25 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 25th December

A little enamel sign I spotted in Savoy Street, WC2.

Ah... Oxford Street... today it will be blissfully and unusually quiet.
For an alternative Christmas morning treat, why not take a wander into Central London and stand in the middle of this major shopping thoroughfare with nary a car or person in sight.   

24 December 2015

22 December 2015

20 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 20th December

A lovely doorway mosaic in Maddox Street, London W1 clearly showing No.20 on the right and No.22 on the left. I just love the numbers and the elegant shape of the ampersand.
I was intending to link to a past post/collection of ampersands, but it appears I haven't done that yet. How strange. It's now on the list!

19 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 19th December

Landseer House, 19 Charing Cross Road, London WC2.
I am not sure if the name of this building relates to Edwin Landseer who painted The Monarch of the Glen and sculpted the lions at the base of Nelson's Column in nearby Trafalgar Square.
This stretch of the road south from Leicester Square Station, is littered with fine examples of statement/personalised architectural details – be sure to look up next time you are there.

16 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 16th December

Vitreous enamel hydrant maker showing distance to the access point.
Dalston, London E8.

Most of these are diamond-shape, except when they wrap around a corner in which case they are square. 
I have only ever spotted one oval-shaped specimen in Sclater Street, E1:

15 December 2015

A walk along Kings Road (part 4) Santander vs modern

And so the walk continues east.
See my previous posts for earlier sections of this road.

These days Kings Road have devolved into just another bland high street with all the same brands and labels as every other major shopping thoroughfare in the UK. 
But you can still spot hints of its past in the architecture.

Top: almost opposite Wrights Dairy is an ornate grade II listed Victorian building with a bowed window, an iron balcony above the ground floor, Corinthian columns and shell motifs. This used to be the Markham Arms public house. It closed down in the early 1990s and is now a branch of Santander. Compare this ornate structure with the blandness that is Kings Mall a hundred metres further on. Progress? I think not.
Middle: At no.72, in a prime position on the corner of Lincoln Street facing Duke of York Square, is the Grade II listed 19th Century building that used to be The Colville Tavern and Wine Stores. At the top of some of the dividing Doric pilasters there are male and female (royal?) faces. I seem to recall this being home to a clothes shop in the early 80's but I might be mistaken. It's certainly a clothes shop now.
Bottom: The Sidney Smith Buildings run from No.50 down to No. 34 on the corner of Cadogan Gardens. But who was Sidney Smith?!  Look up to see the lovely Victorian moulded date and street name sign signs at the very top.  
Lots more info about the changing face of the Kings Road can be found here.
And here (I particularly like this one)

Jane's Advent Calendar – 15th December

A lovely bit of pencil work at The Greek Cypriot Women's Group, 15 Hercules Street, London N7

13 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 13th December

Camden High Street, 2010.  I took this shot because I liked the colours and patterns; the diagonals and the yellow foam vertical, the hand-cut hole for letters and the hand-painted number written in two lines with an attempt at letterform. 

11 December 2015

10 December 2015

The Old Royal Naval College and Christmas lights at Greenwich

The Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich is a fascinating place. Lots of interesting artefacts, art and information. Be sure to check out the Painted Hall.

On the way to take another consignment of my clay pipe jewellery to the ORNC gift shop last week I stopped to admire the Christmas decorations in Greenwich Market, on the Cutty Sark and the colour-changing dome on the entrance to the foot tunnel that joins Greenwich with the Island Gardens on The Isle of Dogs. 
Ah... lovely.

Find the jewellery display to the right of the till near the main door facing the Thames

Jane's Advent Calendar – 10th December

Pointing the way to No.10 in West Hampstead
Pointing hands like these are called manicules and every time I see an old one it brings a smile to my face. See more here.

9 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 9th December

Green door, what's that secret you're keeping?
9 Roupell Street, London SE1
A stone's throw from Waterloo Station are some lovely old streets.
The area is constantly under threat from developers and the houses in this evocative location fetch exhorbitant unrealistic prices.

Oh, and cos you are probably sing that song... click here for Mr Stevens.

