Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sketching at Seven Dials

Last Friday I was on a sketching trip to Seven Dials near Covent Garden.

It's a curious place. Initially you think of as being the place where there's a road junction of seven roads - with a great big Sundial Pillar (it has six sundials) in the centre. That's now a place where people like to take time out, and - as is the way of the world these days - check out their messages and text their friends on their iphones and mobiles! However Seven Dials is also a thriving community within central London - of which more below.

Networking at Seven Dials
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
in panoramic sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This sketch was actually done in my panoramic sketchbook and the pillar continues up the page. However I quite liked this crop when I did the scan so that's what you can see!

I'm currently mulling over making this into a proper drawing for an exhibition next year.

About Seven Dials

Seven Dials - the area around the junction - was once a notorious place. I first came across it in Agatha Christie's novel The Seven Dials Mystery (1929).

Seven Dials was orginally created by Thomas Neale MP and was planned as a fairly up-market development. The design of the Seven Dials development - the seven roads fanning out from the central pillar was ingenious and addressed the nature of the site layout and the financial commitments which went with it. As a result there are several passages and small court yards in the surrounding streets.

Initially the residents were respectable, if not aristocratic, comprising of gentlemen, lawyers and prosperous tradesmen. However after Neale disposed of his finanical interest in the development in 1695, the rest of it was carried out by various builders over the next 15 years. They sub-divided the houses which in turn led to a very different sort of inhabitant from that originally planned!
by the middle of the 18th century, the area had 'declined' to the extent that 39 night-watchmen were needed to keep the peace. By the early 19th century the area became famous, together with St. Giles to the north, as the most notorious rookery (slum) in London.
The Seven Dials Trust
Map of the present day Seven Dials
available to download

Latterly a lot of money has been spent on regenerating the area. It became designated as an Outstanding Conservation Area (only 36 existed out of 6,000 in the UK) and then gained Housing Action Area status in 1977. This brought back into use every vacant residential property and also encouraged major private housing schemes and new businesses.

The replacement sundial column seen today was constructed in 1988 and 1989, to the original design.

Candy Cakes, 36 Monmouth Street
- just off Seven Dials

It's now a sustainable community, has good shops and is a very trendy area!


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