Daimler Hire Company Garage- Herbrand Street London

Having arrived in Russell Square just a touch to early for my film screening last night I went exploring up Herbrand Street and found this rather magnificent building.

Daimler Hire Building

Daimler Hire Building

Actually it was a rediscovery. I had first come across the Daimler Hire Company Garage six or seven years ago when I emerged blinking into the sunlight from one of those dreadful corporate “fun days” at the Holiday Inn. Having just endured seemingly endless hours of motivational pep talks about why we should aspire to be like Tesco (what’s so great about pricing every independent retailer off the high street?) and having to role play senior managers masturbatory Dragon’s Den and Apprentice fantasies,

I love a bit of Art Deco

I love a bit of Art Deco

discovering the sparkling white Art Deco building with its sweeping curves and verdigris green painted doors and window frames was an instant relief .

The photographs don’t really do Wallis, Gilbert and Partners 1931 building justice, I only had my little Sony Cyber Shot, it was getting dark and it’s hard to frame such a large structure in a narrow London Street. As the name suggests it was at one time the garage for a prestigious car hire firm that supplied luxury chauffeur driven limousines to wealthy customers including Buckingham Palace. In 1958 it was sold to Hertz and ceased trading under the name of Daimler in 1976. The present occupants of the building are McCann Erikson the advertising agency

On the Curve - present owners McCann

On the Curve – present occupants McCann

Architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners designed several iconic Art Deco buildings including the Hoover Factory in Perivale and London’s Victoria Coach Station.

The Egyptianate way out

The Egyptianate way out

Without such architectural wonders Poirot would be a dull show indeed.

Nearest Tube: Russell Square


Lisbon – Some Random Decorative Art

One of the things that impressed me about our visit to Lisbon was the wealth of late 19th and early 20th century decorative art on the shops and other buildings. Perhaps this is because Portugal’s neutrality in World War Two saved them from the destructive power of the air raids or maybe it’s because Portugal has never been wealthy enough to bulldoze as much of its past in the quest for the new as other nations. Either way there is some good stuff on display.  This post is a random selection of stuff I snapped as we wandered around.

Tabacconist's shop front

Tabacconist’s Shop Front

These Art Nouveau shop fronts were shot around the Praca dom Pedro IV.

Art Nouveau Jeweller's windows

Art Nouveau Jeweller’s Windows

Almost a Belle Epoque Cafe

Almost a Belle Époque Street Cafe

This jeweller’s shop was close to the Elevador de Santa Justa.

Another Jewelers windows

Another Jewelers windows

Of course from the Praca Dom Pedro IV you get a great view at the platform that used to house the steam engine on the Elevador with its crowds of sightseers.

Elevador de Santa Justa

Elevador de Santa Justa

While the elevador itself was built to be not only functional, but also beautiful in the Victorian tradition of William Morris who said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Okay it’s not inside anybody’s house, but its Art Nouveau cast iron and wood panelled lift cars are quite lovely.

Detail of cast iron work friom the Elevador de Santa Justa

Detail of cast iron work friom the Elevador de Santa Justa

There are also some fine Art Deco buildings like the Eden Theatre complex


Theatro Eden

And of course the grand railway stations are the expected temples to power and movement.

Rossio Station

Rossio Station

Even if they do conceal a Starbucks within in country with otherwise great coffee already. Trouble with stations as with temples, cathedrals or anything really big, is that the wealth of detail is often difficult to capture in its full glory.

Detail Cais de Sodre Station

Art Deco Detail Cais de Sodre Station

Of course smaller artworks are much easier.

Butcher's Van

Butcher’s Van

But often nowhere near as impressive as a whacking great mass of cast iron!

Elevador de Santa Justa

Elevador de Santa Justa

Chiswick Park Station

I went to see a designer pal in Chiswick, west London, last week. Naturally I had my trusty Nikon in my bag, just in case I saw anything interesting on my way.

One thing you can’t miss is the tube station.

Where’s the tube station, oh under that!

