Bignell at the pub

Last week’s pictures took us back to a time when there were still dozen of pubs in Chelsea. It’s true that they were changing in the early 1970s. The Lord Nelson in the King’s Road changed its name to the Trafalgar and became a “pub-discotheque” with a fairground theme. (The opening ceremony in 1970 featured the then up and coming British film star Julie Ege and George Lazenby pulling the first pint)The nearby Six Bells (featured in this post) also underwent a transformation which might not be to modern tastes. But at least these pubs were still there. Those two pubs are two of the survivors.

Here’s the Six Bells in its 70s guise as the Bird’s Nest (zoom in on the name):

Six Bells

But this week’s post is not about the 1970s. The heyday of Chelsea pub life was in the 1950s and 1960s, and John Bignell can take us back there.

pub scene 1564

It’s a world of men wearing suits where all the cool kids (and everyone else) smoked.

When pubs were popular:

Kings Head and Eight Bells 1950 1840A

The food was minimal.

pub interior_jb_313

But the staff were friendly:

Freda - barmaid at the Potter jb92

[Freda, barmaid at the Chelsea Potter]

The conversation was good:

The Commercial later Chelsea potter 1955 jb207

[Also the Potter, in 1955 when it was still called the Commercial]

Young and old all went to the same establishments:

Chelsea pub interior 2562

[As is often the case with 1950s fashion, this couple could walk around today without attracting much commentbut you seldom see women with fur stoles over their shoulders]

And there were characters:

Stratford Johns_jb_344

[Stratford Johns, television actor, star of crime dramas Z-cars and Softly, Softly]

Landlady of Lord Nelson fac_rbkc_jb_95

[The landlady of the Lord Nelson before its transformation]

Gina Warr proprieter of the Gateways Club jb54

Gina Warr, not strictly speaking a pub landlady but the manager/co-owner of the Gateways Club in Bramerton Street, the legendary lesbian club. She was definitely a character.

Not to mention Bignell himself of course:

JB at the Six Bells jb205 (2)

He’s at the Six Bells, one of his favourite haunts, where he could pull a pint, or just get back to what he did best:

Six Bells garden 1954

An unusual view of the Six Bells garden, with some affluent looking Chelsea residents sitting in the sun.

My favourite of Bignell’s pub interiors though is this one:

Chelsea pub interior 2433

I’m not sure where it is – all there is on the back of the print is “Chelsea pub interior”, but it catches something not only about the period – the intense young man in the suit juggling with half empty glasses and the woman in dark glasses listening to the man next to her  – but also about pub life in general, the moments of quietness in the midst of a crowd of convivial drinkers.

This era was ending of course but there was something else starting.

Chelsea Potter 1960s

Back at the Chelsea Potter the 50s was giving way to the 60s. That’s another story of course.

Postscript

I was preoccupied with medical matters again this week, so my apologies if this post looks like it was put together quickly from a vague idea I had at the back of my mind – it was. Regular readers will spot a couple of pictures I’ve used before, but they did fit the theme. Thanks to all the people who liked last week’s post (lots of you). I’ll be getting around to part 2 as soon as I can.

The picture of the Bird’s Nest is by John Rogers. All the others are by John Bignell.

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12 responses to “Bignell at the pub

  • Skipping Stars Productions LLC

    Reblogged this on British Isles Society and commented:
    Chelea Potter, Chelsea, John Bignell, John Rogers, King’s Road, Photographs, Pubs, The Commercial, The King’s Head and Eight Bells, The Six Bell and posted in 20th Century, Chelsea, John Bignell.

  • nebon03@yahoo.com

    I hope you are better. Always look forward to your posts.

    Thank you, Nina Bonfante

    Sent from my HTC EVO 4G LTE exclusively from Sprint

  • Job Weessies

    As a diorama modeler your posts are very usefull for me.
    I model a fictive neighbourhood in the late 1950’s in western part of Greaten London.
    Loved the last one and this one.

  • Chris Pain

    Hello Dave! Having misspent a period of my youth therein, I am able to identify the pub in the penultimate picture as Finch’s, 190 Fulham Road, now known as the King’s Arms. Well worth a visit, this pub is well-known for the distinctive coloured ceramic tiles which embellish its walls, which can be seen in Bignell’s photo in the background, and also for the large mirrors advertising a variety of things, which may have been taken down in renovation, as I can see them in this gallery of images on the pub’s website.

    http://www.geronimo-inns.co.uk/london-the-kings-arms/gallery

  • Chris Pain

    PS The interior of the King’s Arms/Finch’s can also be viewed in this clip from the 1970 movie Goodbye Gemini.

  • Andrew B

    I too recognised Finch’s. I wonder what it’s like now. I haven’t been for 20 years. Full of oligarchs and hedge-founders perhaps…

  • Andrew B

    Thanks for the great pics!

  • Andrew B

    Of course the Queen’s Elm is no longer, sadly – featured in The Servant. And I forget the name of the pub further west up the Fulham road. The Rose, was it? I think it might be an antiques shop or something now.

  • Debbie Robson

    Love John Bignell and that third photo of people on the street is particularly fascinating!

  • Chris Pain

    The Queen’s Elm was also famous in the 70s for being Laurie Lee’s local.

  • Paul Taylor

    I’m quite sure the well-known b&w photograph of a young Marianne Faithfull seated in a pub with the cut-glass mirrors was taken at the Queens Elm. The one thing that I remember from visiting these places, from looking at this post, was that if you visited frequently, which I did during the 1980’s and 90’s, how quickly you could become acquainted with other regulars and always, mostly, have a chat with someone. I used to go to the Cross-Keys in the 80’s before it was taken over, when it was just a quiet, normal, cosy pub. No music, no tv, no fruit machines. Apparently Lauren Bacall’s favourite lunchtime meal at the Cross-Keys was bangers and mash, I remember the barman telling me that one.

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