14 May 2021

Thomas Heatherwick's lift buttons at Coal Drops Yard, NC1

I have been having a tidy up and found some photos I took soon after the coal drops at the rear of Kings Cross station, adjacent to Granary Square, were opened as a shopping and leisure zone back in October 2018. It's impressive and a clever re-use of space, although the shops do sell a lot of over-priced guff, but it's great for a wander about.

I was there again last month with a friend, enjoying the peace and quiet and the lack of people, and I showed her the delightful surounds around the push buttons for the lifts. She loved them too.

Cool huh. Probably my favourite thing thee.

Going up.... ground for perfumery, stationery and leather goods...

10 May 2021

Coulourful houses in Falkland Road

Here's another riot of colour. Last week it was bollards, this week it's houses:

The western end of Falkland Road in Kentish Town, N6, between Leverton Street and Fortess Road is one of many streets across the metropolis with a series of coloured houses. I often wonder how the owners choose what shade to use in order to either contrast or complement with the neighbours. Ker-pow!

I made a little video about it here.

6 May 2021

Bollards in Crystal Palace

Today we are in lovely South London. Well, I say that, but I took these pics well over a year ago.

As you exit Crystal Palace railway station and head to the park, do ake a closer look at the bollards in Ledrington Rd, dated 1854. The peeling paint patterns is delightful.

The tops illustrate layers of colourful history – dark green, pink, red, blue, turquoise and yellow, though not necessarily in that order.

It's about time I went back for another wander – it's a lovely part of town.

30 April 2021

Would you believe it? Wood block surfaces still visible on London streets

A few months back I was involved in an email exchange about the patch of wood blocks adjacent to Bunhill Row Cemetery, just off Artillery Row, specifically, and perhaps coincidentally (ironically?), in Chequer Street. Back in ye olde Victorian times this street ran alongside Star Works, the De La Rue postage stamp manufactory, though I don't know if this company was related to Danny

This little road is a patchwork of setts and cobbles and looks to have been repaired, extended or updated with various kinds of blocks – in addition to this patch of wood, there are also granite setts and vitreous setts, the latter being a by-product of the gas industry and said to be identifiable by their bluish glaze. Note also a couple of interesting man hole cover plates. 

Ah, but this isn't the only patch of wood paving in the metropolis – I have happened upon quite a few other places that show hints of this eco-friendly-but-hard-to-maintain wooden surface. I've found enough to start a specific collection on my desktop and here I am sharing some of them with you... 

At 90-92 Pentonville Road N1, on the corner of Penton Street, there is evidence of a whole paved private courtyard that is currently used for car parking. Patches of wood can be seen peeking out from under the receding Tarmac. 

Research shows that this was once the display forecourt outside the ground floor showroom of R. W. Wilkins & Son, marble, granite and stone merchants, monumental masons, sculptors, table-top manufacturers, shopfitters, and interior decorators in marble and tiles. This had originally been constructed as three Georgian houses with deep front gardens, mirroring those across the road, and was converted into one premises in the 1860s by Henry Webb Wilkins, probably RWW's father. The rectangular blocks appear to be the same shape and size as the ones at Chequer Street. 

Many good remnants of wood block can also be found nestling within the segments of some old manhole covers. Just east of here, near the border of Islington and Hackney (when this was Finsbury and Shoreditch, respectively) there are examples in Mora Street on the southern side of City Road:

And in Shepherdess Walk on the northern side – my pics were taken on a rainy day but, believe me, there's wood under them there puddles:

There's another example not far from there in New North Road, at the end of Wharf Road, and on Clerkenwell Rd at the end of Leather Lane (centre pic below). Plus a couple in West Square, Lambeth, a well-to-do 1790s development of private houses, one of which, here:

In the middle of Grays Inn Road at the junction of Acton Street, there is a superb example, as shown below on the left with the streetscaape below it, and two good ones on Islington High Street – one set within the pavement near Pizza Express, as shown, and another in the road at the rear of the former electricity transformer station and tram depot. A third one, by the southern door to that building, at the corner of Duncan Street, sort of facing The York pub, has been recently covered in Tarmac. 

