London is full of little boys – having fun, causing trouble, and just being boys.
As you exit the stairs from St. Paul’s Underground station, look to the wall on your left to discover an interesting little plaque that most people never notice. It’s one of the oldest in London.
The little boy is called the Panier Boy and represents the boys who went around London selling bread from their woven baskets in the 17th century.
The inscription reads
“When ye have sought the City round,
Yet still this is the highest ground.
August the 27th 1688”.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built on one of the hills of London – Ludgate Hill – but I don’t think it actually WAS the highest ground. It’s a nice sign, anyway.
Here’s another little boy – the famous Golden Boy of Pye Corner at Cock Lane and Giltspur Street. This was traditionally considered the spot where the Great Fire of 1666 was extinguished.
People were looking for someone to blame for the fire, which burned for three days and destroyed everything from Pudding Lane where it started to Pye Corner where it finally went out.
A now-removed inscription on The Monument to the Great Fire blamed a conspiracy by Catholics, and this monument blamed greed and gluttony.
The inscription below the Golden Boy reads:
“This Boy is in Memmory Put up for the
late FIRE of LONDON Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony”
(That IS the spelling on the inscription.)
Here’s another plaque I came across in Chelsea. It’s in Glebe Place, and I really like it – I’m not sure if the building is still a nursery school, but I’m glad the plaque is still there.
On the Waldorf Hotel at Aldwych there is a series of 15 panels showing little boys having fun, but you have to look up very high to see the little boys playing and dancing along the frieze:
The sculptor was Emil Fuchs, an Austrian. The Waldorf Hotel was built in 1906-8 and the architect was Marshall Mackenzie.
Many of the little putti around London are playing musical instruments like these on a balcony of a building at the corner of Queens Gate and Kensington Gore. These are some of my favorite little putti. I first noticed them when I was sitting on the upper deck of a Number 10 bus. It was one of those charming surprises I love in London.
Here’s a parade of musical putti on a building that faces the Royal Albert Hall.The building was originally the home of the Royal College of Organists. The façade has lots of musical references.
This group of little musicians is on a building at the corner of 1 Wigmore Street and 17 Cavendish Square.The little orchestra below dates from 1925 when the building they decorate was converted into a showroom by John Brinsmead & Co. who were piano makers. They were modelled by the sculptor Gilbert Bayes who did lots of important projects all around London. (See: http://gilbertbayes.com/ for details of his work.)
Here are some little artists at work on a building at the corner of 25 Belgrave SquareA plaque on the building tells the interesting story of this plaque
and its partner on the same building
IN 1796 THESE TWO COADE STONE
RELIEFS WERE AFFIXED TO THE
IN WELLCLOSE SQUARE STEPNEY. IN
1968 THE RELIEFS WERE RE-ERECTED
ON THIS EMBASSY BY COURTESY OF
THE GREATER LONDON COUNCIL
Here are some putti on the portico of Wyndham Theatre on Charing Cross Road that represent The Arts: Comedy, Tragedy, Literature and Painting:
The little boys below are helping to hold up the Art Deco building at 161 Piccadilly.
There are putti in the recesses are holding up the cornice. This building was originally offices for the Royal Insurance Company. The architect was J.J.Joass. The sculptor was Bertram Mackennal, an Australian (1863 – 1931) who had a very large body of works in London and overseas. He was most famous for designing the likeness of King George V on coins and stamps. He also designed Phoebus Driving the Horses of the Sun on Australia House on Aldywch.
These modest little boys below are holding up part of the moulding at Five Kings’ House on Upper Thames Street.
You have to wonder WHY the architect stuck in these little figures? Did he think the building needed a playful touch?
Actually, Five Kings’ House has LOTS of exuberant sculpture – and MORE little putti.
Here are two little boys holding up a window ledge in Poplar, a part of East London with close connections to the sea and maritime trade. The fish and seagull that the putti are playing with are very appropriate.
I love the happy looks on their faces – they look like real little boys having fun.
These little putti on this terracotta panel are also sitting on fish – I think they are somewhat fanciful dolphins.These little boys have WINGS – so does that make them cherubs, you might ask.
“A putto (plural putti) is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude and sometimes winged. Putti are commonly confused with, yet are completely unrelated to, cherubim. Putti are secular and represent a non-religious passion. A putto representing a cupid is also called an amorino.”
So – I think that almost all of the little boys playing on buildings in London are putti.
There are some cherubim on churches in London, such as these on St. Mary le BowAnd these on St. Paul’s CathedralThese fun modern sculptures are part of a group called “Children of the World” in a courtyard at St. Thomas’s Hospital.They are very cheerful and no doubt cheer up the kids and families that come to the hospital.
This little boy with his goose is on a building at Bank Junction, just down from the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange.
The building which was erected in 1935 as the HQ of the Midland Bank was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. He asked the imminent sculptor William Reid Dick (1879-1961) to make two figures for corners of the new building, and suggested that a boy with a goose might be appropriate. Why?
Because the street where the building stands is named — Poultry.
Like many of the streets in the City, the name reminds us of the people who had businesses here in the Middle Ages.
But – is the little boy up on the bank HQ strangling the Goose the Laid the Golden Egg?
With his new sculpture, Reid Dick was referring to a famous sculpture made in ancient Greece by Boethus around 160BC.
Art historians have pondered what Boethus’s sculpture symbolises.
Is the little boy playing or trying to strangle the poor goose?
Is it good versus evil? Innocence and power?
I think Reid Dick’s Boy is much more benign – he looks like he is cuddling his goose. Maybe he thought the power struggle of the original wouldn’t be a good symbol for a bank!
But, to be honest, the ancient original has more of an emotional impact.
William Reid Dick’s little boy up on the bank epitomises all the playful little children that make buildings in London fun to spending time studying.
@Cathey Leitch, 2015