Markino in daylight: the sights of London

“A few years ago there appeared in the doorway of my room a young Japanese with a portfolio under his arm.He looked tired and pale, but as he smiled and bowed, with difficulty keeping his hands from his knees in Japanese salutation, I was struck with his quiet dignity, his air of self-respect, his lustrous intelligent eyes. Would I look at his drawings of London? Of London?-yes, willingly.” – M H Spielmann, 1907

As promised a few weeks ago, this week we’re returning to Yoshio Markino to look at some of his daytime pictures. We’ve already established his credentials as a confirmed London explorer. His love of the city included some of the traditional tourist sights such as the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park. Below is that old feature of a day at the zoo – the ride on an elephant.

At the Zoo COL

Markino was obviously impressed by the elephant but in the Monkey House he was more interested in his fellow visitors. ” I went to the zoo and finished the people first; when I wanted to put in monkeys, I forgot their shapes and colours. I went to the Natural History Museum, which is only five minutes walk. They are dead. They don’t give any movement at all. So I had to journey to the Zoo and study them from life again.”

The monkey house Regents Park COL

He was always just as interested in the people of London as the buildings. For him they were as exotic as each other.

In the picture below of the terrace at the Houses of Parliament the tower and the bridge are a background for the well dressed diners.Uniformed maids and waiters dressed in black and white move through the grandly dressed throng.

Tea on the Terrtace of the House of Commons COL

More formal wear is on show below in the busy streets of the City:

Mansion House crossing COL

Markino said:”When I see the bus drivers, I always recollect Washington Irving’s Sketch Book which I read in Japan when quite young. He has described those coachmen so vividly that when I see those bis drivers I feel they are old acquaintances of mine.”

The shopping streets of the West End where the dresses were more colourful were also on Markino’s rounds as in this view off Oxford Street.

Winsley Street Oxford Street from Gilbey's Portico COL

And of course the parks. Here is that regular activity of park life, feeding the geese in St James’s Park:

Feeding the wildfowl in St James's Park COL

Moving  west to Hyde Park:

Early Autumn at Grosvenor Gate Hyde Park COL

These park scenes are all set in autumn, Markino’s second favourite time of the year (December was his favourite month as we know)

“Early autumn, Hyde Park”. M H Spielmann, Markino’s friend and patron says: “it is not the young lady who has interested him most…

Early Autumn Hyde Park COL

.although she holds her skirt – what Japanese drawing in that skirt -in the way, presumably, which he tells us stirs his admiration so deeply; it is the mist, rather, which floats among the trees in red and russet autumn and heightens by contrast the leaves as they lie upon the ground and throws into strong relief the branches that hang across the top.”

“London without mists would be like a bride without a trousseau”  The weather continued to fascinate the Artist of Fog. But also the young woman.

At the Albert Memorial more visitors including more of those voluminously clad young women seem to ascend and descend the steps with some urgency.

On the step of the Albert Memorial COL

Markino is heading home towards Chelsea.

He enters Albertopolis. This monochrome view shows the grand entrance of the Imperial Institute.

Imperial Institute South Kensington COL

Below the mist-shrouded tower of the Victoria and Albert Museum (then called the South Kensington Museum)  looms like  Gormenghast Castle over the houses in nearby South Kensington

South Kensington Museum - RAR

More museum towers (the Natural History Museum) are visible in this view of Onslow Square. Spielmann, who wrote the introduction to Markino and Loftie’s book the Colour of London was particularly impressed with this view: “Markino shows us Onslow Square and the beauty of an architecture which we have pronounced..most unromantic and uninspired. Yet he has seen colour into it and made a pleasant picture out of repeated porticos and commonplace facades felicitously enlivened by the western sun.”

Spring in Onslow Square COL (2)

South Kensington Station can be seen at the centre of the picture, dwarfed by the towers of Waterhouse’s terracotta masterpiece.

Home again in Chelsea he returns to a much smaller tower by the river:

Chelsea Church - JAIL

Chelsea Old Church (the original, pre-war version) as  we have seen it in Hedderly’s photographs and a painting by Rush, surrounded by foliage. Markino joins the company of Chelsea artists.

Markino lived in London for more than forty years. He followed Londoners through dark nights, clear summer days and misty afternoons.

