From a 1903 letter to Franz Xaver Kappus from Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.


“Live the questions now.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Thank you for visiting this page. I’m Julia, and I work as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, relationship counsellor, and clinical supervisor. I’ve been in private practice in the City of London and in south-west London for the past three years; for the decade before that, I worked as a specialist psychotherapist for working age adults in the NHS (where I’ve also run staff groups).

This is where you will find the posts on my London-based blog, which I update constantly through the week, almost as a stream of consciousness. It reflects my interests, including psychotherapy, and my weekly experience outside – though not divorced from – my work. It’s a contemporary version of the commonplace book – one where the thoughts, responses, and comments of others are welcome.

Buildings of the Port of London Authority

Detail of 10 Trinity Square, London EC3, above: Historic England “Above rises broad tower embellished with order of Corinthian pilasters and piers, arched niche and colossal figure sculpture. Stepped upper part.” Ornamental Passions “Father Thames has a truly memorable flowing beard and is something of a body-builder (‘muscles like penny rolls’ as R.L. Stevenson put it). He stands on an anchor and holds a trident, his free hand pointing downriver towards the sea.”

From Wikipedia:

“The Port of London Authority (PLA) is a self-funding public trust established on 31 March 1909 in accordance with the Port of London Act 1908 to govern the Port of London. Its responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames and its continuation (the Kent/Essex strait). It maintains and supervises navigation, and protects the river’s environment. The PLA receives no funding from the government and is entirely self-financing. Revenues are raised from conservancy charges on vessels and cargo, pilotage charges, annual port dues, hydrographic services, river works licence fees and charges for other services.”


From Wikipedia:

“Charterhouse Street, London EC1, was the home of several refrigerated warehouses serving Smithfield Meat Market including the Central Cold Store, the Metropolitan Cold Stores at 77A and Port of London Authority Cold Store.” (see image above)

Joanne Shurvell wrote at Forbes.com on Mar 30, 2017:

“The Four Seasons hotel at Ten Trinity Square, across from the Tower of London, has just opened and is as well appointed as its London sister hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair. And, better still, it is stunningly beautiful, inside and out. The Grade II listed building, designed by architect Sir Edwin Cooper, has retained all its original features from the imposing neo-classical exterior…


“Edwin Cooper had commissioned his favourite sculptor, Albert Hodge, to create massive symbolic figures for the PLA building. He had created sketch models of three groups including the monumental figure of Father Thames when he suddenly died in 1917, at the age of just 42. His assistant Charles Doman executed Hodge’s designs and added two of his own (including “Commerce”, above, in Muscovy Street). Ornamental Passions
Bob Speel “another female Navigation, the splendidly muscular one ascribed by some to Albert Hodge, but actually by his follower, Doman. (If you like her physique, then see the page on Warrior Women.) We see the wheel, the globe, and she leans on a book with the emblem of a sun suggesting it contains navigational charts. At her feet a variety of accoutrements associated generally with shipping, which is not uncommon in figures of Navigation.”

…to the art deco lighting fixtures and marble flooring, to the wood panelling and carving on the walls. And, as is often the case when buildings are restored, several Roman archaeological finds were uncovered while strengthening the foundations, including a well and a cesspit.

The historic building was opened in 1922, having cost over £1 million, a small fortune at the time, as the headquarters of the Port of London Authority. The building played a vital role in London’s shipping trade with over 1,000 people a day coming to the central glass domed rotunda (now the bar) to pay port fees for ships arriving in London…

[“Architects’ Journal 13 AUGUST 2009 “Completion of Cooper’s Beaux Arts design was delayed by the First World War (it was finished in 1922) and its central grand rotunda – a 30m-wide reinforced concrete construction – was bombed in the Second World War. Woods Bagot’s proposal reinstates this central focal point in the form of a glazed canopy that creates a circular central well. This requires the demolition of a nine-storey pentagonal extension added by Mills Group Partnership in 1976. Woods Bagot worked with English Heritage to preserve as much of the building’s existing fabric as possible. A document drawn up in conjunction with heritage consultant Donald Insall Associates identifies a number of key areas of special interest.”]

