Not many self-storage companies have a former RAF Hawker Hunter fighter jet on the roof. Vanguard Storage does. And it has another plane round the back. And an artillery gun. And an armoured vehicle.
The military accoutrements that line the perimeter are not part of the storage facility's security, but cast-off items collected by the company's founding Director Mac McCullagh during Vanguard's half a century of operations. He's still in charge today.
The firm originally specialised in heavy lifting, and has grappled with many icons of the capital. For 20 years, Vanguard was responsible for hoisting the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree into place. The company reinstalled 'Eros' on his pedestal following works in Piccadilly Circus, and also manoeuvred the nearby Horses of Helios into their fountain. The printing presses of Fleet Street and the Victorian engines of Tower Bridge were similarly lifted. The company's little-known archives offer a fascinating glimpse into the changing face of London in the second half of the 20th century.
Although Vanguard has long-since sold off its lifting business to focus on storage, the company retains many souvenirs of its past at its Perivale headquarters. You might have noticed a few of them if you drive regularly along Western Avenue. Many an unlikely decoration has crowned the company's distinctive building, including a single-decker bus, a Spitfire, and the artillery gun (see gallery above). The current jet fighter was lifted into place in July.
The company's private storage hangar contains plenty of other unexpected items, secured by McCullagh when nobody else wanted them. As well as the former military kit, the vast room contains long-silent printing presses, the planet's largest poster (for the concerts Michael Jackson never lived to perform), a plaque to Hogarth from Leicester Square, the clock from the former News of the World building, a Routemaster bus, and razor wire said to come from the Wapping protests of the 1980s.
The company doesn't generally do public tours but, should you need some storage space in west London, you can get a pretty good view of the rooftop jet and other oddities from the firm's reception.
With thanks to Mike Patterson of London Historians for arranging the visit, and Will and Mac McCullagh for a fascinating tour. Vanguard Self Storage can be found on the junction of Alperton Lane and Western Avenue, UB6 8AA.