Friday, 20 February 2009

London Bridge to Rotherhithe, Old Kent Road and Borough (part 3)

When I hit the Old Kent Road, my first impression was that it reminded me of the Purley Way, Croydon, which is probably not going to mean a great deal unless you've ever been suckered into approaching the great black hole of IKEA. If you can recall your last sights before the Swedish gravity-well sucked you in, well that's the Old Kent Road that is...

Heading west though, those first impressions fade a little as the various warehouse stores give way to a mixture of retail and residential, including a series of mature but well-built flats all topped off with a Corporation of London crest. This is quite intriguing really as the corporation is the body that runs the 'Square Mile' on the north bank of the river, better known as the City of London. As you can see the crest with its rampant dragons is that of the City and the motto means 'Lord Protect Us', so what is it doing in Southwark?

According to the City of London website
The land on which Avondale Square Estate is situated has been owned by the City of London since 1251. Redevelopment of the Square commenced in 1920 and continued after the war. The estate is comprised of over 600 flats and maisonettes, three play areas and a community centre.
There was very little that I spotted of interest down the Old Kent Road until I reached the junction with Albany Road. I could see some older buildings lining the roads and down a side road, possibly Rowcross Street, I saw this interesting sign.
Rowcross Street
I'm not saying this is a ghost sign or anything like that, although it would be interesting to know when it was painted, but what caught my eye was the picture of the glazier. The words 'shifty', 'devious', 'malicious', 'untrustworthy' and even 'un-dead spring to mind. Was the owner really pleased when they saw what the painter had produced? And what's he looking at??? Creepy stuff really...
Old Kent Road - Thomas a Becket Pub
Well this was an unexpected pleasure that bought back a few memories. The local Council had erected a Blue Plaque in the doorway which read
Sir Henry Cooper OBE, KSG Born 1934 British, European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion trained in the gymnasium of the Thomas a Becket. Voted by the People
Well done the people. Some of my most vivid memories in childhood were the evenings I'd spend listening to Henry Cooper's fights on the radio. His potent left hook (aka 'Enry's 'Ammer) and his tragic flaw, his susceptibility to cut around the eye. Which would triumph? I think it was that what if aspect about Cooper that made him such a hero. His fights were invariably a race against time and as soon as the commentator said '... and there's blood above Coopers right eye' your heart sank. You knew that he'd battle on as long as he could but like all tragic heroes, the Gods would be too strong for him in the end and the fight would be stopped when he could no longer see to land a punch. His final defeat by Joe Bugner was the end of an era. The last of the heroes had been despatched by a mere mortal.
Non-British readers might not have a clue who I'm talking about so here's a fight where Henry's cut eyes and his left hook both feature.

Old Kent Road
I haven't had a decent capital for ages, so it was nice to spot this long and elegant example sitting on top of an oak leaf cluster
Mason Street off the Old Kent Road
Up by the roundabout with the New Kent Road is an old school which now seems to be an administrative block. I was quite taken with this blocked up doorway, a sort of 'Ghost Entrance'. I'm so enthused I might even see if I can get a ghost-entrance/window posting together, assembling all those bricked-up doorways and windows that no longer go anywhere.
Using the underpasses I emerged from the Old Kent Road roundabout/flyover down Great Dover Street. For some reason I was intrigued by a side turning and left what was a pretty non-descript main road.
Cole Street
I'd seen these 'ghost street signs' before, but it's always interesting to spot another. I'm not sure when or why the practice of painting street names fell out of favour, but here we have the old and the new sitting side-by-side, with the former gently fading into oblivion.
Trinity Church Square
Now I had one of those "Well I'll be..." sort of moments as I came across what seemed to me to be the perfect realisation of a Georgian Square, complete with Church (now the Henry Wood Concert Hall) and enclosed green space. It really would not have looked out of place as a set for 'Oliver!' and was a nice vindication of the 'follow your nose' school of dithering (along with the abrupt left turn that took me to the Angel pub earlier in the walk). I assumed the square was named after the church, but the Trinity reference is actually to the Trinity House charity that were responsible for much of the lighthouses around the coast of Britain. Not only have the buildings survived but so to have many of their features, such as coalholes and boot-scrapers. The coal-holes are all made by Hayward Brothers and seem to be of a fairly late design, which suggests that many were replaced at the same time. Changing over to the famous 'safety plate' maybe? I didn't take any photos of the coalholes as they were fairly standard, but I was intrigued by the bootscrapers, which were of several designs.

