Friday, 20 February 2009

London Bridge to Rotherhithe, Old Kent Road and Borough (part 3)

When I hit the Old Kent Road, my first impression was that it reminded me of the Purley Way, Croydon, which is probably not going to mean a great deal unless you've ever been suckered into approaching the great black hole of IKEA. If you can recall your last sights before the Swedish gravity-well sucked you in, well that's the Old Kent Road that is...

Heading west though, those first impressions fade a little as the various warehouse stores give way to a mixture of retail and residential, including a series of mature but well-built flats all topped off with a Corporation of London crest. This is quite intriguing really as the corporation is the body that runs the 'Square Mile' on the north bank of the river, better known as the City of London. As you can see the crest with its rampant dragons is that of the City and the motto means 'Lord Protect Us', so what is it doing in Southwark?

According to the City of London website
The land on which Avondale Square Estate is situated has been owned by the City of London since 1251. Redevelopment of the Square commenced in 1920 and continued after the war. The estate is comprised of over 600 flats and maisonettes, three play areas and a community centre.
There was very little that I spotted of interest down the Old Kent Road until I reached the junction with Albany Road. I could see some older buildings lining the roads and down a side road, possibly Rowcross Street, I saw this interesting sign.
Rowcross Street
I'm not saying this is a ghost sign or anything like that, although it would be interesting to know when it was painted, but what caught my eye was the picture of the glazier. The words 'shifty', 'devious', 'malicious', 'untrustworthy' and even 'un-dead spring to mind. Was the owner really pleased when they saw what the painter had produced? And what's he looking at??? Creepy stuff really...
Old Kent Road - Thomas a Becket Pub
Well this was an unexpected pleasure that bought back a few memories. The local Council had erected a Blue Plaque in the doorway which read
Sir Henry Cooper OBE, KSG Born 1934 British, European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion trained in the gymnasium of the Thomas a Becket. Voted by the People
Well done the people. Some of my most vivid memories in childhood were the evenings I'd spend listening to Henry Cooper's fights on the radio. His potent left hook (aka 'Enry's 'Ammer) and his tragic flaw, his susceptibility to cut around the eye. Which would triumph? I think it was that what if aspect about Cooper that made him such a hero. His fights were invariably a race against time and as soon as the commentator said '... and there's blood above Coopers right eye' your heart sank. You knew that he'd battle on as long as he could but like all tragic heroes, the Gods would be too strong for him in the end and the fight would be stopped when he could no longer see to land a punch. His final defeat by Joe Bugner was the end of an era. The last of the heroes had been despatched by a mere mortal.
Non-British readers might not have a clue who I'm talking about so here's a fight where Henry's cut eyes and his left hook both feature.

Old Kent Road
I haven't had a decent capital for ages, so it was nice to spot this long and elegant example sitting on top of an oak leaf cluster
Mason Street off the Old Kent Road
Up by the roundabout with the New Kent Road is an old school which now seems to be an administrative block. I was quite taken with this blocked up doorway, a sort of 'Ghost Entrance'. I'm so enthused I might even see if I can get a ghost-entrance/window posting together, assembling all those bricked-up doorways and windows that no longer go anywhere.
Using the underpasses I emerged from the Old Kent Road roundabout/flyover down Great Dover Street. For some reason I was intrigued by a side turning and left what was a pretty non-descript main road.
Cole Street
I'd seen these 'ghost street signs' before, but it's always interesting to spot another. I'm not sure when or why the practice of painting street names fell out of favour, but here we have the old and the new sitting side-by-side, with the former gently fading into oblivion.
Trinity Church Square
Now I had one of those "Well I'll be..." sort of moments as I came across what seemed to me to be the perfect realisation of a Georgian Square, complete with Church (now the Henry Wood Concert Hall) and enclosed green space. It really would not have looked out of place as a set for 'Oliver!' and was a nice vindication of the 'follow your nose' school of dithering (along with the abrupt left turn that took me to the Angel pub earlier in the walk). I assumed the square was named after the church, but the Trinity reference is actually to the Trinity House charity that were responsible for much of the lighthouses around the coast of Britain. Not only have the buildings survived but so to have many of their features, such as coalholes and boot-scrapers. The coal-holes are all made by Hayward Brothers and seem to be of a fairly late design, which suggests that many were replaced at the same time. Changing over to the famous 'safety plate' maybe? I didn't take any photos of the coalholes as they were fairly standard, but I was intrigued by the bootscrapers, which were of several designs.

