Monday, 29 June 2009

Seven minutes in Brentford

Not long enough really, but it only took about seven minutes to walk from Brentford Station to Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC. I was there this Saturday for a CRY event so couldn't really hang around, but old habits die hard and on the return trip I took a bit longer to get a few pictures of some items that had caught my eye.

New Road, Brentford - The Royal Oak For those of you that like a bit of trivia, I believe Brentford FC's ground at Griffin Park is the only ground to have a pub on each of it's four corners. This is the Royal Oak and the closest of the four to the railway station. It struck me as I was going past that I had always ignored the delivery doors traditionally found outside all pubs. This is the publican's equivalent to a coal-hole and they were the entry point for all beer destined to be stored in the cellars. Growing up in Battersea & Putney, even in the 70s and 80s it wasn't uncommon to see a horse-drawn dray pulled up outside a Young's pub, the horses with their noses in an oats bag and a couple of blokes sliding barrels down a metal cradle or dropping them onto a large foam mat in the bowels of the building. Even then it was an anachronistic sight and the cause of some early road-rage incidents from impatient drivers caught on the Wandsworth one-way system.
The thing about these trap doors was their essentially 'homely' feel. Walking over them as a chid was always a bit of a thrill as they would often give a bit in the middle. When they were open you had a glimpse into another world, along with all the accompanying aromas. I'm sure there are metal ones these days and what with the demise of the 'local' this might just spark off a mini-pub cellar door collection.

Coalholes Most of the houses that were dated seemed to come from the 1850s so nearly all of them would have had some sort of coalhole originally. Most have, of course, been buried in concrete or under tarmac or new slabs, but a few still survive.

This one looks like a fairly late and cheap replacement. Probably cut from sheet metal with a basic pattern cut into its surface to let in light, it has long since been concreted in itself
Unlike the above, this is obviously a purpose-built and cast coalhole, albeit of a plain and simple design. Functional is the word here.
Hamilton Road I couldn't help but leave the best to last. There seemed to be a couple of these in various front gardens but time was against me and I could only get the one picture. Commercial Iron Works is a new producer to me, so if I were a carp fisherman, this would be the one I would be pictured holding whilst cheesily grinning at the camera.

Old Street Road seems to have been the original name for what is currently known as Old Street in Shoreditch (as per the Underground Station). I'm guessing from the Wiki entry that it was originally known by the Anglo-Saxon name "Ealdestrate c.1200 and le Oldestrete in 1373". Calling it Oldesretete Road wouldn't have been such an oddity originally, but by splitting it into Old and Street, well that just made the 'Road' a bit redundant!

A bit of googling found a copy of Hackney Today which had an article on the original Commercial Iron Works (page 25) which tells us the the company was originally owned by Edward Wells & Co. who built their factory in 1877 but who had moved on by 1895. So it's been there at for least 114 years and still looks pretty good as this photograph from the Victorian Web shows.

New Road, Brentford Well new in the 1850s I suppose and then in 1897 up comes the Primitive Methodist Jubilee Chapel in 1897. Was this in some way to counter the 'pub on each corner' setup?? I was intrigued at the number of dedicatory plaques on this building as there seemed to be one for each teacher. Presumably they didn't have the staff turnover of more modern times. I know what you're thinking though 'What's a Primitive Methodist?'. It seems to have started as an early schism in the Methodist Church, revelling in open air meetings and maintaining an evangelical zeal
The Primitive Methodist movement can therefore be said to have started in reaction to the Wesleyan drive towards respectability and denominationalism. It was a movement led by the poor and for the poor...They were visible and noisy, they made use of revivalist techniques such as open air preaching. Their services were conducted with a fanatical zeal the Wesleyan leadership would have considered embarrassing. The hymns they sang were heavily influenced by popular culture and not considered respectable. They were often sung to popular tunes and they were full of references to heaven as a place of opulence.
By 1897 though it seems as though the Primitive Methodist were once again pretty much of a muchness with their Wesleyan brethren, although the movement survives in something like its original state in AmericaBrook Road South Any stone masons out there? I noticed this intriguing sign cut into a solid granite kerb stone as I was walking by and wondered what it signified. Was it a place that required drilling, or a charge? Was it something added later? Whatever the reason granite isn't soft so it would have taken some effort to carve this particular sign and I would be most intrigued to find out what it means. (in the Comments below M.J. has pointed out that it is a benchmark, a designated measuring point used by the Ordnance Survey!)Well not bad for a short walk, especially as there was a wall brace that I'm adding to that recent post that's not included here. Even if it's only a street or two you just never know...

