Author Archives: Dave Walker

Mr Menpes I presume

Mortimer Luddington Menpes is having a bit of a renaissance in his home country. This year there were two exhibitions devoted to his work one in Adelaide, the city of his birth and one in Melbourne. We contributed some images to one of them, and they sent us a copy of the book of the exhibition, which is where most of this week’s pictures come from. My colleague Tim and I also got an invitation to the private view. But it was a bit far to go, which was a shame. It would have been good to see the place Menpes came from. He was born in Port Adelaide in 1855 and came to England when he was 20. Although he lived the greatest part of his life in the UK there was always something of the outsider about Mr Menpes and he never lost an Australian artist’s feeling for light and colour.

Dolce far niente 1885-86 p45

“Dolce far niente” is a portrait of Whistler’s mistress Maud Franklin wearing an oriental robe.  Menpes was generally under Whistler’s influence in London. This picture, A little Shop in Chelsea is thought to be influenced by Whister’s view of Maunder’s fish shop in Cheyne Walk.

Copy of A little shop in Chelsea 1884-87

But Menpes annoyed his master in 1887 when he travelled to Japan. The influence of Japanese culture in Britain had been felt since the 1862 Exhibition in South Kensington but Whistler thought that Japan belonged to him, artistically speaking. Menpes went past the master to explore the source for himself. (He slipped away leaving a letter for Whistler and avoided a confrontation in person. This did not prevent Whistler later denouncing him)

Flower of the tea 1887-88 p63

He was able to visit the the elderly painter Kawanabe Kyosai, talk with him through an interpreter and observe him at work on a number of paintings. Menpes incorporated  Japanese style and techniques into his own work. His pictures of Japan show this influence but at the same time he retains a Western sensibility, as in this picture of two women.

Two geisha girls 1896-97

By the time of his exhibition of his Japanese pictures in London in 1888 Menpes was also a practioner of drypoint etching.

Later in life he concentrated on etching and print making.

Venice of Japan 1897

This example is called Venice in Japan.

He employed a technique of sketching pictures quickly to capture scenes spontaneously which was useful for his travels. This picture, the Woman with a Jar, is an example of his ability to observe and record a moment of everyday life.

The girl with the jar 1887-88

His travels later took him back to Japan but also further afield. This etching is a view in China.

Rich only in colour China 1907-08

This one is entitled “An old bridge in Mandalay”

Old Bridge Mandalay 1911-13

He also ventured into India, another of the trips he turned into a travel book.

Blue was the sky above us -Benares 1889-91

“Blue was the sky above us – Benares”

He also travelled to Mexico,and back in Europe visited Paris and Venice.

St Mark's piaza 1909-11

But there was also London, where he had built the Japanese House and where the river was one of the main subjectsof his work.

Below, “A distant view of the city”.

A distant view of the city 1886-89

The riverside in the heart of London, at Limehouse.

Limehouse 1886-89

Is that the Hawksmoor Church, St Anne’s visible on the horizon in this view?

Not forgetting his trips beyond the tidal Thames into the calmer countryside up river.

Goring 1909-11

Compare this etching of Goring with the coloured illustration in his book The Thames which appears in this post. (5th picture, but you won’t have any trouble spotting it)

I haven’t touched on his portraits, but he also made himself a leading exponent of that art as well. This 1920 sketch “A woman with a cigarette” , a portrait of the actress Thelma Ray, the first wife of Ronald Colman, shows his continuing ability to catch a fleeting moment.

Woman holding a cigarette - Thelma Raye 1920

But for all his other work it’s probably as “Japanes Menpes” that Mr Menpes is best remembered.

The Parasol 1887-88

 

Postscript

The exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia has just finished, so you can’t go to it now, but here is a glimpse:

Menpes exhibition

My thanks to Julie Robinson, the Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Gallery, for sending us a copy of the exhibition book/catalogue, “The World of Mortimer Menpes: Painter, Etcher, Raconteur”, a very useful adition to our Menpes collection. Now that Menpes is getting some of the attention he deserves I think we’ll hear a lot more about him. I haven’t finished with him on the blog either so you can expect to see more of his work here in the future.

If you are in Melbourne in the next few months you could try a different Menpes exhibition: http://www.grainger.unimelb.edu.au/exhibitions/  A review of it: http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/voice/mortimer-menpes-and-grainger-a-shared-love-of-japan-20140807-3d9n4.html

I’m thinking of doing something way out of Kensington and Chelsea next week. We’ll see how that works out.


The Chelsea Murders: fiction in Kensington and Chelsea 2

Lionel Davidson was a famous writer in his day, although not much mentioned these days. Many of his books are still in print though. He was big in the 60s. He wrote what you might call international thrillers -The Night of Wenceslas (1960) set in cold war Czechoslovakia, The Rose of Tibet (1962) set in India and Tibet and A long way to Shiloh (1966) set in Israel and Jordan. They were all bestsellers. The paperbacks were published by Penguin which made them look serious, like Len Deighton novels. (People sometimes forget now how innovative and influential Deighton was with books such as the Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain). Davidson himself is a literary ancestor of the modern authors of spy novels and techo-thrillers.

