30 June 2015

Temperance. Temperance.

From a No29 bus last month I snapped a few pics of the abandoned Temperance Hospital in Hampstead Road, NW1:

May 2015
This group of once-proud and important buildings has been empty for deacdes. I am pretty sure the hospital was only partly being used when I worked around the corner in Stephenson Way back in 1996, so that's almost 30 years of neglect. What a sad waste of space.
I was half-heartedly thinking about making an effort to do some research and, lo and behold, I discover that Caroline has conveniently done some sleuthing about the hospital for me. Read it here.

These pics were taken in June 2008 – back then I was completely about the details and I didn't take wider archive shots – these four pics are all I have. 
The old St Pancras Female Orphanage, the southernmost of the hospital buildings has, in the last few years, been spruced up – and the ghosted lettering above the entrance has been repaired and replaced:

May 2015
The other buildings await the fate of HS2 – see here for more info about the proposals, specifically the section sub-headed Euston.

26 June 2015

The coal holes of Warwick Square

I was wandering about between Victoria and Pimlico hunting for a bench on which to sit and eat my take-away sandwich and had rather hoped that the garden in the centre of Warwick Square might be accessible. But no. So I stood to eat and pondered how sad it was that none of the key-holders were within the railings enjoying the lovely flowers and benches. Sigh.
I crumpled up the packaging and, whilst searching for a litter bin, I noticed how almost all of the coal holes that serviced this impressive terrace of 1840s town houses along the long south-west side of the square, were still intact. This is rather at odds with the facing side of the square where there are only about three left.
Many of the cover plates were the same design depicting the same companies, such as the the ubiquitous Hayward Brothers and a few Luxfers. But I was quite impressed at the diversity of designs in such a short stretch and noticed quite a few names and makers that I hadn't seen before plus a couple with name I already know that makes me chuckle.

Lots different Hayward plates, a couple of Luxfers and two different Burt & Potts.
I particularly like the Charles's one, and this is my third Smellie (pfff!)

23 June 2015

Clean up of Hanley Road HOVIS ghostsign

Another ghost sign demise.

An old faded hand-painted HOVIS advertisement sits above The Old Dairy public house at the end of Hanley Road in Stroud Green.

June 2008, December 2014 and June 2015
The picture on the left shows that there had been two versions of this sign painted one over the other; note how some words and phrases look to be repeated. However, this is just a fading over time such that the older sign starts to visibly seep through the newer one.
The decipherable elements were:
     (overprinted with)

At the end of last year I noticed with sadness that some idiots had graffitied a wobbly indecipherable tag (defily?) over the bottom half. On closer inspection I realised that the sign had for some unknown reason been previously scrubbed clean. 
Well, here is an update: it's now free of graffiti but has been scrubbed even cleaner to remove the spray paint and, as you can see, we have now lost the word HOVIS altogether and the bottom section is a pale greeny-grey splurgy mess.

The brand name HOVIS came from the winning entry in an 1890 competion to name the then new bread. Herbert Grime won £25 by shortening the Latin "HOMINUS VIS" which means “the strength of man”.

18 June 2015

St James's Market, Piccadilly, SW1

Last week I was wandering down towards Waterloo Place from Piccadilly and noticed that the area that once was St James's Market is surrounded by hoardings and in the process of being renovated.

So I looked up The Crowne Estate's site hoping to find that a street market might be included in the plans. Nope. 
However, this pdf (from the Useful Docs section) includes some interesting information about the plans plus some history of the site. 
For your delectation I am here including the lovely pics and historical info that can be found on page 7.

Job done

15 June 2015

Junction Road ghostsign repainted. Grunt.

Every now and then some ill-advised or mis-guided muppet with a vague idea that he/she is preserving history sets to with brush and paint and has a half-arsed attempt at touching up an old ghostsign; a ghost of the past.

This sign in Junction Road, N19, has also been attacked, sorry... renovated. 

Before (top) and after (below)
The original wording for Auction Rooms & Depository sat within or on top of a an old panel (see the top right corner where it doesn't quite fit). Another [later?] sign that ended with 'furniture' can be seen at the very bottom. Note how all the chunky black letters were outlined with white and had a 3D-effect drop shadow which, I think, was probably in another colour.
Now compare that with the revised version which has all the words rendered in the same flat grey with no attempt at 3D, and the area in the middle has been scrubbed clean thus losing any hint of what the rest of the lettering might have said. 'Furniture' on its own means nothing. What exactly has been achieved here?

Two prime examples of this kind of repainting abuse can be found in Covent Garden (left) and Stepney (right).
Advertising spaces have always been updated and repainted as new signs for new products or businesses have been over-painted onto them over the decades. And this is still happening today. For example, in Upper Street Islington, an old sign for the Hare and Hounds Garage was scrubbed back and overlaid with a modern pastiche to advertise the bar and restaurant below. I was initially sad to lose the old sign, but realised that it made sense for the new owners to utilise the advertising space. It has subsequently been altered again by the latest owners.
But, back to my main point; I just do not understand what is achieved by just tarting up and repainting an old sign when the business or product is no longer relevant. Leave it alone. Let it fade. Don't touch!
I'd rather see the whole wall painted over with block colour rather than this kind of considered damage.

