Tuesday 31 July 2007

Firestone non resurget - # 185

Here's what started the fuss. The remnants of the great, magnificent Firestone Building on the Great West Rd: what's left of it, and what replaced it.

It signifies the move from the manufacturing economy towards the "knowledge" economy, the passing of the 20th Century and the move towards the 21st. It reminds us of how a major fault in a product can bring down a huge company (the Firestone radial tyre catastrophe).

The demolition of the Firestone building caused outrage, and thanks to that the other fine buildings have been preserved.

Open your search engine and key in "Firestone building, demolition, Great West Road" and you'll find a wealth of history and emotion.

Sunday 29 July 2007

The Pyrene Building - re-igniting the fires of the Golden Mile- # 184

Pyrene was a "big name" in fire extinguishers. Today the building stands, preserved but currently awaiting a tenant to use the huge space, in the company of its companions on the "Golden Mile". I had considered showing a detail of the "ram's horn" decoration on the tower, or even using colour to show the detail on the coloured tile doorway, but decided that it's worth seeing the whole thing.

Those who want to see more pictures and get more detailed information on the illustrious past of the "the Golden Mile" on the Great West Rd, might like to start at the comprehensive URL link below. Yesterday, Riz also helped out by mentioning the magnificent Hoover Building, up on the A40, near Hanger Lane.

The "Great Names" that originally occupied these buildings on the Golden Mile have passed into history, often because of unforeseeable commercial disasters or management blunders. This gives us an interesting insight into Power, Glory, Time and Tide. (In the case of Gillette, the production has been moved to Poland, and the "great icon" awaits a new tenant. "Perhaps a hotel?" some say.)

This leads me neatly towards the last image of this mini-series set for tomorrow.


Nostalgia on the Great West Road - # 183

I mentioned the Gillette building earlier:

Today I'm showing a detail of another of the buildings in the "iconic cluster" of art deco offices and factories. It is currently occupied by J C Decaux, the advetising group.

They are all clustered around Brentford Railway Station, close to the Grand Union Canal (itself a piece of industrial history) and were joined recently by the gigantic modern glass, concrete and steel HQ building of Glaxo Smith Kline. For a while, in the late 1960s & 70s, these relics 1930s "art deco" were decayed and unloved, but fortunately they are now preserved.

Saturday 28 July 2007

Photographs that speak 1 million words - # 182

Yesterday was me exercising a wicked irony and sense of the absurd.

Today's picture will probably be equally obscure to many, but it's about economics (little fish feeding off big fish) urban renewal, contrasts in styles, evocation of mood, the "urban landscape", modern Britain, immigration (the Polish girl sitting out front waiting for the mid-day customers) and much more.

It's about nostalgia, and it's about how sometimes just standing and looking at a scene provokes all kinds of thoughts to flood in.

This picture was taken close to the HQ building of Glaxo Smith Kline, the Bio-Tech giant.

Are thoughts, emotions and spiritual experiences purely the result chemical reactions processed in the miracle that is the human brain? Why do some people have a stronger tendency to one direction rather than another? What is talent?

Friday 27 July 2007

Pillars of society....... - # 181

................getting clarity on the installation of robust management structures. Here I am, doing it again. Will I ever learn?

Thursday 26 July 2007

Industrial design(s) - # 180

Staying with the "coal lady's" barge at Brentford Dock, here's a detail of the pretty traditional designs found on the English canal "narrow boat". Click to enlarge the picuture, and appreciate the work and care that went into the designs.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

The coal lady - # 179

Between 1805 and the 1930s Brentford Dock was an inland port at the point where the Grand Union Canal enters the Thames. Today the canal basin is surrounded by luxury apartments, but the waterborne life style continues. The "narrow boat" in the photo really is long and narrow, because the English canal system was developed that way. The topography, the early age of the industrial revolution, and the construction methods forced that upon us.

I discovered this lovely lady, who operates her traditional cargo "narrow boat" carrying smokeless coal, logs and bottled gas around the canal system to supply boat dwellers.

She covers the system from Brentford, through "Little Venice" (Paddington, London) to Limehouse in the East of London and then up the River Lea canal system to Hertford, serving all the barge moorings. I never knew anything like this existed today. It was a pleasing discovery.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Industrial Economy meets Knowledge Economy - # 178

We are staying with the waterborne theme up at Brentford, immediately north of Richmond.

