25 January 2017

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf until Friday 27th January

There are still three evenings left to see this (including today).

Some of my pics from last night. 
Some of the light installations are wonderful including many of those in Crossrail Place Level –3 (a pain to find, but worth the effort), the mesmerising musical balls on sticks which I loved at Kew last month, the gorgeous ova, the clever water word drop.
We didn't manage to see everything. And, as a friend said some of it is "underwhelming", but I think that's what makes the good things even better.
One of my favourite stops was the simple and very effective horizontal fence created by joining about eight trees in a zig zag using different widths of tape which was then highlighted by ultraviolet lights:

Other people were doing the selfie thing so I joined in and found that if I stood directly in front of the lights I could make myself look very attractive indeed.

Check the site for the actual names, creators and info

23 January 2017

Misinformation at Camden Lock Stables Market

Whilst wandering around Camden a few weeks back I stopped to read an informative hoarding along the site that is being developed immediately south of Hawley Road in Chalk Farm Road. It was all about Camden's history and contained some interesting little snippets with web addresses for further info.
I crossed the road and entered the market building, wandering around assessing how things have changed so much in the past 30 years since I used to go there on a regular basis in the 1990s. I stopped for a while near the steps that lead down to the underground old stables markets and I watched people posing with that dreadful statue of Amy Winehouse. It was then I noticed the words above the tunnel: "STABLES MARKET SINCE1854"
Whaaaaat?!  No no no!!!

Pics from this year, left (above tunnels, near Amy) and right (above northern exit to Roundhouse), plus an older pic in the centre
Dear reader, there have been stables for the railways' horses, and a hospital for them since 1854 but the market didn't arrive for another 120 years. Yes, 120 years later.
Back at home I started searching for further ref thinking I must have mis-read or mis-understood something.
It gets worse...

I found that not only are the current signs misleading, they are replacements of old signs (see above, top left and centre and compare them with the first three pics) and so a chance to clarify the meaning of the date as referring only to the site and not the market had been missed.
Further to that, in many cases the date has obviously been squeezed in as an add-on/afterthought as if the marketing team decided that a bit of Victorian would somehow boost sales (more about this at the end).

So let's get this straight... Pay attention please...
Pre-1972 the area that is now called "Camden Lock" was a ramshackle collection of old warehouses with a timber wharf. Some of those buildings were renovated to create workshops and. In 1973 the tenants opened their doors to the public and these included five Hornsey College of Art students who made jewellery. In 1974 they started a small crafts market on the bare ground next to the road immediately to the north of the canal bridge. The success of that venture attracted more designer-makers to the area turning Camden into a haven for artisans and artists.

The hoarding in Chalk Farm Road gives the correct date ...  and another mistake – notice that the figure 8 is the wrong way round – we are seeing its underside!  
With its rapid success, what started out as a small Saturday market quickly expanded to cover a wider area spreading into other adjacent spaces, such as empty railway arches and offices. The old horse hospital alongside Chalk Farm Road became the home of the antique and bric-a-brac trade. However, the labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and stables remained mostly unused until the turn of the century.
In fact you can get most of this info from Camden Market's official website. Though there are a few tenuous things in there including calling a AmyW a 'Camdonite'. Er? Where is Camdon?
for reference I have been checking through my two editions of "The Markets Of London", first printed 1983. The 1989 revised version reads of Camden Lock: "... making things and selling them is back in fashion; 'small is beautiful' seems to be here to stay... it is all very relaxed and pleasantly informal..." Not much of that is relevant now. Sad.
Camden Market is one big street food dispensary now. And Chalk Farm road is one big shoe shop). Most of the independent designer-maker, vintage or specialised stalls have moved on or given up.
Camden is now a market for the tourists now who, once they have taken that Amy Wine house pic and a couple of selfies to tick off the London experience from 'to do' list as they truffle down their stir fry at one of the picnic tables that have replaced the stalls.
The oldest market in Camden is in Inverness Street which probably started in 1860 when it was moved from the main road into the side street.

