30 December 2015

Vulnerable architecture

My recent use of the name Armitage Shanks inspired memories in a coeval friend ... I had intended the name simply to revive recollections of when Shanks was a mere archdeacon, and his doings were chronicled monthly in New Directions by the Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, Vicar of S Stephen's Lewisham, and now an Ordinariate Blogger (I hope you read him daily). But my aged friend's memories took him back to ancient and dimly remembered Urinals. And their vulnerability. He mentioned Thomas Crapper (poson O poson to kleos); and the Joseph Pontifex whose oeuvre could be found in Pusey House in Oxford.

He's dead right. When I first taught at Lancing, the urinals were still called 'The Groves', because it was in groves, in the College's earlier and primitive days, that such functions were ... er ... discharged. The groves behind Field's House were built in the indigenous vernacular architecture of the Sussex chalk downlands: worked masonry framing knapped flint. The building was so superbly done that there was not a millimetre between the beautifully knapped and fitted flints. Sir John Betjeman, on one of his visits, referred to it [fact!] as the finest Gothic Revival Urinal in England. It may well have been. In fact, far too fine a building, in the minds of provosts and bursars, for its designated functions. Naturally, it is now a Pottery. As we finally close down our last coal-mines and steel-refineries, there is very little now left of England that is not either a pottery or a craft-shoppe or a merchant bank.

Near enough actually to be seen from that despoiled urinary masterpiece there is another similar tragedy of 'reordering'. On the coastal plain below the great heaped Gothic mass of Lancing College on its hill-top lies Shoreham Airport, London's first international airport in the days when you took the train from Victoria and hopped off at the very edge of the Channel waves and got onto a plane which could, just about, get you across to the French coast. Here, in the 1930s, was built a fine Art Deco airport building ... which is still there. And, inside it, was a superb, pure, Art Deco loo (or bath room or rest room or WC or whatever ...). As you stood in your 'standing', a little below the level of your nose was a small cigarette-shaped ledge on which the sophisticated air-traveller could rest his cigarette so as to have both hands free for enabling his function. I am not a smoker ... but I surmise that this provision may also have been a safeguard against dangerous avalanches of glowing ash.

Now the whole dam' shootin'-match is no more. Eheu, you are so right to say, fugaces.

14 comments:

Fr PJM said...

Where can I find the blog of Dr Geoffrey Kirk, so that I may read him daily? My google search has returned many references, but not the blog itself.

Charlesdawson said...

Currently on the BBC Radio iPlayer, Father, is a lovely little anecdote about another long-lost aerodrome, Cricklewood, by the late master of humour, Alan Coren. And, according to Wikipedia, there was yet another at Hounslow!

Some of my youth was spent near the New Forest, which still holds traces, under its heather, of many small military airfields. Truly, the history of aviation must be a happy hunting-ground for industrial archaeologists.

PS. You omitted to mention charity shops in your list.

Fr Andrew said...

S. Stephen, Lewisham, dear Father not S. Mary.

Rose Marie said...

Well, I never thought I would be even a little envious of gentlemen and their proper facilities. But perhaps Mrs. H can provide some commentary from the distaff side.

Mary Kay said...

Hilarious! I remember a recent conversation in Gardone, where there was a similar discussion on American terminology, especially one regarding 'powdering the nose'. In my defense, I think the nose-powdering seems so much more refined than the bit about the cigarette rest in the loo, although not near as useful, or interesting.

A very happy new year to you and yours, dear Father H,
from Mary Jones, way out West...

Fr PJM said...

In the hope of "reading him daily", may I ask where can be found the blog or website the Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk?

Dale Crakes said...

How can I locate his blog or whats the url?

Dale Crakes said...

Whats his blog url?

Adrian said...

Which was the sanitary-ware manufacturer who embossed the representation of a bee on the back of their urinals - thus providing a pun for the Latinate user?

Ivan said...

If I am not mistaken (and I can count on our dear host to correct me if I am), the blog whose URL you want is located here: http://ignatiushisconclave.org/

William Tighe said...


Dr. Kirk's blog:

http://ignatiushisconclave.org/

Rose Marie said...

Adrian, thanks for the laugh. And thanks to WT and Ivan for the URL. If memory serves (no guarantee) our host sent us to this blog recently. It does not disappoint.

Tom Broughton said...

Could someone please tell me how they have ascertained that this is the blog of Dr. Kirk? I do not see it mentioned that he is the author. The IGNATIUS website looks like some tongue-and-cheek sort of satire. NEW DIRECTIONS is what Fr. Hunwicke mentions.

This is what I found:
http://www.forwardinfaith.com/NewDirections.php
http://trushare.com/000%20ND%20INdex%20created%20200112/INDEX%20of%20issues.htm

But I do not see him as a regular contributor. Could someone please clarify?

FR. HUNWICKE: Could you please give us the web address?

William Tighe said...


Click on the "Leave a comment" on any entry, and then look at the lone immediately under the entry's title. For instance, the latest posting is entitled "Sincertity." There, one sees:

Sincerity
December 29, 2015 ~ Leave a comment

but afterward:

Sincerity
December 29, 2015 ~ gkirkuk

Of course, it may be that an unknown wit is spoofing readers in this way.