This example is quite an elegant effort. I think it might be two herons kissing over a scallop shell. Or then again it might be two fish with spiky tails touching over a scallop shell. It's a boot-scraper equivalent of an ink-blot test...
Whereas this one is obviously two cats fighting over a ball of wool.
Of course you could go for the basic 'bolt a flat piece of metal between two uprights' soloution...
... or the more elaborate and humane 'build a funnel to stop the mud falling down the basement and onto the servant's heads' scraper, although no doubt it was the servants that ended up cleaning it out.
And finally the 'well there's a space here so why don't we put a scraper in?' variety.
The Surrey Dispensary - Trinity Street
As I was leaving the Trinity Church Square I saw this intriguing building on the corner. Obviously of some significance and age there was no clue as to what it might be. A quick search on Google books gave the following quote from The People's Health 1830-1910 by Francis Barrymore Smith
'Free Dispensaries' were established by doctors with the backing of philanthropic donors who retained the right to recommend deserving patients. Often free dispensaries were linked with missions, especially amongst the Wesleyan and evangelical Anglicans. The Surrey Dispensary, Union Street, Borough, was an Anglican institution. The nearly 200,000 cases its managers claimed to have relieved between 1778 and 1840 included over 31,000 confinements.'
Nice to see the building's still there, though I'm not sure what it's used for these days.

Trinity Street
Here's an enigma. A coalhole of fairly non-descript design with the single word 'Durey'. I assume it was the name of the manufacturer, but it doesn't look as though they had much of an imagination.
Hulme Place, Southwark SE1
A second set of bollards caught the eye. Possibly because of the rugged no-nonsense shape and design, but also possibly because of the black and white banding. Surely the mark of a proper bollard?

Maya House, Borough High Street SE1 As it happens I'm putting together a posting about modern 'eye-catching' installations and I reckon this one will have to feature. Reminiscent of the famous New York 'Blue Man' theatre group, this building seems to have a set of blue musicians scaling its side. Why? Who can tell... Looks interesting though.
Borough High Street, SE1 This interesting mosaic was outside a pub on the High Street. Strange that it was also built with a mighty supporting pole obscuring the entrance as well. Cant be the best bit of planning on a Saturday night...
Borough High Street, SE1 Then just up the road was this fine example of a lightwell, all the more interesting as it came from a manufacturer new to me, Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd. Looks as though they were a Birmingham company and had a finger in several other pies, as this photo shows!

And finally, just as I was walking down the High Street back to the tube station, a glance over the shoulder revealled a fine Ghost Sign.
The Monster Clothing Establishment, Borough High Street, SE1
"Paris, Antwerp & Ghent" it says. I'm not sure why they left Borough off the list but it was a releif to stumble across at least one, bona-fide, dyed in the wool, no-nonsense ghost sign before heading for home.
On the whole I would say that it was several hours well-spent. I've discovered some new places and bits of history I wouldn't have been aware of, either by seeing them, reading up on them or by having people post comments on them. It's true that I've obviously skirted Bermondsey (which deserves amore detailed visit) and that I didn't find much to excite me on either the 'Surrey Docks' nor the Old Kent Road. But then I did find an interesting old pub, a magnificent square, an untouched head office of a railway company and enough derricks to sate the appetite of the most ardent docklands enthusiast. Not bad for an afternoon...

Monday, 16 February 2009

London Bridge to Rotherhithe, Old Kent Road and Borough (part 2)

This is the second part of my amble around South East London. After a lively start between London and Tower Bridge and an interesting stroll through the derricks and gentrified warehouses on the waterfront, I emerged back onto Jamaica Road to carry on in a generally easterly direction. I've tried to plot my route here on Google maps but picking out exactly which side roads I went down is a bit tricky, so you'll have to take this part as an approximation. Anyway, the first thing that caught my eye on Jamaica Road was a sizeable sewer ventilation outlet

