22 May 2018

Anaglypta

I have started another collection...
Today I bring you some examples of Anaglypta wallpaper.
It was quite expensive in its Victorian-Edwardian heyday and was mostly applied in hallways and/or below the dado rail.
Beautiful. 
The two black designs are from The Shaftesbury Tavern on Hornsey Rise and the off-white one, top left, is from The Red Lion, Holborn,

15 May 2018

Basement art

A few months ago I went to The London Art Fair in the basement of Victoria House. That's the enormous building that looms over the eastern side of Bloomsbury Square, home to All Star Lanes, The Bloomsbury Ballroom, The Museums Archive and Libraries Council, and a company that sells beauty products and other life-enhancing things
The art show was really good – a diverse range at diverse prices.
I am looking forward to the next show.


I was also fascinated by the structure and layout of the basement area itself, especially the inside/outside spaces with white ceramic brick tiles and some columns which reminded me of Dougal's sugar heap in the Magic Roundabout.



8 May 2018

Men with no hands and legs in N4

This might be deemed a bit flippant considering the stretch of pavement I am about to refer to has become a makeshift shelter for homeless men (and women?), but this is something I noticed before the rough sleepers arrived so please bear with me... 

I am often amused by the shapes of stick men painted on pavements to indicate footpaths. Very often they are disproportional with huge feet or short arms, or both as per here.
Well, there are lots of them under the railway bridges at the southern end of Stroud Green Road near Finsbury Park Station.
These N4 men are reasonably human-like vis-a-vis the head-to-body ratio, though their arms look a little short and they all have one foot much larger than the other. I think there must be about twenty of them indicating to keep on the left.
But most of the poor fellas look like they have returned from active service in a war zone. The one shown here to the right has only lost a hand and half his foot but as you can see from the six pics below most of his comrades can barely walk at all.


It's really sad – especially as alongside these graphics there are real broken men.

3 May 2018

The Strowger Automatic Telephone System

All this looking up, looking down, looking around me means I am forever spotting 'new' old things.
Last Spring I spotted a small cover plate that had some lovely Art Nouveau-esque letters on it set within a circle. I wondered what ATE or TEA could be. A utility of some kind? I just took a snap and walked on. A few days later I mis-labelled it as Caledonian Road. Which is why it ended up in this collection here.
A few months later I noticed what I thought was another one outside The Marlborough Building on Holloway Road – turns out I was looking at the same one. Intrigued by this, I decided to keep my eyes open for more. I even asked my MP Jezza if he had any ideas. He looked confused and said he hadn't a clue. I wondered if it was something to do with trams seeing as it was positioned where I knew a tram/bus stop used to be.
Then, earlier this year, I happened on two similar ones near the clocktower in Crouch End, but these had an M instead of an E. Ooooh, I thought; what are they? MAT? ATM? It just had to be the latter.
A bit of googling and I have found that ATM = The Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company and ATE = The Automatic Telephone and Electric Company, an earlier company dating from 1892. 
The concept of a telephone switching mechanism goes back to the 1890s – the brainchild of a Mr Almon B. Strowger of Kansas City, USA who very quickly sold his patent for lots of money and was later passed on to the Bell company for $millions. 
A Crouch End pavement, top left, followed by a close up of the marvellous ATM logo and then my original ATE find. The  large pic shows the information plate on the back of a late 1930s telephone (model L11561).
Some of the ATM cover plates I have spotted in Holloway, Finsbury Park and Crouch End

This article gives the full story.
It appears that ATM opened for business in 1912 but I am becoming quite confused as to when the plates in my pics below date from. Especially the ATE one. The article says that the first automatic director exchange in London opened in November 1927: this was HOLborn, supplied and installed by ATM. I can see no mention of when NORth London was included. 
In 1936 the company changed its name to Automatic Telephone and Electric Company (AT&E) but retained the old logo device with the letters ATM in a circle was retained as it was so familiar and had been applied to so many castings and pressings. For a while the new name was frequently shortened to Automatic Electric in advertisements. 
Old logo device? Old? Oh I am confused. Where does the ATE logo fit into this timeline ?  
I have also found this about the Strowger ATM timeline
But I am addled now. I confess that am now completely confused re ATE vs AT&E. If anyone out there would like to delve further and get the timeline correct, then please be my guest, but do copy me in with updates.

