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3 Jan 2024

Put a Spring in Your Step...

The latest schedule is here – it includes Art Deco architecture, gas-lit streets, evocative alleyways and ghostsigns – an A-Z of my walks and talks is here.

Any requests? Please do make suggestions if there are specific tours you'd like to see added to the schedule (no obligation). 

This site views best via the web version  simply click the link at the bottom of the page

26 Oct 2023

Jane's London Walks (and talks)



Whether in the West End, Willesden or Wapping, my walks and talks are about subjects that inspire and intrigue me personally, not merely lists of facts, figures and dates. My guiding style is friendly, sharing and unscripted, making every event completely unique – more here 

This site views best via the web version  please click the link at the bottom of the page
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To be notified as new walks/talks are added...
... follow me on Eventbrite 
or Facebook  
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Instagram @janeslondonwalks 
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CONTACT ME – jane@janeslondon.com / +44(0)7941 475003 
If you do not get a response to your email within 24hrs, please text/call or try janepbr@hotmail.com
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Prices, private tours, groups, commissions, vouchers
More info here 
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Also see my London blog
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24 Oct 2023

About me

Born in Barking, schooled in Romfordin 1988 I relocated to Holloway, London N7, because it ticked so many boxes and I haven't yet found good reason to leave. In addition to the area's diverse social and shopping facilities, this area of North Islington is layered in fascinating history, as well as being a convenient transport hub to connect with the City, the West End, and green spaces further afield
Having spent many years taking thousands of photos and writing up my London observations via my Jane's London blog, I made the decision, after encouragement from friends, that the next logical step would be to share my observations and findings via guided walks in the real world. 
I completed the  Clerkenwell and Islington guiding course in 2017 and since then have been sharing my knowledge and observations with other like-minded souls. 
My delivery style, like my personality, is inclusive, open and friendly, you could say chatty – this would be because I like to engage with my attendees and this leads to a marvellous knowledge exchange – people often refer to my infectious enthusiasm.
During the lockdown in 2020 I began to offer online talks and tours via Zoom and this has enabled me to connect and share with people all around the world. It's been a delight. 

The varied subjects I cover showcase the different facets of my personality and the things I am genuinely interested in, such as art and design, sculpture and architecture, pubs, parks, old signage and advertising. Every tour I offer, whether a walk along the streets, a presentation online, or a talk to a group in a school hall, is designed, researched and updated by me personally, having checked, cross-referenced and contradicted(!) the 'facts' available. As such, everything is a work in progress and I am always happy for attendees to correct me or add to the story. 

Suggestions and bespoke commissions are always welcome.
I hope to see you soon,
Jane

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This site views best via the web version  click the link at the bottom of the page

Also see Jane's London "the wonderful little details on, around and above London's streets" – though it's fair to say that I do have a have a few rants too(!)

23 Oct 2023

Feedback

A selection of feedback is shown below
For more reviews, please see my TripAdvisor page

Over 25% of online attendees have returned for more, with over half of those attendees attending at least three talks. Thank you!
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"Jane is a wonderful guide! She is very knowledgeable and has great humor. She had us laughing and surprised with fascinating facts about Agatha's life. Thank you, Jane!"

"I’m not one to leave reviews Jane but I hope you realise by our continued attendance that we thoroughly enjoy Jane’s Jaunts !!"

"Just to say how much I enjoyed your walk and talk yesterday. I do like your social historian approach and your complete lack of academic “talk down”. You were sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge with like minded people and it was great! Many thanks. I’m sure to be back!"
 
"I enjoyed the online tour of buildings by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and your enthusiasm is always so catching online or in person. Thanks!"
 
"I really like your presentation skills Jane. Your conversational style is so refreshing compared to other talks I have attended which are more academic in their delivery. You have introduced me to many new things in an engaging way. I will keep returning for more [online tours via Zoom]"
 
"We would like to thank you for your amazing historical tour [Piccadilly Deco]. Your knowledge and the amazing buildings held our attention despite the rain. Well done for your hard work... thank you again for your excellent research."

