Kensington close ups – part two

The last time we were on Kenington High Street in the last few years of the 19th century and the first of the 20th we were around here, in the stretch of the street east of Kensington Church Street:

Kensington High Street 59 GN37

Number 59 Kensington High Street, home of Lorberg and Turpin.

A slightly closer view:

Kensington High Street 59 GN37 close up

Grinding of all kinds is occuring within and a woman is leaning slightly to one side examining something fascinating in the window. Mr Lorberg’s assistant (or is that the lower case Mr Turpin?) is examining the photographer. My favourite though is the man on the left. Has he sneaked into the picture of his own volition or has the photographer, Mr H or Mr S Stiles included him to add some local colour?

I promised you more of the High Street so let’s move on.

Kensington High Street 1890 GN5 close up

I used this picture last time but repeating it gives another chance to mention Mr Jubal Webb once more (sign on the awning) but also to note how narrow this section of the busy High Street was at this time. Road widening did not take place until the early 20th century.

This image is several hundred yards further back.

001 Kensington High St 1893 Town Hall & TH Tavern K1406C

The Town Hall Tavern is there, opposite the Town Hall itself (demolished in the 1980s). If we look closer:

002 Kensington High St 1893 Town Hall & TH Tavern K1406C - Close up

A slice of retail life. A horse takes a meal break ignored by the passers by and the driver (waiting for a fare?).  A trio of workmen deep in conversation. A couple of elaborately dressed girls being addressed by a shop keeper while their parents look in the shop window. In the foreground a lone woman looks after two more similarly dressed girls.

The next picture is essentially the same view but from slightly further away.

003 Kensington High Street 1905 K12308-B

You can see a clearer view of the intersection with Kensington Church Street and the Civet Cat. You can also see more of the Station in its original form before the familiar arcade was built around it. The sign reads “City and back 4d”. That’s four old pennies for those who can’t remember pre-decimal coinage.

003a

In the background by the single storey kiosk (A picture of it here), a trio of women all wearing white blouses. In the foreground, a pair in darker clothes with a weary looking small dog between them. In the centre a couple of men, one of whom has only one leg. He’s using a single crutch to move along. These details always seem surprising, although they shouldn’t as these kind of visible disabilities were more frequent then.

The next picture takes us back even further:

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN12

The street is crowded with horse drawn vehicles. On the right you can see the awning of Ponting’s store on the corner of Wright’s Lane. (We caught a glimpse of it here). On the right:

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN12 close up

A more impressive dog, with his man. The number 11 is still advertising Pear’s Soap.

Further back still:

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN2

This is the southern side of the street. The Town Hall Tavern sign is barely visible in the distance. (It’s there – I just checked the original scan). You can read the sigh on the delivery wagon though:

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN2 close up

Pearson and Sons. The milk churns show what line of business Mr Pearson was in – urban dairies were big business on high streets in the days before refrigeration. I believe the rest of the sigh reads: “Cows milked on the premises”. I’ll do a post on urban dairies sometime in the coming months – they were usually assiduous in promoting their services.

I don’t know what the girl in the foreground is doing – hiding her face from the camera? Possibly. Note the woman on the right holding the umbrella, wearing her hair down. An adult but maybe younger than the other women you see in these photographs.

This picture is taken from a viewpoint even further west.

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18

The retail and buiness section of the High Street is now in the distance. The building on the left is the Holland Arms. (see a print of an earlier version here , from the post on Hosmer Shepherd in Kensington) The trees beyond it are in the grounds of Holland House, still of course a private estate at this time. The trees on the right belong to more private houses and gardens behind iron railings. This is the road to Hammersmith. There’s a certain amount of traffic, private and public:

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18 vehicle detail

I can’t make out the lettering on the horse bus but as we’ve seen before it could easily be a route we recognise from today, a 10 or a 73.

On the other side:

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18 detail

To the scanner’s dismay those two strolling ladies remain in the shade of the tree. No amount of coaxing from me will get them to take a few paces forward so we can see them properly. I’ve reached this point with old photographs many times before. The fascination is as much with what you can’t see as what you can.

To compensate for this, let’s remain in the general vicinity of Holland Park and move back to the gates to the public path way on the east side of the park. We’ll have to jump forward a hundred years or so to another summer day and another pair of women walking side by side unaware that the photographer was taking a picture of the gate.

Holland Walk looking north from Kensington High Street 1973 KS3802

The fashions of 1972 are different but the wide pavement and the foliage are not dissimilar and ladies are still taking a leisurely stroll away from the busy High Street.

