Sunday, 24 May 2009

Wall Braces - Keeping things tight!

Some things are just so familiar that you tend to take them for granted and it's only when something in particular catches your eye that you look a little closer. So it was with this collection of wall brace photographs. I only started to look out for them after noticing an unusually ornate example when on a recent walk around Rotherhithe and although at first I thought I'd only spot loads of fairly boring and plain circles, that wasn't the case. But I have to be a bit cautious here in calling them wall braces because that's what I assume they are - a way of preventing bowing walls or sagging eaves or something. I'd be more than happy if someone in the know posted a comment to correct me and to explain the niceties of the different variations I've spotted.
(note: Thanks to Hausdok who has kindly pointed out that they are not in fact braces but 'bearing plates' which sounds even better. I won't revise this post but will be sure to use the correct terminology in future efforts!)

Bermondsey Wall The one that started me looking so it's only fair that it's first up. I'd guess that plain round plates are the most common and the one that most people would be familiar with but I was taken by the fact that this one had an almost Tudor-Rose design to it
Clapham Common, Old Town There are a surprising number of old buildings still standing in the Old Town part of Clapham, partly due to the efforts of braces like these I suppose. I'd guess that this is the most common form of wall brace, a simple disc with a hole in the middle, through which a screw projects and a nut is attached. Presumably a couple of these is all it takes to pull things together and keep suspect brickwork in place.
Morden Hall Park, Morden Hall Road The first of two examples from a small workman's cottage built into the perimeter wall this is another example of the simple disc, although the nut looks a little crude and out of proportion
St Lawrence Church, London Road, Morden I suppose this is an example of what could be described as a 'transitional phase' - what with its oval shape and ridges. It's moving away from the simple disc into something slightly more adventurous and heavy-duty Morden Hall Park, Morden Hall Road This is a good example of a home made plate, a simple rough-cut square (one of two) that look more welded or beaten into place rather than screwed. It's not too big either as you can see by the comparative sizes of the surrounding bricks
The cottage itself is quite small so these braces could be counted as definitely being on the 'domestic' sized. A lot of the rest of the perimeter wall is definitely bowing though, so domestic in scale or not they do seem to do the job. Lavender Hill, Battersea This strikes me as being more utilitarian than even the simple disc. A couple of slats drilled in the centre and a simple nut attached to make a simple cross-brace. Cheap but efficient I'd of thought, even if not too ornate.
Old London Road, Kingston A variation on the cross-brace, I suppose this is a 'double cross-brace on a single horizontal' which might start sounding a little heraldic but it's also interesting to see how the red-brick coving has been removed to accommodate it
Old Town, Clapham The 'fancy-dan' of the wall brace world, the 'S' brace looks good and covers a number of courses of bricks. The ones I've noticed invariably seem to be painted in brighter colours to draw attention to themselves rather than being painted black in the hopes that they'd blend in so I think we can see the S brace as being as much ornamental as functional. That was at the front, but they are just as prominent at the rear.Lavender Hill, Battersea Of course there's ornate and there's ornate... In effect I suppose this is a combination of two 'S' braces and a central disc but the overall effect is very pleasing. Pity about the later pipework though.St Lawrence Church, London Road, Morden One of two spanning a Gothic-arched window, I liked this one for its Catherine-wheel shape and obviously home made qualities. It certainly does the job though...

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Faded London Chronology - A Whimsy in Several Fits

It struck me last night that a significant number of the buildings, name plates and coal-holes on the Faded London site proudly display the year of their manufacture in a prominent place. Well it seemed a waste that they were glanced over without placing them in some sort of context, so I thought it might be interesting to see if I could build myself a time line with them all. OK, its not wildly exciting but I'm going to treat it as a minor distraction and keep it bubbling in the background - a bit like having a jig-saw going on a table in a back room that you can always go and waste a few minutes over. I'll revisit it at regular intervals and hope to plug the gaps whenever I can and maybe get a nice run of consecutive years going, but this set of dates will do for a start...
1822 Tooting In the same year that Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh commits suicide, a small shop is built in Tooting. It's still going strong but now selling an extensive range of saris.

