My friends Bridie Hall and Ben Pentreath are a decorative artist and an architect, both designers and interior designers who also keep an excellent shop, Pentreath and Hall. This week we are doing something together. It’s called London : A Cabinet of Curiosities, at 17 Rugby Street London WC1.
Royal Doulton policeman, Houses of Parliament [H.P.] Sauce, framed letterhead by the late great Barbara Jones.
Flanked by Bridie’s vitrines holding mud larking finds from the River Thames dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Hanging above is one of Bridie’s decoupage ‘View of London, 1845,’ plates.
The window with Bridie’s Tortoise House, a Palladian design after Sir Thomas Archer made by Ed Kluz. and Ben’s Dr Johnson memorial tea towel which simply says : ‘When a Man is Tired of London he is Tired of Life.’
One of Alice Patullo’s Bawden-esque limited edition print series for the London Cabinet : three London Drinking Fountains. The ‘Readymoney’ fountain was erected by Coswasji Jehangir Readymoney in Regent’s Park in 1869, a wealthy Parsi philanthropist whose family had made a fortune in the opium trade with China. Decorated with lotus flower finials and a Brahmin bull, it still refreshes joggers, walkers and their dogs with clean London tap water; dogs drink the overflow water from little marble basins at its base.
Fresh water drinking fountains like this were a welcome gift after London’s cholera epidemic of 1854. The gothick granite fountain (above ) on South End Green in Hampstead was donated by a Miss Crump, part of a useful ensemble with public lavatories and a shelter for tramwaymen. The Finsbury Square fountain was the gift of Thomas and Walter Smith in memory of their mother Martha, for the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association – beasts of burden, cab and dray horses were also catered for by the kindly Victorians.
‘London Street Cries, ‘ from eighteenth century prints of street hawkers, “Rabbets,’ ‘Old Cloaths,’ ‘Singing Birds’ etc. and Thames map mugs, both designed by Matilda Moreton and made in Stoke on Trent especially for the London Cabinet at Penteath and Hall.
Vintage London pillar box money boxes from sixty years of the General Post Office and Her Majesty’s Royal Mail, with a pre-Boris double decker tin bus.
‘The Hounds of Spring,’ Regent’s Park, London,2013, one of three signed photographic prints in an edition of 15, by Liz Neville/ bibleofbritishtaste.
Wedgwood mugs – Shakespeare’s theatre and the London to Bristol Road, with some of our many antiquarian books and maps.
An entry from In Camden Town by David Thompson, (1983) now scarce and out of print. Thomson was a modern Mayhew who produced this anecdotal and highly personal diary-cum-history spanning thirty years of Camden Town life and lowlife, the harvest of years of research towards a vast, sprawling history of Camden Town that was never finished.
London is the clearing house of the world, a huge emporium of commodities and money, beautiful, ostentatious luxury and empty churches, migrants, rent boys in little vests and city boys in Turnball and Asser, green, Georgian squares, sooty plane trees, too many bicycles, taxi drivers who’ve had Tracey Emin in the back of their cab and white vans, gunned along by men whose grandparents spoke proper cockney. Boris Johnson, William Blake and William Hogarth are its guides and geniuses. It is an aggregation of marvels and fascinations, unexpected loveliness, dereliction and despoilation, with a river running through it.
London, A Cabinet of Curiosities is at Pentreath and Hall / www.benpentreath.com, for two more weeks only. Hurry.
POSTSCRIPT : More London news – from the 8th to the 28th of November Sir Jonathan’s Miller’s assemblages and Constructivist-inspired collages and sculptures are on show at the Cross Street Gallery, 20 Cross Street, Islington, London N1 2BA.
Bronze relief sculpture with the artist’s hand, 2012.
You saw them first, in his house and studio, in the bibleofbritishtaste.
Jonathan Miller, Portrait of the Artist At Home, 2012 (homage to René Magritte)