Here's the original front entrance of the Geffrye
Museum in Kingsland Road, the long wings stretching out on either side.
In a niche above the doorway stands a fine statue of the great
philanthropist with lettering carved below:
'SR ROb GEFFRYES KNT
FOUNDER OF THIS HOSPITALL'
The museum is set in elegant 18th century almshouses
with a contemporary wing surrounded by attractive gardens, which
include an award-winning walled herb garden and a series of period
gardens behind. And from this garden looking towards the rear elevation
buildings, a glimpse of a trade sign over the walls and roofs (see the
enlargement below it). If these
walls could talk...
How frustrating: if the maple lost its leaves, if the
photographer was on stilts, we'd all be able to read the signs and not
have to rely on conjecture:
'VENEERS STAMFORD [TRADING] CO LTD
One imagines a company
importing fine walnut, mahogany, fruitwood, then seasoning the timber
in its sheltered yards before cutting by hand or by machine the lengths
of thin veneer of the finest figuring, to be supplied to cabinet makers
and made into the best furniture money could buy.
[UPDATE 31.10.2022: the
2021 book Ghost signs – a London
story (Roberts, S & Roy Reed; see Reading
list) has a splendid photograph of this enigmatic sign, seen by
passengers from a railway carriage on the Hoxton to Haggerston section
of today's London Overground line. This is clearly the intended
audience for the sign, which we are now able to clarify and complete,
thanks to the book. The Stamford Trading Co. Ltd dealt in veneers here
in the 1940s and 1950s and boasted of their excellent quality products
– as they would.]
The Geffrye Museum in Kingsland Road depicts the
quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms. Its
collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts are
displayed in a series of period rooms from 1600 to the present day.
Next door to the museum, you see is the end wall of the shop at 134
Road with its audacious (if somewhat runny) sign:
Perhaps it is appropriate that a museum celebrating the
history of domesticity is next door to a purveyor of pianos to the
gentry. The enhanced image below reveals some of the clearer lettering
below which gives the address and telephone number with the word
'PHONE' just about discernible in front of 'BISHOPSGATE'; however, we
wonder if that's a bit truncated for the period (30s/40s perhaps?) and
the full word 'TELEPHONE' is really there underneath the brown paint.
There are certainly some other characters under the most visible ones.
At bottom right (enlarged in the detail to the left) is a pointing hand
directing potential piano purchasers to the front of the premises with
in small letters the name of the signwriter and their telephone number,
although the name of the exchange has been obliterated. The central
cream coloured arc has weathered the worst of all, the line drawing of
an upright piano barely discernible.
... CALL OR WRITE 134 KINGSLAND RD
... BISHOPSGATE 9087
[see update below]
31.10.2022: the 2021 book Ghost signs – a London story
(Roberts, S & Roy Reed; see Reading list)
describes this as a 'sign which has a bit of everything: scale,
illustration, confident language, elastic lettering and the
signwriter's signature' – the last of which turns out to be 'Howell
Signs [Clerkenwell - obliterated] 7275'. Bloom was the adopted name of
a Russian immigrant and master cabinet-maker, Philip Blumhert, who
spent most of the 1930s at this address.]
The fifteen minute walk from the museum to Liverpool Street Station
opens up an area of east London ready for
redevelopment, gentrification, whatever one wants to call it (the
greasy spoon cafes replaced by tapas bars and gastropubs, no doubt).
Here are some of the buildings seen on such a walk in summer 2008
(close-ups at the bottom of each image).
1. The oddly named 'CROWN & SHUTTLE' pub with, just
visible under the black paint: 'TRUMANS ALES AND STOUT'. 2.
& COMPANY - COMMERCIAL IRON WORKS' above the double hooped windows
of this attractive frontage; presumably the small vertical window
cutting a slot in the word 'WORKS' came later? See additonal note on
this image at the foot of the page. 3. The mysterious word
appears in a decorative frame above the first storey bay
Enigmatic and melancholy: 'ORDINARY LIFE' in cut-out, free standing
letters at roof level and 'ESTABLISHED 1860' next door. 5.
