30 December 2022

Christmas Day 2022 looking at Art Deco architecture and ghosts of the past

I hope you spent Christmas Day doing something that makes you happy, because I surely did.

A friend picked me up in his car and we headed to NW London where we at first pootled around the streets either side of Scrubs Lane in North Kensington and East Acton, specifically in the industrial estates around Willesden Junction. 
Ooh I love a well-designed old factory building, especially one that pre-dates WWII, such as this fine example which wa originally constructed as the Rolls Royce manufactory. 
We then investigated the upper slopes of Counters Creek, one of the mostly-disappeared Thames' tributaries that, as it makes its way southwards from its source somewhere near Kensal Green Cemetery, becomes Chelsea Creek, for obvious reasons. 

From there we made our way down Old Oak Lane, stopping to lament at the sad loss of a lovely old green and gold shop front that was once W. Burrow & Sons Fish and Chip Restaurant. 

These pics show how the shop used to look back in January 2009 but there's nothing left of it today except the hand-painted sign, high up on on the east side of that building, hinting at a world before UPVC windows.
Further south, we investigated the buildings in Warple Way and Stanley Gardens, an area that used to be railway sidings. 
Acton's main shopping streets boast some interesting old shop fronts and repurposed buildings plus quite a few ghost signs of various kinds. We tried to decipher the letters in the multi-layered ghost sign on the East-facing wall above 265 Uxbridge Road. There's at least two signs there. The earlier one is black script on yellow and a later sign is red on white. I will return to this at another date when I've got more time to work it out.

And so to the A4, the Great West Road, the main arterial thoroughfare cutting through Brentford. We were specifically interested in the short stretch of road just west of the River Brent which boasts many excellent examples of interwar architectural elegance. Consider that these fine constructions, which resemble cinemas or grand hotels, were actually built as factories!  
These temples to industry were constructed for Gillette, Pyrene, Coty and Firestone, the last of which only the gateposts remain after the vicious demolition of the main building on August Bank Holiday Monday 1980. 
A fab day out. 
Shown here are some pics I took with my phone. I took lots more, but they're on my camera. i need more hours in the day, more days in the week...

28 November 2022

More wood blocks street paving in London and further afield (part 3)

In April 2021 I wrote piece about areas of wood block paving still visible in London. These I'd found mostly in the Clerkenwell, Islington, old Finsbury and Shoreditch areas, plus the large remnant at the south side of County Hall. I followed that up six months later with an update, adding other sightings in Southwark and Islington along with a panel in an alley off Clerkenwell Rd that I did indeed go to look at in person, and I did take more pics, but what have I done with them?!  

Well, since then I have spotted some more, and one of them was just a couple of days ago, a few minutes' walk from my home in Holloway N7. I was crossing the junction of Holloway Rd heading west and standing on the central reservation directly in front of Barclays, now closed and empty, and looked down to see this wood-filled manhole:

How, had I not seen it before?!  In my defence, I rarely ever cross the road at that point. Here's the Google Streetview of that location, looking back from Barclays to where I was standing. As you would expect, I then made a search of the whole junction to see if there were any others in the vicinity, but no. 

So I came home and added my photos of my new find to my 'Wood Blocks More' folder which contains, in no particular order... 

Within the covered entrance to Bermondsey Leather Market on Weston Street:

A couple in Hampstead, NW3:

Further afield, outside London, I found a lovely example in Waltham Abbey: 

And in Whitstable there is a paved floor within the gatehouse entrance to the castle gardens:

Someone told me they saw a filled manhole cover in Chalk Farm Road, Camden, but whoever that was didn't take photos or provide me with any more info. I've just been up and down that road onscreen via Google Streetview but I can't find it. I'll have a proper look next time I am visiting the markets.

