9 December 2020

Twinking Trees, Turkey and Traditions – A Covent Garden Christmas Tour

Ding dong merrily – mince pies at the ready – time for a bit of self promotion.

I have turned my Covent Garden Christmas lights tour into a virtual experience – Find it here.

More dates to be added through to 6th January. See the schedule here.

I'm also more than happy to lead the tour on foot – please do get in touch.

1 December 2020

Construction Time Again – rebuilding Central London

Travelling through Central London recently, admiring the view from the top deck of a bus, I couldn't help but notice the huge redevelopments are happening at the moment and how many gaping great holes there are in the ground. Covid-19 does not appear to have restricted the construction industry.

For instance, at New Oxford Street, just east of Centrepoint, there is a big whole where this has been demolished – there is now a completely clear view of Renzo's horrible coloured towers.

Turning the corner into Charing Cross Road, the new build around Tottenham Court Road station continues. Chunky great glass things replace the much-missed Astoria Theatre (which was my favourite live music venue) and other buildings and small streets in the vicinity. The huge glasshouse entrances to TottCtRd station still look out of place and out of alignment with their tall neighbour and it's evident that the glass within them has yet to be cleaned. Such a silly design – how could you clean them anyway?  Why do these things need to be so tall and ugly? Consider  and compare the flamboyant yet understed Metro entrances in Paris.

Keep travelling with me here. Buildings between Centrepoint and Denmark Place have evolved considerably of late. Denmark Street as a centre for live music has diminished considerably and Tin Pan Alley is no more. Opposite, on the corner of Manette Street, the pink-faced replacement for the Foyles building looks to be almost complete. Hurrah, at least, for the elegant beauty of the 1930s Central School of Art, now Foyles new home.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against change, I like to see the patchwork of history – all this knock down and replace is nothing new. Leases expire, buildings become unfit for purpose etc and need to be replaced. The Victorians, and the Georgians before them, rebuilt whole streets and, just pre-WWII there was another construction boom, but the amount of change happening at the moment in Central London is, for me, quite shocking. 

And so we continue to Cambridge Circus and turn right into Shaftesbury Avenue. All looks to be as was until crash bang boom, the whole of the block behind Piccadilly's iconic advertising hoardings has been reduced to just that – an almost two-dimensional sign:

And, so, over into Piccadilly itself. Nothing to report until we get to the Ritz. There is a big development with Caffe Nero on the corner here is covered in plastic, I know not why, and then further along at the corner of Half Moon Street the red brick building's façade is all that remains. Though, as you can see from this older streetview there have been hoardings around it since at least 2008; it had been in a poor state for decades.

I decided after that to just look left at the park

It's just occured to me that I have efffectively taken you on a free virtual tour!

28 November 2020

Battersea Power Station – an update on the renovations

The whole riverside stretch between Battersea Bridge and 'Vauxhall Village' is today a swathe of new build, the old power station being only one of a few old buildings left standing in the area. A while back I wrote a provoacative piece suggesting they should pull the thing down. After all, if this building is so revered how come it was left open to the elements as a ruin for decades?! I followed up my thoughts in 2013 and then again in 2014. Why has this building become the famous one when so may like it were demolished completely? Consider, for instance, that the Lots Road Power Station has been empty for decades. Does this have anything to do with popluar culture? Pink Floyd? Or is it that the site was so huge that no-one was prepared or could afford to take it on?

A few weeks ago on one of those lovely bright, crisp, sunny, winter days, I had an urge to walk along the river from Battersea to Waterloo* and this afforded me the opportunity to have a nose in at the what's happening. It was a glorious day and everthing looked marvellous. And there were hardly any people about. And it was quiet. And I like it like that.

I followed the Thames Path into the main area of new build at the side of the railway arches filled with restauarants and food outlets but closed for business due to Coronavirus. Just a few people about, walking their dogs and enjoying the sunshine. I wandered around for over an hour and exited the site via Nine Elms Road where this old electrictity box sits.

Do go and have a wander through yourself. There is one-way pedestrian route through the site. Bear in mind that there are still a lot of buildings yet to be started and these will, as I mentioned in my earlier piece, obliterate the view from the Wandsworth side. So I'd advise you get there while the main building is still visible.

A nice addition is the old coaling jetty which has been tranformed into a decked garden complete with seats and flowers and excellent views, but at the moment it's only one way in and the same way out again. I hope that this will be connected to the Thames Path in due course. Note the dockers' mistresses along the edge the looking like topless sunbathers who have got a bit burnt. More here.

Adjacent to the jetty they've installed lots of low level planting and strange triangular raised ponds which offer interesting reflections of the power station. The broken reflections in the new glass buildings are also intriguing. The zig-zag walkways are a bit annoying though. I am fairly sure that people will very quickly make desire paths to cut off the pointy corners.

24 November 2020

Hornsey Road – more ghostsigns, observations and recollections

When I first moved to the Holloway area back in 1988 I lived at the eastern end of Marborough Road, near its junction with Hornsey and Hanley Roads. My bus stop back from work in the West End was the one just south of Bavaria Road at a time when the bus was a 14A and went all the way to Chelsea (what a fab, long route!). I used to like looking at the hints of history in the area but didn't look into it until many years later.  I subsequently moved to another address near to Holloway's Nags Head shopping area but I still have cause to walk the same roads, often when I am headed up to or back from Crouch End, which used to be part of Hornsey, hence the road name. 