29 April 2018

My old GT6 Mk2 is still on the road – a reunion at the Classic Carboot Sale

On Saturday afternoon I went for a mooch around the Classic Carboot Sale at Kings Cross. I have traded there in the past but this time I thought I'd have a weekend off and be a punter.
The first car I saw inside the market area was a 1971 blue Truimph GT6 Mk2:

April 2018 – Granary Square, Kings Cross 
I said to my friend, "I had one just like that"
And then I did a double-take...
OH
MY
GOD!
"That's my old car!"
Or was it wishful thinking?
But the number plate was so familiar – EPK is in Parker, I was 20 when I bought it, and J is for Jane – I'd always thought this too much of a coincidence when I had it.
Could this really be my car?!
So when I got home I dug out my old photos.
And.... YES!

1983 – on the front garden in Albert Road, Romford, and in Bedfords Park
I'd bought it from a man in Collier Row, north Romford, and two years later sold it to another local man. Steve, the latest owner, tells me bought it in Essex and that's where he lives too. So it's never gone far.
The black and chrome-wire number plates on it today are the ones that were bought for me as birthday present by my friend Gary (an ex-boyfriend) who had helped me buy the GT6 and did all the maintenance/mechanical stuff. In fact, I think that's why he'd encouraged me to buy it because he loved working on old cars. He used to drive round in a subtlely converted Imperial Maroon Ford Anglia with "big boots and Ecobra seats". As he'd say, "Tidy!"
I notice Steve has made a few modifications and additions to the car. He as replaced or recovered the seats – they used to be tan vinyl which could be rather uncomfortable/sweaty on a hot day – no air con back then! And he's changed the wheels to those spokey ones – as you can see I never got around to replacing the hubcaps that were on it when I bought it.
It was a joy to drive, though I sometimes did feel as if I was going to take off and fly especially when on open motorways. And on returning to a car park I was often thinking it had been stolen being as it's so much lower than most other cars – and then there was that "phew!" moment when I saw it hiding behind an estate car.
I only sold it because I barely used it. I had a job in Covent Garden and went out mostly in the West End after work or used my British Rail season ticket to go back and forth at weekends. Though the car was great for local nights out or trips away and I visited friends all over the the country.
Also, though the engine was excellent, thanks to Gary, it needed some body repairs specifically to the floor and the cills and finding the correct parts had proved difficult so, seeing as by 1985 I was looking to fly the nest, I sold it and spent the money on stuff I needed for my new home.
Ah... happy memories though.
And at 52 I am glad to see it's still looking good.
I didn't get another car until about eight years later. They'll be no chance of seeing that one again because it died on me in Camden Road and the prognosis was that the cost of the repairs would far exceed the value of the car. So I made some phone calls and man from the breakers came and collected it for scrap. I watched as the claws took hold and squished it then lifted and dropped it onto the flat bed lorry. And then we waved goodbye. That was 2007. I haven't had a car since.


27 April 2018

My idea for how Edward Johnston came up with the design for the London Underground Roundel


Just over a hundred years ago London Transport realised it was lacking a visual identity. One of the key things the company needed was a logo and this came to be the 'roundel' we all know today – a circlular ring with a rectangular bar running across it.
Johnston's final design 
Across the fast-expanding network there was a mix of signage in all shapes and sizes. There were discs, banners, lozenges and diamonds, all implementing different styles and typefaces. The whole thing needed to be brought together as a brand.
In 1916 the job was given to Edward Johnston, a relatively unknown calligrapher who appears to have been a quiet camera-shy man who kept his ideas to himself and just got on with the job at hand. But Johnston kept no preliminary sketches and so no-one really knows how his mind was working or what inspired the final design which was finalised and on dislpay in 1919. It's often been said that he based his final design on the 1908 "roundels" can still be found on station platforms such as Covent Garden and Caledonian Rd.