"I took one of Jane's virtual tours (Ghostsigns - Pills, Plasters, Potions and Pick-me-ups) and it was fascinating. She is an excellent, engaging, interesting speaker and I will definitely be back for more."
 
"Wow, I can't believe how many of these you are still managing to come up with [Art Deco presentations via Zoom] and I am loving them all... very much enjoying these talks" 

[The Carreras Story, online presentation] "Quite an eye opener and you were a perfect guide. Clear and nicely paced dialogue which was a pleasure to listen to" / "Your presentation was fascinating – the hour flew by!" / "A really great talk, Jane – so much information"
 
"[Jane] points out all the things anyone would just walk by without noticing, and she is a lovely personality. She does walks on all different topics."

"Today was the first time I have heard one of your presentations and I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. The number of buildings you covered [on Alternative Art Deco Delights virtual tour] was just right and the information you provided, together with the photographs was excellent."

"I was really impressed... I learned so much about an area that I was born in many years ago [Arsenal/FinsburyPk Deco walk]... the history behind the football club and its impact on the local area was very interesting... it's easy to tell how passionate Jane is about her varied subjects... I can thoroughly recommend Jane's tours."

"This was a great walk [ArtDecoHolloway]... Now I feel I know the area on my doorstep much better, thanks to Jane. She weaves her own journey of discovery... and her enthusiasm and fascination rubs off on you!" 

"Another fascinating walk... around the Angel and the Regent's Canal area. Jane's walks are a fantastic insight into little known areas of London and she is a great gatekeeper of hidden history... she showed us a part of London we had never explored before. Ghost signs, lost light industries and the echoes of time past. Wonderful."

"Jane makes us look up and see what is around us. The ghost signs are a perfect example of this and the history of these old advertisements, painted or built onto the sides of buildings... an interesting insight into our social history. Our first walk with Jane was looking at Art Deco buildings in the City of London and we are looking forward to another ghost signs walk."

"[The Ladykillers] walk was both very enjoyable and informative. We were able to visit the locations used to make the film and compare with [stills from] the original film.... We departed wanting to again see the film to relive the walk. For those that saw [the film] all those years ago, the walk is a must."

"Enjoyed all the 6 Art Deco walks I have done so far and opened my eyes to the 30s style of architecture which more varied than I thought. Looking forward to doing more walks in the future."

"I have been on one of Jane's walks and her ascent of the Caledonian Market clock-tower. Both excellent in content and very entertaining."

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This site views best via the web version  click the link at the bottom of the page

21 Oct 2023

What is Art Deco?

Streamline Moderne
Architecture in the interwar years

Do you like cantilevered simplicity or Jazz Age geometrics?
Do you "ooh" every time you drive past The Hoover Factory?
Do you "wow" when you see Senate House?
Do you yearn to live in a house with interiors to rival Eltham Palace?

We’ve all got a different take on "Art Deco" because the term has become a catch-all for many buildings constructed between the mid-1920s and WW2; a time of change when architects were keen to move away from the fussy embellishments and dusty drapery of previous decades.
You might be surprised to learn that he term "Art Deco" was not coined until 1968 when Bevis Hillier referred to this period as a truncation of '
Les Arts Decoratifs' on display at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts that took place in Paris, back in 1925. 
But the term is a bit misleading, especially in regard to architecture, as most of the buildings that carry the tag are lacking in any exterior decoration at all, with most displaying simplicity of line and pared-down geometric ornamentation here and there. One could argue that the only style that truly fits the description of Art Deco is the Egyptian temple revival, yet, these days, the term also covers tiled factory façades, temples to industry, Portland stone banks, minimalist shop fronts, ocean liner office blocks and impressive department stores.

To see the diversity of this over-arching term, join me on one of my ArtDeco/1930s walking tours or online talks. I have pounded London's streets and discovered many unsung and lesser-known gems and I'd love to share some of the unsung masterpieces with you as there's so much more to see than the Brentford factories and the Daily Express building. 
You can be sure that, on every one of my routes, whether in person or online, you will find something new, and/or a building that gives you that 'wow' moment. 

