Sunday, 24 November 2013

Union Street SE1

When he was just 12 years old, Charles Dickens had to go to work in a blacking factory because his father had been imprisoned in the Marshalsea for debt. His route home from work took him over Blackfriars Bridge into Southwark "down that turning in the Blackfriars Road which has Rowland Hill’s chapel on one side, and the likeness of a golden dog licking a golden pot over a shop door on the other," as he wrote in his autobiography.
The original dog was made of pine with an iron pot. The shop was an ironmonger selling, among other things, kitchen items such as pots, pans and everything needed to build a fire, including cast iron firebacks and the wrought iron supports for the logs, known as fire dogs. So the sign is a bit of a rebus or architectural pun.
The ironmongers also used the design on its range of 'coal plates', the circular cast iron covers for the chutes that punctuated all Victorian pavements, allowing the coal men to pour their loads directly into coal cellars in front of every house.
Dickens made the sign famous, so when the shop was demolished in 1932 it was taken to the Cuming Museum. To celebrate his bicentenary in 2013, a replica carved in elm by Mike Painter was erected on the original site. Trendily, the sign has its own Twitter feed.


Capability Bowes said...

Now, that is obviously the TfL building in the background. So where in Union Street do I look for the doggy?

Chris Partridge said...

It's the other side of the road, on the corner with Blackfriars Road.