Monthly Archives: April 2014

We were walking through Digbeth the other day, and I spotted a huge poster out the corner of my eye. Turned out it was advertising the first date of the ‘Bill Drummond World Tour’ – his 25 Paintings.


We popped inside – it was brilliant.

Drummond creates art through activities – what he calls ‘sculptures’.

Each of the 25 paintings created advertise or signify one of the activities.


Some of the activities include knitting…




and balancing.

House of Cards.002

They’re all beautifully random.

I particularly like the Soup Line – if your house sits on the Soup Line, Drummond will come and make a vat of soup for you.


Drummond has also been twinning towns – this one was hilarious:


The 25 paintings are changed are repainted everytime an activity finishes and a new one is started.

Each activity has a notice – there’s a huge wall of them on display – but Drummond has been through over 600 so far.


Whilst the exhibition may be small, it continually evolves from one week to the next – so you’ll see different things and over the next 11 years he’ll amass a huge amount of work.


The collection is housed within Avenue House, a mansion in Finchley that ‘Inky’ Stephens bequeathed to the council for the enjoyment of the public.

It’s a small exhibition, devoted entirely to Stephens Ink.

The ink was invented by Dr Henry Stephens.


He was apprenticed to Mr John Winkfield in 1816, and after 5 years was awarded his certificate to practise medicine.

Whilst training, a fellow student was poet John Keats. He also got to know Charles Dickens and Charles Lamb during his studies.

In the basement of his house, he experimented with methods for developing his own ink. He later manufactured and sold it – patenting his processes and associated products.

Henry Charles Stephens, son of Dr Stephens, expanded the Stephens Ink Company into international renown. He was affectionately known as ‘Inky’ Stephens.

Inky followed in his father’s footsteps with regards to product development, forever tinkering with microscopes and chemicals in his laboratory, in an attempt to improve the ink products.


Here’s a copy of his book, used to record those experiments.

Almost every great person we’ve learned about on the museum challenge this year has kept, and obsessively used a notebook or lab-book.


One formula he created for black ink (c. 1910) included 1lb of crushed galls in 12 pints of soft water, heated to boiling, before adding 8oz green vitriol and bottling. The bottle was then shaken daily for several weeks before 6oz of gum was added, it was strained and then rebottled. Hard work to produce!

Early advertising for the Stephens’ Company products included bus tickets, letter openers and a rather flash press advert featuring a young Des O’Connor.


How’s this for an early example of ‘content’ from a manufacturer too?


There were lots and lots of old product examples.


Including this one from 1870!


I love how this bottle shape has been created with the user in mind, not the manufacturing process. Beautiful.


And lots of lovely pen nibs too.


A small, but beautifully formed exhibition.


#1. Inky Stephens published books on a wide-range of subjects, including Parochial Self-Government.

#2. Owing to a shortage of new ink bottles in occupied France during WWII, the Stephens’ Company in Paris had to resort to selling ink in wine bottles.

#3. Dr Stephens and John Keats shared lodgings in Poultry whilst they were studying.

#4. The earliest fountain pen was patented by the Waterman company in 1884 in New York.

#5. In Europe, the quill was the writing instrument of choice for over 1000 years.

I loved this visit.










Not so much a museum, as a working office, a home and a court of justice.

Mansion House is the residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

The Mayor acts as a diplomat for the city – promoting its businesses and helping to improve the welfare of its residents.

It may sound like quite a nice life – but we were informed it’s a busy one.

The Mayor regularly has over 12 engagements a day, and almost every meal is a working one – a working breakfast followed by a working lunch followed by a working dinner. She never gets to just kick back, put on a film and eat cheese. How sad.

In the entrance hall sits an original porter’s chair – it’s beautiful, almost regal.


We were lucky enough to visit on the day of the Mayor’s Easter Banquet.


The thrones were laid out for the greeting ceremony. Later that evening, the Lord Mayor, the Mayor’s two sheriffs, and all of their partners would have sat here and greeted the banquet guests. Quite a daunting affair.


In the Egyptian Hall, the staff were busy preparing the tables for the banquet.


On the table, you can see the Guild’s Loving Cups. The Ceremony of the Loving Cup is said to go back to Saxon times, before the Norman conquest of 1066. The ceremony is fairly complicated, and involves ‘drinking to your neighbour’, who ensures you aren’t stabbed in the back (literally) whilst drinking.


We also got to see the Mayor’s Mace and Sword up close – which was pretty awesome.


But perhaps the best thing was the gents – look how great that sign is!



#1. The porter’s chair in the entrance hall has a drawer below the seat. In the past the drawer held hot coals to warm the porter’s bottom.

#2. The Queen walked through the same entrance that we did at her Diamond Jubilee a few years ago.

#3. The chandeliers are the weight of nearly 3 average men.

