The Dome of St.Paul’s Cathedral, London

Dome of St.Paul’s … Pencil – WHB – 1958

The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, is an incredible structure, a true work of art in the sense of it being both lovely to look at and requiring incredible precision and workmanship in the design and the construction.  Sir Christopher Wren, principal architect, originally produced several different designs for his dome before eventually settling on the one we have today, and of course he used a team of architects, who, through seemingly endless discussion, trial drawings, modelling, and debate, eventually produced this, certainly one of the greatest glories of London. (See photograph below).

From 1710, when the present cathedral was completed, until 1962, St.Paul’s Cathedral was London’s tallest building. 

The dome of St.Paul’s is built in 3 sections (see side section view below) …

Stage 1: To the Whispering Gallery;  259 steps.  Circles the dome’s interior at 30 metres above the floor of the cathedral transept.

Stage 2: Further up to the Stone Gallery; another 119 steps at 53.4 metres above the ground.

Stage 3: To the Golden Gallery, reducing in size as we get higher .  This runs around the highest point of the outer dome.  It is 85.4 metres (280 ft) from the cathedral floor below and there are another 150 steps to climb to reach it. 

That is a total of 528 steps in all!

Having made the journey to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral only once in my lifetime, and having also once climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which claims to have the tallest dome in the world, I found it interesting to make some comparisons between these two domed buildings.

St.Peter’s, Rome, has a height of 448 feet (or 136.5 metres) to the top of its cross.  It has 551 steps from the floor of the cathedral to the top of the dome

St Paul’s, London, is 365 feet (or 111 metres); It has 528 steps from the ground floor to the top of its dome.

FOOTNOTE:

On the basis of these figures, I calculate that the average height of the steps of St.Peter’s is approximately 8 inches, whilst the steps of St.Paul’s have an average height of about 8 1/2 inches.  So with St.Paul’s having 23 fewer steps to climb, but each one requiring your foot to be raised an additional ½ inch, which steps are the easier to climb?  . . .  AND ANSWER CAME THERE NONE!


There are several videos on YouTube which will take you up and down these steps to the Dome of St.Paul’s and which give panoramic views of London from the top.

Two Londons

View from Decimus Burton’s Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner,  Adrian Jones’s sculpture of ‘The Angel of Peace Descending in the Quadriga of War’ (Watercolour – WHB)

LONDON  2017

In all that bright and glorious sunshine,
amongst those trees, those parks, those sculptural delights,
Hidden below that Impressive skyline,
Beneath and among those imposing sights,
How much deprivation is still concealed

As that which was to Blake revealed?

( Pen and Wash drawing and the accompanying verse above are by WHB)

What was revealed to William Blake as he wandered the streets of late 18th and early 19th Century London, he wrote about in the following poem.  It was first published in his ‘Songs of Experience’ in 1794

London-Seven Dial early 19th Century – Sketches by Boz

London    . . .   By William Blake

I wander thro’ each charter’d street
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

. . . And Then There Were Four

London, Victoria Embankment, late 19th Century … Pen & Wash – WHB – 2014

Late autumn evening
treading wet leaves
on the broad embankment
 beside the dark river;
starry sky
and the pavement spotted
with lights
dark pools between
those balustrade sentries
the eighty year old
yablochkov candles
(the country’s very first

electric street lights)
still throwing the trees’ shadows
across the road
to Victoria’s gardens.

Perhaps memory twists my tale;
mike, dave, wally, ray,
with me five of us,
fresh lads
freshers too
up from the far country
to study
to see the big city
to re-start a life
men now
together
soliciting knowledge
tempting experience.

Interned for a Chelsea month,
then the anticipated incursion,
our first excursion
into the great city
set for new challenges
no plan
just exploration;
for the moment
nothing cerebral
just life in the moment
awaiting a happening
neophytic
greenhorns.

Walking where Victoria walked,
or did she ever really
enjoy her gardens by the river?
thrilling evening
walking that promenade,
drinking the sights
eating the sounds
devouring the smells and tastes
soaking up the river
and the beer,
Victoria’s Embankment Gardens.

We didn’t know it then
nor did any of us suspect
it was to be ray’s swan song
sweet Thames run softly
and be his swan song.

Turned up Villiers Street,
Kipling’s and Evelyn’s street,
tumbled into The Trafalgar,
seedy then,
well, rare student prices,
waitress in black and white
I remember
the white cap with lace
and black band
the tiny white apron
on black dress
alluringly short
wiping her hands
by rubbing them seductively
on her aproned thighs,
“what can I get you lads?”
… ribaldry …
ray “what time do you finish?”
… her answer
no more than a half-smile;

After the spam fritters
and the glorious knickerbockers
and more small pink hands
attentive hands
rubbed clean
on lacy white apron,
ray’s eyes never taken off them
then drinks
nothing heavy.

Ray fell
must have done
from a great height
smitten I would say
to his adam’s apple core,
eyes only for a pretty face
and those lacy edges.

