I first saw a post about “God’s Own Junkyard” on Buzzfeed and thought “this can’t be real!”. It’s a warehouse / garage / workshop that specialises in crafting made-to-order neon signs – and they’ve had clients from Hollywood all the way to Saudi Arabia. Fair warning: it’s located very, very, very far from the city center, and might take up half of your day. (It took me 3.5 hours – I started my journey from Pinner in Zone 5 on Metropolitan line)
To quote the Buzzfeed article:
Tucked into an East London industrial estate, a 10-minute walk from Walthamstow station, God’s Own Junkyard is a shrine to the art of neon sign-making, featuring hundreds of originals and vintage designs. For fans of neon, it’s like going to church.
The collection was started by Chris Bracey, a graphic designer who joined his father’s neon company in the 1970s and started making custom signs for the sex shops of Soho — he once told the BBC he did “99% of every sex establishment in Soho for 20 years.
Hollywood soon came calling, and since the mid ’80s the Braceys have worked with filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Time Burton, and Christopher Nolan, on films including Eyes Wide Shut, The Dark Knight, and Captain American: The First Avenger.
And it’s not just films. Among the collection are dozens of other commissions: There’s a neon British flag from a Kate Moss Rimmel ad, and a giant red X from Selfridges’ window display, a collaboration with photographer David LaChapelle.
The easiest way to get here is to get a Central line going East from Stratford, then stop at Leytonstone. Take a bus (W16) and after 30 minutes it’ll drop you off nearby the Junkyard or you can take the tube to Walthamstow Central and walk about 10 mins.
God’s Own Junkyard was created by Mr Bracey Senior in the 1950s, but was reinvented by the late and great Chris Bracey from the 1970s onwards. Chris started making signs for Soho strip clubs, and was the Neon Man for four decades before his death in 2014 due to prostate cancer. He is known for his new and refurbished neon fantasies, salvaged signs, old movie props, and fairground and circus lighting – and this huge Walthamstow warehouse is packed to the rafters with them.
Bracey’s collection includes signs that have appeared behind some of the greatest stars – Tom Cruise inEyes Wide Shut, Johnny Depp in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Jack Nicholson in Batman, to name but a few. When films are wrapped, neon signs are discarded like yesterday’s newspapers, but Bracey collected these icons, as well as salvaging old neons and architectural advertising (lots of signs from the seedy Soho of the past), and repaired and resurrected them. God’s Own Junkyard is where neon never dies. Bracey was also behind the two-tonne DESTINATION CHRISTMAS sign that graced the front of Selfridge’s this winter, and his works have provided backdrops for Vogue fashion shoots.
The location is in a very industrial area, with some factories and workshops, and it felt a little quiet and dodgy for me. But thankfully there was a sign that showed the direction (keep an eye out for this one because it might be hard to see amongst all the other signs for all the other garages. You’d think they’d make a neon sign to be more attractive! But nooo hehe it was just simple old non-lit up sign). There’s no entrance fees and doesn’t cost a thing to look. It’s only open to the public on weekends from 11am-5pm 🙂
Outside the Junkyard is a small cluster of tables and a colourful cow statue. But once you go in – be prepared to have your eyes literally lit up hehe! It’s a magical neon wonderland! Take time to breathe! There’s so many beautiful creations hanging from ceilings, propped up on walls, and just sitting on the floor. It’s not a fairly big place – but enough for you to wander around and look at all the crazy lights on display, or just sit and admire as they flash and change colours. There’s a small cafe where you can have tea and coffee and cakes, and plenty of seats on which to lounge.
Gods Own Junkyard
Ravenswood Industrial Estate