Wednesday, 10 September 2008

41 Kingsway WC2

These magnificent merfolk with their tails tying themselves in knots and the strange fish (known in the merfolk language as 'lunch') are over the door of the Leeds Building Society in Kingsway. The 1909 design is by the building's architects Gibson, Skipwith & Gordon and they were carved by Gilbert Seale in Camberwell.
Of course, they are far too much fun for a building society. The shop was originally designed (I think) as a stationery shop called The Pen Corner, owned by L.G.Sloan Ltd who sold playing cards, board games and so on as well as pens and paper. Waterman pens were a speciality, and the building is still known as Waterman House. Are the merfolk a rebus, an architectural pun? Or was Mr Sloan keen on all things marine? Or was it all just a coincidence and they were carved for someone else entirely?

5 comments:

The Duke of Waltham said...

People very rarely recognise the "strange fish" for what they are: heraldic dolphins. And who can blame them? Ugly, ferocious cetaceans that bear nothing but a passing resemblance with the endearing and intelligent animals we are familiar with today.

As a general rule, depictions of animals in heraldry (and by extension, decorative elements on buildings) are stylised, accentuating specific elements that make them more easy to recognise. Most are sufficiently close to the original specimens, but in some cases, like dolphins and antelopes, they have diverged to the extent that heralds must specify a "heraldic" animal versus the naturalistic depiction that is considered the norm now.

ChrisP said...
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ChrisP said...
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ChrisP said...
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ChrisP said...

Thanks for that, Yr Grace. I will look out for dolphins in future. And of course they are not fish, but still lunch.
As you clearly have an interest in heraldry, any idea whose badge the crowned eagle with sceptre is: http://ornamentalpassions.blogspot.com/2009/03/st-johns-horseferry-road-sw1.html
and updated at http://ornamentalpassions.blogspot.com/2009/04/heraldry-in-stone.html.