16 April 2023

William Leonard Jordan's department store and Alfie's Antiques

Last Thursday I had an idea to go and see the Julian Opie show at The Lisson Gallery. I peeked in through the window and decided to return later in the afternoon after I'd had a wander around the immediate area. There's lots to see around there. I wanted to check what was happening with the Paddington Green Police Station building. Specifically these clever interconnecting panels, and then I discovered this ToyTown/Deco-esque charging station on Edgware Road. I like it. It's pleasing. It's jolly. Next door there's an Aldi within a distinctly Art Deco pastiche, complete with vertical fins. Also good.

After admiring the brick-built council blocks and hints of manufacturing history I headed down Church Street and made my way to Alfie's Antiques Market where I took a few photos of the exterior and marvelled at the Art Deco inter-war shop fittings that are still visible.

There are Jazz Age patterns etched into the curved glass, sun-ray metal ventilation plates at low level, the old shop's name in lovely script within a terrazzo threshold, and some geometric motifs in the fabric of the building which were subsequently enhanced/elaborated and painted pastel paint shades. 

The Klimt-style ladies and Egyptian queens that can be seen on the building today are also later additions, tho the Byzantine-style cupola that used to be at the corner is today truncated. See the old pic to the right, which I found within a frame on the stairwell at the rear of the market, and compare it with how it looks now

I must admit that I haven't as yet delved into William Leonard Jordan's history as I have only so far looked at the 1939 directory to get an idea of what was here when the Art Deco era fittings were in place. But you can bet your big fat bottom that Mr Jordan started as a draper and then expanded left and right until he covered numbers 13–25 (seven shops) either side of Plympton Street. Ooh, Plympton Street, how lovely.

The 1939 directory, left, shows how each of the doors off Church Street, which are still in use today, led to different departments... outfitter, boot and shoe dealer, clothier, house furniture. No doubt there were plenty more things on offer than that. I know for sure that there was a major haberdashery department in there. Interesting that back then, No.11 was an antique furniture dealer.

Jordan's store continued trading here until the early 1970s. I say 'trading' but by then the area was not so nice and Jordan's was struggling to make ends meet. With huge debts, the company went bust. I expect the contents were sold off. There might be an auction advertised in the press of that time. It might have been split into separate shops or completely demolished had it not been for the keen eye of Bennie Gray who recognised its potential as a multi-use selling space. Antiques and bric-a-brac markets were springing up all over London at that time. Alfie's Antiques Market opened in 1976, hot on the heels of Camden Passage in Islington (1968) and later at Dingwall's Camden Lock (1974). 

Today here are over 70 dealers in there with more traders currently moving into the basement having been evicted from their Hampstead shops. I went inside and got pleasantly sidetracked. 

I especially like the central wooden stairwell area where you can still imagine the building as a sort of mini Liberty's, complete with wood block flooring on the landings. 

Floors and floors of tempting loveliness in there, but that's not a problem when my home isn't big enough to accommodate all the things I like. And, as I said to one dealers, if I bought a bigger home, I'd have no money to furnish it...! Oh, and there is a lovely café on the top floor. 

The whole building is a delight to explore. I should go there more often. I left with a late-60s framed print of a beautiful black Madonna and a 1970s square ceramic [ash]tray. 

And I forgot to return to the Lisson Gallery. Whoops. The show finished yesterday. Oh well. 

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Thanks, Jane