Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Hammersmith & City Railway - 9th August 2014

Last Week - you can see I'm running a bit behind here!

I was lucky, not only to be a steam train enthusiast, but to be with friends of a similar bent! Also some of my colleagues are more than generous with their time, complimentary tickets and encouragement to ‘get up and do it’!  Can you believe it?  I nearly turned down the tickets to go on this wonderful trip!

We assembled at Moorgate, the Moorfields entrance to be greeted by a brass band playing lively Victorian marching tunes which went on to music hall medleys. The staff were well informed and very organised and we followed our ‘ticket inspectors’ to our respective groups, for us ‘E’, there we waited excitedly to get on to the platform to begin our journey to Hammersmith in style!

Hammersmith & City Railway opened on 13th June 1864 with services from Hammersmith joining the Metropolitan at Edgware Road and continuing to Farringdon. The line was ‘cut and cover’ not tunnelled so we would played ‘peek a boo’ with the steam aficionados waiting on various bridges and viaducts to take a photograph of us en route.

 The ‘Sarah Siddons’ the oldest working main-line electric locomotive in the UK would take us on the outward journey. One of twenty locomotives made by Metropolitan Vickers for the Metropolitan Railway.  Sarah is No. 12, and for my Guide friends, No. 8 was named Sherlock Holmes and No. 20 Sir Christopher Wren.  Our locomotive was refurbished in 1971, and again in 2008 to as near as possible to her Metropolitan Railway livery circa 1929.

'Jubilee' First class carriage
First Class

Another ‘celebrity’ travelling with us was Met carriage No. 353 built in 1892 by Craven’s of Sheffield, the only surviving example of the first class four-wheeled ‘Jubilee’ carriage.  It was withdrawn from service in 1905 but kept working on a light railway in Somerset until 1940. During WWII it became a clubhouse for American servicemen, used as a low cost home, an antique shop and finally an outbuilding. It survived and was revived in time for the 150th anniversary. I was not in this carriage, we were in Third Class with this fabulous upholstery!

Third Class upholstery
We would return by steam by Metropolitan Railway Locomotive No. 1 the last loco to be built at Neasden Works in 1898.  It worked the last steam service on the Chesham branch until July 1960 and the last steam-hauled passenger train in regular service between Rickmansworth and Amersham in September 1961.  In 2011 London Transport Museum and Buckinghamshire Railway Centre formed a partnership to have Met No 1 overhauled at workshops in Gloucestershire ready for 150th anniversary of the Underground in 2013.

On getting to the platform our collective joy at seeing the steam loco made it a real task for the staff to get us into our respective carriages in time for the train to leave! Finally all comfortable and settled with open windows and plush seats we were off! 

It was fun to see the faces of the Saturday commuters as we whisked by, with a look of disbelief. We waved madly and found that Kings Cross Station with Baker Street following a close second, were the best for responsive and enthusiastic ‘wavers’! Also it was interesting to see a modern Tube train beside us with the travellers oblivious to us sideling up to and then sliding past them. They have no idea what they missed!

On arrival at Hammersmith a lot of hustle going on - ‘let’s get in the way of the camera, video, phones’ as the press of people went to what was now the front of the train to watch Met No 1 take on water from an improvised tank, ready to steam us back. 

Oh the smell of steam, the fug of soot and touch of grit! The minute the loco started, the rapture, yes the rapture on our faces. The sound of the train gathering speed that steady rise of sound as we gathered pace. Into the first tunnel and yes, the intense smoky smell and grit in your eye! Bliss!

We did not find out until we arrived back at Moorgate that we had shared our carriage with one of the last steam train drivers (the big ones) ever! Well I am sure we will meet again on a steam train sometime soon and we can plague him with questions.

Out into the bright sunlight ready for a cup of tea and excited chit chat about our adventure! 

Special Thanks to Paul, Mike and Jeanette and the rest of the crew!

Lovely smiles from those we left behind.

This week .... talking statues, a great golden grasshopper and a cheesegrater!

London Historians Blog - The founder of the Royal Exchange and Elizabeth I's Financial Wizard.