I'd really love to experience the sound of horses walking on a wood-blocked street. The super-informative Roads Were Not Built For Cars shows us that Bartholomew the cartographer, produced road surface maps of London where streets coloured yellow denoted wood, green indicated sheet asphalt, blue was setts, and pink for macadam (a pre-cursor to Tarmac). The rationale that wood blocks offered the benefit of a quieter environment explains their implementation in residental streets such as West Square and in the old hospital zone around City Road.

The same 'quiet' effect would also apply at this next location – the rear of City Hall, on Belvedere Road, built as the London County Council's head offices in 1911 and, hence, a really busy municipal street. 

Here, long wooden oblongs, arranged in a grid format, have been uncovered for many years. Whenever I am in the Waterloo area I often go to check they are still visible. The random piece of flat metal is, I suppose, an attempt at protection. 

I'm pretty sure I have located more patches across London, but I can't find the pics right now – do let me know if you've found any others yourself.

27 April 2021

A stinkpipe in Islington

Oh my god... how many time have I walked past this and never noticed it until last month?

Estimate = 825 times!

I am always banging on about how things are hiding in plain view, to look up, look down and around you,  yet here's me not noticing a stink pipe across the road from Essex Road Post Office. 

I happened to notice it when I had to side-step a woman who was texting and walking but not looking where she was going (grr!) and I was immediately confronted by the maker's name on the metalwork. I then looked down at the wide base and thought, ooh that looks very stinkpipey, and so I stepped back to take a better look. Yep!

Much of Ham Baker's Victorian metal street furniture, in the form of lamp posts and stink pipes, still lines our modern streets. Indeed the company is still trading.

Considering the amount of stink pipe pics I have taken over the years I am surprised I have posted more about them. Here's a post from back in 2010 which shows some with attractive crowns

Staying in Islington, earlier this year, I also [finally] noticed another stink pipe at the Holloway end of Liverpool Road on the triangle in front of the Baptist church – estimated previous walk-pasts = 384(!). And, near that, there's also another one on Holloway Road at the end of Eden Grove (which I had spotted ten years ago).  Closer to my home, there's one up near the railway line in Sussex Way, N19, at the corner of Hatchard Rd, and another on St John's Way, N19. I'm sure I will think of more once I hit the 'publish' button here, but hey, that'll do for now.

This Essex Rd pipe will now form part of my "The Only Way Is Essex Road" guided tour. Tho, it can't be the only one in the vicinity.

23 April 2021

Finsbury Park Art Deco – the renovation of Oxford House

I'm so pleased to see how the renovation of this marvellous link to the world of movie making has evolved.

This is the former home of Kay Film Printing – a film processing company based here in Oxford Rd, N4, adjacent to Parkland Walk and Finsbury Park.

Its now almost finished and it looks marvellous. I really love those 'Jazz Age' style railings.

Pic from 2014 – retrospective Google Streetview

It's gone from a sad-looking building to a marvellous example of 1930's splendour.

Happy days. I am not sure how to include this on my Art Deco tour of the area but it's sure to be included on one of my walks. 

18 April 2021

Saloons – Everyone's gone to the pub or the hairdresser

Here in the UK, some restrictions as regards social distancing have been lifted – pubs with outdoor table space are open again and hairdressers are busy attacking our lockdown barnets*

It occured to me that both are historically linked by the word 'saloon' so I've pulled some pics together in my old montage-stylee showing a selection of lovely signage across London.

Most of these are pub signs but, as you can see, some are on hairdressers and barbers. Perhaps you recognise some of them or know of some other beauties...?

The separate rooms for saloon, lounge, public, private, snug and offsales is a thing of the past these days, harking back to a Victorian era of class and gender segregation. However, a few pubs in London still have the original walls/dividers and others have reinstated them. This latter section includes The Princess Louise in Holborn, the Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street and the Angel at Rotherhithe. 

Never mind sitting outside a pub; that's just not for me. I am looking forward to getting back inside; to stand at a bar or sit on a barstool; to read a newspaper in a comfy chair by a real fire; to talk to barstaff and locals... sigh.

Barnet Fair = hair (London Cockney rhyming slang)

7 April 2021

I have been otherwise occupied

Oh my good... look at the date on my last post – the middle of January!!  And now we are fast heading for the middle of April. Whoosh! How did that happen?! 

Although I have been almost constantly collecting ideas for this site, I have been filing them away in a 'To Do' folder and can now see that I haven't actually been sharing them with you. I will make a big effort next week as there are a few good things I have noticed or been alerted to these last few months.

