In the gallery

Local Studies and Archives collections often contain paintings and prints connected with the area they cover, particularly if like Kensington and Chelsea the area is or has been one where artists lived or worked. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that our collection contains dozens of Turners or works by other famous artists. A Local Studies collection is far more likely to have works by lesser known professionals like William Ascroft or William Walter Burgess, or William Cowen, obscure figures like Francis Griffen, amateurs like Walter Greaves (or were he and his brother Henry semi-professionals?),  illustrators like Herbert Railton, unknowns like Marianne Rush and annonymous figures like the artist of the Red Portfolio.

But this is how we like it. It’s nice to loan out one of our small number of Whistler etchings to an exhibition as we recently did but there is far more pleasure in having a much larger number of sketches by Railton or Ascroft or possibly the entire oeuvre of Rush which can be shown to interested parties or blogged about.

This post is an  almost random selection of pictures I have shown to visitors or come across in the course of enquiries or have had at the back of my mind for years.

 

 

The river entrance gate to Cremorne Gardens, by Walter Greaves. The gardens were just a short step down the road from the Greaves boat yard where he and his brother worked in the family business. During the course of business they struck up a relationship with Whistler who liked to make sketches from their boats. Walter and Henry became close enough to the great artist to get some lessons from him, although it all turned sour in the end as Whistler’s friendships seemed to do. Walter inserted the figure of Whistler into many of his pictures, but the man in this picture could just as easily have been Greaves himself who modeled his personal style on that of the master. Neither of them are in this picture.

 

 

Lindsey Wharf, looking east I think.  The pub is the Queen’s Arms, a different pub from the King’s Arms, which was also in that vicinity. Chelsea enthusiasts may like to try to reconcile this view with photographs of the area. Forgive me if I  don’t do that today. Normally I like the minutiae of locations but we could be here all day.

[Added 18 September – at the prompting of Chris Pain, Chelsea history expert – see his comments below – I have reverse this image to make things clearer]

I’ve done a couple of posts of Ascroft in the early days of the blog, but cannot resist putting in one of his pastel sketches showing a country lane, probably in the Putney area, with one of his characteristic skies.

 

 

Horace Van Ruitl, on the other hand was an unfamiliar name to me until a few weeks ago when a researcher working on hid biography asked to see what we had. Scattered in the Chelsea general sequence were several pictures mostly of the interior of Chelsea Old Church. Once I had gathered them together I was quite impressed. This is a detail from one of the larger pictures which I chose because of the two women who add a burst of colour to the subdued scene.

 

 

Van Ruitl was like Ascroft a well known professional name in his day, and not completely forgotten.

This artist, Juliet Williams, is probably an amateur but an artist who was absolutely obsessed with the gates of Cheyne House. Here they are in winter:

 

 

And here in summer:

 

 

We also have an autumn and a spring, but also eight other versions, smaller and larger, sketches and completed pictures. I could practically fill a whole post with them. But I won’t. (Although that’s an idea for Christmas).

Chelsea is full of picturesque locations for painters. But the Kensington amateurs produced plenty of pictures too.

 

 

This is a pen and ink sketch by Frank Emanuel. We’ve seen his work before here, a picture of Tower Cressey, but this a a simple street scene showing Silver Street, which was the former name of the northern section of Kensington Church Street, leading up to Notting Hill Gate. The figure of the woman is what makes this one special I think. I wish he’s done more pictures of people.

Elizabeth Gladstone was an amateur watercolourist who was featured in the same post as Emanuel. This picture looks down Derry Street / King Street towards Kensington Square.

 

 

If you study the 6th image in this post on the development of the Barker’s building, you will recognize one of the buildings.

in contrast to Gladstone’s mostly late 19th century work, Joan Bloxham painted and drew in the 1930s.

 

 

Victoria Grove, still quite recognizable.

 

 

Another view I’m familiar with, Holland Street, a few minutes walk from the Library, showing the house of Walter Crane. He’s a famous artist we do have some work by, which we may look at one of these days.

Like many amateur artists, Elizabeth Gladstone’s pictures are usually simply views of street and buildings but occasionally she includes a curious detail as in this one.

 

 

York House, also in Kensington Church Street in the 1890s, featuring a sinister hooded figure, or is it simply a harmless monk? There were many religious establishments in Kensington in that period.

