Taking a Walk Patrick Barkham
Precious few 19th-century pubs survive intact; the Princess Louise in London’s High Holborn has been spot-on sympathetically revived, including its perfectly restored, grey, marbled urinals. The Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast, with its wildly wonderful decoration – with mahogany and cut-glass booths – has continuously reigned supreme throughout the Troubles.
Time, though, is running frighteningly short for all too many of these precious buildings, which so robustly embody the architectural and social life of Victorian Britain. Only very recently a humdinger of such an establishment, the Princess Victoria in London’s Uxbridge Road, was ‘fully restored to its former glory’ with lamentably, inaccurately smart and sterile results.
Rarest of all the Philharmonic’s survivals are the red ‘marble’ urinals. The process of marbling by the potters was often employed, and always in the same way. The patterns were transfer-printed on to the biscuit (fired but unglazed pottery) by ladies in white gloves plying linen pads, and the ware was then passed through a ‘harding-on’ kiln before glazing. These smooth, ‘marble’ beauties, produced by Thomas Twyford, could also be ordered in ‘sage green’, ‘rich brown’ and ‘silver grey’ as well as ‘St Anne’s marble’, which was black with white veins. ‘Rouge Royal’ was the handsomest of all.