Tag Archives: Building

The Skinners, a City of London Livery Company

I often find myself in one or other of the various Livery Halls dotted around the City of London (Not as a guest but rather pursuing my own trade for which there is no company!).  Last week I was doing a regular annual shoot for the Architects Benevolent Society who hold their event in a different Hall each year.  This year it was the Skinners and it was one Hall I had not visited before.

For those who may not be familiar with the traditions of this land, the Livery Companies all go back a very long way, (in the case o the Skinners, they were awarded their charter by Edward the Third in 1327) and they are essentially trade associations that exist to protect and promote their particular trade.  There are 108 of them (I have only visited a small handful) and many of them are rather wealthy institutions.  Originally they had strong links to the church but nowadays these links are rather know tenuous but many still do a great deal of charitable work.  The Skinners is a case in point.  In fact the Skinners as a trade ceased to exist a couple of hundred years ago but the company is still doing very well and currently supports four schools in Kent and London, runs Sheltered Housing accommodations and make generous grants to other charities.  And then of course they have their fine building, right next door to Cannon Street station and within spitting distance to the Thames river.

An interesting aside is that in 1484 the Skinners and Merchant Taylors had a argument about who whose barge go in front during the Mayor of London river procession.  In the end the Mayor himself had to intervene and decreed that henceforth each company would take turns to be in front and when the fixed order was finally arranged they alternated between positions six and seven.  This probably gave rise to the phrase “to be at sixes and sevens”

I had a few minutes to kill last week so I made use of my time by looking at things that interested me.  (This is not meant to be a comprehensive study of the hall!)  In particular I really liked the huge chest with it’s impressively ornate locking mechanism in the lid, which was accidently closed and it took all the skills of the locksmith to get it open again and only once he had been given a photograph of the workings!  Otherwise they are all quite self-explanatory.

Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London Skinners Hall, London

Canterbury at Night and Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”

One of the most precious photography books in my collection is Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”.  This was given to me by my father about 20 years ago and is a well loved copy which detracts from it’s monetary value (it remains the most valuable book I own despite the wear) but in no way detracts from the images.  These images, along with those of Sudek have formed one of the back-bone of my photographic education. Interestingly though, I never felt moved to emulate any of their work at the time.  But last year, or it may have been the year before, I spent a number of winter nights tramping around the streets of Canterbury doing a Canterbury de Nuit series.

By way of background to Brassai, this Hungarian born photographer forms part of that rich stream of photographers that flowed out of Europe during the early part of the 20C.  He worked mainly in Paris and died there in 1984, after a life of work in photography.  His commercial commissioned work is largely forgotten now but his legacy of personal work is formidable.

And so to Canterbury at night…

Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction

More Art Deco Architecture and more Wallis, Gilbert and Partners – The Daimler Garage in Bloomsbury, London

You may think that I have a bit of a thing about Art Deco architecture – in fact I don’t but having shown the Hoover Building here recently I could not help noticing the Daimler Garage on my travels in London.  This is not quite as spectacular a project as Hoover but it is clearly from the same stable despite it’s tucked away location. It predates Hoover by one whole year (!) so certainly springs from the same creative impulse that was driving WG&P at the time.

There is not that much information about the building itself but it was built for the Daimler Hire Company to accommodate their fleet of chauffeur driven hire limousines for the rich, the idea being that you hired that car and driver together for three months at a time thereby by eliminating the hassle of having to buy the car and employing a driver. It was also a “try before you buy” scheme in as much as you got a refund if you decided to go the whole hog and buy a car.  If you have money to burn, I guess it makes sense.

The building itself is home to the McCann advertising agency and there is very little to indicate how exactly the building functioned as it is all now offices where as presumably at least some of the floors would have been garage space.

Anyway here are a few shots of it. (I didn’t do many as I was running late for my meeting and it was a very dull day!)…

1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London 1931, Art Deco, Architecture, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Daimler Garage, Bloomsbury, London

Escalators

   It’s been a busy week or so with great weather which is great for work but less so for doing other stuff. Yesterday, was typical I started to the West of London, then went to Teddington  in West London, then Wimbledon (SW London), the Sydenham (SE London), then Greenwich (SE) and then back home.  Which adds up to a lot of driving and quite a bit of shooting in between, but not much else.  Still, I did find myself in a DIY superstore with some impressive escalators so given the dearth of time I shot those for fun, before moving on to my next location.

Escalator, London, Escalator, London, Escalator, London, Escalator, London,

All Saints Church, Icklingham, Suffolk

Granted, All Saints was built as a church but given that this building hasn’t been in use for over 100 years to call it a “Church”  is perhaps something of a misnomer.

