22 October 2016

Waterlow Court in Hampstead: communal housing for progressive women workers.

How would the booming city of London house the turn-of-the-century New Woman? Comfortable ladies' residential chambers such as Sloane Gardens House (built in 1888) and York Street Chambers (built in 1892) were beyond the pocket of many working women. A few committed organis­at­ions such as the Homes for Working Girls and the Girls' Friendly Society provided less expensive options, but these tended to be unattractive.

Hostels built specifically for low-waged single working women only emerged from 1900. Women slept in small individual cub­ic­les and shared dining rooms and sitting rooms that helped to foster a community spirit. Some hostels also featured sewing rooms, libraries, photographic rooms and bicycle stores, an important provision for the New Woman.

In 1910, there were c60 lodging houses for lower-middle and middle class working women in London. By 1925 there were c170. Many of these were in converted buildings but some were in purpose-built and architect-designed facilities.

Hampstead Garden Suburb became a model of housing developments that went back to the late C19th. By then urban planner Ebenezer Howard 1850–1928 had formulated his vision for a comm­unity that would be free from industrial ugliness, located in fresh countryside, yet enjoying the benefits of urban living. This utopian ideal had already been realised in Letchworth Garden City, shaped by the planner and architect Raymond Unwin.

Meanwhile, working in the slums of London's East End, Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta had similar ideas. They imagined a Utopian community based on the neighbourliness of an English village. In 1896 the Northern Line of the London Underground was about to be built, with a station at Golders Green. The Barnetts foresaw that the Underground would bring bricks and mortar in its wake, ruining what was then still farmland north of Hampst­ead Heath. Henrietta set about preserving a northward extension of the Heath as a "garden suburb for all classes". If north Hampstead had to be devel­op­ed, she would see it was developed properly.

 Waterlow Court, courtyard and cloisters

 Waterlow Court, a resident in her lounge room

 Waterlow Court, front entrance from the road

memorial to Dame Henrietta Barnett
next to the Central Town Square gardens

Henrietta Barnett had two priorities. She wanted to save 80 acres of land from the "rows of ugly villas that dis­fig­ure most of the suburbs of London". She required that a] the cottages and houses should be limited on an average to 8 per acre; b] roads should be 40’ wide; c] fronts of the houses should be at least 50’ apart, gardens occupying the space between; d] plot divisions should not be walls but hedges or trellises; e] every road should be lined with trees and f] it was to be surrounded by fields.

Secondly Waterlow Court in Hampstead Garden Suburb was to provide a co-operative housing enclave for single, working women. This new court was established by a housing company and designed by famous English architect M. H. Baillie-Scott (1865-1945) in 1904. In this brave new world of independent, working women, Baillie-Scott combined Queen Anne architecture with the Arts and Crafts Movement as a statement of high ideals.

In May 1907, the first sod was turned on the estate. Mrs Barnett's appearance on the podium was warmly welcomed, her speech underlining the Christian context of her mission. Within a couple of years, the court’s grounds of cloistered flats opened (in 1909) as a project of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Co whose chairman was Lord Sydney Waterlow.

For women who weren't able to afford servants, the shared facilities allowed them to share the cost of living and to enjoy companionship. The original communal dining area was in the gabled block to the rear of the courtyard. The windows were mullioned, leaded casements. The original fittings, door and window furn­iture were made by J Pyghtle White of Bedford for Ambrose Heal of London. Many thanks to Historic England for the architectural details.

Waterlow's lych-gate (roofed gateway) opened to a timber-framed and covered walkway which in turn led to the courtyard. The low tiled roofs featured timber cupola and high brick chimney stacks. Note the round-arched arcades which created a cloister effect around the central courtyard; they served as a walkway to ground-floor flats and gave access to the C18th style stair cases. The cloisters allowed covered access from all the flats to the dining and other communal rooms.

At the time it was opened, Waterlow Court comprised 50 individual flats of 3-5 rooms, with a communal dining room and small common room, house keeper's and servants' accomm­odation and a kitchen where communal meals were prepared. Porter's accommodation was either side of the main entrance.

Edwin Lutyens already had a strong association with Hampstead by the time Mrs Barnett needed a consultant in early 1909. He focused on the Central Town Square, designed in the shape of two churches (one Church of England and one church for all the other denomin­ations). This was where the suburb’s key public facilities were built.

Around the buildings were five landscaped areas with lawns, beds, a wild garden with 35 fruit trees and an inter-war pre-cast shelter. From the entrance gate a covered way led to the housing, either side of which were lawns with shrub borders and elegant trees. The central courtyard had a square lawn surrounded by paved paths along which were benches backed by flower borders to the cloisters. Surrounding the housing were more lawns, originally including one or two croquet lawns here.

As elsewhere in Hampstead Garden Suburb, hedges with arches were an important feature and most of those at Waterlow Court have been rest­ored in recent years. The garden area at the back was probably used for growing food, particularly during WW2. The large number of fruit trees symbolised Dame Henrietta Barnet's ambition for every house in Hampstead Garden Suburb to have its own fruit tree. Many thanks to London Gardens Online for their detailed garden information.

