Cheyne Walk: heading west 1970

I was looking for a picture of 120 Cheyne Walk, where Arthur Ransome lived for a while in the period he describes in his book Bohemia in London. Number 120 is right on the edge of the World’s End Estate in a short terrace of 19th century houses between Blantyre Street and the smaller, older and more famous house next to it where JMW Turner had his last home.

That section of Cheyne Walk, from the Old Church to Cremorne Road traditionally took you from the grandest and most affluent part of the street into a much lowlier part of Chelsea as you enter Lots Road. When I looked at John Rogers’s  1970 photographs I naturally thought here’s a blog post. So here you are.

It’s an area that’s very familiar to me. My mother-in-law lived in Milmans Street, and my wife and I spent the early years of our marriage in a flat in Beaufort Street, so I’ve walked along this part of the embankment, crossed both bridges, caught buses north and south on many occasions. A bit arbitrarily I’ve decided to start here:

We’re right by Chelsea Old Church. You can see the Sloane Monument and the houses nearby which feature in a photograph by James Hedderly, as do many of today’s locations. There is the drinking fountain monument to George Sparkes (if the East India Comapny) and the 1969 statue of Thomas More (“Scholar, Statesman, Saint” as it says on the plinth.)

And there is the Old Church itself, reconstructed after the war, following severe damage during an air raid in 1941.

Next to it is Roper’s Garden, a sunken garden also built on the site of buildings destroyed in the air raid. I have sat in it many times. The small block of flats is called Roper’s Orchard. Margaret Roper was the married name of one of Thomas More’s daughters. The statue in the garden is called Awakening and is by Gilbert Ledward, who was born in Chelsea.

The sheltered seats at the top of the stairs were a pleasant spot to shelter if the rain caught you on your way home from Battersea Park.

In the background you can see part of Crosby Hall, an ancient building which formerly stood in Bishopsgate in the City of London which was disassembled and reassembled in Chelsea in the 1910.

When I lived nearby Crosby Hall and its attendant buildings were used as a hall of residence. The hall was rented out for ceremonies and wedding receptions. This pictures shows the open front onto Cheyne Walk. In 1989 the building was acquired as a private residence by Christopher Moran who built a pastiche of a Tudor palace around it so you can’t see this view any more.

Across the river in Battersea there have been considerable changes as well. many of the buildings visible in the distance are no longer there.

The photographer John Rogers has captured a pretty quiet moment on the road.

This iron structure sits in the small green space where Battersea Bridge meets Cheyne Walk and Beaufort Street.

 

Belle Vue House, on the right is on the opposite corner. There is a well know Hedderly photograph showing the same corner more than a hundred years earlier.

 

 

This is the view looking west, on a February morning in 1970, the same day as almost all the other pictures this week.

 

 

You can just about make out this quizzical bird looking east. He sits on the gatepost of another ancient residence, Lindsey House.

 

 

Lindsey House is another ancient house (built 1674), subdivided in the 18th century. The various parts of it have been home to the artists Whistler and John Martin and the engineers Marc and Isembard Kingdom Brunel.

 

 

We’re going to move past the end of Milmans Street as I’ve covered it before.

Moving west, this collection of houses curves away from the main road and leads north into Riley Street. Car spotters can start here although I’m sure no one will be able to identify the car under cover on the left.

 

 

These should be pretty obvious though.

This is the point where Munro Terrace curves away to become Riley Street. (once upon a time Davis Place became World’s End Passage) , with Apollo Place hiding behind the main road.

Apollo Place (partly visible on the right in the picture below) was once the home of Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. On more than one occasion when I was at Chelsea Library teenage girls would ask to consult the electoral register to locate him. (When I worked at Brompton Library I would see groups of teenage girls gathered outside the home of another Duran Duran member in Gilston Road, off Fulham Road).

The building on the corner used to be a pub (or at least a “beer retailer” as listed in the 1899 Kelly’s directory. The 1888 edition lists The Queen’s Arms at this number, along with a “fried fish shop”)

 

Next to it was another more long lasting pub, the King’s Arms.

 

An apocryphal story is told about a local celebrity buying one of these two pubs and closing it down because of the noise. I won’t name the person concerned because I don’t know if this is in any way true. Many pubs in Chelsea have closed since 1971 for a variety of reasons.