…After the Port of London Authority moved from the building, it housed an insurance company…

In 1977 the building was refurbished and acquired by the Willis Coroon Group.

…before lying dormant until 2010. Following six years and a multimillion pound renovation, Ten Trinity Square opened as a Four Seasons hotel in January 2017.

The 100 rooms and suites, all a decent size, are decorated in stylish greys and muted fabrics. The rooms are on the first few floors of the building and look out into an internal courtyard so they’re not overly bright but the interiors are chic and comfortable. I really liked the dark green wood panelled walls in the hallways and the original fire doors, again all protected by the Grade II listing. The hotel, club and public areas have been designed by Parisian designers Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille of 4BI & Associés, renowned for combining the disciplines of creator and artist with a master craftsman’s attention to detail. The upper floors, not yet open for my visit, house the private residences and the private club. The 41 luxury apartments start at around £5 million pounds and when I visited this month, some were still available for sale. They range in size from one to five bedrooms, with designs drawing inspiration from the building’s origins in the 1920s. Apartment owners will have full access to the hotel facilities, including the spa and gym.

“The leading architect, Sir Aston Webb, organized a competition for a design and the one chosen was from Edwin Cooper. John Mowlem & Company began construction in 1913 but there were delays from the start, not improved by the outbreak of war. Lord Devonport laid the foundation stone in June 1915 and the building was finally opened by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, in October 1922.” Peter Stone

Cocktails are served in the Rotunda Bar and Lounge which sits at the centre of the hotel. The spectacular art-deco style domed ceiling is a replica of the dome that was destroyed during the Blitz. Traditional afternoon tea (or in our case, champagne) is served in the bar with daily live music from 3-5pm. There is also a plan to have a regular programme of DJs in the bar to promote it as a destination for outside visitors as well as hotel guests.

The cocktails are also inspired by the history of the building and include the Forget-Me-Not, which uses Earl Grey tea, along with gin, sparkling wine, coriander seeds and tiny blue flowers at the base of the glass. This drink is a nod to the maritime history of Ten Trinity Square and sailors’ wives who wore forget-me-nots to pay tribute to their husbands at sea.

La Dame de Pic is the first UK restaurant by Anne-Sophie Pic, the only French female chef to hold three Michelin stars for her eponymous restaurant in Valence, south of Lyons. La Dame de Pic is her first London venture and is housed in a chic dining room with dark orange leather banquettes, mirrored walls and art deco lighting fixtures.

We loved the calm vibe and lovely setting of La Dame de Pic so were delighted to find that breakfast could be taken there too.

Despite suffering extensive bomb damage during the Blitz in WWII, Ten Trinity Square survived to host the inaugural assembly of the United Nations in 1946 in what is probably the most beautiful space in the hotel, the UN Ballroom. More recently, the building starred in the James Bond film, Skyfall, as the location where M (Dame Judi Dench) met Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes)…”

Chalk Farm Underground Station, London NW3

From the Historic England entry:

“The station occupies a prominent site at the convergence of Adelaide Road and Haverstock Hill, and has two elevations meeting at an acute angle with a curved apex 2 storeys high. It originally had an opposing entrance and exit on both elevations; those on N side now blocked.

S elevation in Adelaide Road is the longest of all the Leslie Green stations and consists of 8 pilastered bays arranged 3-1-1-3 with alternating half-bays, the triple bays forming a continuous arcade, terminating in a half-bay at the W.

Entrance is in the penultimate bay to the W, while the former exit further E is now a shop. The curved apex is accentuated by an overhanging upper floor with a pedimented tripartite window. The ground floor was always a shop, originally an Express Dairy, which also occupied the 3 adjacent bays on both sides of the angle; the shop front is modern.

The shorter N elevation has similar treatment with 6 main bays arranged 2-1-1-2 of which the eastern single bay was an entrance. Both elevations retain original windows to some bays, while others have been been infilled with faience. Upper storey has timber Diocletian windows in keyed semi-circular arches with egg-and-dart decoration and cartouches between the springers of the arcaded bays, and a modillion cornice. Each half-bay has a deeply hooded oeil-de-boeuf.

