The British Empire was created when men travelled around the globe on ships, but other ways of travel became very important – especially travel by train which contributed to industrialisation of England. Railways were then exported around the world – to America, Canada, India and Africa. But – it started here in England.
Around London there are several memorials to the development of the railway industry, and somewhat unexpectedly the industrial trains and locomotives also feature in sculpture and decoration of buildings in London.
In 2003 a descendant of John Trevithick unveiled this plaque on Leather Lane, off Holborn. It commemorates the first self-powered vehicle to run in London. It was a steam-powered carriage built by William Felton and powered by an engine made by Richard Trevithick. In 1803 the people carrier travelled from Holborn to Paddington and back.
This statue of Robert Stevenson (1803-1859) stands in front of Euston Station. He was an early railway engineer. In 1829 he built the Rocket an early steam locomotive that was the most advanced train locomotive in the world. For 10 years it ran on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
I really like some of the artistic representations of locomotives you can see in London. This is one of my favourites.
This building is at 16 Old Bailey, at the corner with Newgate Street. It was built in 1912 as the HQ of the Chatham and Dover Railway Company, which also had ships that sailed across the English Channel to France. Maybe that’s why the building style is somewhat French Baroque. It certainly explains a lot about the sculptures on the broken pediment above the entrance. I thought they were hilarious when I first saw them!! The architect was Arthur Usher, but the name of the sculptor seems to be unknown.
I first noticed the figures when I zoomed in a photo of the building. The history of the building does a lot to explain the sculpture.
7 Lothbury is just behind the Bank of England. It was built in 1868 as the General Credit and Discount Company’s new head office; the architect was George Somers Clarke (1825-1882) who designed the in a Venetian Gothic style. It has a lot of quirky architectural details including a line of sphinx heads under the first floor balcony.
The building has recently been redeveloped into private residences.
I really can’t figure out what is going on in this section which is on the right side of the panel. The man seems to be tickling the woman under her chin! She holds a little locomotive in her left hand, while she sits on a little stool under which there are a vase and a gear. It that Artistry and Industry? Hand-crafted vs. mechanical products?
The panel was sculpted in 1868 by James Frank Redfern who also did figures of “The Virtues” on the Prince Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens – Justice, Hope, Fortitude, Charity, Prudence, Humanity, Temperance and Faith.
The sculptor Louis Fitz Roselieb designed the panels on the façade which represent Commerce, Transport, Industry and Communication. (After the war the sculptor, who was born in Lambeth, changed his name to Louis Frederick Roslyn.)
In 1920 the building was converted into the Norwegian Chamber of Commerce and the entrance was redesigned with shields representing areas of Norway and a large, golden statue of St. Olav on the top. The building is now called Norway House.
A few doors to the left of Norway House is a building that was erected in 1903 as offices for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. There are two panels on the front – this train with its cowcatcher thundering through the Rockies. The other panel shows a steam ship.
The Canadian Pacific had ticket offices in this building where travellers could book their ocean voyage across the Atlantic and the train trip across Canada.
The upper floors of the building have been converted into flats. The top floor has a penthouse with a great view over Trafalgar Square.
The panel is one of 12 bronze scenes on a pair of large doors at 9 Millbank in Westminster. They are on a building erected in 1928 as the HQ for the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). They were sculpted by William Bateman Fagan and show scenes that depict advances in science and technology, with Stone Age scenes on the left and modern industrial scenes on the right.
Fagan also sculpted busts of scientists and industrialists on the keystones above the fourth floor windows. These include Joseph Priestley and Alfred Nobel.
St. Pancras Station has a large, somewhat controversial sculpture that shows people travelling by train. It is not universally praised as a successful work of art. . Titled “The Meeting Place”, the enormous couple stand on a round platform that features small scenes of trains and people travelling. Before the panels were cast in bronze, the maquettes were displayed in public and some people found some to be quite offensive. They were changed before the final casting.
The sculpture was installed in 2007, and was created by British sculptor, Paul Day.
For more information, check: http://ornamentalpassions.blogspot.com/2014/01/st-pancras-station-n1_28.html
The train stations of London are interesting, too. A number of them have been modernized in the past few years.
Train travel is definitely a part of life in London, and it’s interesting to find it it the art and architecture of the city.
All photos were taken by Cathey Leitch @ Cathey Leitch, 2015