This example is quite an elegant effort. I think it might be two herons kissing over a scallop shell. Or then again it might be two fish with spiky tails touching over a scallop shell. It's a boot-scraper equivalent of an ink-blot test...
Whereas this one is obviously two cats fighting over a ball of wool.
Of course you could go for the basic 'bolt a flat piece of metal between two uprights' soloution...
... or the more elaborate and humane 'build a funnel to stop the mud falling down the basement and onto the servant's heads' scraper, although no doubt it was the servants that ended up cleaning it out.
And finally the 'well there's a space here so why don't we put a scraper in?' variety.
The Surrey Dispensary - Trinity Street
As I was leaving the Trinity Church Square I saw this intriguing building on the corner. Obviously of some significance and age there was no clue as to what it might be. A quick search on Google books gave the following quote from The People's Health 1830-1910 by Francis Barrymore Smith
'Free Dispensaries' were established by doctors with the backing of philanthropic donors who retained the right to recommend deserving patients. Often free dispensaries were linked with missions, especially amongst the Wesleyan and evangelical Anglicans. The Surrey Dispensary, Union Street, Borough, was an Anglican institution. The nearly 200,000 cases its managers claimed to have relieved between 1778 and 1840 included over 31,000 confinements.'
Nice to see the building's still there, though I'm not sure what it's used for these days.

Trinity Street
Here's an enigma. A coalhole of fairly non-descript design with the single word 'Durey'. I assume it was the name of the manufacturer, but it doesn't look as though they had much of an imagination.
Hulme Place, Southwark SE1
A second set of bollards caught the eye. Possibly because of the rugged no-nonsense shape and design, but also possibly because of the black and white banding. Surely the mark of a proper bollard?

Maya House, Borough High Street SE1 As it happens I'm putting together a posting about modern 'eye-catching' installations and I reckon this one will have to feature. Reminiscent of the famous New York 'Blue Man' theatre group, this building seems to have a set of blue musicians scaling its side. Why? Who can tell... Looks interesting though.
Borough High Street, SE1 This interesting mosaic was outside a pub on the High Street. Strange that it was also built with a mighty supporting pole obscuring the entrance as well. Cant be the best bit of planning on a Saturday night...
Borough High Street, SE1 Then just up the road was this fine example of a lightwell, all the more interesting as it came from a manufacturer new to me, Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd. Looks as though they were a Birmingham company and had a finger in several other pies, as this photo shows!

And finally, just as I was walking down the High Street back to the tube station, a glance over the shoulder revealled a fine Ghost Sign.
The Monster Clothing Establishment, Borough High Street, SE1
"Paris, Antwerp & Ghent" it says. I'm not sure why they left Borough off the list but it was a releif to stumble across at least one, bona-fide, dyed in the wool, no-nonsense ghost sign before heading for home.
On the whole I would say that it was several hours well-spent. I've discovered some new places and bits of history I wouldn't have been aware of, either by seeing them, reading up on them or by having people post comments on them. It's true that I've obviously skirted Bermondsey (which deserves amore detailed visit) and that I didn't find much to excite me on either the 'Surrey Docks' nor the Old Kent Road. But then I did find an interesting old pub, a magnificent square, an untouched head office of a railway company and enough derricks to sate the appetite of the most ardent docklands enthusiast. Not bad for an afternoon...


Bixle said...

