16 September 2014

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey

Following on from a post earlier this year about Surrey Docks, here are some more of my photos taken along the riverside near Rotherhithe and Bermondsey.

Boats, old signs, river views... even cormorants and stalactites. 

12 September 2014

Hanway Street and Oxford Street renovation

I recently went to check out the Veno's Lightning Cough Cure ghostsign that has been revealed due to some renovations on the triangular site bordered by Hanway St at the eastern end of Oxford Street.
It is, at the moment, possible to stand on the southern side of Oxford Street and see almost straight through to Tottenham Court Road, as there is now almost nothing left but a few propped up facades.
I have great memories of Hanway Street. It was my favourite road for late night bars in the 1990s. I fondly recall that a few after work drinks in Bradley's would transmogrify into a 3am taxi after the Mia Seville/Titos/Troy Club bar crawl and then more drinking and dancing at Costa Dorada. And I fondly recall The Angus Steak House – a place I never went inside but found great amusement when the backlight on the G was not working for a few days.


I am now wondering how and why that Veno's sign was placed on that site in the first instance –  it looks to me as if the building that abuts it was built in the same period so surely it would have blocked the ad? Also, I am guessing there must have been boarding down the middle of the sign to bridge the gap between the chimney breasts. Perhaps the building next door was constructed later than the sign was painted? but that doesn't make sense because the ad does not appear to be as old as either of the fascias. Oh, I dunno. My head hurts.


On the corner of Soho Street, where the lovely angled corner and cupola of Walton's Old Queen's Head 1880 used to be, a sort of fantasy building being constructed. It looks like a lot of shower curtains with a Christmas tree attached to the top (see second pic, above). Need I say more?!
I am just hoping that two of the oldest buildings in Oxford St, on the same side of the street nearer Tott Ct Rd Station, which were both tagged by an insensitive street 'artist', are listed and won't also be lost.

9 September 2014

Richard's got an allotment

Lat month I went to East Finchley allotments.
Let's keep this short....


It's bloody lovely up there.
We dug up things, we picked things, we raked things, we chatted with the neighbours, and we came home with heavy bags full of lovely crunchy and juicy stuff which, in contrast to the crap you can buy in the shops that goes floppy or mouldy within days, kept fresh for weeks and probably would have done so for even longer had I not eaten it all.
Yum yum... I especially liked the golden beetroot.
Thanks Richard.
Just like Arnie, I'll be back :-)

5 September 2014

Angel Canal Festival, Sunday 7th September

This Sunday come and find me at my stall on Danbury Road bridge at the Angel Canal Festival. The event takes place around the the local streets bordering Regent's Canal, Graham Street Park and City Road Basin.

Top row: Danbury Road
Second row: City Road Basin where some large developments are being constructed at the moment. I am intrigued by 'Canaletto' as a choice of name as this rather infers he lived here. This is also the first time I have seen the use of the phrase 'limited edition' in this sense. Lexicon is the name given to the huge tower being constructed next door. Lexicon means 'a wordbook or dictionary' or 'the vocabulary of a certain language'. I can think of lots of word to describe it in a very colourful language.


Some more interesting things in the vicinity

2 September 2014

The regeneration of Finsbury Park

It has recently been reported in the Islington Gazette that the area behind Finsbury Park Station, between Fonthill Road and Wells Terrace is about to be 'regenerated' with a £220 million development.
If you fancy having an apartment in one of the two [iconic] towers with views over Finsbury Park then expect to shelve out between £632,000 and £1.5million. The beauty of it is you will have underground parking for the car you use to get out of London at the weekends, and immediate access to the 120,000 sqft of retail and restaurant space below meaning you won't have to go outside and mix with or relate to the people who actually live in the area.
Apparently the architects, Benson and Forsyth, won 'Housing Project of the Year 2014', at The Sunday Times’ British Home Awards before the build had even commenced. Who judges these things? Probably the same people who gave the go-ahead to The Pointy Thing and The Dubaiification of Nine Elms.
I was a little concerned that this would mean the demolition of the old Royal Mail building in nearby Goodwin Street, but having checked it seems the area for the new development falls just short of it.


