The apertures between C.H. Mabey's bas-relief panels and down the dramatic verticals of the lift shafts are covered with grilles created by Walter Gilbert, designer of the great gates of Buckingham Palace and the classical figures on the RSA, cousin of Sir Alfred Gilbert (the Eros man) and father of Donald (carver of one of the figures on the New Adelphi).
The smaller grilles mainly depict bats and squirrels, for some reason. Other motifs are birds and signs of the zodiac.
Walter Gilbert also designed a rather lovely set of bronze friezes featuring exotic birds, but their setting over the shop's doors means they are partly obscured by signs and the lights cause terrible reflections. What is the listing system for if it doesn't force owners of historic buildings to arrange things so they can be photographed effectively? Action now!
Friday, 27 January 2012
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Top is another couple of men digging a hole in the road. Below, a pair of brickies clad the steel frame.
Despite the repetitions, this set of images must be one of London's least known masterpieces. I certainly never appreciated them until I managed to look at them closely by the wonder of telephoto and digital imaging.
Monday, 16 January 2012
And another new trade - motor mechanics work on a rather grand automobile with an early 'cherished plate' DT 1932.
Cherished plates go right back to the early days of motoring. A popular joke in 1914 was:
"What does the Kaiser have on his number plate?" "2L."
"And what does the Crown Prince have on his number plate? 2L2!"
They don't write them like that any more, thank heavens.
Sunday, 15 January 2012
At last, a trade that was entirely new when Derry and Toms was built, although the plane with its open cockpit, fixed undercarriage and manual starting (chocks away, Ginger!) already give the image a nostalgic, primeval atmosphere.
It is not entirely clear what the guys below are doing. They seem to be baling something, wool perhaps? The worker with his back to us is tending some sort of machine while his mate is hauling a huge bag away.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
Friday, 13 January 2012
We have been here before, on the other side of the building.
Thursday, 12 January 2012
The plastic arts, here. Above, potters throw and decorate a pot. Below, builders mix and pour concrete. It's an odd coupling - the potters get respect for their art, good money and it's inside work with no heavy lifting. For the builders it is the complete opposite.
Wednesday, 11 January 2012
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
The panels at the eastern end of the main front of Derry and Toms show work on what would today be called 'infrastructure'. Two men wield pneumatic drills (above) without the benefit of ear defenders - yesterday's heroes, today's deaf old gits.
The workers below seem to have a much safer job, although I'm not sure exactly what it is. Assembling a transformer, perhaps? Or is it a boiler?
Sunday, 8 January 2012
The image below would be instantly nixed by the PR department these days. It shows trappers skinning a bear they have just shot, probably in Canada.
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Friday, 6 January 2012
Below, a joiner and his mate trim a panel with a plane.
Thursday, 5 January 2012
Ghandi was campaigning against the cotton trade at the time, pointing out that cotton grown and picked in India would be shipped to Britain for spinning and weaving, to be shipped back to India for sale to the rich. Almost all of the wages and profit was made and spent in Britain.
These reliefs show a different angle - the cotton is being spun and woven in India (the guy on the right is examining a sample of cloth) and sold to rich people in London. Still, I'm willing to bet that most of the profit went to Derry and Toms.
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
The frieze at the top contains a line of lovely bas-reliefs depicting trades associated with construction, transport and the materials sold in the shop. They are by Charles Henry Mabey Junior, the last of one of the family firms that used to dominate architectural sculpture.
It seems a shame they are so far away from the ground - you really need binoculars to see them and photographing them is difficult. They must have looked very impressive in the drawings George presented to the Barker's board, however.
There are no fewer than 29 of them, so I will be doling them out two at a time for the next fortnight or so, starting at the west end and proceding more or less round the building.
Identifying the trades is a matter of guesswork, because I have been unable to find a definitive list. The first shows a pair of foundrymen pouring molten metal into a mould - note their fireproof boots.
The next (below) shows one of them mixing the ladle while the other adds a bucketload of material.