1974. Lord David Thomas Pitt of Hampstead (1913-1994) by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902-1984). [No.77]. Chairman of the LCC 1974-1975. In June 1975 it was proposed that a photographic portrait would be taken of the retiring Chairman of the Council, Lord Pitt, and the commissioning of a portrait in oils would be discontinued. However, no photograph was taken of Pitt and, fortunately, the Council changed its mind as ‘it felt in all the circumstance that it would be inappropriate for the collection of portraits of the Chairmen of the Council to be interrupted by one or two photographic portraits. Pitt chose to be painted by Halliday and a feel of £1.050 was sanctioned by the Committee. The resultant portrait is remarkable, almost a photographic likeness and the best Halliday in the collection. Pitt was to be created a Life Peer in 1975. He had been born in Grenada and was a doctor by profession. He was educated at St David’s R.C. School in Grenada and in the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School and Edinburgh University. He became the District Medical Officer in St Vincent 1938-1939 and Hospital Physician in San Fernando Hospital, Trinidad 1939-1941. He was made Deputy Mayor, San Fernando, 1946–47; President of the West Indian Nat. Party (Trinidad), 1943–47. Member Hackney on the LCC, 1961–64, GLC 1964–77; Member of the National for Commonwealth Immigrants, 1965–67; Chairman of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, 1965; Deputy Chairman, Community Relations Commn, 1968–77, Chairman. 1977; Member of the Standing Advisory Council on Race Relations, 1977–79; Vice-President of Shelter, 1990; President of the British Medical Association 1985–86. JP for London, 1966. Contested (Lab): Hampstead, 1959; Clapham (Wandsworth), 1970. Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, 1988. He gave his recreations as reading, watching television, watching cricket, listening to music, theatre.
1974. Silver Almond Dish, Mappin & Webb [No.293]. The dish is unmarked except for the GLC’s coat-of-arms. I presume it was ordered to commemorate Pitt’s year of office. Silver mark Mappin and Wen 1974.
1975. Dame Evelyn Denington of Stevenage (1907-1998) by William Edward Narraway (1915-1979). [No.78]. Chairman of the GLC 1975-1976. Narraway painted a straightforward pedestrian work of the last woman to occupy the Chair of the GLC. Denington was educated at Blackheath High School and Bedford College, London. She became a member of the St Pancras Borough Council 1945-1959 and was created a Life Peer in 1978. She had been created a Dame the year before her chairmanship of the GLC. Unusually for this period the presentation of her portrait for ‘safe keeping’ was reported to the Council on 23 November 1976. The report also records that Mr W. Narraway, who painted the portrait, thanked the Council for giving him the opportunity to do so. Narraway who painted and sculpted studied at the St Martin’s School of Art and exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. I found no commemorative piece of silver for Denington and I can only presume that it ‘walked’.
1976. Thomas Arthur Ponsonby, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (1930-1990) by Carlos Sancha (1920-2001 ) [no.79]. Chairman of the GLC 1976-1977. Ponsonby was educated at St Ronan’s School; Bryanston; Hertford Coll., Oxford. He became a Councillor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, 1956–65; an Alderman, 1964–74; then Leader of the Labour Group, 1968–73. He was a GLC: Alderman, 1970–77; Chairman of the Covent Garden Cttee, 1973–75. In the House of Lords he was Chairman: Local Government Training Board 1981–; London Tourist Board, 1976–80; Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Appointment of Magistrates for Inner London, 1987. Governor of the London School of Economics, 1970–. Patron: New Mozart Orchestra, 1978–88. He listed his recreations as eating, drinking and gardening. Sancha was as portrait painter, born in London to a Spanish father and an English mother. He attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts under Moynihan and the Byam Shaw School of Art. Like the Halliday of Pitt, the portrait is another realistic photographic-like work but remarkable for the fact that Ponsonby is shown standing on the Members’ Terrace at County Hall with part of its neo-classical façade on his right and the neo-Gothic Hoses of Parliament with Big Ben on his left. If the pose had been more relaxed the painting might have worked better, but as it is the dramatic clouds and the buildings turn to backcloth scenery and a potentially charming Batoni turns into a stiff Sancha. Ponsonby was the Leader of the Labour Group at County Hall from 1968-1973. Again no silver commission to be found to commemorate his term of office.
1977. GLC Election. The Conservatives returned to power under the Leadership of Sir Horace Walter Cutler OBE (1912-1997). He was Leader of the GLC from 1977 to 1981. He was noted for his showmanship and flair for publicity and was, in several ways, ‘a forerunner of Thatcherism’. What worse can be said of the man. He was a populist and a showman who delighted in stunts, and became a very flamboyant Leader. He was sceptical of the merits of the GLC, seeing it as “too big, too remote and too shadowy”, and set up an inquiry under Sir Frank Marshall into its powers and existence; Marshall found enough to justify the continuation of the GLC. But clearly the writing was on the wall and it only needed the foul mix of Mrs Thatcher and Ken Livingstone to seal its fate.