Ham Baker - Sewer Ventilation Pipe
Ham Baker are still in existence and based in the Midlands. They seem to specialise in water flow management systems (I think that probably means sewers) so it shows a continuity at least. Although the firm are now based in the Midlands they seem to have either started or had a branch, in Westminster. These listed examples in Wolverhampton certainly bore that address. Jamaica Road seemed to have very little of it's Victorian buildings left and looks mainly to comprise of 50s and 60s low rise housing. I kept glancing down roads off to the left which were nearer the waterfront so after a while decided to walk down and take a look. I certainly picked the right road as I came out opposite a waterfront pub called The Angel . Very nice it was too with a great view of the river from its upstairs gallery. It seemed apt to have a bottle of Taddy Porter with a packet of crisps (Cheese and Onion of course. Old school...) before moving on. Outside were the ruins of an old manor house and a very strange statue. Or three statues to be precise. The main one was of an elderly man sitting on a chair looking at a young girl and a cat about ten yards away. Apparently this is in honour of a local doctor, Alfred Salter, and shows him recalling his young daughter (and her cat presumably) who had died of scarlet fever many years before. It all looked a bit Gothic, like stumbling across some private ghost story. A bronze complexion doesn't suit her really...
Dr Salter's Dream - Bermondsey Wall East
It's an intriguing work though commemorating a local hero, so I was pleased to have seen it.
Bermondsey Wall -
Just up from the Angel was this riverside conversion with associated crane,
and on one of the walls opposite this decorative reinforcing plate. Quite an attractive one at that. I must keep an eye out for a few more examples.Following the Thames path round the river I noticed a small passage heading towards the river. What caught my eye though, apart from the rusted 'Right of Way' sign was the two imprints above it. The top one is the clearer and reads St. M.R 1871 The other one has the date obscured but it is definitely not the same - 1899 possibly? Very intriguing. I wonder what their significance might be?
By this time I suppose I was venturing into Rotherhithe, or Surrey Quays as I now know it to be. Being docklands the area took a huge pounding during the Second World War and post war development apparently saw a transformation of the area. Many docks were filled in and built over and what I found myself walking round for the next few (tedious) miles was what felt like an isolated and fairly sterile development. The river walk is there and so are some of the old quays, but they look as though they are crying out for anything to tie up alongside. Instead everything seems to be fenced off and even the inhabitants wouldn't be able to get down to the shore-line. The surrounding flats are either conversions or mock-ups of warehouses and the lack of activity, either on foot or by car, gave it an air of desolation. I'd put it as the low point of the walk (although don't go away with the idea that I was going through any emotional upheaval over this. Mildly disappointed would about sum it up.)

Rotherhithe Street & Surrey Water.
Carrying on though I did pass by an old pumping station with this interesting logo from the Port of London Authority and dated 1929. With the pond behind it this seems to have been converted into an ecology centre and was a nice spot to dally for a few minutes
If you did find yourself in these parts I could recommend stopping off at the Surrey Docks City Farm for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Very restful with a faint but reassuring whiff of the countryside...
Rotherhithe Street - Nelson Dock
On the same street but right around the other side, were a cluster of original buildings, now mostly converted. This shipbuilding company looks as though it's still trading but apparently they left in 1968 although someone seems to keep the painted sign looking spick and span
Passing along Redriff Road and over the corner of Greenland Water I could see the real-life hustle and bustle of Lower Road and Evelyn Street and just along the road I came across this old advertising clock. As you can see it's formed like a giant stopwatch but the advertising panels are long since gone. I'm not sure if it's still working as I don't have a watch to compare it to (or a mobile phone for that matter) but it's certainly a sizeable piece.
I followed the road, and the traffic congestion, around up to Southwark Park where there was a fairly lonely looking pub sitting on the corner.
Lower Road SE 16
Bit of a result here though as it had a coal hole out front with a manufacturer new to me, Nicholls & Clark of Shoreditch, London . Now known as N&C, from their history it looks as though they got into architectural ironmongery in the 1880's. Nice to see them still going strong!
Heading up Rotherhithe New Road and just before the railway lines, I spotted some interesting old bollards by Corbetts Passage. Apart from the general air of dilapidation I particularly enjoyed the black and white banding!
Eventually I hit the Old Kent Road, which at first glimpse lacked any Monopoly board quaintness at all. It didn't have much charm on a second glimpse either, but this marked the point where I turned west and started heading back toward Borough...