Here is the Grand Union Canal, completed in 1805, to bring industrial goods by canal from Birmingham to London. This was a very important stepping stone in the advance of the economy. Within about 40 years it was struggling to compete with the new railway. Today it makes a pleasant recreational area at the foot of the huge Glaxo Smith Kline HQ complex, but the canal is still an active and well used resource.

Monday 23 July 2007

Hard forms, hard nature, soft sentiments - # 177

A hasty post before midnight, having been out all day with the excellent company of my son and daughter in law home on leave from Dubai.

Talking of Barge Henry we admired the elegant hang of the sail. Forgive the trite title of this posting, but I'm trying to muse (ramble on) about the pleasing effect of the clouds reflected in the glass walling of a huge multi-national HQ building near Richmond.

These same clouds are now dropping flood water that devastates homes. The building is occupied by a powerful bio-tech company; an industry that raises hackles at the same time as it is worshipped as a saviour by others.

I think the architecture and the reflections are very pleasing. How do we resolve all these conflicts and complexities? (Now it's bed time).

Sunday 22 July 2007

Dutch barge applying for British citizenship - # 176

Staying with barges, here is one of the Dutch sailing barges lying at Richmond awaiting conversion to a very comfortable residential barge.

Notice the typical rounded bow ( a Thames Barge has a vertical sharp bow), and the huge keel boards for when it is under sail - typical of all shallow water sailing barges. Note also that, different from the Thames Barge, it has no mizzen mast at the back to carry a small steering sail. I don't know why this is. It obviously has something to do with not having the same manoeuvrability needs. Could a true sailing barge expert tell me why?

Saturday 21 July 2007

The hang of the sail - industrial "design" - # 175

I've always loved ships, harbours, canals and similar industrial scenes for the way that they show up fascinating shapes, angles and colours and project, (for me at any rate), senses of character and provoke feelings of nostalgia or portent. Digital photography has allowed this amateur passion to find some expression.

This is a photo of the hang of the huge mainsail on Thames Barge "Henry". It's the way it has to hang. That's how it is, but it's a working "industrial" function.

Thames barges, by tradition, all have - MUST have - red brick coloured sails. Seeing a half dozen of them out at sea, drenched in sunlight and under full sail is a special and very specific sight that is unique in the whole world - but now gone except for very special occasions.

P.S. Cick on the photo to enlarge it. You will be rewarded with the details of the stitching and edging of the sail.

Friday 20 July 2007

Another kind of Henry - # 174

For those of you feeling relief that I have finally escaped from the surrealism of Henry's Bar, here is something that is, in my opinion, far more interesting. It's Barge Henry - a magnificent 104 year old Thames Sailing Barge. These vessels were still hard working cargo boats in the 1950s and I can remember seeing them out at sea when I was a boy. They still race, and a barge under full sail is a fine sight. Every sea-going nation has its typical hull form and rigging style. For example, The English Thames Barge could never be mistaken for a Dutch Canal/Coastal Barge. Their unique hull design and sailing rig enable them to slip up shallow rivers and estuaries and then sail out around the coast in deeper, more windy waters.

These ships were built and rigged so that they could be sailed by "one man and a boy". They carried cargoes of agricultural products, particularly barley, malt and beer around the east coast of England and as far as the Guinness brewery in Dublin over in Ireland.

The web sites here have some fine pictures of the barges under full sail and more about their use and history.

http://www.thames-barge-art.co.uk/Pages/Studio%202005%20promo.htm Fine Pictures/paintings

http://www.sailingbargeassociation.co.uk/ History and information

http://www.thamesbarges.co.uk/ Information about "Greta" built 1892 and still working as a tourist cruiser.