The thing that has kept me so busy lately has been designing, researching and hosting virtual tours (online presentations via Zoom) in lieu of leading actual guided tours on the streets being as that's still not really possible yet due to the pandemic restrictions. 

Presentations need good pics and reference, so I've been out and about in London's empty streets, wandering about in beautiful winter sunshine, snapping away with my camera to make the slides that accompany my talks. 

London is Lovely
I am really pleased how the presentations are going – lots of people come back to me time and again, and from all over the world – how lovely. And I will continue to do these going forward.

Find out more about my tours and talks at www.janeslondonwalks.com or simply click here for the upcoming schedule which gives more info about each one.

13 January 2021

You need hands

Inspired by the pointing hands in a recent post, I have collected some more hands that please me. 

You might recognise some of them.

The centre pic was taken at the lights festival that usually happens around Canary Wharf in January. I use it for my Facebook avatar sometimes.

7 January 2021

On the tiles at Doulton Lambeth

Happy January everyone.

Let's start the year by looking at some gorgeous tiles.

If you walk five minutes from the south side of Lambeth Bridge and head down Black Prince Road, you will see a Victorian Gothic masterpiece coming in to view. This was once the ofiices and manufactury of Doulton, Lambeth, later to become Royal Doulton.

At the time this building was constructed, Doulton's style was earthy blues and ochres, with the emphasis on good quality workmanship. This is evidenced on the building itself which is cleverly designed to be a street-facing advertisment, showing off a cross-section of some of the syles of designs that were on offer at that time, both glazed and unglazed. Beautiful examples are arranged around the windows and doors as well as higher up the building. Sadly the letters thet spelled the comapny's name have been chipped off. I know not whay, or where they might be now. Do stop for a closer look next time you are in the area.

I have created this montage of the tiles that run underneath the street-level windows (not shown in the pics above) – they look marvellous all together – tiletastic!

I've written about Doulton's work at other locations here.

9 December 2020

Twinking Trees, Turkey and Traditions – A Covent Garden Christmas Tour

Ding dong merrily – mince pies at the ready – time for a bit of self promotion.

I have turned my Covent Garden Christmas lights tour into a virtual experience – Find it here.

More dates to be added through to 6th January. See the schedule here.

I'm also more than happy to lead the tour on foot – please do get in touch.

1 December 2020

Construction Time Again – rebuilding Central London

Travelling through Central London recently, admiring the view from the top deck of a bus, I couldn't help but notice the huge redevelopments are happening at the moment and how many gaping great holes there are in the ground. Covid-19 does not appear to have restricted the construction industry.

For instance, at New Oxford Street, just east of Centrepoint, there is a big whole where this has been demolished – there is now a completely clear view of Renzo's horrible coloured towers.

Turning the corner into Charing Cross Road, the new build around Tottenham Court Road station continues. Chunky great glass things replace the much-missed Astoria Theatre (which was my favourite live music venue) and other buildings and small streets in the vicinity. The huge glasshouse entrances to TottCtRd station still look out of place and out of alignment with their tall neighbour and it's evident that the glass within them has yet to be cleaned. Such a silly design – how could you clean them anyway?  Why do these things need to be so tall and ugly? Consider  and compare the flamboyant yet understed Metro entrances in Paris.

Keep travelling with me here. Buildings between Centrepoint and Denmark Place have evolved considerably of late. Denmark Street as a centre for live music has diminished considerably and Tin Pan Alley is no more. Opposite, on the corner of Manette Street, the pink-faced replacement for the Foyles building looks to be almost complete. Hurrah, at least, for the elegant beauty of the 1930s Central School of Art, now Foyles new home.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against change, I like to see the patchwork of history – all this knock down and replace is nothing new. Leases expire, buildings become unfit for purpose etc and need to be replaced. The Victorians, and the Georgians before them, rebuilt whole streets and, just pre-WWII there was another construction boom, but the amount of change happening at the moment in Central London is, for me, quite shocking. 