Postscript

If the pictures seemed a little blurred this week my apologies. I suppose you can only zoom in so much. Actually I feel a little blurred myself. After last week’s successful exhibition launch I came down with an infection involving much coughing and a general feeling of feverish lassitude so it’s a wonder I got this written. I had a few more ambitious ideas but they’ll have to wait for another week. I owed you a return visit to the High Street anyway. I’m not finished with the Stiles brothers either. But possibly something more exotic next week.

A reminder that as many of you already know this year’s City Read book is the excellent Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, the first in his series about the adventures of the Metropolitan Police’s apprentice sorcerer Peter Grant. If you haven’t read any of these (and why haven’t you?) this is a good time to start as many London libraries, including Kensington and Chelsea are giving copies away this month.  Ben Aaronovitch is appearing at Kensington Central Library on April 20th.

 


Modern life in Kensington:1937

This week we’re going back to that house we caught a glimpse of in the post about two photographs from the 1860s. In the course of the research about them I came across not only an estate agent’s brochure for the house but also a hand written mock-up of the brochure from Chesterton’s, who have been long established in Kensington.

This week’s pictures are not of the same house though, not really, because in 1937 when it went on the market the Victorian suburban villa had been turned into an ultra-modern town house, with every new convenience. It was “a model example of the art of reconstruction, combing all the advantages of the old and new; with every possible labour-saving refinement.” They always say that though, don’t they? Let’s go on a tour and see for ourselves.

Front view - loose photo

The house was re-modelled according to the design of George Grey Wornum, a leading architect of the day, now remembered best for the RIBA building in Portland Place, and the interior of the ocean liner the Queen Mary. One of the pieces about him I read called him something like a progressive traditionalist. You can see that. It looks like a 30s building but not nearly as radical as say the two houses in Chelsea Old Church Street we looked at last year.

Inside the prospective buyer could see some understated luxury.

Drawing Room 02

One end of the drawing room, with its “recessed hardwood staircase providing additional access from the dining room ..and leading to the south terrace.”

The view of the other end of the room shows “the maximum natural light” (the 20s and 30s were the era when people really began to appreciate , and even worship sunlight”. This “superb room” is “of a height quite unusual in a modern London house and, while homely, is suitable for receiving 150 guests”. Not that homely then.

Drawing Room 01

In those days you also had a library, “panelled in a rich brown walnut” with “large concealed cupboards built in.”

Library - Study

There’s another example of a library in a 30s conversion here.

“The casement door leads to the garden beyond.”

Garden view - loose photo

“Campden Hill is quiet and healthy” Far from the madding crowds of Kensington High Street down the hill but still convenient for the shops. The three big stores on the high street all owned by the John Barker company by this time were in their heyday in the 30s.

rear view showing terraces

“The Terrace is electrically lit”. The door on the left is the Library. The other three open off the drawing room. Note the sun terrace on the second floor, another favourite feature of the sun worshippers.

Far end of the garden

The far end of the garden “contains an Italian pool and a delightful sunken rose garden, overlooked by a small summer house.”

You could have quite exhausted yourself by this point, trekking to the rear of the property. Just have a quick look at some of the “fittings and equipment”:

Boiler

“The Iron Fireman Stoker fitted to the Boilers is Thermostatically controlled and stokes automatically for weeks on end with no labour other than the simple operation of the removal of clinker.” Sounds great. Just get the parlour maid some overalls and she can do it. She can relax afterwards in the Servants  Sitting Room.

“The house is centrally heated on the Panel System. Electric Power Points are also provided in every room.”

There’s more natural light in the dining room through the “glazed ornament cases”. The artificial lights are “cleverly concealed in ceiling and cornice”.

Dining Room

Here’s the view of the dining room from the hall.

Hall

At this point in the tour you’ll want to have a look upstairs, via the “circular sweep of the landing”.

1st floor landing

And we can relax in the principal bedroom.

Principal bedrom 01

It’s another nice large room, with a shiny ceiling.

Principal bedrom 02

You get a rug by the fireplace with its own sheep.

The suite is completed by a large dressing room, two bathrooms in pastel shades and a wardrobe corridor, its walls lined with seven completely fitted and automatically lit lady’s wardrobes (gentleman’s wardrobes are in the dressing room).

Principal bedrom 03

Is that the door to the wardrobe corridor? Some nice padding there. If you get lost in there, the maids’ bedroom (for four occupants) is also on this floor, with their own bathroom in a seperate corridor. An improvement on the attic, no doubt.

I certainly wouldn’t complain. Just take the weight off your feet before you go.

cover - sitting room

Postscript

The house is still there, in Upper Phillimore Gardens with some alterations to the front (and possibly many inside). Apart from the other links I’ve inserted you could also have a look at some slightly earlier “modern” interiors added to the gothic mansion known as the Abbey, which was just down the hill. There are some colour pictures of 1930s interiors here.

