Friday, 28 August 2015

Sherlock's Final Resting Place

Back in January I attended a wedding in the New Forest, Hampshire. The day after the festivities, a few hardy souls decided to clear their heads by taking part in a car treasure hunt around the area. One of the locations we visited was the tiny village of Minstead - and I was surprised to come across the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Surprised, as I knew he was born in Edinburgh (in 1859), lived for many years in South Norwood (not far from where I currently live) and died in Crowborough, East Sussex (in 1930).
It transpires that this was not his first burial place. He was reburied alongside his wife in Minstead later.

The church is called All Saints. It dates, in part, from the 13th Century. One of the pews, reserved for the local gentry, even has its own fireplace, unusually.
There had been some controversy regarding Doyle's burial, as he maintained that he was not a Christian. He regarded himself as a Spiritualist.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Gordon Square and the Bloomsbury Group

Inspired by the BBC's recent drama "Life In Squares", about the Bloomsbury Group, I thought I would have a wander round the area that gave them their name. (Ignore the date stamp on the pics - I haven't a clue how to change it. I usually use my phone but it has recently had a falling out with the laptop and refuses to import pictures :-(

The Group was formed at Cambridge University as the 19th Century gave way to the 20th. Unlike other artistic groups of the same period, they did not have any political agenda, or issue any kind of manifesto. It was simply a group of writers / artists who shared a particular philosophy towards their work and the way they lived their lives.
The core members were the Stephen sisters (painter Vanessa and writer Virginia), Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, E M Foster, Roger Fry, Gwen Darwin (granddaughter of Charles) and the economist John Maynard Keynes. Vanessa is better known by her married name (she wed Clive Bell), and Virginia by her married name - Woolf.
As well as the body of work they produced, the Group is well known for its interpersonal relationships. Duncan Grant, for instance, had sexual relationships with his cousin Lytton Strachey, and Keynes, and Vanessa Bell.

Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square
The area is dominated by University College London (UCL) these days, as well as the British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Bloomsbury Square, part of the Bedford Estate, which gave the area its name, is fairly non-descript these days. The southern side is a busy main road. It is dominated by the huge Beaux Arts Victoria House on the east side. This was considered for the seat of the Mayor and the London Assembly for a time, until it was decided to create a new building on the south side of the Thames opposite the Tower of London.
(It is said that the reason the nearby Senate House of UCL was spared bombing during WW2 because Hitler had his eye on it for his HQ were an invasion to be successful).

46 - 50 Gordon Square
If there is one address which is synonymous with the Group it is probably Gordon Square.
No.37 was home to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in 1925.
No.46 was an earlier home for Vanessa (from 1904). John Maynard Keynes moved into it a few years later.
No.50 was Clive Bell's address between 1922 - 39, and where the Group regularly met.
No.51 was home to Lytton Strachey from 1919.

There are a number of other addresses in the vicinity which were closely associated with the Group, but which no longer exist - thanks mainly to WW2 bombing:
38 Brunswick Square was home to 5 members of the Group between 1911 - 12.
34 Mecklenburg Square was where Virginia Woolf volunteered for a Suffrage group just before the First World War. It later became HQ for the Women's Trade Union League.
She and her husband, Leonard, moved into No.37 in August 1939.
Before that, she lived for 15 years at 57 Tavistock Square. It is now the Tavistock Hotel.

At the south west corner of Gordon Square is Byng Place. Here stands the University Church of Christ the King. Built between 1851 - 54 for the Catholic Apostolic Sect, it was supposed to have the tallest spire in London, but this never materialised. The sect died out and in 1963 it was leased to the Church of England for use as the UCL chaplaincy. The church has a collection of ceremonial vestments - including one that is reserved exclusively for Christ, should he ever make his Second Coming.

Whilst the output of the Bloomsbury Group is globally admired, the members were disliked by those outside their circle.
Rupert Brooke, the poet, described the "rotten atmosphere in the Stracheys' treacherous and wicked circle". D H Lawrence hated "this horror of little swarming selves". Wyndham Lewis referred to them as "elitist, corrupt and talentless".
A recent BBC series on Bohemianism tackled the Bloomsbury Group and found against them - as they were all from privileged backgrounds and so could afford to live the way they did. Spolied snobs, basically. Real Bohemians don't just play at being so. The same programme was pretty negative about the whole current Hipster style. Unimaginative clones, basically.
I do admire the Group's work. And Keynes should not be blamed for that New Town just north of London that bears his name.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Have been rather busy with the Doctor Who blog, plus other stuff. Expect an update in the next couple of days. Just watched the BBC's Life In Squares, and have been inspired for a trip into Bloomsbury...