30 May 2017

Eversholt Street

This is a mixed bag abou the northern end of Eversholt Street, NW1, near Mornington Crescent Station.

Working along and down row by row of the pics:
A Google street view of the top section of the road shows Leverton & Sons sign on the right. A few years back it was re-painted. It's an appalling renovation. enough said.
Until approx 15 years ago the opposite side of the road was, just like Parkway a little further north, a parade of useful, independent shops which included a great tapas bar and the cafe shown here with the red sign.
Sandwiches etc belied its basic name and plastic sign because inside was marvellous. A friendly and hardworking Italian family ran this place for decades. It had fixed high back wood and padded seating which fitted in four groups of six people and they served up the most delicious fare including the best toasted ciabattas and focaccia I have ever tasted. Everyone I took inside loved it and requested to make a return visit. And the coffee was excellent, being as it was made my the grandfather who had been a barista for decades. They probably weren't even called baristas when he started out.
Sandwiches etc started to lose trade when Costas and Starbucks etc opened outlets along nearby Camden High Street. This was the same period as when the big supermarket chains began opening up mini/local versions everywhere which also helped  to change the face of this lower end of Camden Town completely. At that time I was an occasional freelance at a publishing company just around the corner within Greater London House/Carreras Building and rather than just nip around the corner to Sandwiches etc where a cappuccino was a mere 90p and would still be frothy after running back with it across the road and up two flights of stairs, work colleagues would instead march up the high street to one of the new places where they paid twice the price for lukewarm milky water. When I tried to tell them about the café they looked at me like I was the mad one.
The shop has since stood empty all this time. So sad on many levels.
The last pic on the middle row shows a faded old advertisement for George Clarke & Sons breakfast food above MC station which I expect many people have never noticed. It is, as they say, hiding in plain sight, though would have been very bright and visible to people on buses and trams heading southwards back in the day. Traffic today now flows only on the opposite direction.
The bottom pic shows a long tiled step in front of a shop near the café. I am wondering if this was the tapas bar, though in my mind that was further south. Any feedback welcome.
And finally the magnificent old post office at the junction opposite the station. No longer in use as such.
That'll do!

More Camden ghostsigns here including the Leverton one.

23 May 2017

Goodbye Blustons, Kentish Town Road – now residential?

Most of us in north London will know of Bluston's ladies' coats and gowns with its wonderful old-style shop front and walk-in/walk-around windows on Kentish Town's main high street.
Bluston's offered ladies of a certain age nice cardigans and day wear. However, the sign above suggests its earlier heyday of party dresses, evening gowns and cocktail frocks conjuring up an altogether different kind of clothes shop (scroll down to the bottom for an pic that hints at that).
My pictures in the mosaic below tell a story from 2008 to last month:

The top row shows how the shop looked up until until the end of last year displaying clothing around the £10-20 price mark. It was always a wonder how it survived so long. We've all known that closure was imminent but we all wanted it to stay there as is because we were fond of it. But market forces dictated differently.
In May last year I'd read a report in the Camden new Journal that after the owners left the shop would reopen as a clothes shop retaining the same name.
In December 2016 I noticed the premises next door had closed (Lidl) with the windows covered in newspaper (first pic second row). This had been a branch of Lidl which I believe has since moved across the road. However Blustons windows were still full.
Walking past it last month I found it locked up with the windows empty. I peered in through the glass to get a better look. Another lady (here in a yellow coat) was also intrigued and we both stopped to discuss it. Then we noticed a dog wandering about in there. It was whilst we were reading the hand-written sign on the window (written out in italics below) that a man came out to chat to us about it. It turns out he and others are squatting the premises because they are homeless. He says they respect the property and its historical features and just want somewhere to live.
Other people stopped to join in the conversation and we all chatted for a while about the amount of empty shops premises everywhere and empty rooms above them all going to waste which in time become damp and dilapidated due to not being maintained and subsequently unfit for purpose.
So, let's watch this space and keep our fingers crossed.
I wish him, his friends and the dog well. I wish the shop well. I hope there is a happy outcome to all of this for everyone involved.