Thanks to the bloody great tower with the tube roundel on it. The station at Chiswick Park was opened in 1879 serving the old Metropolitan District Railway which is now the London Underground’s District Line (although this bit is over the ground of course) . In the 1930s the station was rebuilt to accommodate extra track for the extension of the Piccadilly Line westward from Hammersmith.

A Piccadilly Line Train hurtles through Chiswick Park

Although the Piccadilly Line trains don’t stop at Chiswick Park the station was rebuilt in the Art Deco style utilised on the Piccadilly Line’s eastbound extension.

Art Deco style tube station at Chiswick Park

Designed by Charles Holden, the station features a tall semi-circular ticket hall with clerestory windows, and was inspired by Krumme Lanke Station in Berlin.

Clerestory Windows at Chiswick Park Station

It’s my opinion that stations took on certain roles of churches for the Art Deco architects of the 1920s and 30s. New clean electric trains were a symbol of the new order of modern life and stations were the gateway to this new age of mass passenger transit that thousands of people passed through daily. It is fitting that they should be places of awe and wonder.

Weymouth Ho – A Bit of Victoriana, a Bit of Art Deco and Some Old Bangers

After leaving Abbotsbury it was a short drive to the seaside town of Weymouth where we were booked into the Seafront Premier Inn (Lodmoor Country Park). Weymouth became a fashionable tourist resort when the Duke of Gloucester built a residence there in 1780 and his cousin George III spent several holidays in the town. A welcome shower and a change of clothes were followed by a stroll along the seafront into the town centre with its Georgian and Regency terraces.

One Art Deco building you won’t see Poirot entering.

On the way we passed this Art Deco building that houses a Chinese restaurant upstairs and an amusement arcade below. We happily wasted a few coppers trying to dislodge the piles of coins in the machines before venturing further. There are two war memorials on the sea front, one to the men of the town and the other to the ANZAC forces that passed through Weymouth between the evacuation of Gallipoli and being sent to the Western Front and Palestine during the Great War. During the Second World War over 500,000 allied troops departed Weymouth for the beaches of Normandy.

There is also a very fine clock tower.

Weymouth Clock Tower

A local subscription raised the funds for the clock tower back in 1887 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. So as the day was drawing in we headed back to the Premier Inn for the night.

The following morning the car park was filling up with classic cars.

Classic Riley

It was the start point of the  Weymouth Vehicle Preservation Society’s Dorset Tour. There were some really exquisite vehicles on show, including, Jaguars, Rileys, Saabs, MGs and even a Ford Capri and an Austin Allegro!

Classic Jag

I liked this Wolseley


It reminded me of the police cars that I used to see on TV cop shows back in the 1960, sadly I could not find a suitable clip but this Robbie Coltraine spoof does the trick

Madeira – Funchal’s Art Deco Wonders

It’s exactly the kind of  place where Poirot and Hastings discover the body of the heiress sprawled in a deckchair, shattered Martini glass with a faint odour of bitter almonds at her feet.

Cliff Elevator, Funchal

This cliff elevator links the Rua Portao Sao Tiago with Funchal’s sea front promenade. In style it reminds me a lot of Berthold Lubetkin‘s 1934 penguin pool at London Zoo. Unfortunately I have not been unable to find out much about this structure, but I do think that set in the cliff face it looks absolutely stunning.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Funchal is quite rich in Art Deco buildings, the best in my opinion being the Mercado dos Lavradores (Worker’s Market).

This is the former power station in the centre of Funchal. It is no longer used for electricity generation and I believe that it has now been converted into offices.

Funchal Power Station

To me power stations are the cathedrals of Art Deco architecture. Where before God inspired architects like Wren to design great buildings, in the machine age of the 1930s electricity had become the power illuminating the world, motivating the likes of Giles Gilbert Scott to design such modern cathedrals as Battersea Power Station in London. Funchal’s power station is not quite as impressive as Battersea of Bankside, but it does belong to an age when the functional could also be beautiful.

Madeira – Bom Dia Senhor Presidente

‘Is that a Bond villain’s lair?’

I mused as the massive black BMW narrowly missed where I stood on Funchal’s Avenida do Infante and glided on through the open gates.

