31 December 2016

Follow the Light Trail at Kew Gardens 2016

Colourful loveliness.

Kew Gardens Christmas Lights Trail 2016
I especially loved the fields of colour-changing musical little balls on sticks, the large white lilies and some of the older trees such as Turner's Oak benefitting from some good lighting (second pic bottom row).
We went there on 29th Dec which if you recall was a really cold evening. Though a bonus was that the sprinkling of frost on the grass made another reflective panel for the colourful lights. See more pics here.
Here's a link to my last visit in 2013 which on reflection I think was a  more magical experience – I don't recall there being a small funfair or so many booths along the trail selling things such mulled wine, honey mead, marshmallows and gingerbread. Oh well, that's progress for you.
Nevertheless; it's a joy.
There are only two days left to see this though it looks to be fully booked so make a note in your diary for next year.
As we walked back towards the station we noticed Jack Frost had been busy making some amazing patterns on some of the cars. I haven't seen the like of that since the on my bedroom windows when I was a child.

Jack Frost woz ere

30 December 2016

A ghostsign above The Old Dairy

Here we go again... how come I have only recently been spotting ghostsigns that must have been there for decades?!
Considering I usually stop to admire the Old Dairy building, you think I would have noticed before last month that there is a faded sign above it to the right on Crouch Hill (originally part of Stroud Green Road).

The big name at the top looks to end in ROW and the word AGENTS is evident.
As usual, any ideas and information always welcome

21 December 2016

Yellow foam people – street art in Hornsey Road – by Kit (?)

Updated 27th Dec 2016 – see last paragraph

Over the past few weeks a community of devilish little foam men has been appearing around the junction of Grenville Road and Hornsey Road, London N19.

I first noticed these characterful people made from pipe lagging two weeks ago but it wasn't until yesterday that I had a chance to take some photos.
I think they are marvellous – they have so much personality. When I was taking these pics no one else in the busy street was paying them any attention. What is wrong with people?!
A couple of the original ones have already gone and others have been damaged such as the second one on the bottom row which in the first week was walking down the post and then last week he was doing some kind of circus pose (one limb having become unattached. Now he's legless and looks like he is clinging on for dear life!
Some have a Christmas theme – note the santa hats. One is hanging from a scaffold firing what looks like a ray gun or it might be spray paint – he has two canisters on his back and more in his thigh pockets. Another little foam fella is sat above the burned out shop lighting a cigarette with his face covered in soot.  The group of three angels/sprites is amazing and reminds me of the sprites in Midsummer Night's Dream.
I have no idea who made these artworks. Someone is evidently busy  at night time scaling ladders armed with cable ties. I have googled and come up with nothing. I went into the upholsterer's on the corner of Grenville Road but the girl at the desk didn't have a clue about the artworks and neither did she seem to care much and those three fabulous angels are right outside her window! I am now wondering if Deti's Deli Cafe might be involved seeing as one of the yellow fellas is walking down the wall following arrows to there.
Hmmm... This needs more investigation. I will keep returning to this junction to see if more little yellow men appear and will post pics and updates here.
Whoever is doing this, I salute you. Thanks for brightening up the world with street art that does not deface or damage anything.

On Christmas Eve I noticed the name Kit at the foot of the smoking man – see pic to the right. Perhaps this has been there for ages and I missed it before. 
I asked the man who runs the convenience store below if he knew who Kit was and he says he thinks it's a customer who uses the shop.
I have an idea that Kit the creator lives above the shops near the carpet store... am I right?  Do tell.... ;-)

13 December 2016

Beans Express Carriers Ghostsign on City Road

This post has been updated
How long have I been walking and bussing past this and not noticed it?! I only spotted it in November when hunting for signs to use for my Angel Islington card. Has it been covered up or has it been there hidden in plain sight all this time?

