eat it, too!

December 4, 2011 7:22 pm | Link | 4 Comments »
Home | About | Contact | Categories | Paginated Index | Twitter | Facebook | RSS/Atom Feed
andrewcusack.com | © Andrew Cusack 2004-present (Unless otherwise stated)