Artistic depictions of the workplace are none too common. Stone friezes showing people at work are vanishingly rare.
This one at Aldersgate Street in the Barbican is a gem - a depiction of gold refining and smelting. You can feel the heat and smell the sweat!
If you are looking for the frieze, it's across the road from the entrance to the Barbican tube station. It's worth seeking out.
The plaque accompanying the frieze is not easily legible, so I've typed out what it says:
'This frieze was removed from numbers 53 and 54 Barbican when it was demolished in 1962 and re-erected by the Corporation of London in 1975. Numbers 53 and 54 Barbican were the premises of W. Bryer & Sons gold refiners and assayers whose trade is depicted in the frieze. The building was one of the few which survived when the area was largely destroyed by incendiary bombs in December 1940.'
The frieze depicts, from left to right, the weighing of the gold ore, the smelting and then casting of the gold, and then the sale of the finished product. All the work of the business stage-by-stage. And the workplace cat is featured too!
This gold refinery business was established in 1815 - though it only became known as W. Bryer and Sons in the 1870s. The firm relocated to Hatton Garden and is still listed in online directories.
And fittingly there is a Bryer Court, named after the business, in the Barbican Estate, built from the mid-1960s and one of Central London's biggest, and most controversial, post-war development projects.
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