Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Quick Stroll Through Barnes

Map location for Barnes Pond and High Street

I've some fond memories of Barnes, especially the Sun Inn by the pond which was my first 'regular' as a spotty youth. A pleasant walk across the Common, a drink around the pond on a warm summers evening (could only afford the one usually) and then a nice stroll back. All very bucolic and English so our spur of the moment decision to 'go somewhere' last Sunday was partly influenced by my desire tovisit old haunts and partly to see if there was anything worth noting in what was always a very village-like part of South London.

I could only fit in a brief stroll but there were a few nice items, some blue plaques and some lovely old buildings, but I had the feeling that, being a very desirable (aka expensive) part of London, Barnes had been scrubbed up nicely and a lot of the old stuff had been tidied up.

Barnes High Street
A typical butchers shop with its traditional butchers tiles and mosaics. I'm not really sure why butchers seem to be such bastions of tile work - possibly as it was easy to keep clean and tidy - but they do have some nice examples. The shop is still owned by the Seals as well...
Barnes High Street
There were no old ghost signs in Barnes, but it did look as though a couple of older companies had maintained some painted signage. This one was up by the river...
Barnes High Street
...whereas this was more toward the pond. It's still the site of a pharmacy but I bet that sign has been around for a while!
The Terrace
This mosaic of Bacchus was by the front door of a house fronting the river. I was wondering if it was a copy of a genuine Roman mosaic, but nicely done anyway.
The Terrace
Very odd one this. A quite ornate house facing the river with two painted boards overhanging the pavement. Each board had two very worn and indistinct painted surfaces with depictions of sailing ships (you have to click on the picture below to make sense of it really). But what was the house originally? Barnes High Street
I like this one and pound to a penny it'll be used in a specific posting on mosaics as well! A typical shop front proudly proclaiming the original owner. Sad to report that they are no longer there...
Barnes High Street
One of the remaining sections of original tilework. OK, so it's not that special but it's loud and proud and it goes well with the black and white checker board mosaic so just marvel at its ability to surviveBarnes High Street
Last, but by no means least. I almost missed this as I was strolling down the road. Very grey and innocuous, it's only when you look closely that you realise that it is, in fact, an early vending machine. I'm not sure what it sold but my guess would be cigarettes, but whatever it was it cost a shilling. I also presume it was a little more colourful in its youth. Anyway it's very impressive that it's managed to hang on for so long.What I'd be really interested to know was when the last item was purchased from it. Presumably before 'Decimal Day' in 1971!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A Couple of Borough 'Ghosts' (and two others!)

Two ghost signs to kick us off then,

Redcross Way, Borough
This is a big advert slapped on a residential development. You might not be surprised to hear that it faces directly on to the railway line for maximum exposure and isn't a sign that's easy to ignore.
Park Street, Borough
You can find this beauty just where the road does a sharp 90 degree bend. The trouble is it looks too authentically French shabby-chic. Part of me thinks it must have been painted for some period drama or something, but then again, in all probability, it is more than likely the real McCoy...

And two others to titillate and amuse...

Bear Gardens
Odd one this. I would guess that at some point a community group or rogue muralist painted the side of a semi-derelict building. Years later a modern building was erected alongside and the mural is now hidden, for the most part, by the car-park. Bits of it still are still visible, though the overall effect is lost... Rose Alley
Stuck down an insignificant dead-end of an alley is this faded 'rose mural'. Was it once a shop or entrance to a Shakespearian museum? No idea, but it's now faded, peeling and pretty much ignored.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Faded London on the Road: Bootscrapers of Totnes and Dartmouth

Some more of my holiday snaps. No, honestly I do normal holiday things as well but it's very difficult to pass by an inviting boot-scraper or a nice bit of mosaic... Take these intriguing examples for instance

Well it all goes down hill from now on. I mean honestly, what a cracker of a boot-scraper... the whole thing is just so aesthetic. I think I'd be a bit ashamed to put mud anywhere near it.
Bit of a comedown, but nevertheless there's probably a nice bit of detail under all that paint.
Getting a bit plain now. The further down the hill you go the less impressive the scrapers. Some sort of social stratification going on here?
Cheerful, alert and lively. A pukka example of a decent Victorian scraper!
A little shy and retiring and not wishing to make a fuss. Nevertheless a scraper who's willing to take the rough with the smooth...
Right at the foot of the hill, just as you hit the market we have a simple, straightforward scraper. No recess, no decoration, no fuss. A real 'Fisherman's Friend'!
The first one I spot coming from the river and heading toward town - full of rubbish and a single, plaintive dandelion.
South Street
This photo was taken at the top of the High Street and is a real value-for-money shot. A boot-scraper, old bollard and an ancient public faucet within a few feet of each other.This is a bit unusual. A recessed arch with a stand-alone scraper. Is it the original? The arch is quite accommodating with no obvious side fitting space, so I'm inclined to think it is. (I never said it was very unusual, did I?)High Street
The next three are all variations on the same theme I think. Or at least they look to me like the same design, despite having aged very differently over the years. First off you can't use this particular scraper these days, even if you wanted to. Silly place to stick a pole... This one seems to have suffered a bit of rust in its time but looks the same design to me.Intact, but well camouflaged ... I wonder what that white thing is to the side?
Proud, visible and intact. Ready to scrape your shoes at the drop of a hat! A nice one to finish on.

The Kaiser, a Doorway, a Bridge and his Bust!

Wandering around looking for intriguing bits of London can sometimes throw up little mysteries, little questions that knock around until you can come up with some sort of explanation, right or wrong, that manages to satisfy...well this is one of those!

The other week I was wandering down the back streets of Putney, parallel to the High Street, when I noticed a house with slightly more elaborate decoration than its neighbours. It was at the end of Werter Road, Putney and one of the most striking things about it was the florid bust of a military looking gentleman above the door arch.