Also in the City this week - Talking Statues!

An article:

A short film:

The Cheesegrater undercroft is open!
Interesting article from Footprints of London

Monday, 11 August 2014

Kettle's Yard - Home of Jim Ede - an 'art house'

Private Visit - Cambridge - 16th June 2014

The three black/white collages by Italo Valenti 1964
To the right: Above: Ben Nicholson Abstract Design 1934
Below: Frank Auerback R B Kitaj 1980
Table: Right to left: Fiddle Fish 1963 & the bowl 'The Wave' Lucie Rie 1971

I count myself lucky that I guide for the National Trust in a 'museum home' a place which feels so lived in that at any moment you expect the original occupiers will return. Anticipating a cheery 'Hello' and invitation to stay for tea or a cocktail and hear about their day. The atmosphere at 2 Willow Road, Hampstead is like that, welcoming and forever interesting.  Kettle's Yard on a larger scale, welcomes you, invites you in and silently accepts your awe and delight as you enter the extraordinary spaces which were home to Jim Ede and his wife Helen. 

[ Article from 2008 - Update : entry is now through a purpose-built reception/gallery area.

'a friend of artists'

Jim Ede (1895-1990) studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London for a year, he wanted to be a painter, like many of the young men of the time, he needed to earn a living. As fate would degree it was lucky for us and future artists that in 1921he joined the National Gallery as Assistant Photographer. He went on to the Tate Gallery as an Assistant where he remained until 1936, wait for it, emerging as the Tate's first curator of modern art!

Ede's original interests lay with the Renaissance but working for a national art gallery in the 20s gave him an enviable introduction to the avant garde artists of the time, the likes of Ben and Winifred Nicholson and Christopher Wood. Trips to Paris brought him into contact with Picasso, Chagall, Miro and Brancusi. A 'renewal' of view and introduction to contemporary art of the time. Being a personable chap what were initially introductions and recommendations developed into life-long friendships which were the foundation of his developing new interest and taste.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska Wrestlers relief 1914
By 1927 Ede's reputation was growing and was enhanced by arrival of a vast quantity of work by Henri Gaudier Brzeska (sculptor) at the Tate. Ede had not heard of him and the Tate did not know what to do with this 'gift' which no-one seemed to want. Brzeska had been killed in action in 1915, his work,hardly known, had been pushed from pillar to post finally landing at the Tate via the Treasury Solicitor General.  Ede realised the quality of the work and set to arranging for a friend to buy three pieces for the Tate and three for the Contemporary Art Society, the rest he bought - a bargain! Brzeskas work today can be seen at the Tate Gallery, the Musee. National d'Art moderne in Paris and Kettle's Yard. Ede went on to write a book on the sculptor, Savage Messiah, a best seller in Britain and Ken Russell made the film. Ede continued to establish the artist's international reputation by supporting exhibitions and donating works.

Painting: William Scott Pears 1979 
Sculpture: George Kennethson Forms 1968

1936 saw Jim Ede take early retirement from the Tate Gallery and move to Tangiers, building a modernist House called White Stone. Morocco was his base for 20 years all told; travelling and  lecturing on art all over Europe and the US.  It was during this period that the idea came to him to create a home which would also be an place to show works of art, a domestic setting where guests and students could relax and enjoy the works without the formality or restrictions of museum or gallery. An idea he had practiced previously in the 1920s when he opened his home in Hampstead to visitors such as Braque, Gabo, Moore and John Gielgaud. Ede had also gone on to experience this type of 'event' in private homes and public galleries in the US.

White Stone - Tangiers. Morocco
Jim and Helen lived here on and off from 1935-52
(c) The Dartington Trust Archives
Jim and his wife Helen returned to England and looked for the 'stately home' to create this concept. They were far from wealthy and were recommended to contact the President of the Cambridge Preservation Society, who offered them four tiny condemned slum dwellings! Far from the imagined stately pile! So be it, from this pile of bricks and mortar Kettle's Yard was born.
Gregorio Vardanega's plexiglass Disc c1960
Alfred Wallis - Seascapes

Connection between the old and the new - 'The Bridge' looking towards the 'cottages'   
From 1957 onwards Kettles Yard kept 'open house' to university undergraduates, these were the people he wanted to introduce to his collection, as well as encouraging local artists. Also musical evenings were very much part of this and concerts are still held at the house on a regular basis. The idea developed and grew and the University went on to continue the activity to this day in one form or another since 1966. Jim remained until1970 as 'honourary curator'. 