Above the entrance, the former exit on the N side, and the shop front at the apex, are blue tile signs with white relief lettering reading UNDERGROUND, added in 1908. Frieze lettering has otherwise been removed. To the right of the entrance is a 1930s pole and roundel Underground sign.”

The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm

From: Cathedrals of Steam (2020), by Christian Wolmar:

“The ever-expanding yard was redesigned twice in the middle of the century with a new goods shed and offices, and in 1866 a locomotive shed that could accommodate 100 locomotives was completed. By then Camden had become a major transport hub that despatched thirty goods trains northwards daily.

The most famous of the early buildings was the Roundhouse,
completed in 1847 as a shed for locomotives with a thirty-six-foot
turntable in the middle. It could house twenty-three locomotives
but survived less than a decade in its original function owing to a
major remodelling of the Camden goods yard that left it without
easy access from the tracks. It was turned into a grain and potato
store in the 186os and then for almost a century became a bonded
warehouse for Scottish whisky brought from the Highlands by W.
& A. Gilbey. Its transformation into an iconic concert venue lasted
between 1966 and 1983, but happily, after nearly two decades of
virtual abandonment, it was renovated in 2004 and is now a theatre and entertainment venue with a capacity of 3,300, a demonstration of its scale. The yard in Camden was built with a series of vaults and catacombs underneath, used for stables and general stores, and later as coal and wine storage. It is now home to parts of Camden Market, a tourist hotspot.”

British Electrical Federation Limited, 1 Kingsway, subsequently renumbered as 88 Kingsway, London WC2

Above: “…believe they were a federation of electric tram companies – hence the flanged wheel. The Kingsway Tram Underpass starts just a few yards along the road.” (SilverTiger)

From the GLIAS Notes and news — April 1983:

“88 Kingsway, WC2. Magnet of tram rail, surrounding tram wheel above doorway, with legend ‘British Electrical Federation Ltd’. Offices of a myriad of tram and transport companies, from British Electric Tramways to the Gearless Motor Omnibus Co.”


From Camden’s Conservation area statement (Kingsway) 16:

“Kingsway was possibly the first attempt in London to deal with traffic problems in a co-ordinated manner by incorporating a tramway line beneath the road and linking the tramway systems of north and south London. It is the only underpass in London built specifically for trams…

…Service on the underground tramway between the Angel and
the Aldwych began in February 1906 with single decker trams;
it was subsequently deepened in 1930 to take double decker trams. After an experiment with trolley buses the tramway was closed in April 1952 and in January 1964 the southern section was opened to traffic as an underpass to Waterloo Bridge. The cutting and tracks where the trams emerged (at a gradient of 1 in 10 feet) in Southampton Row still survive (listed in 1998).”

From Wikipedia:

“…Before the closure of the original London tram network in 1952, Holborn tube station provided an interchange between trams and tubes, via the Kingsway Tramway Subway underground Holborn tramway station located a little distance south of the underground station. This was the only part of London with an underground tram system, and Holborn tramway station (named Great Queen Street when first opened) is still extant beneath ground, though with no public access…”


From westwardhohistory.co.uk:

“…Finally the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway was incorporated on 21 May 1896, with its Head Office address at the Electrical Federation Offices in Kingsway, London WC2. Soon after, the line passed to the British Electric Traction Company (BET) (which shared the logo of the Federation). It was not until 24 April 1901 that the single track line was opened as far as Northam, although the first trial train ran with a few friends of the directors in January 1901. The first train, pulled by Grenville was played off by Herr Groop’s German Band which had been hired for the season and it reached speeds of 36 mph on its inaugural run. The remaining extension to Appledore finally opened in 1908, on 1 May, costing £10,000. The railway was built in three sections, with the first being from Bideford at 0.39 km, the second from the termination of the first, being to Westward Ho!, length 6.4 km, 7.23 km, and the third being from the termination of the second, to Appledore, length 3.2 km, 3.91 km…”