Chelsea Murders 01 - Copy (2)

The covers of his books from the 60s and 70s tell their own story:

LionelDavidson covers

In the centre a classic Penguin crime cover – green for crime. On the left a later Penguin edition typical of the early 70s – the arty but somewhat gratuitous notion of a map projected on a naked body was used on a series of Davidson novels. On the right the semi-surreal hardback cover for the Sun Chemist also typical of books from Jonathan Cape

In 1978 Cape published another Davidson crime thriller (with a tasteful cover ) in another exotic setting – The Chelsea Murders.

Chelsea Murders 01 - Copy - Copy

The novel begins with a lone woman who is surprised by a grotesquely masked man and killed. But she is not the first victim.

Unknown woman from JB2 02

Previously another woman was murdered in Jubilee Place, and a man in Bywater Street.

Jubilee Place 17817 23

The police begin to wonder if  a maniac is killing people in Chelsea.

I have read that Davidson never visited Chelsea before writing the book and employed researchers to get the local colour. He lived in Israel by this time so his own knowledge of London may be a little out of date – for example there’s no mention in the book of the punk scene which would have been well established by 1978.

There are some scenes set in Chelsea Library. In the book it’s the reference library at the old Chelsea Library in Manresa Road (well before my time although I have been in the old reference libary with its dark curving shelves and balcony). Here it is in a picture from the 50s 0r early 60s:

Manresa Road- ref - Copy

Several characters visit the library where Brenda the library assistant supplies information about famous local residents to a police detective. Mason notices her shelving – “Very nice bird,(he) thought. Victorian looking, yellow hair, parted in the middle; something a bit classical happened to it at the back.” Artie Johnson who will become one of the suspects notices Brenda in the first few pages of the and notes that she had “the look of a Pre-Raphaelite chick.”

Unfortunately for the police Brenda also tells Mary Mooney, an ambitious young reporter following the case (and are there any other kinds of journalists in thrillers?), and some of the suspects. One of those two women ends up in the killer’s sights but I won’t give away which one.

The exterior of the 1890s building, which you can still see today in Manresa Road:

Library exterior - Copy

When ITV did an adaptation of the book, those scenes were filmed in the new Chelsea Library at Chelsea Old Town Hall. I was already working for the Libraries then, and several years later I was reference librarian there, so whatever Davidson’s personal experience of Chelsea was, I feel like this is a book set more or less  in my own habitat.

There are some characters familiar from the 60s and 70s:

Filming under Battersea Bridge 1970 jb63b - Copy

A group of former art students who are making a film. Two of them and their mentor, a sleazy academic become the main suspects in the series of murders in which it seems that the killer is choosing his victims by their initials which match the names of some of those famous residents.

Rossetti VAW

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, (hence the painting on the cover of the book) is the first of the series which also features James McNeill Whistler, Algernon Swinburne, Leigh Hunt, AA Milne, W S Gilbert and even Oscar Wilde.

DGR was a woman murdered and dumped in the river. Ogden Wu, the owner of a slightly seedy shop selling denim in all its forms like in this market off the King’s Road is one of the later victims:

Chelsea Village Market 1970 - Copy

One of the desperate film makers works for Wu and finds himself even more deeply embroiled in the investigation after his boss’s death.

The police fixate on the suspects fairly early on. They trail them around, create a card index for the case (no mention of a computer in the book), even consult a reference book at the library to trace the provenance of a poem.

As you might expect they spend some time in one of the famous Chelsea pubs of thr era.

Chelsea Potter

Some of the language in the book has dated in a way which modern readers might find distasteful. The character Artie Johnson, the producer of the film is described (by a tabloid journalist ) as “a spade..a real one, all black” and Mooney thinks of him as “a long black cat, his golliwog smile in place under his beehive” (afro, presumably). That’s a phrase you couldn’t use (and wouldn’t want to) these days, but in 1978 casual racism was still prevalent in life as well as literature. The author was not of course necessarily endorsing the attitudes of his characters. Thrillers from previous eras exhibit many archaic attutudes whether it’s the off putting right wing opinions of Dennis Wheatley or the less offensive 1930s mannerisms of Michael Innes. The modern reader has to tread carefully when reading and the modern blogger when recommending books.

In fact I’m not sure whether I’d actually recommend the Chelsea Murders to anyone who wasn’t interested in the Chelsea setting. The local colour is the thing. It’s not quite the 1978 I remember, but then Chelsea in those days probably still contained pockets of previous eras.

Also, the serial killer genre has moved on since 1978 for better or worse. Davidson’s book is also a traditional whodunnit and the two genres don’t work very well together. The motivation of the killer is rather perfunctory and  you get the impression that he is simply play acting.

Although, like the Chelsea Murders, that can sometimes be effective:

Satan triumphant 1958 - Copy

And there is a decent twist at the end.

Postscript

The last picture is unmistakeably one of John Bignell’s arty but playful images, called Satan triumphant (1958). As with many of his pictures there’s no hint as to why it was taken. Some of the other pictures in this post are also by Bignell.

I’ve been tinkering with this post for weeks and reading the book in installments (I hate being obliged to read a book even when it was my own idea) so I’m glad to finally put it to bed. I hope it was worth the effort.


