Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Morden - The King George Connection

There's a short journey I make every Saturday morning that takes me past two sets of wall plaques. Both of them are interesting in their own right but a brief look at their histories provided a common link between the two - namely King George V. Now I'm aware that this might prove to be a tenuous link but it's there nonetheless and certainly strong enough for me to label this 'The King George Connection'! (blast of royal trumpets for emphasis)

The first set of plaques have a distinctly military air about them.
There are several busts of a distinguished gentleman on the walls of some neat houses near the old village of Morden where Central Road meets Green Lane , along with some other decorative relief work. The fact that the estate is known as the 'Haig Homes' gives a pretty good idea as to who the soldier in the roundel below might be and it's no surprise to find the figure is actually of Douglas Haig, the 1st Lord Haig (1861-1928)
The image is repeated several times around the estate and isn't one specially commissioned for these houses at all, but is taken directly from his memorial at the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle. Having been one of the senior military commanders of the First World War and one of the generation of generals reviled for the huge loss of life involved, Haig then spent his retirement - and some of the profits of the family whisky business, I'd assume - providing decent affordable housing for the survivors.
I'm assuming that this is a representation below is of the dove of peace and symbolises a haven for soldiers who have experienced the horrors of war and survived to an old age. If not then maybe a carrier pigeon from the first world war. Unlikely, but you never know...
This site in Morden is the largest of the Haig estates and was built between 1928 and 1930. In 1931 King George V was present for the official opening on probably his first and last trip to the area! I have seen a picture of the King at the opening but frustratingly can no longer locate it, although I've no doubt that Haig Homes themselves would have a copy in their archives. The best I could do was this article in a Haig Homes magazine which shows his oldest son, the Prince of Wales, talking to some of the residents. Not quite as exciting but no doubt I'll find the other picture eventually.

There were a couple of other inscriptions around as well, like this one for example. It isn't the easiest plaque to read, but says something along the lines of
The Gift of Memorial Homes. One of Two Provided by R. K. Kielber Esq. and the name Alexandra Square was chosen by him to express the gratitude of Denmark to the Great Field Marshall
Alexandra was the name of King George's mother so would have been a most acceptable choice!

So that's one King George connection on my short trip, now where's the next?

The second set of plaques can be found either side of the (seemingly) permanently full car-park of the nearby King George's Park Playing Fields, home of Morden Little League and my ultimate destination. I had a vague feeling that King George seemed to come up quite often in the context of parks and playing fields, but it was only when I had a closer look that it really dawned on me before that there might be a particular reason for that.

An apparently pretty standard set of King George Playing Field pillars

These playing fields can be found up and down the country (471 apparently) and are actually a memorial to King George himself, set up following his death in 1936. They were the result of the Mayor of London coming up with the idea as a suitable living monument and setting up a charity to action it. The full details can be seen (of course) in Wikipedia but one of the nice quotes from that article notes that each field would...
...be styled 'King George's Field' and to be distinguished by heraldic panels or
other appropriate tablet medallion or inscription commemorative of His Late
Majesty and of a design approved by the Administrative Council.
So up and down the country, sitting outside numerous King George Playing Fields are these heraldic tablets, designed by local artists and acknowledging local materials and traditions.

Unicorn on the right pillar...

The Morden ones seem to made out of concrete set into a brick entrance. The depictions themselves are a little worn but still readable, and clearly depict a Unicorn and a Lion - both heraldic animals from the Royal coat of arms

...Lion on the left. Everything in place here then!

There are strict rules about the design and execution of these panels which are taken from the charity guidelines

Heraldic panels were made of either stone or bronze and, in some cases, brass. These panels were, and still must be, displayed at the main entrance to the field; the Lion panel to be fixed on the left of the entrance and the Unicorn panel on the right, except Scotland. Where the piers of the entrance are of brick or stone, the panels were of stone 2 ft (1 m) high by 1 ft 6 in (0.46 m) broad. Where wooden posts form the gate-supports, smaller plaques in bronze were issued - 11¼ins high by 8¼ins broad.
In the case of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the panel on the left is the Lion, holding a Royal Shield, with the words 'George V' underneath, and below them 'A.D. 1910-1936'; and on the right is the Unicorn holding a similar shield with the words 'King George’s Field' underneath. In the case of Scotland, the relative positions of the Lion and the Unicorn are reversed, and the Scottish arms take prior place in the Shield and the Unicorn wears a crown. The wording below is identical.These panels are essential to the heritage of the Foundation. Subject to the Deed of Dedication, the fields are, in most cases, established on charitable trust and protected in ‘perpetuity’. The NPFA is glad to give initial guidance and the necessary information on the specific design.

It's only a short drive but it's interesting that a recent King of England should have such a presence on the route. Now if only I thought to check the age of the postboxes on my way I might have made a hat-trick rather than just a brace!

Monday, 12 October 2009

An Unusual Borough 'Ghost' And A Couple Of Others.

We went for lunch up at Borough Market this week so of course I took along the camera, just in case. As it turned out I spotted an intriguing ghost sign and few other odds and ends. Lunch and photos...lovely!
Southwark Street, Borough SE1
Most 'Ghost Signs' that are spotted tend to be painted on brick walls and the sides of buildings. It's not quite as usual to come across one painted on wood - not least because of its unfortunate tendency to rot away over time - so I was really pleased to spot this one the other day. It's unusual on several counts; firstly it's on wood; secondly it's very tall and thin and thirdly because of it's position under a railway line.

