Week 3 - October 22, 2010
The archive and the gallery - visit to the London Metropolitan Archives and the Guildhall Gallery

Morning: The London Metropolitan Archives
It was an inspiring visit to the London Metropolitan Archives, introduced by Maureen Roberts, Senior Interpretation Officer, who explained some of the history and scope of the archive and then took us on a guided tour, through store-rooms - chilled to conserve the materials - the conservation department, the public access areas and then back to the seminar room. Here a range of diverse materials were laid out - maps, photos, documents.

Many issues and many questions were raised, including the status and function of an archive, the function of the City of London, the objectivity or otherwise of an archive, the relationship between the personal and the impersonal – the document recording the names of slaves and their value from the Duckingfield Hall Plantation in Jamaica brought this home very forcibly to me.

I am very grateful to the staff of the Archive and Guildhall who were very generous of their time
Adrian Holme

City of London Metropolitan Archives

Senior Interpretation Officer, Maureen Roberts, introduces the archive.

A range of materials for examination.

Paul Sherrard introduces designs for Tower Bridge

Street survey photographs

Examining London Map, 1806

Tour of the conservation department

Duckingfield Hall Plantation, Jamaica, company records, including value of slaves

Walk to the Guildhall
After lunch, we enjoyed a guided walk through Clerkenwell, Smithfield, into the City and along Gresham Street to the Guildhall, stopping en route for talks by Mareen and Paul.

St James Clerkenwell

Saint James Parish Church, Clerkenwell was founded as a nunnery in around the year 1100. (http://www.jc-church.org/JChistoryflier.pdf).

Maureen and Paul explained that Clerkenwell, just outside the City walls had historically enjoyed greater freedom of expression than was possible within the City - it had a history of dissent. This relative freedom of expression also facilitated the development of Clerkenwell as a centre of printing. Just down from St James the old Crown and Anchor pub was said to have been frequented by Lenin during his years in London.

Marx Memorial Library
Just around the corner in Clerkenwell Square is the Marx Memorial Library (No. 37a).

'Marx House was built in 1738 as a Welsh Charity school. It educated boys and later a few girls – the children of Welsh artisans living in poverty in Clerkenwell. Gradually the intake became too large and the school moved to new premises in 1772. After this the building was divided into separate workshops one of which became the home to the London Patriotic Society from 1872 until 1892.'
Source: http://www.marx-memorial-library.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10&Itemid=4

The building then became home to the Twentieth Century Press, and Lenin worked at the building between 1902-1903 editing his communist journal ISKRA. It has been a library dedicated to Karl Marx since 1933.

The Sessions House
Now a Masonic Hall and Conference Centre, the former Middlesex Sessions House dominates Clerkenwell Green. The present building dates from the late eighteenth century. The website claims it was 'once the largest and busiest court-house in England.'

'Our building was once the largest and busiest Court-House in England; it replaced the original Sessions House for the County of Middlesex erected in 1612 near Smithfield Market.

The present building contained court rooms, dungeons for holding prisoners and living space for the resident judges. It ceased to function as a Court in 1920 and now serves as a conference and meeting centre..

Built in the Grand Pantheon style favoured during the reign of King George III...The entrance hall and the dome, modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, built by Agrippa for his Emperor 2000 years ago, are particularly fine. The building has a grade 2 star listing from English Heritage.'
Interior of the 18th Century Sessions House, Clerkenwell Square. Photo: http://www.sessionshouse.com/dome4.gif
Interior of the 18th Century Sessions House, Clerkenwell Square. Photo: http://www.sessionshouse.com/dome4.gif

The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton Street
The Jerusalem Tavern, Britton St, with 18th C shopfront

'The Jerusalem Tavern is located in Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London and is named after the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem; founded in 1140. The Tavern has occupied several sites in the area since the 14th century and the current building dates from 1720.'

An unusually well preserved shopfront - giving an insight into what 18th century London must have looked like.

Smithfield Market

Smithfield Market, completed 1868, designed Sir Horace Jones. Photo Oct 2010

Smithfield Market - London's meat market - was traditionally an animal market and a site for slaughtering as well as for executions of criminals and the holding of fairs. The current market building designed by Sir Horace Jones (who designed Tower Bridge) was completed in 1868, with further subsequent development in the Victorian era. It was constructed over railway lines that brought meat into London from across the land.

