Esoteric London

No. 510: Queen Victoria Street, EC4

Posted in Architectural, Public Art by esotericlondon on February 10, 2012

Baynard House, Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4. Photo © Roger Dean 2011

Baynard House was designed by William Holford and  is a classic example of Brutalist architecture. It’s on the site of Baynard Castle which stood there in one of its many forms from the Norman Conquest until the Great Fire of 1666. The site was a highly strategic one being the point where the wall of the City met the Thames. Sir Walter Besant describes the castle just prior to its destruction in his book River Thames

‘The house, as it stood a little before the fire, was a striking and picturesque palace. The riverfront was broken by three towers of unequel height and breadth; the spaces between these were broken by tourelles containing the windows; a gateway with a portcullis opened upon the river with a broad stone ‘bridge’ or pier and stairs. Within it contained two courts.’

Baynard House is occupied by British Telecom and in a particularly grim three-sided court yard within the building can be seen the totem-pole like sculpture The Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley shown in the photograph above. The text at the base of the sculpture reads…

At first the infant, mewing and puking in the nurses arms

and then the whining school-boy, with his satchel, and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school

and then the lover, sighing like furnace, with a woful (sic) ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow

then a soldier, full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth

and then the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lin’d, with eyes severe, and beard of formal cut, full of wise saus (sic) and modern instance; and so he plays his part

the sixth age shifts into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side, his youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide for his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound

Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth sans eyes sans taste sans everything

It was commissioned by Post Office Communication and unveiled on 23rd April 1980. More of Kindersley’s work can be seen by visiting his website by clicking here. R.D.

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