Last month I was coming back down the hill and I noticed that the Hanley Arms, which is now an Islamic place of worship, has been given a much-needed lick of paint. It had for years been looking rather sad and I had always worried that the lovely black metalwork over the doors showing the pub name and the saloon bar would get further damaged over time or, worse, be removed comletely. As these pics show, the owners have seen fit to enhance in gold paint that the building was once a pub, which seems at odds with its purpose these days.

Pics all 2020 exc bottom right showing when it was still a pub

I think the Hanley Arms entrance on the corner was for the more basic area of the pub to the Private or Public bar. The Saloon Bar at centre-front would have led to the swankiest part of the pub and there might have been a third entrance down the side that led to a smaller room at the rear. These defined bar areas for different kinds of people would have been sectioned off with wood and glass panels from a main bar area at the centre. I am vaguely aware of going in there once for a nose about when I moved to the area, or am I imagining this or getting my wires crossed with another similar pub?  Most of the interior fittings have since been removed to convert it into a prayer room but the Anaglypta ceiling and other hints of the bulding's previous life are still visible as shown here in The Hornsey Road blog.

The road has changed a lot since I arrived here. Today the eastern side is mainly fast food outlets, but I recall many more and varied shops in the late 80s. But it certainly wasn't as vibrant a street as it was 100 years before that, with shops all the way up to Hornsey Rise and down to Holloway and beyond, with pubs at almost every junction. For instance, on the opposite side of the road to the Hanley Arms was The Alexandra on the corner of Bavaria Road, then called Blenheim Road, as shown by the old painted road sign.

Bottom left 2020, bottom centre and right 2008

A panel on the side of the old pub building shows The Alexandra advertised itself as a 'COFFEE TAVERN'. I assume from this that this was a more genteel kind of place with tablecolths and attracted ladies. The pub was converted to commercial use. By the late 1980s, it was a locksmith's shop which continued to trade into the early 2000s, complete with a large advertisement for key cutting and 5-lever locks and whatnot on the north-facing side of the premises at ground level. By the time I photographed the sign in 2008 it was extremely faded. It's now completely gone having been over-painted, probably at the same time as another storey was added to the top of the building.

The coffee tavern sign reminded me that on a rainy day in 2011 I'd spotted a faded sign on at high level on No.418 that showed the feint letters LADIES SALOON. I could make out a name above ending "...ETTS" – I stupidly never returned to take better pics and it's now been over-painted. Damn.

Hornsey Road ghostsigns – NatWest Bank, Ladies Saloon, The Plough. All 2020 exc middle top.

This looks to be a late-Victorian-Edwardian establishment – a quick bit of delving shows me that Walter Betts had a coffee shop at No. 422 until 1905. By 1906 the same establishement is owned by Charles Watson. Note that the sign is not above the coffee shop but instead above what was then Emil Kober's hairdresser shop at No.418. It looks like a clever bit of inter-business was happeninging here – ladies could get their hair done and then retire to rooms on the upper floors for drinks, provided and served by the esatablishment two doors up the road. How lovely.

As you walk along the road today, you can clearly make out how this was once a busy high street with shops of every kind. As shown above, there's even the hint of a branch of NatWest and further along at the junction of Tollington Park there's what's left of The Plough public house. The entrance to the stables at the rear has been filled in for decades now and it's again one of those places I wish I'd photographed back in 1988 when the cobbled access was still viable leading to the rear of the pub.

I'll leave it there. Any extra info and memories most welcome.


20 November 2020

Money, Money, Money

Money – a sore point for most of us in today's financial climate. 

Shops are closing down as businesses fold, unable to sell the stock to pay the rent. Many people have lost their jobs and just don't know what to do next. Most of us are having to tighten our purse strings finding new ways to survive. Apart from the supermarkets, the charity shops might be the only ones doing OK these days.

For me, the world of graphic design for print has taken a bashing and hardly anyone wants to come out for a guided walk. And the sales of my cards and prints is nowhere near what it was this time last year. Chin up, as they say. We're all in it togther (?!).

Money makes the world go round

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Oh gawd, I've just thought of that awful song used by that gurning politician, but in the meantime, I'll get back to all those DIY jobs I have been putting off and I need to load up some more stuff from my cupboards to online selling sites.

11 November 2020

A bit of Holloway ghostsign sleuthing – Henry Dell, grocer

Last week I was contacted via Twitter about a ghostsign at the rear of a property in Hornsey Road. Archway Ramblings @UpArchway asked if I knew any more about an old painted sign visible from Bracey Street. Well, this was the first I knew about it, which is not surprising seeing as Bracey Street is a little back street that I have rarely ever used, and the sign fairly inaccessible.

H....ELL, TEA MERCHANT....... 408 Holloway Road. Photo: @UpArchway

A quick bit of sleuthing and it turns out this was Henry Dell who had a grocery shop here at 450 Hornsey Rd, a few doors up from Thorpedale Road, today a launderette.