I'll leave you with a pic of one of the first examples I ever spotted – I cannot believe that I omitted to include this one, as well as the other two that are very near here, when I compiled my initial post on this subject back in April last year. Unusually, this is not in the road but instead it's set within the pedestrian pavement outside Pizza Express, Upper Street, Islington, hinting perhaps that the road used to wider. Here it's looking lovely after the rain and I think the outer shape resembles the London Underground roundel: 

Re the other two nearby, they are actually in Islington High Street, behind the old tram electricity station, today an Amazon outlet. One is still intact see here, but the other one a few metres south on the No Entry sign near The York pub, was infilled about two years ago. I do have some pics before they slapped it full of tarmac and when I find them, and the photos in the Clerkenwell alley, and the Camden example, I will compose Part4. Ooh the excitement, ha ha!


Update August 2023: I have set up a London A-Z Directory of Woodblocks. If you can add to the list, please leave a comment under this blog post or email me at jane@janeslondon.com

24 November 2022

Save Kings Cross Coach Station from demolition!!

Earlier this week I was walking towards Kings Cross Station along Euston after attending a talk at the British Library. I was horrified to look across the road and see that Belgrove House, until quite recently home to the Post Office, Access Storage and other companies, is currently wrapped in plastic with signs all around the whole block to Argyle Square telling us that demolition is in progress.  

These pics of the building, taken as screen shots from Google Streetview dated July 2022, show that demolition signs have been on the building since well before that date and, had I reinstated my 'All change here! guided walk about 1930s KX architecture this year I would have already noticed being as this building obviously features as a stop on the tour. 

Hey, it may not as impressive as it's counterpart in Victoria, but it's a well-constructed yet understated neo-Georgian style that sports many key 'Art Deco' motifs including Jazz Age metal grilles and elegant brickwork. 

Also, it's an important link to the past. But having already posted about this potential loss on my Facebook page, and gleaned responses, it appears that Camden Council have been negligent as regards their assessment of the site and the age of the building. It’s hard to believe, seeing as this sits a few doors down from Camden Town Hall, but they think the original coach station was demolished and replaced with this structure. Yet this is the bus station, not a replacement.  To my mind it’s the brick finish that confuses people. If interwar buildings aren’t rendered and painted white then people don’t recognise them.  Also worth mentioning that Victoria Coach Station didn’t look as bright when it was first built. Go google.  

Lazy idiots. Especially because photographic evidence of the building in the 1930s does exist and more info is available here, thanks to Save Bloomsbury, which also highlights that the building has been under threat since at least 2020. I am rather frustrated that I have only discovered all this now as having walked past the front of the building many times these past few years I hadn't noticed anything on the building declaring the plans. See here for December 2021 where, despite objections already being raised, there are no signs of change. wouldn't have seen this having researched the building in 2019 and not being able to lead walking tours during Lockdown. 

So, what's replacing it? Brace yourself... see last pic, below, for an artist's impression – there's plenty more across the web here.  

I'm thinking a 90 year lease was due to expire? The coach station building has been there for over eight decades and the external structure has always looked, to me, to be in very good condition. And I always admired how it had been sympathetically designed to fit in with the Georgian buildings that would have then stood at either side. I am not sure we can say the same of the high-rise proposal that will replace it which I very much doubt will be standing there for a similar time period. 

Oh and one more thing, M@ the Londonist guru points out that Oasis filmed Supersonic on the roof of the coach station – it has some great views of the surrounding area inc KX station. See here

This last pic sourced from here – akt-uk are the structural engineers working on the new build.

6 November 2022

Holloway Road, The Oxford Street of The North*

I moved to Holloway over three decades ago. Back then there was a good selection of shops – well-known high street names mixed in with a healthy range of independent local businesses, a market that was a different each day of the week, another outdoor/carboot market in the school playground at the weekend, and a couple of department stores.

Within two years, in July 1990, Jones Bros department store closed, later to be replaced by a Waitrose. Then, a few years later, Next shut up shop here, as did Mark One, River Island, Ravel, Shelly's shoes and other well-known names. And since that, for whatever reason, there has been a drip, drip effect. It's sad, but it's not all bad.

