Alfred Daniels’ Murals In Hammersmith

By the gentle author

Old Hammersmith Bridge by Alfred Daniels

Old Hammersmith Bridge by Alfred Daniels

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 and make an appointment.

daniels2daniels3Painted by Alfred Daniels and John Mitchell in 1956, cleaned and restored by Alfred Daniels assisted by Vic Carrara and Robyn Davis, 1983daniels4daniels5

Mural on the west wall

This post originally appeared on Spitalfields Life is a reproduced with kind permission.

Take the arts and crafts heritage trail along the Thames path

Emery Walker and William Morris.

Emery Walker and William Morris.

Arts & Crafts Hammersmith have launched a new website for the New Year, highlighting West London’s rich artistic heritage.

The website is part of a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, worth £1million, that aims to reveal the continuing impact of the Arts & Crafts Movement in West London. It demonstrates how many artists and craftsmen were drawn to Hammersmith in the late 19th century to be near its two most influential protagonists – William Morris and Sir Emery Walker.

Dining room at 7 Hammersmith Terrace

Dining room at 7 Hammersmith Terrace

The website launches as the William Morris Society’s premises at 26 Upper Mall and Emery Walker’s House at 7 Hammersmith Terrace reach the end of major renovation and refurbishment. Visitors to the website will be able to find out more about both men, their lives, friendships, homes, work and continuing influence, through a range of activities from visits to the respective historic houses, learning and participation initiatives, and opportunities for volunteering.

And you may be inspired to walk off the New Year’s excesses by following in their footsteps with an online heritage trail. This takes you along the Thames Path between Hammersmith Terrace, where Walker lived to just before Furnival Gardens, where Morris had set up home at Kelmscott House, a trip both men made every day for six years when they called in on each other. Now you can walk along the riverside route, using the website to find out about the various artists and social activists who have lived along this scenic path over the years.

Arts & Crafts Hammersmith are looking for volunteers to join their friendly team, so take a look at their website and see if you’d like to make helping out at this fascinating, local heritage project one of your new year’s resolutions!


Kelmscott House in Upper Mall.

Kelmscott House in Upper Mall.

Cllr Joe Carlebach: The Passing of a great British Icon – David Bowie 8th January 1947 – 10th January 2016

joecarA guest post from Cllr Joe Carlebach

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of one of my music ‘heroes’ David Bowie this morning.

His story represents much of what I admire about the opportunity this country offers, having started from very humble origins, born into an ordinary family in Brixton on the 8th January 1947. Out of those post war, grim ration dominated days he emerged as one of the greatest song writers and performers of his generation. He demonstrated a mastery of styles, a vivid imagination and a gift for originality that I doubt we will see again for many years if ever.

There were so many career high points that it is almost impossible to detail them here but along side the many pop and rock hits Bowie also adapted and performed ‘Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth’ with Bing Crosby which was recorded in September 1977. As it turned out this was just under one month from Crosby’s untimely death. This song has become a Christmas classic and is testament to his performance and style versatility.

His music was and still is an inspiration to millions across all the ‘alter egos’ he created. I have no doubt that later today in the International Space Station the strains of Major Tom will be heard ‘far above the earth’ very apt as this was his first hit in July 1969.

Bowie had a significant local connection as he played his now legendary Ziggy Stardust farewell concert at the Hammersmith Odeon which many regard as the finest performance of his career. I am sure there are local residents out there who attended that night and will remember it as a classic moment in the history of British popular culture.

For those of us who grew up through the 1960’s and 70’s his music will always be associated with personal milestones of success, torment, sadness and joy. Many will mourn his passing but he has left his music to us as his gift and inspiration, for now and for future generations.

Labour council’s “arts strategy” unravels

I recently attended a meeting of the Council’s Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee held to discuss the Council’s Draft Arts Strategy. As you would expect the document was largely waffle – a point made by several of the representatives from arts organisations that truned up.

There was an effort for some tangible content to be included. Cllr Lucy Ivimy suggested that the council should provide a listing of arts event in its email bulletin to residents. I suggested a business rates discount for pubs that opened theatres in their basements (or upstairs rooms).

