5 July 2019

An elephantine enigma – what a load of tripe

I recently asked help with any information about this little building that used to be at 18 Market Road, N7, mid-way on the north side between The White Horse (Gin Palace) and Caledonian Rd.
As you can see below, when I took a photo in 2008, it had dancing trumpeting elephants on the front. I had wondered if it had been a theatre or something similar.
My pic from June 2008
It has since been replaced – see Google Streetview 2008 and click though to see that it had been demolished by 2012. 
Kelly's 1939 directory
Joe, a friend who grew up in the area, told me he recalls it as The Electric Cinema or similar. But I can't find it mentioned in Chris Draper's Islington Cinemas and Film Studios book
Further sleuthing in the Kelly's street directory of 1939 (right) shows J. L. Henson, tripe dresser at this address. The company must have been here pre WWII but I can see nothing listed in 1915 and 1895.
Hmmm. Ponder, ponder.
And then recently I met Alan. He's another person who is always looking up, looking down, and questioning things.
Alan tells me that in the 1970s he worked in this building when it was Otaco Ltd. He tells me that the empty meat-related buildings in the area were taken over at that time mostly by businesses related to the motor trade. 
Photo: Alan, ex-OtacoLtd employee, 1970s
He also directed me to a pic of the building in 1962-4 that clearly shows the signage for the tripe factory: 
J. L. Henson also had premises at 97 Charterhouse Street, opposite the northeast corner of Smithfield meat market
As you can see, there were no elephants in the 1960s or 1970s.
The black and white pic is available from a few online photo libraries and In all instances it is credited to English Heritage with John Gay as 'artist'. All tag this pic as 26-40 Vale Royal, Holloway, which is just down the hill off York Way and certainly not part of Holloway! This is a great example of people just copying and pasting info without checking things. 
My 1939 directory shows that Edmund Martin Ltd*, another tripe dresser, was at 22-46 Vale Royal. but Henson did indeed have premises there but not until 1962 when they vacated the Market Road premises as shown here in a document about offensive trading. The link also indicates that Henson had an unauthorised fat melting site in Hornsey Rd near the junction of Tollington Park – that's a stone's throw from my home – ugh!
I can find no info about about Truman Steven/s as shown in this 1960s pic.

So, enough of all this tripe – back to the elephantine enigma. When did the trumpeting beasts appear?
I have a few ideas...
1. If Henson's factory was converted into a theatre/cinema, as my mate Joe recalls, then it couldn't have been until the mid-60s and only for a short while; possibly for a decade until the motor trade moved in. 
2. Or perhaps the elephants were added in the 1980s after the car companies moved away? The buildings would have again been standing derelict and could have been put to good use. Consider that there are playgrounds and sports facilities opposite = lots of children. Perhaps it was at this time that the building was used as a temporary cinema and this is when the elephants were added (children like dancing animals and the ref to a tripe factory might have been obscured to avoid offence and confusion).
3. Or (and here's my latest idea) it might have been used as a film location?

Alan tells me has some other leads to investigate and will get back to me...
Watch this space
All help welcome.

*You might recall that Edmund Martin Ltd had a shop on Lindsey Street ,facing the eastern side of Smithfield market, was demolished to make way for The Elizabeth Line. Boo hoo. Next door was a marvellous Miami-style 1930s building, also demolished, which I am going to be featuring Smithfield Art Deco walking tour, coming soon.


  1. I knew this as Otaco Ltd at 18 Market Rd in the 70's. It had 'J L Henson Tripe dressers' Under the grey hardboard in the arhed area. It was next to Stowells of Chelsea and a middle entrance house- which is still there. I don't know anything about elephants though except they could be walked up the Cally from the former goods area just by the bridge where Tesco now is.

  2. When I worked there,there was GT Riches motor factors and Tibcols [Lucas} and of course The White Horse pub.


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Thanks, Jane