Summer in the city: the last days of Hurstway Street 1969

July 1969. A boy sits on the kerb playing, his father or brother nearby on the wall of the steps leading up to a house.  Take a look at the other houses and the general air of stillness in Hurstway Street. The streets were quieter in those days but this street is quiet because it’s awaiting demolition. If the house with the steps is where they live then they’re almost the last residents.

I picked Hurstway Street almost at random, looking through the Photo Survey pictures taken by the then library photographer John Rogers. It was this one which caught Imy eye first:

This shows the street from the other direction. It’s possible the boy and his father/brother are the figures visible in the distance but I was looking at the car. It’s a Ford Zephyr. A few years later in 1976 my friend Steve had one which he attempted to restore to working order. I think I sat in it, on one of the bench seats, in the cleaning bay at M——-  (P—- Street) Garage. On its maiden voyage the engine blew up and Steve was left on some road in north west London sitting with most of his worldly possessions in a vehicle which would never move under its own power again. So for me the car prefigures the fate of the street. And to make the point further look at the poorly parked vehicle in the distance on the right on the picture.

Some kind of Triumph? John was here that day to record the streets in the area in their last days but you can see why he took one of this wreck.

This is the location from a contemporary OS map:

Several of the streets in this space between Lancaster Road and the Metropolitan line were ready for demolition or slum clearance  as they used to call it. John walked several of them that day. Hurstway Street runs into Barandon Street.

Demolition has already begun. There is evidence of a much older way of life here too.

The street is quiet enough for the rag and bone man’s horse to take a break and have some refreshment. Do you see the advert for Tizer (the appetizer) that strange unnaturally coloured soft drink with a flavour I can barely recall now?

Beyond the blackened houses and boarded up shop fronts you can see the railway and the more recent housing blocks.

I imagine John turning from Barandon Street into Testerton Street.

There is another tiny group of people with business in the empty street. See the pile of tires and the house next to it with writing on the wall?

A strange and cryptic set of signs or slogans representing a final comment on the street?

As he inspected it John thought this van too had been abandoned.

Seeing the doors open he went into one of the houses and got this picture from a rear window:

Finally he completed the rectangle by entering Blechynden Street.

Blechynden Street looks slightly more active at first glance. But the houses are just as empty.

The only significant activity is taking place at the far end by the railway.

It looks as though a large number of tires are being loaded onto trucks and taken away. (Or it could be a delivery I suppose).

Here you can see a train passing overhead and through the tunnel a younger housing block on the way to Bramley Road. Another one of those cars with vestigial tail fins, which are the dull descendants of those baroque American cars of the 50s.

John’s walk round this rectangle of doomed streets is complete. I’m assuming that in the middle of July it would have been a sunny day, maybe even hot but you can’t see that in these pictures. Elsewhere in London people are sitting in the sun and having a good time, but here you can only see the grim business of a tiny part of the city being wound up and turned into a fading memory.

There are the boy and the man again, and a woman walking up the street. Perhaps they were just visitors like John taking a final look at Hurstway Street before it disappeared.  The names Testerton and Barandon were used again in new housing on Lancaster Road as was Hurstway – you can  find Hurstway Walk on modern maps but to the best of my knowledge the curious name Blechynden vanished with the street.

Map detail copyright Ordnance Survey.

All photos by John Rogers.

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14 responses to “Summer in the city: the last days of Hurstway Street 1969

  • Michael Gall

    Thank you David for crediting the photographer in this post. I have long wondered who we have to thank for these captured moments. As always with kindest regards. Michael

