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Welcome, and thank you for stopping. It is very kind of you to do so. There are so many demands on our time and attention so I appreciate you taking the effort to pause here a moment.


My name is Stephen Taylor. I work full time (as an e-learning developer and instructional designer) but in my spare time I take photographs. You can view some of my work on this website. Some of it is also for sale on Alamy and nuMonday, either as digital downloads or physical prints. More of my photographs can be found on Flickr and Instagram as well.

We are always learning (I learnt that in my early days as a trainer) and this blog is a part of my learning process (and possibly yours?). Some of the postings will be on the subject of photography itself, based upon my reading on the subject and viewing other photographers’ works. Other postings will be on my experiences as a photographer seeking to improve my art; some of these will be less about the photographic process and more about the subject itself.

I am sharing them because I hope that people will respond with their own ideas so that together we can learn. I am not an expert in the subject but I am happy to share my thoughts and to have them challenged. I hope that in some respects this blog can become a conversation on the subject of photography.

Along the Riverbank

An afternoon photographing

Late one Saturday afternoon I took the half hour train ride out of London to the small town of Hertford. The purpose of my trip, apart from getting out of London for a short while, was to revisit and rephotograph the Gauge House at the head of the New River.

The Gauge House is an imposing building standing out from the King’s Meadows just outside Hertford. It is on the River Lea where the New River starts. The purpose of the building is, as its name suggests, to gauge the amount of water taken from the River Lea into the New River. The New River was built in the early seventeen century to supply fresh water to London and continues to do so.

When I first learnt of the Gauge House a little while ago I wanted to go visit it. I have explored other parts of the New River closer to home and it seemed appropriate to visit its other end. I was also struck by by the building’s grandeur as befits a piece of Victorian engineering. I had explored it a few weeks ago but as with most of the subjects I photograph I am always drawn back to them time and again. There is always something new to see or a new way of looking at them.

Hartham Common

My walk to the Gauge House started at Hartham Common on the outskirts of Hertford. This sits at the confluence of the Rivers Lea and Beane (two other rivers also flow through this area – the River Rib and the splendidly named Mimram). Today much of the common is now playing fields but it looks like it is prone to flooding; dotted between the football pitches were a series of concrete blocks with covers on top of them; from deep below I could hear rushing water.

Rising above the predominantly flat space and under a suitably dramatic sky they seemed an obvious subject to photograph, especially as the rays of light broke through the clouds. Last time I visited there were beautifully blue skies – which made for a pleasant stroll but more mundane lighting. This time there were banks of clouds with the late afternoon sunshine breaking through.

Gauge House

The clouds also became a feature when I reached Gauge House. I explored different angles on it including coming in very close and looking up at the walls against the sky, and then going further back and including the River Lea and a conveniently positioned canal boat. I also wandered around the back of the building and looked at the head of the New River. Last time there was more evidence of construction work taking place here. Whilst it is still going on (to strengthen Gauge House) the work in the water had been removed and I was able to capture this reflection of the building and the sky.

Reflections

Two other features struck me that day and played a part in my choice of photographs. One of these was the reflections of the sky in the river and the way the water rippled over them. I took several photographs, some of people walking and cycling by, others of just the sky itself broken by circles and ripples on the surface.

A10

The other thing that struck me (and I was conscious of all the time) was the brutalist A10 viaduct thrumming with traffic; its brutality had been partially softened by the graffiti that adorns its pillars. Photographically the road offeres a brilliant structure with its sweeping lines and strong shadows, especially in contrast to the meadows below. In the end, though I focused on the artwork – I loved its sense of creative subversion.

(Full disclosure – this photo was taken on my earlier visit. I was rather disappointed by the ones I took this time.)

An unexpected sunset

Eventually I needed to turn around and head back into Hertford, leaving the rest of the River Lea to be explored on another day.

