If only we could hear the music that is being played in stone and wood in London – there would be lots of singing and dancing in the streets of the city!
This trumpet-playing “Herald” sits on a globe in a large oculus on a building at 85 Fleet Street that was built in 1934 as the HQ for the Press Association and for the Reuters News Agency. It was designed by the great British Sir Edwin Lutyens.
The Herald was created by Sir William Reid Dick and is said to be “blowing the trumpet of thrice-distilled truth”. Is that a guideline for the Press Association or, perhaps, a bit of irony?
Maybe the figure of the Herald is basedon the Roman goddess Fama.
“Fama is the Roman Goddess of fame and rumor. She is the daughter of Tellus and Ouranos, making her of the same generation as the Greek Titans, the generation before the popular Gods like Juno and Jupiter. She is said to live at the center of the world on a high mountain. Her home has no doors, but a thousand windows, and she can see and hear everything that happens in the world. Fama never sleeps, always listening for whispers on the wind. Some authors describe her as having great wings, and at the base of each feather is an eye, an ear, and a mouth, so that she can see, hear, and spread her rumors. Most depictions show her with a trumpet, which she uses to call attention to herself before she tells her news. While she does give positive news, such as of victory in battle, she delights more in spreading salacious rumors, regardless. “ www.goddessaday.com/category/roman/page/3
Funny how these ancient classical figures seem so human!
Few people seem to notice the panels above the doors on the Barkers Building on Kensington High Street (now occupied by Whole Foods).I think this lady must be getting ready for a fancy dress party – with lots of music. There are a guitar, drum and cornet.
An important commercial development along Kensington High Street began in the early 1930s with the opening of the Art Deco style Derry and Tom’s Building at 99-121 Ken High Street (where Marks and Spencers, Gap and other shops are today). Redevelopment of the Barkers Building was begun in 1933 but it was delayed due to the war and not completed until 1958.
Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, John Adam StreetThe home of the Royal Society was built in 1774 to a design by the Scottish-born brothers John and Robert Adam. The Adams liked to decorate the interior and exterior of their buildings with classical motifs and the RSA is decorated with several – including this roundel with a putto playing a harp.
The Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green
The building that now houses the Museum of Childhood was built between 1868-1872 as the Bethnal Green Museum using a pre-fabricated iron framework that had been used temporarily at the South Kensington Museum (which later became the Victoria and Albert Museum). The link with the V&A continued over the years and in 1974 the museum was designated the Museum of Childhood.
The most interesting thing on the exterior is a set of 26 mosaic panels above the windows. The south side features agricultural scenes while the ones on the north focus on the Arts and Science – including this one of “Music”. Interestingly, the mosaic panels were made by women prisoners at the Woking Prison.
I really like this one with figures playing various instruments. The centre figure looks like he is swaying with the music!
1 Wigmore Street
There’s a whole orchestra of little musicians on the building at the corner of Cavendish Square.
The plaque dates from 1925 when the building they decorate was converted into a showroom by John Brinsmead & Company, piano makers. They were modelled by the sculptor Gilbert Bayes who did lots of important projects in various parts of London. (See: http://gilbertbayes.com/ for details of his work.)
Kensington Gore at Queen’s Gate
These little musicians are on the balcony of a building at the corner of Queens Gate and Kensington Gore. They 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 a charming surprise.
The frieze at the top of the Waldorf Hotel on Aldwych is decorated with a series of 15 panels showing little boys having fun. In this one two putti gamble about while one plays the aulos – a double pipe from ancient Greece. It looks like fun, but the story behind the aulos is a typical mythological tale of desire and revenge.
The goddess Athena thew away an aulos because playing it puffed up her cheeks and ruined her beauty. Marsyas the Satyr picked it up and started playing. Being so impressed with his own talent, he challenged Apollo (the god of Music among other things) to a musical contes. The winnder would be able to “do whatever he wanted” to the loser.
Apollo and his lyre beat Marsyas and his aulos, and, being a vengeful deity, he celebrated his victory by stringing his opponent up from a tree and flaying him alive. So – that little putto on Aldwych ust not have known the danger involved in paying the aulos! The sculptor wasa the Austrian Emil Fuchs – onder if he knew his Greek myths?
26 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill
This building is now home to Al Saqi Bookshop. Most of the customers are probably from the Middle East and have no interest in the amazing facade, which is decorated with carvings of musical angels and portrait busts in little roundels. It turns out that this building was originally a theatre that featured Shakespearean dramas. The portraits are famous characters from the plays, along with Queen Victoria, Price Albet, and Skakespeare himself.
Many London theatres feature musical decoration
This little trumpet-playing putto is on the side of the entrance to the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus. Maybe he is announcing that the performance is about to begin.
The Roman soldier is blowing a large trumpet called a cornu.
Cornus were used primarily for ceremonial entrances or during military engagements. The soldier is part of the great frieze that runs around the top of the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore. The frieze is titled “The Trimuph of the Arts and Sciences”.
The Novello Theatre at the junction of Aldwych and Catherine Street.
This lovely panel is one of several decorating the Novello Theatre.
The relicing musicians include a woman playing a small harp and a man playing a lute.
Two classical ladies with musical instruments sit on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre near Victoria Station. Sorry that I couldn’t get a good angle to show the instruments more clearly – but they ARE holding lutes.
This lovely group of instruments including a harp and lute are on the
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square.
Pub signs can also feature musicians – here are two, with familiar instruments:
This pub on Kensington High Street has changed personality over the years. It used to be called Cuba and hadLatin music and tequila shots. Then Archangel came along and these lovely little musical angels appeared. I really like them – they are a whimsical addition to the High Street.
This musical elf is on the Blackfriar Pub, 174 Queen Victoria Street looks like he is playing a banjo, entertain two little sprites.
The pub is decorated with LOTS of jolly friars – inside and out, in sculptures, mosaics and even stained glass. The building was designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole. Thankfully it was saved from demolition by a campaign led by Sir John Betjeman.
The pub was built in 1905 on the site of the historic Dominican friary (the “Black Friars”) where hearings were held in 1529 in King Henry VIII’s application for divorce from Katherine of Aragon. The divorce was denied – and perhaps that added to Henry’s satisfaction when the friary was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
All these little musicians illustrate how giving a close look at the buildings
in London can be quite entertaining –
there’s lots of music in the air!
There are many more musicians and musical instruments on music schools and churches in London, but that’s for another story.
All photos were taken by Cathey Leitch @Cathey Leitch, 2015