From Merriam-Webster.com:

“Definition of glyph:

1: an ornamental vertical groove especially in a Doric frieze

2a symbolic figure or a character (as in the Mayan system of writing) usually incised or carved in relief

3: a symbol (such as a curved arrow on a road sign) that conveys information nonverbally”

From The Book of Primal Signs: The High Magic of Symbols (2014), by Nigel Pennick:

“…Magnets are, of course, made from iron, and their customary form is the horseshoe magnet, which is a meaningful form for such a powerful artifact. (Figure 19.3) shows a complex transference of imagery and meaning, in a cartouche on the remaining unrebuilt part of Holborn tube station, Kingsway, London, designed by Leslie W. Green and opened in 1906 (Leboff 2002, 82). This was the entrance to the offices of the British Electrical Federation Ltd., which used a glyph composed of a section of grooved tram rail in the form of a horseshoe magnet powering a wheel from the hub of which emerge lightning flashes. This is an instance of a new symbolic glyph being devised from traditional elements for a new purpose…”



“human permeability”*

From: Cathedrals of Steam (2020), by Christian Wolmar:

“(John) Betjeman liked Broad Street, describing it as ‘a large and
handsome terminus built in the Lombardi style’ consisting of two
two-storey blocks with round-arched first floor windows and tall
mansard roofs’. Inevitably, given the Italianate style, between the
blocks there was a seventy-five-foot clock tower, decorated with
open ironwork and the usual clock, which looked rather misplaced
as it was too small for the size of the tower. At street level there
were two booking halls and elegant arcaded staircases on either
side of the station to reach the platforms, which were protected
by a rather plain and undistinguished train shed. Curiously, so
taken was the North London with this style of architecture that
mini-Broad Streets were built along its line, and various branches,
each of which invariably included a vast booking hall, an arcade of
shops and, incongruously, a billiard hall.

In its heyday at the turn of the century, the terminus of the
North London Railway had more daily train services than Euston
and Paddington combined, and was third in passenger numbers
of London stations behind its neighbour Liverpool Street and
Victoria. That did not, however, save Broad Street, whose use
declined rapidly after the Second World War and which, by 1972,
was described by Betjeman as ‘the saddest of all London stations’
and by Jackson as a station where ‘occasional trains creep in with
an apologetic air’. Part of the train shed was removed in 1968 to
save costs and the malevolent intention of British Rail was all too
obvious. Aware of the development value of the land, BR deliber-
ately wound down services further, paving the way for closure. In
fact, the proposed closure was part of a wider plan by the state-
owned operator to shut the whole of the North London line, a
decision that was fortunately prevented by campaigners and the
efforts of the Greater London Council.

Broad Street, unprotected by any listing and with many of its
platforms unused, was not so fortunate and, soon after services
stopped in 1986, was demolished to make way for the Broadgate
development, which, until the creation of Canary Wharf in
London’s Docklands, was the capital’s largest ever redevelopment
scheme. Broad Street’s best memorial was the successful soundtrack by Paul McCartney to his terrible film Give My Regards to Broad Street, which included a sequence shot in the near-deserted station.”

*From orms.co.uk:

“3 Broadgate (see image above) transforms an important pedestrian link between two bustling public spaces; Broadgate Circle and Finsbury Avenue Square.

Originally constructed in 1987 to provide a marketing suite for Broadgate, the structure is located at the heart of Broadgate, which provides a popular pedestrian link between Shoreditch to the East and the City. On average 150,000 people pass through the estate each weekday.

The existing building greatly contributed to the creation of comparatively narrow entry points between neighbouring buildings 1 & 2 Broadgate and 5 Broadgate. Orms’ plans have sought to animate this open space, updating the building’s use as a marketing suite and activating its ground floor with a public facing coffee shop.

Orms have retained the cylindrical form of the 3 storey building and have created a larger arched opening in front of a fully glazed façade, creating better visual links and an increase in human permeability through the space. The existing pink granite cladding has been replaced with a veil made up of laser cut anodised aluminium tiles. The veil references the site’s past use as tenter grounds – tiles appear to be hung, referencing the medieval cloth making process.”

“Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said the song was “an absolutely lovely mid-tempo tune graced by a terrific David Gilmour guitar solo.” In a radio interview prior to 1990’s Knebworth concerts, Gilmour told Jim Ladd that “No More Lonely Nights” was the last thing McCartney recorded for the film, and that he told McCartney to give his session fee to a charity of his choice.” (Wikipedia)

The former Bermondsey Town Hall, 19 Spa Road, London SE16

From Wikipedia:

“The current building was commissioned as an extension to a 19th-century vestry hall which had been designed by George Elkington in the Italianate style for the Parish of St Mary Magdalen. The vestry hall had become the headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey in 1900 but was badly damaged in the Blitzduring the Second World War and was subsequently demolished. A memorial to soldiers who had served in the Second Boer War was removed from the building before it was demolished and, after being in storage for some 40 years, installed in St James’s Church, Bermondsey. Two stone pillars and some ironwork is all that remains of the vestry hall itself.

After the vestry hall had become inadequate for the council’s needs, civic leaders decided to build some new “municipal offices” to supplement the vestry hall. The site selected for the new building, which was just to the east of the vestry hall, had previously been occupied by Bermondsey Public Baths.

The foundation stone for the new municipal offices was laid by the mayor, Alderman Harry Bateman, on 20 October 1928. The building was designed by Henry Tansley in the Greek Revival style and completed in 1930. The design involved a symmetrical main frontage with nine bays; the central section included a large three-bay, full-height, tetrastyle Ionic order porticowith a doorway on the ground floor, three windows on the first floor and a pediment above bearing the coat of arms of Bermondsey.

Internally, the main atrium on the ground floor featured a grand staircase and Doric order marble columns which supported an elliptical landing on the first floor and an elliptical domed ceiling above.

The new building took over the role of headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey during the Second World War but ceased to be the local seat of government when the enlarged London Borough of Southwark was formed in 1965. The building continued to be used as additional workspace by Southwark Council until 2010.

The building was sold to a developer, Hollybrook Homes, in December 2012. Works to convert the building into a block of apartments known as “Bath House Lofts”, to a design by architects, Burwell Deakins, were completed in summer 2014.”

The former Bermondsey Public Library, 15 Spa Road, London SE16

Posted at Ornamental Passions on 6 December 2015:

“Bermondsey Public Library, now a centre for Buddhist study and meditation, was built in 1890 to the designs of John Johnson (“Little to recommend it” – Pevsner).

It was opened by the banker, Liberal politician, polymath and philanthropist Sir John Lubbock (later Lord Avebury). In his speech he was quoted as saying: ‘It was rather sad to think that when people spoke of a public-house they always thought of a place for the sale of drink. He was glad that all through London public houses were now rising up for the supply – not of alcohol, but of literature.’ 

Which is rather a contrast with his famous remark: “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

But I digress.

The building is scattered with the usual vaguely aspirational sculpture you find on Victorian libraries. The entrance is marked by a mansard-roofed tower with allegorical figures. The woman on the left holds a book, so probably represents modern learning, whereas the bearded gent on the right holds a scroll and has an owl at his feet so I imagine exemplifies classical knowledge.
The coat of arms, a lion with a bishop’s crozier and mitre, is of Bermondsey Abbey, hijacked by the Borough Council.

The keystones over the windows have portrait heads of suitably reverential figures including Shakespeare, Milton and Homer. The other two are so worn they look like nothing more than a pair of stockinged robbers holding up the local Coop. One of them has a necktie and coat so must be fairly modern – perhaps Keats or Byron. The other is female, judging by the necklace. Jane Austen, perhaps?”

From Historic England entry:

“Public library. Dated 1890-91. By John Johnson, architect. F and H Higgs, builders. Brick in Flemish bond with terracotta and stone trim. Slate roofs, hipped over end ranges and mansard over the centre.

