Our William Blake


25 Aug 2011 - Paul Mann


Since we moved into our new digs last week we’ve been exploring what Covent Garden has to offer (I must say, it’s no easy feat being positioned in such proximity to the shops of Long Acre). And when the sun comes out (it has at least twice), the view from our roof terrace reminds us how much of a creative pastiche this city is.

London’s finest painters and poets have been milling around these streets, paintbrushes or pencils in hand, for centuries.

In fact, we discovered that our new home (31 Great Queen Street) was once the address of visionary poet and printmaker William Blake.

He called this spot home for seven years as a teenager from 1772, serving an apprenticeship under James Basire, engraver to the Royal Society of Antiquaries. During these years, Blake would walk to Westminster Abbey to sketch the graves and Gothic monuments and would, apparently, frequently fall out with his fellow engravers over ‘matters of intellectual argument’ (none of that happens these days of course).

He would later become one of the most prominent artists in Britain’s history. Of course the building is different now (ours built in the 1920’s) but it’s nice to know that we are treading in the footsteps of Britain’s great creative types.

And there’s another parallel. In the last years of his life, Blake feverishly preoccupied himself by sketching scenes to Dante’s Divine Comedy – it is said he spent one of his last shillings on a pencil to continue his work. And the name of the first part of the Divine Comedy? Inferno. Spooky…

Thanks to Lauren Rayner, one of our producers here, for her superb detective work.