I doubt the wording "BEANS EXPRESS CARRIERS" is about beans in the green or baked sense; perhaps this was a company called Beans who were offering an efficient courier/delivery service.
Look closely and see that EXPRESS is written twice here hinting that the sign has been repainted at least once. Also the smaller EXPRESS wording and CARRIERS are rendered in a different style to the larger BEANS EXPRESS; thay have drop shadows on a darker panel which may suggest that this part of the sign is a later addition, perhaps for a different company whose name has faded away over time.
Any further ideas and feedback welcome.
Lots more cards here

7 December 2016

Ideas about a tiled doorway at The Hot Wok, 265 Caledonian Road, N1

You are probably already aware that I like to find nice old tiles or mosaics especially with the original company name embedded within them. Here is a link to a particularly good collection I put together earlier this year.
This post is about a tiled doorway in Caledonian Road

The lovely green and cream tiles in this particular entrance are approx 100 years old and are in stark contrast to the fast food outlet that these days occupies the ground floor here.
The mosaic doorway has been as good as vandalised by subsequent owners; the first word having been obliterated, but in a half-arsed way. Surely it would have been easier just to have covered the whole thing?!
I know that a while back this shop was a butcher's but I am pretty sure this was not the primary owner.
I have been looking at this today trying to work out what name could have been on the top line. It's clearly a short name of only four or five letters ending in "ts".... but where is the possessive apostrophe? Surely a family name as in Evan's Stores or similar would make better sense?
But hold the front page!  I may be onto something here!!
I was just about to ask for ideas but just as I wrote the above and studied the shape of the first letter I had a "Eureka!" moment...
I believe it starts with a "B" and so it's very possible that this could be an old Boot's the Chemist Store.
See below for ref of Boots old logo and signage; it's a strong possibility. But I was wrong. That's not a B, it's an F – I subsequently looked further into this and found out it was a Frost's grocery store

As well as photos of old ghostsigns I also old tins which include the ones shown here illustrating how Boots changed adapted their logo using 'Chemists' or 'Drug Co Ltd' within the underscore.
Hmmm... I'm now thinking the shop doorway name doesn't have an underscore under the first word and I might be totally wrong here.
What do you think? Could it be a Boots Store? Do you have other ideas or, better still, some facts... please do get in touch.

I have a collection of other mosaic obliterations. I will collect them together and save them for another day. UPDATE: It's a Frosts store... Frosts was a small chain of grocery shops

5 December 2016

A Wooden Cover Plate in Tollington Park

Strolling along Tollington Park, a lovely road in N4, last week I happened across a large rectangular cover plate within the pavement that was, and still is, wooden on its uppermost face. I have never seen such a thing before.
I thought at first this was the secondary layer; the metal and concrete lid having been removed but, no, on close inspection it can be seen that the wood is flush with the pavement.
Walking further along the pavement, that's sidewalk to my readers in the States ;-), I noticed that it was the same dimensions at the old BT ones that have the pebble-dashed tops, see above bottom right.
So, this means underneath that eroded wooden top with holes in it there are wires and all sorts of circuit doobreys for telephones.
Is this OK?
I assume so, seeing as the wood appears to have been exposed to the elements for quite some time already.
Hmmm... pondering...

30 November 2016

Christmas Lights Switch On – Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park – Thursday 1st December

I hope this event will be as colourful as the poster. This area just behind Finsbury Park Station has been gradually upping its game these past few years with lots of yummy food places, funky second hand clothes, art galleries and, of course those great wig shops in Stroud Green Road.
This one-day event will take place in Fonthill Road starting at 2.30pm and ending at 7pm. I will have a stall there selling my cards and prints and these will include Islington, Haringey, Arsenal and Hornsey Baths images, plus my Christmas adaptations.  
More info here.

