London’s Strange Cherubs
Not all faces that adorn buildings are angelic. Quite often, you’ll look up at some detail that caught your eye, only to be stared down by an unusual or unappealing baby. Here’s my collection of London’s strange cherubs and putti*.
The Guilty One
Marking the point where the Great Fire of London stopped in the golden boy of Pye Corner.
Representing the sin of gluttony, our chubby golden friend seems to embody all the blame for the fire, because when it was eventually agreed the fire wasn’t the fault of Catholics, it was blamed on Londoners’ inherent sinful nature.
Below the statue is the inscription; “The boy at Pye-Corner was erected to commemorate the staying of the Great Fire, which beginning at Pudding Lane was ascribed to the sin of gluttony when not attributed to the Papist as on the Monument and the boy was made prodigiously fat to enforce the moral.“ And he looks pretty guilty too.
The Weathered Ones*
Look up at Ludgate Circus and you’re in for a shock.
Looming over the traffic lights – looking like Doctor Who baddies – are these decorations on Ludgate House.
Built 1872-3 and originally a Thomas Cook branch, the angels once held a globe shape, which explains their odd positioning.
Picture shared by @LudgateLarry on Twitter and unfortunately we don’t know the source.
It also accounts for globe-trotting and map-reading cherubs seen on lower reliefs;
*update! The cherubs have had a glorious golden makeover and now gleam from their top perch!
The Tech-savvy Ones
Two Temple Place is one of London’s best interiors, available to visit for free half the year, but it also boasts the most curious cherubs in London.
Under the designs of William Waldorf Astor (richest man in his day and a fan of eccentricities) he asked the decorations outside to reflect the latest 19th century technological advances.
So that’s why you have two cherubs on the telephone! See the full post here for more pictures.
The Chatty Ones
On a similar theme, there’s a whole office load of chatty cherubs on Telephone House.
Designed by A N Bromley 1898-1902 there are no less that 21 bays of busy cherubs on Temple Avenue.
Telephone House was the headquarters of the National Telephone Company, founded in 1881 to introduce telephone systems to Scotland, the Midlands and Ireland. Within a few years it had massively expanded, needing this huge head office and it was here until 1912 when the Post Office took it over and the industry was nationalised.
The Ones Ready For War
Look up on Aldwych and you’ll see that these cherubs means business.
Now owned by LSE, Clement House was designed by JJ Burnet and the sculptor was Alfred Hodges. Completed in 1911, 99 Aldwych was built for General Accident Insurance, so perhaps these figures were meant to look reassuringly strong and brave?!
The Busy Bodies
This frieze is pretty high up, on a parallel back street of Oxford Street (Hollen Street to be precise) and – sadly – I only had my iPhone. However, I wanted to include them because the gorgeous terracotta sculptures show a busy bunch of cherubs on the former Novello Printing Works (1898).
Arranged in a line, they print sheet music, sit around a meeting table and seemingly load up bundles on boats. Today this part of Soho looks fairly industrial so It’s nice to have this little reminder of the Victorian music producer.
There’s also two more friezes further along which are a little clearer, the first with a more obvious printer…
and the second comprising of a group all gathered around for a sing-song!
The Emotional Ones
The memorial fountain of Augustus Harris, the 19th century actor and impressario, can be found outside Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Rebuilt 1811-12 by Benjamin Dean Wyatt, like most theatre-related sculptures it bears the standard greek tragedy and comedy masks. But what I like about this is that the two cherubs reflect their designated mood!
The Well Endowed One
This last one is just an aside. When strolling down High Holborn I often admire Alfred Waterhouse’s Prudential Assurance Building (1885-1901).
Now known as Holborn Bars but used to be the HQ of the insurance and financial company. There’s no reason why the cherubs that make up the decoration seem to warrant such voluptuous buttocks or enlarged private parts, but perhaps I’m just seeing things! Anyway I thought I’d include them in case anyone else had looked up and wondered!
*’Putti’ is a representation of a naked child, commonly used in Renaissance Art and Architecture and usually a putti is when the whole body is shown and a cherub is in fact a face with wings. Most of these examples should technically be classed as putti, but for this post I’ve used ‘cherub’ as a catch-all term.
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