Spring Mist Westminster Bridge COL

“I am London’s devoted lover and  I want to present her with my brush.”

He wanted to stay with his lover for the rest of his life but in the end events caught up with him. During the Second World War he moved into a small apartment in the Japanese Embassy where he had friends. He sailed for Japan in 1943. This picture of a Japanese ship at the Albert Docks is a kind of  foreshadowing of that journey.

Japanese liner in the Albert Docks COL

As I’ve noted before he was never able to return. So this is an appropriate picture for us too as this is probably our last encounter with the outsider who brought his own unique vision to London.

Postscript

I’ve become a big fan of the diffident Japanese artist since the time I rediscovered him in the Library’s biographies collection while looking for a contrast with Mortimer Menpes. I’m going to miss writing about him and reading his slightly eccentric memoirs. But you’ve seen the best we have now so it’s farewell to another unique Chelsea character until I find something else by him.

We might have another look at Menpes in the weeks to come, or  get back on the river, or explore some of the fictional worlds of Kensington and Chelsea. And I’ve just found some photos of  the Lots Road Power Station you haven’t seen before. So I’m not sure what’s coming next. But for the moment, goodbye to Yoshio Markino, the artist in the mirror world.


Westbourne Grove to Pembridge Road: another short walk

This is where we finished last week, minus 70 or 80 years or so:

Westbourne Grove

The street is busy but pedestrians are still free to amble across it.The building in the centre was as I suggested last week at this time a bank, the London and Westminster Bank (much later merged into the NatWest). If you look carefully into the distance on the right the spires of the Baptist Chapel are visible. But I promised you another walk in a southward direction. So let’s take the other fork, Pembridge Villas.

Pembridge Villas PC324 nAs you can see it’s a quiet residential street full of what might be called suburban villas.

“There are some grand parts to Notting Hill; everybody knows that.The streets between Westbourne Grove and Pembridge Square for example have a reputaion for being awfully desireable. ” as Sugar, the heroine of Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White  says to William Rackham. “But that is precisely where I live!” is his reply. For these characters the area was clean and pleasant and not quite in London.

The buses were another useful amenity for residents.

Pembridge Villas PC324 n (2)

A close up shows that these are horse buses which perhaps puts us in the 1890s. It would only be a short ride up Pembridge Villas to Pembridge Road. Here there is a junction with Pembridge Crescent and Pembridge Square, and a little further on Portobello Road.

Pembridge Road Sun in SplendourHere is the familiar curved front of the Sun in Splendour, a pub which is still a starting point for any walk down the Portobello Road. I often pose the question what would it be like to enter these everyday scenes of a century or so ago, but what if it were the other way round, and the people in these pictures could see our streets?

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I took this picture, which shows the other half of the pub’s front in 2008 when I went to look at some pictures in Notting Hill Library. (Is it really five years ago?)

This is the point where the street changes back to the retail environment we left back in Westbourne Grove.

Pembridge Road PC325 L-2080

The buildings are two storey affairs with shops on the ground floor and some living space above. Shoppers stroll by heading towards the High Street (as Notting Hill Gate would have been known then.)

Pembridge Road 1905 35-39 fp detail

Look past the boy looking at the camera and the woman in short sleeves. Can you see the sign: “Best prices paid for old artificial teeth” Dentistry was a growth business in this period.

Back in 2008 when I was there foot traffic was going in both directions.

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The colours have probably changed, and the shop fronts are more flamboyant.

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All fascinating shops as you can see but a brief acknowledgement from me to Mimi Fifi, at the centre of the picture,  which I have visited many times and is devoted to toys and memorabilia and contains thousands of such items.

Imagine those late Victorian / Edwardian shoppers, already veterans of the 19th century retail revolution finding even more stuff to buy.

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At the end of this short stretch the narrow road widens out again as it meets the junction with the start of Kensington Park Road and last section before Notting Hill Gate.

Pembridge Road PC1108

This view looks north, back the way we came. The buildings on the eastern side of the road are still with us, as you can see in this northward view:

Pembridge Road PC327 n

Outside Hart’s Noted Furniture Stores two women seem to be waiting for something. A gap in the traffic?

