The philanthropist, the hole in the wall and the cat walker

Here are just a few curiosities from around Islington, collected yesterday and today.

sparrowgrass
Experimental grass for the sparrows

Sparrow notice

Yesterday evening we passed by Laycock Green where this little notice board stands amid a stretch of greenery. It tells us that this area of the Green has been sown with a variety of grasses and wild flowers as part of the project (in cooperation with the RSPB) to find out ways of encouraging house sparrows in the hope of halting the decline in their population. Underneath, an anonymous annotator has added the comment “excellent for BEES”.

Samuel Lewis Building
Samuel Lewis Building

My eye was then caught by these apartment blocks. Intended for people of modest means, they are unusually handsome and stylish. There are several similar blocks on this estate.

Window bearing Samuel Lewis's name
Window bearing Samuel Lewis’s name

Inscriptions over the windows facing the main road give a clue the the origin of the estate. It was built in 1910, financed by a trust set up in the will of Samuel Lewis. Lewis’s life corresponds exactly with the Victorian age for he was born in 1837 and died in 1901.

Born in Birmingham, Lewis started out selling steel pens, later opened a jeweller’s shop and eventually became a financier and, ultimately, a philanthropist. As a millionaire he was able to dedicate what was for the time a huge sum of money for the building housing for the poor. He might have been proud to know that this, his first building, is now Grade II Listed.

G.E. Adams, dairy and provisions
G.E. Adams, dairy and provision merchant

This morning I went off to Almeida Street, as I shall explain, and on the way saw this old shop in Theberton Street. Once a dairy and provisions shop, it seems to be a dwelling today, the original name sign protected by a thick layer of varnish.

pilaster lionface

At either side of the shop is a pair of pretty pilasters with a handsome lion’s face at the top. Note also the aeration grill running across the top of the window.

Almeida Passage Hole in the wall

Almeida Street is a cul de sac for traffic though not for pedestrians. Walk down to the end and you find this narrow walkway called Almeida Passage. At first out in the open, it then runs through the buildings, a fact that has gained it the popular local name of “the hole in the wall”. Inside the “hole”, the walls are painted black but the paint is very patchy. I suspect this is the result of painting over repeated graffiti.

Milner Square
Milner Square

The hole in the wall takes you into Milner Square. Like many Georgian squares, this one has a central garden surrounded on four sides by terraces of houses. These are unusually tall and imposing, in contrast to the garden which is dominated by a tennis court and is rather plain.

I was given to understand that this once upper crust neighbourhood had “gone down” and had become a dodgy area where disaffected youth lurked. I didn’t see anything of this during my visit but I did notice that every front door had at least two locks and usually three.

Gibson Square
Gibson Square

Next to Milner Square is Gibson Square. The garden is prettier and better tended than Milner Square’s but at the moment part of it is screened off by works whose nature I didn’t stop to find out.

While I was taking photographs, I noticed a lady sitting on a bench. Beside her was a long-haired cat and a few feet away, another similarly long-haired feline was grooming. Having given me the hard stare as cats are wont to do, they took no further notice of me and I did not intrude on their privacy either.

Walking the cat
Walking the cat

After a while, the lady got up from the bench and walked towards the gate. The cat followed along and it was obvious from the way that the human waited when the cat paused in its progress, that they were together. I thought how nice it was to be able to go for a walk in the park with your cat!

The Rainbow
The Rainbow

My last photo of the walk was this old pub, The Rainbow, dating from 1879. It stands on the corner of Liverpool Road and Barnsbury Street. No longer a pub, it has served as offices but I am not sure what it is used for at the moment. The pub, and the people who have worked or drunk in it, must collectively have lived through some momentous times. Will it ever become a pub again? On current showing, what with the decline in the industry, that seems unlikely.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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My cup runneth over (no more)

The other evening, we settled down to watch a video and, as is my wont, I brought my tea pot and mug with me. The better to watch the video, the lights were turned down low and a romantic penumbra prevailed.

