Tag Archives: London shops

KTS Corner

This must be the strangest ‘points’ on The Knowledge, a hardware shop located in one of North London’s busiest streets. Crucially it stands at the junction of Englefield Road, a major cut through for travelling west, hence Knowledge examiners expect you to know the exact location of this very eccentric shop.

Owner, Tony O’Kane has constructed some ingenious wooden designs and displayed them on the fascia above his window displays.

[M]ORE REMARKABLY is the three-sided clock above the door, its numbers on the dial replaced by representations of building materials designed by Tony.

No corporate colours of Homebase or B&Q, this is very much a family business, in fact, contrary to the popular belief that ‘KTS’ refers to Kingsland something, its name is derived from the initials of Tony’s three children: Katie, Toni, and Sean.

The shop is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave for the DIY enthusiast, with Tony on hand to offer advice, from the knowledge obtained as a qualified carpenter.

When the distinctive signs were removed for maintenance, there was an outcry with locals demanding they be reinstated, a story which even made the national press.

Many hardware shops have closed in recent years, victims of the Internet and the public too lazy to engage in a spot of DIY, hopefully, this little treasure will continue to be a ‘Point of Interest’ on The Knowledge for years to come.

Featured image: Hardware department counter in 1913-replica of the Co-operative Society Store at Beamish Museum which was moved from Annfield Plain in County Durham by Andrew Curtis (CC BY-SA

Gardiner’s Corner

Standing here today, watching the 18-hour traffic jam that is now Aldgate, it’s hard to understand why this area is called Gardiner’s Corner, the spot that stopped anti-Semitism in its tracks.

Looking towards a dull modern office block it is difficult to visualise a proud store dubbed ‘The Harrods of the East’, that stood opposite Aldgate East tube station, and the scene of one of London’s biggest demonstrations.

Gardiner’s Corner today (Google Street View)

[T]HIS WAS THE SITE of Gardiner’s department store until it was gutted by one of London’s largest post-war conflagrations.The Scottish clothing store, which stood at the junction of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Road (now slightly shifted from its original position), would, in 1972 be lost. Its demise is vividly recounted in Mick’s Muses: Death of a Landmark.

Gardiner’s was also the scene of the famous Battle of Cable Street.

On Sunday, 4th October 1936, the British Union of Fascists, led by Sir Oswald Mosley marched through the East End, the location was deliberately chosen as it then was the heartland of London’s Jewish community.

Protests to the authorities had proved fruitless forcing many to turn up determined to stop Mosley’s 3,000 black shirts marching through this Jewish quarter.

Estimates vary wildly, from 100,000 people up to as many as 250,000, whatever the total, the crowd was huge and vastly outnumbered the Blackshirts and the Metropolitan Police officers, who perversely had been sent to prevent the march from being disrupted.

More than 100 were injured in the violence that followed and some 150 of the demonstrators were arrested. Most of the charges were of a minor nature but some of the ringleaders were given up to three-year terms of imprisonment, quite how the authorities managed to justify this when less than three years later we declared war against those who sought to impose anti-Semitism upon Europe.

Site Unseen: The Apple Store

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

This regular post attempts to discover those little architectural delights often overlooked, and for the Apple store, you can only describe it as hidden in plain sight.

[I] DOUBT if anyone entering Apple’s flagship store realises the beautiful mosaics above their heads as they head towards the latest in technical wizardry.

Much of John Nash’s original Regent Street has been lost as the leaseholders of the world’s first purpose-built shopping thoroughfare put their corporate stamp on their shops’ façades.

One of those leaseholders was glassmaking and mosaic company Salviati, founded by Antonio Salviati in Venice in 1859.

Arriving from the island of Murano just off Venice’s coast in 1898, the company adorned the outside of its newly built Regent Street premises with spandrel mosaics to advertise their London premises.

Overall, four coats-of-arms and two lions are represented [below].

Above them are some of the cities where Salviati’s wares could be found: Paris, New York, St. Petersburg and Berlin.

On the left is the heraldry for the cities of London and Westminster (that’s if they have heraldic symbols), along with the British Royal Lion.

On the right, the islands of Murano and Burano are represented, along with the Venetian winged lion of St. Mark.

Featured image: View of the Apple store on Regent Street, looking south-southwest © Robert Lamb (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Live like Churchill

Gary Oldman’s Oscar nomination for his brilliant depiction of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour prompts us to check out how the corpulent war leader would spend his time when he was not striking fear into the Third Reich.

Winston Churchill would regularly round off a very comprehensive dinner with a cheese platter.

[A]ND THERE was one London fromagerie he regarded above all others: “A gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whit?eld”, Churchill once said. Fortunately for the gentlemen (and women) of today’s London, Paxton & Whit?eld is still in business located on Jermyn Street. We have it on good authority that his cheese of choice was a Swiss Gruyère. Along with countries he obviously liked his cheeses to be neutral.

For a man with a copious appetite for alcohol Winston adored soup. He’d eat a bowl of cold thin non-creamy consommé before bed, Fortnum & Masons once supplied a turtle soup for his consumption.

Champagne was Churchill’s greatest strength, as he put it: “In success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it; he once quipped. The king of sparkling wines that Churchill preferred was a very speci?c one – Pol Roger – purchased at the famous St. James’s wine merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd.

Winston fell in love with Havana cigars when he was a journalist in Cuba. Robert Lewis again in St James’s Street supplied him with his 5-6 cigars a day to smoke or suck. Nowadays, that shop is James J. Fox – and those very same orders can still be seen written in a big ledger. It’s reckoned that Churchill smoked in the region of 200,000 cigars in his lifetime. James J. Fox has Churchill’s chair in their small cigar museum.