As you can see from the pics above this lovely, solid, functional building of red London Stocks is now 110 years old. At the moment area around it is being run as a private car park by a very nice Albanian fella who, when I chatted to him, turns out to also be rather concerned about what the City North development will mean to the area. After all, this is only a stone's throw from a road once considered "the worst street in London" which was completely demolished in the 1950s and replaced with a large council estate. We discussed the possibility of a "them and us / haves and have nots" situation as Finsbury Park has never been an area for millionaires (though a million doesn't really get you that much these days).
Across the road from the Post Office building is a small locals cafe and just two survivors from the 19th century that are currently being braced by metal. I hope these can be rejuvenated.
And, if this artist's impression is anything to go by, it looks like Tower House, just around the corner in Fonthill Rd will remain for a while yet.
The view shown is looking north from Endymion Road across to  Fonthill Road. The white building on the left is the Astoria/Odeon/Rainbow.
Read more about the Finsbury Park development plans in City North's online brochure.

29 August 2014

Breaker's Yard at Sutton House, and a walk through Clapton and Stamford Hill

Sutton House, Homerton, is North London's oldest residential house. Built in 1535 by a rich courtier of Henry VIII, it's now owned and managed by the National Trust.
I finally went there last Friday for a guided tour. The house is just what you'd expect from an NT property – history, eccentric past owners, wood panelling, tea rooms etc. But I was more interested and impressed by the ingenuity of Breaker's Yard, a paved garden that has recently opened on the land adjacent to the the house which in centuries past used to be part of a tannery and, more recently a breaker's yard, hence the name.
This inspirational garden contains all kinds of creative and interactive elements including planters made from huge tractor tyres, recycled rainwater, a vegetable garden, a sand pit and, my favourite elemnt, a double-decker caravan that has been transformed into a mini stately home using reclaimed panelling, an old staircase, a wooden chandelier and other decorative elements. I'd just love something similar in my own garden! Read more here.


After the tour I decided to walk through Clapton along the A107 and on my journey I spotted quite a few things that were either new to me or had changed since the last time I really took a good look along there.
For instance, in the lobby of St Andrews Mansions at No.157 Lower Clapton Rd there are some lovely tiles (see top left, below). However, the sister building next door does not retain the same.
The toilet block T the end of Millfield Road is still closed and surrounded by blue boards – that's at least six years now. Somebody do something please! Question: why are hoardings like this always painted bright blue? Answers please.
I popped into the gardens that surround nearby Clapton Pond, sat for a while with a sandwich and read the info board about the conservation area. Glad to see The White Hart pub falls into that zone and has, since I was there last, had new life breathed into it. And an old carved, recessed sign is now visible along the front reading, "The Clapton Hart". I am still waiting to see what becomes of the old cinematograph building next door.
Across the roundabout, I noticed the change in colour within the brickwork on the side of the old tram depot which I think shows where the ramps used to go up to the second floor. Further along, on the corner of Cleveley's Road, there is a clunky old optician sign.