Three samples from the Arsenal range
Many more stripey collections available
On the following day, Friday 2nd December, there will be a small lighting-up event aimed mainly at children up at Archway Mall, 3.30–5.15pm (no stalls) followed next weekend by Caledonian Road's event on Saturday 10th Dec from 11am–5pm – another colourful street festival organised by #TheCallyMarket  (I will be trading at this one too).
Despite living just around the corner from the Hags Head Shopping Centre and junction in Holloway, I am not aware if Islington Council will be organising their yearly Christmas Extravaganza – an overblown name for a rather low-key and under-publicised event. Your guess is as good as mine.

25 November 2016

Read about my cards and prints in today's Islington Tribune

#IslingtonTribune – Available free from many Islington outlets.

Click here for the online version of this article

For info of other ways to buy from me please see "Cards and Prints" at top right of this blog.

22 November 2016

Funny Shaped Jugs – a fund-rasing exhibition to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness at Coexistence, Islington, Dec 2nd and 3rd

Ceramic jugs, all size 36C, handmade by Vicky Thornton,
Sales from this unusual two day exhibition at 288 Upper Street will go to Maggie's Centre's for cancer support.
Read more here.

Some bare-breasted ladies on London buildings – can you identify them?

14 November 2016

An update on Blackstock Road shop

In August I posted some pics of an old burnt shop front at the Finsbury Park end of Blackstock Road.
A couple of weeks ago I spotted that the renovation is almost complete.

It turns out to be very sympathetic to the original design, although I am not too keen on the colour; perhaps they think that strange spicy brown shade goes well with the bright red...?
I notice it's looking a bit faceless at the moment and I hope they are not planning to add some nasty back-lit perspex signs.... Watch out for a second update...

10 November 2016

St Mary's Church, Hornsey Rise / Ashley Road, N19

Whilst sorting out a backlog of photos last week I found a few I took back in May of the stone faces around the doors and windows of St Mary's church, just off Hornsey Rise in N19.
The faces are set at shoulder level and this has tempted some creative soul(s) to add some colourful enhancements:

The faces might have all been scrubbed been clean by now; I will check next time I am passing as I am sure you will be asking for updates (yeah, right).

7 November 2016

The pavement signs of Borough

Here are two examples of what were originally intended to be informative signs embedded into manhole covers on and around Borough High street.

But alas, as you can see, some of the letters have magically lifted off or just flown away.
I have yet to find one that doesn't have some letters missing so I will make a fairly educated guess that some mischievous folk are having a whale of a time prising off individual letters to hilarious effect.
Ooh my sides have split.

3 November 2016

The London Apprentice / 333 Mother Bar, Old Street, Hoxton

I was just having a tidy up and found this pic I snapped a few months ago of the original tiled entrance of this Hoxton venue.

The sinuous organic feel of the letterform dates it to the Art Nouveau era (approx 1890-1910). A bit of sleuthing confirms that the building was completed in 1895, however, I am finding it hard to marry up any of the external architectural features within these images – perhaps at some point it was rebuilt and only the floor was retained...?!  Doubt it.

Lots more wordy doorway mosaics here. Or just click on the relevant tags below or to the left

27 October 2016

Everybody reads the Daily Express

Last month I was in the Willesden area and so went to check on one of my favourite ghostsigns.

I was glad to see that apart from a bit of graffiti at the bottom nothing much has changed since I was there in 2009. Phew!
This old hand-painted sign for Express newspapers is rather impressive, though it's really difficult to get a better pic of it than the the one shown here because nearby buildings, walls and street furniture conspire to obscure the view.
I have attempted a bit of half-arsed research but cannot find any info about the company being at this location so I would assume this was just an advertising site. But, as you can see, it's quite a sight at this site because this sign is enormous – probably the largest one I know of – it covers the whole side of a house.
On close inspection it can be seen that there have been two ads here; one painted directly over the other.
'DAILY' can be just made out covering almost all of the upper third and there are remnants of blue and yellow paint visible at shoulder level, so I wonder if the latter sign was for Daily News who I have noticed implemented a bold heavy sans face on yellow backgrounds on their ads at other locations, such as on Seven Sisters Road near St Anne's Road in Tottenham.
The earlier sign shows the ad for Express newspapers with the titles rendered in the same style as their mast heads:
   Daily Express
   Sunday Express
(So that's not everybody is it? Ha ha!)

