Monday, February 18, 2019

Old Street, London

Sign of past times

Crowning a rather utilitarian looking building on Old Street – mostly a mix of brick walls and long, metal-framed strip windows – is this fancy pediment carved in an elegant letterform ‘H. Snuggs & Co’. I can’t be the only person to have looked up there above the fourth floor and wondered who H. Snuggs was.

He was, it turns out, an ironmonger, who was in partnership with Joseph Snuggs and John Edward Harwood in the late-19th century. This partnership was dissolved in 1899, when Henry Snuggs seems to have left, but the firm carried on until at least the 1920s. The notice of the partnership’s dissolution in 1921 says they were ‘Wholesale ironmongers’, so they would have been supplying goods to many different retail outlets, probably mainly in London but perhaps further afield. Ironmongers offered huge ranges of stock, from cutlery and kitchenware to stoves, grates, doorbell systems, tools of all sorts, and, in the country, agricultural equipment too. No doubt those light upper rooms would have been full of such stock.

It’s a tall, narrow building, and the sign, with its thin-stroked lettering, seems rather subtle for a commercial company that needed to signal its presence on a busy street. However, I recall a photograph from more than twenty years ago showing the sign looking rather different, with the letters picked out against a terracotta background, as if it, like the walls, were built of brick. With this sort of colour scheme, and no doubt a bold sign lower down at shop-front level, it was probably clear to everyone where H. Snuggs was, and what it was he was selling.


per apse said...

What inspiration an upwards glance provides for research - thanks once again, Philip for getting beyond the ordinary. I note your list of ironmongers' sale items includes "stoves" but no "ovens" - does this, I wonder, show a regional bias of any kind? Which might London ironmongers have sold? Possibly both! Greetings

bazza said...

I was driving round the Old Street roundabout yesterday and smiling to myself at the nick-name it has been given: 'Silicon Roundabout' because of all the tech companies that have started up there!
This post reinforces your endorsement to "always look up"!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s boastfully bellicose Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Per apse – Yes, probably both in London. The "ovens" including what I'd call "kitchen ranges", i.e. Victorian cast-iron units incorporating a coal fire, an oven, a hot plate or two, and (I think) some sort of boiler for water. But built into the wall, not freestanding like an Aga.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Indeed. There are "bags" of tech companies around there – not just software developers and website-builders but also including firms doing things like computer animation, for some of which my son works.

Unknown said...

Bonjour, merci pour ce que vous avez fait, Joseph Snuggs était mon arrière grand père, il a eu une vie très remplie. J'espère que ce bâtiment perdurera encore longtemps.