Author Archives: Dave Walker

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.


The villainous cherub, and other decorative features

This is a engraved portrait of William Burleigh (or Burghley), a Tudor politician, Elizabeth  I’s Secretary of State. He was the man who set up her secret service headed by the spymaster Francis Walsingham. He was wily enough to survive the reigns of Queen Mary and Edward VI into Elizabeth’s  time and to die of natural causes. But never mind about Lord Burleigh for the moment, look at all the features around his portrait, particularly the chubby young fellow lounging around beneath the great man.

William Cecil Lord Burleigh 1738 with villainous cherub and dog B301

Take a look at him in isolation:

William Cecil Lord Burleigh 1738 with villainous cherub and dog B301 - CopyHe’s got a caduceus (the staff with wings and two snakes entwined, a symbol of the god Hermes, also connected with alchemy, not to be confused with the Rod of Asclepius which is a staff with a single snake associated with healing and medicine) and a horn of plenty carelessly spilling coins off the plinth. His little dog has a key. The pair of them share an expression I can only describe as baleful, quite unlike the bland face of Lord Burleigh. They look more like fierce guardians than mere decoration. The whole piece looks like a closely guarded tomb.

Scholars of these art works will understand the symbols and conventions of these things better than me so I’ll try not to get bogged down in amateur speculation. I was taken with the villainous cherub and started to look for more pictures in this vein. I might even get to see the evil child again.

Robert Earl of Lindsay 291Robert Bertie, Earl of Lindsey was Elizabeth I’s godson. He was a military man all his life serving in several European wars. He was 60 at the start of the English Civil War and commanded some of the King’s troops. He died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Edge Hill in 1642. He is depicted wearing armour. Around the portrait are various military symbols – lances, with banners, a helmet, a drum and a sword. The sword has leaves around it and under the drapery are some balls. What’s that rod, or is it a scroll, in front of the helmet?

EDward Russell Earl of Orford 306Edward Russell, Earl of Orford also has a scroll, with some leaves on it (laurel leaves?). He was a naval officer and one of the group called the Immortal Seven who invited William of Orange to depose James II and take the throne. He was later Admiral of the Fleet and First Lord of the Admiralty. The complicated pattern of drapery in the sculpture has a picture of a naval battle. There’s a pattern of scales on the right. The scales of a fish?

George Morley Bishop of Winchester 336George Morley, Bishop of Winchester, a leading man of the church under Charles II, has a bishop’s mitre nestling in the shadows on top of the portrait. The interlocking keys and sword are from the arms of the Bishopric of Winchester. I like the architectural plan unfolding from one of those two books.

Tired of dead white men? Well speaking of Charles II, here’s his wife:

Catherine of Braganza 730BCatherine of Braganza, in pseudo-classical dress, sits in front of a pastoral landscape her crown close by, with one hand on a book (denoting learning perhaps) and the other feeding a lamb. On the right edge water flows from a barely glimpsed fountain.

By coincidence perhaps there is another lamb below in a portrait of Nell Gwynne, the King’s mistress.

Nell Gwynne 321BNell also sits in a sylvan setting cuddling her lamb. Her dress is skillfully disarrayed  and she has a somewhat languid expression.

These portraits were not always so full of symbols.

Mary Duchess of Ormonde 343

Mary, Duchess of Ormonde is also casually dressed but modestly as befits the mother of Thomas, the young Earl of Ossory. He has a rather grown up face, but quite placid. Once again they sit in front of a lush wooded landscape. The Duchess was the daughter of the Duke of Beaufort and lived in a house near the Royal Hospital.

All of these images seem to have been printed in the 18th century although they depict people from earlier times. This one is from 1754 and shows a contemporary person:

Lady Ann Dawson 346C

This picture of Lady Ann Dawson (“after a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds”) is more specific in its classical references. Lady Ann, the sixth daughter of the Earl of Pomfret (“aged 21″) is shown as Diana / Artemis goddess of the hunt (and the moon). She has a spear and a faithful greyhound.

While we’re looking at attractive young persons:

Don Carlo Earl of Plymouth

Don Carlo was the nickname of Charles Fitzcharles, illegitimate son of Charles II, who took part in the defense of Tangier in 1680. During that conflict he drank contaminated water, caught dysentery and died of the “bloody flux”, according to the DNB.  Never a good way to go, especially for a man of 23.

In my quest for the cherub I found some comparatively plain versions of the memorial portrait.

Sebastan Ricci 372

Sebastian (or Sebastiano) Ricci was a Venetian painter who worked in London. Born a couple of years after the young Earl, he lived much longer until 1734. He has the look of a man who has enjoyed life.

By his picture alone the same could not be said for the gentleman below:

Thomas Sackville Earl of Dorset 330

Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset looks a little dispirited. He had been a statesman, a poet and a dramatist. He was the son of a cousin of Ann Boleyn and served her daughter Queen Elizabeth and James I. A Chancellor of Oxford University, he also succeeded William Cecil as Lord Chancellor. He amassed a large fortune but he doesn’t seem too happy about it. The DNB speaks highly of him.

