Tagged: library

Things I love about Glasgow, number 1

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The Mitchell Library… Wonderful source of inspiration and information. A beautiful place by day or by night, as anyone who has passed by whilst it is illuminated would agree. The famous landmark dome is part of the 1904 fabric, and I did not know until today that it is rumoured to have been included after Council requests, not as part of the original design which was undertaken after a competition (heritage leaflets, another great thing within the Mitchell!).

Part of the library has a huge cafe, where one can browse the newspapers and use the wifi. There is a good selection of food, from simple snacks to more substantial mains, and some particularly tasty coffee. Adjacent to the cafe there are public computers, free to use, and really handy even if you have your own at home, because these give access to a huge range of electronic resources; I did a lot of family history research here as part of my most recent art project, you can research worldwide records at no charge. Glasgow libraries also subscribe to online magazines, so back at home you could download electronic versions of your favourite magazines; I love that I can read .net, Countryfile, Marie Claire and Olive on the move from my iPad now, Zinio is so handy!
If you are more of a paper fan, head upstairs where one can browse technical journals and magazines from a wide range of publishers. I have spent many a happy hour lost in obscure but fascinating articles.

The Glasgow room is a wonder, part book store and part archive. Have you ever wanted to see street plans for before your home was built? Photographs or postcards of Glasgow transport? Wondered what that shop looked like many years ago? This is the place to find out. You may even find original plans to a famous building, or your house! The Virtual Mitchell gives you a taste of some of the digitised resources to discover. The staff are all really knowledgeable and will help you find what you need, just ask!

The main hall of the Mitchell is home to temporary exhibitions, some of my favourites have been George Wyllie, Alasdair Gray and also a history of Loch Katrine. The Hall and some reading rooms also play host to Glasgow’s literary festival, Aye Write.

Always something to discover, a quiet place to stop and spend time browsing, a place for some serious study or just popping in for tea, happy days at this lovely landmark. This is part one of a series I intend to post about what I love about some of my favourite places, just look out for the “things I love about” category on the side of my blog. I’d love to know what you love about your favourite places too!

Retracing the steps of illustrator Stella Langdale

Yesterday I made a journey to Hove Library to see the book “Unknown Brighton” which was published in 1926, containing text by George Aitchison and illustrations by Stella Langdale, who is a member of my family tree.  I had first heard of this book through the website “Ye Olde Sussex Pages” and a little research using the Brighton and Hove online web catalogue revealed that there was a copy in Hove library.

I had never been to Hove before, yet I “knew” where to find it as I instinctively wandered upstairs and found the local studies room, sought out the Brighton shelves and there it was!  I was absolutely delighted to be able to hold the very book in my own hands.  It had that well worn appearance, with pages a little fragile and well thumbed.  The blue cover and gold embossed lettering was slightly faded and looking to the side one could observe the curved and folded leaves of paper, hiding the treasure within.

Stella did 24 aquatint illustrations for this book, and a number of line drawings which annotate the text at key parts.  Even though these were prints of aquatints, it was wonderful to see these as they reveal a little of Stella’s style.  The influence of the Glasgow school in her long flowing lines can be seen, particularly within the Pavilion illustration, and elegant use of tone and shadow add to the delight (view more of Stella’s work here, and read my previous posts about my genealogical art journey project here).  The words of the book relate to the many sides of Brighton which a visitor may not know about; written in the 1920’s one wonders to what extent the visitor of those times went “of the beaten track” to discover the environment beyond the seafront, aquarium and pavilion.  Indeed, many visitors today may do the very same, although the Lanes is of course now well known for shopping and entertainment.

The Lanes today, with a welcome and bunting

The Lanes today, with a welcome and bunting

There were a number of references to the development of Brighton as a settlement, and also to several works held in the museum.  I ventured to Hove museum as it was nearby, and discovered the very same amber pot which Stella had completed line drawings of!  Information panels told me that this pot was “one of Britain’s most important bronze age finds”; for me it is also a great family history find… nose to case with something Stella had seen, and drawn!

