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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
53 - Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Radisson Edwardian Hotels
Facing one side of the model homes in Dyott Street is Congress House, a recognisably 1950s building, and the home of the Trades Union Congress. By peering through the large glass window, and across the courtyard, I can see the memorial wall (for the sacrifices made by trade unionists in two world wars) carved by Sir Jacob Epstein from a single ten-ton block of stone. Beneath the courtyard, there's a 500 seat conference hall. Jones and Woodward say, in their Guide to the Architecture of London, that Congress House is 'a rare and stylish instance of the language of modern architecture successfully rebuilding the city within its own traditions'. The building's bronze window frames, large areas of plate glass, marble and mosaic give the building durability and an appropriately monumental air, they add. The architect, David Du R. Aberdeen, won the project in a competition against 180 other entries.
In February 2004, Congress House hosted a reception to mark the completion of a website project to open up access to the TUC library collections (held by the London Metropolitan University). The website provides a history of the British trade union movement since the development of organised labour in the early 19th century. One highlight is the full unedited manuscript (1,700 pages) of 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists', a classic of working class literature. The principal speaker at the reception, Tony Benn, said the book was not only his favourite, but the one he had given away most often.
I must turn east into Great Russell Street, but a few yards west I can see a bronze sculpture that sits in front of Congress House.It is by Bernard Meadows and represents the spirit of trade unionism. Next door is the old red-brick YWCA designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s, now home to a luxury Jurys Doyle Hotel. On the northern side of Great Russell Street a series of pastel yellow and cream-painted terraces are occupied by the FSU London Study Centre. Then come two hotels facing each other, the Kenilworth and the Marlborough, with fashionable looking restaurants at street level called, respectively, Creation and Solution. Both hotels are part of Radisson Edwardian Hotels, which calls itself one of London's largest privately-owned luxury hotel groups. Worldwide, the Radisson group claims to manage (or franchise) 435 hotels, representing more than 102,000 guest rooms in 61 countries.
Were I not able to walk through the British Museum, the closest route
to the 300 easting would require me to turn left into Bloomsbury, but, instead,
I'm happy to continue along Great Russell Street. I pass a busy British
Museum shop, the Traditional English Restaurant and Tea Room, second-hand
book sellers, other tourist shops and the Museum Tavern, before turning
sharp left past the formidable black and gold-painted railings into the
great museum's expansive (but dreary) forecourt. Huge posters, picturing
hoards of silver and gold coins, proclaim the words 'Found here'. I suppose
'here' means Britain, or perhaps it refers to the British Museum's own collections,
as though some curator has had a good root around in the basements and attics.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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