Monthly Archives: April 2014

My favourite piece in the British Museum

IMG_0435-2You can keep your hoards of gold and silver, your Egyptian mummies, your blockbuster Viking exhibitions. For me, the most wonderful piece in the whole British Museum is a bit of graffiti, not done by any artist or craftsman, but by a bored squaddie looking for ways to kill time.

Scratched onto a flat part of the base of one of the extraordinary Assyrian winged bulls are a couple of dozen squares. They’re the board for a dice game and were incised around 710BC (although earlier examples of the game have been found dating back 4500 years). The thing seems to have been a sort of “race” game with counters (think of Ludo).

Continue reading


The Orangery, Clapham

BlVrCzsCUAA8iTsThis was a surprise. You really don’t expect to come across a huge Georgian relic in a post-war south London housing estate.

But in the middle of the Notre Dame estate in Clapham is this – the portico to an Orangery (or greenhouse) “formerly part of a miniature landscape estate with a lake belonging to the Thornton family” built in 1793. (More about other members of the Thornton family in my earlier post about Battersea Rise.)

London Gardens Online describes it thus: “The façade is a simple classical design with columns of Portland stone and Ionic capitals in Coade stone. The pediment is decorated with swags of roses, fir cones and leaves and in the entablature is carved a quotation from Virgil [HIC VER ASSIDUUM ATQUE ALIENIS MENSIBUS AESTAS], which translates roughly as ‘Here is perpetual spring and summer even in other months’. There were glazed sashes between the columns, and the inside was plainly plastered.