Thomas Jeckyll & the Boileau Family

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You may have gathered from two earlier posts [1,2] that I am fascinated by a local hero, the Wymondham-born architect and designer Thomas Jeckyll. Through his C19th designs for the Norwich foundry of Barnard Bishop and Barnards he became a major contributor to the Japanese-inspired Aesthetic Movement and helped make the sunflower its defining motif.

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Sunflower table top, cast-iron. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870 for Barnard Bishop and Barnards. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service)

Jeckyll was also the original designer of the iconic [3Peacock Room, made to accommodate shipping magnate Frederick Leyland’s extensive collection of china. However, Jeckyll’s mental collapse allowed arch-aesthete James McNeill Whistler to reinvent the room as (an admittedly stunning) ‘Harmony in Blue and Gold’ by literally overpainting Jeckyll’s surfaces to make the best-surviving example of the Anglo-Japanese style.

This post is about the Boileau fountain, a more humble project of Jeckyll’s but another that can no longer be seen as he originally intended.

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Boileau Fountain at the junctions of Ipswich and Newmarket Roads, Norwich. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870, completed in 1876. (Postcard bought at a local antiques fair).

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2016

As a young man, Jeckyll had been the protégé of Sir John Boileau of Ketteringham Hall, a few miles south of Norwich.

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Sir John Peter Boileau by Sir Francis Grant (President Royal Academy 1866)

It was therefore fitting that one of Jeckyll’s last projects was to design this drinking fountain (ca 1870) as a memorial to his former mentor. Sir John had died in 1869 but it took time to prove his will that provided £1000 for the memorial, which was completed in 1876 [4, 5].

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Postcards tended to focus on the electric trams that arrived in 1900

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“for people and cattle”

Sir John had been concerned for the welfare of animals being driven to Norwich market, explaining the gift of water, but the statue added a more personal note to his legacy. The seated figure represents Charity giving a child a drink of water from a shell.

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Charity by Sir J Edgar Boehm

Lady Catherine Boileau had died in her fifties in 1862 but the face of the seated Charity is said to have resembled Lady Catherine when younger.

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Lady Catherine Boileau by Sir Francis Grant

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The plaster maquette of the Boehm statue can be seen through the door of the Orangery at Ketteringham Hall 1878

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The Orangery (above) was later used as the Ketteringham Hall Preparatory School where the  Boehm maquette (top centre) was still in situ ca 1958.

The sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, was born in Vienna and moved to England where he became an Associate of the Royal Academy [6].  One of his students was Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise; she was in Boehm’s house when he died, fuelling speculation in the press of a sexual relationship between them [6].

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Carte de visite of Sir JE Boehm 1860s (Wikimedia Commons)

At the ceremony to dedicate the fountain, Sir John’s son Francis praised Jeckyll’s contribution and noted his famous metalwork designs.

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Francis Boileau’s pencilled annotation at the top of the cheque reads, “For luncheon on opening of the Boileau Fountain”. Note the names of the famous Norwich banking families.

But within a week of this ceremony Jeckyll had descended into the manic state that eventually led him to be confined to the Bethel Asylum, where he died in 1881 [4].

Curiously, younger members of the Boileau family were to be involved in a ‘carriage accident’ at the site of this ceremony one generation later.

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On Wednesday 16th November 1910, according to the Eastern Evening News of that date, a carriage containing Sir John’s grandson Sir Maurice Boileau, granddaughter Lady Margaret and Rev. Hart were in an “Exciting scene in St Stephen’s”. Approximately where the pony and trap are seen to the right of the fountain a cyclist skidded in front of the horses causing them to bolt “at a terrific pace”towards St Stephen’s Gates. Horses and carriage crashed into two stationary vehicles outside Mr Bean’s the corn merchant.  Margaret, who was herself a physician (a fact not mentioned in the report) helped the injured coachman into the adjacent hospital to which her grandfather had been a benefactor. One of the fine bay horses had to be put down.

