15 February 2019

City Road Basin looking North and South


This sign is opposite the end of City Road Basin and it bugs me every time I look at it because photographic devices like this are usually employed to highlight the change over time in one particular place.
However, here, the black and white left half is a historic view looking from City Rd across the basin north to St Mary's Islington, and the contemporary right hand side shows us the view from the towpath looking south.
Changing and regenerating?
More like misleading and confusing.

12 February 2019

Primrose Hill Beaches

Last month I put together a collection of coal hole cover plates that I'd snapped in Primrose Hill. I mentioned that one name was the most common here. I didn't actually compile a chart or count every plate I saw that day but I think I saw more for George Beach & Company of Camden Town than any other company.
Every area tells me the story about its local supplier. Sometimes a property developer will use a trusted supplier for his whole terrace (as per the line of Charles plates in my previous post) or they engage a local ironmonger. If plates need to be replaced at a later date then homeowners will have more than likely used they nearest local tradesman. And here that go-to supplier appears to have been Mr Beach.
Below are five different cover plates from this area and you can see how Beach's name and the designs have changed over time.

Sorry about the picture quality – these were taken late afternoon when the light was fast fading
I have attempted to put them onto chronological order (reading top row L-R and then bottom row).
Logic tells me that the one shown top left is the earliest – it has just the name and looks to be an adaptation of a simple design that seems to have been widely available as a sort of template/mould.
Then the second pic shows the name shows Geo as an abbreviation for George and the address at 167 High Street, Camden Town. This was next-door-but-one to The Black Cap public house. I can't actually date tit specifically but I would guess it's approx 1880s as by 1895 Geo Beach & Co Ltd is listed in the directories as being at 167-169 with a shoe shop also at No.169 intimating that Beach had also acquired premises at the rear.
The pics top right and bottom left are, I think, the same design, but one has lost its centre section. George is now using a pretty eight-pointed star motif which, again, is a common/standard design as it includes the words Patent Plate at the centre. Note also that the specific company address has been dropped from here onwards. And he's reverted to just the initial G for his first name.
Centre bottom has a less fussy star design but it shows that it is now a limited company as confirmed by my 1915 directory which also has the company listed as wholesale ironmongers at 63 Seymour Street. This is an up-market move as it's on a corner of the southern end Edgware* Road, a stone's throw from Marble Arch. Perhaps next time I am wandering in that area I might find some Beach cover plates showing that location.
The last pic is the most recent as it shows the addition of N.W.1. which is the area code for Camden. This numbering system was introduced in 1917.  Beach looks to have adapted the previous design here – a ring of dots replaces the word patent plate at the centre and eight ventilation holes have been added to allow for air to circulate in the coal bunker below.
Today 167-169 Camden High Street is home to the local branch of Carphone Warehouse. If you look up at the top edge of the building you will see a circular motif containing a shield with the cartouche PS or SP. I am still trying to find out who or what these initials signify. I am guessing this is the first owner of the building.

As ever, all contributions welcome via the comments section here or just email me: jane@janeslondon.com 

*sometimes written as Edgeware

5 February 2019

Marks and Spencer Holloway – update

Pic: January 2019
Last week I was really glad to find that my local M&S in Holloway is still open and trading despite reports last year saying it would close in Jan 2019. I wrote about that here.
As I used the checkout I chatted to the lady on the till and she told me this branch will still be open until at least May 2019. I understand that they can't close this one until the new premises is completed up at Archway.
I understand a branch of Lidl or Aldi is coming to this Holloway site – I am not sure if they plan to take the whole L-shape footprint but whatever happens, I hope they keep and maintain the marvellous 1930s frontage.

29 January 2019

Primrose Hill coal hole cover plates


Out wandering about in Primrose Hill the other week I noticed quite a few unusual names and designs on the coal hole cover plates embedded in the pavements there. Most cover plates have patterns on them to stop them from being slippery underfoot. Many just have patterns on them but canny ironmongers realised it was a good way to advertise themselves.
As you see these ironmongers are not all local to the area – Abbott of Great College St, West Bros of Marchmont St, Young of Davies St, Persons of Notting Hill, Watkins of Regents Park (the most local), Philp of Fitzroy Sq (oops, I now see I have put two of those in there!), Davies of Clapham &Camberwell, Ward of Edgeware Rd and Wood & Barrets of Tottenham Ct Rd. I didn't see any company names from addresses in Chalk Farm Road or Camden High Street, which seems odd.
The one I like best is the one that reads, Charles's Safety Plate, by patent act Vic, which I assume is a ref to Queen Victoria. This needs a bit of research. And also some better pics because the light was fading by the time I reached this terrace where almost every house had one of these outside.
Also notice the second pic which shows one of the Abbott covers embedded into two lovely pieces of Yorkstone. This is not the only cover I noticed where a feint keyhole or toilet bowl shape is evident around it. Does anyone know how/why this shape was made?
Another ironmonger, not shown in this collection, was repeated a lot in various different designs. I will post about that company sometime soon once I have put them into some kind of chronological order and done a bit of research.
See also the coal holes of Warwick Square and the contemporary ones in North Audley Street.


24 January 2019

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf until Saturday

Wrap up warm and get over to Canary Wharf to see the fabulous light installations dotted all around the area, both outdoors and in.
More info here.
Be sure to print out the map to be able to follow the route as it makes it so much simpler following the recommended trail.
Here's some pics from my visit two years ago

8 January 2019

Wassail... Wassail... here's to 2019...!!