Eventually of course I found the cherub.

John Pym 307

John Pym was one of the Parliamentarians opposed to Charles I. He died before the Restoration but his remains were disinterred and “despoiled” when the monarchy returned. His portrait is set in an ornate frame and he has a bland expression as if trying to ignore what is going on below him. The cherub himself looks rather less villainous but he is clearly up to something. The caduceus has been dropped on the floor. He lounges on a pair of books while clutching some lightning bolts. He makes an enigmatic gesture with the other hand perhaps restraining his decidedly odd bird companion. Is that a goose? It looks  a bit more predatory than most geese I’ve encountered and looks poised as if about to launch itself into the air like a bird of prey.

So the villainous cherub goes about his shady business and I retire, resolved to keep out of his way in future.

Postscript

This is one of those posts where I’m a little in the dark about the subject matter but it hasn’t stopped me writing about it anyway. The little cherub caught my interest. I couldn’t help wondering what the artist was thinking. No doubt someone could explain all the symbols.

Lots of people supplied information about the streets in Paddington featured last week, including someone I can ask almost any day so next time we go there it will be a slightly more informed post.


Unfamiliar streets: Paddington 1959

This week we’re on an excursion across the Kensington and Chelsea border into new territory. I hope you’ll forgive this incursion into unfamiliar streets but when I came across these pictures, which came with a donation of papers, maps, photocopies and photographs. I was fascinated by them.  The late 1950s is a time which looks both familiar and alien to me as history overlaps with my my own timespan.

The locations themselves were not immediately familiar but the London of post war dilapidation and demolition was recognizable. A few street signs were visible so I gradually placed them in that area to the north and east of my home Borough on the far side of the Harrow Road. These streets in the old Borough of Paddington seemed like an alternative version of North Kensington.

21440014

This view reminds me of a section of Portobello Road. The curve to the left as the road goes up the hill. But that side street is Lord Hills Road in W2 not W11. I tried looking on Google Maps at the view today but couldn’t see any of these buildings.

10 (3)

This busy corner is from that same sector of the former suburb which had grown up along the main line  into Paddington Station.

21440004

Behind the busy streets the process of demolition has begun. In this picture you see a first glimpse of a half byzantine half Gothic church which I saw in many of the pictures from different angles. I’m trying to avoid letting my imagination run away with me and put it into some kind of urban supernatural story.

21440007

In another kind of urban story, a kitchen sink drama or an angry young man a lone cyclist enters the construction zone where demolition has opened up a wide space.

21500008

And here’s another church backing onto an empty lot identified by these cryptic words: Lot 51 – basement to be demolished.

21570016

A small gang of boys go by. The sparse traffic enables them to walk down the middle of the street and claim it for themselves.

21440006

There’s the church again on the edge of the construction zone.

21570003

Bottom left,the sign of the Willett company, builders and developers (their headquarters in Sloane Square at this date)  on the edge of the site. A number 18 bus passes by along the Harrow Road going between Sudbury and the West End.

21500022

The whole church, looking as though it was perched above a series of catacombs.

21570002

It’s there again in a wider view. I can’t quite orientate myself in this picture in relation to the rest of the city but those chimneys on the horizon should provide a clue to someone.

A last glimpse at one of the side streets from this area. The abandoned car, which we’ve seen in other posts ten or more years later, was already a feature.

08 (5)

And a final view of the church looking even more as if it was on the edge of a precipice about to fall to its destruction.21570024

Postscript

I hope you haven’t minded visiting an area where I’m not much use as a guide. It’s an odd sensation for me feeling lost in an old photograph. That was part of the fascination. I know some of you aren’t limited by the same geographical boundaries as me so feel free to comment with your own identifications.

We’ll be back in our proper place next week.


The ladies and the gentlemen: figures in the landscape

Before the photograph came the engraved print: etchings, mezzotints, aquatints and all the rest. These were on the whole meant to be accurate views of their subjects, reliable likenesses of a person or a building. But it’s not quite the same as a photograph, is it? Looking at last week’s picture postcards I thought of the earlier, pre-photographic views of Kensington Gardens and of course Kensington Palace. Here’s a good example:

Kensington Palace 1750s GS17AA

As is often the case the architectural view was enlivened by the addition of some figures. We know that the ladies and gentlemen of 18th century society entertained themselves by walking around in fashionable places, taking a look at their friends and acquaintances and being seen by them in turn. So the view of this happy crowd, walking, talking and even sitting is not actually unlikely, there’s just something a little staged about it. These people are like extras milling around the star of the picture – the Palace. I imagine them biding their time, waiting to see if they could get a piece of the action for themselves.

Copy of Copy of Kensington Palace 1750s GS17AA

What is the persuasive looking gentleman in the group on the right saying to his companions? Is he asking them to join him on an expedition into the Palace? Are the seated group ready to watch them?

