This post is a bit of a follow-on to my earlier post about the importance of shopfronts.
The other week I met with the architect who is working on the full THI grant application for 29-31 Eccleston Street. We were discussing shopfront style and details when I remembered that on a previous visit to the building, I spotted a piece of the old shopfront in one of the empty rooms upstairs.
We went up and after some searching about found it – a console or corbel that was at one end of the sign that was previously over the shopfront. It doesn’t sound like a massive find in itself, but from this one little component of the old shopfront we got a lot of information; like how far the shopfront used to project from the wall, how wide the pilasters were (as these would have been no wider than the console), how deep the fascia and cornice were (you could see their outline along the side of the console). And of course the piece itself could be copied by a joiner to make an exact match.
Here it is – a few bits of wood put together some time ago and stuck outside for 70-odd years and then left upstairs for another 15-20.
Here it is still in situ in 1990 (on the left – the opticians shown is no.31 Eccleston Street)
This little find takes a bit of the guesswork out of restoring the shopfront to its historic appearance, and accuracy is one of the key things with restoration: the wrong proportion or detail will throw the authenticity of the whole thing off kilter.
In terms of how old the piece of shopfront we found is, my best guess is that it’s from the early twentieth century when the shops at 25, 27 and 29 Eccleston Street were respectively occupied by the gents’ outfitter’s, ladieswear and boot and shoe branches of the same business – Johnson’s. It seems from historic photos that Johnson’s used a matching design for its three neighbouring shops and this apears to have been updated in the 1920s or early 1930s.
I can only describe the style of the old shopfront as Art Deco, but in a lot of ways it really did sit well with the Regency / Late Georgian style of 25-29 Ecclesotn Street which would have been around a century old when the new shopfronts were put in. Perhaps whoever designed the shopfront was on the one hand trying to keep up with the forward-looking architectural fashions of the time while at the same time trying to respect the building? Sounds just like the conundrum faced daily by people who work with historic buildings nowadays!
This find just goes to show that the restoration works of the THI are nothing new – here in the early twenty-first century we are reinstating what was there in the early twentieth century which was itself influenced (possibly!) by the architecture of the early nineteenth century building it is attached to.
We might well put this old piece of shopfront back in with the new – why not? It might be around 90 years old, but it’s in good enough nick…
Prescot Heritage Hub
…and while I’m still on the subject of shopfronts, the re-painting of the shopfront and sign at the Prescot Heritage Hub is well underway…
It’s amazing what a different a bit of paint can do! The Prescot Heritage Hub, Historical Society and the THI will be holding an open day on Saturday 28th June. Hope to see you there!