Tuesday 4 August 2009

Richmond Upon Thames - A Sunday Stroll

View Larger Map
Well here's a map that you'll have to take with a pinch of salt, mainly due to Google Maps insistence of following roads, even when you've actually walked through a park and along a riverside tow-path as I did here. A family stroll on a pleasant Sunday afternoon is always too good a chance to miss for the surreptitious psycho-geographer so after casually mentioning that having a look at the famous view from Richmond Hill followed up by a walk along the river might be a nice way to spend an afternoon, I took along the camera for company. On the off chance that something might turn up. Possibly...

After parking in a back street at the top of the hill I spotted a series of Victorian shops on
Friars Stile Road. Always worth a look the first thing that caught my eye was this striking bit of tile work. Black and green - a classic colour combination with some attractive bordering.
The metal ventilation grille was worth a closer look as well. I was wondering if it might originally have been a butcher's which might have benefited from some extra air on a hot summers day, or whether it might just be ventilation for a cellar. Quite attractive, even if the tilework is a bit rough and ready.
Moving along the shops provided the first of several mosaic doorways. Richmond has never exactly been a slum area so perhaps it's not surprising that a considerable number of shop-keepers chose to splash out on a bit of self-advertising. It's a pity that so many are just initials, although I'm sure a check in od trade directories would soon reveal the full names
Up near the junction with Richmond Hill itself is this ghost sign. A closer look and it looks as though it reads Millers(?) Candy Sweets Confectionery Minerals Cigar(ettes) & Tobacco
Taking a short cut though Terrace Gardens (whilst Google Maps insists on going by Nightingale Lane), there is a narrow tunnel underneath Petersham Road as you emerge to a view of the Thames in front of you, a quick glance over your shoulder would show a fairly grotesque gargoyle staring at your back. He's not the only one either as there are a couple of small grottos with some of his equally decrepit friends flanking him as well.
It's a very pleasant walk along the river-bank, but there's not a lot to trouble the camera. However there was a plaque in front of an admittedly splendid Spanish Plane. It struck me that magnificent as it is, I'm sure the Planes in Ravensbury Park Morden where just as big if not bigger. But then they are mighty London Planes not the Spanish variety so I suppose it's not like with like. Personally I like a good tree so it's nice to see one being celebrated.
Whittaker Avenue Passing under the bridge I took a right turn up a narrow lane and caught sight of some interesting wall brackets on the side of an old building. I'll probably add this picture and a later one to my posting dedicated to the noble art of wall-restraint, but I thought the bricks here were also interesting with an interesting pattern of one long side followed by three short ends. I assume this pattern has a name like 'English Stretcher Bond' or 'Flemmish Bond' but I've no idea what it is. Looks old though.
A left turn down King Street revealed this fantastically ornate shop name. A three-dimensional montage of golden creepers is fronted by glass, upon which is painted - in gold of course - the name of the shopkeeper.
This close up gives a clearer idea of the sheer 'bling' factor involved in such a sign. You can't really read the name very clearly, so as a sign it's not so hot, but as a bit of over-the-top 'Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen'-ism it cannot be beat
Through to Richmond Green now and on the corner of Friars Lane was another example of wall bracing. This particular brace was in a shape of an inverted question mark, which certainly puts it up with the odder examples I'd seen.
Richmond Green: A nice public drinks-fountain but I couldn't get in too close as it was base-camp for a local busker and I didn't want him thinking I was trying to nick his kit...
Richmond Green: The large houses edging the Green have lots of individual features and I was quite taken by this particular boot-scraper, that was built into the railings.
Richmond Green A new coalhole producer to me and very welcome he is too. Always nice to find a local supplier for the area and W.F. Reynolds fits the bill a treat.
I've no idea how old these eyes are, but there was no way I was going to walk by this optometrist without taking a picture. As it happens I've a collection of what I euphemistically call 'Modern Advertising', so it's going straight in there as well. I was trying desperately not to say how 'eye catching' it was, but I don't think I'll bother now. If I ever need a private, Richmond -based optometrist I know exactly where I'll be heading...
Another intriguing bootscraper and my last from Richmond Green. I bet the little pointy-bit in the middle was really useful for getting off the tricky bits of mud stuck in the tread
The Square: I'm not sure if The Imperial pub ever made it to its centenary but my wife definitely recalls it being open in the 80's. There's nothing left no though apart from the plaque.
George Street: Two examples of High Street ornamentation here. This first one is only the corner of a building that looks large enough to have been a department store. The initials are WB and its dated 1896. I'm sure it would have been one of the more significant buildings in Richmond at the time so shouldn't be too difficult to find some more information about.
The second building is York House and although it's the obvious ornamentation that catches the eye what is also attractive, I feel, are the original stained glass panels that still frame it.
George Street: They say its the quiet ones you've got to watch and the date stone below was definitely the quiet one of the photos I took. By that I mean it was almost an afterthought, a not very impressive looking engraving in a bit of granite at the bottom of a pillar. You could very easily walk past it and not realise it was there. Except that I had taken a picture of a very similar dedication only a few weeks previously at Rose Hill in Sutton. What's the significance? Well I believe these stones were laid to commemorate the opening of a new Burtons tailor shop. In this case Stanley Howard Burton was the son of the founder, Montague Burton, and by the end of the 40s there were over 400 Burtons shops offering demobbed service-men a shirt underpants, waistcoat jacket and trousers for an all-inclusive price. The original 'Full Monty'!
I suspect there are many of these ex-Burtons sites around London so I might well keep my eye out for a few and see if I can produce a 'Full Monty' posting of my own...
George Street: Two for one here with not only a ghost sign but also a ghost 'window' to its right! The sign seems to read "Hosier Hatter &c."
Victoria Place, just off of Richmond Hill had this intriguing FH plate attached to the wall. I was assuming that the FH stood for 'Fire Hydrant' but it has a certain antique charm about it, even if it doesn't tell you where the hydrant might actually be.
Richmond Hill: A very sturdy but quite attractive looking dated pediment. It's nice they've taken the trouble to pick out some of the detail in gold.
Still on Richmond Hill this smashing mosaic had a complementary golden design around the base of the windows. I don't know if it was contemporary but together they make for a very attractive frontage.
Not to be out-done, a few feet up the road J. Clarke and Sons are still hanging on even though their mosaic is slowly being eroded by the march of time. It's a pity, but it still has its charm.
Richmond Hill: It's quite heartening really to come across yet another building whose owners can't quite bring themselves to paint over the faint traces of the past. In this case the old house name has been carefully preserved, even though the rest of the building has been given a bit of a touch up.
Richmond Hill: It's a bit battered but the inscription around the edge is still readable "T. Hyatt, 9 Farringdon Road, London - Griffith's Patent No. 2724 1888" Another new producer from what's been a very productive bit of road!
Richmond Hill: Another dated pediment that makes the earlier one from 1884 look vey restrained. The typeface used with the flattened '8' seems very typical of this period and pops up quite frequently.
Near the top of Richmond Hill I found another of these old Fire Hydrant signs, this time next to a modern sign that not only confirmed that it was indeed a hydrant sign, but also told you where it was. In this case, at my feet...

