7 December 2018

This is not bog standard

A while back I made mention of the marvellous ladies' toilet interior at The Duke Of Sussex pub near Lower Marsh (which I am pretty sure have since been renovated, boo hoo).
Well, tidying up my photos this week I found this snap I took of another lovely evocative sunshine yellow toilet room at The Shakespeare's Head, just behind Saddlers Wells.
Nice eh.

Has anyone spotted any other time capsules like this?

3 December 2018

Thomas Judd, Monumental Mason, 123 Holloway Road

Some people read chick-lit, others read crime thrillers. Well I read a lot of old street directories to see how our streets have changed over the decades. It's a good research tool for my guided walks.
Earlier this year whilst perusing Kelly's 1888 listings I noticed that Judd's of No.123 Holloway Rd was listed back then and was still trading in 2018 which made it, in my estimation, the oldest shop on the street. This business, located a few doors down from St Mary Magdelene, would have been the 'go to' local shop for headstones and stone monuments.
I say 'was' because if you walk past it today you will see that it's now closed and empty:
I can find no reference or archive photos showing how the shop used to look in its Victorian heyday. It's disappointing to me that 150 years ago it would have probably had a marvellous shop front with carvings and gildings. Over the years any elaborate signage and display elements have been removed and replaced with this boring, ubiquitous, plate glass and perspex flat frontage. You'd at least expect to see something that says, "Established [year]" on there. 
So I hunted for info and discovered an article from July 2018 which probably explains why the shop has closed. Whether the report is true or not it's such a shame that Thomas Judd's descendants got into such a financial mess.
I will now have to find another candidate for longest-serving-still-open shop on Holloway Rd. It's probably Selby's.

21 November 2018

Black Friday? Black Friday Weekend? Black November?

Black Black Black!! I see black!
In the past few years a relatively new shopping period has taken over our high streets. It's called Black Friday and as far as I can ascertain, this is the term given to the first shopping day after the Thanksgiving weekend in the US when Americans were actually out spending their money again, thereby taking the sellers out of the red and into the black vis-a-vis their bank statements.
I became properly aware of it a few years ago when I took part in a selling fair in the Salvation Army hall close to Oxford Street the day after Black Friday and noticed no-one was coming inside to see all our fine hand-crafted wares. Outside I witnessed a river of shoppers almost glued together at the shoulders moving like a ice floe along the pavement in tunnel vision 'sale' mode. Shops were enticing customers to spend by offering discount prices – this confused me because it was a Saturday and the term is Black Friday. I joked that the following year it would probably be Black Friday Weekend, and then Black Friday Fortnight and then by 2018 it would be Black Friday Month.
Well, that's exactly what seems to have happened. The ads on the TV tell me just that – it's Black Friday November! Or Black Friday Month!
This make a pub's 'Happy Hour' lasting from 6-9pm seem almost pathetic!
Anyway. Here are some black things I have spotted above and along London's streets:

Friars and statues, a bell, a boot scraper, a taxi, a bull, a postbox and Stewy's dog

17 November 2018

Archway Christmas Spectacular – Sunday 2nd December

Find me on Sunday 2nd December at my stall on Navigator Square adjacent to Archway tube station where I will be selling my cards and prints including locally-themed Christmas cards, plus my Christmas tree earrings all of which you can see in this montage re last year's event.
It's a colourful, lively day with lots to see and/or do so please do pop by and say hello.
Winning illustration by a local Islington schoolchild

14 November 2018

Camden Ghostsigns – a walking tour – Saturday 17th November

This Saturday I will be leading a walk around Camden Town, its High Street and the area around Hampstead Lock, following a trail of ghostsigns that are still visible on the walls above the streets.
The title of the walk references the different kind of factories, shops and businesses that used to be in the Camden are before the markets made use of the empty spaces and turned the area into one of London's top tourist attractions. The walk title is still relevant today, but in a different way.

Many years ago I wrote a piece on here about these faded tradesmen signs that can still be seen along the main road. These will feature on the tour, plus many others that not so difficult to decipher..
I hope you an join me.

