Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
In passing, in the drawing of Star Yard, note the bollard making the passage one for
pedestrians only. A large number of these bollards remain in London. Traditionally, they
are supposed to be made out of old cannon; certainly they resemble the business end of
a six-pounder, and no doubt some were just that. There are four in Upper Thames Street
by the side of All Hallows the Less that are obviously sawn-off cannon. Most, however,
are specially cast and are often of simple dignified design. Designs vary considerably in
general. The bollards date from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century, with
some later examples of the 1920s, the latter much less attractive. Many have the initials of
the parish cast on them in the bold lettering known as 'Elephant', a favourite type with the
printers of playbills in the 1820s and 1830s.
My previous illustration - of lamp and clock at the Angel - is what Lewis Carroll might
have termed a portmanteau drawing, inasmuch as it comprises several favourite motifs of
mine in one subject. These cast-iron public clocks were once a feature of city life, and
there are two remaining in inner London - the one at the Angel and the other, more splen-
did, atop the men's lavatories at Victoria, at the corner of Victoria Street and the Vauxhall
Bridge Road. The one at Victoria is a never-failing source of pleasure to me, so debased is
my taste; it is a sort of reduced version of Big Ben and, like its prototype, is rich with Per-
pendicular ornament, thin buttresses, rectangular panels, pinnacles that do no work, and an
illuminated clock. Such Gothic follies outraged Pugin and the serious-minded Revivalist
architects. No doubt, they are also considered beneath contempt by the present-day expo-
nents of faceless office blocks and other modern madnesses, but cast-iron clocks add a lot
of fun to the streets. In fact, cast iron always does. In Paris, for instance, the art nouveau
entrances to the Metro (designed by Hector Guimard at the turn of the century) continu-
ally surprise. Lissom and ductile, the metal seems to grow from the pavement like some
unhealthy plant in a Beardsley drawing, in the languorous curves of a paragraph by Oscar
Wilde. London is short of this scenic metal work and also that of the type represented by
the Marché aux Fleurs and the caryatid fountains given to the city by Sir Richard Wallace.
The drawing of the Angel has, besides the clock tower, a very fine Victorian lamp and
an architectural curiosity (at least as regards Islington) in the shape of Lyons Angel Corner
House previously mentioned. The building is no longer used, but at the time of erection
must have brought a touch of Baroque to the lives of the Islington customers, a feeling of
having sneaked into a palace in order to consume a cup of char and a penny bun. Lyons
no longer concentrate on backgrounds of veined marble, gilt, and mirror, but some of their
Corner Houses still retain much of it and subdued lighting, too, in the taste of the 1920s
and '30s. Certain of the Corner Houses are so eloquent of the 1920s as to require a label
such as 'Late Debroy Somers', just as the exterior of the Dorchester Hotel and the inside
and outside of the Daily Telegraph building inevitably belong to the period I call 'Early
(or Middle) Henry Hall'. This architecture of the 1920s and '30s is too interesting a subject
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