Friday, May 06, 2011

London through its charity shops #10: Goodge St

It's always a surprise seeing charity shops in the west end, there usually being so few, so it was close to a miracle finding three virtually next to each other along Goodge Street, W1, off Tottenham Court Road, and getting some barngains too.

Goodge Street is in an area of London known as Fitzrovia which has a fine history of bohemianism and crime. Formerly known as North Soho, the area was unofficially renamed Fitzrovia after the famous pub, the Fitzroy Tavern which, in its day, attracted a crowd of artistic and bohemian types including George Orwell, Augustus John, Dylan Thomas and Aleister Crowley. Artists and writers including Thomas Paine, John Constable, Walter Sickert, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Arthur Rimbaud all lived in the area at various times.

Famous hangman Albert Pierrepoint was drinking in the Fitzroy Tavern when he witnessed the murder of Alec de Antiquis on the corner of Charlotte Street and Percy Street on 29th April 1947. Antiquis, a 34-year-old father of six was shot dead trying to stop the criminals of a botched robbery in a nearby jewellery shop.

According to The Daily Mail et al you'd be thinking there was more gun crime and teenage gangs today than ever before. This isn't the case. Post-war London had a huge influx of guns and gangs (12,300 gang members were convicted in 1947). The robbers who shot Antiquis were either in their teens or early twenties. Robert Fabian, the famous 'Fabian of the Yard', was in charge of a massive manhunt; the gang was eventually caught and two of them sentenced to death by hanging. The chief executioner at the hanging was none other than Albert Pierrepoint.

Coming from Tottenham Court Road, the first charity shop on the right is a fairly small and shaggy YMCA with plenty of clothes, some bric-a-brac, books and CDs. When I went in they had a fine assortment of CDs, including Beatles, McCartney and Dylan, though some of them looked a bit scratched. The CD pricing system seems quite imaginative, with prices based on the amount of songs contained on an album. I got the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, which didn't have a price on it, so I asked how much it was. The woman at the till counted the songs on it (16) and deemed it to be 99p. Other CDs – Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart (not exactly seasonal, but sealed); a live Lou Reed; Flight of the Conchords – were 49p. I also got a topical Saint Etienne compilation (99p; well, it does have 25 tracks) called Songs for the Dog & Duck, 'The soundtrack to an evening in Soho, epicentre of British pop since the mid-50s'. A great, eclectic selection, ranging from The Zombies to, er, Bill Oddie. The Dog and Duck was the pub of choice for local record company Heavenly Records, who produce Saint Etienne.

Next door is an Octavia, equally scruffy as YMCA but no bargains. A bit further on is a pretty large Oxfam with a downstairs containing a lot of books and music. Upstairs a decent selection of clothes and bric-a-brac and more CDs. Barngain of the day: Boards of Canada – In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country (EP; £1.49).

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