EXTERIOR: 2 storeys and attic over basement. 5-window range. Elliptical-arched entrance in centre, doors of original design, the whole set under a porch supported by rusticated, coupled Ionic columns; similar Ionic pilasters continue across the ground floor framing 2-light, flat-arched windows with stone surrounds and mullions.

To the right a single-storey wing, stone courses alternating with brick and a plaque bearing inaugural inscription.


Flat-arched windows to return. A spandrel band below ground-floor windows ornamented with a bull’s eye. Second entrance to left-hand range. First-floor windows have 2 lights and flat arches, as below, but are set in a round-arched arcade, the piers ornamented by an acanthus-leaf springing band; tympana ornamented with floral spray; arches turn in brick and stone voussoirs, the keystones historiated. Arcading continues on the right return. The rhythm of windows doubles in the attic storey, all are elliptical arches with springing band and polychromed arches similar to 1st-floor arcade. Centre pair of windows has balcony enclosed by cast-iron railing. Entablature with garland frieze in terracotta. Segmental pediment to centre range, in parapet, and above a Dutch gable with urns and finials.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: walls, piers and railings to entrance and areas. Also included is the pair of stone piers with hipped capstones leading to what was, formerly, an alley along the right return. (The South London Press, 23 January 1892).”

Biscuit Town

Above, viewed in background: The Shard, 32 London Bridge St, Bermondsey, London SE1.


From Wikipedia:

“Bermondsey is a district in South East London in the London Borough of Southwark, England, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southeast of Charing Cross. To the west of Bermondsey lies Southwark, to the east Rotherhithe and Deptford, to the south Walworth and Peckham, and to the north is Wapping across the River Thames. It lies within the historic county boundaries of Surrey.

Bermondsey may be understood to mean Beornmund‘s island; but, while Beornmund represents an Old English personal name, identifying an individual once associated with the place, the element “-ey” represents Old English eg, for “island”, “piece of firm land in a fen”, or simply a “place by a stream or river”. Thus Bermondsey need not have been an island as such in the Anglo-Saxon period, and is as likely to have been a higher, drier spot in an otherwise marshy area. Though Bermondsey’s earliest written appearance is in the Domesday Book of 1086, it also appears in a source which, though surviving only in a copy written at Peterborough Abbey in the 12th century, claiming “ancient rights” unproven purporting to be a transcription of a letter of Pope Constantine (708–715), in which he grants privileges to a monastery at Vermundesei, then in the hands of the abbot of Medeshamstede, as Peterborough was known at the time.

Bermondsey appears in the Domesday Book as Bermundesy and Bermundesye, in the Hundred of Brixton within the County of Surrey. It was then held by King William, though a small part was in the hands of Robert, Count of Mortain, the king’s half brother, and younger brother of Odo of Bayeux, then earl of Kent. Its Domesday assets were recorded as including 13 hides, ‘a new and handsome church’, 5 ploughs, 20 acres (8 hectares) of meadow, and woodland for 5 pigs. It rendered £15 in total. It also included interests in London, in respect of which 13 burgesses paid 44d (£0.18).

The church mentioned in Domesday Book was presumably the nascent Bermondsey Abbey, which was founded as a Cluniac priory in 1082, and was dedicated to St Saviour. Monks from the abbey began the development of the area, cultivating the land and embanking the riverside. They turned an adjacent tidal inlet at the mouth of the River Neckinger into a dock, named St Saviour’s Dock after their abbey. But Bermondsey then was little more than a high street ribbon (the modern Bermondsey Street), leading from the southern bank of the Thames, at Tooley Street, up to the abbey close.

The Knights Templar also owned land here and gave their names to one of the most distinctive streets in London, Shad Thames (a corruption of “St John at Thames”). Other ecclesiastical properties stood nearby at Tooley (a corruption of “St Olave’s“) Street, located in the Archbishop of Canterbury‘s manor of Southwark, where wealthy citizens and clerics had their houses, including the priors of Lewes and St Augustine’s, Canterbury, and the abbot of Battle.