Here's my hand-drawn map of some of the central London Art Deco routes I offer:


Find out more about these and other Art Deco walks and talks here

"Enjoyed all the 6 Art deco walks I have done so far and opened my eyes to the 30s style of architecture which [turns out to be] more varied than I thought. Looking forward to doing more walks in the future." More customer reviews and feedback here

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This site views best via the web version  click the link at the bottom of the page

Return to Home page

The Holloway tour includes this marvellous neon diver sign which is available as cards and prints at various sizes on my Etsy site where you'll also find a daytime version and other ArtDeco buildings that feature on my walks, such as the Carreras factory at Mornington Crescent and The Carlton Cinema in Essex Rd. 

20 Oct 2023

Art Deco walks and talks

A-Z by area/title 

Walking tours and online talks via Zoom looking at how the statement buildings of the 1920s and 1930s made substantial changes to London's streets during a significant building boom that blew away the cobwebs from the fussy and time-consuming designs of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Post-WW1, new building processes and clean geometric designs were implemented by architects who were keen to prove that the future was clean and bright. A motivational style evolved that we have come to recognise today using the collective term 'Art Deco'. But what is Art Deco?

Today, we marvel at these modernist survivors but, it's worth considering that, at the time they were built, not everyone would have been so impressed – they were, in effect, the Shards and Cheesegraters of their day. 

The clean lines and design devices of the ArtDeco/modernist era have continued to inspire architects ever since. 

My 'Art Deco' walks and talks are listed below by location/title.

To see the main A-Z menu of walks and talks click here.

This site views best via the web version – please use the click at the very bottom of this page.

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Alternative Art Deco Delights (online)
A virtual tour from Holloway to the West End via the City of London

A collection of underrated, often overlooked, architectural gems from the interwar era, all hiding in plain view. Each building is a stop on one of my walking tours. I have selected a cross-section of diverse architectural styles from Jazz Age metalwork, through geometrical patterns, tiled façades and fancy brickwork to the simplicity of Streamline Moderne.

Other walks in the Holloway area also available (Victorian shops, ghostsigns, literature), see here

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Angel Islington – Tea, Transport, Trade and Temples 
Walk – Essex Road to City Road via Upper Street
(Coming soon)

Egyptian temples, utilitarian offices, faience tiles, Vitrolite and veneers, as well as Tudor and Georgian influences that were put to good use at that time.

Other walks in the Angel and Upper Street area also available (Victorian shops, ghostsigns, housing, etc), see here

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Angel South / Finsbury
Walk – City Road to Exmouth Market via Mount Pleasant
(Coming soon)

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Arsenal to Finsbury Park – Terraces and Typography
Walk – Arsenal tube station to Finsbury Park station 

We'll visit places of entertainment, commerce, education, travel and sport as well as residential properties. You'll see a cross-section from the era including impressive statement pieces of the 1930s and an unfinished scheme. And we'll talk about typography and design, and how the design ethos of this era has endured through subsequent decades. 

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Bank – See City

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Bankside and Battersea Power Stations
A virtual tour

An online presentation about Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – a prolific architect and interesting man. Find out about the buildings he designed and was connected with, his signature style, his ubiquitous red kiosks, and his flights of fancy.  

A guided walking tour from Westminster to The City via Bankside is in the making

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Bloomsbury East – Moons, Muses and Magic Squares
Walk – Russell Square to Gray's Inn

An alternative Bloomsbury Art Deco walk looking at some overlooked or unnoticed not-so-hidden gems. We'll begin with a couple of the well-known 1930s constructions in the vicinity, including one building which is often referred to as one of the best examples of its style. We'll travel eastwards to admire other often overlooked or unnoticed gems hiding in plain sight in the lesser-used backstreets – residential and office developments, hospital buildings, education hubs, manufactories and bars. You'll see some wonderful examples of Streamline Moderne, Jazz Age metalwork, carved reliefs and curtain walls. Find out about the innovative industries and institutions behind the façades and hear how people lived, worked and socialised in the 1930s.
There's a chance at the end of the walk to join me for a drink and a chat inside a pub of the era which still retains most of its original features.

