Courtfield Road meets Gloucester Road

One of the people who read the recent post on Ashburn Mews asked if I could continue my walk into Courtfield Road, which has also had significant development since the 1970s. So I looked, and there were indeed pictures of the original buildings next to Bailey’s Hotel and Gloucester Road Station. I’m a little obsessed with that small corner of London myself, as I described in a post about South Kensington, as it lies way down in the lowest levels of  my personal archaeology of London. (Along with Crystal Palace and Clapham South, for family history rather than geographical reasons.) So my apologies to less obsessed readers if we take another turn around the “backside of Cromwell Road” as another reader put it. Here’s our patch again.

 

 

We’re looking east along Courtfield Road. The gardens of Ashburn Gardens are just on our left and way in the distance is that curious single storey white building, the Midland (now HSBC) Bank, a good point to focus on as we head towards Gloucester Road again.

The buildings on the right are still there. This is a closer look.

 

 

I’ve always liked those arch features, although I don’t know if they serve any purpose apart from decoration.

 

 

I had to check to see if that pale protuberance at first floor level was still there, and it is (somewhat cleaner today or is that the effect of colour photography?)

This section, (1-13 Courtfield Road), leading up to Bailey’s Hotel has been replaced by a modern purpose built hotel, functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but not ugly either.

 

 

This close up shows the join between the buildings as it was in 1969. The arch is still there but now it is the entrabce to the Bombay Brasserie. (There was a catering company and restaurant in there in 1969.)

 

 

I rather like the maxi coat worn by the woman crossing the road. As well as being fashionable, it was December when these pictures were taken.

The picture below shows the full facade of Bailey’s Hotel.

 

 

If we move back a little and swing round to look northward, we can see the other side of the street.

 

 

We’re looking from Ashburn Place at 2-12 Courtfield. There’s another tower or turret at the end of the row, and below, a closer look at that.

 

 

See the tall chimney stacks behind the blocks, and below, by the entrance to Ashburn Mews, another curious detached building with a tower, which looks at first as though some very dry business was conducted inside.

 

 

The building was called Gloucester Lodge and was the location of one of the offices of the estate agents Roy Brooks. The company was once famous for its forthright descriptions of properties in Sunday newspapers, some of which were collected in two slim volumes, “A brothel in Pimlico” and “Mud, straw and insults”. If this passed you by let me quote from the cover of the first volume: “Wanted: someone with taste, means and a stomach strong enough to buy this erstwhile  house of ill-repute in Pimlico. It is untouched by the 20th century as far as convenience is concerned. Although it reeks of damp and worse, the plaster is coming off the walls and daylight peeps through a hole in the roof, it is still habitable judging by the bed of rags, fag ends and empty bottles in one corner….10 rather unpleasant rooms with slimy back yard. £4650 freehold – tarted up these houses make £15000. ” Those were the days when £15000 was a lot of money.

It has the look of a resolutely traditional business which disguised the iconoclastic methods of its proprietor.

 

 

On the ornamented tower, a large sign pointing you into the Mews, where there were indeed more than one garage. A few cars are huddled against the buildings as they frequently did in mews streets, perhaps as unnerved as pedestrians by the lack of pavements.

 

 

And the edge of the Piccadilly Line side of Gloucester Road Station.

It looks as though the second station was still in use for Underground purposes although the florists shop is already there.

 

 

We’ve looked at the station before of course in a number of posts, but I can’t help circling round it once more, in an era when it was not surrounded by much taller buildings.

 

 

These wintry scenes show the slightly seedy charm of this still windswept corner of London.

 

 

Finally, the mirror image of the first picture, looking west up Courtfield Road at a small area of now forgotten buildings with its mixture of ordinary Victorian facades and quirky towers. This was once the modern face of urban life, and although altered by development it retains the atmosphere of an arrival point for west London.

 

 

Postscript

I don’t mind being back here at the station. The question I always ask myself, given the dates of the pictures, is did I just miss seeing the towers and the rest myself, or have I actually walked past them at some point without paying much attention? If the images are all there somewhere in my mind will they surface sometime from the lost past, or were they never there in the first place?

