Beside the Cromwell Curve: 1985

This week’s post is a kind of sequel to the one about the West London Air Terminal which has proved to be enormously popular and attracted comments from many people who remembered a building I dared to call forgotten. Regular readers will be aware of the photographs of Bernard Selwyn, a surveyor who worked in west London who left the Library in his will a large number of photos he’d taken during the course of his work. He had time to indulge his own interests in London history and he frequently had access to vantage points not everyone could visit. This was in June 1985, well after the Terminal had closed, but before some of the development in the area around it.

The big change was the arrival of Sainsburys in 1983 which would then have been the biggest supermarket in the area.

Sainsburys Cromwell Road 30 jun 85 -10

Selwyn seems to have got inside the space above the supermarket, either in the main structure or the parking/lift tower beside it. Either way he found a few spots well above ground level, looking down on the Cromwell Curve, that point where railway lines coming from Gloucester Road, Earls Court and Kensington High Street meet just below ground level.

Hotel Cromwell Road 30 Jun 85 - 36A

There is the point where the tracks go underneath Cromwell Road to get to Gloucester Road Station. In the background is the Penta Hotel, later the Forum and now the Holiday Inn. On the left are houses in Emperor’s Gate. You can see some extensive undergrowth by the side of the tracks which extends onto a then vacant area. It’s built on now but in 1983 there was a curious sight.

Buttressed house 30 jun 85 -18

One of the buildings has some serious buttress work. It almost looks as though wooden arms were stretched out, frantically trying  to keep the building standing. in the background you can see what was then a church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile which took over a building which had been a Baptist, then a Presbyterian Chapel. the Russian Orthodox Church was there from 1959-1989. Later it became a church hall for St Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road.

Rear of houses near track 30 Jun 85 -15

This view shows the track heading north towards High Street Kensington Station. The buildings next to the track belong to the Underground. You can see them more clearly in the picture below which also shows  what look like ramps for cars.

Rear of houses near track and side of car park 30 Jun 85 -17

It’s always curious to see the rear of these comparatively tall residential blocks.

 

Cromwell Road with view of Gloucester road station 30 jun 85 -25

There are the twin tunnel entrances heading under Cromwell Road, and a neat little staircase leading up that odd little overgrown space. Across the street you can see the site where the Gloucester Arcade was built and beyond, the station platforms which were covered over by the development. I don’t know what the white building was. Anyone? [Update Thursday afternoon – see the comments section below for the actually quite obvious when you look answer, provide by an eagle-eyed reader.]

Selwyn was obviously taken by the view towards Emperor’s Gate. See the signs for the Genesta hotel?

Genesta Hotel 30 jun 85 -30

Now he swivels back to the closest rear view, of Cromwell Road itself. These buildings follow the curve of the track and because of that some of them are surprisingly narrow.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -35

I always imagined that this could be the spot in the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Bruce Partington Plans” in which a body is dumped on top of the roof of a train and carried away for miles before discovery at Aldgate. (Holmes works it out of course with his keen knowledge of the the then modern railway system). But  Holmes experts have determined that it was actually further west. You can see how close the windows are to the tracks though. The rear configuration of the buildings is surprisingly varied.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -34

Look at the complex set of  fire escape in the next couple of pictures. Is there a train coming?

no train 30 jun 1985 -22

Yes.

Train 30 jun 1985 -24

And Selwyn can’t resist taking a picture as  one passes.

This (almost) final picture takes us back to the start with that heavily scaffolded building next to the tunnel entrance for the tracks to Earls Court.

Cromwell Road with scaffolded building 30 jun 85 -28

That coach, or one very much like it is still parked on the pavement.

Of course, when you’ve got a camera in your hand there’s one thing you’re always going to take a quick picture of:

Blimp and tower 30 jun 85 -31

Who can resist a blimp? Note the remaining tower of the Imperial Institute poking up above the skyline.

