Monday, May 20, 2013

Old Shops of London

Still sick over the weekend, coughing and watching the gray drizzle outside, I spent a lot of time idly surfing the internet, wandering through blogs I had never seen before. Two of the gems were posts about old shops in London. First, Isla Simpson discovers Mr. Wandles Workshop, 22 Garrett Lane:

I stumbled across Mr Wandles’ workshop quite by accident, whilst hunting down carpet in Wandsworth, a year ago. Meandering towards Earslfield, I noticed piles of reclaimed fireplaces stacked up against the shop’s facade. . . .

My first impression of the workshop was how filthy it was, I held my coat tails tight to my body. A veritable coal hole, the place was black! As I looked around, I recognised the same original cast iron fireplace remaining in my bedroom. . . . Down some rickety old stairs to the cellar, the story got better and darker. It was so dark, I could barely see what I was being led towards. Till Mr Wandle switched the light on to illuminate a plethora of antique tiles. Racks of full sets and partial sets sat in rows, gleaming on the wooden shelves like sweets. This was the answer to my problem. If I could buy a reclaimed set of tiles and paint the mantle piece I might just rescue the budget back. Some of the tiles were so dirty, he had to polish them on his machine to show me the true colour. I was in heaven, I loved them all, how would I possibly choose?
And Spitalfields Life investigates Daniel Lewis and Son, Ltd, 493-495 Hackney Rd, London's oldest ironmongers:

When  photographer Simon Mooney and I went along to explore, we were amazed to discover a unique complex of buildings that carries two centuries of history of industry in the East End, with many original items of nineteenth century hardware still in stock.

“We were here before the canal, the railway and the docks,” David Lewis informed us proudly,“When the Prince Regent banned horses from being stabled in the city, this area became the centre of the carriage and coach-building industry.” An ironmonger with a lyrical tendency, David will remind you that Cambridge Heath Rd was once a heath, that Bishop Bonnar once built his mansion on this land before the Reformation and that an oval duckpond once existed where the Oval industrial estate stands today behind his premises – all in introduction to the wonders of his personal domain which has been here longer than anything else around.

You enter from the street into the double-height shop, glazed with floor-to-ceiling windows and lined to the roof with meticulously-labelled wooden pigeon-holes, built-in as part of the original architecture. A winding stair leads you into the private offices and you discover beautiful bow-fronted rooms, distinguishing the rear of the terrace that extends two storeys above, offering ample staff quarters. On one side, is an eccentric, suspended office extension built in 1927 and constructed with panelling and paint supplied by the Great Western Railway, who were customers. This eyrie serves as David’s private den, where he sits smoking at a vast nineteenth century desk surrounded by his collection of custom number plates, all spelling Lewis in different configurations of numbers and letters.

A ramp down from the shop leads to the rear, past cellars lined with pigeon-holes constructed of the flexo-metal plywood that was the source of the company’s wealth for decades. At the back, is a long factory building with three forges for manufacturing ironwork where you can feel the presence of many people in the richness of patina created by all the those who worked here through the last two centuries. Occasionally, David paused and, in delight, pulled out boxes full of brass fixtures and iron bolts necessary for nineteenth century carriage building. Upstairs, he showed us an arcane machine for attaching metal rims to wagon wheels, essential when the streets of London went from dirt to cobbles in the nineteenth century.

To the left of the factory, stands a long cobbled shed where the carriages came in for repair, and beneath a slab flows a stream and there are stones of the Roman road that ran through here.
Sadly, the shop is going to move after 200 years in this spot, because of -- you guessed it -- parking.

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