A couple of days ago we had a launch for our World War 1 exhibition which will travel around libraries, schools and community centres in the Borough over the next few months. My tanks to everyone who made it happen. For those of you who won’t get to see it, much of the material we used, from our archives, and contributions from local people, is also on our Great War website: http://www.kcworldwar1.org.uk. Have a look.

Postscript to the postscript – April 1st

I’ve just looked at a copy of Trystan Edwards’s Good and bad manners in architecture (1924) courtesy of my colleagues at Westminster Central Reference Library. It contained a picture of the house prior to Wornum’s remodelling. Here it is:

15 Upper Phillimore Gardens from Food and bad manners in archittecture  - Edwards 1924 p138 captioned a house designed by Ruskin - Copy

It’s the gothic one. If you remember this was also discussed in the post Two streets in Kensington. Thanks to Susie H for retrieving the book.


Royal Court posters

I’m not a great afficionado of the theatre, so I haven’t been able to think of a clever title for this week’s post. In fact when I tried to think of all the times I’ve been to a theatre since I came to London in the 70s I got past the fingers of one hand but didn’t make it to the end of the second. Still, more by luck than judgement I’ve managed to see some good performances – Malcolm McDowell and Beryl Reid in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Jack Shepherd in Michael Kerr’s Dispatches, local hero David Rappaport (and many others) in Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus Trilogy, and one visit to the Royal Court Theatre to see David Edgar’s Mary Barnes, which is chiefly memorable to me for Simon Callow’s performance as a psychiatrist.

But anyway, my inconsequential reminiscences bring us to the Royal Court Theatre and the collection of posters we have in the Chelsea Local Studies picture collection. I’m not attempting any kind of thematic or chronological selection.I’ve picked these particular ones because I’ve heard of the play, or the  author, or one of the actors, or (mostly) because I just liked the image.

00002 Top Girls

Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls from the early 1980s featuring several well known names.

This revival of Alfred Jarry’s 1896 absurdist drama has just one name on the poster:

00010 Ubu Roi

Max Wall the former music hall / variety comedian famous for his iconic physical style of comedy who turned to straight acting in his later years and did many “serious” roles. It also featured Colin Welland, Kenneth Cranham, Robert Powell and Jack Shepherd and was designed by David Hockney.

Somewhat earlier (note the phone number):

00006 The Ginger Man

An adaptation by J P Donleavy of his own sensational novel. This may not be the original production which starred Richard Harris but the names are famous enough for me. That 1959 version went to Dublin but was closed after three days for “offensiveness”. I’ve read the novel and from this distance in time I can barely grasp what the problem might have been.

A different degree of offensiveness was also a problem in 1972. John Osborne’s career wasn’t going too well. His new play A sense of detachment didn’t altogether help.

00018 A sense of detachment

His own wife Jill Bennett pulled out from a leading role to be replaced by the diminutive actress Denise Coffey. (In 1972 I would have known her as one of the cast of the pre-Python children’s comedy show Do not adjust your set.). The play was pornographic according to critics and many were outraged by the lines Rachel Kempson had to say – although Kempson herself was deeply committed to the part and dived into the audience to attack two of the most vociferous hecklers. Clever poster, though.

In an earlier age Carry On star Jimy Thompson took the lead in a version of a French farce.

00007 Monsieur Blaise

It was adapted by his wife in 1964.

There was some nudity in this 1974 production.

00003 Life class

Rosemary Martin spent an hour naked on stage as an artist’s model. Alan Bates, who famously performed nude in Women in Love, kept his clothes on. There was a poster featuring the unclothed Ms Martin which caused a minor scandal on the tube but this version is more decorous.

Another pair of actors who rose to fame in the 1960s were in this 1973 double bill:

00017 Krapps last tape

Krapp’s last tapes is a solo performance as was Not I, in which Bille Whitelaw, now celebrated as one of the great performers of Beckett’s work delivers her monologue with only her mouth visible.

Tony Richardson directed this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in January 1962.

00019 A Midsummer night's dream

It featured Ronnie Barker, James Bolam, Samantha Eggar, Alfred Lynch, Corin and Lynne Redgrave, Rita Tushingham, David Warner and Nicol Williamson (to name, unfairly, just the ones I’ve heard of.) And the image is pretty striking.

Edward Bond did his own version of a Shakespeare story in 1971.

00020 Lear

Quite a violent piece of work by all accounts. Bond also produced another new version of a classic.

00012 Three sisters

It’s a more conventional poster.