26 October 2018

A Hallowe'en Spooktacular – FREE guided walks in N19

Here's one for your diary...
Hallowe'en usually finds me behind locked doors with the TV cranked up loud to cover the noise of the doorbell and the whining from disappointed little children who didn't get any 'treats'.
Trick or Treat? I say treat 'em mean and give em a slice of the real world !
Surely that makes me the best witch ever!
But this year I have been tempted out of my cave by something that's free. Yes free. And not branded. And not full of sugar either. I will actually be venturing outdoors and interacting with people and I might even dress the part. Stranger things have happened you know..
Yes people... it's shocking... I will be leading a ghost-themed tour around the Archway area. There'll be three chances to tag along but you'll need to register because places are limited.
Just click here for more info.
Now where did I leave my broomstick...

9 October 2018

Walk This Way in Smithfield Poultry Market

Whilst having a wander about the old markets on Sunday afternoon I noticed these painted fellas on the pavement and felt the urge to share them.

See here for some of their mates near Finsbury Park station.

5 October 2018

Drunken Barnaby's Journal by Richard Brathwait

Last Saturday I spent a very pleasant afternoon leading short tours around N19 as part of Archway With Words 2018.
Whilst talking about The Mother Redcap public house on the 2.30pm tour I noticed that Matt, one of my group, was especially engaged in the information. When the tour finished he asked if I had read Drunken Barnaby's Four Journeys by Richard Brathwait, first published in 1638, which includes an account of a visit to that tavern by the titular character. I said I had read excerpts online but, no, I didn't have the actual book.
He said he had two copies and would I like one of them? Er, well, yes please.
So he nipped home and came back with two books and refused to take anything for them, saying they were a present and he wanted nothing more because he'd enjoyed the tour.

As you can see by the [dodgy] snaps above, he has given me a lovely 1805 book that's in the original Latin and translated into English. It also contains some fabulous etchings. I am also intrigued by an inscription on the inside front cover that shows that William Smith bought this book at a sale in 1894.
The other book Matt gave me is about the author, Richard Brathwait, The First Lakeland Poet. As you can see, he's very Drake/Raleigh in appearance.
What a delight all round!
Matt didn't leave me his contact details so can't send him a big personal thank you.
I really hope he sees this or he joins another of my walks in the future.

28 September 2018

Guided walks – local history, literary themes and commemoration

The weather at this time of year is perfect for going on a guided tour and learning more about the area you live in. Or, perhaps, you'd like to find out about places further afield?
Well, you are in luck, because there are lots of walk ideas coming up, starting this weekend.
Tomorrow, Saturday 29th, Jen and I will be leading short walks around Archway.
Then, from Monday October 1st, Footprints of London's Literary festival kicks in for the whole month with literary-themed tours every day. I've got two Holloway walks in the programme – one tour about Mr Pooter and his Diary Of A Nobody, the other tour is about all the writers and poets who have lived and worked in the area.
On Saturday 13th there are free walks available in The City, Westminster, Camden and Islington, all on the theme of commemoration.
Find out more about all of the above here.

25 September 2018

A. Freeman, horse dealer, Pentonville Road

If you go the gates with the flipped letters on Mayward House on Pentonville Road, next door to The Crafts Council, you will see a driveway leading to Freeman Mews at the rear.
Along the passage there is a series of marvellous hand-painted tiles depicting scenes involving horses.
This site was the location of A.Freeman, horse dealer, and would have been where coachmen would have exchanged their horses for fresh ones when on a long journey – note the proximity to the Angel Inn, a major coaching stop in this area. Horses could have also been hired for specific uses or events.

I am currently gathering more information about this company so please do let me know if you have anything to add.

18 September 2018

Camden Highline – a linear park between Camden and Kings Cross

Last month I went on a tour to find out more about this innovative crowd-funded project to turn the disused railway lines that abut the Overground railway in NW1 into a linear park.

