Albert’s companions: art / empire / industry

Last week I noted that the climax of the Albert Memorial, the great statue of Albert took its place at the centre of a large group of other sculptures and figures. This week we’re going to have a closer look at those other statues. This picture shows the rising succession of steps and terraces

K- unknown

It is as though you are entering a sacred precinct in a temple complex. Perhaps you are. The Memorial is located at the apex of a series of great Victoria buildings among them the V&A, the Natural History Museum, the Imperial Institute (the brainchild of Albert’s son) and the Albert Hall which together formed the area in South Kensington called Albertopolis.

Albert is surrounded by guardians representing geography, art, science and religion. The outer ring joined by an ornate fence is the four continents, each represented by a series of figures and an animal.

Albert Memorial - Africa

Africa, behind it the dome of the Albert Hall. This is a fairly partial view of the African continent concentrating on north Africa, with an Egyptian figure mounted on  a kneeling camel. (It was decided not to use a lion for Africa to avoid confusion with the “British” lion, although it might also have strained credulity to place a predatory animal among a group of people.) An engraving of the sculpture reveals a further detail.

Albert Memorial - Africa197

The Sphinx – Egyptian imagery was extremely popular at the time.

America gets another quirky treatment.

Albert Memorial - America

The spirit of America rides the bison wearing a native American head dress. The woman standing is the United States. The seated man is an Aztec and there’s a Canadian woman on the other side. You can’t see the south American cowboy behind the bison. (The relevant engraving is no help in this regard).

Europe’s animal was the bull, possibly a reference to the story of Europa who was abducted by Zeus in the form of a white bull.

Albert Memorial - Europe

The bull is the only male in the group. The spirit of Europe rides the bull holding an orb and sceptre. Britain holds a trident symbolising ocean supremacy. Beside her, peaceful Germany, a home of learning, sits with  a book. This time the engraving shows us the other side.

Albert Memorial - Europe 193

Europe 22 oct 1998

France has a sword for military prowess and Italy, with one finger raised as though shyly making a point, concentrates on the arts and music, with a palette and lyre. The 1998 photo shows that other side.

The last of the four groups was Asia, by John Foley who eventually sculpted Albert. This is the most striking of the four continents.

Albert Memorial - Asia

The woman on the kneeling elephant is unveiling herself not as an allusion to the sometimes explicit sculptures on Hindu temples but apparently because the Great Exhbition was a showcase for goods coming out of Asia. Beside her, a Chinese potter, an Indian warrior, a Persian poet and, unseen, an Arab merchant holding the Koran. You can glimpse him in the engraving.

Albert Memorial - Asia195

After the continents, on the main plinth, the Parnassus frieze. 169 figures of individual poets, painters, musicians, architects, the contemporary idea of the finest or most significant in their respective fields. The carving was all done on the spot by two sculptors, John Birnie Philip and Henry Hugh Armstead.

Frieze - Shakespeare etc

Here Shakespeare lounges next to Homer with Chaucer looking on. At the other end Bach and Handel exchange musical ideas. (Between them Gluck looks overawed by the company).

Frieze - Titian etc

A bunch of Italian old masters stand around. Raphael gets a throne, with Michaelangelo slumped against it deep in thought. (Not his only appearance on the frieze – he’s with the painters here and takes the central spot amongst the sculptors on another panel.)

Frieze - Wren etc
The rule was that no living artists could be depicted, but the Queen made an exception for George Gilbert Scott himself. Modestly, he had himself placed discreetly just above the shoulder of Pugin. Wren is at the centre of this group of architects.

Above the frieze another set of group statues representing industry – agriculture, manufactures, commerce, engineering

Agriculture - Copy

Once again a set of figures engage in the work presided over by an idealised personage – a female muse. You can also see further eminent men on the corners of the frieze.
Manufactures - Copy

Manufactures – Turner sits at the centre of the group underneath.

Commerce - Copy

Commerce, and below Engineering:

Engineering - Copy

Sennacherib the Assyrian king and Cheops stand there discussing building work. Between them, looking a bit weary of the whole thing is Nitocris, a 6th dynasty Egyptian queen holding a model of a pyramid (she was credited with building the third pyramid).

Finally we reach the canopy itself where a set of plain bronze statues representing the  sciences are gathered around Albert like a guard of honour

The lower group each on their own plinth:

lower group

Geometry, chemistry, geology and astronomy.

The upper group: philosophy, physiology, medicine and rhetoric.

upper group

I’ve rearranged the figures so they follow the spatial arrangement of the monument but if you look carefully you can see the figures are the work of two sculptors who took two corners each, our friends Philip and Armstead again.

The canopy is decorated by mosaics of four female figures- Sculptura, Poesis, Pictura and Architectura. I’ve picked the last one for a reason I’m sure you can guess.

