Saturday, 22 June 2013

Lalit Hotel, Tooley Street SE1

This neo-Baroque pile was built as St Olave's Grammar School by the architect E. W. Mountford in 1894. The school moved to Orpington in the 1960s and the building was used by various educational institutions before finally being sold off as a boutique hotel.
The facade has three big segmental pediments featuring allegorical reliefs. There seems to be no direct record of the sculptor responsible, but Public Sculpture of South London attributes them to Paul Montford, on the basis that he carved a chimneypiece in the Governors' Room. Montford was one of Mountford's regulars, having been employed on that architect's Town Hall and Polytechnic buildings in Battersea as well as his Northampton Institute (now City University).
The central pediment shows two schoolboys reclining, one studying and the other holding a cricket bat. The dates refer to the date of letters patent for the school, which had been funded by a bequest of £8 a year in the will of a Southwark brewer called Henry Leeke, and the rebuilding.
The pediment on the left celebrates the arts, with a bust of Homer in the middle supported by the masks of comedy and tragedy. Poetry plucks her lyre and History records an event. Various bits of classical junk lie at their feet including a helmet and a winged globe.
Science features in the pediment on the left. A bust of Newton is flanked by Science, an Egyptian holding a dagger and a snake (I hope he isn't considering a dissection), and Philosophy, holding Newton's apple.
Various symbols of wisdom are scattered around, including an owl, a snake eating its own tail and a classical lamp.

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