Today I was the UK urbansketcher taking over the @Urbansketchers Twitter and Instagram feeds to post sketches of my day as part of #uskdayinthelife. I decided to go on a tour of Northampton’s tall buildings. Sadly some of them are now rather dilapidated. I was lucky that today was a sunny and warm late summer day – perfect for urbansketching outdoors. Before I went I found a piece of map with each place on it and also some information about each building. I had intended to spend longer on adding text but the day sped by and time ran out.
I began with a modern building – the large tanks that are part of the Carlsberg factory. The factory was built in 1973 and designed by Danish architect Knud Munk, who was inspired by the form of a Danish longship. Now I know this I will look at the factory with new eyes!
Next I went to the Eleanor Cross, the oldest structure I drew today. The Eleanor Crosses were built between 1291 and 1294 to mark the places that the funeral procession of Queen Eleanor stopped on the way to London. There are only three remaining and two are in Northamptonshire. I found that JMW Turner had sketched this Eleanor Cross and the sketches can be seen in the Tate collection of his sketchbooks. Unfortunately our Eleanor Cross has not been well maintained and is in a poor state. There’s a local campaign to protect and restore it.
After this I went to a chimney and engine house that used to be part of the old Northampton sewage works, built in 1862. This chimney is quite challenging to draw as it has a textured surface. It is near the skate park and there are several good views of it.
After lunch I moved to other side of the town to the derelict site of St Crispins Hospital. Its a ver interesting site with the remains of many buildings.I sketched the clock tower, built in 1876. It is 190 feet tall. I found a report from Historic England that stated that the clock tower is: “an important feature locally, and makes a strong feature against the skyline.” Unfortunately the report went on to say “the clock tower is undistinguished, of standard design and slightly unbalanced by an oversized clock turret. It does not compare well with listed examples of the same period.”
On the way back into town I found a view of the Express Lift Tower. This is such a distinctive building and is visible from all over the town. It was built in 1980 and contains six lift towers of different heights for different purposes. It is 137m tall. Although it looks like quite a simple structure it is quite complicated when you really look at it.
Finally I came back home to the nearby Abington Park to sketch the old waterpower. This was built in 1678 to supply water to the nearby Abington manor. It looked lovely in the evening sunlight and there were definite signs of autumn in the colours of the trees and the leaves on the ground.
There are a few more tall buildings that I’d like to add – among them the Obelisk in Kingsthorpe and the new university building at Waterside. It was an intense day and I was glad to be joined by fellow Northampton urbansketcher and artist, Minnie Teckman (@ProjectDogwalk on twitter and @PetPortraitsNN on Instagram) for some of the morning. One of the most impotent things I’ve gained from being an urbansketcher is new knowledge of my local town. Other Northampton urban sketchers have introduced me to new views of places I know and hidden places that I would never have found for myself. Recording local landmarks one drawing at a time as I have today has shown me the danger that some of our local buildings are in. One day our urbansketches could be a record of places that no longer exist.
I hope the people who saw a glimpse of Northampton through my urbansketches enjoyed what they saw!