Jekyll’s double-canopied fountain was dismantled in 1965 in order to ease traffic flow and to increase the visibility of passing traffic.

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The Boileau Fountain 1965 during demolition. (c) Archant/EDP Library

In 2008 the statue was returned, some 50 metres west of where it had once stood, to a new site next to a pond in the grounds of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital [5].

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Boehm’s ‘Charity” statue in the grounds of the former N&N hospital, 2016.

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The plaster maquette of Boehm’s ‘Charity’ remains in Ketteringham Hall

Thomas Jeckyll enjoyed a long relationship with the Boileau family. The son of a cleric, Jeckyll had a fascination for church architecture; he restored many churches around Norfolk and worked on the tower of Ketteringham church, adjacent to the Boileau’s Hall [4].

At the beginning of his career, in the 1840s, Jeckyll had helped design a Gothic folly – a medieval ruin – in an old gravel pit near Ketteringham Hall [7].

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Her Ladyship’s Pit also known as St Catherine’s Cell, 1886. The figure here is Lady Lucy, daughter-in-law of Lady Catherine who had died in 1862. 

In about 1847 Jeckyll was called in to complete the pit as a work-in-progress, which he did with the help of Mr Woodbine, a local builder. Jeckyll told Sir John he would, “Build the Ruins for her Ladyship as cheap as I can“. In the event poor Mr Woodbine completed the job for £12 instead of the £18 he had estimated.

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Lady Lucy Boileau with her three children (Maurice, Margaret and Raymond) and school friend Harry Bennett disporting themselves in a lime tree in ‘her Ladyship’s Pit’, 1886. Herr Stein maintains his dignity.

In 1849 Sir John had supported a proposal to install stained glass in the west window of Norwich Cathedral in commemoration of his great friend, Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich. Only 40 or so years later it was thought that the fifteenth century tracery into which the glass had been set was insufficiently robust and should be replaced. Sir John’s son Francis, who was as avid a collector of antiquities as his father, bought the Perpendicular stonework for £10 and set it above a wall in another part of the Ketteringham estate known as ‘The Abbey’. By this time Jeckyll was too ill to have been involved in the venture.

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The head of the C15th Perpendicular window set upon a wall, 1885.

Unfortunately, during the great gale of 1895 two elm trees fell on the wall leaving only a narrow course of arches.

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After the storm of 1895

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Recently 

 

Acknowledgements

This article was based on the record generously supplied by local historian and warden of Ketteringham Church, Mary Parker.  The section on the Gothic follies at Ketteringham is based on an article that Mary and I wrote for the Norfolk Gardens Trust News, which can be downloaded online [7]. I am grateful to Hannah Henderson of the Museum of Norwich, Bridewell Alley, for showing me the Jeckyll collection.

If you are interested in the history of Norfolk landscape, gardens and their buildings join the Norfolk Gardens Trust for only £10 single/£15 joint. The NGT promotes the preservation of gardens and designed landscape and has a programme of garden visits and lectures. Their magazine, Norfolk Gardens Trust News, appears twice yearly. Contact membership secretary Tony Stimpson stimpson4@gmail.com

Sources

1.http://wp.me/p71GjT-f1

2. http://wp.me/p71GjT-7q

3. http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/peacock/

4. Weber Soros, Susan and Arbuthnott, Catherine. (2003). Thomas Jeckyll. Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Yale University Press.

5. Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk.     http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=571

6. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Edgar_Boehm

7.  Norfolk Gardens Trust News No21 Spring 2016 pp12-15.

http://www.norfolkgt.org.uk/Resources/NGT%20Spring%20Newsletter%202016%20.pdf

 

 

 

 

Art Nouveau in Great Yarmouth

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Two Art Nouveau buildings (and a surprising one)

If the architect George Skipper was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona (see previous blog) then, surely, RS Cockrill was to Yarmouth what Skipper was to Norwich. OK, the line from Barcelona to Great Yarmouth does seem rather tenuous but what all three architects shared was a desire to bring the new art to their native towns.