This time I followed the River Lea back into the town centre. On the way my eye, and the camera lens, was caught by the lock keeper’s cottage at Hertford Lock; the eraly workings of a new riverside development in its early stages; and, closer into town, some allotments. I was struck by a group of sunflowers still mostly standing proud although towards the end of their season. Elsewhere the beds had already been cleared.

I left Hertford before the sun had set but on the way back I (along with my fellow passengers) were treated to a spectucular sunset.

Wick Wood

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


Wick Wood didn’t really exist thirty or so years ago. It was planted as part of the building of the M11 extension – the usual bit of greenwashing.

Before that it was open land, some it marshy. During the second world war gun emplacements were located here to defend London and the nearby docks. Now it is a relatively tranquil place and it is quite a thought that once the space was heavy with the sound of gunfire, the smell of hot metal and the grim determination of the gunners to carry out their deadly tasks.

New River

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


The New River is not technically a river as it is manmade and neither is it new as it was built back in the early seventeenth century.

Whatever you wish to call it, it runs from somewhere near Hertford to Islington. In Hertfordshire the river above ground, meandering as it follows the contours to stay level. Once it reaches London some of it begins to disappear underground but there are still sections you can view and walk along including these parts between Woodberry Down and Finsbury Park.

The River was opened in 1613 and designed by Sir Hugh Myddleton – you can see his statue at Islington Green and there are a number of roads along the route of the river that bear his name.

I love exploring these areas as they are a ribbon of tranquility behind buildings and beneath busy roads. They are also home to many others including swans and herons.

It is possible to walk almost the entire route of the New River – something else I should do at some point, so watch out for more photographs later!

A1

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure or overlooked parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.

I have always liked photographing the roads beneath our feet because they are so often overlooked yet they are so heavy with meaning. They are ignored; just functional pieces of tarmac, something we drive, walk or cycle upon without another thought. They get us to where we want to be (mostly) and that is all that people ask of them. They can be seen in a negative light as well; dividing communities, creating noise and pollution, and death and injury.

But travel lightly and they offer so much potential.

This is the A1 in London and, as the sign says, it can take you all the way to the NORTH (in capitals). It runs 410 miles (660km) to Edinburgh, and it was designated the A1 one hundred years ago in 1921 by the Ministry of Transport. Parts of it include the Great North Road, a highway that has ran between England and Scotland since medieval times.

I love the potential of roads and where they may take you. That sign, “The NORTH” is so evocative. The route has been explored extensively in song and book but one day I may explore it myself.

In the meantime I have explored another road, or rather a series of roads until they gave out at the coast.

Bunhill Fields

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


London is a city of towns and villages, once separate from each other and with their own distinct character. And then there would have been the spaces in between; the fields, moorlands and forests almost unpopulated save for the occasional dwelling.

It was in these spaces that were often on the edges of authority that people could fly under the radar, fall through the cracks. It was inevitable that the more radical and unconventional would be attracted to such areas.

One such space is Bunhill Fields on the northern edge of the City of London. This would once have been moorland outside the City’s boundary and as far as the next village, Hoxton. Its name suggests it may have been a burial place for many years, possibly back to Saxon times. Rather than an actual burial ground, with all the ritual that implies, it may, however, have been more of a dump for human remains taken from the charnel house at St Paul’s Cathedral in the 16th century. There were sufficient bones to create a hill in this bleak space.

In 1665, the year of the plague, the space became used as an overfill burial ground. It continued in that capacity until the middle of the nineteenth century. The land was never consecrated by the Church of England so it became the choice of burial for those outside the established church. This included John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress; and William Blake, the engraver, poet and philospher.

Close by, and in keeping with the non-conformist tradition of the area there is the home of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley; and elsewhere the last resting place of the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox.

Markfield

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


Markfield Park is a former sewage and water treatment works. It is now a living work of art with a working beam engine.