Almost certainly, we’ve now finished with this small corner of Kensington. I think. Next week something completely different as we used to say in the 60s.

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Archer’s High Street

Albert Argent Archer, the excellently named Kensington photographer was featured in one of the short posts over Christmas. As promised, this week we are returning to him, but first a few historical words about Kensington High Street.

On the south side of the High Street we have today the two remaining department store buildings (formerly Barkers and Derry and Toms), a modern development on the corner of Wright’s Lane (which replaced the third department store, Pontings) followed to the west by an 1890s development called the Promenade. The section from Adam and Eve Mews to the Earls Court Road is rather mixed, as many Victorian high streets end up being.

But on the northern side, from Campden Hill Road (preceded by the 1905 Hornton Court, seen in the Christmas post) to Holland Park (and beyond) there is a string of 1930s  apartment buildings, Phillimore Court, Stafford Court, and Troy Court all built in the period after 1932 which, along with those department stores, have helped to cement the High Street’s identity as a 1930s street.

Here is Phillimore Court (140-158 Kensington High Street), on the corner of Campden Hill Road, in about 1970, looking west.

 

 

 

And back eastwards. Note the missing letter from the name above the branch of Safeway.

 

 

You can see that although the building is plainer, it has a similar structure to Hornton Court.

This view westwards takes in the more vernacular style of Stafford Court (160-206) stretching off into the distance. Safeway may have only recently passed on into the retail afterlife but C&A, once another common feature of the high street,  is long gone.

 

 

 

Individual shops may come and go but that series of apartment blocks with retail units on the ground floor still suggests the idea of Kensington High Street as a shopping destination. The wide street and tall buildings on either side say it too: here is a place for pedestrians and businesses large and small to come together.

But as we know, it wasn’t always like that, and before all that development the north side of the street was a series of Victorian houses or shops, with gardens or yards in front giving the street a low-rise and spacious look. This is numbers 140-158 about 1930, just before the block was cleared for demolition.

 

 

 

I don’t know if Mr Archer and his associates consciously intended to chronicle the street where he had his studio or if the series of pictures they took were quite by chance but he caught that part of the street in the last moments of its existence

This close up shows Archer’s studio and the adjacent shops.

 

 

Smart Ciccognani at number 142 was a “court hairdresser” but also, as you can see from the sign, a chiropodist.

This is an earlier (c1904) picture of the other end of the block at the junction with Argyll Road.

 

 

 

It looks as though some work is in progress behind the billboards.

This is the block (160 onwards) where Stafford Court now stands.

 

 

This picture shows the same corner at a slightly different date (note that the post box is different.)

 

 

A close up lets you see the sign for a “valuable main road island site”, ripe for development. Do you see that one window on the side, not bricked in. What happened there, I wonder?

 

 

This view shows the houses on the north side of the street looking west. The picture seems to have been taken from an upper floor of Pettits, the drapers, haberdashers and ladies outfitter. It shows how much space the front gardens of the houses took up and how  much room there was for widening the street.

 

 

You can also see how many of the shops on the south side were single storey buildings, leading towards John Buckle’s Stores at number 217  (“grocer,  wine merchant,  post and telegraph office.”)

The housing on the north side, now as then comes to a sudden halt at Holland Park,  then a private house and grounds.

 

The wall extends as far as Melbury Road. There was a cabman’s shelter there and an old tavern, the Holland Arms

I found a later version.

 

But for a final image, what about  a Kensington High Street photography shop from another era?

 

 

There’s no date on the picture but I’m thinking 1970s. I’m sure Archer would have loved to go in and browse around

 

Postscript

One loyal reader asked me what happened to last week’s post. Well, nothing terrible. I had a cold and was off work for a couple of days but couldn’t concentrate at home. As I recall I was mostly intent on staying warm. My blog resolution this year was not to sweat the small stuff and to realise that the world doesn’t depend on me doing a post every single week. In fact, there is so much material on the blog now that people are always discovering old posts, which is great because some of them are okay. I’ll try and keep the new ones up to the same standard. Next week we’re probably going to be back in the Gloucester Road / Cromwell Road area, but I will be following up this post with some more on the High Street as it used to be.


A walk down Ashburn Mews

We left off last week near here.

