Church of St Michael Paternoster Royal and Innholder’s Hall (1927).
One of the better secondhand book discoveries of the past couple of years was London Triumphant, a collection of etchings and pencil drawings of the city’s streets and buildings by Sydney R Jones. The etchings immediately seized my attention, being the kind of closely-hatched architectural renderings which I enjoy, but the book as a whole is very good as it details the artist’s wanderings with a young student friend through the city. Jones established himself as an illustrator of books with titles like The Manor Houses of England and The Charm of the English Village. His London book appeared in July 1942 and collected many of his earlier views of the city as a deliberate morale boost for the populace who were watching the capital’s historic buildings yield to the bombs of what he calls “the foul Hun”. Jones catalogues the destruction with dismay as he recounts the history of the city from Roman times but ends on a note of defiant optimism, wondering what new metropolis might rise from the destruction. He mentions in passing that cult locale of mine, the Essex Street Water Gate, but doesn’t provide a drawing unfortunately. The book proved to be very popular, and the copy I found is a fifth printing from 1947.
Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet Street (1926).
This week’s book purchase was a welcome find, then, being London Triumphant‘s sequel, Thames Triumphant, in which Jones follows the course of the river from its spring at Coberley, through Oxford and on down to Greenwich. There aren’t as many dramatic views this time, and many of the country scenes have that kind of polite blandness about them which you find in much book illustration of the period. But Jones does provide a couple of his speculative and spectacular views over the city, including the one below which shows the City of London as it was in 1939. Much of the foreground was bombed flat during the war so a drawing such as this provides a valuable record of how London’s financial centre looked before the arrival of the Luftwaffe and the office blocks. Jones lived to see much of the subsequent reconstruction—I can’t help but wonder what he made of it all.
The City of London, 1939; click for a bigger view.