15 June 2019

Patchwork garages

Just some pleasing patterns and textures today.
Quick snaps I took with my phone of some fences and garages in a little street N19.





10 June 2019

The Ladykillers – Kings Cross film locations guided walk

KX 2009 – this is all one image, not a montage!
Wandering around Kings Cross a few months ago I had a brainwave.
I had just finished leading my ghostsigns tour there and I was thinking how the junction of Euston, Pentonville and Grays Inn Roads has evolved over the past 20 years, especially in front of KX station since the removal of extraneous buildings and the 1970s canopy over the forecourt. Though it's worth pointing out that by then end of the 19th century the forecourt was already littered with a patchwork of various structures; a mix of  entrances and exits, offices, kiosks and shops etc.
Viewing the station today from the corner of Argyle Street it looks just as messy if not worse – The Great Northern Northern Hotel is now partially obliterated by huge circular vents for the Underground, though there is lots of open space and seating on the eastern/YorkWay side around Henry Moore's sculpture.
Pondering all this as I wandered up towards the canal I recalled one of my favourite films The Ladykillers (the 1955 Alec Guinness original, not that silly 2004 remake), and... "PING!" I had the lightbulb moment... I should devise a guided walking tour linking the locations used in The Ladykillers whilst highlighting how the area has changed.
It's all set up and ready to go.
Do join me. First tour 13th June at 2.30pm. More dates throughout the summer – please see my walks listings here  

6 June 2019

Moooo! We're joined at the hip

If you are planning to come to the Caledonian Park opening ceremony of the clocktower* tomorrow, do take a short detour out of the park back towards Cally Rd to look into Market Road Garden. You'll find it next to the adventure playground I wrote about a few weeks ago. 


Market Road Garden is a delightful little gated park – one of the first public spaces made available for Islington residents. It packs quite a lot into a tiny space – landscaped gardens, flower beds, a pergola and, on top of a small stone obelisk/plinthy thing in the back corner, there are four little metalwork cows all joined at the hip. There are other cattle references too in the gate design.

* Tours to the top of the tower from 22nd June available here  (see my last post for more info) 

31 May 2019

I can see your house from here! Caledonian clocktower open through the summer for guide-led tours

Finally!
The visitor centre is finished, the information panels and plaques are in place and you can now climb 178 steps to the top of the marvellous clock tower that sits in the middle of Caledonian Park – see the clock mechanism and the spaces within and enjoy the fabulous views from the top. Don't worry – the bells won't start ringing when you are up there!
This clock tower used to be the centre of a Victorian meat market that covered a much larger area than we see today. The market was built to take the pressure off Smithfield which had become way too busy, dirty and noisy. In the twentieth centre a huge flea market evolved on the same site. Today it's hard to imagine such hustle and bustle here.
There will be an opening ceremony on Saturday June 8th. Local dignitaries will make their ascent and return to terra firma to cut the ribbon and, no doubt, make a few speeches.
I will be one of the guides there on the opening day so do come along and say hello.
Free tours of the clock tower from Saturday 22nd June and on Saturdays throughout the summer. Please note that places are strictly limited and restrictions apply as regards age, fitness, clothing etc so please be sure to read all the terms and conditions.

27 May 2019

Abstract street art

Sometimes a wall need to be patched or graffiti needs to be obliterated.
But the paint originally used for the wall or fence might not be available and so another one that doesn't quite match or a completely different shade is used.
The end result often can look like abstract art.
I just love some of the results. Some of these would be good as carpets.
Here's a selection.

Parkhurst Road, N7.
Rowstock Gardens, N7
Rowstock Gardens, N7


Old Street, EC1
Dalston, E8
Bowmans Mews, N7

14 May 2019

Adventure playgrounds – ooh be careful the kids might fall and hurt themselves...

