Family of Dolphins (Sculpture), Rotherhithe

Above: The dolphin sculpture at its new location in Southwark Park.

The sculpture called ‘Family of Dolphins’ in bronze, 2.74 metres high, was made by the artist David Backhouse for the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. The Centre was built 1986-88 on a large site beside the remaining section of Canada Water, in Rotherhithe. The sculpture was the largest decorative feature in the centre which had a maritime theme – being built on land which had been part of the Surrey Commercial Docks. After delighting visitors to the Centre for over 30 years, as the show piece of the attractive water feature, the management decided to remove the sculpture and they donated it to Southwark Council.

Above: The dolphin sculpture photographed shortly after the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre opened in the late 1980s.

To receive such a gift was one thing but finding a new ‘home’ for such a large piece was not so easy. The Council consulted with the public about a new site with an emphasis on security for the statue, due to several thefts of public statues within the borough. Sadly, over the last few years, the Alfred Salter statue was stolen from its site beside the Thames. The Nature Girls statues – three rather quirky bronze figures near Surrey Water – have suffered the same fate. Some of the farmyard animal statues, on the Thames Path near Surrey Docks Farm, have also been stolen. In each case, it is assumed that the statues were stolen because of the high value of the bronze from which they were made. It is hoped that the new location of the dolphin statue – at the centre of a lake, inside a park that has railings around it and is locked gates at night – is sufficiently difficult to access and will, therefore, prove to be an effective deterrent to thieves. The three sculptures that were stolen had one thing in common – they were all on open land that was accessible by day but also by night.

There was already a fountain in the large lake in Southwark Park and that was one of the sites suggested as a suitable location by other members of the public. Southwark approved the new site in May 2015 and the dolphin sculpture was finally erected close to the original fountain installation by early 2016. It certainly adds a further point of interest in this large, well-used park.


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Black Horse in Bishopsgate

How many times recently have you ever seen a cart horse, a race horse or any other kind of horse in the City of London or even in Bishopsgate? While the above picture shows a statue of a horse (and not a real one), it is still an unusual sight on the busy streets of the capital these days.

The life sized black marble composite sculpture was made by the British artist, Mark Wallinger, with the help of advanced technology, scanning a racehorse, part owned by the artist – named Rivera Red. Wallinger is an accomplished artist who won the Turner Prize in 2007. The statue has been placed on the west side of Bishopsgate, at the junction with Wormwood Street. The sculpture is one of the offerings in this year’s ‘Sculpture in the City’ series when art in various forms is displayed around the City streets. It will be on show for the rest of 2017 and into early 2018.

How the decision to locate each piece of art is made is not known and why the horse was placed beside Bishopsgate has not been explained either. However, looked at from the perspective of the history of this ancient street, it could not have been sited in a better position.

Bishopsgate lies on the line of a Roman road that led north from Londinium. It continues north today as Shoreditch High Street with both streets being part of today’s A10 whose original route led north via Tottenham to Ware, in Hertfordshire, and then northwards to Cambridge.

From the 17th century onwards Bishopsgate was once the location of many coaching inns which accommodated passengers setting out for the north of England and parts of East Anglia. The west side of the street was lined with many large inns all the way from its junction with Gracechurch Street to the land now covered by Liverpool Street Station and the Broadgate development. There were also inns on the east side of the road but not so many. Hundreds of horses were stabled in these inns – providing horses for the ‘coach and four’ that were a familiar scene in the street during the days of stage coaches in the 17th century, the 18th century and into the 19th century. By the 1830s railways were being built all over England, including London. London Bridge Station was the first to open in London, in 1836. Liverpool Street Station was built on the site of several coaching inns, being a relatively late railway terminus – not opening until 1874.

Although the reason for positioning the fine statue of a horse in Bishopsgate is not known, it could not have been placed in a better position. The statue represents a racehorse which is not quite what horses pulling a stage coach were all about but, nevertheless, the statue is a good reminder of the many horses that were once to be seen in and around the eastern part of the City of London.


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West India Docks and the Peruvian Training Ship

Above: View looking east at the ‘BAP Unión’ moored in South Dock while on its short visit to London.

Every now and again London is visited by various ships from other countries. Some ships are sailing ships, some are warships and others are liners. During the week of 24 July 2017, a Peruvian training ship came to London and moored in South Dock – the most southerly of the old West India Docks. The sailing ship is one of the largest in the world but it is not quite what it appears to be. Called the ‘BAP Unión’, the ship is a new vessel, only being completed in 2015. It is a sailing ship but it has a steel hull and a powerful motor driving a single screw when necessary.

