23 May 2017

Goodbye Blustons, Kentish Town Road – now residential?

Most of us in north London will know of Bluston's ladies' coats and gowns, the with its wonderful old-style shop front on Kentish Town's main high street.
In latter decades it's lovely old walk-in and walk-around windows offered ladies of a certain age nice cardigans and day wear. However, the sign above suggests its heyday of party dresses, evening gowns and cocktail frocks conjuring up an altogether different kind of clothes shop (scroll down to the bottom for an old pic).
The pictures below tell a story from 2008 to last month:


The top row shows how the shop looked up until until the end of last year displaying clothing around the £10-20 price mark. It was always a wonder how it survived so long. We've all known that closure was imminent but we all wanted it to stay there as is because we were fond of it. But market forces dictated differently.
In May last year I'd read a report in the Camden new Journal that after the owners left the shop would reopen as a clothes shop retaining the same name.  
In December 2016 I noticed the premises next door had closed (Lidl) with the windows covered in newspaper (first pic second row). This had been a branch of Lidl which I believe has since moved across the road. However Blustons windows were still full.
Walking past it last month I found it locked up with the windows empty. I peered in through the glass to get a better look. Another lady (here in a yellow coat) was also intrigued and we both stopped to discuss it. Then we noticed a dog wandering about in there. It was whilst we were reading the hand-written sign on the window (written out in italics below) that a man came out to chat to us about it. It turns out he and others are squatting the premises because they are homeless. He says they respect the property and its historical features and just want somewhere to live.
Other people stopped to join in the conversation and we all chatted for a while about the amount of empty shops premises everywhere and empty rooms above them all going to waste which in time become damp and dilapidated due to not being maintained and subsequently unfit for purpose.
So, let's watch this space and keep our fingers crossed.
I wish him, his friends and the dog well. I wish the shop well. I hope there is a happy outcome to all of this for everyone involved.

Michael Albert was the owner of Blustons – click here for some of his tips
I'd love to find more archive/historic images of the store both inside and out but I am coming up short. The only evocative image I have found of exterior to give a hint of times past is this, when Ted Baker recently used it as a display space

If you can't read the words on the squatters' sign it says:
This is a non-residential building – Section 144 Laspo does not apply.
Please be aware
– That this is our home and we intend to stay here.
– That if you want to get us out, you will have to apply for a possession order.
– Any attempt to enter this building through threat/violence is a criminal offence and is punishable by a £5000 fine/ 6 moths imprisonment.
_That there is at least one person in this building at all times.
Signed the Occupiers

19 May 2017

Get up close to the Painted Hall ceiling at Greenwich ORNC – plus a tip for good cheap food

I can't recommend this enough.
The marvellous Painted Hall ceiling with the Old Royal Naval College buildings is being cleaned and conserved. Miles and miles of scaffolding have been erected within and guided tours are available so we can climb to the top and see the artwork up close.
The guided tour I went on last week was excellent – our guide explained so much about the history of the building and the meanings behind the imagery.
Absolutely fascinating and gorgeous too. It's a must-see.

See top right for some of the damage – it's hoped that the conservation work will last another 100 years before the next clean up
The quality of the wood carving is also amazing – see the hand bottom left and the head of a pollaxe at the centre 
My friend in the pics has written a much better account of this place. Click here.
Check out the availability for future tours here plus how to sponsor a section of the work.

And here's a good tip for where to eat in Greenwich – very close to the Painted Hall, at the far end of the Chapel building, there is a very good, and I mean very good, cafe/student refectory which is open to all and serves excellent choice of hot and cold food, yummy cakes and drinks all at normal prices. Being part of the university they aren't allowed to advertise so I told the friendly staff there that I'd give them a mention.
The unobtrusive entrance to the cafe is almost hidden at the at the eastern end of the ORNC complex opposite Park Row gate facing a building that has a strange frieze at the top depicting amongst many things a lion with a serpent's tail – see below (needs more research).
Map of the area

16 May 2017

A tour of The Society Of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly

As you enter Burlington House courtyard heading for the latest art exhibition at The Royal Academy, look left to see the doorway to The Society of Antiquaries – and then go inside and book yourself on a tour because it's one of London's little known gems and it's fab.
Here are some taster pictures of my recent visit.


