Friday, 30 January 2009

London Bridge to Rotherhithe, Old Kent Road and Borough (Part 1)

With a bit of leave to take before April I thought I might take a stroll around a bit of South London that I've never visited before, so a quick trip up to London Bridge underground saw me set off in the direction of Rotherhithe. Ah Rotherhithe! What an evocative name, conjuring up visions of a London long-since passed - docks, slums, the entrepot of Empire (hem, hem!). So with nothing more than a vague idea I wandered off in an easterly direction and in the hopeful expectation of stumbling across ghost signs, Victorian buildings and relics by the score. Sadly I was to be disappointed. Like the Curate's egg it could best be described as 'good in parts'.

The walk was about 7.6 miles in all according to Google maps (I've plotted my rough route on there as well) and I can't say it was as interesting as I hoped it might be. To summarise, the first bit was interesting, then it got a bit repetitious, then flat out boring/depressing, rescued by a bit of relief, followed by more boring until it then blossomed in an unexpected fashion before settling down into interesting again. Confused? You will be..

Tooley Street setting of from London Bridge the first thing that strikes you is the number of interesting sites there are - and loads of them seem to have plaques or links to earlier buildings. The South of the River has always been the unfashionable side, but being sandwiched between London Bridge and Tower Bridge obviously made up for that and I'd guess that there were many important companies located in the area. My first picture is of a memorial plaque to James Braidwood, superintendent of the London Fire Brigade who was killed here in the Great Fire. Well to my way of thinking the Great Fire would have been that of 1666, long before the London Fire Brigade even existed, so a bit of research turned up some interesting facts about James and the Tooley Street Fire of 1861.
Tooley Street Slightly further up the road but still with the trains evident were these old offices of the South Eastern Railway Company, a company that was absorbed into the generic Southern Railways Company following rationalisation in 1947. Nice that the fa├žade hasn't been touched though.Tooley Street (nr Bermondsey Road) What I thought was interesting about this pub (The Shipwright's Arms) was the use of a ships figurehead to adorn the front door. I've no idea if she's authentic or designed and commissioned specifically for the pub but she's certainly eye-catchingTooley Street Just outside the pub was this Haywards Brothers coalhole. Based just down the road you'd expect Haywards to be the main supplier to the are and so it proved. What I like about this one is that just being off the main drag it's retained th quality of mould ings that mean it's still easy to readTooley Street. Just before Tower Bridge I noticed this fine rain-water conduit dated 1901 but I've no idea what the 'B' stands for.Tooley Street Another interesting plaque that caught the eye.
Tooley Street. What exactly is a Sprinkler Stop Valve and when would you want to use it? Anyway, there's one inside but god knows if it's working.
off Tooley Street I had to come off Tooley Street and into a small side street to come across this intriguing milestone. The faces have the points of the compass but it seems to be 6 miles to "O& I". Where on earth might this be?
No doubt obvious when told, it remains a mystery to me for now...
Queen Elizabeth Street I wasn't sure what this sightly shabby building was although it did have the look of a library or possibly an ancient military hospital about it. Very nice weather vane though.
Queen Elizabeth Street This Coat of Arms is one of several around the base of a statue to Colonel Samuel Bourne Bevington, first Mayor of Bermondsey and something big in the world of leather. I don't know if these are his arms or Bermondsey's, but I'm going with the former.(and I was wrong! Thanks to W. Bevington and others who pointed out that these are, in fact, the arms of Bermondsey )Queen Elizabeth Street These bollards surround the Green. They look authentic enough, but those plates and bolts at the base give it away a bit. They must be modelled on an original design though and still quite easy on the eye...
Tooley Street/Jamaica Road This is a lamp that used to illuminate the old police station next to the magistrate's Court on Tooley Street (or was it Jamaica Road?) Anyway, it's real 'Dixon of Dock Green' in style and very ornate close up

Between Jamaica Road and the Thames Here there are several streets of old warehouses that have been converted in to prestige offices and retail outlets. All very tastefully done but all a bit ... antiseptic. The developers have scrubbed everything up to within an inch of it's life, but you can still spot the odd plaque like this oneThen of course you could spend ages admiring all the derricks, long since past their useful working life, just adorning the walls.To be honest I could have taken loads of photographs of these sort of derricks...
...but then it didn't seem fair. They are shadows of their former selves and are now little better than ornamentation, painted over and probably welded closed. They are more like museum pieces than faded icons...
...which is a bit sad really. It's still quite evocative to see rows of them on the sides of buildings and to imagine them lifting and lowering sacks, chests and bales all over the place but like the the rest of the area they're all scrubbed up...

