18 September 2023

Update on the three wood-filled LCC Tramways access plates in Angel, Islington

Here is an update on the manhole covers in Islington, all a short walk from Angel tube station. 

From the station, heading north, keep to the right hand side and as you pass The York pub you will find the first of the three within in the bend of the road just before the junction with Duncan Street. Two years ago I had reported that this one had been covered in Tarmac and was, therefore, no longer visible as seen here. But, good news, I noticed recently that the modern road surface is gradually eroding and quite a bit of the wood is now again visible. Hurrah!

From there, keep heading north along Islington High Street along keeping the tram station to your left and mid-way along the building there is another one, as shown below in a screenshot from Google streetview adjacent to the offside rear wheel of the Royal Mail van:

Look closely to see that it shows more of the LCC TRAMWAYS mark along the centre bar, as would most of the others of similar design. This one, and the one shown above are less eroded due to being on a back street.  

Finally, here is the third one, found by turning left at the end of the tram shed and then right in the main Road. The impressive circular plate is today set within the modern paving just before Pizza Express. It would have originally been in the road it but when the pavement was widened, the access holes were retained. 

I am here pairing it with its close neighbour, a lovely oblong of striated paving stone, though I very much doubt that this slab will remain here as long as the man hole cover – I suspect it will soon be replaced before it becomes a greater trip hazard.

If you spot any more remnants of outdoor wood surfaces to add to my London A-Z Directory of Woodblocks please leave a comment under this blog post or email me at jane@janeslondon.com

12 September 2023

Keeping it in the family

This is just a nice little collection of independent shop signs across London that feature "& Sons" within them. Some businesses are still trading, some are long gone but the signs remains in place, and others have disappeared completely since I took the photos. 


Chard & Sons, butcher, 101 Gloucester Road, SW7. I took the photo back in January 2009. More info about the old shop here. Most of the marvellous Doulton tiles are still visible but the old name is today obscured.

E. Price & Sons, English & Foreign Fruiterers, 96-98 Golborne Rd, W10. Photo September 2016. Lovely hand-painted exterior, with roll down shutters, very typical of greengrocers of old with one shop as the shop and the other used as storage. By 2019 these two shops were already being renovated and refitted, and this is how they look today. OK, so the name has gone, but it's really good to see that the lovely windows have retained, especially in a street that is known for antiques and bric-a-brac. 

John Lovibond & Sons Ltd, brewery. This lovely tiled sign for this Greenwich and Salisbury company can be found on the side of what used to be a beer retailer at the corner of 28 Clapham Road, SW9.


W. Burrows & Sons, wet & dry fishmonger. This fabulous shop complete with its green tiled and gilded exterior was obliterated over seven years ago as I wrote here. However, a faded painted advertisement, a ghostign of the old business, still clings to the uppermost part of the north-facing side wall and would have been clearly visible from the Savoy Circus and the A40. The top two lines read W.BURROWS & SONS / FISH & CHIP RESTAURANT but I am still trying to decipher he bottom line which starts ALL C...

James Smith & Sons, umbrella makers, 53 New Oxford Street, WC1. Smiths, founded in 1830 in Soho, is still trading here on the edge of Bloomsbury and, thanks to its olde worlde charm, appealing to tourists who want to buy a bit of English craftsmanship, the company continues to thrive within this Grade II* shop. Hurrah. Long may that continue. 

White & Sons, ironmonger, 207 Oxford Street, W1. No prizes for guessing that this shop, which was almost opposite Gt Titchfield Street, isn't there any more – today you'll find a TK Maxx within a modern building. I spotted this coal hole cover plate in nearby Harley Street. The shop would have been a general hardware shop, also selling ironmongery.

Mr White traded here from at least the 1850s as part of Gibbons, White, Smith & Son. Mr Gibbons was already here in the 1840s when it was 345 Oxford Street, the road at that time being consecutively numbered from St Giles westwards to Edgware Rd along the North side and then back eastwards along the South side. The Gibbons cover plate shown here is near Rutland Gate, Kensington. Mr Smith seems to have moved on by the 1870s when the business became simply Gibbons & White. He might have gone into business on his own elsewhere as there are a couple of possible candidates for ironmongers by the name of Smith in Kensington and Bloomsbury, so I am going to leave him be for now. 

