Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Mitcham Road and Longley Road (Part 1)

This is a short walk that started out as a lunch hour trip dash with the intention of photographing two intriguing pediments but ended up with enough intriguing bits to warrant a two-part post. It wasn't meant to be that way, but with the opportunity to take the walk back to work in a more 'interesting' way there was always a chance of coming across a couple of other intriguing items

This is the route taken - although being just the two roads it hardly qualifies as a route

View Larger Map
OK just to set the scene, I'd seen a couple of intriguing pediments just down Mitcham Road, Tooting and decided to pop by to get a decent photograph of them and then hopefully work out what they were.
As you can see they are on granite pillars and flank a fairly unassuming shop. The building itself is stepped, with a further story set back from the one visible in the picture. The pediments were unusual in having text upon them and were quite intriguing when you had a closer look.
Industry shows a distinctly Medieval blacksmith hard at work, shaping and beating iron out into a useful shape with his assistant in the background
And flanking it is Agriculture with the Medieval ploughman wearily working his furrow. Now this is fairly specialist stuff and not the sort of thing you would expect to find on any old shop-front. So was there more significance to their presence? The linking of Industry and Agriculture in this way immediately makes you think of the hammer and sickle and other socialist symbolism. Could this site originally have been a co-operative shop or possibly a meeting place, a mutual building society or other financial institution, or even an educational 'self-improvement' hall?

Having taken my photos I was thinking about making tracks, but as it was a nice afternoon I decided to make a stroll of it. Good job I did, because about ten shops up the road I came across another set of pediments!
They are obviously contemporary with the other ones and in exactly the same form. The themes are slightly different thoughTravel isn't something I'd immediately identify as a key concern of the working man although it's a very nice depiction of a steam train with a viaduct in the background
Commerce hasn't fared so well having been sliced in half to make way for ...well something really plain and boring really. From what's left I assume that that it used to depict a sailing ship in a dock.

All of which is really interesting, but it also implies that the pediments were a series of artistic designs rather than having a link with the shop beneath them. It also makes you wonder if there were originally many more along the parade which have been lost over the years. Could there have been some sort of link with any of the Great Exhibitions maybe? Any thoughts gratefully received...

The Mitre, Mitcham Road So off I went on my way and soon came across a splendid looking Inn called the Mitre. I assume it used to be a coaching inn and down the side I found these interesting grates, presumably for ventilation of the cellar area. The one on the right was especially ornate.
The Inn itself was banded with descriptions of the delights on offer 'Luncheons, Billiards, Cigars, Superior Ales' etc. and this went all the way round the back to the old stable block, still in place at the rear of the building, albeit with a distinct lack of horses these days.
Mitcham Road, Amen Corner There's an interesting building just where the road bends. Quite stylish and I would guess Victorian in age. There's no clue as to what it might have been that I could see, but I wondered if this metal post might have originally been capped off with a gas-lit 'Police' sign? The more modern police station is just round the corner and it's tempting to imagine this as possibly the original - and now outgrown - station (apparently the new station is now too small and the police have moved on yet again)
Certainly the boot-scraper has a sturdy no-nonsense air about it and looks as though it's been especially braced for the onslaught of a Victorian policeman's boot!
Mitcham Road nr Tooting Station Sitting on top of a non-descript '30s building was this plaque with the inscription "Progress - HP- 1934" What could it have been referring to I wonder? Was HP an individual or a company? (although I'm assuming it wasn't Hewlett-Packard!) Again I was wondering if this might have been the site of a co-operative shop?

So that was another intriguing mystery to end that section of the walk. There was another one just waiting for me down Longley Road though!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

From Hammersmith to the 'Bush & back

I haven't been out and about north of the river as much as I ought, so finding myself with a rare free afternoon one Saturday I set off for Hammersmith with intention of having an enjoyable walk up to Shepherds Bush and back. Which is what it proved to be.

This is pretty much the route taken, straight up to Shepherds Bush,along Uxbridge Road then down a back street to meet up with Goldhawk Road and back to the Bush again

View Larger Map

Not a particularly long walk or all that adventurous really, but there was plenty of interest along the way, starting off with this bit of ironwork
Shepherds Bush Road, Hammersmith
It's the sort of iron scroll-work that's hidden in the folds of an old building integrated into a more modern design, but certainly adds a bit of class. Worth finding a spot in the middle of a traffic island for anyway.
Hammersmith Palais, Shepherds Bush Road
The Palais has seen better days, as this battered date sign suggests. In fact it's ready for demolition and had I but known it there is an original 'ghost sign' at the rear overlooking the railway lines. Despite the date here, the Wikipedia article has it opening in 1919.

