29 April 2018

My old GT6 Mk2 is still on the road – a reunion at the Classic Carboot Sale

On Saturday afternoon I went for a mooch around the Classic Carboot Sale at Kings Cross. I have traded there in the past but this time I thought I'd have a weekend off and be a punter.
The first car I saw inside the market area was a 1971 blue Truimph GT6 Mk2:

April 2018 – Granary Square, Kings Cross 
I said to my friend, "I had one just like that"
And then I did a double-take...
"That's my old car!"
Or was it wishful thinking?
But the number plate was so familiar – EPK is in Parker, I was 20 when I bought it, and J is for Jane – I'd always thought this too much of a coincidence when I had it.
Could this really be my car?!
So when I got home I dug out my old photos.
And.... YES!

1983 – on the front garden in Albert Road, Romford, and in Bedfords Park
I'd bought it from a man in Collier Row, north Romford, and two years later sold it to another local man. Steve, the latest owner, tells me bought it in Essex and that's where he lives too. So it's never gone far.
The black and chrome-wire number plates on it today are the ones that were bought for me as birthday present by my friend Gary (an ex-boyfriend) who had helped me buy the GT6 and did all the maintenance/mechanical stuff. In fact, I think that's why he'd encouraged me to buy it because he loved working on old cars. He used to drive round in a subtlely converted Imperial Maroon Ford Anglia with "big boots and Ecobra seats". As he'd say, "Tidy!"
I notice Steve has made a few modifications and additions to the car. He as replaced or recovered the seats – they used to be tan vinyl which could be rather uncomfortable/sweaty on a hot day – no air con back then! And he's changed the wheels to those spokey ones – as you can see I never got around to replacing the hubcaps that were on it when I bought it.
It was a joy to drive, though I sometimes did feel as if I was going to take off and fly especially when on open motorways. And on returning to a car park I was often thinking it had been stolen being as it's so much lower than most other cars – and then there was that "phew!" moment when I saw it hiding behind an estate car.
I only sold it because I barely used it. I had a job in Covent Garden and went out mostly in the West End after work or used my British Rail season ticket to go back and forth at weekends. Though the car was great for local nights out or trips away and I visited friends all over the the country.
Also, though the engine was excellent, thanks to Gary, it needed some body repairs specifically to the floor and the cills and finding the correct parts had proved difficult so, seeing as by 1985 I was looking to fly the nest, I sold it and spent the money on stuff I needed for my new home.
Ah... happy memories though.
And at 52 I am glad to see it's still looking good.
I didn't get another car until about eight years later. They'll be no chance of seeing that one again because it died on me in Camden Road and the prognosis was that the cost of the repairs would far exceed the value of the car. So I made some phone calls and man from the breakers came and collected it for scrap. I watched as the claws took hold and squished it then lifted and dropped it onto the flat bed lorry. And then we waved goodbye. That was 2007. I haven't had a car since.

27 April 2018

My idea for how Edward Johnston came up with the design for the London Underground Roundel

Just over a hundred years ago London Transport realised it was lacking a visual identity. One of the key things the company needed was a logo and this came to be the 'roundel' we all know today – a circlular ring with a rectangular bar running across it.
Johnston's final design 
Across the fast-expanding network there was a mix of signage in all shapes and sizes. There were discs, banners, lozenges and diamonds, all implementing different styles and typefaces. The whole thing needed to be brought together as a brand.
In 1916 the job was given to Edward Johnston, a relatively unknown calligrapher who appears to have been a quiet camera-shy man who kept his ideas to himself and just got on with the job at hand. But Johnston kept no preliminary sketches and so no-one really knows how his mind was working or what inspired the final design which was finalised and on dislpay in 1919. It's often been said that he based his final design on the 1908 "roundels" can still be found on station platforms such as Covent Garden and Caledonian Rd.

I have a theory about this but it's a bit "chicken or egg"; which came first?
A thought has been bubbling in my head for years but I have only just been motivated to check it through properly this week, as shown here, following a conversation at the museum depot at the weekend.
Here goes...

I believe the simple logo shapes were already staring Johnston in the face every time he looked at one of the arched modular sections on Leslie Green’s ox-blood tube station buildings.

I have used Holloway tube station here to illustrate my point.
First I drew a circle within the window arch.

I then drew a rectangle over the tiled area below the window where the station name appears, making the height of it the same as the section between the top and bottom lips, and its width to be up to the edges of the windows at either side.

And then I coloured it up in red and blue. Looking good.
As you can see, the blue rectangle was sitting too low, so I just shunted it up to align vertically as well as horizontally. Looking better.
And then I checked it against Johnston’s “Proportions of Standard Bullseye Design” which I blasted in Photoshop so I could see what I was doing and….

… drum roll please… it’s the same!
And I hadn’t even measured that blue rectangle!

The logo's proportions have changed a bit over the decades. I checked some subsequent logos and placed them onto Holloway station (not shown here) and they too fit. Perhaps this is what Johnston had in mind all along?
Or is it the other way around?
It occurs to me that Leslie Green might have had the idea for this shape when he was designing the stations. Hence the early solid red disc roundels on his platforms.
What do you think?
Another thought...
OK so, Edward Johnston (1872-1944) and Leslie Green (1875-1908) weren't actually employed by Frank Pick at the same time, but they were almost the same age and might have known each other. Consider that both were relative unknowns before Pick gave them their commissions. Perhaps they had discussed these logo ideas before Green died, incidentally, the same year that the disc roundels appeared.
Ponder ponder...