Really enjoying these posts, thanks. A note on the Thomas A Becket pub. This, apparently, is mentioned in Chaucer as a stopping place of the pilgrims. A tributary of the River Peck (whence Peckham) flows below ground next to the pub. See

Anonymous said...

Re the DUREY coal hole cover... I have seen probably hundreds of these in Central ancouldn't crack the Haywards monopoly in the south!

Anonymous said...

Re the DURY coal hole cover... I have seen probably hundreds of these in North and Central London, so perhaps they couldn't crack the Haywards monopoly in the South!

Anonymous said...

Theres a wonderful faded sign on the wall of Waterloo Station which I took a picture of today on my way home from work - but I can't find any email address or contact widget on your blog.......

Yelfy said...

Evening all
M@ - I hadn't realised it had Chaucer connections. I vaguely remember The Tabbard Inn as being the place where the pilgrims set out from, so I guess it must have been their first stop!
Jane - Strange that. That's the first one I've come across and I must have looked at a few hundred by now. I'll keep a look out for them now and will no doubt find loads over the next few weeks. I'll have to see if I can find out anything about the company.
ExitPBB - Thanks for thinking of me regarding the Waterloo ghost sign. I'm always happy for a tip or two! You're right though, there isn't a link or email address mainly because I've decided that I should only have photos that I've taken myself. I suppose having interesting things spotted by others would feel a bit like cheating! You might like to check out Sam Robert' Ghost sign site (the link is on the main page). Not only is it a fascinating read but he is cataloguing interesting ghost signs from around the city and I'm sure he would be really interested if you'd spotted a new one. By the way, it wasn't on Lower Marsh Street behind the station was it?

Anonymous said...

No it wasnt. Its on Upper Taxi Road. I think its quite mean not to accept other peoples' pictures. If they've been following your blog and feel that they want to contribute, where's the harm?

Anonymous said...

Surrey docks does have some rather nice bridges which might be of interest to you if they come within your remit. Here's one of my favourites

and another one here

There is also of course one of the large red bascule bridges (next to Tesco's) like the one in Rotherhithe.

Yelfy said...

EPBB - Not the one I thought then... I've been mulling over your thoughts about posting and decided to create an email address and a link on my profile for anyone who wants to contribute. Of course the odd posting from a reader won't hurt, but I enjoy being a collector too much to become a curator, so I won't be shouting about its presence from the rooftops, at least at first! I'll probably wait until I have enough contributions on a theme (ghost signs, boot-scrapers, clocks etc.) before doing a 'Readers Spottings' post but I guess I'll play it by ear :-)

Yelfy said...

Hi Deptford Dame
I liked the photos but obviously missed those particular bridges on my walk. I did go over a couple of swing bridges but they were more substantial (they had cars going over them) and a bit too monumental for me and although I did consider a photo I decided against it. I'm think I'mmore at home with the intimate than the immense!

Anonymous said...

Regards The Surrey Dispensary building. This was the Actor Sam Wanamaker's home for many years as he had strong links to south london with respect to him being the person who campaigned and organised Shakespears The Globe rebuilding on Bankside.

Hell's Inky Square said...

Congratulations on your great blog. I am a trustee of the Surrey Dispensary fund. Yes, its still going! The building you found was the original Surrey Dispensary. The Fund meets just 4 times a year and awards grants mainly to organisations who work with with people with health problems who live within the boundary of the old metropolitan borough of Southwark and Bermondsey. The fund's investment is from the sale of the building in your photograph, donated by the family who owned the building.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this post takes me back some! That picture of the Avondale Square Plaque; well my nana lived on Avondale Square for over 30 years and I spent a large part of my childhood there. Thomas A Beckett, Green Man, Dun Cow (used to be a pub but is now a doctors surgery) have all closed. Picture just brought back memories of the Pie & Mash shop on Walworth Road, regular visits to East Street Market and The Blue and the Old Kent Road!

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