Lots of marvellous paintings and one portrait is of Richard III fiddling with his ring. Oh please! Titter ye not. That's exactly what the guide told us.
Plus shelves and shelves of old beautiful leather books and a multi-level library. On the day I was there we were shown some pages in a huge scrapbook containing exquisite ephemera and illustrations relating to the Duke Of Wellington's funeral.
I visited with the London Historians – if you would like to find out more about LH just click here and if you are tempted to join (and why not, it's also fab) and first heard about LH from me here then please mention my name/site as there are discounts available for recommendations. Thanking you in advance.
Now to ponder the pronunciation of 'antiquaries' ... it's an-tik-warries, as opposed to 'antiquarian' which is pronounced anti-kware-ian. Go figure.
Isn't english fun?!

9 May 2017

The New Adelphi – an Art Deco masterpiece

A magnificent example of Art Deco architecture overlooks the River Thames.
Built in 1936-8 on the site of Adam brothers' original Adelphi this quietly impressive masterpiece with its clean lines and classical detailing still looks almost brand new today.


Today's architects should learn lessons from this efficient and functional yet attractive building and move away from the clip-togther panelled monstrosities that are being constructed as I write this. Though I expect, having shorter shelf lives the new builds are a constant source of revenue... hmmm.
The Adelphi boasts exquisite carvings and motifs at strategic places such as around the doors plus four large sculptures on the corners of the river-facing side each commissioned from less well-known artists of that era including Walter Gilbert and Arthur JJ Ayres who created the fabulous panels on and adjacent to Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End:

All these Ayres reliefs are available as greeting cards and some can be printed up as larger prints – please enquire
The Adelphi Story here.
The interior of the Adelphi building is just as marvellous as the exterior. See here for more.

5 May 2017

Archway Tavern, N19 – Save the Guinness Sign!!!!

The Archway Tavern building we see today dates from 1888. It looks down Holloway Road towards the City of London. In 1971 its interior featured on the cover of The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies album.
Over the past few years the pub has stood empty. The ground level was painted a sombre black when the pub was being renovated in preparation to be reopened a few years ago. But work ceased. However the upper floors are available to hire as a nightclub venue accessed by a staircase at the rear.

March 2008 left and April 2017 
As you can see by my comparison pics above, the surrounding pavements have recently been extended and remodelled to create an open piazza area. Judging by all the articles in the local press this has caused a lot of 'stress' and 'upheaval' for people confused how to navigate the junction as the building work progressed. The people of Archway don't like change. Grump grump. Harrumph harrumph.
Pedestrians have been getting all angsty as bus stops were moved and then moved again and motorists complained about not being able to navigate what used to be a roundabout. They are probably all still complaining now. And will continue to do so.
Approx 100 years ago
But hold your horses here people!! Back in the day this was never a roundabout in the first place. See right. Ditto Highbury and Islington roundabout, but that's another story.
I think the end result will be good for the area, not least of all for the shops and businesses in Archway Close that were as good as stranded on an island.
The building work is now almost complete and I have already made use of excellent pedestrian crossings from Archway Road, St John's Way and Holloway Road into the piazza and Archway tube station. My only concern is that the new cycle paths that cut through the zone may cause a few problems; the cyclists, not the cycle paths.
But, back to the tavern...
Look at the Millennium Guinness sign on the corner of the building and see how during the last nine years bits of it have fallen off.

Photos of the Guinness sign in 2008 and 2017. Available as a greeting card along with these other two also from the Archway Tavern.
The sign on the Archway Tavern was erected for 2000 and if you study it you can see it is a bizarre and not very animal-friendly image. It shows a workman, or possibly a clock repairer (or clock thief?!), standing on the nose of a seal and the beak an ostrich (which has a pint glass stuck in its throat) as he reaches up to the clock, with a toucan flying in from the right balancing two pints of the black stuff on its bill. It all looks rather precarious. But I love it.
York Way, June 2008
I am hoping that when the pub opens again the new owners will see fit to replace the missing letters on the sign.
Signs such as theses this become iconic local landmarks. Many have disappeared from our streets over the years including one that used to be on York Way opposite the end of Agar Grove – it had five happy Guinness pints under a clock.
An assessment of the sign here.
See also the Guinness collectors' site.

