26 October, 2013

Ipswich - Urbs veteris

I hope it's not the onset of senility: I said to the custodian in the museum that I'd never been to Felixstowe before. But I had a good day none the less in the oldest town in England (it sez 'ere). The first thing that greets you when you come to Ipswich proper from the station is the Willis Faber Building - a black glass walled building housing a firm of solicitors that like impressive buildings - they are also in the former Port Of London Authority building. The first commission of Norman Foster after establishing Foster Associates it was the youngest building to be given grade 1 listing. This certainly makes a statement in what is a meadieval town but the black glass reflects the older buildings and is a pleasant blend of old and new. The museum is also a blend of old and new too with a proper Victorian natural history display, including a woolly mammoth and these bad boys. The whole museum has some interesting artifacts, including a scolds chair and a gallery devoted to Thomas Clarkson an Ipswich man who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. Not all the galleries looked like this. The Co-op department store in Ipswich has alas been closed down. But there is an Age Concern charity shop in there, and I'm glad I went in because they had limited edition prints of the store, done for the 120th anniversary of Ipswich Society in 1988. Five years later the Ipswich Co-operative Society merged with Norwich and twelve years later East Of England Co-op was formed from societies in Essex and East Anglia. Sadly the department store business isn't what it was and these vast co-operative palaces had to close. You can see pictures here. Ipswich is under catered foodwise but has three Wetherspoons! I ended up in the Golden Lion which had nice food. After lunch it was time to call in at the Christchurch mansion and the Wolsley Art Gallery which contained some great art and artefacts displayed to advantage in the historic house. I particularly noted the Great Hall had some half doors which I thought unusual. Ipswich does not neglect its famous sons: Cardinal Wolsley is honoured by a statue in front of his birthplace although the plaque is rather back handed in its compliments. Although not as protestant as Lewes Ipswich is firmly puritan. Aother Ipswicher to be honoured is a rugby playing pilot, Prince Obolenski who has his statue in Cromwell Square. Ipswich worth a return, although might do Lowestoft and Felixstowe...

Coventry historic buildings

A rather late in the day visit to Coventry on the heritage open days. Having been to see the Birmingham back-to-backs in the morning and a rather indulgent lunch in the Loft Lounge it was rather late in the day when Phil and I arrived in Coventry. The Cathedral was closed for Evensong so we couldn't go in but we looked round the ruins of the old. I took the plunge and bought a guide book to a walk around the historic buildings of Coventry. Considering the bombing there are surprisingly many of these buildings left. However the 1950s buildings are now considered historic although not mentioned in the guide.

06 October, 2013

London Open House

I'll say one word - Trains! and everybody in London will know what I mean. Getting around London at weekends is now almost impossible although not necessarily within the control of the companies concerned - Passenger under a train I'm accusing you! First up Taberner House in Croydon. As this is shortly to be demolished (in around two weeks time I understand) I thought this was worth going to. It's story is interesting although the building is not particularly. Built in the white heat of the technological sixties Taberner House represents some sensible forward planning on behalf of the Croydon County Borough as it then was. The London Borough of Croydon was to be created in 1965 which would incorporate Coulsdon and Purley UDC and new space for council officers would be needed - the result was the 20 storey Taberner House named after a long serving Town Clerk. The open house access was to the 18th floor and the viewing galleries above. There were wonderful views of Croydon and Surrey although not so much to the north. Overall a worthwhile experience. After that on to Little Holland House which only opened at 1400 - and I got there at 1250. Oh well just go on another day. Perronet House. After an appalling journey by train and bus I arrived at Perronet House an interesting block of council flats at the Elephant and Castle. Constructed on a scissors structure with all living rooms on the noisy side of the building and all bedrooms on the quiet side of the building it is quite confusing, all bathrooms being under and over corridors, presumably for easy cleaning of drains. But it might be difficult to know where your drains are. You go into a flat on the 10th floor and there is a hall with pram/bicycle space. Down a few steps to floor 9.5 and there is a living room and a kitchen. Down again to floor 9 and there is a bathroom and storage area. Down again to floor 8.5 and there are bedrooms. Down to floor 8 there is a 'back door' leading out onto the 8th floor corridor. There are communal outdoor areas on every floor. Such generous room sizes - we shall not see it's like again.

 Kingsley Hall and the Lesters - Wind of Change. Muriel and Doris Lester wanted to set up a community centre in the East End and did so on a type of university settlement basis, with live in staff leading a communal life together housed in six 'cells' on top of the building for maximum fresh air. I was more interested in R D Laing's philadelphia association but the guide was more interested in dhowing the small party Ghandi's cell used by him when he went to the conference on Indian independence, therefore causing trouble for the organisers and not achieving his objective of staying with working people. The Lesters were solidly middle class. River Police Museum Wapping Interesting display of artefacts relating to the river police. The Red House Bexleyheath. Lots of queues to get into the former home of William Morris designed by Phillip Webb. Morris only lived here for five years but went mad with the interior and exterior decoration. There was even a minstrels gallery for midget minstrels in the first floor room. Loads of stained glass, Morris wallpapers and furnishings and some recently discovered murals ('and painted muriels) from behind a wardrobe. Bricky fireplaces completed the image. A meadieval fantasy for a Victorian industrialist, albeit one who was reviving crafts.