Thursday 19 July 2007

A tiny garden among the cracks - # 173

I'm gaining in my appreciation of wild flowers. Here is a close-up of a tiny garden developing in the cracks between the patio stones. I think I'll leave it for a while to see how it turns out.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Becoming obsessive - # 172

You'll have to bear with me while I play at tweaking the camera to get the best of the multiple high spots and shadows of the bar area at Henry's. Meanwhile, I'm forced to pay more and more attention to the bizarre details that the designer has put into this original construction, built for the purpose. Is the wierd spiral drink delivery system only there for show, or does it actually work, running the bottles up and down the columns? Placing the mirrors up above is a well known decorative device, but here it plays a strong role in setting the atmosphere.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

The North End at Henry's - # 171

Drinkers occupying the North End of Henry's Bar can imagine their "essential nature" being extracted and refined in the two large retorts, then collected in the inverted "repeater jars" above the main retorts, before being transmitted into the ether via the waves of ultraviolet light .......well, something like that, anyway.

Monday 16 July 2007

The Naughty 90s bump into the 21st century - # 170

It's holiday time so let's spend a day or two studying the "unfathomably surreal" decor of Henry's Bar and cafe in Richmond. You'll need to have a friend alongside, and glass or two of exotic brew, like for example, Japanese Kirin Ichiban lager. Karl Moritz (German, 1782) did not visit this place. Trust me: he didn't.

I've no idea who designed this, why, or whether it has any analogues or counterparts elsewhere. Some might describe it as "confusing". "Techno-Organic" is a phrase that springs to my mind, but that will put me firmly into "pseuds' corner", which is not a place I ever want to be in. If you ever tire of trying to fathom out what's going on, you can always turn away to the pleasant river views through the windows. Warning....we go back there tomorrow!

Sunday 15 July 2007

Red splash - # 169

I did not want to to let this one pass into oblivion. It was taken in early June when roses are at their best.

The picture has no photographic merit, but it is remarkable because it has perfectly captured the stunning red colour of these roses. The picture has not been re-processed. It comes directly "as is" and "exactly as I saw it" straight off the camera. The view is also enhanced by the special light green of the Golden Acacia tree further along the road.

Saturday 14 July 2007

White delight - # 168

Another of the delightful wild flowers that are flourishing in the area this season. It's hard to catch these pictures because the wind keeps blowing them about. They just will not stand still while I focus and fiddle with the camera.

Friday 13 July 2007

What's going on here? - # 167

What's all this then? This is one of hundreds of dear, sweet green parrots (offspring of an escaped pair) who now live in (plaque??) certain parts of London. Down in Petersham they are less welcome because they have taken a liking to the taste of 17th century cement that binds the brickwork and the 17th century putty that retains the window glass. The parrots (bless them, they are soooo sweet) gnaw out the the cement and putty. They love it. If you enlarge the photo (click it) you will see the jagged edges of the brickwork. That's where the parrots have gnawed the mortar away.

Thursday 12 July 2007

A cat's-eye-view of the wild-flower meadow - # 166

..............getting the camera low down in amongst the wild flowers in the Wilderness Garden at Ham House.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Walking the human - # 165

My human loves it when I take her out for walks. She loves throwing sticks, but she's not very bright and has difficulty finding them, so I pick them up and take them back to her. She gets very excited and throws the sticks again and again. She's got a different sort of intelligence - she's hopeless at retrieving or finding things but very good at finding the food I like. That's what makes Man a dog's best friend.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Wild flowers in the summer lawn - # 164

Run across the lawn and you will tread on these without knowing or giving a second thought. Pause at a distance, or put down the camera, close up to the daisies, and set it on macro, and your "world-view" is transformed and your day gains a special extra delightful bonus.

This delightful patch of pink and white was snapped several days ago in a lawn at Ham House.

Monday 9 July 2007

Wild flowers in Petersham 2 - # 163

It's time to celebrate the delights of the open meadow and wild garden. The early spring was dry and the wild flower spectrum in May was less spectacular than last year. This June/July, the intense rains are giving extra force to the later sorts.

Sunday 8 July 2007

This, you see, I have now done. - # 162

Is this Karl's "lone tree"?

..................."As far as Hounslow the way was very pleasant; afterwards I thought it not quite so good. It lay across a common, which was of a considerable extent, and bare and naked…………..to my astonishment, I saw a tree in the middle of the common that stood quite solitary……………………..Beneath the shade of this tree I reposed myself a little, read some of Milton, and made a note in my memorandum-book that I would remember this tree, which had so charitably and hospitably received under its shade a weary traveller. This, you see, I have now done."