2 May 2017

Caledonian Road manholes and cover plates – Jeremy Corbyn eat your heart out!!

Jeremy's not the only pavement nerd in Islington.
You are probably already aware that I am partial to interesting boot scrapers, flame snuffers, fanlights and coal hole cover plates. Well just like my MP who likes to photograph man hole and storm drain covers I too often scan the pavements and tarmac for unusual functional metalwork.
It's not about crossing numbers off a list, as per a trainspotter (though Jezza might indeed have a shelf full of old ironmongers' catalogues), for me it's about the marriage of design and functionality, spotting a 'new' design I hadn't seen before; noticing new wordings and agreeable patterns.
Designs have changed or have been adapted over the decades. Some companies have become completely defunct as utilities change and thus become metal ghosts of the past.
The twelve photos below, all taken along Caledonian Road between Holloway and Caledonian Road tube station, perfectly illustrate my point.


Having noticed how the wording for specific utilities had altered over the years  I took lots of snaps on the walk back to illustrate this. It always amuses me how other people on the street look at me in a strange way when I do this, – they probably think I work for the council or something!
Notice how the first three for Electricity Dept are slightly different; some with full points/punctuation, some without, each varying typographically in weight and style:


I also spotted a couple with Electrical Supply on them and another with Electric Light. A real super-nerd in this field would be able to accurately date all of the above and put them into chronological order. I'm just happy to notice the differences.
Check out also the various cover plates for communications and water where similar changes have happened:


And finally, I spotted some real metal ghosts – access cover plates for London County Council Tramways:


There are four tramway cover plates in this stretch of road. I have yet to check north and south of here.
In the 1920s the LCCT ran trams through Holloway to Caledonian Market and beyond. See here for some basic tram info. A short-lived compressed air tramway ran along this route from 1881-3.
If anyone has any further info please do let me know.

28 April 2017

Canalway Cavalcade – 3 day event this Bank Holiday Weekend

May Day Bank Holiday Weekend again brings us this colourful event around the canals at Little Venice behind Paddington Station.


I will again have a stall at the western end of Warwick Crescent above the narrowboats, selling my clay pipe jewellery, cards and prints, plus a selection of bric-a-brac, so do come and say hello.
After the market stalls close on Sunday evening the bars and food outlets stay open and the entertainment kicks in with a waterway parade followed by a great live band.
All free.
Sun+Sat 10am–6pm (Sunday entertainment until late)
Monday 10am–5pm.

A selection of my cards featuring my photos of various canals and the Canalway Cavalcade
More info on IWA's site here
Posts from previous years

26 April 2017

Pavement patterns in Caledonian Road

I was ambling back from my sorting office yesterday pondering why there is so much bird shit splattered around lately.
As I was crossing Cardozo Road I noticed that the textured crossing was particularly 'colourful'. I wondered whether Daily Mail readers' children might think it was cappuccino froth topping and try to eat it (or something similar, you know what I mean).
Hmmmm... Perhaps birds could be supplied with little plastic bags for their deposits or fitted with tiny nappies...?
I took a photo and wondered how this could be crowbarred (crow! ha ha) into a blog post. Then I noticed all the paint splatters nearby...

Last two pics show the junction of Penn Road and Caledonian Road. I never fail to be amused by the double yellow lines in the cycle path there. 
It's evident that someone has been having fun with paint on their shoes and on the wheels of a bike. There are also squiggles on the pavement where areas have been cleaned in definite patterns using what I assume is a jetwasher.
Walking further along the road towards Holloway I found the name Sam near the junction of Penn Road.
Nice one Sam... now please turn your attention to the whole pavement – and then get to grips with most of the London Underground and the Jubilee Bridges.

More about the pavements of Cally Rd next week.... ooh the excitement...!

18 April 2017

The Police Museum – FREE!!!

The Police Museum is packed full of fascinating stuff. Yes, stuff. Interesting things. Gruesome things. Unusual things. And clever things.


