13 April 2010

What, When & Ware II

In 1613 the New River, an artificial waterway built to supply London with fresh drinking water, was opened. The waterway starts between Ware and Hertford, supplied by the River Lea, and is still walkable along most of its length to New River Head, Islington. It originally terminated near the current Sadler's Wells theatre. (In the early nineteenth century water from the 'river' was used to fill a large tank to enabling staging of aquatic theatre, one tableau featuring 117 model ships built by Woolwich Dockyard, complete with working guns - like an early Las Vegas!) Broadmeads Pumping Station is a fine piece of Victorian industrial engineering, recognised by its Grade II listing. Built in 1885, it consists of a beam engine house and engineer's house, and still boasts its stack.

Ware is full of alleys and yards, quirky corners that are always worth turning into, as many of them are home to interesting buildings. Bluecoat Yard is named after the blue heavy cloth coats worn by the scholars of Christ's Hospital. The yard features Place House, one of Ware's two mediaeval manor houses, an aisled hall acquired in 1674 by Christ's Hospital Foundation to provide a healthy location for London children; and a row of cottages that provided housing for about 150 boys, each cottage (also known as a ward) under the aegis of a nurse. These are now private dwellings. The original Bluecoat Boy statue is safely inside Place House, that above the yard entrance a copy of 1987, by local sculptor Angela Godfrey.

Of course, the Bluecoat School of Ware is not alone. The most famous is that in Newgate Street, London. This featured in the 1975 edition of the Calendarium Londinense, or London Calendar, engraved on copper by Lawrence Josset, a mezzotint engraver of the very highest standard. His most commonly seen work is his superb engraving of Pietro Annigoni's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, but his uncatalogued oeuvre is expansive and includes many original works.

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