Sunday, 27 September 2015

Postman's Park (27): railway heroism

Walter Peart and Henry Dean were the driver and stoker of the Great Western train known as the Windsor Express. On 18 July 1898, they were driving the 4.15 train from Windsor to Paddington on what seemed a routine trip when, just outside Acton, the connecting rod broke. Part of it was driven through the boiler casing and caused damage to the fire box which overwhelmed the men with cinders, steam and fire. Nonetheless, they succeeded in applying the brake and bringing the train to a safe standstill before leaving the engine at Acton Station.

At hospital, Peart explained why he hadn't jumped out:
I stopped my engine. ... When it happened, I got back out of the way, and I thought to myself, the train is running as fast as ever. I thought I would go back to the fire and put my vacuum brake on. I did it, and as I got out from the fire and the smoke I couldn't run and when I was by the side of the engine my leg was struck by the connecting rod, which was broken.
Among the lives saved by Peart and Dean was that of Mr Goschen, First Lord of the Admiralty, who wrote with a subscription to their families. However, Peart and Dean themselves died of their injuries in St Mary's Hospital. The inquest jury desired 'to place on record their high appreciation of the conduct of the two deceased men in applying the brake and in keeping at their posts, thus averting a very serious catastrophe which would have endangered the lives of the passengers of the train.' Both men left widows, and Peart also had five children.

The plaque in Postman's Park summarises the incident well:

WALTER PEART DRIVER AND HARRY DEAN FIREMAN OF THE WINDSOR EXPRESS ON JULY 18 1898 WHILST BEING SCALDED & BURNT SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES IN SAVING THE TRAIN.
 
It is not their only memorial. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants erected a tomb for the two men in Kensal Green Cemetery, featuring a relief of a train and railway tracks. It was restored in 1994, and is Grade-II listed.

Such an act of self-sacrifice by railway employees was not unique. Daniel Pemberton would die at Twickenham in order to save a colleague. They were working on the railway track when an express train approached; Pemberton pushed Thomas Harwood safely out of the way but was himself struck by the engine and killed.

DANIEL PEMBERTON AGED 61 FOREMAN LSWR SURPRISED BY A TRAIN WHEN GAUGING THE LINE HURLED HIS MATE OUT OF THE TRACK SAVING HIS LIFE AT THE COST OF HIS OWN, JAN 17 1903.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Looking down on Brutalism

Sometimes, it's not the highest buildings which offer the best views. 88 Wood Street has 17 floors - pretty high up when you're ascending in its glass-walled lifts, but dwarfed by the 34 storeys of the Walkie Talkie or the 45 floors of the Cheesegrater. 




The top floor, though, offers excellent views of the Barbican complex. That confusing layout, which requires extensive signage and a yellow track to the Barbican Centre when you're inside, makes a lot more sense when viewed from above. 


St Giles Cripplegate, at its heart, is even more prominent - and incongruous - from here, too. 


There is plenty more to see from this level. A look across the City highlights the extent to which the skyline is dominated by the newest skyscrapers - and by cranes. 



Monday, 21 September 2015

Past perfect: inside Middlesex Hospital Chapel

The last time I saw Middlesex Hospital Chapel, it was a sole survivor marooned in the wasteland of the demolished hospital. This Open House Weekend, I saw it again - now surrounded by the buildings of the new Fitzroy Place development. 


One of the consequences of that development is that the interior of the chapel has been restored - and it looks glorious. 


The chapel was designed by John Loughborough Pearson in 1891; after his death six years later, his son FL Pearson took over the work. The nave originally had a timber roof, but that too was replaced with mosaic in 1929-39.


The whole interior is a rich combination of marbles and mosaic, created by Italian craftspeople. 



The ante-chapel is lined with marble memorial tablets relating to the hospital, including this one to neurosurgeon Diana Beck, 'first medical woman on the consultant staff of this hospital'.


However, concerns over the chapel have not ended. Above all, what is it called? The developers listed it in the Open House guide as 'Fitzrovia Chapel'; their attempts to rename it have attracted much criticism. In response, they have left the original 'Middlesex Hospital' signage on its facade.