I have a theory about this but it's a bit "chicken or egg"; which came first?
A thought has been bubbling in my head for years but I have only just been motivated to check it through properly this week, as shown here, following a conversation at the museum depot at the weekend.
Here goes...


I believe the simple logo shapes were already staring Johnston in the face every time he looked at one of the arched modular sections on Leslie Green’s ox-blood tube station buildings.


I have used Holloway tube station here to illustrate my point.
First I drew a circle within the window arch.

I then drew a rectangle over the tiled area below the window where the station name appears, making the height of it the same as the section between the top and bottom lips, and its width to be up to the edges of the windows at either side.

And then I coloured it up in red and blue. Looking good.
As you can see, the blue rectangle was sitting too low, so I just shunted it up to align vertically as well as horizontally. Looking better.
And then I checked it against Johnston’s “Proportions of Standard Bullseye Design” which I blasted in Photoshop so I could see what I was doing and….

… drum roll please… it’s the same!
And I hadn’t even measured that blue rectangle!

The logo's proportions have changed a bit over the decades. I checked some subsequent logos and placed them onto Holloway station (not shown here) and they too fit. Perhaps this is what Johnston had in mind all along?
Or is it the other way around?
It occurs to me that Leslie Green might have had the idea for this shape when he was designing the stations. Hence the early solid red disc roundels on his platforms.
What do you think?
Another thought...
OK so, Edward Johnston (1872-1944) and Leslie Green (1875-1908) weren't actually employed by Frank Pick at the same time, but they were almost the same age and might have known each other. Consider that both were relative unknowns before Pick gave them their commissions. Perhaps they had discussed these logo ideas before Green died, incidentally, the same year that the disc roundels appeared.
Hmmm...
Ponder ponder...




23 April 2018

London Transport Museum, Acton Depot

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the London Transport Museum's second site at Acton.
The first time I went there was almost ten years ago when I took part in a scavenger hunt thing.
And last month, I went there for a specialist tour about the posters, art and advertising – on that occasion I was so engrossed in the poster room that I was hoping I might be able to get accidentally locked in there because there is too much to take in – it's jam-packed with marvellous stuff. I really thought I had written about that last visit on here. But no. Suffice to say the LT posters are similar to the tram ones here.
Here are some snaps from yesterday:

I just love a bit of rusty paint and a clever bit of textile design and a palimpsest of posters and, oh look, there's those funny faces on the switch board again.
Map-tastic. These are all from full sized versions that would have been fixed up on ticket hall walls or on the platforms. A couple of them are enamel. Note how these are pre- Harry Beck – they are not the stylised graphic we have become used to. Also note how the colours for thine tube lines changed over time – see especially the Central and Piccadilly lines. Sorry, but I forgot to make a note of the dates.  
These are models and they're looking good.
Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, a strange training model (that they are keen to find more info about) and the Waterloo to City line at Bank (Queen Victoria Street)
I joined a tour led by Eric, one of the volunteers, in fact the very same fab chap who I met when he was leading the 'hidden' tube tunnels tour underneath Euston Station*. He gave us a short taster-tour that included some really interesting work by Edward Johnston when he was designing LT's iconic typeface. Ooh, I'd love to spend more in those rooms.
If you are into tubes, trains, buses and trains or just have fondness for the fab old vehicles or an interest in the signage then it's well worth a visit – check here for details.

*I really thought I'd written about that tour too, but no, having checked I find the photos are lurking in my 'to do' folder. In a nutshell: fascinating but overpriced. 

10 April 2018

218 Upper Street – what's next for bank building?

I just noticed this weekend that the NatWest Bank have moved out of 218 Upper Street and the site is empty.
There's been a bank on this site for over 140 years – in 1874 The National Provincial Bank of England was there and continued to be until at least the 1940s*.
This, of course, isn't the original Victorian building from 1874. I am not actually sure when it was built, I am guessing late 1950/60s, but I have always admired its simple, classic yet imposing façade and, especially, the lovely large circular door handles on the heavy warm-coloured wood. I have a  blank as to who occupied the building when this frontage was installed. Perhaps, judging by the images on the door handle, a Greek bank was here at that time?

