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!