Pembridge Road PC327

Across the road the Prince Albert public house, which still goes by that name.

Pembridge Road PC329

Behind it was a group of tiny streets, now mostly gone.

Further along the road at the junction with the high street the buildings have all been replaced by a huge development (relative to the street) combining retail and housing.

Pembridge Road PC326 fp

This view from 1963 shows the scale of the change.

Notting Hill Gate north side 92-164 1963 K63-1077

At the right of the picture you can see the older buildings on the east side of Pembridge Road and across the road the retail /office block that replaced the original buildings. For me, and millions of others of course this is the Notting Hill Gate we know. The wide pavements and shops seem like just another familiar part of of the Kensington landscape.

We’ve walked ourselves back and forth through time while making that short journey from Westbourne Grove to Notting Hill Gate. Time to take a rest.

Postscript

I took the pictures in 2008 using an Olympus compact camera which seems tiny now compared with the Nikon I’m using now.


A short stroll down Westbourne Grove 1971-2

1971. A bright day, in November possibly. On the right of the picture 120 Kensington Park Road,a branch of Finch’s Wine. The start of our little walk.

Westbourne Grove looking east Nov Dec 1971 KS2297

These are the high numbers of Westbourne Grove. The street begins over the border in Westminster but we won’t go there today.

Westbourne Grove north side 304-306 nov 1971 KS2298

The restaurant on the corner was called L’Artiste Assoiffe. We looked quite closely at the building one day at the Library and concluded that it was larger than the ones beside it because it may have been the developer’s own house. It has always stuck in my mind because my friend Tony did some temporary work there one day in the 1970s and was given four LPs by the German band Faust who had eaten there. The music meant nothing to the proprietors and not much more to Tony but I was a bit of a fan so they ended up with me, and I still have them. (I saw Faust at the Rainbow about 1974 although saying saw is stretching it as the stage was in near total darkness, a complete contrast to the support band Henry Cow who practically brought a whole circus with them including jugglers, dancers and a man who ironed clothes throughout the performance.I digress)

Kelly’s Directory of 1972 conforms the identity of the shops – the Catherine Buckley boutique, an Express Dairy and several antique shops. (Portobello Road is just up the road.) I think the pancake restaurant Obelix was later on this part of the street. That was more in my price range at the time – I remember going there a lot in the early 80s. (I’ll look it up when I get back to the Library.)[Update - it was at 294, so probably in the right block  just out of the picture]

Westbourne Grove south side 295-287 Dec 1971 KS2487

The south side also had many antique shops. The picture is dated December 1971 although that group of girls on the left don’t look like they’re dressed for winter. The photographer John Rogers was also in the street in June 1972 so there may be room for confusion. I’ll ask him next time I see him.

Number 291, an antiques warehouse, the building with the classical arch in the centre of the picture had been the home of the Twentieth Century Theatre used by the Rudolf Steiner Association. Before that it was a cinema and the headquarters of the Lena Ashwell Players. If you remember we encountered Miss Ashwell a couple of weeks ago having dinner with Yoshio Markino. A closer look:

Westbourne Grove south side 291-293 Dec 1971 KS2489

Past Portobello Road comes our friend from last week, Portobello Court.

Westbourne Grove Portobello Court Dec 1971 KS2470

It has settled into the local  landscape and become a familiar feature.

Westbourne Grove south side Longlands Court DEc 1971 KS2485

Across the road was Longlands Court.

At the intersection with Denbigh Road, Westbourne Grove widens out.

Westbourne Grove looking east from Denbigh Road Dec 1971 KS2472

The shops continue on both sides of the road, north:

Westbourne Grove north side 224-228 Dec 1971 KS2473

And south:Westbourne Grove south side 241-243 Dec 1971 KS2484

The retail ground floors all jut out from the solid mid-19th century houses above.

This has also become a walk for my car identifying readers.

Westbourne Grove north side 194-196 Dec 1971 KS2476

Look at the vintage item in the foreground and the Jaguar / Daimler on the other side.  What does it tell us about the residents and visitors to this semi-Bohemian quarter? Look closely at the twin towered building in the distance, the former Baptist Chapel. Modern residents will note that it lacks the spires it has now and did once before. What befell the original structures?