That same weekend I was delighted to find some new [to me] ghostsigns in north west London which I will post about next month.

21 October 2016

Archway Market – a colourful gem on Holloway Road every Saturday

Archway Market comes alive every Saturday on the wide pavement at the corner of St John's Grove and Holloway Road, two minutes' walk from Upper Holloway Station. Market hours are 10-5pm [approx].
For a small market the choice is wonderfully varied – organic vegetables, hand-crafted cheeses, meats, pastries and cakes, a hog roast, plus a great second hand book stall and greeting cards & prints.

A diversity of delights
the wonderful colours of nature
Yummy!  But by the time I thought to take these photos, at approx 3.45pm on Saturday 8th Oct, most of the cakes had gone and the hog roast was almost a carcass (see bottom right).
I would also recommend the grocer/convenience store on the corner where you can get good cheap proper coffee.

And now for the personal promo bit...
Find me selling my cards and prints of local images and montages every first and third Saturday (plus more dates if possible).
This weekend (Saturday 22nd) sees the launch of my locally-themed Christmas cards – nine options to choose from – come and place an order (free local delivery).

10 October 2016

Bernard Morgan House, Golden Lane Estate, Barbican

After delivering some of my cards to Exhibit on Goswell Road last month, I went for a walk around the Barbican complex and then to the Golden Lane Estate.
The marvellously colourful tiled entrance of Bernard Morgan House caught my eye:

Wonderful colors and images
Walking anti-clockwise around the building in to Golden Lane itself I noticed that all was not well; the garden area was in a terrible state and plants had been allowed to climb up the building. It was obvious that no one was living there now.

Taking the concept of urban meadows to a new level
 And then I spotted the demolition signs attached to the building.

The cobbled ramp that leads from the street, more fab tiles on the northern end of the building and, at the rear, specific signs of how the prep for demolition was underway
These pics were taken a month ago. The building may have gone completely by now. I know it's not a pretty structure but the whole of the Golden Lane Estate was constructed in the 1950s to bring social/affordable housing in a harmonious open plan environment to this area of London. It seems a shame that this building has not stood the test of time like so many similar structures in the area.
What will happen to the tiles? Can I have them please...?

7 October 2016

Signs of the times

Today I bring you some lovely old shop signs, most of which have since been removed.

Row by row: Soho, Holloway, Barnsbury, Clapton, Smithfield, Deptford, Lambeth, Piccadilly and Muswell Hill
And here are some others that please me:

