By Mat Curtis
While the screeching tyre sound of the slow car crash that is the impending and inevitable approach to my big five-o fills my every waking moment, I take pause to contemplate time and its place here at the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. We are the latest manifestation of an organisation that has been operating for over 257 years, founded in the year when George III was crowned. However, this young king was unaware of the future infamy of being the “Mad King George” or his reputation as the monarch who cared not that his empire was halved over night with the independence of the American colonies, which, were in turn, to surpass the United Kingdom as the dominant global super-power.
But this expanse of time is a mere blink in the primitive form of eye belonging to the aspect which has become my favourite thing. How does 257 years have a bearing on the Devonian marbles which date from about 419 – 358 million years ago? These marbles and the fossils that they contain form the elegant coverings for the floors, walls, pillars and decoration of 71 Fenchurch Street.
Not just limited to the Devonian period (named after the county in South-West England where the ages of the rock formation was first discussed and then agreed) or to Devon itself, the marbles make up a rich tapestry of decoration and styles. They originate from Algeria – the evocatively named ‘Breche Sanguine’, Irish green from Connemara, Belgium black and Tuscan white marbles which contrast strongly on the entrance floor and are repeated on the first floor landing but this time punctuated with fossil-bearing red marble, possibly Jurassic, Rosso Ammonitico from Verona. However, the main attraction at this geological show is the domestic Devonian marbles.
The walls of the entrance hall, the stairwell and the first floor landing are clad in an ageless Grey Petitor that casts a neutral backdrop to the warm Red Ogwell pillars and darker grey Ashburton. They are clad from floor to ceiling in large tiled pieces forming an imperceptibly moving smoke-like backdrop in greys and light pinks. Though the entrance hall is quite minimal in features and its layout, the marbles add a movement and ornamentation to the flush surface that is only perceived by stopping a moment and joining the timelessness of this decorative marvel. I am hoping such words will be used to describe me when I reach my 358,000,000th the age of my favourite things!
An excerpt of this article appeared in the HEC monthly newsletter. To receive our newsletter, please sign up here.