I was a bit surprised that nothing much more caught my eye up until I reached Shepherds Bush itself, although I did find a few more interesting pits and pieces on the return journey. Still, my patience was rewarded when I went poking around the O2 Theatre on the Bush and found this fascinating sign hidden down the side.
Shepherds Bush Green
"Cinematograph Theatre Continuous Performance seats 1/- 6d & 3d" Well you could hardly call it a Faded Sign but I can only assume that when it was built this side alley was a bit more lively and worthy of such a sign. I don't think they'd bother today...
Wood Lane, Shepherds Bush
The first of the afternoons true ghost signs this one looks as though it was originally a garage. I can't quite make out the writing below - 'Outfit' maybe?
Uxbridge Road Turning to the left and heading down the Uxbridge Road, there are some retail units and restaurants in what seem to have been old offices of the London County Council. That was abolished in 1965 but the old signage has clung on, just about...
Shepherds Bush Library, Uxbridge Road
I was very impressed with this chimney-brace come date-plaque. I can't recall seeing one like it and on the whole I'd have to say that it's very impressive.
The library itself has a number of ornate scrolled plaques commemorating its benefactors - this particular one celebrates Leigh Hunt and Thomas Keene. I'd be interested in knowing more about the connection these two have with the library. Leigh Hunt seems to have been a fascinating character, but for the most part poverty stricken, dying just across the river in Putney in 1859. Charles Keene was an artist, specialising in black and white illustrations and etchings who died in 1891. With 32 years between their deaths it's strange that they should be remembered together. Could it be they were friends of the library's founder, John Passmore Evans? He was a journalist and newspaper owner so might well have know of the work of the two and decided they were worth remembering.
Uxbridge Road Another ghost sign and again pretty faint. Could that be 'Allinsons' or 'Allen & Son'? Either way, there's not much else to be seen.
Oh come on now, what is it with this place? A third Ghost sign, potentially the best of the bunch and it's so tantalisingly faint you can hardly make out what it was!
Of course once your eyes focus in what we have here is a Players Navy Cigarette sign,

Originally in various shades of blues and whites with a Jolly Jack Tar peeping out the middle of a life-belt this once impressive sign has faded away to almost nothing. I think I'm about thirty years too late on this one.

Telephone Exchange, Uxbridge Road. This strikes me as being fairly typical of the straight-forwardelements found in telephone exchanges. 'Modern' buildings with a nod to the classical, in this case the staff and serpent symbol known as the Caduceus, carried by the Greek God Hermes and then later on the Roman God Mercury, after he retired. I'm sure you wouldn't confuse this sign with the medical Rod of Asclepius although it's not an uncommon error even though the medical sign just has one snake and no wings. Personally I suspect it's been appropriated because of its symmetry and more pleasing aesthetics but there you go...
Uxbridge Road I'm not only drawn to this one because of its obvious age, slightly faded grandeur and classically-cracked masonry, but also because of the the anti-pigeon net lends it an air of Ena Sharples-ness (although to be fair it doesn't show up too clearly on the photo)
Uxbridge Road And finally on the Uxbridge Road, an interesting example of a Haywards Lightwell. Interesting (well to me anyway, I don't expect many others to be leaping up and down with excitement) because it looks as though it's hinged with four handles ('Fork 'andles?') set into the middle. As the glass was prismatic and thus fairly deep, I'd of thought it would have made such an entrance unfeasible, but apparently not. I wonder when it was opened last though? Having the new shop-front projecting over one edge couldn't help much.
Conningham Road The first of a couple of nice coal-holes, this one was just up someone's garden path, which always poses a bit of a dilemma. Is it acceptable to open a gate, take a step in and photograph someone's coal-hole or should I knock on the door and go through a very convoluted explanation as to exactly what I'd like to do and why I'd like to do it? Very tricky. If the gate is open and it's obviously multi-occupancy then I tend to pop in for a quickie. If it's a family home and the gate is closed then I pass on by swiftly and try to put it out of my mind as quickly as possible. Luckily this one was one of the former...
The 1901 census only shows one Selden who was an Ironmonger in London and that was Alfred born in in 1859. On that basis I think it's probably a reasonable assumption that these photos are of the son in 'Selden & Son', later to die in the Great War.