New Oxford St, Belgravia, Fleet St, Gospel Oak, Fleet St and Finsbury Park

4 October 2016

The Alexandra Palace Theatre

On Tuesday 27th September I went up to Ally Pally for a tour of the old theatre that has lain unused and dilapidated for decades.
Ally Pally, The Peoples' Palace, opened in opened in May 1873 and the first theatre within it was built to stage "operatic and dramatic performances". The theatre was, at that time, a state-of-the-art venue special safety features by Grieve and Son including "lavish back-stage facilities" all new to the country at that time.
1) The Transmitter Tower steps feature lovely decorative AP-themed handrails; a device that is echoed all over the complex. 2) The frontage of the building displaying a poster for the theatre renovation. 3) The theatre reception hall (which will be converted into a foyer with a bar area to the rear). 4) Entrance to the main auditorium.
A few weeks later, on 9th June 1873, Ally Pally burned down caused by "a morsel of red hot charcoal" being dropped by workmen repairing the lead on the Great Dome. Despite the theatre's safety measures it was destroyed along with the whole complex in a fierce fire that took hold rapidly.
A meeting was called on the actual day of the fire to discuss rebuilding whole site. The second theatre, the one we see today, opened in 1875, although not to the same design. It had even greater fire and safety measures again designed by Grieve and Son.
On entering the auditorium that used to seat 2,500 people, I couldn't help but imagine how marvellous this use space must have been in its Victorian heyday with its decorative mouldings and fabulous curved upper balcony.
Details and traces of paint remain intact – these will be sympathetically restored in the same way as at Wilton's Music Hall.
Damage has set in over the years and, sadly,  a lot of the deterioration was exacerbated by the BBC using the space as a store room for heavy props.
Restoration work began in 2011. A lot of work has already taken place but, as you can see, there's so much more to do and this will need in excess of £1million funding in order to get this beautiful old interior ready for the public.
Moulded arched sections on each side may not have been original – it's suggested these may have been part of an old theatre set. The ceiling is at the moment secured with rows of batons and tape which will be removed at a later date.
The venue was subsequently used to show films. The projection room, a much later addition, is still there, jutting out into the curved upper level.

The stairs that lead down from the projection room, the room itself, the view from it, and a pencilled "wot no..." Kilroy-esque cartoon on the wall nearby.
The backstage area is exceptionally large for its type. Sadly, we were not able to view the under stage area to see where all the special lifting and shifting stage mechanics were housed.

The corridor to the left of the theatre borders what is now the ice rink. From the stage there is a great view of the 2,500 seat auditorium. Old curtains were still in place, hanging torn and dirty. Three different conference chairs amused me as they looked completely out of place amongst the old wood and Victorian fittings. 

On the day I was there the vast Great Hall was empty as it was between exhibitions so we popped in for a closer look and clearer view of the Willis Organ and Rose Window. It was really strange to see the place so empty as I have only been in there for live gigs and exhibitions.

More info about Ally Pally on the website

3 October 2016

Two closed pubs in Smithfield

Walking around Smithfield last month I was saddened to see that two of the characterful pubs I used to sometimes drink in are closed and awaiting development.

I hope there is hope for The Hope on the corner of Cowcross Street
The Smithfield Tavern in Charterhouse Street
In the last decade many of the pubs in this once vibrant meat market district have either been closed completely or have been gutted and remodelled resulting in the loss of all the old fittings including etched glass and carved wood. Let's hope these two establishments will be revived with their historical details intact.

28 September 2016

Classic Car Boot Sale, Kings Cross 1&2 October 2016

Another colourful weekend coming up at Kings Cross – bric-a-brac, clothes, household, crafts, cards, and more. Plus cars, food, music, drink and dancing.
This time I will be in the covered area. Do come and say hello.
Here are some pics from previous events:

More info here

22 September 2016

Shopicide – memories of W. Burrows & Sons, a charming old fish shop in Acton

What is the word for destroying and 'modernising' something and replacing all that was historical, handmade and interesting with nothing of any style or class? I've decided on 'shopicide'.
In January 2009 I took these pics of the old fish & chip restaurant and fishmongers at the northern end of East Acton Lane near Savoy Circus (named after a cinema and a roundabout, both long gone).

As you can see, the shop frontage was lovely with a hand-painted sign by Brilliant Signs Ltd of W12 (Permenart) and the little panels in the windows had decorative glass panels and ventilation inserts. Along the bottom there were lovely hand-fired green tiles with five fish motifs at regular intervals. For some reason I only took photos of three of them:

The shop was clearly closed for business. Peering in through the window I could see the lovely old wooden seating was still intact. However, some kind of renovation was underway – there were paint pots on the counter which was covered in a cloth. I assumed they were merely doing a bit of decorating. 