The original communal rooms were later converted to flats and the complex now has 54 flats in all. The layout remains similar today to Baillie Scott's original plan; and it is likely that the planting scheme is still inspired by Gertrude Jekyll. In fact today Hampstead Garden Suburb remains a beautiful suburb.

For those who would like to examine other listed working women's lodging houses from the 1900-1925 era, I recommend the article called Buildings That Celebrate Working Women.

18 October 2016

History of Heraldry and Architecture - a guest post

Heraldry and Architecture are irretrievably linked throughout history. The earliest examples of fortifications the Romans built as the Legions travelled from one region of the world to another, at the end of the day had pennants, and symbols of each cohort and guidons for the cavalry units attached. The Romans were never afraid to display who they were and their daily building of a fortification at the end of their march was a proud display of their marital prowess. They were some of the first examples of using a type of heraldry to mark their building efforts.

As history evolved, and the European dark ages progressed the use of symbols fell back to a most rudimentary and basic level. Sometimes it was nothing more than vegetable dye stained patch of linen used as a flag. This basic fundamental form of identification both on and off the battlefield continued to exist long into the 12th and 13th centuries. However it was with the rise of formal feudalism, and the system of fealty, did the importance of having property, and people correctly identified as belonging to a lord or king became vitally important. As it would be a horrible thing for one lord not familiar with a geographic region to attack a town or village under his over-lord or king's protection. It did happen in history, but it was usually in the way of a revolt. Not as a result of lack of knowledge of who owned what.

A Castellan was a position of authority over a Castle and its Garrison. The term came from the Latin Castellanus meaning Castle. It was also where the title 'Constable' came from. Which means in essence the Constable of theTower of London
was in fact the Military Governor of the Tower. This position was usually annotated by the use of a knights pennant flying beneath the standard of the King.

Main Entrance: Tower of London
(c) Mark Ahsmann.

Why was this position important? Only after the social strictures of Vassalage and Fealty had been established could a Lord or King have multiple fortifications under his control, as it was impossible for a King to be in more than one place at a time. To an attacker, who would come across one of these 'Royal' fortifications unless they had prior intelligence, they would not know if the King was in residence or not. Most castles directly under the control of medieval king, and flew their flag and or standard from the battlements.

Eventually, the heraldic coat-of-arms became placed permanently upon the exterior walls of a place, so all passers-by would know this property belonged to the crown. It also became a way for commoners to show allegiance to a particular monarch. The pub sign The War of Roses was a good example, when the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster became combined into the Tudor rose. This name and subsequent use of the Tudor badge and crown became one of the more popular Pub signs in England.

The Rose and Crown Pub Sign.
(c) Pondhopper.

By the mid 15th century, this passion for personal heraldry and the desire to leave a mark for posterity regarding what a person had achieved, reached a zenith. From the most magnificent King, or Emperor to the lowliest hedge knight who occupied a position barely better than the peasants he governed, funeral effigies came into vogue. This desire to create funeral art was in essence the ultimate in branding of who a person was or more importantly who they wanted people to believe they were. Elaborate tombs where carved from Marble, Alabaster, Jasper and other exotic materials.

Noted American/British historian Tobias Capwell PhD, of the Wallace Museum in London has written one of the definitive works on this time period with his book  Armour of the English Knight 1400 to 1450.
See where the high art of the stone carver reproduced the arms and armour of the English men-at-arms in exacting detail; so much so, modern armour smiths have been able to recreate types and styles of armour not seen for hundreds of years, (many of which do not even have a representational version in museums.)

Tomb Effigy of Baron Bardolf, William Phelip KG d-1440.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia commons
(c) CB Newham.

There were many fantastic examples of how the desire to brand everything from dog collars to entire buildings with the Heraldic arms of their owners. See the tomb of the Duke of Bretagne, with his hound having its collar embellished with the arms of the Duchy (a field of ermine.)

One of the more fantastic examples of late 15th century funerary art was the tomb of Mary of Burgundy
. Arguably one of the most powerful women in the history of late European medieval history, she inherited the Duchy of Burgundy upon the death of her father at the battle of Nancy. In order to counter the schemes of France to bring the Duchy back under French control, she married Maximilian I who would later become the Holy Roman Emperor. Her tomb had in high relief the arms of the various Duchies and Counties she ruled directly eg Duchies of Brabant, Guelders, Limburg, Luxemburg, Countess Palatine of Burgundy, Countess of Artois, Flanders, Holland, Zeeland etc.

Tomb of Francis II of Bretagne (Brittany) d-1488
In Nantes Cathedral.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
(c) Adam Bishop

Grand Duchess Mary of Burgundy d-1482
Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium.

The lands formerly occupied by the various Holy Roman Emperors of the Hapsburg family are fantastic places to view Heraldic Arms placed upon the palaces, churches and public buildings. Germany was one of the regions of the world where almost every town and municipality has a coat of arms or some sort of heraldic device with which it might be associated.

