Exposed! This old Fortess Road signage


Feast your eyes on this tasty font from a former Victorian piano-makers



Classic: the ghost sign on Fortess Road that the new owner is to retain. Photo: SE
Classic: the ghost sign on Fortess Road that the new owner is to retain. Photo: Stephen Emms
Of course, all but the most casual readers will know that Camden, Kentish and Tufnell were all the absolute epicentre of the piano-making industry back in the day.

Most factories were centred around the industrial areas of Camden Lock and West Kentish Town (for more on this, read our history here), but businesses were dotted about all over the area: N19 lifestyle store Future and Found is a former piano-makers, for example.

And all but the most casual readers will know that we heart a ‘ghost’ sign too, whether it’s on a wall (as here in Dartmouth Park), a former newsagent opposite the new Co-operative store, or discovered above a pound shop on Queen’s Crescent (like this 1920s gem, pictured above, which was sadly subsequently sold by the owners).

Gorgeous: the Home and Colonial sign, later sold. Photo: SE
Gorgeous: the Home and Colonial sign, later sold. Photo: SE

Latest un-covery? Why, this majestic PIANO sign on Fortess Road, a site that is to re-open at the end of this month as smart jeweller’s Jessica de Lotz.


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So what’s the history? Well, Phelps Pianos Ltd was founded at the spot, way back in 1895 by one Frederick Phelps, to make and sell pianos. Somehow it managed to survive the speedy decline of its industry, and in 1988 the shop became part of the Markson Piano Group – until it finally closed in the last decade.

Tufnell Park-based de Lotz was excited to discover the previous incarnation of her new gaff, and – like kebab heroes E.Mono – fully plans to retain her slice of the past. “Oh yes, I’m planning to bring the shop sign back to life,” she says, gleefully. “My work is based on history and stories – so this is very in keeping with what I do.”

Music to our ears, for sure.

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Follow Jessica as she prepares to open up her shop at 49 Fortess Road NW5 on @JdLJewellery or visit her website here

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