One of the reasons I noticed it was because I had once picked up an interesting painted plaster cast of what seemed to be the same individual in a junk shop on a small island off of Istambul (stay with me on this one...). The cast seemed to be of a high ranking German officer of WWI-ish vintage, but there was no indication as to who it could have been. It probably wasn't all that surprising to find such a bust in Turkey as the two countries were close allies up to and during the First World War, but to find what appeared to be the same individual in Putney was a bit odd. Could this be a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm II ('Kaiser Bill')?

Then there was the name Werter Road, which is distictly German in tone, for example comprising part of the title of a book by Goethe called The Sorrows of Werter. Could the bust and the naming of the road be connected?

All a little coincidental possibly but then I began to wonder how a house with such a prominent bust of the Kaiser have fared during the war? I recall reading somewhere that Gerhold the Bakers on the Upper Richmond Road had their windows broken more than once just for having a name that sounded germanic so having the bust of the evil Kaiser above your door seems to be more than a little foolish. Why wasn't it smashed or defaced?

Then I thought I'd cracked it. I vaguely recalled hearing that the Kaiser had once visited Wimbledon Common to review the troops. He must have travelled through Chelsea and Fulham before crossing Putney Bridge and making his way up Putney Hill to Wimbledon Common. Had his visit, the visit of Queen Victoria's grandson, provided enough goodwill and excitement to cause someone to comission a bust to remember it by? A look on the Putney Conservators website confirmed the trip

In 1891 the Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, inspected 22,000 troops on
Wimbledon Common of whom 16,000 were volunteers

When I thought about it a little further I also recalled that for many years the Railway Pub on the corner of Putney High Street and the Upper Richmond Road (is it now called Flannegan's?) used to feature a large painted bust of a be-whiskered German in a picklehaube helmet, high up in a niche by the roof. More evidence of the Kaiser's visit?(Update: I found this picture in an old book of architectural detailing. The head itself is no longer there)

Another avenue of enquiry occured to me as my father in law has a large collection of old photos of Putney, taken off of the original plate-glass negatives and given to him many years ago. I went through them and found this picture of the approach to the bridge

It's a nice atmospheric shot, but there's bunting out and the bridge seems to have been turned into a triumphal archway with ivy, flags and a sign. All very intriguing and when you zoom in on the sign it gets even more interesting...

The 'VELKOMMEN' (I think a bit of the 'E' has been obscured to make it look like an 'O') could only be a welcome to a visiting German dignitary of high rank and affection. An 1891 visit by the Queen's grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany which caused so much excitement that pubs and private houses both marked the visit with busts of the man himself.

Except there's a rather large fly in that ointment. It turns out that the whiskery chap isn't Kaiser Wilhelm II but his grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm I 'The Great' of Prussia and Germany as can be seen from this portrait

Well that's my neat theory blown out of the water. No busts for Kaiser Bill, but all of them for his grandad! Did he ever visit Putney? Not to my knowledge but there must be some link and I'd be
very interested if there are any possible suggestions out there.

And all this from spotting one small bust...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Derricks of Borough Market

Derricks are small fixed cranes often used for hoisting sacks or crates up to the top floor of a building. Apparently named after a famous hangman they are most often to be found in areas of old warehousing, like that around Borough Market, Southwark. I was up visiting Vinopolis one evening last week and spent a few minutes in the gloom snapping a few pictures. They are quite impressive lumps of iron which has probably helped their retention on the sides of buildings now more often flats than warehouses, but I am slightly suspicious that at least one or two of these beasts have been moved for dramatic effect!

Stoney Street, Southwark
It looks as though thus one would have lifted items up on to the wooden drop-leaf to the right

Clink Street (under the railway bridge)
A bit dark and gloomy this one, and just as I was going to take a photo a white van parks in front of it...
Stoney Street, Southwark
Nice bit of adaptation here by Majestic on what looks like a very solid derrick
Borough Market, Southwark
I can't recall the exact location of this one which is a pity as it is the only one that, if not fully-functioning, at least looks as though it could be used without much effort

Bear Gardens, Southwark
An attractive meccano-like effort, but the building it's on is pretty much gutted, as you can see when you notice a lack of roof through the windows.

Bear Gardens, Southwark
Solid, functional, non-swivelling but sadly a little boring.
Clink Street, Southwark
A good, solid effort this one.
And finally, a 'stray' not from Borough at all

Ravensbury Mill, Morden Road, SM4
From no-where near the Thames comes this final example. This is actually on an old mill on the banks of the Wandle and a good 15 feet in the air. It now sits outside someone's luxury flat but must be useful if you need to get a new piano or something!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Q. When is a Ghost Sign not a Ghost Sign? A. When it's in Totnes, Devon

A 'Faded London' Holiday Special!
Down in Devon this 'summer' I came across this interesting building in Totnes, facing onto the River Dart. What caught my attention was the way that the building had been painted. It was obviously a recent paint-job, but the owners seemed to have made a conscious effort to replicate/preserve the original signage that must have been apparent on the side of the building.
I suppose most owners of a building with a 'ghost sign' will either leave it alone - assuming it either adds to the character of the building or that they would feel guilty in obliterating it - or paint over it , preferring a nice, shiny blank canvas. However this owner seems to have taken a rare, third course of re-painting the lettering in-situ. As his neighbour has not followed suit it looks a little odd but it's certainly eye-catching and preserves something of the history of the site. It's certainly not as interesting as the original and leaves me with mixed feelings. On the whole I think it's not unlike having a gravestone for the original sign. The body may be gone but you can still read a sanitised version of what it represented. I wonder how many more such examples may be out there?