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In its heyday Somers Town had more than 100 of the beautiful finial posts

07 March, 2019

Finial of a bird designed by Gilbert Bayes

• IN its heyday Somers Town had as many as 116 of these beautiful finial posts, (Wanton vandalism of art for the people, John Gulliver, February 28).

York Rise estate had an estimated 69, and Athlone House had probably 30. There were blackbirds, tailors, fish, roses, devils, wyverns and saints on horseback, usually surrounding a central post with a larger ceramic design adorning it.

All these colourful and cheering-to-see ceramic originals have gone from all of the estates. Where? That’s another story. What you can still see in Somers Town a few dozen replicas made out of a kind of reinforced resin.

The originals are fondly remembered and missed by locals. The few replica copies that remain are loved too by locals and passers by. Either way, they are the heritage of this area and we want them back (as copies) in the places that the artist Gilbert Bayes intended.

So, why discard and eventually destroy what is left, simply because it gets into some contractor’s way and the housing association is unaware and is not sufficiently concerned enough to regulate what goes on.

This has happened again, recently, on the York Rise estate where contractors employed by Origin have felled several original headless finials posts so they can park their trucks and equipment.

Recent neglect, including the cavalier destruction of the Gilbert Bayes Madonna and child for a conversion of a nursery into flats, has galvanised a large body of interested parties to champion and reinstate some of Somers Town heritage and Origin would be wise to listen.

There are two caption mistakes in the article. I am not in the picture, that is, in fact, George Sharpe, a local resident and not myself. Another caption wrongly attributes some intact (replica) finials to be in Tufnell Park. That’s incorrect; all their finials were removed by contractors in the 1990s. Only Somers Town has some replica finials.

The exhibition and film about Gilbert Bayes, can be seen at: Ground Floor Living Centre, Ossulston Street NW1, on March 9 at 2pm.

STEPHEN McCARTHY
Somers Town History Club

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