I was walking along Market Road, off Caledonian Rd, last week when I happened upon this sign outside Hayward Adventure Playground.
The statement that the statement that there are 12 Adventure Playgrounds (with initial caps) in Islington no longer holds totally true. There might be 12 sites but not many of them are functioning playgrounds at the moment. In fact, Hayward itself is undergoing a revamp.
And at the award-winning Martin Luther Adventure Playground opposite Freightliners Farm at Paradise Park, N7, is as I write this just a bull-dozed empty site. This saddens me because up until about six months ago I noticed that almost every time I went past it there were lots of children making really good use of the facilities there. Not like at some other similar sites where I have never witnessed any movement apart form pigeons, namely Spa Green, near Exmouth Mkt, and Barnard Park off Copenhagen Street.
I think kids are being protected a little too much these days. God forbid the poor things might fall and hurt themselves and learn a valuable lesson about balance and gravity in the process.
It's all health and safety gone mad – remove the possible causes of pain. Rip it all up, put in some bouncy rubber floors (recycled I hope) and have round padded corners everywhere. Be careful darling. Be careful. No, don't climb that tree. It's dangerous.
And when was the last time you saw a kid with scabby knees or covered in plasters? OK so kids don't wear shorts or carry catapults and penknives anymore, but perhaps they should. Possibly the first time they pick up something sharp is when they join a gang. I am flippantly suggesting this because I see many kids can't even use cutlery properly these days; they use forks as spoons and have no idea how to hold a knife – it's elbows and shovels. 
How are kids supposed to learn life skills? They aren't gonna be magically ready for the big bad world when when they leave school. This is why we've now got so many people in their mid-20s still being treated like and behaving like babies – get Dad to do everything. But what's gonna happen when theses kids finally have kids of their own?
I so fondly recall as a child getting big knee and elbow scabs – the trophy scars of the playground – then picking at those scabs and lifting the harden crusts like lids to see if they'd bleed or come off cleanly –  and did anyone else enjoy sewing their fingers together with needle and cotton through the top layer of skin resulting in little white dead channels once the thread was removed. Ah, happy days... where are my ker-knockers...?!

10 May 2019

Update on Toby Ale signage

Almost two years ago I wrote about the renovation of an old Charringtons pub in Swinton Street, Kings Cross, WC1, and its lovely old Toby Ale tiled motifs.
Well I am happy to report that the new owners of The Kings Cross Arms which is now a hotel and restaurant have given the place a wash and brush up and the panels are still perfectly intact. Each is flanked by some of those ubiquitous filament lamps though the shadows/ghosts of older lamps looks to have proved hard to remove. It is now called The House of Toby – named after the plaque – how lovely – phew!
The other news on this subject is that I now do not have all the original images of the montage that I put together in that last piece on the subject. I lost most of this collection when my AppleMac crashed last year – I had collected my labelled photos into a folder on my desktop and had neglected to copy it over elsewhere to an external HD, a USB stick or to my web archive.
Tomorrow, tomorrow etc.
Another annoying thing is that I hadn't even captioned the 12 images in that montage so I now can't identify/remember the locations (d'oh!).
It wasn't the only collection to bite the dust – I also lost Woolworths stores, David Greig shops, Burtons Deco motifs, an A-Z of ghostsigns across London (by street), ditto pubs signs and the like. Oh, and ditto lots of written research that I had compiled for my guided walks etc. And archive images, and boot scrapers and coal hole covers and date stamps and and
Oh well; live and learn. None has died. In a way it all felt quite cathartic.
Shall I start again? Nah!

30 April 2019

London Peculiars – a book by Peter Ashley

I have recently been flicking though a fab new book ticking off the contents in my head, inwardly saying "been there, seen that, ooh... must go find that".
Actually, I must confess here that I am a little bit annoyed with myself, envious even, because I have been threatening for years to put together a book of my observations and due to being distracted by even more intriguing things my book has still not evolved. It's hard to know when to stop 'collecting'!

Some randomly-chosen pages from London Peculiars published by ACC Art Books
As you can see from my dodgy snaps above, Peter's book is a collection of photos and info about details and hidden spaces in our great metropolis – tiles and stone reliefs, gardens and monuments, alleys and ghostsigns. Actually I am wondering if Mr Ashley might be getting some of his idea from this blog... hmmm... ha ha.
Perhaps I should contact him and go on a wander with him some time...?

23 April 2019

Remember the Poor's Box – Charity and the kindness of stangers

Next time you are in the West Smithfield area please do take a little detour though the Henry VIII gate that leads to St Bartholomew's Hospital.
Within the gate you'll find this delightful, albeit sad, artefact.


No chugging, no coloured bibs, no sponsoring – just a little red box atop a pillar.
Please give generously.
More info here. 

