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11 April 2024

Guinness advertising in London

My last post about the mural over the railway in Camden got me thinking about other examples of old Guinness advertising on London's streets. We might not have the huge signs that used to be at Piccadilly Circus but there are still a few remnants clinging to the walls, hinting at the colourful ads of the past.  

First, the Millennium Time clock on the side of The Archway Tavern which has been gradually falling apart for decades. The montage above shows comes from this post I wrote in May 2017 – it's looking even more sparse these days. The link also includes my pic of six happy Guinness glasses that used to be on the corner of Rosie McCann's pub in York Way. 


Here is a screen grab from Google streetview showing the pub with its jolly sign in August 2008. Rosie and the sign were gone by June 2012.
Which reminds me of a few others that have recently disappeared, such as the large painted "Sláinte" (health/cheers!) that used to be on the side of The Eaglet in Holloway, N7. For some reason, in 2019 this 6ft pint of the black stuff was completely overpainted a dull black and nothing has as yet replaced it, as shown in this Google screengrab pic (all pics from here will be from Google unless I specify otherwise):


Back in Camden, but we're now on the High Street looking at the top of The Camden Head, where a neon sign advertising Guinness and The Liberties (its previous name), was still in place until Summer 2015, albeit not illuminated, the pub having reverted to its original name by 2009. 
  

On the same day that I happened upon the railway mural, I'd already discovered another Guinness sign nearby, in the form of a plaque above the doorway of The Lord Southampton public house at the other end of Southampton Road. 

I'd have gone inside and tested this information claim but the pub is closed at the moment. It appears that some moaning minnies who live in the area do not want it to reopen as a pub because of the noise. Hmmm. One wonders why they chose to live close to a pub in the first instance! After all, this pub, with its gorgeous handmade blue Doulton Lambeth tiles and original wooden interior has been a community hub for over a century. It's one of the oldest pubs in the vicinity and would have well-served people visiting or working at Queen's Crescent shops market. Pubs don't have to be noisy and only a handful of people get drunk. I'm guessing the moaners are noisy themselves and assume everyone else is too. 
I took a pic through the window – it's lovely in there and I hope this interior, with its wood panelled walls and bar, is retained.

Probably the best, most intact, heritage pub signage in London can be found on The Crown & Cushion pub on Westminster Bridge Road, almost opposite Lower Marsh where there are two Guinness signs. The panel on the left depicts three flying toucans each balancing two pints of the famous stout on their bills!  Note that the top bird is 3D and protrudes from the board. 

And, d'uh. I almost forgot to mention The Toucan in Carlisle Street, near Soho Square, which is daft because I spent a lot of time in there back in the 1990s, usually in the basement bar which was a welcome refuge on hot days rather than sweating in the noisy street outside. I haven't been in there for over ten years. Is the list of Guinness cocktails still down there? I must go back soon. 


As regards the signage here, the faded hanging sign at the top of the basement stairs is fairly old, but the two flying toucans above the awning are quite new – they were installed in 2013 to fill the spaces where air con units used to be. 
The White Swan, Deptford has two different hanging signs protruding from the building – one is the standard black and gold roudel. I particularly like the other sign of the Guinness mug with a handle, something we rarely see or use these days. The pic below is from 2015, but the pub didn't look open the last time I walked past a few months ago and might well have closed it's doors for good by now.

But definitely gone, is the once lively Ravenscourt Arms in Hammersmith, a flat roofed pub, looking welcoming in the pic below but today the site is being developed and the four toucans on the sign have flown away to who knows where.

A ghostsign I missed – I never managed to get to Balham to photograph the remains of a painted sign that used to be on the side of the launderette. A friend who lives near there had told me about it but by the time I visited her in early 2019 it had been overpainted. Maggie has taken a good pic of it here. There must have been more hand-painted ads like this all over the country so it's surprising to have never actually seen one myself. 

