CC’s King’s Road in the 80s: people and places

We’ve had a few visits to the King’s Road in recent months. No sooner had I introduced you to the work of Bill Figg than my old friend CC came along with some equally interesting (and technically superior) pictures. I initially divided CC’s pictures into people and shopfronts, but the photos she has recently allowed me to scan are a mixture of the two, and best of all, there are several posts’ worth, so you can expect to see more of them over the coming weeks. To anyone who asks the question: Dave, aren’t you tired of the King’s Road? My answer is always: No, you can never have too many pictures of that ever changing thoroughfare, and those of us who live nearby will probably never tire of it.

As I’ve been examining then, I’ve seen pictures of individuals, and locations. This post has some of both, and this one which combines the two.

 

 

The lightly clad gentleman and his snake (it is a snake isn’t it?) are standing in the old Sainsburys / Boots area (with its now identified sculpture, thanks to a knowledgeable reader ) which at one time I had no pictures of, but now there are several.

Here it sneaks into another picture.

 

 

You can just see the edge of the sculpture.

At the other end of the street, a view of the former police station on the corner of Milmans Street.

 

 

One the left, obscured by scaffolding a shop called 20th Century Box.

 

 

After the Police had moved on the building ended its days as a community centre, and finally a boarded up shell, replaced in the 1990s by a new building. (Some pictures in this post)

We’ve passed this spot before.

 

 

Now, of course, a survivor at the edge of a new development.

Some buildings survive though the shops in them change.

 

 

Lord John, at number 72.

Then closing down.

 

 

Some people are there for a short while

 

 

And then move on.

Some messages are more long lasting, and the same point is still being made.

 

 

I don’t remember this shop, but thanks to failing light bulbs I won’t forget ot.

 

 

Continuing the night time theme, a view of one of CC’s regular stops.

 

 

One more theme to come is looking above the shopfronts at what can be seen above, something I’ve always wanted to do in other Kensington and Chelsea streets.

Here you see a now obliterated ghost sign.

 

 

Close up. The wall above Sweaty Betty is now a uniform white.

 

 

Finally, a couple hanging around by the entrance to Boy.

 

 

Nice shorts, sir.

More of the same in a future post.

 

Postscript

I should perhaps have anticipated this series with a more coherent title from the start, but we’ll see how we go.

All this week’s images are copyright by CC who for the moment prefers to remain anonymous, although some of you may know her. Lavish thanks to her once again.

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Peter Dixon’s Paddington

This week’s post is written by my colleague and friend Isabel Hernandez. It’s a day later than usual, but that’s my fault, not hers,  as I was off for a few days after a minor medical procedure.

 

It has been a little while since my last contribution to The Library Time Machine, and I am long overdue on this blog that, really, should have been written several months ago. It was during this time that I was fortunate to have met local photographer, Peter Dixon, during an exhibition that was held in the Central Library and organised by the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group. On display were some fantastic photographs he took in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mainly of the North Kensington and Paddington areas, which had never been seen before. So, it’s with great pleasure that I am able to share with you some photographs that Peter Dixon was kind enough to give us as part of the Local Studies collection.

Later on in the postscript I will add a link to the website that shows more of Peter’s work and also how the project came about. I think you will find it of great interest, and is well worth a visit.

First, some photographs to pique your interest.

 

 

Above is one of my favourite images of the Harrow Road showing the New Red Lion pub. It has that magnificent lion on the top which I imagine must have been red. I’m probably stating the obvious, but it was before my time and I never saw it before the pub was demolished. To the right is a billboard advertising lager, just in case you fancied something other than your usual brew.

The New Red Lion was one of many pubs in the area, but it is listed in the directories (at least) since 1902. It survived many decades and probably served a good number of those employed by the Great Western Railway. As well as the station there were several wharves, Goods yards, and the Grand Junction Canal. Enough to keep the pub busy with workers enjoying some respite.

If alcohol wasn’t to your taste, there might have been the possibility of some milk. To the right of the Westbourne Bridge, practically next door, there used to exist a number of cattle pens, evidently serving a dairy that must have supplied the local area.