Visitor attraction: in the Crystal Palace 1851

When I first visited London in the 1960s we stayed with my uncle who lived in Crystal Palace. The first place he took us to was the park, where the stone dinosaurs immediately became one of my favourite things in London. Up the hill from the unlikely versions of the ancient animals were the TV mast, another source of wonder and the remains of the structure which gave the area its name: the Crystal Palace.

Sphinx (2)

Before 1936 when some mishap caused it to burn down it looked like this. Joseph Paxton the designer of the great glasshouse had moved the whole thing from Hyde Park to an obscure site in Sydenham, south London. He expanded the main building, added two towers at either end (designed by Brunel) and built an ornamental park around it.

crystal palace

Despite its destruction (and who is to say it would have survived the War, and the post war dislike of Victorian structures that saw the disappearance of the Euston Arch among many others?) it remains a familiar image and occupies a small but permanent niche in the popular imagination.

We don’t usually remember where exactly it was originally located, but this is the spot:

location cpic192

It faced the main road between London and Kensington

cpalace 1

And although photography was in its infancy, many pictures were taken including calotypes by the Fox-Talbot company. There are plenty of photographs of the interior but by technical necessity they show it empty, without people. The essence of a visitor attraction is the people who come to it in their hundreds, and you can only get a sense of that from prints and lithographs.

Plate 4 The transept centre-left - Copy

The transept had been built around the tree after an MP had complained about its possible destruction but it actually added to the general effect. The fountain was constructed out of crystal glass.

The statues were cast in plaster.

Plate 4 The transept right side higher view - Copy

There was an appreciative and colourful throng of visitors. This view shows the height of the structure, the strangeness of some of the objects – a lighthouse reflector, the Ross telescope, the Colebroke Dome  and in the centre the Queen and the Prince Consort, the premier celebrities of the day.

Plate 3 The British Nave right side

Plate 3 The British Nave left side cut off on left - Copy (2)

They’re on a relatively informal visit in this lithograph.

Plate 3 The British Nave right side - Copy

Bystanders keep a discreet distance from the Royal party while getting as close as they think is correct on both sides of the Nave.

Plate 3 The British Nave left side complete - Copy

The exterior of the building appeared squat and monotonous but the interior seemed Tardis-vast.

Foreign nave

Above the ground level were galleries, some stuffed with curious objects.

Canada

Others quiet and ecclesiastical:

Stained glass gallery

And others weirdly intimate:

Austria

Victoria and Albert had paid a more formal visit on the day of the Palace’s Inaugeration in May.

Plate 2 The Foreign Nave left side

They entered the Palace through iron gates and proceeded through the crowds to take their place under a giant canopy.

Plate 1 The Inaugeration centre-left - Copy

Victoria wrote in her diary: “the glimpses of the transept through the iron gates..(the) myriads of people filling the galleries and seats gave us a sensation which I can never forget.” In a letter she said “The sight…was incredibly glorious, really like fairyland.” Other commentators spoke of the intoxicating effects of, forms, colours and noise.

When I think of a Victorian glass house I think of the Palm House at Kew Gardens, full of vegetation and damp air, like being in a jungle. I can’t quite imagine an even bigger version full of light, artificial colours and people.

Inaugeration Plate 1 detail of crowd new scan

The opening ceremoney,Victoria said “fills me with devotion more so than any service I have ever heard”. She visited the Exhibition many times, going one day and starting off the next in the exact spot she had left off, until she had seen almost everything.

After six months in October of 1851  police cleared the building for a final time. There was a last private ceremony to close the building which Victoria “grieved not to be able to be present”. (Albert had advised aginst it.). She did go back to look at it again with all the exhibits removed “the beauty of the building was never seen to greater advantage.”

Interior

The following year after much debate as to its future the Palace moved to Sydenham, deep in the suburbs, and after seventy years or so, one day its story came to an end.

The ruins of the Crystal Palace, London, after it was burned down - 30 November 1936

Postscript

We were over the border in the City of Westminster this week but as a forerunner of Albertopolis the Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition are of some interest to the history of Kensington and Chelsea. And I liked the set of lithographs which were too big for me to scan in one piece but had some irresistible details. I started out with them but the more I read the more pictures I wanted to add, so you get a  bumper crop of images this week.

John McKean’s book Crystal Palace (1994) was particularly informative, and was where I found the quotes from Queen Victoria.


Masks of fashion: Clementina and the room of stars

I’ve wanted to find a good reason to come back to Clementina, Lady Hawarden and her brief career exploring costume, fabric and light within the confines of a few rooms in her house at Princes Gardens. I only recently thought of an obvious way to look at her work as a fashion photographer as I suggested she was in my first post about her.

04 Clementina Maude

Here, in the room with the starred wallpaper, her daughter and principal model Clementina Maude, an elaborate dress draped around her adopts a pose which shows off the way the material falls over her body. You want to call the pose langorous or thoughtful, which is the impression it gives, even though you know the young Clementina had to hold the pose for several minutes while the plate was exposed. Although the photograph has suffered over the years you can still see the contrast between the side directly lit by the light from the window and the greater detail visible on the other side.

