Saturday, 24 November 2007

Wimbledon Town Centre

View map of area

Wimbledon Town Centre was redeveloped a few years ago and most of the Victorian Civic buildings, including the old Town Hall, were gutted and had their fascia's incorporated into the new Centre Court Shopping Centre. There are still some interesting features though well worth recording

Alwyne Road, Bank Buildings
There is a whole block facing Wimbledon Hill Road that has been built in a highly ornate fashion using this dusty-red shade of brick. This is only a side entrance in a side-street but the ornamentation and the colour remind me of some building out in the Moroccan desert.

Wimbledon Hill Road, Wimbledon Public Library
The library has several interesting features on the outside, and a couple of interesting ones on the inside too! Here's the fine main entrance with its elaborate balcony.
To the right of the main entrance Milton sticks his head out of a porthole...

whilst Shakespeare leans even further out of the one on the left.

And inside there are still some of the original and highly decorated radiators with masses of scroll-work (thanks to Annette for this photo!)Wimbledon Hill Road
I suppose hanging a beer barrel outside a pub is a traditional thing to do and probably pre-dates pub signs but I wonder how many people notice it these days?
Alexandra Road SW19
Part of the new shopping centre consist of the outer walls of a church which seems to have more than its fair share of dedication stones. The engraving is very floral and attractive and this one reads
"Laid on behalf of the Sunday Schools by the Superintendent Mr G.H Denne - ' Despise not one of these little ones'"
The second reads
"For Christ and the Church - laid on behalf of the Societies of Christian Endeavour - Mr F. H. Freeth, Vice-president"
Alexandra Road, SW19
Now looking a bit lonely, this royal armorial crest sits above one of the entrances to the shopping centre. Might this have been the original Wimbledon Magistrates Court?
Alexandra Road SW19
It's not a 'ghost sign' as such (in fact there is a specialist term used for the marks left on walls by old lettering, but I can't recall what it is at the moment) but if you look carefully you can see that what is now a Mothercare was once the home to the Wimbledon Fire Brigade.
Alexandra Road SW19
This tower on top of the old civic buildings always reminds me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I could imagine Professor Caractacus Potts using it as his hideaway but it is possible that it had another use. I was reading Safe as Houses, an account of Wimbledon during the Blitz, and it made note of a tower above the Town Hall that could see the whole area and was used to plot the fall of bombs. Might this be the tower mentioned in the account?
The Broadway, SW19
Many of the Victorian buildings remain on the section nearest the old Town Hall, as do their guttering systems. This one is a bit more dilapidated than most.
The Broadway, SW19
Re-building work revealed this old sign 'Iles of Norbury'. A quick google seems to indicate that Iles are still in business and something to do with both carpets and boats. The Wimbledon branch was obviously not a long-term success though...
Merton Road SW19
The proportions on this seem wrong to me - it looks as though it needs either more writing or bigger numbers. At the moment it looks a bit lost
Merton Road SW19
I walked past this sewer 'stink pipe' several times before I noticed it. When I did I was quite impressed with it, especially the decoration around the top. A nice one to finish on.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A Tour of Morden, South West London

Anyone who knows Morden in South West London will be doing a double take at the sheer audacity of looking for interesting architectural details in this particular location. Unlike previously visited areas such as Wimbledon, Tooting or Raynes Park, Morden was pretty much a semi-rural backwater until the coming of the Underground in the 1930's. What was left of the farming land and fields was then buried by the ground-breaking St. Helier Estate, and the whole character of the area was changed forever. What chance of finding anything interesting here then? Not much if you are to believe local band Good Shoes whose song and video Morden are all about its shortcomings if you are a bunch of hip young dudes craving a bit of 'real life'.

There's a bit more to Morden than pound shops though. In fact the original hamlet is about a mile from the current centre (which is based on the tube station) on the top of a hill on the historic London to Portsmouth route. That's where the original parish church, school and coaching inn were built. There were also a couple of grand houses, the most interesting being Morden Hall, and some watermills along the River Wandle. However bland it might seem to be as usual there's always something interesting to be found if you look hard enough!

Civic Centre, London Road SM4
What's the interest to be found in a fairly uninteresting bit of brickwork outside the Civic Centre? Actually what you are looking at is a heraldic device and part of the Merton coat of arms. It's technical name is the 'Merton Fret' and it was originally found in the arms of Merton Abbey, one of England's largest and most spectacular church houses, until Henry VIII decided that the church had too much power, influence, gold and land that really ought to be his. When you know of the significance of the Fret it's surprising how often it pops up throughout the borough
Corner of London Road & Abberconway Road SM4
Morden is blessed with a couple of snooker halls but this is the best one for faded signage!

Roundabout - London Road, Morden Hall Road and Merton Road
This sign is proof positive to Morderners that you are back home after having braved the wastes of Mitcham, the searing desert of Sutton or the treacherous mires of Wimbledon. Your heart leaps like a hobbit returning to the Shires and as a bonus it has a Merton Fret too!

Abbotsbury Road SM4
High up above the shops is this iron support that used to display the three gold balls of a pawnbroker, long since departed.
Morden Hall Road SM4
A first glimpse of pre-thirties Morden is this badly erroded milestone, now totally illegible, but previously an important marker for those on their way to London.
London Road SM4
A cunningly placed speed camera placed downhill on a bend has obviously caught one irate motorist too many. Not a usual Morden sight and probably the work of an outsider not of the village...
London Road & Green Lane SM4
This junction is the home of historic Morden and this rainwater catcher is on the side of the George, an old coaching inn at the top of the hill that dates from the 17th century- just the place to give the horses a bit of a breather. This is much later but still quite attractive.
London Road SM4
Just by the burnt out speed camera is a reminder of a more leisurely pace of transport. Another milestone, this one still legible declaring 10 Miles to Whitehall. No, it really does lean over that far...
London Road & Green Lane SM4
Now a church hall, the plaque on the side of the building shows it was originally the site of the parish school and is dated 1771. The Garths were the big landowners of the area, hence the local Garth Road, amongst othersLondon Road & Green Lane SM4
Between the Church and the Inn is an old building that is now a retirement home. I was quite taken with the suitable choice for a wind vane.

London Road SM4
Directly outside the church is this Horse water trough with an inscription carved in its side reading In Memory of the Horses that suffered in the South African War. As that finished in about 1905 it would date this to just after that date.

On Billboards Around the Area, SM4
Rubbish...? Humbug and nonsense! These young Indie whipper-snappers don't know they're born...they should drop the superficial angst and find out a bit about the place they grew up in (mind you I have to agree that the kebab shop glimpsed in the video is well worth a visit)