Let’s go for a trip (14)

I’ve been thinking about what I would like to do right now – and it is definitely TRAVEL! I would love to go somewhere – warm and sunny would be very nice, but I’d go just about anywhere.

There are some surprising examples of travel ideas carved into the architecture of London. One of the most ironic is on Cockspur Street facing Trafalgar Square –

P&O - Icarus - Lumix135 - Copy

This is Icarus who made a set of wings and then flew too close to the sun. He is on the façade of a building that was built in 1906 as the London HQ of the Hamburg America Shipping Line. MAYBE they were warning people that flying was a bad idea!

The Wright brothers had achieved their first powered flight in 1903 in North Carolina and in 1904 had made several more flights with a number of witnesses, including newspaper reporters. However, as Wikipedia reports, “In 1906 sceptics in the European aviation community had converted the press to an anti-Wright brothers stance. European newspapers, especially in France, were openly derisive, calling them bluffeurs.)

P&O - Ship and Bacchus, Lumix135 - Copy

The Hamburg America Line building has other examples of travel – Bacchus quite relaxed as he cruises in his sailboat. You can tell it’s Bacchus from the grapes on the prow of the boat and the grape leaves in his hair. That sleepy lion is one of his attributes, too. But I think usually it is a little more active – to show that wine can release the Animal Spirits.

Here’s the façade of the building, which has lots more travel-related decoration – it’s worth a look.P+O Bldg Cockspur Nikon2This building has a fascinating corporate history. As part of war reparations after World War I, the offices of the Hamburg America Line were taken over and became offices for the P&O Line (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company). They made their mark on the building by building a new entrance which featured two impressive full length bronze figures –

The P&O Company started in 1822 sailing between England and Spain and Portugal (the Iberian Peninsula). In the 1840s they expanded with a contract to deliver mail to Alexandra, Egypt. They then got very involved in the Opium Trade, but that’s another story.

The P&O also occupied the building to the right in the photo above, with the green dome, which is topped with another mode of travel –P-O Building - Golden SHip - Cockspur St - Sony 369In the early 1900s Cockspur Street had offices for many companies that focused on travel, especially shipping and railways. Many of these companies put their names right up there on the buildings and there they remain even though the current tenants may have nothing at all to do with the companies that built these buildings. As someone who is interested in history, I really like being able to see some of the past stories of the buildings.

Grand Trunk Railway - Nikon 2

I did a little research on the Grand Trunk Railway and was surprised to find that it operated in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and connected with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. From the name, I expected it to be more like the Orient Express. The Grand Trunk Railway later became part of the Canadian National Railway,

P+O Bldg Cockspur Nikon2

Here on Cockspur Street, about three buildings to the right of the Grand Trunk Building, is the former HQ of the Canadian National Railway. Today it is home to the London Information Centre, where you can book tours and buy theatre tickets.

Between the windows on the top floors you can see the emblems of all the provinces of Canada.

On Cockspur Street, two buildings east of the Canadian National Railway building, there’s
the Canadian Pacific Building –

Canadian Pacific at Trafalgar Sq - Lumix135

They are hard to see from the street, but there are four interesting plaques up at the top of the building, between the windows on the top floor.

Well, it’s hard to decide WHERE to travel, but on the next building on Cockspur Street, there is a reminder that there’s the whole world to choose from –

Atlas House - Cockspur st - Lumix135

The building is named “Atlas House” – and is a great example of the Victorian love of terracotta decoration, which sometimes seems a little over the top!

All these buildings with their travel related decoration are on one short block of offices.

They are a reminder of how buildings in London can tell many stories and reveal so much history
– all you have to do is LOOK!

@Cathey Leitch, 2015