Westbourne Grove south side 187-189 Jun 1972 KS3568

In the centre of the picture a shop called Dodo Designs, wholesalers of fancy goods. We’re moving away from the antique district now. Is that an MG in the foreground?

Westbourne Grove south side 155-157 Jun 1972 KS3563

Further along another sports car, in front of a Fiat 500. Opposite, the Star of Bombay restaurant, still there today.

Below, a motorbike to be identified.

Westbourne Grove south side 141-143 Jun 1972 KS3562

Over the road the Jimmy James grocers (one of two shops Jimmy James had in the street at the time), next door to Chipstead Productions, film editors and cutters, and further along a little shop called Bon Bon (confectioners – not many shops these days are exclusively devoted to confectionery. Even Hotel Chocolat serves coffee.)

Westbourne Grove south side 113-135 Jun 1972 KS3561 You can also see Bon Bon in the final picture in the shadow of the tall building with an ornate tower at the intersection of Pembridge Villas and Chepstow Place. In its glory days it had been a bank but at the time of this photo (dated June 1972, as are all the pictures from this end of the street) it was another antique dealer’s premises.

Westbourne Grove goes on into the City of Westminster, but John had reached the end of his mission so we don’t have the resources to step over the border. Our walk comes to an end with the sun shining brightly on 1970s Westbourne Grove. I came to London in 1973 so these pictures come from an era when it was all new and exciting for me. So I never tire of going back there

Postscript

Just as this week’s post was suggested by last weeks I’m now thinking of turning south and heading towards Pembridge Road for another Secret Life of Postcards special. We’ll see if that works out.


Portobello Court: new housing 1949-50

Portobello Street Feb 1945This is Portobello Street (formerly called Bolton Street) in February 1945. You won’t find it on maps today.

Your eye is drawn to the horse and cart, still commonplace in London at that time. But look up from the cart at the almost entirely torn down political poster on the wall where the big caption “Labour gets things done” survives. This was of course months before the election of 1945 which resulted in a landslide victory for the Labour party.

Housing developments in Kensington were not a direct result of the election. There was a huge impetus for new housing after the damage and dereliction left by the war. One typical development was the plan to demolish the whole of Portobello Street to make way for a new housing estate.

Portobello Street

This map, overlaid with the new buildings shows the extent of the new estate.

Portobello Street 1945This photograph has been marked up by someone in the planning office. It was another four years before the site was cleared and looked like this, in1949:

Portobello Court site 12.5.49

Below is the view looking roughly west with Lonsdale Road at the right of the picture :

Portobello Court site 12.11.49

The building work has only just begun and just like with modern  projects the builder’s hut is the first thing to be constructed. This one looks rather more substantial than the prefab units of today.

Looking at the site from another angle you can see the tower of the Convent of Our Lady of Sion, now converted for residential use and known as Thornberry Court, and nearer to the building site the classical front of the Methodist Chapel, now demolished. The buildings on the other side of Westbourne Grove  have also been demolished. This section of Westbourne Grove was originally called Archer Street.

Portobello Court site 08.07.49

In the picture below you can see more of Lonsdale Road and Colville School. That section of street used to be called Buckingham Terrace (and before that Western Terrace), and the school known as Buckingham Terrace School.

Portobello Court site 13.6.50 02

Here is a slightly different view of the same side of the new estate, showing the entrance to the school and what looks like a removals van.

Portobello Court site 13.6.50 03

The tower of All Saint’s Church in Talbot Road is in the distance.

This picture shows the east side of the development.

Portobello Court site 13.6.50 04

The path running up to the gates is all that remains of the line of Portobello Street. Colville Street goes from left to right

Tricky isn’t it? Let’s try this one:

Portobello Court site 16.5.50 03

You can see the estate taking shape. The street in the foreground is Denbigh Street. The bus is parked at the corner of Westbourne Grove. (Not to mention the bowler hatted Man from the Ministry standing there). Colville Street carries on from Denbigh Street and Lonsdale Road can be seen in the background.

To complete the rectangle of streets we need one more view:

Portobello Court site 20.6.50Portobello Road itself, running across the back of the picture with the tower of St Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road just visible, thankfully for the modern viewer.

The previous pictures of the site were taken in May and June of 1950. The last three are all from July of that year.

