Saturday 11 July 2015

Sherlock Victorian Baker Street

Here is the Victorian Baker Street from the BBC's forthcoming Sherlock Christmas special from the trailer released this week.  Very excited to see how they handle Victorian London.  Looks good so far!

Thursday 25 June 2015

Some walks in the Victorian East End 1: Leman Steet and Shad Thames

Shad Thames from Tower Bridge Road

I have finished my first week at my new job and it is strange to be working in an office again after five years of working from home. Working from home, while much more efficient in that I didn’t have to endure three hours of commuting a day, was slowly sending me around the bend. It is nice to have colleagues again; even if I can’t remember any of their names (except the women, of course).  Anyway, the last few days I have been taking time in my lunch hour to explore my new surroundings in what is a historic area of London with much of interest for someone keen on Victorian gaming of the like of In Her Majesty's Name.

Old warehouses on Horsleydown Lane. A two bedroom flat in one of the blocks here will cost you around a million pounds

My new office is located in the trendy area of Shad Thames, which used to be a field used for grazing horses (as is reflected in the name of one of the streets: Horsleydown Lane) until a huge warehouse complex was built in the area in Victorian times. Despite the attempts by the Lutwaffe to re-landscape the area there are enough of the old buildings left to give an idea of what it must have been like in its late Victorian heyday. 

The street where my office is.  A friend had an apartment in the blue development in the foreground

The last of the warehouses closed in 1972, not quite a hundred years after they were completed. After some years lying derelict, the area was regenerated in the eighties and nineties and is now home to shops, offices, expensive flats, trendy restaurants (some of which overlook the Thames) and the relentlessly hip Design Museum. It is certainly a much nicer environment than Victoria, one of the most pitiful parts of central London, which was my theoretical London base when I went up to have meetings related to my contract over the last three years. 

Tower Bridge from Shad Thames on the south side of the river

On my first day I wandered over Tower Bridge to locate the 4D model shop, which had been suggested to me by Tamsin. This is a shop for people who make models, not a shop that sells model kits, so is full of the sort of stuff that architects use. They had some impressive model palm trees; for the many UK architects firms designing buildings in the Gulf, no doubt. These were about as far as you could get from the plastic jobs you can get from China on eBay. They were 11.95 each, however. Still, they were really, really nice!  4D are located next to Leman Street, a name that was familiar to me but when I got there I had not, as I had imagined, been there before. Then it dawned on me; Leman Street was the location of the headquarters for the Metropolitan Police's H Division, as depicted in the TV series Ripper Street. Leman Street escaped heavy damage in the war, although bombs fell at either end of it but nearly all of the western side of the street, where the H division building was, has been redeveloped since.  However, just opposite the entrance to where 4D models is located, there is a remaining terrace of Victorian houses. 

Leman Street looking north from just outside the 4D model shop.  The Brown Bear at right

H Division were located just past the large redbrick building (the former headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society opened in 1887) visible further down the street but on the other (western) side of the road. 

H Division HQ. 74-78 Leman Street

The Victorian police HQ building, as depicted in Ripper Street (which was built after the Whitechapel murders; having been built in 1891 on the site of the recently demolished Garrick Theatre) has long gone but the building on the site is still a police station.  The houses on the right in the picture above are still there, as you can see from the shot below.

Today's police station

On the far right of the street view, three pictures above, you can just glimpse The Brown Bear, the favourite pub of the H Division coppers in real life and the TV series. In existence from the end of the eighteenth century it was rebuilt in 1838 and remains as a pub today. 

The Brown Bear as depicted in Ripper Street

The Brown Bear today

This pub also features prominently in Ripper Street and although the TV version is much smaller than the real building at least they have recreated it with yellow London Stocks bricks and located it close to the railway bridge, as it is in real life. 

Shad Thames

Yesterday, I walked around Shad Thames street itself.  Although I had a lady friend with a flat here once, I remember nothing about the area whatsoever and had not walked down Shad Thames itself, the street after which the area is named. 

Shad Thames in the 1880s

This still has, remarkably, cobbled streets in places and examples of the overhead bridges that served to connect the different warehouses to each other over the street.  It gives a good idea of what the area must have been like a hundred and twenty years ago. Except it is much cleaner of course. The area is now popular with tourists who come to visit nearby Tower Bridge.

Next time I will look at the riverfront and St Saviours Dock, which has a Dickensian connection.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Victorian science fiction film location

 New Haw Lock cottage this afternoon

I was on my way to Addlestone model shop today as I had, annoyingly, run out of white paint and the colour I use for shading skin.  Taking a back route I drove past New Haw lock on the Wey Canal.  I decided to stop and take a picture of the lock cottage as it featured in one of my favourite Victorian-set science fiction films: The First Men in the Moon (1964).

It played the part of Cherry Tree Cottage, home of the hero of the film, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), who travelled to the moon in 1899 aboard a Cavorite sphere  designed by Professor Cavor (Lionel Jeffries).   The film is based on a novel by HG Wells but adds a modern prologue wherein today's astronauts make the first Moon landing only to discover a Union flag on the moon and a note claiming it for Queen Victoria.  Released five years before the actual Moon landing the film had a multinational United Nations crew undertaking the present day landing.  Back on Earth the UN team track down surviving astronaut Bedford via the local registry office (played by Chertsey Town Hall a few miles from where I lived - the film was shot at Shepperton Studios, a mile from my old home).

