Sunday, 30 January 2011

From the archives: brutally honest cookery

Two years on, this recipe book extract seems more apt than ever!

The recession has seen a return of advice on frugal cookery, with Delia Smith et al assuring us that cheap food can be tasty and nutritious. Whoever named the recipes in this 1920 cookbook from Borwick's baking powder took a rather more brutal approach:

Thursday, 27 January 2011

London Blue

Thanks to Londonist for highlighting another great London memorial map, created by Roy Reed - of English Heritage and Southwark blue plaques. Deptford doesn't seem to have any of these, but nearby there's one to publisher John Tallis on New Cross Road and another to Sir George Livesey on the Old Kent Road. Explore for yourself here.


Londonist has a mapping project of its own: readers have contributed hand-drawn maps each offering a personal view of the capital. They'll go on display in the Museum of London later in the year; in the meantime, you can enjoy The Fields of New Cross and others online.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

London Remembers

There's a fascinating London map to browse: London Remembers, which includes 1799 memorials throughout the city. The subjects are as varied as (or more than) you'd expect: Deptford appears for the plaque commemorating Dire Straits' first gig.

The site isn't complete yet, and coverage is best in central London with the south-east currently rather sparse. With its ambitious approach of including plaques, statues, monuments and so on, they accept that 'it's an aim we don't think we will ever achieve but we will enjoy the attempt.'

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ghost signs (49): Lamballe

On Friday, I mentioned the new ghost signs I've seen in Lamballe, Brittany and shared my favourite. Here are some of the others.

First, there are two almost alongside each other. The left-hand sign is faded and laregly obscured by a billboard, so can't be deciphered. The other has been painted over in white at some point, although the overpainting is itself fading away. There's just enough detail showing through to identify it as an advertisment for the liqueur St Raphael. Nearby is another rendering, unobscured but heavily faded.

Both St Raphael advertisements are from the 1950s, when there was a drastic change of style. Earlier advertisements didn't feature the spiky italic writing or minimalist, rather geometric imagery.


This Cointreau sign has clearly been repainted at least once: the brand name can be seen faintly at the top and then more jauntily in the middle of the sign. The Cointreau brothers founded their distillery in 1849, beginning by producing a cherry liqueur. However, success came when they moved to the orange drink we now know.


Finally, another brand which may apear familiar - but the Lincolns here are not the American automobiles but the French washing machines. Renowned for their quality and reliability, many French people still remember them with nostalgia. (You can see one in action at the washing machine museum, Dijon, here.)


Sunday, 23 January 2011

From the archives: urban dinosaurs

South-east London famously has the world's first dinosaur park. This Victorian theme park remains a place of education and delight - now easier than ever to access, thanks to the East London Line extension.

When the Crystal Palace was moved from Hyde Park to its new site, the surrounding park was also intended as a place of entertainment and education. Nowhere were those two aims better combined than in the dinosaur park (the first in the world). Entertaining as it might be to wander around scenic lakes with prehistoric animals at every turn, the visitor was also expected to learn.

The creator of this section was none other than Professor Richard Owen, the man who invented the word 'dinosaur'. Sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins, the creatures were placed to create a timeline illustrating the new and shocking idea that such animals had existed millions of years ago. (This was all happening in 1854, five years before Darwin's Origin of the Species was published).

The park's prehistoric inhabitants haven't always had a happy time. The display was never completed because money ran out - otherwise we might have had a mammoth and a dodo there as well - and by the late twentieth century had fallen badly into disrepair. However, recent restoration has returned the models to their full Victorian glory, complete with original colours, and resisted the temptation to correct them in light of later discoveries. Thus the ichthyosaurus is shown coming onto land (it couldn't), missing its dorsal fin, and with an incorrectly-shaped tail.


The megatherium (which should be dark brown) looks as if it's playing hide and seek. Its tree is the Victorian original; in fact, it went on to grow so much that it broke the animal's arm off. No risk of that happening again: the tree is now dead.

Another attempt to mingle model and reality was the megaloceros, which originally incorporated genuine fossilised antlers. However, since fossils are stone and the models are concrete on hollow iron frames, the antlers proved too heavy and were replaced with replicas.


The final educational feature for the Victorian visitor was the illustration of geological strata. A cliff complete with coal measures, ironstone and fault lines combined lessons in geology and in the raw materials of industry. An afternoon in the park had become an improving experience!


Friday, 21 January 2011

Ghost signs (48): St Raphael

I've visited the Breton town of Lamballe numerous times, but travelled down a few new roads today. I was rewarded with a surprising number of ghost signs - but this evening I'm just sharing my favourite.


