Monday, 24 November 2008

Some Fulham Ghost Signs

Looking back through my collection of snapshots and unused photos I realised that I had a fair number from a couple of strolls I took over Putney Bridge into the wildlands of North London during the summer. Now I know to most people Fulham would be bordering West London, but to anyone born south of the river the real divide is north/south rather than east/west. Crossing that river, be it on foot, in car or on train is always a psychological trip to the dark side. It seems the locals are reasonably friendly though and after a while I was able to relax enough to take my camera out of its case and to start taking a few snaps. It's been a while since I was there and I may have a bit of a problem remembering exactly which road the pictures were taken in and although there were no major ghost signs in evidence there were a few tantalising glimpses of what used to be...

The Drive, Fulham Road
The Drive is a small slip road in front of a block of flats that might have been quite grand in its day. The gold paint has faded though and the sign long since ceased to be worth re-painting

Fulham Road (?)
I know, you're thinking "This one is too clean to be a ghost sign - he must be mistaken?" Well granted it is very clear but apart from the fact that the business is no longer in place, when was the last time you can remember a removals van being called a Pantechnicon? It's one of those words which is crying out for a check on its origins so here goes. From the Wikipedia comes the following explanation
Pantechnicon has become the generic name for vehicles specially designed and constructed to transport furniture, except where "moving van" is usual. This is derived from a building of that name in Motcombe Street, Belgravia, London. The Seth Smith brothers, originally from Wiltshire, were builders in the early 19th century and constructed much of the new housing in Belgravia, then a country area. Their clients required storage facilities and this was built with a Greek style Doric column fa├žade, and called Pantechnicon, Greek for "pertaining to all the arts or crafts". Subsequently special wagons were designed with sloping ramps to more easily load furniture with the building name on the side. The Pantechnicon Ltd, a furniture storage and removal company continued to trade until the 1970s. The building still exists as an antique shop.
Parsons Green
This one is so frustrating. It faces a railway line so is a prime site for advertising and it is obvious that the current inhabitants quite like being superimposed on previous signage, but I feel like I'm trying to read this one twenty years too late. Although there are loads of layers of advertising here, it makes it almost impossible to make out more than a few letters at a time. Best of luck if you can make anything out...

Maybe the top lettering might be easier to read? Maybe not...Draycott Mews, New Kings Road
Now bisected by a modern gate this alleyway once led to a printers. Sadly it's now impossible to make out who they were other than the fact they started "W. BR...". You can still see some lettering on the other side of the bars but not enough to make out the name.

New Kings Road (?)
Last ghost sign on my little perambulation. This one was on the side of a house facing the street and seems partially obscured by what I assume was a later building. It's obviously for a builders merchant as it's offering bricks and sand amongst other items. Pity the white paint is obscuring most of it, but that's the way it goes.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Barons Court 3: The Miscellany

I wouldn't want you to think that the streets around the 'Curtain's Up' pub were just populated with boot-scrapers and coal-holes. There were a few other items that caught my eye that I feel I should add to give a more rounded feel to the area.

