Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bits and Bobs on the Uxbridge Road (part 2)

Carrying on down the road I eventually started back on the other side toward Shepherds Bush and I wasn't far along when I spotted this intriguing engraving on the kerb. I'd seen similar items before and they had turned out to be benchmarks used by surveyors from the Ordnance Survey so I was immediately thinking if this could possibly be related in any way? Could it be that the 'P' stands for 'Point' (as in 'Height Point' or something?) and it certainly  looks as though the dent above it might be for siting a measuring tool of some type.
Could it be that I'm getting led up the wrong path again though and that it in fact has no connection with the OS? It seems to have some age to it if the quality of the lettering is anything to go by. I'll keep looking although any thoughts would be gratefully received...
It's been a while since I've spotted any new coalhole manufacturers but I was attracted to this one partly because of the colourful tiles around it. It turns out that the manufacturers are known to me but I'll put it in anyway if only on artistic merit...

Moving on I spotted what looks like a partial restoration of an old shop sign. I say partial because I've a suspicion that the central "Rene's" section of the sign is probably still in use - it certainly looks in pretty good condition. The sections either side of it though are pretty poor in comparison and I suspect that they are only recently uncovered. I assume that they originally read "Tobaccos" and "Stationers".
As the shutters were down I couldn't really see what Rene's sell these days. I wonder if it's still in the same line of business?
This name plaque was on a series of houses pretty much next door to the local church which you might expect to be called St Stephen's. Actually it's called 'St Stephen's and St Thomas' so I didn't know whether the church changed it's name at some point or whether they just decided that it was too much of a mouthful to try to squeeze in on the space available. Some checking back at home though shows that the church of St Stephen, Shepherds Bush, was consecrated by the Bishop of London on April 11th 1850, which means that the villas were not contemporary, but erected 24 years later. I'm not sure when St Thomas was added either, but I suspect it was quite recently, as it was in place by 1964 (which is recent by terms of reference!)
And finally, something for the lovers of basement lighting. A nice example of a combined light and ventilation window that has obviously served its purpose. A slap of paint and it blends in quite nicely with the background. No sign of a makers mark that I could see so I've no idea if it's a Hayward Brothers special...
Well for what seemed to be an unpromising re-tread of a street that I'd already visited this was actually quite interesting. If I had to pick a highlight it would have to be the mysterious kerb marking which definitely needs more investigation.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Bits and Bobs on the Uxbridge Road (part 1)

The Westview Shopping Centre at Shepherds Bush might well be a magnate for post-Christmas shoppers but it doesn't really hold a great deal of attraction for us Faded-Londonites whose idea of a good time is stumbling across a new coal-hole manufacturer. Anyway, I was happy to leave various members of the family to their own devices and to take off for a pleasant stroll out of the temperature-controlled climate of the arcade into the chill wind and icy rain of West London.

I'd been down the same road fairly recently so my expectations with regard to new discoveries weren't particularly high but as soon as I hit the Green I caught sight of this pleasingly decrepit sign.
'Sketty Terrace' - not a very picturesque or attractive name either but certainly one that calls out for a bit of research to try to pinpoint its origins. Not very difficult as it turns out, and anyone from Swansea in South Wales would no doubt have spotted straight away that it's an area in the west of the city. I don't think Shepherds Bush is known for its ex-pat Welsh community so my best bet would be a connection with the developer.

I included the interesting ornament below the sign as they are a common form of decoration and, to be honest, I haven't a clue what they are called. Of course they may not have a proper name at all - and by that I mean an interesting sounding Greek or Roman one - but even if they featured in a builders catalogue they must have had some description or other.  They seem to resemble a sceptre and many, such as the one on Sketty Terrace, have now lost their spike on top. The one pictured  on the left has retained the spike but has been painted white down one side which seems a really daft, (albeit quite common) thing to do . Was anyone ever really pleased with the compromise?                                            
On we go then to the slightly more salubrious looking Pereira Mansions. Not quite as definitive looking this one up as it can refer to a surname, a place in Portugal or a city in Columbia!
Further down the Uxbridge Road turns into The Vale and one of its more interesting sights is a solid old building belonging to a company called Newman Hire Co. Ltd.  It has the air of an old and faded municipal site but if the ghost sign at the very top  is anything to go by was originally the home of Brown Brothers Ltd. I'm familiar with the Australian wine company of the same name, but a bit of research shows that Brown Brothers were a sizeable motor company in the 1930's. I found (literally) a snippet in The Commercial Motor of 1935 that notes "Brown Bothers Trading Results -The report for Brown Brothers Ltd for the year ending January 10 1934 shows a net profit of £71,141"  which doesn't sound too bad. 
Well however good it sounds, there must have been lean times around the corner because Brown Brothers moved out, their name was scrubbed and Newman Hire Co Ltd moved in. This new company specialise in props and stage settings, which seems strangely apt as what I enjoy about their facade is its real sense of time and space. That lettering could only really have been erected in the early seventies although it does have some hints of the thirties about it. At a pinch I'd guess it was done at about the time when The Sting and Scott Joplin were all the rage. Which is ironic as it starred Paul Newman. I'm sure there's no connection though...