I swung by Icklingham on my way back to Kent after a shoot in Suffolk a week or so ago as it was only a 3 mile detour. All Saints Church is a Churches Conservation Trust museum piece and whilst it certainly was a church it has more of a museum feel now.   It is interesting that while I wholeheartedly support the work of the CCT they are effectively creating a network of little museums across the country, preserving the structures of buildings that have lost their spirit and in a sense their way too.  However this church remains a fine example of a thatched Suffolk Church and is positioned on what once was an ancient and important trade route.

The setting of this particular building is rather plain, pretty but nothing extraordinary although the key guardian was exceptionally cheerful and friendly which did add a kind of warm glow.

Inside, the building has a slightly curious kind of double nave which is in fact a nave plus side aisle but the huge window at the end of the side-aisle kind of elevates it’s visual significance to me.  Unfortunately nearly all the stained glass is long gone that the little that remains is not in the same league as the Canterbury Cathedral glass I have been photographing for the Getty Museum recently.  So I guess the space is very much brighter than it would have been originally, no doubt the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day when I visited, added to this.

Side aisle with large winbdow

Side aisle with large window

There were a few things that caught my eye:

I liked the well chewed pews, no doubt worn down by generations of small children (pre 1900) anxious to get out and play.

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A gnawed Pew

I was also intrigued by the curious short spiral staircase built into the wall dividing the main nave from the (single) side aisle.  This didn’t seem to go anywhere except to a small opening a few metres above the entrance which presumably was used as a pulpit, giving the priest a commanding view of his gathered flock.

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The spiral staircase and pulpit

The early 14C font had some crude but pleasing carvings around it’s perimeter and I particularly liked the faint but lovely octopus-like carving on the sarcophagus by the side door.  This door also sported a fine anchor shaped knocker.

All Saints Details

All Saints Details

The thatched roof was also interesting:

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

You can read the CCT blurb about this church here:  http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/All-Saints-Church-Icklingham-Suffolk/

And I’ll let the pictures do the talking now:

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The Nave

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Looking across the nave towards the side aisle

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Light from the side Aisle Wndow

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Those chewed pews again

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Side aisle window

Icklingham Church, Suffolk, CCT, Conservation, thatch roof

Hadlow Tower, Kent – Britain’s tallest folly now folly restored

Here is something I thought I had posted a couple of weeks ago but realised just now that it slipped through without a look in!

I visited the marvellous and recently refurbished Hadlow Tower a few days after it opened last month.  The project has been completed by the Vivat Trust with the support of English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund and sees this once derelict folly restored to beyond it’s original glory – I say beyond because whereas it was not built with any particular use in mind other than standing tall, now it has a real function and houses a pretty swanky  three bedroom house on it’s lower five levels as well as a museum on the ground floor.

The original structures were designed in 1838 by the architect George Ledwell Taylor,for a client who had benefited from a substantial legacy and so  had no need to work but did need to do something with his time.  (the best kind of client, I should think!).  Taylor was recently made redundant from the military, where he supervised a number of mundane projects and the Hadlow Tower was one of his early commissions as a private practitioner and he was obviously relishing the break from military architecture.

Enjoy

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Relevant Links:

The full Wiki article is here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadlow_Castle

The Vivat Trust is here: http://www.vivat-trust.org/properties.php?pid=121

Ashford M20 cycle & Footbridge – Nicoll Russell Architects with Jacobs

I took some time out after a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s in Ashford recently and strolled over the (now not-so) new foot bridge that joins the Eureka and Warren Business parks together.  Great for getting to the cinema!

It was conceived by a practice based in far away Dundee:  Nicoll Russell Architects and according to their website it is designed to create a kind of memorable gateway to Ashford. Jacobs did the engineering and overall I think it is a success despite gaining early and unfortunate local notoriety as as suicide point  – not something you can lay at the door of the designers who have certainly created a visually striking structure.

Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering Ashford M20 Foot Cycle Bridge, Nicoll Russell Architects, Jacobs Engineering

Art Deco at it’s finest – The Hoover Building

Last weekend I had a CGI shoot in Wembley, to the west of London.  I finished at about 1600 and decided to head back home on the motorways.  The route to the notorious M25 motorway (the 8 lane car park that surrounds London) takes you past the wonderful Hoover building.  Normally when I whizz past I’ve either got to be somewhere else or want to get home but Saturday was different.  The sun was shining, it was warm for a change and I wasn’t in a hurry so I turned around (that means going to the next exit to join the London bound carriageway btw) parked up and took at look – for the first time I am slightly ashamed to say.

