Splendid, large, mostly 14th century.
Must be really, really annoying to have worked your way up to the position of Admiral, sailed all over the Med and the Caribbean, supported both sides in the Civil War and somehow got away with it, fought the Dutch and even killed the commander of their fleet, become a member of parliament, been knighted, featured in Pepys's diary, and then after all that tourists only come and photograph your grave because you have the same name as your kid who got famous in America.
A colleague at work was telling me that her father attended a posh boarding school when he was a boy and that at this school it was a strict rule that all pupils had their full initials stencilled onto their PE kit bag in big letters. His name was Steven Howard Ian Thompson.
A young doctor at work was telling me she tried palying golf once but about halfway through her ball somehow landed right on the head of a female duck that just happened, at that very second, to be leading her ducklings across the fairway, killing her instantly.
I found this photo, with the stamp of photographer J.Cecil Gould (of Weybridge) on the back, in the flea market in Brighton and, Googling around, found the same pair of Benin bronze leopards in a Royal Academy exhibition two years ago. They are now back in the national museum in Nigera. The altar piece in the centre is in The Fowler Museum in L.A. and the central plaque is in the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. They are Benin artefacts originally looted during the 1897 Benin expedition. It was suggested this might be the home of collector W.D. Webster, who lived at 24 Palace Road in Streatham, London, which has since been demolished, but more likely is the house of George W. Neville, who lived at Wey Lea, Weybridge (see recent photo below). J. Cecil Gould was also based in Weybridge, so that provides a tantalising link. Neville's collection was sold off in 1930 after his death and a specialist at the British Museum believes that the leopards, the two plaques and masks on the fire hood are described in the catalogue of this sale. George Neville accompanied the Benin expedition and later a Captain Shelford wrote about him returning with a remarkable collection of curiosities; ‘They are in his house to this day, and include ivory tusks, carved and plain, two magnificent bronze leopards’. I can see this photo is going to be entertaining me for months....
Thanks to Susan Kloman, Hermione Waterfield, Tim Teuten, David Noden and Bruno Claessens for taking an interest in this.
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The venue. Renamed after its current sponsor but I still think of it as the Millennium Dome. I last visited it when it was a shiny new rather eccentric white elephant of a previous government. It's faded a bit now, like me, and its neo-modernist forms are almost weather-beaten enough to pass as actual decayed 1960s modernism. There is a newer cable car over the Thames next to it, which has also proved a commercial white elephant. I couldn't resist it, of course. So, with a few hours to spare I crossed over industrial wastelands and the old Golden Syrup factory to what used to be docklands and is now a sterile, expensive housing estate, mostly devoid of people. It made me feel sad. An experiment in wealth attraction that has failed to attract anything other than wealth. I rode back over to the Dome in search of human life and found it heaving with 20,000 fellow Monty Python fans queuing for food and beer, and giant neo-Victorian Terry Gilliam sets. Yes! Then it began.....
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