Closeby, the building below is the house of JMW Turner (have a look at it here)

Or for comparison:

 

A picture from the late 1940s I think.

Now go back to the first picture in the blog to see the taller buildings next to these as we move west. Those still survive but the ones in the final two pictures have gone.

 

 

This is the corner of Luna Street (have a look at Luna Street another others here). You can see the street name, just about, and the word “shed” referring of course to one end of the Chelsea Football ground, and the group of fans associated with it. The final picture shows what remained of the terrace around number 132 as Cheyne Walk becomes Ashburnham Road.

 

 

Marked by an advertisement for Carlsberg Special Brew. Close to this point is the end of Lots Road which we’ve looked at before. I’ve touched on the houseboats in another post but we may come there again in the future.

Postscript

This was a light post in terms of text and commentary but I know many of you will enjoy the pictures and don’t need much comment from me. I welcome any comments, corrections or reminiscences from readers. I’m a little late posting this week because of some last minute fact checking and link creating. I’m off now to see if I can find a 19th century photograph of the King’s Arms which I have in my mind but I don’t think I’ve ever scanned it.

A little later….. I found it and will scan it soon.I also discovered that you can just see the King’s Arms and the Queen’s Arms side by side in one of my early Hedderly posts. (the 6th picture.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rackham and Shakespeare: mortal fools, offending shadows

I know it was Shakespeare’s year last year (400 years – I suppose waiting for 500 might be asking too much) so I’m a little late celebrating by continuing this series of posts featuring illustrations to Shakespeare plays by some of the great artists of the pre-WW1 golden age of book illustration. But let’s not stand on ceremony.

The last pair of posts featured the Hugh Thomson As you like it and the Heath Robinson Twelfth Night. (I started much earlier in the year with Edmund Dulac’s the Tempest.) I couldn’t leave this subject without devoting a post to Arthur Rackham’s illustrated version of A midsummer night’s dream, Shakespeare’s other “magical” play.

This was another in a series of illustrated Shakespeare texts mostly published by Hodder and Stoughton and like Thomson’s Merry Wives of Windsor it was published by Heinemann in  a similar format with 40 colour plates and many other monochrome illustrations and decorations. Rackham agreed to do the pictures in 1906 when he was also working on a set of illustrations for J M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, another work which features Rackham’s unique perspective on fairies.

Rackham’s conception of fairies seems initially to be that they are inhabitants of the natural world at the same level as insects.

He sees them competing with small animals, like creatures which crawl through the undergrowth, infesting the trees like a fungus or a parasite. (You can see some  more of his fairy-insect action here)

As always with Rackham the trees are a presence in themselves, often grotesque and threatening.

In this image you see spiders, caterpillars, an anthropomorphic beetle, worms, something which looks like a scorpion, along with a surprised hedgehog, a snake and a crow (or is that a rook?) above an ethereal crowd of fairies.

But at the same time the fay take other forms, larger and more like humans.

Titania and Oberon,ill met by moonlight.  Rackham noted that Shakespeare’s fantasy was “full of the wildest anachronisms…Titania seems to have been entirely (his) own creation, but Oberon is doubtless drawn from the German Erl King, whilst Puck was never know in classical times”

One of the best ideas (I nearly wrote explanations but then realised that might not be the right word) of the nature of fairies and the worlds they live in comes from John Crowley’s 1981 fantasy novel “Little, Big”. One of the characters says this:

Paracelsus is of the opinion that the universe is crowded with powers, spirits, who are not quite immaterial – whatever that means or meant, perhaps made of some finer. less tangible stuff than the ordinary world. They fill up the air and the water and so on; they surround us on every side, so that at our every movement we displace thousands…..

……The difference observed in size is another matter. What are the differences? In their sylphlike or pixie manifestation they appear no bigger than a large insect or a hummingbird; they are said to inhabit the woods, they are associated with flowers. Droll tales are spun of their spears of locust-thorns and their chariots of nut-shells drawn by dragonflies, and so on. In other instances, they can appear to be a foot to three feet in height, wingless, fully-formed little men and women of more human habits. And there are fairy maidens and warriors on great steeds, banshees and pookahs and ogres who are huge, larger by far than men.