Hoover have long abandoned it’s flagship edifice.  Indeed when I arrived here in the mid 80’s it was a pretty derelict and unloved site.  Since then Tesco have bought it (in 1989)and for a while it was restored to it’s old colourful glory but all good things come to an end and I note that it is once again empty and available to rent with the onset of dilapidation well underway again. The rear part where the supermarket is, is still functioning. I guess although a marvellous building it simply can’t measure up to the needs of modern life,  it’s BREEAM rating is probably in minus figures!  (BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings)

By way of background and with courtesy of Wikipedia:

“Built for The Hoover Company, the building originally housed Hoover’s main UK manufacturing facility making vacuum cleaners, and employed up to 600 staff in the its offices and works. The original building (No. 1) was built in 1932 and contained the main offices; before it was completed plans were being put in place to add manufacturing facilities. As staff moved into their new offices foundations were being laid for a factory block to the east of the original building; this new block came to be known as Building No.3 and was complete and fully operational by February 1933. In January 1934 plans were drawn up for an additional two storey extension on top of the factory building and by May 1934 construction was well under way. Demand for Hoover vacuum cleaners continued to grow and in 1935 Wallis, Gilbert and Partners designed a new factory (Building No. 5) behind the original building. In 1938 a separate canteen and recreation centre (Building No. 7) was completed to the west of the original office.”

for more information go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Building

for more info about the architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallis,_Gilbert_and_Partners

Sorry, being a bit lazy here! but the fun part is the pictures.  For a photographer of architecture this building offers almost limitless possibilities, was great fun to shoot and makes for a pleasant change from more contemporary modernist type structures.  But I think as a building with a effective function in the 21st Century, the jury is still out.

Hoover Building, London, Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, Art Deco

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St Mary the Virgin Church, Fordwich, Near Canterbury, Kent

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Popped in to see St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich after doing that traditional Sunday activity of visiting the DIY shop.   This is one of seventeen Kent churches entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, a charity who sole function is to ensure that the historical and material aspects of local Churches is maintained and that they can remain open to the public.

Fordwich sits comfortably and sleepily on the banks of the Stour as it winds it’s way to the sea.  The present town bears very little relation to the buzzing place it must have been when it served as the main port for the arrival of Caen stone from France during the Norman reconstruction of the nearby Canterbury Cathedral in 12C and 13C.  Nowadays it’s main claim to fame is that it is the smallest place in the country to have a Town Council and it also has two fine pubs one of which is conveniently opposite the miniscule Town Hall!

Having negotiated my way past innumerable gravestones I arrived at the Church door.  The church itself is very much more substantial than the Romney Marsh building I visited last Sunday and the setting is no where near as unique but that said it does have some interesting features.  I guess from an historical point of view the sarcophagus (that supposedly once contained the remains of St Augustine of Canterbury) is of note. dating from 1100, it is carved with columns and with fishscale tiles on the sloping top  making it look a bit like a Greek temple but but beyond that the thing itself is pretty featureless.

The painting (1688) above the tympanium represents the Royal Arms of William III and Commandments but the best thing about it is the way it exactly follows the shape of the chancel arch below and so serves to emphasise the architectural structure of the building as well as to remind us to be good and pious.

And then there is the fine hand-pumped organ with a large lever protruding from the rear which, no doubt,  someone who didn’t pay enough attention to the commandments above the Chancel Arch was obliged to pump up and down until given the signal to stop from the organist.

And finally, the crowning glory has got to be the curious bully-beef tin hooked on the side of one of the pews.  It certainly never had the honour of holding any relics but what a fantastic piece of folk art – and I have no idea what it was made to hold!

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

St Thomas a Becket Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh

Romney Marsh has got to be one of my favourite places in Kent.  The silent and bleak desolation is contrasted only by the endless groups of sheep nibbling at the grass and the plaintive bleats from the new lambs.  Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day so it was a perfect time to visit St Thomas a Beckett Church near Fairfield.  Apparently (according to Simon Jenkins) this is one of Kent’s most visited churches and it is in a wonderful location so one can easily understand why but if you strip out the setting, the building itself is rather plain and uninspiring.

The church now sits isolated and alone amongst the sheep and the steady trickle of visitors most of whom seem to park on the road, walk to the church and then back to their cars to drive off without stopping.  I found the atmosphere there quite compelling and was really struck by the amazing silence that surrounds the place.

The sign on the gate says that the Church key is available at the nearest house.  I was very happy to find the large key hanging next to the back door of said house.  No security, just a small note saying to please replace the key after use – wonderful.  And it was a fine looking key too!

There has been a church on this site since the 13C but all the associated houses have long gone.  The existing church structure was restored in about 1910 after it had become virtually derelict so all the exterior brickwork and roof is from that date which gives it quite a early 20C feel but the interior has certainly retained some of the original timbers.  It also has some marvellous (and very recently painted) box pews, a fine split pulpit and a lead font but I guess even taking these into account the best thing about this church is without doubt it’s location which is utterly unique.

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent

St Thomas a Beckett Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh, Kent