Some commentators declare that the station has been built in the wrong place, and that the entrance is also misaligned. The purists believe that the entrance/exit should be at the end of the line, but this is not so as in High Barnet as it’s on the side of the station. I’ve thought about this and reflected on all the stations I’ve visited, and there are several stations where the entrance/exit isn’t as the purists would have. I guess ultimately the location is determined by the surrounding landscape.
High Barnet station is at the bottom of a dip about one kilometre away from the main shopping area with a two hundred metre steep climb out of the station to road level. Even for the able bodied, this can be arduous, but for those less able, the three grab rails along the length of the footbath are a must as I observed at least two senior citizens struggle to make it to the top. The lady on the right of this picture stopped several times and she didn’t have a kind word to say about the footpath when she stopped to catch her breath besides me.
Chipping Barnet: High Barnet: or simply Barnet – Not confusing at all, just three names for the same place. The reference to ‘Chipping’ donates the presence of a market, this one established by Royal Charter in the 12th Century. Today’s not a Wednesday of Saturday, so I miss the spectacle, but as I walk up Barnet Hill and the HIgh Street, I can’t miss the imposing church of St John the Baptist Barnet which dominates the centre of the road as it splits heading west and north. The church has impressively decorated flint walls and a bell tower with dominant gargoyles pointing out towards the four main cardinal directions.
Heading into town, I’m a little underwhelmed, as despite its historic connections, I find little of architectural interest along the main street, or as I meander into the side streets. However, the town does much to promote its historical association with The Battle of Barnet; as I stop to read one of the several elaborately painted notices referencing the battle between the Lancastrians led by The Earl of Warwick and the Yorkists led by King Edward IV. More later…
On one of the painted displays, attention is drawn to five historical coaching inns which served the 150 coaches that would pass through Barnet each day. Imagine: if each coach is driven by at least four horses; that would be 600 horses a day, 3,000 a week and at a guess 120,000 a year. Some gardner’s would no doubt have been happy? The The Red Lion is one of these former coaching inns, and it is the first of the five I notice as I make my way into town.
The museum sits opposite the Church and it is well worth a visit, especially as it’s free to enter. It’s located in a townhouse that has dedicated it’s basement, ground and first floors to local memorabilia and a dedicated space for the Battle of Barnet. Some of the heraldic banners associated with the Battle are also on display whilst they undergo some decorative ‘touching up’ in preparation for their annual airing throughout the town each April. These three represent the Yorkists Houses of Gloucester and Woodhouse, and the Lancastrian House of Mauleverer.
I’ll not be able to do justice to the museum’s entire collection as there’s too much to see and enjoy, but here are a few of my highlights:
Domestic Life: this collage depicts several items you’d no longer find in the modern home. The first is a cork shaper used for compressing and shaping corks for sealing bottles and jars. The second is a door vent in a Victorian/Edwardian kitchen cabinet, and the third a rather attractive and elegant decorative clock.
Pearly King, Queen and Princess for Barnet: In the basement, amongst a display of Victorian and Edwardian dresses are the Pearly suits once worn by Mr Jack Hammond, his wife Brenda and daughters Lisa and Tracey. Jack was awarded the title of Pearly King of Barnet in honour of his fundraising for charity in 1962 by the Association of Pearly Kings and Queens who appoint all ‘the regents’ for all the London Boroughs. Jack sewed each mother-of-pearl button onto their outfits and the approximate cost (at 1976 prices) at £0.60 a button was £4,000. The King’s suit weighed 14.5Kilogrammes (32 pounds).
A moving Tribute: I find upstairs to be quite evocative, as there’s a display of artifacts from Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, known more recently as Friern Hospital which closed in 1993. The fact that it’s been converted into a luxury housing development takes none of the reminders away of how those with a mental illness used to be treated. Examples of straight jackets are prominently displayed as is this padded cell door.
And whilst walking around the first floor, there’s a haunting rendition of early 20th Century music being played to complement the exhibits of the two World Wars. I’m moved by this copy of a handwritten poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD – ‘In Flanders Fields’
Back to the Station
Almost adjacent to the museum is Barnet Southgate College, which now incorporates an Elizabethan Tudor Hall. This is where the original Queen Elizabeth’s School was founded following its being granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. It’s now used as a banqueting hall and small conference space.
