Any Old Iron
Roger has a question that is not only slightly off my manor, but also a bit ahead of my time. So here’s hoping someone here remembers this…
“Years ago (and I mean years ago!) there used to be one of those villa-type houses along Shooters Hill Road (on the London-bound (Blackheath) side), that used to have a collection of traction engines and old cars (including a Riley RM if I remember correctly) filling its front garden. It was always a head-turner for me, because they were exactly the kind of thing that fascinated me.
I suppose it was a bit like Onslow’s garden out of Keeping Up Appearances, but with a bit more class.
And then they all disappeared
It was kind of cool to think that SE London could have had its own “Fred Dibnah” type character, and I”ve always wondered where they all went: even after all the time that has passed (we’re probably talking about the ’80s at the latest, for when they went) I’d still be interested to know if anyone else remembers them, and knows anything more about them.”
Whatever happened to tat in people’s front gardens? I’m not talking a bust-out mattress, broken IKEA chest of drawers and a kiddies wheel-less tricycle here, but stuff that people have consciously saved, either because it could come in useful some day, or because they think it is beautiful and they want to display it to the world.
As a kid I used to love spotting this kind of thing (there used to be a Russian tank on a used car dealers forecourt along the Romford Road I used to look out for when we visited relatives) which is why I’m surprised I have no recollection whatsoever of this bizarre sight, but it sounds so very odd that I bet someone will.
I guess it’s all to do with property prices being so high, but you just don’t see this kind of thing any more – Steptoe & Son in people’s front gardens. Nowadays the best you’ll get is a tedious caravan under a bit of grey tarp, and even that’s never of the old-fashioned Gypsy variety. This curious magpiedom, which amounted, almost, to Outsider Art in some cases, has all just quietly gone away, and no one saw it go. I’m guessing it was around the time when Greenwich lost the vast majority of her junk antique shops too.
There are some people who will be delighted to see the neighbourhood cleaned up, but I, for one, mourn the passing of individual expression by everyday, average folk rather than ‘artists’ (however much that might have amounted to public nuisance in some eyes). I mourn those characters who made life that little bit more interesting (I had an uncle, exactly such a character, who was just brilliant, as was his ‘unusual’ garden…). And I mourn that I will never get the opportunity to see a collection of steam engines and old cars on the front lawn of a smart villa in Blackheath.