#4. The house is closed for the entire month of August and over 300 litres of paint are used in its renovation.

#5. In one of the stained glass windows, you can see the scene of the Peasant Revolt, in which the leader Tyler is stabbed by the Lord Mayor, who believed he was planning to kill the King.

The Brunel Museum is located in Brunel’s engine house in Rotherhithe.


It’s a bit ramshackle – there’s a piano and watering cans on the lower deck – but it’s sort of lovely because of that.

It feels a bit like someone was so passionate about Brunel, they made a museum in their shed. That’s not a bad thing – the passion really does show through.


The tunnelling technique used for the Thames Tunnel was actually invented by Marc Isambard Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s father.

In the early 19th century, the Thames was as congested as the city’s roads are today. At any time, there were up to 3000 large merchant ships and thousands of small boats on the water. Any bridges were horrendously crowded, and the Thames waterman used this to their advantage, charging huge sums of money to ferry people from one side of the river to the other.

Engineers struggled to build bridges downriver that were high enough for merchant ships to travel beneath. Brunel suggested ‘a bridge underground’ – developing plans for a tunnel beneath the Thames.

The wet earth of the Thames riverbed collapses easily, making tunnelling impossible. Marc Brunel developed a tunnel shield, that held the earth in place whilst workmen build brick tunnel walls beneath.


Isambard Kingdom Brunel was raised by his father to be an engineer. His education included several years at the prestigious Henri Quatre college in Paris and an apprenticeship with the world famous watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet. Only a few months into the project, and at only 19 years old, Isambard took on the role of chief engineer at the tunnel site.

The project moved at a slow pace. In optimal conditions, the tunnel advanced about 7 feet a week. This dropped to less than a foot a month in poor conditions.

The tunnel took 18 years to complete – costing Marc Brunel his wealth and his health.

Once completed, the tunnel became a huge visitor attraction, and many guidebooks were published in different languages – explaining how it was built and offering detailed illustrations for interested guests.


It was custom in the 19th century to celebrate a great achievement by producing a set of special medals. The tunnel was no exception and a commemorative set of medals were on display in the museum.


The tunnel shafts were painted with famous scenes from around the world to amuse and educate pedestrians on their long climb.

Today, the tunnel is used by Transport for London – making in the oldest section of tunnel in the oldest underground system in the world.


#1. The Thames Tunnel was dubbed ‘The Great Bore’ by The Times.

#2. At the time of the Thames Tunnel, Marc Brunel already claimed several famous inventions, including a boot-making machine, circular saws, an early sewing machine, and a device for copying out letters.

#3. All digging for the Thames Tunnel was done by hand, as there were no power tools.

#4. The tunnel was referred to as the eighth wonder of the world by governments around the world.

#5. Isambard lived on the site of the Cabinet War Rooms, holding an office next door.


Location: The flat
Date: 02.04.14

Name: New World IPA
Brewery: Northern Monk Brew Co
ABV: 6.2%

Taste: 3.5
Mouthfeel: 3
Finish: 3.5
Branding: 3.5

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Location: The flat
Date: 05.04.14

Name: Windermere Pale
Brewery: Hawkshead Brewery
ABV: 4.0%

Taste: 4.5
Mouthfeel: 4.5
Finish: 5
Branding: 2.5

photo (11)

Location: The flat
Date: 09.04.14

Name: Long Blonde
Brewery: Long Man Brewery
ABV: 4.1%

Taste: 4
Mouthfeel: 4
Finish: 4
Branding: 1.5

photo (12)

Location: The flat
Date: 09.04.14

Name: Notting Hill Red
Brewery: Moncada Brewery
ABV: 6.0%

Taste: 3
Mouthfeel: 3.5
Finish: 3
Branding: 3.5

photo (13)

Location: The Swan, Coombe Hill
Date: 12.04.14

Name: Lion
Brewery: Hook Norton Brewery
ABV: 4.0%

Taste: 2.5
Mouthfeel: 4
Finish: 4
Branding: 4.5

photo     image

Location: The Swan, Coombe Hill
Date: 12.04.14

Name: First Light
Brewery: Hook Norton Brewery
ABV: 4.3%

Taste: 3.5
Mouthfeel: 4
Finish: 3
Branding: 2.5

image_2      image_3

Location: The Wenlock Arms, Old Street
Date: 13.04.14

Name: Summer Meltdown
Brewery: Dark Star Brewing Co.
ABV: 4.8%

Taste: 3
Mouthfeel: 3
Finish: 3
Branding: 3

image_1      image

Location: The Mayflower, Rotherhithe
Date: 15.04.14

Name: Scurvy Bitter
Brewery: Greene King House Ale
ABV: 3.9%

Taste: 3.5
Mouthfeel: 3
Finish: 2.5
Branding: 1

photo    image


One more to go…