Paintings of Amersham by Charles Paget Wade

When I was starting to get deeper into my research of Charles Paget Wade for my book on his life at Hampstead Garden Suburb, I quickly realised one thing: Wade didn’t keep a diary. Not everyone does. But it’s always a disappointment – a tiny one, anyway – to find out that someone I’m researching didn’t keep a diary.

With a diary to use in collaboration with other forms of biographical research, so much more can be gleaned about a person. Without a diary, letters often fill in the gaps, and this is true for Wade, and it’s a big part of why I went to Gloucester Archives (although the majority of the holdings are letters to Wade, not from him).

Wade did write memoirs in later life, which have been hugely helpful in discovering more about the enigmatic man himself. But retrospective recollections can often be misleading, so first-hand documents are always helpful. With Wade, we have a number of these, including receipts for a great many of the shopping trips he went on, picking up antiques around the country. Using these, I’ve been able to piece together journeys and timelines.

But perhaps the most helpful of these records have been Wade’s own drawings, paintings and illustrations. As a draughtsman, Wade very diligently noted the date on his work, usually with the year, and quite often with the date or even the location. Naturally some were done on-site and others later, from memory. But these records go a long way to filling in other blanks in his movements.

Wade’s architectural work was often exquisitely detailed, while his illustrations – a number of which were used for a children’s novel – are more artful and fantastical. Alongside these he also did paintings – some of real locations, and others of imaginary worlds.

Capture

Thanks to the National Trust’s staggering Collections database I was thrilled to discover that Wade had painted several scenes at the south Buckinghamshire market town of Amersham – my home town.

Whilst living at Hampstead Garden Suburb (1907-1919), Wade went on a number of travels and tours around England, visiting quaint villages, churches and pubs, as much to trawl the antiques shops as to use the vernacular architecture as inspiration for his own works, both built and imagined.

At Amersham, Wade’s eye was clearly drawn to the 17th century town hall as well as the Crown hotel opposite, one of a number of historic coaching inns that line the high street.

Having discovered that Wade had painted some scenes centring on these buildings, I was pleased to have the opportunity this weekend to try and photograph them from roughly the same perspective. Thankfully, Amersham’s old town has changed very little since Wade visited in 1907-8 and, despite my rough positioning, it’s not hard to see the same scenes that Wade found compelling enough to paint.

The paintings

The Crown

Crown Inn, Amershamby Charles Paget Wade (Shortlands, Bromley, Kent 1883 - Evesham, Worcestershire 1956)
Crown Inn, Amersham. August 15 1909. With TA Lloyd
Snowshill Manor © National Trust
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Rear of The Crown Inn, Amersham, 19 August 2017

Market Hall

Market Hall, Amershamby Charles Paget Wade (Shortlands, Bromley, Kent 1883 - Evesham, Worcestershire 1956)
Market Hall, Amersham. October 5 Sunday 1908 with A H Mottram
Snowshill Manor © National Trust
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Market Hall, Amersham, 19 August 2017

Church Street

View of Amersham with Clock Turret of Market Hall by Charles Paget Wade (Shortlands, Bromley, Kent 1883 - Evesham, Worcestershire 1956)
Aug 15.09, Amersham with T.A.L [T. A. Lloyd]
Snowshill Manor © National Trust
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Market Hall and The Crown from Church Street, 19 August 2017

Market Hall

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The Little Sweet Shop, C Wade Inv August 1909
Snowshill Manor © National Trust
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Market Hall water pump, High Street, Amersham, 19 August 2017
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100 days of buildings – preamble

This project was ‘meant’ to start on Monday, 6 April. But it’s starting on Wednesday, 8 April, post-dated to Monday – so I can catch up.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing blog posts, whatever they are, so I thought a little 100 days type project would be a good idea.

This particular 100 days project comes to you care of http://thegreatdiscontent.com/100days, but the direct inspiration to me was, as it so often is, from Christine Herrin. Thanks, Christine.


100 days of buildings – shouldn’t be too hard; I moved to London six months ago, and my love of architecture has been rekindled. It’s hard not to be inspired, surprised and often delighted by the sight of so much history and so much variety all around you. It’s also helpful that I work in estate management/architectural conservation.

When I lived in Manchester, I ran a daily photo blog which often became more of an architectural photography blog. I’d snap a photo, maybe tweak it a little (to work with, or against, Manchester’s own weather patterns), then post it with a brief note as to the building’s design and construction, if I could. This information was usually cribbed from Pevsner.

And so I see that happening with this project. I hope you’ll join me over the next few months.

Los Angeles

Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) and Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110) Interchange, downtown Los Angeles, construction completed 1959. Photograph by Dave Packwood, 1962, 10 x 8 1/8 in. (25.4 x 20.6 cm). Automobile Club of Southern California Archives
Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) and Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110) Interchange, downtown Los Angeles, construction completed 1959. Photograph by Dave Packwood, 1962, 10 x 8 1/8 in. (25.4 x 20.6 cm). Automobile Club of Southern California Archives

I think about California, and about Los Angeles, quite a lot.

It’s not such a weirdly niche topic that I should be surprised by the way it keeps coming up, but I find myself thinking about, reading about, or listening to details of life there throughout its history all the time.

LA seems to me to be quite an ugly, dirty city. But as I find myself slowly learning more and more about what the metropolis contains – and what it has created – I find myself more and more fascinated by it in all its murk and seemingly uninhabitable gloom.

Despite my preconceptions, I’m often intrigued by depictions of life in the city, including this one by Louis Theroux, and insights into life there from Mike Ambs and others.

My only first-hand experience of the city is of flying low over its grid systems, freeways and swimming pools, and a handful of hours here and there spent in the air-conditioned areas of LAX. Even then, the only memories I have are of being scrutinised by gun-toting officials or stepping just outside for a glimpse of the spidery-looking Theme Building bathed in oppressive heat.

The latest references to pop up include an old episode of Radio 4’s wonderful In Our Time, which is my current sleepy-time podcast of choice. In the second of a two-part discussion of ‘the city‘, the panel explains how LA’s use of the car exploded in the early to mid-20th century, leading to the decline and decay of its public transport networks, and the building of the city’s freeways, as shown above.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, which was also made into a rather great film starring Colin Firth. Isherwood describes 1960s LA through the eyes of George, an English lecturer working in the city:

No sooner have you turned off the freeway on to San Tomas Avenue than you are back in the tacky sleepy slowpoke Los Angeles of the thirties, still convalescent from the depression, with no money to spare for fresh coats of paint. And how charming it is!

And later:

The air has a tang of smog; called eye-irritation in blandese. The mountains of the San Gabriel Range – which still give San Tomas State something of the glamour of a college high on a plateau of the Andes, on the few days you can see them properly – are hidden today as usual in the sick yellow fumes which arise from the metropolitan mess below.

Finally, one of my favourite insights into the bits of LA architecture that often go unseen comes via this photo blog from Moby (yes, that Moby), which is well worth a look: http://mobylosangelesarchitecture.com/