1977. Lawrence Arthur Bains (1920-2015) by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902-1984). [No.80]. Chairman of the LCC 1977-1978. This was to be Halliday’s eighth portrait for the Council. Bains was educated at Stationers’ Company’s School. He served in the War, 1939–46: Middlesex Yeomanry, 1939; North Africa, 1940 and became a prisoner of war in 1942 but escaped in Italy in 1943. He was a member of Hornsey Borough Council from 1949–65, was Deputy Leader of the Council from 1958-1964 and Mayor, 1964–65. Member of the Council of the London Borough of Haringey 1964–74. He was member for Hornsey/Haringey on the GLC from 1967–81. Was also a Liveryman of the Basketmakers Company, 1978 and Deputy Lieutenant for the Borough of Barnet from 1983–1995.
1978. Three Shallow Bowl Pricket Candlesticks by KWR. [No.494] These candlesticks were to commemorate Bains’ year of office. The were silver marked KWR, London 1978. These were the last of the commissioned commemorative pieces of silver. Or rather these were the last pieces I was able to find and record.
1978. Harold Trevor Mote (1919-1995) by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902-1984). [No.81]. Chairman of the GLC fro 1978-1979. One of the poorest of Halliday’s portraits. Mote was a company director, company consultant and engineer by profession and was educated at Upper Latymer School, St Paul’s School, the Regent Street Polytechnic and Army Staff College. He served in the Territorial Army, 1935–39; and became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Signals, 1940–46. He was a Councillor, Harrow Borough Council from 1953–1967, an Alderman 1967, and the 1st Mayor, of the London Borough of Harrow, 1965–66. He was the member for Harrow East on the Greater London Council 1965–86; Member of the Thames Water Authority, 1973–83.
1979. Robert Lewis Vigars (b.1923) by Ruskin Spear CBE, RA (1911-1990) [No.82]. Chairman of the GLC 1979-1980. A solicitor by profession. He was educated at Truro Cathedral School and London University. Member of Kensington Borough Council 1953-1959, Conservative Member of the LCC 1955, 1958, 1961 representing Kensington South. Member of the GLC 1965-86, Leader of the Opposition of the Inner London Education Authority. Served in the Royal Corps of Signals in the 1939-1945 war. Captain in the Indian Army 1939-1945; Director of Heritage of London Trust, 1985–2008 and a Member of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, 1986–88; Trustee, Historic Chapels Trust, 1993–2008; Member of the Court, London University., 1977–1982 and Chairman of the Kensington Society 1994–99. He enjoyed mountain walking. Spear’s portrait is one of the most vigorous works among the last Chairmen’s portraits and stands out among the Hallidays as a lively work of art among almost perfect recorded likenesses. Spear was born in Hammersmith, and was educated at Brook Green School the Hammersmith School of Art and the Royal College of Art, Kensington, under Sir William Rothenstein. Was elected an RA in 1954.
1979. Linley Sambourne House, Kensington. In 1979 the Council decided to buy Edward Linley Sambourne’s house in Kensington together with its contents from the Earl and Countess of Rosse. The Council received a grant from the Government’s Land Fund for the purchase, and entered into an agreement with the Victorian Society for them to run the house. Linley Sambourne (1844-1919) a Victorian artist, had occupied the house from 1874 till his death. The place is a fascinating Victorian survival, crammed from top to bottom with the most extraordinary collection of furniture, paintings, drawings, objets d’art, and general bric-a-brac. Drawings by Sambourne, Phil May (1864-1903), Walter Crane (1845-1915), Charles Keene (1823-1891), Birkett-Foster (1825-1899), George de Maurier (1834-1896) Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914) and Kate Greenway (1844-1896), paintings by Anton Mauvre (1838-1888) and Luke Fildes (1834-1927) fight for space with prints, decorated plates, fans signed by contemporary artist friends, copies of classical sculptures and a host of knick-knacks, books and photographs.
1980. Bernard Brooke-Partridge (b.1927) by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902-1984). [No.83]. Chairman of the GLC 1980-1981. Brooke-Partridge was a partner in a firm of Planning Consultants. He wrote extensively on linguistics and translation, the use of language, political science and contemporary politics. His interests included hunting, conversation, opera, ballet, classical music and ‘being difficult’. He was educated at Selsdon County Grammar School, Cambridgeshire Technical College; Cambridge University, London University and Gray’s Inn. He was awarded the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu (2nd class), Nepal, during his year of office. Brooke-Partridge was a barrister, businessman and Conservative Party politician. He was a member of St Pancras Borough Council from 1959-62, he unsuccessfully sought election to the LCC in 1958, and made two unsuccessful attempts to win parliamentary seats. He sat as a member of the GLC representing Havering from 1967-1973 and Hornchurch, Romford from 1973 – May 21, 1985, when he resigned from the GLC. He certainly looks remarkably stern in Halliday’s tenth and last portrait, his best piercing ‘no nonsense’ expression set against a sprawling nimbus.