Further down the road, I stop outside The Sound Garden music shop and take in the Fender guitar maker’s sign which glows quite brightly in the gloomy afternoon.
And finally, as I pass Papa John’s take away Pizza shop, I’m beckoned by a gent from inside to take his picture as he sees me walking by with my camera in hand. Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I oblige and then move into the shop and meet Stargy, a budding musician. Nice to meet you Stargy…
Picture of the Day
Today’s picture aims to highlight the gradient from High Barnet station entrance and I’ve cropped this picture vertically using the three handrails to accentuate the descent. Applying a deep Black & White filter (Vista) helps to highlight the horizontal sunbeams hitting the middle railing and ground as the sun shines through an out of shot fence on the right.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google filter – Vista
Aldgate is the last of the five terminal Metropolitan stations to visit, a line that changed the face of travelling for Londoners. In 1863, the Metropolitan Line opened the first underground service between Paddington and Farringdon…That’s enough of the history but read here for more details.
I’ve left visiting Aldgate towards the end of my travels as it was here I last worked before retiring almost two years ago. One of my final acts when working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) was to secure a suitable location and manage the transition from our previous residency in Holborn, and this I achieved in 2016. So you see, I have an affinity with the area which I got to know quite well, and I wanted to put as much time behind me before returning and studying the area objectively.
The area is an eclectic and diverse one which merges many cultures and industries and offers a wealth of history, colour and architecture. Here’s my view which takes me into Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shadwell and down towards the river at Wapping. It’s hard to discern where the boundaries for these areas lie, although I’ve no doubt there’s a map somewhere depicting them. That really isn’t important, but what is interesting and exciting is that wandering as I do, I’m always amazed at some of the sights I see that are either hidden or forgotten. Hidden in the streets are murals and buildings with architectural significance in full sight of everyone, but no one sees them. And forgotten in the sense that their importance, and/or value, are no longer considered relevant. I’ll try and rekindle some of them here.
Serving both the Met and Circle lines, the station is on the edge of The City and in easy reach of main line stations at Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street; so great for commuters. As with all of the Met line, it was created using a ‘cut and over’ method rather than tunnelling, and this can be seen quite well when I’m in the station.
The platforms cuts quite a large arc to accommodate the Circle line trains as they route south westerly to join the District line headed towards Westminster and Victoria, and this is quite noticeable as trains stop at this busy interchange between The City and suburban London to the East.
There’s also a busy terminal bus station directly across the road, thus making the area an excellent commuting hub; and plenty going on to entertain the casual observer too as this lonely figure from across the station suggests. Not quite the Woman in the Window, but maybe there’s a sequel to be written? – the Man in the Window?
And adjacent to the station in Aldgate Square, there’s a coffee shop with an interesting design: it has a fan like roof as if capturing, or even embracing the surrounding office buildings.
Today’s association is maybe with the Old Spitalfields Market, but the area is steeped in historical changes. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the area was occupied by Irish and Huguenot immigrants who immersed themselves in the silk industry until its demise in the mid 1700’s followed by an influx from the Jewish Community who set up a textile industry here.
Alas, by the Victorian era, Spitalfields was synonymous with deprivation, slum dwellings, criminality and prostitution, and was the scene of a brutal killing of a young woman by the serial killer Jack the Ripper.
During the 20th Century, there was an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked in the textile industry, and made Brick Lane famous as the curry capital of London. And this sculpture by Spitalfields Market in some way aims to reflect the area’s rich history of providing shelter for successive waves of immigrants. This piece is by the Greek sculptor Kalliopi Lemos
Petticoat Lane Marketis an area made up predominantly of Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street and famous for its street stalls selling cheap clothes. But nowadays, as with many markets, equally noted for its food stalls which attracts crowds of near-by office workers each lunch time who come to sample and enjoy the variety of flavours on offer.