04 mario testino

The light is falling from the other side in this picture by one of the modern masters of fashion photography Mario Testino and although the shutter speed was measured in seconds rather than  minutes the same care has been lavished on the model’s pose and the way the dress hangs.

It may have been the search for available light that drew Lady Clementina to the windows of her improvised studio but she comes back to them repeatedly.

06 Clementina Maude

Clementina again in some kind of fancy dress, Bohemian or gypsy perhaps, steps through the shutters from the balcony.

Below, a model negotiates a more complicated arrangement of wooden screens and windows in an equally sparsely furnished 19th century room.

06 Les-Secrets-de-Lambassade-by-Piotr-Stoklosa-10 2011 Calendar of the Polish Embassy in Paris

She has the same attitude of trepidation in this picture from a calendar for the Polish Embassy in Paris by Piotr Stoklosa.

Lady Clementina’s other favourite prop was a mirror.

01 Clementina Maude

As she knew Lewis Carroll (he visited the house and bought several examples of her work), you might want to start on Alice and Through the Looking Glass (not published till after Lady Clementina’s death) and soon there would be several sentences devoted to modern fantasies about the Victorian period. You can do all that yourselves quite easily. I’ll just stop for a while and listen to an album. I’ll pick something non-Victorian like Can, or Wire

When I get back we can remember that mirrors are always mysterious and always slightly threatening. Remember that quote from Borges?

01 Glamour Germany nov 05 Roslyakova

[The file name of this picture tells me it's from Glamour magazine (German edition), November 2005, and the model is Elena Roslyakova]

Here Clementina poses with the same mirror.

07 Clementina Maude

If you look closely I think you can see that her mother has draped that white material with dark stitching on the border (which I pointed out in the first post) over her skirt. She probably isn’t wearing a crinoline underneath. Her mother is trying to achieve a softer shape. You can barely make out Clementina’s reflection.

I’m not sure whether Gisele Bundchen is posing by an actual mirror in the photograph below or whether the photographer has caught the reflection in a window.

07 Harper's Bazaar US June 07  Gisele Bundchen

She isn’t wearing a crinoline either as you can see. The pose, with one foot on the chair brings out the unstuctured flow of the dress. Clementina might not have posed exactly like this but some of her mother’s pictures show that she wasn’t bound by convention when creating her photographs.

Clementina V&A 1862-3

In this variation on a pose featured in the first post Clementina is barefoot and casual looking, as minimally dressed as a modern model, The shadowy light gives her an air of mystery and demonstrates a trust between model and photographer which could probably only have been achieved by a mother and daughter in the 1860s.

Infashion magazine 2010 Evelina Mambetova 8

In this 2010 picture from In Fashion magazine Evelina Mambetova has found a similar kind of pose combining a kind of casual awkwardness with an enigmatic stare.

Can you bear much more of my amateur fashion-speak?

The point for me of looking at old photographs is finding the connection between then and now in the touches of modernity you can detect in photographs taken more than a hundred years ago.

Below, in an ordinary day dress Clementina has a air of 21st century ennui as she stands by the door of the room with the starred wallpaper.

10 Clementina Maude LCH011 1862

Like many of the others the photograph is damaged and sections cut away but you can still recognize the melancholy in the figure which transcends condition and technique. This is one of my favourite Hawarden pictures, and it was hard to find a modern equivalent.

This, perhaps:

07 Sarah Luss inVogue Italia  -Valentino couture spring 2023 – by Gian Paolo  Barbieri 07

[Sarah Luss wearing a Valentino dress from 2013 photographed by Gian Paolo Barbieri for Vogue Italia]

The model’s stare is neutral in this case though the dress is dark enough to create the shadows.

Or this?

10a dior-fall-couture-2012 02

[Dior 2012]

The model looks uncertainly back at the photographer which is effective, but perhaps with some photographs the same look can never be achieved by accident.

Here Clementina poses with an odd but highly decorative set of miniature drawers in a cabinet which was another of her mother’s favourite props.

02 Clementina Maude

Below another model stands in front of an odd cabinet.

02 Vogue Paris June 04  Daria Wervbowy

[Daria Wervbowy photographed for French Vogue in 2004]

Below, Clementina affects to sleep on what looks like a makeshift bed.

03 Clementina Maude

Clementina sleeping was another of her mother’s favourite subjects. She doesn’t look completely relaxed though.

03 woman on c

By contrast, this (unknown to me) model isn’t even attempting to sleep. But I think Lady Clementina would have appreciated the fall of the dress material to the floor and the light coming from behind.

The last comparison is another version of the sleeping model.

05 Clementina Maude

In this case Clementina shows every sign of having actually dropped off while reading a book. Sleep is another mysterious area of life, subject to endless speculation and fantasy. It’s more evidence for me that Lady Hawarden was as preoccupied with the strangeness of existence as any other artist or writer of the period and that the impressions we read into her work – eroticism, feminity, dreams and death are not fantasies of our own construction but part of her intentions.