Beyond the Westbourne Bridge was Bishop’s Bridge Road. Some of you may remember the Bridge Café. But here I digress.

 

 

Above Is the junction between Lord Hill’s Road and possibly Westbourne Park Crescent. Familiar territory for those of you following the Paddington blog posts. What’s great about the following images is how Peter captured the local people. He was able to snap images of people going about their business or posing. Children, particularly, were often seen playing on the streets. In those days we didn’t have the technology or the means to amuse ourselves with the current plethora of indoor entertainment we have now. We spent more time outdoors, making up our own games.

 

 

A young lad on his bicycle possibly looking at the strange, if not cheeky, graffiti on the pillar of the house in front of him. Most of the houses in the area at this point were condemned for demolition to make way for the new Warwick Estate.

 

A bonfire burning fiercely to the left of the image. The gentleman in the foreground could be one of the workers in the area burning flammable items (wood perhaps) that might have resulted from the obvious destruction of the old houses once the bulldozers moved in. Safety helmets and formal attire were not compulsory at the time so it’s difficult to say if this was a construction worker, or a local resident. In the background you can just make out the eerie shadows of the new blocks that were going up almost as quickly as the terraces were being demolished. The past and the future, as I have probably mentioned in previous posts, was very marked during this period of redevelopment. It’s not unlike those glass behemoths being built all over London today giving everything a futuristic flavour.

 

 

St Mary Magdalene to the right, next to what I think was Woodchester Street. All the existing streets at the time were later demolished, rerouted or renamed. In the background is a tobacconist with the title: The Boar’s Head Tobacco, and a grocery shop: I &S Jones, advertising what looks like, Benedict peas. It would appear the premises were already vacant and no longer serving the local community at this point. There is a large ‘Sold’ sign between the two stores.

 

 

A young lad squints into the sun as Peter takes the photograph. His shadow visible on the right of the image.

 

 

Two chaps smiling at the camera. Peter did say that people were generally very friendly and obliging when asked if they could have their photo taken. It was considered something of a novelty.

 

 

A really nice candid shot of a group of gentlemen clearly enjoying a joke.

 

 

And here’s another wonderful image of some children being candidly themselves sitting outside a convenience store. Confectionery of any kind was always considered a real treat and the young lad in the middle is clearly enjoying a lollipop as he poses for the camera.

 

 

Two boys crossing the footbridge that links Formosa Street with Lord Hill’s Road, separated by the canal.

The footbridge no longer exists as you see it here. It was originally built by the canal company, taken over by the Metropolitan Board of works, and later conveyed to the vestries. I used to call it the dodgy bridge. It always seemed so destitute and neglected. Every time it was newly painted, it wasn’t long before the graffiti would leave its mark and time would strip away its freshness.

I used this footbridge frequently whenever I walked towards, Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale or to the library in Sutherland Avenue. It was replaced in the 1980’s, perhaps early 1990’s (if I remember correctly) by a far nicer, more open footbridge that has a better view of the canal and the surrounding area. The Paddington Stop pub as I remember it (now a gastro pub called The Waterway) was on the corner, and all the wharves that existed opposite Clarendon Street over the canal were all eventually pulled down and the area became residential with the Amberley Estate built as part of the redevelopment of the area.

 

 

The bridge with the canal and Delamere Terrace in view. The terraces you see were subsequently demolished and replaced by the flats you still see today as part of the Warwick Estate. The lady in the image appears to have, what looks like, a wash bag with her. Not an uncommon sight at the time. The luxury of having a washing machine is a relatively modern concept. I distinctly remember in my early years my mum taking our laundry, with us in tow, to the local launderette on the Harrow Road. It was next door to the off-licence, just before Cirencester Street. The interminable waiting for the washing cycle to end rendered me bored most of the time, so I would often have a library book with me to ease my impatience.

 

 

The same side of the bridge. Only here we see Blomfield Road where the difference in housing was evident. The villas that still exist along this side of the canal were a marked contrast to the terraces opposite. We always remarked on this distinction. ‘Posh people’ lived here! Perhaps these gentlemen were moving in?