Greek references on the [bronze?] panels within the door handles on the right hand pair of doors (top) and left (underneath) – men/gods riding porpoises/dolphins, a swan and a dove or chicken.
At the very top there are three while roundels. At street level as sign shows the bulding is now 
There are also three circular reliefs at the top of the building depicting wheat and what I think might be a Star of David.
At the moment the property is being managed by Lowe Guardians, a charitable trust that, I assume, is care-taking the site until a new business moves in.
I really hope whoever moves in has the nouse to keep all its features intact

*This all needs a bit more research, bit I thought I'd share in case anyone out there has any relevant info.

3 April 2018

North East London NE street signs

Many moons ago, back in 2008, I wrote a post about old metal street names which also included some of the now defunct mid-19th century N.E. signs that I had spotted on the streets of North East London in Clapton, Hackney and Stoke Newington, today categorised as East London (E). Since the 1860s the NE code has applied to Newcastle.
I am not the only one 'collecting' these glimpses of the past – Sam, Mr Ghostsigns, has organised a free scavenger hunt to on the afternoon of Saturday 21st April with the aim to make a database. If you are going to join in I'd suggest a bit of pre-event sleuthing via google streetview which will save time shoe leather.
I won't be able to join in that day as I will be leading events of my own so, to help anyone who is going to join in on the days I thought I'd give you a heads-up and pull together all the NE signs I have collected myself. Well, I say 'all' but I mean the ones I have labelled and filed correctly – I am pretty sure I have other photos in a folder on my desktop titled "to name and file"!

My photos of Clapton's N.E. signs shown A-Z.
Other signs I am aware of but are not shown above are: Brett Passage, Colne Rd, Dunlace Rd, Malvern Rd, Mayola Rd, Mentmore Terrace, Mildenhall Rd, Navarino Rd, Roding Rd, Rushmore Rd and St Philips Rd.
This makes minimum of 31 roads with signs showing the N.E. district. Note that some roads have two or three N.E. signs and I have only shown one of them.
As regards the design of these enamel signs, I notice that there is no fixed punctuation style – colons, commas, full points and semi-colons appear to be interchangeable.
Along my travels I have also found some North (N.) and South East (S.E.) signs from the same era :
These signs from Hackney and Southwark are the same style as the N.E. signs including the typefaces, casing and fixings.
London also has no S postcode – we gave that one to Southampton.
More types of street name signs in the Clapton area can be found here.
And this post, also from 10 years ago, shows a variety of road name changes.

23 March 2018

Please help to decipher this old hand-painted sign in Bride Street – could be a butcher or an ad for washing powder?

From Google Streetview
Out doing a recce for a new walk idea earlier this month  I happened upon the remnants of a hand-painted sign across 83-87 Bride Street, N7. I attempted to take a few photos with my phone but it was late in the day and the light was poor and so the resultant pics were too.
Earlier this week, I ventured out in the biting cold armed with my camera. The enhanced images below give an idea of what's there.
It looks to me to be a company called Wa(...)s(...) and S(omebody/thing) as written in undulating U+lcase script at the top. There are also remnants of three large blue serif letters, HM(?), at the middle in bold caps and, along the bottom in a fine bold italic caps, I can make out (possibly WASH...(?) and BUTCHER. But there's lots more I can't decipher.
The directories for both 1895 and 1905 do not have anything listed against these properties except Percy Tyre & Rubber Co. Ltd. shown at 83a, which I assume to be at the rear with access at the side.
So, have you got any ideas; can you help?
The full sign, left and middle sections. Following on from "Washing" shown as close-up in the centre pic, I think I can also make out "powder" following on from that, seen bottom left of the third pic, which would make sense.
The right section continues the script; for (....) advertising what this company offers/does – I believe the last word ends  ...rtation(?). Underneath, in caps, I am sure it says BUTCHER
 
 