647-665 Holloway Rd, 1882 
Henry Dell appears to have been established in the area for decades. In 1882 he is shown at No.408 Holloway Rd (today, Santander) with another shop further up the road at 5 Northampton Place which later became No.657 (today, the fish and chip shop). Prior to the later 1880s, the upper section of Holloway Road northwards of Tufnell Park Rd on the west side and Tollington Way (then Grove Rd) on the east side was still evolving and there were no Holloway Rd door numbers – the houses or business premises were simply part of a named terrace* and, very often, the pub at the corner of that stretch was echoed in the name, as in Marlborough Terrace, Crown Terrace etc., though not in this instance. Northampton is probably a reference to the Marquis who owns Canonbury Tower (I will park that tangent for another day!).

647-665 Holloway Rd, 1939
Therefore, regarding what's visible of the ghostsign, I think it's fair to assume, judging by the space available/covered, that the pipes might be hiding the door number of the store at the northern section of Holloway Road which was closer to this Hornsey Rd shop, as in "657 & 408".

Moving fast forward to 1939, I see Henry Dell [and/or his family] is still going strong. The Hornsey Rd shop is listed as "Dell's Store's" and the shop at 657 Holloway Rd is battling for custom with two similar grocery shops next door, namely Liptons, a well-known country-wide chain, and David Greig** the provisions company founded in Hornsey. As for the shop at 408 Holloway Rd, by 1939 it's listed as a restaurant with Mullholland's shoe shop also shown at the same address so I think we can assume that Dell's restaurant was on one of the upper floors. 

Some photographic ref would be nice, but I can't find any right now. The Dells might have been trading in the area earlier than 1882 and I don't know if they continued after WWII. So I'll have to leave it there – Henry Dell, a successful family business, established in Holloway for at least 60 years. Nice. 

Thanks again to Archway Ramblings for bringing this to my attention.

*I refer to this kind of thing on my Mr Pooter's Holloway guided walk about the book 'A Diary of a Nobody' where the characters of 1888 are living at a made-up place called Brickfield Terrace – I have some very good ideas where this could have been along this busy thoroughfare.

**DG shops are a bit of a 'thing' with me. Note to self; collate and post about the company here – any additional info you might have will be gratefully received, and credited.

10 November 2020

What's the point?

Really. Seriously. I often wonder what are we doing here. 

By 'we' I mean humans. What do humans actually do for the planet in a postive way (apart from trying to fix the mistakes of the past)? What other animal causes such devastation to other flora and fauna? And all in the name of progress. Sigh.

Anyway, here are some of my favourite London manicules pointing the way to who knows where. A few of them have since been lost to us, whether through renovation of demolition.

6 November 2020

A ghostsign in New Southgate – Lander, monumental mason

Last week I went to New Southgate Cemetery to find the grave of someone I am researching. I got the tube to Arnos Grove, one of Charles Holden's marvellous Art Deco masterpieces, and I headed north. As I walked north up Brunswick Road I mused how reasonably new the area was – it all looks to have been built in the late C19th and then added to in mid-C20th. 

See my warped and stretched version below
Then, as I crossed Marne Avenue, I noticed an unusual pair of stone-built houses opposite the junction. I stopped look at them, considering that they probably preceded all the other buildings in the vicinity and might at one time have been farm or workmens' buildings, or similar. I took a closer look and, well blow me down, if there isn't a huge hand-painted sign covering most of the north-facing/left side of number 94. Another house has been constructed to the left and, although this has helped to protect the sign's paintwork, it makes the sign really hard to read at this very oblique angle. 

Squinting at it, and no doubt looking like I was casing the joint, I could see a large name at the top: LANDER. Other words quickly led me to ascertain that this was a sign for a stone mason connected to the cemetery. I stood there for a while making scribbled notes as I tried to decipher the specific wording, but the angle and the faded areas at the very top and far left/rear made it rather difficult. It did cross my mind to knock on the door to speak to the occupants and ask for access to the rear but I hesitated, and if you don't do those kind of things immediately they just don't happen. 

Instead, I took a few snaps with my phone and carried on up to the cemetery where, snooping around the headstones and tomb bases, I found that many had Lander's mark on them, some showing that the company was mason for the local council (Barnet). Later, when I got home, I looked at my poor-quality pics and, holding my phone at different angles to achieve oblique views in the opposite dierection, I managed to decipher quite a bit of it.

(Monumental something?) CEMETERY OR BURIAL GROUND
(?prices please visit?) OFFICE & WORKS 1 FRIERN BARNET RD

A. K. (Andrew King) Lander was at 1 Friern Barnet Road, Betstyle Circus, known to locals as 'Lander's Corner', no doubt because the company's stone yard would have been a very recognisable local landmark – some of the hard-to-decipher parts of the ghostsign most likely make mention of the yard's location, just a little way to the south.  Friern Barnet Photo Archive has some marvellous old pictures of the business and the junction through the decades, including the one shown right. Today, the yard is long gone and block of flats now covers the site. In that link you'll notice that the name 'Lander's Corner' in on the first houses in Oakleigh Rd South opposite the site of the yard. I like to think the Lander family lived there. Perhaps someone will let me know.

