Friday, 4 September 2009

Wok Away, Brixton

After 30 posts, this blog it taking a break as this afternoon my partner and I will be on our way to China. I know there are still some slogans dating back from the Cultural Revolution in Beijing and a few other places, but I am not sure whether I'll come across some painted signs. In the meantime, here is one in Chinese, spotted not even in Chinatown but in Brixton. I am not so sure about the name of the restaurant though: Wok Away...

Location: Acre Lane / Picture taken on: 09/04/2008

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Garage, Norwood

The two signs painted on this wall, certainly for the same business, are modest enough but the cars inside are not. Looking at the number of Rolls Royces and Jaguars in this garage, you may want to look somewhere else to get your Fiat Uno serviced or repaired. As for me, I only rely on public transport...

The older sign reads:
Cars for Hire
Phone STRM 3646

The newer one reads:

STRM was the area code for Streatham.

Location: Beulah Hill / Picture taken on: 17/06/2008

The Willesden Junction Hotel, Harlesden

Two weeks ago for the first time, if you except the two occasions when I passed through the station (and it didn't look like the kind of place you would like to get off, especially at dark), I went to Willesden Junction. Shortly before reaching my destination the bus had to zigzag between police vans as twenty or so officers were dealing with two separate incidents. Welcome to Harlesden! But then, the Willesden Junction Hotel appeared. This Victorian pub and hotel has it all: a painted name and sign, a doorstep mosaic, and certainly pretty noisy rooms! Between the patrons of the pub and the railway, this is one for heavy sleepers only. Indeed the Willesden Junction Hotel is situated opposite several railway and tube tracks, and not far from a large marshalling yard and train maintenance depots, where in steam days locomotives would have been puffing and whistling almost continuously throughout the day and night.

If those who painted the name made quite a good job -the typeface is quite attractive- this is not necessarily the case with the Taylor Walker logo. A bit clumsy...

For two seconds I wondered whether I should include signs painted on wood in this blog. But why not? After all I am already thinking of posting some electric signs later on in November. Additionally, even though it is not necessarily that old, it has faded nicely.

Willesden Junction
Home of the Dome
Dunning's Bar
En-Suite Bathrooms
Big Screen
Setanta [the logo next to it could be Sky Sport's]
Darts Pool
Hot & Cold Food Served
Function Room

Finally, hidden underneath a doormat, was this rather nice mosaic. The background and floral elements are simple enough to make the name, with its more delicate typeface, stand out.

Location: Station Road / All pictures taken on: 17/08/2009

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Criterion, Westminster Gazette, and Gillette, Stoke Newington

While some in government are thinking of banning two for one offers, today I offer you a three for one. Three signs on one wall, a real bargain!

The most visible ad nowadays, which includes a drawing of a match box, is for

I haven't been able to find anything about Criterion, other than a few ads published between the 1920s and the 1950s for Criterion Cigars, and a couple of mentions of a Criterion Cigar factory in New Haven, Conn. Nothing though about Criterion Matches. If anyone knows anything about it, I'd be most grateful if you could leave a comment. Thanks!

Another ad easy to spot is the one for the
Gazette [*]
... The News

*: part of the word, painted in a slightly whiter colour, appears between the letters of "Criterion"

The Westminster Gazette was a highbrow Liberal newspaper. Founded by George Newness with staff who had resigned from the Pall Mall Gazette (a formerly Liberal paper, which had turned Conservative), it was first published on January 31, 1893. Its first editor, E. T. Cook left for the Daily News in 1895. His place was taken by J. A. Spender, who retained his position until the Westminster Gazette became a morning publication in 1921. It was under Spender that it became a heavyweight Liberal paper bridging the gaps that existed between the different factions of the Liberal Party. To enliven its green pages, it relied on the caricatures and political cartoons of Francis Carruthers Gould, the witty satires of the late Victorian and Edwardian society of Hector Hugh Munro (aka Saki), as well as on the poems and prose of many emerging and confirmed writers. In spite of a circulation of 20,000 copies and advertisement revenues of £40,000 a year, the Westminster Gazette was making a loss and in 1908 Newness sold it to a Liberal syndicate in a deal pushed by the Liberal whips. This didn't alter the situation though, and the paper continued to be published at a loss. In 1921 Spender was replaced as editor by J. B. Hobman. In 1928 the Westminster Gazette merged with the Daily News.
The location of this sign is not surprising at all. At the time Stoke Newington was a Liberal stronghold and the Westminster Gazette would have been competing with other Liberal newspapers to increase its readership among local residents.