 

 

That’s 109 Cromwell Road, the corner of Ashburn Gardens. Ashburn Gardens still exists of course, but the buildings you see in the picture do not.

There was an actual garden in Ashburn Gardens.

 

 

I don’t know if any of it survives. The site was cleared when the Penta Hotel was built but there are still a few patches of open ground on the south west corner of the site. The hotel was built at an angle to the road, possibly  leaving one corner intact.

(The Architectural Review of September 1972 covered the completed building in an article called Bad Dreams Coming True in which a number of then recent large hotels were given a critical mauling. The Penta was called “a monster apparition.” The article is worth a look if you find yourself in the vicinity of a copy)

 

 

There are some mature trees on that corner today which could well be the ones you see in this nearly fifty year old photograph. Or perhaps not.

Behind the buildings you see was Ashburn Place. This is the west side looking south, complete with another of those signs sayingthe site had been acquired for that big new hotel. Is that a Mini-Moke?

 

 

This, I think is the bottom end, although I’m having some difficulty fitting it into my mental map of the area.

 

 

 

Next To Ashburn Gardens was Ashburn Place. We saw the intersection with Cromwell Road last week. In this picture you can see the tower building on the corner, and next to it the “Cottage” (1A), a slightly shorter building.

 

 

And there, the arch marking the entrance to our destination.

Ashburn Mews doesn’t even exist in name any more.

 

 

 

It had one of those grand-ish mews entrances seen at several points in the South Kensington area. Obviously we go down here next. But first a quick look at the Cottage.

 

 

Which can also be seen from the side nestled in the mews itself.

 

 

Now off we go. Like many mews streets, Ashburn Mews was given over to garages above which there were small residences, often featured in television dramas. (Steed lived in one if you remember, and I saw one in the oddly titled McMafia the other night.) Some of the ground floors were given over to small motor businesses. We’ve seen plenty of those. The mews streets that have survived into more affluent times have frequently been gentrified, and the ground floors converted into living accommodation. One thing that hasn’t changed is a lack of foot traffic. A person is just about visible at the end of the street, where you can see the rising bulk of Bailey’s Hotel, a long- standing and much photographed feature on Gloucester / Courtfield Roads.

 

 

Even today, you seldom see other pedestrians when you walk down a mews. There’s one off Cranley Gardens that I used to use as a short cut. The only problem was cars coming at you and baleful looks from the residents.

A lone woman creeps around, perhaps about to enter through one of the garage doors.

 

 

Perhaps it was a bit of a bleak day when John Rogers was here but the street looks uniformly grim. This is one mews that would never be improved. Those garage doors would never be painted in bright colours, and you would never pass by and see someone’s living room. It seems very quiet, without the usual collection of cars waiting to be serviced that you often see in these back waters.

 

 

At the end of the mews you see the corner of Gloucester Road Station, and another conical tower, echoing the one on the corner of Ashburn Place.

A couple of women are exiting onto Courtfield Road.

 

A closer view of the tower with its round windows, a small business, (“typing office and business service” a vanished trade I should think), an unusual brick feature (a chimney?), and a telephone box, conveniently sited in a quiet spot round the corner from the station.

 

 

Finally, looking back the way we came you see a small cluster of cars  and a pair of pedestrians making slow progress back towards Cromwell Road.

 

One of my Twitter followers called last week’s post the backside of Cromwell Road, which was correct. This week we’ve looked even further off the main road, into another one of the forgotten corners of London.

Postscript

None of my musical or literary heroes died this week, I’m glad to say, so this week’s postscript has just one item. This month we had over 20,000 page views, the second highest month ever on the blog, so thank you all for your continued interest and welcome again to new readers.


Forgotten buildings: a few numbers in Cromwell Road

Just before Christmas I did a post which largely arose out of the large number of people you could see in some Survey photos taken around South Kensington Station. I  thought I might do something similar based around the Gloucester Road / Cromwell Road area, another busy area where pedestrians get into the pictures.

We’ve previously examined Gloucester Road Station and the area around it, including one back street which no longer exists (Lenthall Place, pleasingly called a “pokey cul-de-sac” by the Survey of London, another one for my list of excellent phrases from that great work) and the view from above. (How many links can I get into a couple of opening sentences?)