Sometimes the brand can be found within street art. In Islington, there was a cute little bit of street art in Pickering Street (off Essex Road, near South Library) that depicted a cherub carrying a broken bottle of Guinness has been overpainted white: 


I didn't find out who the artist was – most likely to be the work of Bambi who had other artworks on the same building back in 2014. If not her, then it could be Loretto or Pegasus who have similar pieces in this area.

What else? A friend told me about this artwork in Hackney Wick which has clearly been added to and, of course, we've got the Guinness Trust buildings all across London. If you can think of any other instances, on the outside of buildings, not inside pubs or on glasses or mats, please let me know. 

Finally, as a teenager I used to have a black long-sleeved sweatshirt with the Guinness brand in white on the upper left side. I'd bought from a stall on Romford Market. I also had a JPS one (Jane Parker Special!). I wore the Guinness top to take my driving test, which I passed first time, and later that day realised that it was a bit daft to be wearing an alcohol brand whilst driving a car and under the pub drinking age! People sometimes asked me what the other side was. Oh ho ho ho. It wasn't until a few years later when the sweatshirt was old and Mum and I were doing some painting and decorating that she suddenly exclaimed "Martini's the right one"! Too late!

9 April 2024

An Elephant with a very long trunk – Guinness advertising in Camden

Here's a thing. I was recently wandering around the Lismore Circus area prior to my Elephants Escape guided tour just looking at buildings, wandering down side streets, etc. As I headed up Southampton Road, approaching the railway line I looked across at the painted walls that surround the railways. This is from google streetview, looking north, the direction I was walking:


As I approached the bus stop on the western side I happened to noticed that the mural to my left included a Guinness bottle. Up close it was hard to make out so I stepped back to the kerb to get a wider view and saw that there was the word Guinness next to the bottle, rendered in a sort of blobby black letterform. 

And then I noticed that the letters are either birds, like an Ostrich making the 'G' pouring Guinness from a bottle into the U and the two black swans at the end depicting 'SS', or the letters created by warped pints of Guinness like the letter 'e'. 

How jolly marvellous. I followed it along and found lots more references to those classic Guinness ads of old. This has to be the best bit of Guinness advertising I have ever seen. 

The legs of a walking female wearing wedge sandals, carrying a bottle and, to her right, what I think is the base of a pint of Guinness

A sealion with four pints of Guinness in front of him, possibly on plates

I think this might be a pale pink bird, possibly a crane with a long beak and spiky head feathers 

And then, there are lots of yellow circles and a pale grey arc coming in from the right...

... which turns out to be the very long trunk of an elephant reaching past the Guinness harp motif and blowing bubbles, no doubt Guinness bubbles. Hard to get a good shot of this section being as the bus shelter is in the way.

The tusks are more like those on a woolly mammoth.
And it appears he's singing a song, as depicted by those musical notes.


The far end of the wall is rather faded. But his front legs clearly show that he is running, keen to get to that Guinness!

The strange thing is, I can't spot anything resembling a toucan which was Guinness's most commonly used bird. And, having googled and searched for images of this mural to see how it looked when it was first installed, I have found absolutely nothing at all. In fact the Google streetview from 2009, below, shows the wall has been looking the same for at least 15 years. 

I am also wondering, considering that many things depicted here seem to be decapitated, if an extension to the brick wall was in place when the mural was painted, such as a 2ft strip of wood running the full length.

It's amazing that it's still here at all, especially as the walls on the other side of the road have been overpainted a few times. See here.

If anyone has any information or can date this please do get in touch. Similarly if you have any photos of this it when it was all bright and shiny, I'd love to see them.

8 April 2024

From Wapping warehouses to Silvertown streets, it's all about me!

I went for a wander around Wapping this weekend. Every time I revisit, I find something new to me whether repurposed warehouses, wonderful wharf walls, cobbled streets or interesting air bricks, such as the ones at the base of what is now the Dockers Inn gastro pub at the corner of Wapping Lane and Prusom Street. At first I thought these letters were JHB, but a friend has pointed out that the J is a T because this was built as a Truman, Hanbury and Buxton pub, originally called The White Swan [and Cuckoo]

As I wandered about, I kept crossing paths with a local man so we walked together and had a chat over a beer in at Wapping Docklands Market adjacent to Shadwell Basin. We discussed local points of historical interest and I said I'd try to find out a few things for him. This has led me to revisit the 1901 Port of London docklands map by Edward Stanford, available via The British Library's Old Maps Online, a map I always enjoy looking at because it shows how this area has changed. 