This is unfortunately another damaged picture showing signs of age. It’s been compared to Lord Leighton’s Flaming June (painted long after Lady Hawarden’s death – could Leighton have seen it?). I haven’t been able to locate a close parallel in modern fashion photography, but I like this picture by Norman Parkinson of  the model Jean Patchett in repose.

05 Jean Patchett by norman parkinson

This is a game you could play endlessly. Why not try it yourself? Here’s one of Clementina playing a classical (or occult?) role with a single star.

Clementina Maude 1863-64

Any suggestions?

 

Postscript

As is often the case I was working on this post along with another speculative one when it occurred to me that I had better write something for this week, and the scanner was temporarily locked in the basement during some building work so it had better be something that was almost ready to go. As a result I didn’t have quite as long to search for images which echoed Lady Hawarden’s work as I thought I would have. Some of them are more exact parallels than others. But you get the basic point I expect. Of course I could have just said “light-fabric-mirrors-women”.

Most of the modern fashion images come from the archives of  http://dustjacket-attic.com/ , one of the best websites concerned with fashion and design, which I highly recommend. http://www.fashiongonerogue.com/ is another good one. Like other bloggers say, if I have infringed anyone’s image rights by using them here just let me know.

I think this may not be the last time Clementina, Lady Hawarden is featured here. The more I look at her pictures the more there seems to be in them. You can see many more at the V&A website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/l/lady-clementina-hawarden/

Oh yes, and that Borges quote: “Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable to God, for they multiply the redundant images of Man”. This sentence has been translated in a variety of forms over the years, but this is how I remember it from my first reading of Fictions back in the 1970s. Lady Hawarden and Lewis Carroll might well have had an interesting dinner party with Borges.

Finally, I have a World War 1 piece on the Library blog here.


Shepherd in Kensington

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd doesn’t get a whole entry to himself in  the Dictionary of National Biography. The details of his life are tagged on to the entry about his more eminent older brother George Sidney Shepherd who was also a painter of watercolours and a draughtsman. The difference in status between the two seems less significant now that some time has passed since they both died in the 1860s.

It’s Thomas we’re dealing with here though .His fame is based on the large number of watercolour paintings of London many of which were turned into into engravings for use in books about London.

You won’t find any of today’s images in any of the editions  of Shepherd’s London because of course strictly speaking we’re not in London. Kensington was a suburb, near to the City of Westminster but not quite in it.

Last week we finished with a view in Brompton, of Holy Trinity Church which is on the road to another vaguely defined area, Knightsbridge. This is another ecclesiastical picture of the Brompton Oratory Buildings, hence the black robed figures in the foreground.

Brompton Oratory Buildings THS22a Cpic69

Below is a more secular view, of Brompton Road, a terrace of its fashionable new houses, complete with  the dashing horseman, some admiring ladies and the obligatory feature of Shepherd pictures, the little running dog.

Onslow Square

If we move north we come to the main road west from the same area, the road formerly known as the Kensington Turnpike.

Kensington Cavalry Barracks THS6a Cpic15

The large buidling is the Kensington Cavalry Barracks next to the Kensington Toll Gate on what is now Kensington Road. Here it is on Crutchley’s map 0f 1827 (click on the image for a larger view):

Cruchley 1827 Earls Court-Brompton-Little Chelsea

East of the barracks the building below stood on the site of the current Albert Hall Mansions.

Gore House THS3a Cpic73

Gore House was the home of William Wiberforce and the society beauty and author Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. She lived in lavish style there until the money ran out. Later the French chef Alexis Soyer of the Reform Club lived there and had a Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations in the grounds. Soyer ran soup kitchens in Dublin during the Irish potato famine and organised hospital kitchens during the Crimean War. He was the last occupant of Gore House. Soon after his death it was demolished, in 1858.

Far from modest itself was Kensington House.

Kensington House THS7a Cpic33

This was not the magnificent and short lived Kensington House built by the financial speculator Baron Albert Grant in the 1870s (In some ways the Forgotten Building par excellence. But I only have a couple of pictures of it.). This Kensington House was bought and demolished by Grant. But in its time it had been the home of the Russian Ambassador (the first one to live in Kensington but not the last), a boy’s school and a scandalous lunatic asylum.

Now we take a detour up Kensington Church Street.

Maitland House THS8 Cpic68

This is Maitland House, from inside the grounds where an elegant couple are walking that same dog. There is no mystery in Shepherd’s architectural views which are sometimes a little fussy. They resemble something an estate agent of the day might have used to promote sales. They make up for the lack of atmosphere with accuracy and a certain charm. Maitland House was the home of the Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie  and the philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Newton House THS10a Cpic32

A street view of another house in Kensington Church Street, Newton House. A street vendor with his daughter, perhaps, and a boy with his dog. Newton House was named after Sir Isaac Newton who had lived in one ot the houses owned by Stephen Pitt in the area but it’s unlikely it was this one.

The building below, in Marloes Road on the south side of Kensington High Strret looks pleasant in Shepherd’s picture. But you wouldn’t want to have ended up living there.