Wentworth Street crosses Commercial Street where I find an interesting arch leading into the housing complex through Flower and Dean Walk. The inscription on the arch serves as a reminder of the slum days and efforts by the philanthropist Nathaniel, the 1st Lord Rosthschild, to change the living conditions for the Jewish Community by setting up the Four Percent Industrial Dwelling Company Ltd.
And across the road, there’s a brief glimpse at the cobbled streets of London, but alas now bastardised by the blight of the ever present yellow line.
Whitechapel Gallery, on the HIgh Street, offers an eclectic mix of exhibitions, but I hadn’t realised that there’s a tiny alleyway on its left: Angel Alley. It doesn’t go far but towards the end is an unassuming ‘bookshop’ with this interesting mural on its wall. It’s only now as I research this bookshop I realise its social significance. The Freedom Press has had its place in the (troubled) anarchist movement for over 140 years. This summary is well worth a read, and I now understand that the mural depicts 38 individuals who may have been sympathetic, at one time or another, to the Freedom Press.
Brick Lane:if you have never visited, then put it on your list of places to go. But be warned, if you go on a market day, be prepared to get squashed and pushed around as it’s a hive of like minded folk wandering around gawping at the colours on display. Don’t let that put you off, but if you fancy a more leisurely look at the area…go on a non-market day.
I roam aimlessly admiring the abundance of wall art. In fact there are few walls that haven’t been decorated. Some are clearly artistry and no doubt have been commissioned or painted with permission, and some are random acts of graffitti, but to be honest, not out of place. Here’s a sample of some of my finds whilst poking my nose into discrete alleys. I can guarantee, if you go visit, you’ll find your own favourites.
My wanderings take me in and out of several side streets where I stumble across Links Yard. What was once probably a remnant of the textile industry, the abandoned workshops have been craftily redeveloped as part of a wider community effort to regenerate the Brick Lane area by the Spitalfields Small Business Association.
I eventually end up at the new Shoreditch Overground station, in awe of the wealth of artistic talent that surrounds the area. But there are still reminders of modern day poverty and homelessness; as I walk under the railway arches, there’s at least one homeless woman who’s clearly made this place her own.
Whitechapel’s heart is Whitechapel High Street, extending further east into Whitechapel Road forming part of the A11 road. In the past this was the initial part of the Roman road between the City of London and Colchester, exiting the city at Aldgate, but today’s modern day travelling is no doubt significantly different; as indeed is the City’s skyline.
And although the main road was not squalid, the surrounding side streets had very much evolved into classic Dickensian with problems of poverty, overcrowding and deprivation during the Victorian era. Thus, Temperance, Salvation and Alms can be found aplenty along Whitechapel Road; being born out of the determination of several individuals to improve the plight of the poor and homeless in the East End of London.
Trinity Green, a small conclave of Almshouses along the Whitechapel Road were built by the Corporation of Trinity House on ground given by Captain Henry Mudd for mariners. If you pass, look up at the roof line of the gatehouses where you’ll see these ships.
Next door is the Tower Hamlets Mission set up by Frederick Charrington, the son and heir of the brewing empire, in the late 19th Century.
And of course, no reference to the East End is complete without a mention to the 19th Century work of the Christian Revival Society set up nearby by William Booth and his wife Catherine. Now known as the Salvation Army. Statues of the two stand proudly outside the Almshouses and Mission.
On the south side of the road, and opposite Whitechapel underground station is the renowned Royal London Hospital. Now a modern hospital standing just behind the original, demolished, brick building. It’s facade still erect, and I think this view of the new through the old is quite striking.
Heading south from Whitechapel HIgh Street, I meander through Shadwell, and stumble upon Watney Street Market; one of many localised markets throughout the borough of Tower Hamlets. The market offers a cut through from the main A13 Commercial Road to Shadwell Overground station, and it’s a busy market day offering a glimpse of the borough’s diverse range of residents. At the southern end of the market there’s a collection of large flat slabs set in a straight line upon which I’m invited to sit on. And as I do, I see there’s a historical theme engraved on them, with references to the area’s shady past. If anyone has any knowledge of these slabs, please drop me a line.