Marks and Spencer, a fixture of the area since the later Victorian heyday* closed a few years ago (behind the tree in this pic), even though it was understandable seeing as it was rarely busy in there. Yet the company has opened up other stores in nearby Archway and Finsbury Park, and Lidl successfully filled this N7 space. See an old post about M&S here.
New Look disappeared during the pandemic and a few months ago I noticed that Barclays Bank had gone, having been at the corner of Parkhurst Road for over 140yrs (see pic further down). Just last week the Clarks factory outlet store on Seven Sisters Road closed its doors for the last time.

Of the independent traders and small businesses that have gone, I was saddened to see Rolls and Rems fabric shop and Michael’s greengrocer, both well-known traders on Seven Sisters Rd for +20yrs of trading, close their doors, adding their names to the long list of bygone businesses that I recall from the 1990s. 

Despite these losses, I am often to be heard saying that Holloway has everything you need – we still have Selbys department store which is marvellous, yet I am sure that only a tiny percentage of people who live near here have never been inside to see what's on offer (it might be due to the often poor advertising in the windows along Holloway Road which often makes it look like a sale outlet) – I was in there last week chatting to a member of staff discussing how sad it was to see so devoid of shoppers despite the excellent range of products available.  

On the ground floor, for instance, there are lots of well-known fashion names such as Whistles, White Stuff, Seasalt, Benetton and Barbour, plus a major cosmetic brands, quality accessories, lingerie and menswear inc Levis etc. Oh, and lots of shoes, such that I'd say it's the best shoe shop in Holloway, yet hardly anyone seems to know it's all in there. The next floor is a one stop shop for home and haberdashery. I have given up looking anywhere else for bed linen, furnishings and kitchenware because other stores miles away in Oxford St or in retail parks. just don't have the same choice.  Next time you are in the area heading for Morrisons, walk through Selbys and exit via the rear door in the precinct. 
We also have Argos, many supermarkets, lots of fresh food outlets, plus our fair share of pound stores, charity shops, market stalls and more – we have this past year seen a more shops leave the area, probably exacerbated by a mix of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.  

I am now wondering which business is the oldest here after Selbys which started as a drapery store in 1895 and Drivers and Norris which can trace its history back to 1852. I am pretty sure, since the closure of some of the shops mentioned above that these two companies are unusual vis their history in N7. My guess as to the 3rd-longest trading outlet here would be Boots the Chemist or possibly NatWest. 
The Great Britain as a nation of shopkeepers era has definitely passed us by now, by which I mean, just like many shopping areas of this kind, we have a wonderful diversity offering products and services from around the world, be it German burgers, Turkish barbershops, or Chinese groceries. 
As such, I wonder if today there are any independent businesses that can claim to have been trading here for 20 years or more. The ones that spring to mind, and I need to check this, are food outlets such The Holy Chinese takeaway and Crystals kebab restaurant, both opposite the Odeon on Holloway Road, and I do know that the EyeValue opticians has been in Holloway since 2001. Perhaps some of the barbers and hairdressers can also claim a medal here, and possibly Holloway Stationers and Book Shop opposite Selbys. 

I have a plan to look further into this and go into the shops to talk to the owners and ask for more info. That would be nice thing to do, so watch this space.
Please do check in again for an update, or add you own thoughts, suggestions and memories below. Alternatively, send me an email: jane@janeslondon.com

Pics are all screen grabs from Google Streetview here – to see previous years, as shown above, use the retrospective facility via the small inset window (tab at top left when viewing on a large screen). 

* The area was often referred to as "The Oxford Street of The North"* – if you want to find out more about that late Victorian shopping heyday, or the Art Deco era, please join me for a guided walk via janeslondonwalks.com.

3 November 2022

Finchley High Road – is this the longest road in London...?