The explanation is that the world inhabited by these beings is not the world we inhabit. It is another world entirely, and it is enclosed within this one; it is in a sense a universal retreating mirror image of this one……I mean by this that the other world is composed of a series of concentric rings, which as one penetrates deeper into the other world, grow larger. The further in you go the bigger it gets. Each perimeter of this series of concentricities encloses a larger world within, until at the centre point, it is infinite

Hence the title, Little,Big. I had to  edit  that  passage down a bit. But I think it provides a rationale for the fairies of folklore and fiction. Here they are again, flowing like water through the trees with faces.

Fairies are fond of tricks of course and the trick played on Titania by Oberon is one of the most celebrated in literature.The transformation of Botttom into a creature with an ass’s head looks to modern eyes like an instance of body horror reminiscent perhaps (if you’ve got a mind like mine) to Jeff Goldblum’s metamorphosis in Cronenberg’s The Fly. (Another insect connection.)

Titania’s acceptance of the new flesh is also reminiscent of Cronenburg.

Let’s stay with the human characters for now. Here is Helena:

 

She’s dressed for classical Greece but Rackham also reminds us of the play’s setting in Shakespeare’s own times.

Hermia looks all set for another woodland drama.

 

Like some of Thomson’s Shakespearean characters she could get away with that outfit in a modern high street.

Also like Thomson, Rackham shows us some sleeping al fresco.

Ministering to the sleepers we mustn’t forget Rackham’s slightly androgynous Puck.

“What fools these mortals be..”

In the end, with Titania and Oberon reconciled, the two pairs of human lovers are prepared to wake up and forget the world of dreams.

As far as they can.

Rackham’s biographer Derek Hudson says “Rackham cast his spell over the play: his drawings superseded the work of all his predecessors…..his gnarled trees and droves of fairies have represented the visual reality of the play for thousands of readers.” He quotes William de Morgan who described MND as “the most splendid illustrated work of the century so far.” (although it was only 1908).

 

Postscript

We haven’t finished with Shakespeare’s fairies yet, because at the same time as borrowing the Rackham book from our good friends at Westminster Central Reference Library (Thanks again to Peter Collins) I also took the opportunity to look at another illustrated version of MND, by William Heath Robinson created for Constable in 1914. I know some people who read the Twelfth Night post were pleasantly surprised by Robinson’s dark view of the play. He has his own take on MND too, which we’ll come to in the next week or so.

If you’ve never read John Crowley’s Little, big (1981), don’t hang about, read it. Anyone who liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell should love it.

I found the quote from Rackham in James Hamilton’s excellent book Arthur Rackham: a life with illustration (1990). Derek Hudson’s Arthur Rackham : his life and work (Heinemann 1960) is also excellent.

For another fairy narrative look here.

 

 


Goodbye Ball Street: behind Barker’s

At its height the John Barker Company owned all three of Kensington High Street’s great department stores: Barkers itself, Derry and Toms and Pontings and a few other buildings in the area. Two of the store buildings remain as reminders of the great era of department store shopping: the Barker’s building itself, home of Whole Foods, Gap and of course Northcliffe House and the Derry and Toms building, home of M&S and H&M, still surmounted by the Roof Garden. (I won’t attempt to say exactly when that era was, pick your favourite: the 30s, the 50s, the 60s?).

Today’s post takes us back to the 1920s and 1930s to the period before and during the construction of the current Barker’s and Derry and Toms buildings and uses an album of photographs given to the Council by the Company. The whole story of the construction is a long one. You can find a good account of it in the Survey of London which I will not try to compete with. But to summarize: the Company had to acquire all the land it needed and close at least one street for building purposes. The process of the construction of the new Barker’s  was interrupted by the building of the new Derry and Toms (1929-1931) which took over the attention of the Company, and later the Second World War during which operations were suspended  so the Barkers building wasn’t completed until 1958.

You’ll need a plan to grasp this, but first a picture taken from the corner of Ball Street in October 1924.

 

This shows Young Street looking north west. The house in the foreground is Thackeray’s house. Next to it is Kensington Square Mansions,  the first buildings to be demolished to make way for the new Barkers.

And now the plan:

Carefully colour-coded, as you can see, to show the all the Company’s properties, the three stores, and Ball Street. Young Street has retained its name but King Street is now called Derry Street for obvious reasons.