...even if this picture does give you two for the price of one.
Shad Thames by no means a Ghost Sign this old warf sign has been kept to give an air of authenticity and character to the placeIn the second instalment we leave the faded bustle of the Tower Bridge warehouses and venture deeper into Bermondsey and the back end of Rotherhithe!
(to be continued...)

Monday, 26 January 2009

Kennington tube to the Imperial War Museum

Just a short stroll but there were a couple of nice items on the way there and back. The first of which was this ghost sign above what seems to be a standard terraced town house
Kennington Lane SE1 - 'The Albion Coffee House' The Albion Coffee House was apparently one of the haunts of Charlie Chaplin's father so I expect there is a good chance that Charlie himself spent some time in there himself. At Kennington Cross there's a whole gaggle of interesting items. Originally an island at a road junction the Cross consists of a horse trough, a Victorian underground Gents toilet, a venting pipe with a crown mount and some interesting bollards. The bollard below is one of the four remaining original examples - the rest are aluminium casts taken from a cast - and it seems to have retained its crisp lines. In fact I thought this example was one of the new ones until I spotted a bit of rust where some paint had been removed. The hourse trough was a standard example from the 'Metropolitan Horse & Cattle Trough Association' with an inscription on the end that read 'The gift of two sisters from Leytonstone'. I'm sure I've read something similar elsewhere so I'm now thinking that the sisters might have left enough money for more than one trough and probably weren't too worried where they were sited I was spotted taking the photo below and had an interesting chat about the area with a lady called Celia. She's part of a group campaigning to preserve Kennington Cross and to turn the toilets (now a Grade 2 Listed Historical Monument) into a Community Arts space called ArtsLav. Celia also featured on Disappearing London where she explained her interest to the singer Suggs. (Disappearing London - The Victorian Public Loo). I hope she succeeds because it was a real jolt seeing them and realising how long it's been since I've seen one of these 'old style' Gents toilets and there's an always present danger of further decay.
Durning Library, Kennington Lane
Durning Library has an exotic Victorian front and this impressive dragon lurking above the front door (don't be late returning your books)...
..and on the roof a very nice little weather vane
Kennington Lane - 'Ariel Writers'
Facing the Library was this really attractive ghost sign . I'm not quite sure what it's advertising, probably the name of the company that were based there, but it's very eye catching all the same.

Monday, 19 January 2009

A Couple More Clapham Coalholes...

Sometimes a few just slip through the net...
Looking through the various sets of photos I've taken on my travels I came across a few that I didn't recognise. Sure enough there was a small cluster of Clapham coalholes that I'd missed when setting up a previous entry and which (apart from being somewhere in Clapham, obviously...) I can't exactly recall where they were spotted. Then I realised that there are a couple of new manufacturers amongst them to be added to my database over to the right-hand side of the blog so it was all mildly peeving for a short while (about ten seconds I suppose...I'm not too precious about these sort of things) but still, here they are anyway...

C.F. Darby & Co. Ltd - Clapham Junction, London
Here's a nice local one from a manufacturer with a good iron-related name.

Unknown Manufacturer Well I have to say this one looks as though someone has taken a piece of bog-standard metal flooring, cut it in a circle and drilled a few holes in it. Where's the joy? Where's the passion? Where's the art????

Mitchell & Harris, 90 Newington Causeway, London S.E. Another new manufacturer to me, sounding suspiciously like a comedy double act appearing on the Royal Variety Show. No obvious references to either of the company's mentioned on this posting so I suspect it will be down to some Kelly's Directory-type searching to find anything about them. The red tile paint that has obviously covered them up for a few years doesn't help much either...