 

 

A fantastic photograph taken from Delamere Terrace showing the wall that divided the street from the canal. The footbridge was flanked by a house, and at the foot of the stairs you can see a slightly leaning telephone box that seems, in my fanciful mind, like it doesn’t want to be there. The leaning phone box of Paddington was not there when I moved in, but neither was most of what you see in this image. Railings had replaced the wall. The roads were resurfaced and newly paved. Even the trees and lampposts were replaced. It wasn’t just the buildings that went, but much of what furnished the rest of the streets too.

 

 

This is another favourite of Peter Dixon’s Paddington photographs that I think summarises this particular area nicely. One to end this post on. He took this in 1964 – a few years after he first started photographing the area. By this time a lot of the new flats had been built and the tower blocks were going up. The Warwick Estate, with the elegant St Mary Magdalene as its centre piece, was nearing completion. A few new blocks were still to be insinuated into the fabric of the LCC plan, but it was almost done. The area was opened up and became less crowded. The wall by the canal was taken down and eventually replaced with railings. The canal sidewalk would be paved and made more accessible to the general public. And yet…in the foggy distance to the right, the buildings of old were still awaiting their fate. As with all the photographs I have talked about in the Paddington blogs, the juxtaposition between the old and the new is stark.

Interestingly, to the right of the image you can see a canal boat. Nothing unusual. The canal was always a working waterway, used to transport goods and sometimes passengers. But with the decline of the canal transport industry and the deteriorating condition of the waterways beginning to show, it was the leisure industry that helped to revive interest in the canals. Although the pool at Little Venice was always intended for pleasure boats, there was no obvious leisure service. Summer excursions from Little Venice to Camden Town, was really only just started in 1951 by John James. That’s his boat in the background. The company still exists to this day. I remember a number of trips to London Zoo in Regents Park from here and the echoing tunnels as we passed through. Fond memories of a long ago childhood.

 

Postscript:

Firstly, I would like to thank Peter Dixon for allowing me to use these images for the library blog (all copyright is his). Thanks also go to Maggie Tyler and the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group for their contribution in bringing these marvellous photographs to light and the exhibition that ensued. For more on this please visit:

http://outandaboutandplay.weebly.com/about.html

I hope you have enjoyed revisiting this part of Paddington again. I have been reading all your comments and reminiscences from previous posts with interest, and realise just how many stories there are to tell. With this in mind I would like to tell you about the St Mary Magdalene’s website which references an oral history project that is collecting stories about north Paddington from anyone who wishes to contribute.

https://st-mary-magdalene.co.uk/2017/07/20/community-projects-st-mary-mags/

George Kambouroglou is the heritage officer working on this oral history project as part of the St Mary Mags church development. The oral history project looks at historic north Paddington and the surrounding area. So if anyone is interested in contributing their memories, please contact him directly at George@pdt.org.uk .

Thanks for reading!

 


Eveline, Elsie, Agnes and Joan – May Queens through time

We are all time travellers. Our dilemma is that we can only go in one direction. Sometime time goes slowly, like one of the endless summers of childhood. Sometimes hours or even days get eaten up like minutes. But we can only get off the flow of time by stopping, something you don’t usually want to do. And you can’t go back. But you can fake it sometimes. History, like memory, is one of the ways of hanging onto the past, and one of the best methods is photography.

Another feature of time travel is the regular appointment and my time machine visits this subject every year, the May Queen Festival of Whitelands College. This year’s post is about going back, and we start in 1937. This happens to be the last group photograph in the third volume of the May Queens scrapbooks which are in the College archives. The archivist generously let me have a set of digital images of the pictures in the scrapbooks some years ago, and I have been using them every year since.

In 1937 the College was in Putney. The original Chelsea building couldn’t contain the numbers of students and staff. But the traditions continued and every year there was a new May Queen who was joined on the day of her coronation by former holders of the same office.

 

 

[For reasons of clarity I have not compressed all of this week’s pictures so if you click on a picture to see a bigger version, you should be able to join in the game by studying faces.]

Queen Betty, in the centre of the group,sits on the wooden throne, has some child attendants, holds a bouquet but she is not the main focus of our attention. Look at a few of the other faces.