[It’s well past lunch time so I’m pausing now to get a sandwich and take a quick field trip to the site.] [Back – interesting to see the rear of the two buildings.]

This is also Young Street.

In the centre is the Post Office sorting office, and beside it the entrance to the Bakery and Cooked Meats Kitchens.

This picture shows Ball Street on January 11th 1928, the day the hoarding to close Ball Street was erected.

If we turn north on that same day…

The rear of Ball Street with the ghostly spire of St Mary Abbots Church rising in the distance.

The point of view shifts east in this picture.

This was the first section of the new premises. On the left you can see a temporary bridge over Ball Street.

This is the east side of King Street showing a Derry and Toms building and a door to the old fire station.

The hoarding on the left shows the location of Ball Street.

This is a view of the rear of the west side of King Street with part of Burden Mews (look back at the plan).

Demolition is in progress.

I’ve included this picture of the corner of Burden Mews purely for the convertible. Motoring experts will soon identify it I’m sure.

This is Derry’s Yard, a narrow mews on the west side of Derry and Toms well out of the public eye, with a rough bridge connecting two buildings.

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More demolition in Burden Mews with a couple of figures in the background exchanging a few words about the work in progress.

Here another group lurk in a doorway perhaps avoiding the camera.

Can you spot another solitary figure below?

A man in a white coat on the first floor.

Back to Ball Street now.

It’s filled with the “covered way”, a temporary structure (man on the roof) and a clearer view of the bridge connecting the old and new buildings.

This is the way it looked from the other direction in October 1929.

The men on the scaffolding are actually posing for this one. The group on the ground are standing by the temporary staff entrance.

Finally, an image from nearly a decade later in July 1938.

This is on the east side of Kensington Square. The Staff Cafeteria is in the centre and the entrance to Lower Yard, where there was a Wine Cellar, a Bonded Cellar and a charging station for electric vehicles. (Ahead of its time?)

The construction of the Barkers building seems to have been a bit of a struggle but even though the stores that were their original purpose are gone, both it and the Derry and Toms building remain as are 20th century classics which have in their way influenced the whole of Kensington High Street.

 

Postscript

I wanted something to break up a flurry of posts about book illustration so the Trevor Bowen Estate came to the rescue again.


Water: Bignell’s travels

I seem to have Bignell on my mind at the moment. I assembled a set of pictures for a recent post mostly taken in Wimbledon which I thought were very pleasant and evocative and I didn’t realise they were part of a larger group of pictures. Someone has been doing some Bignell related research at the library and I went looking for negatives only to find that some of the stacks of yellow photograph boxes contained prints, among which was a set Bignell called “Rural London”. He had evidently roamed around looking for parts of London which looked like the countryside, mostly in west London but occasionally going as far as Leytonstone and Wanstead. Actually I think he got sidetracked a bit because some of the pictures look decidedly urban to me. I decided to start by looking at the views featuring the river, or streams and ponds, because I like waterscapes .(See this post).

Some of them link up with some of the individual pictures I’ve used on the blog. Like this one:

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I think we saw some of these boys before, playing about on the river, where the houseboats are moored west of Battersea Bridge.

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If you look at the south shore you can just see St Mary’s Church. The thing I always remember about it is that William Blake married Catherine Boucher here in 1782.

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Here it is at high tide one of the few surviving buildings from this era. A slightly different view below shows all the giant lettering on the Silver Bell Flour Mill. You can see another view of the church and the former surrounding buildings in this Bernard Selwyn post.

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If we follow the path further along along the south side of the Thames you come here, another industrial stretch of building at Mortlake gives way to a tree covered path, now part of the Thames Walk.

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The path as I recall it from walking part of the Thames Path when my son was younger gets quite narrow as you make your way to Kew.

Let’s take a watery detour south back to the Wimbledon of that recent post. I feel we’ve seen some of these people before.

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Engaged in that traditional pastime of messing about at the edge of a body of water on a warm summer day.

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In this picture the mother of some of the party attempts to move them for a pleasant stroll, although not everyone is convince that’s a good idea.

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In any case for a casual picture Bignell has produced a marvelously evocative picture of that lazy summer day.

