Sunday, 18 October 2020


Welcoming and filled with grace

A couple of Sunday’s ago I received Holy Communion for the first time in almost six months. I went to St. Anne’s Dropmore a delightful church. Vicar and congregation were so welcoming and all the pandemic procedures were observed with good grace. 


As the Prayer of Preparation filled the church I was in tears: largely guilt, as I had been raging (to family and friends) against the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on their stoic mishandling of opening our churches in the summer. Ikea and Sainsburys had figured it out.


It was a special moment and this church had formed an important part of my life in this lock-down. It was the first place to which I cycled once the measures were announced on March 21.  Most Fridays across the Summer I’d meet up with cycling chum, Judge Ricardo, and we’d catch up over our homemade sandwiches, sitting in the porch of the church, the gap was almost two meters apart.


The history of this lovely church is here link

Thursday, 15 October 2020


 Sailing above the Solent

There seems to be a distinct nautical favour through posts of late, Emsworth and Newtown IOW, now to add a bit of ‘aero’. 


The other day I was going to a 2017 sketchbook the couple of years back and rediscovered a series of six drawings I made from up in the air above the Solent.

My pilot was a good friend Chris SS, a pilot instructor, who’d offered up a jaunt and I could to pick the place over which we would fly (within reason and fuel capacity).

I'd chosen the Solent because having sailed across it several many times I really wanted to see it from the air. Off we hopped from Wycombe aerodrome and in no time at all we were over the Solent. 


Sketchbook out, pen uncapped, I had to work quickly, for, exasperatingly, the position of plane the landscape beneath us changed real quickly. Actual the drawing time started at about 11:15 and all over by 11:50 when it was time to land for lunch, on the Isle of Wight. 

It was a great trip and I stood the pilot lunch, the least I could do! You'll see from the timings on the drawings there was little time to get into detail. One was really trying to grab the most important shapes as surfaces and to in front of me as we sped along above the Solent.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020


It was a bright September day, a Friday and the traffic was light when I headed south on the A3 to Emsworth. This small town lies on the north end of the Chichester Harbour. I was delivering some paintings to my dear friend Annie G. 


The place a haven for boats of all shapes and sizes, some vessels make a permanent home here, some are just passing through. I had, five years back, set out from an estuary mooring on Rag Doll, one of the prettiest boats on the Solent.  Passim blog post ‘Sailing the Solent’ August 28 2015



Annie lives out on a point of land, a slight way out of the town, by the main boat yard. Her house overlooks the estuary. At low water the landscape glows and sparkles!  This is a wonderful spot, boats beginning to ride up on their moorings as the tide returns.


Emsworth was a port from the 1300s. In the 18th and 19th century shipbuilding and rope making were the main trades. There was also a space for two flourmills run by the tides. At the end of World War II the area was a staging post a staging post for Canadian troops shipping out as part of the D-Day landings; a rich and varied history whose former residents include Albert Finney and PG Woodhouse. 


What a treat of a trip, catching  up with Annie and Tom the skipper of Rag Doll turned up to join us for lunch.

Sunday, 11 October 2020


We rowed across to a point of land..

Newtown Creek is on the north side of the Isle of Wight.  It is a favourite stopping place for sailors is in need of a bit of a rest and some wonderful things on which to gaze. It was another wonderful warm September day when we set off from Lymington, under the orders of Skipper Pat and First Mate Jill. 
We sped across the Solent into Newtown Creek, strictly speaking Newtown Estuary. 

We soon tied up on a visitors’ mooring and rowed across to a point of land. A walk round a sheltered, low, headland was a good way to work up an appetite for lunch. 

The sky was deepest blue and the sun high. I’d been here several times before and remembered the place does dry out at low water: I recalled waking up during an overnight stay and finding boat at the steepest of angles. Getting out of one's bank was a precarious operation even when sober. 

See Sailing Round the Solent  - blog post July 28 2012 Link to story

Newtown has now been National Trussed up. And as you can walk around Newtown itself, there is evidence of its earlier importance; a salt works and old oyster beds. Little else now remains except some lovely views, trees bowed by prevailing winds and the recurrent songs of estuary birds; surely a place to tarry for a while.

Newtown Isle of Wight 

Saturday, 10 October 2020


Each week I discover more exciting churches in High Wycombe. On busy Hatters Lane we find St Andrew's Church. The building is low, red brick confection, with a cross fixed to one wall. A skinny spire coyly protrudes from the roof (well they had include one). It was amusing to photograph St Andrew's through the traffic and paint it later in the studio.