An extension was created in 1970 by the architects of the Royal festival Hall (Sir Leslie Martin and David Owers) it was at this point that the realisation dawned of the exact scale of Jim Ede's collection and it's diversity. Forty-four works by Ben Nicholson and one hundred paintings by Alfred Wallis. A collection of outstanding quality and importance.

Round pebbles are extraordinarily hard to find.
My last visit to the seaside only produced ovals which are not quite the same.
The tiny objet in the forefront is Toy by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
 This house and the man whose vision created this extraordinary space for students and public to enjoy will not get the time and space he rightly deserves here. What is important, and must be mentioned -  it is not just the works of art that are to see here. Everything at Kettle's Yard is a perfectly balanced whole, the furniture, found objects, glass, light their relationship to each other become a work of art in its own right. Further reading about Jim Ede's vision can be found in A Way of Life (1984).

Painting: Ben Nicholson Bertha (no. 2) 1924
Sculpture: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska Maternity 1913
Best of all is to go and see for yourself an experience like no other! Well, there are other's that rank highly too, but Kettle's Yard is exceptional.  Highly recommend the purchase of the Guide Book, lots of information and description of works, there are no labels! Plus you can sit on the chairs, couches, benches, which is a bonus, to absorb the house, art, the universe and everything.

A word used by Jim Ede in his foreword to the Guidebook is 'rapture'; he is talking about the artists of the Renaissance, for me personally, this one word describes perfectly my visit to Kettle's Yard.

Rapture [Oxford Dictionary]
A feeling of intense pleasure or joy OR

Expressions of intense pleasure or enthusiasm about something

You can hear Jim Ede in this rather wonderful recording, the way he talks is frightfully good! 

Helen's Room - the only room in the house not open to the public
during the time they lived there
Jim and Helen are mentioned briefly in this blog, but the piece is so fascinating and interesting, especially third paragraph down, that I just kept going. I hope you enjoy it too. This is what happens when you surf the internet, you can get such a high exploring above and beyond the call of the essentials!

Wallhanging: Ben Nicholson Princess (Kings and Queens) c 1933
Sculpture: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska Two Men with a Bowl 1913
There are also new exhibitions in the new gallery extension plus a shop on site -  more details here

All the photographs are my own (except for White Stone) if you would like use of them please ask permission first. Thank you.

Queenhithe Ward & Foreshore Walk - 31st August 2014

Another great afternoon on the foreshore, we will be out and about again on 26th October. It is an early start (9am), but it will be worth it. Book here:

MissB in the Dock! (c) Bruno Rondinelli

This walk started life as an introduction to Queenhithe Ward and the City of London for the volunteers at South Bank Mosaics who are working on the design of a 30 metre long by 1 metre high art work celebrating Queenhithe Dock. I have teamed up with project archaeologist, Mike Webber, to offer you a chance to hear about the quayside history and its relationship to the Thames foreshore.  There will also be an opportunity to search and discover artefacts connected with the history of the area from below Hanseatic Walk to Millennium Bridge. A fascinating and absorbing tour. Duration 3 hours.

Start: Under Millennium Bridge North Side (Paul's Walk)10.30am (if you are late we will be walking East, so you can catch us up at the next stop Broken Wharf). 
Ends : Coming up from the foreshore almost where we started.

Please wear appropriate footwear for walking on the Thames beach, very wet weather wellies are good, or old trainers, walking boots. A container to carry your finds is also useful.
Children 10 and over are welcome provided they have an adult each to be responsible for them.
14 and under go free.

WARNING: there are steep steps going down and coming up from the foreshore.
A full Health & Safety brief will be given. 

Please email if you have any queries.