Portobello Court site 14.7.50 02

The housing blocks get taller.

Portobello Court site 14.7.50 01

A number 15 bus can be seen on Westbourne Grove.

Portobello Court site 14.7.50 03

Here is another view of that corner. The estate is almost finished.

If this selection of camera angles, street name changes , demolished and still existing buildings has left you confused let’s take a final look back at 1945. Below is a view looking down Portobello Road in 1945.

Portobello Road Feb 1945

Once again the planner’s pen is at work marking the end of Portobello Street.

A woman stands on the corner looking down the street perhaps unaware that everything behind her is marked for destruction, and new housing.

 

Postscript

As you can imagine although this post is economical in terms of words it had a high level of difficulty as far as accurate captions were concerned. Local resident and historian Maggie Tyler helped me with orientation and identification of streets and churches but any errors are my own. Current and former residents of Portobello Court may spot things I’ve missed. Corrections and comments are welcome.

I had intended to include a 1970s picture from our photo survey to show the completed building but when I looked at the set of John Rogers photos of the Kensington part of Westbourne Grove I decided they deserve a post of their own, which will be coming soon.


Markino: bright lights, big city

I’ve been looking through illustrated books about London in the early years of the 20th century. Herbert Marshall’s Scenery of London and Mary Rose Barton’s Familiar London were both popular then. Flicking through them I found several pictures I liked. But in the end they drove me back to Yoshio Markino who got the first big break of his career when he was commissioned to collaborate with W J Loftie on a book in the same genre called the Colour of London.

Markino loved London and his pictures capture the glamour of the then biggest city in the world. He saw that glamour even at night, on rainswept misty streets where solitary figures wandered alone and where people gathered in the cold and sought out warmth and light.Victoria Tower Westminster by Moonlight COLA woman stands under a street lamp watching a man walk away. Am I stretching your credulity if I say it reminds me of one of Edward Hopper’s night time psychodramas? Markino was conscious of the modernity of life in London where new ideas and new objects were entering the life of the old city.

Tram terminus Westminster Bridge RoadThe tram terminus at Westminster Bridge  Road. The crowds gather round the departing tram and walk past the brightly lit oyster bar.

According to the Markino scholar Sammy Tsunematsu,  Markino would start his pictures by soaking the paper in water and would begin the backgrounds while it was still damp. This made them appear blurred or hazy, exactly the effect he needed. He called this technique “the silk veil”. He had first become obsessed with mist and fog in San Francisco and had tried for years to perfect a method for capturing it in his paintings.

Evening exodus - west end entering Victoria Railway Station COLThis view is called the Evening Exodus at Victoria Station. The light comes from a series of streetlights and shopfronts each one piercing the gloom.  Markino said: “I don’t think all  the London buildings are beautiful…but it is the London mist, which makes every colours beautifully softened” (Markino’s use of English is eccentric but oddly effective. He even coined new words such as “greyfy” (grey-ify) to describe the effect of fog)

Here is an eastern equivalent at Liverpool Street Station

Evening exodus - east end in Liverpool Street Station COLMarkino used to say that the predominant smell of London was coal, and coal smoke. But coming from Japan where coal technology was a recent development he described the smell as “civilized”. These purposeful crowds were living in a city of high technology and night time pleasures.

Here in Marlborough Street, a back street in Chelsea near Markino’s lodging house there are the same crowds and lights spilling out of shop fronts.

Marlborough Road Chelsea Saturday night COLThere are more women than men in this group. We know that Markino was especially fascinated by the women of London. “I am a great admirer of English ladies. To me those willowy figures seem more graceful than the cresdent moon, while those with well-built figures seem more elegant than peomy flowers…Some dresses are most admirable, in shape as well as in colour. Whatever the shape is, it looks as if it is a part of her own body..” To him the shape of women in their European fashions was an exotic phenomenon. He is a little like an alien who has come to an entirely new world.

In his time there was a Trafalgar Square in Chelsea, not far from Marlborough Street, one of several in London.

Trafalgar Square by night COLBut this is the famous one and in the foreground Markino sees a woman adjusting her petticoats, a characteristic detail for him, a flash of white amidst the grey.

Here another woman walks through the city night but not alone in the crowd.