As I scrolled within the map and headed northwards to Commercial Road, I recalled that there was a road called Jane Street. I zoomed in – you'll see it at the centre under 'ME' of Commericial, which is quite apt:


But there's barely anything left of that street today; just a short stretch of cobbles next to the Lloyds Bank, which itself surely not long for this world either, considering how many walk-in branches have closed in recent years: 

It's all about me! And then I was reminded of some street names I had noticed when I was wandering around the Silvertown and North Woolwich area last year, many of which link to my family and personal history. Here's a close up of that area from the 1901 map:

Albert Road runs along the northern side of railway line, today the Docklands Light Railway. I spent my formative years in Albert Road, Romford, which branches off Victoria Rd. This in itself isn't much of a coincidence seeing as there are many streets named after Victoria and Albert all across the Commonwealth. The southern side of the tracks here is shown as Green Lane which also a fairly common street name (today renamed Factory Road). My dad's upholstery business was in Green Lane, Goodmayes. 

But now it gets personal... here is a googlemap of the area today – North of Albert Road, there is Newland Road, echoing my mother's family name. Today it meets Leonard Street which was her father's, my granddad's, Christian name – wow! 

A few streets to the east/left is Parker Street. Bizarrely, this is my surname from my father's side and, further west, as shown on the 1901 map, there was Amelia Street which is my middle name. Which means I have the full set of Jane Street, Amelia Street and Parker Street. Amelia Street has disappeared along with all her siblings (for I suspect these are names linked to the developer of this plot) but GradeII* listed St Mark's church is still standing lonely and forlorn adjacent to a trading estate and the DLR line.

The name Amelia intrigues me. It was my nanna's name (my father's mother), yet she never used it, preferring to be called Min. I can only think of Amelia Earhart, Henry Fielding's novel and Enid Blyton's Naughty Amelia Jane books. The name was barely used for many decades, indeed my junior school friends thought it was a made up name. Then a sudden revival about 20 years ago brought it back into favour, I know not why, and it sat at or near the top of the list of popular baby names for girls for a decade. 

As to why the name Amelia was not popular in the post-war years, I am sure I read somewhere that 'an Amelia' was a dismissive name applied to a dodgy sort of female. Perhaps it was associations Fielding's character or with Blyton's naughty little girl? I could understand the latter had Nanna been a teenager in 1939 when those books were first published, but she was a married adult with two children and another on the way by that time. It may be that there was a famous person by that name who did something bad and people did not want to be associated with her....? 

I'll leave it there. I think that's enough about me, for now!

2 April 2024

On the ropes – a very uncomfortable sleeping arrangement or a sailor's bed?

I was recently reminded of the unsubstantiated accounts of men having to resort to a night spent sleeping hung over a rope, as mentioned in this piece about The Twopenny Hangover.

I’ve always queried this sleeping arrangement as, for many reasons, it just couldn’t have worked. A
s I am aware, the single rope thing has only ever been referenced within movies and retrospective 2nd- and 3rd-hand accounts, all of which makes it merely hearsay. Yet the notion persists.
Having given this a fair bit of consideration, I have come to the conclusion that these sleeping arrangements were simply a room full of single hammocks.

For instance, consider that if you did manage to doze off hanging over a rope, whether seated or standing, the rope would sway about and act like a sound amplifier every time someone else along the rope moved or made a noise. If you were hanging from your armpit(s) as they suggest, the bulk of your weight being below your chest, then gravity would take control as you fell into a sleep state and you'd simply slide down and fall off the rope, disturbing everyone around you. It could only work if you tied your elbows to your waist to stop yourself from moving about and losing purchase. Nope, I think it's nonsense!