Michael Albert was the owner of Blustons – click here for some of his tips
I'd love to find more archive/historic images of the store both inside and out but I am coming up short. The only evocative image I have found of exterior to give a hint of times past is this, when Ted Baker recently used it as a display space

If you can't read the words on the squatters' sign it says:
This is a non-residential building – Section 144 Laspo does not apply.
Please be aware
– That this is our home and we intend to stay here.
– That if you want to get us out, you will have to apply for a possession order.
– Any attempt to enter this building through threat/violence is a criminal offence and is punishable by a £5000 fine/ 6 moths imprisonment.
_That there is at least one person in this building at all times.
Signed the Occupiers

19 May 2017

Get up close to the Painted Hall ceiling at Greenwich ORNC – plus a tip for good cheap food

I can't recommend this enough.
The marvellous Painted Hall ceiling with the Old Royal Naval College buildings is being cleaned and conserved. Miles and miles of scaffolding have been erected within and guided tours are available so we can climb to the top and see the artwork up close.
The guided tour I went on last week was excellent – our guide explained so much about the history of the building and the meanings behind the imagery.
Absolutely fascinating and gorgeous too. It's a must-see.

See top right for some of the damage – it's hoped that the conservation work will last another 100 years before the next clean up
The quality of the wood carving is also amazing – see the hand bottom left and the head of a pollaxe at the centre 
My friend in the pics has written a much better account of this place. Click here.
Check out the availability for future tours here plus how to sponsor a section of the work.

And here's a good tip for where to eat in Greenwich – very close to the Painted Hall, at the far end of the Chapel building, there is a very good, and I mean very good, cafe/student refectory which is open to all and serves excellent choice of hot and cold food, yummy cakes and drinks all at normal prices. Being part of the university they aren't allowed to advertise so I told the friendly staff there that I'd give them a mention.
The unobtrusive entrance to the cafe is almost hidden at the at the eastern end of the ORNC complex opposite Park Row gate facing a building that has a strange frieze at the top depicting amongst many things a lion with a serpent's tail – see below (needs more research).
Map of the area

16 May 2017

A tour of The Society Of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly

As you enter Burlington House courtyard heading for the latest art exhibition at The Royal Academy, look left to see the doorway to The Society of Antiquaries – and then go inside and book yourself on a tour because it's one of London's little known gems and it's fab.
Here are some taster pictures of my recent visit.

Lots of marvellous paintings and one portrait is of Richard III fiddling with his ring. Oh please! Titter ye not. That's exactly what the guide told us.
Plus shelves and shelves of old beautiful leather books and a multi-level library. On the day I was there we were shown some pages in a huge scrapbook containing exquisite ephemera and illustrations relating to the Duke Of Wellington's funeral.
I visited with the London Historians – if you would like to find out more about LH just click here and if you are tempted to join (and why not, it's also fab) and first heard about LH from me here then please mention my name/site as there are discounts available for recommendations. Thanking you in advance.
Now to ponder the pronunciation of 'antiquaries' ... it's an-tik-warries, as opposed to 'antiquarian' which is pronounced anti-kware-ian. Go figure.
Isn't english fun?!

9 May 2017

The New Adelphi – an Art Deco masterpiece

A magnificent example of Art Deco architecture overlooks the River Thames.
Built in 1936-8 on the site of Adam brothers' original Adelphi this quietly impressive masterpiece with its clean lines and classical detailing still looks almost brand new today.

Today's architects should learn lessons from this efficient and functional yet attractive building and move away from the clip-togther panelled monstrosities that are being constructed as I write this. Though I expect, having shorter shelf lives the new builds are a constant source of revenue... hmmm.
The Adelphi boasts exquisite carvings and motifs at strategic places such as around the doors plus four large sculptures on the corners of the river-facing side each commissioned from less well-known artists of that era including Walter Gilbert and Arthur JJ Ayres who created the fabulous panels on and adjacent to Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End:

All these Ayres reliefs are available as greeting cards and some can be printed up as larger prints – please enquire
The Adelphi Story here.
The interior of the Adelphi building is just as marvellous as the exterior. See here for more.

5 May 2017

Archway Tavern, N19 – Save the Guinness Sign!!!!

The Archway Tavern building we see today dates from 1888. It looks down Holloway Road towards the City of London. In 1971 its interior featured on the cover of The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies album.
Over the past few years the pub has stood empty. The ground level was painted a sombre black when the pub was being renovated in preparation to be reopened a few years ago. But work ceased. However the upper floors are available to hire as a nightclub venue accessed by a staircase at the rear.