A couple of famous names in the last part of a trilogy of absurdist drama in 1962:

00011 Exit the King

Big Wolf (1972) by the German playwright Harald Mueller. I’ve included this one purely because I like the image.

00003 big wolf - Copy

This 1970 comedy by the Brooklyn writer  Michael Weller has a provocative title.

00005 Cancer

The play was an examination of communal living in the counter culture. Weller later changed the title to the far less interesting Moonchildren.

One of my favourites:

00009 Other worlds

Robert Holman’s play is set in north Yorkshire in the 18th century. One of the main characters was a talking monkey, which apparently confused the critics.

I may have demonstrated that I don’t know that much about the theatre. But I do know that these posters are a fascinating aspect of the history of graphic art in the second half of the 20th century.

Postscript

Was it colourful enough for you? If you enjoyed theses images let me know. There are many more. We’ll be back in black and white next week.

Finally, a bonus image – a poster I scanned before we had the book scanner so the top and bottom are cut off, but it’s still worth seeing.

Sugar and Spice - Royal Court poster

Sugar and Spice by Nigel Williams  (1980) featuring the young Toyah Willcox and just over her shoulder a just as young Caroline Quentin.


Two streets in Kensington

Now, I had intended to do something colourful this week and get away from the zooming in on old photographs thing but this matter came up and the more I looked at it the more interesting it seemed (to me at least). So bear with me, and cast your minds back to the first of the short posts I did for Christmas. The one featuring these two photographs.

Unknown street number one:

Kensington unknown street 01

And unknown street number two:

Kensington unknown street 02

I invited readers to  identify the streets. One guess was incorrect but the second which recently came in was spot on. Number one is Argyll Road and number two is Upper Phillimore Gardens. These streets are located only minutes from where I’m sitting writing this and as you can see from this map detail are joined at a right angle:

1862 OS map VI88 detail of Upper Phillimore Gardens and Argyll Road

The red spots indicate the houses visible at the ends of the two streets. (I would be hovering somewhere in or over the buildings at the southern end of the big garden you can see on the right.)

To verify the identification I looked for some other later images of the two streets, first in our postcard collection. This is a picture of Argyll Road:

Argyll Road PC180 - Copy

The viewpont is further up the hill I think so the slope as shown by the garden walls on the right is accentuated. The house at the end (which is located in Upper Phillimore Gardens of course) looks more or less the same, although some alterations may have been made in what might 30 years or more between the images.

I think this picture might be closer to the first one:

Argyll Road PC775 - Copy

Let’s take a moment to zoom in on this incident packed image.

Argyll Road PC775 detail 01

You have a girl looking at the photographer, a couple of men, a cart, a woman walking away, and a dog keeping an eye on the scene.

Now compare those pictures with a couple I took myself:

DSC_5189 Argyll Road - Copy

We won’t make too much of all the parked cars. It’s just something the modern photographer has to put up with. You can see that the house, which looks quite similar to the one in the older photographs has had some extensive work done to it. My colleague K looked it up on the Council website and found an extensive planning history not uncommon in the Campden Hill area. But the shape of the house and its position in the street are sufficiently similar to identify it as the same building.

DSC_5191 Argyll Road - Copy

If you walk up the hill and turn left (west) , you’re in Upper Phillimore Gardens.

Upper Phillimore Gardens PC467 - Copy

The postcard, once again about 30 years later than the sepia print was taken from a viewpoint further  back but it’s recognizeably the same tranquil street. The trees have had some years to grow but it still looks like the same peaceful (and affluent) backwater. Here it is now:

DSC_5195  Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

A rather less uniform lines of fences and walls.

DSC_5196  Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

The house at the end of course is on Phillimore Gardens, which runs south to Kensington High Street. Here it is in the orginal picture:

Kensington unknown street 02 - Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy (3)

Some changes to the facade obviously, but essentially the same structure. (These things can be deceptive of course. I know a house in the Brompton area which was completely demolished and a copy of it built on the same site. If it wasn’t for the photos of the empty site you could have mistaken the copy for the original. I might tell you that story one day.)

So we’re done then. Streets identified, problem solved. That’s true but I think that time spent looking at old photographs is never wasted. The first time I looked at picture number 2 I was intent on the woman, who both dates the image and gives it some character. I honestly never noticed that guy on the left.

Kensington unknown street 02 - Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

The tall hat gives him a distinctly mid-Victorian look. And what’s he up to? It almost looks as if he’s watching the woman on the other side of the road.  Are we in The Crimson Petal and the Rose territory? Well let’s not get carried away. There’s another interesting detail in the picture, an architectural feature.

