Above: An old photo (which has been enhanced to bring out the details) showing the original lettering on the old Hay’s Wharf Offices. The photo is copyright British Pathe.
“Reminiscing the Past”
When you have known the buildings in a street for most of your life, it is often the case that you say things like ‘If only I had thought to take pictures years ago when . . .’ and usually it is not possible to find pictures of a place that you have stored away in your mind, even after scouring the Internet.
Towards the western end of Tooley Street is a remarkable office block. It is one of the few designed in Art Deco style. When erected, in 1931, designed by Goodhart-Rendel, it was built as the Head Offices of a transport and storage company called Hay’s Wharf.
It had typical Art Deco style – both inside and out – and even the lettering on the exterior was in Art Deco style. The building has been listed Grade II* for many years. When built, the exterior facing Tooley Street carried the name ‘HAY’S WHARF HEAD OFFICES’ which, due to the Art Deco style of each letter, was also listed. Some time between the 1975 and 1980 Hay’s vacated the building. This meant that the exterior name had to be changed. Because of the listing, the new name for the building ‘ST OLAF HOUSE’ was carefully remade in the original style. The new name was chosen because the office block was built on the site of a parish church whose name was ‘St Olave’. The original name for this saint was ‘Olaf’ and so that was why unusual spelling was chosen.
Above: The offices today with the changed name but retaining the same style of lettering.
It was great to find a photo of the outside of the building, taken before the name was changed. Returning to the sentiment of the opening paragraph, I could have easily taken the photo myself but – I didn’t. I walked past it enough times but with familiarity it often does not cross your mind to take pictures of what you see each day of your life and then, one day, you suddenly realise that it has been changed or it has gone for ever.