18 April 2019

Norway Wharf

Wandering around Dalston a few weeks ago I ambled down onto the canal towpath and had a peek around Kingsland Basin that used to serve Norway, Benyon and Quebec Wharves etc. There's not much going on there these days – it's all waterside apartments, pushchairs and pilates.


On the northwest side there is an information board which I assume was put there to enlighten visitors who might wonder what went on in these marvellous brick-built warehouses 200 years ago.
Well, if you'd like to read the board, you'll need to be 6ft tall or sitting on someone's shoulders as it's set too high for the average able-bodied mortal and there is no platform to stand on. Add to that, it's protected by 'clear' plexiglass that has over time become frosted; effectively a blurring of the past.
Near to the sign and the stable block there is a rather nice linear depiction of the Regents Canal carved into the paving. It sort of makes up for the info board, but not really.


5 April 2019

Balloons and A Great Expedition via Gingerline

Along the Victoria Line platforms at Finsbury Park tube station there are some marvellous colourful mosaics of balloons. These are probably historically incorrect for this location, but hey they are a nice distraction.
They tie up nicely with a night out I had last week at one of Gingerline's clandestine dining adventures; the current experience is A Grand Expedition being a Phileas Fogg -style balloon trip around the world.
I can't tell you where this was located because it's all a bit secret squirrel – you are told that the your night out will somewhere along the northern half of the Victoria Line but the specific location is not given until the afternoon, via text.
When you get there you enter the dining space to you find you are inside, completely surrounded by, the experience, as if you are part of a play. The 'stage' for this is well-throught-through and marvellously evocative. Performers act out scenes and deliver the food in character whilst all around there are animations, graphics, evocative sounds and music.
Many other guests had been to previous Gingerline events and were coming back for more.
Hmm... thinks... perhaps I could offer some non-specified themed guided walks...

1 April 2019

Spring into Spring


This is part of a large mosaic wall panel which features on one of my guided walks.
But the walk does not take us to any of the places shown here.
Intrigued?
See here for more.

21 March 2019

Last orders at The Water Poet, Spitalfields – 8 drinking days left!!!

I am saddened that The Water Poet, that marvellous drinking establishment in Folgate Street, Spitalfields, is due to close.  The immediate area is to be redeveloped, no doubt with more glassified blandification and Dubaiification.
Picture c/o TimeOut – more info on this closure here
They say here that the pub will be opening up again nearby with the same name.
But it won't be the same pub will it?
You have until March 29th to pay your last regards – I will be in there this evening enjoying a pint or two with friends, probably in the garden if I can find a space... so do come and join me.
I am not sure what is actually planned for this corner site once the pub closes. But check out what happened at The Gun on the opposite side of the market – The Gun was built in the late 1920s on a corner of on Brushfield Street but was closed when the Fruit & Wool Exchange was demolished all bar the façade. A new pub has since opened up on the same site and I can't be the only one to be aghast to see that it has been given the same name yet bears no resemblance at all to the old one. If I was the previous landlord or one of his regulars I would be disgusted and insulted by because it is now nothing like the proper old boozer it used to be – it now resembles a horrid chain hotel/cocktail bar. Hmmm.
May 2008
Check out also The Three Crowns just north of Old Street roundabout which a few years back was given a wash and brush up that holds the building there like some kind of historical little gem within a huge block of modern glass and metal. The pub has been 'renovated' involving the removal and/or replacement of anything that made it worth saving in the first instance. And they have painted the tiles!  Yes; painted!  if you paint tiles you then have to paint them again years later when the paint peels off. Tiles can be wiped clean.  Muppets.
Oh what do I know?!