1855 Southfields, Wandsworth As Sevastopol fell in the Crimea Anglesea House rose in Wandsworth. Now a private house 'estabd.' suggests it was originally a business or hotel. (I've since been informed it was, and still is, a bakers!)
1861 Hammersmith Road, Hammersmith Here's a strange thing. This old building has no name except the initials RLFS all over it, including its weather vane and I'm presuming that the 1861 was the original completion date (thoughtfully painted around and preserved by modern workers). The big news that year was the begining of the American Civil War, although the abolition of serfdom in Russia was good news to many!
1865 Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell Whilst a party of intrepid British climbers were conquering the Matterhorn a fairly mundane building at the Camberwell end of Coldharbour Lane was being graced with a fine date plaque and the title 'York House'.
1866 London Road, Kingston As the first transatlantic cable was being laid across the Atlantic Ocean, Kingston was celebrating the building of Milton Villas. (note: That is not part of the Transatlantic cable obscuring the sign. It is a mere coincidence.....or is it???)
1871 Balham This fine pediment was topping off a new set of buildings by Balham Railway station at the same time as Dr Livingstone was being greeted in the jungle.
1878 Fulham Road A very nice and ornate crest above the entrance to some premises on the Fulham Road. As for significant events of the year, you can take your pick between The Factory Act which protected female and child labour or the première of HMS Pinafore.
1880 Fulham Palace Road Not many capitals on the top of pillars are ever dated. This is actually the first I've seen so the builders were obviously keen to commemorate the first home England vs Australia Test held at the Oval. England won and WG Grace hit 152! (Not that I'm claiming the bearded chap is WG himself of course...)
1881 Southwark It was a bad year for Benjamin Disraeli (he died) but a year to remember south of the Thames when they unveiled this Romanesque date plaque.
1884 Wimbledon Big news of the year is Gladstone's Reform Act. The electorate grows from 3 to 5 million and JLC builds Hepburn Terrace in Wimbledon. Possibly as an act of celebration, possibly not.
1885 Lower Richmond Road, Putney News of General Gordon's death at the hands of the Dervish army reaches Britain after the fall of Khartoum in Sudan. This might possibly account for the glum look on the wild man's face.
1886 Putney, London The failure of Gladstone's Irish Home Rule Bill might have seen him packing his bags and leaving Westminster, but he would certainly have found crossing the Thames at Putney a lot easier with the opening of the new Putney Bridge.
1887 Jubilee Villa, Tooting This year saw the completion of an attractive but initially unremarkable villa in Tooting that was lifted to a state of interest by the copious addition of attractive tiling. And to cap it off a remarkable coincidence that saw it named Jubilee Villa
in the very same year that Queen Victoria celebrated her very own jubilee. What are the chances of that then???1888 Richmond Hill This detail on a coalhole plate shows the date of its patent, which also happens to be the date of the formation of the Football League in England. It also happens to be one year before the formation of the 'Wimbledon Old Centrals' precursors to todays AFC Wimbledon. Out by a year though...
1889 Rotherhithe This new building along the Thames was completed just in time for the famous London dock strike of 1889 a victory which led to the 'Dockers tanner', a minimum wage of 6d an hour.1890 off George Street, Richmond The Imperial was well named, being founded at the height of Victorian self-confidence. It was also the year that the Metropolitan Police first moved into their headquarters at New Scotland Yard. The police are still there, but the Imperial pub has long since departed.
1892 Sutton The old milestone might have been there for over a hundred years but local stone smith J. Parrott was called in to give it a bit of a tidy-up and left his mark round the back. Someone who had no intention of sneaking in round the back that year was Kier Hardy, Britain's first socialist Member of Parliament who turned up for his first day on the job in yellow tweed trousers and a cloth cap!
1895 Passmore Edwards Public Library, Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush What a superb idea. We've got a big chimney, so why don't we wrap some iron around it and turn it into a fancy date stamp? All this in the year the National Trust was founded and Oscar Wilde was arrested.
1896 Tooting This was the time of the great Victorian boom in building grand Public Houses and the King's Head in Tooting was one of the grandest. The year also saw the shortest war in history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War which lasted 45 minutes, leaving plenty of time to get down the pub before closing.
1897 Borough BMT must have been feeling very proud as this plaque above an arch was revealed. Also revealed to physicist Joseph John Thomson was the presence of negatively charged particles called electrons within the structure of an atom.
1900 Lower Richmond Road, Putney A fine new block of apartments opens overlooking the river at Putneyand is decorated in the light, uplifting, modern style. Also lifted that year was the Siege of Mafeking during the Boer War.
1901 Southwark Even Drainpipes are not immune from the 'desire to date'. This one is is a fine matt black which is appropriate as this was the year that Queen Victoria died.1902 Clapham This confident and cheerful date plaque adorns the Clapham post office. Also cheerful news for children everywhere was the news that Beatrix Potter had just published her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
1903 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush OK they might have been established in 1888 but it wasn't until 1903 they found a permenant home. Meanwhile in America the Wright Brothers had just made the first powered heavier than air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
To be continued...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Ghost Sign - Northcote Road

I found this old bakers sign when I took time out for a quick stroll down the Northcote Road near Clapham Junction. A.H. Dunn - High Class Baker & Confectioner - Maker of Hovis

Describing yourself as 'high class' obviously wasn't an issue then and I'm wondering if the sign might be datable by the unusual way that the 'o' in Hovis has a small line above it. It's a pity about the graffiti but then I have to say that very few of the ghost signs I've seen seem to have been targetted by spray-painters. Could be that they are too inaccessible or could it be that there is generally a bit of respect there? Nice Sunday morning find though...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Sundials of South West London

I've been hanging on to a couple of pictures of sundials in the sure and certain belief that I'd soon have enough to put together a decent post. Well it hasn't happened, not because there aren't any sundials out there, just that I haven't spotted them yet.

Along with weather vanes, sundials pretty much rank up there at the top of the 'what's the point?' rating. It seems to be taken for granted that they're never right and to be honest no-body really knows how to use them so with all that against them you'd think they would have died a natural death in the last century. However it seems the value of the sundial really lies in it's aesthetics and its ability to add a bit of interest to a blank wall so of the three examples I found two are modern examples-

Wimbledon Broadway SW19
Its modern, sophisticated and looks as though it should work. In fact there's definitely a shadow being cast. However there are also thirteen markers which is a little confusing and no clue as to which hour is being pointed indicated. I have a feeling that the sundial came with the Argos but can't back that up with anything but a hunch.
Putney High Street/ Upper Richmond Road
'Time like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away...' is apparently a quote by Isaac Watts
from one of his Psalms.Probably a good move to concentrate on the time aspect rather than inevitable death. The MM (2000) would suggest it was commissioned especially for the millennium celebrations and no doubt the swan in the middle also has a significance, probably relating to the company that produced itOld London Road, Kingston
Now that's more like it. A proper old-fashioned sundial with a plaque, inscription and a bit of carving to go with it. This one is placed above a row of alms houses on the road in to Kingston but now I think about it I'm sure I've seen a similar one on a private house out near Molesey. Might be well worth a little trip out there soon to see if I'm right but in the meantime I'll just have to enjoy this one on its own.