Onward into Cable Street, the street’s name states simply what its purpose was; that of a straight path along which hemp ropes were twisted into ships’ cables. I have some familiarity with such a place name as in my home town of Aberystwyth, I lived near ‘Rope Walk’ which has a similar historical origin. Walking along to the entrance to St George’s Gardens and I find I’m immersed, through a very large mural, in the story of the Battle of Cable Street. 4th October 1936 saw a hand to hand battle between the fascist supporters of Oswald Mosley and local residents and the Metropolitan Police. Go take a look, as both the mural and the story are well worth seeing and reading about.
Leaving Shadwell through St George’s Gardens, and before crossing The Highway heading into Wapping, I’m acquainted with former residents through their memorials, epitaphs and gravestones. Prominence is given to Henry Raine; a wealthy man who built a school for poor children. But my attention is piqued by the gravestone of Mr Alexander Wyle (?) who died on the 4th December 1741 and whose remains are buried here.
Synonymous with the maritime trade, the area is famed for its wharves, docks and marine trades. The area was badly affected in the Second World War blitz, and it further declined into dereliction as a consequence of the post war closure of the docks.
The area’s fortunes changed during the 1980’s when redevelopment and regeneration saw many of the empty wharf buildings converted into fashionable riverside apartments. A trend that has since been adopted right along the Thames shoreline.
I pass Tobacco Dock, a destination I’d seen heavily advertised over the years as I drove through The Highway, so I was keen to see what’s here. But as I arrive, I’m disappointed as it’s a cordoned off events centre. There are no events today, so it has a derelict feel to it, although there’s some maritime interest as I explore the two ships moored in the dry docks in front of the centre. The docks name gives a clue to its purpose in its heyday.
A little further down, there’s a small parade of shops and my attention is drawn to P&J Bakers. This is partly because of its delightful window display of home baked breads and cakes, and partly because of the intriguing black metal doors on the side and rear of the bakery. At a guess, they may have been old oven doors for the bakery but when I asked inside, no one was able to give me an explanation of their history. Maybe you do…drop me a line.
Approaching Wapping HIgh Street, the overground station is directly ahead and as I turn right, I’m confronted with an array of repurposed Wharves. They include Gun Wharf, King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf, St John’s Wharf, Aberdeen Wharf, Pierhead Wharf and Oliver’s Wharf: all within 400 meters of each other.
The walk is somewhat unexciting, until I realise the real gem is when I explore the little alleyways in between the wharves which lead to the water’s edge and I discover the Watermen’s stairs. These were used historically as access points to ferry people along and across the Thames, or even to bring ashore the cargo for ships moored in the Thames. The stairs would provide access to the ferry boats at high tide and at low tide the ferry boats would use the adjoining causeways.
This helpful guide lists all the stairs along the Thames (for Wapping, go to page 31). Some of the stairs are in good condition and others less so, even if you can access them through locked gates.
The ones I explore are Wapping Dock Stairs, King Henry’s Stairs and I access the shoreline down Wapping Old Stairs where I meet Norman, a mudlarker. He explains that mudlarking requires a permit which grants permission to dig up to 7.5 cms beneath the surface (3” in imperial measurement), and after three years you can apply for a permit to dig deeper. He proudly shows me his find of the day, and along with another mudlarker who happens along, they determine it may well be a vintage lace bobbin.
A little further along the shoreline, I meet Christopher, a like minded photographer with whom I share my ‘endoftheline’ story and reminisce about the early days of black and white film photography. Here is one of Christopher’s photos, which he has kindly agreed that I can publish. This one is taken under Oliver’s Wharf looking west towards Wapping Old Stairs.
Wapping is the home for the Metropolitan Police Marine Unit and Boatyard, and I spot a couple resting their feet in Waterside Gardens, which sits in between the two buildings. They seem to be enjoying the riverside view of working and pleasure boats moving up and down stream.
And no riverside is complete without a pub, and it’s at the nearby Captain Kidd I meet a group of gentlemen enjoying the view from the open terrace. They are all from the Greater Anglia Control Centre in Romford enjoying a social afternoon sampling the local ale and taking in the views.