Most reports of this 'on the ropes' sleeping arrangement are far from reliable seeing as they are written by well-heeled men who would never have needed these places. The poor men who did need to use doss houses didn't have the time or inclination to keep a diary or write down their experiences. Therefore, all we have is hearsay.

Within the link above, towards the end, there is an excerpt from Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers which includes this description:
"... two ropes, ’bout six foot apart, and three from the floor, which goes right down the room; and the beds are made of slips of coarse sacking, stretched across ’em..." 
At first, I wondered if this was describing a multiple hammock design, such that each sacking/canvas ‘bed’ was attached to ropes at the head and foot ends, perhaps with multiple canvasses side-by-side along that parallel system, hence the reference to the ropes being 6ft apart, which is the length of a bed. In the morning, with the beds being being 3ft off the floor, the proprietor could easily move under and along them to untie the knots (at the foot end?!) via a simple slip knot, as I also very much doubt they would have cut the expensive rope. The clients then would fall to the floor – a rather shocking start to the day! The ropes and 'beds' could then be easily fixed back again for the next customers. Also, the canvas could be easily removed and replaced if damaged in any way.
However, even this idea is doubtful as to support the weight of possibly four men per length, the knots must have been pretty substantial, ditto the brackets to which they were fixed.
I am therefore of the opinion that these rope beds were merely single hammocks as per on a ship, the ends tied three foot from the floor to allow for the sag of the hammock.

25 March 2024

The Terraces and Textures of Thamesmead

Last month I ventured to Abbey Wood where I attended a guided walk in Thamesmead looking at the architecture and topography of this vast residential area as well as its use as a location for many films and TV dramas. 

It was a grey day. I took a these snaps and made a mental note to return and investigate on a warmer day.

I was saddened to discover that there's nothing left of the lakeside area once trodden by The Droogs which would have been to the left of the orange signage in the pic bottom right, above. And I was amazed/confused that there seemed to be no pubs or cafés or corner shops anywhere, meaning everyone, children, old ladies etc, has to hike all the way to the shops near Abbey Wood station or use one of the mega stores that surround this zone, each one larger than an average sports hall. Mind you, considering the amount of properties here, we hardly saw any other humans at all, except for few dog walkers. I considered that everyone might be at work, but no, it was a Saturday. Perhaps the were all that the mega malls and leisure centres, or simply indoors watching TV or playing computer games?

A few weeks later I went to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. I was some admiring some paintings and prints of brutalist architecture (ooh the patterns, ooh the grids and lines and geometrics) and began talking to the lady next to one of the pieces only to discover that she was the artist! It's hard to fathom how I'd never discovered Mandy Payne or her work before. To cut a long story short, we got chatting and discovered that we have lots of common interests. We swopped Instagram accounts and within a few days we'd arranged to go to Thamesmead together on Monday 25th March.

Mandy had also been to this part of Thamesmead before but she hadn't seen or known about some of the places that she'd admired in my photos taken in February which I had posted on my Instagram @janeslondon account. She was enthused and clearly enthralled when we reached the raised walkways. As I'd expected, she took hundreds of photos. I took little more than the three above and the ones shown below which are mostly of some retaining walls near the lake that Mandy was also keen to see. They have an amazing crackle-glaze effect, caused where modern paint applied over un-prepped surfaces has shrivelled and peeled to create marvellous textural patterns. 

However, we are concerned that this accidental abstract art won't be visible for much longer. It looks like Bexley Council is planning to paint these walls a boring shade of mid grey, evidenced by a few test squares here and there, as shown below. This shade of grey is light absorbing rather than light reflecting and I've written before about the overuse of this ubiquitous shade of dull here

We also noticed that paint peeling from handrails and metalwork revealed colours of past decades, starting with peach and then blue and green, most recently overpainted in black, Black. BLACK! What's this obsession with monotone? But, on the plus side, the subtle pastel effect created by what I think is different shades white paint is lovely, especially when contrasted with the vibrant natural greens of the healthy moss and lichen that is growing in the cracks and along the tops of the walls.

