Culture Magazine

Big, Beautiful Boot Scrapers

By Janeslondon

I've been wandering around and properly investigating the St. James's area a lot these past few years, yet until earlier this week I hadn't noticed some superb metalwork within the entrance to 50 St. James's Street. Considering that I have quite a large photographic collection of London boot scrapers, I was confused how I'd managed to miss this enormous pair of decorated beauties either side of the door. 

Big, beautiful boot scrapers

A sign near the entrance says that the building is being renovated. There are remnants of scaffold pole footers and the whole thing needs a wash and brush up. The boot scrapers are sublime. I have never before seen any so opulently decorated. The lanterns at the top of the street level posts are no longer in place, hence why they are cropped out of my phots here, but their gas feeds are still evident below their three-legged struts. I had an inkling that building this would have originally been one of the area's many gentlemen's clubs as per White's, Boodle's, Brook's etc. But what was it more recently? I needed to do some delving.

Big, beautiful boot scrapers

Well, it turns out that for over 12 years this site has been behind scaffolding or under wraps of some kind which is evidence by looking at Google's retrospective street views. In 2012 the site shows that the building looked like the image above. 

A quick bit of googling and Wikipedia tells us that this is an 1827 Grade II listed building that was has been a gentleman's club (yes!*), a bridge club in the 1920s and then various casinos or gaming institutes. There are plans to convert the building for use as either a hotel or as residential properties. However, the written timeline in that Wiki link doesn't seem to correlate with the google streetview which clearly show that scaffolding was in place by August 2014 so I am a bit confused when the squatters were there.     

This 2012 image show the lovely gas-fired lamps beautifully silhouetted. I suspect that the lanterns were removed for safety reasons during the building works and I am hoping that, going forward, they will be reinstated, complete with the gas feed as per other lamps in this area, rather than retrofitted with LEDs.

* had I applied my brain I could have worked that this was William Crockford 's club – he was an interesting character to say the least!

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