What about a Ravenscourt Park Literary Festival? Sponsorship could probably defray the modest cost of a few large tents.

What about the council providing some venues from its array of buildings sitting empty at evenings or weekends for performances or exhibitions? What about the council helping to match up local artists with cafes willing to display art work for sale?

What about releasing some of its art collection kept in storage at the Lilla Husset centre in Talgarth Road? There are many picture of local scenes by amateur artists that could be placed on the walls of libraries, schools, GPs surgeries and council offices.

Theer was no undertaking to proceed with any of these ideas. But there was a lot of talk about “inclusion” (and of being against “exclusion”), “focus”, “strategic discussions”, “consultation”, “creation”, “establish a panel”, “establish a forum”, “arts for everyone”, “stimulating ambition”, “expanding horizons”.

Even the few specific points that were in the document crumbled on examination.

The document says:

“We will appoint an arts officer to provide support and advice.”

But the Cabinet Member responsible, Cllr Andrew Jones, then announced that the Council wouldn’t.

Well done Cllr Jones. With scarce resources for the arts the available money would be better spent on grants to arts organisations rather than being diverted to fund a new post for a council officer.
But I sought clarification.

The council officer responsible Sue Harris replied:

“My understanding is that the draft strategy is a series of ideas and  nothing has been decided as yet.”

The Arts Strategy document also says:

“We will develop a long-term plan for the borough’s own art collection – the Cecil French Bequest. This includes restoring the collection and fundraising to find a permanent home for its display in the borough.”

I have written about this before. The collection is worth £17.8 million but is kept locked away for nobody can see it. Meanwhile the councils spends millions a year on debt interest.

Of the plans to put the collection on display I put in the following query:

“This is very vague. Please advise the deadline with is plan to be achieved, the amount of funds that would need to be raised and if that in the event of a failure to raise the required funds whether selling all or part of the collection will be considered.”

Donna Pentelow on behalf of the Council replied:

“The draft arts strategy is emerging, and nothing has been decided as yet. Once the strategy has been agreed and finalised, further work will be undertaken to confirm how the Cecil French collection is to be put on display and the amount of funds that would need to be raised.

“Officers are currently looking at the condition of the collection and what restoration work is required. Officers are exploring ways in which external funds can be raised to carry out any restoration work. There are currently no plans to sell all or part of the collection.”

In other words there is no genuine plan to put it on display. But not to sell it either. Just to keep it hidden away. A complete scandal


Angela Clarke: Discovery of the Doves Press typeface in the Thames

angelacA guest post from Angela Clarke, Trustee, of The Emery Walker Trust

The most frequently asked question asked by visitors to Emery Walker’s house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace is whether the Doves Press typeface thrown into the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge over the summer of 1916 – ‘do you think it might still be there’.  For the last 10 years, the guides have said that it is most unlikely due to frequent dredging of the river and the fast tide.   However they have recently  been proved wrong!

412px-Doves_Press_BibleRobert Green, a designer, became intrigued by the typeface, recreated it digitally and then decided last year to instigate a search in the mud under the bridge – and miraculously some 100 items of the typeface have been found 98 years later.   They will now enable him to make a yet more accurate digital version of the Doves typeface and in due course it is anticipated that some of the items will be on permanent loan and on show at 7 Hammersmith Terrace.

The Doves Press was set up in 1900 by two friends of William Morris – Emery Walker and T J Cobden-Sanderson (a book binder) and named after the pub of that name as Cobden-Sanderson had moved from 7 Hammersmith Terrace to the house next door to the pub.   They designed their unique typeface and produced, among others,  a very beautiful and still much sought after version of the Bible in 5 volumes, with the opening of Genesis now ranking among the most famous pages in printing.  Production of this Bible also involved two of their other neighbours – Edward Johnston whose designs for the typeface for London Underground is still used today and Eric Gill whose typefaces Gill and Perpetua are also in common use.   But TJ Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker were very different characters and soon fell out and eventually, to ensure that Emery as the younger of the two men could not inherit the typeface on his death, in  1916 over a number of summer nights TJ ‘bequeathed it’ – all two tons of it  –  to the river.

hammersmithdrawingThe Doves Press was a prized  part of the private press movement –  a movement in book production which flourished at the turn on the 19th and 20th centuries  to produce  books as works of art in limited editions  often using  hand-made paper, and specially designed type-faces as in the case of those for the Kelmscott Press founded by William Morris in 1891 and the Doves Press.

