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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Looking for Elsie

Tuesday, January 15th., London.

Yesterday afternoon I suddenly decided that I couldn't proceed with my story about Elsie until I had been up to Clerkenwell again. So at 4.50 I got a taxi and went up Myddleton Square.

Myddelton Square is the largest square in Clerkenwell. Its amplitude and its plain stylistic cohesiveness provide a stately precinct for a substantial church, forming the principal set piece of the New River estate's developments of the 1820s. Some post-war and other rebuilding has not significantly compromised these qualities, but the impression of uniformity proves on closer examination to be deceptive. Centrally approached from the east, where there are re-entrant corners, the square is more irregular on the west side, with a kink in the building line to the southwest. There is what Ian Nairn called a 'cheerful stumble uphill' on the east and west sides, and considerable variety in the elevational details of the square's 75 houses, erected over twenty-one years by thirteen different builders.

Just before turning to the left into this Square I saw a blaze of light with the sacred name of Lyons at the top in fire, far higher than anything else; also a cinema sign etc., making a glaring centre of pleasure. I said, surely that can't be the Angel, Islington, and I hoped that it might be some centre that I had never heard of or didn't know of. Certainly its sudden appearance over roofs was very dramatic. However, the old chauffeur said of course it was Islington. Rather a disappointment.

Myddleton Sq. with its Norman windows of its
4-storey houses, and church nearly in the middle, with clock damnably striking the quarters, was very romantic. I had to correct several of my memories of the architecture. I walked round the Square gazing, and going up to front doors and examining door-plates and making notes under gas lamps (very damp and chilly) while the taxi followed me slowly in the mud.

Then I drove up to the Angel and saw that it had been truly conquered and annexed by the Lyons ideals. Still, it was doing good up in Islington, much good.

Compare its brightness and space to the old Angel's dark stuffiness. Then I drove to Dr. Griffin's to get information about the organisation of the life of panel doctors. I got home at 6.30 and I had been in other worlds, though less than two hours away in all.

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