Architectura

Then there’s the spire, inhabited by the virtues, almost too high to make out in detail – Faith, Hope, Charity, Humility, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice and Temperance  and above them two sets of angels before you get to the cross at the very top. This drawing shows the arrangement.

Spire

The whole thing is an anthology of Victorian iconography. Is it all a bit much for one man, no matter what he did, or how much he was missed? Well, you decide. The Memorial has proved to be a survivor.

Albert Memorial c1970 PC1397

This was it about 1970 with the ungilded Albert (and the statues on the spire, withthat bluish colour of old bronze.) And here they all are gilded again:  Albert, the angels and the virtues:
Memorial 22 oct 1998 - Copy

 

Postscript
It was a purely factual post this week, and also a picture marathon. I remember many years ago watching an Open University documentary about the Albert Memorial which covered much the same ground. Do you remember how they used to broadcast in the early mornings and early hours of the morning in the dead hours before 24 hour television? Perhaps it was the oddness of the hour or the seemingly random nature of the subject matter but that documentary stuck in my mind. Hence the need, once I’d started, to lay out as much of the whole scheme as I could, for you. I’m taking a couple of team members out on Friday to take a look. It’s a reminder to me that it’s a privilege to work in an area with such a rich heritage.

And I’ve sneaked in the title of a Bill Nelson song.

The Albert Memorial: illustrated by 29 photographs (c1872)

The Albert Memorial, Hyde Park: its history and description by James Dafforne (Virtue & Co, 1878)

The National Memorial to His Royal Highness the Prince Consort (John Murray, 1879)

The two modern colour photographs were by Maureen G Stainton and are copyright by her.


Albert’s memorial

Do you remember the Albert Memorial being enclosed?

Memorial covered 1990s

This curious tower of scaffolding came about as as result of a decision to repair and restore the most famous monument in London. A dangerously large section of lead had fallen from the canopy in 1983. After that, although it took some time for a final decision to be made, it was clear that some extensive work needed to be done. It took place over a period of several years and the restored monument was unveiled in October 1998.

26- 21 oct 98

Albert veiled…

28- 22 oct 98

…and unveiled, impossibly bright.

The restoration brought the memorial back as far as was possible to how it looked in the 1870s. The statue of Albert had been gilded again. My wife and I went down there at the time to take a look at something neither of us had ever seen, having grown up with the black version of the statue. (The gilding was removed during the First World War. The story goes that it was feared the gilding might provide a shiny target for Zeppelins, but it seems more likely it was a result of increasing pollution damage.)

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Albert, Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria died in 1861. The Queen was devastated by her loss, and the nation consumed by her grief and its own, along with a certain amount of guilt at not having appreciated Albert and everything he had done. The 1851 Great Exhibition was indentified with Albert and the work he had done for his adopted country. A national memorial to Albert would best be sited near the site of the Exhibition and also close to the complex of museums and educational establishments in South Kensington that was already known as Albertopolis. Funds were raised and a competition for the design established.

The outstanding design was by the presiding architectural genius of the day George Gilbert Scott. Scott is well known to us now as the creator of a number of iconic buildings such as the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station.

Albert Memorial K75-177 cropped

A giant statue of Albert seated under a gothic canopy

Building began in 1864.

The memorial is a complex structure supported by a massive steel cross with an undercroft.

107

And an elaborate support structure.

114 K-13389p

Massive pieces of stone were assembled on the site.

122 K12389-kB

An overhead crane moved the sections of sculptured stone around.

123 K12389-Bc

All these pieces were slotted together under the direction of Scott and the builder John Kelk.

 

121 K12389m

The structure grew, under another layer of scaffolding.

120 K12389l

It opened in 1872.

Albert Memorial - before statue

This picture shows the memorial before the statue was installed in 1875. The original sculptor,Carlo Marochetti, had produced different designs for the statue, all unsatisfactory. He then died and they had to start again with another sculptor, John Henry Foley, who had created one of the surrounding groups. The absence of the statue of Albert makes you look more closely at all the other sculptures, representing the continents, the arts and sciences, the virtues and a host of famous men. We’ll have a closer look at them next week but just for now let’s say that Albert was placed in the context of all the arts and sciences of the 1860s.

The finished monument in the 1880s, magnificent, grandiose or sinister?

Albert Memorial 1880s

The memorial became a fashionable spot to be seen, as in this 1870s illustration of fashions on the steps of the memorial.

Fashions in Hyde Park a sketch on the steps of the Albert Memorial July 1873

Our old friend Markino depicted the same steps some years later, with a slightly thinner gathering of fashionable Londoners.

