Archive for the ‘Architectural features’ Category

At midday on 9 June 2013, the Deputy Lieutenant of Bexley, Major David Hewer, unveiled a sculptured bust of Queen Elizabeth II in the south niche of the Clock Tower in Broadway, Bexleyheath. The bust marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Crowds gather at the Clock Tower for the unveilling

Crowds gather at the Clock Tower for the unveilling


A parade of dignitaries and local groups left the Civic Offices at 10am and made their way to Christ Church for a special service to celebrate the event. At noon the parade made their way back to the Clock Tower where thousands of members of the public were gathered. ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ were sung before speeches were made by Ross Paton, Chairman of Bexleyheath Business Partnership, by Rev. Francis Jakeman, vicar of Christ Church, by the Mayor of Bexley, Cllr Sharon Massey, and by the Deputy Lieutenant, Major David Hewer.

The Deputy Lieutenant then pulled the Union Flag which had been covering the south side of the Clock Tower to reveal a bronze bust of Queen Elizabeth II, sculpted by Frances Segelman.

The sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II is revealed

The sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II is revealed

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A bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II is to be installed in the south niche of the Clock Tower. It will be unveiled by the Deputy Lieutenant of Bexley, Major D. J. Hewer, at noon on 9 June 2013.

The Clock Tower is currently being prepared for the big occasion!

Clock Tower under wraps in May 2013

Clock Tower under wraps in May 2013

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The Red House was built 1859-60 by the architect Philip Webb for his friend William Morris, the textile designer and artist.

Morris had wanted a countryside retreat and found land in Upton near the growing town of Bexleyheath. It was built in a Victorian Gothic style, and the interior was decorated by Morris, with help from his friends.

The Red House in Bexleyheath, a countryside retreat

Apparently Morris and his family were viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. They kept themselves to themselves, inviting their artistic friends to the house, and they did not go to church on Sundays. His wife wore her long hair loose, which was quite shocking for the time!

William Morris and his eccentric guests were often seen commuting between Abbey Wood railway station and the Red House in a wagon. (The Bexleyheath railway line was not constructed until long afterwards). A Bexley Civic Society plaque off Knee Hill now commemorates this journey.

Stone to commemorate William Morris’s commute from the Red House to Abbey Wood Railway Station

The Morris family only lived at the Red House for a short time, leaving in 1866. However, a bust of William Morris was installed at Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower in 1997 to commemorate the centenary of his death.

Bust of William Morris at the Clock Tower, Bexleyheath

The Red House in Red House Lane, Bexleyheath is open Wednesdays to Sundays. More information is at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/red-house.


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One hundred years ago, the Clock Tower was nearing completion, in time for its unveiling on 17 July 1912.

Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower nearing completion in 1912. In front is the Pincott Memorial

By the time of King George V’s coronation in 1911 there was need for a clock at the tram terminus which was situated at Market Place. At the same time, plans for some kind of memorial to the coronation were underway. An executive committee of local councillors (including the Chairman, Mr G. Sheldon) and prominent Bexleyheath businessmen (including Messrs Hide, Whomes and Jenkins) was formed to discuss these plans, along with general improvements of the Market Place area. Local architect Walter Maxted Epps’ winning design featured a tower, a clock with four faces, and an electric substation and shelter at the base. The money to build it was to be raised by public subscription.

The foundation stone for the Clock Tower was laid on 8 January 1912. A jar was placed under the foundation stone to explain to any future explorer ‘when Bexleyheath was in ruins’ what had been done in Bexleyheath to celebrate the coronation of King George V. Built by local firm Messrs Friday and Ling for £454, the finished tower stood at 46 ft with a 13ft base.

A memorial to the first vicar of Christ Church, the Rev. W. H. Pincott, had been erected in Market Place in 1879. Originally consisting of a drinking fountain in the form of an obelisk and a cattle trough, the Pincott Memorial was moved to its position outside Christ Church not long after the Clock Tower was built.

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Bexleyheath’s Clock Tower has busts of King George V to the west and artist William Morris to the east. A fundraising campaign has been launched for a bust of Queen Elizabeth II to be placed in the south niche, in time for the 60th anniversary of her coronation in 2013.

