Wednesday, 30 November 2011

'Sylvan Cottage' most delightfully situated in the Hornsey Road

This advert appeared on Friday March 1851 in the London Daily News: 

'Valuable estates, at Hornsey road, Holloway, and Islington; comprising a compact semi-detatched cottage-ornée, known as 'Sylvan Cottage' most delightfully situated in the Hornsey road, near the Hanley Arms, commanding extensive views of picturesque scenery, and containing every accommodation for a family of respectability, stable, coach-house, and loft, garden tastefully laid out with ornamental fountain, summer room, and wood, Esq., at £55 per annum. A cottage adjoining , with stable, greenhouse, and garden, let at £27, 6s per annum.'

I came across it because the British Library has put four million pages of historical newspapers online. Seems like the only thing to survive the ages untouched is estate agent prose.  In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but there will still be stunning flats in highly sort after areas.

I want an ornamental fountain. Am I not a family of respectability? 

John Gay, Lewis Rogers Junk Shop, 63 Hornsey Road

The photographer Hans Gohler was born in 1909 in Karlsruhe.

In 1933 he moved to England and changed his name to John Gay (after the Beggar's Opera composer). He took pictures of every day life in the city, railway stations and Dylan Thomas

Sometime between 1962 and 1964 he took these three photographs of a second-hand store on the Hornsey Road: 

It sold 'anything of interest', which seems to have meant dolls' heads in vases, grandmother clocks, chandeliers, 

lamp bases, miniature chests of drawers and horns. 

John Gay died in 1999 and left his photographs to English Heritage, who've put them online.  Go look. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'Volumes of dense smoke'

China Mieville's Unlundun is a parallel universe city with no Klinneract (say it aloud) and dirt we can't conceive of. 

This story, taken from the Saturday 3 November 1887 edition of the London Standard, reads like a chapter in Unlundun's slow retreat:

The King vs. Davison 

'Mr Chitty opened the pleadings, and the Attorney General briefly stated the substance of the case. 

The defendant, Mr Davison, stood indicted for having erected a manufactory for lamp black, at Crouch End, on the Hornsey road, to the great inconvenience of the inhabitants residing in that neighbourhood.

This factory was situated near the highway, it constantly poured forth volumes of dense smoke and had been several times on fire. The health and comfort of the inhabitants, therefore, was greatly injured by this establishment, and the present prosecution was instituted to abate such nuisance, and effect its removal from that spot. 

John Watts lives at Hendon, is surveyor of the bye-roads, knew the defendants's manufactory in Duvals-Lane on the road to Hornsey, in the parish of Islington. The building is situated between 30 and 40 yards from the high road. The premises were erected in the early part of 1826, and commenced working during the summer of the same year. 

The effluvia that issued from the manufactory while at work is so disagreeable that it frequently occasions sickness and may be smelt at the distance of about a mile. cross-examined by the Common Sergeant. 

There is a brick-kiln adjoining the defendant's manufactory, but the smell from that is by no means like what proceeds from Mr. D's premises. 

Constable 'A Kiln on the Hornsey Road' 1797

A number of wintesses, inhabitants residing near the defendant's manufactory, were called and examined, and from their evidence they corroborated the testimony of the first witness, as to the offensive effects produced from the said manufactory. They also spoke of several fires having occured in the building, and must remove from their houses if the nuisance is not abated. The Common Sergeant, who conducted the defendants' case, said, that under all the circumstances stated on the part of the prosecution, he had advised his client to submit to a verdict against him. 

The jury consequently pronounced the defendant Guilty. '

John Hitch Seating

This is a handsome shop. It's sleek and it sells good-looking furniture. If I could afford a new sofa and didn't have two cats I'd love to buy one from them.

           Special seats for London advertising agency: Urban Salon

They do everything from custom-made furniture and grand commissions from grand clients (Heals, BMW and Istanbul Airport among others) to small-scale repairs.

There are no chains on the Hornsey Road. I'm increasingly coming to think that there aren't even any ordinary shops on it. 

The vintage store sells Zambian sculptures, we have a Nigerian jazz place, and John Hitch (which I thought was just an upscale furniture showroom) turns out to be run by people who invent, design and make furniture as well as selling it.

In that spirit, my favorite picture of this business isn't of a piece of furniture, it's of the fabrics that they turn into furniture:

Possibility made into cloth. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Swimming Costume (100 Objects)

Do you remember the 'A History of the World in One Hundred Objects' series that Radio 4 and the British Museum ran? It was very very very good and is here.

When the BBC did an extended version the  Islington Museum put in this red cotton bathing costume left behind in the lost property of the Hornsey Road Baths:

Image courtesy of the BBC

I realise I'm supposed to find this ridiculous, I get that wet cotton must be neither flattering nor comfortable nor easy to swim in, and I don't want to get into a conversation about Victorian morality and all that.