This sign is in amazingly good condition, and it's not difficult to see why. Since the advertisement for St Raphael was painted, a new building has been constructed just a foot or two away. As a result, the sign has been somewhat protected and survives bright and clear. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the very thing which has preserved the sign also makes it rather tricky to photograph!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Scallops from Erquy


Among Brittany's great seafood is the scallop, and Erquy is perhaps its best-known scallop -fishing port. Last time I visited, the tide was out...


The local scallops were discovered in 1962, and are caught at night. They are sold at the criée or fish auction house early that same morning. As the name suggests, these auctions used to be carried out with bids shouted out to an auctioneer, but they are now computerised. Although visits may be possible, bidding is not - the sales are strictly wholesale.

Concerns about sustainability have had a profound effect on the fishing here. Boats now fish for only 45 minutes at a time, twice a week between October and April. Nonetheless, there are still concerns about the effects of dredging for scallops, which can damage the seabed.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Around and about

After work and a broken phone line kept me away from the internet for most of last week, it has been a real pleasure catching up with other blogs. Here are some of the highlights: I hope you find them as fascinating as I did.

Starting on a sombre note, the New Cross Fire is being remembered thirty years on. In 1981, a fire during a birthday party on New Cross Road killed thirteen black youngsters; a fourteenth committed suicide two years later. This tragedy was exacerbated by the failure to establish its cause; the fear that police were covering up a racist arson attack - far right groups were active in the area; and often unsympathetic responses in the mainstream media and elsewhere. Three decades on, several events have taken place to mark the anniversary and remember the victims, as described by Transpontine.

From tragedy, we move to the gentle poignancy of Invisible Paris's description of a voiturier. Valet parking may not sound the most promising material for an article, but here we see its place in the hidden mosaic of city life.

Another Nickel in the Machine keeps us in London, but takes us back in time. Scandalous parties, campaigners against vice, Fred Astaire and the recipe for a 'Bosom Caresser' cocktail from the Naughty Nineties are all connected to the Empire, Leicester Square.

Finally, back in Deptford and still back in time, Old Deptford History is researching a mysterious photograph. Can you help identify it?

Monday, 17 January 2011

200 years of pictures

Last weekend, Dulwich Picture Gallery celebrated its 200th birthday. That would be an important milestone for any institution, but it's particularly significant as Dulwich is the country's oldest public art gallery. Its story is an intriguing one of Old Masters, fallen royalty and repeated thefts.

In 1790 art dealers Sir Francis Bourgeois and Noel Desenfans were offered what must have seemed a dream commission. The King of Poland wanted a royal fine arts collection, to act as an inspiration to his nation, and asked them to put it together. That was no small job; in fact they spent five years travelling around Europe purchasing Old Masters for the King. Or rather, the ex-King, for by the time they had finished, Poland had been split between more powerful nations and effectively ceased to exist. Its king was forced to abdicate.

Since the original customer was no longer in a position to buy the dealers' collection, they attepted to sell it elsewhere, but without success. Desenfans died in 1807, and Bourgeois's thoughts turned to bequeathing the paintings to the public. Contact with the British Museum wasn't successful, so Bourgeois came up with another plan: he bequeathed the paintings to Dulwich College. There were clear conditions attached: they should be displayed in a building which was to be designed by Sir John Soane and open to the public. His wishes were carried out, and the Gallery survives to this day although it is now separate from the College.

The Soanes building is fairly unassuming from the outside. However, it is carefully designed so that the skylights flood the galleries with indirect light. One small room is a mausoleum, holding Bourgeois, Desenfans and his wife. The Gallery has been a model for many others around the world.

However, life has been by no means uneventful. A V1 rocket strike in World War II caused serious damage to the west wing; luckily the paintings were safely hidden in Wales. There have also been a number of thefts, and one painting appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most frequently stolen artwork. Rembrandt's Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III has been taken no less than four times, turning up in places as varied as a German left-luggage office and a park bench in Streatham.

With all that history, Dulwich Picture Gallery deserves a party. Only a pedant would point out that it was perhaps a little premature, since the Gallery may have been founded in 1811 but only opened to the public six years later.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

From the archives: what's a cutty sark?