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Bloomsbury North – see Kings Cross/St Pancras

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Bloomsbury West – Beds, Bugs and Balconies
Walk –Russell Square to Warren Street station via Gower Street

As per my Bloomsbury East tour, we start with a couple of well-known buildings near Russell Square and then go 'off-piste' to admire some unsung, overlooked and often unnoticed gems – hard to believe, considering their impressive size and the quality of workmanship. 

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Camden – Cigarettes and Alcohol
Walk – Mornington Crescent to Camden Town

Along the route you'll see various examples of the era – on shops and businesses along the High Street and on factories, offices and residential properties in the back streets. We'll visit buildings that have been repurposed or revamped and you'll hear about, and see reference of, others that made it through WWII but bit the dust in subsequent waves of progressive change during the second half of the twentieth century. Please don't worry about the Camden market crowds – the route is designed so that there is only one instance when we'll have to cut through them!

The Carreras factory building shown here (AKA The Black Cat building / Greater London House) is also available as an online presentation

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Central – see Soho, Piccadilly, Holborn, also Egypt

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City Of London – Art and Finance, Shipping and Insurance
Walk – Aldgate to Monument via Cornhill

Let me take you on a tour through The Square Mile's narrow backstreets and along its main thoroughfares to show you that squidged in amongst today's glass and high-rise edifices there are some marvellous 1920s and 1930s architectural gems hiding in plain view.
We'll look at a variety of imposing styles that show how the world of finance and insurance used the clean lines of this era to best advantage via Jazz Age metalwork, carved wood and stone reliefs, ziggurat and zig-zag embellishments, and beautifully-tiled façades.
Discover who built these impressive structures and what went on inside. Hear about shopping and shipping, money and markets, tea and coffee, fine art and fire... even horse-racing!

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Covent Garden – Flappers, Fashion, Fruit and Footlights
Walk – Tottenham Court Rd station to The Savoy

See a variety of Jazz Age embellishments, marvellous Modernism and 'Art Deco' artistry on places of commerce, entertainment, employment, trade and learning, including six marvellous theatres, a couple of hotels, an art school and even a fruit and vegetable merchant. We'll visit some unsung Deco-era constructions that are [shamefully] rarely included in those "Best Of" listings and we'll peek inside some impressive interiors.
Hear about the buildings and the people who commissioned them. Find out about the architects and artists, products and productions, reviews and revues. 

Other walks in this area also available – see here

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Clerkenwell / St Luke's – Bauhaus, Workhouse, Our House
Walk – Old Street to Clerkenwell Green
Coming soon... Modernist manufactories, wonderful workshops and fabulous flats

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Demolished / Lamented
Online – a provocative presentation 

Forty years of architectural change. 
Find out about some of the interwar buildings that have recently been lost to us. Hear about heritage, conservation, façadism, renovation and rejuvenation. Learn about the new structures that replace the old.   

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Earl's Court – see Demolished
Also features on my walk around the Olympia area – see architecture section here

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East End to West End – Impressive Art Deco (Virtual tour)
An online tour across London looking at some impressive interwar buildings between Whitechapel and Mayfair

A selection of large buildings, simply hiding in plain view, selected for their diverse architectural styles and superb embellishments. Many of these buildings feature as stops on my walking tours. There are sure to be a couple here that you were not aware about before despite their huge size(!).

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Finsbury Park – walking tour – see Arsenal

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Fitzrovia – Flats, Films and Fashion
Walk – Gt Portland Street tube to Tottenham Court Road

This haunt of writers, creatives and garment manufacturers offers a patchwork of architectural styles. Squished between the Georgian houses and the C21st glass there are some really interesting buildings erected in the 1920s and '30s, showing us a cross-section of the architectural styles implemented in that era. Of particular interest on this tour is the use of pattern within render and brickwork – I have some theories as to who might have been involved.  