It seems to have been made as a specific infill between two other buildings, although it's not clear what's behind it, and my guess would be that it has been covered up until fairly recently. There's a central wooden batten that looks a lot newer and the fact that there's not much graffiti also suggest it hasn't been exposed for too long.

I couldn't fit it all in so had to make do with three separate sections:

The top section reads
FR?? & DEL??
All very mysterious. I assume they must have had a yard close by and this site provided a handy bit of free advertising.

The Hop Exchange, Southwark Street SE1
This little bit of advertising was a bit more expensive I'd assume... This is the magnificent entrance to the Hop Exchange and the relief shows the cutting and bagging of strings of hops. I like the hairy 'Green Men' too which gives the whole scene a definite pagan feel.
Southwark Street SE1
The Menier Chocolate Factory not only has a very attractive front door, but also two ghost door numbers who seem to have survived by being hidden under a brass plate or something similar

Park Street SE1
An unusual and very sturdy bootscraper this one and one of a pair outside a couple of attractive old town houses. Big enough for a small child to stand on I'd reckon. Sadly I didn't have a small child with me so couldn't try out my theory.
Union Street
'Mint & Gospel' - excellent name! Actually the fact it refers to the Shaftsbury Society means that this plaque dates from after 1914, the date the Society was founded. Before that it had been known as the Ragged School Union and this had been one of their London Schools. It seems that the establishment of the Education Act of 1870 meant these charitable institutions no-longer were the sole providers of education for the destitute young and as their role slowly diminished it seems that the Shaftesbury Society eventually evolved into the YMCA. The building itself is dated 1909 so the plaque must be a few years younger, possibly being added five or six years later. Nice reminder though.
Here's the proof then, the foundation stone dated 1909. There's a nice photo of Lord Mayor Treloar in the National Portrait Gallery and as he founded
the Treloar Trust, a charity supporting the UK’s leading specialist centre providing education, independence training and opportunities for young people with physical disabilities.
I'm sure he was more than happy to be associated with this particular venture!
There are some interesting snippets on him on the Treloar Family web page- apparently he was known as "The Children's Lord Mayor", (which is not a bad appellation) as well as this photo
Redcross Way SE1
We're not finished with the old Ragged School yet! If you go down the side of it you can see two strange creatures baying at the moon on the very top of the rear wall. My poor little camera was at maximum zoom and you can just make out that they appear to be a Dragon and a Gryphon
I assume these are references to a heraldic design - possibly the City of London, given that the Mayor laid the stone - but it seems their coat of arms consists of two Dragons. Dragon and a Gryphon look familiar though....it's not Camberwell either.
Newcomen Street, SE1
This is a detail from a house that seems to have gone overboard on the decorative detail. In fact every window on the first three floors (and there were about eleven of them) each had two different heads decorating it. The ony plain windows were those of the servants quarters up in the loft! Very nice details though and I was wondering if there was a theme to it all that was above me...
Near Borough Tube Station
I do like a nice pediment and lets be honest, how often do you see one with a cheeky weasle peering over the top? Actually he could be an otter, fox cub or stoat but it's not helped by having a few chips of the old block.
And finally, from the same area, an intriguing set of symbols. Too boring to be decorative, they must have some significant meaning. Any thoughts?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A Hidden Wimbledon Horse Trough

There's a group of people who follow Non-League Football known as 'ground-hoppers' whose greatest joy is to visit as many different football grounds as possible. Not unlike obsessive bird-watchers determined to 'tick off' another species from the list, their enjoyment seems to come mainly from the satisfaction of acquiring another ground and another programme (apparently it doesn't count unless you get a programme to prove you were there and beware the wrath of a hopper who doesn't get at least a team sheet at the end of the day!).

Well I don't know if there's a similar group of individuals out there hunting down horse troughs but it's interesting to me that some of the most visited and searched for items on this blog are those horse-trough related. If someone hasn't already started a definitive list of surviving Metropolitan Association Horse & Cattle Trough's I'm sure it's only a matter of time...

So, always happy to help out, I thought any budding 'trough-ticker' might be interested to hear of this example that has somehow strayed from its original site.
As you can see the move doesn't seem to have done it much harm and it looks happily settled in its new surroundings. The original metal cover is still over the end, it has a couple of shiny red fire buckets hanging off it and the whole thing is actually looking pretty tidy. Best of all this particular trough has ended up in a stable-yard and is constantly surrounded by horses. Sort of an ideal retirement home for it really...
I came across it in the stable yard of the Wimbledon Common Rangers. The current Rangers didn't know of its original position but I'm sure it must have been somewhere on the common itself, otherwise I doubt they'd have been allowed to move it.

The inscription on the end says that it's the gift of 'Three Friends'. I'm sure I've seen this inscription before so I wouldn't be surprised if the three friend's donations are responsible for a number of troughs. It would be interesting to see if they are clustered in one area or spread out evenly throughout London though. Maybe a horse trough expert could fill me in?