Kensington unknown street 02 - Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy (2)

This slice of an ornate facade is described in Charles Eastlake’s A history of the Gothic Revival: The front is of red brick, with stepped gables. A picturesque staircase turret is on the right hand of the building, and a Venetian-looking balcony projects from one of the windows. As K read the words out loud I thought that was the last piece of evidence we needed to identify the street. Photographs of this house are evidently rare. The Survey of London didn’t have one and referred to a 1924 edition of another book. I’m trying to get to see that. The reason for the rarity is that the house was extensively remodelled in a modern style in 1937. When I went looking I found some pictures of that version of the building and, you’ve guessed it, they will form the basis of another post. This of course is one of the benefits of doing a little bit of research to confirm an identification.

Postscript

Not too obsessive for you I hope. The credit for identification (and thanks) should go to reader Sebastian S who set the ball rolling. I’m still not sure where the two photographs came from but I’m glad to make the most of them.

Next week, postively, definitely something different from zooming in on old photographs, as much as I like that. And apologies to Camilla. I promised her a Chelsea post this week. Definitely next week!

 


Haigh – A handsome stranger arrives at your hotel

This week we have a returning guest blogger, crime writer Dr Jonathan Oates whose most recent book is about another murderer with Kensington connections.
cover

Imagine this: you are staying in a hotel in London as a permanent guest. Although flying bombs and V2 rockets are raining down on London – this being the autumn of 1944 – and despite the more mundane difficulties of rationing, petrol and clothing restrictions, life isn’t too bad. Of course it was better before the war…however, the hotel, the Onslow Court Hotel, is located in a fashionable part of London; namely south Kensington, where some of the old exclusiveness survives in an increasingly egalitarian world.

Onslow Court Hotel 109-113 Queen's Gate - Copy

Then one day a new guest arrives. He isn’t like the majority of guests. He’s male for a start and is young; a mere 35 years old. What strikes one immediately about him is how neat his appearance is. His shoes always shine and his black hair and neat little moustache is always glossy. He’s perhaps a little on the short size, about five feet six inches, but he’s always ready to smile and reveal his flawless white teeth. His clothing is immaculate, too. As one got to see him about the place, it was obvious that he had at least a dozen well made suits. He often wore a garment; perhaps socks or his tie, that was red. And he clearly had money; the hotel charges £5 5s per week plus a ten per cent service charge.

JGH - Copy
Now it might seem to the suspicious that he is a spiv, one of those black market merchants who knows how to make a quick profit certainly, but is socially uncouth and has little knowledge of the higher things in life. He’ll stay in the hotel for a few days or weeks and then scarper, dodging the hotel bills, no doubt, even though Miss Robbie, the manageress, is sharp enough.

Onslow Court Hotel

Well, my sceptical friend, you would be mistaken. He drinks but little. Some wine with dinner and a sherry beforehand, but never to excess and never beer. He doesn’t smoke much. He never swears or speaks loudly, he never turns up at odd hours having been to a night club. And he never loses his temper. Even when he accidentally knocked a woman wrist, spilling her drink and then having her stub out her cigarette on his hand, he was perfectly calm.

He is always at ease with all he meets, both staff and fellow guests. He can talk about many subjects. Classical music for one, and especially works by Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Mozart. He’s a good performer on the piano, too. He can discuss the Bible and religious topics and is always free with quotations from Ecclesiastes. Not that he’s a church goer, or tries to force his views on others. He can talk about engineering and various projects he’s working on.

You see, he’s an engineer by profession. The Liason Officer of Union Group Engineering, who used to operate from Eccleston Square. You know of them? No? Well, never mind. The place was bombed in the war, so the emergency war headquarters had to shift. They have branches all over the south of England, in Crawley, Horsham, Putney, places like that. Not that our new friend needs to soil his hands, which are, like the rest of his appearance, always spotless.

All this explains why he isn’t serving his country in His Majesty’s forces, as all young and healthy men should be. He’s working on a number of patents which will enable the war to be won sooner than otherwise, and that’s no bad thing. In any case, during the Blitz he was employed in fire watching down Victoria way.

Well, all this is very good, but where is he from? Who are his people and where was he educated? He doesn’t like to bore people too much with his autobiography, but he’s let a few things slip out into casual conversation over meals. He was born in Yorkshire, his father was a colliery manager and he was brought up in his parents’ faith, as a Plymouth Brethren. It had been a strict boyhood, having to follow the rules of the ‘Peculiar People’. But he had had a good education, attending Wakefield Grammar School and then taking a BsC degree at Leeds University.