This basically means drink a bowl or cup of mulled wine whilst cheering in the new year.
It's an old pagan festival thing.
My friend and I were luck to happen upon a troupe, if that's the right word, of mummers near Millennium Bridge on Sunday 6th Jan and so we stuck around near The Globe to see what might evolve. And I am so glad we did that.
A screenshot of images I found within The Lions part website
The Lions part put on a fab colourful Twelfth Night show and, just like those that would have been put on in George III's reign, it was satirical referencing the past year's events with a peppering of rude and lewd extras.
We then ended up getting caught up in the throng and 'danced' a farandelle through Southwark's riverside streets to end up The George Inn on Borough High Street.
What an absolute delight. Though I am not sure that drivers of the the cars who had to stop to let a long chain of people cross Borough High Street were that amused!
My prediction for next year is to go to wassailing again, tho this time I will have to tae a flask of warm alcohol as we got nary a sip.


What we did notice when watching the play was that in all the riverside flats above there were only two people at one balcony watching the show. I am pretty sure no-one was at home in all the other apartments. Does anyone actually live there? I suspect the owners just use these places as somewhere to crash mid-week.  
Anyway...
Let's raise a warming glass to happy new year...!!

2 January 2019

K2 and K6 phone boxes – conservation or dereliction?

Happy new year people ... here's to a marvellous 2019!
........................................................................................

Tourists love 'em but the powers that be don't seem to give a wotsit!
K2 phone boxes are still a common sight on out high streets. But these and their successor, the slightly smaller K6, are falling into disrepair.
Most of us have mobiles/cellphones these days so there is scant need to utilise theses bright red icons anymore* but if they are to remain on our streets (and they should) then why are they in such poor condition? I mean, who is supposed to be managing and maintaining them**?


This thought popped into my head yesterday as I was passing Islington Central Library on Holloway Road. Contractors have recently been working behind scaffold and plastic sheeting giving the lovely 1906 building a clean but now the work has been completed I can see that the phone box on the corner is filthy! It already had some broken or missing window panes but just look at the state of it now...



As you can see it's covered in plaster splashes, muck and dirt, as is the pavement around it which forms part of the library's curtilage.
But it's not the only one that looks so bad. For instance, in Islington, there is another one in poor condition outside St Paul's church at the top end of Essex Road, and the pair outside Tesco on Islington Green are horribly neglected.
Yet in nearby Canonbury there are some glossy red well-painted examples such as this one outside The Canonbury Tavern. Why? Because this is a 'conservation area'.
So, this begs the question: "whose responsibility is it regarding the upkeep of these phone kiosks?". And who painted or gave authority to paint, the ones in Canonbury?  And if that is the body that owns them, why haven't all others been similarly maintained too? Why only conservation areas and tourist meccas?

* apart from advertising space for 'services' or as 'conveniences'

**(8thJan) I am now in the middle of an on-going email conversation with someone at BT about this – she as good as tells me they rely on the goodwill of the public to let them know when these kiosks need attention. i.e. they expect us to act as unpaid quality controllers or maintenance managers on their behalf.  This means they only fix the kiosks when it's pointed out that there is something wrong with them thusfurther enhancing BT's irresponsibility.
I will report back when I have more. Meanwhile, go paint your local kiosk any colour you would like, as I doubt BT will notice let alone care!

28 December 2018

Brushfield Street, Spitalfields. A large lamp post and a pastiche pub.

Seasons greetings people... I am back in the room having let this slip for a while. I hope you've had /are still having, a nice Christmas.

This was just going to be about the lamp post but something else has evolved.
Let's do the lamp post first...
On the corner of Brushfield Street and Crispin Street, E1, there is a lamp post with an extra large base that has hinged doors on two sides. Perhaps these spaces could have been used for storage or, more likely, for access to wires within and this could have been the junction box for the lights in this vicinity...?
There are logos/emblems on the outside that include the letters 'B.W.' and 'W.D.'. And there is a depiction of a castle-type building which looks a bit like the the Tower of London.
Can anyone enlighten me as to its original use ?
Enlighten ha ha.

The two pics at bottom show the lamp post and The Gun public house from Google Streetview in 2012
As you can see from the montage above, the lamp post sat outside The Gun public house. TI say 'sat' as in past tense because the 1928 pub was demolished a few years ago along with most of The London Fruit and Wool Exchange.
The Gun was a proper locals and local workers community centre – just what a pub should be – see here for an account of the pub's last days.
Well, last weekend, whilst leading one of my walking tours around Spitalfields, I stopped in my tracks when I saw that a new drinking establishment has recently opened up on the same site. Peering in through the windows, it looks to me like a swanky American hotel bar; all shiny stuff and padded cushions,.
But the really annoying, gob-smackingly-insensitve thing is THE NEW PLACE HAS BEEN GIVEN THE SAME NAME!  I expect the old pub landlords must be even more vexed than I am. Grrrr.
I suggest you compare the type of pub you see in the pics on the Spitalfield's Life link with what's there now to see what kind of customers this area of London is now trying to attract.
I took no pics of the new place. Go see for yourself. But do not go inside. Anyone who tells me they have been in there and purchased something will be crossed off my Christmas card list.



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

Squawk!

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?