And then Mandy took me to see something that I'd somehow missed when I had visited the first time. A raised terrace above the convenience store has seating and what I guess could have originally been constructed as structures for basketball hoops. One of them is painted a gorgeous vibrant red (much more exhilarating than black or grey) and the metal seats show a palimpsest of colours throughout the decades


My last two pics, are of some windows above one of the many rows of garages there, designed for cars that were much smaller back in the 1960s and 70s. I was thinking, as I watched the pigeons walk along the roof, that these buildings resembled bird lofts. And then I noticed my initials JP on the glass!
Back to London central on the Elizabeth Line. I returned to Islington and Mandy went to do something in Paddington. As I write this she is on another train heading back to her home and studio in Sheffield. Thanks Mandy, and see you again soon for another brutalist appreciation session!

24 March 2024

The historic topography of Royal Hill, Greenwich – repurposed railway lines and ghostsigns

I was wandering the lovely back streets of Greenwich last week, past the theatre and the fan museum (both marvellous, and I found myself in Royal Hill. I looked to see if the building that used to be home to The Cheese Shop, a business that used to be run by a lovely guy I met on a plane coming back from Zakynthos in the late 1980s, was still there. The terrace of shops hasn't changed much, I think his shop was one of these next to the butcher. I continued up the street, admiring all the lovely houses, and stopped to look at the fab tiles on the Barley Mow pub at the corner of Point Hill, now a restaurant. 

Barley Mow pub, Royal Hill greengrocer, Royal Circus tea merchant

Realising that I was supposed to be meeting a friend in the Oxford Street in thirty minutes, I started making my way down the hill via Prior Street towards the station. I looked to the right and noticed that there appeared to be quite a wide angular gap between the houses here behind this tree, and I looked back and forth at that and at the twentieth century flats behind me, considering that there must have been a railway line here.

A couple walking their small friendly dog saw my quizzical face and asked if I was lost. I explained my thought process to them. Well, what a delightful interlude it turned out to be. John said yes, that he had wondered that too, but he hadn't been able to find out any info. The conversation progressed and I said I'd look into the things we discussed. I cave him my card and asked him to keep in touch. But I have decided to write it up here. Just shows how one bit of 'perhapsing' can evolve into a half a day of sleuthing! I do hope John is reading this. And I hope I have remembered his name correctly as I tend to forget what you'd call 'normal' names. His wife, who has lovely eyes, is called Della. Nice people. 

Here's the Google view of the area today – I was standing were the word Vina [Launderette] is:

As you can see, there are allotments here which are often a hint at old railway lines or sidings, indeed that's what John thought, that this was sidings. I thought it was more likely to be a connecting line from/to Lewisham, which was confirmed when I found this 1890's OS map available on Layers of London – many of the road names have changed and this isn't exactly the same proportion and crop as the pic above, but it's easy to make the comparison:

I had assumed the railway line then fed into into the eastbound service towards Maze Hill but, no, it ended at 'Greenwich Terminus' on Stockwell Street, site of the Ibis Hotel today. 

John also mentioned that he was intrigued by an old sign near the old Old Barley Mow pub which he wondered might have been a coal merchant. Ooh I thought... lets go and have a look! By this time I realised I was going to be even later for my appointment in central London but, luckily, I was meeting a friend who is as fascinated by these things as I am, so he'd understand! 

I turned to look back past the pub where there is a hand-painted ghostsign on a building that looks to be No.1 Point Hill, but is actually constructed in the back garden of No.1 King George Street. I took a few  photos:

There are multiple layers on this sign. Looking my the phone screen we found it was easy to make out CORN & COAL MERCHANTS through the middle but the names were hard to decipher. For instance, there's a name in a curve at the top that looks to begin 'J. S. PE..' and another name in a straight line over/under that. The last word at bottom right could be RAIL, perhaps making use of the adjacent railway line. 