16 March 2018

London Tramways – posters and artworks at the London Metropolitan Archives

Another day, another archive, another subject.
And equally as marvellous, but for different reasons.
The London Metropolitan Archives recently held an open day event where posters and artworks from the tram age were be on display.
How could I resist?
I was there the minute the place opened. On a table in the middle there were piles of lovely printed posters from the 1920s and the 1930s. But better still were the actual artworks or designs for those posters on the side tables and these showed a bygone world of hand-lettering, retouching, cut and paste, and pencilled annotations – all devices we no longer, or very rarely, implement these days now that most things are computer generated.
The poster on the left is hand panted in thick block colours – see how some of the place names have been cut out and stuck on top to indicate where they should be placed in the final version. The second poster, which is also artfully hand painted, has a wealth of information and amendments written down the right-hand edge including about deletions and additions. The third poster here shows places linked to Dickens' London. The placenames were, for some reason masked out, but by holding it up to the  light I could see them, The last poster shows a glimpse of a fabulously colourful image for Hampstead Ponds and some beautifully rendered hand lettering  – note how accurately the gold outline has been applied – this is all done with a brush!!
All of this reminded me of when I first started working in the advertising world back in 1980. A designer would produce a colourful, hand-rendered design for the client, using Magic Markers, Pentel Pens and gouache with perhaps, a few images glued onto that. And he'd point to the client's supplied image, probably in slide format, and say "this part of this image will be here".  Clients seemed to have more imagination back then and they trusted the design agencies to produce what they required.
Once the design was approved it was then passed on to the artworker (that was me) and/or the typographer (also me) to pull together an accurate 'artwork for print'. This was a black and white rendition of the design made with the help of Rotring pens, a PMT machine, Cow Gum and Rubylith which was then sent to the reprographic department to be made ready for the printer. It was a marvellous creative process.
Today we have AppleMacs and digital cameras and various photo editing programs and everyone thinks they are an armchair designer. Apparently, we just wave a magic wand at the computer and it does all the work. I think clients think it's some kind of mind-melding process. A download of sorts. The daft thing is that it takes longer to produce something from concept to printed product than it did 50 years ago because today people are amending almost hourly. Yawn.
Anyway enough reminiscing... back to the tram posters...

A poster for London Zoo had a contemporary sketch (known as a 'scamp') beside showing another layout. The second poster shows amendments made by masking out with paper and with white paint. The third pic shows two posters – the one on the left has been part filled in with colour. Note the panel at the bottom of that poster which looks to have been originally painted as white lettering on a black panel but a section of it is rendered in yellow on green. It was the latter option that was chosen for the printed poster as can be just seen in the pic at the very top of this post.  The other poster in that image has very vibrant colours of bright blues, yellow and orange with handwritten annotation in lovely red inked script. The final pic shows a beautiful painting of a tram with almost type-quality hand-lettering applied in white brush strokes underneath.
More adeptly applied paint in the first pic of this section – note the quality of the lettering here, especially the squiggly inline on the black letters.
The last three pics are of printed examples. The Pullman Tramcar poster just amused me because it seemed a bit odd to show a pic of a sedan chair – what are they saying; that the trains are as slow as two men carrying a heavy weight?!
I was intrigued by the designs and the illustrators/artists whose signatures appeared on most of the finished posters. I made a note of most of them and it seems that rarely did a artist get employed twice. As for the printers who were employed by London County Council Tramways to produce these colourful posters, it appears the main two were Waterlow & Sons, Dunstable, and Vincent Brooks Day & Son, WC2. I also spotted two posters showing a printer from just around the corner from my home; Hill, Siffken & Co, Grafton works, N7. Sadly, I can't find anything find anything about the company except in reference to the things they printed. Any info welcome. 
I was like a pig in a colourful pit of loveliness, cooing and oohing about the artistic details of this and that and asking Simon the curator the occasional question.
It was amusing (to me), that apart from a brief visit by one other woman, the room mostly contained older men, many of whom were, I think, a little bit disappointed that there wasn't more about the actual trams and the tramlines. A lot of them looked through the posters disdainfully as if they had to do that and occasionally one would say something like, "that's the ABC1237 that used to run via Elephant and Castle but they changed the route to go past London Bridge and renumbered it in September 1931; ".
Well, I enjoyed myself and I am really glad I went there!
https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/default.aspx is a major resource for historical information for anyone doing any research be it family history, old maps and photos etc. They also have an online search facility and a marvellous photo library.
It looks like I will need to use the archive to find out more about Siffken & Co.