Ralph Scott Cockrill  designed several buildings in Great Yarmouth with a strong Art Nouveau flavour. When researching the Royal Arcade in Norwich as an example of this style I read in Pevsner and Wilson [1] that “only two commercial buildings deserve a place in any book on the subject (The Arts and Crafts) in England: the Royal Arcade … and Fastolff House in Regent Street, Great Yarmouth…“. I didn’t know it, went to see it, and it is tremendous.

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Fastolff House, Regent Street, Great Yarmouth. Built 1908, designed by Ralph Scott Cockrill.

Fastolff House is evidently named for Sir John Falstoff  – Shakespeare’s Falstaff – who was born in nearby Caister Castle. The olde worlde reference is appropriate for an Arts and Crafts building that, with bands of casement windows, was designed with Norman Shaw’s Old English Revival in mind. The outstanding examples of English Art Nouveau – The Royal Arcade, Norwich and The Edward Everard Printing Works, Bristol – achieve their stunning effect with polychrome tiles designed by Doulton’s Neatby. But here, Fastolff House is covered by a facade of monochrome grey faience whose effect depends upon three-dimensional sculpturing instead of illustration.

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The strongly three-dimensional moulding of the faience tiles above the front door contrasts with the low-relief tiles used in Skipper’s Royal Arcade, Norwich

RS Cockrill’s father John William Cockrill had an association with the Doulton’s Lambeth factory via his Cockrill-Doulton Patent Tiles so they seem an obvious candidate for the faience here. But Doulton’s archive has suffered over the years from fire and flood and there seems to be no record that they were associated with Fastolff House. Of course, other potteries were available. The impressive frontage of The Empire on the promenade, for instance, came from The Leeds Fireclay Company.

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The decorative faience superimposed upon this Arts and Crafts building has been referred to as an “odd facade … with lively Germanic Art Nouveau” [2]. It is true that German Art Nouveau, like British, resisted the excesses of the whiplash line of France and Belgium but there are plenty of domestic sources for this restrained variant of Art Nouveau style – look no further than the front cover of The Studio …

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Liberty’s of London used a wide variety of bird and tree patterns “recalling the designs of Voysey (see fabric design further down) and Knox … while others are in a typical ‘Glasgow style'”. Such Glaswegian motifs “were organic, but highly stylised, with … sinuous curves contrasting with taut, straight lines“[3]. This neatly summarises the style applied to Fastolff House.

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The upper clerestory punctuated by heavily-undercut foliage around the gable. The roof tiles are green faience.

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The ‘lanterns’ in the ground floor windows may be a playful reference to pre-electric illumination used in Old English buildings

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The lights above the transom and the elongated stems of the flowers accentuate the proportions of the narrow side door

 

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The ‘W’ on the beautifully patinated side door probably refers to James Williment who developed this purpose-built office block [1].

The second Art Nouveau building in Great Yarmouth is The Hippodrome (1903).

The Yarmouth Hippodrome and the Blackpool Tower Circus are the only two purpose-built, permanent circus buildings remaining in Britain. The sawdust “ring (was) 45 feet in diameter (and) is so constructed as to be converted in a few minutes to a miniature lake of 60,000 gallons of water” [4]. The original mechanism that drops the floor and floods the ring still works and currently supports a ‘live action water show’.

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A busy and beautiful Art Nouveau facade but metal straps around the columns indicate the urgent need for restoration

The Hippodrome was built on the site of George Gilbert’s Circus.

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George Gilbert’s Circus. Courtesy of Colin Tooke.

When constructed, Cockrill’s  Hippodrome directly faced the promenade …

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Yarmouth Hippodrome 1911 (c) Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society

… but later building obscured it from the road.

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Yarmouth Hippodrome 2016

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The decorative surface of RS Cockrill’s Hippodrome is provided by buff-coloured terracotta moulded with various Art Nouveau motifs.