Our friend often goes out to meet his friends. There was a young chap called McSwan, rather like him in some ways, and they often went to the Goat pub on the High Street. He went away after a while, though. I think it was Africa or was it America? Well, he was never mentioned again. Then there was that couple, Dr and Mrs Henderson. A smart pair, indeed, and from the same social strata as McSwan. They didn’t stay around too long and went to South Africa, I gather. However, their, and surely our, friend looked after their dog Pat for some time.

Donald McSwan

The one constant friend of his, who sometimes comes for tea – but never stays overnight of course – or even goes up to his room (no woman ever does) is Miss Stephens. Unkind people have mentioned that she’s half his age, but as he’s the perfect gentleman, that can never be an issue. He’s so attentive to her, advising her on her dress, her hair and make up, before taking her out to a concert at the Wigmore Hall, the Albert Hall or to the ballet, before escorting her parents’ home in Crawley. A delightful girl and a perfect couple.

I should add that he’s been seen with other young women in the evenings when he’s not seeing his young friend. Nothing wrong in that; his girl has a regular 9-5 office job and lives in Crawley, as I have said. He also writes each week to his parents in Leeds. Such a good boy.

Now I gather you have a little money to invest, and could do with a little extra income in these difficult times. I think John, that’s his name, would be more than happy to show you one of his new inventions down at his workshop in Crawley. He can drive you down in his Alvis sports car, you can see his plans there, perhaps have a quick bite to eat at The George there, and be back at the Onslow for a late dinner. Ready to accept the offer?

Mrs D-D 1

Had you done so, as did Mrs Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon, aged 68 and a widow living at the hotel, you would never have left Crawley, alive or dead. The workshop is only a scruffy shed in a back street, in a yard full of rubbish. You would be shot, your body stripped of any valuables and tipped into a drum. He would then transfer acid there to dissolve your corpse, returning a few days later to throw what was left among the rubbish in the yard. There won’t even be a grave stone to mark your grave. You have ceased to exist because your killer, who has done this five times before, believes that if there’s no body a charge of murder cannot be made.

Crawley storehouse interior - Copy

John was John George Haigh, the acid bath murderer and alleged vampire who killed for money, but also a plausible and attractive man who was able to convince several people that he was their true friend. He was also a liar; who never attended university, wasn’t a leading light in a non-existent engineering company and had a substantial record for theft and forgery, as well as having abandoned his wife and baby daughter.

Read more about Haigh and those six people he slew – one being a former suffragette, another a homosexual with a criminal record, another was a man accused of murder, abortion, flagellation and drug dealing – in Dr Oates’ new book, John George Haigh: The acid Bath Murderer. A Portrait of a serial killer and his victims. This is the first book on the topic to be written with the benefit of police, prison and Home Office papers once closed to researchers.

Waxwork of Haigh at Madame Tussaud's - Copy

[Waxwork model of Haigh]

Postscript (DW)

Dr Oates (whom God  preserve) of Ealing will be giving a talk on Haigh in the historic lecture theatre at Kensington Central Library on March 12th. Admission is free. Further details here. Jonathan also contributed a post to the blog about John Reginald Christie.

The drawing of the Onslow Court Hotel is from the Local Studies collection. the black and white  photos are from The Trial of John George Haigh by Lord Dunboyne (William Hodge, 1953) which I found in the Biography Collection of Kensington Library.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slice of true crime. Next week,  a more uplifting topic, probably.


Forgotten buildings: The Terrace

The last couple of posts have been a bit of a departure from my recent blog activity, hanging around Kensington High Street. We’re back on track this week moving across Wright’s Lane from Scarsdale House to a forgotten group of buildings called the Terrace.

By the Terrace I mean 129-163 Kensington High Street. Here’s a panoramic view from 1978.

The Terrace - 129-163 Kensington High Street 1978 K3051-B

This is the southern side of Kensington High Street between where Boots is now, and Hotel Chocolat, or in 1978 the Adam and Eve pub which was then just to the west of the covered entrance to Adam and Eve Mews. You could get lost looking at shop names like Scotch House, Barratts, Jean Machine, Salisburys, Saxone, Dorothy Perkins and..er..Saxone (two of them, with different shop fronts?), and by all means do that. We’ll have a further look at the 70s shops of the High Street on another occasion but I wanted to show you this picture to say that’s all relatively modern stuff. It was built by our old friend Jubal Webb in the 1890s. The Survey of London with its usual ear for a telling phrase describes the Promenade as it was originally known as “an orthodox, restless, ornamental range  of shops and flats”. This tells you what you need to know (and it’s why I keep reading the small print in the Survey). I see those buildings every working day from the bus stop opposite and have become fascinated by the repeating pattern of the roof line.