Postscript

In a previous Selwyn based post I included my personal tribute to the late Glenn Frey. By coincidence there was another recent death in the music world which saddened me. Sandy Pearlman was not a performer. He wrote lyrics for the Blue Oyster Cult, managed them and produced many of their albums. BOC were a strange hybrid of heavy metal, psychedelia and that glossy hard rock of the early 1970s. Pearlman contributed to the atmosphere of the occult in many of their songs, but his main claim to fame is as a producer. Albums he produced had a unique guitar sound, whether it was the Dream Syndicate (the only time I ever bought an album because of the producer), the Dictators (their album Manifest Destiny contains my personal theme song, “Sleeping with the TV on”). Pavlov’s Dog (featuring the bizarrely high voice of David Surkamp) or most famously the Clash whose second album Give ’em enough rope was produced by Pearlman in an attempt to break the band in America. Someone on the  radio called it the best guitar album ever made. I wouldn’t go that far but if you’re not convinced play the first three tracks on the album (or just the third,”Tommy Gun” ) and you’ll see for yourself. After you’ve recovered try “Astronomy” by the Blue Oyster Cult, one of my favourite songs ever.

Thank you and farewell, Sandy Pearlman.

Postscript to the postscript

In the days of film cameras you always used to use up the film with a few unrelated pictures at the end. Selwyn was no exception to this rule. In this pack of photos there were a few of St Paul’s Cathedral and a couple of this building, which I’m sure one of you London experts will immediately identify.

unidentified building 30 jun 85 -7A

No prize, but it would be quite nice to know.

 


Hidden in plain sight: Chelsea’s Jewish cemetery

Last week, on Friday, I was on the 211 bus heading home with a bag of shopping when I saw that  there had been some damage to a brick wall on the corner of the Fulham Road and Old Church Street. A whole section of the wall had been knocked inwards possibly as a result of some kind of impact. I thought I should take some photographs but when I went out on Sunday the area was surrounded by workmen and equipment, with a temporary set of traffic lights. On my way in this morning I took a few pictures, as the breach in the wall was still there.

20160815_090110

Not only is there a hole, but behind it a pile of bricks.

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Beyond that you can see the gravestones themselves.

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It’s not the first time this wall has been disturbed. Back in 1989 I was also there with a camera when the whole wall was partially demolished and there was the opportunity to take some pictures of an obscure corner of Chelsea. In normal circumstances you only get the chance to see the area behind the wall if you’re sitting on a passing bus. This corner, between the Institute of Cancer Research and a short row of shops devoted to antiquarian books and interior design, is the location of Chelsea’s Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 04

The wall, as you can see, was then short enough to look over. The original wall was tall enough to completely conceal the cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 01

It was a bright day for October. The pictures were taken with an Olympus pocket (film) camera so they look a little grainy.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 02

But you can make out the Hebrew inscriptions.

The cemetery, or burial ground appears on Thompson’s famous Chelsea map of 1836.

Copy of Thompsons 1836_Chelsea 4006 - Copy - Copy

The area was called Queen’s Elm after the Queen’s Elm tavern which was right opposite. On this detail you can see Trafalgar Square (later Chelsea Square) and Bath Lodge (later Catharine Lodge along with a number of houses with large gardens on the west side of Old Church Street,

George Bryan, in his 1869 book “Chelsea in the olden and present times” tells us the burial ground was “erected in 1816 by the individuals whose names are inscribed on the wall of the entrance building” (visible on the map).

Hugh Meller, in the third edition of his London Cemeteries (an invaluable book for London historians) which has details of 14 Jewish cemeteries in London says: “The impression given by this tiny cemetery is more typical of Prague than London.”. I can see his point. The 300 gravestones are in a comparatively small area, almost hermetically sealed behind a brick wall and “a rusty iron gate“. I imagine the burial ground fitting into a Bruno Schulz story (or a film by the Quay Brothers for that matter) especially as modern Prague is often used as a location for Victorian London in recent films and TV dramas.

Jewish Cemetery in Fulham Road c1896

The picture comes from The London Burial Grounds (1896) by Mrs Basil Holmes. Mrs Holmes called it “a dreary place” and remarked on the lack of proper paths between the graves. By the time she wrote her book the prayer hall and office had been replaced by the parade of shops. The last burial was said to be in 1913, although Meller gives the date of closure as early as 1884. He also notes the presence of mulberry trees. (That is actually another story altogether, associated with the estate called Chelsea Park which was on this side of the Fulham Road. Parts of it still survive in Elm Park Gardens and so what he says is possible.)

These pictures, from one of our scrapbooks are also dated 1896.