Having googled, I'm surprised to discover that other ghostsigns fans haven't snapped any photos of this, especially as it has been clearly visible since at least 2008 when I first noticed it myself, although I must admit that I didn't photograph it back then. And I am pretty sure I noticed it back in the '90s when my friend had that cheese shop. All I can find is this listing on eBay
A quick look at the old directories leaves me struggling to find a reference to coal. The earliest reference I have to hand is South London Suburbs 1896 which shows Mr Samuel James Perren listed at 1-3 King George Street as a corn merchant. This correlates with the with what we can see here. This street links through to Croom's Hill, the other main road in this area, and it's interesting to read how many other traders and merchants were here in the 1890s, including a baker, an undertaker, a builder, music teacher, a decorator and a few dressmakers.
By 1911 Mr Walter Gibbins is at this address, also trading in corn. But barely anything is listed along the whole street during WW1 or the pre-WW2 years.
Until further information becomes available, I am going to conclude that either a coal merchant was here pre- the 1890s, or that the word we are seeing as 'coal' (middle left on the sign) is actually something else. Though it could simply be that it was usual for a corn merchant to also sell coal back then.
Any further info is most welcome via jane@janeslondon.com

For more of my ghostsigns observations, simply use the search box or click here.

7 March 2024

Gabriel von Max and Rene Magritte – 'Jesus Christus' on my wall and at Christie's London

A couple of weeks ago I bought this old framed print “Jesus Christus” from a local second hand shop. It's behind glass and hard to photograph. Even though I’m an atheist, I'm a sucker for a beautiful religious piece, and I was drawn to this dark brooding version of Christ. I immediately hung it the wall when I got home that day. 

Ten days later, yesterday, walking down Duke Street, St James's, heading to Christie’s to see the latest auction (wow! fab). This street offers a view into some of the sale rooms. I stopped in my tracks when I saw what I assumed to be the original painting of my new Jesus acquisition! We whizzed inside and discovered the painting is by Rene Magritte, completed in 1918 when he was only 20 years old, long before he was seduced by surrealism (theres's a lot of that stuff in the other rooms).

It’s a beautiful painting, signed clearly by the Magritte at top right. Hmm, I thought, I don’t recall seeing that sig on my print. And then I noticed other things about that didn’t seem ‘right’ as I was sure my print was of a painting that was more delicate/fine. I took some photos and decided to delve further at a later date.

When I got home, I studied my print and discovered it’s not the same work. A bit of quick online research makes it clear that Magritte's work is a copy of an 1885 painting by Gabriel von Max, his version of The Veil of Veronica

Indeed, I looked at my snap of the Christie's info card at the side of the Magritte work and noticed that it does indeed show 'After Gab Max' on it – that hadn't meant anything to me at the time.

Max's art was popular during his lifetime and his image of Jesus quickly became available as lithographic prints, such as mine. He appears to have been a rather interesting man – amongst other things, he kept a ‘herd of monkeys’ in his garden house!

As these comparisons show (not taken at the exact same angle), Max's 1885 painting (L) and Magritte's 1918 painting (R) differ in many places: 

Magritte’s version is more about the paint, which I love. Well, I love them both. Although Magritte has taken pains to copy some of Max's delicate red marks, he loses subtlety in the face especially around the eyes (which can be viewed as open or closed). Magritte has also enhanced the edges of the cloth (a fabrication by Max) and altered the position of the title at the bottom (see the framed versions above). And the signature – on close inspection, I can see on my print that there is a hint of a signature at top left (not visible here) that Magritte has chosen to replace with his own.  

It's all a lovely coincidence, seeing as I had no idea about this image until ten days ago and would have been entranced by the Magritte version had I never see the Max one. I am now buzzing with questions: 

Why did Magritte paint a copy of another man’s painting? Was it simply a training piece? 

Where was Max's painting hanging at that time? Is that where Magritte made the copy? Or did he copy one of the many lithographic copies?

What other paintings did Magritte copy at this time?

Would Magritte's painting be worth Christie's estimated auction price of £70-100K had not later become famous for gravity-defying apples and pipes? 

In comparison, how much is Max’s painting today? And where is it? 

Christie’s sale rooms are always worth visiting. Ditto all other auction rooms. They are free to view and often it’s the only way to see beautiful works that will end up in private collections.