Finally, another Greaves for the road, signed by Henry, the less prolific of the two brothers, although they both often added to each other’s picture.

 

 

Chelsea riverside east of the Old Church, before the Embankment. Not an unfamiliar view for regular readers but we can always have one more.

This post is a bit of a trailer for others I might do this autumn about artists I haven’t covered in any detail so far so pardon me if it looks like a bit of a filler between Chelsea stories. I do need time between those.

Postscript

I feel that I tempted fate last week by noting the death of another musician from the golden age of popular music. I was saddened to read that even as I was writing last week’s post, another bass guitar player from one of the great bands of the 1970s had died. The name Holger Czukay may not be as familiar as Walter Becker, but for me he was an even greater name. He played bass and other instruments and electronics for the German avant garde rockers Can. I saw Can play live in several London venues  – the Lyceum, the Roundhouse, Hammersmith Palais, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – all of which are no longer used as music venues . They practiced “spontaneous composition” rather than merely improvisation and seldom played the same material without some massive variations, according to the weather, their mood, or the audience’s mood (I once saw them suddenly turn on an audience whose attention was wavering and shock them into submission). Czukay also made a number of remarkable solo albums. He was one of the first to use samples in his recordings. I’d better stop with that before I get maudlin. Can’s drummer Jaki Lieberzeit also died this year, leaving only their two vocalists and founder member Irmin Schmidt.

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Chelsea stories – east from Sydney Street

People seemed to enjoy the last Chelsea stories which featured plenty of images from the 1990s, so we’re carrying on in a similar vein, with a mixture of photos by JW Figg from different decades.

You might think that this section of the King’s Road, the main shopping section since the 1960s is just a succession of shops, some trendy and some not so trendy and that the story of the street is one of hip new independent boutiques gradually giving way to chain stores and international brands. But it’s a lot more mixed than that, with a few sections which have provoked controversy along the way. Come with me on a journey through time and space…… (as one of the presenters of the new version of Bake-off used to say. He probably won’t be mentioning eels in his new job).

This picture from a rooftop vantage points shows where we left off, with Chelsea Old Town Hall, Chenil Galleries, Moravian Tower (with scaffolding and green mesh), the World’s End Estate, and Lots Road Power Station visible in the distance.

 

Just past Habitat, almost opposite the these shops, there was a pub called the Lord Nelson which John Bignell used to like. In the 1970 it got a bit of a makeover.

 

According to the Chelsea Post of July 10th that year you could “do your own thing” in this “supersonic..disco pub” .

That woman wasn’t convinced. Ind Coope goes painfully pop art. Let’s follow her example and turn our eyes away and look  across the road.

To another view from above, of Antiquarius, one of the road’s survivors.

 

 

And looking in the other direction.

 

 

Looking down at the corner of Radnor Walk, with the Chelsea Potter just visible on the right. The building where there was a branch of Hugo was a hole in the ground a year or so ago, although its replacement bears a slight resemblance to the overall shape. Here a couple of pictures from few years earlier showing the view at ground level.

First, the plain 1970s frontage of the Potter, with Green and London, builder’s merchants, beside it.

 

 

then the corner building again as an outlet for the Wine Growers Assocaition.

 

 

Take note of the mixed bag of buildings beyond it. After the one with the gabled roof and the three story building, most of them were demolished in the 1990s.

Here is the entrance to a small semi-industrial zone which hid behind the shops. You can just make out the name Carter Patterson on one of the buildings. If you look back to this post on aerial views you can see a little of what was there.

 

 

Residential apartment buildings were created at the back with a row of shops including Marks and Spencer’s at the front. Of course M&S wasn’t the first supermarket in that location. Local residents will remember a branch of Gateway (one of the many names of the supermarket chain also called Somerville and International) which was there for only a matter of months it seemed. The cavernous interior always seemed semi deserted when my wife and I went into it, like a ghost shop in my memory, although it can’t have been as bad as that. It was a case of the wrong shop in the wrong place, especially as that branch of M&S feels like a King’s Road institution now.

Here’s the empty space:

 

And what filled it, looking back. The buildings beside it, such as the Good Earth restaurant were also demolished. M&S and a few other businesses are there now.

