steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Looking Down on Orphans

Assiduous readers of this journal will remember that I live in the grounds of an old orphanage - or rather a set of five orphanages built between the 1840s and 1870 by George Müller. Somehow, however, I'd never noticed this charming nineteenth-century drawing of them until a few days ago, though it had been sitting in plain view on the web:

The Müller Orphanages, 1860s-ish

They're handsome buildings as you can see, set in green fields. Well, naturally, I decided to see what kind of makeover the twentieth-century had effected...

Ashley Down now

... and found that they're still fairly intact, despite the addition of a County Cricket Ground, and much housing. The facade is still impressive, too, even if Google Earth can't show much except rooftops. The passageway that the orphans seem to have used to walk under the Ashley Down Road has disappeared, alas, and the little lane heading obliquely into the top left corner is now just an alley running along the back gardens of a more recent (late nineteenth-century) street. (The council recently named the alley Happy Lane, perhaps because it runs near a primary school - surely a case of Trying Too Hard.)

Anyway, I decided to overlay one picture on top of the other, and the results are rather surprising - at least to me:

Something awry?

Here I've matched the drawing of Orphanages 4 and 5 to the actual buildings. They fit well, but it's striking how far out the rest of the picture is. Not only are the orientations are wrong, but Orphanage 3 (the one nearest the artist) reveals itself to have been drawn far too large - presumably in the interests of making a pleasingly imposing foreground image. This will probably be no surprise to anyone proficient in technical drawing, but I hadn't noticed, having given up that noble art gratefully at thirteen. (How I struggled with T-squares and orthographic projections in that terrapin hut on the far side of the playing field! How I quailed before the harsh Bradford vowels of Percy Cudmore, telling us that we were all "As soft as tripe and twice as nassty"! But let's not go there.)
Tags: bristol
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