Egypt around London
By Debbie J Challis, on 23 October 2011
One of the occasional events that the Petrie Museum runs from April to October are lectures or walking talks exploring Ancient Egypt in London through Egyptianizing architecture and other monuments. Under the heading ‘Out and About with the Petrie Museum’ we have so far gone to Cleopatra’s Needle, looked at sphinxes in Crystal Palace Park, explored factories such as the Carreras Building in Mornington Crescent and the Hoover Factory in Perivale, as well as Kensal Green and West Norwood Cemeteries, and more besides. These tours are given by an expert in Egyptianizing architecture Cathie Bryan and on occasion, when about the Victorian period, by myself.
This summer Cathie proposed going to the west of London and exploring Egypt in Richmond. My colleague at the Museum of Richmond, Phillippa Heath, agreed to do a joint event as part of National Archaeology Week on 16 July 2010. Cathie’s programme was as ever ambitious and involved the various obelisks in Richmond and Richmond Park, a factory in St Margarets, and Twickenham Bridge. In May, Phillippa and myself joined Cathie for a reccie to check timings and so we could publicise the event properly.
The real surprise and architectural star was the Art Deco style Twickenham Bridge (Grade II listed), which had not been before listed as belonging to the Egyptian Revival. It dates to 1928-33 and the elements and architectural motifs suggest Egyptian elements, as Cathie explained.The Deco wings on the joints of the bridge and the mini step pyramids at the base of each lamp combined with the hieroglyphic detail of the railings all make for an understated and overlooked piece of Egyptianizing Deco architecture. (If you want to find out more on this, Cathie’s article is in Ancient Egypt Magazine October/November 2011).
On the day we did the reccie it was gloriously sunny but unfortunately on 16 July it rained so much that at the end I felt that I had been standing under a hose for two hours. However, it was worth the weather to also visit the Kilmorey Mausoleum which was built in the early 1850s by the Earl of Kilmorey for his mistress, Priscilla Hoste. The mausoleum was designed in Egyptian style by the architect H.E. Kendall and first erected in Brompton Cemetery before coming to Twickenham. It is absolutely amazing – for me at least, it combined my interest in tombs with the 19thC reception of the ancient world. Do check the website out and visit if you can. They also have a great wildlife garden.
If you do visit you can finish your tour of Egypt in London at the suitably named Turk’s Head Tavern over St Margaret’s roundabout., given the Tuirk’s / Ottomans occupied Egypt for several 100 years. Look out for the ‘oriental’ heads embedded in the wall.