Mr Gibbons had also dropped out of the picture by 1882 when the shop is listed as White & Son (just the one son), then upgraded to White & Sons (plural) by 1891 with works at Nags Head Yard (where?). The Whites were still in Oxford Street in 1910 but by 1915 they had moved round the corner to 42 Berwick Street as a limited company but I am not clear for how much longer they traded because there iare no listings for them by the late 1930s.


L. Terroni & Sons, Italian delicatessen and café, 138 Clerkenwell Rd, EC1. Still trading today and claims to be the oldest of its type in London.

C. E. Norris & Sons, 73 Whidborn Street, WC1, opposite the excellent McGlynn's (a proper pub). The style of the lettering looks 1950s to me and, although I have no conclusive evidence, judging by previous occupants here, I'd guess that the Norrises were also greengrocers . What's cool about the hand-painted sign here is it shows the old telephone number; TER 4577. TER = Terminus which was the three letter code for the Kings Cross area equating to 837 in today's terms. More about the old phone codes here.

G. Carter & Sons, hat manufacturer and hosier, 162 Jamaica Road, SE1. Another doorway/threshold mosaic, a stone's throw from Bermondsey tube station. George Carter established his hat making business in 1851. By 1882 he is listed here with a larger shop at 215-217 Old Kent Road and a hosiery shop at 249 Southwark Park Road, SE1, on the left corner of Blue Anchor Lane, today a charity furniture shop. The company office was on the opposite corner at 251a within The Blue Anchor pub building. The Old Kent Road shop was later expanded to include men's clothing and the premises itself enlarged and rebuilt as an impressive and well-known establishment. Sad to report that this was demolished in the 1970s and today is a BHF furniture store

The Carter family continued to trade from the Jamaica Road shop until at least 1915, but they'd gone from there by 1939. Ah, but that's not the end of the story; quite the opposite. The 1939 Post Office directory shows that the family moved the company office to Surrey Square (just over the road from the OKRd store) and other shops were opened across London in Deptford, Shoreditch, Woolwich, Kensal Green (where a lot of the old shop front remains and I will write this up soon), also Brixton, Dalston, Tooting, Camden, Wandsworth and more. But no Islington shops, although it has to be said that Holloway Road and Upper Street were already saturated with men's outfitters. I understand that the Carter family also had stores further afield in the south in Chatham and Croydon.

The company continued trading until the later 1880s. However, I think I am going to have to stop now as I appear to have entered a G. Carter & Sons whirlpool. When I started writing this, having found the montage of nine pics that I made over a year ago, I thought "I'll just do a quick short blog post on that, perhaps a line on each company" – hmm that was many hours ago. I then got completely lost in research. No wonder my tummy was rumbling! If you want to delve further into Carter's history, there's lots of info online about the Carter company and this book by Diana Jones.  

10 September 2023

More manholes with woodblock infills, hiding in plain view on London's main roads

This latest collection of manhole covers with remnants of wood blocks within them are specifically grouped together because they are all on streets I know well, so it's surprising it's taken me decades to notice them. 

First, here is an excellent example in Holloway Road, ten minutes' walk from my home. I often lead guided tours here pointing out all the hints of late Victorian history when the street was often referred to as The Oxford Street of the North. Yet, although I often mention trams and old forms of transport, I hadn't actually spotted this fabulous example of wood blocks in the middle of the road. It can be found between The Coronet/Waitrose and Holloway tube station, slap bang in the middle of the road. Basically, I have been walking past it about three times a week for thirty years (doh!):

It's the second Holloway one I have discovered (see first entry in here) and, convinced that there surely must be more in the vicinity, I am now often to be seen scouring the road like a demented idiot who has lost something.  

