30 December 2021

Clapton ghostsigns – hints of upwardly-mobile Victorians and a multi-layered engma

I've been wandering the streets a lot these past few weeks. Either just following my nose, investigating places I don't know so well, or planning walking routes for the future.

I was recently near the River Lea in the in Clapton area and thought I'd best go and check on a couple of old bits of signage near the main drag to see if they were still there. And indeed there were/are.

Just east of the roundabout on the north-facing wall of 203 Lower Clapton Road, today a Ladbrokes betting shop, there is this a hand-painted sign for S. B. LUSH & Co. Ltd, dyers & cleaners, rendered in white 3-D effect block letters on a red panel. If we look back to 2008 we can see that it's in reasonable condition because it was, up until then, covered/protected by a boxed sign.

A bit of sleuthing shows that 'Lush & Cook, dyers' were here from at least 1896 until the first few years of the 1900s and by 1901 the name had changed to become 'S. B. Lush & Co' – I wonder what happened to Mr Cook? So far I have not managed to ascertain if Messrs Lush and Cook were here pre-1896 but I have found evidence of S.B Lush & Co at some very well-to-do locations in central and NW London. For instance, in 1891 the man/company was at 6 Wigmore Street, W1, and also at 1 Motcomb Street, W1, 38 Ladbroke Grove and 105 St John's Wood Terrace – so this really gives us a sense of how upwardly moblie this area of Hackney was at the end of the 19th century. The company had gone form here by 1904 when this became the premises of a milliner, followed the following year by a piano maker. For the period 1908-14, it was a confectioners, owned by a Mr. Thomas Taylor. So now I'm asking, what happed to Mr. Lush?

I continued my walk southwards to the corner of Downs Road where I was surprised and rather pleased to see that the filthy broken 'Art Deco' era clock for Strange Chemist is still hanging in there above today's pharmacy which still bears the same name as it did in 1939. They really ought to, at least, give this old timepiece a clean-up. 

Then round into Downs Road, and immediately left into Clarence Road. On the right hand side, a little way along, on the side of No.163, there is a double-layered sign. I stood looking at it, amazed that it was still intact, albeit faded. It appears that over a century ago, a hand-painted sign on the wall was covered with wooden planks that were used as the basis for a secondary sign. The wood is held in place by an angled arm of metal. It's hard to believe how this structure is still there!

The wooden sign is very bleached and faded today and there is barely any paint left, but my pic here from July 2008 shows how the letters on the boards were almost discernible and would have been even clearer had I vistied it a decade previously. I think I can make out the word 'dealer' two-thirds of the way down here. As for the sign underneath, the tantalising letters peeking out at the left hand side of the boards, give little away but there's a letter R at the top, so my guess is that the sign could be for Miss Ann Reynolds, haberdasher, who was there in 1901, and/or William Richardson, builder who was listed as being next door at No.165 in 1914.  

This is so bizarre enigma, don't you think? Just what was the though process here? Was the second sign menats to be temporary? Because, surely it would have been easier to whitewash the first sign and then over-paint it. Does anyone have any other ideas?

Please do let me know if you have any further info on any of these..

26 December 2021

Hendon ghostsigns

In my previous post I wrote about a drive about in London on Christmas Day which somehow included a jaunt up the A5 to Colindale. On the way back we stoppped along Hendon Broadway to check on a few ghostsigns. The street has a sense of Victorian-into-Edwardian faded glory. The last time I had a good wander about there was 2011 and I was keen to see how many of the signs I'd seen back then were still visible today.

The first old hand-painted sign that looms into view on the left as you head northwards, above what is now Aladin's Kebabs at No.147-9, is a sign for George Frederck Kruse. On south-facing wall, to left, it's easy to make out 'Estate Agent' in angled Coca-Cola-esque script complete with what I call an underswoosh. Above that, to the extreme right, immediately above the horizontal bar between the windows, there are remnants of some lettering that I think includes '[Local?] & Adjacent Districts' and 'APPLY' which could be followed with 'within' as has been suggested, but I am not so sure about that seeing as the much easier to decipher section below directs us to another address:
GEO. F. KRUSE (in an arc) / 50(?) YEARS IN HENDON / AUCTIONEER & ESTATE / –> AGENTS <– / Opposite Hendon Statn. N.W.4 / PHONE HENDON 1115. / Management of Property a Speciality

The estate agent shop at 32 Station Road would have been directly opposite the Hendon railway station here – there is no number 32 there today and the postcode written on the sign is given as NW4 which is the eastern side of the tracks.

I did a quick bit of googling and discovered in the National Archives that during WW1, George, then living at just round the corner at 89 Audley Road, NW4, appealed for exclusion from National Service, claiming that 'serious hardship would ensue' due to his 'exceptional finance or business obligations' – I haven't pursued this any further as yet to see if he was successful. 

Just up the road from here, at No.163 on the north-facing side overlooking Milton Road, is another faded sign advertising dairy products. It's fairly obvious that the who wall was once slatered in lettering and there have been many over-paintings throughout the decades which are hard to decipher today. However, eleven years ago I could clearly see that the centre section read: "BARRIES / FOR PURE / MILK" – I haven't been able to ascertain if thtis was alocal company name or a product.

