Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Old Town Gargoyles, Clapham

Gargoyles... you wait for years to spot a good one then loads come along together.

I was up at Clapham Old Town the other week and came across an intriguing back street called Rectory Gardens It's a short L-shaped passageway of about 12 cottages, small but characterful, with some nice bootscrapers and Victorian features. It also gives the impression of being semi-derelict and home to some individuals of a more 'alternative' outlook who have decorated the various houses in a range of individualistic styles (I wasn't too keen on the camouflage netting one though, unless it was designed to provide alternative nesting sites for sparrows). I assume that the area is under threat of development which is probably what led to the current situation

So there I was, admiring the bootscrapers and then this fellow appeared. Looks pretty much at home guarding his own personal Entrance to Hell but I'm guessing that whoever put him in had to break the wall down from the back to do so...

And then a few doors up there's gargoyle heaven (if gargoyles have a heaven). Click on the picture and treat yourself to a close up! Actually the whole street reminded me of some bohemian seaside town settled by a few artists - Dartmouth or some other West Country town and it was a bit incongruous to find it out of context in the middle of London.
I have to say that without knowing what's going on there my sympathies lie on the side of preservation and adaptation rather than having it flattened and a new apartment block built on the site. If it was flattened what happens then to the gargoyles?


12 comments:

W12 said...

superb - I work in your part of London nd there is much more of hidden London, I'll send in some pics soon

There's also plenty in W12 Shepherds Bush where I live, should you not boraden your horizons?!

Yelfy said...

Hi W12 - I've been over to Hamersmith and found a few nice odds and ends and fully intend to work my way up to an old friend who lives in near Shepherds Bush so don't be too surprised if something turns up over the next couple of weeks...

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha...........this was my house for many years........lived in Rectory gardens from when i was 19 until i was 35. Mykol is the creator of these sculptures....talking of sculptures...don't mean to be pedantic......but the wee chap in the boot scraper is a corbel not a gargoyle......gargoyles have a water spout....no water spout makes it a corbel......see, ya learn something new every day!! We used to have a stall at camden market an sell them. Your pics made me laugh an brought back some happy memories...we brought up 3 kids in this haven of sanity in a world thats gone mad. Long may it last :)

Jakartass said...

First, a big 'hi' to Anonymous as we may well have known each other!

Back in '73, after leaving the Somers Town squats and being pointed in the direction of Lambeth by the GLC, I was the 'discoverer' of Rectory Gardens and, with the permission of the few remaining tenants - seriously, the first squatter to move in. There are many tales to tell: of the GLC agreeing to fund us as a secondary housing co-op under the auspices of Solon but then Red Ted Knight throwing a jealous huff and refusing planning permission: of Charlie Gillett giving our co-op shop, which sold vegetables we'd scrounged from New Covent Garden to pensioners a carrot at a time, demo discs - I grabbed a white label of Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing: of Ian Dury visiting his bass player in Kilburn and the High Roads, Charlie (?), who was one of our number: and of Thunderclap Newman who lived opposite.

But it's the picture of the boot scraper that brings back a really fond memory.

I'd found a garden gnome on the vacant plot on the main road, took it home, painted it in nice colours, probably called it Roger, and put it behind the bar of the scraper outside the house (along the longer stretch of the L), and left it to dry. Next morning it had gone!

I now wonder if that is Roger in the picture. He should have told me he wanted to move because I reported him missing to the local police!

Not wishing to seem to be over-frivolous, I went primarily to report the loss of a bunch of keys, but the station sarge was more interested in the fate of Roger.

"Do you know, sir," he told me, "that's the commonest crime in Clapham."

Later that day, a police search squad actually spent an hour looking for it/him.

My understanding is that Rectory Gardens is now a registered housing co-op, and it still sounds an interesting place to be.

Me? I've lived in Jakarta for the past 22+ years and write about it on Jakartass - http://jakartass.net - and former residents can contact me through the site. I also have a new edition of Culture Shock! Jakarta (pub. Marshall Cavendish) this month. The shock comes, as much as anything, from seeing how little interest is shown in 'old' Jakarta by the developers and city planners they are in league with.

I'm still a Londoner at heart - how could I not be? - so many thanks for this site which I'll happily link to.