Returning to the City
I’m back on familiar ground now as I approach St Katherine’s Dock. I’ve covered these docks in an earlier blog, but there’s an interesting side note about the nearby Ornamental Canal, which is now a popular route for joggers, keep fit enthusiasts and serious runners alike. Did you know that it was once a location for the filming for the 1999 James Bond film ‘The World Is Not Enough’?
My travels around Aldgate come to an end as I reflect on how two towering Grade II listed buildings have been sympathetically restored. The first in Back Church Lane, within earshot of the mainline rail service into Fenchurch Street, is Wool House. No guesses for working out its original purpose in the Victorian era, but now it’s a multi-tenanted office and residential space. I walk around the building and count 12 hoisting stations, an indication of how busy it would have been at the height of the wool trade in London. But here’s an interesting fact – the second series of the BBC television series, Dragon’s Den was filmed here.
The second is of the HULT International Business School sitting on the corner of Commercial Road and White Church Lane and directly opposite the home of The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. This Grade II listed building was once the St George’s Brewery, Whitechapel, but there’s very little information to be found other than this architect’s journal.
Time for home to rest my weary legs…
Picture of the Day
This picture was taken in the food market in Goulston Street, just off Wentworth Street, and is part of a series studying lunch-time office workers deciding on their food choice of the day. The street is lined with open air pop-up food stalls, and their menus and price guide erected high up on their stalls so that potential customers can see what’s on offer whilst they move around the crowds.
I’m standing amidst the crowds and slightly elevated when taking this shot, and I notice that those queuing to be served are all studying the menu board intently, oblivious to their surroundings. Presenting this in black & white helps to strengthen the observation, and I believe it also helps to focus attention on the three main subject’s gaze. The individual in the centrepiece has a simple ruggedness to him which playfully offsets the more traditional office gent on the right.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO2000; Google filter – Vista
BUT FIRST – by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and it will be 2020 – so here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year and who knows what delights it will bring….? Meanwhile, back to the plot…
Welcome to Romford! Some commentators say Romford is the capital of the East End; well I’ll let you and others debate and decide on that.
Romford is at one end of the Overground shuttle service running to/from Upminster, and this visit completes the set of 20 endpoint destinations on the Overground.
I’ve also left Romford towards the end of my journeys as this is where I have lived for almost 30 years, so I wanted to make sure I took an objective view of the area, and I hope I’ve achieved this by exploring the town over several days. In fact, on 02/07/2019; 04/12/2019; 12/12/2019 and 18/12/2019, and I make no apology that this blog is somewhat longer than normal as I want to do justice to the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met.
Almost my second home for the last 30 years as I pass through and often stop en route to/from Gidea Park, so I feel as if I have some affinity with this station. But to be honest, I’ve never really stopped to look around…until now. The station has 5 platforms. No 1 serving the Overground shuttle to/from Upminster, and the focus of my journey today. No’s 4-5 serving the Tfl line to/from Shenfield and Nos 2-3 for the fast service from East Anglia into London Liverpool Street.
This rainbow roundel was interestingly only displayed on Platform 1 during the summer pride celebrations which Tfl was supporting, but nevertheless I’m happy I had the opportunity to catch it when I did as it didn’t stay for long. And it’s when I took this shot I noticed the nameplate on the bridge leading to Platform 1 for Westwood Baillie & Co. A little research yields some interesting facts about this ironworks engineers who built bridges as far and wide as India and South Africa, and like the one in Romford, still stand today.
I’m always delighted by the wintry dusk skylines in Romford as when the sun sets on clear evenings looking westerly, the transition through red, orange and ultimately dark blue and black, when set against an industrial landscape, is always interesting. This is one of those evenings.
And heading down under the station, there are partly covered arches on the northern side of the station running into Exchange Street. In recent years, the footpath has been laid in multi-coloured bricks and the arches fenced in to make this once seedy cut through slightly more palatable. See my picture of the day below for another take on this scene.
A Shopping Mecca
On one of my outings I decide to explore the rooftops to see if there is a different view of the Town I’d not seen before. You see Romford is a shopping mecca defined by its market, and four shopping centres: The Brewery, The Liberty, The Mercury and the Shopping Hall.