With one eye on the screen, I carefully poured tea into the mug. Unfortunately, the interior of the mug being of a dark colour, I did not see the level of the tea rise, reach the top of the mug, overflow into my lap…

Ignoring annoyance and a certain amount of pain to a tender part of my anatomy as scalding tea bathed the affected area, I will simply say that it was fortunate that Freya was not sitting on my lap as she often does, for that would have caused a stressful diplomatic incident…

Remedial measures
Remedial measures

The problem was obviously caused by the fact that the capacity of the tea pot was greater than the capacity of the mug. Therefore, the solution was either a smaller tea pot or a larger mug.

I like my tea pot. It produces a fine brew. So I had to get a bigger mug. Hence the one in the picture. Never mind the picture or the fact that it says “Oh bother” on the other side. The point is that it can hold the entire contents of the tea pot and then some, thus avoiding overflow, even when pouring in low light conditions. Freya need not fear a scalding from hot tea.

Tigger calls it my tea barrel because of its rotund figure. I refer to it as “the Eeyore mug”, to remind myself that I was the ass who spilt hot hot over myself.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Domestic matters | Tagged | 6 Comments

One might almost think it was spring…

Is it wishful thinking or am I right in detecting signs that spring is on the way?

On Thursday as I went about my peregrinations, I found myself removing my scarf as I was uncomfortably warm with it on.

On Friday, two dark red spots appeared on the wall and floor in the bathroom and on closer inspection turned out to be a pair of those dastardly foreign invaders, Harlequin ladybirds.

I took them outside and introduced them to Islington. The rest is up to them…

Tennis in Cartwright Gardens
Tennis in Cartwright Gardens

Today was laundry day and so we hauled our suitcase and shopping trolley to the launderette in Marchmont Street. We had breakfast in a nearby cafe while our smalls and not so smalls were spinning in the machines and – guess what – we actually sat outside on the cafe’s small terrace!

Looking across the road, however, I saw the unmistakeable clincher. Yes! They are playing tennis in Cartwright Gardens!

It must be spring!

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A few bits of Borough High Street

The Borough, which is, confusingly, today part of the Borough of Southwark, lies to the south of the Thames at London Bridge. It’s main artery is Borough High Street, itself an ancient and historically interesting thoroughfare about which much could be said. I walked along it today and took a few photos. These, as the title indicated, show only a few bits of the Street, which could bear a more thorough exploration.

Looking down Newington Causeway
Looking down Newington Causeway

I started at the bottom end where Borough High Street meets Newington Causeway, whose name reminds us that this used to be an area of marshland. The above picture looks towards the Elephant and Castle, another interesting quarter.

Looking towards London Bridge (not yet visible)
Looking towards London Bridge (not visible)

The view up Borough High Street towards London Bridge used to be dominated by the spire of St George’s, but the church is today overshadowed by the monstrosity called the Shard which is intended to be the tallest building in Europe and a blot on the landscape of London.

Southwark Police station
Southwark Police station

This is Southwark Police station, not very interesting in itself perhaps, but a plate on the wall (to the right of the gentleman in the beige coat) tells us that during the Civil War, this was the position of the Stones End fort, set up by the Parliamentarians to defend to approaches to London.

In those days, all the roads from the south to London converged here because London Bridge was the sole entry into London. The bridge was too narrow for vehicles so that coaches stopped here and deposited their passengers at the many coaching inns which, side by side, lined the street.

Church of St George the Martyr
Church of St George the Martyr

Southwark is famous for its cathedral but Borough High Street has its own church, that of St George the Martyr, seen here from the churchyard, now a garden. It was rebuilt in the 1730s after what became known as the “Little Fire of London” devastated much of the area in 1676.

St George's churchyard
St George’s churchyard

The church and churchyard are today separated by a pedestrian walkway called Tabard Street in memory of a famous inn that stood near here and about which a slightly curious tale is told. The inn was destroyed in the fire and later rebuilt but as the Talbot. Why? According to the story, because the signwriter misunderstood his brief!

What's in a wall
What’s in a wall?