8 December 2015

Cards cards cards

I am really pleased that greeting cards featuring my photos of places of interest in north London have been selling well.
A selection is shown here:
Greeting cards 135mm square supplied with envelopes in cello bags. 
Buy them for £2.50 each from The Only Place For Pictures in Upper Street, Islington (opposite the Union Chapel), Arts and Vintage (opposite Highgate tube station) and Oxfam Bookshops in Highgate and Crouch End.
Snowflakes 135mm square. All others A6/postcard size.
Or buy direct from me, either by contacting me, or finding me at one of my stalls where I will also have my other cards showing my images created from clay pipes; Pete and Joe, London Landmarks, Christmas trees and snowflakes.
Buy four get one free – get five for £10 for any cards when purchasing in person.
Many are also available on Etsy (free p&p).

Jane's Advent Calendar – 8th December

Lower Sloane Square, London SW1

7 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 7th December

The Seven Stars public house, 243 Goldhawk Road, London W12
The name Seven Stars may be a reference to the seven stars of Ursa Major (The Great Bear) commonly known as The Plough / Charles Wain (UK) or The Big Dipper / The Wagon (USA). But why?

It's claimed that a pub of the same name in Carey Street behind the Law Courts in WC2 could be the oldest pub in London.

6 December 2015

A mystery tour in Holborn – Incredible Midtown: The Game‏ – until Friday Dec 11th

I just found this is a fun way to explore what I still prefer to call the Holborn area.

Bloomsbury details
Until this Friday 11th Dec...
Put your detective skills to the test and unravel a series of fiendish clues and perplexing puzzles and immerse yourself in three centuries of London history on the mystery tour Incredible Midtown: The Game‏ devised by live-action experience maestros Secret Studio.  
Teams of friends and strangers will form groups of ten and collaborate to uncover the drama and fascinating past of this ever-intriguing area during a puzzle-based adventure game. Actors bring real and fictional fully-interactive characters to life (or death!). Expects ghosts, pubs, rock stars, and lots of fascinating historical facts.
Takes approx 90 minutes. The Game Tickets are £12 per person. Book here.

I have written about the rebranding of Bloomsbury as Midtown before here and here.

Jane's Advent Calendar – 6th December

Dingley Road, London EC1
Ten fags for sixpence!!
This sign must have been very vibrant 70 years ago.
At the bottom right the signwriter has left his mark: "HARRIS the Sign King"! 
Black Cat Cigarettes were made nearby at The Carerras factory on Mornington Crescent where Craven 'A' cigarettes were also manufactured. These too featured the company's iconic black cat logo.

5 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 5th December

Great St James Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1
Fanlights (glass windows split into sections forming a open fan design, hence the name) were installed in the 18th century to let more light into gloomy hallways. Bloomsbury is awash with many fine examples.
Others, like the one here, were created as protruding boxes which captured and reflected even more light into the house. I cannnot find the proper name for this style – any information welcome

4 December 2015

Follow the Angel Trail at the National Gallery

Clockwise from top left: Lambeth, The Mall (x2), Highgate, Shaftesbury Ave, Sloane Square
This December, the National Gallery is celebrating the festive season by taking a closer look at the angels within their collection with a series of talks, films and special events, both within the gallery and online.
Each week they will be releasing a new video on their YouTube channel inspired by different depictions of angels in art from the collection sharing their favourites on Twitter and Facebook. See the first video here.
Today, Friday 4th December, you can take part in the #AngelTrail and join the hunt. There will also be music and a pop-up bar. See here for more.
On Friday 11th the trail goes nationwide and will include other galleries and museum across UK and Ireland.

Oddities at The Tower of London

This continues from my posts about the animals at the Royal Menagerie and horses and armour in The White Tower.
There are lots of other interesting things in and around the complex. I really liked the life-size metal sculptures of soldiers/guards protecting the high walls and the lovely relevant detailing on the metal posts that hold the ropes and chains.
One of my favourite artefacts on display is a gorgeous little 13th Century portable altarpiece intricately carved from ivory. It's a hinged triptych only about 15cm wide when open and shows scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.

I spent quite a lot of time looking at the carved graffiti in the outer towers. Much of it is very beautifully carved; lovely letterforms and detailed religious and astrological references. Read this post by The Gentle Author for some great pics and information

And now for some oddities:
A grille protective around nothing (I think there used to be an old downpipe here).
A very strange man-beastwho is depicted with his spine facing forward – he looks comical and uncomfortable.
Heart shaped shit on the window.
Tudor fire extinguishers.
I like the way layers of history and renovation can still be seen as in the underside of a spiral staircase.
Something is missing on the pavement.
Stairs to nowhere
A 20th Century box downpipe
Pavement patterns.
By Tradition Henry V1 died here (May 21st 1471)
The contemporary glass and metal memorial thing for the execution site is bloody awful(!). It's an appalling bit of design on many levels and the cushion on the top (which I assume is a ref to catching one of the three severed heads that were lopped off there) fills with rain, leaves and all sorts of muck.
A Tudor safe. 

