By the gentle author
When I met Alfred Daniels, the painter from Bow, almost the first thing he said to me was, ‘Have you seen my murals in Hammersmith Town Hall? I’m very proud of them.’ So it was with more than a twinge of regret that I went to see the murals yesterday for the first time, over a year since he died, realising I should have gone while Alfred was here to tell me about them.
Yet it proved an exhilarating experience to discover these pictures that declare themselves readily and do not require explanation. Five vast paintings command the vestibule of the old town hall, created with all the exuberance you might expect of a young painter fresh from the Royal College of Art in 1956.
On the south wall, three interlinked paintings show scenes on the riverbank at Hammersmith Mall,which was just across the lawn at the back of the Town Hall before the Great West Road came through. The first looks east, portraying rowers standing outside The Rutland Arms with Hammersmith Bridge in the background. The second painting looks south, showing rowers embarking in their sculls from a pontoon, while the third looks west, showing a Thames pleasure boat arriving at the pier. A walk along this stretch of river, reveals that these pictures are – in Alfred Daniels’ characteristic mode – composites of the landscape reconfigured, creating a pleasing and convincing panorama. In Alfred’s painting the river appears closer to how you know it is than to any literal reality.
These three pictures are flanked by two historical scenes from the early nineteenth century, showing old Hammersmith Bridge and the Grand Union Canal, adding up to an immensely effective series of murals which command the neo-classical thirties interior authoritatively and engagingly, without ever becoming pompous.
This must have once been an impressive spectacle upon arrival at Hammersmith Town Hall, after crossing the small park and then climbing the stairs to the first floor entrance, before they built the brutalist concrete extension onto the front in 1971. This overshadows its predecessor and offers a new low-ceilinged entrance hall on the ground floor which has all the charisma of a generic corporate reception. Yet this reconfiguration of the Town Hall has protected Alfred Daniels murals even if it has obscured them from the gaze of most visitors for the past forty years.
However, the murals can be viewed free of charge when the Town Hall is open and I recommend you pay a visit.. You just need to drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and make an appointment.
Mural on the west wall
This post originally appeared on Spitalfields Life is a reproduced with kind permission.