Director’s Diary: Photographer snaps chains

We are working closely with Southwark councillors and Mayflower Compact partners on planning the Mayflower celebrations for 2020. LB Southwark is co-ordinating a first stage HLF application for a range of high profile events in the borough, because as more and more people now understand, the Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe! Southwark is lead borough for celebrations in London, and a new Rotherhithe Pier is the obvious focus. A future American Ambassador in a new American embassy will be able to take a direct boat from a new pier at Nine Elms to a new Mayflower Pier in Rotherhithe. And so will countless others. A river pier will be an extraordinary and lasting legacy, bringing visitors and inward investment and transforming the fortunes of Rotherhithe as well as the Museum.

Last week I dined with British Steel and the head of Thames Clippers at the Watermen’s & Lightermen’s annual event, and this week I hosted a follow up meeting at the Museum. A new pier and publicity for a new British Steel. A new pier for Thames Clippers. A new route to work and home for those on the peninsula.

On the same bit of the river, we move from one iconic ship to another: from Mayflower to SS Great Eastern. If the Mayflower launched a continent, then the Great Eastern launched continental travel. Remember Brunel’s ship could steam from England to Australia and back again without refuelling. Brunel launched the SS Great Eastern just down the river on the Isle of Dogs, but this is also where Howlett took a famous photograph and launched Brunel! I urge you to watch BBC4 tomorrow, Monday 6th at 9pm. In this new series Britain in Focus: A Photographic History, Eamonn McCabe explores the development of the art of photography in the UK. He looks at the way science and technology allowed pioneers like Roger Fenton, Julia Margaret Cameron and Robert Howlett to create a new art form. Brunel was prolific, but his fame in posterity is very largely due to the Howlett photograph in front of the chains. It is difficult or impossible to imagine his status without Robert Howlett. Interestingly, when Brunel was too busy or too unwell, he sent Howlett off to take photographs of The Royal Albert Bridge and bring them for him to look at. The photographer is part of the engineer’s team…

The interviewee on Monday is Rose Teanby, biographer of Robert Howlett. Rose was at our Royal Opening last November, and she quietly took a photograph of our guests Isambard Thomas and Ian Howlett. Isambard is the designer of our new book Brunel’s Great Eastern and a direct descendant of IKB. Ian is a descendant of Robert Howlett. We think this is the first Brunel/Howlett photo shoot since 1858…

Next week we have school visits, and the usual heritage walks and boat trips, details below. On Saturday we host singer Georgia Knower and gutarist Fabricio Mattos in the last of their trilogy Colours of Eden. A few tickets are still available online here:

Sunday 5th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Monday 6th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.00 Trustees Meeting

Tuesday 7th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Wednesday 8th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 9th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
17.00 Private View Brunel Museum Cafe Gallery: Oxalis by Pam Miller

Friday 10th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Saturday 11th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room
19.30 Colours of Eden. Singer Georgia Knower and guitarist Fabricio Mattos complete their trilogy with Black Leather.
Everything from English Baroque to Blues and Jazz standards, and from upbeat South American to vibrant songs from the musicals.

Robert

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