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Face of a young woman crowned by a wreath of heart-shaped honesty leaves – a common art nouveau motif. This and many of the following panels require urgent restoration.

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A panel of stylised peacocks (above) and a frieze of owls (below)

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Left: Above the capital of honesty leaves is a panel of figures with hair in smoke-like tendrils. Right: Terracotta block depicting a tree bearing the highly stylised leaves.

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The design on this terracotta panel is strongly reminiscent of work by Voysey (below).       The different coloured tile cements further underline the urgent need for restoration.

 

Birds-in-a-tree was a favourite design of the architect CFA Voysey, which he reworked and updated in many different ways. He used these patterns on an enormous number of wallpaper and textile designs, ensuring their widespread dissemination [3].

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Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Fabric design 1898 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The previous two buildings emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement of the nineteenth century and depend for effect on surface decoration. In the next building, by contrast, superficial decoration is suppressed (though not entirely) and looks forward to a twentieth century style of construction. The thread running through all three buildings is that they were designed by a Cockrill, except the third was produced not by Ralph Scott Cockrill but by his father John William (1849-1924). JW was born in Gorleston and was appointed to the local Board as Surveyor and (the rather Dickensian) Inspector of Nuisances. It is thought he picked up his other monicker of ‘Concrete Cockrill’ as a result of the concrete pavements he laid [5]. In 1912 he designed the School of Arts and Crafts, now restored as apartments. It is a handsome building but the local mayor ungraciously said it was “a lost opportunity with its austerely unlovely exterior“[5]. This should not be the lasting judgement because the building was an important pioneer of a new kind of architecture.

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School of Arts and Crafts with its austere north facade

At about this time Walter Gropius in Germany was expounding his revolutionary ideas of a modernist architecture in which conventional load-bearing walls are replaced by columns of concrete and steel that support large expanses of steel-framed glass. His Fagus Factory (with Adolf Meyer) of 1911-13 is an icon of the modernist movement that dominated C20th commercial building on an international scale.

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Fagus Shoe-Last Factory, Alfeld, Germany. Designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer 1911-1913

JW Cockrill’s Yarmouth School of Arts and Crafts (1912) illustrates many of these principles: the  flat roof, its steel frame, the extensive use of concrete, large expanses of glass and (for the most part) shunning of ornament mark it out as one of the first examples of modernist design in Britain.

 

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The front facade bears the only decorative surfaces

 

JW Cockrill said that everything in this building was concrete except the doors … but he was working on it [5].

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Sources

  1. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Yale University Press. See pages 161 and 509.
  2. http://tilesoc.org.uk/tile-gazetteer/norfolk.html
  3. Morris, Barbara (1989). Liberty Design. Octopus Books Ltd.
  4. Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk 1904, page 45.
  5. Summers, David. The Building Cockrills of Yarmouth. Norfolk Historic Buildings Group Newsletter No25 Spring 2013. pp7-8.

 

I am grateful to David Summers, Judith Martin and Colin Tooke for their helpful advice.

 

 

 

 

Skipper’s Art Nouveau Building

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Art nouveau (the new art), le style moderne, Jugendstil (youth style), Secessionism, all refer to the newness of an art that, around 1900, broke away from academic tradition and – in some versions – emphasised the curved line of plant form. But this sensuous, rather decadent, style with its characteristic whiplash line might have had its origins in religious architecture.

Six hundred years earlier the curved line was being used to design the stone tracery decorating the tops of Gothic windows. Instead of scribing complete circles with his compass to produce, for example, the clover-leaf trefoils of the earlier Geometric phase,  the master mason of the Curvilinear period would join separate arcs to produce the sinuous S-shape of the ogee [1].   Nikolaus Pevsner described this window below as, “The best Decorated example in Norfolk” [2].

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The curvilinear tracery of St Mary Snettisham, Norfolk. Photo: Spencer Means, Creative Commons

Compared to the sinuous line of the English Curvilinear period the continental version seems even more convoluted, reflexing back on itself to produce the flame-like curves of the Flamboyant period.