Kensington Workhouse THS12 Cpic74

This is the Stone Hall section of Kensington Workhouse,built in 1846. Like its cousin in the Fulham Road it was built for a neighbouring parish in Westminster and eventually became a hospital, St Mary Abbotts. As these places went it wasn’t one of the worst, but still. When it closed as part of the reconstruction which created the new Chelsea Westminster Hospital the buildings became part of a housing complex.

Further down the High Street on the way to Hammersmith is an inn on the western edge of Holland Park.

White Horse Inn THS13a Cpi14

This view of the White Horse (not the two dogs) must have been a historical view. Shepherd also painted the building which replaced it on the site, another inn.

The Holland Arms THS14 Cpic63

This inn was called the Holland Arms. although the scene is rather less rural than the previous one and the inn has lost its garden, the place still looks relaxed. The people stand as though having their photographs taken. The horse stands as though its rider is about to dismount. Even the dog is now still. I think the woman on the left looks a little more modern in her dress but I suppose you shouldn’t read too much into Shepherd’s figures. They’re a little like the stock people who inhabit architectural drawings. I’m programmed to wonder about them despite that.

Both Shepherd and his brother had precarious artistic careers and died in reduced circumstances within a couple of years of each other, well before photography took over as the principal method of recording the appearance of places.

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd also left us some interesting views of Chelsea which we’ll look at another day.

 

Postscript

The rather annoying message “The property of the Kensington Public Libraries” must have been stamped rather barbarously on the front (what was wrong with the back?) of these pictures by some pre-1965 employee of the Council. You don’t come across that very often, I’m glad to say.

I’ve been taking a break from work and I’ve been working on three posts at once. The other two still need a little more research so who knows what’s coming next week.

Continuing the practice of acknowledging sources, I leaned heavily on Kensington Past this week, a book by the late Barbara Denny and Carolyn Starren, now unfortunately out of print.


Down Brompton Lane: more houses and stories

This is another leg in our journey through Old Brompton in the first half of the 19th century when Brompton Lane (now Old Brompton Road) was a main artery linking Fulham with the Kensington Turnpike. You already know that this was a country of market gardens, nurseries, inns and and tea houses and above all isolated houses known through watercolours by Cowen and Shepherd or maps with the evocative names of their makers – Greenwood, Crutchley, Starling.

We start at a house we have seen before.

Gloucester Lodge THS15b Cpic 119

Gloucester Lodge was the short lived home of the politician George Canning, built on the site of Florida Gardens opposite the future site of Gloucester Road station. Thomas Hosmer Shepherd has captured a certain gloomy wildness in the scene. Canning was never happy there.

The most enigmatic of the artists of the old Brompton area was the artist of the Red Portfolio.

Hale House  2538

Hale House was a little way north of Brompton Lane between Gloucester Lodge and Roslin Cottage which we’ve also seen before. Greenwood’s 1820 map shows several of the houses we’ve encountered in our travels.

Greenwood 1820 - Copy

John Rocque’s 1741-45 map of Kensington shows it in a rather more isolated position and calls it Hell House which is surely an error (there were many variations in the names of places on these early maps) but it is one which would have pleased the Red Portfolio artist who loved a good story. The other story about Hale House is that it had once been occupied by Cromwell, but although the house was 16th century this is doubtful. The name stuck though and when the grounds of the house were turned into a public tea gardens in 1785 they became Cromwell Gardens. The artist notes that the owner was hedging his bets with a bust of Charles II over the door. The gardens were entered by a small bridge just visible under the arch on the right of the circular lawn. “Mr Hughes used to exhibit his feats of horsemanship in the circle around the tree.”

The house had several outbuildings as can be seen in this watercolour by William Cowen.

C8 Hale House

I’ve split the image below in half. The house had a partial moat fed by a spring. The spring also supplied water for  a bath house.

The Conduit in the grounds of Hale House 2522

Inside was a conduit used for bathing.

The Conduit in the grounds of Hale House 2522 - Copy

It doesn’t look too inviting, but opportunities for bathing were thinner on the ground then. It looks like a good place for a secret meeting or an assignation, an idea which would also have appealed to the artist.

The figure on horseback was also said to be Cromwell. Hale House was demolished in 1853.

If you had followed the narrow lane (possibly called Cromwell Row) past Roslin Cottage you would come to the alms houses buillt by William Methwold (one of the occupants of Hale House).

Old Mansion, Old Brompton Road c. 1837-40

The Alms Houses are the small buildings on the right. The large building is described by the artist as an old mansion – a later archivist has added “on Old Brompton Road”. One author thinks that the house is Brompton Hall, described in an advertisement of 1749 as “the Great White House” where there was accommodation for “persons afflicted with Nervous Disordesr”. I’m not quite sure how that squares with the position of the Alms Houses on the map above, but who knows? It isn’t the only place painted by this artist which is hard to locate now.

The lane turned south east to bring you to Brompton Lane nearly opposite the Hoop and Toy Inn.

Hoop and Toy C26

Cowen gives it his usual air of bucolic calm. Note the two figures seated at a bench and the tower of St Luke’s Church in Chelsea, only  a short distance  away.

We also have a view of the inn by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

Hoop and Toy Inn Thurloe Place THS26a Cpic16

Shepherd was a very much better known artist than Cowen. He painted hundreds of water colour views of London many of which were the basis for engravings which were published in books and seperately. He was a distinctly urban artist with a precise eye for architectural detail so it’s quite appropriate that he should become our main guide as we approach London.