Karl, has discovered the radar tower at LHR. Hounslow Heath has been totally annihilated and his “lone tree” now lies under the concrete of Heathrow Airport.

Karl Moritz now bids you all "Goodbye" for a short time.

Thanks to all my readers. I have grown very fond of this character as I read and followed his letters.

I have noted requests and suggestions. I plan to prepare a CDP photo series that makes use of material collected whilst preparing this “tour”.

Just for fun look at this item (URL below) on the “Highwaymen of Hounslow Heath”. Karl actually had a brush with one, but I cannot go into that!


Saturday 7 July 2007

"I met with a singularly clear rivulet" - # 161

Karl's letter is tantalizingly detailed and yet also frustratingly lacking in necessary precision. So, this might be THAT rivulet, or perhaps he is referring to "another one further on".

This is the delightfully fast flowing, crystal clear River Crane at Cranford (Crane Ford) just beyond Hounslow. The extremely narrow old bridge carries a tiny road that could be the remains of the old road.

On the far side of the bridge, hidden by the trees, is the bridge carrying the fast express A4 Great West Rd built in the 1930s. I have driven over the 1930s bridge many times in the past 40 years and never even knew it was a bridge, or that just behind the trees, the tiny river existed.

So let's dream and imagine this as the exact spot where Karl refreshed himself. It could be.

..........."As far as Hounslow the way was very pleasant; afterwards I thought it not quite so good. It lay across a common, which was of a considerable extent, and bare and naked, excepting that here and there I saw sheep feeding............

.......It now began to grow hot. On the left hand, almost close to the high road, I met with a singularly clear rivulet. In this I bathed, and was much refreshed, and afterwards, with fresh alacrity, continued my journey."

Friday 6 July 2007

Karl Moritz and the bus route to Bangalore - # 160

Karl's letter home recounts his pleasure, walking along the highway surrounded by open fields, until he comes to the tiny settlement of Hounslow.

Today, Hounslow is a boundless sea of houses that stretches as far as the eye can see, to the ends of the earth. It is crossed by a main line railway, a London Underground railway, a main road A 315, the express dual carriageway A4, and the M4 Motorway.

Hounslow is a key element in the huge, chaotic, uncontrolled experiment in social demography that is "Modern Britain" - a melting pot of almost every race and nationality and creed you can think of. In a way, it's probably very 18th Century. What would Karl have said? We can be certain that whereas Karl would recognise much of Richmond, he would not recognise Hounslow!

Thursday 5 July 2007

"British highways are fantastic!": Karl Moritz 1782 - # 159

The "Oxford Road" from Isleworth to Hounslow is no longer photogenic, nor recognisable - except for the traffic. Karl's road still exists, and has also been supplemented by two more: the dual lane express road A4 Great West Rd built in the 1930s and in the 1960s the M4 Motorway. All three of these are stunningly busy, somewhat as Karl describes in his description of the main road to the West. They are also a difficult photographic challenge, because of the siting and the dangers involved.

On the Great West Rd at "Gillette Corner" there is a fine collection of iconic 1930s factory and headquarters buildings - and indeed some brand new ones are appearing nearby e.g. the Glaxo Smith Kline HQ. Alas, the Firestone Tyre building was cunningly and wickedly demolished by developers only a matter of hours before a preservation order was issued. Today, the various sites are better appreciated. It's worth seeing. This is the "Gillette Building".

Karl Moritz wrote................" I was now on the road to Oxford. It is a charming fine broad road, and I met on it carriages without number, which, however, on account of the heat, occasioned a dust that was extremely troublesome and disagreeable..........I was tired... I sat down in the shade under one of these hedges and read Milton....... those who rode or drove past me, stared at me with astonishment, and made many significant gestures as if they thought my head deranged..........many of the coachmen who drove by called out to me, ever and anon, and asked if I would not ride on the outside........every now and then, a farmer on horseback met me, he said, and seemingly with an air of pity for me, "'Tis warm walking, sir;" and when I passed through a village, every old woman testified her pity by an exclamation of - "Good God!"

The journey will continue tomorrow.