While I’m on the subject of detours a quick verbal sidetrack into the question of dating. I said in the Wimbledon post that the pictures were taken in 1970 while Bignell was living in Tedworth Square (he lived there roughly from 1963-1975). Most of the pictures are stamped on the back with that address. But some of them are also stamped with his previous address in Trafalgar Studios in Manresa Road. (He was there until 1962. The purpose built artists’ studios Trafalgar Studios and Wentworth Studios were demolished in the 1960s). So we have quite a long span for the possible dates of these pictures from 1958 to 1975. Some of them look to be on the early side of that, judging by the clothes or the hairstyles. For others it’s difficult to tell.

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Barnes Bridge, with a pleasure cruiser, another timeless scene. From this point there are a lot of pleasure craft on the river.

Like here at Richmond.

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And here with that other traditional feature, a ferry.

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In the next two pictures the hairstyles provide a clue to the date.

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Surely the reason why he took two pictures. The woman and the girl  both have striking holiday hairdos.

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Any hair experts who could put a date to the picture would be very welcome.

Let’s leave the riverside suburbs for now and get back to what I think is the Serpentine on another summer day.

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I’ll come back again to Bignell’s travels on another occasion. If anyone has any thoughts on dates or locations please leave a comment.

Postscript

The post I was going to write this week is not quite ready as I’m getting some informed input so forgive me for returning to Bignell so soon. However I’m sure you’ve found these pictures interesting as I have, and the post did prompt me to doing some research on Bignell’s various addresses which was long overdue.


Thomson and Goldsmith

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve developed something of an obsession with the Irish artist and book illustrator Hugh Thomson and I’ve featured his work in a large number of posts since I first came across the 1903 edition of Fanny Burney’s novel Evelina and was fascinated by the illustrations. Since then we’ve looked at some of his “big books” – Quality Street, the Admirable Crichton (JM Barrie), School for Scandal (Sheridan), As you like it (Shakespeare), as well as the Highways and Byways series (London), and his illustrations to the poetry of his friend Austin Dobson. As a fan of his work I’ve graduated from looking through the Library’s collection, borrowing books from my colleagues at Westminster and even buying a few (relatively) cheap editions on Ebay. This post won’t be  the last time you’ll hear about Thomson but the book featured today is the last of the “big books” that I really wanted to see. It’s the 1905 edition of Oliver Goldsmith’s celebrated comedy “She stoops to conquer”.

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Kate and Constance, protagonists of the main story and the sub plot respectively. “Tell me Constance, how do I look this evening?” How Kate looks is one of the themes of the play. She dresses modestly to please her father, fashionably to please herself and she adopts the dress and persona of a maid to win the heart of Mr Marlow, her father’s choice of husband.

Marlow is a little diffident with young women of his own class but rather more relaxed with women he perceives to be lower class. Here is Kate with Mr Hardcastle.

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“Well my dear I see you have changed your dress as I bid you.”

Below, she asks for the maid Pimple’s view of the outfit.

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“Tell me Pimple, how do you like my present dress?” Note the bundle of keys to indicate her role as housekeeper.

As a fashionable young lady her attitude to Mr Marlow is quite combative and he seems a little intimidated.

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“You were about to observe, Sir?”

He loosens up when he thinks she is a maid.

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“(I) never saw such a sprightly malicious eye.”

I should add that her stepbrother Tony Lumpkin has convinced Marlow and his friend Hastings that they are staying at an inn when they come to the Hardcastle house. Kate is playing up to this, even though she thinks Tony is an idiot. (Which he is.)

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His mother intends that he should marry Kate’s friend Constance but he prefers the barmaid at the local inn where he carouses with some low companions. (That may be her serving the drinks.)

Mr Marlow’s behaviour gets a little out of hand.

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And there are, inevitably, tears shed.

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“By Heavens she weeps”. Mr Marlow learns his lesson.

Tony takes some stick from Constance.

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But he does help her to get together with the man she loves, Marlow’s friend Hastings, after a subterfuge over some jewelry, leaving himself unencumbered by his mother’s expectations.

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The confusion over the house is resolved by the arrival of Marlow’s father.

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Kate and Marlow are in love.

