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Mural depicting the History of Old Kent Road

A Grade II Listed Building in Southwark, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4833 / 51°28'59"N

Longitude: -0.0652 / 0°3'54"W

OS Eastings: 534440

OS Northings: 177816

OS Grid: TQ344778

Mapcode National: GBR YQ.HF

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.TZC8

Plus Code: 9C3XFWMM+8W

Entry Name: Mural depicting the History of Old Kent Road

Listing Date: 20 April 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1442278

Location: Southwark, London, SE15

County: London

District: Southwark

Electoral Ward/Division: Livesey

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Southwark

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Camberwell Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Summary


A large ceramic mural consisting of three panels which depict the history of the Old Kent Road, 1965, by Adam Kossowski. The former Civic Centre, for which it was designed and on which it is currently (2017) mounted, is not included in the listing.

Description

A large ceramic mural consisting of three panels which depict the history of the Old Kent Road, 1965, by Adam Kossowski.

MATERIALS: textured and moulded ceramic tiles in a variety of colours, with selective glazes.

DESCRIPTION: the mural consists of three large panels telling the chronological history of the road from the Roman period to the 1960s. The first panel is c5m wide, and c3m tall. It is attached to the N end of the E elevation of a building (not included in the listing), under the shallow projection of its first storey. It tells the story of the Roman period and is decorated with images of Roman buildings with their terracotta tile roofs, and classical proportions. Military iconography is represented through legionary standards, one topped with the letters ‘SPQR’. Within the buildings a number of citizens and soldiers are gathered, perhaps discussing the conquest of Britain. The panel also hints at the civilisation delivered by Rome, and features a horseman saying goodbye to his family and travelling along the newly-paved road. At the corner where this panel and the next meet there are ten moulded butterflies. They represent the rare Camberwell Beauty which was first spotted in this area in 1798, but is not native to these shores.

The second panel is of similar dimensions and stands on the principal N elevation of the building, towards the E end, under its deep overhang. This panel displays images from the Canterbury Tales, and includes a quote from the text 'AND OFF WE RODE AT SLIGH / TLY FASTER PACE THAN / WALKING TO ST THOMAS’ / WATERING-PLACE; AND / THERE OUR HOST DREW / UP, BEGAN TO EASE HIS / HORSE, AND SAID ’NOW / LISTEN IF YOU PLEASE’. In the middle of the panel stands a large cathedral, with its entrance door guarded by a ghostly white knight, perhaps making reference to the murder of Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170. The next section of the panel is given over to Henry V and his army, commemorating their regular passage to battles in France during the Hundred Years War. The final section displays the Camberwell coat of arms and the text ‘ALLS WELL’ which is a pun based on the two water well symbols which make up the Camberwell insignia.

The third panel is wider at c10m. It also stands on the N elevation of the building, but to the W end. The imagery starts with a diorama of the Jack Cade rebellion of 1450, which stemmed from grievances over the corruption of Henry VI’s regime and the debt caused by years of warfare against France. Jack Cade and his Kent-based followers marched on London demanding change. Once in London the conflict descended to looting and riot, culminating in a bloody battle on London Bridge. Cade fled but was later killed in a skirmish. The Jack Cade Rebellion was the largest popular uprising to take place in England during the 15th century. The next section represents the triumphant return of Charles II to England in 1660 after a nine year exile. Contemporary reports suggested that his entourage took seven days to pass by. The final section of this panel represents the C20 East End of London, with imagery of a policeman, factories, transport, and high rise buildings. In the centre a family dressed in traditional ‘Pearly King and Queen’ dress (made popular by Henry Croft, a late-C19 orphan street sweeper), use a road crossing. In the top right hand corner, the work is signed by the artist and dated 1965.

History

The Old Kent Road Mural was designed in 1964 for the then Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell, and completed in 1965. The former North Peckam Civic Centre building to which the mural is attached is currently (2017) in use as the Everlasting Arms Ministries Church.

The ceramicist Adam Kossowski (1905-1986) created the work which depicts scenes from the rich history of the Old Kent Road. The road was part of the Roman Watling Street, extending from Dover to Canterbury, and then through Faversham and Rochester to London. It was the main route to the south-east from the Roman period until the formation of railways in the C19.

Adam Kossowski (1905–1986) was a Polish emigré who studied art and architecture in Poland in the 1920s, but was arrested by the invading Russians in 1939 and imprisoned in a Soviet labour camp. He reached England in 1942 and, in 1950, he was introduced to Fr Malachy Lynch by Phillip Lindsey Clark and commissioned to produce a series of murals for The Friars, Aylesford Priory, Kent (National Heritage List for England no. 1437906, listed at Grade II*). This commission was followed by numerous others, and he continued his ecclesiastical work at the Priory until 1971. He also worked from his studio in Old Brompton Road, London where he created other ecclesiastical pieces, including a sgraffito mural of the 'Apocalypse of St John’ within St Benet's Chapel, East London (NHLE no. 1419384, listed at Grade II), and the Old Kent Road Mural, which is his only known substantial secular work.

Reasons for Listing

The ceramic mural depicting the history of the Old Kent Road, 1965, by Adam Kossowski, mounted on the former North Peckham Civic Centre, is listed for the following principal reasons:

* Artistic interest: the signed and specially-commissioned mural is a striking artwork by Adam Kossowski, displaying intricate detail and historical references to the Old Kent Road;
* Rarity: it is a rare as an unusual survival from the period when ceramic mural-making was at its zenith, and as a large-scale example of Kossowski’s secular work;
* Craftsmanship and materials: each panel is a bespoke and beautifully-made object, with each tile individually textured, painted, and glazed by the artist;
* Historic interest: the mural is a testament to the atmosphere of optimism and excitement initiated by the Festival of Britain, and which continued in to the 1960s.

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