Sketching Wren’s London – 2016

wren's city sticker
On Sunday July 24, a lot of us gathered outside St.Paul’s, and then dispersed and sketched Christopher Wren’s London. It’s the second time I have run a Wren-themed sketchcrawl, and the fourth themed ‘crawl I have hosted in London since 2012. I’m already thinking of themes for next year! As in the past, I created special handouts which included a hand-drawn map showing all of the Wren churches (and other buildings) within the City boundaries. There are a couple of Wren’s City churches not showing, only because I didn’t stretch the map far enough north, and of course it shows none that are outside the Square Mile; perhaps we’ll sketch all of those next time! Here is the map:

Sketching Wren's London Booklet MAP

We started at 10:30am outside St. Paul’s, and I gave a little historical introduction (see this photo by James Hobbs!) talking about London leading up to 1666, starting with the beheading of Charles I, which many English people believed had brought a curse upon them, manifesting in the year of the beast, 1666. That was the year of the Great Fire of London; I won’t tell the whole story here, you had to be there. We were joined by a good number of people from around the world who were in England for the Symposium, including my Portland sketcher friend Kalina Wilson (Geminica). I met a lot of great new people that day too, as well as old friends. It was very international – in addition to the UK and the US, we had sketchers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Pakistan, Luxembourg, China, This was day two of London’s Urban Sketching pre-Symposium, and it was a little cooler, and a lot calmer than the previous day in Trafalgar Square. I do like the City on a weekend.

Temple Bar

In 2014, I sketched seven Wren buildings in one day, and my ambition was to sketch more. However, you sketch what you can sketch, and I’m pleased to say I at least matched my previous haul. I did use more pencil while sketching than usual, something I am doing more. First off though I sketched the Temple Bar gateway in pen. This was originally down at Fleet Street at the entrance to the City but removed many decades ago, only to sit languishing in Theobolds Park near Cheshunt. It was restored and placed next to St. Paul’s just over a decade ago, forming the entrance to Paternoster Square. It was from that still-shining-new plaza that I sketched St. Paul’s itself. I have always struggled with the great domed cathedral from this angle but that’s ok, you have to draw St. Paul’s.

St Pauls Cathedral

Next up, a couple of neighbours to St. Paul’s. First of all, St. Augustine’s Watling Street, largely destroyed in the Blitz. I sketched this in pencil from the gardens of St. Paul’s churchyard while talking to my old friend from high school, Joan Uloth (check out her Instagram) and Beliza Mendes from Luxembourg. I really want to sketch Luxembourg, I met more Luxembourg sketchers in Manchester.
St Augustines
Then I sketched St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, which is visible across the street (now that the building that was in the way has been demolished, that is).
St Nicholas Cole Abbey

This one was sketched across a busy street, St. Benet’s Paul’s Wharf, the church where they hold the sermons in Welsh.

St Benets Paul's Wharf

Ok this next one was sketched from an angle and with the very loud and quite chaotic bells ringing. St. James Garlickhythe (haunted by “Jimmy Garlick” who sounds like an old washed up musician from the early 70s). I did the old paint splatter thing because the great Tia Boon Sim from Singapore was on the sketchcrawl and I’ve always been inspired by her paint-splatter styles. It seemed appropriate given the noise of the bells!

St James Garlickhythe

My final sketch was of the neighbour to St. James, which is St. Michael Paternoster Royal. What I loved about this crawl was that wherever I went there would always be at least one or two other sketchers there busy plugging away. This by the way is the church where legendary (but historically very real) Mayor Dick Whittington (he of the cat and the pantomime) was buried. Nobody knows where his grave is now though, but while Wren’s tomb says “Look Around You” I presume Whittington’s tomb says “Look Behind You”.
St Michael Paternoster Royal

And then we met up at The Monument, to look at each other’s sketchbooks. Of all the people that made it to the finish (and quite a few did not; I checked the number of maps given out and I think we had around 80 participants total), we got together and I read out the names of each Wren building, asking sketchers to raise hands if they had sketched it.

You’ll never guess – we sketched ALL OF THEM. Every single one! Great job, London sketchers!!!

Here are a few photos from the end. You can see more at Urban Sketchers London (JAmes Hobbs has posted a nice set “In Wren’s Footsteps“) and on this Flickr set “Sketching Wren’s London“.

Afterwards several of us went to a pub near Borough Market for a post-sketchcrawl-pint. I sketched two sketchers, Rachel and Jimmy…

jimmy and rachel

And here is the final group photo at the base of Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire! Can’t wait to sketch with Urban Sketchers London again in the near future. So nice to meet so many new sketching friends.


Oh, and everyone got a sticker!

sketchcrawl in trafalgar square

Trafalgar Square

On Saturday July 23 I went along to the “Let’s Draw Trafalgar Square” sketchcrawl organized by members of Urban Sketchers London. It was a hot, sweaty day, and the Square was filled with people: tourists, buskers, and people playing Pokemon Go. By the way I love how Pokemon Go is the latest Thing-To-Be-Annoyed-At among the moaning classes, just the mention of the words ‘Pokemon’ and ‘Go’ automatically bring forth¬† well-rehearsed stories of people walking in front of buses or just not looking up from their phones in the street, neither of which were things that ever happened before people started catching Porygons and Spearows just a few weeks ago. I bet if you had a referendum to ban people playing Pokemon Go you’d get more than half the population saying “Gotta ban em all!” Just let them be, grandad. Anyway, as I sat and sketched the National Gallery and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a man on an unusual bike in front of me beckoned tourists to have a go and try to win ten quid from him. I didn’t sketch him. I did speak to a few tourists, giving directions and talking about the sketchcrawl. The crowds really did start getting a bit much, but I look at this stretch of pedestrianized goodness and I still remember how much of a coughing traffic mess it used to be. That right there is where I would get my Night Bus back to Burnt Oak in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, twenty years ago. It’s so much better now.

Charles I statue, Charing Cross

We met up at half-time by the column of the Grand Old Duke Of York, and the sketchcrawl’s numbers had swelled to include many more of the international sketchers who would soon go up to Manchester, including a large contingent from Singapore. So great to see so many familiar faces, such as Tia Boom Sim (Singapore), Omar Jaramillo (Berlin) and James Oses (London), and also meet many new ones I had only ever known from following online, such as Stephanie Bower (Seattle), Patrick Ng (Singapore) and Emma-Jane Rosenberg (Ely), and many others. Above though is not the Duke of York, rather this is King Charles I. He is holding a European flag, which is either a pro-Europe protest or the opposite, depending on your views of Charles, I guess. Look at all those Boris Buses milling about in the background there. The interior temperature of those buses was on that particular day hot enough to fry an egg (but to do that you needs to brexit first). No, I didn’t get it either. This statue by the way is the middle of London – all distances from London are measured from this spot. Charles was the shortest English king (well, the shortest adult English king). After his head was chopped off, just down the street from here, he was considerably shorter. Ok that is your history lesson done now. I sketched this while squashed against a wall next to Tesco Metro, itself a highly squashed experience, stood with paints balanced on elbow, while a large number of anti-Mugabe protesters from Zimbabwe paraded past, while tourists waved selfie-sticks in front of them, and absolutely nobody was playing Pokemon Go. Samuel Johnson said a couple of centuries ago that the full tide of human existence is at Charing Cross, and he wasn’t wrong. I bet he would have hated Pokemon Go though. Imagine his face when you asked whether Jigglypuff, Blastoise, and Lickitung are in his dictionary! It would have caused him terrible pericombobulations.

palace theatre London

I had to leave the Trafalgar-Squarea (tourists! This is a real term used by actual Londoners by the way so you should definitely say it next time you are there) and escape to the slightly less busy area of Cambridge Circus. Still a busy bustling Bedlam, but I was able to find a spot next to a pub and sketch the Palace Theatre, where currently they are showing the play about Harry Potter, call “The Cursed Child”. I just read the expensive hard-bound script, and I can reveal it is pretty good, and probably makes more a hell of a lot sense watching it on stage. Tickets are sold out for the next century and a half, and it’s in two parts, for some reason (I think the reason rhymes with the words “bunny bunny bunny”). I have wanted to sketch this theatre for ages, so the Potter connection gave me a good reason too (for example if I sell this sketch, then the reason may well rhyme with “honey honey honey”). I remember when Les Mis ran here for about six hundred years, or something. I sketched for an hour and added the colour at home, as I had to run down to St. Martin’s for the final meeting of the sketchcrawl, where everyone puts their books on the ground and looks down at them. It was a fun event and I am glad I went, a good sketching first day back in London, and I spent a good bit of time catching up and chatting with my fellow sketchers afterwards in the cafe in the crypt beneath St. Martin’s. By the way that cafe is the place to go when it is hot outside and you want a lukewarm fizzy drink. I did some sketching of the sketchers…