Tram access covers feature in one of my posts from last year.

12 March 2018

A visit to the Parliamentary Archives

Last week I was lucky enough to be able go on one of the last tours* of The Parliamentary Archives within the Palace of Westminster.
Accessing the building involves a security bag check which is just like at an airport including a bit of frisking if you are lucky. Sadly I missed out on that pleasure having worn a bra that didn't set the machine off.
The tour group went in small batches up to the research floor because the lift can only take a max of six people. We then navigated some small utilitarian passages which really don't look like they ought to be part of a tour to reach another equally tiny lift. But it was ages arriving so our sub-group agreed to walk up the spiral staircase.


I am pretty sure most of the others also hadn't heard that it was an 8-floor climb! Oof! Though stopping to take photos helped!
We finally reached a room near the top of Victoria Tower. When the tower was constructed it was the tallest secular building in the world and the 'show and tell' room affords some marvellous views through the leaded glass windows and the tracery to the north and west of London.


On the table there was a marvellous selection of well-presented historic documents and large heavy tomes. These included notes from Lloyd George, directories of noble families and petitions showing wonderful signatures or symbols indicating how some people could not at that time write.


And then back out to the spiral stairs to look down through the well. This is the view we sometimes see on TV when the Queen arrives here:
The well is not always open like this – a horizontal sliding 'door' is usually in place at the bottom edge. The third image shows part of a framed pic on the wall at that level – a section a 12th century stained glass window from Chartres Cathedral by Simon De Montfort – I love the colours.
And then to the the famous archive room with all the document rolls – I practically hyper-ventillated with excitement as I entered the room. Wow!
Each roll is date tagged by sovereign age (that's what all those little pink, yellow and green squares are in the pics below) and some of them are HUGE. I mean long. Very long. One is half a mile long! I wonder how much it weighs?


A few special documents and books were chosen to show us, and these included some famous historical names:

Henry VIII to the left and his daughter Elizabeth I to the right. The middle image shows how beautiful some of the books in the archive are – just look at the lovely handwriting – the page on the top is an addendum – they just didn't scribble or annotate onto the  original – they wrote it all out again as an attachment
What a delightful way to spend a couple of hours.

*The archive is a valuable resource for anyone delving into the past. The physical archive (the books and scrolls etc) will be moving soon whilst the facility is overhauled, however the database and research facilities will still be available – I think I've got that right – click here to find out more.

6 March 2018

Jane's London Guided Walking Tours

My walking tours in North London are friendly and inclusive gatherings of like-minded souls keen to learn more about this history-rich area.
I offer a range of walks – some cover a range of highlights in a specific area or along a certain road; others are themed, such as the heyday of the Nags Head area when Mr Pooter "lived" here, Art Deco Arsenal and Holloway, drinking establishments along the A1, ghostsigns and green things.
Most tours are 90 minutes long.
More info here. Tickets for scheduled walks are available through Eventbrite.

5 March 2018

Bygone Brands and Businesses – a compact Jane's London in 90 minutes

As you know by the strapline under the header on this site shows that I am all about little historical details still visible on today's streets.
One of my guided walks, shown right, brings together all of these things and, as such, is a kind of potted version of this site. The walk covers old signage, ironmongery, hand-painted advertising on walls, carved reliefs, pubs, shops, name changes, logos and branding in the Upper Holloway, N19, area.
I also have a couple of other walks that are about ghostly signs of the past in Lower Holloway and around the southern half of Upper Street and these are mostly about the hand-painted ads on walls type known as ghostsigns.  

Some Holloway ghostsigns – faded painted advertisements on walls of N7 and N19
Lots more ghostsigns here.
If you'd like to join me on a walk sometime, all info is here on Jane's London Walks or for the detailed descriptions of the individual walks and how to book go directly to Eventbrite.

2 March 2018

Oh the weater outside is frightful...

...but inside it's so delightful.
I love that song.
But I don't want to let it snow let it snow let it snow because this weather is stopping people from bookings my walking tours. Me me me!
Yes, poor me – I have had to cancel the four walks that were scheduled for this weekend because it's so damn slippery out there and I'm today organising refunds or exchanges for other walks.