1981. GLC elections. The election has been presented as a clash of ideologies between Thatcherite Conservatives and Marxist Labour. The Conservatives claiming that Labour led by the moderate Andrew MacIntosh would be deposed by Ken Livingstone after the election which both MacIntosh and the Labour Party leader Michael Foot insisted was wholly untrue. Labour regained control led by MacIntosh. Within hours MacIntosh, now the elected Labour Leader, was ousted by Ken Livingstone and his hard left cronies. Livingstone now stepped into the limelight leaving Mackintosh, now divested of all power or influence within the GLC, to begin a downward spiral to the House of Lords. Ken Livingstone, dubbed ‘Red Ken’ by some newspapers, managed to gain the guarded support of the Labour deputy leader Illtyd Harrington and the party Chief Whip and set about his new administration. Livingstone’s high-spend socialist policies met head on with Thatcher’s Conservative Government who he set about deliberately antagonising. He stuck a vast billboard up on the side of County Council showing London’s rising unemployment figures, reduced Tube and bus fares using Government subsidies, met up with the then loathed Gerry Adams and a masterminded a mass of other ruses and pranks. In the midst of all this the governance of London by the GLC became a sick laughing stock and was doomed. From a personal viewpoint I know that he set up a special sub-division of the legal department, headed by the then chief solicitor with recruits from the legal department whose sole purpose was to find legally legitimised solutions to all the ruses which Livingstone and his cronies thought up. Why was Livingstone so ignorant not to realise that the real power lay in Thatcher’s hands and she wanted his head and the price everyone had to pay was the destruction of the GLC. All the great London wide plans for the improvement of London and its services were tossed to the wind. The many dedicated staff who had worked tirelessly for the Council saw their work destroyed and many of their careers ruined. For instance before any Green Belt land could be eroded the Council’s consent was needed as the Council and the MCC, whose rights they now held, had contributed vast sums towards the acquisition of the Green Belt. The Council’s policy was quite simple ‘no erosion’. The supplicant borough had a real fight on their hands if they wanted to erode the Green Belt. On the abolition of the GLC, the GLC/MCC Green Belt agreements, requiring the Council’s consent were handed back to the boroughs. They were now freed of having to gain the GLC’s consent. Hence the swift erosion of the Green Belt which has since taken place. That foul duo composed of Thatcher and Livingstone have a lot to answer for.
1981. John B. Ward by John Stanton Ward (1917-2007) [No.84]. Chairman of the GLC 1981-1982. I can find nothing about John B. Ward in any of the records. Just the sort of nonentity who would have suited Livingstone down to the ground. John Stanton Ward was educated at St Owen’s School, Hereford and the Royal College of Art. He was in the Royal Engineers, 1939–19. Made an ARA in 1956, and an RA 1966, resigned 1997; he was the Vice-President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and a member of the executive of the National Art-Collections Fund, 1976–87 and . Trustee of the Royal Academy. The portrait is a witty, lively one if a trifle glossy.
1982. Sir Ernest Ashley Bramall (1916-1999) by Maggi Hambling CBE (b.1945) [No.85]. Chairman of the GLC 1982-1983. Swinton would certainly have been excited by the portrait of Bramall. Hambling produced a bold, vigorous riot of colour, Bramall all twists and curves against a scarlet background with flickering shadows. Bramall, a barrister had been educated at Westminster and Canford Schools, Magdalen Collollege, Oxford and been called to the Bar, Inner Temple, 1949. He was Mayor of Bexley between 1946-1950 and was knighted in 1975. He was a Labour member of the GLC representing Tower Hamlets 1964-1973 and Bethnal Green and Bow 1973-1976. The previous year he had been a Governor of the Museum of London and during his term of office he was made a Grand Officer of Orange Nassau.
1982. Works of art in the Royal Festival Hall. In this year a list was made of the works of art acquired by the LCC and GLC for the adornment of the Royal Festival Hall. The first time anyone had ever bothered to make a list of works of art owned by the Council. These items were eventually transferred to the Arts Council with the Hall in 1986 under the Local Government Act 1985.
Bronze Head of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) attributed to Edmund Ritter von Hellmer (1850, 1935). This was gifted to the LCC by Lady Meyer in 1969.
Bronze Head of Sir Adrian Bolt (1889–1983) by William Redgrave (1903-1986). Purchased by the GLC in 1974.
Bronze head of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) by Georg Ehrlich RA (1897-1966). Purchased by the GLC in 1967.
Bronze bust of Sir Isaac James Hayward (1884-1976) by Fredda Brilliant (1903-1999). Gifted to the LCC in 1952 by Mrs Hazel Rose. Hayward was Leader of the London County Council from 1947 until it was abolished in 1965
Bronze Bust of Sir Robert Mayer (1879-1985) by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). Gifted by Lady Mayer. Mayer was a German-born philanthropist, businessman, and a major supporter of music and young musicians.
Bronze head of Yedhudi Menuhin (1916-1999) by Sir Charles Wheeler (1892-1974). Acquired by the Council in 1961. Violinist.
Bronze head of Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). Acquired by the LCC in 1958
Bronze head of Dylan Thomas (1914-1956) by Oloff de Wet (1912-1975). Acquired by the LCC in 1957. Conductor.
Bronze head of Rosalyn Tureck (1913-2003) by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). Acquired by the LCC in 1957.
Bronze Head of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) by David McFall, RA (1919-1988) Acquired by the LCC in 1957
Bronze head of Sir William Turner Walton (1902-1983) by Dame Elizabeth Frink DBE, RA (1930-1993). Acquired by the GLC in 1976.
Bronze Head of Sir Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967) by William Narraway (1915-1979). Presented to the GLC by Sander Gorlinski in 1974
Bronze statuette of Sir Anton Dolin (1904-1983) by Tom Merrifield. Purchased by the GLC in 1978
Bronze statuette of Beryl Elizabeth Grey (b.1927) by Tom Merrifield. Purchased by the GLC in 1978
Bronze statuette of Alicia Markova (1910-2004) by Tom Merrifield. Purchased by the GLC in 1978Bronze statuette of Manola Asensio by Tom Merrifield. Gifted by the artist in 1978.