Visitors are incentivised to visit by road as the centre is somewhat characterised by its ring road and 5 multi-story car parks.
From my observations, today’s Romford has been shaped by three architectural periods. The mid 30’s with its art deco style fashion. This is a time when the town grew significantly and became a commuter town; the 60’s with its overuse of concrete; and thankfully the more stylised 21st Century modernist look. One commentator describes quite eloquently Romford’s style as being ‘…at times a little scruffy and smelly…’, but my view is that these moments add character and depth to the hidden parts of the town. What do you think?
But on balance, the town has much to offer, and here I’ll share some examples of how I see Romford through these three eras…
1930’s Art Deco – I hadn’t realised, until I started reviewing my photos, how similar some of the buildings around the town are. Here’s two examples: the Town Hall and the entrance to the Quadrant Centre. Both built in the mid 1930’s.
The Concrete 1960’s – or is it a space invasion with a hidden flying saucer unseen by everyone. Ha! This is the rooftop of the car park exit ramp from The Brewery, but on a dank wintry afternoon, it has an eerie quality. However the use of concrete epitomises its functionality when it was fashionable to do so in the 60’s, and it’s evident in all of the surrounding car parks.
Modernist 21st Century – one of the newest buildings in town is the Sapphire and Ice Leisure Centre built in partnership with the council. A magnificent recreational centre encompassing a swimming pool, a multi-gym and an ice rink. And as a patron, I find that it represents exceptional value for money.
As with most town centres, there is a constant churn of how space is used, with some new developments being created and others left to fester for too long and they themselves become enshrined into the fabric of the town. By way of example, there’s a very new patisserie just opened in Exchange Street – Dolce Desserts. Perched on the cutting between South Street and Exchange Street, I’m welcomed in on their second day of opening to review their deco and range of food offerings. A very simple yet attractive setting in which to relax for a short respite.
In contrast, the cutting from the Liberty Shopping Centre alongside Debenhams to the Market has been left undeveloped for many a year. And the hoarding now installed has become a permanent advert for the shopping centre itself.
And despite the dank and dreary conditions of the day, there’s always an unexpeted and surprising moment to encounter when I least expect it. Where else would you find a leapord and three coloured sheep sharing the same table?
On most days you’ll encounter buskers in South Street or thereabouts. And today is no different, but what is different is their willingness or unwillingness to have their picture taken or engage in a conversation. As is the case with the first gentleman I encounter strumming his guitar alongside Santander just off South Street. He is most adamant that I do not take his picture – I wonder why?
And similarly close by down the side of Barclays, a couple of Eastern European gents are sharing their musical talents on an accordion and clarinet. At first they are quite happy for me to take their pictures but suddenly I’m instructed with ‘No Image! No Image!’ I gesticulate that I’ll only take pictures of their instruments, but by which time I have already taken several shots. Ooops!
Into South Street, and I meet my most interesting characters of the day; two in fact. First is Joseph who is sitting outside M&S happily singing and strumming his guitar. He’s been here a while as I could hear him earlier in the day, so I stop to chat, which he’s very happy to do. A friendly and amiable artist who enjoys the busking life, and says he’s had many an invitation to support others through being listened to in the streets. Passers by complain jovially that he’s not singing, but they are still happy to throw coins into his upturned hat, for which he thanks them. I try not to keep him talking for too long, and as I leave him, I listen to his melancholic and soulful sound. Nice to meet you Joseph.
Less than 75 meters along South Street, I stop and admire the wordsmithery of @itsTrueMendous. I listen and gesticulate if it’s OK to take pictures and with a nod of agreement, I click away. She has a very acute ear and a sharp mind as her rap takes in things in her immediate surrounds; including my distraction. She stops for a short while and as we chat, I explain my ‘journey’ to Chyvonne who’s keen to understand where the best spots for busking are in the East End. I offer some suggestions and as she continues to rap, she does so to the camera. Thank you Chyvonne, and it was a blast to meet you. Go listen to her on Twitter or Instagram.