Finally, the third ad painted on this wall was for
British Made
Razor & Blades

This is one of several examples where signs for Criterion and Gillette have been painted on the same wall. It looks as if the two companies used the same kind of blue for the background.

Location: Stoke Newington Church Street / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company, Balcombe

With the holidays approaching, it was time this morning to check our travel insurance. Should any problem arise I hope we'll be covered, but with all these small prints, you're never sure. One thing I'm sure of, though, is that we aren't covered by the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company.
The origins of the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Co. date back to 1836, the year the Liverpool Fire and Life Insurance was established. Within a few years, through several acquisitions, it became a prominent actor in the insurance sector. Among these companies taken over was the London, Edinburgh & Dublin Insurance Company in 1847. In 1864, following a successful bid for the Globe Insurance Company, a London-based insurer founded in 1803, it became the Liverpool & London & Globe. The Liverpool & London & Globe had a strong presence not only in the UK, where it was one of the main insurance companies, but also in the British empire, especially in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and even in the US, where its first branches had opened in 1848. In 1919 the Liverpool & London & Globe was acquired by The Royal, a company based in Liverpool and one of the greatest British exporters of insurance, in what was the largest merger in British insurance history. The name survived but it became part of the ever increasing portfolio of a group that, through successive acquisitions and mergers, became Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA since 2008).

Liverpool & London & Globe
Insurance Company
... Entities
... ...e,

Unfortunately the lower part of the sign has almost completely disappeared. I was hoping to find out whether the Liverpool & London & Globe had an agent in Balcombe itself, or whether this sign would direct potential customers to a larger town of the area. In any case, given its location, in a small village, away from any main road, I doubt it would have been seen by many outsiders. As for me, I've known it ever since I first went to Wakehurst Place. Indeed if you're walking, Balcombe is the closest train station to the great gardens of Wakehurst Place and Nymans.

Location: Bramble Hill, Balcombe / Picture taken on: 18/05/2008

Gillette: the different designs; Clapham, Spitalfields, and Willesden

Judging by the number of painted signs for safety razors still around, Gillette must have been one of the most prolific companies. However most of those ads, such as the one below in Clapham, are very similar, with their blue background and yellowish lettering.


Like many Gillette signs across London, this one was painted over an earlier one for Iron Jelloids. The name and part of the familiar slogan for the great tonic, painted in white letters, can still be seen:
For Health
And Beauty
Iron Jelloids

Location: Clapham High Street / Picure taken on: 09/04/2008

Gillette signs of a different design seem to be quite rare, especially those with a drawing. This is why I was amazed, and very happy, to find the one below.

Safety Razor
The Shave With the S...

Location: High Road / Picture taken on: 14/08/2009

A building was erected certainly not so long after this sign was painted and, as a result, it is (unfortunately) barely visible, and (fortunately) rather well-preserved. The lettering looks definitely older than on most Gillette signs. As for the man gently stroking his cleanly-shaven chin and feeling refreshed, he reminded me of the sign in Spitalfields, even if here the figure seems to be a bit fuller (maybe it is an effect of the warmer colours). The other major difference, of course, is that here he is still holding a "mask" representing his unshaven, tired face.
Another sign was painted, above the Gillette one, but has peeled off. Some letters can still be seen:

The ...luction

British Made
Razor & Blades

Location: Commercial Road / Picture taken on: 02/04/2008

I suspect the sign above on Commercial Road would originally have looked like the previous one but Gillette had it repainted at a later date using its more modern design. A couple of words (twice "The") and traces of letters from the earlier version can still be spotted in the lower left-hand corner. A few more letters belonging possibly to a third, intermediate, Gillette sign can also be seen here and there ("...ety" and "...or", making "Safety Razor").

In the picture below, I have altered the perspective and done a bit of retouching in Photoshop to try to give a better idea of what the faces are like. The one on the left looks much more like King Camp Gillette, the head of the namesake company, whose portrait appeared on the packs of disposable razor blades. Click on the picture to enlarge it.