And so we continue to Cambridge Circus and turn right into Shaftesbury Avenue. All looks to be as was until crash bang boom, the whole of the block behind Piccadilly's iconic advertising hoardings has been reduced to just that – an almost two-dimensional sign:

And, so, over into Piccadilly itself. Nothing to report until we get to the Ritz. There is a big development with Caffe Nero on the corner here is covered in plastic, I know not why, and then further along at the corner of Half Moon Street the red brick building's façade is all that remains. Though, as you can see from this older streetview there have been hoardings around it since at least 2008; it had been in a poor state for decades.

I decided after that to just look left at the park

It's just occured to me that I have efffectively taken you on a free virtual tour!

28 November 2020

Battersea Power Station – an update on the renovations

The whole riverside stretch between Battersea Bridge and 'Vauxhall Village' is today a swathe of new build, the old power station being only one of a few old buildings left standing in the area. A while back I wrote a provoacative piece suggesting they should pull the thing down. After all, if this building is so revered how come it was left open to the elements as a ruin for decades?! I followed up my thoughts in 2013 and then again in 2014. Why has this building become the famous one when so may like it were demolished completely? Consider, for instance, that the Lots Road Power Station has been empty for decades. Does this have anything to do with popluar culture? Pink Floyd? Or is it that the site was so huge that no-one was prepared or could afford to take it on?

A few weeks ago on one of those lovely bright, crisp, sunny, winter days, I had an urge to walk along the river from Battersea to Waterloo* and this afforded me the opportunity to have a nose in at the what's happening. It was a glorious day and everthing looked marvellous. And there were hardly any people about. And it was quiet. And I like it like that.

I followed the Thames Path into the main area of new build at the side of the railway arches filled with restauarants and food outlets but closed for business due to Coronavirus. Just a few people about, walking their dogs and enjoying the sunshine. I wandered around for over an hour and exited the site via Nine Elms Road where this old electrictity box sits.

Do go and have a wander through yourself. There is one-way pedestrian route through the site. Bear in mind that there are still a lot of buildings yet to be started and these will, as I mentioned in my earlier piece, obliterate the view from the Wandsworth side. So I'd advise you get there while the main building is still visible.

A nice addition is the old coaling jetty which has been tranformed into a decked garden complete with seats and flowers and excellent views, but at the moment it's only one way in and the same way out again. I hope that this will be connected to the Thames Path in due course. Note the dockers' mistresses along the edge the looking like topless sunbathers who have got a bit burnt. More here.

Adjacent to the jetty they've installed lots of low level planting and strange triangular raised ponds which offer interesting reflections of the power station. The broken reflections in the new glass buildings are also intriguing. The zig-zag walkways are a bit annoying though. I am fairly sure that people will very quickly make desire paths to cut off the pointy corners.

24 November 2020

Hornsey Road – more ghostsigns, observations and recollections

When I first moved to the Holloway area back in 1988 I lived at the eastern end of Marborough Road, near its junction with Hornsey and Hanley Roads. My bus stop back from work in the West End was the one just south of Bavaria Road at a time when the bus was a 14A and went all the way to Chelsea (what a fab, long route!). I used to like looking at the hints of history in the area but didn't look into it until many years later.  I subsequently moved to another address near to Holloway's Nags Head shopping area but I still have cause to walk the same roads, often when I am headed up to or back from Crouch End, which used to be part of Hornsey, hence the road name. 

Last month I was coming back down the hill and I noticed that the Hanley Arms, which is now an Islamic place of worship, has been given a much-needed lick of paint. It had for years been looking rather sad and I had always worried that the lovely black metalwork over the doors showing the pub name and the saloon bar would get further damaged over time or, worse, be removed comletely. As these pics show, the owners have seen fit to enhance in gold paint that the building was once a pub, which seems at odds with its purpose these days.

Pics all 2020 exc bottom right showing when it was still a pub

I think the Hanley Arms entrance on the corner was for the more basic area of the pub to the Private or Public bar. The Saloon Bar at centre-front would have led to the swankiest part of the pub and there might have been a third entrance down the side that led to a smaller room at the rear. These defined bar areas for different kinds of people would have been sectioned off with wood and glass panels from a main bar area at the centre. I am vaguely aware of going in there once for a nose about when I moved to the area, or am I imagining this or getting my wires crossed with another similar pub?  Most of the interior fittings have since been removed to convert it into a prayer room but the Anaglypta ceiling and other hints of the bulding's previous life are still visible as shown here in The Hornsey Road blog.