There seems to have been a host of houses in the area with similar names including two Grove Houses, one on Kensington Gore, and the  other close to the Hoop and Toy, also known as Brompton Place and possibly also Grove Lodge. Shepherd calls this Grove House, Bronmpton.

Grove House Brompton THS28a

This Grove House would have been close to the current site of South Kensington Station. At the time of the painting it still enjoys the rural isolation of old Brompton. It had been the home in the 18th century of the magistrate Sir John Fielding the blind half-brother of the novelist Henry Fielding and founder of the Bow Street Runners. The “Blind Beak” had also lived in Chelsea but he died at Grove House in 1780. Sometime later the literary journalist William Jerdan lived there. Jerdan was also a founder – of the Literary Gazette in which he published the first poems of his friend and neighbour Letitia Elizabeth Landon. We came across her, and her tragic history in a previous post.

Shepherd likes the scampering dog and  the birds in the sky (also favourites of the Chelsea artist W W Burgess).

Further east down the road was another large house, Brompton Park House.It went from a single home to one of the inevitable girl’s boarding schools in the 18th century. It had then been split into a terrace of three houses, as it seems to be here, visible on the right, across the street from another inn, the Bell and Horns.

We’ve finally arrived at Brompton Road, the former Kensington Turnpike from Hyde Park Corner to Hammersmith.

Bell and Horn by TH Shepherd THS17

The Bell and Horns looks like a welcome spot to stop on a lonely journey, but imagine Brompton Oratory on the right and buildings right up to a rebuilt three storey verson of  the inn from the left.

But let’s not end the journey at an inn. Not far away in the late 1820s Holy Trinity Church had been built at the lonely end of the road.

Holy Trinity Church Brompton THS20a

An avenue of trees leading down to to the church. The little dog again, and a couple of women in the modest fashions of the 1840s.It could be the setting for an M R James story. Shepherd, like the other artists has his own world of subdued middle class life. This is the direction life was taking in the old district of Brompton.

Postscript

I suppose this is the last of my ventures into old Brompton (although you never know….). We’ll certainly be looking at Thomas Hosmer Shepherd again soon.

Thanks to Isabel for last week’s post. And thanks also to Kim for some last minute scanning earier today.


Familiar streets: a Paddington estate

When I first looked at Bernard Selwwyn’s pictures of 1950s Paddington I had no idea I was working with someone who knew a great deal more about the area than me. So this week my colleague and friend Isabel Hernandez is guest blogging, about a neighbourhood she knows very well:

 

You may recall a post Dave wrote a little while back called Unfamiliar Streets: Paddington 1959…It so happens that when I had the opportunity to view the photographs within that blog I realised to my surprise that I was very familiar with these northern Paddington streets. Views of the Warwick Estate prior to its redevelopment beginning around 1959 and the early 1960s were images I had never seen before, and considering I spent my entire youth growing-up on the relatively new estate, it really was like entering a time capsule. Very few of the original buildings survive now, with the exception of St Mary Magdalene’s and the local Victorian schools which I will talk about later, and some of the bigger, grander houses around Blomfield Villas. There have been name changes too: some abolished, others given to rebuilt roads such as Clarenden, Woodchester and Brindley.

Below is an image of Bourne Terrace, previously Westbourne Terrace North. The photograph appears to have been taken from Torquay Street which backs on to the now Westbourne Green Sports complex, opened around 1976. The railway lies directly behind that with the Westway looming large alongside it. On the corner of Bourne Terrace you can see 264 Saws Ltd and various blocks which no longer exist. They look to be derelict and ready for demolition with people going about their daily lives as usual. Nobody in that scene seems to have noticed the camera.

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Here’s another photograph showing Bourne Terrace, only this time one of the blocks has already been demolished. Already a new build has been erected on the left – the familiar flats of the current Warwick Estate. The spire of St Mary Magdalene’s is clearly visible in the background.

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Below is the Harrow Road with Bourne Terrace to the right and what appear to be lines set up for trolley buses. They were certainly gone by the time I moved in. The 18 and 36 bus routes were diesel run, ironically less clean than the electric bus option. All these blocks are now gone: the billboards, the shops. My memories of this part of the Harrow Road are not dissimilar to what exists today. To the right is a high rise block, possibly Brinklow House. Further up on the left, past the block of flats, existed the Westminster Council Offices (now an academy) and below that, garages where I housed my first car. To the right there was a Londis, a video shop (the epitome of visual technology at the time) and George’s chip shop. Each business had a residing family that we all knew well. People tended to stick around in the same community for a long time.

 

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Here’s another street which runs parallel to Bourne Terrace. This is Cirencester Street. To the right is the Roman Catholic chapel, Our Lady of Sorrows where I first had confession and had to wrack my 8 year old brain into confessing something inoffensive, like I really didn’t like my breakfast that morning, much to the priest’s amusement. Soon after, I did my First Holy Communion where my friends and I looked rather charming in our white dresses and suits. The chapel itself is quite beautiful inside.

 

Next to the chapel and above it – although not obvious – is my old primary school Our Lady of Dolours. The school was founded on this site in 1872 having previously been managed by priests of the church of St Mary of the Angels. It’s one of the few schools in London to still have a roof playground. At this point the school had yet to convert the front part opposite its façade into the front playground. I have many fond memories of the old place and I’ll never forget how small it looked when I returned many years later to visit. It must be true for all those who visit their old primary schools. We grow and mature and yet we’re not really sure when and how it all happened.

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Here’s the chapel again with the camera facing Desborough Street. The blocks to the right face onto the Harrow Road looking rather shabby and derelict.

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Below is a view of Our Lady of Dolours from a higher vantage point. Already the shabby, block opposite has gone and new flats are being built in the surrounding area. The high-rise block under construction is Wilmcote House, the first of six, high- rise blocks in the Warwick and Brindley Estates.

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Here’s another high vantage point of view. Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Sorrows sectioned off and Wilmcote House nearing its 20/21 storeys. I lived in Gaydon House, nearest to Royal Oak and possibly the last of the six blocks to be built. Great views over London if you lived on the uppermost floors.

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Here’s Wilmcote House from the view point of St Mary Magdalene’s. To the far left is Edward Wilson C.E School. I assume named after the physician and naturalist who died on the ill-fated British Antarctic expedition lead by Captain Robert Scott in 1912. Edward Wilson practiced as a doctor in Paddington in his earlier years.

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Edward Wilson School seen from the back possibly from Cirencester Street. The skyline is a little different now with Gaydon House directly opposite the front of the school and the Westway marking a path through the lower horizon towards Edgware Road and Marylebone Road.

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St Mary Magdalene’s in the distance with the endless row of houses leading up to it. This gives you an idea as to how little space there was. It was designed by the architect George Edmund Street and it is often described as a ‘long, tall narrow design’ simply because the layout of the former streets gave little room for width. Now, of course, there is a spacious green behind the church with the Grand Union Canal running parallel to it. As children after school lunch, usually a hideous concoction of hard boiled potatoes, spam and simpering vegetables that would probably make Jamie Oliver’s toes curl, we would be taken by dinner ladies to the green to play. We would often dare each other to go up to the church wall, put our hand on it and count to ten – seems perfectly harmless – except we just knew it had to be haunted. To our point of view a gothic behemoth such as that, towering over our small frames was good enough reason to allow for our vivid imaginations to concoct some fantastical cowl covered floating monks to be living there in all their frightening silence. I know now that this is quite impossible. St Mary Magdalene’s was only completed around 1878. No cowled monks in the area at the time as far as I know.

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Here is the church again a little closer, from the other side of the canal. I have always admired its red brick walls and unassuming character. It’s not surprising it is often used as a film location. A church ‘completed by degrees’ in the middle of a crowded residential area. Now it stands as the centre piece of the Warwick Estate. If you want more details about the church, Pevsner’s London 3: North West is an interesting read.

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The Warwick Crescent development underway; note the leaning lamp-post in stark contrast to the massive crane beyond the corrugated barriers. Out with the old in with the new. It seems a shame that these could not have been restored – as far as street furniture goes these were rather attractive.

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The new blocks of flats were going up as soon as the rubble from the old houses was cleared. Presumably, rather than demolish everything in one fell swoop and displacing many residents, it made sense to demolish sections and rebuild, that way you could re-house people in increments and not displace them for too long.

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Here is a clearer photograph of the flats under construction. These are what you will find on the Warwick Estate now.

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I will conclude my post with this image. Here, the old and the new seem to co-exist in an absurd time warp: old houses new flats. Note the lampposts again! Here we see (what I assume) are residents passing through what appears to be Lord Hill’s Road. It now connects Senior Street with Delamare Terrace. I imagine a mother with her shopping trolley; gentlemen in suits, perhaps finishing work for the day; somebody on a motorbike and a chap looking at the camera on the other side of the road taking an interest in what our photographer is doing. It’s difficult to see unless you expand the image. They all seem to be taking the huge redevelopment in their stride quite literally. I wonder what they thought of it all.

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Postscript:

I came to the Warwick Estate as a child in the early 1970s and my first impressions are still relatively clear in my memory: tall high-rise blocks, lots of green spaces to play in, a canal full of sticklebacks and the ever stoic St Mary Magdalene’s at the centre of all the residential flats. Being a new girl on the block what I experienced was the London County Council’s post war answer to social housing. I never realised – now looking back at maps and photographs – just how densely populated the area was with narrow streets. A true Victorian relic. I had never seen what the area looked like before my tenure there so to have looked at these images and given the opportunity to talk about them was a real treat. Some of you reading this may be familiar with these Paddington streets and may even remember how it was before the cranes arrived on the scene. There is so much I’m still learning about my old haunt; for example, I had no idea that the painter, Lucien Freud had a studio in Delamare Terrace and later in Clarenden Crescent. Did you? History always has a way of inviting you to delve further. I would never say I know everything there is to know about my old address because I clearly don’t but I hope to have piqued your interest just a little and that you have enjoyed looking at these photographs as much as I have.


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