Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Cravells Road

Cravells Road ~ pen & watercolour wash
by Teresa Newham

I can't remember the exact date.  But it was definitely January 1987 when I moved to the Southdown area of Harpenden, just a few days after passing my driving test (the thought of having to re-take it on a new set of roads concentrated my mind wonderfully . . . ).  Which means I have lived here now for thirty years!

source material ~ photos, sketches and layout
© Teresa Newham

What better way to mark the occasion, I thought, than by doing a painting of Cravells Road, where I first lived in Southdown?    As you drive over the brow of Piggotshill Lane opposite, the Victorian railway workers' cottages seem to cling to the side of the hill below the railway line in the most picturesque fashion, especially at dusk.

pencil undersketch
© Teresa Newham

I chose a more prosaic vantage point outside The Carpenters Arms, one of  six local pubs when I moved in, now sadly reduced to four.  The George IV, opposite, had a bad reputation in those days - it's since reverted to a private house - and round the corner the Rose & Crown is now a block of flats. At that time Harpenden, along with St Albans, boasted the highest proportion of pubs per head of population in the country!

the pen drawing
© Teresa Newham

These side-by-side georeferenced maps show Southdown (or Bowling Alley, as it was originally known) in the late 19th/early 20th century, with the cottages in Cravells Road clearly visible both below and above the railway bridge.  Not long after I moved in, somebody remarked to me (only partly in fun) that I was living on "the wrong side" of the railway.  Needless to say, I was delighted; and have lived on the wrong side of the tracks ever since . . .

choosing colours
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved in, I watched in fascinated horror as a man worked on the roof of the house opposite - I was convinced he would fall at any moment.  But not at all - it turned out that he was a fireman getting the place ready for his wedding, and well used to heights.  He even ate his sandwiches up there!

adding washes, little by little
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved out, I watched again in fascinated horror as a riderless white horse galloped down the road, having thrown its rider on the Common at the top.  The horse turned right at the roundabout at the foot of the hill without causing injury to itself or others, and was recaptured, appropriately enough, outside the bookies in Grove Road . . .

not quite finished
© Teresa Newham

In between there were a host of crazy happenings and great friendships made: and though I was only there a few years, Cravells Road holds a very special place in my heart.  I've tried to portray some of that affection and the quirkiness of the place in my painting - it's a long time since I've worked in such detail, and I enjoyed every minute of the making!

the magic of shadows!
© Teresa Newham

1 comment:

  1. I think you ought to do more of these local views in pen and wash. A fascinating bit of local history as well!