Another addition to Wells' story was the presence, on the voyage to the Moon, of a young lady, Kate Callender, played by Martha Hyer (seen above outside the cottage).

Miss Hyer posed in some period underwear for publicity shots for the film but, sadly, this costume didn't actually appear in the film itself.   Here she is on the Moon set at Shepperton with the sphere in the background and holding one of the spacesuits used in the present day sequences.  

As worn by Bossk in The Empire Strikes Back  

This suit was actually an RAF Windak high altitude pressure suit and the same design also made several appearances in the original Star Wars trilogy.  Some of the A-Wing pilots wore them too in the hangar scene in the first Star Wars film which was, coincidentally, also shot at Shepperton.

Martha Hyer's career was already somewhat on the wane by the time she appeared in The First Men in the Moon.  She had been nominated for an Oscar in Some Came Running (1958), playing opposite Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  She appeared in a lot of TV series and foreign productions in the sixties and early seventies. 

She was, surprisingly, thirty nine years old when she appeared in First Men in the Moon (she was actually seven years older older than Edward Judd and two years older than Lionel Jeffries).  Her last screen appearance was in an episode of TV police series McCloud in 1974.  In 1966 she married legendary Hollywood producer Hal B Wallis who was 25 years her senior.  Wallis produced some of the great films of the classic Hollywood era including: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Now Voyager (1942) and True Grit (1967).  Martha Hyer died last May at the age of eighty nine.

The film itself,  is very enjoyable with a strong cast, Ray Harryhausen effects and a creepily mysterious score by Laurie (The Avengers) Johnson.

Harryhausen's stop motion Selenites certainly gave me the creeps when I was little!

The design of the sphere is also very good with its railway buffer shock absorbers and the interior is classic steampunk.  Some time ago I bought a resin model of it which has been sitting on my desk for some years.  

Unfortunately the top and bottom don't fit together very well and it may be beyond my modelling abilities to get it looking good.  I might have one more go at it as it would fit into a game of In Her Majesty's Name quite well, especially as I have the West Wind Professor Cavor figure somewhere too.

Monday 18 May 2015

Ripper Street renewed for Series Four and Five

Having just sat through a cliff-hanging dead end for the much improved Atlantis it is good to see that Ripper Street, which escaped from the dead hand of the BBC, had just been renewed for not one but two more series by Amazon.  Fortunately, the BBC must have realised the stupid mistake they made and let Amazon Prime pick it up.  No such deal is possible for Atlantis, which would have had series three featuring a version of the Argonauts story, as the BBC contract forbid the producers putting it on another network for seven years.  

I admit that I haven't watched series three of Ripper Street yet as although I have Amazon Prime I refuse to watch TV on a computer.  I will wait for the DVDs or try to persuade my son to see if he can rig it up to play through the TV.  I know he can do it through his TV so it must be possible for mine. I have a new laptop so I will have to bribe him to see if he can manage it!

Friday 27 June 2014

A couple of ladies...

"I say! Girl!  Goodness, where are your clothes?" gasped Agnes O'Brien as she rounded the strangely sinister statue in Sir Lawrence Swann's garden in the Meon Valley.  The poor girl was practically naked except for a few barbaric trinkets and a very immodest loin cloth.  The girl looked back at her evenly, seemingly unashamed by her state of nakedness.  "Do you speak English?  Where is Sir Lawrence?"  The girl must be some sort of primitive savage who Swann had brought back from Egypt.  "Are you one of Sir Lawrence's dusky acolytes from Darkest Africa?  Are you, perhaps, a Hottentot?"  It was bad enough having to address a woman with no clothes on but one who just stood there and stared at you, as if you were the one prancing about in your natural state, was even worse.

"Nah, love.  I'm from Rovver'ive.  You ain't got a ciggie ave ya?" said the girl.

"What impertinence!" said Agnes, swatting the girl's rear with her parasol.  

"Ooh!  Do vat again!" grinned the girl.

Agnes retreated towards the house in some haste, wondering what else she was going to discover in Sir Lawrence's house.


Mark Copplestone sculpted Foundry Darkest Africa lady and Egyptian Slave girl from new firm Dark Fable Miniatures completed last weekend.  The slave girl will serve double duty back in the Bronze Age.  The Sphinx was an unexpected present from the Old Bat who saw it in the aquarium section of the local garden centre.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Ripper Street Series Three begins filming in Manchester

Ripper Street began filming its third series last week in Manchester; the first time the production crew has moved outside Dublin.  They were shooting outside the old Town Hall.  Interestingly, given the announcement of the new Gothic incarnation of IHMN, part of Daniel Radcliffe's new Frankenstein film was shot there recently too.

The crew is moving onto Loughborough and then back to Dublin for the eight episodes of Series 3.

Filming continues until August for an Autumn premiere on Amazon's online film service and then on the BBC a few months afterwards (I would guess in its usual winter slot).

Some useful costume colour reference material here.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Nineteenth Century Street Scene in colour

I was very taken by this recently released colour postcard of a New York Street in the nineteenth century.  Alright, it isn't London but it gives a very good idea of the hustle and bustle of streets at the time, with market stalls along the edge of the road. Worth remembering.

I have always been fascinated by the United States as a Lost World where a natural wilderness was tamed (some would say ruined) in less than a couple of centuries.    I will have to pick up the exorbitantly priced (£135) book of these colour postcards of past America when it is published.