St Andrew's Wrap and Pack   28 x 40 cm


Poking around, as I invariably do, I discovered that St Andrews built in 1967 and extended in 1986.


Now it seems that even more space is wanted, bigger foyer, kitchen, offices on site and meetings rooms and the flexibility to be able to use at least 4 large self-contained areas at the same time.  There will be real multi-dimensional spirituality with four large services happening concurrently.  

‘The answer has been to wrap it (the church) around with new rooms and facilities’ say JBKSArchitects and add


‘We are praying for the Lord to provide Planning Application favour and success, and finance. The bible says, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19.’


I bet.


Exciting visuals for the wrapper can be found here.


Thursday, 8 October 2020


 Cousin Wendy who knows Oxfordshire and surrounding counties like the back of her hand can always be counted on for a good recommendation for a jaunt. She suggested a visit, to the church of Saint John the Baptist Inglesham and which is actually in Wiltshire. Only five minutes walk from the river Thames 


We met in Lechlade and walked across the fields, by the river, to the church. 


At first sight, the church is very small and a tad unprepossessing. However like all things real beauty is found when we look closer, including bell cot facing westwards and a lovely cross, freestanding, just to the east of the church amongst tipsy looking gravestones.


Inglesham village is now completely gone, submerge somewhere under fields and fences. However the church lives on in the kind and careful conservation of The Churches Conservation Trust.

Unusual for a church it is open daily and absolutely covered in wall paintings.

An overcast sky threw a grey light over this lovely Cotswold stone and once we went inside again that grey was fused with occasional sunshine, lighting up the whole place up. What you are enjoying at is the 13th century church that stands just above the water meadows near the Thames

There are within the church layer upon layer of paintings from the 13th to the 17thC, one painted over the other. It is a real puzzle trying to figure out one image from the next. This is, arguably, the way of all good art.

The completely free of Victorian artifice; William Morris himself, who lived down the road at Kelmscott, supervised the restoration of St John’s so the place is free of nasty ornament.


In this church you do not have to figure out what is ancient and what is modern. It is all early and beautifully cared for. As The Churches Conservation Trust website (Link) says what we are looking here is a church, as it would’ve been seen in Oliver Cromwell’s time.  
Essentially what you see is Saxon and later there are 17th century and 18th century pulpit and box pews throughout the entire church. 


And surprises: What caught my eye was a harmonium made in Chicago imported by an organ maker in Oxford.

Arguably this is one of the most exciting churches that I have ever visited. I would not have missed it for the world and would recommend it highly. I will enclose links with this post to give you more detail however if you are ever in the Lechlade area please do visit the church of Saint John the Baptist at Inglesham and bung a donation in the box.

Friday, 2 October 2020





I have been exploring local churches, those built recently. And I kept the ‘survey’ local to the High Wycombe area; and discovered houses of God in all shapes and sizes and materials.


On the Geograph* website I noticed a picture of St Birinus Church in High Wycombe. Link


Excitedly I wrote to the person who took and contributed the picture, for his permission to making a painting from it. He gave permission and a couple of days later I sent him a jpeg of the finished piece.  He then pointed out that having been onto Google Street View the church was not there now. It had replaced by another. 


I cycled to the place, grid reference SU8491 and discovered the Church of Christ the Servant King. A sketch was made on the spot.


Intrigued I wrote to the church administrator to understand this nifty substitution; explaining that I am always most interested in why one church is built and then is replaced another.


The reply:

“The current church has been built on the foundations of the St Birinus church which was demolished in 2011 with the new building being opened in 2013 The old church, built in the 60s was poorly constructed and not suitable for extending or reconfiguring so it was decided to demolish and rebuild, changing the name as well!”


For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11




*The Geograph® Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland,

Wednesday, 30 September 2020



Mysterious  Factory? Offices?  Wittenberge in the district of Prignitz, Brandenburg 

A garage on main street   Wittenberg - along the River Elbe in eastern Germany 

Going through some snaps the other day I came across a series taken in May 2017. That year, with friends, I travelled along the River Elbe.  Extract

This great river was the border with the former DDR. It bore exciting some points of interest, especially sites of ruins and abandoned places.  

I am glad I took photographs.


Recently, reading of Jonathan Meades’ Museum Without Walls published by Unbound Books, has provided a damascene understand of why we (well some us) find the neglected so alluring.


A telling two extracts from the book here:


‘Everything is fantastical if you stare at it for long enough, everything is interesting. There is no such thing as a boring place.




‘Ultimately they are expressions of an incurable topophilic, of a love of places, which are what you find when you’re on the way to somewhere else.