23 April 2018

London Transport Museum, Acton Depot

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the London Transport Museum's second site at Acton.
The first time I went there was almost ten years ago when I took part in a scavenger hunt thing.
And last month, I went there for a specialist tour about the posters, art and advertising – on that occasion I was so engrossed in the poster room that I was hoping I might be able to get accidentally locked in there because there is too much to take in – it's jam-packed with marvellous stuff. I really thought I had written about that last visit on here. But no. Suffice to say the LT posters are similar to the tram ones here.
Here are some snaps from yesterday:

I just love a bit of rusty paint and a clever bit of textile design and a palimpsest of posters and, oh look, there's those funny faces on the switch board again.
Map-tastic. These are all from full sized versions that would have been fixed up on ticket hall walls or on the platforms. A couple of them are enamel. Note how these are pre- Harry Beck – they are not the stylised graphic we have become used to. Also note how the colours for thine tube lines changed over time – see especially the Central and Piccadilly lines. Sorry, but I forgot to make a note of the dates.  
These are models and they're looking good.
Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, a strange training model (that they are keen to find more info about) and the Waterloo to City line at Bank (Queen Victoria Street)
I joined a tour led by Eric, one of the volunteers, in fact the very same fab chap who I met when he was leading the 'hidden' tube tunnels tour underneath Euston Station*. He gave us a short taster-tour that included some really interesting work by Edward Johnston when he was designing LT's iconic typeface. Ooh, I'd love to spend more in those rooms.
If you are into tubes, trains, buses and trains or just have fondness for the fab old vehicles or an interest in the signage then it's well worth a visit – check here for details.

*I really thought I'd written about that tour too, but no, having checked I find the photos are lurking in my 'to do' folder. In a nutshell: fascinating but overpriced. 

10 April 2018

218 Upper Street – what's next for bank building?

I just noticed this weekend that the NatWest Bank have moved out of 218 Upper Street and the site is empty.
There's been a bank on this site for over 140 years – in 1874 The National Provincial Bank of England was there and continued to be until at least the 1940s*.
This, of course, isn't the original Victorian building from 1874. I am not actually sure when it was built, I am guessing late 1950/60s, but I have always admired its simple, yet imposing façade and, especially, the lovely large circular reliefs on the door handles, set within heavy-looking warm-coloured wood. I have a blank as to who occupied the building when this frontage was installed. Perhaps, judging by the images on the door handle, there is a Greek association?

Greek words and references on the [bronze?] panels within one set of door handles – men/gods that I think could be the brothers Eros and Anteros riding porpoises/dolphins – with birds on the other pair of doors.
At the very top of the building there are three while roundels. 
There are also three circular reliefs at the top of the building depicting wheat and what I think might be a Star of David.
At the moment the property is being managed by Lowe Guardians, a charitable trust that, I assume, is care-taking the site until a new business moves in.
I really hope whoever takes over next will retain all these architectural features.

*This all needs a bit more research, bit I thought I'd share in case anyone out there has any relevant info.

3 April 2018

North East London NE street signs

Many moons ago, back in 2008, I wrote a post about old metal street names which also included some of the now defunct mid-19th century N.E. signs that I had spotted on the streets of North East London in Clapton, Hackney and Stoke Newington, today categorised as East London (E). Since the 1860s the NE code has applied to Newcastle.
I am not the only one 'collecting' these glimpses of the past – Sam, Mr Ghostsigns, has organised a free scavenger hunt to on the afternoon of Saturday 21st April with the aim to make a database. If you are going to join in I'd suggest a bit of pre-event sleuthing via google streetview which will save time shoe leather.
I won't be able to join in that day as I will be leading events of my own so, to help anyone who is going to join in on the days I thought I'd give you a heads-up and pull together all the NE signs I have collected myself. Well, I say 'all' but I mean the ones I have labelled and filed correctly – I am pretty sure I have other photos in a folder on my desktop titled "to name and file"!

My photos of Clapton's N.E. signs shown A-Z.
Other signs I am aware of but are not shown above are: Brett Passage, Colne Rd, Dunlace Rd, Malvern Rd, Mayola Rd, Mentmore Terrace, Mildenhall Rd, Navarino Rd, Roding Rd, Rushmore Rd and St Philips Rd.
This makes minimum of 31 roads with signs showing the N.E. district. Note that some roads have two or three N.E. signs and I have only shown one of them.
As regards the design of these enamel signs, I notice that there is no fixed punctuation style – colons, commas, full points and semi-colons appear to be interchangeable.
Along my travels I have also found some North (N.) and South East (S.E.) signs from the same era :
These signs from Hackney and Southwark are the same style as the N.E. signs including the typefaces, casing and fixings.
London also has no S postcode – we gave that one to Southampton.
More types of street name signs in the Clapton area can be found here.
And this post, also from 10 years ago, shows a variety of road name changes.