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.


  1. Very excellent.

    45 degrees or thereabout is one of my favourite shots.

    Thirties architecture is the business - and I am always on the look out for modern architects who can reproduce those classical and thrilling proportions.

    Pity about the traffic really - keeps us from rightly admiring the buildings.

  2. It's getting more and more fascinating!!!

    Could you find some old painting or gravure of the roads as they were when Karl was using them?

  3. 'those who rode or drove past me, stared at me with astonishment'

    I'm loving this Karl guy more and more every day!

  4. Great information Chucker. Reminds me what West London was like in my youth. I was fascinated then and it was indeed iconic in many ways. I'm going to resist being drawn into comments inspired by your post title

  5. Gillette tower is visible from Richmond Hill. I was asked few times what is it, but it took me almost one year to figure it out myself.