Sketchcrawl Sketchers sm

And afterwards I met my friend Roshan, and we went for dinner, then out for a nice relaxed beer in Covent Garden, being joined by other friends Lee and Jamie. I sketched them too. A couple siting next to us kooed over eagerly at my book while sketching, it seemed like they thought they might be next in the book, but alas my sketching energy needed conserving for the next day, when I would be sketching Wren’s London. Nice segue there into the next post, huh!

Roshan Jamie Lee

london’s ancient highway

The River Thames sm
For the first sketch back in London I wanted to draw this stretch of the River Thames again, looking out towards Waterloo Bridge. Last time I sat on Hungerford Bridge (a little bit further toward the middle, drawn to include the then-brand-new Shard) the skyline looked different. New skyscrapers keep popping up, all in fun zany shapes like some ten-year-old invented a futuristic robotopolis. They all have funny names too, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie, the Spaghetti Western, the Cordless Kettle, the Balrog, the Gelfling’s Prophecy, all very silly names. Ok some of those may not exist yet. The oldest structure in this sketch is actually Cleopatra’s Needle, on the left there, at about 3500 years old (placed here in the 19th century). Its twin is in New York, you can apparently use it to teleport between the two cities but they don’t like to tell anyone (see previous posts for feelings about Translatlantic travel). Ancient Egyptians used to smirk at the silly nickname too, also making fun of Thoth’s Sewing Machine, Rameses’s Hat-Stand and Mark Antony’s Hypodermic Syringe, and so on. Anyway, I sat on my uncomfortable little stool (now retired) and sketched for two hours straight, as London in the Summertime started up around me, tourists, day-outers, amblers all looked around and marveled at the view. Now if the proposed mess of a project the Garden Bridge gets built this view will be spoiled. I believe the Bridge would go just beyond Waterloo bridge, but with trees poking out of the top of it the views down river would be compromised somewhat. Not a fan. Might be useful elsewhere, but not there. It’s a folly of Boris and Lumley. We’ll see if it actually gets built. If it does, expect more cranes, more changing views, and more sketches along the ever-changing, ever-constant river. I do love this river.


Here’s the sketch I did on the same bridge in 2012:
Waterloo panorama

Sketching Wren’s London

Sketching Wren's London
While we’re talking about sketchcrawls..!

“SKETCHING WREN’S CITY”… Join us for a sketchcrawl in London, through the City of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral and so many other churches and buildings in the years following the Great Fire of London, 1666. Hey, that was 350 years ago!

Starting at 10:30am outside St.Paul’s Cathedral, and finishing up at 4:00pm at Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire, we will explore the city in groups or individually as you prefer, looking for the London built by Wren after the Great Fire.

This sketchcrawl is FREE and open to anyone of any age who likes to sketch. I will provide Pete-drawn maps and some handy info. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on!

This sketchcrawl is a reversed re-run (or “re-Wren” if you will) (or “re-Pete”?) of the 2014 Sketching Wren’s City event, which was a lot of fun. I’ll post reminders closer to the event, and you can sign up for the sketchcrawl on Facebook if you like:

Tell your England sketching friends! This being the weekend before the International Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester there will be a few sketching events around that time of year. The day before (July 23) there is a sketchcrawl with the London Urban Sketchers at Trafalgar Square – should be fun!

Hope to see you in London!

st clement dane

St Clement Dane
The last sketch from London. I was there for two weeks, but I didn’t sketch as much
as usual. Perhaps on my next trip I will get more done – the International Urban Sketching Symposium this year will be held in Manchester and I do hope I can go. Early-bird Registration opens on January 30 ($415 though, may have to sell a few drawings first!) If I do go, I will try to organize another themed sketchcrawl in London on the weekend before, maybe on the Sunday. We will see. London Urban Sketchers are holding one on the Saturday before (they like to set out the year’s “Let’s Draw…” sketchcrawls in advance), so I’ll try not to clash. I do like a themed sketchcrawl, and back in 2014 I did organize one called “Sketching Wren’s City”, which went from the Monument down to St. Paul’s, taking in as many of Christopher Wren’s buildings (mostly churches) as possible. I provided everyone with a hand-drawn map and lots of information; it was immense fun, and we topped it off with a visit to the Old Bell Tavern on Fleet Street – also designed by Wren.You can see the sketches I did, and find out more about the sketchcrawl here.