 

 

The north side of the road includes that other architectural fixture, the Pheasantry. These days it looks like it hasn’t changed since the 19th century, but there was a time  when it was reduced to the bare essentials.

 

The facade, held in place by scaffolding as we’ve seen many times before all over London.

A colour view, from the side.

 

 

This was the Pheasnatry in earlier years. The statues have been painted various colours over different periods. There is a post on some of the building’s inhabitants here.

 

 

What’s that next door?

 

 

A colourful branch of the Classic cinema chain, showing Jack Lemmon and Julie Mills in Avanti! (1972). I saw it quite a few years ago and liked it, but I don’t know if I would now.

Some of you enjoyed Figg’s random shots of people passing Manresa Road in the last post. Figg wasn’t all that good at street photography. He puts me in mind of Dylan’s Mr Jones – “something is happening around here but you don’t know what it is”. Here are two passable pictures taken opposite the Pheasantry.

 

 

An old school cool dude as far as 70s style is concerned.

 

 

And some classic punks from the late 70s. The woman with her back to us looks like she’s being photographed from front and rear. I have a friend who took many pictures of Kings Road style in the 70s/80s. One day I hope to present some of her work here. (Hint)

This picture shows the Pheasantry with its new companions, after redevelopment. If you go there today you can see how the new buildings were joined to the section of the façade that was preserved.

 

 

In the next block is a relatively modern build, for a branch of Barclays Bank. It looks like a bank I have to say, not much like a branch of French Connection, although it has been that for many years. The feeling of a bank has remained though,

 

 

along with an original feature:

 

 

This sculpture, placed on a plinth above some steps to the basement just inside Markham Square, was installed by one of the branch managers, who was, according to one of my correspondents, a sculptor himself.  The odd thing about the object is its obscurity. Despite having walked past it for years I (and others I asked) had never noticed it. The stairwell has been covered over but the sculpture sits in more or less the same place, huddled up next to the window near some steps leading to a locked side door. Does it qualify as a public sculpture, or is it sitting on private land? Whichever it is, just have a look for it next time you’re passing. I have taken several people to look at it recently, taking credit for “discovering” it, although of course the credit is not mine.

Postscript

We haven’t even got to Sloane Square! Maybe next time. This post is dedicated to Christine, whose time I am often wasting.

Another postscript

I haven’t noted any deaths recently, I’m pleased to say, but in keeping with my habit of recording the passing of musicians can we spare a thought for Walter Becker of Steely Dan who died this week. As a man of a certain age the period when Steely Dan were at their peak was also an era when I was young and preoccupied with music. Nearly  all their lyrics are memorable in some way but the song that sticks in my mind is one of the best science fiction songs I know, King of the World, from my favourite Steely Dan album Countdown to ecstasy

If you come around
No more pain and no regrets
Watch the sun go brown
Smoking cobalt cigarettes
There’s no need to hide
Taking things the easy way
If I stay inside
I might live til Saturday

No marigolds in the promised land
There’s a hole in the ground
Where they used to grow
Any man left on the Rio Grande
Is the king of the world
As far as I know

Thank you Water Becker.

 


A Lyttle Blogge Poste about Ye Old English Fayre

One of the ways you can indicate that something is old and quaint is to misspell all the words, adding e’s indiscriminately and throwing in the word Ye as often as possible. You can see it in old films and TV programmes, not to mention in the names of shops in seaside resorts and other places of interest: Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe, Mistress Miggins’s Pye Shoppe, Ye Olde Internette Café etc. The other day I came across a fascinating little book which seemed to be a souvenir or programme for an event called the Old English Fayre.

I should add that this was not some obscure little venture. Although it sounded a little like a sale of work in a church hall it was held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1881 and the stalls were staffed by some of the great and the good of late 19th century London. It was all to raise funds for the Chelsea Hospital for Women. The Hospital was started in 1871  in a house in the King’s Road with just eight beds but by the early 1880s a new building was being built for it on the Fulham Road, where the Institute of Cancer Research is now. The Fayre must have been part of the fund raising for this building. (The building most people will remember is the one on Dovehouse Street, opened in 1916, closed in 1988 and now incorporated into The Royal Brompton Hospital.)

There was a full programme of musical and dramatic performances over three days, (June 8-10 1881) plus a fete in the arena of the hall.