In the 18th century, the discovery of a spring from the river Neckinger in the area led to the development of Bermondsey Spa, as the area between Grange and Jamaica Roads called Spa Road commemorates. A new church was built for the growing population of the area, and named St John Horsleydown.

It was from the Bermondsey riverside that the painter J.M.W. Turner executed his famous painting of The Fighting “Temeraire” Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up (1839), depicting the veteran warship being towed to Rotherhithe to be scrapped…

…By the mid-19th century, parts of Bermondsey, especially along the riverside, had become notorious slums with the arrival of industrial plants, docks and immigrant housing. The area around St. Saviour’s Dock, known as Jacob’s Island, was one of the worst in London. It was immortalised in Charles Dickens‘s novel Oliver Twist, in which the villain, Bill Sikes, meets his end in the mud of ‘Folly Ditch’, in reference to Hickman’s Folly, which surrounded Jacob’s Island.

Peek, Frean and Co was established in 1857 at Dockhead, Bermondsey by James Peek and George Hender Frean. They moved to a larger plant in Clements Road in 1866, leading to the nickname ‘Biscuit Town’ for Bermondsey, where they continued baking until the brand was discontinued in 1989…


…Bermondsey, specifically Blue Anchor Lane, was also the location of the world’s first food canning business, established in 1812, by Donkin, Hall and Gamble.”

The meaning of life in 70mm

“What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,

Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff

That beetles o’er his base into the sea,

And there assume some other horrible form,

Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason

And draw you into madness? think of it:

The very place puts toys of desperation,

Without more motive, into every brain

That looks so many fathoms to the sea

And hears it roar beneath.” Hamlet Act I scene iv

There’s no denying that Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a cultural touchstone.

In David Lodge’s 1975 “campus novel”, Changing Places, the dinner party game of Humiliation is introduced: “The essence of the matter is that each person names a book which he hasn’t read but assumes the others have read, and scores a point for every person who has read it.” The repellent American academic, Howard Ringbaum, wins the game by admitting that he has never read Hamlet – at the ultimate cost of his post.

Five years ago, Michael Masiello (“lecturer in literature and composition at a big university in New Jersey. Not Princeton, the other one.”) thundered on Quora:

“REVISE Hamlet? The unimaginable arrogance it takes to imagine that one can offer the Bard a few tweaks for the most famous tragedy ever written — and deserving of every accolade it has ever received, containing, as it does, the soul of the world! An astonishing suggestion, really…”

The question that provoked this response was “What’s the best way to revise hamlet?”, which I suspect came not from a revisionist, but more likely from a student who’d found “Shakespeare exam Monday” written on the back of his hand.

Any Shakespeare student with four hours to spare could do a lot worse than getting hold of the DVD of Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 unabridged film adaptation of Hamlet (even though the full effect will be compromised by the small screen: see below).


Wikipedia: “…adapted and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as Prince Hamlet. The film also features Derek Jacobi as King Claudius, Julie Christie as Queen Gertrude, Kate Winslet as Ophelia, Michael Maloney as Laertes, Richard Briers as Polonius, and Nicholas Farrell as Horatio. Other cast members include Robin Williams, Gérard Depardieu, Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal, Rufus Sewell, Charlton Heston, Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, John Gielgud and Ken Dodd.”

Hamlet was also the last major dramatic motion picture to be filmed entirely on 70 mm film until 2011, with the release of the documentary Samsara, which was filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents. For projection, the original 65 mm film is printed on 70 mm film (the extra mms are used to record the sound).

In 2017, Jordan Hoffman wrote: “Before 2015’s The Hateful Eight it was Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master back in 2012 that had us last asking if a larger film frame (twice the size of traditional 35mm) and its richer resolution automatically made for a better filmgoing experience. A key difference that may win more converts is that (Christopher Nolan’s) Dunkirk is the type of story that exploits the scope of the format.”

