29 March 2020

Endangered Species by Barry Baldwin on Grand Buildings

Blimey!  How did I not notice this until last year?
Trafalgar Square is a busy junction that I usually walk through or round quickly as I play 'dodge the tourists' but last summer I stopped in my tracks when I noticed something for the first time that's been there hiding in plain view since Feb 1991 – the entrance between Prezzo and Waterstone's at 31-32 Northumberland Avenue is absolutely slathered in marvellous details. 

Around this arch there are panels containing Adam and Eve surronded by seventy different animals from all around the globe such as a gorilla, an owl, a lizard, a bear, a zebra, various birds and sea creatures. And, as you can see from above, there are flowers, plants a trellis and a factory too. A hand at the apex of this arch appears to hold a horn of fruit. And there is watch on its wrist which I told is showing 'the eleventh hour'.
Three pics stuck together here
I hunted for an artist's mark but all I could find was a foundation stone for the building showing that Grand Buildings is a Land Securites development by architects Sidell Gibson Partneship, constructed by Higgs and Hill on the site of The Northumberland Hotel.
The archways continue to the beginning of The Strand and each one has a different carved head at the top. Some are winking, some are gurning, one wears a tie, another has a spotty scarf, all are rather strange. I am at aloss as to who these people are supposed to be.

I always like to end with a link for more information. Well, blow me down if my mate Peter Bertoud has also written about this and begins his piece with practically the same opening line!

Barry Baldwin
Barry Baldwin's Facebook page

15 March 2020

Odeon Holloway – update on renovations

The Odeon Holloway is being renovated.
The info boards around the hoardings show that they are reinstating much of the original Art Deco colour sceme and re-opening the restaurant area on the frst floor behind the big tall windows.
That's great.
I was hoping that free-standing letters on the exterior as per when it was a Gaumont cinema (see below). Or some big neon letters would be nice.
But recently the new street-facing signage was revealed:

Odeon Holloway Road, N7, January 2020
Oh how disappointing. An opportunity missed. How is this Art Deco style?!
Odeon's designers have made use of the space that was originally intended to advertise the films or events that were on.
OK, that's fine, but they have lazily inserted a bland blue panel with their brand lock-up slapped in the middle, restricted in size by its height. Yet there appears to have been no thought applied to how the available space can best be used and how the signage can fit within that space. This lazy approach is sure to be happening on their other sites too.
I have been working on signage projects for years and, if this was the panel was the only option, then it could have looked so much better. I'd have made the ODEON letters almost twice the side and then slipped in LUXE* underneath with rules either side rather than above and below.
These days we have laser cutting and digital technology, LCD screens/lighting and moving graphics, so couldn't something more evocative have been installed?
Anyway, below is a pic of how the cinema looked back in the year it opened.
And lots more pics here:
*I assume this means luxury and in those big sofa-style chairs with receptacles for drinks etc. Call me old-fashioned but prefer I like to sit properly on seats/chairs. I find the new seating uncomfortable.

2 March 2020

Carved reliefs by G. Herickx at Cecil Sharpe House

A couple of weeks ago I went to an interesting exhibition at Cecil Sharp House, the home of english folk dancing, in Camden NW1. The building is fairly nondescript and belies what goes on inside.
It was first built in 1929 by architects Henry M. Fletcher and Godfrey Pinkerton and at that time was thought to be very modern which seems at odds with folk dancing which keeps old traditions alive.
During WWII the building suffered bomb damage. John Eastwick-Field and Hugh Pite were engaged to make renovations and extensions and in June 1951 the building was reopened by HRH Princess Margaret.
It was during the post-war revamp that six lovely carved reliefs were added around the entrance, three on one side and three on the other, depicting old english dancers, musicians and revellers. A signature at floor level shows the artist as G. Herickx. I particularly like the man on his hobby horse – he looks so stern, so serious compared to the others!

I tried to research the artist in the hope of finding his carvings elsewhere. Nothing of this kind but I did find a Geoffrey R Herickx who, with a name like that, just has to be the same person. Sources say he was born in Birmingham (but when?!). He painted pastoral/english scenes then, in the 1980s, he produced a series depicting aircraft in flight. He now specialises in miniatures. If this is indeed the same person we can assume that if he was in his early 20s when he created these six panels he will be almost 90 by now. If you have any further info please do get in touch. 

As for Cecil Sharp House – there's always a variety things on offer with many different kinds of dance classes, not just Morris, such as tango, clog and salsa. Plus there's live music, workshops and more.
More about what's on at CSH here.

26 February 2020

Art Deco architecture in Central London

Oops, I let the blog posts take a back seat whilst I have been researching new walking tours these past few months.
Spurred on by the success of my Art Deco era guided walks in Shoreditch, Holloway, Spitalfields, The City, Camden and Arsenal, I can now offer a few more. Specifically Piccadilly, KX/StPancras, Soho, HattonGdn/Smithfield, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury all of include lovely less-visited unsung gems in the back streets.
In-depth info and how to book here.
Or visit my Jane's London Walks where you'll also find a quick-to view schedule.
I hope you can join me one day.

Hatton Garden to Smithfield – Modernism, Markets, Meta and Mysteries
St Giles to The Strand  – Flappers, Fashion, Fruit and Footlights
Soho Deco – Movies, Music and Motor Cars
Piccadilly Deco – Slacks, Flicks and Slots
All Change! St Pancras and Kings Cross in the 1930s

23 January 2020

Defaced ghostsigns in Chalk Farm Road

Last month I went out for strol and ended up in the the Camden and Primrose Hill area. I was just enjoying the bright weather, following my nose, look at stuff aimlessly.
As I passed Camden Lock, walking northwards, I noticed that the +120 year old ghostsign for Edwards the tailor which overlooks the canal at Hawley Wharf might be soon lost to us. As you can see here the artist's impression on the hoarding shows a clean wall. I hope this will not be the case as these little hints of the past help to give the area a sense of history.
Moving on northwards I then stopped to wonder what happened to the big rocking chair that used to be on Camden Interiors, at No.19 on the corner of Hawley Avenue. It had been there for decades and was a really good identifier.  I am pretty sure it was still attached to the building after the furniture company moved out so I hope whoever removed it has made good reuse of it.
Then on the next corner, Hartland Road, there is a relatively new ghostsgign. Silks & Spice thai restaurant had also been there for decades but, perhaps, latterly struggled to compete with all the additional food outlets that opened up in the area over the past 20 years, specifically all the Asian streetfood within the Stables Market area opposite.  
And so I continued up the road, fondly remembering happy days in the '90s meeting friends in The Lock Tavern when it was owned by Mick and Iris. Stuff hanging from the ceiling, doorstep sarnies, and oh those fireworks parties in the ramshackle garden!  They sold up and made quite a bit of money on it. Iris probably bought her own helicopter. The new owners tarted it up and used it for C4 TV productions such as Chris Evans' progs and the like. It's never been the same since.
And then past The Monarch, which is not The Monarch if you get what I mean, indeed neither is the Enterprise further up the road and, oh, I miss The Engine Room with its fab music quizzes attended by teams from NME and Melody Maker. Always packed, lively evenings.
And then amid my reminiscences.... BOOM!  Ouch!
I stopped in my tracks... one of my favourite ghostsigns and another one that features on my Camden ghostsgns walk (plug plug again) has been vandalised.
For +70 years this south-facing prime site has been showing us some understated hints of times gone by – a palimsest of signs advertised Johnson the bookbinder, Bacon the stationer and Laurence the draper. Today we can also add Man the egotist and whatever those other two bits underneath are supposed to be.
Chalk Farm Road, opposite entrance to Morrison's
Below is how it used to look in Jan 2009 (slightly enhanced) and I am little annoyed with myself for not taking some pics last year as, since 2009, the sign had further faded such that the [older] draper's sign, had become the strongest element.  

Ah well. What can we do? We can't hold on to everything. The sign will still feature on my tour. And its defacement will help to highlight the plight of these ads... blimey sound like I am talking about endangered animals here...!

16 January 2020

Update re doorway mosiac in Caledonian Road

A while back I wrote about this doorway in N1.
I completely forgot about it until I was looking in the directories for something else along The Cally and found that for at least 1915-39 this was a branch of Frost or Frosts or Frost's*.
This local grocery chain was not as common as say Lipton's, Sainsbury's or Home & Colonial Stores but they did employ the ubiquitous Victorian script style for their 'logo', as per Boots and CocaCola.
I discoved the name Frost at the Cally Rd location – er, why hadn't I checked theis before?
This reminded me of the lovely old shops I photographed Wandsworth which includes this one:
Doorway mosaic, 114 St John's Hill, Wandsworth
Further sleuthing... here's the full list of their shops in 1939:

And I found an old pic of how one of their stores might have looked – I am guessing c1910:
Frost's Stores, location unknown
*My [pedantic?] eye for detail has spotted that the possessive apostophe and/or plural name isn't consistent. As you can see from the 1939 directory, above, they are listed as 'S. Frost & Co. Ltd., provision merchants, yet for the specific Wandsworth entry in the same directory they are shown as 'provision dealers'. I am not about to check them all...!