A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Monday, October 15, 2012

London Post-3

We've returned from England, but I have so many photos that I’d like to highlight a few more places we’ve seen.
Seen on the way to Oxford. These seemed to be next to every train line we traveled.
We went on a bus tour of Oxford--in fact we went around twice. Susan enjoyed the commentary, but I couldn’t keep the ear piece in my ear. I just took photos. Oxford became a center for learning in the 900s. Consequently it has a wonderful variety of old buildings from Saxon architecture to modern.
"The rugged and brutal looking tower of St. Michael's broods over Oxford's commercial centre as a constant reminder of the city's long and troubled history. Saxon architecture is simple and...crude. The technical skill and architectural refinement achieved by the Romans had long since been forgotten... . St. Michael's tower was built c. 1050" (Philip Opher, The Cathedral Parish Churches College Chapels of Oxford, Heritage Tours Publications, Oxford, UK, 2008)

This is the County Administration Building
A building that looks somewhat like the Bodleian Library/Radcliffe Camera, but isn't, with the Museum of the History of Science on the right. Note the busts on the fence posts.
Magdalen College Chapel
Ornamental grotesques on Magdalen College
All Soul's College
I believe this is now an office building
A department store built in 1908, now offices and ground-floor stores
The Ashmolean Museum
When we left Oxford, we took note of the large number of bikes parked at the station--many more than we've seen in the U.S.

We also took a train ride to Nottingham for the annual TACS (Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society) tile festival/sale. While there we finally met Chris Blanchett, the proprietor of Buckland Books, which sells all types of works about ceramics. Chris was very helpful to me when I was researching my book about U.S. tile identification. (The current edition is a free pdf download from the internet.)

Below is the facade of the Nottingham train station.

One of the interior carved lunettes
The Michelin Building 

One morning I decided to find and photograph the Michelin Building in Knightsbridge. This building, now an office building and department store at 81 Sloane Avenue, is covered with ceramics and has murals of early automobiles on both sides of the building and in the interior. According to Lynn Pearson in her Tile Gazetteer, the Michelin Building was commissioned in 1909 and opened in 1911 as the British headquarters of the Michelin Tyre Company; designed by François Espinasse the facade “is mostly white Burmantofts Marmo cladding with blue, yellow and green highlights, and a series of high relief faience blocks with assorted tyre-related imagery from rubber plants to interlocking wheels.”

A stained glass Bibendum

”This eccentric structure [...includes] stained glass and mosaics depicting Bibendum (the Michelin man), glass cupolas in the form of piles of tyres, and thirty-four tile panels, most of which show [late 19th and early 20th century] motor racing scenes. These were replicas of a set originally made for the Michelin headquarters in Paris by the architectural tile painting firm Gilardoni Fils et Cie... . [This company...] went out of business shortly after making the second run of tile panels...[and one panel on this building was probably made in England late in 1910].” (Tile Gazetteer, p. 227)

The Bibendum mosaic is now the floor of a cafe

St. Augustine's Church
Another remarkable building--at least on the interior--is St. Augustine’s Church in Queen's Gate. 

”The typically polychromatic interior...(1870-7, William Butterfield) was further decorated in 1889-91 with the addition of an astonishing series of pictorial tile paintings running around the entire nave and culminating in a large east wall mural. ...[These murals depict] scenes from Genesis to the Ascension. Amongst the north aisle murals are Adam and Eve, Noah and the Tower of Babel... . The more delicate south aisle murals begin with the baptism of Jesus and end with the Ascension. All the murals were designed by Butterfield, but only those in the south aisle are known to be executed by Beckham [i.e., James Sinclair Beckham of the London stained glass firm Bell & Beckham]; some of the north aisle murals have been fired unevenly.” (Tile Gazetteer, p. 227) 

The V&A Ceramic Staircase and Refreshment Rooms

Towards the end of our stay in the UK, we returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see its glass collection, and to see the famous Minton & Co. ceramic staircase and the three dining rooms--the Morris, Gamble and Poynter rooms--that we missed the week before. All of these were part of the design plan of Francis Fowke. (Captain Francis Fowke designed the South Kensington Museum--the V&A; construction began in 1860 and continued through 1872.) “Francis Fowke was a consummate forward-planner. Even before the North and South Courts had been roofed in, he had worked out the details of an ambitious master plan for the Brompton Park House site. Going against the contemporary fashion for Gothic architecture, he proposed to continue the North Italian Renaissance style chosen for the Sheepshanks Gallery across all the new buildings. In this scheme the greater part of the Museum was of two storeys, with a grand Lecture Theatre complex forming its centrepiece.” (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/