The Corporation of London's Website says the following:

'In 1174 the site was described by William Fitzstephen, clerk to Thomas à Becket as "a smooth field where every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horses to be sold, and in another quarter are placed vendibles of the peasant, swine with their deep flanks, and cows and oxen of immense bulk."
'It is thought that the name Smithfield came from a corruption of ‘smeth field’ Saxon for "Smoothfield". The City of London gained market rights under a charter granted by Edward III in 1327.
...'In 1860 the City of London obtained an Act of Parliament (The Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Market Act of 1860), allowing the construction of new buildings on the Smithfield site. Work began in 1866 on the two main sections of the market, the East and West Buildings...The buildings, designed by City Architect Sir Horace Jones, were commissioned in 1866 and completed in November 1868 at a cost of £993,816.'

And Charles Dickens gives a memorable description of Smithfield before the Victorian building was constructed in his novel Great Expectations, published in 1860-1:

'When I told the clerk that I would tke a turn in the air while I waited, he advised me to go round the corner and I should come into Smithfield. So, I came into Smithfield; and the shameful place, being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed to stick to me. So, I rubbed it off with all possible speed by turning into a street where I saw the great black dome of Saint Paul's bulging at me from behind a grim stone building which a bystander said was Newgate Prison'

1811 view of Smithfield before construction of the market buildings, aquatint, hand coloured. Source www.reading.ac.uk
1811 view of Smithfield before construction of the market buildings, aquatint, hand coloured. Source www.reading.ac.uk

Tudor entrance to the Mediaval church of Saint Bartholomew the Great

GF Watts's memorial to heroic self sacrifice, Postman's Park, City of London

GF Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, Postman's Park, City of London, Oct 2010

St Alban, Wood Street, City of London

The City of London presents some very odd vistas. The church of Saint Alban was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, rebuilt, by Sir Christopher Wren, and then destroyed again in the Blitz during World War II. This time it was not rebuilt and just the tower remains which is now a private dwelling.

Guildhall Yard, with the Guildhall (1411) left and Guildhall Art Gallery, right. Under the yard lies the Roman Amphitheatre

Tour of the Guildhall Art Gallery
We were introduced to the Guildhall Art Gallery by Paul Sherrard. One highlight is the Roman Amphitheatre which was discovered during rebuilding of the art gallery after it's destruction in World War II. A portion of the amphitheatre is to be found on the lowest level of the building, many feet below current ground level. Much of the amphitheatre lies under the Guildhall Yard.

The gallery includes a fine collection of Victorian works.

Clytemnestra After the Murder (1882), by Hon. John Collier (1850-1939) http://tonykeen.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_archive.html
Clytemnestra After the Murder (1882), by Hon. John Collier (1850-1939) http://tonykeen.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_archive.html

Clytemnestra after the murder, by John Collier (1882) is a dramatic work - resembling a scene from theatre - showing her emerging from the killing of her husband King Agamemnon. The painting slowly reveals itself before our eyes, the dramatic expression of her face, then the axe, and then the blood dripping off the axe ad running down the stair, and then lastly, in the gloom behind, the body of the murdered king. Her look is one of triumph. But perhaps the theatrical nature of the work distances us a little from the horror?

Original photos (c) Adrian Holme 2010, All rights reserved.

What is an archive? A collection? A collective memory? A repository?

Archive 1603. [Fr. archives - L. archiva, archia... magisterial residence, public office...]
1. A place in which public records or historic documents are kept. Now only in pl. 1645...
Onions CT (Ed.) (1973). The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Third Edn. Oxford: Oxford Univ Press p100

Hal Foster on archival art...
'Perhaps the paranoid dimension of archival art is the other side of its utopian ambition - its desire to turn belatedness into becomingness, to recoup failed visions in art, literature, philosophy, and everyday life into possible scenarios of alternative kinds of social relations, to transform the no-place of the archive into the no-place of a utopia.'
Foster, Hal. (2004). An archival impulse. October, 110, 3-22