Friday, 18 August 2017

Hull (Part 1)

Kingston upon Hull, normally known as Hull, is an oft-forgotten city, being on the road to nowhere else. But this year it is the UK City of Culture, so consider this my contribution to the artistic activities.

Before we delve into the clocks, I must say that the city is making a fine job of its City of Culture status, with a huge range of activities and an army of volunteers who are fantastic ambassadors for the area. For further information see

Hull Trains let me down by cancelling my booked service, but I got there eventually by means of Grand Central trains and a coach.

Arrival is at Paragon station, which originally dates from the 1840s, with the current buildings dating from 1904. The only clock on the concourse is this small clock tower, which I assume is a relatively recent addition.

Near it is a replica Gipsy Moth, recording the aviation feats of local hero Amy Johnson. Also to be seen are the blue hoardings around the building works, which at times including ear-splitting drilling noise. Not currently the place for quiet reflection.

Coming out of the station, we are met with another clock, with House of Fraser in the background.

A nice simple clock with clear Arabic numerals, which looks really good in the sunshine.

We move into the city centre, passing the Grand Buildings on Jameson Street. Nothing very grand about the building, but I will let that pass as it has both a clock and a branch of Waterstones.

Moving on, this is Queen's House on Paragon Street, dating from 1952 as Hull started to be re-built after extensive bombing damage during the war.

The Maritime Museum stands proudly and elegantly on Queen Victoria Square.

This building was originally the offices of the Hull Dock Company, built in 1868-71, and replacing offices on the High Street which we will come to in Part 2. This newer building was converted into a museum in 1975. If you get a chance to visit the museum before the 24 September, make sure that you watch the video in the "A Common Foe" exhibition, a powerful piece about the interaction between the Hull and Icelandic fishing industries.

Our next clock is on the corner fa├žade of what was the Co-op, and then BHS, and now with the collapse of the latter chain an empty store on Jameson Street.

On the other end of the building is this massive and magnificent mosaic by Alan Boyson from 1963. It has recently been turned down for listing by Historic England and so with BHS being empty it is currently under threat.

Going back to the other end, there is a face-off (dial-off?) between the ex-BHS clock and an ex-Lloyds bank clock on the other side of the road.

This is a beautiful clock in its simple design and glorious colour scheme. I just hope that it is retained by the new owners of the building.

We are now in Queen's Gardens, which until 1930 was part of the dock complex. The impression of the dock is retained by the gardens being sunken a few feet below the surrounding streets.

Whilst the gardens, designed by Frederick Gibberd, are pleasant, the Gosschalks building on the north side is totally uninspiring, with a clock added as a bit of an afterthought. Gosschalks are a commercial law firm.

Rather more impressive is the Guildhall of 1913 -16. I have focussed on just the clock tower, but the whole building is a grand expression of civic pride.

Part 2 coming soon.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Road to Ditchling

Braving the dark world that is Southern trains, I ventured off to Ditchling on Saturday. Not the biggest place on the planet, with only 2,000 residents, Ditchling is best known for its artistic and typographic connections, and more recently for its Museum of Art + Craft.

Ditchling, in East Sussex, was for a time the home of Eric Gill, one of Britain's best sculptors and typographers, and to Edward Johnston the typographer. Ditchling is thus the birth place of both the Gill Sans typeface and of the Johnston typeface used on the London Underground.

(For an excellent introduction to both typefaces, see the recent book "Johnston & Gill - Very British Types" by Mark Ovenden [Lund Humphries, 2016])

As the museum is currently holding an exhibition on the work of Eric Gill, it was time for a visit.

The typeface of the sign is of course Gill Sans.

Rail access to Ditchling is via Hassocks station, across the border in West Sussex, and then a pleasant 20 minute walk to the village.

The station, rebuilt in 2013, has no clock, and so the first (of very few) clocks seen on the road to Ditchling is at Hassocks Infant School.

The clock was installed to commemorate the millennium, although is a standard design and is now slightly obscured by its deteriorating cover.

 Nice gate though.

Along the road is the cricket pitch behind the Keymer community centre.

The view of their clock is a bit distant as I didn't want to traipse across their nice grass, especially for what is a fairly plain clock.

 The third and final clock is on St Margaret's church in Ditchling. The current building dates from the 12th century, but is built on a much older site of worship.