London’s Industrial Past

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Over the last few weeks I have been very fortunate to secure a weekly slot on BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms Show.

I have been discussing London’s industrial history past (with particular concentration on the 20th Century). So far I have tackled ‘The Golden Age’, Cricklewood,  and biscuit makers.

The episodes go out on a Thursday, in the slot between 12:30 and 1pm.

Here’s the latest one, which was about biscuit factories. I come on at 2 hours 37 minutes.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06w4gmj

Next week will be toy makers.

 

 

 

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The Saga of the Railway Hotel…

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I live not far from the town
of Edgware, in North West London. I moved into the area about five years ago, but had known this part of London since I was a child. I’ve always been fascinated by unusual or striking buildings, and one such structure has existed in Edgware’s Station Road since the l930s – The Railway Hotel.

Built by the London brewers, Truman, Hanbury & Buxton around 1930/31, the Railway Hotel was a wonderful example of ‘Tudorbethan’ architecture that was popular in so many of the newly developed suburbs in Britain in the inter-war period. These large public houses were put up in a style that would be reassuringly old-looking, rather than so much of the start art deco and modernist homes and commercial buildings of the time. The Hotel used a great deal of timber, and featured superb carved decoration. To one side was an ‘Off Sales’ (brewery owned off licence), built in the same style, joined to the main building by a decorative archway. The whole feel was of a Seventeenth-century coaching inn, which made sense, because only a few yards away at the end of Station Road, was the old Roman road of Watling Street (although this section is referred to as Edgware Road, the same route that starts at Marble Arch in Central London). This route was busy coaching route out of London, and regularly spaced coaching inns served this traffic.

The Railway Hotel was very close to the original Edgware railway station, (long since gone now, and replaced by a Sainsbury’s supermarket), and was clearly picking up on trade from the fast-growing suburb that was developing as a result on the new Northern line extension of the London Underground. The hotel would also be picking up on the business of ‘commercial travellers’, or salesmen, who be visiting the area, keen to pick up orders from all the new shops and businesses that were popping up.

 

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The Hotel became, along with huge new cinema across the road and the Northern line station, a fixture of Edgware town centre’s feel.

However, with the passing of time, pubs like this found it increasing difficult to trade and by 2008, the Railway Hotel had closed down.

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Boarded-up and forlorn, this wonderful building sat, for the next ten years without any real purpose. However, it was, and still is a Historic England Grade 2 listed structure. This was probably the only thing that stopped it from being raised to the ground. A succession of owners came and went, doing nothing with the building, other than letting it get more dilapidated. Presumably it was sold on each time because new owners couldn’t find a way of making it pay, and once they became aware of the restrictions a listing has, they lost interest. In more recent years it’s front and rear had been used as a used car lot, a coach turn -around for services to Eastern Europe (which is ironic given the Hotel’s look of an old-fashioned coaching inn), and a car wash.

A sign (quite literally) of the Railway Hotel’s decline came when the huge wooden sign post that sat outside the forecourt became rotten, and had to be removed.  Then there have also been at least two fires, fortunately neither of which caused too much serious damage.

I became fixated with the building in the last few years. I tweeted vigorously on my account @Superfast72 using the tag #railwayhoteledgware . If you can spare the time, you can go and check these out, they do demonstrate the frustration I, and other like-minded souls, had.  I have to say a big thank you to Roger Tichborne who runs the @barneteye blog and tweet. Roger has regularly put my moans and gripes onto his ‘tweets of the week’.

So now we move onto September 2018, and I was made aware that after all these years work was beginning on ‘renovating’ the Railway Hotel.  I am been lead to believe that the ground floor will be a Lebanese Restaurant,  whilst the top floors will be turned into flats.

Some concern has been made that the renovation is being done by a company that has no website and no obvious credentials in restoring listed buildings, but one hopes both Barnet Council and Historic England will keep a close eye and check on the work.

So, a happier time for this building awaits one hopes. It’s just a shame it will never be what it once was.

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Whatever Happened to Terry & Bob?

 
Birra

 

When the news broke about the death of actor Rodney Bewes (November 21 2017), I was like many, naturally very sad. But to some extent , it wasn’t  a surprise. He hadn’t looked well for a long time. But I was also the sad to know that one of the great BBC comedy double acts would never be reunited.

I am of course talking about The Likely Lads, in which Bewes, playing Bob Ferris, starred alongside James Bolam’s character, Terry Collier. The story of two working class lads from Tyneside that first aired on December 16th 1964 ,written by the prolific partnership of Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais. He series showed the ups and downs of the Terry and Bob’s foray into adult life – work, women and drinking – lots of drinking!

