70 Years of Nineteen Eighty Four

Today I’m attending the Fourth George Orwell Studies Symposium, held at Professor Stuart Hall Building (opened 2010), Lewisham Way, London SE14.

The building belongs to Goldsmiths (formal legal name “Goldsmiths’ College”), University of London. It was founded in 1891 as Goldsmiths’ Technical and Recreative Institute by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

The Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the City of London Livery Companies, was established in the 12th Century as a mediaeval guild for gold smiths, silversmiths, and jewellers. The Livery Company dedicated the foundation of its new Institute to “the promotion of technical skill, knowledge, health and general well-being among men and women of the industrial, working and artisan classes.”

The original Institute was based in New Cross. Proximity to Deptford and Greenwich, with their strong maritime connections, had led in 1843 to the establishment of the Royal Naval School to house “the sons of impecunious naval officers”. The school relocated farther southeast to Mottingham in 1889, and Goldsmiths’ College moved in two years later. This, still the main building of today’s campus, is now known as the Richard Hoggart Building.

It was designed by the architect John Shaw Jr., and he was helped in securing the work by Prince Albert, who looked favourably upon him as an architect who could offer something different from the usual Gothic Revival style of the era. Shaw Jr. was complimented as a designer in the “Manner of Wren”, designing buildings in the classical Jacobean fashion.

His father John Shaw Sr., an architect before him, was born in Bexley, Kent, in 1776; his grave is at St Mary’s Church there. Shaw Sr. worked with Humphrey Repton (who featured in my post of 19/5/18).

As architect to Ramsgate Harbour in Kent, Shaw Sr. designed the clock house, the Jacob’s Ladder stairway, and an obelisk commemorating King George IV passing through the port on a journey to Hanover. Shaw Sr.’s last work, considered his masterpiece, was the church of St Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street. When he died suddenly at Ramsgate in 1832, his son John took over his post in the town, and also finished work on St Dunstan’s. It was Shaw Jr. who built Ramsgate’s lighthouse.

The father and son were pioneers in the development of semi detached houses. Shaw Jr. was responsible for some of London’s first semi detached villas in the Chalcots Estate, close to Chalk Farm.

In 1907, Goldsmiths’ added a new Arts building at the back of the main building. It was one of the fairly numerous university buildings designed by the prolific Sir Reginald Blomfield. He was born in Devon at the end of 1856, the year before his father became Rector of Dartford, Kent. As a student at Oxford University, Reginald later complained that at John Ruskin’s lectures “the atmosphere of rapt adoration with which Ruskin and all he said was received by the young ladies…was altogether too much for me”. As an occasional cricketer, he played in matches with J M Barrie’s Allahakbarries XI.

In 1886, Blomfield and the printer T J Cobden Sanderson (see post of 3/11/18) built themselves a pair of houses in Frognal, Hampstead; 51, Frognal remained Blomfield’s London home, and he died there at the end of 1942.

Blomfield played a major part in the completion of the Quadrant on London’s Regent Street. He came to regard the Wren era of architecture as the finest in England’s history.

Professor Stuart Hall was a cultural theorist, honoured by Goldsmiths as a leader in the field of cultural studies. In his view, culture was not something simply to appreciate or study, but a “critical site of social action and intervention, where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled.”.

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