But I would like it if there were still swimwear that doesn't expect its wearers to be young and toned or whisper that they should diet for months or have surgery or otherwise act out shame before wearing it.

I like clothes because they are interesting and varied. I like how there are dresses (and shirts, trousers, skirts, blouses, ...)  out there that channel Coco Chanel and Susie Bubble, Katherine Hepburn and Amelia Earhart, Cary Grant and Kurt Cobain.

Except, it seems, when we're swimming. It's dull.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

M&M Glass, auctions and a bearded dragon

A matter of weeks ago, 410 Hornsey Road was M&M Glass. It was a magical and shadowy place, but  it's gone now.* 

The space is between tenants and an inventive friend of the freeholder is hosting occasional auctions of 'antiques, furniture old and new, various bric-a-brac, etc...

The first one was on Wednesday and so I ambled down to take photographs. There was a small crowd gathering, and two chaps outside were saying 'he's got hold of some nice things in there, really nice things'. 

I don't think the 'Glass cut to size' sign was for sale. But there were boxes to delve through. 

and books to read.

I kind of got distracted when the-lady-with-the-red-hair turned up with a bearded dragon.

I didn't catch his name, but he seemed happy being carried around.

*Sic transit gloria mundi, et atque taberni et officini transient.

Championship Vinyl

In High Fidelity, Rob Fleming's record shop is just off the Seven Sisters Road

This proves conclusively that it's on the southern stretch of the Hornsey Road.

After all, even something that doesn't exist has to not exist somewhere.

Gratuitous John Cusack picture

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Steve Potts' 'Hornsey Road' drawing.

Steve Potts is a local artist (here since 1997) who one day took some photographs from the top deck of the 91 and decided to draw this:

His blog is worth looking at, for his other drawings and for his thoughts on why and what he draws.

'Perhaps there’s something about the combination of immediacy and intimacy of drawing that instinctively attracts me. Drawings tend to live their lives on a small scale, and as such are quieter and often more personal than the declaration of painting. These objects, often made from the most basic materials of pencil and paper, invite us into their world without thinking.'

Monday, 21 November 2011

How Fayer's Plumbing merchants is becoming Yale Terrace.

This building on the corner of Tollington Park and Hornsey

was knocked down, renamed 'Yale Terrace' and now looks like this:

(photograph from the Hornsey Road side)
(picture from the Mitford Road side)

There are eight houses and four flats most of which seem to have sold off-plan. They're shiny. The developers are aiming upmarket, selling gentrification before it's quite happened.

Their planning application was a thorough business, with many drawings from Bells Cooley architects. Doesn't explain where they got the name 'Yale Terrace' from, mind.

The commercial space still says 'to let', but the shop-keepers round there believe that it'll be a Tesco. I can't work out if they're right. 

The developers have put a new planning application in,  asking to 'Infill single storey extension at rear ground floor and change of use from residential amenity space to flexible: A1/A2/B1, providing for a total of 260sqm floor space together with alterations to building.'

A1 mean shops, A2 means financial and professional services, B1 means businesses.*  So that's not very clear. The size would be right for a big Tesco Express, or a small Tesco Metro.

It should be finished by the summer.

The cafe' you can just see in the Fayers picture is now Ajani's. It used to look like this:

*thanks to ActionVerb at for correcting this.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

John Constable

One month before Constable turned nineteen and five years before he gave up the corn and coal trade for art, he painted this: 

John Constable: A Kiln on the Hornsey Road

It's a water-colour on lined paper, measures 20 x 23 cm and sold for £12,650 in 1999.

That's all I can find out about it, without going to the British Library and trawling books. Constable painted many many sketches like this and most haven't had much written about them.

I wonder, though, why he chose to paint the kiln rather than just the countryside.

There had been brick kilns in North London since the sixteenth century, and tile kilns since around 1800. They brought trouble (rogues and vagabonds) and coughed up millions of bricks a year.

So this wouldn't have been novel, and it wouldn't have been idyllic. It feels like, at eighteen,  he went looking for working countryside rather than landscape.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Plough in Frank Swinnerton's, 'Coquette'

'It was Saturday night—a winter night in which the wind hummed through every draughty crevice between the windows and under the doors and down the chimneys. 

Outside, in the Hornsey Road, horse-omnibuses rattled by and the shops that were still open at eleven o'clock glistened with light. Up the road, at the butcher's just below the Plough public-house, a small crowd lingered, turning over scraps of meat, while the butcher himself, chanting "Lovely, lovely, lovely!" in a kind of ecstasy, plunged again into a fresh piece of meat the attractive legend, "Oh, mother, look! Three ha'pence a pound!" 