The north side of the churchyard is limited by this high wall. If you think it looks rather elaborate for a churchyard, you would be right. It was the wall of the famous Marshallsea Prison which in 1824 detained the father of Charles Dickens, jailed for debt.

A passage runs where the prisons once stood
A passage runs where the prisons once stood

Today a public passage runs where Dickens Sr languished. There were in fact two prisons here, Marshalsea and the Surrey County or White Lion prison. The latter closed in 1799 and Marshalsea was demolished in 1887.

War Memorial
War Memorial

Ships Planes
The bronze panels are by the same sculptor

Further along is the War Memorial with its First World War soldier shown in graphic detail by P. Lindsey Clark.

Yard with half-timbered house
Yard with half-timbered house

Beside the memorial is this property with a gated yard and a building that is said to be the last half-timbered house in the area with an overhanging upper floor. I would have liked to go in but there was a prominent “Private” notice on the gate.

W H and H LeMay, Hop Facors
W H and H LeMay, Hop Facors

A slightly unusual trade represented in the area was hop trading and this very pretty building for W.H. and H. LeMay still stands as a reminder. It will have been built in the 19th century but I do not know the precise date.

Borough Market
Borough Market

One cannot talk about the Borough without mentioning Borough Market. Its history goes back to the Middle Ages but the current building dates from 1932. The life of the market has been somewhat disrupted in recent times by work to extend the nearby railway.

London Bridge viaduct
London Bridge viaduct

The original viaduct dates from 1874 and acts as a bottleneck preventing easy movement in and out of this very busy station which serves the south and south-east.

The new viaduct
The new viaduct

A new viaduct is creeping slowly but inexorably towards the station. At some point it will have to reach across the busy main road, its path lengthened by the diagonal angle. How they will do this remains to be seen.

At this point, I turned and went underground, into London Bridge tube station, from where I was carried, first under the river, and then to the Angel, where the longest escalator in London restored me to the surface. There is still plenty to see in the Borough and in Southwark in general. I hope to make further explorations in due course.

St George (Borough War Memorial)
St George (Borough War Memorial)

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Cold cottages and turntables

This morning I had an errand to run in Camden Town and just up the road from there is Chalk Farm, and I had a couple of reasons for visiting it, as you will see.

Map of Chalk Farm
Map of Chalk Farm (click for larger map)

Many people will know Chalk Farm simply as a station they pass through on the Edgware Branch of the Northern Line, rather than a stop where they get on or off. Not as busy as some of the areas to its north and south, Chalk Farm seems an in-between sort of place.

Chalk Farm tube station
Chalk Farm tube station

Its tube station was opened on 1907 and, like most of its contemporaries, is dressed in those glazed tiles that the Edwardians liked so much and designed in creative profusion.

Once a pub and bus terminus
Once a pub and bus terminus

When I worked in the area some years ago, this building was a pub (I don’t recall the name) and the forecourt was a terminus for buses. The pub is no more and the buses no longer terminate here but just pass by. That seems to say something about the place. It has also been described as “the quiet end of Camden Town”.

MDFCTA cattle trough, Chalk Farm
MDFCTA cattle trough, Chalk Farm

I said that I had a couple of reasons for visiting Chalk Farm and here is the first – the cattle trough. I have previously mentioned my interest in the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association and that I tend to “collect” surviving installations of theirs. We noticed this trough when we passed through here on the bus recently.

Dedication to Charles Kingsley
Dedication to Charles Kingsley

I like to date the installation whenever I can but this is sometimes difficult when there is no date appended and no clues from the environment. In this case, there is a rather worn but still legible inscription which I read as “In Memoriam to Charles Kingsley”.

Kingsley is best remembered today for his novels, such as Westward, Ho!, but he also wrote about politics and was interested in social reform as seen in, for example, The Water Babies. It is perhaps for these activities that he is remembered on this trough.

