Archive for the ‘Greenwich Sculptures’ Category

Anchor Iron Wharf

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m confronted by a large amount of text on a sculpture I diligently read it all. It just doesn’t make it to my brain.

The giant anchor at Anchor Iron Wharf is a perfect example of what I mean. I stand there, read it, and ten seconds later it’s completely left my mind. I couldn’t tell you a thing it says.

So today, I thought I’d do a very simple thing. Transcribe it here. Chances are it won’t go in this way either – but it might just work. I’ve added some punctuation to make it read a bit better…

“In 964 King Edgar granted this land to the abbey of St Peters in Ghent, Flanders. Henry V re-posessed it in 1414. After the English Civil War Charles II granted the land to Sir William Boreman in 1676. He was clerk to the board of Green Cloth and involved with the design of Greenwich Park. He also founded Green Coat School. In 1695 his widow sold the estate of Old Court Manor to Sir John Morden. He had already built Morden College in 1695 to accommodate merchants who had lost their estates by accidents and perils of the seas. In 1705 Sir Ambrose Crowley, an iron-maker, moved to a riverside mansion which he renamed Crowley House and built Crowley’s Wharf. In 1953 Charles Robinson moved his premises to what became Anchor Iron and Crowley’s Wharf. The principal cargoes were scrap iron, lead ingots, metal and glass.”

Phew. Now I know why that doesn’t go in. There’s just too much information in too little space. In trying to edify the nation, the designers of this sculpture have just managed to do my spectral head in.

It seems a futile attempt. Either people are interested – and they go off and find out stuff – or they just use it as somewhere pleasant to get a good view of the river, or they’re not – and are happy to use it to lean against while they enjoy a fag outside the Cutty Sark.

And surely great chunks of dense text aren’t going to interest anyone on a nice riverside walk?

The information given is sound enough but where’s the interest? The excitement? The joy of art for art’s sake? Everything seems to have to have an educational purpose these days.

I would have rather had the nice anchor with a tiny bit of info and trust that people who are interested will follow it up. Those that aren’t won’t read an essay anyway. In fact, given the length of this post, I probably lost them in the first paragraph. And that’s ok.

Thing is, there are clues to the area’s history all around if you look. Take the wall of the Cutty Sark. I don’t have a close-up of this so the pic below is small, but you can just make out on the side, the stamp of Morden College, which shows that it owned the land.

You’ll see this sign all over Greenwich – it’s a good thing to get bored children to look out for on walks:

As for the wharves – well – a little trot around the curve in the river (with a slightly larger than is desireable detour just now) will show you wharves still at work. And William Boreman? Well he also seems to be everywhere. From planting those chestnuts to tending the Dwarf Orchard, to setting up schools – a seriously Greenwichian Greenwichian. More about him on another day very soon…

And yes, I do know that the picture at the top includes a ghostly shadow. Enjoy…