Category: Historic buildings walk

The Power of Walking

This year’s Maggie’s Culture Crawl took place on the night of Friday 18 September. A sponsored walk in support of Maggie’s Centres which offer aesthetically inspiring places for people affected by cancer, the partnership with London Open House focusing on discovering the city on foot.  The walk this year was curated by Sandy Nairne, formerly director of the National Portrait Gallery who gave an especially moving speech in which he talked of the ‘power of walking’.  He was partly inspired by the walk which had taken place the previous day during which the artists Ai Weiwie and Anish Kapoor had walked with blankets from central London to the Olympic Park in recognition of those currently walking across Europe.  This raises the issue of what it means to walk when it is not necessary to do so. Everyone who took part in the Culture Crawl could easily have made a straightforward donation to Maggie’s or could have taken out a standing order or taken part in some other kind of sponsored event.  However, all chose the walk as the preferred way of making a statement about Maggie’s or a statement about discovering part of London or perhaps a statement about the value that they attribute to the act of walking.

Sandy Nairne, curator of the event starts the walk
Sandy Nairne, curator of the event starts the walk
Crossing the Albert Bridge
Crossing the Albert Bridge
The medieval gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum
The medieval gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Brompton Cemetary
Brompton Cemetary
Covent Garden
Covent Garden, the end of the walk

How meat and water designed part of London: the drovers’ route from Islington to Smithfield, a new walk from London Open City

Last week I led a walk exploring the drovers’ route from the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington to Smithfield Market. This took in the New River, the history of Sadler’s Wells, Spa Green and especially the impact of the movement of meat and water on the design and development of the route along St John’s Street to Smithfield.

I will be leading this walk again on Saturday 26th September at 2pm, starting at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Find out more and book at Open City
The Central Market, likely now to be turned into a new Museum of London

The only retail butcher in Smithfield

One of four domes at the corner of the main meat market

A decoration across the entrance to the Smithfield Tavern

A boar insignia above a shop

The meeting point of St John's Street and Cowcross Street, a market meeting the drovers' route

One of three cold stores in the market

One of three cold stores in the market



Printing at St Bride’s Foundation

There can be few more delightful ways of spending a Saturday than in the print workshop at the St Bride’s Foundation just off Fleet Street. St Bride’s includes not only the print workshop, but also a museum of design and print; a theatre; a library (as well as a disused swimming pool). A day spent learning the letterpress printing process is a reminder of a time when print was made of lead and every action had to be carefully callibrated and calculated. To set the scene, here are pictures of two of the printing presses.



My time was spent with the rather more modest Adana machine which is designed to produce letterpress printing at about A6.  The process of getting from type to print is difficult, demanding and very enjoyable.  This is the Adana. In this case blue ink is being applied to the ink plate. However, first some illustrations of the process of putting together the type.



This box contains a selection of individual letters all made of lead together with ‘leads’, the strips of lead applied between each row of type which leads to the current term leading to refer to the space between lines of print. Individual letters are selected and then placed in reverse order and with a mirror image into a callibrated tray.


Each line of type is assembled and held together loosely by the leading. A frame made of steel is then placed around the line of type. Blocks of metal are then inserted until the line of type is strongly bolted into place.


This is then placed in the Adana and following the inking of the ink pad, a single sheet of paper is inserted and printed.


The result can be seen below.


The process was delicate, produced modest results but was very satisfying. As the excellent teacher pointed out, mistakes were allowed and encouraged and could all be corrected. There was no need to be concerned with software failures or printers that did not work, every action could be observed, understood and used. Here are some of the wood typefaces just waiting to be used.


Barbican YMCA to close: a great building in a search of a purpose

Barbican YMCA will close in September. It is a great building with a superb central staircase. It has been neglected and is now in need of a sympathetic conversion to something useful.