Funny how waiting in a queue is now something I enjoy. There’s always something to draw. I started with one foot, then a bit of leg then another…
Back to this month. I’ve had a great time sketching in Burslem, the mother town of the Potteries, starting with this one of Market Place, one of the streets which I’ve already drawn formally a few years ago which you can see here.
Any urban sketcher knows that it’s almost impossible to walk past an art shop without looking inside and buying at least a new pencil. So, when I walked past Cowling and Wilcox, on Holloway Road a few years ago, I gave in to a new Daler Rowney sketch book, about A5 size.
I go to London regularly – partly family visits to our son and also to draw some of my Great North Road street drawing series, Holloway Road.
This ancient route has shown up at key points in my life: at school in York, going to University in Edinburgh and now as our son has made his home beside it. I’ve made a start drawing chunks of the buildings along the Holloway Road and the photo above is on one of the sunnier days sketching out Denmark Place preparing for the formal architectural drawing. It’s only when you stop to draw that you notice things like date stones way up the top.
Back to the sketch book. I decided to keep this one just for sketching during my London visits. Three years later, it’s full!
I’d like to share some of the content from time to time. All the sketches are made on location and most sketched in about five minutes. Less than minutes for my wobbly sketches from the top of a bus!
It’s easy enough to spot the ones made in the time taken to enjoy a brew in a cafe.
More sketches of Holloway Road to follow soon, but if you are in Highbury, pop in to The Only Place For Pictures and see a few more London streets.
Hitchman Street holds some interesting connections for me. When I first saw this red brick terrace, I was on my way to to deliver a framed print of an Audlem street to Williams of Audlem. Not knowing anything about the terraces in Fenton, I looked them up when I got home.
I was surprised to find that the land that these houses were built on was purchased in 1765 by the architect William Baker of Audlem. William Baker (‘the first’ as there were a few more to follow) bought ‘the estate and manor of Fenton Culvert, together with pottery, for his second son William Baker II’ (extract from Stoke Council’s conservation area appraisal). However, it was some generations later when William Meath Baker, the great grandson of the first William, commissioned these terraces. It’s all explained in the conservation appraisal.
Interwoven Initials W M B
Terracotta date stone on gable on Victoria Road
William Meath Baker had inherited the Baker Pottery nearby and built these houses (and many others) to provide accommodation on a philanthropic model for the workers associated with the Baker Pottery.
The Baker Pottery has gone now, but the kilns remain.
Looking up these old threads, it never fails to unearth other connections. When I worked as a conservation architect in Stafford, I spent ten years as part of the team looking after the repair and upkeep of the grade 1 listed Chillington Hall, the south wing which was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick in 1724. Francis Smith was the celebrity architect of the Midlands in his day and it turns out that one of Smith’s pupils was the young William Baker of Audlem, learning from the master.
I’d like to think that an appreciation of good design has been passed down the generations. It certainly shows up here in these terraces.
Fenton is one of the six towns of the Potteries, Stoke-on Trent. It’s the one that wasn’t included in the writing by Arnold Bennett. Many of you will know that Stoke is currently in the run up towards the bid for the City of Culture 2021 so I thought I could play a small part and share some of the architecture of the Sixth Town that may fall under the radar.
Driving along Victoria Road, Fenton last year, a row of dark red brick houses caught my eye and I pulled over to take a better look. It turns out that there’s quite a surprising tale of connections for me behind the history of these buildings but more on that next time.
So, fresh from the drawing board, some work in progress pictures of Victoria Road in the Hitchman Street Conservation area, Fenton.
This is a row of terraced houses built on a philanthropic model for pottery workers towards the end of the 19th century. There is a comprehensive write up about the history of the conservation area here.
Look closely at the gables and there are some wonderful terracotta tile patterns.
The thought that has gone into the design of the fronts is consistent, balanced and although intricate, it all adds up to a really attractive terrace.
Back to the drawing now and more about this next time.
Thought I would share a few pics of the couple of days spent sketching another stretch of the Holloway Road. This time I brought along a length of cartridge paper which I had prepared at home with a wash of gum arabic and French and English Ochre pigments, to give the paper a bit of warmth.
Note the colourful tote bag by the French American artist Gwenn Seemel – I admire her outlook on copyright as well as her colourful artwork.
I’d packed half a dozen clothes pegs to clip the paper to a folder which seemed to work quite well. Even though it’s non-stop busy along this road, several people stopped to pass the time of day with me and thanks to Sean for taking this photo and sending it to me.
The drawing is now complete, scanned and can be seen in full on my website. Limited edition prints are now available to buy.
There’s many a fine building in Bonny Burslem but none with an entrance quite like the one into the Wedgwood Institute.