The staircase was completed in 1869, and Henry Cole, the first Museum Director, had hoped to decorate the entire building with ceramics. This, unfortunately, did not happen. “Originally, the upper level of the staircase connected the Museum with its associated Art Training Schools and at the ground floor with the passage to the Science Schools, now the Henry Cole Building. Thus Science and Art were demonstrably linked. ...[The staircase and surrounding area were] executed by the Minton companies of Stoke-on-Trent. The ceilings, domes, panels and spandrels were in Colin Minton Campbell’s new and experimental Vitrified Ceramic Painting on hexagonal tesserae; the panels in ‘Della Robbia style’ relief were by Minton & Co. and the mosaic floor by Minton, Hollins & Co.(Museum wall notes)

“The [ceramic] decorations were designed by Francis Wollaston Thomas (Frank) Moody (1824-86), Instructor in Decorative Art at the South Kensington School, who began work on them in 1866. He also modelled the raised reliefs with student assistants. The subjects of the painted panels are ...inspiring allegories of the Sciences and Arts. On the lower stair Literature, Music and Art feature in the side panels while the ceiling shows the pursuit of Art by Man.” These allegories are continued in the side panels of the next flight of stairs. “The initials ‘S’ and ‘A’, for Science and Art, appear throughout the modelled relief decoration.” (Museum wall notes)

“The Memorial to Henry Cole was made in 1878...by his niece, Florence Cole, at the South Kensington Museum Mosaic Class. It is surmounted by a relief showing the Albert Hall and its immediate surroundings, planned by the Prince and Cole.” (Museum wall notes)

We saw another staircase in the Museum which was also very interesting. On the fourth floor, in the glass collection, was a float glass and steel staircase (called “Balustrade”) designed and made by Danny Lane at Pilkington plc in 1992.

Although the ceramic staircase was magnificent, our favorite rooms in the V&A were the three dining rooms attached to the ground floor cafe/restaurant. To get there we had to walk around the perimeter of the Museum’s courtyard, which was the original main entrance to the Museum and Lecture Theatre Building. “The Lecture Theatre building made the most public statement to date of Fowke's vision for the completion of the Museum. It featured a grand doorway (intended to be the principal entrance of the Museum) leading to a suite of three refreshment rooms, with a lecture theatre raked above a ceramics gallery on the first floor. ...The first part of the embellishment of the Lecture Theatre building, the showpiece southern exterior, was completed when both Fowke and Sykes were still alive. The main feature of the red-brick, terracotta and mosaic-faced façade was its three large recessed arches, supported by four-and-a-half-foot-high terracotta columns bearing figures typifying Childhood, Manhood and Old Age. Portraits of key members of the Museum team (including Fowke and Cole) and representative names from the fields of art and science appeared in the mosaic panels, lunettes and main door panels.” (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/) 

“The Gamble, Poynter and Morris Rooms are interlinked rooms that made up the restaurant of the South Kensington Museum. These rooms are today again being used as part of the Museum's Café.
Although they were functional spaces, the Refreshment Rooms belonged to the Museum's public face, so they were also given some extremely lavish decorations. The westernmost room, originally called the Green Dining Room (now the Morris Room), was designed by William Morris and remains today as an important feature. The deep colours of the scheme show that at the time he was still under the influence of the Gothic Revival. He embellished the walls with Elizabethan-style panelling below a section of green plaster with a low relief of olive branches, while the stained-glass windows bore female figures painted by Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb.