Readers please note: I intend to clear up an error I have found (thanks to more research on a doubt in my mind) and also to produce a mini series "The Making of Karl Moritz". In that I will try to take up the suggestion of pinpointing the sites on a map. I will also give you a few URLs so that you can see some sources for yourselves. This needs a little more time to prepare.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Karl Moritz gets his priorities right - # 158

Karl would have stepped off the ferry almost at the very foot of this church tower, built in 1398.

However, he has 15 miles to walk to Windsor via Slough along the main road that goes from London towards the port city of Bristol in the far west. Karl found it very busy in 1782, and nothing has changed.

He wastes no time looking around Isleworth. It's clear he wants to hurry along. He has an eye for fine views, but he is able to set his priorities. Islworth has nothing much to grab his attention, although today it is an essential stopping point for the Richmond tourist.

............."On the opposite bank of the Thames was Isleworth, a spot that seemed to be distinguished by some elegant gentlemen's country-seats and gardens. Here I was obliged to ferry the river in order to get into the Oxford Road, which also leads to Windsor.

When I was on the other side of the water, I came to a house and asked a man who was standing at the door if I was on the right road to Oxford. "Yes", said he, "but you want a carriage to carry you thither". When I answered him that I intended walking it, he looked at me significantly, shook his head, and went into the house again."

Once again, Karl notices the mobility of the English and their preferences for travelling in coaches and carriages.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Karl Moritz approaches the Isleworth bank - # 157

Karl's ferry will take him from the Richmond side and land him at the foot of the church tower in the distance. The construction cranes are today building new apartments on the site of a large water-powered flour mill that stood there from the 16th century until 1941. In 1782 Karl would probably have noticed numbers of large grain barges tied alongside.

For those interested: my research is based on the British Ordnance Survey map 1816-1822, plus careful reading of Karl Moritz's letters, visits to the local museum, and research on the local system of small rivers. I have recently found some misinterpretations and will correct those later. For the time being we should keep up the momentum. The Richmond/Kew/ Hounslow area is closely associated with the early history of official map-making thanks to George III's enthusiastic cooperation with the French Government. The French asked Britain to help with the survey of the English Channel coastal area in 1783. For once, Britain and France were (briefly) at peace. Unfortunately, by 1790 we were again fighting. In 1791 Britain started the official "Ordnance Survey" map making process, allegedly as a direct result of the earlier French initiative in cooperation. We can all be grateful to those men of science who undertook that initiative to cooperate.

Monday 2 July 2007

Karl Moritz quits Richmond - # 156

Karl sets out for the road to Oxford. The inn keeper's son accompanies him to show him the way. It's quite clear that the lad took Karl by a footpath across the Old Deer Park, the gardens of George III's palace at Kew (now Kew Gardens botanical research establishment) on the right, as Karl mentions.

So, we can safely say that Karl Moritz left Richmond via the ferry across to Isleworth. Karl writes about the houses he could see across the river. I think we can be absolutely certain that he was referring to the brick mansion, if not indeed also the pinkish looking "temple shaped" house as well.

This is therefore almost exactly the view he saw as he approached the steps for the Isleworth ferry, and wrote about in his letter.

Sunday 1 July 2007

Time to move on - # 155

It's Karl's last evening in Richmond before he moves on. We will be following him for a short distance.
I have succeeded in finding one inn that Karl Moritz really did see (but did not stay in), and he would recognise it even today. The Roebuck on Richmond Hill has held that name at least since 1729 - probably longer - and the building looks much the same as it did then.
Here we are, watching the sun set over the famous "view from Richmond Hill". Karl waits patiently while I tweak my camera and get a well balanced exposure as the night draws in.
Over our drink, Karl and I chat about Britain and Europe and the unending conflicts of interest, the ongoing conflict between the "Celtic fringe" and the English, "globalisation" as unstoppable English capitalism seems to be accidentally encircling the world, the amazing openness of Britain and problems of old tradition in modern society, corruption in politics, the stresses caused by industrialisation and the move to the cities, climatic catastrophes and floods, the loss of the American colonies, but the immense value of the growing Indian trade, and the growing importance of education and science, and the importance of the modern financial system that is making London so important to world trade.
Obviously, very little has changed since 1782, and Karl and I could communicate easily.