You can hear more about the story of the Doves Press by visiting 7 Hammersmith Terrace which will be re-opening for pre-booked tours at the beginning of March for a shorter season than usual as it will close during the summer for  about 18 months for repairs and improvements to the ‘visitor experience’  to be made following the award of an HLF grant Arts and Crafts Hammersmith, a joint project between the Emery Walker Trust and the William Morris Society, which is based at Kelmscott House.  The works will however in no way allow the unique character of the house to be spoilt with its almost untouched interior dating back to the early part of the last century.


Labour go soft on debt reduction

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s General Fund debt was £169 million in 2006. It’s now £42.7 million. So under the Conservatives it was reduced by an average of £15.75 million a year. This meant the bill for debt interest fell – which was an important factor in allowing the Council Tax to be cut.

I am pleased that Labour are planning to reduce Council debt further next year. But only £2.7 million. So debt repayment has become a much lower priority.

Yet many council assets are still not delivering value for money.

For example there are valuable paintings which nobody sees as they languish in storage. The Cecil French Bequest is (conservatively) valued at £17.8 million. It includes many fine paintings by Edward Burne-Jones and was given to the Metropolitan Borough of Fulham in 1953. French pleased by assurances from the council that his home The Grange in North End Lane would be preserved (it was demolished in 1958 to make way for the Lytton Estate). Also, of course, the Bequest was made on the expectation of the paintings being displayed in public libraries – not hidden away.

In terms of the prospects of honouring that pledge the increased value of the paintings became something of a curse – the insurance and security costs representing of public display something of a challenge.

So one option would be to sell the collection. That would allow a reduction in debt that would reduce the annual debt interest bill by over a million pounds – around two per cent a year of Council Tax. It would also allow at least some people to see the pictures.

Or the collection could be sold and £10 million spent setting up a Public Art Gallery in the borough – perhaps to include exhibitions from local art students. That might well be something Mr French would have liked. (Rather depending on what is exhibited – he disliked the “modern movement” and so refused to leave anything to the Tate.) Anyway, that would still leave £7.8 million(+) for debt reduction.

Or the art could be leased – there has been some success with this in the past when it was put on loan in Japan. That might be a viable way of securing substantial revenue.

Or the collection could be sold with the condition that it be put on public display for a certain number of days a year. Or some of it could be sold with part of the proceeds used to be the rest of it on permanent exhibition.

I asked about this last night at a meeting of the Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee.

Cllr Wesley Harcourt, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Residents Services, said he was against selling the art as it was our “Crown Jewels.” But then the Crown Jewels are on display in the Tower of London. Not shut away in storage. Cllr Harcourt added that if the paintings were sold they would “be gone forever”. Then so, one would hope, be that chunk of debt.

By the way this was among a large number of queries about the budget that I and my Conservative colleague Cllr Steve Hamilton raised at the committee meeting last night. Scrutinising the budget to hold the administration to account is probably the greatest annual task for these committees. The Committee’s Chairman is Cllr Larry Culhane. He is paid a “Special Responsibility Allowance” of £5,664.70 to chair these committee meetings – of which there are six a year. That pay is on top of his basic allowance of £8,940. Yet at last night’s meeting he did not have a single query on the Council budget – nor did his Labour colleagues Cllr Sharon Holder or Cllr Iain Cassidy.

Instead Cllr Culhane attempted to stop my from asking all my questions. He relented after I pointed out that it was 9pm and there was an hour to go before the “guillotine” for the meeting to finish. But how extraordinary that he collects nearly a thousand pounds a time for a meeting – then he doesn’t provide any proper scrutiny of the administration himself and seeks to silence those who do so.