A lot of trouble was taken over the souvenir which contains some stories in medieval settings and some amusing pseudo medieval illustrations, like this one:

 

 

But the main interest for us now is the back half of the book. Before it was possible to easily print photographs in a book or magazine, actual photographic prints were bound in, and the copy of the Old English Fayre programme we have contains about 25 photographs of some of the ladies who participated in the event.

“Ye centre of ye halle is used by ye flower stalle, from ye centre of whyche a large and eke gaye Maiepole hath been builded, Ye appropriyate olde English costumes of ye ladies who preseiden ate ye stalls doth gyve great effect tp ye whole scene and doth perfect ye style and character of ye tout ensemble.”

And a part of a summary of what was for sale

 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy seeing pictures of Victorian and Edwardian ladies in fancy dress, which they seemed to engage in whenever possible. (Pageant, Costume Ball, School Play , not to mention another blog regular). So, no more playing arounde (those e’s are catching), here are a few of the ladies in the hall that day.

 

 

The Countess Cadogan, at “Ye olde Chelsea Bun House”

 

 

The Countess Kintore, at “Ye Sherwoode Oak”

 

 

Mrs Arthur Sassoon, Mrs Leopold de Rothschild and the Lady Forbes of Newe at “Ye Goulden Fleece”

 

 

Mrs Lambert Rees at “Ye Olde Crowne”.

 

 

The Lady Garvach at “Ye Wheel of Fortune”

An ensemble picture,

 

 

Mrs Craigie, assisted by Youth and Beauty at “Ye Robyn Hode”. Do I detect a slight reluctance on the faces of some of the younger ladies?  I recently saw a photograph of a mother and daughter in full steampunk costume for an event at Whitby, home of many goth and steampunk related  events,  which gave me the impression that it was the mother’s obsession which had brought the two there, which her daughter was indulging with increasing reluctance. I wish I could insert it here, but I could be completely wrong, and if I’m not it would still seem unfair. The Old English Fayre looks like an event driven by mothers, not daughters

Miss Venetia Cavendish Bentinck:

 

 

And, I’m guessing her mum, Mrs Cavendish Bentinck.

 

 

Both at the sign of “Ye Maltese Crosse”

Mrs Alexander Ross:

 

 

and Mrs Aveling.

 

 

Both at “Ye lion and Unicorne”.

Finally, another group:

 

 

Mrs Thompson, Mr Claremont (a rare appearance from a gentleman), Mrs Mackenzie, Miss Buckton, Mrs Rally and Miss Walker who were “aiding at ye theatre revels”. Miss Walker is the one sitting on the floor. (Not a relative of mine as far as I know). The young girl’s name is unrecorded, although I’m guessing she’s a Mackenzie because of the lady, her mother perhaps,  holding her in position.

I’m saving the other pictures for Christmas. There are a few good ones left.

Postscript

This week’s post shows that it’s still possible to find surprises lurking on the shelves in basement stores. You should always open any book, no matter how dull it looks from the outside.


Chelsea stories – various days and various times along the King’s Road

We’re returning to the photographs of Bill Figg this week and taking up more or less where we left off in the first “Chelsea stories”. Very few of Bill’s pictures are dated, but we can make a few educated guesses along the way, from the various shops we see. We’ll jump from the 1990s to the 1970s and the 1950s and back again as we go, and I’ll try to proceed from east to west. We start here with a couple of shops you thought might be permanent fixtures but have gone now. In some ways, remembering the more recent decades is harder. You might think a day in May 1990 was just yesterday. (Well, I might) But it isn’t, is it? It was 27 years ago. It’s not the present, no matter how much my mind tells me it was.

As I recall it the Emperor of Wyoming (named after a Neil Young song?) sold western style clothes, and Johnsons was more of a rock’n’roll leather jacket sort of place, as was the shop nearby

You can see it on the far right of the picture, American Classics. Here’s a better view from another year.

Remember the name for later.

Around Moravian corner was a row of shops with an entrance into a courtyard. The site had been rebuilt for modern use but there had been a small social housing estate called Chelsea Park Dwellings (built 1885)

Beyond them was a row of single storey buildings which were replaced in the early 21st century.

The pub on the corner of Beaufort Street had been known as the Roebuck but in the 1990s it was called the Dome, after the feature on the top. Of course, it’s had other names since.