For a residential-specific online tour – see Living
You might also like my ghostsigns walk in this area – see here

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Great Portland Street – Retail, Radio and RIBA
Walk – Oxford Street to Portland Place

The district north-east of Oxford Circus around Great Titchfield Street was, until the 21st century, the home of the clothing and soft furnishings industry, and this makes sense, considering its proximity to the main shopping streets. We'll look at manufactories, distribution hubs and head offices for many of the brands being sold in the big department stores nearby. You've probably walked these streets many times and never seen the delights above street level all hiding in plain view. We'll also look at buildings constructed for education and entertainment, including BBC Broadcasting House. This walk ends at RIBA, itself an impressive showcase of 1930s architecture. 

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Hatton Garden – See Smithfield

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Holborn – Cables, Collars and Commonwealth
Walk – Holborn tube station to Aldwych

Temple-esque architecture of all kinds – art, advertising, technology, transport, theatre, fashion, finance and furniture. Marvel at statement façades including a recent renovation that I am sure will be cause for conversation.

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Holloway – Drapery, Divers and Display
Walk – the Nags Head shopping area, ending near Holloway Rd tube station

The Holloway area of Islington, a short distance from the City and the West End, has for over 150 years been the go-to shopping area for North London. In the 1930s many well-established businesses were keen to keep up with the design zeitgeist and rebuilt their shop fronts, if not the whole building, in the then new forward-thinking modern style of the time. There are some excellent examples of pre-WW2 modernism here, all hiding in plain view – we'll look at places of entertainment, commerce and health, as well as some residential properties. One building, in particular, designed by one of the best architects of the time, is sure to impress – I can never understand why it's not on those 'Art Deco Best of London' lists.

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Kings Cross / St Pancras – All Change Here!
Walk – St Pancras Hotel to Euston Station via North Bloomsbury

See how the area just south of Euston Road has evolved to include some Art Deco and Modernist delights that are hidden in the gaps between the very old and the very new.
Join me for a meander through back streets and green squares to see evidence of inter-war technology and connections of various kinds. Plus impressive residential developments, sports halls, places of learning and social hubs. This will include looking at a building site where a where a large 1930's tranport hub was recently demolished.
At the end of the walk we'll look inside a 1930s pub that has some lovely original features including some evocative Jazz Age marquetry – perfect for an after-walk cocktail or a half of shandy.

You might also like my ghostsigns walk in the KX area – see here

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Living the Art Deco Dream / Art Deco Living 
An online tour from Hampstead to Pimlico

Independent living. Innovative 1930s design. Streamlined and serviced. Economical, luxurious and convenient. All mod cons.

A virtual tour/ online presentation

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Mayfair a walking tour around the Bond Street area – a work in progress

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Piccadilly – Slacks, Flicks and Slots
Walk – Piccadilly tube station to Leicester Square

The title refers to slacks as in trousers, flicks as in cinema and slots as in machines you put coins in. This short route through the three yellow squares on the London version of the Monopoly board, also from the same era, packs in so much.We start within Piccadilly tube station, one of London Underground's best designed booking halls, and then we go up to pavement level to look at some impressive 1930s buildings – shops, telecommunications, offices and, of course, various places of entertainment. Hear the stories behind the façades, learn about the people and businesses associated with them. We will also look inside some original interiors.

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Shoreditch and Hoxton – Health, Ham and Housing
Walk – Finsbury Square to Old Street via Moorfields

This route showcases a cross-section of styles of the era – solid statement architecture, simple geometry, curtain walls, Egyptian inspiration and 'Streamline Moderne' which echoes the fabulous ocean-going liners. We'll look at places of literature, commerce, manufacture, health, and housing. You'll hear about the people and/or companies related to the façades and see how the style has endured and continues to inspire today's architects.

You might also like my ghostsigns walk in this area – see here

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Residential – See Living (online talk)

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Smithfield – Markets, Meat and Mysteries
Walk – Chancery Lane to Barbican station via Hatton Garden 

From leather and diamonds, pottery and pearls via heists and firearms to mire, meat, murder. Join me for a walk through various market areas in the Holborn and Charterhouse districts to at look at a selection of mid-20th century modernist architecture.
This constantly-evolving district shows us a marvellous cross-section of architecture through the centuries. Obviously, we'll be concentrating on 1920s façades, 1930s offices, 1950s factories, functional constructions, fancy concoctions and film location. Learn about Miami Deco, streamline moderne, luxury lino, gold stores, cold stores and... find out whodunnit!