Just over the way, at the Supply Stores, they had begun to roll down the heavy shutter, hiding the bright windows, and leaving only a narrow doorway, through which light streamed and made rainbow colours on the pavement outside. The noise of the street was a racketting roar, hardly lower now than it had been all the evening.'

Opening paragraph of the novel written in 1921,  but set in 1912, by Frank Swinnerton, who liked gin & vermouth and the King's College Chapel Choir. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hornsey Road model railway

File this under the wonderful variety of the world.

There's a website - here - run by a man who calls himself Kier Hardy and who may actually be called Kier Hardy. It's devoted to recreating British Rail in the 1970s.

Here's its Hornsey Road depot:

 'This view shows the area around the back of the depot. The water tower has been scratchbuilt from styrene to fit into the lower area around the headshunt. Beyond that is the boiler house and fuel oil tanks, with a modified Bachmann building providing administration for the site.'

I'm so glad people like this exist. Much more in Modern Railway Journal's issue 203.

(added later)

He's even done a row of Victorian terraces mid-demolition:

Original caption: 'Demolition sites were aplenty in the post-war decades, and slum clearances were still underway in the 1970s in towns and cities all over Britain. This row of part-demolished shops occupies an area alongside the motive power depot at Hornsey Road, and was featured in the Model Railway Journal number 203.'

Monday, 14 November 2011

Music on the Hornsey Road: Kylie & the London Sound Laboratory

Interesting things go on behind closed doors. This, for example:

Also, this: 

Nerina Pallot & Andy Chatterley have a studio complex just off the Hornsey Road - it's near the Factory Gym and opposite the Funky Junk audio shop. Inside it there's a room called the London Sound Laborary which is for hire and which is full of 'vintage recording gear and analogue synths'. 

They have a Wurlitzer piano there, half a dozen Pultec and Lang eqs, a rack of Neve,  Disa and Valley compressors, a Decca mastering equaliser, a Bluebird Cyclosonics panner and phaser, Gelf, Moog and Delta Lab phasey-flangey boxes, Mutron Bi Phase, Allotrope mic pre/eq and many many other things that are mysterious to me. 

And, for a short while, they had  Kylie of the tall dark and handsome boyfriends. I still find that hard to believe, but there you go: Absinthe Fairy on the Hornsey Road. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Stuart Free 'Hornsey Road Baths'

Stuart Free paints warehouses and corner shops, high rise flats and theatres, cafes and all the scruffy paraphernalia of falling apart London (and Detroit). 

This is his most loved image, and his best: 

It's also a case study in how much of creativity is good editing. He's done at least six versions of this sign. None are bad, none are anything less than very good indeed. 

But all the others are preparatory sketches for this one. Here the neon lady looks like she's diving into an Esther Williams movie, the words have a stuttering echo and there's something like stardust on the old brick wall. 

On sale in Crouch End at Frameworks.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Street style on the way to church

Double-strap high heel Mary Janes, knee length tailored coat buttoned up to the neck, pixie haircut, black leather gloves.

I love the way this young woman photographed on the Hornsey Road wears a church appropriate outfit and looks chic.

Photograph from Wayne Tippets.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Masjid -e-Yusuf mosque

According to  muslimsinbritain this mosque has a Deobandi theme, a capacity of 200, does not admit women and looks like this inside: 

From the outside it still looks like a pub even though the new name has been painted across where it used to say 'Hanley Arms'.    


It's grade II listed, and so the old wrought-iron signs survive, as does some very pretty moulding. 


The Hanley Arms was built around 1850. In 1881 it was home to John Diggins, his wife Mary and their children Mary, Clara and Florence. I wonder if they liked the wrought-iron, or fretted that it was looking dated.

The transformation reminds me of a lot of things: of Simon Armitage's line about churches in Yorkshire becoming carpet warehouses, of the ghost signs you see all over London, of Odradek, and of how buildings outlive us.

If you use the mosque, please tell me what it's like. I'm curious.

Where: 440 Hornsey Road
When: ?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

D & L Barbers and Dizzie Rascal

I can't find a website for D & L Barbers, but sixteen million people have seen a photograph of one of their chairs. 

 Dizzie Rascal took the photograph and talked rather sweetly about liking the place, liking hearing people talk and liking the habit of going there. 

Bing used it as a background for a day and the Islington Gazette names Jermain Penant, Jerome Thomas, Jay Bothroyd, Bobby Valentino, Adam Deacon, Plan B,  DJ Spoony and Flawless as other customers. 

Where: 206 Hornsey Road, N7 7LL
When: ?