Even though this week’s London Shoes trek out to the ‘Smoke’ was only a short & sweet quickie, the subject matter was nonetheless an interesting one, as it perfectly epitomises the ‘Shoes’ doctrine of being a ‘lesser known & more unusual’ aspect of London’s history.
In fact, ‘Shoes’ only recently became aware of the existence of this place, even though I had worked only a few streets away from it, back in the 70’s when I was at Barclays Bank in Wardour St – and probably walked past it many times without taking a blind bit of notice.
It wasn’t until my old ‘pencil squeezer’ mate Professor Mick pointed the place out to me the other week that I decided that the topic was certainly worthy of a London Shoes visit.
So – the topic in question is the unique “Elms Lesters Painting Rooms” building situated in Flitcroft Street, just a couple of minutes’ walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station.
Not only does this building itself tell an interesting story, it probably has the tallest front door of any building in London!!!
The ‘Elms Lesters Painting Rooms’ are tucked away down an old narrow alley situated at the side of the historically iconic St. Giles Church.
The ‘Painting Rooms’ building was built and opened in 1903/04, and was designed specifically to house the production of, and the storage of, stage scenery and the huge theatrical backdrops of London’s thriving theatreland.
This narrow 3 storey building was designed to a unique specification so that these massive scenery backdrops, an integral part of any stage production – could be created, worked on, stored and then transported safely off to the many theatres of London’s west-end.
Scenery and picture frames in excess of 50’x30’ could easily be accommodated in the Painting Rooms, and the material was moved about, raised & lowered by a system of electric winches, so that they could be worked on, or moved out to the theatres via a huge ‘front-door’, probably the tallest of its kind in London and beyond.
Another advantage of the ‘Elms Lesters Painting Rooms’ back in the day, was that it had a massive glass ceiling, creating natural light for the artists to work in.
The building itself retains some of its lovely original 1904 architectural features and touches – and it is no surprise that it today has a Grade II Listed status.
With the advent of TV and cinema, the reliance on facilities such as those created in the ‘Elms Lesters Painting Room’; slowly fell into decline, as new production technologies evolved.
However, because of the way in which it was built and the facilities it offered, the ‘Elms Lesters Painting Rooms’ enjoyed a new lease of life as an artist’s workshop and a gallery – as it was the ideal working environment for artists producing massively large pieces of work.
Sadly in 2017 the ‘Elms Lesters Painting Rooms’ were no longer used for what they had been created for, and were sold-off – and now its interior has been converted into corporate offices, so unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos inside – but fortunately, because of its Listed status, the original exterior of the building with its unique architectural features, will remain intact and unaltered, so that it lives on to tell the tale.
So – having sought out the ‘Elms Lester Painting Rooms’, it was ‘cheeky one-a-clock’ and so I popped in to ‘The Angel’ pub, just round the corner, and right next door to the famous St. Giles Church – (one of the most historic and infamous churches in London-and a blog topic in its own right).
Records show that there has been a ‘tavern’ on the site of ‘The Angel’ pub, since the 16th Century – and this boozer has its own unique little vibe going on, as it was one of the main ‘stopping-off’ pubs where condemned criminals were allowed to have just one last beer, on their way to their execution at the gallows at Tyburn.
The current pub building was built in 1834 and still retains some of the original fixtures & fittings from that time – such as a lovely little decorative glazed tiled entrance to where the carriages would park-up – its large Georgian windows – ornate ceiling roses – chandeliers – old leather bound chairs and bar stools & wooden wall paneling, all of which is on view in the pubs 3 cosy drinking bars.
These sort of features make the place extremely popular with tourists especially those visiting the famous St. Giles Church next door – and of course, the ideal place for me to sink a couple of ‘cheeky’ ones (‘organic’ lager this time), before heading back out into the pouring rain to make my way back home.
Hope you enjoyed this little insight into one of the more unusual and certainly lesser known London buildings – and that the photos, albeit with a rainy backdrop, do the place justice.
See below for a more detailed summary of photos from this ‘Elms Lesters Painting Rooms’ blog