Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
In the Whitechapel Road once again, the East London Art Gallery (Townsend, 1897-9)
is a curious, indigestible art nouveau design, and must have appeared very revolutionary
when new. Next comes Spitalfields, an area of fine decaying Georgian architecture, some
wonderfully grim blocks of Peabody Buildings and other 'Improved dwellings for the
Poor'. Spitalfields collapsed suddenly in the nineteenth century as a place of residence,
and the fine houses were turned into tenements; before that, however, the district was con-
sidered eligible by such men as Bolingbroke. Elder Street is full of fine ironwork and
doorways, and there is an extensive collection in other streets - Fournier Street, Folgate
Street, for example - mostly early eighteenth century. In Spital Square is the exceptionally
good bonded warehouse of Sadler and Moore. The rainwater heads, gauged brick cornices,
and ornamental iron railings are still intact. The door of No 20 (Bolingbroke's house) was
altered to the present one in the Bedford Square style. It has delicate Adamesque fea-
tures, and the rusticated quoins and keystones are carried out in Coade's artificial stone.
The earlier eighteenth-century windows can be seen above. One of the finest eighteenth-
century shops in the whole of London is here, in Artillery Lane. However, as this is well
known, I have chosen to illustrate a curiosity instead - the Moorish bazaar in Fashion
Street, given an odd realism by the turbaned figures of Indians who have drifted into the
area (see overleaf). It was once the Jews' market, a place for the sale of cheap textiles,
penny notebooks, and fifty-bladed penknives. Buildings with a Turkish or Moorish touch
invariably appeal to me, by their utter disregard of architectural qualities. I have a liking
for the tawdry, extravagant, and eccentric, and appreciate the logic of making a Turkish
baths a place of onion domes and minarets. It was not the Turks who invented the bath
named after them, by the way; in fact, we owe it to the Greeks and Romans. Not many
Turkish delights survive in London, but there is a curious Moorish bit at the foot of Black-
friars Bridge, carried out in stock brick. Seeking an oriental mood, one has to visit Lord
Leighton's house in Kensington to obtain the proper surroundings, apart from the mosques
and synagogues. Next to Fashion Street is the strangely named Flower and Dean Street,
one of the worst areas in London in the mid-nineteenth century and later close to the scene
of the Jack the Ripper operations. This street is full of drab nineteenth-century flats bust-
ing at the seams with life, both human and animal.
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