Jewish Cemetery Queen's Elm 1896 CM142c

In this one, possibly taken from one of the shops you can see South Parade and beyond it Trafalgar Square, and the tower of St Luke’s Church.

I’m not so sure of the angle in this picture:

Jewish Cemetery Queen's Elm 1896 CM142

In the 1970s the cemetery was under the threat of redevelopment and there was a plan reported in local newspapers in 1974 to have the ground deconsecrated, and any surviving remains removed to Israel.

cutting 1974

This never occurred. I was told that a benefactor paid for some restoration work to keep the cemetery secure. It remained an obscure corner of Chelsea, safe behind its walls. A place of absolute stillness beside a busy road, its continued existence a source of satisfaction for those who like the quiet places of the city.

Whether in 1989,

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 03or 2016

20160815_090130

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The hole in the wall is now boarded up, which you can almost see in this picture but the main point of it is to show that even with the wall breached the cemetery is well hidden by the abundant trees.

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Postscript

I promised you a new post by my colleague Isabel this week but she has gone to ground in Kent, somewhere near here:

Old Road Chatham - Copy

Hugh Thomson steps in to help again. The picture is from Highways and Byways in Kent (1907). Isabel will be back soon.

It was fortunate this subject presented itself to me out of nowhere. I’ve noticed that I’ve written posts about almost every point of my journey to work, with very few gaps and this is a further addition to the psycho-geographical trail. I’ll work on those gaps in the future.

 


Thomson and Sheridan

004 heading

The 1911 edition of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s A School for Scandal  was one of the first of a series of classics illustrated by Hugh Thomson  in a larger format. Preceded by the Merry Wives of Windsor (1910), it was followed by She stoops to conquer (1912) [pictures from both here] , Quality Street (1913) and the Admirable Crichton (1914). Although intermittently troubled by illness during this period Thomson had hit a sweet spot, and was peaking in his art.

School for Scandal took Thomson back to his favourite time and place, 18th century London, which he had explored before in his illustrations to Fanny Burney’s Evelina. This time he was back in colour:

002a frontispiece Lady Teazle

This picture of Lady Teazle disembarking from a sedan chair caused a minor controversy when it was suggested by a reader that the custom on arrival was for the attendants to lift up the hinged lid of the chair to accommodate tall hairstyles, big wigs and hats. Thomson responded that Lady Teazle,” a very impulsive young woman, stooped and issued in one movement as soon as the chair was set down.” And furthermore, he was well aware of the hinged roofs, as shown in this 1892 illustration to Austin Dobson’s The Ballad of Beau Brocade.

The old sedan chair from the Ballad of BB

The earlier work looks sketchy by comparison with the subtle depiction of costume and facial expression in the later book.

006a strong tea and scandal

Thomson had come into his “comic” style. By which I mean his graphic style, light and comedic, reminiscent of a comic strip or a modern graphic novel. The Edwardian version of the 18th century, the antique filtered through the modern. (Just as steampunk style filters Edwardian and Victorian fashion and design through a 21st century sensiblity.)

Or whatever you like. Maybe they’re just entertaining illustrations, and Thomson had found his favourite subject matter. Attractive young women, ridiculous young men with a smattering of eccentric older players, all of them better dressed than they have a right to be, in an accurate but romantic version of period fashion.

021 But I leave my character behind me - Copy

The School for Scandal is a play of course, not a novel like Evelina so I couldn’t quite ignore the actual story (there was a nagging feeling that I’d seen it performed once at the National Theatre but that could have been some other play of the period featuring fops and gossips,) although I did let most of it sink into the background. All I really needed to know, courtesy of Thomson, was that it featured sneaking around on dark staircases,

009 So I slipped out and ran hither - Copy

a bit of public hilarity,

012 fit of laughter - Copy

some cardplay (an innocent young woman up against a practised and probably unscrupulous player-

020 Maria sits down to piquet - Copy

She looks like she’s holding too many cards to manage. You can’t make out the cards in his hand but he’s got a dozen of them. It’s piquet of course, a game I’ve only ever read about.),

some polite  flirtation (with a bit of fan work),

025a There - my note of hand will do as well

and a little reminiscence about days gone by.