I will say no more except this this a fab idea – hopefully in 4-5 years time we will be enjoying a traffic-free experience above the roads, linking all the new developments at Kings Cross with Camden Market.
Free one-hour tours (at street level) still available.
See here for more info.

11 September 2018

Congress House, Dyott Street

Last week I paid £10 to go on a 'tour' of Congress House, the modernist building created on the corner of Great Russell Street and Dyott Street for the TUC.
I write 'tour' because it was really disappointing as we never went higher than the ground floor. And it was all done and dusted in less than an hour.

The 'tour' started with talk in the foyer of the new entrance on the corner which is now called The Rookery*. This talk turned out to consist of not much more than could be found neatly presented within frames on the wall by the stairs behind the front reception.
I have always wanted to have a peek in there – I really expected more.
I saw Jacob Epstein's piece from, ooh, 20 metres away because it is sited across a 'courtyard' that you can't actually enter let alone stand or sit in; basically, it's a huge lightwell.
We also saw the architect's scale model though I am sure you can see that if you stop off to chat to the front desk any time. The lower ground floor contains the auditorium which is, yawn, just that, an auditorium with a sprung wooden floor and a stage. I was more interested in the stacked chairs.
And I was also intrigued by the appalling bit of 'make good' using red and white tape at the top of the stairs. Nice!

*The Rookery! What a stupid name – ditto that hotel of the same name in Cowcross Street – oh do come and visit my filthy, over-crowded, germ-laden slum full of thieves, whores, drunks and destitutes!!

4 September 2018

The Marlborough Theatre, Holloway

A marvellous theatre, designed by the prolific Mr Frank Matcham and built in 1903, used to stand in Holloway Road on the west side of the street, almost opposite M&S.
I was recently alerted to a short film on the Talking Pictures TV channel showing the building just before it was demolished sixty years later in 1963.
The movie is less than five minutes long and isn't the best quality. However, I managed to snap a few stills with my camera and put this together:

The tall building that now stands in its place is called The Marlborough Building in memory of the theatre and the row of villas that used to stand adjacent to it.
If you'd like to find out more about the theatre and what the Holloway Nag's Head are was like in 1903 then (plug! plug! plug!) why not come along on my walk?

The film also includes some street scenes of Holloway Road looking north; cars and buses and what not:

29 August 2018

Angel Canal Festival 2018 – Sunday September 2nd

Wow! How can it be almost September already?
Angel Canal Festival is upon us again.
This colourful one-day event happens on and around City Road Lock and Basin with lots to see and do. Sunday September 2nd, 11am–5pm.
Find these lovely mosaics adjacent to City Rd Lock. They were created by the children at Hanover Primary School working with Carina Wyatt and Cathy Ludlow in partnership with Cally Arts and Islington local2global project. They celebrate the journey of people and goods into Islington and the way we use the canal today.
Top: The Working Canal and The Layered City. Bottom: Tools and Trades and The Living Canal. there are also some benches in the shape of fish.
Find me at my stall (see right) on Danbury Street bridge above the canal selling cards and prints, made from my photographs of local places and signs, and clay pipe jewellery, all as seen in the photo, right.
Discounts for my walking tours will also be on offer – approx 10% off – vouchers can be allocated at a later date – lots of walks to choose from – see here.
What's not to like?!!
See here for more info.

To find out more about Regents Canal, why not come on guided tour on a narrowboat – see my previous post.

13 August 2018

Drink Prosecco on the Regents Canal and Save the Swans

On Saturday 15th September 12-2pm, please come and join us for a 2-hour boat trip on Freda, one of Hidden Depths' narrow boats that moors on the Regents Canal at Granary Square Steps, Kings Cross.

Denise's lovely hand-drawn sign
The trip has been arranged to raise money to pay for the continued care of sick and injured swans at the wonderful Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton.
All monies raised will go to the Swan Sanctuary – Hidden Depths is waiving the boat hire fee and we are hoping to raise around £1,000.
The guided tour with free Prosecco will depart Granary Square steps at 12 noon and will travel twice through the 200 year old Islington Tunnel.
Come and find out more about this historic section of the Regent's Canal whilst sipping some fizz and enjoying the eerie, yet calmingly quiet experience of the tunnel. Along the way you'll hear about art, innovation, engineering, ice, coal, shopping and, of course, swans.
Islington Tunnel

Tickets cost £25 per person – the boat holds a maximum of 42 so to secure your place please call Barbara on 07456 084584.

