Thursday, 3 July 2008

Oil Jars and shopfronts

Every now and then I've been intrigued to spot what look like halves of oil jars stuck up on the walls above old shop fronts. I had it in my head that these were to signify that the shop sold oil but I couldn't find anything to back it up until I finally came across the Exeter Council website and their historical time-line section website. There, next to a photo of two earthenware pots, was a short note
...giant jars of red earthenware with their distinctive horseshoe-shaped handles were made in the potting town of Montelupo in Tuscany. Jars of this type were used to transport Tuscan olive oil into Britain. The earliest known examples date to c. 1720-50; the trade continued into the Victorian period, when such jars were sometimes mounted on shop fronts as the shop signs of ironmongers who sold Italian oil.
So now that's confirmed, here are a few that I've found dotted around south west London.

Old Town, Clapham
There are more jars stuck on this shop than on all the rest combined! Seven in all and I guess there's no mistaking what it sold.

Merton Road, Merton
These two were fronting what looked like a pretty ordinary shop front but were starting to look a little worse for wear
Merton Road, Merton
Surprise , surprise, just a few doors up from the previous pair there was another one stuck up on a rival shop. This one's in even worse condition...

Lower Marsh, Lambeth
Leaving the best to last I really like the way that this pair live on, still advertising the shop below - except now it's a restaurant and not an ironmonger. Really colourful and eye-catching.

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