Drinking fountain Foutain top
MDFCTA drinking fountain

Here is the second reason for my visit: a drinking fountain on the corner opposite the tube station. Again, there is no indication of the date, but there is a larger and more elaborate fountain with a similar top illustrated in their literature and dating from 1877, so that is a possible rough date. Notice how, as is usual with these installations, the structure of the fountain and that of the wall have been modified so as to fit one another neatly. This fountain is, alas, long dead.

dontjump

Don’t jump! Fortunately this is a sculpture and not a would-be suicide about to crash down onto the woman and pushchair below.

He stands upon the Camden Roundhouse, today a famous arts venue but once a key element in London’s transport system, designed by no less a person than the engineer Robert Stephenson.

Camden Roundhouse from the street
Camden Roundhouse from the street

This is the Roundhouse as it appears today from the main road (ignoring the added part in modern “fishtank” design), with posters describing its modern cultural function.

Camden Roundhouse and the railway
Camden Roundhouse and the railway

And here it is again, seen from another vantage point, showing its evident  intimate association with the railway.

In the early days of the steam train, locomotives either could not run in reverse or did so inefficiently. After they arrived at the terminus, therefore, it was necessary to turn them about, using a turntable, for the return journey. Such a turntable, designed by the famous engineer, was installed here in 1847 and the Roundhouse was built to cover it and to provide extra bays for locomotives awaiting deployment. The pace of development was such, however, that within 20 years, locomotives became too large to be able to use the turntable. For more information, see this page.

Looking towards Camden Town
Looking towards Camden Town

You may think it unkind to describe Chalk Farm as an in-between place but consider: turn one way (see above) and you see it is only a short walk to Camden town;

Up the hill to Belsize Park and Hampstead
Up the hill to Belsize Park and Hampstead

turn the other, and you are looking up the road to Belsize Park and Hampstead just around the corner, while Kentish Town is but a stone’s throw to the east.

The bridge to Primrose Hill
A bridge to Primrose Hill

Or if you cross the railway bridge, you come to the poetically named Primrose Hill. Chalk Farm sits in the middle of these, rather like the hub of a wheel or the hole in a gramophone record.

Regent's Park Road
Regent’s Park Road

The bridge leads you naturally into Regent’s Park Road which still has the feel of the high street in a rural, if affluent, market town. The name is appropriate because the street leads you to Regent’s Park or, more precisely, to the park that is called Primrose Hill, itself an outpost of its more famous and bigger neighbour. In the names of the shops and businesses, the words “Primrose Hill” appear frequently, as though the inhabitants are afraid you will think this is “only” Chalk Farm or – worse still – part of Camden Town.

Where are we? Oh yes, Primrose Hill!
Where are we? Oh yes, Primrose Hill!

Along with the bookshop we have the Primrose Hill Post Office, the Primrose Hill Surgery, the Primrose Pharmacy, Primrose Hill Interiors… but you get the idea.

Almost a leafy suburb: St George's Terrace
Almost a leafy suburb: St George’s Terrace

There are elegant buildings, such as these in St George’s Terrace;

The actual Primrose Hill
The actual Primrose Hill

and the nearby parkland for pleasant walks, with or without canine accompaniment;

You looking at me, pal?
You looking at me, pal?

but also this graffito – or is it wall art? Is it just me or is there something threatening about this appearing in an area where it seems so troublingly out of place?

Chalk Farm Garage alias Bibendum wine store
Chalk Farm Garage alias Bibendum wine store

Years ago – almost in another lifetime it feels – I used to bring my car to be serviced in a garage here. This is not it, for the garage I knew has, mysteriously, disappeared, all traces somehow erased. This building, though, was once a garage and, to judge by the design, probably also a car showroom. Now it is a wine store. I wonder whether the name is a pun: “bibendum” famously occurs in the Latin phrase Nunc est bidendum (meaning “Now is time to drink”), but can also be the name of the pneumatic man who is the symbol of the Michelin tyres that were perhaps once sold here.

And so back to Chalk Farm station, passing the painted cat shown below. (Anything feline is bound to grab my attention.)