‘Zemran’ A stainless steel abstract by William Pye (b.1938). Gifted by Nadia Nerina (1927-2008) which is situated on the Embankment Walk outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Portrait of Bela Bartock (1881-1945) by Janos Halafy. Purchased by the LCC in 1961
Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) and Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) at the Queen’s Hall by unknown artist. Painting. Acquired by the Council.
Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) by Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). A portrait in pencil and wash. Dated 1933. Acquired by the LCC in 1956.
Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) by Willi Dreifuss (1897-1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Sir Clifford Michael Curzon CBE (1907-1982) by Willi Dreifuss . One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Jascha Horenstein (1898–1973) by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Rafael Kubelik (1941-1996) by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Arthur Rubenstein (1887-1982) by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Andres Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña (1893–1987) known as Andres Segovia by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
Six more drawings of musicians by Willi Dreifuss (1897 – 1991). One of thirteen drawings of musicians acquired by the LCC/GLC in 1960 and 1970
1983. Harvey William Hinds (1920-2000) by June Yvonne Mendoza (b.1945). [No.86]. Chairman of the GLC from 1983-1984. Born in Worcestershire, he trained at Westcott House theological college, Cambridge Having moved to London he was from 1944-1958, assistant missioner at Charterhouse Public School Mission, Bermondsey and then warden of Wellington College Mission in East Lane, Walworth. In 1958 he became rector of St Peter’s, Walworth and was made an honorary canon of Southwark Cathedral in 1969. Growing frustrated with the church’s inability to address social issues he left the priesthood in 1972 and took to politics.In 1960 he was elected to Southwark Borough Council and in 1967 became a member of the GLC representing Southwark from 1967-73 and Peckham from 1973 until the council’s abolition in 1986. He was vice-chairman (1967-70) and then chairman (1970-77) of the schools committee of the Inner London Education Authority. He was a member of the South Bank Theatre Board overseeing the birth of the National Theatre and the Port of London Authority. Mendoza, an Australian artist was educated in Melbourne and St Martin’s School of Art. She is famous for her two large group paintings of the The House of Commons in Session 1986 and The Australian House of Representatives and for her many portraits of royalty and politicians. She has produced a work of great charm and immediacy in soft almost pastel colours, holding, rather than wearing, his badge of office. It was Hinds whom I accompanied when we went searching outer offices of the Council for any works of art that may have strayed. I have a vivid recollection of sitting in a taxi with him when he produced a card case containing a mass of invitations to various banquets and functions he been invited to attend to find out whether he needed to have his dinner at home that night or was to attend a banquet. I was very impressed, as I suspect I was meant to be.
Thames Barrier seen from River Way by Richard Smith. [No.654] The painting is dated 1983. The painting was acquired by the GLC at one of the annual Spirit of London Exhibitions which it arranged at the Royal Festival Hall.
1984. Illtyd Harrington (1931-2015) by W. Harry Holland (b.1941). [No.87] Chairman of the GLC 1984-1985. Harrington was a Welshman born in Merthyr Tydfil. He was educated at the Roman Catholic Dowlais School before going up to Trinity University College, Carmarthen to become a teacher. He moved to London and became a geography teacher at Kennington Secondary school and then to become Head of English at Daneford School, Bethnal Green. Labour Member for Paddington Borough Council 1959-1964, Member of Westminster City Council 1964-1968 and 1971-1978. Represented Brent on the GLC from 1964-1967, Brent South 1973-1986. He was an Alderman of the GLC 1970-1973. After the infamous 1981 election when Livingstone ousted the moderate MacIntosh, Livingstone is said to have asked Harrington to continue as deputy leader as “the acceptable face of extremism”. Harrington developed the ‘Freedom Pass’ which gave free travel on London buses to the elderly and disabled. Harrington worked to save Regent’s Canal from demolition and was appointed as the first President of Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council, which became a model for the Rail Passenger’s User Council introduced under Tony Blair’s premiership. Harrington was chosen a member of the British Waterways Board. After the abolition of the GLC Harrington split his time between London and Brighton, where he shared a home with his partner, Chrisopher Downes (1933-2003), a theatrical dresser for stars such as Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. Harrington and Downes had lived together before homosexuality was decriminalised. Asked in a television programme how this had been possible, especially while holding public office, Harrington said: “We did it openly. There were lots of men and women like us. We didn’t advertise, putting a sign up – we just got on with our lives.”
1984. Thames Barrier. Commemorative Silver Medallion. The Collection also has a medallion struck to mark the opening of the GLC’s Thames Barrier. The medallion is of solid sterling silver (limited edition of 500).and commemorates the opening of the Barrier by the Queen on 8th May 1984.