‘BAP Unión’ is a training ship of the Peruvian Navy built between 2012–15 by a shipyard in Lima, Peru. It is a four-masted, steel-hulled, class ‘A’ barque with a total length (including bowsprit) of 115 metres (379 feet). The beam is 13.50 metres (44 feet) and a draft of 6.50 metres (21 feet). The ship was named in honour of a Peruvian Corvette that took part in the first stage of the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific as part of a naval squadron under the command of Miguel Grau, a hero of the Peruvian Navy.

Above: View through the rigging of the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome).

Like other similar ships, ‘BAP Unión’ has been conceived not only for training purposes but also to be a sailing ambassador for its home country. It is certainly the largest sailing vessel in Latin America but whether it is the largest sailing vessel in the world is not certain. It would be true to say that it is one of the largest sailing vessels on the high seas.

Above: View looking west in South Dock at the ‘BAP Unión’ with its really tall masts.

Of the four masts, the tallest rises to 65 metres (213 feet). The vessel certainly has an impressive size which is in no way dwarfed by the large buildings surrounding it at Canary Wharf. The barque has 34 sails which have a total area of 3.400 square metres (36,597 square feet). There are 85 cadets under training – just part of the total crew of 250 men and women. Many of the crew are sailors but there are also cooks, barbers, doctors and laundry staff.

London is just one of many ports around the world that the ship is visiting during its six-month voyage. After visiting other ports in Europe, the vessel will return via the Panama Canal to the home country of Peru.

It is always good when sailing ships visit the West India Docks. They opened as two large docks in 1802 and in those days all the cargo vessels were sailing ships. South Dock (seen in the pictures above) was not added until the 1860s – on the original site of the City Canal which crossed the Isle of Dogs to the south of the West India Docks. Pictures of today’s sailing ships in the dock are a reminder of the days of sail and of the cargoes handled in those docks. Today large offices surround the docks where it is money that is imported and exported electronically, in the financial dealing rooms.


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Southwark Park Caryatids

Above: The two caryatids standing beside one of the lawns, a short distance from the Carriage Drive. Both figures have sustained some damage. The figure on the right has no supporting arms.

Southwark Park is Grade II listed and covers 63 acres (26 hectares) of land, making it one of the largest green spaces in London. It was one of the earliest parks in London, opened by the Metropolitan Board of Works on 19 June 1869, designed by A MacKenzie. The park is ‘cut in half’ by the Carriage Drive which originally linked two grand entrances – one beside Southwark Park Road and the other at the end of Gomm Road. A major refurbishment was undertaken in 2001 with money from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund which led to several improvements to the park.

Caryatids (or caryatides) is a name given to stone supports, in the form of draped female figures, for a horizontal pillar on a building. Such figures were to be found on a Greek-style building. The two caryatids originally flanked the main entrance to Rotherhithe Old Town Hall which was designed and constructed by Henry Poole and opened on 28 April 1897. It stood on the corner of Neptune Street and Lower Road.

The building was severely damaged by air raids during the Second World War and it was subsequently demolished. The caryatids remained on their original site until 1974 when they were relocated within the Heygate Estate, just off New Kent Road. In 2009 the estate was demolished and the two caryatids have been erected in Southwark Park, near south side of the Carriage Drive.

The two stone figures were erected in the park in 2011. One female figure carries an oak wreath on her head which is often used as an emblem of virtue, strength, resilience, longevity and rebirth. The other figure carries a wreath of laurel which is a token of peace and quiet and also a symbol of triumph and fame.


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St Paul’s Hotel, Hammersmith

Above: The original High Master’s house now converted into a boutique hotel.

As far as schools go in London, St Paul’s School is one of the oldest. It was first established adjacent to the old St Paul’s Cathedral as early as 1103. A new school was founded in 1509 by Dean Colet on land to the north of the old cathedral. In 1884 a new site for the school in Hammersmith was chosen and the buildings were designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse. The terracotta for the exterior was made by the famous company Gibbs and Canning Limited, of Tamworth. The school then moved from its City of London site to the new one.

By 1961 it was decided that the school at Hammersmith was becoming unsuitable and a new site was acquired in Barnes, on the south side of the Thames. The school moved once more and still occupies the site in Barnes today. Most of the school buildings at Hammersmith were demolished after the school transferred. The only buildings to be left standing were the ornate house built for the High Master and the adjacent lodge. They were also designed by Alfred Waterhouse.

The remaining buildings were later turned into offices and most recently became offices for Mind, the mental health charity. After the offices were vacated, the buildings were left empty in  2008 and they fell into a state of disrepair. The grand buildings were in a sorry state. They had been listed Grade II in 1983.