It was wonderful to see the chapel open after so many quiet years, and to know that much more public access is planned for the future. 


There are more photos on Flickr.



Sunday, 13 September 2015

Postman's Park (26): facts and figures

Although every story on the Watts Memorial has its own interest, there are certain causes of death which appear again and again. While they are of course not a representative sample in any way, they do highlight both the dangers and the preoccupations of Victorian and Edwardian London.

The figures below relate to numbers of plaques rather than individuals (some tiles feature more than one person killed in the same incident):
Death by drowning: 21 (including 1 in quicksand)
Death in a fire: 15
Train: 5 (4 run down; 1 while driving train)
Run down by horse/carriage: 4
Killed by poison gas in workplace: 3
Killed in WW1: 2
Treating diphtheria patient: 2
Refinery explosion: 1
Although the memorial is not formally limited to London, in practice very few of the plaques are not connected to the metropolis. Again, here are some figures:
London incidents: 50
London residents on holiday: 2
No London connection: 1
The person without a strong London connection was Mary Rogers, whose heroism on the steamship Stella made her a national hero. However, the London focus was not accidental as Watts hoped that other towns would erect their own monuments to ordinary heroism.

It has been suggested from time to time that the memorial should be revived by the addition of new plaques (I think that that would be a lovely idea). These figures suggest two questions: first, would the London bias remain? Second, what types of heroism would be most prominent today?


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Ticket to Dismaland


Banksy's 'bemusement park' in Weston-Super-Mare lives up to the excitement. There's art everywhere: galleries, installations, giant sculptures made of lorries and scaffolding, political messages. Dismaland also works as an amusement park, though: a big wheel, boating pool, carousel, crazy golf, games you can't win, and the fairytale castle - complete with souvenir picture to buy at the exit. 


Security theatre: 'I am searching you for no reason.' The cardboard creation of Bill Barminski.

Tattooed figurine by Jessica Harrison

The castle was made by Block9

David Shrigley


Big Rig Jig - Mike Ross


Aftermath Displacement Principle: a post-riot model town by Jimmy Cauty

There are more photographs over on flickr.

Polly Morgan



Sunday, 6 September 2015

Postman's Park (25): Joseph William Onslow


Reynolds's Newspaper reported on the death of Joseph William Onslow. He worked as a lighterman: that is, a boatman who carried goods from cargo ships to shore. He had perhaps earned his place in the Postman's Park memorial more than most, since the inquest heard that he had previously saved three lives through similar action.
A NOBLE FELLOW – On Friday the deputy coroner for East Middlesex held an inquest at the Gun Hotel, Wapping, on the body of Joseph William Onslow, aged twenty-two, a lighterman. William Dare, 7, Broad-street, Old Gravel-lane said on Tuesday last he was with the deceased on board a barge, when their attention was attracted to the cries of a boy who had fallen into the water from off Wapping-stairs. The deceased, without a moment’s hesitation, plunged into the water, and swam towards the stairs, and in the direction of the boy, who was seen fifty or sixty yards distant. When about three yards off the lad the deceased appeared to be seized with cramp, and before further assistance could be obtained he sank from the view of a number of spectators, who were standing on the banks of the river. The boy was rescued by a man in a barge by means of a boat-hook, but the deceased was drowned. It was stated that previously the deceased had jumped in the river in the same daring manner, and saved no less than three lives. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”
The memorial plaque is dedicated to:

JOSEPH WILLIAM ONSLOW, LIGHTERMAN, WHO WAS DROWNED AT WAPPING ON MAY 5 1885 IN TRYING TO SAVE A BOY'S LIFE.



Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ghost signs (118): Curtain Road

Pizza Express in Shoreditch occupies a building formerly used as workshops for furniture-making. A rather faded trace remains: the words above the right-hand window read 'Butler' at the top, and probably 'cabinet factor' below that. (Credit to Maggie Jones and Traxcitement, who had deciphered the lower words over on flickr). 


A rather nice touch is the contrast between these plain, faded letters and the very recent, very colourful contemporary signwriting on the building to the right. 



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