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Spitalfields – Fabulous Façades
Walk – Bishopsgate to Aldgate via Brick Lane

There are some really impressive examples of Art Deco architecture along this route. I guarantee you'll find at least one building with the 'wow' factor and wonder how you managed to walk past it for so long without really noticing it.
Both long-established and newly-created businesses were keen to show they were part of the zeitgeist. You'll see the clean lines of the 1930s applied in various ways to places of commerce, art, health, housing and entertainment, including one of the largest purpose-built office buildings of that era. Find out who built these impressive structures and what when on behind the façades. 

You might also like my ghostsigns walk in the Brick Lane and Spitalfields area – see here

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Soho – Movies, Music and Motor Cars
Walk – Oxford Street, through Soho, to Piccadilly Circus 

Soho's charm is due to it being a village contained within four major roads. It might seem busy today but in the interwar years of the '20s and '30s it was even more congested. By day it was a hive of activity with shops, cafés, markets, schools, artisans and craftsmen, then, as the sun went down, the streets buzzed with nightlife as people, dressed in their finest clothes, made for the best or cocktail bars, restaurants, casinos and theatres.
During this "Jazz Age" era a lot of impressive buildings were constructed in the new motivational style implementing clean geometric lines, pared-down motifs and shiny tiles, often in contrast to their crazy patterned interiors – Soho has some fine examples. See evidence of this area's vibrant movie-making history, film stars and flappers, fabulous fabrics, colourful cabaret venues and even a classy carpark. We will also visit a restored and revamped 1930s interior. I am sure you will find a new "Art Deco" favourite along the way.

You might also like my ghostsigns walk in this area – see here

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Theatreland – West End / Soho / Covent Garden / Strand
Guided walk / online talk

Jazz Age Jazz Hands!
Thirteen Art Deco theatres built or renovated in the central London area between 1924 and 1937 with eight new theatres completed within a 13-month period 1929-30 and opening nights often being within weeks of each other. See how the architecture of that time evolved from Art Nouveau into Jazz Age geometrics and then Streamline Moderne.

The virtual tour (online presentation via Zoom) is a chronology. The walking tour takes a clockwise route from Tottenham Court Rd station to Piccadilly and is designed to last 3hrs, including a half hour break mid-way.

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Tottenham Court Rd area – see Bloomsbury / Covent Garden / Fitzrovia

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West End – See Soho, Piccadilly, Mayfair, Theatreland etc – also see East End (really!)

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Whitechapel – walking tour coming soon – meanwhile, see East End

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This site views best via the web version – please use the click at the very bottom of this page.

18 Oct 2023

Ghostsigns walks and talks

What is a ghostsign?
Ghostsigns are the faded advertisements of yesteryear still visible above today's streets, mostly in the form of hand-painted letters on brick walls. These were commissioned either by well-known companies to sell their branded products or by local businesses keen to attract passing trade. 
The signs would have been hand-painted by specialist, skilled craftsmen, often using the lines in the brickwork as guides for the size of the letters, as shown in the crude example I have created here. This labour-intensive form of hand-applied advertising might seem to be a strange waste of time and money today with our fast large-format printing, lightboxes and interactive bus shelter ads, but over 100 years ago signs similar to this one were commonplace. In fact, high street buildings were barely discernible beneath the paint and posters.

If you like puzzles and riddles, mixed with history and research then these old painted signs should be right up your street as in many cases there only scraps of letters that remain, making it difficult to ascertain what a sign might have been advertising. For instance, can you help me to decipher this one in Islington?

Join me on for a walking tour, or an online presentation from the comfort of your sofa, to hear the often fascinating stories behind the ads, from bogus potions to big brands, via builders and breweries.