As it turned out I became more interested in a comparatively short stretch of road from the corner of Gloucester Road to Ashburn Gardens, on the south side of Cromwell Road. This section has been entirely redeveloped since John Rogers took these picture in December 1969. The pedestrians for the most part were squeezed out as I realised I had another Forgotten Buildings post on my hands.

There are a couple of interesting women crossing the road here, though heading southwards.

 

 

The building on the left, at one time a bank, was by 1969 the home of Jack Solomons and Bud Flanagan (“Turf Accountants”, an elegant phrase from the past), but as the large sign above their names indicates had been acquired by Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd for the construction of “London’s largest hotel”.  This acquisition included a large section of the south side of Cromwell Road.  The plan might not have been carried off quite as intended, but there has been some substantial development on this stretch of road including a pretty large hotel (the Penta/Forum/Holiday Inn) and a shopping arcade behind the corner, where Lenthall Place  used to run which  also covers the tube station platforms. (If you look at the post called “From the Penta Hotel” you can see a view from the 1980s when there was little left behind the wall.)

 

 

This view looks west from the middle of the road (I hope John was standing in a safe spot). On the left, you can see the wall with a balustrade which enclosed the area including the station and its platforms (and Lenthall Place) I think the arches may be purely decorative, although a couple of them contained actual doorways as you can see below, along with another copy of the same announcement from the ambitious hoteliers.

 

 

John paused to photograph the pavement in front of one of the doorways at number 87

 

 

Albert Rawlings was a motor company. You can see the doorway in the picture below.

The wall went as far as a short section of three storey houses which filled the space up to Ashburn Place.

 

 

Here’s a close up of the entrance to Albert Rawlings.

 

 

And, in one of the houses an Estate Office.

 

 

We might as well let those three women and the cable reels have their own close up.

 

 

The rest of the block consisted of a set of houses built about 1877-78 which were shorter than most of the surrounding buildings. To make up for a lack a height the row ends with a tower.

 

 

A nicely gothic touch. The corner of Ashburn Place.

 

 

Perhaps because they had already been bought for demolition, these buildings have an air of grubby neglect, and a certain dark atmosphere in there old monochrome pictures. They would not survive to be improved with interior refurbishment and double glazing.

This is the next block, between Ashburn Place and Ashburn Gardens, with yet another notice.

 

 

This is where the Penta Hotel was built, not an especially attractive building, and not popular with architectural writers or local residents, but functional.

Many of these buildings were already hotels, like the Courtland or the Eversleigh House Hotels.

Some of the detail of the frontage is quite pleasant, as below.

 

 

Here is the whole block, number 97-109.

 

 

Behind the block, there was a garden square, now also gone.

Below, John turns and looks back again, eastwards.

 

 

On the left is the wall which conceals the railway line. Next to it, just out of picture was the road out of the West London Air Terminal. (The post I wrote about that has become one of the most popular posts on the blog , so it’s hardly a forgotten building although I still sometimes have to explain what the Terminal was and how it worked. )

Finally a map showing the area we’ve been looking at.

 

This is about 1950. We don’t have many of this series so we’re lucky to get a good view of what used to be in this tiny part of London.

Postscript

This post changed as I wrote it. I might use some of the pictures I discarded another time. But it’s quite timely, as there are plans to rebuild the Holiday Inn. I’ll probably continue it soon with a look at those side streets, Ashburn Place and Ashburn Mews.

Thanks to all those who wrote comments last week and offered corrections and solutions.

Another postscript

This week it was the turn of a great author to die, Ursula K LeGuin. Her key works, the Dispossessed and the Left Hand of Darkness were two of the most influential science fiction books ever written. The latter, with its theme of gender fluidity, is still relevant today. Her Earthsea books remain one of the best fantasy series. That K stands for Kroeber, her father’s surname. He was an anthropologist. This background may be one of the reasons why her created worlds are so well realised. (I also have a soft spot for her Philip K Dick influenced novel The Lathe of Heaven. Apparently she and Dick went to the same high school at roughly the same time but never met. When they were adults they also never met although they spoke on the phone.)

