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.
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.
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.
This post is dedicated to my new Twitter Buddies: @The Hornsey Road @Holloway Life @RuthRobinsonLon and AmySmith@Art_Press – a lively bunch!
Walking out of our son’s home on Windsor Road one day last year, I turned right to nip to the corner shop. It wasn’t until I stood at the crossing on my return, that I looked up to take in the sight of Albermarle Mansions. These buildings stand on what is the Great North Road, an old coaching route from London to York and up to Edinburgh. Follow this road into York and you will go past my old school on Blossom Street, through Micklegate Bar and down Micklegate, another York street which I have begun to sketch. I went on to University in Edinburgh so I am curious to know the exact route of the Great North Road. I have sent off for a book on this subject by Frank Morley – so more on this another time.
Back to Holloway Road. I began with a few sketches of the windows which I shared on social media. Much to my delight I had some more feedback from @TheHornseyRoad with a glimpse into life here over a century ago. There must be more insights into the former life of these buildings – if you know anything, I would love to hear from you.
One of the reasons that I like to draw full length street scenes is to show buildings in context to illustrate what happens when good but ordinary buildings disappear and they are replaced with buildings of a completely different scale and proportion.
Much as I love old buildings, I do love well designed new buildings too, but know only too well how hard it is for architects to see their great ideas watered down to meet budgets. It is interesting to see how the oldest buildings (Kale Food Centre) have been dwarfed over the course of the century by the most recent bookend ‘Bloomfield Court’.
I will be scanning the drawing and adding it in full to my website next week and will also be running off a limited edition set of fine art prints. Watch this space and thanks for reading!