Here's a link to the site – but please don't be put off my the look of the page when you load it – it appears boring, formal and a little bit scary because it follows the same format as the other City of London Police pages on that site. I suggest they make the museum page look as interesting, gruesome and fascinating as the pics in my montage above – I mean, do we really need the black rectangle asking us to report a crime on a page about a museum?
Anyway, the museum is accessed through the Guildhall Library entrance on Aldermanbury, London EC2, is free and well worth a visit.

13 April 2017

Treasure House, 19–21 Hatton Garden

This is one of those 'how did I never see this before now?" moments...
Hatton Garden has for many centuries been London's "Jewellery Quarter" – the place to buy and/or trade in gold, silver, precious gems and diamonds.
In the early 1980s I used to work just around the corner within a grubby inner courtyard off Greville Street called Bleeding Heart Yard (before anyone knew where that was) and at lunchtime I'd find bargains in Leather Lane market (when there was a much greater variety of goods for sale) or I'd just go for a wander about and go back to work with something tasty from Grodzinki's Bakery.
So how come I had never noticed the panels above 19-21 Hatton Garden until last month?! Jeez! I even used to drink often in the Mitre which is accessed through an alley a few doors along from this building!


Treasure House (1906) has Art Nouveau styling on the doors with panels above depicting the story of gold from its ore to being a wearable item, though they don't appear to be in a chronological order and all the figures are muscular and godlike and hence shown naked whether mining or just admiring their own reflection. Perhaps having spent all the money on gold they can't afford clothes?!
I have tried looking for the name of the company who was originally here but so far not found anything, though I did find some info Ornamental Passions here. If you do know more, please do let me know

4 April 2017

Trendell's Daimler Hire Service – Wembley 1657

This rather lovely ghostsign advertisement for Trendell's can be found on the side of a red brick building on the corner of Thurlow Gardens, Wembley.


It looks 1930s to me. As you can see, they would have been an up-market company offering [chauffeur-driven] Daimler vehicles for hire.
Note also the pre-1966 phone code WEM-1567, where WEM is short for Wembley and would have been equivalent to 936 on a keypad. More old London phone codes here.

31 March 2017

The latest bits of Kit in Hornsey Road

You may recall that last December I wrote about Kit's amazing foam sculptures in Hornsey Road.
Some of them got broken and some got stolen but most have been replaced with new models as shown below.

Photos taken Sunday 26th March 2017. There is another foam fella imprisoned behind a fence but I couldn't get a decent pic of him
I love em.
See more here.

Update
Below are pics of Prisoner 24601 and what happened when someone tried to help him 'escape'.
The bottom row are the latest editions* – as you can see there is a lot of thought and hard work going into theses lifelike foam fellas.

All Hornsey Road, between Marlborough and Fairbridge Roads
*photos taken 24th April

28 March 2017

Some Ilford history and reminiscences

I used to visit Ilford in the 1980s mainly for the shops, as a change from the ones in Romford. At that time traffic was already being diverted away from the High Street round to the back of the town hall in an attempt to pedestrianise the shopping area. I recall discussing this at the time and fretting for Ilford that a ring road would affect the High Street in the same way as had happened in Romford making the town centre a desolate, almost scary, no-go area in the evenings.
Last Monday, 20th March, I happened to be in the Barkingside area so after a wander around Gants Hill roundabout, like you do, I walked through Valentines Park and continued south to Ilford town centre to check out what it looks like now.

Valentine's Park – And all at once I came upon ... floor tiles at the front of Valentine's Mansion  "ADAMANTINE, CLINKER REGD" – note the letter N is reversed every time
Exting the park it was nice to see the lovely old terraces above the shops in  Cranbrook Road with many Edwardian and Art Deco façades hinting at its busy retail history.

Cranbrook Road 1920s and 30s statement architecture. I haven't the time right now to find out the original owners of these sites, though the style of the third building is really familiar.
Moving closer to the station I found that Lloyds Bank are no longer within their understated Art Deco masterpiece. I recall the cashpoint there was one of the first I ever used when £50 was the maximum withdrawal. And the bank on the opposite corner with its lovely clock (Midland?) that was for a time a Santander branch, is also empty at the moment. But the old Dunn&Co men's outfitters shop (now Zee&Co) still retains some of its original windows which is great because I have noticed that these have been completely stripped out at their other sites. Dunn's windows were the most colourful thing about the whole company – everything they sold was beige!

