Friday, 24 May 2013

Builder, Dalston

While the company behind yesterday's ghost sign remains a mystery (so far), it was easy today to trace whose business was being promoted on this wall, even if most of the ghost sign remains hidden behind a layer of plaster. Thanks to the presence of the profession and of an initial, a quick search online for this address revealed it was William John Brace's.

Very little information about W. J. Brace is available other than he was declared bankrupt in October 1911. At the time he worked as a builder and a fruiterer (an odd combination of jobs) at 66, Dalston Lane, Dalston, and 79, High Street, Kingsland. Both addresses were relatively close.

W. J. Brace ...sly
Builder & ... Fitter
... ... ...d
Plumbing, Painting &

Given that there is no mention of a fruiterer here, it may be that that side of Brace's business was conducted at the Kingsland address.

The missing word before "Fitter" may be "Gas" as in the ghost sign for R. Ellis.

The presence of a word ending in "sly" at the same level as "W. J. Brace" is a bit of a mystery. Could this have been part of the name of the person who moved in after W. J. Brace was declared bankrupt? If he was in the building trade too, it would not have been necessary to alter the rest of the sign.

What will happen to this ghost sign? The house it is painted on is the last one of a row to be still occupied. The whole terrace of early 19th century houses, with shop frontages added c. 1875, when Dalston expanded following the arrival of the railways, has been earmarked for restoration by Hackney Council. In a November 2009 document, the Council stated:

The buildings of Dalston Terrace are good examples of early 19th century residential architecture and later 19th century shop front development. They are considered to be of “Townscape Merit” and are considered to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. The Council considers it a priority both to ensure that this valuable piece of Hackney’s heritage is not lost through dilapidation and neglect, and to bring an important piece of Dalston town centre back into productive use.

However most of the buildings have been derelict for years. Some were in such a state of disrepair they have been demolished and one was gutted by fire. Nothing should be expected before 2015 at least. The risk is that more houses will be beyond repair by then and that in the end most buildings will be completely rebuilt in some kind of 21st century version of Georgian architecture.

Location: Dalston Lane / Pictures taken in May 2013

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