The road has changed a lot since I arrived here. Today the eastern side is mainly fast food outlets, but I recall many more and varied shops in the late 80s. But it certainly wasn't as vibrant a street as it was 100 years before that, with shops all the way up to Hornsey Rise and down to Holloway and beyond, with pubs at almost every junction. For instance, on the opposite side of the road to the Hanley Arms was The Alexandra on the corner of Bavaria Road, then called Blenheim Road, as shown by the old painted road sign.

Bottom left 2020, bottom centre and right 2008

A panel on the side of the old pub building shows The Alexandra advertised itself as a 'COFFEE TAVERN'. I assume from this that this was a more genteel kind of place with tablecolths and attracted ladies. The pub was converted to commercial use. By the late 1980s, it was a locksmith's shop which continued to trade into the early 2000s, complete with a large advertisement for key cutting and 5-lever locks and whatnot on the north-facing side of the premises at ground level. By the time I photographed the sign in 2008 it was extremely faded. It's now completely gone having been over-painted, probably at the same time as another storey was added to the top of the building.

The coffee tavern sign reminded me that on a rainy day in 2011 I'd spotted a faded sign on at high level on No.418 that showed the feint letters LADIES SALOON. I could make out a name above ending "...ETTS" – I stupidly never returned to take better pics and it's now been over-painted. Damn.

Hornsey Road ghostsigns – NatWest Bank, Ladies Saloon, The Plough. All 2020 exc middle top.

This looks to be a late-Victorian-Edwardian establishment – a quick bit of delving shows me that Walter Betts had a coffee shop at No. 422 until 1905. By 1906 the same establishement is owned by Charles Watson. Note that the sign is not above the coffee shop but instead above what was then Emil Kober's hairdresser shop at No.418. It looks like a clever bit of inter-business was happeninging here – ladies could get their hair done and then retire to rooms on the upper floors for drinks, provided and served by the esatablishment two doors up the road. How lovely.

As you walk along the road today, you can clearly make out how this was once a busy high street with shops of every kind. As shown above, there's even the hint of a branch of NatWest and further along at the junction of Tollington Park there's what's left of The Plough public house. The entrance to the stables at the rear has been filled in for decades now and it's again one of those places I wish I'd photographed back in 1988 when the cobbled access was still viable leading to the rear of the pub.

I'll leave it there. Any extra info and memories most welcome.


20 November 2020

Money, Money, Money

Money – a sore point for most of us in today's financial climate. 

Shops are closing down as businesses fold, unable to sell the stock to pay the rent. Many people have lost their jobs and just don't know what to do next. Most of us are having to tighten our purse strings finding new ways to survive. Apart from the supermarkets, the charity shops might be the only ones doing OK these days.

For me, the world of graphic design for print has taken a bashing and hardly anyone wants to come out for a guided walk. And the sales of my cards and prints is nowhere near what it was this time last year. Chin up, as they say. We're all in it togther (?!).

Money makes the world go round

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Oh gawd, I've just thought of that awful song used by that gurning politician, but in the meantime, I'll get back to all those DIY jobs I have been putting off and I need to load up some more stuff from my cupboards to online selling sites.

11 November 2020

A bit of Holloway ghostsign sleuthing – Henry Dell, grocer

Last week I was contacted via Twitter about a ghostsign at the rear of a property in Hornsey Road. Archway Ramblings @UpArchway asked if I knew any more about an old painted sign visible from Bracey Street. Well, this was the first I knew about it, which is not surprising seeing as Bracey Street is a little back street that I have rarely ever used, and the sign fairly inaccessible.

H....ELL, TEA MERCHANT....... 408 Holloway Road. Photo: @UpArchway

A quick bit of sleuthing and it turns out this was Henry Dell who had a grocery shop here at 450 Hornsey Rd, a few doors up from Thorpedale Road, today a launderette.

647-665 Holloway Rd, 1882 
Henry Dell appears to have been established in the area for decades. In 1882 he is shown at No.408 Holloway Rd (today, Santander) with another shop further up the road at 5 Northampton Place which later became No.657 (today, the fish and chip shop). Prior to the later 1880s, the upper section of Holloway Road northwards of Tufnell Park Rd on the west side and Tollington Way (then Grove Rd) on the east side was still evolving and there were no Holloway Rd door numbers – the houses or business premises were simply part of a named terrace* and, very often, the pub at the corner of that stretch was echoed in the name, as in Marlborough Terrace, Crown Terrace etc., though not in this instance. Northampton is probably a reference to the Marquis who owns Canonbury Tower (I will park that tangent for another day!).