As this proud tradition of 'branding' places became common practice, and as the age of exploration and colonisation began, European powers brought with them their traditions. The British Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries was a shinning example, especially true in the reign of Queen Victoria. The College of Arms granted numerous Arms to new territories all over the world.

Some of the best examples of British Imperial Heraldry can be found in Australia. The Australians are a fiercely independent country within their own right. And they have elements which are strictly their own, which speak to their national origin and character. All of whom they should be justly proud. Because of their history, they also inherited a distinctly British form of Heraldic Traditions.

The current coat of arms were authorised by Edward VII in 1908. The final design comprised the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. All states were placed on an escutcheon/shield surmounted by a border of Ermine. The coat of arms was supported on the dexter side by a Kangaroo and on the sinister side by an Emu both proper. The supporters in the coat of arms, the Red Kangaroo and the Emu, reflected two apocryphal stories: a] they were the only native fauna of the same size which could be used, and b] they were only found on the continent of Australia.

Australian Coat of Arms.
Located at Government House on Norfolk Island.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

There are countless examples of Heraldry and Architecture from such diverse places as Australia to Hungary. What is interesting to heraldic historian is why do all countries in Europe etc have these images or devices, and what do they tell us of history. For those who find this historical niche intriguing, I say good luck in your journey of discovery.

My many thanks for this guest post go to: John Lehman, owner of Coadb.com. You can reach him at

15 October 2016

Buvelot, Ashton and a famous art school in Sydney

The artist Louis Buvelot (1814-88) was probably the spiritual father of many young Australian artists; he was a man who had done his own art training in Lausanne and Paris and spent 18 years in Brasil. When Buvelot migrated to Melbourne in Feb 1865, he was already a very middle aged man. Yet he became an Australian pioneer of plein air impressionism, as exemplified in France by the Barbizon School painter Corot. His realistic representation of the Australian bush later had a profound influence on many of the artists of the Heidelberg School in Melbourne.

Buvelot, Macedon Ranges, 1874
National Gallery of Victoria

When Julian Ashton (1851-1942) arrived in Australia from Britain in 1878, he was invited to Melbourne by newspaper owner David Syme to work as an illustrator for the Illustrated Australian News. In one of those great flukes of history, Ashton’s next-door neighbour turned out to be the artist Louis Buvelot.

At that stage, colonial art was trying to be as English as possible. Young painters, raised in Australian landscapes and Australian light, were criticised for depicting a harsh and dry Australian bush, instead of the soft English countryside.

Julian Ashton, who moved to Sydney to work on a particular project in 1883, became a leader in the push for the recognition of a new, truly Australian art form. One of Ashton's first achievements in Sydney was to convince his fellow trustees at The Art Gallery of New South Wales to buy the work of local Australian artists of promise. "Still Glides The Stream” by Arthur Streeton was the first of these.

Ashton, Evening in Merri Creek, 1882
Art Gallery of New South Wales

Soon Ashton was teaching at the Art Society of NSW School and continued to work there throughout the early 1890s. Another young artist, Sydney Long, studied under Ashton at Art Society and became Ashton's star pupil and protege.

Ashton founded the Sydney Art School in 1896 in Beaumont Chambers in King St, a centre for aspiring young Australian artists. There Ashton advised students to work only from first-hand experience, to paint familiar scenes and to choose landscapes that charmed the eye. Ashton later claimed that his own work, Evening in Merri Creek (1882) was the first plein air painting created in Australia.

Ashton’s students and associates read like a Who’s Who of Australian artists in the late 19th and early 20th C - Elioth Gruner, George Lambert, J.J. Hilder and Dorrit Black were my favourite artists of this period.  From 1896, Thea Proctor studied with Julian Ashton before travelling to London in 1903. There, on the advice of Tom Roberts, she studied at St John’s Wood Art School. The already well known artist, Charles Conder, studying with Ashton whenever Conder was in Sydney, often worked with the students in the scenic Hawkesbury River area.

Ashton, Mosman Ferry, 1888
National Gallery of Victoria

I am not sure why the King St address proved inadequate, but I do know that the art school moved to the Queen Victoria Markets in 1906. Ashton continued to produce his own Impressionistic portraits and landscapes during these years, and influenced the concept of Australian art patronage. He must have been a great teacher and role model; as late as 1924 the incomparable William Dobell enrolled at Ashton’s school, increasing his attendance at classes from three nights a week to as many lessons as he could fit in.

Henry Cornwallis-Gibbons joined the teaching staff of The Sydney Art School in 1922. He worked closely along side Julian Ashton until Ashton died, then he ran the school until his own retirement in 1960. In the meantime, in 1933, the school moved to the Rocks area of Sydney where it still functions today. As the school’s own history states, it is notable that throughout its entire history the school has always been administered by practising figurative artists who are also teachers.

Ashton Arts School, 
The Rocks Sydney

In 1989 the Sydney Art School/Julian Ashton Art School, along with its antique casts, easels and studio furnishings, were classified by The National Trust as a cultural living treasure.