So while I've no place to go I bring you a collection of twelve White locations or white things in London – can you identify where they photos were taken?
Note that half of these don't exist as shown here any longer – I doubt anyone will recognise the weathered gate on the bottom row, so I will identify that one now; Whitehall Park, N19.

27 February 2018

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style at the V&A

Last Friday evening I meet my friend and fellow CIGA guide at the V&A to see the exhibiton about the golden age of sea travel.
Oooh!
Gorgeous!
Beautiful!
Wow!
That's on a boat!
Heaven, I'm in heaven...

Check out the compact tea set, a leather clutch bag shaped like a liner, and some gorgeous fabric – the wonderful typographic pattern on a silk blouse and a late-1960s blue suit deemed unconventional/'unsuitable'.

I love the V&A (well, apart from this) – there is always something new to see and, more often than not, it's been there for decades and I just never noticed before.
The V&A is open late on Fridays. That's great for people who can't get there during the day and don't like having to fight with school groups or weekend families. But not so great is the type of music that's played there which seems to pull in a new crowd of bar-goers who hang around the reception desk at the Brompton Rd entrance in front of huge speakers on sticks which blare out bass-heavy rhythms. I reckon most of them don't even wander further than the gift shop. Or perhaps that's the point.
We found the sound levels offensive and hard to dodge as the only way in and out is past that desk (or it was by the time we were leaving). It was a horrible contrast to the swooning tunes of the 1930s.
The type of sound is just wrong for the environment – boom boom boom! It reverberates and resonates with nasty low-level frequencies around the curves of this beautiful building like some kind of migraine. Music is great but, please V&A, keep it acoustic next time. Guitars, strings, pianos, even brass – but not anything amplified. Thanks for listening!
And before anyone starts calling me old and grumpy – I would've said all that when I was 20.

Come and see some Art Deco architecture in North London on my guided walks

20 February 2018

Clapham Junction Area – Observations in Wandsworth Rd, Northcote Rd, Battersea Rise etc

One Sunday a few weeks back I met up with a small group of London Historians for a tour of HMP Wandsworth. The pic shows us standing outside its small but jam-packed excellent museum which is open by appointment only.
The tour didn't start until noon. It was a clear, though chilly, day so I headed to Clapham Junction early to check up on a few things.
I exited the station via Old Brighton Yard which affords excellent views across London from the covered pedestrian bridge above the platforms. Note that you need a ticket to access this space; it's not a right of way.
I then turned right and walked westward along St John's Hill towards Wandsworth because I wanted to check up on a couple of old ghostsigns and shop fronts that I know from years ago when I used to work occasionally in the area.

Whoopee! The Peterkin Custard and the H.J. Golding hand-painted signs at the junction of Plough Road are still intact, as is the Frosts Stores doorway mosiac at No. 114 (now Denner Cashmere). Denner's shop also retains its lovely spindle window posts etc.
After the tour of the prison which, by the way, was excellent, a few of us went for a quick pint in a nearby pub full of children with colouring pens (go figure) and then, realising the light was fading fast, I marched across the common and over the railway bridge to get to the southern end of Northcote Road for a Battersea update.

Northcote Road was mostly built in 1896 as is evident by some date stamps at the top of buildings. The street also boasts a lot of blue enamel vitreous metal street signs. On the corner of Salcoat Road the A. H. Dunn / Hovis baker's sign still looks the same as it did when I last took a photo of it ten years ago – the same graffiti tags remain. Also shown here between Nos 88+90 is the best reminder of the lovely tiled dividers that would have been between all the shops along this stretch
And then I crossed over Battersea Rise into St John's Road and noticed a palpable change in environment. The Rise seems to split two kinds of shopping areas; the yummy mummies with their lattes and buggies on one side and a regular high street on the northern side with all the ubiquitous names.
The former Woolworths shop with its identifiable Art Deco 1930s frontage still stands but is now home to Woolworths. Waitrose seem to have moved into quite a few old Woolworth properties such as at Angel, Islington.
Marks and Spencer, opposite, retains its pillars and and cureved windows. Also late Deco I think. This shop front is very similar to my local one at Nags Head, Holloway, tho mine doesn't have the lovely mosaic floor.
The impressive Arding & Hobbs building sites diagonally opposite Clapham Junction Station and its distinctive cupola is visible for miles around.

