ARCHITECTURE OF LONDON by BRIAN STATER
Brian’s lecture was adapted from one given to undergraduates at UCL & looked at 10 buildings from the Norman Conquest to the modern day representing stylistic changes & illustrating how architecture reflects society. Two questions were asked of each building – what did it mean when built and what does it mean to us now? The buildings were The Tower of London. It showed the Normans were staying & now reflects the ‘Disney’ aspect of mass tourism. The Holy Trinity Chapel at Canterbury Cathedral in the Romanesque Gothic style housed the Shrine of St Thomas a Becket. It was a success in manipulating beliefs and now marks authenticity even though pilgrims today are tourists. Ightham Moat was a reflection of peace in England. This family building was altered without sentiment but is now preserved rigidly. The Queen’s House, Greenwich in the Italianate Palladian) style was the first in England to reflect classical architecture. It made a splendid backdrop to the equestrian arena for the 2012 Olympics. Danson House, Bexley is a perfect late 18thC Palladian Villa, built for a wealthy London merchant. New mercantile wealth was mingled with sophistication, attributes still shown by those with recent wealth (but possibly less style). St Pancras Station, is industrial Victorian era disguised in High Victorian Gothic Revival. George Gilbert Scott was the architect of the hotel & W H Barlow was responsible for the Station canopy, the largest steel structure in the world. St Pancras was saved from demolition in the 1960s. We now have a more mature view of the past, allowing the new world to function in the old. Royal Holloway College is an an innovative & philanthropic Victorian building. Crossland was a pupil of GG Scott and there are many similarities. Pevsner praised its self confidence & now it reminds us of the stupendous wealth in Victorian times. The Royal Festival Hall is the only surviving part of the Festival of Britain. Then it was a statement about optimism – brave new world- & still a good cultural experience in spite of what might be seen a paternalism. Bankside Power Station (1955-1981) – then utilities were built by distinguished English architects, maybe a cathedral of modern times, especially now it is Tate Modern. 5 million people view ‘modern relics’ & it is busiest on Sunday. The Great Court at British Museum was opened in 2000 to solve the lack of exhibition space. Foster & Partners covered over 2 acres with a glass roof releasing qualities not seen before.
EDUCATION & WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE by HARRIET COSTELLO
This talk showed a local view of attitudes to the right to vote for women & set it in the frame work of national debate. In 1866 an alumnus of Bedford College organised a suffrage petition which failed & even at the turn of the 19th century there was a belief that education would harm women’s health. At Royal Holloway College (RHC) there were both Old Students & Current Students Suffrage Societies. Debates, often heated, were held and there was division within, a vote in 1906 had 109 for but 40 against. Nationally there were the NUWSS (National Union of women’s Suffage Societies) and the WSPU (Women’s Social & Political Union) formed in Woking. Both contained Suffragists (law abiding) and Suffragettes (non law abiding). In 1913 the Picture gallery had to close due to Suffragette disturbances and Lady White’s (empty) house in Englefield Green was burnt down in an arson attack. There is well known footage of Emily W Davison being killed as a result of stepping onto the Derby course during the famous race – she had briefly studied at RHC following the loss of incmoe on her father’s death. The First world War meant that women took the places of many men & strenghtened their claim to be recognised. A conference on electoral reform in 1916/17 recommended limited women’s suffrage but cautious approval to the 1918 Act (women over 30 allowed to vote) indicated there was further to go. Full voting rights were only granted in 1928.
A synopsis of January’s talk will follow shortly.