One Wren church we did not make it to (being just outside the City borders) is this one, St. Clement Dane. I used to pass by here every day when studying at King’s College, and it’s in an amazing location, on a traffic island at the intersection of Strand and Aldwych, just where the traffic turns to down towards Temple Station and the Embankment. Further down Strand behind me is another church on a traffic island, St. Mary-le-Strand, known to taxi-drivers as “Mary-in-the-way”. St. Clement Dane’s is more famous – its bells regularly play out the tune to “Oranges and Lemons”, after the nursery rhyme that mentions St. Clement’s, although it’s possible that the church in the rhyme is actually st. Clement Eastcheap. St. Clement Dane dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and though the ‘Dane’ part of the name also dates back this far, it’s not exactly certain why, though this church was located at the very edge of the ‘Danelaw’, the large swathe of England ruled by the Danes. The current building, designed by Wren in the 1680s, was gutted by bombs in World War Two and restored in the 1950s. The large statue in front is William Ewart Gladstone, the former Prime Minister. Behind him are two more statues, of prominent Royal Air Force chiefs Hugh Dowding and Arthur “Bomber” Harris (unseen). This church has long had connections to the RAF, and contains many memorials to fallen airmen. Behind the church is a statue of Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer of the first English dictionary, who lived nearby off of Fleet Street. And just visible behind St. Clement’s are the Royal Courts of Justice.

I stood on the edge of the traffic island and sketched, as the day started drifting away. Days are so short in London winter-time, and I had to get back for dinner. Goodbye London, until next time.

the great cartographers

stanfords map shop
Here is Stanford’s, a fantastic shop on Long Acre, Covent Garden (London) that ha slong been one of my favourite shops in, frankly, the entire world. It is primarily a map and travel book shop, founded by Edward Stanford in 1853, moving to its present spot in 1901. I used to come here when I was in my teens and just look at maps, maps of anywhere and everywhere. I wanted to travel the world, and literally everywhere was exotic. I would look at street maps of nondescript German towns, maps of the Colombian highlands, plan routes across Siberia, imagine barren rocky island hopping in the north Atlantic. Once I bought a map of Sydney, Australia, to put on my bedroom door at home and I would just learn the names of all the suburbs. I’ve still never been. Well, I ended up living across the world, and my love of maps has not really dimmed, I still get a kick out of flicking through a road atlas. Yeah, Stanford’s was one of my favourite shops, and it’s still great now, so I had to sketch it. It was a nice bright London morning after Christmas, and once I was done I met up with my friend Simon and we popped to a little old pub around the corner, the Lamb and Flag. I didn’t do a particularly detailed sketch, just capturing an interesting doorway, but its a small place and there were lots of people in and out. And I sketched Simon too! It’s fun being back in London from time to time.
lamb and flag

the end of the railway

the railway, edgware
This is – or was – the Railway in Edgware, north London. For those of you unfamiliar with where Edgware is, look at the tube map, and look up at the top, it’s there at the end of the Northern Line. No, not that end, that’s High Barnet, the other end. There we are, just past Burnt Oak. I was born in Edgware Hospital (which is more Burnt Oak), and went to Edgware School, both my sisters have lived in Edgware at some point (one in an actual haunted flat), and it’s where we go when we go shopping in real shops, or at least used to. Edgware was that place which was a bit more upmarket than Burnt Oak, I always looked up to it. Again, that was the tube map, you had to look up to see it. I used to walk to school, down Deansbrook, through the alley into Fairfield, through the other back alley into Station Road, right next to this building here, the Railway. It looked like something from the Middle Ages (it was built in 1936 in neo-Tudor style, I was clearly a history idiot) (I wasn’t by the way, I was actually really good at history) (and I never ever thought this was medieval, and would have probably laughed at anyone who said it looked like it) (I wasn’t very good at history A-level though, it was all ‘the nazis’ and ‘the 1848 revolution’ and that sort of thing, I struggled with the reading, actually I know for a fact my Edgware School history teachers thought I was a ‘history idiot’ and they pointed it out) (in the end I got a Masters degree from King’s in Medieval English and you can’t do that if you’re a history idiot). So, this is a neo-Tudor building. “Neo-Tudor?” Sounds like a Stuart-era political thug. I read this description of this building somewhere but I think it’s more mock-Tudor. (History idiot) So…this is a Mock Tudor building, and was once a great pub called the Railway Tavern. No wait, it was the Railway Hotel, not the Railway Tavern (that was up Hale Lane I think? History idiot). Let’s start again.