Do you know what the distance of a day’s sheep drive is? To find out, read on…
The market originated in 1247 under a Royal Charter granted by King Henry III stipulating no other market is permitted to set up within a day’s sheep drive of Romford – defined as six and two-thirds miles. There you have it.
I have a fond recollection of markets; as a child in Aberystwyth, I’d listen to the traders shouting out their latest offerings, and on some occasions trying out their free samples (often sweets or rock) when the fair and market came to town every November. And so I have a particular memory of my first Christmas market in Romford in 1990, as I could hear an incomprehensible chant booming loudly over everyone and everything else. It sounded like…’pan yur sana at’. Now clearly I hadn’t quite grasped the Estuary English often heard in Romford, but as I got closer to the trader and realised what was on offer, I quickly translated his chant into ‘one pound for your santa hat’. I bought two…
Alas inflation kicked in a few years later as the chant had changed to ‘two pan yur sana at’.
Prior to visiting the market, I’d been in touch with the Market Manager, out of courtesy, to explain my intention to photograph the market and outline that I’d be approaching individual traders for their consent. And indeed I met some interesting characters.
First is Ola Leggings, who owned a number of leggings stalls in the vicinity. He catches my attention as he’s singing along to Christmas music being played across the market, but became somewhat bashful as I approach and encourage him to continue.
Secondly are the two gents of the Wickendens Meat wagon. Both are happy to be photographed, and as I start on their portraiture, they begin to move all the hung meet from the back of the wagon to the front. They sure know how to maximise this photo opportunity; and they are equally happy to share a joke too.
The market is an eclectic and diverse mix of traders, but from my experience, the essence has also changed over the past 30 years. The strains of austerity, internet shopping and out of town stores have resulted in fewer traders around at a time when I would have expected the market to be at its peak. Nevertheless, I’m always amazed at the efficiency of the clearing up progress once the traders have finished for the day.
The week leading up to Christmas sees, amongst other festive events, a free mini funfair consisting of a ferris wheel, spinning teapots, haunted house, swing chairs and smaller rides for the younger folk. So not wanting to miss an opportunity, here are a couple of shots showing how colour and movement can be captured. I was a little surprised though that the funfair closed by 4.30 pm when I would have thought more folk would have been looking to enjoy the funfair. But I guess its timing is kept in concert with the market trading times. Anyway, all those there were really enjoying this free time.
And if you wander around the nooks and crannies of the market area, you’ll discover seedy side streets and cuttings which aren’t for the casual passer-by. But take a look down the alleyways and there are some discoveries to be made.
Now a fashionable retail area with ample parking, this area was once the largest employer in Romford; in its heydey employing over 1,000 workers. Life began here as The Star Brewery in 1708, by 1845 as Ind Coope, and into the 20th Century as Allied Breweries, where the John Bull brand of beer was produced.
The brewery closed in 1993 and once demolished, the site was redeveloped in 2001 into the retail park we see today. Walking around you’ll see remnants of it’s brewing heritage, and you can’t fail to miss the iconic 160 foot chimney which dominates the skyline; this is one of the original chimneys from the brewing days.
As part of the development, metal artwork camouflaged as large insect like creatures help create a canopy for the shops and car park, but I’m unable to find any reference to their origin. If you know anything about them, do please drop me a line. And if you’ve not seen them, the Brewery Centre have teamed up with Things Made Public and installed 10 animal murals throughout the centre which you’re invited to go looking for them. I’ve not reproduced the murals as part of the fun in seeing them is the hunt. Have a go and see if you can find all of them – start here.
Picture of the Day
This view is taken through the partly covered arches on the northern side of Romford station running alongside and eventually into Exchange Street. The multi-coloured path is almost an attractive feature if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a somewhat seedy cut-through to the west of Romford. But nevertheless, it provides for an attractive photo-opportunity.This is taken facing west.
I waited for the right pedestrian to reach the end of the tunnel so that their silhouette helped to fill the tunnel opening. The late afternoon daylight coming in overhead helps to highlight the floor pattern, and the arch brickwork is enhanced using a green (Alpaca) filter.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ3.5; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO6400; Google filter – Alpaca