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Notes from Bob Carr — October 1994

Goldfinger's house

The modernist architect Ern÷ Goldfinger (GLIAS Newsletter 141, p5), who died in 1987, built himself a house in Hampstead at 2 Willow Walk, one of a terrace of three. In order to do this a number of Georgian cottages were demolished which caused a local outcry at the time.

We have now come full circle and Goldfinger's house has been listed grade II and it seems likely that the National Trust will acquire it and it will be open to parties of visitors by appointment. It is said to be a perfect timecapsule complete with period works of art and a campaign is being launched to secure these for display in the house. This is an important conservation breakthrough and together with the decision to retain Bankside power station marks a significant change in Establishment attitudes towards the 20th century.

Born in Hungary in 1902, Ern÷ Goldfinger studied in Paris and came to England in 1934. The three houses in Willow Walk dating from 1937 are his first major work. From the outset one was intended for himself and his wife Ursula. The terrace is of ferro-concrete construction with red brick facing and the unknowing might walk straight past without a second look so familiar has the style become through its subsequent repetition on a massive scale. Some of the original furniture in Goldfinger's home will also appear equally commonplace although it is individually made (mass production of such things came later).

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (born the same year as Goldfinger) considered the design for the facade of the Willow Walk terrace harmonised much better with Georgian Hampstead than anything built in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Bob Carr

Television archaeology

It is now possible to get modern compact convertors so as to be able to view current television broadcasts on obsolete 405 line TV sets. There is a band of enthusiasts called the 405 Alive group.

The Friends of Alexandra Palace are involved with the organisation of visits on a regular basis to the former television studios there. They also campaign for more public awareness and funding in support of this important North London site generally.

GLIAS cruise

On Sunday 21 August a boatload of members aboard the Sargent Brothers' working boat Enterprise sailed upriver with the tide from Charlton as far as Lambeth. On the way up we nosed into St Saviour's Dock and returning eastwards moored for ten minutes or so beside steps at Bankside close to the construction site of the new Southwark Shakespearian theatre. Before returning to Charlton a short detour was made up Bow Creek to the north of the A13 road bridge. This gave a chance to see at close quarters the various small pipe bridges and so forth south of the East India Dock Road and to inhale the fragrances from Pura Foods Ltd. The stone abutments of the Rennie iron bridge are still clearly visible.

In certain circles a popular mythology seems to have come into being that before the redevelopment of the London dockland and the building of the Canary Wharf complex 'there was nothing there anyway'. At one time this was the World's Largest Port — memories are short and unreliable. From an industrial archaeological or maritime point of view the Thames and both its banks from Charlton to Westminster are now frightfully dead. So much has been cleared away and the remnants sterilised. Even the river bus service has finished. Lenanton's timber wharf on the west side of the Isle of Dogs is still in evidence but this survivor may not remain much longer. The only wharf with any appreciable activity is Convoy's at Deptford, importing newsprint material with ro-ro vessels and there are now some prestige ship visits to the Upper Pool. About the only real ships still visiting London come to Tate & Lyle's Thames Refinery Jetty at Silvertown (just downriver of our cruise). Long may they continue. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 1994