Esoteric London

No. 444: Bishopsgate Churchyard, EC2

Posted in Architectural by esotericlondon on November 10, 2011

Bishopsgate Churchyard, London, EC2. Photo © Roger Dean 2011

From a post on Philip Wilkinson’s blog English Buildings:

The Ottoman architects of Turkey, famous the world over for vast domed mosques covered in polychrome tiles, were also masters of small buildings. Little pavilions and kiosks, intricately carved tombs, structures sheltering fountains – all, in years gone by, have been given the kind of ornate treatment that in Europe is more often reserved for a place of worship or for the most exclusive of shops.

It’s a wonderful shock, therefore, to come across this tiny late-19th century Turkish pavilion in a paved courtyard in the City. It began life as part of a Turkish bath with a design that wonderfully put the fashion of the time for tile and terracotta decoration to a use foreign to London but apt for the building’s purpose. Thanks to committed supporters, the structure has survived against all the odds, in the face of changing bathing tastes, the Blitz, and office developers. It now forms one of the most memorable settings for a restaurant in central London.

Almost completely hemmed in by the glass-and-steel modernism of the late-20th century, this Turkish pavilion is a brilliant and welcome blast from the past. Thanks to colourful tiles, ornate terracotta, and stained-glass windows, it more than holds its own in its rather bleak setting, and is clearly something of an oasis – it was full of City gents getting outside a morning coffee when I passed by.

[ You can visit the English Buildings blog by clicking here. R.D.]

2 Responses

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  1. Jo Hall said, on November 18, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I used to rather self consciously play tennis in this courtyard at lunchtimes during the 1980s – mixed doubles with brokers!!!

    • esotericlondon said, on November 24, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Can you remember if the building was still a Turkish bath at that time Jo?

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