On the step of the Albert Memorial COL

It could be argued that perhaps as the monument aged and suffered the ravages of city life, the Victorian taste for excess in decoration, and the Gothic style itself began to seem dated, and odd. Over the weekend I happened to watch the Jonathan Miller film of Alice in Wonderland, which was designed to look like the photographs of that era. Alice is another product of the 1860s, feverish and fantastic. I don’t want to labour the comparison but it may be that hallucenogenic quality shared by Alice and Albert which captured the popular imagination again in the 1960s when we began to appreciate Victorian taste again

When it was clear some major repair work had to be done in the 1980s the possiblity of dissassembling the monument for good was briefly considered. But not seriously  I think. London loves its strange monuments, and remembers that the memorial exists because these two individuals loved each other.

Victoria and Albert by Roger Fenton

 

Postscript

Now, I know what you’re thinking, some of you anyway. The Albert Memorial is not actually in Kensington but across the border in the City Of Westminster. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that Queen Victoria had the border moved so that the memorial and the Royal Albert Hall would be in Westminster. However, the Memorial is in Kensington Gardens, and is closely identified with Kensington by many people. Culturally I think it is just as much a part of Kensington as Westminster.

And of course we have a lot of interesting material in our collection including some images not often seen. So I hope you’ll let me off. Especially as I found so many pictures that I decided to do a second post next week devoted to the surrounding sculptures.

The two books by Chris Brooks about the memorial were invaluable to me with this post. The first image of the covered memorial is from the 2000 book. Photographs 2 and 3 are by Maureen G Stainton and are copright by her. The picture of Victoria and Albert is by Roger Fenton. All other images are from the Local Studies collection.

The Albert Memorial. The Prince Consort National Memorial: its history, contexts and conservation. Edited by Chris Brooks. Yale University Press 2000.

The Albert Memorial by Chris Brooks. English Heritage 1995.

 


Kensington close ups – part two

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

Kensington High Street 59 GN37

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

A slightly closer view:

Kensington High Street 59 GN37 close up

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

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

Kensington High Street 1890 GN5 close up

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

This image is several hundred yards further back.

001 Kensington High St 1893 Town Hall & TH Tavern K1406C

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

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

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

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

003 Kensington High Street 1905 K12308-B

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

003a

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

The next picture takes us back even further:

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN12

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

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN12 close up

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

Further back still:

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN2

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

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN2 close up

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

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

This picture is taken from a viewpoint even further west.

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18

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

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18 vehicle detail

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

On the other side:

Kensington High Street looking east with Holland Arms GN18 detail

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

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

Holland Walk looking north from Kensington High Street 1973 KS3802

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

Postscript

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

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

 


Modern life in Kensington:1937

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

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

Front view - loose photo

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

Inside the prospective buyer could see some understated luxury.

Drawing Room 02

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

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

Drawing Room 01

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

Library - Study

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

“The casement door leads to the garden beyond.”

Garden view - loose photo

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

rear view showing terraces

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

Far end of the garden

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

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

Boiler

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

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

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

Dining Room

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

Hall

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

1st floor landing

And we can relax in the principal bedroom.

Principal bedrom 01

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

Principal bedrom 02

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

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

Principal bedrom 03

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

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

cover - sitting room

Postscript

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

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

Postscript to the postscript – April 1st

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

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

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


Royal Court posters

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

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

00002 Top Girls

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

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

00010 Ubu Roi

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

Somewhat earlier (note the phone number):

00006 The Ginger Man

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

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

00018 A sense of detachment

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

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

00007 Monsieur Blaise

It was adapted by his wife in 1964.

There was some nudity in this 1974 production.

00003 Life class

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

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

00017 Krapps last tape

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

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

00019 A Midsummer night's dream

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

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

00020 Lear

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

00012 Three sisters

It’s a more conventional poster.

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

00011 Exit the King

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

00003 big wolf - Copy

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

00005 Cancer

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

One of my favourites:

00009 Other worlds

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

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

Postscript

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

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

Sugar and Spice - Royal Court poster

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


Two streets in Kensington

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

Unknown street number one:

Kensington unknown street 01

And unknown street number two:

Kensington unknown street 02

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

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

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

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

Argyll Road PC180 - Copy

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

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

Argyll Road PC775 - Copy

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

Argyll Road PC775 detail 01

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

Now compare those pictures with a couple I took myself:

DSC_5189 Argyll Road - Copy

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

DSC_5191 Argyll Road - Copy

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

Upper Phillimore Gardens PC467 - Copy

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

DSC_5195  Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

A rather less uniform lines of fences and walls.

DSC_5196  Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

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

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

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

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

Kensington unknown street 02 - Upper Phillimore Gardens - Copy

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

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

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

Postscript

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

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

 


Haigh – A handsome stranger arrives at your hotel

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

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

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

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

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

Onslow Court Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald McSwan

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

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

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

Mrs D-D 1

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

Crawley storehouse interior - Copy

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

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

Waxwork of Haigh at Madame Tussaud's - Copy

[Waxwork model of Haigh]

Postscript (DW)

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

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

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


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