Watching the world go by from the top deck of a No.263 to High Barnet, I happened to notice that the street numbers along the High Road, A1000, are in the high 800sHmm, I thought, how intriguing. That's a bigger number than Holloway Road which, at two miles long, goes up to 695 on the West side and 804 the East side and used to extend to 820 before the last block was demolished north of Giesbach Rd. 
I wondered how high this ancient route through Finchley and Whetstone goes up to and sat amazed, watching as numbers went ever higher, through the 900s, then past 1200... (and I wondered if the word ‘high’ is correct in this instance. Big? Large? any ideas?)

Well, it turns out that Finchley High Road goes up to 1541 on the West side and 
1536 on the East side. As shown in the Google Streetview above, showing the junction of Walfield Avenue, N20, here the High Road name ends and the ancient title of The Great North Road is seen, as seen on the street sign above the pavement. 
Then, as the Gt Nth Rd continues northwards it become Pricklers Hill, then Gt Nth Rd again, then Barnet Hill and High Street before reverting to the Gt Nth Rd again as it passes Monken Hadley on its way to Scotland. Soonafter it's called Barnet Road hinting at it being the road to Barnet from the North. Road names of this kind always amuse me, after all, it depends which way you are travelling! 
Intrigued by these high numbers, I looked to find other long roads in the UK and discovered that the prize for four-figure door numbers goes to No.2679 Stratford Road which can be found on a stretch of the A3400 linking Bordesley to Hockley Heath, Solihull. It continues to, you've guessed it, Stratford-on-Avon. Oh my god! I thought door numbers as high as that were only to be found in other countries, such as the US! 
The houses along the Stratford Road there are quite spaced out and the road is about 10 miles long. In comparison, the A1000 starts just south of East Finchley here and covering a distance of about 4 miles, comprising terraces of various kinds and paired villas, so I think the Barnet road wins on density in a look how much you get for your money kind of way!

28 October 2022

A portal to Iceland through a record shop in Soho – 28–30th October – FREE!

For three days only, experience Iceland in Soho. 

Icelandair have created a below ground experience, bringing you the land of ice and fire, accessed via a door at the rear of Phonica Records, 51 Poland Street, W1F 7LZ. 

It’s a bit CS Lewis, as in going to Narnia through a wardrobe, though you won’t find a lion or a witch down there. Instead you’ll find tasters of what it’s like in Iceland, via interactive experiences, videos, clothing and products. More info in italics below

The space is free to enter but best to book a time slot here. 

I was at yesterday evening's launch night (lovely cocktails and canapés!) and my recommendation when visiting (see more below) is to be sure to investigate everything in there and ask questions because the information isn’t immediately obvious. For instance, use any Qcodes and links there to access special offers etc.

I’ve been meaning to go to Iceland for decades, though I really don’t cope well with being in cold climates. But this has rekindled that urge and if Damon Albarn likes it there, then I’m sure I will too.

Promo stuff and info:
Icelandair has teamed up with a range of incredible Icelandic partners including The Blue Lagoon, Business Iceland and 66North to take you on an unexpected mini-break to Iceland (the country) – in London!
Iceland will literally be around the corner for one weekend only and everyone’s invited.
Experience the Blue Lagoon in London, icy wonders, the surprising landscapes and the unique airwaves that have arisen from this land of fire and ice – including surprise Icelandic style entertainment and performances. Navigate your way through a glacier, Relaxing in a geothermal spa, or sample the ever-growing music scene. There will even be chances to win a trip to the real Iceland, and more!
Icelandair Around The Corner is free to attend and open to everyone – click here.
Special events that will be taking place inside the space include:
A Blue Lagoon Soundbath event (Saturday 29th October from 9.30am to 10.30am and then on Sunday 30th October from 9.30am to 10.30am)
A Photo Exhibit and Talk from Benjamin Hardman (Friday 28th October from 12.30pm to 1pm and then on Saturday 29th October from 12.30pm to 1pm)
The Mini Airwaves festival, featuring live acts from the 2022 Airwaves Festival line-up and DJ (Saturday 29th October from 7.30pm to 10.30pm)
Family Fun Day (Sunday 30th October, with a sensory dampened hour taking place from 3.30pm)