Sunday 2 August 2009

Mitcham Road & Longley Road (Part 2)

Turning down Longley Road was no accident as I wanted to take a closer look at a building that had intrigued me on an earlier visit about a year ago. The building in question is Jubilee Villa and it is one of those buildings that just makes you stop in your tracks for a closer look (whether or not you're writing a blog)
Dated 1887 the building was presumably built in the same year as Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee but what is really striking about the house is its shape (triangular, with a rounded end), the coloured glass windows and the profusion of tiles. If a house could shout out 'I'm Arty!' it would be this one!

With such distinctive decoration you'd assume there would be a story to tell, but if there is it's pretty well hidden. A search on the internet only reveals one significant mention and that is in an article on notable tiles, borough by borough, by Independent Architectural Historian Lynn Pearson Significantly though, she provides much of the background information.

The following extract was taken from her book Tile Gazetteer: A Guide to British Tile and Architectural Ceramics Locations
Tooting Jubilee Villa (1887), 156 LONGLEY ROAD, is something of a showpiece for Maw & Co’s products with seven tile panels on its facade including transfer-printed pictorial tiles by Owen Gibbons, who had worked on the decoration of the South Kensington Museum during the 1870s and produced many designs for Maw’s during the 1880s.
Overlooking the road, this blocked window is
in-filled with Maw & Co's trademark floor mosaics

Maw & Co
are still in existence and still in the quality floor tile business although these days they seem to specialise in the repair, maintenance and restoration of their original Victorian floors. Apart from this window and the tiles in the name plate, most of the other tiles on display are of the wall variety in a range of different 'sets'

A mixed bag of tiles including some with floral and Japanese influences.

The set of tiles underneath the in-filled window seems to be the least coherent set. It consists of ten tiles, three of which are blue and seven a dark brown, Several of the tiles include a young lady in a variety of actions so it could be that they formed part of a set, but you can't really say that there's any overall theme.
Detail of four tiles. The two seaside views are the only ones that have any obvious thematic link

The other side of the main door and it's a different scenario. Here there are two sets of ten tiles beneath two windows but very much similar in content. The middle six in each set are part of a single thematic set depicting various tradesmen.
A closer look and you can see them all hard at work, flanked by a couple of more standard designs.
Get in really close though and not only do you get to see exactly what he's up to but you can also make out the trade depicted as it's name is picked out in all four of the corners - in this example reading SH - OE - MA - KER. Other trades represented are Tailor, Smith, Cooper, Smith and PainterThe second panel completes the set and comprise the trades of Founder, Navy, Sawyer, Shipwright, Carpenter and Bricklayer
Around the curved front of the building, either side of the name plaque, are two other sets, this time of six a set and two 'fillers'. This particular set comprise of the twelve months of the year although it's not at all obvious from ground level
Even when you look at the set as a whole it's not too clear what exactly is being depicted. This is the left hand panel...
And this is from the right of the name plaque.
When you zoom in though you can see the subject matter, the name and the number of days for each of the months. In this example we have a typical May Queen ceremony......and here in August the wheat harvest is being helped in with a touch of cider.
I suppose what intrigues me with this building is how it came about in the first place. Was the name plaque commissioned initially and then some silver-tongued salesman persuaded the owner to invest a bit more? Was the owner an employee of Maws and so able to obtain them at a decent price? Was the owner an artist himself who decided on his own layout and coloured windows? Whatever the answer was it's a very attractive building.

Longley Road Further down the road is a fairly inauspicious chapel that looks like an in-fill between two larger building. The main feature of interest is the arch over the door with its date of construction - so it's a couple of years older than Jubilee Villa then.
There were quite a few coalholes around as well but this one stood out with its Battersea-based Ironmonger.
This intrigued me as a slightly unusual sight with the plaster moulding in the centre of the building being echoed by some infilling of the roof-line. I can't see that it serves any other purpose than a decorative one and no-one else seems to have followed suit in the road
And, to round off the walk, a Blue Plaque for Sir Harry Lauder a Music Hall star from the turn of last century. Presumably this was a convenient location for his work in the London Music Halls. Those not familiar with his work might find this recording of one of his greatest hits of interest and a suitable end to a short but intriguing walk. Well, I might not have been exactly Roamin' in the Gloamin' (more like Tootling in Tooting) but even if short it was an interesting stroll.