I have for many years been trying to get a good angle on the ghost sign above Clapton Station to try to work out what it might have advertised. Well, whoopee, I think I have finally cracked it – it appears to be a NestlĂ© ad, and may have looked like this one except the lettering on the Clapton sign looks to be be outlined rather than solid. Sorry, but the pic above doesn't really capture very well what I could see on the day.
I continued towards Stamford Hill, noticing that by now almost 75% of people passing me were wearing wigs, big black hats or thick tights. None of them were wearing a smile. I tried smiling at them but they ignored me as if I wasn't there. A lot of them looked thin, pale and undernourished; others looked far to young to have three children in tow.
At Clapton Common I turned left into Oldhill Street. It's interesting to note that there are lots of hills in the road names around here; Stamford Hill, Spring Hill, Big Hill, High Hill, Harrington Hill, Bakers Hill.
Oldhilll Road contains some very strange diddy little houses – there are two skinny buildings facing the street as per normal, but a few doors further up there are some more that are set sideways like back-to-backs. I have never seen these in London before. See here. And further along the road I noticed that Stamford West Grove still has its old framed enamel street sign showing the now defunct London N.E. area. These days NE is Newcastle. The South London S code was also abolished in the 19th century.
Returning back to the main road via Braydon Road I spotted an old workshop with broken windows and peeling paint with a sign that read, "Accident Repair Centre". Quite ironic really. The faded blue paint on the shutters was pleasing. That same blue again.
I walked back to the corner of Oldhill in front of the impressive 19th century houses that face the common and mused how similar it looked to other park-facing terraces elsewhere in London i.e Highbury Fields, Clapham etc.
On an information board outside St Thomas's Church, on the corner of Oldhill, there are some old photos showing how the area used to look 100 years ago. One of them features the Swan Tavern. I used to drink there in the 80's with a friend who lived close by – it was the only decent pub in the area. As you can see by these pictures, the building has changed considerably over the years. It's now a Jewish centre and barely recognisable as an old pub. It's been even further 'simplified' since the image in the link above – the front of the building is now practically flat and I could see that the interior has been plasterboarded and magnolia'd with bright strip lights added to the ceilings. Why they couldn't have kept some of the decoration and mouldings is beyond me. At least the church who took over the Rainbow/Astoria at Finsbury Park had the decency to keep the architectural details there intact. Hallelujah.
Anyway... continuing my journey...
I stopped to snap some mish-mash patchwork wooden hoardings on another building site and then spotted an interesting church spire in a street beyond the northern side of the road so I went to check it out.
Sitting next door to the Arriva bus garage in Rockwood Road is a Grade II listed building orginally built by the Agapemonites cult in the 19th century as 'The Church of the Arc Of The Covenant'. Read more about this quite-frankly bonkers group and its loony leader here. The building is covered in intriguing sculptures featuring among other things depictions of various beasts appearing to crush humans underfoot.


There are also some and some interesting bronzes up high. The building is now used by the Georgian Orthodox community. Here's a video about it.
On the opposite side of the road there is the New Synagogue which also has some lovely stained glass windows.
I thought that was enough for one day so I got on a 254 bus and went home.

26 August 2014

Cobblers!

I was just about to put a collection of pics together about this past weekend's walk from Greenwich to Wapping when it occurred to me that I still hadn't posted about last month. So here goes...
I went with a couple of friends to the foreshore on the southern side of the river under Blackfriars Bridge and then we wandered along eastwards.  I spotted a strange hardened lump of metal that looked like stone made from petrified eels, and some plastic poking out of the ground such like it seemed as if it was growing there. Also a foot shape ring of tufts which I though odd. There were also the usual bits of old weathered wood, oyster shells with holes in them and, of course, clay pipe fragments.


But it intrigued me how I kept seeing so many bits of leather shoes.
At first, I made a small collection and included a 'pair' of black gloves. But I kept finding more and more pieces of heel and soles, often hobnailed and beautifully handmade. In 30 minutes I managed to collect more than 30 bits so I arranged the best of them on the access steps near Tate Modern for other people to admire. The ages of these items varied a lot. Most were Victorian/Edwardian; others definitely came from the mid-20th century, and some were quite plainly less than 10 years old.
So... why/how have these all ended up here? I have never seen shoes in such profusion on any other sections of Thames' foreshore.
Was this an area particularly affiliated with cobblers?

20 August 2014

Sunshine and a rainbow

Hard to believe it's August at the moment. It's cold and wet and windy out there.
So I have put together some sunny-coloured things to remind us of that big hot thing that usually sits in the sky.


I was asked to tweet about my favourite colour of the rainbow earlier this week for Samsung's #MidnightRainbow event. I actually prefer indigo – this old post features some lovely old dark blue tiles and links in nicely with the above.

Here's a photo of the rainbow made using lots of Samsung Tab S screens taken at the press event last night where I bumped into my old school mate Andy who is now the big cheese there.
See the rainbow today on the Southbank near Gabriel's Wharf.

18 August 2014

Pretty patterns

I had a kaleidoscope when I was young. I loved the patterns it made. I also liked colouring in graph paper to make intricate patten repeats. But that's another story.
This has post nothing to do with London except that I bought a (replacement) old kaleidoscope at a London boot fair while back and rediscovered it this past weekend.
Nice eh.
Who needs technology?!