'WOODIN'S SHADES' public house at 212 Bishopsgate with its name in
glazed gold lettering above the bar entrance, but way up above the
third storey window on the corner: then name repeated in decorative
capitals incised and coloured black on the white pediment. The
significance of the name? The name Woodin's Shades is derived from
William Woodin who purchased the premises in 1863.
Additional note on No. 2(above)
Wells & Company in Shoreditch High Street is the ornate block of
shops and offices opposite St Leonard’s church. The original
purpose of numbers 125-130 is spelled out across its frontage in a
mosaic that reads: Wells and Company Commercial Iron Works. But it has
seen many different occupants since it was first built in 1877. Edward
Wells & Co was a wholesale ironmonger. At a cost of £8,651,
the building was designed for the company by architects Fowler &
Hill, and built by W Crockett of St Pancras as a showroom, factory and
shop. Such multi-function buildings first appeared in the 1840s and
1850s, often with large windows to display goods to their best
advantage. Decoration was usually kept to a minimum, as occupancy was
subject to frequent change. But Wells & Co made its mark on the
building with eclectic decorative features of Moorish and Gothic
influences, picked out in polychrome brick, stone, terracotta, stucco,
and polished granite. However, by 1895 the company had vacated the
premises. Post Office and street directories for the address show that
after thedeparture of Wells & Co, smaller businesses moved in.
Number 125 first became a bank, then a boot and shoemaker. A
furniture-maker had taken over numbers 126-7 by 1925. Thomas Dunn, a
refreshment contractor occupied number 128 in 1908, sharing the address
with the Tee-To-Tum Tea Club, which was also at number 130. Numbers
128-30 were home to a furniture and gas mantle manufacturer by 1925.
The most interesting new occupant was Philip Michael Beck, a china and
glass merchant, who took over number 126 in 1909. A letter to the
Hackney Gazette in September 1963, from Cllr A W Hastings of Bethnal
Green remembers sale items displayed in the building’s forecourt,
and also that Beck later diversified his business. The northern end of
the building opened in January 1910 as the Palais Eden cinema. This
must have been successful as Beck later transformed the southern end of
the building into another cinema, The Alcazar. Neither cinema had a
very long life however and soon gave way to various small-scale
businesses. The building, which is listed by English Heritage at Grade
II, has undergone as many architectural changes as it has had occupiers
during its existence. Externally, the right-hand triangular pediment
was removed at one stage, although has since been replaced, and the
mosaic bearing Wells & Co’s name was for a long time painted
over, but many features still remain, including twisted cast-iron
columns inside number 127.
Across the road from Woodin's Shades is an attractive building, the
fascade of which bears the relief lettering:
The font used here,
surrounded by tree and foliage carvings, is
unusual and attractive; the backward-sloping 'O' is notable, plus the
ligature formed by the 'V' ('U') between the two 'Ts' of the lower word
(sadly obscured by anti-pigeon netting).
Here's some information from the Institute's website:-
"Since first opening our doors on New Year’s Day 1895,
Bishopsgate Institute has been a hub for culture and learning. The
original aims of the Institute were to provide a public library, public
hall and meeting rooms for people living and working in the City of
London. The Great Hall in particular was ‘erected for
the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and
otherwise the advancement literature, science and the fine arts'.
Bishopsgate Institute was built using funds from charitable endowments
made to the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate. These had
been collected by the parish for over 500 years, but a scheme agreed by
the Charity Commissioners in 1891, enabled these to be drawn together
into one endowment. Reverend William Rogers (1819-1896), Rector of St
Botolph’s and a notable educational reformer and supporter of
free libraries was instrumental in setting up the Institute and
ensuring that the original charitable aims were met.
Bishopsgate Institute was the first of the three major buildings
designed by Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928); the other two are
the nearby Whitechapel Gallery and the Horniman Museum in South London.
His work combined elements of the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau
styles, along with the typically Victorian.
With its terracotta@ façade covered with
stylised leafy trees and topped by two turrets, its impressive Great
Hall, panelled Boardroom and recently-restored Reference
Library, our Grade II* listed building is one of the very few in
the area to have survived intact through the 20th century.
hate to differ from such an august body, but in our dictionary 'terra
cotta' is a natural brownish orange colour.]
For further examples see our London Galleries page, including some
from the nearby Spitalfields area.