Crossing Prince of Wales Road in west Kentish Town yesterday, it was a rare delight to see the broken down shop on the corner (long the subject of urban myth and local conjecture) being restored.
Better still was that the original shop sign has been exposed, its gilt font uncannily preserved: W.J.Allen. Tea, Coffee, Wine.
It’s a reminder of what a hubbub this corner of Kentish Town once was. A busy late Victorian tram stop, its tracks were first laid down along Malden Road in 1880, before further lines were added, continuing to Holborn and Euston, making it a bustling tramway junction.The Mother Shipton pub (above left, now the Fiddler’s Elbow) had a popular theatre as well as its lounge bars. And stylish provisions store and cafe W.J. Allen was part of a parade then called Newberry Place, its near neighbours an eel-pie shop and a corn and seed (!) store.
By 1912 the corner plot had become a sub-post office and from 1969 the Malden Road Neighbourhood Centre. Its final role was as the legendary Young’s Disco Centre – before being boarded up in 2005, which it has remained for a dozen years.But what will W.J.Allen’s next incarnation be? We can only hope the sign will be restored and retained, as at Patron on Fortess Road (and unlike the fiasco with the gorgeous Home & Colonial 1920s signage on nearby Queen’s Crescent.)
As ever, we’ll keep you posted.