Sunday, 2 March 2014

Croydon's fishy facade

W H Smith may have settled for a rather uniform, corporate look today but their earlier shops had interesting and unusual facades. The North End, Croydon branch was built in Tudor revival style in the 1920s. Its exuberant and eclectic heraldic symbols share the same sort of approach as the (very different) decorations in Weston-Super-Mare.

The heraldic shields on the upper row refer to public schools. They are, from left to right: Rugby School, Harrow School, Eton College, Winchester College, and Wellington College.

The lower row alternates local references with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, perhaps in an attempt to flatter Croydon as a learned town? The arms are, from left to right, those of the Borough of Croydon, the University of Oxford, Archbishop Whitgift (founder of Croydon's Whitgift foundation), and the University of Cambridge. The final panel, with three heraldic shields surrounded by lions, has assorted local connections. The gold-and-blue checks belonged to the Warrennes, Earls of Surrey, and have been adopted in the county in various heraldic contexts;  the castle and lion can be found on Guildford's coat of arms; but the three fish have proved elusive!


Kay G. said...

My husband is from Croydon and I asked him about this but he does not know about the three fishes either!
From the little that I found, the three fish are PIKES and an old word for Pike is LUCY, so this is called THE ARMS LUCY, could be a family name?
Love these windows, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

The three fish are most likely a link to Kingston, the location of Surrey County Council. I always assumed the WH Smiths building was designed to be sympathetic to the Whitgift School Building nearby.

- Pete of London.

Ralph Hancock said...

Although most of the coats of arms have been coloured correctly, the De Lucy one has not: it should be gules, three luces haurient argent, which means red with three silver pikes swimming upwards.

This page gives the history of the De Lucy family, who are of Norman origin. I can see no reference to Croydon on this page.

The three luces also appear on the coat of arms of the Earls of Northumberland, I think because an Alice De Lucy married into the family around 1155. The later surname of the Northumberlands (later Dukes) was Percy; although their coat of arms is now quite different, that of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1449-1489) includes the luces, so there is a faint chance that the window might refer to someone with this surname.

CarolineLD said...

Thank you both!

With your help, I've even found a hint of a local connection. Some Googling shows that the De Lucy family had the manor of Walkhampstead at Godstone, Surrey, which isn't all that far away; Anthony De Lucy was appointed to the office of justiciary of Ireland by Edward II at Croydon. All fairly tenuous, but perhaps they were struggling for a third coat of arms.

Ralph Hancock said...

If anyone is still in the mood for identifying objects on the fronts of bookshops, here is something that has baffled me for years: the building in Westbourne Grove which is now the premises of Al Saqi Books, specialising in Middle Eastern literature. It was clearly built as a bookshop, probably in the 1880s, and is ornamented with nine stucco portrait heads of writers, plus loyal likenesses of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Some of the people are identifiable, others not -- at least not by me.

I have put pictures of all of them on a web page here, with a comments form at the bottom in case anyone has any ideas about who these people are.

CarolineLD said...

Pete, thank you for the Kingston hint - that would make sense, although I see that they should be horizontal rather than vertical.