1985. Anthony Louis Banks, Baron Stratford MP (1942-2006) by Jane Murphy. [No.88]. Chairman of the GLC 1985-1986. Banks was a Labour Party politician and MP from 1983-2005 and subsequently a Member of the House of Lords. He served as Minister for Sport from 1997 to 1999. He was well known in the House of Commons for his acid tongue. He was MP for Newham West since 1983 and represented Hammersmith 1970-1977 and Tooting (1981-1986 for Labour on the GLC. He was interested in the arts and served on the Board of London Festival Ballet 1981-1983, and the National Theatre 1981-1985. Banks was born in Belfast and was educated at Archbishop Tomlinson’s Grammar School, Kennington, York University and the London School of Economics. He joined the Labour party in 1964. Murphy’s portrait was ready only days before the end of the GLC and was the last item to be photographed for the catalogue. The painting depicts Banks standing on the terrace of the Festival Hall in the midst of a scene of apparent gaiety. Balloons, posters, a tee-shirt and a carrier bag inform us that the GLC is Working for London and twenty four people, two horses, two pigeons and photographs of Mrs Thatcher (front and back, invade the canvas. Apart from a Pearly King and the back of a photographer those present I include: Ken Livingstone (Labour Leader of the GLC who represented Paddington); Frances Morrell (Labour Leader of the ILEA who represented Islington South and Finsbury) Paul Boateng (Labour member for Waltham Forest); Tony McBreaty (Labour member for Enfield North); John McDonnell (Labour member for Hillington, Hayes and Harlington); Michael Ward (Labour member for Haringey and Wood Green); Valerie West (Labour member for Wandsworth and Battersea South); Steven Benn (Labour member on the ILEA); Felicity Green (Banks’ personal secretary); Dot Bigwood (Labour member for Greenwich on the ILEA); John Wilson (Labour member for Newham North East); Eileen the Chairman’s driver; Leslie Hammond (Labour member for Southwark and Dulwich); John Ward (Labour member for Barking); Peter Pitt (Labour member for Hounslow, Feltham and Heston); Sumi Takiri (Pitt’s personal secretary); Herbert Sandford (Conservative member for St Marylebone); George Nicholson (Labour member for Southwark and Bermondsey) and John Carr (Labour member for Hackney Central). Over this scene of jollity presides the neat, calm, enigmatically smiling Banks. The work is not first and foremost a portrait, but a colourful political statement more akin to a poster than a work of art, which in the circumstance in which it was painted is probably all it ever aspired to be.
The GLC Heritage Collection Catalogue. Finally there remains the tale of the remainder of the Heritage Collection. As I have stated, in the summer of 1985 Banks called me into his office and asked me to prepare a catalogue of everything of any historic value which was on display or in store in County Hall and other offices of the Council to ensure that nothing wold be ‘lost’ in the last days of the GLC. I agreed and on 25 Juy 1985 I and Peter Barrett the photographer were handed Room 144, a part of the disused Members’ Library (the books had gone to Clerkenwell to the Record Office) and commenced work on the catalogue. The windows were blacked out, security locks and devices fitted and, under almost impossible conditions, the work began. Rooms, offices, storerooms, cupboards, lockers all were searched. Sir JohnHutton [No.2} in his ornate frame was discovered in the electricians’ room on his side serving as a convenient shelf over which electric leads could be hung. Orpen and Nicholson, Lavery and Alma Tadema were discovered stacked with many others in an upstairs gallery of another part of the disused, dusty and empty library, this being their latest resting place having travelled from cellars to storerooms at County Hall for many years. A number of items of historic and artistic interest were also discovered in the Record Office cellars, now slowly being emptied for transport to Clerkenwell, . These included a collection of seals of other predecessor bodies of the GLC including the seals of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the LCC, the Festival of Britain and Crystal Palace. There were many commemorative medallions, many designed and made by the Wyon family. These, many other items and the lucky paintings which had managed to find a place on the walls in County Hall were brought, by a team of four porters who had been assigned to me, to the makeshift studio and office to be measured, identified, catalogued and numbered by me and photographed by Barrett. With the minimum of equipment, Barrett had somehow managed to create a photographic studio. but progress was hampered by the fact that both he and I were still having to do a normal day’s work. Barrett for instance was required at a moment’s notice, many times in the middle of a complex lighting set up, to dismantle his equipment and rush off to photograph a number of civic functions which, during the last few months of the GLC, were flowing like a flood through County Hall. I was given full support by Rex Lanham to get on with the work but Barrett’s boss was deeply resentful of one of his staff being used by that ‘******** Banks’. Another hindrance was soon discovered; every painting, which fortunately had been protected by glass, (as they put it in 1922) ‘as a preservation from the effects of the London atmosphere’ had a thick coat of the ‘effects’ and years of soot and tobacco fumes. As a result Barrett and I found we were spending a good part of each session wiping thick layers of sticky grime off vast expanses of glass. After they had been catalogued, those paintings which had managed to get a decent homes on the walls of County Hall were duly returned, the strays, which were in the majority, stayed in the ‘studio’. Needless to say the studio began to fill. On 25 October 1985 the library accommodation was requisitioned by a group who, at this eleventh hour, were, it was rumoured, preparing a study for the future local governance of London in the event of the return of the GLC. What a waste of stasff time. But then these were the sort of wasteful ruses that were being thought up by Livingstone and his gang. So in some haste and at great inconvenience the studio was dismantled and we moved with our mounting collection of ‘treasures’ to other accommodation these rooms now needing security locks, blackened windows, etc. etc. As I have recounted on the history of the Middlesex Guildhall Collection, on 28 October I was sent to Clerkenwell to collect the paintings in store there in order to record them in readiness for their being eventually packed and put in safe storage. The room was now bursting with paintings and cardboard boxes filled to the brim.
