Monday, 31 December 2007

Miscellaneous Wimbledon Ghosts

Well these are really scraping the barrel but they should go in for the sake of completeness. Not so much ghost signs as signs that have died and turned to dust! I think the only way I could find out what they originally said was to look through some archive photographs, but keep you eyes open for them next time you're in Wimbledon.

Hartfield Road, Wimbledon
Not the best quality picture sadly but I snapped this one whilst waiting in traffic. Although it seems to have a later 'To Let' sign painted on it, closer inspection shows it to be originally refering to Cars, Trucks and Services, amongst others. It was a tiny yard though, so presumably not a big business.

The Broadway A close look at this one (click on the image) shows that the lettering on the top has an -ish near the end and 5? Broadway between the windows.Whatever was advertised either side of the windows cost 2/-. As it is in such a prominent position I have hopes of eventually finding a photograph to show exactly what was being advertised on this one.

The Broadway This particular sign is the most obscure and difficult to photograph of all so far. As you can see it is well above the street and hidden by the roofs of lower buildings. It's just opposite the Centre Court Shopping Centre and above and to the right of the first sign. It seems to read 'Boots' but whether that's the chemist or a shoe shop I couldn't say. I'd like to get up there for a closer look though...

Behind the Broadway This was painted on the side of a small workshop and must have been the original company that owned it. All I can make out is the Co. at the end!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A Tour Along Haydons, Durnsford and Merton Road

Merton Road
Although I went looking for ghost signs (see below) there were quite a few odds and ends that caught my eye on the way, including this Art Deco-ish wall sign at the back of a garage. The photo doesn't do it full justice as the gold on green was very iridescent and quite catching. I wonder who the United Service Transport Co. Ltd were and what happened to them?

Merton Road - Southfields
As you can see this building was obviously created for some business - Hotel maybe or an insurance business or something?
Merton Road
I thought this office building looked quite ornate so I wasn't too suprised to see this on the roof. Obviously a pub in an earlier life.
Round the corner was an attractive couple of capitals with some intriguing faces.
Merton Road - Southfields
There's an interesting parade of shops at Southfields that had a range of intriguing features. This one has a half oil-container stuck on the wall which was (I believe, but I'll have to check) the traditional shop-sign of oil merchants. I'd seen another like this near Waterloo the other day, so was pleased to spot this one.
Another of the shops had these elaborate thistle capitals. I recall a high street grocers called David Grieg's from the '60's whose emblem was a thistle, usually displayed as a mosaic on the floor. Could this originally have been one of their shops?
This shop front wasn't in the best state of repair but it had revealed the original gold-painted sign for Hammett's. As the gold spread over the inlay area I was wondering if it was then fronted with a mirror or something to tidy it up
Then on the same parade yet another shop fronted with oil containers. Obviously some cut-throat High street competition for the Southfields oil market going on here!

Merton Road - Side Street
Just tucked down a side street by a couple of other interesting deco buildings was this superb (no other word for it) tile fronted factory. Now exclusive flats of course I would hazard a guesss that this might have been a flour mill, breakfast cereal or biscuit factory. The Drainpipe's ha a 'FF' monogram so this might give a clue
"Nourish & Flourish!" is a great motto and I wonder if the Flour-ish might be a pun if it was a flour mill.
The towers at each end were quite attractive too - reminded me of the old Wembley Stadium for some reason. Are the metal toppings the old company symbol or do they have any other significance I wonder?
Here's a view of the site in its (almost) entirety. Does anyone have any knowledge about this building? If you do please leave a comment as I'd be intrigued to know more. (See the comment posted below for details about the history of this interesting building)
Durnsford Road
Just a little bit of mosaic that caught my eye. mainly because the colours were obviously to tie in with the shop next door...
...which was obviously a butchers, although now long since closed. Peering though the curtains I could see that the whole shop was covered in attractive light blue tiles.
Haydons Road
Another ex-pub, but with an impressive crest, despite loosing some of the ornamentation.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Ghost Signs - Haydons Road & Durnsford Road

I picked these signs up in a fairly small area around Plough Lane (map here).

