Once again I needed to pop into London and once again it was art related. There seems to be a pattern emerging here. This time it was the Works on Paper Fair, for which I’d been sent a free ticket by Matt Forster, an “überpainter” of stylised mountain landscapes in watercolour. With this unlikely to fill the day, I looked around for something to bulk it out – the obvious things being I could spend more time in the Science Museum where the fair was being held, or I could do a walk.
I didn’t really fancy the Science Museum, having been there many times in the past and likely to be swamped with school parties, so I opted for the walk. Of course, with my entry point to London being in the east, and the Science Museum being in the west, that alone afforded an opportunity for a walk. But I thought I could do better than that….
So I dipped into my file of statues, and having done the artists already as part of my visit to the Tate, the obvious thing was to do the scientists on my way to the Science Museum. A route came together fairly easily, and this time instead of doing it from Fenchurch Street station, I decided to start and finish closer to the first and last “bags”. I could always extend the walk back afterwards if I still had spare in my legs.
So I got the tube to Kings Cross St Pancras and walked the couple of hundred yards west to the British Library. Here I would find Sir Isaac Newton in the forecourt. But not having brought the picture of the statue with me, I didn’t immediately realise it was the hulking great thing on the far side – I was expecting a more traditional pose, complete with wig and maybe even an apple hovering above his bonce. Despite it not looking very Newton-like, at least in terms of the pictures we usually see of him, it is apparently based on an 18th century engraving by William Blake, albeit that was itself nearly 70 years after the laws of gravity ceased to apply to Newton himself.
Next on the list was Lister, but I happened to come across JFK on the way, so copped a snap of him as a bonus.
Another distraction as I was in sight of Lister – a traditional-style statue of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, 4th son of George III and father of Queen Victoria. I think he might pop up on my Canadian travels later this year, so his photo was added to the camera.
A few yards away on a traffic island in the middle of Portland Place stands Lister, the man who introduced antiseptics to surgery. The first of a prominent medical theme in today’s walk.
A walk down through Marylebone and alongside the A40 flyover brought me to the sort of tiny patch of grass next to a housing estate that is euphemistically called a park. In it, voted for by local residents, were three former locals. I was here principally for the only mathematician of today’s walk – Alan Turing, a man in the news at the moment due to his distant relation Benedict Cumberbatch playing him in a film. Turing, of course, was the eminent codebreaker whose work led to the breaking of the Enigma code and in turn to winning the Battle of the Atlantic in World War Two.
Keeping Turing company are Mary Seacole, the lesser known Crimean War nurse as Florence Nightingale gets most of the limelight for that, and Michael Bond who named his bear character after the nearby area and station.
And it was towards Paddington station that I was headed next, passing a nice sciency mural under the A40.
The other side of it is St Mary’s hospital, where on the corner of the old medical school is Fleming, discoverer of penicillin.
Now I headed for Kensington Gardens for my next objective. I’d never really quite realised how close they are to Paddington. This is one thing about these walks – they are helping to improve my knowledge of London. Anyway, in the Italian Gardens at the head of the Long Water near Marlborough Gate is Jenner, who as every schoolchild will know developed vaccination. Originally he was in Trafalgar Square – that’s how important he was. Personally, I’d rather be in the gardens.
While I was passing, I took the opportunity to walk down to the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall (I could do a whole future walk just on Victoria and Albert).
Tucked away around the corner from the Albert Hall is the Royal Geographical Society, where today’s target was Sir Clements Markham, credited with establishing the quinine supply in India that helped save millions from malaria. He’s at the RGS, though, due to his presidency of that body, and we’ll see him again on the Explorers walk.
Down Exhibition Road and I arrived at the Science Museum for the fair, held in the temporary exhibition space on the 1st floor. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay the £15 entry fee due to my free ticket. It would gall me to have to pay to enter what is in effect just a big shop. There was a good selection though, and I was particularly taken with the maritime pieces. It was also good to finally see Matt’s work up close – I was intrigued as to how he can get such control and precision with watercolour in his paintings. They were a bit outside my budget, though, to bring one home, and I don’t think Mrs Hillplodder is especially taken with them either. The piece that really caught my eye though probably cost about a fiver to do in terms of materials. It was simply a charcoal drawing of a tree on paper. But it was huge and had intricate detail. If I’d had £3,500 spare I’d have been tempted.
Not all of the works, as you would expect in a fair with so varied a selection, took my fancy. I found several instances of paintings priced up at over £500, that weren’t really that far away from what I’m capable of. If nothing else, it gave me some increased confidence that I might be able to sell a picture of two myself.
Outside, and the Museum was crowded so I decided to simply leave and continue with the walk. The next target was Darwin at the Natural History Museum. I looked around for him in vain outside and then realised he was inside. So I endured a queue and bag search simply to walk in and up the main stairs to take his picture and then leave. Of course, I could have simply taken a tenner out of my wallet and used that instead.
I did also say hi to Dippy, whose days are numbered it appears. For me, he IS the Natural History Museum.
Sloane Square was next on my list as there I would find Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and friend of Newton. The museum I’d just nipped into was founded on his work, but really his real claim to fame is the invention of milk drinking chocolate.
Now I headed for Piccadilly, but spotted Felix Mendelsohn’s blue plaque on the way, realising that I hadn’t even considered the possibility of building them into these walks. Now I think I will, where convenient, but keeping the focus on the statues.
Reaching Piccadilly, this time I was around the back of the RA building where the scientists hang out. Multiple statues adorning the back wall of the Academy – here I saw Leibnitz, Linnaeus, Galileo and various others.
My final target lay on the Embankment at the Institute of Electrical Engineers. But when I got there, I found not Faraday, but a building site. He’d clearly been taken into protective custody for the time being. This was disappointing, after such a good run. Across the road though, was a statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which I took as a consolation prize. OK, he’s an engineer (and hence the subject of a future statues walk), but he did at least apply science.
Round the corner to Temple tube station and the walk was done.