With our impending office move to Whitechapel just one week away I find myself skulking round Soho far too much. I keep worrying.......what will I do without the Algerian Coffee House for my favourite tea or the Pilgrim's Pizza van? All those times I worked through lunch when I could have been noshing the latest street food on Berwick St with the food bloggers. Last week I popped into W. Sitch & Company at 48 Berwick Street hoping they might have some reclaimed door furniture, see below for last week's post;
There is more brass crammed into five floors than you could ever imagine, but not of the kind I was after. Thankfully, Laurence ( one of the Sitch brothers) recommended other places to try. I paused a little and remembered the advice my little brother had told me....... she who courteously asks permission to take photograph usually wins! I explained that I wanted to feature them on my blog out of pure admiration for the house and their artisan skills. I couldn't believe my luck when Laurence sent me to say hello to everyone in the back workshop. My god I was being allowed into the engine room, I'd hit the jack pot! It turns out that World of Interiors had already beaten a path well before me................
The house and premises are largely untouched, but run very much as a working business. The place is filthy, dark and dusty, messy and crammed with antique brass. You can hardly see the wood for the trees it's so packed to the rafters. It could be hellish for some, but I am in my element. How on earth does anybody choose, I could take the lot home with me. This is how it works; customers pick out their brass hall lantern, chandelier or candle stick and then specify re-wiring requirements and how polished they would like the finished article to be. The rustic look or bright as a button! They can also make a reproductions of favourite pieces. There are no price tags, you have to enquire about each piece, but in my opinion their artisan skills are almost priceless. There are few workshops around today which offer this level of craftsmanship, especially in central London. Not least with a huge pair of bellows (topped by a crown) the size of a dining room table out the back!
Laurence and his brother James are clearly proud of their heritage and passionate about the family business (started in 1776). Their surname Sitch is so unusual they can trace it back to the 16th century when their ancestor was registered as a candle stick maker in Cripplegate. Mind blowing! Of course part of my affection for W. Sitch & Company is also tied up to the Georgian house and premises on Berwick Street. The Sitch family have occupied the mid 19th century townhouse since 1903 but were operating in Hollen Street and around the Soho area before then. The house was freezing cold on the day I visited, except for the warm workshop heated by the furnace. I felt as if I might fall through the floorboards most of the time on the top floor. Here lies the scruffy charm which is part of the character though. The brothers are not members of the Soho Society or The Georgian Group or stuck in a period time warp. They are just getting on with the day to day running of their well respected business which is very much in the here and now. They have produced work for the National Trust, English Heritage, 10 Downing Street, Clarence House, Edinburgh Castle, the film "Titanic" and Merchant Ivory productions. Visit their website here;
Time Out has this to say on the shop;
Somebody has also posted up this video on You Tube using slightly irritating music. But James' enthusiasm comes across brilliantly;
James Sitch mans the office.
This reproduction 18th century light fitting will hang in the Egyptian embassy.
So many pairs of specs hanging up in the workshop.
Check out the size of this Georgian brass hall lantern!
The nuts and blots.
James Sitch talks history with me.
A snapshot into how Soho looked long ago.