Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cinematic Necropolis: Egypt in NE London

Yesterday I attended a walk organised by the Petrie Museum entitled 'Cinematic Necropolis', intended to explore Egyptianising monuments in North-East London. Being a newcomer to the city, and indeed to the Islington area, this seemed the perfect opportunity to combine local sightseeing with an interest in Egyptian-style architecture. Despite the threat of rain the group gradually assembled at the Carlton Cinema on Essex Road, Islington, which was the first stop on the walk.

This Grade II-listed building was designed by George Coles in 1930 in the Egyptian style which was particularly fashionable at the time as Egyptomania gripped the world. An interesting talk was given by Cathie Bryan on Egyptian temple architecture and how different elements of the ancient temples were combined to form the unique Carlton Cinema building, particularly the illusion of perspective through the use of different-sized columns to suggest that the viewer is actually looking through the 'temple pylon' to the courtyard beyond. Cathie's presentation of comparable temple-style buildings in both the UK and the USA was useful for placing the Carlton in the context of contemporary architectural design. The building was unfortunately closed to the public in 2007 after its reuse as a Bingo hall so we were unable to gain access to the interior, but from archive photos it is believed to have had a Neoclassical theme.

The front gates of Abney Park Cemetery
From the Carlton the group hopped onto a bus towards Abney Park Cemetery - just as the rain started! - where we arrived at the rear gates of the cemetery about 15 minutes later. Once again Cathie presented the history of the cemetery to the group, and pointed out significant headstones such as that of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the cemetery also functioned as a nature reserve and arboretum, which seems to make Abney Park Cemetery more a place of life rather than death. 

But it was the front gates of Abney Park which the group had come to admire, which we reached just in time as the cemetery was being closed due to the high winds and the threat of falling branches. The gates were designed in 1840 by Prof. William Hosking and Joseph Bonomi Jr. in the Egyptian style, complete with a hieroglyphic inscription which states 'Abode of the Mortal Part of Man'. The elaborate column capitals and winged sundisc motifs, combined with the flower-bud design on the cast-iron gates, makes the cemetery frontage unmistakeably Egyptian.

A hieroglyphic inscription on the Abney Park gateway
One of Abney Park's Egyptianising columns
I highly recommend a visit to either of these monuments to anyone with an interest in Egyptianising architecture, and to keep up with the Petrie Museum Events page for similar events in the future. Many thanks to Debbie Challis, Jan Picton and Cathie Bryan for organising a great day out!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds fun! Only inaccuracy is that I wasn't involved in organising it in any way! :) Credit goes to Cathie for her inexhaustible knowledge of Egyptomania and Debbie for the logistics.


Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

[This Blog is best viewed in Mozilla Firefox]

Total Pageviews