28 May 2018

Marks & Spencer Holloway Road closing in 2019

M&S have just announced the closure of some of their stores across the UK and this will include my local branch in Holloway Rd, shown here.
Whilst I am sad for the people who work currently and will lose their jobs I must admit that I always enjoy shopping in this branch precisely because it's never very busy in there!
In particular I have always found the food hall a pleasant place with nary a queue at the checkout. When this branch closes my nearest M&S Food will be up at Archway, an uphill hike, or at Angel or Crouch End, both a bus ride away. But that's not gonna happen – we are really lucky in the Holloway Nags Head area because the area is awash with supermarkets, various food outlets, market stalls and all sorts – we have so much choice that I am sorry to say I doubt M&S will be missed and I doubt those special journeys will be made.
But aside from the people and the products, I wonder what is going to happen to the marvellous late-1930s Holloway Road shop front when M&S move away? I hope it will be protected. There are very few of these façades remaining in the UK. It will need a large company to take the whole site in order to keep the frontage intact. Sub-dividing into single shops will probably result in the loss of the ground floor features including the marvellous metal edged windows and fluted faux chrome pillars with octagonal bases and tops. Though it's a shame the company has changed the original letters on the front so many times over the decades – hints of the fixings can still be seen in the main pic above. Perhaps they could have saved a bit of money there by just leaving well alone as I am sure only a handful of us ever noticed the change in typefaces over the years.

Marks & Spencer, 420 Holloway Road – architectural details
Another similar M&S shop front can be found at Clapham Junction.

Read more about the closure of this store in The Islington Gazette here though please note that the B&W pic shown of the store in 1931 is not the same site – M&S's current location is the company's third site in Holloway. Find out more on one of my guided walks!!

22 May 2018


I have started another collection...
Today I bring you some examples of Anaglypta wallpaper.
It was quite expensive in its Victorian-Edwardian heyday and was mostly applied in hallways and/or below the dado rail.
The two black designs are from The Shaftesbury Tavern on Hornsey Rise and the off-white one, top left, is from The Red Lion, Holborn,

15 May 2018

Basement art

A few months ago I went to The London Art Fair in the basement of Victoria House. That's the enormous building that looms over the eastern side of Bloomsbury Square, home to All Star Lanes, The Bloomsbury Ballroom, The Museums Archive and Libraries Council, and a company that sells beauty products and other life-enhancing things
The art show was really good – a diverse range at diverse prices.
I am looking forward to the next show.

I was also fascinated by the structure and layout of the basement area itself, especially the inside/outside spaces with white ceramic brick tiles and some columns which reminded me of Dougal's sugar heap in the Magic Roundabout.

8 May 2018

Men with no hands and legs in N4

This might be deemed a bit flippant considering the stretch of pavement I am about to refer to has become a makeshift shelter for homeless men (and women?), but this is something I noticed before the rough sleepers arrived so please bear with me... 

I am often amused by the shapes of stick men painted on pavements to indicate footpaths. Very often they are disproportional with huge feet or short arms, or both as per here.
Well, there are lots of them under the railway bridges at the southern end of Stroud Green Road near Finsbury Park Station.
These N4 men are reasonably human-like vis-a-vis the head-to-body ratio, though their arms look a little short and they all have one foot much larger than the other. I think there must be about twenty of them indicating to keep on the left.
But most of the poor fellas look like they have returned from active service in a war zone. The one shown here to the right has only lost a hand and half his foot but as you can see from the six pics below most of his comrades can barely walk at all.

It's really sad – especially as alongside these graphics there are real broken men.

3 May 2018

The Strowger Automatic Telephone System

All this looking up, looking down, looking around me means I am forever spotting 'new' old things.
Last Spring I spotted a small cover plate that had some lovely Art Nouveau-esque letters on it set within a circle. I wondered what ATE or TEA could be. A utility of some kind? I just took a snap and walked on. A few days later I mis-labelled it as Caledonian Road. Which is why it ended up in this collection here.
A few months later I noticed what I thought was another one outside The Marlborough Building on Holloway Road – turns out I was looking at the same one. Intrigued by this, I decided to keep my eyes open for more. I even asked my MP Jezza if he had any ideas. He looked confused and said he hadn't a clue. I wondered if it was something to do with trams seeing as it was positioned where I knew a tram/bus stop used to be.
Then, earlier this year, I happened on two similar ones near the clocktower in Crouch End, but these had an M instead of an E. Ooooh, I thought; what are they? MAT? ATM? It just had to be the latter.
A bit of googling and I have found that ATM = The Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company and ATE = The Automatic Telephone and Electric Company, an earlier company dating from 1892. 
The concept of a telephone switching mechanism goes back to the 1890s – the brainchild of a Mr Almon B. Strowger of Kansas City, USA who very quickly sold his patent for lots of money and was later passed on to the Bell company for $millions. 
A Crouch End pavement, top left, followed by a close up of the marvellous ATM logo and then my original ATE find. The information plate is from the back of a late 1930s telephone (model L11561).
Some of the ATM cover plates I have spotted in Holloway, Finsbury Park and Crouch End

This article gives the full story.
It appears that ATM opened for business in 1912 but I am becoming quite confused as to when the plates in my pics below date from. Especially the ATE one. The article says that the first automatic director exchange in London opened in November 1927: this was HOLborn, supplied and installed by ATM. I can see no mention of when NORth London was included. 
In 1936 the company changed its name to Automatic Telephone and Electric Company (AT&E) but retained the old logo device with the letters ATM in a circle was retained as it was so familiar and had been applied to so many castings and pressings. For a while the new name was frequently shortened to Automatic Electric in advertisements. 
Old logo device? Old? Oh I am confused. Where does the ATE logo fit into this timeline ?  
I have also found this about the Strowger ATM timeline
But I am addled now. I confess that am now completely confused re ATE vs AT&E. If anyone out there would like to delve further and get the timeline correct, then please be my guest, but do copy me in with updates.
What I do know is that I am now spotting these plates everywhere. For instance, there are lots in the Old Street and City Road area.