Evening scene on Vauxhall Bridge COLOne of his favourite destinations was the theatre. This is the Alhambra Leicester Square:

The Alhambra Leicester Square at night COL

Below, the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand.

The Strand - New Gaiety Theatre night COL

The pit queue at Her Majesty’s Theatre:

His Majesty's Theatre the Pit queue COLThis is where Markino got another opportunity to publish his work in December 1903, in connection with a production of the Darling of the Gods by David Belasco and John Luther Long, a play set in feudal Japan with some supernatural elements. Markino painted several pictures for the programme.

DG 04 - CopyDG 06 - CopyDG 05 - CopyMarkino also advised some of the actors on Japanese manners and gestures. He went with Herbert Tree and Lena Ashwell to a Japanese restaurant to discuss the play. (Who knew there was one in London in 1903?). In an essay of 1904 he says was satisfied that both of them successfully embodied Japanese characters, and that Miss Ashwell looked as Japanese as his sister.

After the play, it was out again into the London night. On an Underground station platform Markino sees more of the women he compared to beautiful insects in the lamplight.

On the underground Baker Street COLMarkino is best known for his pictures from the Edwardian period. But his career carried on through the 20s and 30s. He married in London, travelled in Europe and to New York but never quite enjoyed his fair share of good luck in love or money. He had friends and patrons though and carried on painting. This picture come from the 30s. I think the view shows Bush House looking down the Strand.

BBC in the rain BBHe lamented the loss of fog as London expanded and the air became cleaner but the  crowds and the hazy night haven’t changed.

Postscript

The programme notes for Darling of the Gods were written by Raymond Blathwayt who also praises the accuracy of the cast’s performance as Japanese characters. Blathwayt was the critic who called Mortimer Menpes’s Japanese house the most beautiful house in the world. I don’t know if because of this connection Markino and Menpes ever met. Probably not, as  Markino was still moving in Bohemian circles at the time, but it’s a shame that they didn’t as they might have found they had much in common.

There will be another Markino post quite soon concentrating on his daytime pictures. I hope you like his work as much as I do.

On another subject, the unknown artist of last week’s post mentioned Thomas Faulkner’s History of Fulham. I had a look at a Grangerised copy of the book we have at the Library this week. (Grangerising is the practice of binding extra material into a book dating from the time when collectors bought the pages, or “sheets” of a book separately and had them bound to their own design). There were several watercolours bound into that copy which I will be looking at more closely.


The Red Portfolio: more tales of old Brompton

It’s an archivist’s joke. The watercolour paintings by an unknown artist which were formerly kept in a red portfolio are now stored in a green archive box labelled…the Red Portfolio. The pictures, probably loose sheets by the time they fell into the archivist’s hands were carefully removed from the portfolio and mounted or (later) put into acetate sleeves. On the reverse of the sheets the artist wrote notes, some of them copious. These were later transcribed, not always precisely, as the archivist was sometimes better informed than the artist on certain historical points.

Old Brompton 2530The village of Old Brompton in the late 1820s (“opposite Brompton Heath and Selwood Lane”). A rural spot with a motley collection of houses looking a little like they might be about to collapse. In the house on the left the hindquarters of a horse are visible, and a woman in the window remonstrating with someone. Actually I think it was Sallad Lane, as shown on this map of 1829 by Crutchley.

Crutchley 1829 Brompton - CopyThe map locates Old Brompton fairly precisely. Since then the name has been used to describe a much vaguer area. Nearby was another quiet thoroughfare.

Old houses Thistle Grove 2525 Thistle Grove (now Drayton Gardens, not the modern Thistle Grove). On the right the Jolly Paviours Inn (Paviours were artisans who laid paving stones – though not in this neighbourhood by the looks of it), a favourite of the artist George Morland. He was said to be responsible for painting the inn sign, and for paying his bar bill with a painting for the parlour. They always say that about feckless artists though, don’t they? (Although Morland was more feckless than most.)

I like the house on the left with the stairs leading up to the front door, conveniently situated above the muddy road. Quite a nice house for an artist or a place for a visitor to stay.