Thanks to Ursula K Le Guin, one of the greats of science fiction.

And another

Oh no. Another obituary. My wife once described Mark E  Smith as “that drunk who shouts over music”. Which is unkind, but there is a grsin of truth there. It’s also true that he was acerbic, imaginative and capable of astonishing flights  of lyrical fancy. He also had the ability to assemble talented musicians time and again from the first notes of Bingo Master’s Break Out up till the end.  Fall fans will have dozens of highlights to savour in the years to come. Frightened, Fiery Jack, Prole Art Threat, Victoria, Theme from Sparta FC. Start your own list. Smith’s death can hardly be described as a surprise, but it’s a shame.


Figg’s World’s End

Like Bernard Selwyn (see this post among several others), our other chronicler of Chelsea (and other places), JW (Bill) Figg took his camera to work, and the locations he visited gave him access to some unusual perspectives. We’ve already seen his pictures of the interior of Lots Road Power Station. This week we’re following him onto the roof.

 

 

In this picture (he’s looking north east I think) across the streets of terraced houses near the Station towards the World’s End Estate.  I suspect this is about 1977. Here he zooms in a little.

 

 

The estate wasn’t the only thing he could see from his vantage point. Here, he looks down at the river and some of the buildings on the bank.

 

 

Note that single car parked right at the end of the jetty. (Why drive all the way to the end?)  The short section of ramp puzzled me for a while because I was sure someone had told me exactly what it was in a comment on another post. And they had. Here’s a link to the post and a thank you to Roger Morgan.

Below , the view also takes in both Battersea and Albert Bridges, with Battersea power station in the distance.

 

 

Coming down from his vantage point, Figg also took pictures from the other side.

On a far more sunny day, the World’s End Estate from the south, including the houseboats at Chelsea Reach and in the background the Cremorne Estate.

 

Below, the Wharf buildings, including what must be the two chimney version of the power station, with the furthest chimney hidden by the angle of the shot.

 

 

The water looks deceptively calm and pleasant.

This tranquil view across the river as it curves around the bend towards Wandsworth and Putney shows the railway bridge and the completed Chelsea Harbour development.

 

 

These pictures date from the 1990s, but Figg had been keeping an eye on the development for a while.

 

 

He must be back on the roof of the power station for the next series of images. He dates this one (and presumably the others) 1989.

This section was just a muddy hole with a temporary car park at this stage.

 

The buildings soon emerged from the mud.

 

 

I’m not entirely sure what this one is. I’m sure someone can tell me.

 

 

Here you see the overall structure taking shape as the development grows.

 

 

The completed Harbour seemed a remarkably optimistic piece of work when it sat there on its own at the end of the increasingly gentrified Lots Road, but since the tide of development has moved along Townmead Road through Imperial Wharf, with new housing and retail development, and a new railway station it looks like the first outpost of a new urban riverside strip heading towards Wandsworth Bridge, with similar developments on the south side of the river.

Figg is still on his perch when he looks north again.

 

In the distance, Chelsea Football Stadium. Immediately below, I’m tentatively identifying the street as Tettcott Road. Follow its path past the ramshackle adventure playground to the blue building which I think is the Fyna Works, which was pictured at the end of a previous Figg post.

When you read the title, Figg’s World’s End, I imagine you thought it would involve images like this one.

 

 

A rare colour view looking up Dartrey Road, one of the lost streets of the World’s End at the King’s Road. Or this view of St John’s Church.

 

 

We have seen picture like that before, but this one  is a bit of an scoop.

 

 

This shows the power station looking across the cleared streets where the World’s End Estate was built. A unique image in our collection.

Finally, one for World’s End enthusiasts like friend of the blog Mr Chris Pain.

 

 

 

I’m pretty sure this is a view of a surviving World’s End building from the opposite direction to the preceding picture. Can anyone identify it and say exactly where it was? A friend of mine came into Local Studies this afternoon as I was finishing up and suggested it might be an antiques shop on the King’s Road but some close work on Google Street View makes me doubtful. Any suggestions?