026 Sophy laughed at me for thinking of marrying - Copy

Note the lapdog on the sofa compared with the more robust spaniel in this picture.

Thomson  often illustrates things that aren’t actually in the action, like this:

014 Fairly quarrelled before the bells had done ringingA great portrait of a bit of early marital discord worked up from a couple of sentences. It’s a flashback in fact, pretty cinematic for 1911.

He can also do the stagey farce stuff.

031 Hung I perceive with maps - Copy

Lady Teazle hiding behind a screen illustrated with maps.

032 Lady Teazle - couldn't I steal off - Copy

Peeping out, trying to sneak away unobserved.

034 One day when I called here - Copy

Getting caught in flagrante. Look at that arm behind her.

035 Lady Teazle, by all that's wonderful - Copy

Unsuccessfully attempting to brazen it out, feeling ashamed.

038 See, she is in tears

Tears before bedtime,

and finally some kind of resolution, bidding a farewell to the school for scandal.

041 Make my respects to the scandalous college - Copy

I’ve noticed that the illustrations aren’t as frequent as the book enters the final stretch, something I’ve observed before. Thomson had great respect for the authors of the works he illustrated. (J M Barrie certainly appreciated Thomson’s work –“I delighted particularly in his pictures for Quality Street, and it is the figures he created that I see in that street now, with himself walking among them, uuderstanding them better than the people of today, perhaps understood better by them.” ) But I suspect that the creation of a lively and entertaining set of images was his main purpose. As I’ve said before, for this reader the pictures are what matters most. They tell a perfectly good story by themselves.

 

Postscript

I don’t have to thank anyone for providing a copy of the book this time. I bought a relatively cheap copy, a bit tatty, but complete. Thomson’s versions of As you like it and She stoops to conquer aren’t quite so easy to get. But I’m on the lookout. I like my obsessions.

Next week with any luck we should be back in living memory with a set of photos curated by my colleague Isabel.

Does this design remind you of the images on the lower part of the screens?

001 cover

Oh, and Lady Teazle didn’t get to do the prologue. Here she is now.

005 prologue

Oh, that’s a long speech, Lady T. Maybe next time…


Elegant shopping at Derry and Toms

Victoria Station, at a quiet time of the day.

display at victoria

Sometime…in the 1920s, I think. A display unit, and some posters reminding you to head for Kensington for high-class fashion and household goods.

poster display

Four of them are by Norman Keene,featuring the same playful dog.

wool

Keene was a commercial artist who created many advertising posters. If you google him you’ll find one of he did of the Kodak Girl (created by our friend John Hassall) and a sexy one for Wright’s Coal Tar soap.

But we won’t go off at a tangent at this point. All but one of the images in this week’s post come from a scrapbook/album of  photos, postcards (and photographs of postcards) and stamps all devoted to promoting Derry and Toms, one of the three big department stores on Kensington High Street. The John Barker Company ended up owning all three stores but kept their seperate identities. Derry and Toms was merged /taken over by Barkers in the 1920s. It’s hard to date some of the images in the scrapbook. Some are as early as 1919, others must come from the 1930s. But they demonstrate the desire to keep the Derry and Toms brand distinct.

It’s a shame not all of the cards are in colour, but the monochrome versions emphasise the design. Monochrome or colour some of them still work as promotional images.

shade - Copy

The images are nearly all signed. Below, FH Warren did several for Derry and Toms. Warren also worked for London Underground as did some of the others.

blouses

Stylish blouses and romantic fashions for autumn.

autumn

Summer:

summer

And spring:

spring needs

Hall Thorpe was an Australian artist who specialised in prints.

There were hats:

hats3

And specialised items:

aero

Clothes for flying. Air travel still a luxury had its own fashion items.

Derry and Toms also appealed to a younger audience.

toys

(Helen Byrne Bryce also did London Underground posters)

little people

Swords for sale, for use in a recognizeable Kensington landscape (Kensington Gardens looking towards St Mary Abbots). Kensington was also celebrated in a small set of souvenir stamps,featuring other local sights.

stamps 1

It was all there at Derry and Toms.

ships

I found a colour version of one of the designs.

raincoats 2

The elegantly named J Dewar Mills. Not too much is lost by not having the colour.

raincoats (2)

The final pick is one I’ve played around with a little.

umbrellas - Copy

The two women under their umbrellas in coats hats and veils remind me a little of the fashions from a much later retailer – Biba, the final incarnation of which was in the Derry and Toms building, appropriately enough. Last week I happened to meet a lady who had modelled for Biba in the early years of the shop. So this post is discreetly dedicated to her.