647-665 Holloway Rd, 1939
Therefore, regarding what's visible of the ghostsign, I think it's fair to assume, judging by the space available/covered, that the pipes might be hiding the door number of the store at the northern section of Holloway Road which was closer to this Hornsey Rd shop, as in "657 & 408".

Moving fast forward to 1939, I see Henry Dell [and/or his family] is still going strong. The Hornsey Rd shop is listed as "Dell's Store's" and the shop at 657 Holloway Rd is battling for custom with two similar grocery shops next door, namely Liptons, a well-known country-wide chain, and David Greig** the provisions company founded in Hornsey. As for the shop at 408 Holloway Rd, by 1939 it's listed as a restaurant with Mullholland's shoe shop also shown at the same address so I think we can assume that Dell's restaurant was on one of the upper floors. 

Some photographic ref would be nice, but I can't find any right now. The Dells might have been trading in the area earlier than 1882 and I don't know if they continued after WWII. So I'll have to leave it there – Henry Dell, a successful family business, established in Holloway for at least 60 years. Nice. 

Thanks again to Archway Ramblings for bringing this to my attention.

*I refer to this kind of thing on my Mr Pooter's Holloway guided walk about the book 'A Diary of a Nobody' where the characters of 1888 are living at a made-up place called Brickfield Terrace – I have some very good ideas where this could have been along this busy thoroughfare.

**DG shops are a bit of a 'thing' with me. Note to self; collate and post about the company here – any additional info you might have will be gratefully received, and credited.

10 November 2020

What's the point?

Really. Seriously. I often wonder what are we doing here. 

By 'we' I mean humans. What do humans actually do for the planet in a postive way (apart from trying to fix the mistakes of the past)? What other animal causes such devastation to other flora and fauna? And all in the name of progress. Sigh.

Anyway, here are some of my favourite London manicules pointing the way to who knows where. A few of them have since been lost to us, whether through renovation of demolition.

6 November 2020

A ghostsign in New Soutgate – Lander, monumental mason

Last week I went to New Southgate Cemetery to find the grave of someone I am researching. I got the tube to Arnos Grove, one of Charles Holden's marvellous Art Deco masterpieces, and I headed north. As I walked north up Brunswick Road I mused how reasonably new the area was – it all looks to have been built in the late C19th and then added to in mid-C20th. 

See my warped and stretched version below
Then, as I crossed Marne Avenue, I noticed an unusual pair of stone-built houses opposite the junction. I stopped look at them, considering that they probably preceded all the other buildings in the vicinity and might at one time have been farm or workmens' buildings, or similar. I took a closer look and, well blow me down, if there isn't a huge hand-painted sign covering most of the north-facing/left side of number 94. Another house has been constructed to the left and, although this has helped to protect the sign's paintwork, it makes the sign really hard to read at this very oblique angle. 

Squinting at it, and no doubt looking like I was casing the joint, I could see a large name at the top: LANDER. Other words quickly led me to ascertain that this was a sign for a stone mason connected to the cemetery. I stood there for a while making scribbled notes as I tried to decipher the specific wording, but the angle and the faded areas at the very top and far left/rear made it rather difficult. It did cross my mind to knock on the door to speak to the occupants and ask for access to the rear but I hesitated, and if you don't do those kind of things immediately they just don't happen. 

Instead, I took a few snaps with my phone and carried on up to the cemetery where, snooping around the headstones and tomb bases, I found that many had Lander's mark on them, some showing that the company was mason for the local council (Barnet). Later, when I got home, I looked at my poor-quality pics and, holding my phone at different angles to achieve oblique views in the opposite dierection, I managed to decipher quite a bit of it.

(Monumental something?) CEMETERY OR BURIAL GROUND
(?prices please visit?) OFFICE & WORKS 1 FRIERN BARNET RD

A. K. (Andrew King) Lander was at 1 Friern Barnet Road, Betstyle Circus, known to locals as 'Lander's Corner', no doubt because the company's stone yard would have been a very recognisable local landmark – some of the hard-to-decipher parts of the ghostsign most likely make mention of the yard's location, just a little way to the south.  Friern Barnet Photo Archive has some marvellous old pictures of the business and the junction through the decades, including the one shown right. Today, the yard is long gone and block of flats now covers the site. In that link you'll notice that the name 'Lander's Corner' in on the first houses in Oakleigh Rd South opposite the site of the yard. I like to think the Lander family lived there. Perhaps someone will let me know.