Vereker Road Looks like someone took the instruction to 'Press' a little too literally
Perham Road The end of Perham Road curves behind some of the terraced houses into a short dead-end that I suspect used to have some service yard like a milk depot, stables or a coal yard. As it curved there was probably less incentive to build the standard houses and some small plots seem to have been purchased for more individual and esoteric buildings. The stained glass fan light below came from above the front door of one of these and to my uneducated eye has a look of the Arts & Crafts movement about it. There were a series of these, at least three or four, and I wish I'd taken a photo of each now. I've a feeling they were named after individuals, even though this one does seem at first glance to fall into the 'Dunroamin' school of house names.
Barons Court Road A nicely painted pillar that for some reason stopped short of repainting the number. I'm sure there must have been a reason for leaving it but I'm struggling to think what it could be...
Barons Court Road What an attractive basement light this one is - the squares are almost opaque but the banding between isn't the common metal or concrete, but what seems to be white tile-work, giving it a very strong and vibrant presence.
Perham Road Fancy coming home to this every evening... To my mind a very attractive and elegant mosaic and one of a series along the road.
Perham Road Unless my memory is playing tricks I believe this is the mosaic outside The Studio featured below
Perham Road Tucked away in in the corner is this interesting little building dated 1899. A quick google for 'The Studio' + Perham Road came up with (apart from loads of studio flats to rent) a link to the manuscript library at the University of Glasgow and the following entry
Letter from Alfred Lys Baldry to James McNeill Whistler. 1, Perham Crescent, Perham Road, West Kensington, W., March 21st 98. 'Dear Mr. Whistler' Asks permission to reproduce some of Whistler's recent work, 'pictures or drawings.', in the spring number of the Studio. Will send Gray to photograph what Whistler chooses. 'Very truly yours A. L. Baldry'. [As the spring number of the Studio contains no photographs of W's work, one assumes that W did not comply with the request]
Although this was dated 1898 I think it a safe bet to assume Whistler was working in The Studio before giving it a bit of a face-lift the following year and might also explain some of the more artistic flourishes (and names?) of the houses nearby. No plaques or markers that I could see though to give a clue as to it's illustrious former inhabitant

One last thought from the Wikipedia entry on James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Whistler founded an art school in 1898, but his poor health and infrequent appearances led to its closure in 1901. He died in London on July 17, 1903
Could The Studio have been the site of this ill-fated art school?

Even if it wasn't the last three entries are all the result of a quick stroll down four streets and as a way of killing twenty minutes I think that Barons Court has done us proud.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Barons Court 2: The Coal-holes

Part two of our wanderings around Barons Court reveals large numbers of coal-hole covers and a number of new manufacturers to add to the list. Some striking designs too, such as...

A. D. Woodrow & Co. - Engineers, London
Very simple design of concentric circles but quite striking too. My first thought was that this is the ideal coal-hole cover to use for a game of marbles. A new producer though, so very welcome.
James Paynell; Chapel Stall, Edgeware Road
Tricky one to read this, mainly due to the wear and the wet conditions. It's an interesting design and unusual in as much as the central motif is quite amorphous or 'blobby' rather than well-defined and mathematical. As a reader remarked in the Comments section, this is apparently more due to wear and tear rather than design. It'll be interesting to find a better example to compare.
Unknown Manufacturer:
Could just be the way my mind works but there seems to be a hint of the Minoan about this one. Another intriguing one for a game of marbles. First to the centre of the labyrinth?
Unknown Manufacturer
What's going on here though? It seems to be the same design as the example above but with a central groove added across the central section. It's not clear why but I can only imagine it might have been intended either as a space for a name or possibly to aid the coal-man remove the lid in some way?

Vine Morrison & Coy.; Earls Court Road SW
Is this where Irish songster Van Morrison pinched his name? Vine Morrison is a new one on me but with an attractive geometric design this one could be described as 'nice and tidy' with some attractive, solid lettering.
Unknown Manufacturer
So different to the 'modernist', geometric approach of those other 'Unknowns' above, this is all Victoriana and Church Stained glass. Very striking to see though.
Unknown Manufacturer
This one struck me as being very similar to the example above and indeed, after exhaustive use of high-tec comparison and photo-mapping I can reveal that it is, indeed, exactly the same design. The effect of the extra wear on the second does make you think twice though.
Froy & Son; Hammersmith
The Froy name still seems to be about, albeit in kitchen design rather than ironmongery but there is still a definite link to follow. I might well do a 'Froy special ' if I can get some history about the firm, especially in it's early days. Compare the lettering on this one to that of Vine Morrison above. In comparison Froy's comes across as a bit reserved.
Hayward Brothers: 187-189 Union Street Boro.
The ubiquitous Hayward Brothers are here of course. This looks like an earlier version that hardly seems worn at all.
Green & London; Walham Green (various designs)
Similar design to that above but a bit more compact and punchy to my way of thinking. Presumably the holes were to let in some light.
This one is very similar, but if you look carefully then you can see the slight stylistic differences, most notably lack of light holes and small chevrons between the circles. Same basic design though.
Again at first glance this looks the same but differences in the positioning of the letters around the rim show that it was probably from a different production run. Green & London seem to have been perfectly happy with their basic design though
Unknown Manufacturer
No idea who made it but it's quite nice in it's understated way. No chance of slipping on this one.
There were some other pieces around Barons Court, including some nice fan-light stained glass I could have recorded, but I couldn't miss the magic show so scurried off for an afternoon of cards and illusion! A very enjoyable and informative afternoon all round.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Barons Court 1: The Boot-scrapers