Unknown Manufacturer More red paint but this one has not fared so well with a bit of erosion here and there. Most frustrating of all is the possibility that there might have been a manufacturers mark or name on the inside of the ring... but then again it may just be a trick of the light

So that's two more manufacturers to add to a list that I suspect will grow for many years to come. I'm not really sure who will find my visual index of representative London coalholes of much use but I live in hope that it adds in some small way to the sum total of human knowledge!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Lightwells and their variants

Having recently completed the piece about the Hayward Brothers company, I found myself up in Wimbledon Village one morning and thought it would be an interesting exercise to have a quick local survey to see what lightwells there might be - especially those produced by Haywards themselves. For such a small High Street there were a surprising number of different makers and styles, including a few more primitive alternatives to the usual Semi-prismatic lightwell which were well worth recording.

Of course I couldn't resist keeping an eye out over the next few days either, so there are a couple of examples from Hampton and Kingston included as well.

Lightwell and grating
One of the interesting things I found in the Village were a number of metal grills, the precursor of the now familiar semi-prismatic lights. In these examples the cellar had a 'normal' window whose light came from a pit dug down below ground level. This pit was covered by a protective grill to stop people falling down it. The light might have been useful, but the pits often had water flowing down them in the winter and rubbish building up during the summer. Not an ideal combination.Semi-Prismatic Stall Board
This is a more sophisticated option. Here the vertical window is placed beneath the ground floor window so that it acts as a sort of attic light for the cellar. Some of the prisms are angled in order to diffuse the light but the majority would produce a spotlight effect.

The Hayward Brothers Company book has an illustration showing the difference between the two main systems. Not surprisingly their main format seems to win hands down...

The Improved Pavement Light Co. Ltd.
A quick Google for this company doesn't provide much illumination (boom! boom!) which is a little surprising as I'd spotted another of their items some time ago.
Wimbledon High Street SW19
Church Road SW19 A 'Marlborough' from the "Improved Pavement
Light Co. Ltd."
Wimbledon High Street SW19 The rather attractive colour of the glass is caused by the effect of ultra-violet rays on elements in the glass.

E. Maclean & Co., Glasgow (Wimbledon High Street)

Where most street furniture tends to be local, this example seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Intriguing though it is to find it so far south there's nothing I can find to explain how it might have ended up here. Quite a neat design though with less metal being used than most.
Lely's Semi Prism Lights

Another company for whom a superficial search turns up nothing.Does Station Approach still exist?

T Hyatt & Co, 9 Farringdon Road London (Kingston Road, Kingston)

More holes than a Gruyer cheese, this particular example is outside a pub on the approach to Kingston. The pub is still open and presumably doesn't mind a bit of damp in the cellar now and then. Still, this particular lightwell raises the possibility of an American connection, mainly to Thaddeus Hyatt of New York. Could he have had a London agent, eager to make inroads into the Hayward Brothers business? This advert from Glassian seems to back that up.

JA King & Co, 181 Queen Victoria Street EC4

Possibly an example of their 'Ferro-Glass' lightwell range, this is a pretty standard version of the Hayward model. More company details on Glassian's site.

The British Luxfer Prism Syndicate Ltd.
Glassian has a section about the British Luxfer Prism Syndicate Ltd on his superb resource page. The company were founded in 1898 and changed their name to British Luxfer in 1928, which narrows it down this particular example to a thirty year period!Hayward Brothers Ltd
Who's the daddy? As usual the company with the greatest representation are the Hayward Brothers.
I assume they could make a lightwell to fit your hole so the sizes would vary, although there appear to be at least a couple that
Wimbledon High Street SW19

Wimbledon High Street SW19 Some superb colouring on these ones..

Above is a 10 by 5 grill... and below is a 9 by 5 grill. Looks as though no hole was safe!

I find the colours in some of these lights quite attractive, almost as though they've been made out of amythest.
Concrete Mounting The shape of things to come! Reinforced concrete must have been a lot cheaper and quicker than metal frames and would have had an air of modernity about it when first introduced. Regent Street in London is a good example of these early examples although America seems to have adapted them much earlier.

Hexagonal design - Creek Road, Hampton Wick An interesting design with, sadly, no hint as to who the manufacturer might be.

Barons Court Another interesting design with a striking black and white mosaic effect. I've seen a couple of these but they have been in very poor condition or mostly covered by tarmac. This is by far the best example I've spotted. Sadly also annonymous...