26 October 2022

How to lift a coal hole cover plate – a dilemma

I have often pulled together collections of coal hole cover plates showing how diverse the range of designs can be. Most of them sport a pattern on them to make them anti-slip and often used as a means of promotion for the hardware store or iron founder. They show no visible signs of how the covers/lids might be lifted and evidence about this process, or diagrams to explain the construction, has proved elusive or inconclusive*. 

Whilst presenting a talk about coal holes at London Historians History in the Pub evening last month I asked the audience for ideas about their usage and the consensus was that the scullery maid would have pushed up the cover plate from the coal bunker below so that the delivery man could then remove the lid by hand. He would them drop it back into place after delivering the order. Being flush to the pavement, with no protruding lips to get a grip on, meant the lid was unlikely to be tampered with, or stolen/removed, and the coal below was as good as inaccessible via a short narrow access pipe barely big enough to squeeze your head through.

Some plates were 'self-locking' as shown here. If you look closely you'll see that there are little notches/gaps in the design within the outer circles and it has been suggested that perhaps these needed to be aligned to make the mechanism work. I think this is very dubious idea being as in this example we can see there there are four gaps at 90 degrees other on the cover plate, yet there are six at 60 degrees on the rung. And how would you rotate it?! 

The explanation is that a catch was released from below ground and this enabled the cover plate to pop up proud of the pavement, making it easy for the coal to be dropped down into the hole. The plate was then dropped back into the outer casing and pressed flat to the pavement, causing locking mechanism to click back into position. However, these self-locking plates must have proved unsuccessful seeing as additional locking mechanisms were later added as per here.  

*Hayward's of Union Street, Southwark, were the B&Q of their day and as such would most certainly have produced an extensive catalogue ... do you have any reference of these?

All suggestions and further info is most welcome. Please use the comments section below or email me at jane@janeslondon.com 

6 October 2022

Colourful Islington shops

Walking along Camden Passage, Angel, Islington, on Sunday, I stopped between two colourful shops that face each other and mused how the zeitgeist at the moment is to slap a bright or gaudy colour right across the whole shopfront; woodwork, pipes, fascias, the lot. 

Here they are at the top with a selection of eight others from Upper Street:

26 September 2022

Sekforde Street doorways and fanlights

Walking down Sekforde Street again recently, I stopped to admire the lovely coloured glass fanlights above the doors at numbers 31 and 32. 

Ooh. Nice. 

This little street offers an amazing diversity of Georgian doorstep gorgeousness and the following eight examples are all from the northern half of the street...

I wonder if the people who drink at the Sekforde Arms have ever noticed these delightful doors, let alone the impressive façade of The Finsbury Bank For Savings.

22 September 2022

How do you pronounce Canonbury?

If you ever pass through Canonbury Square on a TfL 271 bus you will hear the automated announcement for the next stop. This bemuses me every time because the recorded female voice is heard to pronounce Canonbury as' Canon-burrie' turning the last part into something that rhymes with hurry or curry when it really it should be condensed to sound something like 'bree'. 

The bury ending for a place name indicates that there was once a castle, stronghold or fort at that location and it can also be found in many nearby places such as Highbury and Barnsbury, yet the on-board announcements for those are OK, so why has TfL got Canonbury wrong?!

Yes, I know it's an automated, patched-together, voice thing and I could almost forgive the error if she said it in the same way as the verb 'to bury' which is pronounced 'berry' and echoes the market town in Greater Manchester. But here in Canonbury, the misappropriated burrie thing makes no sense when there is no word that sounds like that at all. I mean, what is a burrie?

Isn't the English language fun?!