12 August 2014

Making an impression

I have been snapping marks made in wet cement or tarmac for years now and have collected a few of them together here.
Some are accidental impressions made by shoes, cones or birds; others are clever or specific written messages:


But the most common ones are where people have written their names:

7 August 2014

London shop fronts and their signs


I have been taking photos of shops signs and frontages for many years now. I am drawn to old hanging signs, hand-painted lettering, curved glass and wonderfully-arranged or jam-packed window displays. It's always frustrating when I realise I missed a photo when a shop I had taken for granted closes before I had a chance to snap it (as in the case of the old Shelly's shop at the Holloway end of Seven Sisters Road that disappeared over ten years ago and had the original Victorian walk-in windows at the front. If anyone has any photographic reference, please do contact me).
Emily Webber is also interested in London's shop fronts and many of her photographs are featured in  this short film
Support your local shops!!!

5 August 2014

The Rising Sun


Continuing on from my recent post about the emporiums of Tottenham Court Road, there is another building also covered in amazing reliefs and decorations, and that's the Rising Sun public house on the corner of Windmill Street, a street so-named because there used to be a windmill in the street.
Originally a Truman's pub, this fabulous example of Art Nouveau Gothic was designed in 1897 by Treadwell & Martin architects, which can be seen stamped onto the building between the first and second floors. The upper floors are painted stucco and the ground floor still has its original larvikite cladding.
Also note the beautiful floor mosaic at the entrance, which is one of my favourites of its type in London.

29 July 2014

Seven Sisters Road – Holloway to Finsbury Park

This past few weeks I have been preparing for a guided walk that I have been encouraged to do by the lovely people at Rowan Arts. They thought it would be a good idea if I led a tour along a section of Seven Sisters Road to tie in with their programme of events titled 'Seven Sisters Stories'.
"Eek," I thought, "I can talk, but I can't speak", if you get what I mean – I can't just stand there pointing at things that interest me, saying, "look at that; isn't it lovely – I wonder what it means?!". Hence research has been necessary.


So, I have recently spent a lot of time deskbound (when it's absolutely gorgeous outside), both at home and in Islington Library's local history centre, finding out more info about the history of the stretch of road from Nags Head to the gates of Finsbury Park (and getting side-tracked at every turn of a page!).
I always work better with a deadline, hence why I am telling you about this now. Sharing this will make me apply myself properly – finish the research, fix some dates, set up a booking system etc.
Very soon I will  announce the dates, which will be a couple of weekday evenings in August. If it's a success, then who knows, it might become a regular thing...

23 July 2014

Me me me!

Nicola Baird writes Islington Faces, a blog about creative people in Islington. We met when I had a stall selling my clay pipe jewellery and Holloway photo montages at a Rowan Arts event earlier this year and shortly after, she contacted me to ask if I'd like to be interviewed too.
Here's a link to it. I'm not sure about the gurning portrait in there so, seeing as that pic's available to the masses, you might as well see some other pics of me too; all taken in London including four self portraits:

22 July 2014

The Tottenham Court Road emporiums

More proof that you should be looking rather than just bowling along when you pop out for that sandwich at lunchtime.
These pics are from a short middle section of TCR near Goodge Street Station. I have yet to find out the original purposes of the buildings in this top collection of pics. All help welcome.

Top row: The large green dome on the top of the building on the south corner of Chenies Street is topped with a fabulous gold weather vane featuring a lion. Art Deco Glenn House opposite Goodge Street Station is solidly built and features a a ornate clock.
Middle row: First two pics above the Scientologists shop (shop? what is it? a lure? a trap?) – Goddards sign and an ornate frieze. The building that now houses Paperchase sports some colourful gold and blue faux capitals. 
Bottom row: The first image shows the corner of Goodge Street in 2008. The corner building has recently been demolished, as shown in the second pic. Pics 3 and 4 show some of the details on the gothic building which now houses EAT.

On the northern corner of Goodge Street, sits a building that is absolutely festooned with ornamentation – friezes of fruit, birds, mythological beasts, windows in all shapes and sizes, and two green conical spires both topped with identical golden spheres and weathervanes of what look like mer-boys. 
Only the a large letter 'C' on the bowled corner window hints at the original owner although this seems a bit of a contradiction seeing how much of a show-off he seems to be in other respects. The 'C' stands for Catesby's Furniture Store and was 'the home of cork lino'. Edward Catesby looks to have been doing rather well for himself!
The architects initials HAW (Henry A. Whitburn) and the date (1904) can be made out either side of the dragon at the very top. 

Look up, see more!