Monday, July 11, 2016
Waterloo Road, London
Walking northwards along Waterloo Road, I paused by the corner of Stamford Street, not for the first time, to admire this bit of architectural joy before coming to the bridge. It’s the former Royal Hospital for Children and Women, a brick building of 1903–4 and of all its felicitous architectural details – big windows, ornate gables, little pepper pot finials, tall chimneys – it was a bit of the building’s rich ceramic ornament that I thought I’d share today. The decoration was made by Doulton and includes a green Doultonware entrance porch given by the Doulton family themselves, and numerous terracotta female heads in the arches over the upper floor windows.
There is also some very strong Doultonware lettering, emblazoning the name of the hospital high up at parapet level, and proudly telling us lower down that the hospital was ‘Supported by voluntary contributions’. Lower down still is another Doultonware sign pointing us towards the outpatients’ department and complemented by this beautiful panel of a naked woman in the Art Nouveau style, with long hair that flows this way and that, in impossible whiplash curves, down her back and above her outstretched arm. Another similar relief rounds off the other end of the sign.*
I don’t know which of Doulton’s artists designed this panel.† But it didn’t have to come far from its place of origin, the Doulton Lambeth works a short distance upstream. It’s a memorable work of London art on a memorable London building.
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*The lettering is very effective too. I particularity like the E, with its central curving stroke.
†The panel is illustrated in Paul Atterbury and Louise Irvine, The Doulton Story (Royal Doulton Tableware, 1979) but the authors do not attribute it to any particular Doulton artist. The children's wards of the hospital originally had beautiful tile panels illustrating fairy tales. The building is no longer a hospital and the tile panels are now at St Thomas's.