I haven't visited the area since ten and so, last weekend when I was in the vicinity, I took a short detour to go and check out what has become of the place.
But, oh dear, what a disaster – everything shown above has gone. And I mean everything. I didn't get out of the car to take photos because it was just too much to take in. Instead, I googled it when I got home and these streetview screengrabs show that absolutely nothing is left of the old shop:

How is this allowed to happen? I have tried searching for other images of the old shop but the only pics I can find are my own – there must be some in an archive somewhere...?

Sad face.

15 September 2016

The Artizans, Labourers & General Dwellings company, Noel Park, Wood Green

The Artizans, Labourers & General Dwellings Company was a not-for-profit company that built social housing in areas of London with good rail links to the city, keen to promote good health and well-being in the poorer classes.
Ambling along Wood Green High Street yesterday I spotted one of their monograms above a branch of Subway on the east side of Wood Green High Road just north of the modern shopping mall. The building continues south housing thirteen shops but unlike the terrace on Harrow Road here in Wood Green most of the logos on the dividing columns at street level are now either missing, damaged or indiscernible.

Top left shows the unpainted terracotta relief above Subway. Top right shows another cartouche/monogram further down the terrace. I could find only three dividing columns that retain the complete ALGD monogram (the one not shown here is totally painted black).
Further down the road, on the same side, I found another two terraces bearing the same marks on either side of Dovecote Avenue which, despite its evocative name, these days leads to nowhere.

Top left shows the three monograms on the buildings either side of Dovecote Avenue
These terraces were part of the company's Noel Park estate built between 1883 and 1929.  I have not yet accessed any old maps or archives of the area but it's fair to assume that the company probably had more buildings along the Wood Green Road that may have have been demolished to make way for Wood Green Shopping City in the 1970s.
The Wikipedia info on the Artizans, Labourers & General Dwellings Company also lists ALGD sites at Battersea, Queens Park and Streatham – info and pics welcome.

6 September 2016

Holloway Road Old and New – nos.171-185

The changing face of the Holloway Road*.
Today I am looking at the section that ends at the junction of Palmer Place and Drayton Park.

As you can see from these pics comparing the 1970s with 2013 not much has changed really.
Aha! But don't be fooled into thinking this stretch has been cared for over the years, because about five years ago this whole terrace and parade was cleaned up to remove all the graffiti and layers of unnecessary paint where shop owners had applied the "this is my have of the dividing column, so I will paint it" rule.
I get disheartened every time I see that beautiful old tiles on delineators between shops have been painted over. And on pubs too. What's the point of that? Tiles are almost self-clening and they don't need painting.
Oops, I digress... back to the pics...
Most of the shops along this stretch are now food outlets of some description; take aways, fast-food chicken, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. So it's great to see that Bartlett's the hifi store is still trading at the same location after all this time. I have lived in Holloway almost 30 years and this is one of a only a few shops that has been a constant during this time.

See all the posts in this occasional series about Holloway Road here

Also see this old post about painted shop dividers

*This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend recently about how some roads have an extra 'the' put in front of them as in The Strand, The Aldwych, The Old Kent Road, etc.

2 September 2016

The Great Fire Of London – started 350 years ago today

On September 2nd 1666 a fire started at a bakery in Pudding Lane and spread rapidly, blazing away through the neighbouring streets and eliminating away a great swathe of the city.
The event was commemorated in the 1670s by the erection of The Monument on the site of St Margaret’s, the first church to succumb to the flames. The doric column with a golden urn of fire at the top. It's height of 62 metres echoes its distance from the source of the fire.  
Commemorative events and activities throughout the city this weekend. Find out more here.

Greeting cards featuring some of my photos above and many other London landmarks and observations can be found here.

26 August 2016

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016

Last Monday, prior to the RA Summer Show, I spent a lovely birthday day in glorious sunshine Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park and got to see Bjarke Ingels' marvellous pavilion outside the Serpentine Gallery.

This one is particularly good I think. It's a beautiful, yet simple, structure and has a function – there is a cafe within it.
A short stroll away there are some other smaller pavilions worth checking out:

Until 9th October.
More info here.