March 2008 left and April 2017 
As you can see by my comparison pics above, the surrounding pavements have recently been extended and remodelled to create an open piazza area. Judging by all the articles in the local press this has caused a lot of 'stress' and 'upheaval' for people confused how to navigate the junction as the building work progressed. The people of Archway don't like change. Grump grump. Harrumph harrumph.
Pedestrians have been getting all angsty as bus stops were moved and then moved again and motorists complained about not being able to navigate what used to be a roundabout. They are probably all still complaining now. And will continue to do so.
Approx 100 years ago
But hold your horses here people!! Back in the day this was never a roundabout in the first place. See right. Ditto Highbury and Islington roundabout, but that's another story.
I think the end result will be good for the area, not least of all for the shops and businesses in Archway Close that were as good as stranded on an island.
The building work is now almost complete and I have already made use of excellent pedestrian crossings from Archway Road, St John's Way and Holloway Road into the piazza and Archway tube station. My only concern is that the new cycle paths that cut through the zone may cause a few problems; the cyclists, not the cycle paths.
But, back to the tavern...
Look at the Millennium Guinness sign on the corner of the building and see how during the last nine years bits of it have fallen off.

Photos of the Guinness sign in 2008 and 2017. Available as a greeting card along with these other two also from the Archway Tavern.
The sign on the Archway Tavern was erected for 2000 and if you study it you can see it is a bizarre and not very animal-friendly image. It shows a workman, or possibly a clock repairer (or clock thief?!), standing on the nose of a seal and the beak an ostrich (which has a pint glass stuck in its throat) as he reaches up to the clock, with a toucan flying in from the right balancing two pints of the black stuff on its bill. It all looks rather precarious. But I love it.
York Way, June 2008
I am hoping that when the pub opens again the new owners will see fit to replace the missing letters on the sign.
Signs such as theses this become iconic local landmarks. Many have disappeared from our streets over the years including one that used to be on York Way opposite the end of Agar Grove – it had five happy Guinness pints under a clock.
An assessment of the sign here.
See also the Guinness collectors' site.

2 May 2017

Caledonian Road manholes and cover plates – Jeremy Corbyn eat your heart out!!

Jeremy's not the only pavement nerd in Islington.
You are probably already aware that I am partial to interesting boot scrapers, flame snuffers, fanlights and coal hole cover plates. Well just like my MP who likes to photograph man hole and storm drain covers I too often scan the pavements and tarmac for unusual functional metalwork.
It's not about crossing numbers off a list, as per a trainspotter (though Jezza might indeed have a shelf full of old ironmongers' catalogues), for me it's about the marriage of design and functionality, spotting a 'new' design I hadn't seen before; noticing new wordings and agreeable patterns.
Designs have changed or have been adapted over the decades. Some companies have become completely defunct as utilities change and thus become metal ghosts of the past.
The twelve photos below, all taken along Caledonian Road between Holloway and Caledonian Road tube station, perfectly illustrate my point.

Having noticed how the wording for specific utilities had altered over the years  I took lots of snaps on the walk back to illustrate this. It always amuses me how other people on the street look at me in a strange way when I do this, – they probably think I work for the council or something!
Notice how the first three for Electricity Dept are slightly different; some with full points/punctuation, some without, each varying typographically in weight and style:

I also spotted a couple with Electrical Supply on them and another with Electric Light. A real super-nerd in this field would be able to accurately date all of the above and put them into chronological order. I'm just happy to notice the differences.
Check out also the various cover plates for communications and water where similar changes have happened:

And finally, I spotted some real metal ghosts – access cover plates for London County Council Tramways:

Above are four of the tramway cover plates in this particular stretch of road.
In the 1920s the LCCT ran trams through Holloway to Caledonian Market and beyond. See here for some basic tram info. A short-lived compressed air tramway ran along this route from 1881-3.
If anyone has any further info please do let me know.

UPDATE (June 2017): Since writing the above, I have noticed tramway covers elsewhere, though they seem to be in batches and then stop for a while, as in the middle section of Caledonian Road and some stretches of Holloway Road and Upper Street.