This fine piece of street art stands just yards away from Southwark underground station in south London, but what does it mean?
It is a replica of a shop sign that used to hang outside of an Ironmongers that plied it’s trade on the corner of Blackfriars Road and Union Street. It was first displayed over the shop owned by Antony Walker who styled himself as a “Furnishing ironmonger, brazier and hardwareman” back in the 1790s. The company expanded during the 19th century and as Haywards and JW Cunningham & Co, iron, steel and grindstone merchants, expanded into a foundry producing cast iron goods.
One of their main products were cast iron coal hole covers, which depicts the dog and the pot as its logo. Very few remain visible today, I’ve read a piece by someone who is an aficionado on coal holes, that to discover a Dog & Pot coal hole today is a bit like finding a Penny Black stamp. The only one I know about is set in the pavement in Lower Marsh, not far from Waterloo Station.
The original sign was was taken down in 1931 and bought by the Cumings Museum and housed in Walworth, south London, which sadly was devastated by fire in 2013 and never reopened. Luckily the dog survived, but finding him a permanent home has proved difficult.
So back to the replica that sits in Southwark. you may be wondering why a monument has been erected to commemorate an Ironmongers? Well, the truth is that when the original graced the front of the shop in the 1820s it was passed every day by a twelve year old boy walking from his lodging house in Lant Street, Borough to a Blacking factory in Charing Cross, the boy was Charles Dickens. He wrote to a friend later in life, “My usual way home was over Blackfriars Bridge, and down that turning in the Blackfriars Road which has Rowland Hill’s Chapel on one side, and the likeness of a golden dog licking a golden pot over a shop door on the other”.
So the new dog was unveiled in 2013 to celebrate 201 years since the authors birth. It is carved in seasoned elm and was created by sculptor Mike Painter. While examining the original to take dimensions he was able to ascertain that the dog is even older than first thought and it is likely that he hung in front of a local tavern some 70 years before being moved to the ironmongers.
As for the orignal, he made a brief appearance at an exhibition at the Dickens Museum in 2014, but since then his whereabouts are unknown.