Thursday, 1 April 2010

Belgrave Square And The 'Ghost Signs Archive' Launch

March 18th saw the launch of a wonderful collaborative archive between Sam 'Ghostsigns' Taylor and the History of Advertising Trust . Basically Sam has been working hard to establish a national photographic database to provide a record of this unique form of advertising and the launch took place in the IPA building in Belgrave Square. Sam very kindly invited those who had contributed to the archive along for the opening and being a sucker for both Ghost Signs and a free glass of wine, Faded London was more than happy to join in with the celebrations.

Never having knowingly visited Belgrave Square, and not being one to miss an opportunity, I took a quick spin around the block in the closing gloom before making my dazzling entrance at the launch party. There were a couple of interesting items as well, not least of all this water trough at the top of Grosvenor Crescent. 
It's part of an edifice that serves as frontage to a building that was originally St George's Hospital prior to its relocation to Tooting. It's now the Lanesborough Hotel and has been scrubbed up a bit.  I found this detailing on an Images of England English Heritage site and am pleased I did as it throws a little more light on the organization responsible for all those granite cattle troughs dotted around the capital
Attached drinking fountain on Knightsbridge fa├žade. Inscribed "MDCCCLX" (1860) on the frieze. Erected by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle trough Association. Fluted shell basin of carved stone on a rough stone base flanked by stepped plinths surmounted by acanthus leaf consoles carrying a frieze and cornice with scrolled pediment and central finial. One of the earliest drinking fountains erected by the Association, a hospital being seen as an appropriate location. Founded in 1859 The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association (Cattle Trough added 1867) provided free fresh water to many humans and beasts at a time when ale and spirits were easier to obtain than water and most supplies contaminated. 
There would originally have been cups attached to chains for the ease of drinkers, but these have long since either been removed or broken off.

Continuing around the square and tucked around the back is the Norwegian Embassy building. Either side of the Front door are these two small but interesting friezes showing cherubs engaged in what I assumed at first must be typically Norwegian activities.
A bit of art going on in this one with some painting and sculpture along with what looks like some architectural consultation judging from the stonework lying about the place.
 The other side stays in the country with its rural theme of shepherding, growing crops and taking some time out for a tune on the pan-pipes. There was a plaque explaining some of their history
In 1796 these two coade stone reliefs were affixed to the Danish-Norwegian consulate in Wellclose Square Stepney. In 1968 the reliefs were re-erected on this embassy by courtesy of the Greater London Council
 In know what you're wondering... 'what's coade stone?' Wikipedia has the answer, of course
Coade stone was a ceramic material that has been described as an artificial stone. It was first created by Mrs Eleanor Coade (Elinor Coade, 1733–1821), and sold commercially from 1769 to 1833. 
So it looks as though the date of 1796 puts it right in the middle of the production period and it's not as if there are lots of them about as there are only about 650 known surviving pieces. Apparently lots of decorative designs were sold 'off the shelf'  so there's a good chance that they're generic cherubs and not even been produced with Norway in mind! 

Having exhausted the square I finally arrived at the launch party and was very pleased indeed to make the acquaintance (and the re-acquaintance) of several other bloggers, as well as enjoying the speeches and the presentations. Unfortunately I was so eager to get at the wine and crisps that I left my camera in my coat pocket and only managed to get one shot of the event just as I was leaving.
Quite a cunning one as it happens as I managed to bag Sebastien Ardouin of Painted Signs and Mosaics and Caroline of Caroline's Miscellany in the foreground whilst Sam Roberts'  head is neatly framed in the background, just underneath one of the slides.  The evening was a great success and full details of the launch and the archive itself can be found on it's new searchable website. Well done to Sam for all the hard work he's put in over the last year!

But the evening wasn't yet over. After making my excuses and disappearing silently into the swirling London mist I caught sight of an intriguing coal-hole cover and managed to get a reasonably clear picture. The inscription reads "Luxfer Prisms 46 Hill Street London EC"
Luxfer Prisms were a company better known for their glass cellar lighting panels rather than their coalholes and previous examples I've seen would have had glass inserts instead of holes, which would have been more in line with their core business. Glassian is the place to go to find out more about the company and one interesting comment is the origins of the word LUXFER being  'from the Latin words lux (light) and ferre (to carry)'.

And as the light by then had pretty much gone it was a good time to put the camera away carry myself off home. An enjoyable launch and congratulations to Sam once again on all his hard work.


Sebastien Ardouin said...

Hi Yelfy,
Nice to meet you at the archive launch event.
I loved your Robinson Crusoe and Friday post. Actually the story of Robinson Crusoe was retold by Michel Tournier in 1967 in "Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique" (available in English as "Friday"). It is different from Daniel Defoe's version on several accounts and is a wonderful tale of friendship and the search for happiness.

sarflondondunc said...

Sorry I missed you I was there as well. It was a good evening. I also took a wander round the square passing all the embassies and getting in the way of the Turkish Ambassador not looking where I was walking.
Just remembered I forgot to watch the BBC One Show last night it had a feature on the Ghostsign archive

Sam Roberts said...

Great to meet you all there, keep up the blogging and snapping, I'll be posting the One Show piece to Youtube today.