Goodbye Boville Wrights

Yesterday I made a visit to Uxbridge in West London, with my wife, and was heartbroken to see that one of the town’s oldest traders was to close  for good in early February.  Yet again, the current retail decline has claimed its latest victim.


A. Boville Wright, an artist supplies shop has traded in Uxbridge since 1904, and with the loss of another great local store, Randall’s, a few years back, makes it the town’s longest running shop. I recall going along to Randall’s in Vine Street for it’s last few months, and I wrote a few pieces about the department store in this blog Randalls RIP

What made Randall’s so wonderful, was the same for Boville Wright’s – it was the fact that they had been in the town for so long. In a way, Randall’s and Boville Wright’s were Uxbridge.  They were reliable, they gave genuine customer service – not the concept of service dreamed up by a marketing hipster in a  corporate office. Both companies were proper family-run concerns. The desire to serve customers was real, and hard-earned.


My first contact with Boville Wright’s was in 1986 as a schoolboy, needing art supplies to do my Art ‘O’ level resit at Bishop Ramsey CofE school, in Ruislip Manor. I then became very familiar with it when I went on to do my BTEC OND in Graphic Design at what was then Hounslow Borough College (now West Thames College). I bought loads of stuff there, or should I say my parents did in most cases. The biggest purchase was a Blundell Harling draughtsman’s table – a huge bit of kit, essential in the days before things when digital.

The point is that whatever field of art and design  you were involved in , Boville Wright’s sold it, and if they didn’t have it , they would order it for you. They sold everything you wanted and stuff you didn’t know you needed, then realised you did!!


Going in the shop again , I was confronted by the wonderful smells of all the art materials, and I forgot how the shop meandered, going up stairs, around corners, each new section presenting more stuff.

So, why is it shutting? Well, I asked a lady serving , the kind of person you used to get in shops – experienced, well-mannered and eager to help. Turns out that the current member of the family running it is seventy-three years old and he wants to retire. Well, you would, and so he should at that age. But is there not a new member of the family who wants to run it?  Well, yes, they do, but looking at the figures and projections, it appears that it is no longer viable in this day and age. A time when you can buy a tube of paint and an easel at 3am, and have it delivered to your studio. The internet has killed Boville Wrights. It is as simple as that . I would imagine that footfall is another factor, as well as business rates, insurance, staff costs, etc, etc.

Boville Wrights were so successful, that they had three stores, the Maidenhead branch closed down in 2018.

To say I am sad about the news is to put it mildly. I am heartbroken. A shop that had been part of my life, that had helped me ,and countless other artists and designers over one hundred years, is going to cease to exist. What will replace it? Well I would imagine it will be yet another restaurant or food ‘venue’. That is all that seems to thrive on our high streets these days. Either that or a betting shop, nail bar, beauty salon or pet grooming parlor.

So, I bet you’re thinking, “All very well eulogising about the past Mark, but did you buy anything?” – well as it happened I did, I bought six pots of Humbrol enamel paint, Two cans of spray paint, a paint brush, two paint pens, two architectural model cars (at 1/200 scale), and my wife bought a greetings card kit.

I hope to go back before the shop closes on February 8th, but I would imagine there will not be much left soon. Once the word goes out that this Uxbridge institution is closing, I would expect the shelves to be stripped.





London’s Factories on Film

The fourteenth of my slots about London’s Industrial Heritage, on BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms Show , sees me look at the Capital city’s factories on screen.

As well as the countless appearances with motion pictures, television and music videos, these long gone industrial sites also appeared in British Pathé newsreels.



Pathé News was a producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 until 1970 in the UK. Its founder, Charles Pathé, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The Pathé News archive is known today as British Pathé. Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online.

I did a fairly thorough search of the online archive to find these London factories, that were caught on Pathé’s cameras over the years. So have a click on the links, and enjoy –

Hoover, Perivale.

Footage shot in the early 1930’s with great exterior shots of the grand art-deco building, and then showing the manufacture of parts for their famous vacuum cleaners.-

J. Lyons & Co, Cadby Hall, Kensington.

(Colour) Lyons Maid Choc ices being made in 1957

Ford, Dagenham.