Churchill’s chair at James J. Fox

Not renowned as one of the world’s greatest athletes, Churchill could have walked the 100 yards between Berry Brothers to Robert Lewis and then, should he have need of a haircut, Truefitt and Hill are opposite. They claim to be the oldest barbershop in the world and count many of the rich and famous among their clients, inside their premises they too have a chair used by, among others, Winston Churchill and Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein.


Churchill’s chair at Truefitt and Hill

Among other Churchill haunts, a short stroll from his barbers is Browns Hotel on Albemarle Street, which was frequented by Winston so often it’s rumoured they built a bomb shelter him, and the bar here still does a Churchill Martini. During the Second World War, in Room 36, the Dutch government in exile declared war on Japan, whether Churchill was present we do not know.

We do, however, know his club – The National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place. Half-a-mile from Browns, he would almost certainly have taken a cab. Tales in the trade related to him leaving the back seat covered in cigar ash and being abrupt with the cabbie.

In the entrance lobby is a restored portrait of the young Winston Churchill in 1915, as First Lord of the Admiralty, as Churchill was a member of the club for 18 years. The painting was consigned to the basement when Churchill defected to the Tories.

There is a well-known story told of the National Liberal Club, that the Conservative politician (some say it was Churchill, it certainly sounds like him) F. E. Smith would stop off there every day on his way to Parliament, to use the club’s lavatories. One day the hall porter apprehended Smith and asked him if he was actually a member of the club, to which Smith replied “Good God! You mean it’s a club as well?”.

If you want a suit as good as Churchill’s pop along to Savile Row tailors Henry Poole, but don’t say that you are trying to emulate the great man, it transpires that Churchill once swerved a £197 invoice because he didn’t much fancy paying it. Henry Poole is still there today, as probably is his unpaid bill.

Are you being served?

A tradition for many of us ‘baby boomers’ at this time of the year was the annual pilgrimage to one or more of London’s department stores. Curiously many had originated with two owners: Bourne & Hollingsworth; Dickins & Jones; Marshall & Snelgrove; Swan & Edgar; Derry & Toms; Arding & Hobbs; or Swan & Edgar. Many now do not exist as stand alone department stores, just not able to move with post-war shopping trends.

[G]ordon Selfridge London’s greatest department store proprietor saw how trends were changing as early as 1909 when he opened the largest of all stores at that time and allowed customers to see the merchandise on offer, and not as his competitors, offering to show prospective buyers a selection chosen by the shop assistant.

To get some idea of pre-war shopping customs watch any episode of Are You Being Served?

War years had protected most stores from the new style, but by the 1970s most had suffered from the birth of style-shopping and both management and staffs were unable to update fast enough to attract the newly-moneyed.

Politeness, knowledge of stock and free advice gave way to self-service racks stocking the latest fashions which would change by the season.

The specialist stores: Lilywhites for sporting wear; Fenwicks aimed at country ladies of a certain age; and Libertys for fabrics have clung on, but most have succumbed to the supermarkets of TK Maxx, H&M or the nightmarish souk – Primark.

Should you be in any doubt about the changing face of the high streets consider this list of closed department stores compiled by Diamond Geezer:

Central: Army & Navy (Victoria), Bourne & Hollingsworth (Oxford Street), Catesby’s (Tottenham Court Road), Civil Service Supply Association (Strand), Daniel Neal (Portman Square), Debenham & Freebody (Wigmore Street), Dickins & Jones (Regent Street), Gamages (Holborn), Gorringes (Victoria), Jordans (Lisson Grove), Marshall & Snelgrove (Oxford Street), Swan & Edgar (Piccadilly Circus), Thomas Wallis (Holborn), Woolland Brothers (Knightsbridge), Whiteleys (Bayswater)

North: John Barnes (Finchley Road), Bartons (Wood Green), B B Evans (Kilburn), Evans and Davies (Palmers Green), Jones Brothers (Holloway Road), Pearsons (Wood Green), Stephens (Stoke Newington), Wards (Seven Sisters), Wilsons (Crouch End)

West: Barbers (Fulham), Barkers of Kensington, Bentalls (Ealing), Derry & Toms (Kensington), F H Rowse (West Ealing), General Trading Company (Kensington), Goslings (Richmond), John Sanders (Ealing), Pontings (Kensington), Randalls (Uxbridge), Soper’s (Harrow), Wright Brothers (Richmond)

South: Allders (Croydon, Sutton), Arding and Hobbs (Clapham Junction), Bon Marché (Brixton), Grants (Croydon), Kennards (Croydon), Pratts (Streatham), Quin & Axtens (Brixton), Shinners (Sutton)

Southeast: Chiesmans (Lewisham, Bexleyheath), Cuffs (Woolwich), Fantos (Deptford), Garretts (Woolwich), Hides (Bexleyheath), Hinds (Eltham), Jones and Higgins (Peckham), Medhursts (Bromley), Pyne Brothers (Deptford), Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (Woolwich), Tower House (Lewisham), Walter Cobb (Sydenham)

East: Bearmans (Leytonstone), Boardmans (Stratford), Chiesmans (Ilford, Upton Park), Dawson’s (City Road), Dudley’s (Dalston), Gardiner’s (Whitechapel), Houndsditch Warehouse (Aldgate), Harrison Gibson (Ilford), Keddies (Romford), J R Roberts (Stratford), Wickhams (Stepney)

Various: British Home Stores, Co-Op, Marks & Spencer, Owen Owen (Finchley, Ilford, Richmond, Uxbridge)