Feel free to enlighten me either in a comment of via jane@janeslondon.com

Recently I wrote about the coal hole cover plates in Canonbury Square, N1.

Thanks for the comments – for some reason I am unable to reply/comment myself at the moment (Sep2022)

19 September 2022

More coal hole cover plates – this time in Marylebone

Last week I was looking up at demons and here I am looking down again, but it's far from gloomy... 

I was recently on a mission to check up on some 'Art Deco' buildings in the area between Marylebone Station and Baker Street when I happened to spot a few coal hole cover plates with names on that I was sure I hadn't seen before. The one that first caught my eye was in Balcombe Street almost at the junction Ivor Place and it bore the name 'Whitehead'. I took a snapped a quick pic and was about to continue my journey when I noticed another plate a few metres away with the same name but a sporting different design (see below, top left and middle). Hmmm... I scanned some adjacent plates and noticed the diversity of names, a couple of which I was convinced weren't in my mental database. 

Oh gawd. What to do? Continue with PlanA or let myself get distracted by this new project? Of course, I went for the latter. 

From the Ivor Street junction, I walked northwards keeping to the left/west side of Balcombe Street, then at the top I crossed over to the other side and went back down to where it the street meets Dorset Square. I then did a circuit of the square and went back up the left side of Balcombe Street to complete the full loop, ending back at the Whitehead plates.

I have endeavoured to show the plates in roughly proportion to each other here. Most residential plates are the smaller 12" ones (excluding the outer ring), though I did snap a couple of the larger 15" ones which are more usually seen outside larger establishments such as pubs or restaurants and this hints to me that some of these houses here, being a stone's throw from Marylebone Station, were hotels. Indeed, I didn't check to see if they might still be. 

A few of the plates here have holes within the designs to allow ventilation within the coal cellar below. These are evidently part of their manufacture, but I have seen many examples elsewhere where holes have been retrospectively drilled in a random fashion by people who clearly have no regard for the design!  The three different Matts plates (below) show how that company's name and address has evolved in many ways.

Notice how in some cases the patterns on the covers are the almost identical. This is simply because the ironmonger's name has been added to a pre-made mould that was already available at the foundry. However, some of the more successful and wealthy ironmongers had their own bespoke, and therefore identifiable, designs created, as per the Gibbons plate at the very top and, although the initial process would have been expensive, repeat orders from that mould would be the same price as the off-the-shelf ones.

Unusually, compared to other streets of this era, there is no clear single winner amongst the range of local ironmongers shown. Elsewhere, it's evident that one local business has been engaged to supply the plates for a whole terrace having been contracted by the developer or contractor when the houses were first built. Instead, in this part of Marylebone, there is a mix of all sorts – some show local businesses in Marylebone, Edgware Rd and Lisson Grove, but others come from further afield, but only a few miles, as can be seen by the streets and locations on them. There are, of course, quite a few sporting the name Haywards of Southwark, the company being the B&Q of their day. And, without going back to count them, I'd guess either Sampson of Euston Road or Matts of Paddington were the two most common local names in this vicinity, with Stone coming in 4th. 

Something else I found in Balcombe Street that I don't think I have seen before... some HUGE slabs of York stone paving which I estimate are almost the size of a double bed.  

At the top end of the street, north of Ivor Place, on both sides of the road, some unusually large pieces of natural stone sit above the coal cellars as street paving. These super-size slabs must have been really expensive and I wonder how they were transported and how difficult it was to install them. There are coal holes within every one of them although some have been removed or infilled. A few of the coal holes have been filled and replaced with strange bits of flint that looks like left-overs from church walling – something else I have never seen the like of before. 

Looking down can be so fascinating... later that day, I as good as stumbled upon a 21" Haywards cover plate about half a mile away from Balcombe Street, by which time I had run out of phone battery and it was getting dark. I will return to it soon and put together another collection.