The portraits finally taken down from the walls of County Hall. Just before Christmas, County Hall was visited by a person or persons unknown, who set about the place with a tin of red paint and brightened in a very distinctive if inartistic manner the lifts and walls and, in passing, caused a great deal of wanton damage. Delia Buckle, the Acting Director General of the Council, fearful for the safety of the paintings left on display, ordered that all of them be taken down and stored. So down came all the remaining Chairmen and accompanied by Michael Farrraday, joined their fellow chairmen and visitors from Middlesex County Council in our now vastly overcrowded rooms.
Swinton’s portraits are rehung for the last time. The portraits were to have one more adventure before their final departure. On Friday 14 February 1986, for the purpose of securing a photograph record for the Survey of London monograph on County Hall, the cream of the paintings, some of which had been in store for many years, many of them Swinton’s favourites, were returned to their original settings in the Ayes and Noes lobbies, the Members Reading Room and the Conference Hall. Thus, for the last time, Poynter, Orchardson, Lavery, Strang, McEvoy, Nicholson, Hacker, Orpen, Alma Tadema, Philpot and others had their day in the sun and returned to adorn the walls of County Hall for which they had been painted and gifted to London by their generous artists.
Banks, demands to have the catalogue. Just before the exit of the collection from County Hall, Banks found out that I had been selected for employment by the London Residuary Body. He regarded this as a rank betrayal by me of his trust and demanded that I was to immediately hand over the catalogue of the collection to his safe keeping as he ‘had not commissioned the creation of the catalogue for the benefit of the Residuary Body’. I had thought this might happen and had, unbeknown to him created a duplicate catalogue. As far as I was concerned the whole point of the catalogue was to record the collection so that it should be preserved by the LRB who would be forced to recognise it as part of the heritage of the governance of London.
The Collection is packed and taken to safety. The final act of the drama was played out in the last few days of the GLC. All remaining items which had remained on the walls of members offices were poured into the ‘studio’ which now contained thousands of pounds worth of paintings, silver, glass, prints, seals, sculptures, etc., all ready for the final packing up for storage. A team headed by James Alabaster, arrived from Christie’s on 3 March, a few days before abolition to make a valuation of the collection, using my catalogue. I was never told what the final sum was. All that remained after this was to arrange for the packing. With days to go before abolition, everything (with a few exceptions see below) was packed and safely sent off to be stored at Wapping. Having checked everything into each individual packing case, I watched the last item leave, tidied up my files, completed the last pages of the catalogue, and returned to my office with the prospect of five years with the London Residuary Body (I stayed with the LRB till 31 March 1991). Sad to relate, Barrett was made redundant. Banks, and some of the Council’s officers and Sir Godfrey Taylor (Chairman of the LRB) personally thanked me for my work on the collection, I received no official thanks from the Council. Barrett received no thanks, official or otherwise, from anyone.
31 March 1986. The GLC is abolished.
1 April 1986 the London Residuary Body takes over and is now responsible for the Collection.
Banks and the family silver. A select group of paintings, including those of Lord Rosebery and Sir John Williams Benn, many items of silver and all the badges of office, which were in the Chairman’s office in County Hall, had, by arrangement with the LRB, been omitted from the packing and left to adorn the Chairman’s office until midnight of the last day of the GLC. They were to have an adventure all of their own. It had been arranged with the incoming staff of the LRB that, sometime after midnight on 31 March, the staff would be allowed into the Chairman’s room to remove to safe storage the choice collection displayed there. However, unknown to the LRB staff and indeed anyone else, Banks, had surreptitiously removed the items from his office and apparently stored them (so it later came out) in the vaults of Newham Town Hall. He considered he held them in trust for a future London wide authority. After several months of correspondence between the LRB and Banks, the LRB instructed that a writ be issued and served for the recovery of the items and one was duly issued on 31 October 1986. It was never, however, served. The story broke in the Evening Standard on 6 November 1986 and was followed by extensive coverage in the media. On 19 November 1986 the matter was raised during Question Time in the House of Commons. Nicholas Ridley, the Environment Secretary, at one point stated that Banks had been accused of stealing the ‘family silver’. The Speaker considered that the words should have been ‘taking care of’, Dr Cunningham (Shadow Environment Secretary) pressed the Speaker to invite Ridley to withdraw his allegation and apologise. The Speaker invited Ridley to respond in the terms of the lead he had given. Ridley: ‘In response to what you said, Mr Speaker – I repeat it now – I did withdraw the allegation of stealing and substitute your suggested form of words of taking care of the family silver, just as someone took care of my silver two years ago, but he has not returned it yet’.
The whole collection is put in storage. All the item with the exception of a copy of the catalogue of the Heritage Collection were duly returned by Banks on 27 November. The catalogue was returned on 27 February 1987. Thus after their short holiday in Newham, Lord Rosebery, Sir John William Benn and the ‘family silver’ were swept off to Wapping to rejoin their fellow chairmen and the remainder of the Heritage Collection.
