27 February 2018

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style at the V&A

Last Friday evening I meet my friend and fellow CIGA guide at the V&A to see the exhibiton about the golden age of sea travel.
That's on a boat!
Heaven, I'm in heaven...

Check out the compact tea set, a leather clutch bag shaped like a liner, and some gorgeous fabric – the wonderful typographic pattern on a silk blouse and a late-1960s blue suit deemed unconventional/'unsuitable'.

I love the V&A (well, apart from this) – there is always something new to see and, more often than not, it's been there for decades and I just never noticed before.
The V&A is open late on Fridays. That's great for people who can't get there during the day and don't like having to fight with school groups or weekend families. But not so great is the type of music that's played there which seems to pull in a new crowd of bar-goers who hang around the reception desk at the Brompton Rd entrance in front of huge speakers on sticks which blare out bass-heavy rhythms. I reckon most of them don't even wander further than the gift shop. Or perhaps that's the point.
We found the sound levels offensive and hard to dodge as the only way in and out is past that desk (or it was by the time we were leaving). It was a horrible contrast to the swooning tunes of the 1930s.
The type of sound is just wrong for the environment – boom boom boom! It reverberates and resonates with nasty low-level frequencies around the curves of this beautiful building like some kind of migraine. Music is great but, please V&A, keep it acoustic next time. Guitars, strings, pianos, even brass – but not anything amplified. Thanks for listening!
And before anyone starts calling me old and grumpy – I would've said all that when I was 20.

Come and see some Art Deco architecture in North London on my guided walks

20 February 2018

Clapham Junction Area – Observations in Wandsworth Rd, Northcote Rd, Battersea Rise etc

One Sunday a few weeks back I met up with a small group of London Historians for a tour of HMP Wandsworth. The pic shows us standing outside its small but jam-packed excellent museum which is open by appointment only.
The tour didn't start until noon. It was a clear, though chilly, day so I headed to Clapham Junction early to check up on a few things.
I exited the station via Old Brighton Yard which affords excellent views across London from the covered pedestrian bridge above the platforms. Note that you need a ticket to access this space; it's not a right of way.
I then turned right and walked westward along St John's Hill towards Wandsworth because I wanted to check up on a couple of old ghostsigns and shop fronts that I know from years ago when I used to work occasionally in the area.

Whoopee! The Peterkin Custard and the H.J. Golding hand-painted signs at the junction of Plough Road are still intact, as is the Frosts Stores doorway mosiac at No. 114 (now Denner Cashmere). Denner's shop also retains its lovely spindle window posts etc.
After the tour of the prison which, by the way, was excellent, a few of us went for a quick pint in a nearby pub full of children with colouring pens (go figure) and then, realising the light was fading fast, I marched across the common and over the railway bridge to get to the southern end of Northcote Road for a Battersea update.

Northcote Road was mostly built in 1896 as is evident by some date stamps at the top of buildings. The street also boasts a lot of blue enamel vitreous metal street signs. On the corner of Salcoat Road the A. H. Dunn / Hovis baker's sign still looks the same as it did when I last took a photo of it ten years ago – the same graffiti tags remain. Also shown here between Nos 88+90 is the best reminder of the lovely tiled dividers that would have been between all the shops along this stretch
And then I crossed over Battersea Rise into St John's Road and noticed a palpable change in environment. The Rise seems to split two kinds of shopping areas; the yummy mummies with their lattes and buggies on one side and a regular high street on the northern side with all the ubiquitous names.
The former Woolworths shop with its identifiable Art Deco 1930s frontage still stands but is now home to Woolworths. Waitrose seem to have moved into quite a few old Woolworth properties such as at Angel, Islington.
Marks and Spencer, opposite, retains its pillars and and cureved windows. Also late Deco I think. This shop front is very similar to my local one at Nags Head, Holloway, tho mine doesn't have the lovely mosaic floor.
The impressive Arding & Hobbs building sites diagonally opposite Clapham Junction Station and its distinctive cupola is visible for miles around.

This is the entrance to the building on the corner of Lavender Hill and Ilminster Gardens. As you can see the ribbed metal pillars ar very similar to those at M&S. I just love the curves and lines within this doorway.
I used to shop at A&H/Allders in the 90s and early 00s but it was clear to me then that the shop really needed to play catch-up with other stores of its kind. The company went into liquidation in 2005 and the building now is home to the Debenhams chain.
I really must go back in the Spring for a proper poke about.
More info on the SW11 area in this draft document written in 2013 by English Heritage.
If you are interested in becoming a member of London Historians please do mention that you heard about it here, from me. Thanks

14 February 2018

A blue-tiled laundry in Northcote Rd, Battersea

Northcote Road is just south of Clapham Junction on the other side of Lavender Hill. At No.138, now Head South Hair & Beauty Salon, I spotted a fabulous example of what I believe is an old Sunlight Laundry.

Ooh lovely – I really like the letters arranged vertically by the door. But it's evident that the company name has been removed from the low level panel at the front of the shop – note how the tiles are of a leter and lesser quality
This shop looks remarkably similar to the Sunlight Laundry in Pimlico Road and other blue-tiled shops such as at the top of Middle Lane in Crouch End and at the junction of Essex Road and Gaskin Road near Islington Green.  Lovely, aren't they?
Find out more about the history of Sunlight Soap and the company that made it here.
Northcote Road is an interesting street mostly built in the late 1890s – there are many other lovely shops both new and long-established as well as some lovely hints of old shop fronts – I will put together a montage for a subsequent post.

2 February 2018

Islington on Canvas – Art from the Archives

There is a wonderful exhibition on at Islington Museum at the moment – a gallery of paintings of locations throughout my borough.
Last Saturday I joined the free walk led by CIGA guide Karen Lansdown and to hear about some of the paintings on display and identify the locations they depict.

Karen in action and some of the paintings
Another walk is scheduled for Saturday 10th and this will be led by fellow CIGA guide Jen Pedler.
The walk lasts 90mins and is free  – but booking is essential.
The exhibition is on until 24 February 2018.