On the other side of Beaufort Street was another unique building, the Bluebird Garage. This picture comes from a prospectus from the 1920s. The Bluebird was one of the first garages in London with all the facilities the growing band of private motorists needed.

It was later known as Carlyle Garages, and used by the Ambulance Service. In this early 90s or late 80s picture you can see the name and the generally poor condition of the building.

 

But a few years later the space had a new use. The garage and the two buidlings on either side were re-purposed for retail and leisure as the King’s Road headed towards the 21st century.

One of the things I like about the work of our in-house photographer from the 70s, John Rogers was the way he accidentally caught people out and about. This is before what we later called street style photography. Figg stumbled across a few interesting images in the same way.

Nice jacket, Madam.

On the south side of the road is another local landmark.

 

This cinema has gone by many names. The Essoldo, the Classic, the ABC, the Canon and others. A researcher has recently been looking into the history of the building for a magazine article which I hope to read soon, so I won’t attempt to list all its incarnations. Just one more:

Students of film history will date the pictures from the movies showing. This link takes you to an anecdote about another version of the building.

Staying on that side of the road, and remaining in the 1970s, some buildings which have remained intact despite occasional attempts to redevelop them.

 

Who remembers the Chelsea Antique Market?

Look out for that guy in the hat.

 

There he is again. I can remember the builder’s yard, and going in there for some household item, as we used to back then.

 

 

I wasn’t going to use the next picture but then I saw the two shops in the tall building.

 

 

The Loose Rein? Miller’s of Chelsea became a toy shop called Tiger Tiger. It was on the corner of Glebe Place, at the bottom of which was the Chelsea Open Air Nursery, which my son attended. We were frequent visitors until it closed after there was a fire in the building.

Is that why the scaffolding is there?

 

 

In this series of pictures Figg is obviously sitting in his car, parked in Manresa Road. I can’t say whether he was trying to get a picture of the shops, including the excellently named Naf Naf. or whether he was snapping passers by. But the sequence is interesting.

 

 

Do random pictures tell us much about the changes in how we dressed? In the interests of historical perspective I consulted my colleague Kimberley who is 27 years old (I have her permission to mention this fact). She thought those denim shorts were a bit tight.

 

 

I don’t quite know what the look is that this trio are doing, but whatever it is, they’ve got it.

 

 

Now check out the woman on the left of the trio, the one in the striped tights . Her carrier bag says “American Classics”.  So we know exactly where she had just been. (Kim didn’t like the hemline on that blue skirt and wondered if striped tights were a thing back then.)

 

They were. (I think I remember that?) Historical note: Argyll House is in the background, still the oldest surviving house in Chelsea. (Although part of the nursery building in Glebe Place may be just as old).

Speaking of history, let’s look across the road, and back to the 1950s.

 


King’s Parade under demolition. There was a terrace of house on the north side of the road extending from Dovehouse Street to Manresa Road.

After the demolition was complete there was a used car lot on the site.

 

Finally, let’s move on to Sydney Street, the goal I set myself for this post.

 

The Board of Guardians building at 250 King’s Road (later the Registry Office, and now private businesses) and the infirmary wing of the Workhouse, still in existence, although that central section is gone now. The billboard on the right is where the Chelsea Palace used to be – music hall, theatre, cinema, TV studios and even a bingo hall in its time. We may look at it in more detail one day. The demolition dates the photograph to the late 1960s I think. Not quite time for the current location of Chelsea Library, but close.

Postscript

That was another marathon of pictures. Maybe I’m still making up for the two weeks off. Some people on twitter have already started congratulating me for the upcoming millionth page view. Thanks, but there’s still a few thousand to go. I reckon sometime in November. We can get there sooner of course. Tell your friends!

I’m already writing next week’s post which will be of interest to fancy dress fans.


Thomson and Railton: all aboard!

As promised a short while ago, this week’s post returns to our friends the book illustrators Hugh Thomson and Herbert Railton who combined in the 1880s at the early stages of both their careers (Thomson was born in 1860, Railton in 1857)  to provide dozens of pictures for W. Outram Tristram’s nostalgic look at the days of stagecoach travel, “Coaching days and coaching ways”. (1888). The Victorians and the Edwardians were just as nostalgic for the colourful past as we are today. Have a look here at some period drama, or at any of the posts on the Chelsea Pageant.

