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.
An 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.
(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.
Derry and Tom’s of course had its own exotic location:
The famous roof garden, an integral part of the store identity.
The 50s were also a heyday for the commercial artist.
If 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:
The in house magazines had helpful hints as in these month by month suggestions:
And after all that shopping you might want to get away from it all back in sunny Eastbourne:
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.