Jane's Advent Calendar – 4th December

A milestone marker on Haverstock Hill shows it's 4 miles to London
Measurements to/from London have generally been taken from Trafalgar Square. However, calculations have shown that today the actual centre is a bench on Victoria Embankment near Kings College.

3 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 3rd December

The Three Greyhounds public house, Old Compton Street, W1
The name of this pub is a reference to the hunting dogs that were used to chase hares in this area of London when it was a royal hunting ground.

2 December 2015

Jane's Advent Calendar – 2nd December

The Two Chairman mid-18th public house, 30 Dartmouth Street SW1
The sedan chair originated in the 17th Century. Wealthy people paid "chairmen to carry them over the muddy streets.
It is suggested that “Cheerio” derives from people calling “Chair Ho” to attract the attention of chairmen.

1 December 2015

The Foundling Museum

The Foundling Museum sits tucked away on the north side of leafy Brunswick Square Gardens in Bloomsbury.
Hidden within you will find many time-absorbing items of interest. As well as artefacts illustrating the moving stories of orphaned and abandoned children, you'll see artworks by Hogarth, Gainsborough and Reynolds, and a huge collection of manuscripts, recordings and books relating to Handel, including his will and the manuscript of The Messiah.

And, as shown above, in the reception area there is a small gift shop. Take time to check out the truly unique jewellery made from clay pipes (plug! plug!*).
There is also a very good cafe there.

*see other outlets here

Jane's Advent Calendar – 1st December

No.1 Buckingham Palace Road

27 November 2015

Kensington Palace – what a revelation

Why oh why had I never been in here before. What a lovely surprise.
It's always the way, isn't it? you live in a city and take it for granted saying that next week you'll go and see what these bloody tourists are all looking at, and the day never comes.
Well, I finally went inside and it's bloody marvellous.
Kensington palace is sort of split into three historical periods. And, by chance we viewed it in, what we now believe in hindsight to be, the right order...
Actually this is a bit silly me posting about this and showing you pictures because I think the reason I loved it there so much is because I had no preconceptions whatsoever.
Oh well... sorry... here goes...

First we admired some of Queen Elizabeth II's frocks. She was tiny!!
The simple elegance of these dresses compared to the ones particularly worn by Diana Princess of Wales on display in another room was quite a shock. The 80s has a lot to answer for fashionwise; padded shoulders, puffball skirts, off the shoulder asymmetric concoctions, dropped waistlines, electric blue, gaudy green, hideous fabrics etc. 
Next to the Queens apartments. Simple and functional and homely.
Then... crash bang wallop!!! into the Kings Apartments – trompe l'oeil agogo!!!
Shown here is the famed staircase (the Queen's one has plain wooden panelling on the walls).  
Almost every room had a splendiferous ceiling and faux columns on the walls.
I caught Malcolm sitting on the throne.  
I was impressed that the information was given not on the standard boards but could be found subtly placed on relevant items within each room such as on fire screens, or on the excellent clothing recreated by the palace's design department sewn using a waterproof paper that beautifully imitates soft material.
Also, there was interactive lighting, sounds and music which occurred intermittently. In one room some dancers could be heard tapping the floorboards as their 'shadows' appeared on the wall. Delightful.
And lots of paintings, some large and fruity and others pocket-sixed and exquisite.
We played tried out some old dice and card games.  
Getting dressed back then wasn't a quick lick and a promise and sling on a onesie to pop out for a pint of milk. Those enormous dresses were as wide as a double bed and took hours to put on and take off, requiring helpers in order to be tied into the things. The second pic shows the uncomfortable under-structure that must have caused all sorts of wear and tear to the hips. What a painful palaver.
The third and fourth pic were taken in the Kings Gallery which is the only one of his rooms that bears any resemblance to the Queen's equivalent (see above left) – though, note the ceiling. 
We spotted a beautifully carved bust of a black slave. Wrong. Totally wrong. But how can you not admire the workmanship using different stones for different elements?
Time was running out and the palace staff (all absolutely lovely by the way and obviously happy to be working there) were ushering us out of the building closing doors behind us. So we whizzed through the Victorian wing vowing to come back soon so I only managed to snap a couple of pics of the The Great Exhibition Hall before exiting through the gift shop.
In the gardens outside I was a bit upset by the message being sent out by the topiary.
How jolly rude!