Similarly, I do not know whether the family had a direct connection to the pair of old houses in Brunswick Park Road. The Landers might have simply hired the wall as advertising space being as it provides a perfect sightline from the cemetery where prospective clients might be choosing a burial plot or looking after a family memorial. A company by the same name still trades today but is based in Basildon Essex. Even though they make mention of being founded in 1866 I can see nothing on their site about Friern Barnet or Southgate. 

And the grave I was looking for? Well, it turns out I was looking in the wrong cemetery! Never mind – it was nice wandering around New Southgate Cemetery and, should you ever need to find information there yourself, the staff in the office are really helpful and friendly, and funny too. 

A little bitof Photoshop action here – the quality of the image isn't really good enough as regards the focus/sharpness at the left/rear


1 November 2020

Spam Spam Spam Spam – and genuine comments

I've been wondering why I've not been getting comments this blog. Yes, I had set it up for comments approval but I've had no emails about this in, ooh, I dunno, about a year. Surely someone out there must have something to say in return, especially as I occasionally write things to be purposely provocative!

This morning I decided to look into this. I first checked to see if it was possible to post a comment on here. Yes, no problem, just some annoying thing about having to include and email address and a password which I thought was probably in itself dissuading people from giving feedback. So I thought I'd best change that and make it simpler. I looked into my settings and confirmed that my comments are indeed still set up for moderation pre-publication, but I also saw that I have thousands of messages to approve, and these are mostly from companies or individuals spamming me in badly written english with links to products and services that are irrelevant to the post they are written under. Hidden in amongst those are comments from real people responding to my thoughts and observations – thank you so much!

I have discovered some good feedback on posts I have written about Holloway Memories, the carvings at Cecil Sharpe House and shops in Ilford shops and more – to those of you who wrote to me and provided such useful and interesting feedback, I apologise for not getting back to you sooner.

It's great that I haven't been talking to myself all this time, but this clean-up/assessment process is going to take ages. For the past hour I have been trying to weed out the good stuff from a deep well of rubbish, and I have barely scratched the surface. This is going to take me many more hours yet because the silly 'system' on here is set up such that each comment has to be assessed individually whether to publish/spam/delete – there's no way to just check multiple boxes to do actions in one swoop. This is further exacerbated because every time I try to delete a comment it gets questioned with a subsequent 'are you sure?' pop-up, each one I mark as spam takes seconds to slowly dispappear as the list resets itself and, worse still, whenever I find a genuine comment to approve, the damn list whooshes back up to the somewhere near top (eh? why?) and I have scroll down to find my place again. Aaargh!

I promise to respond to all the real feedback, which will gradually be appearing as approved comments, after I have finished this tedious task...

Spam spam spam spam

UPDATE: ooh the irony... the spammers have been submitting comments to this post which, for the reasons above, don't get published. Bless them, they obvioussly can't read!

28 October 2020

Nothing really mattress

There are a lot of discarded mattressses on the streets this year. I've also noticed many ads for mattress companies selling products made with their own version of layered foam*. I suggest people are buying new mattresses and then just chucking the old one outside, hoping the local council will just clear up their m[attr]ess.  

All of these have something to do with beds, even if I simply found them on a street with 'Bed' included in the name. Damn – I just realised I forgot to include a pic of bedding plants at Regents Park. Oh well.

*Can someone please explain the bizarre term 'memory foam' especially in regards to mattresses – what is it memorising exactly, and how can you change your position if it memorises the first shape you made (ha ha)? Surely these are no good for hotels! And, within shoes, surely no memorising is needed at all – moulds to your foot shape and that's it, job done. In a world of anti-plastic and recycling, is this stuff even ethical?