The author and his “able illustrators” make a good combination. Thomson was good at people, creating light-hearted scenes of rural and small town life, but his work was often combined with some fairly pedestrian views of town and country, as in some of the volumes in the Highways and Byways series about British counties to which he contributed. (We’ve seen his London volume,where his are the only pictures worth looking at. ) In this book he had a partner who was his equal. Railton’s strength was atmospheric views of places, whether parks and rural views or dark inns and alleys.

A typical Thomson scene, in which a young woman gathers her wits and her headgear after a coaching mishap:

(“A snapped pole” from the Brighton Road chapter.)

And a typically spooky view by Railton of a narrow cobbled street with shady corners, quiet for the moment as two cats have an encounter.

 

I was a bit mean to Mr Tristram when I wrote about his later book Moated Houses (entirely illustrated by Railton), calling his writing style pompous, rambling and obscure. Which it is, but I have to admit that Coaching days is a rather easier read. It’s anecdotal, and still verbose but that kind of works with this subject. The book is a set of essays originally published in the English Illustrated Magazine between October 1887- and July 1888, making it into book form late in 1888. This is a time of looking back from a new industrial, high speed society to a semi-rural past, before the railways covered the country, when the only means of long distance transport was the coach. A network of routes criss crossed the country served by coaches large and small, speedy and slow. Coaching inns were the nodes of this network, linking the cities with the small towns and villages, taking people on business and pleasure.

Mr Tristram says: “I shall show our ancestors…busy at those nothings which make travelled life – eating, drinking, flirting, quarelling, delivering up their purses, grumbling over their bills…I shall picture these worthies in all sorts of positions – on the road and off of it, snowed up, in peril from the great waters, waiting for the stage coaches etc, alighting at the inns – those inns for which England was once famous, with their broad corridors, their snug bars, their four-poster beds hung with silk, their sheets smelling of lavender, their choice cookery, their claret equal to the best that could be drunk in London.”

And that’s what he does, wandering through time and space like a modern travel writer, or even a psycho-geographer. (I use that term too much, I know.) His two collaborators go with him. (The three were acquainted from other assignments for the EIM.)

Mr Railton did people as well as cats, but they were often depicted engaged in lonely pursuits, adding some scale or proportion to views like this one.

 


 

Here we’re in Chester (as I was a couple of weeks ago) from the chapter called the Holyhead Road. Then as now the Rows  (early multi level shopping) were the characteristic feature of the city, enjoyed by travellers and guide books.

By contrast, this view of the high street in Bath is teeming with people by Railton’s standards. In the chapter on the Bath Road Tristram follows various literary figures on their journeys, including Miss Fanny Burney and Mrs Thrale who went there in 1780. Miss Burney found the “houses elegant, the streets beautiful, the prospects enchanting..” She and Mrs Thrale found lodgings on the South Parade “It was deliciously situated. We have meadows, hills, Prior Park, the soft-flowing Avon, whatever Nature has to offer, I think, always in our view.” Something for the 18th century trip adviser.

 

 

Thomson sticks with the action, whether mundane, as below where four men make a meal of packing while a woman does the fetching and carrying,

 

 

clandestine, as a young lady has a private word with a gentleman, (Some long distance relationships must have been created in this communication network.)

 

 

or frantic, as in this case, simply titled “Eloped”, which tells you all you need to know.

 

Some of the coaches were noted for the tremendous speed with which they travelled. (Some of them were called “rockets” because of their great pace.) Thomson’ horses were much liked by readers and critics. One said: “he showed perhaps more mastery of the horse in action than of the feminine charm that was later to be so conspicuous a feature of his work”

And his sense of drama was well developed already. Sometimes speed and conditions combined to create minor (and major) disasters along the way.

 

 

“In a snow drift”. Horse and man in a tricky situation.

Along the way, Tristram takes in some local colour. Below, that old standby the haunted room, encountered on the Bath road but the exact nature of the haunting is not specified. It is though made for Railton’s atmospheric skills.

 

 

As is this view of the Mote (Moat) House at Ightham, on the Dover road.

 

 

Mr Tristram had some supernatural fantasies about Ightham recorded in Moated Houses which I transcribed in my first post about Railton (link above).

