A clock and a canal


The row of faces above comes from a building in Islington, one that I like and often photograph. If you haven’t guessed what it is by then, the answer is near the end of the article.

J Smith & Sons clock
J Smith & Sons clock

I went out today to photograph a clock. This clock is also in Islington and I have become very fond of it.

It stands in the strange triangle where City Road and Goswell Road meet. This area has recently been refurbished. Alarmed when the clock disappeared, I was happily reassured when it came back, freshly painted and gilded.

The clock was presented by the firm whose advertisement appears on it, J Smith & Son (Clerkenwell) Ltd. Founded in 1780, the company’s original business was clock making but today, as their own account of their history tells us, they specialize in the supply of metals.

The clock remains as a reminder of their beginnings and is a handsome decoration of this corner of Islington. Long may it remain there.

Clock Face
Clock face

I have to admit to being somewhat conservative when it comes to clock faces. I like this robust, no-nonsense round dial with clearly marked minute ticks and Roman numerals. The hands have a nice solidity too.

I don’t know whether the company made this clock and when it was set up here in Islington but I am trying to find out and if I discover any useful information I will post a follow-up article about it.

The work gloves you see on the pediment presumably belonged to the workman nearby. The circle around the clock on the pavement contains the rhyme Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle, That’s the way the money goes. Pop goes the weasel.

Just as I was talking to the workman, another chap approached and exclaimed “The Eagle no longer exists! They should have done their research before writing that!” Then he looked narrowly at me and asked “Are you the artist?” I quickly denied all guilt in that department…

The Regent's Canal
The Regent’s Canal

Walking on down I came to the Regent’s Canal. It passes through the Islington Tunnel, under the place where I was standing to take the above photo.

A barge approaches the Danbury Road bridge
A barge approaches the Danbury Road bridge

It is a pleasant walk along the canal on a sunny day. Its traffic is slower and quieter than that on the surrounding roads.

Misty view of the City
Misty view of the City

Further along, you come to a little park called Graham Street Park, beside which is a jetty where I had this rather dreamy view of the distant City (you can see the Gherkin hiding demurely in the haze).

Got any chips?
Got any chips?

I also met this pigeon on the jetty and you know I can never resist a pigeon in close-up, especially a handsome one with clean coral-pink legs like this chap. He was probably hoping for a hand-out but, if so, was disappointed.

Did you guess where the faces at the top are to be found? They belong to the beautiful building on the corner of Pentonville Road and Islington High Street, that was once a hotel and now accommodates a branch of the Cooperative Bank. They are the facing on a decorative ledge that divides the 3rd and 4th floors of the building.

And finally…

I will leave you with a little mystery. I don’t know the answer to this myself but I expect there is someone somewhere who does.

Double door knockers
Double door knockers

Why does this door have double doorknockers? Do you use both or only one and, in that case, which one do you use? “Knock the left for Peter, the right for Paul”? It seems unlikely. Maybe the occupants are deaf and it takes a good pummelling with both hands to attract their attention. Then again, there seems to be a doorbell too…


See update on the clock here.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
This entry was posted in Out and About and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A clock and a canal

  1. BFG says:

    Seeing those barges reminded me that I have a friend in the West Midlands who was actually born on a barge (sixty years ago) and whose family were bargees.

    I keep meaning to suggest to him that he should write up something about his early life on the barge. He still lives a stone’s throw from a barge community in Walsall. You wouldn’t know it was there – I only know now because of Google’s aerial view of the place.

  2. BFG says:

    Oops – FAIL. Maybe you can tidy it up on your end? P

  3. Villager says:

    Great pictures of the canals; I once travelled on the Leeds-Liverpool, but these urban waterways are fascinating.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Canals seem to be enjoy something of a resurgence or perhaps it is just that I notice them more. I have only ever taken short trips on canals so to me it is another world, though a fascinating one.

      • BFG says:

        I think canals have definitely been experiencing an upsurge in popularity – I gather they’re refurbishing the Wilts and Berks Canal (http://www.wbct.org.uk), part of which ran near the recently-discovered Roman encampment at Marns Hey near Wantage (cf my blog post on the Romans in Britain).

        I had harbored (oops) hopes that the canal’s existence extended back in time to the period of Roman occupation, but sadly no.

        Unless of course the development was based on old Roman waterways (I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the Romans cut waterways through Britain in order to ship men and materials around, but not in that part of the country).

        • SilverTiger says:

          Yes, there are some projects to refurbish/reopen canals. There have always been people living in houseboats on canals and hiring a barge for a holiday is quite popular.

          I’m all for them because they present a quiet and peaceful alternative to the roads, while tow paths can be pleasant places for a stroll despite the fact that the law now allows cyclists to share the space with pedestrians, something that in my view is a mistake.

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