Responsibility for the Collection. The LRB decided that the Personnel Department should be responsible for the Collection and for seeking a home for it and that the Legal Department should give any advice which was necessary. A number of letters were received by Sir Godfrey Taylor from relatives, friends and ‘interested individuals’ seeking to acquire, or borrow items in the collection, particularly the Chairmen’s portraits and unfortunately it was rumoured that the Chairman viewed these requests with considerable favour, as he considered, in his new role as connoisseur inheritor of a large collection of works of art that they were rubbish. It was also a misfortune for the collection that the members of staff in whose hands it now fell took their lead from Taylor and regarded the collection as a cumbersome nuisance. As they did not know a Lavery from a stick of rock, and indeed did not care to know, there were moments, in the first few months of the LRB when, but for the high profile given to the collection by Banks in the Houses of Parliament and the frustrated little I could do, I really though the collection of portraits would have been scattered. Fortunately, the LRB and the staff responsible, were finally persuaded that profession advice should be sought as to what should be done.
The Collection returns to County Hall. The collection was returned to County Hall when the agreement for storage at Wapping came to an end. Large areas of County Hall were now vacant and it was considered that the continued expenditure for safe storage at Wapping was no long necessary. Sadly, due to, presumably poor security, and the fact that the staff responsible couldn’t give a damn a number of items were stolen from the Collection. I never did find out what was stolen as the whole thing was hushed up. Maybe one day I will ask the police if I could have an itemised list of what disappeared. After all the care I took to preserve and save so many things, it took the LRB’s lax security and the dismissive attitude of the staff who were entrusted with their care, that many items were lost forever. No one told me officially about the theft but a member of staff told me in confidence that a number of items, no idea which items, had been stolen. But that is how the LRB worked in secrecy or maybe they were ashamed.
Sir Roy Strong and the Victoria and Albert Museum. A meeting was arranged with Sir Roy Strong, then curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum, to discuss the collection and what should be done with it. Thus on 26 November 1986, clutching a few sample volumes of the catalogue, I accompanied members of the Personnel Department to meet Sir Roy Strong at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in his very stylish and theatrically lit room to discuss the future of the collection. He said he would like to have a copy of the complete illustrated catalogue (13 volumes) to hand round the various departments of the Museum so that his staff could give their views and make offers for certain items. He agreed with St Godfrey that items of no particular artistic or historical merit should be sold but that that the paintings, many of which were by artists of international repute, should, if possible, be kept together as a collection. Sir Roy was particularly impressed by the specially commissioned modern silver and informally commented that the museum would, if it acquired these items, arrange for their immediate display to supplement gaps in the museum’s collection. He was also extremely interested in the Malachite vases and the Lalique goblet. Weeks, months passed, no response from Sir Roy. Then Sir Godfrey happened to be invited to a London Guildhall banquet and who should be sitting next to him but Sir Roy Strong. Of course Sir Godfrey wished to speak about the Heritage Collection and the V&A’s lack of response. He never got a chance to speak to Sir Roy who apparently studiously ignored him throughout the banquet. I presume he was totally unaware of who Sir Godfrey was, must have thought he looked a bore and cut him dead. Sir Godfrey felt he had been treated extremely discourteously by his dinner companion, as indeed he clearly had, and stormed into the office the following morning vowing that there was no way he would ever allow Sir Roy and the V&A to have a single piece from the collection. Thus dooming some very important items to the City of London’s storerooms.
The London Residuary Body and the portraits. The collection of portraits of the chairmen were offered by the LRB as a single collection to the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. Both acknowledged the importance of the collection, stressed they considered it should not be broken up and declined to accept it. Fortunately, the cavalry came riding over the hill to the rescue in the shape of Vivien Knight who, on behalf of the City of London, wrote to the LRB in 1987 to offer a home in the Guildhall Art Gallery for the portraits, group paintings, drawings, sculptures and other paintings held in the GLC Heritage Collection. The Guildhall Art Gallery was founded in 1885 as a public gallery for its collection which included portraits of former Lord Mayors of London and other important City personages. Since the end of the last war the collection has been expanded to include many topographical items of specific London interest. When the collection was handed over the City’s collection was displayed in a number of public buildings, both inside and outside the City, including the Mansion House, the Old Bailey and Livery Company buildings. The new art gallery for the City’s collection was under construction. The new Gallery is now opened but is a small and sorry place with little room for its thousands of paintings. Sadly, to my knowledge, only a few of the paintings handed over to them from the Heritage Collection have ever been put on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery and all languish and will no doubt continue to languish in permanent storage. It always surprises me that the City of London with its important collections should house them in such a limited space in the Guildhall. Surely it is time the City built a suitable and appropriate gallery in which to display as many pieces from the collection as it can. For instance, I was appalled to find one day that access to the gallery was closed because of some civic event taking place which blocked off the gallery from the public. What a way to run a public art gallery. An almost unique Statutory Instrument called the London Residuary Body (Transfer of Property, etc.) Order 1990 was signed by Chris Patten. Unique by virtue of the fact that there can be few if any statutory instruments passed through the parliamentary process which transfer a collection of paintings from one body to another. And so to the City of London the paintings0 went and were shot into the cellars presumably never to see the light of day again. Swinton would have wept.
Dividing the collection. Due to the wide ranging nature of the items in the Collection, it was recognised that though it might be said to be important as a collection in that it was representative of the history of local government in London, nevertheless it was unlikely that a home could be found for it as a whole. The LRB therefore decided that the best method of preserving as many items as possible was to divide it up into separate collections. The portraits, paintings and sculptures had found a new home at the City of London Guildhall, the Middlesex Collection had returned to the Middlesex Guildhall, all that now remained was to see who else should have the remaining pieces.