Ghostsigns aren't all hand-painted. I believe that the term can also apply to other types of defunct signage for brands or businesses which no longer exist at that site. These might be visible as names embedded into the fabric of a building, carved into wood or forged within metalwork.

My ghostsigns walks and talks are listed below by location/title.

To see the main A-Z menu of walks and talks click here.

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Bygone Barnsbury
Walk – Liverpool Road (Angel) to Caledonian Rd via some of Islington's loveliest squares

There's an evocative range of signage and advertisements for trades and brands of the past in this leafy residential area of Islington. Find out about beer retailers, chemists, instrument makers, garages, hardware, insulation and so much more.
Other ghostsigns walks in this area – see Islington (below)

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Camden – Gin, Drugs and Shopping
Walk – Mornington Crescent to The Roundhouse via Camden Lock

Potions and lotions, beds and breakfast, bacon, booze and bars. Hear about Camden's varied history – bygone businesses, huge warehouses and manufactories, breweries, bakers, artists, chemists and furnishers. Plus breakfast cereals, pain relief and chewing gum. We'll mostly be in the back streets so please don't fret about shoppers and tourists in the busy main drag – there'll only be one short section when we might have to negotiate crowds and I havent' lost anyone yet.

Also in Camden: Kentish Town / Kings Cross (see below)  – for Art Deco Camden see main list

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Chemists – see Pills and Potions / Barnsbury / Kings Cross

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Covent Garden 
Walk – Holborn to St Giles via Long Acre and Seven Dials

Today, London's centre, is mostly lined with shops, bars and retail outlets selling fashion, coffee, food and gadgets. But look above pavement level to see hints of how these streets were once home to a diverse range of tradesmen and services. We look at old signage – some hand-painted directly onto walls, others embedded within masonry or printed onto metal – to discover the bygone businesses behind the advertisements. Find out about hospitality and hardware, horses and horsepower. Learn about printers, artists, woodworkers, billiard halls and, perhaps, the only kind of businesses that still thrive in this area today; cafés, restaurants and hotels.

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Fitzrovia
Walk – Goodge Street, Charlotte Street, Gt Titchfield Street etc

This quiet zone just north f Oxford Street boasts an excellent cross-section of signs from bygone days including this marvellous mosaic. There are also hand-painted signs along the way advertising an intriguingly diverse range of trades and business that used to be be here, such as bookshops, antique dealers, wireworkers, architects and plumbers' merchants. We'll also stop to look at some interesting buildings whose exteriors give away they original function. 

One happy customer said: "I've attended about six of your ghostsigns walks and every walk was fab. This one was my absolute favourtite (so far!!)" 

Other walks in this area – see main list

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Holloway Road  
Two routes – guided walks / online talks via Zoom

Archway to Nags Head
Nags Head to Highbury Corner

This busy thoroughfare boasts a very good cross-section of old signage. As part of the A1, Holloway Road connects the City of London to Scotland and for centuries has been a perfect conduit for advertisements and promotion. We look at old signs advertising medicinal products, estate agents, musical instruments, foodstuffs and alcohol, cafés and hairdressing. A couple of hand-painted signs that made it through WWII but have been recently over-painted are still included being as the stories behind the products are so good and there's every chance the lettering will reappear as the modern water-based paint peels away over time.

You might also like Holloway Heyday, Holloway Pubs, Diary of a Nobody and Literary Holloway – see main list

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Islington – Make Walking a Pleasure
Walk – Upper Street, Camden Passage, Angel and Chapel Market 

We start this walk near Islington Town Hall by one of the sites that first got me interested in this hand-painted form of advertising. And from there we take a meandering route to end up a stone's throw from Angel tube station. Along the way I'll point out some marvellously preserved old signage and you'll hear about a diverse range of products and businesses, such as children's toys, rubber mats, bogus potions and men's hats. I will also point out other types of 'ghostsigns' along the way. The title of this walk is taken from one of the signs you'll see on the tour.