Incidentally, should you think about the name – Chalk Farm – and imagine the plough turning up lumps of white material laid down in ancient seas, you would be mistaken. The name comes from Chalcot House, a mansion that once stood hereabouts. There was also a farm, quite a large one by all accounts, that shared the name.

The name Chalcot itself is thought to derive from Caldicot, from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “cold cottages”. Perhaps these were shelters for travellers preparing for the trek up the open hill to Hampstead. Today they would take the bus or the tube and be whisked up there in minutes and their cottages have left the merest trace of themselves in the name Chalk Farm.

Leopard with faux-graffiti skin texture
Leopard with faux-graffiti skin texture

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Freezing my fingers in Hoxton

As it’s Friday, we thought after work we might go somewhere warm and friendly for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. In the event, it didn’t work out that way…

In Borough, we boarded the 35 bus that would take us to Liverpool Street but just as I was dreaming of Ponti’s or Costa or Polo 24 Hour Bar, Tigger suggested we stay on the bus to its terminus in Shoreditch. OK, well, maybe they have coffee and cake in Shoreditch…

Shoreditch Town Hall
Shoreditch Town Hall

This is where the bus brought us, to the front of Shoreditch Town Hall, which I previously mentioned in Two saints and a city farm. Shoreditch was once a borough in its own right but was eventually absorbed into the Borough of Hackney, making the town hall redundant.

Graffiti or wall art? You decide.
Graffiti or wall art? You decide.

We then went for a little walk around Hoxton, or Hogsdon, as it appears in early records. Once a rural area with farms and villages, Hoxton was first colonized by the well-to-do who wanted to live in a pleasant environment out of town but within easy reach of the city and then became built up as the city spread inexorably outwards and enveloped the once leafy surroundings.

Hoxton Square gardens
Hoxton Square gardens

This park or garden forms the centre of Hoxton Square. The square was laid out in the late 17th century but the area suffered badly from bombing during the Second World War and the buildings today are an eclectic mix of ancient and modern.

There is something ecclesiastical about this house
There is something ecclesiastical about
this house

Empty nicheOn the square, I spotted this tall, thin house. I have no idea how old it is (I am very good at knowing the age of houses that have a date on them but this one has no date!). It might even be one of the original houses from the 17th century.

I was intrigued by the rather ecclesiastical air that it possesses, which is emphasised by this niche which looks as though it should contain a statue.

Has the statue been damaged and removed or was there never a statue to start with?

St Monica's Church and Priory
St Monica’s Church and Priory

On the other hand, there is no doubt about the ecclesiastical credentials of this pair of buildings. On the left is St Monica’s Church and on the right, the Priory of St Monica, both designed by Edward Welby Pugin. The church was completed in 1866, two years later than the priory which was occupied by the Augustinian order of friars. St Monica’s was the first Augustinian priory in England after the Reformation.

Passmore Edwards Free Library Passmore Edwards Free Library
The Passmore Edwards Free Library

In Pitfield Street, we found the Passmore Edwards Free Library. John Passmore Edwards was another member of that elite class of Victorian philanthropists. He set up hospitals, libraries, schools, and many other  charitable foundations. This library was opened in 1897 but became redundant when the new Central Library was opened in the 1990s. It then became the home of the Courtyard Theatre and thus continues to serve the community in the spirit of its founder.

Cattle trough
Cattle trough

Further along Pitfield Street, in what was once called Haberdashers Place (1802), I was happy to find another installation provided by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association (MDFCTA). How old do you reckon this one is? Happily, I can tell you because at one end it bears a rather unusual inscription: “In Memory of a Beloved Friend 1910”. That stopped me in my tracks because it is obviously a personal tribute, yet it is on a trough provided by an association. An interesting little mystery.

Drinking fountain
Drinking fountain

It wasn’t the end of the surprises, however, because not far away I found another piece of MDFCTA work in the form of this drinking fountain. Note the little dog bowl, obviously intended for small pet dogs. This fountain has no date on it but it is very similar in design to one shown in the MDFCTA literature for 1878. Note how the railings are designed to incorporate the fountain.