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Weather Vanes and Ornaments

I'm a little ambivalent with regard to weather vanes. For a start they tend to be quite a long way away and unlike coal holes you can't get up close to capture the details. Add to that the fact that my humble snapper doesn't have much of a zoom and they start to feel rather elusive.

As a practical tool they're a little suspect as well, right up there with sun-dials on the 'am I reading this correctly?' scale of disbelief so I think you have to look at them as really being basically objects of ornamentation with a slightly spurious claim to practicality.

Still, there are loads of them out there of various shapes and designs and you really can't ignore them for too long

Wimbledon Village SW19 Here's a fine traditional design to kick off with. I believe, although I might well be wrong, that this is a design based on a comet or shooting star. Not any old comet of course, but Halley's comet as depicted in the Bayeaux tapestry. Could it have found favour as a reminder of the wandering star leading the Wise Men to the Nativity?

Barnes High Street Another traditional design this time in the shape of a cloth banner. The word 'Vane' apparently comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'Fane' a type of flag, so this sort of design is probably based on the original. This particular example looks as though it's been through the wars a bit and is about ready for a bit of patching up.

Wimbledon Village provides another classic design, this time the Weather Cock. This is the archetypal image to sit on top of a weathervane and this is a nice three-dimensional copper version.

One site has an interesting explanation with regard to the popularity of cockerels as a motif
The popularity of weathervanes exploded when a papal edict from the 9th century A.D. help bring the weathervane to the skies of most of Europe. Rome declared that every church in Christendom must be adorned by a cockerel, a symbol to remind Christians of Peter’s betrayal of Christ: "I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." (Luke 22:34)
Arrows would seem to be the clearest indicator of wind direction so it's no surprise to find a few variations on this particular theme and these make up the last of the 'traditional' designs.

Kingston-upon-Thames With new riverside developments going up over recent years weather vanes are an obvious bit of decoration to try to give them a bit of instant 'character'. I'm not sure I'd of bothered with this one though as 'bland and forgettable are the words that spring to mind. Almost the sort of weather vane you might buy down the local DIY store one Sunday afternoon.Bermondsey There you go, all that's required is a little imagination. It may be a simple arrow but the 'leaf-spring' effect and the attractive palm leaf base puts it into a different league to the sad effort above.

Then there are the 'let's just go mad on the filigree and and make it twirly' efforts like these two

Raynes Park A very ornate pillar with a very curious shape to the vane. I'm not sure that it depicts anything and it doesn't seem to be the clearest example to try and read. In fact it's quite busy' and dense up there...

Fulham Road That's more like it. Stick it up as high as you can get it; make it exceptionally delicate; add needle-sharp spikes and you've something that starts to resemble old drawings of radio transmitters!Lavender Hill, Battersea A whole new sub-set of 'vanes that put the vain in weathervane'. There are quite a few examples out there of vanes heralding the company beneath them and the fact that many of these companies have ceased to exist make these classic 'Faded London' territory. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more examples and maybe I'll even find out who W&Co. might have been.
On now to a series of themed or 'novelty' weather vanes. As these vanes are a means of adding a bit of personality to the building it's no great surprise to find that the designs often reflect either the local environment or an owners particular hobby.

One thing that seems to pop up as a regular topic on weather vanes is that of water and various associations with it. Most, but not all of these can be put down to location such as the one below

Old Stable Block, Morden Hall Park Well you might reasonably have expected a horse on a stable block, but the River Wandle runs about five yards from its walls. At one point regarded as one of the finest trout streams in the land even Nelson with one arm managed to catch a few, so up on top sits a trout.

Morden Hall, Morden The local 'Big House' also has the Wandle running through it and has also went for the trout theme. I'm not sure which of the two looks most trout-like though

Parkside Avenue, Wimbledon Common Straying slightly from the fish this attractive three-dimensional dolphin was on top of what looked like an extension in the garden. No obvious connection here so was the choice influenced by a personal connection or was it just down to the aesthetic appeal? The Grange, Wimbledon The Common does have a boating lake but I'd guess the owner has an affinity with slightly larger craft than this one. Slightly odd to see it on top of the garage though.

