Saturday, 13 February 2010

Bits and Bobs on the Uxbridge Road (part 1)

The Westview Shopping Centre at Shepherds Bush might well be a magnate for post-Christmas shoppers but it doesn't really hold a great deal of attraction for us Faded-Londonites whose idea of a good time is stumbling across a new coal-hole manufacturer. Anyway, I was happy to leave various members of the family to their own devices and to take off for a pleasant stroll out of the temperature-controlled climate of the arcade into the chill wind and icy rain of West London.

I'd been down the same road fairly recently so my expectations with regard to new discoveries weren't particularly high but as soon as I hit the Green I caught sight of this pleasingly decrepit sign.
'Sketty Terrace' - not a very picturesque or attractive name either but certainly one that calls out for a bit of research to try to pinpoint its origins. Not very difficult as it turns out, and anyone from Swansea in South Wales would no doubt have spotted straight away that it's an area in the west of the city. I don't think Shepherds Bush is known for its ex-pat Welsh community so my best bet would be a connection with the developer.

I included the interesting ornament below the sign as they are a common form of decoration and, to be honest, I haven't a clue what they are called. Of course they may not have a proper name at all - and by that I mean an interesting sounding Greek or Roman one - but even if they featured in a builders catalogue they must have had some description or other.  They seem to resemble a sceptre and many, such as the one on Sketty Terrace, have now lost their spike on top. The one pictured  on the left has retained the spike but has been painted white down one side which seems a really daft, (albeit quite common) thing to do . Was anyone ever really pleased with the compromise?                                            
On we go then to the slightly more salubrious looking Pereira Mansions. Not quite as definitive looking this one up as it can refer to a surname, a place in Portugal or a city in Columbia!
Further down the Uxbridge Road turns into The Vale and one of its more interesting sights is a solid old building belonging to a company called Newman Hire Co. Ltd.  It has the air of an old and faded municipal site but if the ghost sign at the very top  is anything to go by was originally the home of Brown Brothers Ltd. I'm familiar with the Australian wine company of the same name, but a bit of research shows that Brown Brothers were a sizeable motor company in the 1930's. I found (literally) a snippet in The Commercial Motor of 1935 that notes "Brown Bothers Trading Results -The report for Brown Brothers Ltd for the year ending January 10 1934 shows a net profit of £71,141"  which doesn't sound too bad. 
 
Well however good it sounds, there must have been lean times around the corner because Brown Brothers moved out, their name was scrubbed and Newman Hire Co Ltd moved in. This new company specialise in props and stage settings, which seems strangely apt as what I enjoy about their facade is its real sense of time and space. That lettering could only really have been erected in the early seventies although it does have some hints of the thirties about it. At a pinch I'd guess it was done at about the time when The Sting and Scott Joplin were all the rage. Which is ironic as it starred Paul Newman. I'm sure there's no connection though...

But the associations don't stop there. The lettering goes around the side as well and the odd missing and lopsided letter remind me of Sunshine Desserts in The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin.

The company website shows what looks like an opulent and extravagant set of interiors - it even has a 360 degree virtual tour,  if your computer can take it (mine couldn't and crashed several times before I gave up, but then mine sulks if I ask it to play a cd) Anyway the juxtaposition between the slightly decrepit signage and the elegant interiors is either a well thought-out post modern ironic comment or a recognition that the prop-hire business isn't as profitable as it used to be. Definitely a local landmark though.

Moving on a bit, it's always interesting to see a plaque of some sort up on the walls and those put up by local authorities are more intriguing than most. Slightly obscure local worthies, not-quite so good poets and explorers not quite famous enough to get a coveted blue plaque are the usual subjects and the disc on the corner of Galloway Road is no different. Quite a coincidence this, as George Galloway  has a reputation as a maverick firebrand socialist MP which is similar to Dennis Nowell Pritt, the subject of this Hammersmith & Fulham plaque.

I have to say that his name didn't really strike a chord and the fact that the plaque is both pretty high and very difficult to read suggests that Hammersmith & Fulham weren't really sure how they wanted to remember him either. There's a brief summation of his career on Wikipedia
but here are some of the highlights:

A member of the Labour Party from 1918, he was infamous as a defender of the Soviet Union under Stalin...   Pritt was an MP for Hammersmith North from 1935 to 1940, when he was expelled for defending the Soviet invasion of Finland... Pritt was awarded the 1954 International Stalin Peace Prize and in 1957 became an honorary citizen of Leipzig, which was then in East Germany. He was also awarded the Star of the Volkerfreundschart ( in gold ) in October 1965.
Firebrand socialist and friend of Communism - and all I get is an unreadable plaque!

Coming soon in part 2 - Something odd on the kerb...






2 comments:

Newman Hire Company Ltd said...

Never assume anything yours Newman Hire Company

BrokenGuitars said...

Found this article after spotting the Sketty Terrace sign, I'm from Swansea and was wondering what the connection is; Probably the developer as you say. Pennard Road runs off Uxbridge Road and Pennard is a village to the west of Swansea so there's another connection there.