But the associations don't stop there. The lettering goes around the side as well and the odd missing and lopsided letter remind me of Sunshine Desserts in The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin.

The company website shows what looks like an opulent and extravagant set of interiors - it even has a 360 degree virtual tour,  if your computer can take it (mine couldn't and crashed several times before I gave up, but then mine sulks if I ask it to play a cd) Anyway the juxtaposition between the slightly decrepit signage and the elegant interiors is either a well thought-out post modern ironic comment or a recognition that the prop-hire business isn't as profitable as it used to be. Definitely a local landmark though.

Moving on a bit, it's always interesting to see a plaque of some sort up on the walls and those put up by local authorities are more intriguing than most. Slightly obscure local worthies, not-quite so good poets and explorers not quite famous enough to get a coveted blue plaque are the usual subjects and the disc on the corner of Galloway Road is no different. Quite a coincidence this, as George Galloway  has a reputation as a maverick firebrand socialist MP which is similar to Dennis Nowell Pritt, the subject of this Hammersmith & Fulham plaque.

I have to say that his name didn't really strike a chord and the fact that the plaque is both pretty high and very difficult to read suggests that Hammersmith & Fulham weren't really sure how they wanted to remember him either. There's a brief summation of his career on Wikipedia
but here are some of the highlights:

A member of the Labour Party from 1918, he was infamous as a defender of the Soviet Union under Stalin...   Pritt was an MP for Hammersmith North from 1935 to 1940, when he was expelled for defending the Soviet invasion of Finland... Pritt was awarded the 1954 International Stalin Peace Prize and in 1957 became an honorary citizen of Leipzig, which was then in East Germany. He was also awarded the Star of the Volkerfreundschart ( in gold ) in October 1965.
Firebrand socialist and friend of Communism - and all I get is an unreadable plaque!

Coming soon in part 2 - Something odd on the kerb...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The West Barnes Lane Sink

The perfect camouflage of the West Barnes Sink makes it tricky to spot in fading light 
Coming along West Barnes Lane on my way to Raynes Park the other day I caught sight of a small granite-like sink lurking behind a road name by a double mini-roundabout. As an exercise in sharp-eyed observation this wasn't bad going really as it was all very drab and well camouflaged, but as I went by I just caught sight of a small black plaque on it's side, glinting in the evening sunlight. This was too intriguing for someone of average curiosity and feeble will so later on I stopped by with the camera and had a closer look
From this angle it looks uncannily like a Stonehenge for elves or an obsolete drink  trough for Jack Russells but luckily human sized ankles are saved from a good skinning by virtue of it being sited on a slightly mounded flower bed with a few scrubby plants keeping guard. What can it be? It's obviously 'official' but looks at little unprepossessing...
The plaque is attached at the end and you do have to get down low to read it but the the very fact that I was trying to read it caused some interest. A passer by was trying to figure out what I was doing and I saw them crouch down for a look after I'd moved on, so I suppose in some small way I've helped pass on a little historical curiosity in the area. The succulents are a nice touch though, low maintenance, hardy, drought-tolerant but sadly not all that visible until you get up close. The big question was still had to be answered - what or who was was being commemorated?
How about that, a memorial to R. L. Mackenzie, a local councillor and one-time Mayor of Merton! This was intriguing, how how often do local resident show gratitude to local politicians, especially in taking the time and expense to purchase such a stately and solid item?

I thought I'd see if there was anything about Councillor Mackenzie on the web and was fortunate to come across the Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association newsletter of October 2000 which actually carried a feature on the grand opening itself along with an accompanying picture
The Bob McKenzie Memorial Planter
I am delighted to report that the Bob McKenzie Memorial Planter has been placed and planted on the north side of the intersection of Grand Drive and Westway. This is an ideal location and as central as possible in our ward to remember a friend, colleague, Mayor of Merton, local Councillor, supporter, auditor and adviser to numerous organisations in this area. On behalf of the Association, I would like thank Jean and John Haslam for taking the responsibility for selecting the planter and arranging with the Council for its location in Westway. When it came to planting it, we naturally called upon the Horticultural Section to help us. However after much deliberation they found they could not, or would not. But again our tireless retirees John and Jean Haslam came to our rescue with some ericaceous soil and a few varied heathers which make a handsome display.
So the planter has been there for ten years now. It looks in pretty good condition, although the heathers obviously found the going a bit too tough, making way for the hardier succulents. Curiosity sated it's time to move on...