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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.