Been thinking ahead to drawing another stretch of the Great North Road later this year. I like to sketch from the street first to get a good look at some of the details so pitched my perch opposite the Fig and Olive on Upper Steet, Islington.
I use a handy portable camping stool – it’s lightweight and fits easily into a bag and I tucked myself into a corner, well clear of the fire station.
Stating the obvious, it was pretty cold and so on the fist day of the Chinese New Year (Rooster), I chickened out after one sketch and went for an indoor brew nearby. Couldn’t see a Shirker’s Cafe, but this place, the Workers Cafe looked like I could sketch from the empty seat in the front window.
Back home again next day via a catch-up with a dear old pal, meeting up in Milton Keynes.
Whenever I draw a street scene, I like to include the people who are around at the time. This has become just as important as recording the buildings as it’s the people who bring the street to life.
Although I already had a few photos of people, I put a call out on social media to invite volunteers from Eccleshall to step on to my latest drawing of the High Street by sending me a photo of themselves or friends along this part of the street.
I was delighted when the photographer Caroline Burley sent me a selection of photos of figures striding out between ‘Valentins’ and ‘& Buttons’. Thanks Caroline! I will leave you to figure out who’s who, but here are the line drawings – almost ready for the colour wash.
A few months ago, Coleen got in touch with some thoughts on living in Albermarle Mansions and kindly told me about the Islington and Finsbury website which maps all the local soldiers who went to war showing a poppy where they lived.
A brief record of each soldier summarises their life. It struck home when I realised that it was close to 100 years ago that one young soldier, Harold Ffoulkes, only 18 years of age, had lived in and set off from this building never to return.
Countless soldiers lost their lives, and indeed still do, but this one had caught my attention and I didn’t want his anniversary to pass unacknowledged. I couldn’t find a photo of him, nor much other than the following entry:
Private Harold Ffoulkes (3332)
7 Albemarle Mansions Holloway Road London
Served in B Company 19th Battalion the London Regiment, and died in France at the age of 18, on the 26th of July 1915 and is buried in Noeux-Les-mines Communal Cemetery, France, grave reference, I. A. 10.
26 July 1915
This Saturday will mark 100 years since Private Harold Ffoulkes died. It’s not much, but I will think of him and his young life and the family he left behind as he set off from this building, his home. May he rest in peace.
I have been drawn back to the Great North Road, this time up in York. The Roman road from London can be traced closely beneath the present day A64, entering York just a little north of Blossom Street and Micklegate and neatly illustrated on the British History Online website (scroll down on the link site for the map).
I mentioned in an earlier post that I went to school in York and Micklegate was my cycle route into town. Of course, much has changed and I see that the first building on the street is now occupied by Bike Shed, hopefully ready to greet the forthcoming Tour de Yorkshire. Brilliant! I will be there in the crowds again this year.
Micklegate is a long street and this drawing is only about a third of one side but I have discovered that there are seven Grade I, 26 Grade II* and 117 Grade II listed buildings in Micklegate alone!
Having made a great journey north himself, my father would often speak of the ancient roads in and around the city and how in the past, convicts would have been taken from York Castle prison along Micklegate, then Blossom Street and out along what is now the A64 to Tyburn, on the Knavesmire. Dad had been given a very old book ‘the Criminal Chronology of York Castle‘ which is a register of all those unfortunate souls executed at Tyburn since 1379 with many awful insights into life and death within the city. Dad passed the book on to me and it’s a sobering read.
Events don’t seem so long ago when I think that most of these buildings would have been extant on ‘Saturday 6th March 1761, when Ann Richmond, a fine young girl, was executed at Tyburn Without Micklegate Bar, for setting fire to a stack and barn belonging to her mistress’. The buildings on Micklegate would have been some of the last that she saw.
I got lost in thought whilst drawing Micklegate. I kept thinking of my parents, John and Mary Sharp (nee O’Donoghue), who lived in York for over 50 years and I took the liberty of drawing them in, looking into Brigantes window – which incidentally is the name of a Celtic Romano tribe – apt for my English dad and Irish mum. Our much loved old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Arran is included, no shadows of course!
Micklegate holds many names which have gone – the Blake Head is one that I really do miss when I visit York. I don’t like seeing buildings unused so it is great to hear that this is now home to the BlueBird Bakery and the Rattle Owl. With great names like that, I hope they go a long way – best of luck to you!
I gather from the York Press that ‘Plans have also been submitted to the council to excavate the cellar of the property which is believed to be sitting on top of a Roman road, with hopes of incorporating it into the current building design and allowing it to be displayed.’ Exciting! Look forward to hearing more of this!
Micklegate House (c1752) below, was the former town house of the Bourchiers of Beningbrough.
The drawing stops at the point where it meets Barker Lane, hopefully to be continued. To see all the drawing scanned in full length, please visit www.drawingthestreet.co.uk
Limited edition prints will soon be available at Blossom Street Gallery and Framing. Please email me directly and I will happily reserve one for you. A small number will be available to buy from me directly.