Similarly, I do not know whether the family had a direct connection to the pair of old houses in Brunswick Park Road. The Landers might have simply hired the wall as advertising space being as it provides a perfect sightline from the cemetery where prospective clients might be choosing a burial plot or looking after a family memorial. A company by the same name still trades today but is based in Basildon Essex. Even though they make mention of being founded in 1866 I can see nothing on their site about Friern Barnet or Southgate. 

And the grave I was looking for? Well, it turns out I was looking in the wrong cemetery! Never mind – it was nice wandering around New Southgate Cemetery and, should you ever need to find information there yourself, the staff in the office are really helpful and friendly, and funny too. 

A little bitof Photoshop action here – the quality of the image isn't really good enough as regards the focus/sharpness at the left/rear


1 November 2020

Spam Spam Spam Spam – and genuine comments

I've been wondering why I've not been getting comments this blog. Yes, I had set it up for comments approval but I've had no emails about this in, ooh, I dunno, about a year. Surely someone out there must have something to say in return, especially as I occasionally write things to be purposely provocative!

This morning I decided to look into this. I first checked to see if it was possible to post a comment on here. Yes, no problem, just some annoying thing about having to include and email address and a password which I thought was probably in itself dissuading people from giving feedback. So I thought I'd best change that and make it simpler. I looked into my settings and confirmed that my comments are indeed still set up for moderation pre-publication, but I also saw that I have thousands of messages to approve, and these are mostly from companies or individuals spamming me in badly written english with links to products and services that are irrelevant to the post they are written under. Hidden in amongst those are comments from real people responding to my thoughts and observations – thank you so much!

I have discovered some good feedback on posts I have written about Holloway Memories, the carvings at Cecil Sharpe House and shops in Ilford shops and more – to those of you who wrote to me and provided such useful and interesting feedback, I apologise for not getting back to you sooner.

It's great that I haven't been talking to myself all this time, but this clean-up/assessment process is going to take ages. For the past hour I have been trying to weed out the good stuff from a deep well of rubbish, and I have barely scratched the surface. This is going to take me many more hours yet because the silly 'system' on here is set up such that each comment has to be assessed individually whether to publish/spam/delete – there's no way to just check multiple boxes to do actions in one swoop. This is further exacerbated because every time I try to delete a comment it gets questioned with a subsequent 'are you sure?' pop-up, each one I mark as spam takes seconds to slowly dispappear as the list resets itself and, worse still, whenever I find a genuine comment to approve, the damn list whooshes back up to the somewhere near top (eh? why?) and I have scroll down to find my place again. Aaargh!

I promise to respond to all the real feedback, which will gradually be appearing as approved comments, after I have finished this tedious task...

Spam spam spam spam

UPDATE: ooh the irony... the spammers have been submitting comments to this post which, for the reasons above, don't get published. Bless them, tho spambots obviously can't read!

28 October 2020

Nothing really mattress

There are a lot of discarded mattressses on the streets this year. I've also noticed many ads for mattress companies selling products made with their own version of layered foam*. I suggest people are buying new mattresses and then just chucking the old one outside, hoping the local council will just clear up their m[attr]ess.  

All of these have something to do with beds, even if I simply found them on a street with 'Bed' included in the name. Damn – I just realised I forgot to include a pic of bedding plants at Regents Park. Oh well.

*Can someone please explain the bizarre term 'memory foam' especially in regards to mattresses – what is it memorising exactly, and how can you change your position if it memorises the first shape you made (ha ha)? Surely these are no good for hotels! And, within shoes, surely no memorising is needed at all – moulds to your foot shape and that's it, job done. In a world of anti-plastic and recycling, is this stuff even ethical?

26 September 2020

23 August 2020

Holloway Odeon update (part2) – new renovation revealed in all its slap-dash glory