This one near Mornington Crescent tube station is truly awful and was probably commissioned by the owners of the company that is still in business today.
Just look at the poor letterforms, the mis-aligments and the slap-dash attack – the original sign-writer would have made use of the lines in the bricks to make the letters align and keep the letters uniform. See also the bad centres on the Rs, the lumpy bits, the wobbly curves, the thick and thins... need I go on?

11 June 2015

The Walthamstow Fragment – an Ionic Conundrum

Outside Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow Village there sits a short column with an Ionic capital.
Its irregular shape kept me intrigued for quite some time because I noticed that no two corners are the same – one corner is a true right angle, the next an acute angle, the opposite one has a corner cut into it and the last is an obtruse angle. Oh, and for some reason the one true corner is angled at the very top edge.
And, rather than all four side faces being the same, giving the illusion of a scroll falling on a column when viewed from any angle, this one depicts a scroll cut and flipped through the diagonal, such that faces A and B are alike with the usual egg and dart design, but faces B and C have some central foliage.
It's rather hard to explain so here are some photos:

It's an architectural conundrum; a stone mason's nightmare.
Intrigued, and thinking it was an art installation, I looked for an information plaque, but could not find one.
Having just researched it online, all I can find is that it is a relic of a GPO building demolished in 1912. But it doesn't say which GPO building or where exactly it stood.

. . . . .

I wrote the above and hit 'save' rather than 'publish' and went to check out porticos with ionic columns. And I now see that it's all very simple...
This Walthamstow fragment must have been the left corner of a portico. For example, see St Pancras Church opposite Euston Station – for the corner columns of the adjacent outward-facing sides to both depict a scroll they must have a common protruding angled corner piece, and the opposite internal corner needs a chunk 'missing' so that it aligns with the flat scrolls on the interior sides of the other columns (are you following this at the back?!).
Blimey, that was hard work, but I do now feel enlightened.
As for the irregular obtruse and acute angles I noticed on the Walthamstow fragment, I am now wondering if I didn't see that at all; the mind/eye can often play funny tricks... Or maybe, if I observed it correctly, the GPO building was, indeed, a bit out of true or built on a strangely-shaped plot of land.
A return visit is needed, or if anyone lives nearby, perhaps they could go and have a look for me and report back.

4 June 2015

Holloway Hullabaloo and The Big Day out in Whittington Park

My local arts festival is now in full swing.
On Sunday, 7th June, there will be a vibrant street party called The Holloway Hullabaloo (try saying that when you're drunk!) in Hornsey Street (at the side of Holloway Road tube station) and I will have a table there selling some of my photographs as prints and greeting cards, plus a small range of my clay pipe jewellery, accessories and cards.
I will also be at The Big Day Out in Whittington Park, near Upper Holloway train station (map), on Saturday 13th June where there will be stalls, entertainment, a dog show and much more.
Hope you can come along.
Here are some pics from last year:

Hornsey Street on the left hand side and Whittington Park bottom right

1 June 2015


I have always liked Centrepoint. In comparison to all the plain sheets of glass to be found everywhere else (or Renzo Piano's hideous hi-rise Toytown just around the corner), this tall tower is distinctive and, therefore a true icon of its age (just like me cos we were both born in the early 1960s!).
The 33-floor tower was a controversial topic from the day it was built. At 385 ft high it was tallest building for miles. For many decades it stood mostly empty.
The fountains stopped gushing in about the 90's, I think, and their mosaic'd pool sat empty and unloved until Crossrail came in and bulldozed the area around the tower, along with a lot of other much-missed buildings (in particular The Astoria boo hoo), to make way for a new modern Tottenham Court station and piazza. For this we can assume bland and flat with and square corners  – faster to build, see.

At I write this Centrepoint is being converted into 'luxury' apartments costing approx £3million a pop. It is clothed in a kind of trompe l'oeil rain mac.
This all seems a bit at odds with this other Centrepoint.

29 May 2015

The Golden Jubilee Bridges - utter filth

If you are planning to go to the Southbank or come to the market in Embankment Gardens this weekend (see my last post below) you may need to cross the Thames on foot. The obvious choice for the pedestrian is to use one of the Golden Jubilee bridges that run either side of Hungerford Railway Bridge.

Ooh, isn't it lovely!   But look closer....
These elegant foot bridges are reported to carry approx 8.4 million people every year so it disappoints me that they are not being maintained as well as they should be. I wonder if anyone is looking at or checking anything other than the fine views because whenever I begin to climb up any of the four flights of stairs that lead to one of the pair of elevated footpaths I am appalled at how dirty and unkempt everything is – layers of filth on the verticals of the steps, in the corners, near the lifts, and all the way along the edges. Everywhere, really except for the handrails which have been buffed clean by people's hands and clothing over the years.
And the glass side panels on all staircases are dull and/or dirty in large patches – surely these cannot have been designed to end up looking like this?
It sends a terrible message about how we, as Londoners, disrespect our environment.

