The 'Acme' of ghost signs
I came across this exhumed shop sign today at the north end of Great Eastern Street, where Finsbury edges into Shoreditch. What a wonderfully dated business name! (Acme, if you are wondering, comes from the Greek word for peak).
The work on these premises have been progressing at a glacial pace - it seems that 'Acme Electric Co (Finsbury)' has been enjoying a public reprise for a couple of years. Another ghost sign enthusiast has discovered that the business once sold electrical calculators, transistor radios and cassette recorders.
All things that feel about as dated as the term 'Acme' - and yes, that was the name of the corporation in Looney Tunes and Wile E. Coyote!.
Community Care in Shoreditch
I've blogged quite a few times about Shoreditch, its Town Hall, the Arnold Circus bandstand and the Boundary Street area. Jean Locker has responded to some of my blogs, and I'm posting her comments:
The Shoreditch Town Hall was only saved from private development due a huge community effort 12 years ago. It took 3 years for the community to prove to Hackney Council that it could run the building and The Trust, made up of local people, (employing a Chief Exec and staff team) have been running it ever since.
The Friends of Arnold Circus have been ‘highlighting’ the bandstand for many years by using it for bands, summer events, educational and artistic projects. Tower Hamlets were finally forced into restoring this historic site with the input of The Friends of Arnold Circus and the work was finally completed in 2010. The events are all run by volunteers. We have a gardener and volunteers to care for the plants and keep the garden looking at its best.
Despite the nightlife and the artists that appear to give this area an appeal there is the struggle by local people to at least retain some of the historic past that made Shoreditch great. The Church, The Regenerating station (now Circus Space), Passmore Library (Kingsland Rd) now flats. The Town Hall could have gone the way of the Gainsborough Studios……..no longer in existence….. if it was not for the patience, persistence and determination of local people.
A photo show of Boundary Passage
I've written before about Boundary Passage in Shoreditch - but now I've got my act together and taken a few photos.
It is humdrum, tawdry - and about the last relic of the Jago, the slum that Arthur Morrison wrote about in his classic 1896 novel A Child of the Jago.
Morrison prefaced the novel with a very accurate street map. Boundary Passage is shown as 'The Posties' - running between Old Jago Street (actually Old Nichol Street) and Shoreditch High Street.
In the novel's opening page, Morrison writes of 'a narrow passage, set across with posts, [which] gave menacing entrance on one end of Old Jago Street'. This is the passage through which the young Dicky Perrott runs with stuff nicked from the High Street stalls.
The posts are still there - though whether they are or ever were cannons from Nelson's navy, as some suggest, I rather doubt.
Some of the menace is gone - what was the slum side of the passage is now decidedly up-market.
Though the High Street end is distinctly disreputable. The entrance to Boundary Passage runs alingside a tatty gentlemen's bar.
It's almost an inversion of the past. The slum is now smart - the high street is in disrepair.
'A farther part of Shoreditch'
My first time in Shoreditch Town Hall - a pleasantly peeling piece of municipal baroque. It was built in 1866, and extensively rebuilt about forty years later. It still has a spacious hall on the first floor with glorious balcony, and a gents loo on the ground floor bigger than some studio flats nearby. A stone's throw away is the wonderful St Leonard's and adjoining it the even more joyous Clerk's House, now a shop selling up market, expensive kitsch.
Once Shoreditch was a proud London borough, and its town hall - just like those in Finsbury and Holborn - would have been a building of importance, and not simply an elegant municipal relic. The 1965 reorganisation of London local government which consigned both Shoreditch and Stoke Newington to become part of a greater Hackney also deprived such redolent areas as Finsbury, Holborn, Hampstead and St Pancras of borough status.
A work event took me to Shoreditch Town Hall, but I was able to slip away briefly during the afternoon down Brick Lane to the Freedom Bookshop on Angel Alley, by the side of the newly expanded Whitechapel Gallery. At Freedom a fuse had blown and the bookshop was in darkness. A political metaphor if ever there was one.
On my way there, I wandered down Shoreditch High Street and through Boundary Passage. This was immortalised as 'the Posties' in Arthur Morrison's 1896 slum novel, A Child of the Jago. It was the passage through which the young Dicky Perrott, the title character, scarpered with stuff he had nicked from the high street stalls.
The Passage was in 'a farther part of Shoredicth' - the opening page of the novel records - 'off Shoreditch High Street, a narrow passage, set across with posts, [which] gave menacing entrance' onto the notorious slum of the Jago. It's almost a miracle that the Passage still stands. Still a conduit between contrasting London street cultures.
In the 1890s, the high street side was the wider world, commerce, and at least a measure of wealth - while the Jago was fetid, debauched and crime-laden. And today? Well, on the high street end of the Passage there's the Rainbow Sports Bar, with a blackboard boasting 'NEW GIRLS'. On what was the Jago side, a pub with gaudy fudge and slime green ceramic tiles has been newly converted into a creative agency, while opposite is a pricyh clothes boutique. A modern day Dicky Perrott wouldn't know which way to run.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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