Postscript

The album is part of the Trevor Bowen collection, an archive of material related to the John Barker Company. (Bowen was Chairman of the company. The still surviving Roof Garden was his brainchild.)


Elsie in the movies

This week’s post is based on another recent donation, relating to a former resident of the Borough. We were given a small collection of film stills and publicity photos together with this page from an old Spotlight – type reference book on working actors.

Elsie in Spotlight or similar - Copy

By an odd coincidence I’ve started writing this post on July 16th, the day Elsie Wagstaff died in 1985. (She was born on July 1st 1899). At the time of her death she lived in Observatory Gardens, not too far from here.

In a 1981 Who’s who of British film actors she is described as a “small part character actress, mainly on stage. Films sporadic”. It’s true that there are only a dozen films on the list spread between 1938 and 1962 but that information only made the task of trying to match the photographs to the films more interesting.

This must be one of her early head shots.

Elsie in hat 03 - Copy

Although I never found her in one of the standard works on the subject, Who’s Who in the Theatre, I did find a short biography in a 1954 book “Radio and television who’s who” (Yes I know there’s a short Wikipedia entry, but where’s the fun in that?). As well as details of her theatrical education it told me she was in South Africa in 1926.

Elsie in the Ruiger - Copy

This looks like a stage picture from that tour.

She had been educated at Cheltenham College and the Guildhall School of Music. She had diplomas in drama and elocution. She started in a chorus line in 1919 but her first starring role was as Sadie Thompson in a play based on the story Rain by Somerset Maugham. (Gloria Swanson took the role in a silent movie version named after the character in 1928). Her first film role was in a short comedy called Apron Fools

In this set of pictures we don’t see much of the young Elsie. This could be from one of a couple of north country comedies she appeared in.

Elsie about to do something disgusting - Copy

There was one called Cotton Queen, set in Blackpool featuring Stanley Holloway but I can’t be sure this is the one.

I like this picture:

 

Elsie with three weird dudes and a blonde - Copy

But you can tell she was making the transition from juvenile lead to character actress. The man standing next to her bears a slight resemblance to George Formby, unfortunately for him. Here is Elsie looking scornful:

Elsie looking scornful - Copy

Are those two about to do a song and dance routine? If any film buffs can spot the films, I’d be very grateful. Here’s another head shot.

Elsie young - Copy

There are are few stills in the collection on the back of which Elsie’s character is identified.

Elsie as Aunt Hatty in Lassie from Lancashire - Copy

Here she’s playing a character called Aunt Hetty in Lassie from Lancashire (1938). The lead, named Marjorie Browne did a sort of imitation of Gracie Fields and her career seems to have been limited to three films of that kind (she later co-starred with Tommy Trinder and George Formby). Although Elsie was playing stern looking spinsters, her career lasted a lot longer.

Elsie as Aunt Hatty caught - Copy

Aunt Hetty is pinched by the rozzers. (Possibly)

This is a film we really should be able to identify:

Elsie as the sinister nurse - Copy

The vicar, in a period costume. The girl in the wheelchair. The servant boy. And Elsie, in a really severe uniform. All the clues are there. A post war costume drama? Or is it an early television role? Elsie seems to have found some success on TV.

These are a couple of pictures I can’t help but like:

Elsie sleepwalking - Copy

Elsie in a trance, or just sleepwalking. (See comment below – that is George Formby)

And below, giving it some on the accordion.

Elsie on the accordion - Copy

In the post war period she also had some success as a dramatic coach and diction director (accents seem to have been a speciality of hers). The 1954 directory credits her with discovering Geraldine McEwan, who would have been an up and coming actress at the time.

When it comes to actors of course you inevitably turn to imdb and there I was able to follow her television career fully and find her name in many shows familiar from my childhood. I can’t say I actually remember seeing the medical dram Emergency Ward 10 but I remember it being on. This looks like Elsie playing the matron.

