Sunday, January 30, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
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, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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, January 23, 2011
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.
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.
Friday, January 21, 2011
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, January 20, 2011
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, January 18, 2011
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, January 17, 2011
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, January 16, 2011
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.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
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, January 11, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
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.
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, January 8, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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, January 4, 2011
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, January 3, 2011
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, January 2, 2011
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!