He had plenty of examples of the dark corners of small cities.

 

College Hall, Exeter. Below, architecture is combined with water as it so often is in his work.

 

The Old Hospital, Canterbury. Is the street totally waterlogged or are we seeing the play of light on puddles of water observed by Railton?

As well as the action, Thomson was good on the longeurs of coach travel. There must have been quiet times at the inns between arrivals and departures.

Here a mixed group is waiting for the coach.

 

Railton too looked at quiet moments in the courtyards of  inns

 

 

(The George, St Albans. A girl pulls a toy vehicle along.)

Thomson, always good at depicting lounging, slouching and hanging around shows some useful inactivity during the down time at an inn.

 

 

And some people hoping to get some down time. At many times of the day travellers come to their journey’s end.

 

 

 

While some others are waiting, patiently or otherwise, like we wait for a bus.

 

 

When the coach does come it’s time for someone to cry out: “all aboard!”.

 

 

 

Squeeze in the carriage, or next to the driver, savour the restlessness of the horses, as eager to be off as the passengers and let’s go!

 

Postscript

As I hinted last time I thought I would take a couple of weeks off blogging. Time off is always good preparation for more time off so forgive me if this post is going out later than usual. My colleague Isabel pointed out that I’ve been doing weekly posts for nearly six years. Who would have guessed when I started? At some point late in this year we will reach a million page views. Not bad, I think.

By way of compensation for the hiatus there are more pictures than usual. If you’re yet to take time off, have a good one when you do. I’ll try and get back in the saddle.

 


Chelsea stories – your Granny, your Junk, your Cave

This week we continue looking at the western end of the King’s Road, using the photos of our new friend JW “Blll” Figg. and a couple of others. And we’re going to take a look at a few buildings over time. To start with, just to get you orientated:

 

 

The World’s End Tavern, a permanent fixture on this stretch of road, often changing hands, but hanging on, even when the surrounding buildings change.

 

 

This looks like the 1950s judging by the vehicle and the people. Keep your eye on that innocuous shop on the left with the awning. It would see some changes in the years to come. There always seem to be a couple of shops there on the corner of Langton Street, part of a terrace of houses  leading to Shalcomb Street.

 

 

One of the shops changes over time. Here, in the 1960s it’s called “Granny takes a trip”, one of the sights of the slightly cooler World’s End. And here it is with added car.

 

 

I’m not completely sure of the time sequence. This one could have come first.

 

 

[A John Rogers photo]

The reliable Sunlight Laundry kept the wacky shop front company throughout Granny’s time. I’m just guessing that Granny gave way to the fruiterer’s first.

 

 

Or were they before Granny? Anyway,  in the 8os or 90s a more staid establishment occupied the spot.

 

 

Between you and me, I think this property is destined for change. (It’s currently given over to interior design, as is the former cleaners).

Now back across the road before you get sick of the sight of the same place.

 

 

A rare colour picture of the shops leading up to the junction with Edith Grove: Quick Nicker ( I don’t know…cheap clothes, but one picture shows a guitar in the window). Field’s newsagents, the World’s End Pharmacy and another laundrette, Speed Queen). These were the shops next to Sophisticat, which we saw last week, and round the corner from another counter-culture establishment, Gandalf’s Garden. There are some black and white views in a previous post. The first three images in that post show the whole corner.

We’re going to cross the road again.

 

 

Another rare picture, of Watney’s Brewery, a characteristically 20th century industrial building with a touch of art deco about it. It was later occupied by a business with a distinctly 1960s/70s name.

 

 

Junk City, an SF sort of name like a location in a post-apocalyptic novel/film. The site was up for sale when this picture was taken in the early 1970s. It was replaced by a building a few people will remember, a redbrick office building which was the headquarters of Penguin Books. I don’t have a picture of that. It was there into the 21st century,in fact it was still there when I wrote that previous post about the King’s Road in 2011 (Where did six years go? Is the blog itself now part of history?) but has now been replaced with a residential block distinguished by a set of solar  panels on the front which resemble crumpled sweet wrappers (something from Quality Street maybe). A step in the right direction perhaps, and one of those odd phenomena of modern life – a building is built when you’re around, and knocked down while you’re still here. You outlived an office block. I suppose it happens more often than we think.