Earlier this year I wrote a post about how I was far from happy with the new logo and its placement on Holloway Odeon, my local cinema, a building which has been undergoing renovations this past year or so.
On Thursday I was walking up Holloway Road and, as I turned into Tufnell Park Road, I looked up and and exclaimed "Wow" out loud as I saw the gleaming façade finally revealed.
Holloway Odeon, 2020 renovation, main tower and entrance on the Tufnell Park Road side
A man heard me and stopped and stared at me, grinning. I thought that he thought the 'wow' was directed at him, but no. I spoke to him and he introduced himself as David Latter, the architect of the building. I wondered if Howard Crane the actual architect of the building back in 1938 would have been pleased to hear someone taking the credit, but nevertheless engaged David in conversation and we chatted about the renovation which he was clearly very pleased about. I commended him on the removal of the blue paint on the metal windows which have been stripped and painted black and the reinstatement of the restaurant area there. I made mention of my knowledge of the history of the building and I also made comment about those nasty logo panels, but it was clear from his expression he didn't really get my point. He told me his company works on lots of revamped cinemas round the country and he gave me his business card. I also briefly met his assistant who was unchaining his bike from a nearby lamp post. David urged me to go inside to view the interior.
I crossed the road to take a closer look. I couldn't get inside as it's not yet open to the public, but the interior does indeed look better designed. That can wait for another day. Instead I wandered around the outside at studied the renovation at street level.
Oh dear, what a disappointment.
From a distance it looks marvellous, but get up close and it's slapdash, shoddy workmanship. I cannnot believe with all the products and processes available today that better results cannot have been achieved. Most of the lovely original faience tiles have been painted. I think on the upper sections shown above that a layer of varnish has been added as no way way was it ever that shiny before. However, other areas at ground level have been overpainted in a strange yellow tone that is not the same as the pale terracotta originals that have stood the test of time for over 80 years. That might have been Ok had the paintwork not been so messy – wires have been painted over without any idea of realigning them, edges are not straight, there are patches of overpainting, holes and defects have not been repaired. Yet the original tiles are still filthy, hinting that this new paint has been applied over years of dirt. New additions such as the canopy are mis-aligned and far from curved with cut and breaks and gaps where they bend and abut other areas.
Basically, if they could achieve an impressive, or even just adequate, standard of workmanship in the 1930s, why is it not possible today? Quality control or pride in one's work does not seem to be important these days.
See the evidence below.
The new window frames look marvellous but the black-edged canopy above street level has frilled edges
More views of the canopy along the Tufnell park Road side – juddery curves and wobbly straights
Silky reflective paintwork over the tiles along the TufPkRd side already has has patches of repair. And under the canopy by the main door at the corner a strip has been cut to go round old wires that feed through an air brick. These wires are probably not even functional any longer. Note also how the thin strip veers away from the wall and has been snipped to make it bend back again. Was this really the most effective way to do this?!
Canopy at the corner over the main entrance. The two curved sections have a gap between them and where the white ceiling panels meet the wall they are not cut at the correct angle, leaving thin triangular holes. Also note other bits of wire that could have been tidied up, plus dodgy curved [black] edges and filthy original tiles etc.
Canopy at main door. The curve on the underneath is not a curve – surely there are products available that can achieve a soft arc? Are there no artisans who can produce better quality results with the materials at hand? And, on the front on the right hand side of the main canopy, there is vertical gap, though strangely not parallel, where the panels do not meet. And again, more of those snips in the curves. Is this a literal/visual example of "cutting corners"?
Along the Holloway Road side it appears the renovation proper ends as all that is is in evidence is a bit of shoddily applied paint at ground level and some new panels that I had assumed were temporary but now fear are permanent seeing as the cinema opens up next week. Couldn't they at least have cleaned the original tiles and sympathetically repaired all the damage caused by previous panels and fixings? 
The northern section of the building on Holloway Road. Some bits painted, some bits not, more painted wires, more dirty tiles and unrepaired defects, ends of bits of newly-applied wood, and at the very end, a horrible patchwork corner. This side of the building was originally designed as shops interspersed with doors that provided access to cinema waiting areas below. This negated people having to queue in the rain and reduced congestion on the busy pavement. The area above the green line was a terrace that provided alfreco seating for the restaurant. It really seems like this part of the building has been deemed by Odeon to be of little imporatnce, yet it is a long swathe facing an important A-road – now the messiest part of the building is seen by the most people.

24 July 2020

Deciphering a ghostsign in Petherton Road – Laundries and Landaulettes

Earlier week Sam Roberts contacted me to see if I could help with an enquiry he'd recieved about a faded sign near to the southern tip of Clissold Park.
Pic: Adam Broude
Adam Broude had been in touch to ask if anyone had further info about this sign at the western end of Leconfield Road. He'd managed to decipher a few words including 'General' and  'Landaulettes' so, having stood on that same spot a few weeks back, pondering the same, I thought I best get sleuthing.
Adam Broude had taken the pic below and managed to decipher a few words including  'General' and  'Landaulettes' and he wondered if there was any more info available.
I consulted a few old directories and decided we have two signs here; one for a company providing laundry and shirt mending facilities and a second ad for a company providing upmarket vehicles for hire. Landaulettes are coupé versions landaus often used by dignitaries etc.
As for deciphering the sign, the best I can see and guess at, so far, is:

GENERAL LA... [probably LAUNDRY] ..... 
(under the satellite dish, only odd letters distinguishable)... HIRE (?)
(a scrolly shape) then possibly LON[don?] 

Collar dressers were people who repaired shirts by mending or attaching new collars and cuffs. The 1882 directory shows Robert Ramsey, collar dresser, at 138 Petherton Rd, at the northern end of the street, so the relevance to this sign is doubtful.
By 1895 Ramsey has gone but another laundry has opened at the corner of Leconfield Road owned by William Charles Crooks, perfectly positioned to be relevant to this ghostsign. He was still trading from the same address until at least 1915 (I have no directories for the 1920s to hand). Around the corner, the 'London Shirt and Collar Dressing Company, laundry' is listed at 16 Green Lanes. There is a possibility that these two premises might have been part of the same company, one being a shop on the main drag and the other the actual laundry where the work was carried out.
By 1939, the laundry at the corner of Leconfield Rd has gone and another one has opened at No.128 (today=Mala) run by S&L Morris. Again, due to the distance from the ghostsign, I don't think this is the answer.
As regards car hire, I suggest the sign is for a motor company that would have been at 116 Petherton Rd which, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a bicycle depot that later expanded to motorised vehicles. Today we can see a ghostsign for Barnes Motors at that address. In 1939, The Petherton Motor Works were at that location, though there are no laundries listed in the vicinity at that time.
Therefore I think the cars are the key to the date of the sign. Landaus were fashionable vehicles in the late 1920s/ early 1930s and this ties up with the laundry. 
Any further info is most welcome.