Conningham Road Not quite as attractive, but still with a vibrant, mannish swagger about it, an example from further down by John Harvey, New Road, Circus Street which is slightly confusing. A bit of searching shows a Circus Street New Road in Marylebone and the 1901 census does show a John H. Harvey, Shopkeeper, in the area but it doesn't specify his shop (i.e. ironmonger). One for a bit more research I think.
Goldhawk Road - This shop caught my eye as it seemed to be squeezed between to older and more established buildings. Not only was it freakishly slim but the air of surreality was added to by a suspended bowler hat. I say 'shop' because there was no indication as to name, trade or profession, just a bowler hat gathering dust. Very mysterious...
Goldhawk Road Just along from the shop was a nice example of Old and New in the shape of a bell-pull and an entryphone. Definitely not a button, the bell-pull had been painted over so many times it was almost like it had been polyfillered.
Goldhawk Road (possibly Godolphin Road)- In amongst the usual modern shop fronts I found this remnant of an earlier era, tucked around the side. Bransdon are still recorded as being newsagents based on the Goldhawk Road but I guess the flakey old sign can't compete with the lure of modern, shiny, yellow plastic.
Goldhawk Road - Well here's an interesting adaptation! A couple of cows heads above a restaurant. I assume they are fibre-glass and stuck over the original pediment but very eye-catching it must be said.
Goldhawk Road (Lime Grove) - Next to a railway station, there's no prizes for guessing that this once advertised W.H. Smith & Son, although they seem to be long gone.
Goldhawk Road - Although fronted by a mini-supermarket, Goldhawk House was obviously one of the grander buildings on Goldhawk Road, several stories high and capped off with this solid, dated section.
If the sign on the side of the building is anything to go by it was a builders supplier but it seems too grand an effort for that, so possibly this refers to later occupants. It has the air of an institution about it though, so maybe it was a working man's self-improvement society or something.
Goldhawk Road - Just before Shepherds Bush there's a row of not particularly special or spectacular buildings but they are summounted by one of the most emphatic date plaques in town. No chance of missing that one!
Shepherds Bush Road - Heading back toward Hammersmith now and on the left was a typically 30s design of flats, the sort that you can take for granted very easily but when you take the time to actually have a look... well it started to seem a lot more interesting. It's a nice large entrance that almost qualifies as 'grand'
Shepherds Bush Road - This one caught my eye because it seemed at first to be a midget coal-hole. Quite a nice design, but miles too small to be of any use. Then you notice that only the inner part of the design has emerged from the cement filler. Give it another twenty years and I might be able to see who manufactured it!
Netherwood Lane - Not a blue plaque, but a red one, obviously put up by a local history group or a special interest society. This red plaque commemorates Irish Nationalist leader Michael Collins and is presumably either from when he worked for the Post Office or with the firm Horne & Co.
Lakeside Road - For some reason I had strayed around some of the backstreets and was intrigued to find this geometric design above a very 'modernist' looking window. It has a 'significant' look about it but it's totally new to me. Is it a classical allusion or just a company logo?
Lakeside Road - Turning back down Lakeside Road I could just make out the remains of an occupational 'ghost sign' on the wall above me. It looks as though this was once the home of a Boot-Makers & Repairers.
Shepherds Bush Road - Back on the main road again and there was my last coalhoal. A fairly standard design but a new manufacturer to me R, H. & J. Pearson, Notting Hill Gate. Jonathan Pearson, ironmonger, held the lease on No.7 High Street, Notting Hill Gate in 1878–9 so might well be our manufacturer.
Brook Green - I wonder what came first, the eagle or the name? It's always nice to see an animal statue or two but I wonder if they have any effect on the local pigeons?
Shepherds Bush Library - Shepherds Bush Road "This building was the gift of Andrew Carnegie 1905" Mind you it wasn't the only one. Andrew Carnegie, reckoned to have been the second richest man of all time, was self-educated and spent much of his money on founding libraries around the world so that others could benefit in the same way he did.
And finally, to round it all off
Hammersmith Road - As well a splendid weathervane (which I'll be adding to the collection) this building has had its (presumably) original date carefully painted around over the years. I was wondering if there had originally been some other text that accompanied it, but for now it's a thoughtful act of the owners to preserve this small snippet of history.
So that's about it. Three main roads that didn't start off too lively but certainly picked up as I went along. Ghost signs, lightwells, coalholes and some interesting plaques and buildings so a couple of hours well spent.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Mysterious 'Standing Stone' of Wimbledon Common

I had a very enjoyable stroll around Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush yesterday, but as that will take me a few days to sort out I was pleased to stumble over an interesting object on Wimbledon Common this morning (not literally of course, it was quite noticable and had a small girl perched on top when I first saw it) that makes a nice quick post in its own right.
As you can see it looks suspiciously like a milestone, albeit in a strange place. The main road is a good few hundred yards away from its position and although the Common has been traversed by riders since its inception, I would have been surprised if they were using it as the main route anywhere.
A plain, chiseled obelisk standing alone in an open space at the highest point of Wimbledon Common..hmm

Getting up close for a better look there were no obvious inscriptions, although it was quite worn and I suppose it was possible that any had been erased over time.

And then... I saw it. Right on the top. A metal rod had been placed into the body of the rock in the middle of a slight depression and there, just to the side, was the faint remnants of three chisled arrows pointing toward it.

Thanks to M.J. and his information regarding the identical sign I saw in Brentford last week I was able to identify this as another benchmark. It's surprising how, when your eyes are opened to something for the first time, you seem to see them everywhere!

OK, it's not all that clear, but try squinting or clicking on the image to have a closer look

If you haven't read M.J.'s comment I can tell you that these 'benchmarks' are sited and used by the OS as points of reference for all maps. In effect they are the standard points from which all other measurements are made. The three chisel marks were historically used to site the feet of the surveyors equipment but I assume they are more symbolic these days. In this particular instance it's the metal rod that 'marks the spot'!

Friday, 3 July 2009

"My Merton"

Thanks to 'My Merton' - the freebie magazine delivered to every home in the borough (whether you want it or not) the 'Faded London' message has been on every residents lips over the last two weeks. Well, maybe every resident is a bit of an exaggeration, but at least a couple of people mentioned that they read it in passing and I'd be fibbing if I claimed that I didn't have the merest frisson as I opened up my personal copy to see those fine Raynes Park chimneys staring back at me.
Normal service will be resumed shortly, but just for tonight I will bask in the reflected glory of the printed word...