Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Coalbrookdale Gate. This is worth inspection as an example of the style, ornately decorat-
ive, which characterised the Great Exhibition. Originally the gates stood inside the Crystal
Palace, but were re-erected half a mile away when the Exhibition was over at the entrance
to Kensington Gardens. Incidentally, the site of the Crystal Palace can still be made out.
There is a long stretch of grass in Hyde Park, in line with the Albert Memorial; looking
towards the memorial, that is towards Kensington, a decrepit tree can be seen, protected
by railings. This is supposed to be the last survivor of the elms which were enclosed in
Paxton's glass palace. At any rate, this stretch of parkland is the site of the 1851 Exhibi-
tion. The Crystal Palace, although Paxton's masterpiece, and one of the most remarkable
buildings of its time (remaining to this day one of the most satisfactory attempts at prefab-
rication), was not exactly unique, except in purpose and scale. It had been preceded by his
own conservatory at Chatsworth, Burton's Palm House at Kew and Loudon, the successful
landscape gardener and author/architect had published years before ideas for similar but
smaller constructions. One of the prettiest buildings of this kind in London is the Floral
Hall, Covent Garden, somewhat resembling a miniature Crystal Palace; it was originally
an annexe of the Opera House.
There are two or three other kinds of street furnishings in metal which, alone or in com-
bination, would make an interesting tour of London. I refer to the cast-iron balconies, an
essential ingredient in the design of terraces of all grades throughout London, and the
statues and drinking fountains or conduits. Many of the last - to take them first - are the
minor pleasantries of London. There is the very Victorian drinking fountain at Gloucester
Gate, Regent's Park, a pile of picturesquely arranged rocks from the top of which a mid-
Victorian girl, hand shading her eyes, gazes over Camden Town, as if on some lee shore,
scanning the horizon in search of a homeward-bound Indiaman. On a rock below is a
cluster of brass leaves with a button in the centre, marked 'Push'. Those solid rocks are
faced with brick at the back, which, if you peer behind, rather destroys the illusion. Last
time I passed it, however, the period flavour was very evident; I was driving in a dog cart
with Mr Walter Gilbey just after the Easter horse parade, and in front of the statue were
other little carts, fat ponies, donkeys, men in bowler hats, girls with coloured umbrellas
- a perfect subject for Tissot. There are many other drinking fountains in London, many
of them of small proportions, such as the one which gives such a charming touch to the
church of St Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street; the Edwardian one with a scallop shell can-
opy in Kensington High Street; the old water conduit by the Royal Exchange on Cornhill;
Aldgate Pump; and many others worth seeing, such as the remains of the old well in Well
Walk, a relic of the days when Hampstead had aspirations to become a second Tunbridge
Wells. With these, I might group the interesting parish boundary marks of London, some-
times sculptured but usually in cast iron. There are many parishes in the City alone (though
the number of City churches has been dwindling since the Fire), and each parish was very
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