The property was acquired and the buildings were converted into a luxury 35-bedroom boutique 4-star hotel, restoring both the exterior and interior to their former glory. The hotel is just 800 metres from London Olympia, one of the prestigious exhibition venues in Central London. The hotel is also only a short walk from the two underground stations at Hammersmith, the well-connected bus interchange and the large shopping centre. The hotel’s popularity is almost guaranteed.

The hotel stands at No 153 Hammersmith Road, on the south side. During the Second World War, the school at Hammersmith was evacuated from London and the building was used as part of the war effort. It was the location of the historic meeting of Eisenhower, Montgomery and Winston Churchill to plan the D Day landings.

In passing, if Alfred Waterhouse is an unfamiliar name to you, then here are a few facts about him. Alfred Waterhouse RA (1830–1905) was an English architect, particularly associated with Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. Born in Liverpool, he had a Manchester architectural practice for 12 years before moving his practice to London in 1865. His brothers were accountants – Edwin Waterhouse was the co-founder of the Price Waterhouse partnership, which now forms part of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Alfred is perhaps best known for his design for Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum, in London. Other well-known London buildings by him are Staple Inn, in Holborn, which he restored and, across the road, is the Prudential Assurance Building which he designed, in association with his son, Paul.


Comment 08 – End of the Academic Year

We have come to the end of the academic year (called ‘Year 6’). Since the start of June (the third term of the year), there have been blogs about the London Borough of Wandsworth and also the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. They are shown below.

American Embassy, Nine Elms
Asparagus Pub, Falcon Road
Battersea Bridge
Battersea Creek
Battersea Overview
Battersea Railway Bridge
Fowler’s Horizontal Mill
London Heliport
New Covent Garden Market
Nine Elms Cold Store
Nine Elms Pier
Ransome’s Dock
St Mary, Battersea
Wandsworth, London Borough of

Beverley Brook
Huguenot Burial Ground, Wandsworth
Putney Wharf
Ram Brewery, Wandsworth
Ship Pub, Wandsworth Bridge
Surrey Iron Railway
Wandle, River
Wandsworth Overview
Wimbledon Windmill

Brandenburgh House, Fulham
Fulham Overview
Fulham Palace
Fulham Palace Moat
Fulham Pottery
Hammersmith & Fulham, London Borough of
Margravine Cemetery

Dove Inn, Upper Mall
Doves Typeface
Hammersmith Creek
Hammersmith Overview
High Bridge, Hammersmith
Ravenscourt Park
St Paul’s Hotel, Hammersmith

Between now and the end of September is a time to add blogs on new things happening in Inner London as well as other unusual topics. During these weeks the blogs will ‘free-wheel’ – not necessarily being related to a ‘fixed schedule’. It is to be hoped that the topics chosen will also be of interest to those who read them. Thank you all for your continued interest in this Website.


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Ravenscourt Park

Above: The elegant stable block remaining from the Ravenscourt estate.

The origins of Ravenscourt Park lie in the medieval manor and estate of Palingswick (or Paddenswick) Manor, located on the site and first recorded in the 12th century. The ancient name still exists today in the form of Paddenswick Road, which runs along the north east boundary of the park.

By the 13th century, the manor house was a mansion surrounded by a moat fed from the Stamford Brook. The lake in the centre of the park today is a remnant of that original moat. It has been ‘downgraded’ as the park’s duck pond.

In his declining years, King Edward III’s mistress Alice Perrers lived in the manor during the 14th century.

The manor house was rebuilt in 1650 and in 1747 it was sold to Thomas Corbett who named it Ravenscourt – probably derived from the raven in his coat of arms. The French word for a raven is ‘corbeau’ which was a pun on his name of Corbett.

In 1812 the Ravenscourt House and estate were bought by its final private owner, George Scott, a builder and philanthropist who developed nearby St Peter’s Square. Scott employed leading landscape designer Humphry Repton to lay out the gardens of the estate.

Scott also encouraged the building of houses along its edges. According to a park plan from 1830, there were 78 houses within the park and by 1845 this number had risen to 330. The house and gardens remained in the hands of the Scott family until 1884.

Above: The ornamental lake was once part of the ancient moat.

It became a public park in 1888. The first public library in Hammersmith opened in Ravenscourt House in 1889. From 1918 part of Ravenscourt House was used as a tuberculosis dispensary.

Sadly, Ravenscourt House was severely damaged by incendiary bombs in 1941, during the Second World War. The house was later demolished and only the stable block remains today – usually known as the Ravenscourt Park tea house – and it now houses the park’s café.