Area around the "Curtain's Up" pub

I found myself emerging from a very attractive Barons Court Underground station on Sunday accompanied by a wife and seven children (not all mine) on our way to the three o'clock show of the 'Magician's Cavern' in the basement of the "Curtain's Up" pub. Very enjoyable it was too and recommended as a great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday, especially if you bought your tickets on the lastminute website at half price. However, we found ourselves a good half an hour early and so with several willing (and some less than willing) assistants we set off with a camera to see what we could see.

The first thing that's obvious in this part of London is that it is heavily residential, with large terraced town houses with stairs up to the front door and basement rooms below. The second thing that hit me was the large number of surviving coalholes and boot scrapers. Coming from an area of fairly late Victorian development and high streets that are re-paved and surfaced every few years, it's always a thrill to spot the odd survivor. In Barons Court it seems that almost all of the coalholes had survived - presumably because there had been no impetus to revamp the pavements, which preserved the coalholes, and as the property owners were now into lettings rather than living there themselves, no-one had thought to 'tidy-up' the bootscrapers either! Their negligence is our gain though as I present, with nothing up my sleeve, the magic bootscrapers of Barons Court...

Barons Court Road
Not so much a bootscraper, more like 'the one that got away'. Obviously this fine recess once housed a magnificent boot-scrape whose time has been and gone. The recess lives on however.
Barons Court Road
Quite a tall example with an elaborate central 'floral burst' effect. At least that's what I think it is. Either way it's quite a 'sit up and take notice' sort of a scraper. Not for the faint hearted.

Castletown Road
Functional is about all you could say of this one. A bit gangly and earnest it tries with a bit of ornamentation but only barely rises above the bland.
Perham Road
Without a doubt this is the lowest-slung bootscraper so far. Not much more than a blade trapped between to supports , I was intrigued by their design, despite not being able to make out exactly what they were.
Perham Road
Watch out, this one looks a bit of an uneccessary risk taker! Strapping fluted columns leading to an ornate cut-away blade. Surely that's cutting it a bit fine in the middle arch? Still, it's survivied all these years and I guess it doesn't get much of a workout these days.
Perham Road
To my way of thinking this is far better proportioned than the Castletown Road effort above, although they do look similar at first glance. squat, solid and with no ideas above its station.
Vereker Road
There were several examples of this style of scrape and I suppose it comes nearest to being a local 'house' style. Nice and solid with a 'classical' feel to it I think...
Coming soon: a plethora of Barons Court coal-holes.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

T. J. George - Coalhole

T.J. George - BatterseaHaving taken an interest in coalholes, one thing that's become apparent is that many of them seem to have been produced locally by small scale producers and local ironmongers. However I've no idea if this was really the case - for example did these ironmongers really cast their own coalholes as would have been suggested at first glance, or did they actually produce designs that were then sent off to foundries for them to cast enough to fulfil the order, enabling these small-scale businesses to provide 'local coalholes for local people'. The example above is a case in point. I came across this one outside a large (now multiple occupancy) house in Pelham Road Wimbledon. It seems to have been cast by a Battersea Ironmonger called T. J. George, a producer I hadn't come across, even when I'd visited parts of Battersea. As my own perception of an ironmonger is a small shop manned by several blokes in their sixties wearing brown coats, you have to wonder if an operation like that would be up to casting molten iron. Would the returns be worth all the set-up costs? A bit more research is required I think, but for the time being I'd be happy to add T.J. George to my list of coalhole manufacturers