Ask E17ers what there is to see or do around the Hoe Street area, and many will mention the Rose & Crown, the Bell Pub, or the decaying but ever beautiful former EMD cinema. All of these are places of note, and in their own way contribute to the character of Walthamstow. But there is another place, a place that is easily missed, and a place that contains more treasures than Aladdin’s cave. The Ruby Stables are tucked in to a corner on the top of Ruby Road. If you walk past them when they are closed, you probably wouldn’t know they are there. The white metal gates that guard the stable yard when it’s closed make it look like a garage or lock up. What lies inside is a magical mixture of, for want of a better word, stuff. Part garden centre, part antique shop, and a good helping of things that you don’t know what you would do with, but you really want them anyway.
We paid a visit to the Ruby Stables on Sunday, I don’t trust myself to go there on my own because I am genuinely worried about what I’d come back with. To be honest, having my other half with me is not much of a guarantee that I won’t buy something bonkers. Walking in through the gates we said hello to one of the owners, he was sat out front sorting through a box of mysterious looking rusty objects. We made our way in to the yard, walking past plants of all shapes and sizes and a large mirrored sign spelling the word retro. The yard lures you in, getting more and more interesting as you walk down the path. The plants begin to give way to old doors, wooden ladders, sinks and all sorts of reclaimed items. At the end of the path, sheltering under a metal, passion-flower clad arch, stands a majestic looking headless mannequin. The hand of the mannequin is pointing in to the stable building, this is where the real treasure can be found.
On entering the building I took a right and found another mannequin, this one has what seem to be abnormally long arms reaching skyward. surrounding it are more doors, picture frames, an old TV set and furniture of all descriptions. There is no logical order to how things are stored, and that’s what makes a visit to the stables fun. Looking through old pictures, poking around in jumbles of old chairs and chest of drawers to see what is hidden behind. As well as being fun, this can also be the dangerous bit of a visit, when rummaging around you might find something that grabs your attention. Something that you really have no use for but feel an inexplicable urge to buy. I spotted a spinning wheel on Sunday, I was stood looking at it longingly, luckily my responsible adult ushered me away before I uttered the immortal words “how much is that?”
The two chaps that run the Ruby Stables are very friendly, if you tell them what you want they will help you look for it. Remarkably they seem to know what they have in stock, how they do it I’ve no idea, but if you ask if they have something they can give you an answer pretty much straight away. We were looking for a small table for the landing, they didn’t have exactly what we wanted but we did end up buying an old drinks trolley that now stands proudly at the top of the stairs. It wasn’t that simple actually, we left without buying it then after a few hours of me saying “I wish we had” and “Why didn’t we buy it” Ed went back just before closing and picked it up. It cost £65, not as cheap as high street prices but it will probably last much longer.
This style of shop may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is a long way from the flat pack and clean lines of Ikea. But if you want character this has it in bucket loads. You may not need an old door, or an old sink, but it is worth going in and having a look around, you might be very pleasantly surprised with what you find. It’s hard to categorise the Ruby Stables, my other half refers to it as a junk shop, but it’s more than that. The stable and yard are like the magic fancy dress shop that Mr Benn visited. Every time you walk through the door you are never quiet sure what to expect, or what adventure you might find. Next time you are walking down Hoe Street in the afternoon, cast your eye down Ruby Road, perhaps pop in to the stables and allow your self to get lost in amongst the beautiful clutter.