The new coffee shop at Crick's Corner - here's the back story - it still in its first week. And I reckon it's cracked it. We went along for a snack lunch today - good coffee, nice sandwich (a pulled pork cabanos, if you want to know), great cake (my son went for the strawberry sponge cake), friendly service and - helped by the streaming sunshine - a really nice place to chill.
And where is Crick's Corner? It's on Dartmouth Park Hill at the corner of Bickerton Street, so just to the north of the covered reservoir (aka Dartmouth Park), about five minutes walk from the Whittington hospital.
The cafe is much more spacious than I expected. The main cafe area is small but sufficient - with some nice snacks and brownies, and bread you can take home. What used to be the Patels' back room with sofa and TV set is now a light, bright additional room of seating. The decor is stylish - my my, N19 is starting to go places - and early this afternoon there was a steady stream of customers.
And in a very nice touch, certainly for this blogger, there was a copy of Curious Kentish Town for the curious to consult. Good on yer!
Crick's Corner is making a comeback - the shop on Dartmouth Park Hill (on the junction with Bickerton Road) is reopening on Monday as a coffee and cake place. Hallelujah!
The Patels - who ran a newsagent and small corner store - moved out well over two years ago. And ever since, except for one brief spell, it's been empty. I walked past this morning, and Simon (he'll be running the cafe with Kelly) had his paintbrush out getting the signage sorted.
"I've never done anything like this before", Simon said - I think he was talking about running a cafe, but perhaps painting a shop sign too.
One really heartening aspect of the new business is that they have latched on to the old name.
I've blogged about Crick's Corner and its history before - between the wars, it was a newsagent's and cheap subscription library. And an old ghost sign reading "Crick's Corner" is still visible on the Bickerton Road side - I played a modest role in saving it a couple of years back when some workers seemed intent on painting it over.
It's not going to be easy to make a go of the business - there are no other shops immediately adjoining, and not a lot of people walk past. But it deserves support, and I'll be there next week trying it out. I'll let you know what I make of the place.
Shop renovations bring with them moments of magic. Fleeting moments when remnants of another era resurface, and then just as quickly are again submerged, often forever.
That's what's happened at a disused corner shop along Dartmouth Park Hill in north London (on the junction with Bickerton Road to be precise). I posted about 'Crick's Corner' earlier in the year when the corner shop business run by the Patels - they used to deliver my newspapers - was about to close. The shop is now being refurbished. And driving past the other afternoon, I could see that old signage on clouded glass long since lost to view had come to light - 'Confectionery', 'Library', 'Periodicals', there was a fourth but the glass is broken. The shop used to be, between the wars, a library - lending out novels for a few pence a week.
Within days, these evocative signs - they look as if they date from the 1920s or 30s - were replaced by clear window glass. We will never see them again.
But it was wonderful to get a last glance of a shop front from perhaps seventy or more years ago.
The old 'Crick's Corner' signage still survives - for the moment.
I think it only got into the new century because it was hidden behind an advertising board which, some years back, was removed.
The developer is clearly hoping to find a commercial use for the property - though that may not be too easy. It's got a good corner site, but there's not much passing trade - as the Patels discovered.
When I wrote about Crick's Corner before, an old friend Bob Trevor - who grew up along this stretch of Dartmouth Park Hill - got in touch to say he remembered when it was still a commercial library and old-style mags and sweets shop. He recalled: "Another landmark of my life gone. Mr Crick used to cash cheques for my father, deliver newspapers and the 'Boy's Own Paper' for me. His son and daughter-in-law lived next door to us in No 79. My mother and Mrs Crick jnr were great pals. In those days there was a parade of shops stretching from Chester Road to Raydon St. Happy memories."
Mr Patel and his family have been delivering our morning newspapers for fifteen years or more. They have an old style corner shop on Dartmouth Park Hill - at the junction of Bickerton Road, in what oldtimers would probably call Upper Holloway. It's got papers, ciggies, sweets, a bare smattering of groceries and, that signifier of the struggling local store, top shelf porn.
Mr Patel has handed over his paper deliveries to another provider. He tells me that in a few weeks the shop will undergo renovation. I am not clear how extensive that will be, or indeed whether the Patels will remain in charge. But clearly it's a landmark in the history of a local landmark.
The shop has been stubbornly resistant to change - it hasn't altered in any appreciable degree since I first came to know the place in the nineties. Mr Patel and his family are often watching the TV or chatting in Gujarati in a small room just beyond the shop counter, and come out to serve as they hear the door open. It's that sort of business.
A few years ago, as I recall, a modern signboard or hoarding was removed to reveal a much older sign. 'Crick's Corner'. It's still there. I've no idea whether it will outlast the renovation, but I guess it's odds against.
I took a photo of the old sign today - graced, in the bright morning sun, by the slightly menacing shadow of a street lamp. There are much better shots of the sign to be found online. I have often wondered about how Crick's Corner - not that I have heard anyone use the term in conversation - came by its name. Thanks to Sebastien Ardouin and his excellent website, I now know.
Albert Crick ran a bookshop and lending library, flourishing in the 1920s and probably stretching back quite a bit earlier. He seems to have had two sites - here on Dartmouth Park Hill, and a short distance away on Swains Lane.
By 1937, he was selling off his ex-library stock. The corner lending library, such a huge part of popular access to literature, couldn't compete with the rise of the cheap paperback. It seems that Crick's Corner came to an end - in its original manifestation - one side or other of the Second World War. Just the old painted sign survives. And if you want to see and savour this lingering vestige of an older London, don't hang around!
LATER: my old friend and collegue Bob Trevor, who grew up in these parts, got in touch to say: Another landmark of my life gone. Mr Crick used to cash cheques for my father, deliver newspapers and the "Boy's Own Paper" for me. His son and daughter-in-law lived next door to us in No 79. My mother and Mrs Crick jnr were great pals. In those days there was a parade of shops stretching from Chester Road to Raydon St. Happy memories.
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