13 September 2022

Devils, Demons and Dragons

Oh how my eyes roll when I hear that daft story about why these delightful demons leer down over Cornhill in the City of London. If you don't know what I talking about, go google. I mean, really, eh?! If true, why did the clergy leave them in place? They are indeed unique in form, possibly one-offs, but they aren't the only sculptures of this type in London – you need only to look up and around you to see that London is splattered with fabulously devilish embellishments akin to these fellas. And I'm not here talking about gargoyles and grotesques on churches and the like.

To illustrat my point, I've put together here a selection of some of my favourites, starting a few minutes' walk from these little demons. And I'll start at the junction of Queen Victoria Street and Cannon Street where there are lots of strange lumpy lizards:

At first glance the building resembles a triangular wedding cake, but look closer and see that between the windows on the upper floors there are many different dragon-like beasts, each one totally unique as if made by a different person. 

From here, continue along Queen Victoria St to The Blackfriars public house where you'll find these two spooky fellas in amongst all the other marvellous embellishments there:

Next, to another public house, and probably my favourite London demons. Every time I am near Paddington Station I have to make a detour to check that this old Truman's pub with its its unusual adornments is still intact:

Many residential properties built in the late Victorian to Edwardian era feature baying dragons above the front windows. These, I think, would have been available from the equivalent of today's Wickes or Travis Perkins builders supplies store:

And then there are serpents and mythological beasts on door knobs in Marylebone, under windows in Kensington and climbing up many different kinds of buildings, such as here in Chancery Lane:

You'll find them on tiled shop fronts in Kensington, almost everywhere you look at St Pancras Hotel,  lurking within panels and friezes as per here on a Fulham pub, or sitting atop others in Earls Court and Clapton: 

Aren't they fab?

10 September 2022

Coal hole covers in Canonbury Square, N1

Last week I delivered a talk about coal hole cover plates at London Historian's History in the Pub night. This meant I had to wade through my photos to choose the best ones to best illustrate the diversity and how these things intrigue me. I am known for stopping suddenly in the street, mid-conversation with a friend, because I have spotted a name or a design that I have never seen before. I have written about these discs in the past, see here

Since last Wednesday's talk I have been revisiting my archive in an attempt to better collate them and delete the repeats, but with coal holes now uppermost in my brain, I have been out spotting more and have further expanded my photographic collection. I've even started making a A-Z list of the ironmongers' names that I have found. This shows how names evolve and businesses move to new locations or expand within an area. Talk about nerdy, or is it geekery?!

Yesterday I was in Canonbury Square, Islington, N1, so I walked the full perimeter to see what unusual delights I could find:

I discovered only five names and quite a lot of generic ones with no specific wording – the patterns on the plates offering a textured non-slip surface, as per the ones along the eastern side where George Orwell used to live. The one showed bottom right here can be found nearest to the green plaque commemorating the Big Brother author. 

Of the named ones, I would guesstimate about 80% of them,bear the name John Aston, a company that was located nearby at 70 Essex Road at the corner of Britannia Row. The lovely Georgian building, that +100 years ago would have been festooned with ironmongery and all things household is still there today but it's occupied by an estate agent. However, the Aston company lives on as part of Aston Matthews further along the street at 114-117. 

Of the other plates in Canonbury Square, Alfred Syer and John Hunter were both based about a mile away adjacent to the busy Nags Head shopping area of Holloway N7 and, being just around the corner to me, would have been my personal local ironmongers, though I wouldn't have needed a coal hole cover plate – these are 1870's houses but there are no coal cellars along the street – the coal would have been taken through the house to the coal bunker in the garden at the rear of the scullery. 

The name Harry Hunt is new to me, having never seen one of those before, but I'm sure if I go for a wander around Newington Green I will find lots more. The G. Guy one is strange being as Orchard Street is near Selfridges, off Oxford Street, and quite how this plate ended up in Canonbury is anyone's guess. I wonder if oddities like this were replacements for missing or broken plates, either brought by here by the new resident, or purchased from a second hand dealer.