London Calling - III

An Early, Dark and Wet Morning in London (LEO Design)


Buying trips to London mean several certain things: early, dark and wet mornings, lots of tunneling-about on The Tube, and as much theatre as I can manage to see (though evening theatre and pre-dawn antiques hunting can be a difficult combination).

I started-out Friday morning to catch the first (5:51 am) Tube to the Southbank.  Four hours in the damp (including mist and rain) was unpleasant though productive.  Aside from the rain, it's nice to be prowling-around the City at such an early hour.  It seems that I have the whole place to myself.


An Empty Staircase on the London Underground, Edgware Road Station (LEO Design)


Come mid-morning, I headed to the Northwest section of London, finding myself in a (surprisingly) quiet Edgware Road Tube Station.  This station, which serves the Bakerloo Line, was opened in 1907.  The exterior façade is clad in handsome oxblood glazed tiles. The same color tiling is also used (more sparingly) on the tiled platforms, stairwells and hallways.  In this Tube Station, many of the original architectural features and design schemes have been preserved.


An Empty Hallway on the London Underground, Edgware Road Station (LEO Design)


The London Underground lines were originally built and operated as private railway businesses (similar to the Subway in New York).  Eventually, the city bought-up the private lines to consolidate them into a unified, city-wide network.


A Bit of Fun on the London Tube Signage (LEO Design)


And the graphics designers occasionally try to squeeze-in a little fun with their signage. But don't try this trick at home!  The London Underground logo—one of the finest, most iconic and recognizable of graphics—is fiercely protected by the transit network.  A neighboring business in Greenwich Village once incorporated the Tube logo into her NYC company logo and she received a very quick (and not very subtle) cease-and-desist order from Transport For London.


"The Motive & The Cue" at the Noel Coward Theatre, Saint Martin's Lane, West End of London (LEO Design)


In the evening, I went to see a marvelous play, The Motive and the Cue, directed (masterfully) by Sam Mendes.  The story explores the rehearsal and lead-up to the 1964 Broadway production of Hamlet, which starred Richard Burton and had been directed by Sir John Gielgud.  The two acclaimed actors could not be more different from one another—as performers or as men—and their conflicting sensibilities (and energies) made for wry and humorous exchanges.  Gielgud was the Classic; Burton the Modernist.  They each longed for a bit of the other actor's gift.  The play captures beautifully the perils which haunt actors—most importantly their classic insecurities.   Burton, who grew up as a poor and neglected boy, could not be called "princely."  Gielgud, now older, was famous for playing Hamlet himself, in his earlier years (including on the very stage before us).  The Burton/Gielgud Hamlet was a huge Broadway hit, running for two years.  The Motive and the Cue is, likewise, a big hit.


The Salisbury Family Crest Atop the Entryway to the Salisbury Pub in Saint Martin's Lane, London's West End (LEO Design)


Just outside the Noel Coward Theatre stands The Salisbury Pub, built in 1899.  From the time of its opening, The Salisbury was known to be an accommodating place for gay patrons—despite the notorious and recent scandal surrounding Oscar Wilde (who died in 1900).  It remained gay-friendly until the Thatcher 1980's.

Over the corner door (facing Saint Martin's Lane) is the Salisbury Family Crest.  Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister three times (between 1885 and 1902) and his family still owns the property today.  The interior retains much of its splendid Art Nouveau decor.

The pub holds special meaning for me.  One of my dear, late friends loved this pub.  We would sometime pop-in for a drink when she would drive-up from Brighton to meet me in London.  More frequently, however, I would join her in Brighton and we would travel the South of England, shopping for antiques to send-back to the States.



Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248