24 November 2015

The Worshipful Company of Skinners – a tour of the livery hall

Another London Historians gathering.
It was sold as a tour but about half of it was spent sitting on chairs in the main hall listening to what can only be termed a lecture, most of which I could have found out on their website. This hall was fasciniating with its sloping floor (historic subsidence) but I was disappointed that there wasn't much time for snooping about and seeing the rest of the rooms in detail. Shame.
Here are some pics

17 November 2015

A walk along Kings Road (part 3) – A convoluted statue and Wright's Dairy

This continues on from here

Has anyone ever really taken a good look at that bizarre bit of street sculpture outside French Connection on the corner of Markham Square in Kings Road? I looked for an info plaque when I was there but couldn't find anything. 
This is what I see: A woman sitting back on one foot with one knee raised, with some kind of fish-shaped thing on her lap and a strange inverted L-shaped instrument over her right shoulder. Hmmm... let's think... is she playing a cello or some kind of musical instrument? 
I am stumped.  

I tried for 40 minutes to find some information about it, searching online using words such as sculpture, street art, public, French Connection, Kings Road, bronze, woman, kneeling, Markham Square, etc., and I have come up with nothing. If I knew the artist it might help. Other people are also intrigued.
UPDATE: I asked for ideas and thanks to some feedback in the comments section below I now know it to be 'Bronze man and Eagle' by Richard Bently Claughton, commissioned by Barclays Bank and unveiled in April 1966.

Diagonally opposite is the old Wright's Dairy building with its magnificent terracotta cow's head on the angled third floor corner. Archive pics* show that the Wrights were "cow keepers and dairy farmers" and "Acknowledged to be the Finest Dairy in the District". Nothing like a bit of self promo eh; they may well have been the only dairy in the area!
Old Church Street, Google Streetview, 20th July 2015.
Note also the painted tiles with rural depictions
But I think these pics show their extensive premises further west, in what is now Old Church Street where a subsequent owner used to keep 50 cows. The same cow's head can be seen on the front of the building (see pic right) and there is another one on the front of another building that faces the end of the alley where the red car is parked.
So, back to the building at the Sloane Street end of Kings Road shown in the pics above... having just spent the a further fruitless 25 minutes on this second research mission, I am again stumped. Without access to archive business listings for the street, and/or until someone tells me otherwise, I am going to make an educated guess and say that it was a shop selling the milk and dairy products that were produced at Wright's farm a mile way to the west in [Old] Church Street.
What do you think?
All feedback welcome.

*Credt archive pics: Exciting Postcards 

10 November 2015

The Artizans monograms of 431–487 Harrow Road

I am often bemused and confused as to why the owners of shops within a once beautiful terrace have felt the need to paint their half of the dividing columns. After all the shops would all look more distinct if the dividers were the same thus creating a frame. It just beggars belief why some beautiful patterned and glazed tiles or moulded stonework has been covered over – why can't they just leave them as is?!!!
A couple of months ago I was on one of Jen's walking tours and as we passed a long terrace in Harrow Road I noticed that most of the dividers had been painted through the middle of the initials of a company who either originally built it or traded from within.

It's either AL&CD Company Limited or A&LCD. Note the use of LIM where we now use LTD.
On the northern end of the terrace and in a couple of places high up along the front of the terrace a wonderful monogram using the same letters can be seen.
However I cannot identify the L within these entwined letters. So perhaps it's just "A&CD Co Lim"? In which case what's the significance of the L in the rectangles – a strange ampersandy thing I have never seen before perchance?
As regards researching who this company was I have tried a bit of google-woogle and come up with nothing except a South African Kitchenware company (AL&CD) who don't seem to have ever been in London.
Can anyone help?

Aha!... it's not a C; it's G – turns out it's the Artizans, Labourers & General Dwellings company (interesting that artizans is US spelling but labourers is not)
See the comments for some info/links from Martin