With the sound of sharp scissors in the background, Richard Hawker, Creative Consultant, described enthusiastically the history of one of the most remarkable survivals of the Gothic Revival of the C19th. Established in 1874 by three leading late-Victorian church architects, George Frederick Bodley, Thomas Garner and George Gilbert Scott, the Younger, all friends and in competition with William Morris at the time.  

Their first workshop in Baker Street was run by none other than Ms. Charmaine Windows ! They kicked off with a prestigious private client list but launched on to the national stage for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral. So it was not the furnishings that first took off, it was the vestments and especially the copes. In 1911 they moved from Baker Street to Dacre Street and established their embroidery school. At this time they produced the exquisite ‘Lady of the Rosebush’ for exhibition, which we were shown.

 


 

In 1939, their safe storage unit took a direct hit and much was tragically destroyed, but after the war, the business was handed down through the Scott family and reinvented itself.  Family member, Graham Hoare was tempted to sell the business to Liberty but his wife took an interest and ran it very successfully. She moved the business from Dacre Street to Tufton Street, to the Edwin Lutyens building it now occupies. Elizabeth Hoare had a passion for embroidery and put out a call for 18th and 19th century work to preserve it and create a collection at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. She sent samples of wallpaper and fabric to Augustus Pugin for the new Palace of Westminster and whilst recovering the alter kneelers in Westminster Abbey, discovered when stripped down, they had been made in wartime from Tate & Lyle sugar crates, which they dutifully re-upholstered. On to the 1980’s, when David Gadesley, took over with a sure eye for good design and expanded the collection testing the new technology of digital machine embroidery. Today Watts makes copes for all Royal Weddings and have numerous customers in palaces, parliaments, private houses, cathedrals and churches around the world, including St Thomas’s, 5th Avenue, New York.  With such knowledge, they advise set and costume designers for film and TV.

A wonderful visit and many thanks to Richard for sharing his enthusiasm and showing us some of the most beautiful patterns and intricate, delicate embroidery.

 

On Wednesday 15th November 2017, the Society held its 31st AGM with the generous support of Grange Hotel Rochester.  Following the business of the meeting Caroline Shenton spoke on her fascinating new book "Mr Barry's War", sequal to "The Day Parliament Burned Down". 


 


In October we started our collaboration with our neighbour Chelsea College of Art and Design. As part of their BA Interior and Spacial Design course, 20 students were given an orientation tour, covering the history, culture and architecture of The Thorney Island area. They then visited the Archives in groups with their tutor, Shibboleth Shechter, browsed and found an object that sparked their interest. From this they sketched, measured and photographed, then went away to research, plan and create a new piece of work based on the item.

We could hardly wait to see what they produced and eagerly accepted the invitation to their exhibition in early December. Attended by past and present tutors, including a curator at the V&A, each student presented their own and their group’s work and the tutors gave comment, praise and criticsm. There were a wide range of subjects that were well thought out, then skilfully and beautifully crafted.

Here are some of the exhibits and what inspired them:

From a 1950’s 'Bakelite-type' telephone, the 1953 Coronation Approved Souvenir Programme and souvenir cups, came an installation work; a 1950’s desk unit, complete with original tv footage of the Coronation playing on a fitted screen accompanied by other objects of the day and a study of the social significance of the first such public broadcast.  From an embroidered purse, or wallet, containing a personalised invitation to Queen Victoria’s Coronation complete with seat number, a study of the owner, Lady Gerard and her journey from her home in Mortlake to the Abbey on 28th June 1838 and a 3D pop-up paper collage, displayed with an embroidered fabric book. 

 

 

From an C18th drawing of Dr Busby’s (Headmaster at Westminster School 1638-1683) chair, a study and reproduction of the caricatures depicting English grammar on the chair. From a description of Devil’s Acre, a small hand bound illustrated children’s book entitled “The Story of Old Pye Street through the eyes of Tommy”. Tommy was a pickpocket and the work included items that Tommy might have in his own pockets!  A study and architectural drawings of Millbank Penitentiary. 

From an old photograph of once local Pulic Baths, a study of its use and a 3D pop-up cut out collage.

From a shoebox containing objects found on the Thames foreshore and on local building sites, a giant box containing 3 students work. One was a working jug made of mosaic of old glass and ceramic fragments.  From a plaster model of Buckingham Palace, a number of same size reproductions in herculite, wax and clear Perspex, made from a rubber mould and a study of methods of fabrication and value depreciation caused by the mass production of souvenirs.

From a small wooden plaque carved with the words “For My Pet” found in the foundations of 50 Tufton Street, a study into the house, its  inhabitants and possible pets!  Also a model of the interior of the ‘original’ house.  A pop-up book and study of the Abbey and The Chapter House. Copies of a newly created local newspaper full of Thorney Island articles and pictures. These were displayed in a lit case standing on carved legs copying the thorns in our logo.