19 March 2019

Free apostrophes with covers and cases at Mr Panini's

How do people end up making the wrong decisions about apostrophes? For which they'd write apostrophe's. 
It's as if they pick up a few just in case and then see six words that end in a single letter s so they just chuck the little hooky things at the words and hope they attach themselves in the right places.
It reminds me that close to my home there is a Post Office with a cafe attached. Painted onto the window they have listed what's on offer; sandwiches, rolls and the like. But we locals call it Mr Panini's because that's what it says on the window.
For those of you who don't know, panini is already a plural word in Italian so adding an apostrophe and a letter s must in this case indicate possession, hence this must be Mr Panini's cafe.
So where was I?
Ah yes, a shop at the bend of Pancras Rd offering radiator covers and book cases with free apostrophes shown in the top two pics. But if you want a radiator cabinet you will have to go without.
Just to the left/south of this shop (Feb2019) there is a temporary toilet cubicle where you can also get an apostrophe fix.
For those of you who still haven't a clue where an apostrophe is needed, it is /it's* reasonably simple – stick one in where a letter or letters is/are missing or where someone owns the item to show possession. Plurals, as in the pics shown here, do not need them. More clarification here.
*not to be confused with the possessive its which has no apostrophe as in "the cat licked its lips"

Coming soon...
Spot the odd one out:
would not have / wouldn't have / wouldn't've / wouldn't of





12 March 2019

The Duchess of Kent

The pics below show an old Charringtons pub today standing empty on the corner of Carnegie Street and Charlotte Terrace between Barnard Park and Regent's Canal in Islington. Note the 1930s Georgian-esque architecture and their red Courage Best cockerel on the front.


Pubs of this type, faced in beige tiles at ground level, often also had panels for Toby Ale on them but I can see no evidence of that here. Instead we have some marvellous faded hanging portraits of the Duchess.


The sign faces east and west and seems to have faded to the same degree on both sides. I like it.
The Duchess appears to be strangely popular in Islington as there are are two more pubs bearing her name – one at 444 Liverpool Rd, and another at 72 Prebend Street where she can be seen sporting a marvellous wide-brimmed, feathered hat as shown here.

UPDATE – she could be an Irish connection – I read recently that The Duchhess Of Kent was the name of a ship that returned a famous Irish politician to these isles in the 19th century... I need to dig out more info and will update this when I find out more

5 March 2019

Flipped Pedim ghostsign in Upper Holloway

This has intrigued me for years:


In Tollington Way, Upper Holloway, N19, on the corner of Cornwallis Road, there was up until about ten years ago a fish and chip shop and restaurant. The building has subsequently been converted into residential use and all signs of battered cod and sausages have been removed.
However, above one window we can see the reversed print of a company name S. M. PEDIM which, judging by the letterform, looks Edwardian in style.
I would assume a sign with this name on it had been painted onto a piece of wood that was later reused; flipped and attached to a wet wall, therefore transferring the name onto the plasterwork.
I can find no evidence of anyone called Pedim in the reference I have to hand.
Any ideas? 




23 February 2019

BOTHWAYS ONEWORD HOLLOWAYROAD

At the pedestrian crossing that links Islington Central Library and St Mary Magdalene church on Holloway Road there are road markings. Or should that be ROADMARKINGS:

North East (library side)
South West (church side)

19 February 2019

Flippin letters!!

Across Islington, though I have seen it elsewhere too in the UK, there are metal signs created using single letters mostly arranged in an arch or spaced across a gate.
I would guesstimate that 10% of these signs have one or more of the letters within them flipped back to front.
Here are four prime examples:

As you can see, the confusion usually lies with the letters A, M, U, V, W and Y.
In my mind's eye I can see the person who was making this sitting there with a puzzled expression, holding up the letter, looking at it one way and then the other, rotating it, it flipping it, shrugging their shoulders and then... oops!
Most of these signs appear to use a similar serif font which means all the craftsman (if that's not too specific a word here) needs to do is consult that alphabet, or a similar cut, to double check before he/she starts welding.
Ah... but check out the image top right for Mayward House, Pentonville Rd – one maker just wasn't sure which way round to put the A on Mayward so gave us both options. Hey, I suppose it balances the flipped M and the flipped U in HOUSE (not shown). Note also the spectacular letter-spacing across MAYWARD – all-in-all this is a truly sublime example of this kind.
I also have some evidence of school gates with flipped letters. Yes, schools. I will dig those out and post them anothe rday.
In addition to flipped letters I have also spotted an error in a huge sign that runs across City and Islington College at the top end of Goswell Road near the Angel Islington road junction. As you can see the S is upsidedown – it's been rotated. Go check you Gill aphabet people the bowl at the top should be smaller than the bowl at the bottom. Stands to reason really. Otherwise, like here it becomes top heavy.




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!