Conversation ricocheted
across the tables
voices spurted out their verbiage
as those yablochkov candles
expended their light,
more raucous than uncouth.

Then the attempt to close
to dispense with customers
we head for the street
ray stays in his seat
“’bye chaps, I’ll see you.”

… But he never did.

Nor we him.
Ever again.

The Thames Embankment is a work of 19th Century civil engineering which reclaimed marshy land next to the River Thames in central London.  It follows the North Bank of the river from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge.

The Victoria Embankment Gardens , built also in the latter part of the 19th Century, separate the embankment and the road running alongside from the buildings on the south side of Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and The Strand.

Villiers Street is a short connecting thoroughfare, now mainly pedestrianised, running from the Thames Embankment and Charing Cross underground Station uphill to the Strand, Charing Cross Mainline Railway Station  and Trafalgar Square.  It contains many restaurants and eating establishments.  
The Trafalgar Cafe, however, can no longer be found there.

Poem by WHB and re-published in memory of Dave and Mike – now passed on to where all memories are filed and all mysteries are resolved.

Liverpool

Liverpool Docks . . . Watercolour – WHB: – 2011

The Port of Liverpool Building (formerly Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Offices, more commonly known as the Dock Office) is a Grade II* listed building in Liverpool, England. It is located at the Pier Head and, along with the neighbouring Royal Liver Building and Cunard Building, is one of Liverpool’s Three Graces, which line the city’s waterfront.[1] It is also part of Liverpool’s UNESCO-designatedWorld Heritage Maritime Mercantile City.

The SPIRE

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, England . . . Pen & Wash : WHB – 2015

THE SPIRE

This work of man
Exultant spire
Sings to the world’s
Celestial choir.

Man’s needle point
It pricks the clouds
Defies the lightning
Lures the crowds.

Commands the heavens
Upholds the sky
Tells the world
Don’t fear to die.

This vibrant sky
These bright moonbeams
Define our souls
Colour our dreams.

This work of man
Exultant spire
Sings to the world’s
Celestial choir.

Salisbury Cathedral, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, and one of the leading examples of Early English architecture.  The main body of the cathedral was completed in 1258.  Two men filmed themselves climbing 404ft (123m) to the capstone of the Cathedral’s spire to replace a faulty weather meter.    I add below a link to this video giving the spectacular view captured by these conservators working at the top of this, Britain’s tallest spire  . . .

CLIMB to the top of the SPIRE

The footage shows the breathtaking views only usually experienced by the Cathedral’s peregrine falcons.

The Grey Lady of Hampton Court

At Hampton Court Palace
One grey Autumn day,
Whilst strolling alone
I wandered astray,
Discovered this phantom,
Too shy to display.

Shroud for a lady, 
Hide her away. 
No one must see her
Lest somebody say,
She’s only a failure, 
She’s long had her day.

But now she is hidden 
And no one can see,
Then no one will question 
Just who she might be. 
They’ll just go on thinking
Perhaps she’s a he.

The fact she is ghostly, 
Clothed in a Shroud, 
Might give them a hint
That she’s not been allowed 
To be seen out in public, 
Detached from the crowd.

For in summer when tickets 
Are hard to come by,
That’s when they’ll release her 
Sustaining the lie.
Produce her in costume 
When darkness is nigh.

The Lady in Grey
As a spirit will glide,
 Patrol the Long Gallery,
Make-up applied,
Intent upon haunting –
A Queen mortified.

So that’s it for the winter, 
Don’t leave her on show.
Come wind and come tempest, 
Come rain or come snow, 
This tourist attraction’s 
The best that I know.

That rival in Scotland,
The fishy old coward,
In a straight contest, 
Its legacy soured,
It cannot compare 
With our Catherine Howard.

ARGUMENTS YARD

Some viewers  may remember that I published some verses a few days ag0 in a blog entitled  ‘Mona Lisa Revisited’ .  The photograph I used, taken by me some time ago (as are the other photographs om this page) in Church Street, Whitby, on the North Yorkshire coast, showed prominently the entrance to one of the town’s well-known ginnels, or Yards, called ‘ARGUMENTS YARD’.

This led me to ponder over the possible derivation of this ancient name for the short dark passageway leading directly down to the north bank of the harbour and the mouth of the River Esk.  The following verses are the result of my deliberations . . .

All this is conjecture;
You don’t need a lecture

But, in doggerel verse,
Which could hardly be worse,

I’ll tell you a tale
Which will make you turn pale.

#   #   #

I tried very hard
To find ‘Arguments Yard’.

At last, when I’d found it,
Suspicion compounded,

I knew it was true;
It was no Avenue.

But a hotbed of squabble,
Of trouble and babble.

#   #   #

For once it befell
In this yard there did dwell

Large families three,
Who could never agree.

The ginnel they lived in,
Dwelt side-by-side in,

Was almost a tunnel
A regular funnel.

Lived so close together
They’d bicker and blether.