26 September 2020

23 August 2020

Holloway Odeon – new renovation revealed in all its slap-dash glory

Earlier this year I wrote a post about how I was far from happy with the new logo and its placement on Holloway Odeon, my local cinema which has been undergoing reneovations this past year or so.
On Thursday I was walking up Holloway Road and as I turned into Tufnell Park Road I looked up and and exclaimed "Wow" out loud as I saw the gleaming façade finally revealed.
Holloway Odeon, 2020 renovation, main tower and entrance on the Tufnell Park Road side
A man heard me and stopped and stared at me, grinning. I thought that he thought the 'wow' was directed at him, but no. I spoke to him and he introduced himself as David Latter, the architect of the building. I wondered if Howard Crane the actual architect of the building back in 1938 would have been pleased to hear someone taking the credit, but nevertheless engaged David in conversation and we chatted about the renovation which he was clearly very pleased about. I commended him on the removal of the blue paint on the metal windows which have been stripped and painted black and the reinstatement of the restaurant area there. I made mention of my knowledge of the history of the building and I also made comment about those nasty logo panels, but it was clear from his expression he didn't really get my point. He told me his company works on lots of revamped cinemas round the country and he gave me his business card. I also briefly met his assistant who was unchaining his bike from a nearby lamp post. David urged me to go inside to view the interior.
I crossed the road to take a closer look. I couldn't get inside as it's not yet open to the public, but the interior does indeed look better designed. That can wait for another day. Instead I wandered around the outside at studied the renovation at street level.
Oh dear, what a disappointment.
From a distance it looks marvellous, but get up close and it's slapdash, shoddy workmanship. I cannnot believe with all the products and processes available today that better results cannot have been achieved. Most of the lovely original faience tiles have been painted. I think on the upper sections shown above that a layer of varnish has been added as no way way was it ever that shiny before. However, other areas at ground level have been overpainted in a strange yellow tone that is not the same as the pale terracotta originals that have stood the test of time for over 80 years. That might have been Ok had the paintwork not been so messy – wires have been painted over without any idea of realigning them, edges are not straight, there are patches of overpainting, holes and defects have not been repaired. Yet the original tiles are still filthy, hinting that this new paint has been applied over years of dirt. New additions such as the canopy are mis-aligned and far from curved with cut and breaks and gaps where they bend and abut other areas.
Basically, if they could achieve an impressive, or even just adequate, standard of workmanship in the 1930s, why is it not possible today? Quality control or pride in one's work does not seem to be important these days.
See the evidence below.
The new window frames look marvellous but the black-edged canopy above street level has frilled edges
More views of the canopy along the Tufnell park Road side – juddery curves and wobbly straights
Silky reflective paintwork over the tiles along the TufPkRd side already has has patches of repair. And under the canopy by the main door at the corner a strip has been cut to go round old wires that feed through an air brick. These wires are probably not even functional any longer. Note also how the thin strip veers away from the wall and has been snipped to make it bend back again. Was this really the most effective way to do this?!
Canopy at the corner over the main entrance. The two curved sections have a gap between them and where the white ceiling panels meet the wall they are not cut at the correct angle, leaving thin triangular holes. Also note other bits of wire that could have been tidied up, plus dodgy curved [black] edges and filthy original tiles etc.
Canopy at main door. The curve on the underneath is not a curve – surely there are products available that can achieve a soft arc? Are there no artisans who can produce better quality results with the materials at hand? And, on the front on the right hand side of the main canopy, there is vertical gap, though strangely not parallel, where the panels do not meet. And again, more of those snips in the curves. Is this a literal/visual example of "cutting corners"?
Along the Holloway Road side it appears the renovation proper ends as all that is is in evidence is a bit of shoddily applied paint at ground level and some new panels that I had assumed were temporary but now fear are permanent seeing as the cinema opens up next week. Couldn't they at least have cleaned the original tiles and sympathetically repaired all the damage caused by previous panels and fixings? 
The northern section of the building on Holloway Road. Some bits painted, some bits not, more painted wires, more dirty tiles and unrepaired defects, ends of bits of newly-applied wood, and at the very end, a horrible patchwork corner. This side of the building was originally designed as shops interspersed with doors that provided access to cinema waiting areas below. This negated people having to queue in the rain and reduced congestion on the busy pavement. The area above the green line was a terrace that provided alfreco seating for the restaurant. It really seems like this part of the building has been deemed by Odeon to be of little imporatnce, yet it is a long swathe facing an important A-road – now the messiest part of the building is seen by the most people.