3 July 2020

RIP Clark's Creamed Barley (CCB) ghostsign, Mornington Crescent

Yesterday I happened to notice that one of my favourite ghostsigns has been lost beneath an extension to a neighbouring property.
Above Mornington Crescent station, facing north, in prime site for traffic coming down Camden High Street (before it was one-way northwards) there used to be a sign advertising a breakfast cereal. Specifically Clark's Creamed Barley.

BREAKFAST FOOD – It's Cooked And Ready To Serve
For decades it was hidden in plain view. I recall when I spotted it in 2010 how befuddled I was that I had never noticed it before, especially as I worked in the area in the 1990s-2000s.

View from corner of Mornington Crescent, 2010
View, yesterday, 1st July 2020
As you can see, two floors have been added to the next-door building, covering the CCB ad.
The building work looks to be excellent – this is a very good, sympathetic renovation. But, sigh, I do miss that ad which I believe dated from the early 1920s. Even though it's gone it will still continue to be the first stop on my Camden ghostsigns tour as it's such a fascinating product.
From ads of the 1920s: It makes a meal in a moment. No cooking. No waste. Every grain toothsome. It is the most nourishing of all cereals, and it's all-British.

A potted history:
1925. Artist: John Hassell
George Clark started as a grocer but saw the potential in refining and supplying sugar to the brewing trade. By 1897 the family had moved from Westminster Broadway (near St James's Park tube station) to large premises at Millwall Docks, E14. Within two years they had built Broadway Works, a large premises in Aplpha Road complete with a large fancy entrance-way/gate. It was here they started producing caramel as a colourant for the food industry.
Specialist breakfast foods were the new 'big thing' at that time. Decades earlier, Mr Kellogg had created Cornflakes and other companies were swift to jump onto the ready-made bandwagon, offering all sorts of cereal-based one-dish fast-foods to set us up for the day.
Clarks obtained sugars from barley (not just from cane) and then turned the creamed husks into breakfast food enhanced by their caramels. Basically using two by-products to make one new product.

1930s. Location unknown. Possibly Broadway Works. Note the beer barrels
Promo postcard purchased from Ebay
The advertising, like a lot of products back then, and even today, promoted it as healthy energy-maker for young and old alike or, as an ad from 1929 puts it, "from weaning to old age" explaining that those with "impaired digestion" can readily absorb its elememnts of life and energy" because it was pre-digested. Basically, the husks had been removed and it was soft, no chewing involved. another major selling point was that there was no actual cooking involved.  And CCB = Cheerful Chubby Bairns.
A prominent feature on the packaging is the Star of David within a ring of wheat, so we can assume that the Clarks were a Jewish family. If I find more information I will update this. Last year, I was delighted to find and purchase an original 1927 promo postcard on Ebay that has a nmarvellous depiction of the carton on it. It also epitomises the save your tokens, get a 'free' gift style of advertising. Clarks appear to have used this tactic often. As early as 1922 they were advertising a £5 cash prize to anyone who colllected all six parts of their logo being one of the points on the star. One wonders if this was ever actually achieved, if at all possible. In 1929 the company offered four thousand 14" wheel pedal bikes to the first subscribers who collected 100 special red seals which where hidden inside the packets. Other promotions during this era included 'free' Christmas presents (also on redemption of red seals) and, likewise, little toy delivery trucks like the one in the picture, one of which sold for £1,560 at Bonhams in 2008. One wonders if by obscuring the hand-painted sign at Mornington Crescent the product is now even more exclusive. But the price achieved was more likely the condition of the car, especially its rubber wheels, rather than the branding on it.
Other promotions included adaptations of nursery rhymes such as Old King Cole (a merry old souldwas he) calling for his CCB. An ad in 1935 called the product an "All British Health Food" and explained it as: Possessing all the food value of the finest English Barley, these crisp puffed golden grains literally melt in the mouth. They have a rich nutty flavour all their own, and are as nutritive as they are delicious. Other mid-1930s ads have instructions how to make barley water from the product, in an era when Robinson's had already secured product placement at Wimbledon. 
Ads fizzle out post-WWII and the product is only referred to in editorals about rationing and food facts. However the caramel side of the business continued to prosper. George Clark & Son Ltd's Caramel Isinglass Finings ads indicate that for a time pre-WWII the company had additional premises in Bletchley and Manchester. In the 1940s and 50s they advertise themselves as 'makers of every sugar used in brewing.' The most recent ad I have found this far is this one from July 1960.
Clark's Isle of Dogs site continued until 1964 when it was taken over by Tate & Lyle. The buildings no longer exist but a nearby street, Alpha Grove, echoes the past.
The UK appears to have moved on from creamed barley breakfast-style meals, with perhaps the exception of Quaker Oats and the like. But brands similar to Clark's continue to be popular in the US and a Chicago-based company still manufactures today (see below).

If you'd like to find out more about Clarks and the company's products simply do a googlewoogle or why not join me for one of my ghostsigns tours, specifically in Camden or Kings Cross.


10 June 2020

Pre-occupied during Covid-19

Oh dear... I let this site slip.
These past few months I have been going out for lots of long walks, finding new things and taking lots of photos. But when I get home, the lack of a 'normal' daily routine means I get distracted and absorbed by other things such as the research about the buildings I have just seen and the tangents that info leads me on to, that I just run out of time to sort the photos and compile them into something coherent for here.
Also, I now finally have the time to research two different sites in Islington that are both minimally known about. It's become so time-consuming and what I thought would be a few pages of extra notes now looks like two books. Ooh, I'm a writer!
All these people who say they are bored lately are just plain boring themselves
Here's a pic from one of my wanders, nothing to do with the reaserch mentioned above, but just a nice image of Highbury Fields at 6pm on May 14th just after they said we could all go out again:

Which reminds me...
Highbury Fields features on my Green and Pleasant Islington guided walk which I'd be happy to lead for anyone who is interested. Other tours for small groups available. More info here.

28 April 2020

Locks and Keys

Whilst we're in a form of lock down I thought I'd put together a relevant collection of images I've taken over the past few years.
You might be able to recognise some of them.
Stay safe.

Approx 95% of business doorways look very similar these days to the pics above shown at top left, bottom right and third one in on the second row, with shutters down and padlocks in place. Some establishments, such as pubs are even boarded up to obsure the view inside.
It's a stange world we are living in at the moment. Like we are in a bad movie such as 28 Days Later or Day of The Triffids.

12 April 2020

The Changing Face of London – coming soon in 2000

One of the things I have been busying myself with during this period of lock-down and enforced islolation is a concerted effort to sort out, tidy up and/or get rid of a lot of the stuff I have managed to amass over the years.
So far I have rediscovered old diaries from my schooldays (hilarious reading!), alphabeticalised my music CDs, sorted my books into themes, watched a lot of the old films I'd recorded off the TV and forced myself to dismantle, crush and recycle lots of old cardboard boxes that up until now I just couldn't part with because "ooh, such a nice well-made box, that'll be useful one day". These I had saved like huge cuboid faceless Russian dolls.
During this declutter I found a large envelope full of cuttings from magazines and newspapers that hadn't as yet made it into my 'things that interest me' display books. I haven't updated that project for over a decade. I am very good at starting one thing and then getting distracted by another. Hence the many half-finished jumpers, jewellery, needlepoint, paintings and ideas for clay pipe fragments.
Oops – I've gone off on a tangent again...!
So, to the point...
I found this column torn from Time Out magazine, Feb 1994 – a list of the building projects expected in central London by 2000:
Rumours of a Museum of Modern Art somewhere on the Southbank
Interesting huh?!

When this virus is under control and we are given the 'all clear' it will also apply to the inside of my home. I can't be the only one having a major Spring clean – the charity shops will be inundated when they re-open and crying out for extra volunteers. Meanwhile, I am free-cycling – my neighbours have been snapping up the books and unwanted items that I have been leaving on the garden wall.
Stay safe and healthy.

6 April 2020

Finsbury Park elephants

Wandering from Highbury Fields to Crouch Hill last month I thought I'd take a couple of detours to check on the elephants.
Ambler/Romilly March 2020
In August last year, there was a piece in the Gazette about these elephants providing a hiding place for druggies. The following week it was reported that the hedge had been damaged – one elephant had lost its head in a car accident. Hmmm. Seems a bit odd to me how a driver managed to lose control in a backstreet within a borough that already had a 20mph speed limit.
It's worth noting that just up the road at the next junction there is another excellent example of hedgemanship where a swathe of dense foliage offers far better cover for illicit proceedings. A long row of castelltions curves around the corner:
Longer, deeper, wider, thicker
I continued my stroll past Finsbury Park station, up Stroud Green Road then right at The Dairy where the old Hovis ghostsign is now mostly scrubbed away due to graffiti removal, past the flippin' flipped letters on the gates into Mount Pleasant Crescent... and... damn, a van was in the way, but the elephant is intact.
See the street here.
And re the ther things mentioned above:

The Old Dairy – HOVIS ghostsign 2008 and 2020
Gates in the Japan Crescent area – letters attached incorrectly. I am flipped out!

3 April 2020

Holloway memories – shopping in the 1990s

In January 1988 I moved from Romford/HaroldWood into a flat in Marlborough Rd, N19, keen to be living in area that ticked all my boxes – easy transport connections for work and socialising, lots of local shops and within a £5 cab ride home from Central London (really!).
Sometimes I'd do my food shopping up at Archway as I exited the tube but mostly I'd take the bus to  the Nags Head area as the options were better. I have always said "if you can't find it in Holloway, then you don't need it". So often have I trawled the West End shops only to find a better, cheaper product just around the corner in N7. This same idea popped into my head recently and it got me thinking about all the shops I used to use in the 1990s that are now gone.