This is the entrance to the building on the corner of Lavender Hill and Ilminster Gardens. As you can see the ribbed metal pillars ar very similar to those at M&S. I just love the curves and lines within this doorway.
I used to shop at A&H/Allders in the 90s and early 00s but it was clear to me then that the shop really needed to play catch-up with other stores of its kind. The company went into liquidation in 2005 and the building now is home to the Debenhams chain.
I really must go back in the Spring for a proper poke about.
More info on the SW11 area in this draft document written in 2013 by English Heritage.
If you are interested in becoming a member of London Historians please do mention that you heard about it here, from me. Thanks

14 February 2018

A blue-tiled laundry in Northcote Rd, Battersea

Northcote Road is just south of Clapham Junction on the other side of Lavender Hill. At No.138, now Head South Hair & Beauty Salon, I spotted a fabulous example of what I believe is an old Sunlight Laundry.

Ooh lovely – I really like the letters arranged vertically by the door. But it's evident that the company name has been removed from the low level panel at the front of the shop – note how the tiles are of a leter and lesser quality
This shop looks remarkably similar to the Sunlight Laundry in Pimlico Road and other blue-tiled shops such as at the top of Middle Lane in Crouch End and at the junction of Essex Road and Gaskin Road near Islington Green.  Lovely, aren't they?
Find out more about the history of Sunlight Soap and the company that made it here.
Northcote Road is an interesting street mostly built in the late 1890s – there are many other lovely shops both new and long-established as well as some lovely hints of old shop fronts – I will put together a montage for a subsequent post.

2 February 2018

Islington on Canvas – Art from the Archives

There is a wonderful exhibition on at Islington Museum at the moment – a gallery of paintings of locations throughout my borough.
Last Saturday I joined the free walk led by CIGA guide Karen Lansdown and to hear about some of the paintings on display and identify the locations they depict.

Karen in action and some of the paintings
Another walk is scheduled for Saturday 10th and this will be led by fellow CIGA guide Jen Pedler.
The walk lasts 90mins and is free  – but booking is essential.
The exhibition is on until 24 February 2018.

10 January 2018

Susan Hiller at Tate Modern and Postman's Park

In a ground floor Tank gallery at Tate Modern I noticed a montage of photographed wall tiles. Recognising them I stopped to read the info board:

"... Victorian memorial plaques she came across in a London park"
Eh?
No recognition has been made as to where the original marvellous handmade tiles can actually be found.
Susan's photographs are arranged in nothing like the same configuration that they are in their actual location and the quality of the prints looks to be a bit dark and over-inked. It amused me to see that people visiting the gallery are taking photos of these photos. Go figure. 
For those of you who don't know, these Doulton tablets form part of Watts memorial within Postman's Park, a stone's throw from St Paul's.
I took some photos of them a while back when I'd gone to enjoy the peace and quiet in this lovely little garden space and have put six of them together here – does this make me an artist?



5 January 2018

Update on the old Whittington Park mural

A couple of years ago I took my friend Jen, to Whittington Park to show her an old mural that had become obscured by plants. Read about that here.

This was all we could discern in July 2015
Well, twixt Christmas and New Year's Day I went to check on it again. As you'd expect, the spray can graffiti-ers have been busy. I couldn't make out the images above but I found some others.

Lucky Kelsey!
Two schoolchildren with backpacks and a figure [possibly] climbing over a wall
Toffee tin lid
Whittington Park, just south of Upper Holloway Station, is named after Richard/Dick of the turnaround-Lord-Mayor story. Jen's an expert on Dick Whittington and leads a fascinating guided tour about the great man within the City of London. I gave her this old toffee tin a few years back as a present and she uses it as a prop on the walk. Check here for updates or contact her for more details.
See also Dick Whittington's Cat – a previous blog post