A study of the Womens Suffrage Movement, their local meeting places and how letters from June Stubbs to an MP to save a building, showed modern womens’ continuing determination to be heard.  Lastly a study of the Army & Navy Stores and comparison between a 1907 copy of their global mail order catalogue and the Argos catalogue and Amazon. 

Apologies to those whose work is not described here due to lack of space, but we would like to thank all the students, Shibboleth, the tutors and Chelsea Local for making this collaboration such a success. We hope to exhibit this work again soon.

 

Many thanks to Dan & Rebecca for their tour and commentary as we wandered the corridors and courtyards of the Treasury building. 

Work started at 100 Parliament Street in 1899 to John Bryden's design.  Stately, spacious and light with sweeping stairs and statues.  But it was not until 1907 that the land was purchased for the 2nd half of the building, demolishing narrow streets, houses and churches.  Sir Henry Tanner, a Government Architect, incorporated & finished the new building quickly and cheaply by 1917, ditching some of Bryden's original ideas including 580 fireplaces.  So a building of two halves. 

Moving swiftly forward, it received a much needed revamp in the early 2000's, sympathetically given by (Sir Norman) Foster & Partners via a PFI initiative, including the addition of a new mansard roof and opening up inner courtyards with gardens, ponds and benches.  Today it is an exciting, efficient workplace with every desk having natural light and lots of it !  Although much is open plan now, one cannot avoid the corridors, one is even Listed as a 'heritage corridor'. 

Some ordinary meeting rooms, off our first corridor, were used by Sir Winston & Lady Clementine Churchill as their private living and bedrooms during WW2, not wanting to sleep in the Cabinet War Rooms underneath and underground.  See photo below.  The building has 3 levels of basements and there is a constant flow of water through a channel in the sub-basement.  Our river Tyburn perhaps ?  Now up to the 'heritage corridor', past the Chancellor's enormous, carved office door !  Each current chancellor may choose what artwork they would like from the Government's extensive collection (on view near Tottenham Court Road - a Pippa visit a few year's ago !).  Mr Hammond is said to prefer large, classical pictures but some of Gordon Brown's more smaller, modern pieces are still to be seen.  Now into the very grand Old Chancellor's Room (see photo below) and then the Churchill Room where the creation of the NHS and the Independence of the Bank of England, amongst other monumental plans, were worked on and signed.  Glimpsing, through the net curtains, the narrow balcony where Churchill delivered his VE day speech, which at the time was the Ministry of Health's boardroom.  Then out into 'the Drum', the huge round central courtyard, with tremendous echoes, used for filming The Fast & The Furious and for speeches by George Osborne and the Pope !  Not missing a view, through tall iron gates, past the FCO, straight to No.10 Downing Street.  During the war, the Drum had been covered in anti-torpedo netting.  Very successfully, as a torpedo sat on it from 1914 to 1950 when it was eventually removed. 

We didn't meet Gladstone, the Treasury cat, but his reputation was hailed of catching 14 mice since he had been in residence, bought in to cheer everyone up after the referendum in June 2016.  Thank you again to the organisers for their time and enthusiasm.  Congratulations too on the 100th birthday of the building.

                                                                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty Thorney Island members were delighted to be shown around St Margaret's Church, Westminster, by Blue Badge guide Ian Godfrey. St Margaret's church is full of history and interesting people, the only downside being that it is almost touching Westminster Abbey and is largely ignored by tourists. On the day of our visit on July 11 there were huge queues for the Abbey yet no one but ourselves in the church.

More's the pity because, as Ian pointed out, as the church is a treasure trove of memories. 

 

William Caxton, the pioneer of printing in Britain, who worked a stone's throw from the church has a dedicated stained glass window,  or rather the remnant of one, and is buried there as is Sir Walter Raleigh who was executed around the corner in Old Palace Yard yet promptly given a prime burial place under the altar. 

 

Many interesting people are commemorated in the church including Olaudah Equiano, a freed black slave, who became a celebrity in London and a leading light in the anti-slavery campaign.  Members were pleasantly surprised at the number of Americans who had helped finance stained glass windows and other memorials including Cubby Broccoli of James Bond fame and Frank Sinatra. 

 

The church was built in the perpendicular style and dedicated in 1523 though virtually nothing of the original stone work remains. One of the reasons for its proximity to the Abbey is that the Benedictine monks did not want parishoners interrupting their prayers and other activities inside the monastery as they had traditionally done. 

 

The oldest part is probably the huge stained glass window commemorating the marriage of Henry VIII's elder brother Arthur to Catherine of Aragon which was added later.  St Margaret's - named after Margaret of Antioch - also has a large crypt which, we were told, is full of dust with a skull or two and, sadly, not open to the public. Our heartfelt thanks to Ian for a very entertaining visit.