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The Watts Church Crawl, Part the eleventh: Baker Street

There is much at Baker Street which is interesting to the discerning traveller, some of which we must rush over, other parts of which we shall linger on, partly because they are obscure and concern Watts.

The station is one of the oldest on the tube, being opened in 1863, and part of the first length of underground station built. What is interesting to note is that as we have now left the District line, and so the architecture of the station has changed: we no longer have the tall, graceful columns which we have noticed previously, but a much lower, more tubular shape, as we are now more submerged, interestingly the brickwork is much the same colour, and there are some rather entertaining glazed tiles commemorating a certain fictional character.
As we emerge on to Baker Street, we cannot help but be conscious (given, especially a museum dedicated to him) that we are in Sherlock Holmes country, which is strange, given that he never existed. But there was a man who did, and that man was the first manager of Watts & Co, who lived above the shop at 30 Baker Street. His name was J.L. Davenport (from whom our Davenport fabric is named). He was well known for being perspicacious, playing the violin, and being ever so slightly eccentrically dressed (a tradition maintained by some of our staff to this day), much given to smoking hats and the like: he was well known about the place, and, as you may gather, bears something of a resemblance to our perceived image of Sherlock Holmes. Now, whilst the bulk of Holmes comes from Conan-Doyle’s medical professor, Dr. Bell, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he may have been fleshed out with something of Davenport.

The site of the shop on Baker St is something that gives us a clue to the exact whereabouts of 221b, Baker Street. In one of the stories (I forget which), it is mentioned that Holmes breaks into the upper rooms of 30 Baker Street, in order to stake out his own front door, so as to watch for Moriarty. Alas, the frontage of 30 Baker St is currently covered in scaffolding, and really does not warrant a photograph, and there is, insofar as we know, no extant photograph of J.L. Davenport.

There are few churches, in your intrepid reporter’s humble opinion, more ravishing than Comper’s masterpiece at Clarence Gate: St. Cyrpian. Betjeman’s description is straightforward enough, but one can almost hear the wonder in his voice as he writes the words “Altars, hangings, statues, light fittings, font cover and stained glass are all by Comper”. This part of London was once very down at heel, and not an especially nice place to be, and Fr. Gutch, sometime vicar of St. Saviour’s, Leeds, and curate of various well known parishes around London, not least St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge.

The church was scene, in the 1920s, to a famous series of photographs published by the Alcuin Clb, and entitled “Ceremonial Pictured in Photographs”, these were the best example of how Sarum ceremonial could be best applied to the Book of Common Prayer, 1662. The photographs were re-created in 2001, using the same vestments (lovingly restored by Watts & Co), and are an excellent set, which brings the whole scene to life beautifully, and you get a much better idea of the truly ravishing quality of the colour of the place.

The Doom at St. Cyprian

 

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