I recently finished the Wedgwood drawing which I began a few months ago. I picked up the pencil for this one having been influenced some time ago by a poster I bought of the entrance to the Natural History Museum, London, by Alfred Waterhouse.
I bought and framed this poster when I was an architecure student and it’s now on the wall of our son’s flat, an architectural student, thirty+ years later! I still love the drawing and this is what made me choose to spend some time on the Wedgwood entrance with its intricate tile and terracotta details.
I’ve used traditional pigments with gum arabic on some very heavy (600 gsm) hot pressed watercolour paper. I really like the combination of the warm French and English Ochres, against the bright green malachite and azurite. I’m also hooked on using the pigment called ‘Caput Mortuum‘ – it seems to end up on quite a few of my icons!
It has been a treat to pause and spend time on a small part of a street but it only makes me want to zoom in further and pick up on the terracotta work. This is quite a rich subject which I may explore in future having been sidetacked by some of the tiles in Newcastle under Lyme.
Not long ago I received an email from Mr Tom Renshaw who used to live at no 9 Stone Road Eccleshall. Tom had received a birthday card from his daughter which showed the cottages closer to the town centre which I drew a couple of years ago.
Tom gave some insights into the earlier life of some of the buildings – the wooden fronted building used to be a corn merchant, ‘F.Gardner’ and the building next to it a bakery, ‘where we would buy bread fresh from the oven and eat it without butter or anything else’.
When you reach 82, why not celebrate the whole year? It allows me time to wish you a very happy belated birthday Tom and to sign off with a close up of your former home.
The ink has just dried on The Square, the third drawing in the Audlem series. The Square is in fact more of a triangle which is formed around the T junction between the Nantwich Road (A529) and the A525 (Stafford and Shropshire St). This is the oldest part of the village and its heart. You can read more about the history of the village on Audlem Online
Looking back two years, the first drawing (seen below) stretched from the Post Office to the Methodist Church.
You can just see the southern side of ‘The Square’ in the middle.
A year later and Cheshire Street appeared. This shows the ribbon of buildings lining the side of the A529 from the edge of St James’s Church up to No 17.
Now I can share the latest drawing which although relatively short, contains the third side of the Square.
My thanks again to Judy of ‘Williams of Audlem’ who is stocking signed limited edition prints of the drawing. I’m only doing a very small print run of 20 from this drawing, available to order in one size 500mm x 200mm. Unframed prints are £54 each.
There are two framed prints in stock at Williams, one in matt black and the other in mahogany, for £125. If you are in Audlem for the festival over the Bank Holiday, call in and have a look – all prints can be seen together as a set. If you can’t get to Williams and would like to buy any of the Audlem series, drop me an email (RonnieCruwys@drawingthstreet.co.uk).
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I’ve been working on this drawing in my local class taught by David Brammeld. It was only when I began this drawing that I discovered that one of my classmates was a regular Maxims disco diva at this legendary night spot! It used to be known as the ‘Place Mate’ when it was owned by the same proprietors as ‘The Place‘ in nearby Hanley where disco was born and David Bowie and Led Zeppelin once played as pop youngsters.
However, when the dual carriageway was constructed around Newcastle-under-Lyme, Maxims was severed from the life blood of the town centre and now all that is left are these empty shells.
I wouldn’t have given these buildings much thought if it hadn’t been for the comments given by Moya when I displayed some of my drawings in Newcastle Library a few years ago:
‘Stand with your back to St Giles. Look across the dual carriageway to what used to be Maxim’s Night Club. This used to be the old Catholic Club and overspill rooms for St Marys School. Also, it was the Old Pomona pub. When they took Evans sweet factory down behind it, they discovered that there was a courtyard and it had been a coaching Inn….Sammy Bell’s pottery was excavated in the car park/ courtyard area. The base of the Kiln is in the grounds of Newcastle Museum...’
The gloomy front masks a surprising gable window behind with a mosaic of pottery fragments.
From local records, it was bought by Samuel Bell in 1724 for £156 who set up a potworks there and then in 1729, took out a patent for ‘Agate Ware’.
Not knowing these buildings, I walked around the back and peered through the hoardings which now surround the site. I was so surprised by what I saw that I thought they were definitely worth recording as part of my street records. However, a flat elevation wasn’t going to give any idea of the complexity of the roofs and layout so I opted for a sketch perspective instead.
I used Dr Martin’s Payne’s Grey ink on a sheet of Khadi cotton rag paper, a heavy, textured and grainy paper – lovely to draw on.
There are plans underway for a new use for these buildings but it’s unlikely that they will remain in this organic sprawl for much longer. I would be interested to hear of any other insights into the history of these buildings.
Thanks for the comments Moya and thank you for reading.
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.