Postscript

Thanks to all the people who left comments on last weeks post, especially the identification of the cars, and about of the eastern end of Kensal Road. You all add immeasurably to the character of the blog, and its usefulness as a source of information. We’re enjoying a bit of a surge in page views at the moment  (post-Christmas energy?) so welcome to anyone who’s just started reading. There are plenty of links this week to take you back to older parts of the blog.

Another postscript

I haven’t done any death notices for a while but I must note the passing of Peter Wyngarde announced this morning. My first reaction was surprise that he hadn’t died years ago, which is a bit mean but it is a common phenomenon. I was a fan of all those ATV shows in my teens, not just Department S but also the Champions, Randall and Hopkirk, the Baron etc. I can also admit to turning back my shirt cuffs over the cuffs of my jacket (yellow shirt, black jacket – it was the 70s) on at least one occasion and having a younger boy from next door shout “Jason King” at me. TV aficionados will also remember Wyngarde in that Hellfire Club episode of the Avengers (despite the memory of what Diana Rigg wore in that episode). I actually met Wyngarde on a couple of occasions when he came into the library, usually to borrow the text of a play. He died at the Chelsea-Westminster Hospital so perhaps he remained a local boy. Thank you, Peter.


On the border 6.3: road and canal

We left off our trip down Kensal Road before Christmas and we were round about the Lads of the Village pub on the corner of Middle Row. You could just make out the petrol station a little further east.

 

 

The White Knight Garage. I seem to have been wrong about the cars in the previous post so instead of making a guess, I’ll ask my motoring readers to identify the parked car.

Just to show you how far (or not) we’ve got, take a look at this OS map.

 

 

If you can make out the detail, you can see the garage more or less in the centre, with several interesting names features nearby

Pulling back slightly, here is the northern side of the road where light industrial buildings are right next to terraced housing and shops. Is tat man ready to drive inside?

 

 

Beyond the garage some motor works, followed by the Church of St Thomas, a relatively modern building in 1968.

 

 

You can see a kind of bas-relief on the side of the church.

 

The open space behind the wary pedestrian was designated as a playground at this time.  (Is he hanging back for John or what?) The map describes the large building on the right as a pharmaceutical warehouse.

Here is one of those collages from the Planning collection showing this section of the street in the 1990s.

 

It’s all boarded up awaiting development or demolition.

Back in 1969 both sections looked a little more active.

 

 

BDH limited. (According to Kelly’s of 1969 there was a company of that name who were “manufacturing chemists”, although they’re not listed in Kensal Road.)

The terraced housing on the north side looked like this.

 

 

Things were so quiet that a shopkeeper came out to see what was going on. Perhaps because of that, John took this detail, showing the onate moulding:

 

 

We’ve just about reached Wedlake Street. Here’s the open space to the south as it looked in 1969. The church is Our Lady of the Holy Souls on Bosworth Road. Next to it Bosworth House and Appleford House. The tower is Adair Tower ,one of the first tower blocks in the area.

 

 

 

This is the companion picture to the aerial shot from the 1980s in the previous post.

 

 

You can see the bridge over the canal and the space where the baths were. That site is almost completely cleared apart form the Vestry offices building and (if you look closely) the chimney, sitting on its own by the side of the canal. I can’t quite make out if the bridge has changed from this angle but later pictures show that it was replaced with something a little more pedestrian friendly.

Here is a view showing Wedlake Street in the late 1990s.

 

 

The old Vestry building has also gone, replaced by a  residential development. You can just see the bridge.

And there it is. Rather more pleasant to cross in this form I should think.


 

On the Paddington side of the border, the terraced houses survive.

One final look down the canal to the east.

 

 

Although we’re now back at the point where we started in December with that view of the canal side behind the Public Baths there is still one last picture to look at

As you may know, Kensal Road once went all the way to the Great Western Road as on this map, whose top corner shows the intersection, along with a number of streets which no longer exist – Southam Street, Modena Street, Elcom Street and Pressland Street.

 

 

Those streets were demolished in the late 1960s / early 1970s when what was first called the Edenham Estate was built. The centrepiece of that estate was Trellick Tower, now a major landmark, geographical and cultural. When John took most of these pictures, the foundations of the tower were already under construction and Kensal Road truncated as it is today. But I think one picture in our collection taken in 1967 shows the missing section of street.