Haydons Road
This first one might not be a big advertisement, but it is certainly painted on and it is certainly faded! It was above a parade of shops near Effra Road

Merton Road
This is my mystery of the day. It was obviously a big sign at one time, but was probably already faded when the houses were built up against it in the '30's(?). It looks a bit like an 'O' at the top although I prefer to think of it as the bowl of a wine-glass. You can just make out an 'E' or 'F' in the bottom right corner.
Haydons Road - Queens Road junction
It was a lucky traffic diversion that put me onto the ghost sign below. It's on the junction with Queens Road but you can only see it on the approach to Haydons Road - 'Fenners Grocery & Oil Stores. All Household Requisites'
Haydons Road
Just by the railway bridge there is a small Post Office that was once presumably an Off Licence. From some angles the black paint wipes it entirely but catch the sun just right and you can see the 'Wines & Spirits' sign underneath

UPDATE: 29-01-08 Gilbert Road
I've just been sent a picture of a Liptons Tea sign that was painted on the side of a building and subsequently obscured by later'50's housing, by the look of it. Thanks to Mick Adams for the photos!

UPDATE: 7th April 2008 Merton High Street/Hotham Road
A large but fairly plain 'Benson & Hedges' sign on the side of an old sweetshop tobacconist. Painted over, but only with one coat I it seems.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Wimbledon Town Centre

View map of area

Wimbledon Town Centre was redeveloped a few years ago and most of the Victorian Civic buildings, including the old Town Hall, were gutted and had their fascia's incorporated into the new Centre Court Shopping Centre. There are still some interesting features though well worth recording

Alwyne Road, Bank Buildings
There is a whole block facing Wimbledon Hill Road that has been built in a highly ornate fashion using this dusty-red shade of brick. This is only a side entrance in a side-street but the ornamentation and the colour remind me of some building out in the Moroccan desert.

Wimbledon Hill Road, Wimbledon Public Library
The library has several interesting features on the outside, and a couple of interesting ones on the inside too! Here's the fine main entrance with its elaborate balcony.
To the right of the main entrance Milton sticks his head out of a porthole...

whilst Shakespeare leans even further out of the one on the left.

And inside there are still some of the original and highly decorated radiators with masses of scroll-work (thanks to Annette for this photo!)Wimbledon Hill Road
I suppose hanging a beer barrel outside a pub is a traditional thing to do and probably pre-dates pub signs but I wonder how many people notice it these days?
Alexandra Road SW19
Part of the new shopping centre consist of the outer walls of a church which seems to have more than its fair share of dedication stones. The engraving is very floral and attractive and this one reads
"Laid on behalf of the Sunday Schools by the Superintendent Mr G.H Denne - ' Despise not one of these little ones'"
The second reads
"For Christ and the Church - laid on behalf of the Societies of Christian Endeavour - Mr F. H. Freeth, Vice-president"
Alexandra Road, SW19
Now looking a bit lonely, this royal armorial crest sits above one of the entrances to the shopping centre. Might this have been the original Wimbledon Magistrates Court?
Alexandra Road SW19
It's not a 'ghost sign' as such (in fact there is a specialist term used for the marks left on walls by old lettering, but I can't recall what it is at the moment) but if you look carefully you can see that what is now a Mothercare was once the home to the Wimbledon Fire Brigade.
Alexandra Road SW19
This tower on top of the old civic buildings always reminds me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I could imagine Professor Caractacus Potts using it as his hideaway but it is possible that it had another use. I was reading Safe as Houses, an account of Wimbledon during the Blitz, and it made note of a tower above the Town Hall that could see the whole area and was used to plot the fall of bombs. Might this be the tower mentioned in the account?
The Broadway, SW19
Many of the Victorian buildings remain on the section nearest the old Town Hall, as do their guttering systems. This one is a bit more dilapidated than most.
The Broadway, SW19
Re-building work revealed this old sign 'Iles of Norbury'. A quick google seems to indicate that Iles are still in business and something to do with both carpets and boats. The Wimbledon branch was obviously not a long-term success though...
Merton Road SW19
The proportions on this seem wrong to me - it looks as though it needs either more writing or bigger numbers. At the moment it looks a bit lost
Merton Road SW19
I walked past this sewer 'stink pipe' several times before I noticed it. When I did I was quite impressed with it, especially the decoration around the top. A nice one to finish on.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A Tour of Morden, South West London

