• London On The Ground

Seven Ages of Man: Shakespeare, BT & brutalism

Updated: Feb 13

Shakespeare's 'All the world's a stage' inspired a 22ft sculpture at BT's brutalist City of London building.

Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley at BT's brutalist Baynard House, Queen Victoria Street, City of London
Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House

The statue, entitled 'Seven Ages of Man' is on Queen Victoria Street on a raised courtyard outside British Telecom's Baynard House. It was commissioned in 1980 by what was at that time the Post Office and created by artist and sculptor Richard Kindersley.


Made of cast aluminium, the 22ft (7m) work depicts the seven ages of man, as described in William Shakespeare's play As You Like It by the character Jaques in the famous "All the world's a stage" speech.

Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley at BT's brutalist Baynard House, Queen Victoria Street, City of London
Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley at BT's brutalist Baynard House

Baynard House is a brutalist concrete office building standing where there was once a Norman castle and a medieval mansion named Baynard's Castle. Completed in 1979, Baynard House was designed by architect William Holford. The design includes raised walkways at first floor level with direct access to the neighbouring Blackfriars station.


It has served as telephone exchange, the home of the BT Museum and offices. Across the road is the Faraday Building, which housed one of the UK's first telephone exchanges.

Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House
Seven Ages of Man; with The Faraday Building visible across Queen Victoria Street

The sculpture resembles a totem pole and features seven heads, each depicting seven successively older ages, from the infant at the bottom to "second childishness" at the top. The seven ages, as described in Shakespeare's As You Like It, together with each of Richard Kindersley's carved heads, are shown below.

At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;



And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school.



And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.



Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth.



And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part.



The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound.



Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.



Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House
The walkway leads through Baynard House to Blackfriars station
Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House, with St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe across Queen Victoria Street
St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe across Queen Victoria St
Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House, Queen Victoria Street, City of London
Seven Ages of Man by Richard Kindersley, Baynard House

Jaques' "All the world's a stage" speech

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

William Shakespeare, 'As You Like It'

Richard Kindersley studied lettering and sculpture at Cambridge School of Art and in his father's workshop. Other work in London includes an area of pavement outside St Paul's Cathedral, only a short walk from Baynard House. This depicts the footprint of Sir Christopher Wren's design, overlaid on the floor plan of the Old St Paul's destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 (depicted in darker stone).

St Paul's Cathedral Alignment Pavement by Richard Kindersley showing the floor plan of Wren's cathedral and Old St Paul's
St Paul's Cathedral floor plans by Richard Kindersley
 

For a schedule of forthcoming London On The Ground guided walks, including the 'Shakespeare in the City of London' walk, please click here.


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