The extensive park is situated on the north side of King Street (towards the Chiswick end) and is well worth a visit. Ravenscourt Park underground station is just a short distance away.


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Doves Typeface

Above: The northern pier of Hammersmith Bridge. It was from the walkway in the picture that the type was dropped into the Thames.

These days books, newspapers and pamphlets are all printed by creating the text on a computer which communicates with a printing machine that actually puts the ink onto sheets of paper. Until the 1970s, there were no computers and every character to be printed was printed using metal type. Each character was formed in metal, set onto the end of a metal bar about an inch long. The individual letters had to be laboriously set up to create a line of text and the lines combined to form a whole page. It was known as ‘typesetting’ because each character was referred to as ‘type’. The actual style of each character was known as a ‘typeface’.

In the late 1800s what was called the ‘Arts and Crafts Movement’ came into being. The term was first used by T J Cobden-Sanderson at a meeting of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1887, although the principles and style on which it was based had been developing in England for at least twenty years. It was inspired by the ideas of architect Augustus Pugin, writer John Ruskin, and designer William Morris. From these ideas flowed architectural styles, wallpaper designs, pottery designs and also typefaces that were used with other printed artwork.

Many people have heard of William Morris – an English textile designer, skilled craftsman, poet, novelist, and socialist activist – who was associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Born in Walthamstow, he had studios in Central London and at other locations. He also had a house in Upper Mall, Hammersmith, called Kelmscott House, which now has a small museum to Morris beside it. In 1890 Morris set up the Kelmscott Press nearby, along with a colleague called Emery Walker. Morris died in 1896 and the Kelmscott Press ended in 1898.

Cobden-Sanderson was a printer and bookbinder who had founded the Doves Bindery in 1893, at 15 Upper Mall, Hammersmith and, being a friend of William Morris, he bound many of his books. When the Kelmscott Press ended, 1898, Cobden-Sanderson realised the opportunity to found a new press and established the Doves Press in 1900 at No 1 Hammersmith Terrace. The money had been provided by his wife, Anne. The partner at the new press was Emery Walker – who lived at No 7 Hammersmith Terrace. Walker’s house is now a museum but it can only be visited by prior arrangement.

Their press used a specially designed typeface, unique to their business, called ‘Doves typeface’. To Cobden-Sanderson, the mechanical process of typesetting was almost a religious experience and the thought that, one day, his type might be used by another company in ways that were not related to his artistic ideas became too much for him to bear. He feared technological change and wanted his ideas of design to continue without change.

The two men eventually fell out. Walker had other interests which meant that Cobden-Sanderson was left to run the press by himself. It has to be said that Cobden-Sanderson was so obsessed with his printing that even if Walker had taken an interest in the work, his efforts would not have been welcomed by Cobden-Sanderson. In 1906 he asked to sever their partnership but Walker refused the offer of cash, with all rights then passing to Cobden-Sanderson. A compromise was made that Cobden-Sanderson would continue with the press, retaining the sole rights to the type. On his death, the rights would pass to Walker. This was agreed in July 1909 and the partnership ended.

A few year later, unknown to his partner, Cobden-Sanderson – then aged 76 years – decided to carry out a plan to end the use of his Doves typeface for ever. The year was 1916. Every evening he went for a short walk onto Hammersmith Bridge and quietly scattered some of the type into the Thames, hoping that nobody would notice. He had to make many such visits and, over the course of six months – from August 1916 until January 1917 – he dropped over a tonne of metal printing type into the river. Once all the type had been disposed of, Cobden-Sanderson confessed to his friends and also to Walker what he had done. Cobden-Sanderson died in 1922. Walker then sued his widow, Anne, for both the cost of producing the type (£500) and for a portion of the money it might still have earned. The case was settled out of court and it is believed that about £700 was paid to settle the matter. Anne died shortly afterwards – in 1926.

As has already been mentioned, Emery Walker had previously worked with William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. When Walker set up the Doves Press with Cobden-Sanderson another designer worked with them. His name was Edward Johnston who went on to design the typeface that is still in use for signs on London Underground to this day.

This unusual story is not quite complete. In 2010 the designer Robert Green, who had first seen the Doves Press type when he was studying at art college, took up the cause of the lost metal type. Green attempted to assemble as much printed material showing the Doves type as possible and then recreated the typeface graphically using a computer. Having established a working design, it suddenly occurred to him that some of the metal type might still be on the bed of the Thames. He worked out the most likely place for the type to be lying and engaged divers from the Port of London Authority. After searching for two days, 150 pieces were recovered. Unfortunately, later repairs to the footings of Hammersmith Bridge probably cover much of the river bed where the type was originally scattered.


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