Their life was uphill
Without any goodwill.

#   #   #

So as this story goes
These neighbours were foes.

And they started to fight
Over which one was right.

They argued from dawn
From the day they were born,

And when evening had come
They continued the scrum.

All mired with scandals,
Both hoodlums and vandals.

Figures of shame
Who denied any blame.

They argued the toss
And got very cross;

Yelled over the fence;
The noise was intense.

They disturbed passers by
With the oaths they let fly.

Disagreed with each other,
With sister and brother.

Shouted and cursed –
The children were worst.

Each day they’d bicker,
Whilst knocking back liquor.

Complained, moaned and grumbled,
Botched, fudged and bungled.

Bemoaned their existence,
Claimed their subsistence.

Refused to comply,
Or for jobs to apply.

In short it was hell
In that yard to dwell.

And everyone near
Existed in fear.

#   #   #

Move on to the present;
Now, not so unpleasant.

It appears that now
All has sobered somehow.

Yes, there’s nothing more strange
Than how times do change.

I’m assured that now
Things are much more highbrow.

Yes, they’re now avant-garde
Down in Arguments Yard.

In fact, the real derivation of the Yard’s name is much more prosaic.  It is now known to have been named after the Argument, or Argment, family, a well-established Whitby family who lived in this  yard for many years.  The family has been traced back hundreds of years, when they fled to Whitby to escape religious persecution.  Argument is actually an Anglicisation of the Flemish name Argomont.  They were Huguenots, sixteenth century Protestants, who fled Catholic France to avoid persecution and settled in Whitby.

At one time there were two yards of the same name, from this family name Argument.  The yard pictured – off Church Street – is one of the best known, loved and photographed in the town.  These days, more than 80 such named yards still exist in Whitby.  Their origins lie in the town’s mediaeval past.

Arguments Yard seems to have remained  much as it always has been, still intriguing, full of old-world charm, and much more tranquil than is suggested by its name.

VENICE


Venetian Sunset – from Piazza San Marco … Pen & Wash – WHB … 2013

City of Islands
City of dream
Inscribed with colour
 Every line.

City of History
City of deeds
Imbued with story
Every step

City of Passion
City of pride
Engorged with fashion
Every stride

City of Clamour
City of bells
Ringing with meaning
Every knell

City of Turmoil
City of strife
Threaded with suffering
Every hurt

City of Mansions
City of graves
Instilled with ardour
Every shrine

City of Titian
City of art
Awash with beauty
Every part

City of Merchants
City of trade
Echoed by Shakespeare
Every shade

City of Conflict
City of strife
Turbulent city
Every vice

City of Water
City of flood
Sea taking over
Every surge

City of Magic
City of spells
Present in each pile
Every shell

City of Revels
City of fun
Carnivals rule life
Every fete

City of Intrigue
City of masks
Sophistry renews
Every day

City of Drama
City of sin
Would I were there now
Let new life begin.

Venice . . . Pen & Wash – WHB: 2013

THE INTERIM FIRE ESCAPE


Found behind my hotel in Somerset, UK, in 2010 … Photograph – WHB

For want of a staircase a ladder will do,
Perhaps when the fire starts there won’t be a queue.
Such was the thinking by those in the know;
For a four star hotel this came as a blow.

To all we old codgers who can’t climb up stairs
This came as a setback, to add to our cares.
To find our retreat cut off in such fashion
Was a palpable blow that sent us all ashen.

So we went to reception describing our plight.
We were told not to worry, things would fast be put right.
A new lift had been ordered to be installed soon.
When I asked them just when they said ‘Maybe next June’.

But don’t worry sir, we’ve got adequate cover.
Our waiter’s a big lad and so is his brother.
Between them they’ll see that you come to no harm,
And besides we’ve just installed a new smoke alarm.

Bridge Over The Atlantic

Clachan Bridge (‘Bridge Over the Atlantic’ – Scotland … Photo: WHB

There is a bridge 
Across a stream,
An inlet of the sea.
I see it as
Much more than that –
A link ‘twixt you and me.

It spans the gap,
It binds the space
Across the fearsome oceans.
It joins our thoughts,
And culls despair;
Intensifies emotions.

It’s name it claims 
Describes its task –
To link our worlds intact;
And that it does,
But here’s the rub,
It cannot ease our hurt in fact.

A grandiose name; 
A claim to fame.
If I were being pedantic,
I’d cry with shame,
And take the blame
For being so Romantic.

The Clachan Bridge is a simple, single-arched bridge spanning the Clachan Sound, 14 miles south-west of Oban in Argyll, Scotland.  It links the west coast of the Scottish mainland to the island of Seil.  The bridge was built in 1793 with a single high arch, designed to allow the passage of vessels of up to 40 tonnes at high tide.

Because the Clachan Sound connects at both ends to the Atlantic Ocean, and might therefore be considered part of that ocean, the bridge came to be known as the

‘Bridge over the Atlantic’.