The series became a huge hit for the BBC, and was one of the first examples of a comedy set in the North of England. However like most good things, it came to an end,  a week before the World Cup Final, on 23rd July 1966.  However this was not to be the end of the boys, and in 1972 the BBC commissioned a follow up – Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads?, airing on 9th January 1973. This new series enabled us to see what had become of Terry and Bob and it was as equally successful, spawning a Cinematic version (however at this time this was not uncommon – just about every TV comedy had been made into a film, in a desperate attempt to save the British Film industry). There was only to be that one series on television. Most of us think there was more , but that is probably because they were repeated so often over the years. However Whatever..hasn’t been on terrestrial TV since 2008, and I will explain why later on.

What made the series so popular was the way that people could relate to the two lads. Bob with his aspirations to move into the middle class, and Terry’s stubborn refusal to have anything to do with such pretention.  I first watched Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads back in the late 1970s, on a repeat , when I was about ten years old. I was immediately drawn to it’s warmth and humour . Having a Mother who is from Tyneside helped too!.  The fact that the BBC fimed so many of the locations up in Tyne and Wear added to its appeal.

I think the other thing that made it so appealing to people is that everyone knew a Terry or a Bob. For some they may have recognised the traits in themselves. Indeed it is the 1970s series that has more power than its Sixties genesis. Somehow the humour was darker. The constant conflicts that Bob and Terry had illustrated how far their characters were growing apart from their working class roots.  Bob Ferris desperately trying to claw his way from the terraced streets of his childhood and adolescence, whilst Terry Collier steadfastly hung on, almost with dewey-eyed sentiment to his working class-ness.

When the series came to close, it was generally accepted that this would not be last we would see of the Likely Lads, but as the years passed, this was not to happen. But why?

I did some research into this and apparently it was over a phone call made between Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, in 1976. According to an TV interview with BBC Midlands Nick Owen in 2008, Bewes recalled it was to do with an newspaper article at the time. The actor said he had made some comment to the paper with reference to Bolam,  that the actor had taken offence to.  Bewes had said it was a nice comment, nothing nasty , but Bolam , who has always been fiercely protective of his private life, clearly felt a line had been crossed. To the day Bewes died, the two had never spoken.  Bolam went on to star in the BBC’s historical drama series ‘When the Boat Comes In’ (also set in Tyneside),  ITV’s ‘The Biederbeck Affair’, and then in 2008 through to 2012, in the hugely successful ‘New Tricks’ . The terms Bolam drew up with the BBC at the time of New Tricks included a agreement that Likely Lads would not be repeated in any of its incarnations (apart from the movie, which the BBC didn’t finance or produce). He demanded this as he allegedly felt he didn’t want to be over exposed. This spelt a big problem with Rodney Bewes as it would mean he would not receive repeat fees. It appeared to him that Bolam had injured him twice over.

Bewes sadly didn’t do as well with his career outside of Likely Lads. He is noted fondly by fans of Doctor Who for  two episodes of the story ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’  he appeared in back in 1984. Other than that he had worked hard in theatre and toured a one man show in 2008.

In some ways this sat as sad poetry to the parts that Bewes and Bolam had played back in the day. For more than ten years the two of them had been firm friends , enjoying time together both on and off set , with each other’s families.

I guess one day a drama documentary may be made, reflecting on that famous relationship, but I doubt it will ever be made whilst Bolam is alive.

I guess we will never know what happened to Terry and Bob, unless someone decides to recast – but who else could really do Terry and Bob? They owned those parts. Yes, back in 2002 the TV entertainment duo of Ant and Dec reprised the roles using original scripts, but it wasn’t the same, brave as it was.  It is worth mentioning that Rodney Bewes made a cameo appearance in one of the four episodes made. James Bolam was notable by his absence.

So what do you think? Whatever happened to Terry and Bob? The natural environment to picture them would be sat opposite each other in the pub – obviously a Wetherspoons…Terry woudn’t be seen dead in a trendy pub paying, “Five quid? For a PINT?!”. But chances are that it would be set in an old peoples’ home, allowing a feast of scenarios to be explored.  The fact that Bob would find himself back with the person who so often had derailed his ambitions would wonderful to see….but alas it will never be.

 

Mark Amies  2017

Ski Yoghurt

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If, like me, you grew up in the 1970s, then these images will be very evocative. Back then there were two big brands of yoghurt- Prize and Ski.

Ski was the first big brand to hit the market,  and it’s packaging was the most distinctive, with it’s mulk churn profile.

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The design changed subtly over the decade, and in my opinion the graphics are still sharp today. The illustrations were well executed and the layouts were visually strong.

These days Ski has become just another brand fighting for attention in a crowded shelf space. The pots and graphics are pretty bland.