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Flamboyant window in Milan Cathedral. Photo: Mary Ann Sullivan

The reversed curve may therefore have been deeply embedded in the architectural folk memory and, in Britain at least, reawakened  by the Victorian Gothic Revival. However, the first time that the flexuous line emerged as a recognisably art nouveau design was when this book cover by the English designer Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo was published in 1883. It was, said Pevsner, “the first work of art nouveau which can be traced” [3].

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Book cover for Wren’s City Churches by A. H. Mackmurdo 1883.

Norfolk readers may appreciate Mackmurdo’s early Art Nouveau ‘Cromer Bird’ pattern, which used a similar undulating line.

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A.H.Mackmurdo 1884. ‘Cromer Bird’ design for block-printed cotton.

In medieval Gothic architecture even the most curvaceous designs of the Curvilinear period remained symmetrical: either radially symmetrical (as in the second figure above) or with left/right bilateral symmetry as in the first example of a Decorated window. But in designing this chair-back Mackmurdo resisted the urge for symmetry.

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Mackmurdo chair of 1883-4. The seat and legs are entirely conventional but the fretwork splat is wonderfully asymmetrical – almost a 3D version of the ‘Wren’ book cover above.

The ‘Wren’ book cover might imply that Art Nouveau originated in Britain but in reality the new art was an amalgam of styles that emerged at about the same time across Europe and America. However, Art Nouveau never fully emerged as a dominant architectural style here, perhaps being thought too decadent and sensuous for Protestant Britain. The major exception was in Glasgow where Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings are masterpieces of a new style, although his version was more rectilinear and geometric than these snaking lines displayed in Victor Horta’s  Hotel Tassel, Brussels.

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Hotel Tassel, designed by Victor Horta, Brussels 1893-4.

Compared to the pent up energy of the whiplash line unleashed in continental architecture the rare examples of Art Nouveau buildings in England appear restrained.

The Royal Arcade in Norwich is a nationally important example…

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Royal Arcade Norwich 1899. Architect GJ Skipper, designer WJ Neatby of Doulton Lambeth Pottery

The photograph below, taken in 1955,  shows the ground floor of the shop that flanked the left entrance to the arcade.

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The Royal Arcade 1955 (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk 

This shop to the left of the Back of the Inns entrance was known as The Arcade Stores. Originally a Bullards pub, Skipper integrated it into the arcade. Below, we can just make out tiles bearing bunches of grapes (left) but they didn’t survive the destruction of this part of the building when converted to a butcher’s shop in the 1960s (see oldcity.org.uk).

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The Arcade Stores 1956. (c) RIBA

Another jewel-like building with polychrome Doulton tiles by the same designer is the Edward Everard printing works in Bristol.

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Everard’s printing press Bristol, with tiles by Doulton’s WJ Neatby. Only the facade survives, underlining the relative importance attached to exterior versus the interior (c) RIBA

Both built at about 1900, Everard’s and the Royal Arcade share obvious similarities derived from the Doulton tile designer William James Neatby. The figure to the left of the first floor windows of the printing works is the inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg: to the right is William Morris who revived the art of printing with his Kelmscott Press. This in turn has resonances with another building by George Skipper in Norwich, The Norfolk Daily Standard offices in St Giles Street.

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Norfolk Daily Standard offices  (1899-1900), architect George Skipper.

This Skipper gem is decorated with Doulton brown terracotta tiles. Although there are minor Art Nouveau touches it is not really an example of that movement for its influences are more eclectic [4]. But, recalling those two figures of pioneers on the Everard building (and the tendency of architects to borrow a good idea), the Norfolk Daily Standard building bears portraits of  William Caxton (the first English printer) and Daniel Defoe (one of the first English journalists and novelists).

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William Caxton (printer) and Daniel Defoe (writer) decorate the Norfolk Daily Standard building.