Branagh himself has commented: “Pictures I’ve seen in that format are uniquely involving. They make you feel as though you can walk right into the landscape. I wanted the audience to smell and feel the atmosphere of the court, dripping with power, opulence and corruption. The increased sharpness of 65mm picks up everything; not just facial expressions, but any meaning in the actor’s eyes is caught that much more clearly. It probes more deeply into the inner life of the character…With 70mm, we get a chance to go from what is essentially a personal, domestic story about a family and its problems to the epic dimension that reflects the effects of those problems on the nation. We can go from the very intimate events in the court to the plains of northern Europe and see Fortinbras for the opportunistic leader he was, ready to invade with thousands of soldiers. 70mm is able to give that tremendous sweep so you feel the impact of the story, but it also has an incredible delicate touch, too.”

Samuel Crowl writes in The Films of Kenneth Branagh (2006):

“Stylistically, his model was not Olivier or Welles or Zeffirelli, but David Lean. Lean, who started small with Brief Encounter (1945) and two exquisite films of Dickens’s Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), went on to become the finest director of epic movies in British film history. In Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Lean became the master of shooting in the wide-screen 70mm format. Branagh boldly followed Lean into 70mm territory, and his Hamlet became the first British film to be shot in that format since Ryan’s Daughter. In our time, Hamlet has most often been visualized as a play about impasse; Branagh wanted to restore its capacity for expanse, sensing that impasse is most effectively realized only when set against expanse.”

You’ll have noticed the opening clip from Ryan’s Daughter at the top of this post. It’s there because the film was made in 70mm; but also because to my eye it’s a lovely example of Crowl’s “impasse set against expanse”.

The last word in this post goes to Dr Oliver Tearle, who emphasises what is mysterious, ambiguous, and cryptic in the character of Hamlet:

“This habit of Hamlet’s, his tendency to think things over, is both one of his most appealingly humane qualities, and yet also, in many ways, his undoing…Hamlet doesn’t exactly delay, or at least, he does not delay because he is indecisive, but for sound, practical reasons…”

The Victoria, 10A Strathearn Place, London W2

From Londonist.com:

“Just south of Paddington is a well-to-do area going by the revived name of Tyburnia. At its heart is the wonderful Victoria pub, nominated as Fuller’s pub of the year in 2007 and 2009.
The pub was built in the first year of the eponymous queen’s reign. The interior still harks back to the 19th century, with a gorgeous curving bar and numerous alcoves. As if the place needed any more Victorian credentials, it’s said that Charles Dickens wrote some of Our Mutual Friend at its tables. Upstairs, a smaller bar is decked out like a theatre, supposedly using materials rescued from a playhouse on Aldwych. The beers are drawn from the usual Fuller’s range.
Quiz night is Tuesday.”

From pubheritage.camra.org.uk:

“Between Paddington Station and Hyde Park, this Fuller’s-owned corner-site pub has some very early and spectacular fittings. Such was the amount of pub renovation at the end of the 19th century and since, that any fittings before the late-Victorian era are incredibly rare. Those at the Victoria are stylistically mid-Victorian and a precise date – 1864 – is suggested by the date on a clock in the bar-back fitting. We even know the man responsible for the work because, below the clock, is the inscription, ‘S. Hill Fitter New St. Boro’ Rd. Southwark’ (the clock is also signed by local clock-maker ‘Wm C. Mansell’). The decorative ceiling is made of Lincrusta.

This, and a side wall,

have large mirrors with intricate gilding and coloured decoration, each panel being separated from the others by detached columns with lozenge and Fleur-de-Lys decoration. This may be the oldest surviving bar back in the country, with the other possible contenders being the Kings Head, Bristol dating from c. 1865 and the Red Cow, Richmond.

In the angle of the building is a delicate Regency-style fireplace containing a print of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their numerous progeny. 

The counter is no doubt a piece from 1864 with panelled bays divided by fluted pilasters. It still retains a brass water-dispenser for diluting spirits – still fully functioning.

Mounted on the long wall are coloured prints of soldiers in wooden frames but these are most probably a relatively modern (though now smoke-stained) addition. There are several outside doors and these would have led originally to a series of internal drinking areas, separated by screenwork. Upstairs the Theatre Bar has ornate fittings imported from the Gaiety Theatre about 1958.”