This is another view of the Palace:

East front of Kensington Palace with part of the Great Lawn 1744 CPic44a

Another idle group wave fans, greet each other or lounge on the ground which can’t have done much for their fine clothes. Compare them with this group:

Oblique perspective view of the east front of Kensington Palace with part of the Great Lawn 1744 CPic44d

The Palace and the trees across the lawn are almost identical. Another group of slightly better rendered visitors have wondered into shot. Remember etching is hard work. It’s not pen and paper, it’s scratching the image on a sheet of metal, in reverse. (I simplfy a complex and multifarious process – experts please forgive me) If the background is the same and you can enliven the view with a different cast so much the better.

I do find these people fascinating though especially the women sweeping across the grass in their strange wide skirts. The period is slightly wrong but it puts me in mind of the Draughtsman’s Contract where a mystery is suggested by drawings of a house and garden but never solved by its protagonist. The Draughtman in the film would have appreciated this view:

Distant view of Kensimgton Place with part of the Garden and the Queen's Temple as seen from the side of the Serpentine River CPic153a

Here the Palace is reduced to a feature in the distance with our attention occupied by a section of the Serpentine and the Queen’s Temple across the water. One of those follies loved by aristocrats and landscapers seen in many country estates, it would have been ideal for one of the Draughtman’s assignations.

Kensington Palace Cpic 0640 res600

In this one some actual gardening is going on at the right of the picture.  The strollers ignore the workers though, and we ignore them in favour of the frantic activity by the birds in the foreground. A fight on the left? An attempt to take off on the right?

If we pull out and take a wide view of the Palace we get something like this:

Kensington Palace print

The pattern of the ornamental garden is revealed and the picture looks more like a plan but it’s still full of those figures wandering around. Last year at Marienbad,anyone? (I’m taking a stab in the dark there – I’ve never actually seen the film but one of the famous images from it is a large ornamental garden). The feature that always strikes me is that the Palace is set in what appears to be an empty landscape with no sign of London. Those distant hills are the etcher’s equivalent of stock footage. Or maybe I’m missing some convention of this kind of picture.

One of the conventions is the idealised landscape. Here’s one:

the Pavilion south view CM2228

A solitary figure looks back at his house, his lake, his cattle and his picturesque crumbling “priory”, specially built as a ruin as was the custom of ambitious land owners. The Pavilion, the building in the distance was constructed by Henry Holland in 1789 and survived into the 19th century as Chelsea grew around it and the grounds had their final incarnation as a cricket ground. (That’s a story for another day if ever I heard one). But nothing could stop the growth of the Cadogan Estate. (To orientate yourself I think Sloane Street runs a little to the right of the Pavilion which gave its name of course to Pavilion Road)  I can’t help thinking that even before development the grounds were not as extensive as they appear in this view. (The Pavillion survived until 1874 when it was demolished to make way for Cadogan Square and its surrounding streets)

Further south we’re on safer ground. As Kensington has its Palace, Chelsea has the Royal Hospital:

Royal Hospital and Rotunda CM2184 no legend

Here too the landscape is crowded. The main focus of activity is the variety of craft going to and fr,o some speedy and some slow. In the distance people walk in the grounds, perhaps heading for that other fashionable rendezvous point the Rotunda.

Ranelagh Rotunda interior B1570

Inside the ladies and the gentlemen parade around or take refreshment by the big fire. Look closely:

Ranelagh Rotunda interior B1570 - Copy (3)

More bowing and gesturing with fans. A sizeable group listens to the orchestra.

Ranelagh Rotunda interior B1570 - Copy (2)

There are a couple more instances of the fan gesture in this detail. In some ways these figures repeat themselves at the whim of the artist.  At other points they  show a life of their own. Look at the woman in the group of three between the child and the woman in green, how she leans back slightly to whisper in her  friend’s ear. A small number of lines suggest this recognizeable movement.

Ranelagh Rotunda interior B1570 - Copy - Copy

Inside the world of the print the inhabitants live their lives.

View of Chelsea Waterworks 1752 250B

Here a group of them pay a visit to the Chelsea Waterworks, enough of a technological marvel to warrant some early tourism.

Further down the river in Battersea others come and go at a jetty.

View taken near Battersea Church looking towards Chelsea 1752 96B

In the distant background you can see Chelsea Old Church with its cupola. On the shore a woman, her son and their dog get ready to board, a servant carries their bag:

View taken near Battersea Church looking towards Chelsea 1752 96B - Copy

The group of three women and a man on the right meet up with a man who points their way out of the picture all together. Perhaps all these decorative figures in the idealised landscapes of the etching are looking for a way out.

Postscript

The Chelsea art collection was recently moved to Kensington Library making it easier for me to find pictures like the last two. During my search I came across an image I found quite startling which might form the basis of a future post if I can find some more like it. Watch out for that. If you’ve never seen the Draughtsman’s Contract it’s worth a look. Just don’t expect a solution to the mystery (if there was one).


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