[Added 19th August. A little Google maps research found this, to complete the story:

Possibly even more nondescript than I remembered it.]

One more jump back across the road.

 

To another retail landmark. This is another John Rogers photograph from 1972, which I used before, showing the now painted bright green building mostly occupied by the Furniture Cave. Here it is from another angle.

 

 

Mr Figg captions this “after the fire, 1974”. No mistaking what happened there, or that part of the building has just disappeared.

 

 

This version is a more modern view, 90s perhaps. The corner of Lots Road has been occupied by a relatively new building, and although the picture is monochrome you can guess the Furniture Cave was probably not green at the time.

 

 

I’m including this rather blurred view of the new building not to fill in the gap in a post I did on on Lots Road, but for the just legible sign on the corner of the Furniture Cave – Crazy Larry’s. Not an establishment I ever attended but I used to go past this spot a lot in the 1980s and I used to wonder what it was like. Does anyone have any memories? I was usually on my way to an Indian restaurant called the Kabana just over the hill. These were the days when takeaway deliveries were less common, but I actually enjoyed the walk, and sitting in the restaurant with a lager waiting for the food. By the time I got back Dynasty was thankfully nearly finished. Simpler days.

So, a quick look back at some buildings you may have seen. We’re not finished with the World’s End but in the next Chelsea Stories we’ll be heading east.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with something quirky for you, typical of Bill Figg who, like myself, was “a snapper up of unconsidered trifles” if I’m not misusing Shakespeare. In nearby Tettcott Road you could at one time see this:

Maybe the Brothers Quay were inside.

Postscript

I’ll be off for a couple of weeks from next Monday so there may or may not be a post next week. I’m thinking about another Hugh Thomson book which is a kind of holiday in itself.  If not, expect to see a new post sometime in August.


On the border 5: the Japan-British Exhibition 1910

The summer of 1910 was pretty dull apparently, nothing like the weather in London this year, or indeed the heat wave of 1906. So there was no reason why thousands of Londoners shouldn’t head towards the Great White City to see a new exhibition. This week we’re joining them, crossing the Kensington border into Hammersmith as we sometimes do, to see some of the wonders of the far east.

The exhibition followed the highly successful  Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 and the Olympic Games of the same year for both of which the White City site had been built under the auspices  of  Imre Kiralfy the man behind some of the most spectacular events at Earls Court

The exhibition presented many aspects of Japanese life, art and industry as these country based exhibitions had done before at Earls Court and the White City. This particular exhibition continued the European obsession with Japan which can be found in art and design since Japan was opened up to the western world in the 1860s. We’ve seen it before on the blog in the work of the artist Mortimer Menpes.  (And in his famous house.)

Visitors could walk among traditional houses and gardens.

 

Climb up landscaped paths, as these two women are doing.

 

 

And enjoy exotic vistas. You can barely spot where the painted backdrop begins in some of these pictures.

 

 

They hardly seem to be located in the crowded exhibition site with its other rides and attractions.

 

 

This picture shows the site with the the stadium . Note in the distance a gasometer and the tower of St Charles Hospital in north Kensington.

Actual Japanese performers enacted tableaux of traditional scenes.

 

Including warriors, as seen below. Londoners were already used to re-enactments of battles and historical events in shows like the wild west performances at Earls Court and elsewhere.

 

 

Sumo wrestling offered something new.

 

And for some there were martial arts skills to learn. Here a woman demonstrates how to see off some attackers even in modern Edwardian dress.

 

The Japanese government was also showing off the sights of the modern industrial Japan.

 

 

Which had already embarked on its own military / imperial actions. During the exhibition a Japanese warship was visiting the country to emphasise  Japan’s role as an ally of the UK.

For most visitors of course, it was the art and culture of Japan which mattered the most, whether the gardens…

 

Or the gods.

 

 

It was after all, just a pleasant day out. For some visitors it was perhaps almost too much.

 

A trio of distinctly European geishas have some pseudo Japanese fun with a tired young man.  We’re still obsessed with Japanese culture today and you can see it everywhere. I wonder if our old friend Yoshio Markino made it to the exhibition?

Postscript

This week’s images came from the Local Studies and Archives department of Hammersmith and Fulham, courtesy of their manager and mine Adrian Autton so thanks to him.

 

[Montage of postcards featuring the four seasons.]


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