You could be forgiven for thinking that the answer to 'what's a cutty sark?' is 'an uninspiring set of hoardings in central Greenwich'. After the fire and a long silence, Cutty Sark's restoration seems to have become endless. It should be finished for 2012, though; the ship's blog has been regularly updated in recent months; and now we can see some of the work on the ship's new YouTube channel. In preparation for the hopefully not-too-distant reopening, here's a look at the story behind the ship's name.

For most of us, the words ‘Cutty Sark’ conjure up Greenwich’s tea clipper. But what does the phrase actually mean?

The ship's name comes from a poem by Robert Burns: farmer Tam O’Shanter was riding home from market (and the pub) when he saw witches and warlocks dancing around a bonfire in the churchyard. One, Nannie, was wearing a cutty sark: a short petticoat or shift. When Tam O’Shanter couldn’t resist calling out, the witches and warlocks ran after him. Luckily, his mare carried him to the River Doon: as we all know, witches can’t cross water. However, Nannie ran at great speed and caught hold of the horse’s tail just as they reached the bridge. Luckily, the tail came away in Nannie’s hand and Tam O’Shanter made good his escape.

Nannie has been immortalised as the figurehead of the Cutty Sark, which portrays her holding the horse’s tail. The name no doubt seemed apt for one of the very fastest ships of its day, which came close to winning the tea race from China to London in 1872. However, by 1878 steam ships had taken over the tea trade and Cutty Sark switched to carrying wool, again with great success. She later moved into Portuguese ownership, until Wilfred Dowman bought and restored her in the 1920s. She last went to sea in 1938.

The ship is currently undergoing restoration, which has been complicated by a fire in May 2007. Happily, the figurehead was in storage at the time of the fire and survives unharmed. The ship's restoration is expected to be completed in 2010.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Ghost signs (47): W...LEY


I seem to spend a lot of time moaning about partially-obscured ghost signs, but at least when they're covered by hoardings there's hope of seeing them uncovered one day. This Brockley example has suffered rather more permanent erasure of its middle.

The Eddystone Road sign still has snippets of information: the business was at number 108, possibly Brockley Rise, SE23 and its telephone number was Forest Hill 5743. Confusingly, though, the large word at the top seems to have been overpainted: two Ls appear to have pre-dated the final EY. I'll probably need to browse some old trade directories to sort this one out!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ghost signs (46): Apply Within

It made sense to place painted wall adverts alongside railways: just as with roads, there were plenty of passing viewers. This sign in Isleworth is not visible from the line, but does catch the eye of everyone who exits the station. Should they wish to stay for a while, then 'for all available property in this district apply within'.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

From the archives: Butt Lane to Deptford High Street

Deptford High Street has a rich past, so there should be plenty to fill a forthcoming documentary featuring it as one of London's 'Secret Streets'. The programme researchers are looking for local people's information and reminiscences. More details are on the Deptford Dame and Crosswhatfields blogs, which have had the excellent idea of collecting those stories so we can share them even if they're not included in the documentary itself.

Here, though, is a look back to a key moment in the street's history:

In August 1825, a notice appeared:

THE PUBLICK are respectfully informed, that by the general Consent of the Inhabitants, the NAME of the STREET hitherto called BUTT LANE is now altered to HIGH STREET, by which Appellation it will in future be designated

High Street, Deptford,

August 13, 1825.

Printed by James Delahoy, Deptford Bridge.
The change of name reflected a change of function. In the eighteenth century, Deptford Church Street had been the town's main road. Butt Lane, by contrast, was a mixture of residential and agricultural premises. However, by the early nineteenth century, shops had moved to Butt Lane's larger buildings and it had effectively become what it is now called: the High Street. Within a few decades, its status was further confirmed by the building of the railway station.

Today, the High Street remains the centre of Deptford's shopping. Two highlights: first, a few years ago, Yellow Pages named it London's best, on the basis of a formula to calculate diversity. (Its only chain stores are Peacock's and Iceland).* Second, the market on Wednesdays, Fridays and especially Saturdays is brilliant for all sorts of bargains - and don't miss the secondhand section on Douglas Way.

Related posts: Deptford Station, R Trickett's store.

*Since this was written, Tesco Metro have also moved in. As have many, many betting shops...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Rainy train journey

There can be something quite hypnotic about travelling through outer London, watching the rain falling down the carriage window and the vague blur of scenery meandering past.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Barons Court bench


Among the interesting features scattered throughout the Underground system are these benches at Barons Court station on the Piccadilly Line. With their elongated backs and enamel signs bearing the station name, they are unique on the system.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan would have celebrated her ninetieth birthday a few days ago had she survived the Second World War; instead, she died aged only thirty. There is now a campaign, led by her biographer Shrabani Basu, to raise money for a bronze bust of Inayat Khan in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury.

A descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 'Tiger of Mysore', Inayat Khan was born in Moscow. Her Indian father and American mother brought her up in London and Paris. She was a Sufi Muslim, a supporter of Indian independence and believer in non-violence. In the 1930s, she studied music at the Paris Conservatoire and child psychology at the Sorbonne and wrote and broadcast children's stories. However, when the Nazis invaded Paris, Noor and her brother Vilayat returned to London to fight Nazism. He joined the RAF; she trained as a radio operator in the WAAF and was later recruited by the Special Operations Executive.

When Noor Inayat Khan was parachuted into France to work as a wireless operator in Paris, her superiors were not optimistic. Some doubted her suitability for such a role; in any event, the work was so dangerous that her life expectancy was six weeks. Shortly after she arrived in Paris other members of her network were arrested, but she declined to return to London. In fact she survived for three months before being betrayed. The Germans held her prisoner for a year, mostly in solitary confinement, but were unable to get any information from her; eventually they shot her and three other agents at Dachau. Her last word was 'Liberté.'

Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre. However, although there are several memorials to her in France there is currently none in London: something which the new campaign is determined to change.

Image: Noor Inayat Khan in WAAF uniform, shared by Wikimedia under a Creative Commons licence.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ghost signs (45): Camden Town


Step out of Camden Town underground station, and as you cross the road into the High Street one of my old favourites looms over you. The advertisement promises that 'you save money by shopping at Boots the Chemists'. As if size and swirly lettering wasn't enough, a further sign declaring 'the Chemists' was added at a later date - judging by the wires sticking out, it was electrical, although it no longer works.

Look to the left, and there's another sign: much more workaday and practical this time. That's perhaps apt enough, since it advertises the wares of Miller Beale & Hider, glazing contractors. All is perhaps less no-nonsense than it appears, though: an online search hints that they may have produced stained glass. One also wonders how the company felt towards its neighbour: the apparently-venerable building next door actually post-dates this sign, and partially obscures it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Lal Mohun Ghose

One tactic of the Indian National Congress, in seeking independence for India, was to put forward candidates in English elections. In Deptford, barrister Lal Mohun Ghose twice stood as the Liberal candidate against the Conservative William Evelyn. He was defeated both times: in 1885 he lost by only 367 votes (receiving 3,560 to Evelyn's 3,927). Given such a narrow defeat, the New York Times highlighted the Deptford contest as one of the most interesting of the 1886 election.

The Pall Mall Gazette described the solid support Ghose received from the Liberal Party and from local people in 1886. Gladstone 'placed a carriage at the disposal of Mr. Ghose, and which was on the scene doing good. The good example ... has been followed by many other Liberal supporters, and Mr. Ghose [was] well supplied with vehicles.' Volunteers canvassed, brought voters to the polls, and displayed posters in shops and houses. However, while the Gazette thought Ghose had the majority of posters overall, publicans generally preferred Evelyn who also had more carriages at his disposal. In contrast, a local bootmaker had a poster stating 'Good business. Vote for Ghose for Deptford. Wear Whyman's boots and get a seat in Parliament.' The effect upon sales of Ghose's defeat is not recorded!

Ghose's candidacy was followed with interest in India. The Gazette mentions receiving a telegram from the Indian Spectator:
Numerous public meetings held in India vote confidence in the Hon. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Liberal candidate for Holborn, and earnestly implore electors to return him. All communities united. Same done for Lalmohun Ghose, Deptford.
Naoroji would go on to represent the constituency of Finsbury Central in 1892-5 (and was thus Britain's first Asian MP), and had already been president of the Indian National Congress. He is therefore better known today than Ghose, but both arguably made an important contribution to raising awareness of Indian nationalism in London. Indeed, given that Irish home rule was a central issue of the 1886 election, Ghose and Naoroji ensured that the issue of imperialism was considered more widely - and the electoral support they received helps paint a more nuanced picture of English attitudes towards the Empire.

Image: sketch on the front cover of The Graphic, 10 July 1886.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

From the archives: Edwardian Christmas Carol

Best wishes for 2011!

Let's mark the end of the festive season with an Edwardian entertainment: an (unintentionally amusing) film of a seasonal favourite.

Enjoy the spirit of Christmas with this 1901 dramatisation of A Christmas Carol.
Wonder at the speed with which the story is told.
Marvel at the special effects
and try not to notice the dodgy ghost costume!