Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

Hygienic, high-style

As the traffic moved slowly along Ashby’s main street, my eyes raked the side of the road, looking for a parking space, and found one slot with just enough room to get in. And when I parked, straightened the wheel and glanced beyond the cars front and back, I caught a glimpse of shiny black on a shop front.

This is what it turned out to be. A lovely shining example of a black-clad art deco style frontage. I don’t know whether this is 1930s deco or if it dates from just after World War II.* The shiny cladding is probably the black glass called Vitrolite, which was very popular in the 1930s, not just because of its contemporary look but also because it maintained its shine, didn’t craze, and was easy to keep clean. Food retailers especially liked its hygienic qualities and the kind of treatment here – with a narrow frame of stainless steel, a contrasting grey band at ‘skirting board’ level, and a recessed central doorway – is typical of the style, but rare now.
The lettering of the shopkeeper’s name is in that classical-influenced style that one might otherwise associate with neo-Georgian buildings such as Post Offices. I’ve noticed a similar letter form before, above the window of a bookshop-library in Wantage. It looks effective against the black background, but it’s sad that it is starting to come adrift from its moorings. I hope the missing O has not been lost, and that the N can be reattached. Even in its current precarious state, it’s effective and elegant and better than most of the poorly designed plasticky signs seen on High Streets now.

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* I’d be very interested if any reader can tell me the age of this shop front.


Hels said...

Love it!! The black glass and narrow stainless steel strips were so smart and streamline. No wonder they celebrated and advertised good hygiene.

Unknown said...

GORGEOUS! The black glass is vitrolite. The popularity of commercial store front useage in peaked in the 30's-early 40's.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Di: thank you. A pre-war date looks likely, then. Whatever the date, it's lovely.

Unknown said...

I believe its getting demolished or atleast changing, the butches will be located at the back of a new court yard.

Philip Wilkinson said...

There was a picture of the new courtyard in the window when I was there, but it wasn't obvious to me from that what was happening to the shop itself. I hope they don't demolish it.

Gavin said...

In the late 80's I remember rabbits hanging outside the shop, along with other various animals. By the early 90's they stopped the outside displays - I believe they received threatening behaviour from somebody who objected.

It's a family run business that has been supplying locally sourced meat since the late 1930's, so I am guessing you're spot on and it probably came into existence around a similar sort of time.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ah! The days when rabbits hung outside butchers' shops. Thank you so much for those memories, Gavin.