Who should fill the remaining empty niche on the north side of the Clock Tower? Can you suggest someone who is worthy of the honour?

The Clock Tower was built to celebrate the coronation of George V. When it was unveiled in 1912 with a bust of the King in the west niche, the architect said that he hoped the remaining niches would be filled by members of the royal family.

King George V

The original bust fell apart during cleaning after the second world war, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that sculptor John Ravera created a new one.

The rest of the niches remained empty until John Ravera was commissioned to create a bust of William Morris. This was installed in the east niche in 1997.

William Morris and his friends, the pigeons

As you can see, both busts have been befriended by pigeons!

So, are there any notable local residents or famous Bexleyheathens from past or present who deserve to fill the north niche? Perhaps Alfred Bean, who lived at Danson and was instrumental in getting the railway to come to Bexleyheath? Or A. J. Franklin, first Mayor of Bexley? Or Rt Hon. Sir Edward Heath, former Prime Minister who was a Bexley MP 1950-2001, the country’s longest serving MP. Other suggestions:

Rev. W. H. Pincott, first vicar of Christ Church, Bexleyheath

Rev. James Geddes, minister of Congregational Church, Bexleyheath 1868-1920

John Smith of Blendon, builder of Market Place, Bexleyheath. He donated the land for the first Chapel of Ease and was the owner of the Golden Lion pub. His nephew Oswald was the great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Local residents have included TV cook Delia Smith, actress Sheila Hancock, singer Kate Bush, singer Boy George, racing magnate Bernie Eccleston, footballer and manager Keith Peacock and his son footballer Gavin Peacock.

Can you think of anyone else?

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Recently converted into The Bank Restaurant and Bar, this building was originally the London & Provincial Bank, built 1915, and later Barclays Bank. The facade reflects the status of banks in the community at that time – high status, solid, a pillar of local society. The two upper floors were comfortable living quarters for the bank manager. The original strong room with high domed ceiling and carved vault door is now a private dining room.

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The Clock Tower at Market Place in the Broadway was erected to commemorate the coronation of King George V. The inaugural ceremony for unveiling the clock tower was set for the Bexleyheath Gala day on Wednesday 17 July 1912. Local businesses and shops decorated their premises with bunting and festoons. ‘God Save the King’ banners were hung outside buildings. The whole event, including the gala at Danson Park, was filmed by Harry Pease of the Picture Palace at the Public Hall on Mayplace Road. The films were shown at the pictures on the following weekend. Incredibly, this film survives and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVQPLkuEcUg

Does anyone have any more recent video footage of the Broadway? Perhaps an event which took place or a parade?

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Let’s start with the ‘William Morris Fountain’. Named after the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, it includes a central flute with motifs based on the architecture of the Red House, his Bexleyheath home. Designed by Mel Chantry, a former Turner Prize nominee, the fountain cost £50,000 and was unveiled in March 2001. Described as ‘futuristic’, it stands at 6.5m high.

In April 2011 the decision was taken by Bexley Council to switch off the fountain to save money. It was filled with soil, turned into a flower bed and surrounded by chicken wire. While the central flute was retained as a decorative feature, the equipment to operate it has been removed, preventing it from ever being returned to service at a future date.

Can we still appreciate the striking design, even if its original purpose has been lost? According to a News Shopper article of 29.1.2001, the inspiration behind the striking fountain includes:

– Its herringbone relief can be found on a door of the house.

– The conical detail of the tops of the newel posts on the stairway of the Red House, a motif repeated in light fittings, original furniture and the architectural design of the house, forms the top of the fountain.

– The five balls echo the famous Five Arches bridge in Foots Cray Meadows and are a motif found in Webbs sketches and in the lights of the Broadway.

– The spheres re-appear, in the feature on the top of the fountain whose shape was inspired by an ornamental hinge at the Red House and echoes the B of the new Bexleyheath logo.

– Around the base of the fountain, five arches of water will arc in towards the centre, where lights will uplight the whole structure.

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