Hidden Depths' narrow boats can be hired for all sorts of private parties and occasions. Guided tours also available*.

7 August 2018

Holloway Leather Stores – lovely carved wooden shop sign reveal in N7

Look what I noticed last week (Thursday 2nd August)...
A shop at 229 Holloway Road is at the moment empty and available for rent through local agent Drivers & Norris.
A lovely old carved wooden sign has been revealed. This would have been the backing part to another later of glass that sat against it and made the letters 'ping'.
I particularly like how it's dropped it's H, as in 'olloway!

I have tried to find ref of this company but cannot see it listed in either 1895 or 1915 which are the only directories I have to hand.
If you have any more info do get in touch.

Thanks in advance

Update1: I put this on the Islington Archaeology & History Society Facebook page and one lady responded with this:
Early 60's I used to have my shoes made there, you picked out the leather and style you liked. They had outlined both of your feet on cardboard, which they kept in a filing cabinet. It took 3- 5 days dependinfg how busy they were to make the shoes. They were stilletto's with pointed toes. They also made handbags and you could choose the colour and type of leather plus the style. They were the best shoes I have ever worn. 

Update 2: (Wednesday 8th August) Went past it on the bus this morning and could see that the old sign as been covered with a modern sign that encases it. So it's still there but no longer visible.

30 July 2018


I am tidying up my photos. It's a long slog.
I just found this one from when I was wandering through the Chalk Farm area last month doing a recce for one of my guided walks.
Tropical eh?

9 July 2018

Goodbye Highbury Corner roundabout

Have you seen what's been going on at Highbury Corner recently?
It's turned into Islington's version of Diggerworld expect that the machines don't seem to have moved much since they demolished a strip of grass and trees approx 5 metres wide from around the north and western sides. And I can't see where the ticket booth is.
As far as I am aware reconstruction work only started this week – so the sign I saw at the top of Canonbury Road last Monday (right)
Two days later I took these pics from the upper deck of bus:

Pics taken morning of Wed 4th July
Turns out it's all in the name of progress and here is the explanation.
The really good thing is that the lovely foresty area at the centre of what Islington Council had labelled "Highbury Island" will now be accessible as a park – I've been wanting to get in there for decades. As you can see it's really lush and shady.
The loss of the flora is to put in cycle lanes and to change the flow of this junction. It won't be a roundabout any longer – it'll return to how it was before the Germans made a mess in 1944.
When the work is completed I really hope cyclists will use their designated lanes because if the tumbleweed tracks along Drayton Park and around Navigator Square at Archway are anything to go by I very much doubt the green tarmac will see much action.
And... buses and bus stops... where are they going?
The concourse outside Highbury and Islington station has been in a state of flux for ages now.
Last month I thought they'd finished, though it looked really dull, but then two weeks ago they started digging up a newly-paved area near the kerb and I thought, aha, they've forgotten to put a bus stop there!
But nope. There is still only a tiny bay that I reckon you could squeeze two cars into. What's that for? Four buses use that route. I think a big opportunity has been missed here.

5 July 2018

Sun Street and The Flying Horse

Demolition and reconstruction. Will it never end?
And this I saw it coming for years....
Sun Street runs behind the Broadgate complex just north of near Liverpool Street. Since early 2009 I have been keeping an eye on this terrace.
A couple of weeks ago I took a detour and was sad, but not surprised, to find that the whole Georgian terrace has been demolished but the The Flying Horse, a Victorian era public house, remains in business on the corner which, I assume, will soon be given scrub-up and a homogenised makeover as per the Three Crowns just north of Old Street Roundabout which, too, has been saved like a little historic jewel embedded into a modern glass bock.
Could someone please explain to me the logic and rationale here?
I am not suggesting we keep everything but jeez, this area is fast becoming as glassy as the Isle of Dogs or Nine Elms. I think, this leaves only Worship Street and Leonard Street with any pre-1880 buildings.

