Friday, 17 January 2014

Jacob the Circle Dray Horse

I work at the end of Tower Bridge, on the north bank of the Thames. That's not saying I raise the bridge or anything but that's the start point for these lunchtime excursions.

If you cross Tower Bridge to the south side you reach an area known as Horselydown, and possibly the first building you see is the old Courage Anchor Brewery on the left hand side. No longer in use, for a long long time, this and the other dockside warehouses have been redeveloped into quite a chic and well-heeled maze of streets and alleyways featuring boutique shops and specialist food outlets.

It was whilst wandering around these streets that I stumbled on the statue of Jacob the Circle Dray Horse one day and decided to make revisit him as my first lunchtime sight.

Jacob stands on a tiny little traffic island in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Street and celebrates, according to the inscription, the famous brewery dray horses which used to deliver beer all around London. I'm assuming dray horses weren't just used by the brewery at this time but probably by the whole dockland industry, but quite why Jacob and his fellows need commemorating there's unfortunately fewer details.

The reason I like the statue so much is firstly it's completely unexpected, you literally walk down a normal boring grey concrete street and there in the middle of the road is a huge lump of bronze horse. And it is a big statue, make no mistakes about that! Secondly it one of those statues that does exactly what it says on the tin. You want a statue of a dray horse? Here you are, a statue of a dray horse. It's like when you try to draw something at school, let's say a horse, and it turns out crap but the teacher still says, "ah, but you've captured the essence of the horse in your drawing" as if that should make it ok. "But miss, it looks like a three legged hippo-sheep on crack" you wail, realising perhaps for the first time you're going to have to work for a living and no be able to sketch tourists for cash.

Jacob is set off rather nicely by the apartments that surround him and the blue tiles they've used to clad the buildings. My one complaint is the unnecessary traffic sign which no doubt was sanctioned by some council busybody.

If you want to visit Jacob may I suggest that your route takes you down Maguire Street where you'll pass Thames Water's Shad Thames Pumping Station. I have a strange liking for water stations as they are normally nice symmetrical brick buildings with impressive windows and doors. I would like to live in one, and you can quote me on that. This particular pumping station meets all those criteria and even has the original "London County Council" inscription running along the top.

You can continue down Maguire Street, past the Design Museum to the banks of the Thames where you get a very impressive view of the London skyline, and one that is much less seen by the regular tourists.

There's been some effort to "art-up" this promenade with some massive chain links and what looks to be a decommissioned engine (?) but give me a huge lump of dray horse over that pap any day!

Links (Geddit? Links? See what I did there?):

London Remembers
Tired of London Tired of Life
Secret London

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