But before the Promenade was the Terrace:

The Terrace Kensington High Street 19th C K62-194

The Terrace (or the Terrass as it was known in the 1760s) emerged piecemeal between the 1690s and the 1840s, a series of houses which grew together over the years. So not a classic terrace as we know them today but one of the first blocks of dwellings to have that term applied to them. The Survey also tells us that the original houses were “as commodious and respectable as any of their contemporaries in Kensington Square”. (We’ll get there another day.)

I used a couple of pictures of the Terrace by the H and R Stiles company in a previous post. This is number 1:

The Terrace 1 GN242

(If you do look back at that previous post you’ll see a crucial difference between the picture I used then and this one. ) Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were the oldest, dating back to the early 1690s although a little altered over the years.

This is number 2 and number 3.

The Terrace 2-3 GN246

The windows looked a little mismatched and the people at number 3 have left their gate open. The lamp post has the word Kensington above the light indicating that it was provided by the Kensington Vestry.

The slightly ramshackle quality continues as you go along the row.

The Terrace 4 GN243

Number 4 seems to have confusingly varied facades and more than one entrance.

Number 5 is a smaller house but still the work of Richard Beckington, the builder of the others.

The Terrace 5 GN247

Number 6 was added in 1718.

The Terrace 6 GN248

This was the home of the highly regarded Punch illustrator John Leech who died there in 1864 at the age of 47 after “a laborious life..the victim of overwork and an organisation morbidly sensitive to the small worries of town life, of spasm of the heart” according to Wilmot  Harrison in Memorable London Houses (1890)

A slouching youth lends some character to the photograph.

During the 19th century there was work on the facades and the gaps between the original houses were filled in by additional structures and some smaller houses. Other occupants of the Terrace included Sir Henry Cole and the artist David Wilkie.

However, I think the most interesting aspect of this group of houses is not what you saw from the High Street but what lay behind, where there were extensive gardens almost the length of Wright’s Lane and for the most part hidden behind high walls.

Here is Mr Leech’s garden.

Back of Leech's house 6 the Terrace GN40

The steps took you down into a large space where you could find some impressive trees.

Mulberry Tree behind the Terrace GN41

This one is a mulberry.

Willow tree in garden of 6 the Terrace GN95

This is a willow. Like at Scarsdale House these gardens show another kind of lifestyle. Their inhabitants enjoyed seclusion and leisure in large open spaces a little like those of the grand houses of Campden Hill.

There was also room for sport.

Garden behind the Terrace GN39

Is he trying to hit the gardener? Luckily he seems to be serving underarm.

You could of course just sit in your tranquil garden like the couple on the left.

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west GN108

Wait a moment. Who’s that?

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west Jubal Webb and wife GN108

It’s that man again, Jubal Webb, cheese magnate and owner of number two. Webb was a local vestryman and property developer. A slight hint of sleaze surrounds him but London was built in part by ambitious entrepreneurs like him. He does seem to have a gift for publicity though, and for sneaking in when you least expect him.

That would be it for the Terrace, except that I went looking for the original version of that panoramic view above and found it, more than a yard long.

It’s signed by Richard Stiles and dated 1892. At one end is a slightly clearer view of the woman in black I mentioned in the glass negative post.

The Terrace 9 detail from CPic092

Now that I’ve looked at a slightly clearer version I think she might be wearing a hat, which would make all the difference to her appearance and the conclusions you might draw about her. The condition of a print can completely alter a photograph, especially when you are dealing with details.

And at the other end there is a better view looking down Wright’s Lane, showing the shops on the corner.

The Terrace - Wright's Lane details of shops from CPic 092

You can see people heading down the road past the walls of Scarsdale House and in the foreground a slightly indistinct woman with a child in a pram is standing outside an early version of Derry and Toms. The lady with her back to us on the left is window shopping, her head hidden in the shadow of the awning on which the name Ponting’s can be seen. It’s another one of those images you’d like to step inside and have a look around.

Postscript

Once again I have benefited from close scrutiny of the relevant Survey of London volume. Along with the information I have also collected some descriptive phrases which are one of the pleasures of the Survey.

Next week I’m taking a week off as we have a guest blogger.

 


Manufactured in Chelsea

I was looking through some old proof sheets for John Bignell’s book Chelsea seen from its earliest days (enlarged edition 1987 but now out of print), in which Bignell contrasted his own photographs with equivalents from an earlier era. I decided to use some of the old photographs in a post but couldn’t think of a unifying theme. Then we got an email enquiry about the effect of that “structured” reality TV show set in Chelsea on the real borough. (Short answer: none at all probably.) And so I had a title for a random selection of images of Chelsea as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The first image is probably the oldest. We begin as Chelsea itself did on the riverside.