The huge factory under construction in the early 1930s –

Lines Brothers, Merton.

Pedigree dolls being made in 1937  –

Osram, Wembley.

World War one period footage of the large lightbulb factory  –

Pyrene, Brentford.

The Wallis Gilbert & Partners-designed art-deco factory at the time of its opening in 1928 (although the stated date says 1930)

Schweppes, West Hendon.

The filling of soda syphons and soda bottles in the 1920s  –

Prices Candles, Battersea.

(Colour) Candles being made in 1959-

Vandervell, Acton.

The exterior of the factory that made bearings, shot at dusk in 1962  –

Handley Page, Cricklewood.

The Prince of Wales visits the factory in 1919-

Airfix, Wandsworth.

Footage taken at the 1968 Brighton Toy fair, and at the factory –


Links published with Permission from British Pathé. Visit their site here


I then discovered (of course), that there was also Movietone News, which was Pathé’s great newsreel rival. This great archive is now owneed and marketed by AP.

I need to have a good look through, but I have found this gem, which was shot at the Lesney Products & Co ‘Matchbox’ toys in 1968 –

..and then I spotted this gem, which came via Michael Spicer’s excellent @CFBClips Twitter page, showing a Mars ad made in the late 1980s, at the Hoover factory, in Perivale. We get interiors of the office areas, and also the exterior, as the actress walks into the building –

Continue reading “London’s Factories on Film”

Colindale’s Forgotten Railway


If you should ever find yourself standing in front of the Morrison’s superstore by the A5 in Colindale, you might  find, (hopefully by the time you read this still!), a row of old, neglected shops, called ‘Halt Parade’.  Now, it may seem pretty uninteresting I grant you, but this name is a reference to something that has long since gone – Colindale’s forgotten railway.

Back in World War One, Colindale was the centre of Britain’s military aeroplane manufacturing industry. Where the current Asda supermarket is now was once the site of the World’s largest aircraft factory, where, at its height an aircraft was finished every forty-five minutes. This was AIRCO, or to give the company’s full title ‘The Aircraft Manufacturing Company’.  The reason this part of North West London was chosen was down to the proximity of the London Aerodrome, which later became RAF Hendon.

airco one

The AIRCO factories on the north side of the A5 in 1916 (Memories of Hendon)


The company was so prolific that as well as it’s main manufacturing hall (the Asda site), it also had buildings on the other side of the road, one of which still survives as a Kwik Fit.  You can read more about the company in a piece I wrote a few years back Colindale – From High Flyers to High Rises

So, going back to ‘The Halt’, with AIRCO requiring a huge amount of materials to build aircraft , it was decided to create a light railway that would run off the main Midland Railway line just before Aerodrome Road. It would then run around the outside of the Aerodrome, and then on through what is now Montrose playing fields, and then end just before the A5 road, just in front of the main plant for AIRCO.  The work only started on this scheme in 1917, and so with the war ending just one year later, the ‘aerodrome railway’ had a rather short life.

There is a fantastic article about the railway, with some wonderful images, here

So this ‘halt’ of the railway, at the end of its line , is why the parade of shops , (presumably built in the early 1920’s, as the area started to develop), is so named. What is more interesting is that the immediate section of the railway bed was utilised and became a road called ‘The Greenway’ , which you can see in the image below –


There are a series of superb aerial images taken by the Aerofilms company (itself an offshoot company of AIRCO) in 1927. One image clearly shows the old railway bed coming in from the bottom right hand corner of the image below-


This is from the superb Britain from Above website, and it is well worth a look –

The huge square building in the image is the main assembly hall for AIRCO, and by the time the photo was taken it was owned by General Motors, who at that time were assembling Chevrolet trucks. The company later turned the factory over to making their Frigidaire products.

Back to the current day , and what will become of Halt Parade? Well in its last manifestation it was a Japanese car centre, which closed a few years back. I would like to think Barnet Council might put up a plaque, but I doubt that will ever happen.


Copyright . Mark Amies – March 2019




London’s Industrial Past


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.

Next week will be toy makers.




The Saga of the Railway Hotel…


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.



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.


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.


Whatever Happened to Terry & Bob?



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


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.


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.