Elsie as a stern nurse - Copy

She’s giving that plausible young man with the hat a suspicious sidelong glance. She was also in Z-Cars, Dixon of  Dock Green, the Adventures of Robin Hood and adaptations of Great Expectations and the Woman in White. The most famous films she was in at this time were Bryan Forbes’s Whistle down the wind (1961) and the Albert Finney film of gritty northern life, Saturday night and Sunday morning (1960) (where her experience of north country accents would have been useful).

Here is Elsie in 1954.

Elsie at 55 - Copy

And here she is as “Aunt Rosa” in something called Celia, a stage play I think.

Elsie in Celia duplicate

Her final film role was in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, (as “wild one”, presumably one of the inmates of the asylum where the good doctor is practicing his body stitching arts) not one of Hammer’s best but it was nice to think of Elsie keeping company with Peter Cushing, Madeline Smith and the rest.

For a final look at a Kensington actor let’s go back to her early days.

Elsie in hat 02 - Copy

Good glove work, Elsie.

Postscript

Thanks to Maggie Tyler, who brought us these pictures, and to Open Age from where she got them. I’m always ready to take in memories of interesting people who lived in Kensington and Chelsea. If you can add any more information about the films, please let me know.

 


Thomson’s guide to London

Now the weather is warmer and we’re in the serious summer, we can relax a little and revisit an old friend, the artist and illustrator Hugh Thomson. Along with his annual “big books” with colour pictures, a couple of which we’ve already looked at, he also had some regular jobs which kept the wolf from the door. One of those was the Highways and Byways series. These were travel books of British counties, informative but chatty, written and illustrated by a variety of authors and artists. Thomson worked on several books in the series but the one of most interest to us is Highways and Byways of London, published in 1902 with a text by Mrs E T Cook (Emily Constance actually, don’t know where the T came from.). Some of the illustrations were by the leading engraver F L  Griggs, who tended to do the sober pictures of streets and churches. Thomson concentrated on the life of London and particularly its people.

Here’s a typical London scene, someone giving some directions.

Sightseers

Third left, second right, You can’t miss it. Thomson captures the confidence of the policeman, the confusion of the older man and the anxiousness of the mother and daughter attempting to follow the complex instructions.

They might be forgiven for taking the tube instead.

An Underground Station

Except that it looks a bit frantic down there. This is clearly one of London’s defining characteristics as Thomson saw it. In his London there seems to be quite a bit of rushing about.

The Hansom

The picture is called The Hansom, but the focus is on the brisk young woman who is threatening to overtake the horse drawn carriage.

The other main theme for Thomson is fashion. In an interview with Raymond Blathwayt in 1901 he said: “I think the last two years rival the costume of Gainsborough’s time. For the book on which I am now at work I went up to the Row several times to make sketches, and I said to a friend: why doesn’t some big painter make a picture of this? Women catching up their gowns just as Japanese women do and wearing Gainsborough hats; why, they are full of charm, and if properly groupes, such a picture would make a great sensation.”

Thomson’s favourite period for women’s dress was the 18th century, and perhaps the early 19th (which you can see in other posts here and here) He had come to admire contemporary fashion almost as much. See some pictures of the Row later.

Below, a pair of fashionable young women cast a sidelong glance at an older lady walking a tiny dog.

Crossing at Piccadilly Circus

 

Below, another pair in fashionable outfits at the front of the crowd at a popular exhibition.(No timed entry in those days by the looks of it.)

At the Royal Academy

Another good spot for seeing the latest trends was Regent Street. This group are crowded around the windows of one of the high class establishments. (Compare it with one of the pictures featuring Regent Street in this post about Yoshio Markino.)

I wonder what the woman at the rear of the group is looking at? Something going on in a first floor window?

In Regent Street - Copy

I originally intended, as I have with other travel books, to  quote relevant passages from the text. But although the Royal Academy picture is placed in a section on London galleries, the author doesn’t mention it at all. You get the impression that author and artist weren’t exactly working closely together. Thomson seems to have followed his own interests in selecting subjects. Literary London was clearly one of those.

In the Charing Cross Road

A group of book fanatics are clustered around a shop in the Charing Cross Road, the southern end I think, opposite Leicester Square station. Charing Cross Road was one of the first places I visited regularly when I came to live in London and apart from the clothes this scene is quite recognizable. I can pinpoint it almost exactly in my memory.  Of course in 1973 very few young women had to gather up their skirts to get past a gathering of enthusiasts.