Lloyds Bank, Midland(?) clock, Dunn&Co window
With trepidation I moved closer to the station, daring myself to hope that Bodgers was still there and assuming it to be long gone.
Whoo hoo! It's still in business – 127 years and still going. Though the inside resembles a mad closing down sale at the moment (it isn't; I asked). Some of the original ArtDeco steps and metal bannisters are still in place at the main entrance. I had hoped that the wide curving stairs at the centre were still intact as well. But the internal parts of the store appear to have been totally renovated and an escalator now sits where the old stairs used to be. These were the stairs on which my mum saw a teddy bear and asked for him to be taken out of the display for my 2nd birthday present. I still have him; he's a Merrythought with bells in his ears and a cute, quirky expression.


Further along the High Street I found that Harrison Gibson's old furniture and furnishings store is surrounded by scaffolding with demolition signs on it.
Signage for the store is still visible along with 'Penthouse' a nightclub that used to be at the top. In the 1980s my friends and I twice went to 'The Room At The Top' an earlier disco up there. It wasn't our kind of place really. The biggest thrill was getting the lift up to the top.
My father served his upholstery apprentice at HGs and then worked there for a time before starting up a business of his own in nearby Goodmayes in the early 70s. I think I recall my mum worked in the admin department at HGs for a while. And when I bought my first property, it was from HGs I bought my first carpet. I had forgotten all of this until now.
Just west of the Town Hall is a lovely Art Deco building which was the original Woolworth's shop with faience tiles curved verticals. Strangely, it's now occupied  by the Burton Group, yet Burton's original building at the far end of the High Street houses a gaming centre at ground level, and Woolworth's last site in Ilford was where Wilko is now, opposite the station. How confusing!

Burtons building, Woolworths building, Wilko

Speedy update: I recall the old covered market arcade was under threat of was demolition in the 1980s – there is now a tall glass building on the site. Most of the High Street is indeed pedestrianised with a small modern precinct added (I didn't enter; not my kind of space, man). And, I very much doubt even Ilford residents are aware that Chapel Road at the centre of the one-way system is so called because it circles the only medieval building in Redbridge; the old hospital chapel.

24 March 2017

I see dead things – Not for the squeamish !!!

Crossing Dickenson Road on Crouch Hill last week I noticed two dead frogs/toads about a metre apart in the road. I took some photos (like you do when you are an amateur animal forensics nutter) and then stood there contemplating how they'd met their sorry end.
It all looked pretty fresh. Had they been crossing the road en-masse and these two got unlucky? If so, where were they all headed to? This is the top of a hill. Hmmmm. I decided no, not that, because they didn't appear to be squished enough (no complaints please, I did warn this was not for the squeamish at the start!).
Perhaps they were dropped from above? But both of them? At the same time? From the same source?
And then I recalled that on Saturday 4th March I was standing with a friend in the road behind Sadler's Wells Theatre and we heard something hit the pavement next to us and turned to see a blackbird just lying there shaking. This continued whilst we faffed about wondering if we should do something and after two minutes the bird was motionless. We looked up and couldn't see where it could have fallen from. Did it die of exhaustion? Or did a larger predatory bird drop it? We intended to return to the scene later but, er, that didn't happen.

Blackbird is not my pic – plenty like this available online (weird). The spider used to live in my bathroom. I came home one day at it was dead like this in the middle of the floor.  
Last May I happened upon two dead chicks on a path in Highgate. There were thin trees above, but no nests in them and these birds as you can see hadn't finished sprouting feathers yet. So I deduced a predator had stolen them then dropped them. I don't know what species these birds are, perhaps someone can tell me.

Really sad. though I am fascinated to see how the feathers evolve.
About ten metres from this macabre scene someone had put a soft toy animal on a fence. I assume his owner had dropped him and someone had been picked him up in the hope that he might be rescued. No such hope for the baby birds.