These newspaper offices and the Royal Arcade are prime examples of Skipper’s imaginative buildings, designed about 1900, that brought a modern dimension to the largely medieval and Georgian-style city. As Sir John Betjeman said:

“He was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona”

Betjeman probably had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he compared Norwich and Barcelona but, don’t forget, Skipper was big in Cromer too! [5]

However, it was Neatby’s colourful tiles rather than the underlying architecture that caused the press to say the arcade was like a “fragment from the Arabian Nights dropped into the heart of the old city” [6].  At that stage, Neatby had been Head of Doulton’s architectural department for about ten years.

Sir Henry Doulton (d 1897) made his money from the manufacture of glazed stoneware drainage pipes at a time when there was an increasing demand for better sanitation. By 1870 the same clay used for sewage pipes was being used by students who came to his workshop from the nearby Lambeth School of Art to produce what became the enormously popular Doulton Art Pottery.

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Left, A Doulton slip-cast stoneware vase in which the pattern is applied by the mould. Centre, a Doulton stoneware vase that has been turned on a wheel with the pattern applied by hand. Right, a transfer-printed, hand-painted vase (factory unknown) showing the more continental whiplash line.

Neatby was an experimentalist and he helped develop Doulton’s Carraraware, a dense white body made to look like marble [7] that was used to clad the external facing of the Royal Arcade.

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This winged angel guarding the east entrance to the Royal Arcade is a reference to the Angel Inn that once stood on this site [4].

The interior was decorated with another product –  a matt material called Parian ware, which was also developed by Neatby [7].

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Neatby’s side entrance to the arcade – Parian ware with a raised sinuous line.

Some particularly  attractive tiles are found in the spandrels of the central arches.  These panels depict a young woman holding a circle that, in original illustrations, contained a sign of the zodiac [7].

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Neatby’s working cartoon for the Royal Arcade tiles. From the Proceedings of the Society of Designers c1900.[8]

The image is strongly reminiscent of the women illustrated by Alphonse Mucha in his lithographic posters; for instance Salome (below), published two years before the Royal Arcade was opened.  Mucha’s free-hand drawings for his lithographs use a detailed, sinuous line but Neatby’s freedom was restricted by his medium: he had to pour enamel glazes into indentations impressed into the mould as it was formed [8]. An early article noted, “Everyone knows that enamel painting on pottery is not so ‘go as you please’ as oil or watercolour painting … the actual technique (is) exceedingly difficult” [9].

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‘Salome’ by Alphonse Mucha, 1897 (c) backtoclassics.com

Postscript

 Many years ago I bought a framed tile in a junk shop in Cambridge. The buff-coloured  sanitary-ware tile, impressed with ‘Doulton’,  was illustrated with the head of a young woman. Much later I realised she was based on Mucha’s Salome, but flipped left/right.

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Sources

  1. Harvey, John (1988). Cathedrals of England and Wales. Pub, Batsford Ltd, London.
  2. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (1999). The Buildings of England, Norfolk vol 2. Pub, Yale University Press.
  3. Pevsner, Nikolaus (1975). Pioneers of Modern Design. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  4. Bussey, David and Martin, Eleanor. (2012). The Architects of Norwich: George John Skipper, 1856-1948. Pub, The Norwich Society.
  5. Hitchings, Glenys (2015).George John Skipper (1856-1948). The Man who created Cromer’s Skyline.  Pub, Iceni Print and Products. [Available from City Bookshop Norwich http://www.citybookshopnorwich.co.uk]
  6. Salt, Rosemary. (1988).  Plans for a Fine City (Victorian Society East Anglian Group, Norwich).
  7. Atterbury, Paul and Irvine, Louise (1979). The Doulton Story. A souvenir booklet produced originally for the exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum London 30 May- 12 August 1979.
  8. http://tilesoc.org.uk/tile-gazetteer/norfolk.html
  9. https://www.fulltable.com/vts/aoi/n/neatby/a.htm
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