Face to face with a find of historical and family significance

Face to face with a find of historical and family significance

On return to town I also went back to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, seeking out a mug which featured in the book.  I knew from a previous visit that it was likely to be part of the Henry Willett collection, as a maritime themed item of pottery (Willett was a local businessman who amassed a huge collection of porcelain and catalogued it into various themes to help people learn about different topics relevant to social history, it was given to Brighton museum in 1903- therefore quite new for the Langdale family and other Brighton residents at the time when Unknown Brighton was written).  I scoured the display cases and opened all of the discovery drawers in the room, to no avail.  No sailors cup.  I did find it on one of the interactive displays, however, so I have “sort of” seen it, and discovered it was made in 1895 by Charles Brennam.  Item 324 must be in store!

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery- source of inspiration and treasures!

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery- source of inspiration

In the section regarding the Lanes, available on the “Olde Sussex” website two images from this book are shown, one of Black Lion Lane  and one of a fig tree.  After my amber cup find I was feeling upbeat and thought, yes, I will try and find those views.  Chances of finding a random tree in the middle of a busy City Centre?  Pretty minimal, but I thought I would try anyway.  The Lanes were less busy than the previous few bank holiday sunny days and it had only just stopped raining.  The paving was sprinkled with rain and shone in the sun, good exploring territory as only the hardy few would be out and about at this time (late lunch, when those huge bed and breakfast full English-es have worn off and tastebuds start demanding attention again).

Black Lion Lane was easy, I had actually walked down this lane before, and seen the lion (as detailed in a previous post).  On thinking about the aquatint, I recreated the view in my minds eye; it was the route from Ship Street to Black Lion Street.  The little inshot about halfway up the snickel (as Yorkshire folk would call it, but here my Pevsner guide tells me it is called a twitten) looked familiar, it was on the right hand side of the aquatint therefore must be in that direction.  The hanging lantern was long gone, a modern street light was in its place.  I took a photo of this and then walked back in the other direction to take another photograph, just to be on the safe side.  I marvelled at the crazy pebbled walls, which have now become familiar to me and stroked one appreciatively on the way past.  It was shiny and smooth with the passing of many people.  I wondered if Stella may have done the same thing.

Black Lion Lane view

Black Lion Lane view (compare with original)

At the end of the lane I stepped out of the enclosure to the street and into the light of Ship Street, looking back at my find, happily, and pausing to think how interesting it was to actually be walking in the places where my ancestors had been.  I peeked across the road.  There was another twitten, inviting exploration.  I was feeling a little tired and was about to go back through the lane to find a coffee stop, but thought “no, another five minutes won’t hurt”.  I walked across the busy street (avoiding the white and teal taxi, whose colours reflect the railings on the promenade) and into the lane.  This lane was no ordinary lane.  There were buildings on one side and a low wall with gates on the other.  Some plants were hanging over the brick wall and some trellis was trying to keep control of a tangle of greenery which appeared to be winning that particular battle.  Looking up, I saw bright green leaves with the sun shining through. Slowly it dawned on me that there was something unusual about these leaves.  They were a pretty shape and some had fruit.  Was this THE tree?   Not being the best at botanical studies I doubted my initial judgement, but I took some photographs and thought out loud “how long do fig trees live?”.  This was not just any old tree, this was a beautiful tumbling tree, whose branches reached over the wall and spread out happily.  Just like the one in Stella’s drawing.

Stella's fig tree?

Stella’s fig tree?

I retired to the 16th Century Cricketers Arms (Brighton’s oldest pub) and had a long lemonade and lime pause.  Had I really found the tree?  Was this the one in the aquatint?  Was this a fig tree or was I just making it up, hoping it was true?  I resorted to modern technology; wifi revealed that yes, this was indeed what a fig tree looked like, and yes, it did look remarkably like the one in the aquatint.  Ficus said Wikipedia.  Ficus religiousa I thought!  Not the Bodhi tree, but a little family tree remaining just for me!

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The sources of information which I used for this blog post are: