18 April 2014

Lots Road Power Station

Following on from Monday's post, this takes us out of Chelsea Harbour and into Lots Road itself.
I was last there in November 2008 and took the pictures that form the top row of this collection:
As you can see the metal silo-type building on the opposite side of Chelsea Creek (part of Counter's Creek) has gone and a vast swathe of land now stands empty waiting to be developed. It'll probably end up looking like Chelsea harbour itself, or the opposite bank in Wandsworth, or Battersea.
I just googled 'Chelsea Creek' for the link above and the first thing that came up on the list was a site saying that this is the 'newest and most fashionable dockside development, combining luxurious city living with blissful tranquility'
Aha! Very clever... what they mean here is it's like living in the city at the weekend when all the offices are closed. i.e. it's dead! Tranquil... means there's no one about (see Monday's post re Chelsea Harbour)
Since I am pulling apart estate agent speak here, what exactly is a 'luxurious' in this sense? Most homes these days have flushing toilets, running water, gas central heating etc. Some even have underfloor heating, double-glazing and en-suite bathrooms. But are these luxuries? Surely these are things you'd expect to find in an expensive box-as-home in an area such as Chelsea. Hell I have even seen the word 'luxury' on billboards for flats in North London. Does luxury vary borough to borough. Do Chelsea people get more luxury for their money? Do these homes have wall to wall cashmere carpets and sensor lighting that goes on and off when you wink? Or perhaps Chelsea apartments come complete with a butler-mum-PA who does absolutely everything... he/she cooks and feeds you, runs you bath/shower, dries you and even wipes your bum.
Lots Road...
There doesn't appear to have been much happening to the Lots Road power station building in the five and half years since I was there last. It's sort of the same as happened to Battersea Power Station – they say things will happen and then these buildings just sit there derelict for decades. Indeed, that patchwork wall shown top right still looks the same today. And the lovely green concertina goods gates are still intact, as is the building opposite that use to house Cremorne Works.
Further along the road I saw someone carefully renovating the little blue corner shop.
I have made a note in my diary to go back again in 2019 to check if anything has moved on.

16 April 2014

A well known London street

Next time you are out shopping in Central London take a break and look up and around you at some of the gorgeous architectural details.
These images were all taken in a 500 metre stretch of one busy street.

14 April 2014

Chelsea Harbour and Imperial Wharf

On Saturday I went down to the Chelsea waterfront to check out access points for a future foreshore forage*.
God, it's dull down there. Back in the late 90s /early 00s, I had the misfortune to occasionally freelance at an office within the Chelsea Harbour development. I found it devoid of any life and it made me feel trapped and alienated. It was just expensive furnishing emporiums, expensive boxy apartments, expensive boats and one or two places where you could get some over-priced snacks and drinks. I would breathe a sigh of relief when I reconnected with reality every evening.
I hoped things might have improved over the years and it would now be more of a go-to area vis-a-vis St Katharine Docks etc. But no.
I was in the vicinity for just over an hour and apart from a street cleaner, two people getting into a car, another two looking hungry, one man on one of the many apartment balconies with a river view, one lady with a cute little dog and one jogger, that was it.
Chelsea Harbour still looks like something the props department made for Howards Way. It's accessed via Lots Road, an area now standing mostly empty or derelict, waiting to be transformed into the next set of glass boxes for people who occasionally need a London pad. 
The Thames Path leads west from the harbour, via Imperial Wharf, under the beautiful brick-built Wandsworth Railway Bridge, and on to Wandsworth [road] Bridge. I only walked about three quarters of it before I turned back again.
Despite what Imperial Wharf's website says, nothing is happening there. This 'sought-after location' is dull dull dull. Or perhaps people who can afford £1000 a week rent money are also dull.
Along the path there are a few dockers' mistresses and metal ladders preserved within recesses in a modern fence designed to resemble an ocean liner indicating that this was once a lively and commercial stretch of the river. On the other side of the path there are overly-landscaped and manicured gardens in front of Imperial Wharf's imposing apartment blocks. It certainly doesn't look like a park to relax in. I very much doubt you can kick a ball about there. Ooh, sorry, just remembered I also saw two people sitting in the park, so that's a total of ten.
Next to a identikit riverfront pub there is a restaurant called the Blue Elephant; I think White Elephant might be a better name.
I also spotted near the harbour a few lamp stands with dragons on them and, moored at the river taxi jetty (closed), there was a gilded barge. Who owns this? Is it Royal?
A sign on the old power station gates reads: Chelsea Waterfront – Quintessentially London. Eh? Discuss.

*Sorry, fellow foragers, but there are no easy steps available, so this area won't be an area we'll be visiting in the future.

10 April 2014

A London Country Diary by Tim Bradford

I just got this great book containing the musings, observations and illustrations of Tim Harding.
Subtitled Mundane Happenings from the Secret Streets of the Capital, each one- or two-page entry concerns something Tim has spotted in the area of North London where he lives, bounded by Finsbury Park, Stoke Newington, Highbury and Holloway.
Read about pubs, parrots, charity shops, dogs, frogs, football, prams, and plants he doesn't know the name of.
It's amusing, heart-warming and thought-provoking and, living within the same area, I can identify with a lot he writes.

More info here
See Tim's website here.

7 April 2014

Discoveries at Temple Place

Discoveries is a small but engaging free exhibition showing at Two Temple Place. It's an intriguing collection of art and artefacts chosen from the millions of objects stored at eight University Cambridge museums and is on until 27th April.
This was my first time inside this building and I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea about the treasures withi. Built by Lord Astor, the richest Victorian in the world, as his estate office, it's an architectural gem.
I'll say no more... go and see see for yourself. The house is only open to the public during exhibitions, but tours are available.

3 April 2014

Penfold's Victorian post boxes

John Wornham Penfold's distinctive hexagonal letter boxes date back to 1866 and were manufactured by Cochrane Grove & Co in Dudley. Made in three different sizes, the nine different designs featured acanthus leaves on the top and balls/seeds around the edges.
Many originals, as well as a few replicas made by Machan Engineering in the 1980s, still grace our streets today and I love it when I spot another one. So far, I have snapped ten in London and one abroad.
It's interesting to note how five of these are situated really close to each other in an area bounded by Clissold Park, Finsbury Park and Highbury Fields.

Top row: Tower Bridge (the first replica), Walthamstow Village (closed with a black metal plate that makes it look like a highwayman!), Battersea Village and Queens Drive.
Middle row: Highbury New Park, Highbury Grove (missing its finial), Prince Albert Road and St Pancras Way.
Bottom row: Aberdeen Park x2 2008 vs 2014 (the second pic shows it needs a new paint job!), Nevill Road (also missing its finial) and Wellington, NZ.

Find more pictures and information in a Flickr group, here.

27 March 2014

Doulton tiles and their stamps

At the north end of Black Prince Road is the old Doulton factory, covered in examples of its own creations, like a ornate street-facing brochure.
Doulton produced all kinds of fired ceramics including tiles, crockery, fireplace surrounds and chimney pots (I have an unglazed one in my garden dated xxx). They also designed and made tiles in all shapes and sizes for room interiors and entrance halls and produced the commemorative plaques in Postman's Park.
Many of London's pubs and buildings were decorated and protected mostly at street level with Doulton's distinctive tiles and many of them still remain.
Hand-firing is (and was) a time-consuming and expensive process and so these days we mass produce by machine but the end product is nowhere near as good. For example, next time you are on the Piccadilly Line compare and contrast the modern replacements, such as at Russell Square; the new ones are flat and just haven't got the depth of colour and lovely crackle glaze that the old ones had.
Doulton didn't appear to have a definitive logo stamp or company signature. As you can see from the pics below, the marks* vary a lot even within the same building. Note especially the middle row of photos which are all to be found in the portico of Lloyds, Fleet Street. I have thus far only spotted two stamps that are alike, shown bottom right, and these can be found in Covent Garden and Fulham.
Another thing to note is that even though Doulton achieved 'royal' status in 1901, none of these marks echo that fact, even though most of the tiles were affixed in decades later in the 1920s and 30s.
Still hunting for more... do let me know if you spot any.

Lambeth x2, Greenwich, Waterloo
Fleet Street,
Charterhouse, Fulham, Covent Garden 

* yes, I am well aware that two of these, top left and top right, are not actually maker's marks!

21 March 2014

Leake Street graffiti – art or a smelly mess?

This is the last of three posts about Lower Marsh.

It must be that if you have a can of aerosol paint in your hand you will be compelled to just spray whatever is to hand.
I say this because the pedestrian access that leads from Lower Marsh end of Leake Street into the tunnel section itself is covered completely with what looks to me like a complete random mess. I could understand if people were testing out new skills, but this just looks like some kind of free-for-all; the proverbial 'explosion in a paint factory'.
Leake Street is a dedicated space for graffiti and street art and there doesn't appear to be an inch of bare brick visible any more – even the railings and crash barriers have been 'decorated'. And, as I have reported here before, the old market barrows in Lower Marsh have been tagged too even though they are not part of Leake Street's walls or fixed furniture (grr!).

I peered down from ground level above the pedestrian tunnel and saw a group of people spraying a wall in the Station Approach section. The smell of the propellent wafting up to me made me want gag – how do people actually walk through the tunnel?!
As per Parkland Walk, the quality of the work, to my eye (and nose), isn't up to much.
Street art? Really?

18 March 2014

Old market barrows at Lower Marsh

This is the continuation of a post I wrote earlier this month about the changes to Lower Marsh, a market street situated just behind Waterloo Station.

I found a few of the old wooden market barrows near the pedestrian access to Leake Street. These once-loved and carefully maintained mobile market stalls are now sitting in amongst a lot of rubbish and hence have attracted the graffiti taggers.
On closer inspection I noticed the original barrow owners' names and addresses or market locations carved into the wooden frames. And somewhere on every one: 'On Hire'.

I am still trying to fully decipher some the names because the hand-carved scripts are hard to read – note the non-joined areas within the m and h of 'Lambeth'.
Of the road names, Fitzalan Street (shown bottom right) is just a short walk away from Lower Marsh, ditto Lambeth Walk which was also a bustling market street decades ago but today shows no real signs of life today. But, so far, I cannot find out anything about Topaz Street, shown second on the bottom row. Holland St, top right, is a bit further away in Southwark at Bankside.
The owners' names are even harder to decipher; possibly 'A Heehn' (second, top), A H Pelin (top right), M J Tala... (middle right). Any ideas?
And how old are these barrows? When do they date back to? If they aren't going to be used any more what's going to happen to them?

14 March 2014

Two great shows at Sadlers Wells

There are two really intriguing performances coming up at Sadlers Wells this month. And both are available at affordable prices; from £12.
Sadly, I am going to miss out on both of them. Please enjoy them for me.
First, there's Hofresh Schecter's 'Sun' which, judging buy this promo clip, looks to me a fantastic mix of genres and music. It's the story of liberation from the struggles of an emotive and angry world (I copied that from the press release – you could tell, I am sure!). It's on 20-23 March.
The following show, Tabac Rouge, is a different piece entirely. James Thiérrée is well-known for his inventive, dream-like spectacles and this show mixes mystery, mirrors, music and movement on a dark, ominous stage. 25-29 March.

Here are some London dancers:

12 March 2014

The Classic Car Boot Sale – Southbank 15 & 16 March

After the success of the first vintage market in October 2013, The Classic Car Boot Sale returns to the Southbank this weekend.
Two days of beautiful old cars and lots of stalls selling antiques, bric-a-brac, clothes, crafts and more, plus lots of great food stalls, live music and a pub.
Hope to see you there – I will be trading on both days, selling collectibles, old tins, ceramics etc, plus a few selected items from my handmade range. Do come and say hello.
The Southbank area including a dancing junction

10 March 2014

Battersea Foreshore Forage

Yesterday, a day with the best weather since October, I met up with a few friends for another of my Amelia Parker foreshore forages and this time we walked the strip between Battersea Village and Battersea Bridge.
It was a lovely. As these pics show.

Inspired by a brick with an R on it, I also took photos of things that resembled letters of the alphabet. The M could also be an E, and the Q could be a B. Now all I need to do is create some words out of them... any ideas?

There were also a lot of stones with holes in them, many of which looked like face. Finally, bottom right, eagle-eyed Jenny spied the base of a stoneware pot sticking out of the silt with Battersea stamped into it. She took it home and cleaned it up and it turns out to be a crucible: Find out more here.

6 March 2014

Angels at the Royal Academy

Earlier this month I urged you to go and see 'Sensing Spaces' at The Royal Academy.
In that post I alluded to how the exhibits interact with the gallery spaces and encourage the visitor to notice and be engaged with the features and details of the rooms themselves.
I don't think I have ever noticed the lovely gold angels and crowns before, though when visiting the Summer Show 2013 I found the metal grilles on the floor more interesting than the 'art' on the walls.

3 March 2014

Lower Marsh, Waterloo – a market street

Earlier this year I heard that there a new Saturday market was planned for Lower Marsh. I was under the impression that there was a market there already so I checked on Google Streetview and as you can see from the snaps below, the market pitches were clearly visible with a few of the old-style barrows in position.

On Saturday 1st February, a beautiful clear and bright, yet very cold day, I went down to have a look for myself and discovered that the road has been re-laid and the outlines for the stalls were no longer in existence. The 'market' consisted of three brave traders at the eastern end.
Perhaps the street renovation is a work in progress and the pitch markings will be reinstated in due course? Watch this space.
Adjacent to the pedestrian underpass that leads to Leake Street I found five of the old wooden barrers [sic] and I am sad to report that they have been splattered with day-glo graffiti as per Leake Street itself. I will write about both of these things separately in subsequent posts.
Lower Marsh is still a lovely street and it's hard to believe when you are there that you are actually so close to a big bustling train station. It's dotted with specialist shops selling gifts, vintage clothes etc, plus some great cafés that are perfect places to grab a snack before getting on your train – much better than the mass-produced gunk offered by the corporate chains in Waterloo station's concourse.
Some lovely old architectural features still remain on Lower Marsh...
There's a large faded ghost sign at the western end advertising a catering company then, as you walk east you pass the Scooter Cafe's typographically elegant bar sign on your left, followed by some old lamp oil urns on a building that has seen quite a few changes over the decades and is now a thai restaurant.
On the other (south) side is Trussons (which sounds to me like a made up name for a Carry On film!). Close to and above is a sign for a long-gone optician and further along is Lounge 34 (originally The Spanish Patriot) – note the wonky spike on the very top.
I crossed over the junction into The Cut. Back in the early 1980s I used to work with a girl from Bermondsey who would go to The Cut's market every weekend because, she told me, it was so good and you could buy anything and everything there.
Sadly there is no sign of a market there now. The street is wide and it's possible to imagine a row of traders on each side with plenty of room for vehicles to pass through between them such as in this image.
See here for more history on the area.

27 February 2014

Battersea – we must rebuild it

Continuing from my from my last post about my tour of Covent Garden Flower Market and the area around Nine Elms.
I wrote a while back about how I am none too happy with the large ugly glass buildings that will be built to wrap around and obscure what is left of Battersea Power Station. All artist impressions or computer-generated images of how the site will look after the project is finished mostly show the area from the air or from the river, but I have not seen any views depicting how it will look from street level.
As we walked westwards along Nine Elms Lane I took some photos, shown top row, above (the bottom four pics were taken in February 2009). These views will not be possible once the new construction is in place. I noted how the brickwork of the building is in really poor condition. There is a hoarding that runs along the street with a quote on it. I now wish I'd made a note of whole thing. From my photos I can make out: "...have seen me before, but you don't know me. I stand here bold and strong. My proud heritage, combined with the future world, I will be like nothing you have seen..".
Further along near Battersea Park station, in Prince of Wales Drive, behind a lovely old wall made from London stocks are Battersea's gas holders and other buildings including an impressive 3-storey detached Victorian house called 'The Field'.
The lower floor of the house is at the moment being turned into a pop-up gallery for an exhibition of large framed photographs taken on a dull day with an expensive camera. It strikes me that if you care about a building and want to take some good shots of something you choose a good day for it as I did for my photos above.
The house itself is far more interesting than the framed prints. With a bit of elbow grease and tlc this sturdy brick structure that has stood there for approx 150 years would make a fantastic home or business space(s) as it contains most of its original features; hand-painted stained glass in the doors and windows, architectural mouldings, intricate Pugin-esque hallway floor tiles, and wooden stairs with curved wood and metal bannisters. I'd have included some pics of it here but we weren't allowed to take photos, though I couldn't really fathom why not.
Sadly this 2-acre site, including the 80-year old blue gas holder, and probably the surrounding wall as well, is going to be demolished to make way for – yes, you've guessed it – a development of metal and glass containing homes, shops and businesses – as if that hideous complex next door isn't bad enough.
It was all too much for me to take in and attempt to make sense of – too big, too much and too fast.
After seeing what was going to become of the Nine Elms area earlier that day, then walking past what's left of the power station, this was the final straw for me and it moved me to tears. Really, it did (sorry, this is 2014; I mean 'literally').
Ian Nairn used to get emotional about this kind of thing decades ago. He must be rolling in his grave. We are learning nothing – I doubt these glass replacements will last 50 years, let alone 150.
Soon there may be no historical details left for me to photograph and this blog will be all rants and sadness.
Sigh again.