The Gates of the President's Palace

No, if it had been Ernst Stavro Blofeld, it would have been a Merc not a Beamer and this was the entrance to Quinta Vigia, Madeira’s Presidential Palace.  Although it’s a Portuguese island, Madeira has been an autonomous region with its own elected President since 1976.

The Presidential Sea View Balcony

The present resident is Alberto Joao Jardim, who has been in power since 1978. This makes him one of the longest running democratically elected leaders anywhere in the world and surprisingly he does not mind Joe Public poking around in his garden one bit, so of course we had to go and take a look.

The Gardens at Quinta Vigia

Quinta Vigia was established with a chapel to Chapel Nossa Senhora das Angústias (Chapel to Our Lady of Sorrow) in 1662, taking its name from the chapel’s builder, Daniel da Costa Quintal. The original chapel was refurbished in the 18th century and was then first incorporated into the 19th Century Mansion of Quinta Vigia and then subsequently into the 1970’s Grand Season Hotel, that is today’s Presidential Palace. It’s the only part of the Presidential Palace open to the public.

Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows

The gardens are beautifully landscaped with statues, fountains, aviaries and some stunning flowers.

Bird of Paradise Flower

Further up the Avenida do Infante we found a stretch of Art Deco villas. As we were discovering Funchal has a lot of Art Deco buildings. Unfortunately many of these buildings have at the very least, had their original, and no doubt thoroughly corroded original window frames ripped out and replaced by something rather more modern and durable, but at least this old ruin still had most of its original features.

Art Deco Ruin

Having had our fill of of Funchal’s western side we headed back towards the old town, pausing to enjoy Santa Caterina Park with its statue of Christopher Columbus, who settled on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo and married the governor’s daughter.

Christopher Columbus Santa Caterina Park

In the Avenida Arriaga opposite the Municipal Gardens, I came upon a familiar site.

Pillar Boxes

Back in the in the UK Airmail pillar boxes were painted RAF Blue between 1919 and 1939, however I think the blue boxes are for express mail in Portugal.

Madeira – Plovers, Gulls and Exotic Fruit

Tucked away in a corner Funchal’s old town was our hotel, the Porto Santa Maria. Right on the seafront, the location could not have been better. Along the way to the shops we’d stop off to watch the plovers on the sea wall.


These little birds were remarkably confident, allowing people to get much closer to them than their British cousins do.

Beyond the sea wall is the beach. One thing that people don’t visit Funchal for is the beach.

Herring Gull Housing Estate

Unless they are herring gulls that is, the freshwater mountain streams that empty into the Atlantic through the black volcanic scree of the beach are just the sort of place to wash that salt out of your feathers.

Right in the centre of Funchal is this amazing huge Art Deco building,

Mercado dos Lavradores

It’s not a cinema, but the Mercado dos Lavradores (Worker’s Market). Now I thought I’d seen most kinds of fruit, but the stall holders had a bewildering array of exotic wares on display

Amazing displays of exotic fruits

There were pomegranates, chilis, bananas, mangoes, guavas, custard apples and several different varieties of passion fruits, but I had never seen these before.

Pineapple Bananas

According to the stall holder they were pineapple bananas and indeed the fruit’s flesh had the texture of banana, but a sharp flavour close to that of pineapple. Incidentally should you find yourself in the Mercado, don’t buy fruit from the stall holders upstairs, for some reason they think it is fun to rip tourists off.

The fish market operates from the back of the Mercado.

Fish Market

The long black fish are a local delicacy, the Black Scabbard Fish, which are often served with locally grown bananas. Handsome beasts aren’t they?

Black Scabbard Fish

The Mercado was designed by the architect Edmundo Tavares and the build completed in 1940. More recent artworks could be found on our way back to our hotel. The 19th century houses of the Rua Santa Maria form a Bohemian enclave of workshops and restaurants. Local artists have painted many of the doors with their own designs.

Half a Turtle

Some reflecting their own concerns about surveillance in society.

Keep Watching the Bag Heads

This one was right at the bottom (groan) of the street.

Painted (rear?) door Rua Santa Maria