20 January 2017

A Waterloo Walk – marvellous mosaics and classic cars

On a recent walking tour of the Southbank led by the very informative Peter Bertoud he showed us the doorway to Southbank Mosaics in the crypt St John's. I had no idea about this. Neither did I know about the marvellous sculpture garden that surrounds the church. Of course, I will be investigating this further on a personal creative level.

A fabulous community project – check here for how to make some mosaics of your own
In nearby Roupell Street, one of the roads in the small conservation area nearby that I notice is being used as a location in the excellent second series of Unforgotten on ITV at the moment, I spotted some lovely old cars:

Classic cars in a great location – Three Citroëns and a Morris Minor

Nice eh?
Check out Peter's excellent walks and blog here.

17 January 2017

London Art Fair 2017, Business Design Centre, 18-22 January

Later this week Islington's old Agricultural Hall will again be the location for the London Art Fair, crammed full of all sorts of inspirational work, both old and new.

I make sure to visit at least once each year because there is so much to take in – this is not a nip in for one hour event as it is so varied.
My friend and I like to walk around slowly, taking it all in, spending imaginary vast sums of money on works of art for our imaginary reception rooms, guest wings and conservatories, though I have actually spent real money there – it's hard not to be tempted and, after all, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

13 January 2017

Kings Cross ghostsigns and Pentonville Road

Last year I wrote about the Daily Express sign at Willesden and within that I alluded to signs for the Daily News.... Well, I believe I have found another one near The Poor School at Kings Cross.

Pentonville Road, Kings Cross
Shown above are three pics of what remains of a sign that would have had letters about 10ft tall. The first word is definitely 'DAILY'. The word underneath starts with an 'N' and I am pretty sure it would have been 'NEWS'. I'd be keen to find additional archive history and images about this area.
The fourth picture shows an attractive building on the end of a two-storey terrace between Penton Street and Hermes Street on Pentonville Road (this stretch features in the link above) – I have been watching this site to see what happens to these lovely two-storey because other swathes of nearby land are being developed as I write this.
Kings Cross Quarter with two artist impressions of the view and gardens 
For instance Regal Homes are in the process of creating "Kings Cross Quarter" (which quarter? top left/bottom right? What does this MEAN?!) between Cynthia Street and Rodney Street.
The fancy hoardings around the exterior of this development feature swanky letters and images that show views that will be available from probably only a quarter (ha ha, see what I did there?!) of the 118 properties within, a concierge reception area and an "exquisite private landscaped garden" (their words, not mine – check the pic above – so exquisite!). On the developer's selling site it says the apartments will be "created with luxury and functionality... highest quality finishes... Sumptuous and welcoming... perfectly designed". It's beyond me how an empty room devoid of furniture and furnishings can be luxurious or sumptuous. And the exterior will beige and bland. It looks like a clip-together child's toy to me. Beige. What's with all this beige when so many other colours are available?
And whilst I am on the subject of new build, what's going on with all this clip-on fake faded bricks that's appearing like some kind of disease? OK, so they are trying to keep the old brick 'feel' but couldn't they have manufactured them with interlocking 'teeth' edges so that they don't end up with all those straight vertical joins where the panels abut?
Anyway, enough of that... back to ghostsigns... to Kings Cross proper, by which I mean the junction in front of the station and, specifically, the end of Gray's Inn Road.

Gray's Inn Road, Kings Cross
We all know the sign for Scales, Weights & Weighing Machines above 319-321 (formerly 37 Chichester Place), but next time you are passing do stop and look closer at the rest of the terrace to the right of that and see that there are hints of letters peeping through here and there. After all, why would all those places be covered in paint if not to cover up something?
It's only a matter of time before more is revealed. Fingers crossed this happens before the decorators get twitchy.   Part of the painted sign on the 323 is visible here. I need to find some more reference on this to confirm my hunch. The Ladykillers original film features this junction and might throw some light on the matter.

