Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Berwick Bloomsbury Murals

The Royal Pavilion, Rottingdean And A Little Miracle in East Sussex

During my recent visit to England Ms. M and I had the pleasure of taking the train to Brighton (Hove) to visit our art loving friend Hugh.

The visit, although way too brief, was pretty wonderful. We got caught up on life, made a visit to a terrific little bakery cafe called Treacle and Ms. M and I spent the morning touring Brighton's Royal Pavilion.

The Royal Pavilion

Regrettably, no photography is allowed inside the Royal Pavilion, but I will never forget the three story dragon chandelier in the banquet room.

In the afternoon Hugh collected us for a drive in the East Sussex countryside.  That tour began with a visit to his old Rottingdean neighborhood. Rottingdean was the village where artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and his nephew (Rudyard Kipling) lived. It is filled with gardens and buildings all built of flint and stone construction. A beautiful example is St. Margarets chapel which (coincidentally) features stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones. 

St. Margarets
(Oddly Enough A Copy of This Chapel is Found in Glendale CA at Forest Lawn)

A Close-up of the Flint and Stone Walls

The Kipling Garden's 
(Just Across the Street From St. Margarets)

The Rottingdean Windmill  Above The Village 
(Circa 1802)

Then we were off for lunch at The Rose Cottage Inn in the tiny village of Alciston. Lunch was everything that good English pub food should be (hearty, savory and accompanied by a cool pint of stout). After lunch we walked up the road in Alciston admiring all of the thatched roof cottages and peeking into Alciston's lovely chapel.

One of the Thatched Roof Cottages in Alciston

But then we came to realize that Hugh had saved the best for last!

We ventured into the little village of Berwick for a visit to St. Michael and All Angels. The Church in one fashion or another dates back to the 1300 and is a bit hard to find (with parking tucked behind a series of high walls). The church has been built and rebuilt over and over throughout the centuries. There are even grooves in the portion of the base of the tower where archers sharpened their arrows before participating in mandatory post church archery practice.

As you approach the church it offers no real clue as to the treasures it holds inside.

St. Michael and All Angels

Once you enter the church you'll find the 20th century "Bloomsbury" murals. These murals were painted during World War II by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf) and her son Quentin Bell. The Bloomsbury Murals were dedicated October 10, 1943.

The Bloomsbury Group was a (sometimes loose) collection of English artists, writers, philosophers, economists, and free thinkers that lived near Bloomsbury London in the early 1900's. Members included E.M Forster, Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes. The Bloomsbury Group had a profound influence on literature and aesthetics, as well as, attitudes toward feminism and pacifism.

The artists were a natural choice for the murals as they summered in nearby Lewes at Charleston. Their Charleston home and gardens may be toured from March until November.

Christ In Glory
Duncan Grant 1942


The Sailor, Airman and Soldier Kneel In Gaze at Bishop Bell
Models Where Local Men - The Soldier (Douglas Hemming) was Killed in Caen in 1944

Victory At Calvery
Duncan Grant

Supper At Emmaus
Quentin Bell
(Virginia Woof's Husband Modeled for Christ)

The Sacraments
Quentin Bell



Last Rites

Confession                                       Communion

The Seasons
Duncan Grant

(My Favorite)



The Berwick Chapel

Rain Leader

East Sussex Countryside Just Adjacent the Church

Just Steps From The Church
Rewards You With Views of The South Downs and Firlie Beacon

Brighton and Hove are a short train ride from London. All in all we packed a lot into the single day we had. A big thanks to Hugh for such a wonderful visit!

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Roadboy Visits The V&A Theater & Performance Gallery

Two Days at the V&A

Our first few days in London were spent seeking a temporary residence for Ms. M as she will remain in London until November. She selected a room in a shared flat off of Kilburn High Rd. The house was built in the 1800's on a street with lots of families. It is a typical central London neighborhood with easy access to two tube stops, lots of stores, restaurants, bakeries, a nice neighborhood public library, movie theater and a police station.

Ms. M's New Address in London

Our real estate search confirmed that London is as expensive as rumors suggest. Most rental rates in London are quoted by the week, not the month.

It is common for a modern, but modest, 2 bedroom 2 bath flat with one parking space to run 750 per week GBP.  So multiplying 4.3 weeks per month times 750 GBP per week nets a monthly rent of $5500 US dollars.


But I digress.

Yet amongst all that conspicuous consumption sits the world's best art and design museum; the Victoria and Albert.

And admission is to the V&A is free! So, we went twice.

