An urban view — 02 September 2011

Travelling along one of London’s busiest road it’s easy to miss St. Pancras Church, which when built in 1819 cost £76,679 and at the time was the most expensive house of worship built since the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral some 100 years previously.

Standing on the corner of Euston Road and Upper Woburn Place covered in grime thanks to the traffic hurtling past, with vagrants sleeping under its spacious Ionic portico it’s hard to imagine what it must have looked like in its prime, when its architects William and Henry Inwood returning from Athens with measured drawings under their arm based their building on the Erechtheion of the Greek Acropolis.

On the side facing the Euston Road are three caryatids, copies of a purloined original on display in the British Museum nearby thanks to Lord Elgin – was there anything he didn’t take that wasn’t screwed down in Athens?

Now I don’t want to appear unchivalrous, but tell me don’t the beautiful hand maidens supporting the projecting alcoves, look, how can I describe it? Dumpy.

The statues were made of Coade artificial stone, a formula which had been lost but has since resurfaced on Wikipedia, taking the sculptor three years to make. They were brought to the church looking dainty until they were ready to be put up into place, Mr. Charles Rossi, their creator, found that the measurements were a little out. He presumably had been working to metric while the builders of the church chose imperial and try as he may he couldn’t get the Greek goddesses to fit the recess. With a large crowd bemused at his misfortune Rossi needed to act rather quickly to regain his self respect. He performed a miracle operation with 12 inches being extracted from their midriff, their draped Grecian gowns helping to conceal their stunted torsos.

The contributor of this photo is ceridwen.

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