Monday, July 11, 2016

Waterloo Road, London

Hospital corner

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.


Peter Ashley said...

I remember getting very excited about using a section of the tiling for the cover of a book on Victorian hospitals. And then, of course, discovering it was Edwardian.
Much dismay.

Chris Partridge said...

According to Public Sculpture of South London, the artist was "W.J. Neatby (probably)".
This blogger states it as a fact but I happen to know he is completely self opinionated and has no actual evidence:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you both. Chris: Well, it could be Neatby – but it's odd that the people who have looked in the archives and found evidence for his work on other buildings haven't found him in this case.

Joe Treasure said...

I love this building, Phil, and have often peered at it from buses crossing Waterloo Bridge or while negotiating the IMAX roundabout on foot. Good to have its details described so appreciatively.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Joe. The top of a bus would be a good place, come to think of it, to look at some of the details of the former hospital. When I lived in London I always recommended that visitors take a journey across London on one of the regular bus services; the number 11 was (and is, I think) a good way to get a look at many interesting buildings and streets, but it doesn't take you south of the river. Maybe a 68 would be the one for this building.

Joe Treasure said...

Yes, well remembered. The 68, 171 or 176 would all take us from the Elephant to Waterloo Bridge (for the South Bank) and beyond. Some of the best central London routes, including the 11 I think, now use new routemasters, which have the added attraction of the traditional open platform and a conductor with nothing to do (in the age of the electronic oyster card readers) but act as kind of footman for tourists, though the upstairs views are more restricted.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, it's new routemasters now on the number 11. Years ago, when I lived in Barnes, I used occasionally, when I had nothing to do and had time for a long ride, to take the number 11 home from Covent Garden to Hammersmith, changing to a number 9 to cross Hammersmith Bridge, past a pub called the Boileau, referred to by conductors as 'the Boiler', and jumping off the platform at Barnes Green. A slow trip, but good for the scenery and the people-watching. The 11 no longer goes to Hammersmith, though.