Flying Horse, Sun Street, March 2009
Flying Horse, Sun Street, June 2018
Sun Street, Georgian terrace, March 2009
Sun Street, March 2009

2 July 2018

Gardners in Spitalfields on a sunny Saturday

149 Commercial Street
This shop, just along from Spitalfields Market, always brings a smile to my face. And especially so on such a gloriously sunny day. It's a joy to know this family business is still trading after all these years – 148 years to be precise.
But where to place the apostrophe in the name? Is there one at all?
In the pic you can see they've placed it before the S as in the shop or business of Mr Gardner.
But having just checked their website I am now confused – on the home page it's visible as Gardners (plural, no possession) and, within the central graphic on there, it's depicted as Gardners' (plural possessive).

12 June 2018

The things that divide us. Pilastercide.

The pilasters that divide shops help delineate where one shop ends and the next one starts. 100 years a lot of marvellous effort went into designing and creating them.
But shop owners these days don't seem to be able to leave well alone – they've just gotta claim their half of the dividers that bind them.
Just up from the Phoenix cinema on East Finchley High Street there is a 1913 terrace with very nice fully-tiled pilasters complete with fancy corbels, capitals and plints. As far as I recall, not one of these remains intact.

As you can see by these four examples (of the ones that are actually still there or visible) they have been ruined – some have been painted (!) or chipped away at, and others have been partially covered. Such a shame.
Why can't these silly shop owners see that a uniform dividers along a terrace help to frame each shop rather than what we have here which turns the whole into a bad patchwork quilt.
See here for some colourful painted-over examples

5 June 2018

In wall post box

You might recall that last year I wrote about the loss of the cute little Victorian in-wall letter box that used to be at Upper Holloway Station.
Still no news on that one – it was probably skipped in error or sold on either as a vintage artefact or for its scrap metal value.
So now I am now making it my mission to check on the others...
As you can see here, the one at the top of in Caledonian Road, Holloway N7, is still intact.
It's a more recent example, but it's still there, and that's good.

May 2018

28 May 2018

Marks & Spencer Holloway Road closing in 2019

M&S have just announced the closure of some of their stores across the UK and this will include my local branch in Holloway Rd, shown here.
Whilst I am sad for the people who work currently and will lose their jobs I must admit that I always enjoy shopping in this branch precisely because it's never very busy in there!
In particular I have always found the food hall a pleasant place with nary a queue at the checkout. When this branch closes my nearest M&S Food will be up at Archway, an uphill hike, or at Angel or Crouch End, both a bus ride away. But that's not gonna happen – we are really lucky in the Holloway Nags Head area because the area is awash with supermarkets, various food outlets, market stalls and all sorts – we have so much choice that I am sorry to say I doubt M&S will be missed and I doubt those special journeys will be made.
But aside from the people and the products, I wonder what is going to happen to the marvellous late-1930s Holloway Road shop front when M&S move away? I hope it will be protected. There are very few of these façades remaining in the UK. It will need a large company to take the whole site in order to keep the frontage intact. Sub-dividing into single shops will probably result in the loss of the ground floor features including the marvellous metal edged windows and fluted faux chrome pillars with octagonal bases and tops. Though it's a shame the company has changed the original letters on the front so many times over the decades – hints of the fixings can still be seen in the main pic above. Perhaps they could have saved a bit of money there by just leaving well alone as I am sure only a handful of us ever noticed the change in typefaces over the years.

Marks & Spencer, 420 Holloway Road – architectural details
Another similar M&S shop front can be found at Clapham Junction.

Read more about the closure of this store in The Islington Gazette here though please note that the B&W pic shown of the store in 1931 is not the same site – M&S's current location is the company's third site in Holloway. Find out more on one of my guided walks!!

22 May 2018


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.
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.