Thursday, November 12, 2015
Victoria Street, London
Among the rampant office blocks and stores of Victoria Street stands the Albert, a pub of 1862 built in solid yellow brick with dressings in red brick, trimmings in stucco, and a big, decisive cornice. It belonged, apparently, to the Artillery Brewery, which was just across the road and built in a similar style. In the late sun of an autumn afternoon, its brickwork glows.
The pub exterior has its fair share of the kind of decorative elaboration the Victorian pubs and their owners went in for, and the aspect of this that particularly caught my eye was the engraved glass. It's said to be original and is a cut above a lot of pub glass, which bears arabesques and curlicues of a fairly standard and formulaic nature. At the Albert we have trails of foliage, flowers, fruit, and some wonderful birds. I particularly liked the one above, though I'm not sure what species it is or whether the image is at all ornithologically accurate. My main efforts on the sunny afternoon when I passed were in trying to photograph it without including too many reflections. It's difficult, on a bright day, but I offer my efforts anyway, because I think the glass is good, if the photography is not.
And in a way, the reflections are part of the point. A pub is a social building, that wants both to include you in its image, but also to stop you looking in, to give the drinkers inside some seclusion from the street. What's more, the reflections also include some of the pub's other decorative touches. There's a mirror image of some of the ornate ironwork in my photograph below and you can see the iron "Albert" sign, shadows of iron scrolls, the reflection of the building across the road, and glimpses of some interior lights. It might be a confusing picture, but even in the sun and even with all these reflections, the decoration of the glass still shines.