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So it all works out. This is a comedy of manners so you can expect a pleasant denouement. I can’t help wondering about how it would look if it was staged in the costumes of a later era, when Mr Marlow’s  liking for a woman dressed as a maid would have different connotations, but don’t let me drag 21st century tropes into this. Let’s leave them in an idyllic, idealised version of the 18th century, courtesy of the 20th century eye of Hugh Thomson. It’s fitting that we should come back to the home of Evelina. It was probably Thomson’s favourite period, and it seemed to be much liked by his contemporaries.

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Hugh Thomson himself was not entirely happy with the finished book. He was “bitterly disappointed with the way in which the prints have been killed by the colouring and strength of the border framing them.”   (One reason why I always crop pictures, but the plates look fine to me.) The critics didn’t really notice: “it was clearly ordained from the beginning of time that Goldsmith’s comedy should be illustrated by Mr Hugh Thomson.” and “in the whole of his career Hugh Thomson’s art was never more advanced and developed than at the present time.”

I can’t leave out this picture, another of Thomson’s  favourite subjects, young women moping around, this time with a book.

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“I have seen her and sister cry over a book for an hour together”

Postscript

Oddly enough I can remember studying this one at school. I recall nothing of the lessons except a class read through. This was usually an embarrassing moment in an all boys school and relieved at not getting one of the female roles I momentarily threw off my usual diffidence and read the character of the servant Diggory in my impression of the voice of Arthur Mullard (anyone remember him?) to a certain amount of amusement from my classmates and weary tolerance from the English teacher.

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You’ve already seen a number of links to other posts featuring Thomson’s work. There’s just one more for you which overlaps with this one and several others but it has enough unrepeated images to interest the completists. As I said I can’t promise this is the last of Thomson (if I ever buy a copy of his version of the Merry Wives of Windsor you can be sure of seeing that one), but it’s very nearly the end. Of course there’s still Cranford, Peg Woffington, Scenes from Clerical Life, not to mention all of Jane Austen’s novels. And Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield. I was hoping to have a look at Norma Clarke’s new book “Brothers of the quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street” before publishing this post but the library hasn’t got it yet and I’m waiting for some more information on the post I originally intended for this week so Mr Thomson has jumped in to help out

One of the pleasures of writing a blog is to follow the things that interest you as far as you can in the hope that readers will also be interested. You can’t hope to make other people interested in a topic without being interested in it yourself. Expect a flurry of posts about book illustration in the near future but If you’re not as fascinated by the subject as I am don’t worry. plenty of other things will be coming along soon. That’s why I enjoy my day job. You never know what questions you will be asked today.


Agitprop: some pictures from the Mike Braybrook archive

When I decided on the word agitprop for this post I actually had to look up the term up before starting to write to check the actual meaning. It was a term that I heard or read a lot back in the 1970s when I first came to London. The various dictionary definitions boil down to art forms with a political message, derived from a Russian combination of words for agitation and propaganda. But when I was hearing it for the first time it seemed to refer to any anti-establishment activity or literature. Time Out, I recall had a section headed Agit Prop. (Or am I imagining that?). And it was all wrapped up with the underground press, protests and campaigns of every kind. There was a lot of protesting back then. I remember a campaign to save a residential square near my college from developers, and another against the lack of use of Centre Point (then not fully occupied). This was of course before the internet, mobile phones, emails, instant messaging, social media and citizen journalism. There was just the printed page, and makeshift newspapers, magazines and handbills circulated around colleges, schools, community centres and anywhere where people gathered. And word of mouth of course. Community activism was everywhere, not least in North Kensington where there was plenty to complain about.

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These days academics from all over the world are studying urban protest and community action and their research sometimes brings them to libraries like ours which have been collecting what we call ephemera for years. Ephemera consists of,  as the name implies, the throwaway scraps of paper which were only intended for the moment, but which can turn into useful historical documents if someone hangs onto them. That’s part of my job as a professional hoarder, keeping scraps which may turn into the raw material of history.

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Mike Braybrook owned a printing business at various locations in North Kensington and it was he and other like him who printed the posters, handbills and free sheets which promoted activism in west London. I never knew of him till after his death in February 2007 after which a group of his family and friends came together to preserve an archive of his work. The Mike Braybrook Archive was recently added to the stock of the British Library. I’ve had some involvement with the friends who have worked on the archive and have scanned some of the material and been able to keep copies for the library. So today’s post is not intended as a comprehensive view of the archive, but just as a snapshot of an era of urban activism in London.

