About Laid by Monty

I grew up in a family of collectors and after I left home my father turned my old bedroom into a museum of vintage packaging, toys, books, etc, with plenty of retail history. This may explain a few things! And whether physical collections or pursuits such as trainspotting or climbing the three peaks, I think there’s something in the British psyche that wants to bag a “full set”.

Trying to find the “full set” of Art Deco Burton locations stems from a casual, though not professional, interest in architecture. When I was young I spent a lot of time drawing town layouts with all the familiar shops: Boots, Woolworths, WHSmith, etc. However, I never noticed the old Burtons despite there being one in my home town with foundation stones that I must have walked past hundreds of times.

Town layout drawing
One of my childhood town layout drawings

Funnily enough, I can credit living in the US for five years in my early twenties for renewing my interest as I was fascinated by Baltimore’s mass dereliction on a scale we don’t have in the UK, right around the corner from gleaming skyscrapers. It was also when digital cameras became widely available and I started sharing pictures on message boards, Flickr, etc.*

I returned to the UK in 2006 with this new hobby and it was when one of my photos of a Burton store was invited to the Burtons Deco group on Flickr that I discovered they are hidden in plain sight all over the country. I started spotting them everywhere and found them to be quite special with their Art Deco features (especially the elephant heads), billiard halls above, mosaics and foundation stones. They can be grouped into a few main styles, yet each one is different.

Somebody on that Flickr group asked if anyone had a list of locations so I started one, as well as a Google map, and tried to put an article on Wikipedia but it was rejected for being “original research”. I started the Laid by Monty Twitter account instead in 2016, whilst continuing that research, with a vision to create this web site one day. The site finally launched in 2023; the perfect combination of my database skills from my day job and my interests in architecture, photography and graphic design.

Surprisingly, only six locations throughout England and Wales are listed buildings (Scotland does better) and many have been demolished or altered beyond recognition. In 2018 Historic England declined to list Weston-super-Mare, which has the third highest number of elephant heads, due to garish CEX signage. So I think it’s important to raise awareness and I would love it if more locations could be listed in the future.

* These days you can find my photography and design work on my Instagram account.