Also see Regents Canal ghostsigns walk which starts near Angel tube station

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Kentish Town – Wireworks to Waterworks
Walk/online – Camden Town station to Kentish Town station (or vice-versa)

We think of Kentish Town as being the area around the station but it actually started further south around St Pancras Old Church, just north of the main railway station of the same name. The village became a town and spread in a linear fashion northwards towards Highgate. This walk starts and finishes adjacent to two different railway lines. You'll see how transport connections via rail, and via canal, played a big part in altering the façades of previously well-to-do Georgian streets. front gardens became shops, back gardens became manufactories. Kentish Town Road and the streets around it has many hints of history hiding in plain view and the stories behind the old signs are intriguing 

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King's Cross – Scales, Weights and Weighing Machines
Walk – Circular from Kings Cross Station 

When the railways arrived and changed this area in the mid-1850s, many businesses were quick to move in and seize the opportunity, whether as a good location for manufacture and distribution or as great location to open a restaurant or a shop. By the 1880s, the brickwork on many façades was barely visible beneath a patchwork of hand-painted lettering advertising all kinds of products including breakfast foods, motor oil, newspapers and precision instruments. We'll look at some marvellous examples that still cling to the walls – innovative inventions, Italian dining rooms, alcohol, boot polish and bogus potions. You'll also hear about the signmakers themselves and we'll look at the HQ of one of the companies who managed the lucrative advertising sites. 

Other walks in the Kings Cross Area – see main list

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Made in London
Online talk about signs that advertise products and businesses that were manufactured in London

Online talks can cover a wider area and, by cherry-picking from my walking tours, I can offer talks on themes such as this one bringing together a range of businesses that manufactured in London, evidence of their companies or products, still visible on the walls of their old premises. Hear about a wide range of companies making products beer, garments, toys, tobacco, matches, machines and more.

One happy attendee wrote: "Jane, these talks are fascinating. I really wish I didn't live so far away so that I could come and see these amazing signs in the flesh, so to speak."

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Notting Hill
Walk – Notting Hill Gate to Ladbroke Grove via Portobello Road

There is a marvellous selection of ads of various kinds along this route. We'll look at hand-painted signs for tradesmen and well-known brands as well as tiled shops fronts displaying the name of companies well-known to us but no longer trading today. 
We'll travel from the once well-to-do shops adjacent to Kensington Gardens, along Portobello Road, known for it's vibrant antiques market, and into Ladbroke Grove, stopping to admire signboards and faded ads. I'm pretty sure that many local residents won't have noticed some of the signs I've found to show you.

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Pills, Potions and Pick-me-ups
Online talk about signs that show products associated with the pharmaceutical world

It's amazing how there are so many signs that advertise products that are no longer available at the local chemist's shop, such as lozenges and lotions, pills and potions. Find out about how the firms who made the products and how they promoted their products to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible. There are some fascinating and colourful stories in here – learn about cure-all creams and liquids that contained what we now consider to be dangerous chemicals, and others that were little more than fizzy water or harmless tree sap.  

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Regent's Canal, Islington – Boxes, Babies, Beans and Bras
Walk – Angel tube station to The Rosemary Branch, Southgate Road 

A wander along, above and around the Regents Canal in Islington following a trail of old painted signs that hint at the area's rich history. We'll be looking mostly at hand-painted-onto-walls signs including the one shown here. See and hear about a diverse range of companies and products from ladies' underwear and fancy boxes to metals and ceramics.

You might also like 'Waterways, Wharves and Warehouses' in the main list here

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Soho
Walk – Almost circular from Soho Square 

Georgian shops, woodworkers, well-dressed waiters, past times and pastiches. See how beautiful residential houses were transformed into shops and restaurants. Zig-zag through the cobbled backstreets to see where tradesmen worked with wood, leather and metal. And see signs that hint at the area's French history. 

Other walks in Soho – Art Deco / French / Italians – see main list

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Willesden Green
Walk – Dollis Hill, Willesden High Road and Walm Lane

A fascinating glimpse into this area's colourful history. Hear the stories behind the signs, some of which still show prices in shillings! We’ll look at hand-painted ads, carved panels, Art Deco glass, tiled forecourts advertising a range of items including metal signs, Ceylon tea, newspapers, antiques and razors. 

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