Taken from Museum Without Walls published by Unbound Books 2012  All copyrights and ownerships acknowledged.



Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future is a 1953 novel by Evelyn Waugh.

Sunday, 27 September 2020


Concrete that provided the means to a sculptural ends


It was sometime ago when the crushers, cranes and bulldozers moved in to demolish Trinity Square Gateshead. I discovered this tragedy through my studies into architecture known as Brutalism (think Barbican, Royal Festival Hall).


This period of architecture, roughly 1954 – 1970, was when Britain wanted buildings fast and cheap. Well, it was concrete that provided the means to a sculptural end. With rabid Thatcher-tastes and admittedly, some tower block collapses, Brutalism is well behind us. 


The term ‘brutalism’ comes from the Fr. bĂȘton brut translated meaning concrete raw. It is not a judgmental term merely descriptive.


Trinity Square was multi-storey car park and shopping complex originally opened in 1967 by Rodney Gordon. The car park starred in the 1971 film Get Carter, Michael Cain had the lead male role.


Bish, bash, bosh, down came Trinity Square in 2010. And in 2013 a new Trinity Square home to one of the largest Tesco Extra stores in the country AND a nine screen fully digital Vue cinema.


Are our councils and town planners prone to a Primark condition? ‘Lets just replace perfectly good buildings because we can afford to and we don’t like the style of what we got now.  Other examples of this ailment include most of Bracknell and in Birmingham, the destruction of Birmingham City Library replaced recently by something akin to a set of assorted paper doilies.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020


Having spent the last twenty years exploring churches built between 900 and 1900, I decided to give those built after 1945 a go. And I kept the ‘survey’ local, the High Wycombe area.  What I discovered, sketched and subsequently painted was a confection of all shapes and sizes, in range of materials.


Once upon a time the layout and character of a church was pretty much fixed. Arguably during the centuries of its cultural and moral centrality the church was an unmatched architectural force.


Now? Well anything goes, and characterised in the writings of my favourite polemicist, Jonathan Meades:


‘Churches started to come in all shapes. There were bunkers and ships. There were churches that looked like silos… churches with swervy roofs and hyperbolic paraboloid roofs. The faithful must have had to work hard to convince themselves they were attending church at all.’


Museum without Walls by Jonathan Meades 2013 Published by Unbound Books 

St Thomas  Holtspur

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Pastures Church

Tuesday, 15 September 2020




“Not the ideal day to wear a hat“ cried elderly gentleman in a thick fleece and a Morrison’s carrier bag. He purposefully strode past me, to catch up with his hat, which was scurrying in along the pavement.


We were in Faversham, Kent, on a blustery extremely wet day on Tuesday. Tuesday is market day. The air was festive. I was joy-riding to Kent with Trevor the Architect who was there to size up a job!


What a great place! Full of proper shops not a Costa, Pret, M&S in sight. 

The Tesco with petrol at £104/litre was tucked around the corner. If you are careful you can stand it it’s car park and line up the building’s high point so as if it appears to have a cross and spire. The spire actually belongs to St Mary of Charity church restored by George Gilbert Scott (St Pancras Midland Grand Hotel).


Faversham’s Creek takes the River Swale past the town. We are not far south from the Isle of Dogs another worthwhile Kentish destination.


Mentioned in the Doomsday Book the explosives industry was vital to the town until it went bang! in 1916 and one hundred folk lost their lives.


Beer is the other important, less dangerous, industry this home of Shepherd Neame (1698). Doubtless its output will be enjoyed on September 25th when ABBA Chique (tribute band) perform at the Alexander Centre -


 Eventually the sun came out, the air was good-natured and festive. There were a number of elderly men, including the hat chaser, in shorts trying to eek out the summer. 


Gosh it was lovely. I enjoyed a sausage in batter and was given a few complimentary chips to go with it.


Fab Fav and lots more here


Sunday, 13 September 2020




We made a small tour of villages south of Slough, Datchet close to the river,

Wraysbury, Horton, and Colnbrook.


Oh joy! The Costa Coffee was open in Datchet staffed by two extremely happy and courteous people. Datchet nestles on the north bank of the Thames and to its north thunders the M4. East Enders’ Danniella Westbrook lives in Datchet but I didn’t bump into her. 


The church was closed, not a surprise.


Onwards to Wraysbury where St Andrew Parish Church was closed also, no a surprise, however it was nicely situated of the main road and solidly remodelled by the Victorians and sat it a lovely church yard. 


