Tag Archives: Sopisto-cat

King’s Road blues – part one

When I was writing the post about the World’s End a couple of weeks ago I came across the photograph below.

Right in the middle at number 475 you can see a shop called Sophisto-Cat (next to Decro-Cat of course). I’d been looking for a picture of that shop for ages and finally it had presented itself. Sopisto-Cat was the home of the now famous Christian the Lion who was bought at Harrods by two Australian men and kept at the shop in that devil may care sixties way. I showed this picture to interested parties and someone even remembered that she and her sister were always asking their mother to take them to see the lion sleeping in the window.

This set me off trawling through our collection of photographs in search of interesting views of the King’s Road around the same time 1970 so let’s go on a tour up and down Chelsea’s most famous street.

The next two pictures show the shops next to Sophisto-Cat:

Note the pre-decimal prices at Starways and the offer of new dresses for £1 at Quick Nicker. 475 and its neighbours were soon demolished. This view from 1972 of the Guinness Trust Buildings shows the towers of the World’s End estate under construction although the end of the terrace above is still in place.

Further west we see another defunct building Kings Road Junk City. A large and anonymous red brick office block stands on the site today

Further along you find this parade of shops including the engagingly named El Cheapo

This is followed by the still existing Furniture Cave building, today looking much smarter and very much greener in colour than it did in the 1970s.

Stanley Bridge visible in the distance marks the border of Chelsea so now we have to do a virtual u-turn and head back eastwards.

We’ve passed the World’s End now and the next picture shows the parade of shops on the Cremorne Estate.

The branch of Woolworth’s is long gone but the Portch Brothers butchers were there until comparatively recently.

This photo shows the construction of Moravian Tower at what was then 343-379 King’s Road. The building was a Council block of flats for many years until problems with the infrastructure of the building made it uneconomical to repair. It was sold to a property company and now has the far less evocative name 355 King’s Road. The Tower took its name from The Moravian Chapel and Burial Ground located directly behind it.

This brings us back to Christian the Lion. The burial ground was where he exercised when he wasn’t dozing at Sophisto-Cat. I can’t mention the Moravian Burial Ground without also mentioning the urban myth associated with it. Because the headstones are flush with the ground and appear to be quite close together a rumour grew that the Moravians were buried vertically. Every so often we get a query about this so I should state for the record that as far as I know the deceased inhabitants of the burial ground were laid to rest in a conventional manner. The positioning of the headstones probably related to the desire for a simple and unadorned burial marker. The fact that this arrangement is also convenient for the exercise of big cats is entirely coincidental.

I haven’t got us very far along the King’s Road but time travel can’t be rushed. I’ll continue next week but to get us as far as Beaufort Street at least here are another couple of images:

329 and 331 King’s Road, now home to Just Kitchens and the Azteca Resturant. Just beyond Beaufort Street on the north side is the Bluebird Garage building. Once the home of the largest and one of the first petrol stations in the country, it is now devoted to a number of upmarket food /consumer outlets. But in the early seventies it was an ambulance station.

Next week we will push on to the heart of the King’s Road at the height of its fame as a fashionable shopping destination.

This is the first of a number of virtual trips along the streets of Kensington and Chelsea so let me know if there are any other streets you’d like to see.


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