The stairs outside the Royal Festival Hall and a close up of them.
The metal that runs all the way along is grubby and could/should just be wiped clean. Ditto the area by the lift.
The approach from Embankment tube station is just as bad, perhaps worse. On exiting the station one can easily see the ugly side of the foot bridge, and it's not a pretty sight. Again, lots of filth, scuffed paint and ingrained dirt. What do visitors to London make of this? 

I already wrote about this issue in March 2012 and made some other suggestions – read it here.
On the day I took these photos the eastern bridge (13 May 2015) I spotted a man in a Veolia Environmental Services hi-vis jacket scraping out the moss that had grown between the paving stones and the metal edging. Perhaps this was a precursor to some proper cleaning. I hope so.

The metal signs giving information about the views are also in a sorry state – a buff with a soft sander or a cloth shouldn't be that hard to do. Or better still, get a new sign made!! After all, this must need updating by now considering the amount of new build in the past 10 years. http://www.janeslondon.com/2015/05/cityshowcase-market-at-embankment.htmlhttp://www.janeslondon.com/2015/05/cityshowcase-market-at-embankment.html

27 May 2015

CityShowcase Market at Embankment Gardens

Warning!!!  This is a blatant plug!!!

Those of you who have followed my clay pipe creations will be aware that I have been promising to produce a range of London landmarks to complement the Pete and Joe cards.

Well... (drum roll please) ... I can announce that they are hot off the press this week and will available to buy from Yours Truly this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Embankment Summer Market.

Also see the #CityShowcase website.
If you can't get to the Embankment Gardens please see my online store.

25 May 2015

Boston Manor House

Earlier this month I went on a tour of the lovely Boston Manor House with a group from London Historians.
It's hard to believe that I had never visited this gorgeous Jacobean house before.
The house with its adjacent walled garden is set within beautiful parkland just a short walk from Boston Manor tube station and is a stark contrast the neighbouring modern constructions, particularly the elevated section of the M4 and the huge glass tower of GlaxoSmithKine.

It was a lovely surprise to find that Janet, our guide, was wearing one of my clay pipe necklaces – she said it was a present from a friend at Christmas. How lovely.
Boston Manor House has a rich history and has had many owners who have had extended, remodelled and renovated it over the centuries. The rooms inside are a joy; intricate carved and moulded walls and ceilings, trompe l'oeil up the stair case walls and some very special hand printed wallpaper on the upper floor.
I'll leave it at that – go see it for yourself!

Interior details including a date in the ceiling and a not very bog standard toilet.

21 May 2015

Tree carving in Kentish Town

I spotted this tree stump carving in Islip Street, Kentish Town, last June and forgot all about it until now. I am nor even sure if it's still there.
It resembles a temple, or a lantern

Some more opportunities here.

18 May 2015

Archway Blues and Greens

A couple of weeks ago I took a couple of colourful snaps

Archway Tower... under renovation
The Co-operative Store, Junction Road
That's it!

15 May 2015

Off The Cally – Barnsbury Wood and Bingfield Park

A couple of months ago Jen and I went to investigate Barnsbury Wood, London's smallest local nature reserve, hidden behind a triangle of houses just a few minutes' walk east of Caledonian Road and Barnsbury Station.

This lovely little patch of woodland is only open at limited times – please see here for more info.
It was such a lovely day so I suggested we continue our wander over to the west side of Caledonian Road, just south of the railway line.
On the corner of Lyon Street we spotted that Salami's, a once colourful and popular grocer has closed down. A sign proclaims that Tesco have an application pending for the site. Oh well. Moving on....
Turning into Lyon Street, it looks at first to be a dead end. A raised platform on the right hand side of the road runs parallel to the railway line (I wonder if it was an loading bay for a siding or warehouses – I am still hunting for info on that). The land on the other side of the wall looks to be unused at the moment.

At the end of the road it turns left and then joins Gifford Street where a few walls with brickwork arches are all that the remain of the Christ Apostolic Church which burned down in 2003. Is This Love?
The right-hand/north side of Gifford Street comprises a lovely terrace of well-kept two storey cottages and three storey houses. These finish at the corner where the brick shells of some light industrial businesses and warehouses can be found, some of them gutted with the sun shining through. St Andrews Mission Hall with its pitched roof still sits intact, set back in the corner. I am keen to find out what will become of these lovely constructions as, to my eye, they look too good to be replaced. This area has a wonderful feeling of stepping in time to when children played in the streets. The map below shows how the area looked in the late Victorian period.

Approx 1888 (from The A-Z of Victorian London)
Today Bingfield Park replaces many of these grid format streets
Notice also the Great Northern Railway depot sheds and the Potato Market on York Way.
We then followed the road south around the edge of Bingfield Park, into Rufford Street, around the pointy corner junction of Randell's Road, and into Bingfield Road, managing to resist the temptations of Crumbell's Castle Adventure Playground, and finishing back on The Cally next to some painted parrots.
What a nice afternoon.
I was thinking how lovely it all was and wondered why the area gets such bad press then, less than a week later, near Copenhagen Street, a lad was stabbed and died within minutes. So sad.