Under a cloudy sky this is a curious part of the world, either the housing stock is falling into disrepair or huge mansions boast high wrought-iron gates of impossibly intricate design. A garage cuddles up to the Nail bar next door, Five Star Nails, 15, The High Street. Wraysbury is also served with two railway stations. Christine Keeler hails from this village. 

Well remembered in Horton Churchyard

Travellers Rest


Horton and the church, St Michael, were closed, we were denied examining the Norman arch of the north door porch. What was open and exciting was the extension to the churchyard. It was full of highly decorated and beautifully tended graves. A local resident informed us that these were Romany graves. Each week family members come to tend the graves. Special services are held each year for the Travellers in this part of the world. Full story here

Will PANAM relaunch from Wraysbury?



Lakes of varying sizes are all around originating from former gravel workings are a particular feature. During the 1930’s, due to the presence of huge quantities of gravel in this area, farming started to give way to the gravel extraction industry. And there are two whopping reservoirs Wraysbury and the Queen Mother. 


We passed desultory Waterpark with old London Buses parked at its boundary perhaps they were changing rooms?


Bingo!  Down the road in the village of Colnbrook the church was open! St Thomas’s Church, It was designed by Benjamin Ferry who was a pupil of the great Victorian neo-gothic designer, Augustus Pugin, and the church is very much in the gothic style.

Inside it was spick and span. David Shields the Church Warden welcomed us. He showed us round and then offered tea and coffee.

A fine welcome from St Thomas' Colnbrook


This was a remarkable end to a thoroughly interesting and to be reaped tour of one of the most beguiling parts of Buckingham or it is perhaps Berkshire?  Well south of Slough anyway.


Thursday, 10 September 2020



RH long building clad in some strange horizontal stripy stuff

                                        Two Grade II chapels swept up into the scheme


Our usual place was booked so we checked into the Travelodge in the centre of Llanelli a town equidistant between Swansea and Carmarthen. 


This was on the cusp of that change from August heat wave into August monsoon. 

Any town looks uninviting in a downpour.  We escaped the hot hotel room to get provisions from Aldi. 


Walking back this view of a long building clad in some strange horizontal stripy stuff caught my eye. It was the Y Ffwrnes cultural centre


I was looking at a scheme comprised of ‘a new build for a purpose built theatre with flexible space for a wide range of community and professional events and activities’


Next to it there were some grade II listed former chapel buildings known as the Zion Chapel and Old Sunday School. These were swept up into the scheme, to house a studio theatre, office space and a social enterprise centre.


The Architects responsible, Lawray, put it perfectly on their website: 

“Y Ffwrnes Cultural Centre needed to stand as a contemporary expression of the Llanelli’s history in tin-making and create a relevant setting for art and drama in the regenerated town centre. Overall, it had to establish a rapport and sense of ownership within the community.”


We checked out and moved on.

Monday, 7 September 2020


Lion Farm - still with us, just.

 I have become an autodidact. I had to look it up before admitting it. 

One definition: Generally, autodidacts are individuals who choose the subject they will study, their studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. 

My chosen field is modern architecture 1900 to the present. My education is taking me to all kinds of wonderful places, like the Lion Farm Estate.


Part of my studies involves watching Jonathan Meads on YouTube. One of the programs was a documentary on the Lion Farm Estate, tellingly narrated by Mr Meads made by photographer Rob Clayton 1990. 


Enjoy the film here


Lion Farm Estate is a housing estate near Oldbury in the West Midlands Borough of Sandwell and Dudley. The estate was built in the 1960’s. By 1980 the place was falling apart from neglect and a victim of Tory ‘right to buy’ policy in the Housing act of 1980. Several of the towers have been demolished (2015). And last year some gluttonous developer was courting the council to turn the playing fields into a £200m outlet village.


Clayton’s work, photographs as well as the film, have been widely exhibited across the UK in 2015 and there were plans muted for a follow up work on Lion Farm.





Conservative governments are still pushing right to own, allowing speculating investors were able to buy up council properties hastening the rise in property costs. Commercially and socially valuable council assets continue to be sold at below their market value or replacement cost another waste of public money; The remaining stock of council housing (akin to Lion Farm) is concentrated in undesirable areas with little employment opportunity, further isolating and stigmatising the people that make their home there.


Moreover Tories are set to unleash a building frenzy as announced earlier in August. Adjustments to UK planning laws have Boris’ own rabid supporters taking up arms.

Is it any wonder we have a housing shortage, perennially.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020



The other week I cycled up to Hampstead to Willow Road to see three houses, 1- 3 Willow Road designed by Erno Goldfinger completed in 1939. At the time the building, comprising three dwellings, encountered much local opposition*something that characterised the architect’s career. 