Female figures painted by Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb.
The room is subdued compared with the other two... . It shows the interest in myth and legend held by Morris and his friends, especially Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones' dado rail paintings are based on the signs of the zodiac and his designs for the windows show medieval domestic tasks. The rest of the decoration was probably by Morris' friend the architect Philip Webb. Webb took his inspiration from a wide variety of medieval and ecclesiastical sources, including a font in Newcastle Cathedral for the frieze, and medieval manuscripts for the ceiling decoration. The only part of the decoration that is familiar Morris pattern-making is the repeat of leaves, flowers and berries in the plaster-work on the walls.” (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/

The Gamble Room “...was the original Refreshment Room. It would have been the visitor's first view of the Museum's interior and even the Victorians would have been struck by the extraordinary decoration. The main doors to this room were immediately opposite the main entrance of the Museum. Cole's concept of a museum restaurant was completely new, a world first for South Kensington, yet another way of getting people to enjoy culture.

“The ventilation grilles in the ceiling of the Gamble Room are surrounded by enormously heavy and ornate enamelled iron plates. Cole is thought to have got the idea from the enamelled name plates on railway stations. Here, with the ceramic tiled walls and columns, they were a hygienic, washable covering for an eating place and also formed a fireproof cell within the museum. ...The windows are full of Victorian maxims and mottoes about the joys of eating and drinking, ...such as 'Hunger is the best sauce' and 'A good cup makes all young'. The frieze with its inscription from Ecclesiastes II, 24 reads 'There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy the good of his labour - XYZ.'” (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/) 

“The easternmost room (now the Poynter Room) was originally called the Grill Room because it was fitted out to 'broil chops and steaks'. It was designed by Edward Poynter using a scheme centred on blue Dutch tiles, and was furnished with little tables of iron with white marble tops and decorated in a similar style to the great iron stove. ...This room shows that in the latter part of the nineteenth century many designers, no longer content to draw inspiration only from European decorative styles, were influenced by the east and especially by Japan. The wave patterns on the doors of the stove, the peacocks on the frieze and in some of the tile panels, the flower motifs on the blue-and-white tiles, which all come from the east, are combined with the more conventional classical style of the figures representing the seasons and months of the year.

The stove and grill with its tile surround.

“Henry Cole was truly avant-garde in his determination that these three eating rooms should reflect the whole of contemporary design theory."  (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/)
Some Residences and Storefronts

Before we left London for home, I took one last walk around the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to photograph residences and common storefronts that had interesting ceramic and terra cotta ornamentation.

There were many small, private gardens surrounded on all sides by streets with names ending in "Gardens". One that I passed--Drayton Gardens--had a number of apartment houses with hallways clad with  ceramic tiles.
90 Drayton Gardens
51 Drayton Gardens, taken through a glass door
On one walk in the Gloucester Road/Old Brompton Road area, I found some interesting storefronts. Across the street from the Gloucester Road Underground Station, itself clad in distinctive ox-blood red glazed terra cotta, possibly made by Burmantofts,
is the Chard & Sons storefront at 101 Gloucester Road. I could not discover who or what Chard & Sons had been, but its ornamentation is wonderful.*

*[Thanks to a reader, Rod McKendrick, who wrote to me in October 2013, I now have an answer to my question. In the 1950s Mr. McKendrick's father worked for Chard & Sons, which was a butcher shop. Mr. McKendrick kindly sent a photo of the shopfront from that era.] 

At the base of the window inside the shop there was a
large marble slab for the display of meat. Not for the squeamish in those days with all the meat hanging up to age.
Another little storefront on Old Brompton Road had exterior panels of transfer tiles from the late 19th-early 20th century.
One of two tile panels, Nam Long (Vietnamese Restaurant), 159 Old Brompton Road
I wonder what the exterior and interior originally looked like?

St. Paul's Cathedral

On our last evening in London we went to St. Paul's Cathedral--which was rebuilt and completed in 1697 by Christopher Wren after the great London fire of 1666--for the Evensong service and to see some of the beautiful works of art that adorned it. I especially liked the mosaics of the spandrels that are below the inner dome, and the mosaics above the Quire.
"The mosaics at Saint Paul's are in several locations. The most colourful are way up on the ceiling and in the arches. They were installed on the orders of Queen Victoria, who thought that the cathedral was not colourful enough. The designs - many by William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) - are strongly influenced by Byzantine mosaics, but with elements of more contemporary styles." (http://www.thejoyofshards.co.uk/london/stpauls.shtml)
Sunset over the Atlantic