This Artist Captures London's Characterful Shopfronts - Before Gentrification Sweeps Them Away

By Londonist Last edited 54 months ago

Last Updated 12 November 2019

This Artist Captures London's Characterful Shopfronts - Before Gentrification Sweeps Them Away

Urban landscape artist Michelle Heron captures the characterful shopfronts of yesterday's London — sometimes only just in time, before gentrification sweeps them away.

A.Cooke Pie, Mash, Liquor & Eels, Goldhawk Road

The traditional pie, mash, liquor and eels business was founded in 1899 and had been based in Goldhawk Road, London since 1934, but was forced to shut after being served a compulsory purchase order as part of the development of the nearby market and surrounding area. The cafe features in The Who's Mod classic film Quadrophenia.

Arthur's Cafe, Dalston

From a series of paintings depicting fast disappearing old London shops. The Guardian waxed lyrical about this greasy spoon, run by local legend, Arthur Woodham. Unfortunately since then, he has passed away. It was in his will that the business closed upon his death — and so it was.

Bearly Trading, Penge

Not barely trading but closed, for almost two decades on Penge High Street. I got quite emotional painting this one seeing those abandoned teddy bears and a rocking horse through the window. The story goes that when the owner passed away, the family wanted to keep the shop as a memorial. It's starting to show signs of decay with a boarded up window and stock inside slowly being removed.

The Opticians, Penge

I thought it seemed fitting to paint this one after painting its neighbour Bearly Trading. It's probably been closed for over 20 years but there are still glasses in the window and occasionally they are moved around or get swapped for similar 1980s looking frames. A fascinating shop suspended in time, while the surrounding high street moves on.

Coin~Op, Brixton

From a series of paintings depicting uniquely beautiful London shops. This particular painting is of a laundrette on Brixton Hill which has now changed its facade with a less striking plastic awning. In recent years I have seen neighbourhoods change and lose much of their individuality and charm to modern development.

David Greig, Brixton

David Greig was the supermarket chain founded by the Greig family of Hornsey, north London. The David Greig chain was a rival to Sainsbury's having been established in 1870. The first store opened in Brixton and eventually expanded across London and the south east and dominated Brixton including this one on Coldharbour Lane.

By the 1960s there were more than 220 Greig shops but sadly the empire came to a swift end due to several deaths in the family in quick succession, with death duties and obligatory inheritance tax crippling business. This shop front sign was until very recently exposed following the closure of a previous business but has now been removed.

Euston Bookshop

The kind of bookshop that needs its windows blacked out. This was captured in 2013.

H.Glickman Ltd, Tottenham

A hardware shop in Tottenham that had been a family run business for 80 years but closed down in 2015 due
to high rents and competition form big businesses. The signage has already been painted over in grey and become an estate agents.

J Evans Dairy Farmer, Fitzrovia

A cafe that had a previous life as a Welsh grocery shop. Located in Fitzrovia, an affluent area of central London, on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street. The Grade II listed building was built in 1793 still retains much of its original signage (although you can see it's starting to fade) and its rich blue tiles (cira 1916). One
of my only paintings to depict human life (shadow inside). Before supermarkets came along, London became home to many Welshmen who set up dairy businesses due to hard times in Wales. Cows were even kept on premises in central London and many dairies were located close to Marylebone Station which links it to
Paddington station and the West. Until quite recently, many early morning trains were in fact called 'milk trains'! By 1900 it is estimated that half of all dairies in the capital were Welsh. Unfortunately none exist now in
London. but J Evans lives on as a fetching coffee shop.

Manze's Meat Pies, Deptford High Street

An institution that happily lives on, despite being somewhat under threat (many other pie and mash establishments have disappeared from London recently.

Marine Ices, Camden

An iconic ice cream shop in Camden. It has since relocated with a new facade since the previous building was demolished. Marine Ices has been trading since 1931 and was opened by Italian Gaetano Mansi. The same family who brought Manze's Pie and Mash shops to London. In fact the surname Manze's is incorrectly spelt and was originally Mansi.

Parkview Hairdressers, Kennington

This barbershop in Kennington used to have peeling paint on its facade (as pictured) but has recently
had a face lift and paint job.

The Dublin Castle, Camden

The Dublin Castle is a pub in Camden famous for its live music. It opened in 1856 and originally served the Irish community and Irish engineers working on the nearby railways. It gained prominence in the late 1970s when Madness (known at the time as The Camden Invaders) performed a residency there which helped to establish their career. It became a popular venue in the 90s for Britpop bands such as Blur, and Amy Winehouse performed regularly — also helping serve drinks at the bar. I've enjoyed a few great nights there watching up and coming bands and it's nice to see that something good has survived the gentrification of Camden Town.

William Gee Ltd

I chose to paint Dalston icon William Gee Ltd as it stood directly opposite a previous painting I made of Arthur's Cafe. The shop is in an area of London that has seen a huge amount of gentrification yet it is still standing. The shopfront takes you back to a different era; the haberdashery was established in 1906 and is the lead
stockist of fabric trimmings and haberdashery products in the UK. I chose the long, low shadows to add a sense of depth and emotion. It always looks like the shop is closed from the outside and I wanted to capture that with the dark, moody palette. The painting was exhibited at the 157th Society of Women Artist's annual exhibition in
2018 at the Mall Galleries in London.

Launderette, Sydenham

Very much alive and kicking, this bright launderette feels like a throwback to the 1950s. It's one of a few launderettes still operating in the area.

Limited edition prints of Michelle's work are available to buy from her website.