Friday, July 16, 2010

Charterhouse Street, London


Fox and anchor and peacock and…

Here is one other example of the buildings adorned with interesting lettering seen on the Routemaster bus tour mentioned in the previous post. This is the Fox and Anchor pub near Smithfield Market, a façade in which architecture, decoration, and lettering are united to create one of the most remarkable examples of London Art Nouveau. The unity comes largely from the use of Doulton tiles specially designed by W J Neatby.

William James Neatby is famous for his work for Doulton’s architectural ceramics department in the late-Victorian period. His best known decorative schemes were done in the 1890s and the first few years of the 20th century. Stylized foliage, elegant figures, and curvaceous lettering flow around his buildings in a framework of ceramic mouldings and shafts. At their best, they unite architecture and decoration in an exciting and uplifting way.

Neatby’s career-path was interesting and unusual. From age 15, he trained as an architect, working as an articled pupil in a practice in Yorkshire before starting as an architect in and around Whitby. When he was 23 he changed direction, going to work for Burmantoft’s in Leeds as a designer of ceramic tiles and after six years there he went in 1890 to Doulton’s in Lambeth as their head of architectural ceramics. At both Burmantoft’s and Doulton’s Neatby delved deeply into the art and craft of ceramics, developing new processes and creating stunning designs. He created decorative schemes for many prominent buildings – his interiors include the Meat Hall in Harrods and the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, while the Everard’s factory in Bristol and the Royal Arcade, Norwich, are among his best exterior schemes.

Even a small building like the Fox and Anchor could benefit from the full Neatby treatment. The fox and anchor of the pub’s name are painted on to the tiles in the gable. Further down there are grotesques like the gargoyles of Notre Dame, a beautiful frieze of peacocks, and ornate Art Nouveau lettering. Grinning heads peep out from keystones above windows. The narrow interior also looks atmospheric and full of period details. But the lettering tour was moving swiftly on to the joys of Edmund Martin, tripe dressers, whose stylish 1930s lettering was partly hidden behind a builder’s hoarding, so I did not have time to sample the interior or its wares. I must return.


Fox & Anchor, detail showing lettering, peacock, and grotesque

9 comments:

DC said...

Fascinating. I pass it from time to time and will look with new eyes. Neatby was also responsible for the tiling - more peacocks! - at Orchard House on Abbey Orchard Street, near where I work in SW1. See the Ornamental Passions blog entry for 20.7.09.

Prior to the relaxation of licensing laws, this was one of the few pubs in London where one could have beer at breakfast-time -a privilege afforded to service sweating Smithfield market porters rather than the City boys who latterly took advantage of it, but most enjoyable nonetheless. Now that every Wetherspoon offers beer from 7 or 8, it is the mark of the sad-eyed wino waiting for Joe Coral to open rather than the hedonist-about-town to have a pint with one's b-and-eggs. Sad.

Philip Wilkinson said...

I too remember when beer in the morning was the privilege of those working in, or within striking distance of, markets (Covent Garden too, I seem to recall). And the different drinking hours were part of what made those market areas distinctive. I liked that, while remaining slightly sceptical about the liquid breakfast. In the Czech Republic a few years ago I remember being amused by some workmen frantically searching for something at around 8 in the morning. When found, the object of desire turned out to be a crate of beer. 'Beer is Czech breakfast,' said one of the more forward workers, trying out his broken English. 'English breakfast is whiskey and soda!' Jolly good, carry on!

Hels said...

It is interesting that Neatby would give up architecture for ceramics rather than try to combine both interests.

I agree that the decorative scheme for the Fox and Anchor could unite architecture and decoration, but I would have thought he could have far more influence over the final appearance of buildings if he was the architect as well.

Peter Ashley said...

Now there's a thing. I once photographed the Fox 'n' Anchor lettering that's just inside the porch, but didn't think to step back into the street to look at the rest of this fabulous building.
Probably because I was too intent on going inside.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: Yes, Neatby's career was odd, and I wish I knew more about what made him switch directions in the way he did.

Peter: The porch lettering is good, and very Art Nouveau. I tried to photograph it, but there was too much stuff in the way really.

Woody said...

This is a beautiful building and a very nice blog. I'm probably going to spend the rest of my work day not being productive. I love reading the histories of these buildings!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Woody. More distractions soon...

Robert said...

The Swan in Hammersmith is also a lovely building with glorious golden mosaics on the facade. It as often overlooked in the overwhelming traffic in the area - it is located just across the street for the entrance to the District/Piccadilly line tube station on the corner of Kings Rd - but it is well worth a second look. It is now known as Edwards Bar, but the Swan imagery is still prominent.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Robert: I have a vague memory of this place. Must revisit with a camera. Thanks for reminding me.