The north London area of Tottenham, where it is located, was rapidly expanding in the first half of the nineteenth century and there was an urgent need to deal with human waste (most of it was running into the nearby River Lea). In 1849 work began on the sewage treatment site. It was a private venture and when the owner died in 1858 it was left to decay and sewage once more began running into the River Lea, the main source of water for the local population. It is suggested that up to 4000 people were killed as a result of the poor quality of the water.

A new sewage works was built in the 1880s and remained in use until the 1960s.

The site was taken over by the local council as a park. It includes the working beam engine that would have pumped the sewage and a legal graffiti site on the walls of the old channels and tanks where the water used to run.

Hill Garden

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


These steps are at Hill Garden, an almost secret park tucked away on the far western edge of Hampstead Heath, between Hampstead and Golders Green. What I like about it is the way it blurs into the edges of the heath with, at its heart, a dramatic pergola rising above the surrounding land.

Yew Tree

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


This ancient Yew Tree stands in the churchyard in the village of Totteridge on the very edges of London. It is reputedly 2000 years old.

If true, it would have seen the coming of the Romans and the growth of Londinium; its decline and regrowth as the City of London, and the emergence of Westminster as a political power base. Londoners fleeing the plague may have come past this way and a year later it would have seen the Great Fire of London. Gradually the metropolis would have crept towards it. Then, in the 20th Century, it would have heard bombers droning overhead, explosions as their load hit their mark, and the responding anti-aircraft fire.

After the war it would see the regrowth of London both outwards, spreading further into the surrounding areas; and upwards with new build reaching ever upwards.

Then, just before this photograph was taken, it would have heard silence as the world locked down in response to the global pandemic.

Whether the tree really is that old it is sobering to think that it has seen so much and looks as if it will continue to remain a witness to the future.

The People’s Stone

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


The People’s Stone or the Freedom of Speech Stone stands on Hampstead Heath on the climb towards Parliament Hill. I have been unable to find out much about it beyond the fact that it may have once been a place where people congregated to protest or to speak out on controversial matters, a little bit like Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.

It looks a little like a trig point used to map the area but they would usually be found on higher ground.

Until recently it had “Truth, Love, Peace” painted on it. Not long ago, the word, “Truth” was removed.

Parliament Hill has its own political connections. Parliamentary forces may have grouped here during the Civil War, and it might also have been the spot Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators had intended to watch the Houses of Parliament explode.

Martyrs

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.


In 1833 six farm workers in the village of Tolpuddle, Dorset – James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, James Loveless, John Standfield and Thomas Standfield – seeing their wages plummet, formed a friendly society (a precursor to a trades union) so that they could combine together to protect their wages. Unions were no longer illegal at that date, although barely tolerated. The workers had sworn a secret oath and it was this that in 1834 was used to prosecute them under an obscure 18th century law, the Unlawful Oaths Act. They were sentenced to transportation.

We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!

A petition was raised to protest against the sentences and very soon it had 800,000 signatures. Tens of thousands set off from Copenhagen Fields near Kings Cross to present the petition to Parliament.

A little under twenty years later the sounds of Copenhagen Fields changes from the chants of protestors to that of the cries of livestock brought to the Metropolitan Cattle Market. The new market built as a supplement to the existing Smithfield Market further south was opened by Prince Albert in 1855. It included the clocktower and no fewer than five public houses, four of them on each corner of the site. Trade diminished and eventually the market closed in 1863. The space is now a public park with the clock tower taking pride of place.

A mural depicting the Tolpuddle Martyrs Rally is painted on a wall in a small park off Copenhagen Street, south of the Caledonian Park.

Each year a rally takes place in the village of Tolpuddle to celebrate the memory of the martyrs and trades unionism. It includes a procession through the village with trades union banners and marching bands. Wreaths are laid at the grave of the only martyr who returned to the village after their sentences were overturned. At the centre there is an old sycamore tree under which the farm workers are said to have met to discuss their plight. It still boasts new growth each year.