21 March 2017

Butter Fingers at The Old Dairy, Crouch Hill

Last week I was chatting to Jason at the Oxfam Books & Music shop at Crouch End as I assessed my card stock there. As I added some more of the Old Dairy at Stroud Green he asked if had noticed that one person depicted on the sgraffito panels had something extra.
Intrigued, I walked back down the hill to take another look.
Cards
I have studied these panels many times but although I had noticed that the people aren't what you'd call beautiful and are mostly out of proportion with the other characters and objects around them, I hadn't spotted that one of the butter-making girls has an extra finger.


7 March 2017

Artizans and Labourers in Queen's Park

I have written before about The Artizans and Labourers General Dwellings Company and their establishments at Harrow Road and Noel Park.
This post shows some of their earlier buildings – little terraced cottages along Kilburn Lane in Queen's Park, London W10, built in 1876.


Note how the end of each terrace had a corner shop. Directly opposite these shops is a collection of buildings that looks like there was either a school or a dairy there. I don't know if these were also part of ALGDC. This needs further investigation – I will add it to the list/pile.
If you know anything about any of these buildings, including the ones over the road, please do let me know.
Thanks in advance.



24 February 2017

Ghostsign – Hinton and Gunner, two Wembley pork and beef butchers

As you can see there have been two butchers at this location in Ealing Road – it's evident that one has been painted over the other. However they offered mainly the same thing:

It's impossible to get a straight-on shot of this sign so I have transformed it using Photoshop to attempt to make it more legible
The earlier blue sign is for R. Gunner – at top left: DAIRY FED PORK, and bottom right: ENGLISH SCOTCH MEAT. Clear, simple and to the point.
The subsequent black lettering for HINTON is now fading away and is more descriptive of the products available. I can make out (/ = line break): PURVEYORS / OF / SCOTCH BRITSH BEEF / GRASS FED [something] / DAIRY FED [pork?] / VARIETY OF COOKED MEATS / Families [?word] / or (?) [? next word].
Hints of a third sign at this site are also evident though no discernible letterforms remain.
If anyone has any archive images of this location, please do email them to me/send links or add them to this post's comments.

21 February 2017

Oops – What the Dairy is Going on Here?

After visiting the National Gallery (see my last post) I walked up Whitcomb Street to the library on Orange street where I was verbally abused by a mentally challenged man of the street. But that's another story.
The two-sided Dairy sign is still there...
But, er...

Top row 2009, bottom row Feb 2017
Perhaps the D fell off and had to be reattached...?
But it's upside-down!
Was it some kind of bright idea to get the verticals aligned at the front edge?
Why not go the whole hog and spin the R too?

Cagnacci's Repentant Magdalene – Room 1 at The National Gallery

I went to the press viewing of this gorgeous painting last Tuesday.
Go see it – it's lovely.
I took some pics – they turned out to be rubbish...


... but not as rubbish as the front wall by the National Gallery's portico entrance on Trafalgar Square where the 'performers' who stand on bits of wrought iron dressed as Star Wars characters leave their empty drinks cups.

17 February 2017

Vanessa Bell at Dulwich Picture Gallery and Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is always worth a detour. Not only does it have a diverse and perfectly sized permanent display, but the curators are very good at putting on interesting additional exhibitions, often by artists who are not that well known.
At the moment you can see works by Vanessa Bell, prolifically creative and sister of Virginia Woolf the author.
 
A woman after my own heart – from age eight I was obsessed with making repetitive patterns on graph paper
More of Vanessa's work can be seen at Two Temple Place as part of their current exhibition Sussex Modernism which includes some truly gorgeous sculptures by Eric Gill and David Jones.
Even if this kind of art isn't your thing, do go inside this free exhibition because the interior is marvellous – it was originally built the as the Astor's London office and is only ever open during exhibitions – all wood panelling, stained glass and carved details – here's a post about a previous visit

14 February 2017

Love and peace – not just for Valentine's day

In a back street within the Peabody Estate to the side of Whitecross Street market there is a mosaic on a wall. In a circle it says I (heart) EC1. But look closer and see the messages and drawings within because there are lots of lovely quotes and sentiments there.

