If you have ever travelled between Walthamstow Central and Wood Street on the train, you may have spotted a junkyard just before Wood Street Station. From the train it looks like a tangled mess of metal, nothing special. But this yard on Vallentin Road isn’t just any old junkyard, this is gods own junkyard. I visited it for the first time today and was totally amazed by what I found inside. The yard belongs to Chris Bracey who has been working with neon and light for 37 years, the junkyard is home to some of his work, and it’s a pretty magical place.
When you first arrive you enter a red building that has neon signs in the window, but I’ll come back to what’s inside the building later, and start with what I found outside in the yard. Planet Hollywood signs, a Virgin Mary and the remains of a giant Wonder Woman that once graced the central stairway of Selfridges, are just some of the treats to feast your eyes upon. Chris works with a number of clients from film makers to shop owners so the variety of things to see outside is staggering. Also located in the yard is the Saints and Sinners shed. A dilapidated garden shed with a sign that reads JOY on top of it. Inside is some of the neon work that Chris has created, and this is just a taster of the magical world that is located in the red building next door.
If you have failed to be impressed by the giant Wonder Woman, then I’m pretty sure you will have your socks knocked off looking around the inside of the building. The main room is nothing short of amazing, every corner has something to see. From a mirrored neon bulls head to circus and carnival signs. When I visited the only word I could manage to utter was ‘wow’. It’s one of those places that makes you forget whatever it was you had been thinking about before you arrived. It wasn’t until I heard the train rumbling past that I remembered that I was still in Walthamstow and not the neon version of Narnia.
Chris is at the top of his field and has commissions coming in from all over the world, everything he designs, is made in right here in Walthamstow in the sign makers shop that his dad set up in the 50’s. Chris also rents neon work to the film and TV industry, so if you have seen a neon sign in Eastenders, the likelihood is it was made right here in E17. The junkyard is open on Fridays and Saturdays between 10:30 and 4pm, if you do nothing else this weekend go and pay it a visit. And by the way, Chris’s Son owns the Viking shop on Wood Street so don’t be surprised if you bump in to a viking on your way around the yard.
For more information check out the gods own junkyard website