Anyone who knows Morden in South West London will be doing a double take at the sheer audacity of looking for interesting architectural details in this particular location. Unlike previously visited areas such as Wimbledon, Tooting or Raynes Park, Morden was pretty much a semi-rural backwater until the coming of the Underground in the 1930's. What was left of the farming land and fields was then buried by the ground-breaking St. Helier Estate, and the whole character of the area was changed forever. What chance of finding anything interesting here then? Not much if you are to believe local band Good Shoes whose song and video Morden are all about its shortcomings if you are a bunch of hip young dudes craving a bit of 'real life'.

There's a bit more to Morden than pound shops though. In fact the original hamlet is about a mile from the current centre (which is based on the tube station) on the top of a hill on the historic London to Portsmouth route. That's where the original parish church, school and coaching inn were built. There were also a couple of grand houses, the most interesting being Morden Hall, and some watermills along the River Wandle. However bland it might seem to be as usual there's always something interesting to be found if you look hard enough!

Civic Centre, London Road SM4
What's the interest to be found in a fairly uninteresting bit of brickwork outside the Civic Centre? Actually what you are looking at is a heraldic device and part of the Merton coat of arms. It's technical name is the 'Merton Fret' and it was originally found in the arms of Merton Abbey, one of England's largest and most spectacular church houses, until Henry VIII decided that the church had too much power, influence, gold and land that really ought to be his. When you know of the significance of the Fret it's surprising how often it pops up throughout the borough
Corner of London Road & Abberconway Road SM4
Morden is blessed with a couple of snooker halls but this is the best one for faded signage!

Roundabout - London Road, Morden Hall Road and Merton Road
This sign is proof positive to Morderners that you are back home after having braved the wastes of Mitcham, the searing desert of Sutton or the treacherous mires of Wimbledon. Your heart leaps like a hobbit returning to the Shires and as a bonus it has a Merton Fret too!

Abbotsbury Road SM4
High up above the shops is this iron support that used to display the three gold balls of a pawnbroker, long since departed.
Morden Hall Road SM4
A first glimpse of pre-thirties Morden is this badly erroded milestone, now totally illegible, but previously an important marker for those on their way to London.
London Road SM4
A cunningly placed speed camera placed downhill on a bend has obviously caught one irate motorist too many. Not a usual Morden sight and probably the work of an outsider not of the village...
London Road & Green Lane SM4
This junction is the home of historic Morden and this rainwater catcher is on the side of the George, an old coaching inn at the top of the hill that dates from the 17th century- just the place to give the horses a bit of a breather. This is much later but still quite attractive.
London Road SM4
Just by the burnt out speed camera is a reminder of a more leisurely pace of transport. Another milestone, this one still legible declaring 10 Miles to Whitehall. No, it really does lean over that far...
London Road & Green Lane SM4
Now a church hall, the plaque on the side of the building shows it was originally the site of the parish school and is dated 1771. The Garths were the big landowners of the area, hence the local Garth Road, amongst othersLondon Road & Green Lane SM4
Between the Church and the Inn is an old building that is now a retirement home. I was quite taken with the suitable choice for a wind vane.

London Road SM4
Directly outside the church is this Horse water trough with an inscription carved in its side reading In Memory of the Horses that suffered in the South African War. As that finished in about 1905 it would date this to just after that date.

On Billboards Around the Area, SM4
Rubbish...? Humbug and nonsense! These young Indie whipper-snappers don't know they're born...they should drop the superficial angst and find out a bit about the place they grew up in (mind you I have to agree that the kebab shop glimpsed in the video is well worth a visit)