If you spin round from the Barries sign and look north along the same side of the road, you'll see at the side of No.177 there is a nice surprise – a boxed sign used to cover a large proportion of this wall and it has in the last few months been removed to reveal elements of a Gillette safety razor ad. there are also hints of other layers of signage here – a palimpsest of advertising on this south-facing side wall.
I think the very large red lettering is for DAILY MAIL and there are other panels of faded blues and reds. Black block lettering at low level reads 'FOR SALE' with a more friendly script in white behined or over the top of it.
How jolly intriguing and this must look fab on a sunny day with better light.

Further up the road there has been a fair bit of demoliton, rebuild and renovation since I was last there and this has meant the loss of two Co-operative Society signs. One used to be on the north-facing side of No.197 with a second, south-facing sign on No.201. The second one, shown last here, was a sign I particularly meant to return to another day when the light was better and I was armed with a good zoom lens, because it had lots of white block lettering at the top and, in a sort of script at the bottom, it read: '...other members'.
It's interesting that a Co-op grocery store today occupies the site.

For more research on all of these signs, indeed the changing face of this street, more info would require access to the old Middlesex directories or a visit to the Hendon archives. Any feedback welcome.  

25 December 2021

A Christmas Day drive round London.

Christmas Day 2021. 

With no Congestion Charge and no Ulez restrictions my mate Malcolm drove over to Holloway from Notting Hill to pick me up at 9:30am. No plan. Just drive about wherever.  

From Holloway we went straight  down an almost empty Cally Rd then passed Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston railway stations, before heading down to Regent Street and round the three sides of Trafalgar Square, along Strand, round Aldwych and along Fleet St, though the City and into Whitechapel. A right turn at Mile End, down to Stepney and through the Rotherhithe Tunnel to Bermondsey. Then the first of many bridges... over Tower Bridge, down along Lower Thames St before heading back south via Southwark Bridge. A peek at the vast hole where the Elephant & Castle shopping centre used to be then across Lambeth Bridge, along Millbank past TateModern and over Vauxhall Bridge. Then along Albert Embankment, over Westminster Bridge, round Parliament Sq, up Whitehall to Traf Sq, into The Mall, stopping to watch some mounted guards, down Birdcage Walk to Buck Hse and back again along St James Pk to Westminster, along Victoria Embankment, up Northumberland Ave to Pall Mall, along Piccadilly to Knightsbridge and into KenGdns/HydePk opposite the Albert Hall where we parked the car and got out to look at the views across the Long Water and The Serpentine. But it was freezing cold out there, so back into the car...

Exited the park at Lancaster Gate. Investigated streets and mews nearby before heading up Edgware Rd and following Watling Street, the old Roman rd, through Maida Vale, Kilburn and Cricklewood where we looked at old signs and railway cottages, and then across the A406 North Circular Rd, to West Hendon to check up on a few more ghost signs. For some reason, perhaps unable to decide left or right, we continued northwest into Colindale where we stopped for Christmas Day lunch at a KFC. 
Warmed by spicy chicken baps, chips and alcohol-free hot drinks, all of which we were pleasantly surprised by seeing as neither of us had eaten the Colonel's fare in a decade or so, we rejoined the North Circular and travelled clockwise to investigate Hampstead Garden Suburb, wondering how people who live there cope being so far from a pint of milk. And then back to Holloway via Highgate Village. A lovely way to spend the daylight hours. But it’s also nice to be back indoors cosy and warm. 
Tomorrow I will post about the ghostsigns I snapped today. 
Ding dong merrily, whatever rocks your Christmas boat, Jane

10 December 2021

The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree – thank you for being thankful, Norway

For the last few years, and especially so this year, I have been appalled to hear that people have been complaining that the wonderful Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square is "too sparse". Well, what a slap in the face for the Norwegians who have been sending a tree to us for over seventy years. I am glad to see that they won't be organising a replacement. See The Metro, 9Dec2021, right.

It's really ungrateful. This is not just a simple case of 'where's the receipt, can I get my money back?' and I suspect that most of these complainers have no idea the meaning, the effort and generosity behind this installation.

Since 1947, Norway has been donating a prime Norweigian Spruce, at least 20 metres high, to adorn our famous square, chosen by representatives of Oslo and Westminster from their lush forests. It is gifted to us as a thank you for assisiting them during WW2. The who process is a big logistics exercise, felling the tree and transporting it safely across land and sea. That's over seven decades of 'thank you's.

Once safely installed, the tree-lighting ceremony takes place at 6pm on the first Thursday of December every year (exc last year due to Covid-19 restrictions). There are speeches from Westminster council dignitairies and the Mayor of Oslo who last week was patently so delighted to be back in London again switching on the lights. I was there. Here's the before and after... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

I wonder how many of the complainers were in the square that evening, enjoying this short but sweet ceremony and singing along with 'Once in Royal David's City'? I expect none. 

The tree is not sparse. In fact, it's an excellent example of its species. It's a fashion thing – people these days seem to want what I have heard on TV called "the traditional Christmas tree look" and by this they mean those dense little shrubby bushes, or the plastic equivalents. But this confuses me as surely a 'traditional' tree, from the Dickensian era, would be like the one set up by Victoria and Albert in 1841, right, with open branches, better to see all the pretty adorments.

I have also heard people complaining about the lights on the Trafalgar Square tree, how they are also disappointingly sparse. Well, dear people, they are hung in a traditional Norwegian fashion, with 14 strands falling from the top and I, for one, like how those strands fall nestle within the branches.

Thank you Norway. Some of us here don't look a gift horse in the mouth.