Goldfinger, born in Budapest, he came to the UK in 1934, married Ursula Blackwell (as in Crosse & Blackwell) and so was financially set up.


The National Trust acquired 2 Willow Road after Goldfinger’s wife died in 1995. It is now open to the public for guided tours – current conditions permitting.


Even from the outside 1-3 Willow Road looks exciting. Made from concrete with a red brick facing (to keep the planners happy) concrete columns, part of the building’s frame carries the weight and a run of continuous windows across the first floor makes an intriguing invitation to enter.


Next up, I hope, as  part of my Modernist architectural tour is another Goldfinger goody; the Trellick Tower, West London (1968-1972) seen as something of a last stand by Modernist high-risers like Erno.


*Including Ian Fleming, James Bond novelist.


Visit here for stunning interior photographs of Willow Road

Friday, 28 August 2020



Designed the flats between 1929–1932

Modern Living in a Modernist building 

Resembling the side of a cruise liner


On Lawn Road, near Belsize Park, is a remarkable Modernist apartment block nestling amongst the trees on this quite road. These are the Isokon Flats, are also known as Lawn Road Flats and the Isokon building.


Many  interested in Modernist architecture make the pilgrimage to see it. It was a sunny day and the building, resembling the side of a cruise liner, shimmered in the fine weather. 


Canadian engineer Wells Coates designed the flats between 1929–1932 for Molly and Jack Pritchard, Jack was marketing manager for the Estonian plywood company Venesta, and much of the furniture and fittings in the apartments were originally plywood. 

Pritchard went on to found the Isokon Furniture Company with Coates. A fascinating story of itself

It was an experiment in minimalist urban living; the twenty-four flats had tiny kitchens, as there was a communal kitchen for the preparation of meals, connected to the residential floors via a dumb waiter. 


Residents include the Bauhaus’ very on Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Agatha Christie was resident between 1941 and 1947.


The flats fell into disrepair in the 1990’s but were caringly refurbished in 2003. Isokon is owned now by a housing association and occupied by key workers under a shared ownership scheme.


As I made these drawings a passer-by, a local who volunteers in the Isokon Gallery.  suggested I also visit 1-3 Willow Road five minutes away. This is another tale to tell, coming shortly


Support the Isokon Gallery, in the former garage attached to the flats, details are here

Tuesday, 25 August 2020


Onwards and upwards along the Western Avenue 


There can be few better ways into London from the west, early on a bright sunny morning, than driving along Western Avenue, part of the A40. 


The idea of this bypass was first talked about in 1912 and work begun in earnest nine years later. 


There are architectural delights along the way including the Hoover building and some interesting churches.  And there is always something new happening.  In the drawing tall towers and cranes, denote more buildings going up at the junction with Horn Lane, North Acton. Imperial College has made a home round the corner.


All the cycle ways have been up graded so a bike ride is in the planning.


Required reading for students of the Western Avenue is Edward Platt’s book ‘Leadville’ published in 2000 it won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award.


Further out we pass RAF Northolt where in 1996 a Spanish pilot and co-pilot overshot the runway and continued into a passing van on the road.  Apparently they were enjoying a heated argument about who should land the Lear Jet with its single passenger, actress Lisa Hogan.  Lisa continued to live life on the edge when in 2019 The Daily Express heralded her as Jeremy Clarkson’s girlfriend. 

Full details here

 © Copyright 2020 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved   

Saturday, 22 August 2020



Tall towers glinting in the morning sun



Leave off the Westway flyover, the eastern end of the Western Avenue, and you glide down the slip road to Shepherds Bush Roundabout. Glinting in the sun are the tall towers of White City Living.


This is part of a regeneration project to provide five thousand homes and office space and 30 acres of public space. This includes plans to make the Westfield shopping centre, to which the towers nestle up, the biggest in Europe. Imperial College has a campus here too. (Imperial College seems to be everywhere in West London nowadays).


‘New homes set within eight acres of parks and gardens, surrounded by world-class retail, entertainment, education, and culture. White City Living offers an experience like no other’. Purrs the developer’s (Berkeley Group) blurb.


And there more:

‘The spacious 2 bedroom apartments within Belvedere Row all have outdoor private balconies and easy access to the world-class residents' facilities on the lower floors and Bowery building’.


£1,087,00 sounds reasonable enough and the Marketing Suite and show home is open, by appointment only.


Make your home here and you are only 12 minutes from Bond Street by London Underground.