10 January 2017

The Fabric of Smithfield

The area has changed so much and so quickly. I recall going to a venue on Charterhouse Street for a friend's birthday party one Saturday evening in 1996. I can't remember the name of the place – I went there quite a few times – it had a restaurant and bar on ground floor and a dance floor in the basement. We used to enjoy being in an area of London so close to so many things yet quiet and unknown by so many – it felt like we were in on something only the locals and the market traders knew anything about. But that soon changed with the arrival of Fabric in 1999 and very quickly the buildings around the market changed to cater for the change in clientele and the shift in the meat market trade.
There are still some lovely old buildings in the area. Look up and around you – there's lots to see.
Charterhouse Street – Top: Cold Storage, a Fabric lion and a ram at 79-83 with more from that building on the second row. 
Just along from the Italianate Cold Storage building on Charterhouse Street and next door to Fabric is the 1930s Meat Inspector's Office built in Portland stone with lovely reliefs of cattle and sheep with rams heads at street level.

Lindsey Street and Long Lane. Both buildings demolished for Crossrail.
Crossrail has demolished all the buildings in Lindsey Street along the Western side of the market. Nothing Crossrail erects here will ever compare to the charm of the exterior of Edmund Martin's tripe shop or the Art Deco exuberance of Saville House that used to sit on the corner of Long Lane. It's criminal that this could not have been incorporated into Crossrail's designs.
Moving round into Long Lane itself, the deco building at 51-52 (first pic below) is still there but at the time of writing is covered in scaffold and nettings.

Evans & Witt are still trade at No.58 (phew!). The Barley Mow at No.50 ceased trading as a pub in 2006 though the building and the old pub name at the top still remains.

The pics above were taken in Sept2016 of the Farringdon end of Charterhouse Street. The poultry market looking as if it's actually being used, though the caging/fencing belies that. Hart's still had it sign up for last Christmas' auction. I had assumed that this had been the last one and the sign had just been there ever since as a sad reminder. However, I just checked and can report they had the auction as usual last month. So all is not lost. The PLA building still stands as imposing as the day it was built there to keep an eye on imports and exports to/from the market.
For info on Smithfield Market and the immediate area click here.

I wrote a few months ago about the closure of two pubs in the Smithfield area. I also noticed that in a fond piece written by Giles Coren about A. A. Gill in the Saturday Times magazine a week after Gill died he was pictured in The Hope, one of the pubs mentioned above. It seemed a strange ironic choice of image to me.

6 January 2017

Bosworth and Naseby join Harold in Highbury

Three houses in Elwood Street, near Arsenal's old Highbury ground, have some intriguing embellishments on them.

They have shields and faces of knights around the doors. And above the square bay windows are the names NASEBY, BOSWORTH and HAROLD.

The cartouche between the doors reads FCH which may be the initials of the developer who constructed these three properties

Note the castellations along the roof edges (pic from Google streeview)
I can only assume that the developer at the time (late Victorian?) was a history buff. Perhaps he was trying to commemorate some of England's most famous battles, but why show the locations of Naseby and Bosworth yet not have  Hastings/Battle on the last one rather than the name of the king who died there?
Or, perhaps, considering the house on the left has access to the rear, this could have been a builders' merchant where you could buy fancy add-ons and this was the company's visual catalogue...? This might suggest that you could commission something bespoke. 
Any ideas anyone? 

3 January 2017

Stop! Don't Forgotten the Hustler Soap – a ghostsign in Harrow & Wealdstone

Nice eh?
Apart from the re-pointing that is.
The ad looks to be Edwardian and shows the shopkeeper on the left calling the customer on the right to come back. This was beautifully painted as per some of the old Gillette ads and Army Club and other figurative signs.
Here ia a leaflet from iside one of the soap packets that I found here :
Soap packet leaflet
In the mid-1920s the company was including collectors' cards into the packets featuring animals, transport, soldiers, regiments, birds etc.
I can find almost nothing about this product or the manufacturer. It seems that the company was affiliated or bought out in the 20s as the name then changed to Knight (Hustler Soap) which I assume to be John Knight of the Primrose Soap Works in Newham, London, maker of Royal Primrose Soap and Knight's Castile soap.
If you have any more info, do let me know.