Cheers Terry C.
aka Jakartass

Jakartass said...

First, a big 'hi' to Anonymous as we may well have known each other!

Back in '73, after leaving the Somers Town squats and being pointed in the direction of Lambeth by the GLC, I was the 'discoverer' of Rectory Gardens and, with the permission of the few remaining tenants - seriously, the first squatter to move in. There are many tales to tell: of the GLC agreeing to fund us as a secondary housing co-op under the auspices of Solon but then Red Ted Knight throwing a jealous huff and refusing planning permission: of Charlie Gillett giving our co-op shop, which sold vegetables we'd scrounged from New Covent Garden to pensioners a carrot at a time, demo discs - I grabbed a white label of Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing: of Ian Dury visiting his bass player in Kilburn and the High Roads, Charlie (?), who was one of our number: and of Thunderclap Newman who lived opposite.

Jakartass said...

Whoops, sorry for double - now triple - posting.

It's one reason I moved from Blogger to WordPress.

T

nike free run 2 said...

Lovely - I especially like the Sclater Street pic.

Anonymous said...

Hi.This is very interesting to me as I used to squat in Rectory Gardens in 1980 - the triangle house on the corner. I was just on the computer and fancied a reminisce. Thanks to the wonders of google I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane to see how it looked now. Absolutely flabbergastered to see that not only is it still standing as it was but also still in the same state of disrepair it was 30 years ago - I thought that all of Clapham had now been gentrified! Wonderful place, so glad it hasn't changed. I was only 17 and part of the punk scene, stayed there with fellow punk friends. I remember the house was actually dangerous and falling apart! Now I know its still there I will definitely go to see it in person and take a few pictures. Thanks very much for the memories.

Anonymous said...

Have happy memories of 1979-81 living at Thurston House, over the fence from the Gardens. Our neighbours I remember in the Gardens were a family who had little kids, one boy called simon,another boy, and a little girl called michaela who liked to play as wonderwoman, and a baby brother as well. There was Clem, who had a lot of cats, a couple of which we adopted, little Charlie, little John, Andy (Thunderclap) Newman, shopping at Horrids (still have a wooden box we got from Horrids).

Anonymous said...

Many compliments for the blog as a whole! But the reason why I stumbled upon it and a particular spur for writing is this interchange on Rectory Gardens.
I've no direct connection, alas. But around a decade ago 2001-02 I and my ten girlfriend rented a(n in itself rather odd) flat a on Wandsworth Road above a pub with spectacularly psychogeographical views out back across the railway sheds towards Battersea Power Station. Trains thundered past day and night - we were so close to the then Eurostar route that we used to imagine throwing a rope out and hitching a ride to Paris - but that's another story.
Anyway yesterday I happened to be back in the area and walked up from Clapham Common to see if it was still there - it is, the pub's boarded up but otherwise the immediate environs are unchanged, that micro-area certainly still HASN'T succumbed to gentrification.
On the route there and back however passed (via the wonderfully named Matrimonial Way and the seeemingly prospering St Paul's community gardens) Rectory Gardens. Greatly struck and moved by its survival - back then my girlfriend and I used to speculate how come the residents managed to hold on against the tide. Now I know, wish now I'd found out more and perhaps got involved somehow.
Very saddened and angered too - if hardly surprised - by the ongoing difficulties residents are having with Lambeth. It does sound (from http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/ which I found admirable and informative) a bit as if the struggle is approaching an endgame phase - but with all that history behind them you never know.
The anger is fuelled by the increasing craziness of housing policy and housing reality throughout London over the intervening years. Part of the reason I was wandering around yesterday in any event is because I've currently found myself out of work (despite holding more degrees than the Three Degrees though that seems hardly relevant right now), single and sequestered in a crummy room out in Zone 5 that I took in the so far mistaken belief that it would enable me to find work. In more general sociological terms,I am deeply troubled by the widening gap that's opened up between haves & nots during my adult lifetime. In London this is reflected in the astronomical prices in agents' windows at every corner and in stories such as that of the Gardens... Its all very, very sad.

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Anonymous said...

I too lived at the end corner house circa 96-97 for a short while. Was a great little community, Pete (I think) a few doors up, some good local pubs etc. Could no way afford to live in London now...