The Church of St John the Baptist, Hoxton
The Church of St John the Baptist, Hoxton

This is the Church of St John the Baptist, Hoxton. Built to serve the growing population of the area, it was opened in 1826. Perhaps the railings were installed later, even after the drinking fountain, and were designed to accommodate it or perhaps the fountain is earlier than 1878. It’s hard to know.

Church gates
Church gates

The church has at least two of these handsome, if soberly designed, gates. Here is a close-up of one of the lions’ faces.

Lion face

After the mild spell, the temperature has plummeted again. We were feeling the cold and decided it was time to go home. We walked through to City Road and caught the 214 to the Angel. We didn’t after all find our coffee and cake but made up for it with a cheese and celery sandwich at home.

On a short walk, we could only sample what the area has to offer. I know there are many other interesting things to see and investigate. They will provide motive and material for future visits.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Moving pictures

When I am travelling, I am sometimes tempted to take photos through the train, bus or taxi window, but this is generally a frustrating enterprise. For one thing, the windows are often dirty and for another they cause reflection.

Reflections on the window
Reflections on the window

To overcome this you perhaps try to shade the camera with your sleeve or coat, but shading the camera is usually not very effective as even black material will be reflected in the window on a sunny or bright day.

Shading the camera can also cause reflections
Shading the camera can also cause reflections

Another way to avoid reflections is by putting the camera lens directly against the glass of the window. This tends to produce a slight loss of definition but the main problem is that it restricts the viewing angle. You are always looking directly sideways from the vehicle, which does not always produce the most interesting view!

Looking sideways: not always the most interesting view
Looking sideways: not always the most interesting view

Vehicle windows often slope inwards slightly from bottom to top, forcing the camera to look up at an angle above horizontal. While this restricts the view, out in the countryside it is also apt to include too much sky, darkening the landscape.

Too much sky darkens the landscape
Too much sky darkens the landscape

You may be able to overcome this up to a point by using exposure compensation (if your camera has this) or by post-editing, but it’s not easy to get it right.

Blurring caused by speed
Blurring caused by speed

The faster the speed of the vehicle, the more likely it is that the photo will be blurred. Looking out sideways because the lens is pressed against the glass provides the worst possible viewing angle in this respect. It can be mitigated by concentrating on distant subjects but even then, the foreground will still show blurring.

Movement causing sloping verticals
Movement causing sloping verticals

Depending on the mechanical properties of your camera, you may find that movement causes sloping verticals. This is because it takes time to record the image across the sensor and some parts are recorded slightly later than others. With static scenes, this doesn’t usually matter, but when movement enters the equation the image may become deformed.

A tree throws itself in front of the camera
A tree throws itself in front of the camera

From the point of view of the travelling photographer, one of the most annoying features of the landscape is – trees! Now, I love trees and I know it’s not their fault, but they do have this annoying habit of throwing themselves in front of the camera just as I press the shutter release!

To be fair, the same can be said about any trackside objects – including telephone poles, signals, bridges, etc – but trees tend to be large and bushy and therefore more able to conceal the view. The problem is the lag between the release button being pressed and the photo actually being recorded. The interval is small but in a fast moving vehicle it is long enough for the scene to change radically.

Landscape from the train
Landscape from the train

If I do take photos from the train, I usually take them with my mobile rather than with my camera because it is easier to press the phone against the glass. Some turn out reasonably well, such as the above, from yesterday’s post. I find that the lower resolution of the mobile’s camera produces a soft image, almost like an impressionist painting. This can be quite pleasant in the case of landscapes.

Unexpected farm buildings
Unexpected farm buildings

Taking photos from fast moving vehicles adds serendipity to the mix. When I pressed the shutter release for the photo above, I was looking at a completely different scene from the one one that came out. What actually resulted was a surprise, but I am not displeased by the result.

This was obviously not a complete treatise on the problems of photography from moving vehicles and much, much more could be said. As a quick roundup of some of the difficulties I have encountered perhaps it will have provided some amusement for the reader, whether a photographer or not.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, http://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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