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At the Sign of the Four-Poster

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Monday, 2 May 2011

At the Sign of the Four-Poster

I was waiting outside Goodge Street Tube yesterday and the front of Heal's on Tottenham Court Road looked magnificent in the sunshine.


This is the  southern extension built by the architect  Sir Edward Maufe (1882–1974) between 1936 and 1938 and features these beautiful decorative panels advertising the specialities of this venerable furniture and interior design shop.










 



The architect's wife, Prudence Maufe, was a designer and interior decorator, and a Director of Heal's. She  had a long running affair with the Managing Director Ambrose Heal. I wonder if in some convoluted way, this is how Edward Maufe was chosen to execute the extension?

Prior to  his marriage to Prudence, Sir Edward had fortuitously changed his birth name by deed poll to Maufe. He had originally been christened Edward Muff. The change no doubt helped his career and that of Prudence and would presciently deny shop floor wags the opportunity of  mocking a "Prudence Muff" or any variations of the name.

Not satisfied with just one lover Ambrose Heal, like Prudence, needed  more loving than most. During his affair with Prudence he also conducted a long affair with one of the store's assistants, Dodie Smith, who went on to become the author of One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

In addition to his dalliances Ambrose Heal also found time to work with London Underground's Frank Pick to set up the "Design and Industries Association", forerunner of the Design Council.

I couldn't find photos of all the panels on the net and in looking for more details I discovered these snippets. I still haven't been able to find out who produced the panels for Maufe, .if anyone knows please drop me a line.

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6 Comments:

At 2 May 2011 at 22:43 , Blogger Joanna said...

Thanks Pete. I've never noticed these panels before and the story is fascinating reading. I want to know more!

 
At 3 May 2011 at 08:09 , Blogger Peter Berthoud said...

Joanna, I am glad you liked this. Next time you are up that way the panels are above the 1st floor windows, one of them "Lighting" is just on the corner in Alfred Mews, I can't get a straight picture because of this.

There are other very different panels on the northern section of the building but they can wait for another post. Thank you for your comment

 
At 3 May 2011 at 14:46 , Anonymous Rhona said...

Wow they're amazing, thanks Pete

 
At 3 May 2011 at 17:53 , Blogger Peter Berthoud said...

Thanks for your comment Rhona. So glad you liked them.

 
At 19 May 2011 at 14:25 , Anonymous Heal's said...

what a great post! if we find out more information regarding the panels we will be in touch. I think i notice a different panel each time i arrive at work!

Dodie Smith actually created a story surrounding the Heal's Cat which she wrote about in her autobiography. She also sold the much beloved cat before Ambrose tracked the customer down and had the cat restored to it's place on the Brewer Stairs.

further history about Heal's and the building can be found here:
http://www.heals.co.uk/page/heals_1810_2010_book
(the cat and Dodie are featured in the year 1920)

 
At 20 May 2011 at 18:46 , Blogger Peter Berthoud said...

Thank you so much for your very kind comment and the extra information!

I will be scouring Westminster libraries for the Heal's Cat story tomorrow and buying the book too no doubt.

I will be posting on the Northern extension panels just as soon as the wind stops flapping your flags in the way! I have so many, many pix of your flags now!

 

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