Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Inside the National Liberal Club (home of the Liberal Democrats)

with 3 comments

William Gladstone, served as UK Prime Minister four times (1868–1874, 1880–1885, February–July 1886 and 1892–1894 - -> more than any other person)

A couple of weeks ago now I was able to take some photographs at the National Liberal Club in London, the private members club and home of the Liberal Democrats (a significant UK political party currently in our Coalition Government for those non-UK readers). Although it’s a bit tough to photograph in there normally as I was photographing a charity concert there I was able to take these photographs without too much hassle. Full to the brim with beautifully decorated members rooms and political artifacts, it was the kind of society that I rarely photograph.

Significantly for me the National Liberal Club also houses Gladstone’s Axe which is the old axe that the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone used to hack away at trees at the bottom of his garden when he was working out the big stuff in his head. I LOVE THIS AXE: you really don’t understand how much. Here is an excerpt that Evelyn Ashley famously wrote about Gladstone’s axe, tree chopping, and their significance as dramatic symbols (excerpt taken from William Gladstone’s Wikipedia article):

“One afternoon of November, 1868, in the Park at Hawarden, I was standing by Mr. Gladstone holding his coat on my arm while he, in his shirt sleeves, was wielding an axe to cut down a tree. Up came a telegraph messenger. He took the telegram, opened it and read it, then handed it to me, speaking only two words, namely, ‘Very significant’, and at once resumed his work. The message merely stated that General Grey would arrive that evening from Windsor. This, of course, implied that a mandate was coming from the Queen charging Mr. Gladstone with the formation of his first Government. I said nothing, but waited while the well-directed blows resounded in regular cadence. After a few minutes the blows ceased and Mr. Gladstone, resting on the handle of his axe, looked up, and with deep earnestness in his voice, and great intensity in his face, exclaimed: ‘My mission is to pacify Ireland.’ He then resumed his task, and never said another word till the tree was down.”

Here’s the axe as well as other glimpses from inside the members club. I would like to photograph there more. We’ll see what they say.

William Gladstones Legendary Axe

Drinks in the smoking room

Man with tea (with a portrait of William Gladstone in the background)

Entrance to the smoking room

Even more smoking room

Loadsa smoking room

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3 Responses

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  1. Good work Max: Great to get some kind of insight into these closed societies.

    Simon Bates

    April 21, 2011 at 8:06 am

  2. I love the “Drinks in a smoking room” shot. Its always fun to be invited to shoot at these “behind close doors” places for whatever reason but keep your documentary hat on…

    Veronika Lukasova

    April 22, 2011 at 7:42 am

  3. Cheers for checking the pics out guys. I’m really interested in shooting more of this kind of stuff. I’m not sure how much people focus on these areas but they’re definitely important, as well as being visually interesting environments.

    @Veronika – yep, that shot is a fave too.

    Max Colson

    April 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm


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