Monday, 20 January 2014

207 High Holborn, WC1

I set out last Sunday to take pics of Staple Inn on High Holborn, only to find it under scaffolding. So instead I walked a short way up the street to number 207, an early 19th-century Grade II-listed shop and terraced house clinging to the corner of Newton Street.

What stands out most about the shop, which has a wooden frontage, is the wrought iron cresting above the entablature. This was commonly used in the late 19th-century, so was most likely added around that time. According to Alan Powers in Shop Fronts, iron cresting was intended to catch the eye as shop fascias became weighed down with an accumulation of intricate details.

For most of its life the shop was a pawnbroker or antiques shop, under different owners but most famously under the name Shapland.

Back in 1834 it was a tobacconist, but the Lloyd's Weekly on September 16, 1849 has a court report involving pawnbroker G Webb of 207 High Holborn, who accused 40-year-old Jane Sinclair of trying to defraud him of 12 shillings by "tendering a spurious ring".

In Reynold's Newspaper on November 10, 1861, the shop was still a pawnbroker but now seemingly under the name Joshua Harding. The paper reported a case at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in which a young man named Henry Lewingstone stole a silver watch from Harding. A post office carrier, Thomas Bentley, told the court: "I was coming out of West Central District Office, at the the corner of Southampton Street and Holborn, when I heard a smash of glass in Holborn. I ran across the road, and saw the prisoner at the window of 207, with his hand through a hole in a pane [of] glass into the window. He had a watch in his hand. At that moment the assistant came out of the shop and seized him."

The shop crops up in a number of court reports down the years, due to its jewellery trade. In The Standard of May 5, 1879, the pawnbroker was now Mr John Allan, but this time it's the pawnbroker who is the defendant, with Allan accused of unlawfully detaining a gold watch. Allan was cleared but ordered to share the cost of the loss of the watch with the complainant.

At some point very soon after, diamond merchant Charles Shapland must have taken over the shop, at some stage also working jointly with someone called Cloud, as there are early advertisements (eg The Times, February 25, 1891) naming the business as Cloud & Shapland.

Shapland ran the shop as a pawnbroker specialising in old jewels and also as a clockmaker. A clock of 1880 (the 1833 visible is the clock number) is engraved with Shapland's address:

But Shapland eventually took sole control, and the shop traded under the Shapland name until the 1980s, specialising in antique silver. Here's an ad from The Daily Express in 1921, which sat on the front page beside the masthead:

Shapland was clearly a jeweller of some repute – the store had its own silver makers' mark.

The renowned Times wine correspondent Pamela Vandyke Price (who died just last week, aged 90) was clearly a fan, recommending the shop for silver tasting cups, brandy saucepans, toddy ladles and fine coasters in a few of her columns.

The City of London's Collage picture library has a great picture of the store, taken in 1974 – click here.

After Shadland closed in the 1980s, for some time it remained a jeweller, run by the Goldsmiths chain. When Goldsmiths moved out, its long association with jewellery ended, and instead of fine silver it now peddles distinctly non-precious greetings cards, One Direction face masks and 'Keep Calm and Carry On' tat as a branch of Cards Galore.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

13 Rugby Street, WC1

The best known address on Rugby Street is number 18, where Ted Hughes was living when he wooed Sylvia Plath. But across the road, the shop at number 13 is more stimulating than the memory of dead poets.

Its mid-19th century wooden shop front has a covering of attractive blue tiles, with dentil entablature and a pair of lion mask consoles, atop flat pilasters. There is just the one, large window – still with pin holes above for wooden shutters – which has an odd post, maybe for structural support, just inside to the right.

The terraced house was built around 1721, and when the shop was added in the 19th century it wouldn't have stretched back so far. Hidden beneath the wooden floor of the newer part of the shop at the rear is a medieval conduit head, made from white marble and scribbled with 16th-century graffiti. It originally supplied water to Greyfriars Monastery in Newgate Street.

Now a jeweller's, number 13 was for many years a dairy shop – hence the 'Dairy' lettering on the tiled stallriser – run since 1887 by the Davies family. The shop name was French's Dairy – why I don't know – and the fascia was only recently changed by the current occupier, Maggie Owen.

The Davies's name suggests it was a Welsh dairy. During the Victorian period many Welsh-owned dairies sprung up close to the Marylebone and Euston Roads, which offered easy access from Paddington Station, the terminus for trains from South Wales. Demand for milk brought by rail rocketed in the late 1860s, following an outbreak of rinderpest among the cows stabled in London, from where most supplies previously came. Hence the influx of Welsh dairy families, and the growth of dairy shops selling products that were previously sold from dairy stables in the city (see An Economic History of London 1800-1914, Professor Michael Ball & David T Sunderland).

I did have a quick look to see if I could find out whether the shop had a pre-dairy life, but couldn't find Rugby Street in the Post Office Directory. However, I've since realised Rugby Street was until 1936 or 1937 called Chapel Street (after the Chapel of St John, which was demolished in the mid-19th century), and when renamed the street numbering system was changed too, so no wonder I couldn't find it. The name Rugby Street comes from Rugby School, which owned this area of Bloomsbury. Here's a map of the area in 1752, from the British Library (it spells Chapel Street with a double l):

Post-dairy, by the 1980s number 13 was a general store, still run by the Davies family, then in the 1990s was taken over by Rennies, a gallery-cum-shop specialising in original posters and graphic design. Interviewed by The Observer in 2003, Rennies owners Paul and Karen Rennie said the cellar of number 13 was still stacked with milk bottles.

Eight years ago Maggie Owen moved in. Her range of contemporary jewellery and accessories from various designers is well worth a look if you're passing by.