We learn a few facts about the painter of these pictures along the way but we never find out a name or a gender. The artist was familiar with the history of the area through local tradition and through knowledge of the work of Thomas Faulkner, one of the pioneers of local history in west London to whom he or she sometimes refers in his penciled notes. (The slight evidence of poor handwriting and time spent in taverns make me lean towards a male artist, but the same handwriting and a certain delicacy of touch made my colleague M argue the case that she was a woman. There is no overwhelming proof either way.)

We have to move off the map section above way past the western limit of the territory we can call Brompton to a cluster of buildings near Putney Bridge called Fulham. In the High Street was a tavern called the Golden Lion Inn.

Golden Lion front 2520

A Golden Lion still exists today, a little altered probably.  Down the same street closer to Putney Bridge stands a building which is now a pub called the Temperance, an ironic name for a former temperance hall. I remember it in the 1970s when it was a snooker / billiards hall. When I first went there my friends announced that we were going to a place called “Lards”. It had that name because those were the only remaining letters in the illuminated sign.

Forgive my digression. I brought you down here for a glimpse inside.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior of the hall 1837-40 2518The artist gives the measurements of the empty room and reports that it was the residence of Bishop Benson.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior servants room  2521This equally vacant space was the servant’s hall.

This is what I wanted to show you. Perhaps it was a habit of painters at this time but this interest in empty rooms is also a feature of the work of that other enigmatic local watercolourist Marianne Rush. (Try the link) There are other shared characteristics.

Florida Gardens 2529The extravagant and slightly inaccurate foliage is a Rush trope. So is the over-sized writing on the sign and the figures which don’t quite seem to belong. Florida Gardens, Hogmore Lane  was a house which had been converted into a public tea garden by Mr Hyam,”a German gardener”. It was located on the east side of what is now Gloucester Road, opposite the tube station. There are now many establishments on this spot where you can buy burgers or coffee, or change some currency. No gardens to sit in though.

Residence of M la Touche Little Chelsea 2526aThe residence of Monsieur la Touche in Little Chelsea has the same exotic vegetation with some  particularly wild trees. I have been unable to find any details about the resident himself. Is that door open? Is there a smudge-like figure standing at it? Mrs Rush used to like details like that.

I’m not suggesting the artist actually is Mrs Rush. There are plenty of differences. To be unkind for a moment it may be that they share a lack of some artistic skills with regard to depicting objects and places but I could also say they share a kind of weird vision which overcomes any objection to technique.

Billings Well 2533Here is Billing’s Well, in the northernmost of a set of fields called the Three Billings. The artist gives an autobiographical snippet: “I use to go for the purpose of gathering water cresses,  being large and good”.

“In 1781 the  waters spread from this well over a large piece of ground….the well is resorted to and frequented by visitors..the water said to be good for sore eyes and legs (its qualitys not known by me)”

The avenue of trees on the right conceals a path which would have taken a walker to Holland House.The field is now part of Brompton Cemetery.

Even though we know her name, the unknown artist is perhaps less of a mystery than Mrs Rush. She or he had a liking for pieces of local history and tradition.

Old House which stood nearly adjoining the Swan Inn 2527This house  was “nearly adjoining the Swan Inn” (look back at the map), and had been a pest house (a place where victims of infectious diseases were kept, sometimes forcibly). In the early 1700s it was full of Scottish lodgers so was called the Scotts Barracks or slightly libellously the Beggars Rest. The figure of a one legged man is included to illustrate this.

Ship Inn 2523The Ship Inn (later the Swan) stood, according to the archivist in Swan Lane (later Selwood Terrace) where Queen’s Gate intersects with Old Brompton Road. You can see from the map that this is not quite right as Selwood Terrace (where Dickens stayed briefly before his marriage) was nearer to Fulham Road.

I’m only showing you eleven pictures this week. I’m holding back a few of the Red Portfolio pictures for another day. But the last one is an intriguing one I think.

Red Lion Tea Gardens Brompton 1782 2537The Red Lion Tea Gardens, “stood on the high Brompton Road to Earl’s Court”, an unfortunately imprecise description. (There was a tea garden behind the Swan). The sign, surrounded by a ring of ropes, depicts a somewhat eccentric red lion with a word which looks like “snips”. Beneath it hangs an embroidered smock and a bonnet. The artist suggests that these are a prize for the winner of a game played in the grounds. I on the other hand am tempted to imagine some esoteric or ceremonial rural activity involving an effigy and a person. But more than a century of supernatural stories lie between me and the artist so I won’t let my imagination run away with me. I’ll leave it to you to wonder who was going to wear those garments and why. Perhaps if you had been walking by that day you might have shuddered and waked on instead of entering.