 

 

 

I can’t make out any numbers or street names (the only one visible is too blurred) but I think this is a view looking west and downwards (you can see a slight slope). On the right  you can make out what might be Modena Street and on the left, as the road curves right, the entrance to Southam Street. Today, the Westway passes over near this spot and Elkstone Road does the job of taking you past Meanwhile Gardens towards Trellick Tower and Golborne Road, taking a slightly different route, closer to the old route of Southam Street.

So this picture takes us to what used to be the western end of Kensal Road which only now exists as a memory or a photograph.

Postscript

Another lengthy blog journey comes to a close. It’s been tricky balancing pictures from different times to tell a story so if I’ve made any errors, please correct me. Time travellers don’t always get everything correct and sometimes you get back to the present and find that things have changed.

Thanks of course to John Rogers who took the 1969 photos. And thanks to everyone who told me to keep blogging.  I wasn’t fishing for compliments, honestly but it’s nice to be appreciated. And I will keep going.


The Roof Gardens 1979: for your pleasure

Strictly speaking I know we should have Kensal Road part 3 this week but I’m a little bit under the weather after Christmas and these pictures recently fell into my lap courtesy of my volunteer, BC, who is going through our collection of former planning photos with a fine tooth comb, looking for visual truffles.

They come from a pair of photo albums, undated and unattached to any records. But it was only a bit of minor detective work to spot the sign for the 28th Kensington Antiques Fair and work out that the year was 1979.

 

 

I didn’t even have to go to my transport correspondent to work out the date from the buses. There is Barker’s, still Barker’s at this point, and the Derry and Toms Building.

Although by this time Derry and Toms was no more.

 

 

Biba to, had been and gone, and BHS occupied the eastern part of the building. You can see the foliage at the top of the building indicating the presence of the Roof Gardens which had also survived.

In 1979 we were looking forward into an era of conspicuous consumption and people in London being comfortable about money and the display of spending it. Looking backward, you had  the disturbances of punk rock and the new wave and before them the glam era of Biba and Roxy Music. A good year to have some pictures of the Roof Gardens in its new-ish incarnation as a venue for dining and dancing.

Arrive in your nice big car.

 

 

The staff are waiting for you.

 

 

And the relatively innocuous  lift.

 

 

To take you to a more sumptuous entrance.

 

 

Regine’s. In the Biba era wasn’t it the Rainbow Rooms?

A sumptuous dining room awaited.

 

 

Soon to be filled.

 

 

BC said something to the effect of how many bubble perms could you fit into one room? Several, apparently. (I spotted a couple more in a TV programme I watched this week from 1979. Were they ubiquitous?)

After dining, there was dancing.

 

 

The joint was jumping (quietly).

But let’s not forget the main reason we came here.

 

 

Yes, it’s that garden again.

At this time I think they hadn’t quite got around to the day light potential of the gardens, so we can see some pictures of it more or less deserted.

 

 

With many of the old features extant.

 

 

The gardens still have that tranquil atmosphere, as if they were far away from a city street.

 

 

The wildlife still enjoys the familiar habitat.

 

 

Flags still fly over the sunny garden.

 

 

And there are still hidden corners.

 

 

I’ve looked at the gardens before in this post which combines its real and imaginary history, and this one (one of my early flights of fancy, but the pictures do show the garden empty). There is a certain timeless quality to the gardens. You can still go there, as I think I’ve pointed out before. But would I want to revisit what remains for me a childhood/adolescent memory? Probably not.

But don’t let me stop you.

Postscript

Just as I was about to publish the post I saw a small item  in the news, namely that Virgin, the current owners of the Roof Gardens, had decided to close them. Since 1981 the gardens have been used as an events venue. They’re listed of course so they’ll be used again. But they’ll be quiet again for a while.

Original Postscript

I wrote this just as I was coming down with a cold and finished it just as the cold is coming to an end. I gave myself last week off as I was feeling rough and I’d read another of those articles about how blogging is dead. (On a tablet – I was too ill to turn on my laptop.) I hope it isn’t, I’m just getting the hang of it. I’m certainly going to carry on for a while and hopefully we’ll be back on Kensal Road next week.


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