Even spending two days we just viewed selected galleries and the wonderful museum store. Right now the V&A is offering a variety of special exhibitions. The flashiest is Bulgari's blockbuster "The Glamor of Italian Fashion Since 1945". Another exhibition celebrates British architect William Kent "Designing Georgian Britain". And, yet another presents the "Wedding Gowns: 1775 - 2014".
Wedding Gowns © The V&A                 William Kent © The V&A

The Glamor of Italian Fashion © The V&A

One of the galleries we visited was the dazzling Jewelry Exhibit (alas no photos allowed). That gallery is home to millions of dollars worth of precious metals and gemstones.

We also visited the 19th and 20th century galleries. They were filled with examples of art, furniture and clothing of the era. They even had examples of clothing to try on. You could try on a whalebone corset, a hoop skirt, even a big heavy Inverness (aka Sherlock Holmes) coat. 

Ms. M Tests Out a Hoop Skirt

A favorite gallery was the 3rd Floor Theater and Performance Gallery.  

Here we found play posters, stagecraft examples, head pieces from west end plays, costumes worn by everyone from Mick Jagger to Dame Edna. 

The "War Horse" Puppet

Dame  Edna's "Breakfast Dress"

....And Her Royal Ascot "Sydney" Chapeau

Some examples of theater models and stage set miniatures.

London's Empire Theater
(Built in 1884 - Now a Casino / Nightclub)

Theatre Royal Drury Lane
(The Third, and Present. Drury Lane Theater - Built in 1812 and is Currently Owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Stage Set A Long Day's Journey Into Night
(National Theater Production 1971)

We "Closed" the museum two days in a row. But not before rushing through photo galleries and peeking into the cut outs left to see some of the original structure (now covered) of the museum itself.

Frank Horvat's Photo "Givenchy Hat, Paris"
(Longchamp Racecourse 1958)

Sneak Peak Exposing Concealed Structure

A Sculpture Hall
(Through Which We Exited Each Night) 
With so many superb landmarks in London it would take weeks (if not months) to see them all. But Roadboy advises you consider at least a few hours at the Victoria and Albert in addition to the usual  stops at the Tate's and The British Museum.

As we walked around London it finally occurred to me that the entire city of London is an evolving museum and backdrop for life.

Iconic London As Backdrop for Wedding Attire

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Churchill War Rooms

"This is the Room From Which I Will Lead the War"

As clouds of war once again started to gather, preparations had to be made for the possibility that Germany would attempt to invade Britain. In 1938 steps were taken to prepare a base of operations for the Prime Minister and his key staff. The facility had to be near the seat of government and it needed to be as secure as possible. It also had to be built in complete secrecy.

The selected location was the basement storage rooms under the Office of Works and the Board of Trade.

The project was completed August 27, 1939. 

World War II began two weeks later.  

Britain's newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, hated the basement war rooms, but on October 15 (the day after a bomb destroyed much of Number 10 Downing Street) the decision was made to meet in the Cabinet War Room more often. In fact he would spend much of the next 6 years in this secret enclave directing the British war effort. 

Number 10

The building was upgraded throughout the war. During 1940, using American Concrete pump technology, and in complete secrecy. Yet, this included supporting the existing building to insert a new steel structure and a new horizontal blast floor composed of as much as 6' of concrete.

The War Rooms included the Transatlantic Telephone Room that Churchill could use to talk to FDR. It was concealed to the war rooms staff as being the only flush toilet in the compound (and therefore used exclusively by the Prime Minister).

Radio Gear in the War Rooms

The encryption equipment made by Bell Labs needed to encrypt phone transmissions weighed 40 tons and was installed secretly in the basement of Selfridges Department Store (Harry Selfridge, an American, was eager to illustrate his support for the British war effort both overtly and discretely).

The War Cabinet Room

The seats in the war room were all the same except for Churchill's seat. Its arms are still scarred with the scratches Churchill put in them.

The Map Room

Sleeping Accommodations

A 1940 Expansion Added Space
For A Dining Room.

The Churchill Museum
(With Many Interactive Displays Churchill's Entire Life is Profiled)

Churchill Photographed During the War Years

Although operations in the war rooms ceased on March 28 1945, the rooms were not formally closed until August 16, 1945. At that time lights were extinguished and doors were locked. 

In 1970's the Imperial War Museum (IWM) was asked to preserve the war rooms. Upon inspection the war rooms were found to be in a state of arrested decay.  

Perhaps one of the more obscure tours in London, I found it a fascinating view into London and its most charismatic leader.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014