Got a goodun for you today, folks.
“You could have blown me down with a feather when I saw mention of both the writing on the wall of my father’s studio in Point Hill and of their antique shop in Blackheath Road.”
Stephen is, of course, Stephen Schwarz, son of Hans and Lena, who owned the splendid house on the corner of King George Street with our most recent ‘Faded Greenwich’ sign on the adjacent coach house. More of that later.
Stephen’s been telling me about his parents’ shop, his father’s painting – and a rather intriguing little piece of paper. He tells me
“The shop was very much a parental joint effort. with Hans sourcing supplies from house sales in Somerset and very early morning forays to East End markets and Lena arranging the shop with great flare, and staffing it, with the able assistance of several part-time ladies.”
They started out in the 1960s with a little stall in Portabello Road
Stephen says “In both photos Staffordshire figures are prominent: I see no Spitalfields Life dogs, although I have one, and a pig, that Hans and Lena gave me at the time. You will observe that, when it came to the shop they changed to a more generic title.”
Thing is, antiques were only a part of Han’s life. He was also a painter – so when the couple moved to Greenwich in 1970, after four years in the country, he had to find somewhere that could be not just a family home but that also had some kind of coach-house to serve as a studio. In this scrap from his notebook, he reveals he was amazed to find the estate agent already had had such a place on his books for some time, though it was in a right old state – he admits that it would have been cheaper to rip the whole lot down and just build it again.
We owe Hans Schwarz the raise of a glass of Meantime Porter that he didn’t do that, as so many would have done (and did, elsewhere). Instead, he was delighted, as we still are, at the coal merchant’s faded sign, and just adapted the building so he could retain the sign. He painted the view from the window many times:
and from many angles:
though he didn’t stay in the house. The café in the Park was one of Hans and Lena’s (not to mention Stephen himself’s) favourite haunts and source of shepherd’s pie:
In the thirty years Hans and Lena lived there they became a part of the community.
Stephen has also sent me a drawing of Rajesh Patel and his family, who were (and perhaps someone can confirm for me, still are) the newsagents (and Han’s tobacconist…) at the Royal Hill/Point Hill junction
“This was painted for a People’s Portrait project (utterly fascinating – well worth a delve – TGP) for the millenium, the project’s paintings now at Girton College. Hans was very keen on the people’s portrait idea, and he also painted a Somerset blacksmith, but in addition had a project of his own in the little Bristol Channel port of Watchet, for which he painted many townspeople.
Sadly, Stephen’s father died in 2003 and Lena mother last October. Only last week he came across many of the items he’s sent me (thank you, thank you, thank you Stephen) and therefore has only just noticed on very intriguing thing. Take another look at that page from Han’s Journal:
Hang on – a Great Train Robber “kept his rollers in the coach house”? Which Great Train Robber? When? How? Why? And what the hell did he need rollers for? His beehive?
Sadly that’s all I have, folks. But clearly we only attract the best villains to West Greenwich…
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