The Old Swan

This is the Old Swan Tavern, before the Embankment, at low tide I would assume judging from how far back the photographer is standing from the river steps and the obliging patrons. I think this is a James Hedderly photograph. The Old Swan lay at the end of Swan Walk near the Physic Garden. This of course was not the original Old Swan but I don’t want to make things too complicated (for myself) at the moment. There are some paintings of the Old Swan in this post.

I’m following a winding path through Chelsea east to west, south to north taking in high and low society. This entails a few leaps back and forth in time. This picture is a distinctly post embankment view of Lombard Terrace, which lay to the west of the Old Church.

Lombard Terrace

The distinctive art nouveau buildings on the left are 72-74 Cheyne Walk, designed by C R Ashbee. They were built on the site of Maunder’s fish shop, a building painted by many, including Whistler which is appropriate as number 74 was  the last house in which he lived. The building was demolished by 1927 and the fight to save some of the remaining houses was one of the causes around which the Chelsea Society was formed. Whatever was left was destroyed along with the Old Church in an air raid in 1941.

The picture below shows part of the original Lombard Terrace with Mr Spell’s Post Office and store on the corner of Danvers Street. I think that’s Mr Spell and his daughter standing in the doorway. This is another picture by James Hedderly.

Cheyne Walk - Hedderly

I’d quite forgotten this picture so I was quite struck by this view looking north from Battersea Bridge up Beaufort Street.

Beaufort Street

Belle Vue House on the left remains and the terrace of tall houses beyond, but on the right all the old houses of Duke Street have gone.

We’re not quite finished with Cheyne Walk. Let’s take a walk past the King’s Head to the pleasingly named Aquatic public house.

Cheyne Walk - Turner's House

The three boys are just about to reach the house with the balcony rail on the roof line, where JMW Turner lived. We saw a picture of it by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd in a previous post.

If we turn back back and go up Beaufort Street we can cross the King’s Road into a quiet cul-de-sac called The Vale, where William and Evelyn de Morgan lived.

The Vale

The Vale now intersects with Elm Park Road but at this time it was a dead end, just a pleasant residential enclave. (That man Whistler lived at mumber 1) Here is an interior from number 4:

2 the vale

We don’t know who the lady is, but she looks quite comfortable.

We go back to the main road for a couple of pictures

Kings Road

A horse bus on the King’s Road, at the corner of Sydney Street, pretty much where the Old Town Hall (and Chelsea Library of course) are today. The King’s Road still had many purely residential houses along this stretch.

We can take a short detour down nearby Oakley Street to take a look at one of its famous residents.

Dr Phene

The good Dr Phene strikes a pose outside the house in which he never actually lived. He only had to go across the road to his actual house. Read more in this post. It’s a fact that I’ve never been able to use on the blog, but another local resident I’ve written about, Margaret Morris once took a party of local residents on a tour of the house. I don’t suppose the two of them ever met but I’d like to imagine they did.

Speaking of my personal obsessions here’s another one, a photograph showing the teacher training establishment Whitelands College, home of the May Queens. Behind those walls lay a unique story, which I have covered here and here. (You can probably expect another one in April). Readers of History Today (February issue) can see a rather disturbing photograph of the college quadrangle a few years after the Staff and students moved to Putney.

Whtelands College

I promised you a bit of high life so here is a picture of the King’s Dinner held in Burton’s Court in 1902 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII. The idea was that the poor of Chelsea would be served by charitable members of high society.

Coronation

The lady in white is clearly doing her best but apparently the whole affair was a bit of a disaster, with not enough food, general bad behaviour and insulting language used against the lady volunteers, some of whom had to flee the scene.

By contrast there was a servants’ dinner at Chelsea Town Hall (organised by the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants), where 40 ladies served the maids.This was a smaller and much more civilised affair

Servants' dinner

And everyone went home with a gift bag.

The Chelsea Flower Show was always a big social event, attended by the highest in the land.

Queen Alexandra at the Chelsea Flower Show

Queen Alexandra in 1913 accompanied by some important men.

But let’s go back to ordinary life. This is the street market in Marlborough Street.

Marlborough Road

The shoppers of 1900 look pretty smart.

Finally a picture in another Chelsea street, Upper Cheyne Row showing a horse drawn fire engine.

80

Is there something wrong here? I’ll leave that thought with you.

Postscript

I think I must have set some kind of record for the number of hyperlinks I’ve inserted into this post, so just ignore them if they irritate you. I balked at linking to all the Hedderly posts. Why not try the search box?

And I’ve had to rush through some of the background detail so fact checking is welcome. Next week I’ll go back to a much smaller area.

 

 


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