The Railway Hotel was built in 1936 and is not, I repeat not a Listed Building. My source of this information comes from random local people telling me that back home, and they are never wrong about such things. The side part of it apparently is Listed, but the main part isn’t. I don’t know if it was ever an actual Hotel, and the Railway it refers to is really just the Tube line – back in the 30s Edgware was this glamourous place referred to as ‘Metro-land’, the new world opened up by the expansion of the London Underground. Big buildings such as this were built in the Mock-Tudor style in these burgeoning and now-connected suburbs almost as if to emphasize the ‘rural’ appeal of these now less than rural areas. Edgware itself goes back centuries (Middle Ages! Yes!) and is on the historic and vital Roman Road of Watling Street (actually called Edgware Road from here to central London; you’ve seen Edgware Road on the tube map, it is miles away). There are some genuinely historic buildings here, one around the corner being an old tavern that the famed highwayman Dick Turpin is rumoured to have stayed at. Right across the street from the Railway is St.Margaret’s Church, whose tower dates from the 15th century, with the building dating from the 18th century. And while it’s not particularly historic, George Michael’s dad used to own a restaurant a few doors down from here called Mr. Jack’s. The Railway Tavern may not be so old, but it is beloved locally. I remember the pub being a nice, warm place, friendlier than many other more raucous pubs nearby, with a lovely carvery restaurant upstairs. I remember going to that restaurant for my friend Terry’s 18th birthday, all those years ago. Some nice memories here.

I don’t remember when it actually closed. Was it before I left for America or after? I remember writing a blog post in 2006 on my first trip back from the States lamenting the passing of two of my favourite spots in Edgware, Music Stop the guitar shop and Loppylugs the record shop. I was sad that Edgware was changing so much, and it struck a chord, because somehow people from all over the world – well, from Edgware but living all over the world – were commenting with their memories of Edgware, of the school, of the old cinema and the record shops, that general old nostalgia thing we all do when we get online. You’ve seen it, the old nostalgia thing, you know what I’m talking about, “Like if you had one of these space hoppers”, “retweet if you remember what a flake in an ice cream is”, “share if you remember Daz Ultra” that sort of thing. The Railway must have been still open, or I would have mentioned that as well.¬† It has been closed for some time now, with no chance of reopening. These days pubs close, and that is that. So many old pubs are falling by the wayside, not profitable in these modern times, once great centres of community (ah remember that, it was great when everyone was drunk, Retweet if you Like). Remember the Pub, the old Rub-a-Dub-Dub? All gawn now mate, all gawn and never comin’ back.

Who knows what will happen to the Railway. I’m sure someone does; I was old it would be knocked down to make way for a big block of flats. These statements are usually correct, but I’ve learned to proceed carefully (as they are often book-ended with statements like “too expensive for the locals, they’re going to give them free to all the asylum seekers,” a phrase I have actually heard said). The truth is that land is owned by someone, usually someone less concerned with building communities and more concerned with building profits. There was last year a pub in Kilburn, the Carlton Tavern, that was illegally demolished a week before it was due to be a listed building (knocked down with all the tenants’ possessions inside and against the orders of the council), because the landowners CLTX, a company based in Tel Aviv, wanted it out of the way. Well, didn’t Westminster Council only go and order CLTX to rebuild the Carlton Tavern brick by brick within the next 18 months! A victory for the old pubs, perhaps, but we’ll see if it happens. I intend to sketch the site some day, maybe on the next trip. I wonder if a hundred years ago the Edgware locals will probably have lamented the loss of all their lovely green space, demolished so that houses can be built, along with these ugly mock-Tudor pub buildings (“Mock-Tudor?” they would say, “Medieval more like!”). The world keeps on turning…