Next, to Kentish Town. This is a short walk from Holloway and an area I also thought I knew well as regards little details etc, yet, although I'd found one wood-filled manhole cover by a yellow line in the southern end of this street, this one, almost opposite Islip Street, had eluded me until someone messaged me about it:

On Pentonville Road, outside Joseph Grimaldi Park, there is another one. I'd previously glimpsed it from the top deck of a number 73 bus, as this is what I do from buses now; I play a new game I have invented: Manholehunter. On the day I went to photograph this one, the street was extremely trafficated, as a friend used to say (and I like it) so I had to stop the slow-moving cars to be able to stand over it and get a decent shot. The driver of one car looked at me very quizzically then parked round the corner to come back and see what I was so interested in. He chatted for a while, and I told him to look up Jane's London but I haven't heard from him since. Perhaps he's reading this now. I hope so! Due to the traffic that day I am here accompanying my photo with a street view pic from Google (the name of the road isn't actually painted on the Tarmac!):

And so to Clerkenwell Rd. I wrote before about a fine example at the end of Leather Lane. Well, I'm sorry to report that since that stretch of road was resurfaced, it has completely gone. But, on the bright side, I found another one a little further east, almost at the junction of Hatton Garden, by the zebra crossing. At first glance it looks like it's all tarmac-filled. But that's not the case – the tarmac has eroded around the edges, and little glimpses of wood can be seen, though that might not be immediately evident here:

And finally (for this blog post only as there are sure to be more!), this next one is just south of Angel Islington, on the west side of St John Street by the pedestrian crossing, just before the junction with Rosebery Ave and Sadlers Wells:

See you with more of these soon, no doubt.

For the full list of all my sightings thus far, please click here. Do let me know if you find any more. 

7 September 2023

Baker Street station Hidden London tour into the non-public areas

Earlier this week I was lucky to be part of one of the test runs for one of the new tours run by Hidden London for London Transport Museum which took us into the back rooms and disused passages behind, beneath and above Baker Street station's many platforms. Indeed, I understand that Baker Street, with its many interconnecting rail and tube lines, has the most platforms of any station on the network.

I'd already been on Hidden London's tours of the tunnels beneath Euston station and the disused station at Highgate (having searched my old blogposts, I cannot now fathom why I didn't write reviews of those) and, three months ago I went on their excellent tour of the Holborn Kingsway tram tunnel, so I was intrigued to see what Baker Street station had to offer. 

I can confidently report that the tour is a diverse and fascinating delight, mainly due to the how the station has coped and evolved with the ever-expanding transport network and the need for customer connectivity. It was bizarre and fascinating to be looking down onto the curved roof of an escalator or standing almost hidden from view watching passengers (or is it customers, commuters or travellers?!) waiting for a Bakerloo line train. 

I especially liked seeing some lovely teal wall tiles in the disused sections that once housed the passenger lifts where there are also some remnants of old advertising posters, and I never before realised that there is tiled footbridge at the western end of the Circle and District line platforms which are available to use any day of the week. 

See all the Hidden London tours here – note that not all locations are available all the time, so it's well worth subscribing to be notified of updates to the schedule as these tours sell out fast. 

I'd also recommend a visit to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and the larger Acton depot where you'll find lots more fascinating exhibits from bygone eras, such that you are bound to be pointing and exclaiming, "Oh I remember these!"

1 September 2023

More wood blocks – side streets and access roads

Here's the latest update on woodblock sightings. These are all in side streets or back alleys.

Find the current list here.

First, here's one I spotted and photographed years ago but completely forgot abbot until recently. This unusual elliptical shaped man hole cover can be found just inside the side alley to the right of 169 Bermondsey Street, SE1:  

Next, a regular circle-shaped man hole cover, jam-packed with lovely big chunks of wood. This can be found in Crooked Billet Lane, a narrow street under the Overground railway line at the southern end of Kingsland Rd, E1. I read in a 1930's London guidebook that this little street was [then] a wonderful evocation of a bygone Victorian age (or something like that). Not so today – a couple of 1880's buildings do remain on the right/north side but, apart from that, there's not much left except this marvellous example of the old road surface that would have covered the whole street 150 years ago: 

A similar example can be found lurking in the little road parallel to West End Lane, West Hampstead, specifically behind Oddbins with access from Sumatra Road, NW6:

Finally, I mentioned earlier this year that I'd been on a tour of the Holborn Kingsway tram tunnel and I'd noticed that many areas of its woodblock road surfaces were still intact. Here are some more pics: