Author Archives: Dave Walker

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.

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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.


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.

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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.


Bladen Lodge and Bousfield School: 20th century Brompton

When I was writing some of the recent posts about the Old Brompton area I made a list of the named individual houses along and near  the Old Brompton Road to help me.  The fascination of that area for me is that almost all of it was almost completely redeveloped in the second half of the 19th century and in the whole of the 20th, so that the quiet semi-rural road with seperate houses, inns and market gardens is now gone and was hardly touched by the age of photography. It now has to be known using maps and water colour paintings. Both can be tools of the imagination as much as records of how things looked. So Old Brompton is partly a fantasy world, partly a place reconstructed from books and plans.

However some of those houses were photographed. This week’s post is about one of those and the remarkable building that replaced it.

If you go eastwards from the modern Coleherne Court you pass a stretch of road which was called Bolton Gardens. In one of the group of eight houses there was the house where Beatrix Potter lived as a child. Behind it was South Bolton Gardens where there were three large houses: Rathmore Lodge, Osborn House and Bladen (or Bladon) Lodge. The modern version of this street is a cul-de-sac leading to Bousfield School which was built in 1954-56. . This is a view of the south front of Bladen Lodge.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287 south front - Copy

The original Bladen Lodge was built in 1836, an unremarkable house with a substantial garden (though much smaller than that of  Hereford House / Coleherne Court). In 1927  a Mr C L Dalziell acquired it and in 1928 had two wings added to the east and the west. The architect  was Clough Williams-Ellis. His name will be familiar to fans of the 60s TV series the Prisoner as the creator of the location of the series, the exotic Italianate village of Portmerion in Wales.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287  forecourt 1 - Copy

This shows the Mediterranean paved garden on the north side of the house with its enigmatic pond. It’s quite different from the nearby houses but oddly recaptures the seclusion of the walled gardens of older and more modest houses like the long gone Hawk Cottage.

C12 Hawk Cottage garden

William Cowen might have been impressed by William-Ellis’s improvements which almost doubled the size of Bladen Lodge.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p287 forecourt 2 - Copy

I could easily imagine this view as part of the Village. It has the same other-wordly quality as Portmerion, particularly when I recall my first pre-video viewings of the Prisoner in cool black and white. Here is a view of part of Portmerion:

P1010461

Inside Bladen Lodge was really  another English country house.

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 drawing room - Copy

The interior is less packed with decoration than the old Coleherne Court and there were a few modernist touches here and there but the old pattern of drawing room, dining room:

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 dining room - Copy

And above all Library was retained:

Bladen Lodge Country Life March 17 1964 p288 library - Copy

Bladen Lodge was bombed during the war and the site largely cleared. There were proposals for a block of flats but the London County Council already had an eye on the site for a new school. They acquired several houses in Bolton Gardens to expand the site and built Bousfield School in 1954-56.

Bousfield School west front 1956 K61-536

Here I declare an interest. Bousfield School is a striking building and I’ve been aware of it since I first worked in the area. But my son (now the transport consultant to the blog, as well as a technical advisor on IT matters) went to the school in the 90s so I’ve been in and out of the buliding many times and have grown very fond of it.

The post-war schools building programme was a decisive break with the old county schools of London. It owes more to Le Corbusier than the tall sometimes gloomy Edwardian schools that still survive in many parts of London.

A “villa in a park” was what the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon were aiming for, and that is pretty much what they got.

Bousfield School west front 1956 K61-535

At the rear is that curious sphere on a pole, a water tower, which still causes passers-by to do a double take. It also just struck me that it bears a certain resemblance to Rover the strange bubble device which pursued Number 6 and the others in the Prisoner. That woman on the right looks perturbed about something.

Bousfield School east front 1965 K65-120

The entrance has an ornamental pond, still frequented by water fowl despite its small size.

Bousfield School assembly hall K60-320

The interior is light, airy and full of space, even when dozens of children are moving around it at a rapid pace.

Bousfield School stairsl K60-320

This staircase reminds me of the interior of the Mendelsohn house in Old Church Street.

So although it’s a shame that Williams-Ellis’s 20th century reworking of a Georgian house no longer exists, Bousfield School adds some post war distinction to predominantly 19th century stretch of road.

I’m adding a couple of bonus pictures to complete this look at the junction of Old Brompton Road and the Boltons. On the east side of the Boltons another house was built two years after Bladen Lodge.

Sidmouth Lodge The Boltons  Copy

This was Sidmouth Lodge. The Survey of London with its usual eye for the telling detail describes the facade as “neo-Greek…with a grave and narrow entrance between Ionic columns”. Once this is pointed out the slightly faded photograph does catch a slightly mortuary look to the entrance. Behind this view was a house built in 1842 by Robert Gunter as a cottage for yearly letting which was given the intriguing name of Moreton Tower. I haven’t been able to find a picture of that unfortunately.

Sidmouth House was demolished in 1939. A telephone exchange was built on the site. That building still exists sitting incongruously on the edge of the oval of large villas which forms the Boltons. More of them another  time perhaps.

Finally, go back to that list of Bladen Lodge’s neighbours. One of those houses, Osborn House built in 1805 is still with us, possibly the last survivor of Old Brompton now nestled right against the grounds of Bousfield School.

DSC_4337

I took this photograph a few weeks ago while I was doing some field work for another quirky building tale of old Brompton which I may yet lay before you.

Postscript

As you may have guessed I was a little pushed this week. Not only was I off work for a few crucial days but my computer at home, a long serving Dell Studio died tragically preventing me working on this post there. But I was very taken with the pictures of Bladen Lodge which come from Country Life of March 1934 and wanted to use them even if there weren’t quite enough. I’m working on yet another old Brompton post but I won’t do that for a little while, to give you a bit of a rest.

The image of Portmerion is from this excellent site devoted to black and white photography:

http://lookingattheworldinblackandwhite.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/portmeirion.html

Incidentally, my son like many others of his generation finds my devotion to the Prisoner inexplicable. He’d rather watch Hong Kong buses and Russian car crashes.

Postscript to the postscript

I don’t normally come back to posts to add stuff but I thought this detail from the 1862 OS map might help a bit.

1862 OS Map X9 showing Bladon Lodge


Griffen of Chelsea: fragments from an artist’s studio

It was back in 2012 that I used a picture of Lots Road Power Station by Alfred Francis Griffen in a post and promised you would see more of the artist in the future. I’m finally making good on that promise. While I was scanning these images I googled Griffen to see if there was anything else about him out there, and all I found was my own post. So let’s see if we can shed some more light on an apparently almost forgotten artist.

The Library has a small collection of work by Griffen, mostly sketches in pencil, ink and water colours with a few etchings and some finished works. These were donated to the Library by his widow in 1955. She must have known that even his sketches and unfinished work would be of interest in the future. There is enough of this material to show that he was a skilled artist with an lively eye for detail and atmosphere.

Griffen - Gas works in Chelsea 1935 2nd composition B2088 back of envelope

Griffen’s work is almost unique in our collection because of his interest in the back streets and industrial settings of the western end of Chelsea, where he lived and worked. This sketch shows his ability to capture the action in a quiet street and the attention to detail which characterises his work. Do you see  the man on the left defying superstition by walking under a ladder? Here are two versions of the same etching:

Griffen - Chelsea Railway Staion nov 14 1950 trial proof 2085

“Chelsea Railway Station November 1950″ – This may be the station near the Chelsea Football ground which was closed in 1940. Some of the station buildings may have survived as long as 1950.

Griffen - Chelsea Railway Stationjan 16 1951 3rd state suggested improvements 2087A

He has marked the areas where he has made changes. Some more shading of the figures of the entwined couple has brought them to life. Underneath he has written “with suggested improvements in figures” in the same red ink.

Half-finished sketches give some idea of how he created pictures.

Griffen - Drawing mar 28 1959 2097A

 

 

The contrast between the careful ink work on the finished part and the pencillled section is fascinating in this view of Milmans Street. (I think it says Milman anyway)

He tried several times to get the view below right:

Copy (2) of Griffen - view frm Bagley's End July 1944  2080A

Copy of Griffen - view frm Bagley's End July 1944  2080A

 

Finshed pictures show that all the careful sketching paid off whether the result was monochrome as in this drawing.

Griffen - March sunshine in Kings Road mar 26 1949 2097S price 12-6

Or fully coloured as in this view of Chelsea Old Church after it was bombed in 1941.

Griffen - The ruins of Chelsea Old Church May 1941 2075B

Griffen could also do the pretty houses and familiar views of Chelsea as in this watercolour of Lindsey House:

Griffen - Lindsey House 1919-20 B2696

But I think his most personal material is about labour and industry.

Griffen - Dredger at work on Thames 1938 B2073

A dredger at work on the Thames.

Griffen - From Battersea Bridge Aug 1938

Another view of Lots Road Power Station, from Battersea Bridge. Many of the skecthes are on the back of scrap paper, envelopes and forms he had probably retrieved from work. But on the back of that picture I found a rough sketch of a woman

Griffen - Drawing of a woman rear of 2069B

She looks smartly dressed as if she was going to appear in one of his views of  Sloane Square, or Albert Bridge like this colour sketch for a drawing eventually completed in pencil.

Griffen -Study for a black and white drawing of Albert Bridge oct 9 1938 2095A

Or this picture, probably the best of his work in our collection.

Griffen Fulham Road 1946

Fulham Road, at the Queen’s Elm, 1946. The war is over, the lights are back on. A disabled man and his wife cross the road. A woman in a fur jacket with three children crosses the other way The buses are running, fully illuminated. In the far distance the tower of St Stephen’s Hospital. I know this spot well from the brighter end of the century. Griffen has caught the smoky atmosphere of early evening in a city recovering from war. I think our friend Yoshio Markino would have recognized this scene.

Postscript

I haven’t completely exhausted our collection of Griffen pictures if you’re interested in seeing more. I don’t have a great deal of biographical information on him although I know some people have collected his work. He lived quietly in a flat in Gertrude Street, Chelsea with his wife Edith from 1935 until his death in 1955. Their surname was mispelled as Griffin in the electoral register in the pre-war years. Some years ago a gentleman sent us some greetings cards with Griffen pictures of other parts of London, which I have kept hoping that someday I would be able to use them, as I may in a later post.

When I describe an artist as almost forgotten I expect that several people will come forward and say: “No, we know all about him, he’s highly thought of in some circles and you can see more of his work at…….”

Here’s hoping.


The secret life of postcards 3: walking around in the afternoon

I was going to call this post “Son of the secret life of postcards” in homage to the naming of old fashioned horror fims (Son of Dracula, Son of Frankenstein etc) but not everybody would get that (sequels are usually just numbered these days) or even find it funny and if I did another one in the future (as I’m sure I will) I would be obliged to call it House of the secret life of postcards (or even Bride of the secret life of postcards) which would be stretching the joke too thin. So a simple “3” will have to do.

So that minor point aside I’ve been looking again at the people and details you can find in picture postcards of the late 19th century and early 20th century. The photographers liked to include a few figures to liven up the pictures and it seems passers by took an interest in the work of the photographers. Some of the images are sharp enough to show us a great deal of detail. Enough to get an impression of the people in the pictures, and enough to speculate about their lives if you find that interesting. We recently had a creative writing course at the Library which used photographs from the Local Studies collection including postcards as the basis for writing short stories. You can try it yourself.

It may be my speculation but most of the pictures this week look like they were taken in the afternoon, when middle class husbands were at the office, their wives walked around doing various errands and their children amused themselves.  Like this group of girls strolling together along Holland Park. (The street of that name rather than the park itself).

Holland Park PC804 again

Big houses, wide streets. Five sisters?

Holland Park PC804 detail

Just like in an E Nesbit novel.

Here’s another gang:

Addison Gardens PC825

This group is obligingly posing for the photographer.

Addison Gardens PC825 copy

Another bunch of sisters taking the youngest siblings out for a walk? The girl on the left is shielding her eyes as she looks across the road at our man with the camera.

Holland Park Avenue PC881

Holland Park Avenue, the main drag in this area.

Holland Park Avenue PC881 detail

Three young friends out together, a delivery boy from the West London Dairy Company and what about that tall guy? A parcel, or a paper in his hands?

Princedale Road junction PC874

Two more women walk past Clarke’s Drug Store (“High class drug and photographic stores”) with its enormous sign urging the guys on the corner to “Drink Vicora!”

Princedale Road detail PC874

You could make a telephone call inside Parkes.

Holland Park Tube Station PC869

Holland Park Station is little changed from this picture. A little less signage these days but essentially the same shape.

Holland Park Station PC869 detail

Two women wearing aprons wait outside. Are they meeting someone?

Some postcards haven’t survived very well, like this one of Addison Road:

Holland Road PC494

Chemical decomposition has done its work. But the over exposed effect and the slightly monotonous view makes the main detail the focus of interest:

Holland Road PC494 detail

The mismatched pair of women, one tall, one short. Are they walking together, or is the tall one just passing the other who may have just emerged from that gateway?

This view of Holland Walk has also suffered a little.

Holland Walk pc 289

But mothers and /or nursemaids out with children in prams can still be made out:

Holland Walk PC289

I don’t know why there are more prams than women to push them.The woman’s white dress has lost some definition.

By contrast this view from south of the high street has stayed quite sharp:

Victoria Grove PC950

I recognized this quiet corner as soon as I came across it. I used to walk this way sometimes on my way to the library.

Victoria Grove PC950 zoom

This time it’s two boys hanging around watching the photographer work.

Now a couple of views of the same building, Kensington High School in Norland Square.

Norland Square PC870

The close up makes the building look much more exotic,  like a French chateau.

Norland Square PC870 - Copy

A lone woman pauses at the door.

In this view also a close up of a similar picture a different woman waits at the door:

Norland Square PC871 - Copy

Perhaps she is waiting for the girl in the foreground. A late-comer?  And that dog looks a little weary.

We’ve skirted around Holland Park but in the next picture we’re right outside.

Holland Park gates PC889 - Copy

The gates are quite recognizable but at this time remenber, Holland House was a home for the Illchester family and the park was a private estate. Some photographers got inside though.

Holland House PC801

In this view you can just make out a solitary figure by the house, just a flash of white.

Holland House PC801 detail

The close up makes thelady barely more visible. This time the photographer was probably there by invitation with the intention of just recording the house. Like in a Victorian Blow-up he catches the image of the woman in white by accident. That’s definitely one for the creative writing group. I had better not go there. Back to the busy streets.

Addison Road PC910 detail

Places to go, people to see.

Postscript

If you like postcards there are plenty of books full of them. One excellent example is Hermione Cameron’s Notting Hill behind the scenes. Some of the images in Hermione’s book come from our collection. She has a sequel due out in August: Holland Park behind the scenes. This will be one to look out for if you’re a lover of old Kensington.

I had a lot of new readers last week, who set a new daily record of 5169 pageviews on July 4th. So thanks to all of them and to everyone who reads this blog regularly. I really can’t do it without you.


The School Play: Queen’s Gate School 1905-1913

I came across these pictures while looking for  a complete copy of a single school magazine from Catharine Lodge. At the same class number where the magazine should have been was a small collection of school magazines from Queen’s Gate School, South Kensington. There was a run of the Log as it was known from 1904 to 1912, which is just the period when the Whitelands College May Queen Festival was at its height and  around the pivotal moment of the 1908 Chelsea Pageant. I’ve suggested in the past that this period was also the height of a general fascination with amateur dramatics, pageants and ceremonies which involved fancy dress. So I was interested to find a set  of photographs which seemed to fit in with all that.

Of course the school play is a time honoured tradition practised in British schools, public and state, for many years so I can’t claim this particular bunch of images represent anything completely distinct and unusual. But they are good photographs and they do fit with a theme I’ve explored in other posts.

Caught p59

Naturally, Queen’s Gate was a single-sex school at the time. So in this 1905 production of a play called Caught set in 1651 during the English Civil War, all the male roles are played by young women, some of whom manage the gender reversal better than others. It’s asking a lot for the young actors to do a different gender and a different age so the bearded gentleman seated on the left looks a little strained. The other seated gentleman  who I take to be Charles II looks very much like an actual male actor but is it seems Miss Anne Moorhouse.( You can see her again below). The girls seated on the floor performed a “Peasant dance” as part of the play. (The lady seated next to King Charles looks like a teacher, not in costume).

The teachers also took part in these programmes of entertainment which also featured seperate dance performances and sporting demonstrations. ). Pupils who had recently left the school also came back to take part.

On June 21st 1907 the bill opened with “Pierrot qui rit et Pierot qui pleure”:

The Log 1907-1908 p13 Pierrot qui rit et Pierrot qui pleure

The two pierrots were old girls – Hilda Bewicke and Ruth Haslam (who had played a male role in Caught). Miss Halsam also performed a “Spanish Gipsy Dance” later on. The play was “Pity: or Gringoire the Ballad-Monger”, a piece set “about 1470″.

The Log 1907-1908 p16 Gringoire the Ballad-Monger

Anne Moorhouse played the title role – standing to the right of the seated King Louis X I who was played by her sister Mary Moorhouse (listed as “Louise” in the magazine  – a typo, or a change in convention which adds another layer of ambiguity).

A teacher, Miss Stuart played Simon the draper (on the far left I think) and Hilda Bewicke was also in it (on the right – or is she the one in the white hat?).

“Never were they more successful” says Monique de Gasser of the plays.  her article also covers a performance in March 1908 when a duo – Phyllis Heineky (who was one of the peasant dancers in Caught) and Lilian Stewart did a two hander, Love Laughs at the Locksmith. They play a puritan and a royalist in “a turret room at Keystone Farm 1651″.

The Log 1907-1908 p23  Love laughs at the LocksmithThe Log 1907-1908 p22  Love laughs at the Locksmith

I don’t know what it’s about. Maybe two nominal enemies coming to a mutual understanding.They both look quite confident.

That issue of the Log also had poetry, a letter from a former pupil in California, a piece on “Individualism versus impartiality in Literature”, an account of a trip to St Ives and a short ghost story. In other words the editors were trying quite hard to show that the pupils were getting a good education.

The 1908-09 issue was another thick volume. In December 1908 there was a peformance of W S Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea and some Greek dances, but the magazine doesn’t include any pictures. There are a couple of the irrepressible Hlida Bewicke though in dance poses. Here’s one of them:

Dance- tres piquant - Hilda Bewicke p80 - Copy

There was also a fencing demonstration:

Fencing - le Grand Salut p88 - Copy

The short drama in  the Variety Entertainment was a contemporary piece about amateur drama, the Final Rehearsal.

1909-10 The Final Rehearsal p831909-10 The Final Rehearsal p84

The five players including once again Miss Stuart did not have to attempt any male roles (slightly harder in a modern setting I would have thought.). It’s harder to pick out Miss Stuart from the group too. One of the others, Katie Setwart was singled out because she didn’t “lose (any) of her daintiness when impersonating the household drudge.” So there.

The Bazaar of 1912 featured a performance of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a revival for the school.

1912-13 Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p27

The cast was mostly new, but Phyllis Henekey was back as Dorimene.

1912-13Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p22

I can’t quite make her out.

1912-13 Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme p21

The costumes of this historical era seem to work best for the young women.

There was also a “Dance of Beauty” featuring some classical costume and urns. (Compare this with a similar set of performers at Whitelands College)

1912-13 Dance of beauty p95

And one simply called Peace.

1912-13 Peace

There had been Dutch, Servian (Serbian), Italian, Turkish and Russian dances that afternoon. The final piece brought warriors and nurses together. “This dance in its refelction of the age struck a sympathetic note in the audience, as was proved by the hearty applause from the over-crowded house.” The dark clouds of the coming war had reached South Kensington which shows the staff and pupils were not living an entirely sheltered existence.

Postscript

I hope I haven’t given the impression that I was mocking any of these performers. It was good clean fun from an age which might not have been more innocent than ours but definitely had a more earnest sensibility. At Queen’s Gate School  the young women could engage in artistic pursuits with no sense of future irony.

With that in mind I urge you to keep an entirely straight face when looking at this final  picture of the physical drill class of 1905 who are also trying to be completely serious.

Physical drill p47 - Copy

My thanks to the now presumably deceased performers. Queen’s Gate School itself is still going strong. Their website: http://www.queensgate.org.uk/

If any of the current students and staff read this post I’d be happy to hear from you, especially if there are more pictures of these fascinating performances.


Bignell’s people

This week we’re back with the skilled eye of John Bignell and if there is a theme to this collection it’s “ordinary” people going about their lives barely realising that a photographer can take a moment of that daily life and turn it into something permanent.

World's End c1958 jb46

A group of men standing outside a pub  in 1958 waiting for it to open, bantering with each other. A regular activity that by time, memory and the photographer’s art becomes emblematic of all the men who have ever waited outside a pub.

Peter Jones  JB3 vmbp0125

A pair of women look  into a  window at the Peter Jones store on a quiet morning.

Demolition in Manresa-Kings Road c1955 JB296

A lone man hacks away at a wall. Dangerous work, perched on top of a crumbling building that you yourself are making more hazardous to stand on. Did Bignell see the poster for the 1958 film The Last Days of Pompeii? A classical case of destruction echoing the destruction of a building in Manresa Road? The star of the film was former bodybuilder Steve Reeves, the hero of many sword and sandal epics. Reeves played Hercules on several occasions. Is it stretching a point to say that the man above the poster is engaged in a Herculean labour? Probably. You can find lots of fascinating and possibly unintentional details in photographs just like when you walk down a familiar street and notice some telling detail in a building or a shopfront.

Magrie's forge Dovehouse Street c1951 jb122

In Magrie’s forge in 1951 a moment of high concentration

Man on bench in Dovehouse Street jb45

Not far away on Dovehouse Street a man resting on a bench looking for all the world like he’s using a mobile phone. Except that it’s  still the 1950s. One of those poses we always had ready for when the relevant technology emerged. As if I had been blogging in 1966. Speaking of the sixties:

Royal Avenue opposite Crapper's 1960s jb89

Royal Avenue: a trio consult a map or a guide book, a couple of genuine hippies, a woman surprised or a bit shocked at something she sees. But not at that dog behind her and what he’s doing. There used to be a sign forbidding “illegal dog fouling” in Royal Avenue. It’s one of those phrases that fascinates me because it can be read a number of different ways, like “hot bread shop” or “building alarmed”. Perhaps it’s me.

King's Road jb29

I’m not entirely sure where this street market was. My first thought was that it was opposite Royal Avenue. Before they built the mini shopping mall there was an open area like this with a Sainsburys and a Boots (and a shoe shop?). The mall was built in the late 80s or early 90s with a big Virgin shop at its heart, But I wonder about the building behind it, a residential block not really visible on this picture. Any suggestions?

Couple JB4

Back on the King’s Road, a cool looking girl and a man with big ears.

King's Road c1961 jb62

A collector for the British Red Cross meets up with one of those end of the world guys you used to see on London streets. I’m not sure what the earnest young man (who looks like a young version of Michael Gove) is saying. Is it an impromptu theological discussion, or is he resolving a dispute? We may never know.

King's RoadWellington Square jb24

Not far away geographically but in the previous decade a couple pose for the camera in Wellington Square.

Below, a picture Bignell has set up:

St Pancras rail strike day

A pensive child in a near deserted St Pancras Station. Bignell’s writing on the back of the print says “rail strike day”, which explains the quietness of the scene. The girl is cooperatively looking away from the camera, probably at one of her parents. Perhaps the photograph was a welcome distraction from the tedium of waiting for a train that might not come.

Victor Sylvester's - girls dancing

This picture of a Victor Sylvester dance class is not exactly set up but it’s a pleasing image of the girls having to dance with each other because you could never get the boys to go to these things.

The all girl sporting picture below is more unexpected:

Cricket at Duke of York's jb75

Cricket practice outside the Duke of York’s Headquarters.

Nearby, at the Royal Hospital:

Oak Apple Day Royal Hospital jb98

Oak Apple Day, according to Bignell’s note. A very effective picture – the two Pensioners standing at ease echoing the line of bandsmen. The conductor in the background provides the only sense of movement.

Finally, another puzzle.

Unknown shop front with bus reflection

Who are these four sixties people? Where was that shop? The bus, I’m told, doesn’t look much like a London bus. Again I’m happy to hear any ideas about people or location.

Postscript

Hardly anything to add this week. Bignell’s book Chelsea Photographer can still be found from second hand dealers although prices vary considerably.

 


Watching the river flow: pictures from a Victorian summer 1897

It looks like summer has arrived so it’s time to get down to the river again. This week’s post is a long delayed companion to Menpes on the river, revisiting his paintings of that long Victorian summer of boating on the Thames but this time in photographs. Some of these images show the same locations that Menpes painted, others show yet more outposts of the quiet life along the river.

The tidal Thames ends here, at Teddington:

001 Teddington Lock p20

I’ve walked as far as Kingston along the Thames Path. I remember this spot and although there were fewer boats when I saw it I can still recognize the place I visited. Teddington Lock, some of you may remember was the location of Thames Television’s studios in the 1970s.