We’ll do that ourselves and as the sun goes down we’ll stroll back through the fields and paths back to those upper rooms in Thistle Grove. We could cross the road to the tavern later and look at Morland’s picture. And listen, like the unknown artist, to some of our fellow patrons’ stories of old Brompton.

Postscript

The unknown artist shares his or her area of interest with our old friend the  artist William Cowen who was a rather more skilled painter. But I’m glad to add her or him to the list of artists who have chronicled that rural hinterland between Kensington and Chelsea. I’m sure we’ll be back there again.


Shopping in the 50s: the Kensington High Street experience

Although I spent my childhood far from Kensington, in the 1960s I did once visit the High Street and its famous triumvirate of department stores, Barker’s, Derry and Tom’s and Ponting’s. Even as a disinterested teenager I could recognize the distinctive high class air of the three establishments. Many people I’ve spoken to have reported that Kensington High Street was regarded as a cut above shopping destinations like Oxford Street, if not quite as exalted as Knightsbridge. The 1950s were the heyday of that shopping experience.

Barkers High Street Kensington 1955 K61-1003An artist’s impression of Barker’s in 1955 with Derry and Tom’s on the right. The slightly curved, prow of a ship frontage and the series of flags demonstrates the  absolute confidence of the John Barker company in its store.

This night time picture of Derry and Tom’s from 1933 shows a similar stylistic pride in its image.

Derry and Toms 1933 (Ponting’s on the other hand was very much the least prestigious of the three. But it was the first one I wrote about on the blog - link.)

The three stores catered primarily for the middle class woman who had shopping as one of the key activities in her job description. And as their customers came from far and wide the shops used in-house magazines and catalogues as part of their promotional efforts.

Shopping cover July 1954July 1954′s issues of Shopping was concerned with Barker’s satellite store in Eastbourne and was geared towards summer fashions.

Shopping pp10-11A bright summer’s day at the seaside but no beachwear in sight.

Copy of Shopping pp10-11It looks a bit windswept in fact.

Derry and Tom’s of course had its own exotic location:

Derry and Toms 1950s 009 cover - colourThe famous roof garden, an integral part of the store identity.

The 50s were also a heyday for the commercial artist.

Derry and Toms 1950s 006The store catalogues were not just about fashion. There were furnishings:

Derry and Toms 1950s 001Haberdashery  (note that there is a whole Hall devoted to linen::

Derry and Toms 1950s 002And Christmas gifts for all the family:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for all the familyIf you can’t make out  the small print what about the Triang Minic Garage Service Station or the Toy Fort, or the Chemistry Set (with Bunsen Burner)? There’s a His and Hers towel set (thick Turkish towels at 17/6), or some Beaver Lamb Back Gloves (32/6). The Pedigree Dressed Bunny  at 17/11 shows how soft toy technology has advanced since the 50s. For the curious, the Gilbert Harding Question Book (an early version of QI?) And for Her, a Novelty Nightdress Case or a Nylon Straw Evening Bag.

But for husbands, the best bet for a present for her indoors was something from the lingerie collection:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for the wife Most of the year the ladies were shopping for themselves, and the stores offered “a delightful experience”.

Derry and Toms 1950s 005 colour

The in house magazines had helpful hints as in these month by month suggestions:

Shopping pp18-19

And after all that shopping you might want to get away from it all back in sunny Eastbourne:

Shopping pp14-15 - Copy

Postscript

Whenever I do a shopping related post someone always asks me when I’m going to do something about Biba? The  unfortunate answer is that the collection has almost no pictures of Biba in the period when it took over Derry and Tom’s. So it’s my turn to ask: does anyone have any photos of Biba in that era (particularly of the interior) that we could scan and use on the blog?

Curiously, while working on this week’s post I found some interior pictures of Pettit’s, the least known of the High Street’s shops, which I might use one of these days.


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