23 October 2011
The area known as Bishophill has many scenic streets, though modern development has made a couple of them less scenic in recent years.
Most traces of the area’s industrial past have been cleared, and Fetter Lane and nearby Skeldergate are now filled with flats, most of them charmless.
So when I wandered up here in 2007 I was pleased to see the Capaldi ice cream factory, hanging on in there while all around it changed.
In the rush of redevelopment this 20th-century building seemed doomed to demolition.
I loved the look of this place. Partly the way its painted rendered front caught the light from the west in the evening, the first time I took a photo. Partly the long low look of it, emphasised by the windows. Partly that little understated curved detail above the door. But mainly the lettering. There’s something about faded lettering on old business premises. This is a handsome example. It’s big, plain, confident. I could almost imagine Mr Capaldi standing back proudly admiring it when it first went up on the family business premises. J CAPALDI, in confident capitals.
A closer look reveals that originally it said “AND SON”. The shadow of the lettering still there, in part, with a later doorway extended down from what was one of the windows, cutting through the word SON.
If I were a writer of short stories, this might inspire me to write one, imagining a sad family story – or perhaps an explosive family argument – behind this obscured and faded lettering.
[… but see update, at foot of page]
In 2007 a site alongside the Capaldi factory was being cleared, and the other side of it had already been filled with flats.
I assumed Capaldis and its lovely lettering would be gone, flattened. But in 2008 was surprised to see it still standing, surrounded by scaffolding, with windows boarded and lettering still visible, though apparently covered in cement.
Even more surprising to find it still there, in March 2011, as it became clear that the building, or part of it, was being kept, with visible repairs to the frontage. Its sunlit front has windows again. As work continues, there’s a pleasing and appropriate (though accidental) ‘ice cream colours’ effect – toffee, chocolate, cream – in the repaired area of the frontage, above right.
The remodelled building in June 2011. An extra floor has been added above the original frontage, with windows reflecting the ‘horizontal emphasis’ of the 1940s facade, and its windows. Vehicle access has been created by removing one of the ground floor windows and extending an existing doorway.
The smartening and refurbishment inevitably means the loss of the element of ‘faded charm’. It looks as if the lettering is to be repainted, as the remnants of it have been retained, but, as with the repainted wall ads on the old Stubbs building, this will probably look a little inauthentic. I’m glad I caught on camera the old, faded, peeling original.
It’s good to see this 20th century street frontage retained.
It remains to be seen if the same will be possible for a far more well-known 20th century building – the White Swan on Piccadilly. (Update, 2014: yes, it seems it might be possible. See all pages tagged White Swan.)
Notes, links etc
Documents relating to the recent work on this building are on the council’s planning pages for anyone interested in the background/design – see 07/00065/FUL – and the associated Design and Access statement and associated (CoYC) report. The Fetter Lane factory, according to the planning documents, dates from the 1940s.
Update, Feb 2012
The lettering originally said ‘& Sons’ (not ‘& Son’), as I’d assumed, and as I’d written above. Joe’s sons were Tony, Vinnie, Ramon, Carlo and Nino. Many thanks to Jamie, a great-grandson of Joe Capaldi, for this information.
Thanks also to Antony, who emailed me in November, saying he has very fond memories of the factory, and visiting there as a child. His great-grandfather and later his grandfather were the proprietors.
. . . . .
Page compiled 23 October 2011. Photos: various dates, 2007 to 2011. Last updated 8 Feb 2013.