November 17, 2009

A Georgian House in London

British architectural writer, Dan Cruickshank, has just published a new book entitled The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital. Georgian London.gif I came across an interview with him describing the Georgian house where he lives in London. Here is part of his description of the house:

The first occupier had some wealth and some taste: it is nicely panelled and detailed, with big Doric cornicing, dados, fire surrounds and shutters. I repaired it myself. I haven't opened up the floorboards. I don't know what's under them – Jack the Ripper's notebook, no doubt. There was a police station at the end of this road that was the headquarters for the Jack the Ripper hunt. He liked to taunt the police: could he have lodged here? I like to think so.

What’s so fascinating about this article is his descriptions of some of the items in the reception room of his lovely home. I am always so curious to hear about the story of peoples possessions. Dan-CruickshankJACKET Over the years I've bought many things from street markets and junk shops. This is a Royal Fusilier's jacket from the late 19th century. I bought it in Portobello Road in the 60s. It cost absolutely nothing. Sadly, it's too small for me to wear

TILE Delft tiles were originally used to line the fireplaces in the house. I found them when I was repairing a fireplace. To think that people sat in front of the fires looking at these tiles more than 200 years ago is very moving

SILK DRESS This is a beautiful thing and it's an example of Spitalfields silk. It's a red dress with a golden pattern woven in. Wonderful colours. And it's not in bad nick, given its age. I spoke to an expert at the V&A who told me that, judging by the fashions of the time, it dated from 1765

WINDOWS This house had been abandoned for at least 10 years when I bought it. The windows were all boarded up. I took off the boards to find mostly 18th-century crown glass intact. It's blue-green and it ripples because it was hand-blown. I find it amazing to think that during the Christmas of 1940, when the East End of London was engulfed in a sea of flames, this glass managed to survive

17TH-CENTURY CHAIR I've got lots of high-backed chairs. They were often made out of beech or walnut

JAPANESE MASK I did a series for the BBC called Around the World in 80 Treasures, a cultural history of mankind through objects. While I was in Japan, I picked up this 18th-century mask that looked rather wonderful. It's a painted wooden carving that depicts a once-beautiful woman turned into a demon through hatred and jealousy

ETHIOPIAN PAINTING This smells extraordinary. It's a religious painting on leather that has been cured in dog urine. I got it while I was in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian orthodox Christian church believes that it is in possession of the Ark of the Covenant (I couldn't find it – it's a bit of a myth)

FERTILITY SYMBOL When I went to Bhutan, I was somewhat surprised to find wooden phalli hanging above people's doorways, but I learned that it is a symbol of fertility, good luck and wellbeing. I got one. When in Rome, I say…

BABYLONIAN BRICK I went to Iraq just before and after the fall of Saddam. When he rebuilt Babylon in 1982 (horridly – concrete everywhere), just like Nebuchadnezzar, he wrote his name on bricks in a bid for immortality. But after the American invasion, the bricks were plundered and sold by kids in the street. It remains as a memorial to that strange and monstrous fellow, Saddam

MEDAL My grandfather had a terrible end. He fought in the first world war and survived on the Western Front from 1914. Then, six weeks before the end, he was on a ship off the Devon coast when the boat was torpedoed. What a pointless loss of human life. This was a medal given to all people who died in the war, along with an accompanying scroll


  1. I am a fan of Georgian homes so this book is a must read for me Meg, xv.

  2. Oooh, love reading about this house, this room! I've just added this book to my Amazon Wish List (only 307 precede it).

    Homewood House also has all that lovely hand-blown glass intact. I'm always amazed every time I walk in there -- and visitors are always amazed every time I tell them -- to think that almost all the original panes survived not only 200 years but life as a boys' school at the turn of the 20th century. Boys haven't changed since the dawn of time; they tend to wreck things.

    What I always wonder about rooms such as this is how does the owner keep them clean? That silk dress, for instance. Doesn't it collect dust? Ditto the military jacket? They're probably too fragile to get dry cleaned. How does he keep them looking fresh? Does he use a feather duster? A lambswool cloth? Not being a neatnik myself but having lots of beloved articles all over the house, I'm always curious about how other people do it.

  3. Oh, dear. Make that "only 522 precede it" -- !!

  4. Love to read about these details of a very special home!

  5. I am fascinated by history. I would so love to live in a home that has a past. For us Americans, we think old is the early 1900's. Dan's book was be a 'curious' read. Thanks for sharing Meg.


Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.