The houses in Tolmers Square were said to be early Victorian, though they looked more Regency, each with its own portico and stuccoed lower half. In 1863 a Congregational Church had been built in the middle, filling the small square to bursting. In 1924 it was converted to a cinema of the kind known, rudely and often inaccurately, as a flea-pit. It closed in 1972. The square was demolished and redeveloped soon after.

Seaton Street, with its seven-day market where you could buy pease pudding and saveloys, was just across Hampstead Road. It has now gone completely, swept away by redevelopment in the 1970s. That development was, in turn, replaced twenty years later by glass-clad buildings and traffic-free alleys lined with lime trees in marble troughs. There are coffee and wine bars here, a couple of restaurants, and a gym. Farther from raucous Victorian Seaton Market you can't get.

There is also a huge piazza. In it is an unusual sculpture: a marble box hoisted high in the air on steel pillars and planted with topiaried trees. (Smokers gather under it when it rains). One panel has a bas-relief of the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797) by Edward Hodges Baily. It shows the defeated Admiral, dressed (oddly) in a toga and lying on a gun carriage surrendering his sword to Nelson. Nelson was a Commodore at the time but even so he'd just led the boarding party which had captured two 1st Rate Ships of the Line, using one as a bridge to take the other - something never done before and something certainly not expected of Flag Officers. Baily's frieze, on the other hand, is in no way triumphal: there is a quietness and a stillness here suggesting an interconnectedness of humanity deeper than any passing victory or loss, and more enduring than individual lives. It was commissioned by King George IV and intended for an English Arc de Triomphe modelled on that of Constantine's in Rome. As with many such grandiose schemes in England it never materialised, and we ended up with the more homely Marble Arch. The frieze, carved around 1826, was never displayed and seemingly was lost until British Land (itself a Victorian company, founded in 1856) re-discovered it and placed it here.

Related Material

References

Schlieker, Andrea. Art at Regent's Place. The British Land Company Plc. London, 2003.


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Last modified 5 February 2007