Functional civic plate. There was a mass of silver civic plate, candelabra, wine coolers, bread baskets, etc., which had no special historical connection with London other than it had been used for banquets and dinners at County Hall. So they were sent off to Christie’s to be sold and the paltry sum of £8,471.62p was realised on Monday 9th February 1987. Mrs Frances Morrell, the leader of the Inner London Education Authority, in a blaze of publicity, purchased some of the silver, including wine coolers, tea trays, bread baskets, vegetable dishes for £1,350. She informed The Times that the pieces were destined for ILEA’s Westminster Catering College. Other sales of miscellaneous items from the Collection were to take place over the next few years.
Seal of the GLC. On 13.3.87 the seal of the Greater London Council was handed over by the Legal Department to the Personnel Department for preservation.
Crested crockery. A large amount of GLC/LCC crested porcelain (Wedgwood) crockery which was used for special civic occasions and in the Members Restaurant was sold. Fortunately single pieces from each part of the service (vast collection) had been collected together by me and preserved in the Heritage Collection. Sir Godfrey Taylor acquired a complete service for his own personal use, and was known to use it at dinner parties at his home, A wag from the LRB compared this to the actions of some hunters who mount on their walls the heads of game they have shot!
ILEA Collection. Those items which were related specifically to education were offered to the Inner London Education Authority. The Authority had not been abolished with the GLC and still occupied part of County Hall. Unknown to the Authority or the LRB the Authority’s days were numbered if for no other good reason than Thatcher’s hated County Hall could be emptied and sold and its civic use cease.
Crystal Palace trophies. Bromley Borough Council was handed the Crystal Palace trophies and memorabilia. It would be fascinating to find out what happened to them.
London Fire Brigade Collection. All items relating to the London Fire Brigade, medals, medallions, models, were handed over to the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority which had been newly created by the Local Government Act which abolished the GLC. The Fire Brigade has its own private museum and art gallery at The Workshop, Lambeth High Street.
The Middlesex Guildhall collection. The story of the Collection can be found on page 39.
City of London: Greater London Records. On the 2nd November 1987 the LRB decided that all items of historic or civic interest relating to the GLC and its predecessors should be gifted to the City of London’s Greater London Records. The City agreed to accept the items under the Local Government (Records) Act 1962 which required them to make them reasonably available for public display, or (if placed in store) for public inspection on request and arrange for loans to suitable persons or bodies at the City’s discretion for public exhibition. The LRB arranged for removal costs. The Deed was finally sealed on 17 February 1989. And into storage for ever went the presentation silver, seals, medallions and badges of office, etc., etc., not to mention the Lalique Chalice where they will languish unseen by anyone for as long as the City of London exists.
Museum of London. The malachite vases were offered to the Museum of London who accepted them and they were gifted for public display in 1989. I last saw them (1989) in the main entrance of the Museum shown off under a magnificent flower display.
The Victoria and Albert Museum. Through no doubt gritted teeth, Sir Godfrey offered three items to the V&A which were accepted. An embroidery by Diana Springall [no.126], the Porcelain Bear on a black wood plinth with a silver plate inscribed ‘Berlin House of Representatives to the London County Council [No.160] and the Queen Alexandra corner chair [No.310].
Sunset and fate of the collection. Before the transfer orders were made I had left the service of the LRB and wandered off into the sunset and early retirement, hoping that the cream of the portraits, particularly those paintings which Swinton had fought for so valiantly and whose friendly artists had made gifts of to London would eventually find their way to the walls of the Guildhall Art Gallery, but I won’t hold my breath. I also hoped that the silver collection would one day be placed on public display and not be consigned, as is its fate at present, to the cellars of the City of London. The silver shares the cellars with a vast collection of paintings, watercolours drawings, prints and historic photographs which were in the former keeping of the GLC Record Office and which were not included in the Heritage Collection. No catalogue, published or otherwise exists for this hidden collection and hopefully the City will, in the not too distant future, publish a catalogue of it. Heavens, there must be a massive number of graduates with History of Art Degrees falling out of our universities who could be given the job. As far as I am aware only the occasional portrait from the collection has been displayed to the public, the silver and the Lalique chalice languish to this day in the storerooms of the City of London. The LRB presented me with a set of photographs of what was left of the collection after sales, etc., which is what I have used to illustrate this history, but in fact I had already photographed most of the portraits myself before Banks woke up to their importance and value. I did write to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London to ask whether some of the collection could be shown off in City Hall as part of the history of London’s governance. Not surprisingly, I was rebuffed.
Sixty years earlier. On the night of 29 December 1940 the City of London Guildhall was bombed and the LCC Chairman Albert Emil Davies sent the following telegram to the Lord Mayor of London: “I deeply regret to learn of further damage sustained by the City of London as the result of enemy-action last night. Particularly am I grieved to hear of the fate of the historic Guildhall. On behalf of the London County Council I offer sincerest sympathy. London has lost a precious possession, the memory of which will outlast even the name of those who wrought its destruction.” Davies promptly placed the Council Chamber at County Hall at the disposal of the City Corporation as a meeting place. Little did he or anyone realise that the County Hall art collection, including his own rather pensive portrait by Philip Connard would, sadly, finish up in the storerooms of the City of London.