Monday, 2 March 2009
Down at Heal's
Going on about Humbers brought to mind this little filling station. A couple of years ago I walked round here to find it painted pink, and I've got an odd feeling it may now have dispensed the last gallon of unleaded. I found it on a dull June Saturday afternoon in 1990, when I wandered round the back of all those furniture stores on Tottenham Court Road after being led submissively around Heal's. It was easy to imagine Luton vans in the 1930's being primed with petrol here after being loaded-up with Elysian sofas and weathered oak beds destined for the new garden suburbs. In nearby Torrington Place Heal's vans were packed with new mattresses. I couldn't believe my luck when I found the Humber Super Snipe parked outside, its colours perfectly complementing the garage paintwork. Later I learnt that the garage was put here to serve the Duke of Bedford's Bloomsbury Estate, and as such is very likely the earliest petrol station in London. I'd be very grateful for any news (it was on the corner of Store Street and Alfred Place), but in any case it's well worthwhile standing opposite Heal's and admiring the superb decorative panels on the front elevation.