Molesey Lock, further along shows the classic Sunday view of a crowded river in the days of Jerome K Jerome. (No account of a journey on the Thames can avoid mentioning Three men in a boat so I’ll do it here. I may even quote from the book later.)

003 Molesey Lock p60

The river in Jerome’s time was becoming a pleasure resort for a wider range of people, not just the upper middle classes. The white collar workers, men and women who spent their working days in the City could now afford to come down to the river in their leisure time. Although some no doubt enjoyed being in a mass of fellow pleasure seekers, the ideal of river pursuits is solitary.

007 Bray p113

A woman sits quietly as the river flows by. To quote a more modern voice speaking of a completely different river:

Well, take me back down where cool water flows,
Let me remember the things I don’t know,

Across the river is the tower of St Michael’s Church at Bray where the famous Vicar of Bray officiated. I prefer to think of Bray as the home of Bray Studios where the Hammer company made horror films in the 1960s.

008 Glen Island from Boulter's Lock p117

Boulter’s Lock is one of the places that Menpes painted. This view shows the approach to the lock. The picture below shows it as Menpes painted it in a crowded condition.

009 Boulter's Lock p118

Below, a much more exclusive group walks by the river in front of Spring Cottage on the Cliveden Estate.

011 Cliveden, Cottage and Woods p134

Much later Spring Cottage was leased by Stephen Ward and was one of the locations associated with the Profumo affair.

Below. a boating couple are mooring in a secluded spot opposite Formosa Island, one of the many river islands, also called eyots or aits

012 Formosa Island p135

These pictures have the tendency to make me want to write about long summer afternoons gliding quietly through a still landscape. I did some of that in the Menpes post. Riverscapes give me a sense of nostalgia, not only for my own teenage years when I did a bit of rowing on another quiet river, but also perhaps some of that nostalgia for an imagined past which I have also written about when discussing the Chelsea Pageant or the Whitelands May Queen. It’s a longing for an older,  more idyllic England.

Below, At Bisham two women are boating. Boating was, like cycling one of the leisure pursuits which the “new women” were taking up in larger numbers.

014 Bisham from the river p143

Another bit of local colour below at Medmenham – the building in the centre is Medmenham Abbey, one of the homes of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club,although it would have been a quiet country residence at the time these two parties were rowing by.

015 Medmenham from the river p158

I’m presenting these pictures in the order they appear in the book although I’m not sure how accurate that is. The further up the river the amateur boatsman travelled the more the water landscape was dominate by features like locks and the weir below at Hambleden.

017 Hambleden Weir and Mills p163

At Henley, where the amateurs met the athletes at the Regatta.

020 Henley Regatta p166

The regatta attracted large numbers of visitors by land and water. Some of them came in those huge houseboats like the ones below.

021 Houseboats by Shiplake Ferry p180

Near Shiplake Ferry, a couple of the giant vessels which were like floating hotels.

Just off the river a tranquil backwater. Jerome’s narrator complains extravagantly about landowners who prevented the traveller from entering them with chains across the entrance.

022 Wargrave Backwater p181

Caversham, where Menpes painted another of his boating beauties:

025 Caversham from the river p192

Look back at the old post. It’s the final picture. Can you make out that barn?

027 Streatley from Goring Weir p213

This view of Streatley from Goring Weir has taken us into the heart of that old England of villages, mills and inns.

Jerome describes Streatley and Goring as “charming places to stay at for a few days”. Of the two, Goring was not quite so pretty but it was “nearer the railway in case you want to slip off without paying your hotel bill.”

At the end of their journey Jerome’s three friends abandon the boat at Pangbourne and take the train back to town. They finish up at a restaurant in the West End. They’ve done their time on the River and London has called them home.

We’ll give the last scene to Menpes, a picture I didn’t use last time but easily could have done.

Punting frontispiece

Postscript

The photographs come from a book called the Thames Illustrated: a picturesque journeying from Richmond to Oxford by Frederick Leyland, published in 1897. I found the text a little dull but there are dozens of excellent pictures in it all showing the slow summer river and the sights beside it. Mortimer Menpes was there a little later in 1906 when the Victorian summer had become an Edwardian summer but not much had changed on the river.

There is even one winter picture,of the Thames at Oxford frozen with a crowd of people walking on it. My mother took me to a frozen river once and we walked on it. I was seven or eight at the time but I never forgot it. However, this is the summer. We can leave all ideas of freezing aside for now.


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