NORTHUMBERLAND HOUSE ARCH
Four hundred years ago every nobleman in London wanted a house on the banks of the River Thames. A string of Tudor and Jacobean palaces were built along the Strand, with their gardens leading down to the river. Northumberland House was one of the grandest, built in 1605 and refurbished extensively during the mid 18th century. As Victorian London expanded and the river became choked with filth and sewage, the river was embanked and a new tunnel sewage system built. A direct road linking Trafalgar Square with the Embankment was proposed through the middle of Northumberland House…. The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s house was demolished. This arch was saved and brought to Bromley-By-Bow by a local man, George Rutty.
POEMS BY ARNAUD-WILLIAM MBAKI
From the land to the river (in all the unspoken words)
It was in the way you looked at me.
Unsure of my history, you set barges onto me,
Reminding me of the Romans who came with heavy hand,
Adorning me with bridges and roads.
It was in the way my hoary ripples,
brimming with frosted osiers,
Spent long moons bound by the grip of Niflheim himself,
Leaving my waters a cold, and misty, world of the dead.
It was in the disposal of your insatiable sins,
That I began to change.
My pearled hair now besmirched and sullied,
Tarnished by your “Greatest of Minds”
It was in the introduction of my children:
Diphtheria, Scrofula and Cholera,
That I would seek my revenge.
An end to my ordeal.
And from the land to the river,
In all the unspoken words,
I, Old Father Thames,
Ask to be remembered.
Anecdote of the River
I placed a barge in the Thames,
And flat-bottomed it was, upon the rolling waves.
It swept my soul away
To a moment in the past
The water rose up to it,
Sprawling around, no longer stationary.
The barge was restless upon the water
And lonely and full of despair.
It took dominion everywhere.
The barge was ancient and lacking.
It did not give of luxury or stability,
Like nothing else in the Thames.
The Old Father’s Haiku
A river voyage.
As waves break over the bow,
Father Thames is heard.
Words to the river
Did it hurt your soul?
To be worshipped, abandoned,
And soon forgotten?
I think by now the river must be thick with sin. Too late, I would imagine
As if it was that human evil: the dumping of waste, that clouds out oceans like it clouded our river
Settling around use – everything besmirched and grimed. This life, awkward
And heavy in our cleaning gear, we stalked the sins of our brethren and found our places –
You upstream a few yards and by the bank of the river. You must remember how
The river seeped into your shoes, pervading their protection and sullying your socks
And you grew heavy with the defeat you felt from such a minor inconvenience
All day I had turned to watch you, how your scorned at empty plastic bottles and pieces of glass
Then you casting your pieces of “meaningful treasure” into a supermarket grocery bag for later inspection
Slicing your hand in the process, on the severed remains of a tin can.
You tried again, and again, to find that perfect stone to skip across the river
Hoping it would skim across the water’s surface like a fisher spider.
Perhaps you recall the story I told you,
About the God of this river and his downfall as the hands on humanity
The ways in which the people he protected had turned against him in order to rid their waste.
Perhaps you forgot about it, much like the very existence I informed you of.
I confess, I thought about the past – setting a boat onto the river with my lover,
Composing and reciting poetry written for her
Her hand in mind and the Old Father’s protection cast onto our souls.
I can tell you now that I tried to take it all in,
The fact that history can be forgotten, rewritten and created.
History is a sad little thing and so I will recount my own history.
Recording it all for an elegy I’d one day write.
One that includes the forgotten and turns them into the remembered
But for now, this is an elegy to the river.
"“I found the transition of the figure of Father Thames from a god-like deity to mocking Victorian cartoons about the polluted river really intriguing. I wanted to create poems that reflected on how he would have felt about his change in fortune.”.
Arnaud- William Mbaki, Poet for Places
“I love vintage so I did an edit of the best of the photos I took. I got really into the history of the arch but I also wanted to get across the people who use it today.”
Devon Fields, 19, Proud Places Young Ambassador