River Bank, East Molesey Similar to the above, being right next to the Thames is obviously the inspiration for this oneKingston High Street Likewise for the slightly more industrial barge from slightly downstream
OK, picture the scene. It's dusk and in the twilight, far off in the distance, you see a distinctive weather vane flushed out of the Autumnal mist. You take a shot anyway and hope for the best. That's how I ended up with this dark, blurred image of a grouse rising above the rooftops of Roehampton Vale, Richmond Park.
Brodrick Road, Wandsworth SW17 Quirky ones. There had to be some. This is presumably a day-nursery or a home with loads of children

Epsom Road, Merton At the other end of the chronological scale this old couple sit on top of a retirement home.To finish on, how about a couple of mythical creatures?
Kingston Road, Wimbledon Chase This wyvern seems to have take a bit of a battering and his wind directional days are long beyond him, if in fact he was ever a wind vane at all. He's too good to leave out though so I've given him the benefit of the doubt
Howards Lane, Putney SW15 And finally, leaving the best until last, how about this magnificent and by far the largest weather vane included to date. This ferocious beast sits on top of a private house and glares at you over the tree-tops as you drive by and is ornamentation on a grand scale. If he also tells which way the wind's blowing then that's just a bonus...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Balham and a Guiness 'Ghost'

I took this picture of an unidentifiable Balham ghost sign about 18 months ago and things have changed a bit since then. In the first place what was an open site has now been built on so the bulk of this sign has been covered.
On the other hand the poster site with the Halifax advert has also been removed to show a small glimpse of what was originally on the wall.
As you can see it's a glass of Guinness but the upper half of the advert has been removed although the gantry bolts are still sticking out of the wall. Does the obliterated lettering say 'Thank Goodness'? It seems a familiar sort of slogan for Guinness anyway...
Obviously the best shot would be from one of the balcony's opposite but I suspect the tenants see it as more an eyesore than anything else. You can just make out the other sign on the right as well from this angle as well. Well it's little more than a glimpse but it does make you wonder how many signs still lurk under modern advertising boards.

Monday, 8 June 2009

"It's all at the (South Suburban) Co-op NOW!"

Along with vague memories of its old advertising jingles, the Co-op store is still a familiar sight on the High Street and there's a reasonably sized supermarket version on the corner of Rose Hill roundabout on the Sutton/Morden borders. What is possibly of more interest though (unless you're on the lookout for a sandwich, as I was last week) is this elegant and very large pebble dashed plaque on the side of a nearby 'Landlords Furniture' shop on Rosehill Avenue (and to be honest I never thought I'd ever use the words 'elegant' and 'pebble-dashed' in the same sentence). Although the area is generally of 1930's vintage, and the sign is probably not of any great age, it is quite intriguing when you notice it. There might well be people reading this who worked for the company and certainly would have have been customers. It was all new to me though so I had a bit of a dig around to find out a bit more about it.
Wikipedia is always worth a punt and indeed it gives a potted history of the Society. Basically it was an amalgam of several smaller local co-operative societies operating in Surrey and Kent. In the early days these sort of societies provided a whole range of services and goods for their members, from milk to coal, books to funerals, food to furniture and any profits at the end of the year were paid back to their members in the form of a cash dividend or 'divi'.

However, reading around the subject solved another minor query. I had a photo of a stately building in Tooting, now a function hall, that had an RACS Ltd pediment. At the time I didn't know what it stood for but I now know that this was a building belonging to the South Suburban Co-Operative's big local rival, the Royal Arsenal Co-Operative Society!
I found some information about the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (including some reminiscences that claimed that RACS stood for 'Robbing All Customers Slowly', which seems a bit harsh) that shows that its acquisitions included the local Wimbledon Co-operative society, so it looks as though Morden might have been the border 'badlands' between these two local powerhouses. By all accounts there seems to have been some rivalry between them but ultimately it did them no good as they were both absorbed into the national Co-Op in 1985 leaving little more than a few plaques and name plates to tease the curious!
One last thing I never knew about the Co-Op, but found out reading around them, was that it has its own political party. In fact it has up to 29 MP's, including Ed Balls but you're not likely to know that as the Co-Operative Party has allied itself with the Labour Party so closely it no longer campaigns as an individual entity, even though it still aparently exists and functions independently. Its MPs are listed as being members of the Labour & Co-Operative Party, rather than just the Labour Party, but the fact that its official party colour is grey probably suggest that they don't spend as much on image consultancy as their Labour colleagues