Gibbers greengrocer – next door to The Eaglet pub at 116-120 Seven Sisters Rd (at the time of writing = a Post Office and Mr Panini's** cafe).
Gibbers was a proper old-style fruit and veg greengrocers with boxes of produce all over the show. You queued to be served with a pound of this, two pounds of that, eight of those and six of them. It was a delight. Wholesale deliveries large and small coming and going constantly. John the manager was such a lovely man. I recall one Saturday when he asked where I'd been recently and I told him I had hurt my back and then as one of the others was serving me John nipped into the chemist next door and bought me some pain relief tablets that he said had worked for him. How nice.
Gibbers suffered tremendously when the parking restrictions came into force meaning companies couldn't even park outside their own premises. I had many chats with John about this as it was really affecting trade. What happened to John? I am not sure he was a Holloway local. Tho I did find this written by someone who used to work there.
The Gibbers site became an EDA food centre – see here

Green's home furnishings – a few doors up from Gibbers covering three, possibly four shops. Green's walk-through windows contained blinds, curtains, cushions and all sorts for the home. I bought lots of bits from there in the late '80s and early '90s when I was setting up home.

Shelley's shoes – 89 Seven Sisters Rd, opposite Gibbers. 
I loved Shelly's shoes. The company had been going since the 1940s and was the go-to shop for big fashion trends such as crepe soles, winkle-pickers, Chelsea boots, platforms and DMs. They always had a really good alternative selection and really well-made. They had a few shops across London including Carnaby Street, Deptford, Chelsea and Kilburn High Rd with larger stores at Oxford Circus and Neal Street.
I still have a carrier bag!
As regards the Holloway shop, I remember being so pleased that I had a local branch. I recall the marvellous Victorian walk-in windows full of their fabulous footwear. But I now cannot place when the shop closed. Today, all the shops along that stretch are flat-fronted UPVC blandness and I am now annoyed with myself that I never thought back then to take a photo. Tho I wasn't running around snapping the details on our streets until well into 2006.
A bit of sleuthing shows me that Shelly's 'died' in 2003. I can find no ref of the Holloway shop online. But I do have a couple of Shelley's carrier bags. The bag shown here shows the shop's address with an 071 telephone code. I also have another duffle-bag one with 0171/0181 codes on it but the Holloway shop is not listed. Hence this branch must've closed pre-1999.

Safeway's – opposite Gibber's and Green's at the eastern corner of what was once a huge Victorian store created by Fred Crisp* who had become so successful that he had manged to purchase not only all the shops in that terrace but also houses in Devonshire Rd (now Axminster Rd) and Sussex Rd (now Sussex Way). This later became The North London Drapery Store and then B.B.Evans before being split again into the various units we see today.
67-83 Seven Sisters Rd, 2005
I have memories of carrying heavy bags shopping from Safeway up to Marlborough Rd past the house I live in today. Argos was also in this stretch before they moved to the site on Holloway Rd which back in 1988 was Sainsbury's (or was it KwikSave by then?). 

Holloway Arcade – junction of Holloway Road and Parkhurst Avenue on the site of the old Parkhurst Theatre. Today it's CarpetRight. This had seen better days by the time I got here. Most of the units within were already boarded up and only a few businesses remained. One, I think was a shoe mender or similar(?).

Manolis' Cafe, Hercules Street – the best breakfasts in Holloway, if not North London. 
The absolute best bubble and squeak ever. It was my go-to cafe. I'd take all my visiting friends there. I always enjoyed listening in on Manolis and his Greek friends as they philosophised and assessed world politics.
Manolis' goodbye
By September 2006 the cafe had closed. A typed letter was attached to the boarded up windows. It was so sad. He'd been feeding me for 15 years.
I hope he kept the huge marvellous potted money trees that used to be in the windows. For a short time Manolis worked at a cafe near Finsbury Park station but soon after due to ill health he retired to this home in Southgate. I bumped into him a few times. We kept in touch for a while. I went to have dinner with him and his wife at a restaurant in Southgate one evening in 2008. I should have kept in touch.

Next, Clarks, Ravel – all in the stretch of Holloway between Nags Head pub and M&S (now also closed down, and relocated to new premises behind Archway station). Woolworths were also here in Holloway (an L-shape shop at the site of Iceland with another entrance opposite the Halifax) but I am not sure I recall the shop personally. They had other branches at Angel and Archway so possibly this one had already closed by 1988...?

Selby's – in 1988 it was dreadful and really out of date. Certainly not keeping up with the times. Or even attempting to rival nearby Jones Bros. I remember wondering how they were even managing to stay open. It was a complete mish-mash and looked to be on the brink of closure. But when Jones Bros closed two years later Selby's pulled up their socks and now I think the store rivals John Lewis.

I think that'll do for now... I'll save the rest for another day

*I am compiling a history of Mr Crisp and his store – all additional info welcome.
**A sign within the window reads "Panini's" - ah but Panini is already plural. The inclusion of an apostrophe intimates that either a letter is missing or ownership – the place must therefore be owned by someone called Panini, tho I have yet to meet him. (Paninis with an s added would make it doubly plural and that would be daft)