Male book lovers are also in the majority in this picture of a railway bookstall.

A Railway Bookstall

The lone woman looks on as if faintly amused by the concentration of the book-buyers. The bookstall was one of the key features of a large station. Literacy had increased in the last decades of the 19th century and the appetite for literature, high and low, had grown enormously. Even today, nothing beats a book for whiling away the time on a train journey whether short or long. Thomson continues his look at London’s readers in one of the circulating libraries.

Mudie's

At Mudie’s, one of the leading subscription libraries the female customers seem to be in the majority, examining the latest titles and discussing the finer points of modern literature. A messenger boy is carrying two armfuls of books, coming in or going out and a gentleman is looking at a set of books – a four volume novel? In the background a library assistant ascends a rolling set of steps in search of some particular volume.

Thomson also covered some staider pursuits, such as al fresco dining in Kensington Gardens.

Tea in Kensington Gardens

A little further east in Hyde Park things were a little more athletic.

Rotten Row 2

The woman in the foreground seems quite determined to avoid the attentions of the man raising his hat. Perhaps she’s in a race with her friend, whose horse is also galloping. The dark coloured horse seems as determined as his rider. Perhaps he wants to attract the attention of the filly.

Of course, for others, the horse is just a comfortable place to sit while engaged in polite conversation.

Rotten Row

Conversation could also be had indoors. The busy establishment below is one of the tea rooms of the Aerated Bread Company. The name comes from the industrialized baking process developed in the 1860s as an alternative to fermentation with yeast. The Company opened a chain of tea rooms second only in size to J Lyons. These were know as places where respectable women could go by themselves or in groups without any men to accompany them. Although there are plenty in this picture

An aerated bread shop

 

The ABC tearooms, according to Wikipedia, have made many appearances in literature from Dracula to Agatha Christie. The name survived as far as the 1980s. (I can remember a baker’s shop bearing the name in the 1970s, on Camden Road.)

The family in the first picture could always of course have taken the bus. This driver looks like an obliging fellow, ready for a casual chat with his passengers on the upper deck.

Bus Driver

Downstairs the conductor is collecting fares. He signals the number of coins required to the old gentleman groping for change in his deep pocket.

Inside

Meanwhile a book-loving lady is opening her purse, her latest purchases (or loans) wrapped up neatly on her lap.

The bus might be crowded but it would get you home in style.

At the end of a long day, getting home again might be the best part. This Bank Holiday couple look exhausted after their day’s outing.

The return, Bank Holiday

Thomson does what he does best – catching nuances of expression and details of clothing. You can easily imagine this couple’s life, he a clerk in the City, she at home with their daughter in their first home together, part of an emerging lower middle class engaging in new leisure activities, wearing their Sunday best.

They make me feel tired, so I’ll put my feet up now and look forward to the next Thomson post which will be in a couple of weeks or so and will take us back to the same era as the first Thomson book I wrote about.

Postscript

I’ve looked at a few other examples of Thomson’s work in the Highways and Byways series. The volume on Kent (1907) is typical. The drawings are much sketchier than his London pictures, and much more concerned with depicting the rural settings. Thomson was at heart a country boy, and a lover of rural scenes. The London pictures are more in line with his work for novels and plays, of which we have seen many, and hope to see more.

Now as soon as I wrote those words I thought I’d better check some others, other than Kent. F L Griggs did some on his own but Thomson often worked with other artists such as Joseph Penniel. In the North Wales (1893) and Devon and Cornwall (1897) volumes I found a few character based illustrations. So here’s a bonus picture from the Devon and Cornwall volume, depicting a rare move into the realm of the fantastic with a folk tale about a man who encounters a mermaid on the beach.

H and B in Devon and Cornwall p276

Thomson did a few fairy tale books in his career. Perhaps he should have done more.