  • Chris Pain

    This is what Colin MacInnes thought about these streets:
    “On the east side, still in the w.10 bit, there’s another railway, and a park with a name only Satan in all his splendour could have thought up, namely Wormwood Scrubs, which has a prison near it, and another hospital, and a sports arena, and the new telly barracks of the BBC, and with a long, lean road called Latimer road which I particularly want you to remember, because out of this road, like horrible tits dangling from a lean old sow, there hang a whole festoon of what I think must really be the sinisterest highways in our city, well, just listen to their names: Blechynden, Silchester, Walmer, Testerton and Bramley—can’t you just smell them, as you hurry to get through the cats-cradle of these blocks? In this part, the houses are old Victorian lower-middle tumble-down, built I dare say for grocers and bank clerks and horse-omnibus inspectors who’ve died and gone and their descendants evacuated to the outer suburbs, but these houses live on like shells, and there’s only one thing to do with them, absolutely one, which is to pull them down till not a one’s left standing up.”
    Absolut Beginners (1958)

  • Des Elmes

    Blechynden Street hasn’t disappeared completely – the short section between the Hammersmith & City viaduct and Bramley Road is still there and still signed as such.

    The only things on it, though, are Bramley House (the housing block in the photo with the train passing over the viaduct), a car wash and a modern-day artists’ studio.

  • Carol Anne Walton

    Many good, decent, hardworking families lived in these streets and although they did not have all the mod cons of today, they kept themselves and the inside of their homes clean and tidy. I can assure you, YOU COULD NOT SMELL THE STREETS. Most of the properties were rented by people who only cared about the rent and nothing else.
    Latimer Road and all the other roads leading from it were by no means
    “the sinisterest highways in our city”. Times were very hard in those days. From a former resident of Walmer Road, whose family, going back generations were born and raised in that area.

  • margo

    Thank you for sharing the photos. My great great great grandmother is listed in the 1881 census as a laundress, aged 73, living alone at 10 Hurstway St. Thanks for giving me an insight into what her life might have been like.

  • mark

    I lived at number 23 Hurstway Street with my dad Roy and my nan and grandad George and Irene Holley. It’s fantastic seeing these pictures because my memory is very hazy because i was still very young when we moved from there due to it being demolished.

    • maggie oleary

      I am absolutely gobsmacked because I have just logged onto this site and lived in 6 Hurstway street where your family originally lived. We shared the house with them and then they moved across the road. We moved out in 1962 and still have great memories of those days.Maggie

      • Mark

        Wow, it’s great to hear from someone that remembers my family from all those years ago. Thanks for sharing you’re memories Maggie

  • sharon

    I wanted to ask if anyone remembers a photo being taken in hurstway st in 1968/69 or all the kids in the street. It was in a local paper entitled something like “kids in poverty”? I would love to get a copy of the photo

  • Susan Pull (Walsh)

    we left the street in 1963-64 , i was 10 yrs old, i was born in number 14, which is the house with the steps in photo, i have a pic somewhere of the street, it was my birthday and a lot of kids sitting on the steps , i remember Mrs rose used to live next door to us and the Coleman family lived further down , my friend Brenda Cannon lived opposite in the houses that backed onto our street , she lived with her gran Mrs moore , next door to them were the Woodhouse’s, and Dolly Woodhouse used to work at Latimer road station and let me sit on her high stool and collect tickets , also remember the Pugh’s, had twin girls ‘ Mrs Smith , did the then King of Englands ironing , so the story goes , also the Martin family lived opposite us, and the Hayley family lived in our house on the top floor , they currently reside in the tower block by the station , and are still in touch with my mother they are all in their 80′s now , also the Hayley family has a sister that lived in little tess, Testerton street, was divided, so one bit was big tess & the other little tess , great memories , but the street never looked that ramshackle i’m sure in as in the death throes in those pics, also remember going to the dairy to take the milk bottles back, Mrs Begley and her daughter Maria worked there, we also played in the mews which was at the end of the street and turn left and under the bridge , to sharon from an earlier reply i would like to see that photo as well but if it was taken that late i doubt i would know anyone .

    • karen cowley (bowen)

      Hi susan, my mum was a pugh, i am one of the twins, i had two older sisters linda and gill..
      I think we lived with margaret martin, who we called our aunty..
      love reading these stories..

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