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The artwork on these posters and handbills often looks crude.

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The creators often had little to work with in the way of time and materials. But the hand made look reminds us that this was an era of do-it-yourself art. The punk movement came out of this time, with its cobbled together fanzines and cover art.

Some posters were a little more sophisticated, and showed some artistic flair.

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The archive doesn’t just contain political material but also promotional material for community events like the Notting Hill Carnival.

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See the logo at the bottom, of the International Times (along with Oz and Frendz, one of the leading “underground” newspapers)

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Other events were not quite so well known, and were concerned with fund raising for local projects, such as this one, near one of London’s iconic locations.

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Or this, at a slightly less famous venue.

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There were famous causes and a few famous names.

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Perennial London issues.

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With radical solutions.

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Not to mention folk demons from the past.

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And familiar, if perhaps naive, images of rebellion.

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(I’m not sure when this imaged was created or what it was used for – any suggestions?)

I’m presenting this as a little bit of history without commenting on the issues themselves. But people are still angry and are still protesting even though methods of getting your point of view across have changed. Some of these issues remain current. Some of the imagery has stuck with the popular imagination.There is still plenty to protest about.

 

Postscript

The Mike Braybrook Archive was deposited in the British Library in December 2016. The material is not yet ready for access but future researchers will find it a valuable historical source in the years to come and Mr Braybrook’s family and friends are to be commended for their work in preserving it for posterity.

 

 

 

 


Bignell in Wimbledon: sunny days

In my last post about John Bignell I tried to make the argument that he was much more than a working photographer and that we should take him seriously as an artist. Now I may be undermining my own argument by presenting a set of photographs which at one level are just quick snapshots of what he might have seen on a day out, like you or I might. I came across these pictures while trawling through the Bignell collection for “strange” photos but found myself charmed by these pictures of an ordinary summer day.

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These pictures taken on or near Wimbledon Common were taken about 1970, a comparatively idyllic period in London life after the tumult of the 1960s and before the complications of the 1970s. I was 15 then and I would have enjoyed walking on the Common on a summer day. Many years later I used to like walking across Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common to Wimbledon village and getting the bus back to Putney. It’s a part of London that makes me feel calm and relaxed. Above is the famous windmill.

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I don’t know who this family is, or whether Bignell knew them. Something about the casual nature of the pictures make me think he did. The dog of course is perfectly placed for the composition, which Bignell can’t have arranged.

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Bignell is particularly good at photographing children. In this period it was still possible to wander around with a camera and take pictures of children playing.

In trees,

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Or by water.

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Bodies of water of course are particular attractive when you’re 9 or 10 or 11. (Remember that scary public information film about its dangers?)

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Wading through shallow water

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Poking around from a distance, with soem help from your parents

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Taking a few minor risks

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And getting a bit of help from the grown up kids.

There were not quite enough pictures here for a full post, but rather than do a short one I’m adding a few related pictures.

This is Putney Heath, a little further north than Wimbledon

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I think this is the cricket pitch. It’s another special spot on a sunny day.

This picture is back in Chelsea at the St Luke’s playground in Sydney Street in 1975  when it was rather more unstructured than it is today.

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A vintage piece of playground equipment from the same day.

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And another view of some play with balls. Many girls from the 70s will recall games of two balls. I’m not sure of the date of this one

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So, John Bignell then. Not just an artist but a master of the commonplace and capturing the moment.

Postscript

Perhaps a bit of an inconsequential post this week, but  I wrote four posts in one week when I was preparing to go to my mother’s funeral. It was pretty cold that day, and now we come to publishing the post it’s pretty cold again with more of the same promised. So this is a good time to remember sunny days from past decades when some of us were younger and as close to carefree as you can get after childhood.

Postscript to the postscript – from the department of Corrections

I’ve been delving deeper into the Bignell collection recently looking for some specific negatives but along the way I came across a box of pictures I hadn’t seen before which contained other pictures from the same sessions as the ones in this post. So it is now clear that the final picture is not of St Luke’s playground but features a playground next to a church in Clapham. When you look closer this is pretty obvious. Oops. (Substitute a stronger expletive if you wish.)

On the plus side, we now have a set of pictures which Bignell kept together under the theme of “rural London” some of which you can expect to see soon.

 


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