 


Gapp’s Stores: a retail empire – 1950

Now that we’re able to do new scanning properly again I wanted to show you a recent addition to our collection donated  by a gentleman who used to work for a chain of grocer’s shops in west London called Gapp’s Stores. Gapp’s began in 1869 at a shop in the Fulham Road from which they expanded across west London until there were 16 branches. These pictures which came in a small album were almost all taken in 1950. They show a form of retailing which lasted from the mid 19th century until the late 1950s and early 1960s. The donor notes that the heads of the company, John and Roland Gapp were unwilling to make the transition to self service as companies like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s had done. (Last week I included a picture showing a branch of Waitrose in Gloucester Road which closed in 1989. I’ve just found out that this was in fact their first branch after their original shop in Acton.  It opened in 1913)

So these images are a record of the way shopping was done, and how small retailers looked for most of the 20th century.

Gapp's store 50 Fulham Road

50 Fulham Road is opposite Sydney Street. You can just see the sign for Sydney Mews, an obscure, nearly hidden area behind Fulham Road and Onslow Square. The store now forms part of a bar called PJs.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road 02

177 Fulham Road, despite the contrast in the numbers,  is actually opposite number 50, on the corner of Sydney Street. (The address on the shop front, 4 Sydney Terrace was  a hangover from the days when small sections of a long street would have their own name. By the time of the photograph the sign would have been a quaint old feature.) It’s now occupied by the  Amanda Wakeley bridal shop.

Here’s the view from the other side:

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road

Gapp’s specialised in wines, spirits and all kinds of bottled drinks as you can tell from the window dispaly. You can also see the reflection of the other side of the street in the window, including the small greenhouse like building which is still there, and is now a florist.

We won’t stay in the Borough on this retail tour, but this location is definitely in our territory: 194-196 Earls Court Road.

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road

See how carefully the goods are displayed in painstakingly constructed piles. Another view of the same shop (at what must be a different date) is reminiscent of the Ernest Milner photographs from nearly 50 years before. (The Gapp’s store was at 136 in 1904 – there  was a re-numbering later).

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road 02

Our next stop is Lillie Road.

Gapp's store 88 Lillie Road

Gapp’s made  Lillie Road  (88-90) the location of its head office. They also had a warehouse there for dried fruit and tea. The shop is signed as a wine merchants. Our donation also contained various pieces of wine related ephemera.

Gapp's wine list - Copy

As you can see, by 1905 Gapp’s already had quite a few stores. By 1950 more had been added as they ventured outwards.

Gapp's store 1 Goldhawk Road Shepherds Bush

Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

Gapp's store 13-15 Jerdan Place Walham Green

13-15 Jerdan Place, Walham Green.

Gapp's store 52 The Broadway Ealing

52 The Broadway, Ealing. (Some nice pillars there.) And on into the suburbs.

 

Gapp's store 2 Ethorpe Crescent Gerrards Cross

2, Ethorpe Crescent, Gerrards Cross.

Gapp's store 155 Thornbury Road Osterley

155 Thornbury Road, Osterley. I haven’t covered them all but you get the idea. Gapp’s seems to have reached a kind of peak in the days of rationing and austerity when the strict virtues of a tightly run shop chimed with the expectations of customers. In the 1960s the company was sold to William Perry Ltd, a subsidiary of John Harvey of Bristol who needed licensed premises. And that was the story of Gapp’s.

But before we go, a picture from 1956, back at the Fulham Road branch with a special promotion for Schweppe’s.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road May 1956 Schweppe's window

Not so much of the hard sell. Just a suggestion.

Gapp's Christmas List 1937 - Copy

Postscript

My thanks to Mr Richard Browne.

On an unrelated matter I have to say goodbye to an old friend, but not a person.

DSC_6571

This Epson scanner was here at Kensington  when I was still at Chelsea. It has served through a number of digitisation projects and since I got my hands on it it has scanned hundreds, if not thousands of images. It would not be going too far to say it taught me about the wonders of scanning details close up. It was also responsible for most of the images on this blog and introduced the world to the street photography of Edward Linley Sambourne among many other historical images. It has even survived a minor flood. It couldn’t however survive the march of progress. A way was found to make it work with Windows 7 but it was going to be very unlikely for us to find a driver for it which would work with Windows 10 when we go over to that later this year, so when the computer it was attached to expired its time had come. We’re currently using a smaller but snazzier scanner to keep the work going. But thank you to a venerable piece of kit.

I refer you to the Grandaddy song “I’m on standby”.


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