The caption on it reads: "This mosaic has been created by Western* Primary School working with Carrie Reichardt, Karen Wydler and Sian Smith, supported by Islington Council, Whitecross Street Party, Whitecross Street Community Centre and Peabody". 
Mad In England – Carrie Reichardt – Craftivist and Renegade Potter

Love isn't seasonal 
I have produced some cards using my photographs of this artwork. 
Also see 'Love Love Love' using my adaptations of the sign that currently wraps around the old Angel tube station on Pentonville Road.  

Cards available all year round – contact me directly or purchase online

Or how about a Vinegar Valentine?

*Spelling error here: The school is actually called Prior Weston Primary School. Sir William Weston was the last english prior of the Order of St John. 

7 February 2017

A narrowboat cruise through Islington Tunnel with Hidden Depths

There was a two-day event in and around St Pancras Lock this past weekend and it included free access to The Canal Museum and free rides on Freda, the larger of Hidden Depths tour boats.
Denise and her crew shuttled people back and forth the museum and Granary Square and as an special treat for the final trip on Sunday we went through the Islington Tunnel. At 860 metres long it's the 9th longest in the UK (I think that's right), made with four million bricks and almost 200 years old (completed in 1818).


As the day drew to a close, and the crew moored up and secured the boat for the night, the view west was lovely with the sky was turning a beautiful shade of pink. And then to nearby The Charles Lamb for a few pints of ale. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

3 February 2017

Another visit to Lower Marsh – barrows and arrowsI still think there must be an old painted ad and a lost ghostsign

Back in March 2014 I wrote about Lower Marsh and its demise as a once thriving market street. And then followed it up with a piece about the old costermongers' barrows along that street with their carved stamps.
I was back there recently and so I snapped a few pics for an update:

There were only four barrows left on my most recent visit.
These lovely old barrows are now relics of a bygone time. Earlier this year The Gentle Author wrote a full and interesting piece about the last few days in the workshop of Hiller Brothers Barrow Makers, a company name that features on some of the ones in Lower Marsh. See also an earlier post written about the barrows of Spitalfields.
I am always saddened to see trades like these fade away in the face of progress. As an occasional market trader myself I have noticed that the style of market stalls on offer these days is ever-changing. For casual events it's rare to be allocated a standard metal frame with decent hanging space and cover – often it's either tables from a community centre or pop-up open-sided marquees. And Christmas markets are now more likely to be Bavarian-style wooden shacks. Surely if people want to visit a market of that type it would be better to go to mainland Europe to get the real deal? Can't we offer the tourists an English Victorian-style Christmas instead? I am sure they'd love that. Without the paupers and pickpockets of course.
Anyway, I digress, as usual.
I spotted some other changes in Lower Marsh, and two things in particular:

I still think there must be an old ad under that red paint above the old Artichoke Pub
On the side of Sino Thai Restaurant, on the corner of Leake Street, there is a nice addition – an arrow of little nesting boxes created by http://wearewaterloo.co.uk/news/feathered-friends. How lovely.

But at the end of Vauxhall end of the street I see that a new building now obliterates the ghostsign that once read, "Dover Castle Proprietors / Pioneer Catering / Luncheons & Dinners / [...] Prices / [...] Stout". See the fourth pic, above right, for how it looks today.
The rebuilt New Dover Castle pub was actually on the opposite corner of the street at 172 Westminster Bridge Road and is now the Walrus Bar and Hostel.

25 January 2017

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf until Friday 27th January

There are still three evenings left to see this (including today).

Some of my pics from last night. 
Some of the light installations are wonderful including many of those in Crossrail Place Level –3 (a pain to find, but worth the effort), the mesmerising musical balls on sticks which I loved at Kew last month, the gorgeous ova, the clever water word drop.
We didn't manage to see everything. And, as a friend said some of it is "underwhelming", but I think that's what makes the good things even better.
One of my favourite stops was the simple and very effective horizontal fence created by joining about eight trees in a zig zag using different widths of tape which was then highlighted by ultraviolet lights:

Other people were doing the selfie thing so I joined in and found that if I stood directly in front of the lights I could make myself look very attractive indeed.


Check the site for the actual names, creators and info