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More from Emma Bryning

Graffiti of Wellclose Prison Debtors’ Cell at the Museum of London

Wellclose Prison, also known as Neptune Street Prison, was located off Wellclose Square near to the Tower of London. The 18th-century small prison was run on a commercial basis and the majority of inmates were insolvent debtors who were either imprisoned until they could repay their debts or were awaiting transfer to Newgate Prison. The prison was below a public tavern which was connected to a courthouse, where the tavern’s landlord acted as gaoler. By the 1790s, the prison was empty and in a state of disrepair. The prison was finally closed in the 19th century and the building it was housed within was turned into a lodging house. When the building was demolished in 1911, two cells from the prison were dismantled and transferred to the London Museum at Kensington Palace and elements of both cells can now be found on display in the Museum of London. Prisoners in the cells were known to scratch and carve their names and initials or write messages or draw pictures onto the walls of the cells and many of these marks can still be seen today. 

The Lord Napier Graffiti Pub, Hackney Wick, London

For about twenty years, not a single pint was been pulled in The Lord Napier pub, located near to the Hackney Wick overground station. The pub was licensed in 1868 under the name The White’s Arms and was then advertised for sale, whereupon its news owners changed its name to The Lord Napier. During the twentieth century, the pub appeared in the local and national news as the site of numerous robberies and assaults. After its closure in 1995, the former pub attracted squat parties, became known as a destination for illegal raves in the early 2000s and began to be covered in graffiti. In 2016, artist Aida Wilde commissioned 29 local street artists as part of a 48-hour takeover of the building as a ‘symbol of protest against [the] gentrification’ which was happening in the local area. The pub has been attracting tourists to its ever changing exterior ever since it was reimagined with its iconic graffiti makeover. After attracting new ownership, the pub is expected to go through an extensive programme of refurbishment. 

Stockwell Park Graffiti Hall of Fame and Stockwell War Memorial Mural

The Stockwell Park Graffiti Pen, known as ‘The Pen’ and the ‘Stockwell Hall of Fame’, is another legal graffiti site in London. It was originally built in the 1950s to be used by children from the estate to play sports but attracted graffiti and later became known as a legal graffiti site. It has been used as a graffiti pen for over forty years and can be found in the sunken basketball courts of Stockwell Park Estate on Aytoun Road. Over the years it became a space for graffiti writers and artists to create pieces, eventually becoming a destination site for some of the best graffiti and street art in the capital. The site was transformed in 2019 as part of a £200 million refurbishment of the Stockwell Park Estate by Network Homes and it was designed in consultation with local residents, graffiti artists and architects to provide a space to showcase the ever-changing graffiti artwork and to create interior wall spaces which would allow artists to continue working. 

Stockwell War Memorial Mural can be found near to the First World War memorial and just outside the entrance to Stockwell tube station. The work was created as part of a community art project led by muralist Brian Barnes and artist Myra Harris, and was painted between 1999 and 2001. Many of the images depicted in the mural link to the history of Stockwell and stories from the local area.

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The Red Bull

A dance from Playford’s Dancing Master (1698) thought to have been named after the Red Bull Playhouse, an inn-yard theatre, built in 1605 in what is now Haywood’s Place. During the early part of the 17th Century, the theatre was used by the Queen’s Men, and their performances rivalled those at the Globe and the Fortune.
During the Civil War and Interregnum, when other theatres were closed or destroyed, the Red Bull remained open, offering illicit performances of jigs, drolls, rope-dancing and much more.
It was demolished during the early years of the Restoration, but its location, Red Bull Yard could still be seen on Ogilby’s map a few years later.

The Red Bull dance doesn’t appear in the Dancing Master until 1698, but the melody is thought to date from c1619.