Gay Furbishings And Quaint Conceits

“The romantic and beautiful side of history is perhaps too much forgotten today in the very proper desire to reach accuracy of detail and the security of the historical basis of things.”

So writes the great Greenwich antiquarian Professor J.E.G Montmorency in his introduction to a very wonderful book written in 1925 by Gerald Baker, Blackheath – The Story of the Royal Hundred.

The professor’s right, of course, and I confess that I find myself rather more in the Baker camp than the Montmorency – it’s much more fun to take the wildly romantic view of things, and write sentences such as “passing over many scenes of less importance” about the boring bits of Greenwich history than to do actual original research. Of course when it comes to books I use, I’d turn to Montmorency every time – but for the look, you can’t beat the spiffing 1920s visions of Gerald Baker’s slim volume.

Take that lovely picture of Nelson Road at the top of this post, for example – complete with ladies in cloche hats and fur stoles. Or this leafy vision of the Paragon, which I understand wasn’t all that well at the time after WWI – though of course worse was to come before it finally reached – well, much the same view as in the drawing here – a few decades ago.

But the most fabulous thing about Blackheath… has to be the very telling advertisements inside the covers – and I thought today I’d share a few with you. They range from ads for hairdressers offering “Permanent Waving – by the best processes with the most up-to-date apparatus (fourteen separate cubicles)” through to F.A. Roberts who declare “here you will always find an attractive hat or toque suitable for any occasion…”

Some were enterprising individuals:

And some local eateries:

Sadly, I’m pretty sure that Alderton’s restful cafe doesn’t exist any more – but the gas showroom in Nelson Road is still here – even if it’s not quite what it was:
Not sure where to see a little bit of Greenwich’s early 20th Century hidden history? Try Joy – in Nelson Road. In between the saucy hen-night accouterments and sparkly gee-jaws, look for the old gas taps, the two beautiful remaining fireplaces – and, best of all, the mosaic-floored, stained glass windowed changing rooms with their wonderful, faded grandeur:

It’s worth trying something on just to get a closer look…
Another survivor is the old Heathview Hotel – now the Clarendon, which, this advert implies, has stones from the old London Bridge incorporated into its walls:
I’m pretty sure Chappells are still going too, though I’d hazard a guess they wouldn’t use a picture quite as – creepy – as this any more:
And what of those Quaint Conceits? Just take a look at this gay blade from Royal Parade.
Don’t you just yearn for a new New Argosy that sells rhyme sheets, Viennese ceramics and Russian dolls?


Comments are closed.