 

 

The Queen in the red circle is Queen Eveline, who would probably have been in her late 50s, We’re going to follow her back in time to the day she was crowned. I picked her because her dress is quite distinctive, but we won’t follow her on her own. We’re also going to look at Queen Agnes II who was a particularly faithful annual returnee, and Queen Elsie III. I’ve also circled a more recent queen, Queen Joan, but she won’t be with us for long.

 

 

Queen Joan is seated with Agnes at her left shoulder. I did wonder if the the other queen in a blue circle was our old friend from the 2016 post, Queen Mildred but as I looked further I  realised she was Queen Marjorie. By looking carefully and comparing pictures it should be possible to identify them all. But frankly there is a point where careful examination shades into time-consuming obsession so I’m limiting myself to a few names and if there are any other experts I’m happy to hear from you. But this isn’t like spotting vintage cars.

We’re not going back year by year but here is the 1936 group photo which has a good view of the new college building designed by Giles Gilbert Scott.

 

 

Queen Kathleen was the new queen then. You can see her in the first picture, sitting next to Queen Betty. Last year’s queen has to come back to pass on the title. Conveniently, Queen Eveline is just behind her, standing next to Queen Agnes. Queen Joan is there and behind her stands Queen Elsie, who hadn’t made it the following year.

 

 

Now  we move back to 1933.

 

 

Our group of three have clustered together again, with Joan still in the front row.

 

 

In 1932, Elsie was absent.

 

 

Eveline is behind Joan, while Agnes is on the far left, her robes billowing in a breeze. Keep you eye on the white or grey haired queen next to Eveline.

The previous year, 1931, was Joan’s year as Queen.

 

That’s the last time we see her, and the first ceremony in the new College, so to mark her special day, here she is planting a tree to celebrate the occasion, with some hand maidens in attendance.

 

 

In 1929 the College was still in Chelsea.

Queen Eveline wasn’t there that year, but Queens Elsie and Agnes were.

 

 

Elsie is quite plain to see on the right of the group.

 

 

Can you see Queen Agnes?

 

In 1923 there was a smaller gathering.

 

 

Fourteen years younger than the in 1937 picture, Eveline stands at the left next to one of the teenage girls (or younger children) who were were also a feature of the group photos.

This was Queen Marjorie’s year as Queen.

Eveline is also in the 1919 group.

 

 

The Queen that year was Janet, standing next to the Mother Queen, Ellen I.  Janet eventually appeared at the centenary of the festival in 1981.

 

There are Eveline, Elsie and Agnes. The Queen next to  Eveline is Mildred, the 1904 Queen, I think, who doesn’t seem to have attended many ceremonies.

 

 

Next to her is an older queen who might be the one we saw earlier. I’m leaning towards this being Queen Minnie, the 1884 queen. Something about her hairline. But I’m not certain.

 

The 1914 picture is crammed with children, but our trio is all here.

 

 

 

1911 was Elsie’s year. Here she is in the throne room being crowned by Queen Ellen I, the first queen (1881) also know as the Mother Queen, a title passed on to the oldest living queen.

 

 

Note the bust of Ruskin (?) on the far right.

Queen Eveline stands at the back. It’s not a good quality photo but you are beginning to see her as a young woman.

 

 

We mark Elsie’s leaving in this counter clock world with this view of her and her predessor Queen Louise.

 

 

Agnes’s day is coming. Here she is in 1909.

 

 

Mildred and Florence are there with more of the pre-1900 queens.

We’ve seen pictures of Agnes in previous posts but as a farewell, here is a studio  portrait against a painted backdrop.

 

.

Our next step in to go back to Eveline’s own year, 1900. This was the year that Ruskin died, and his influence over the festival was fading. Queen Eveline sits between Queen Annie and Queen Agnes I.

 

 

The three queens behind her who seem to be in civilian dress are from the period when the robes were passed on from year to year. They adopted a variety of dresses over the year.

On the right is Queen Elizabeth II with another distinctive dress. Behind her is Queen Minnie, and next to her Elizabeth I.

The little woman sitting on the floor is Queen Jessie, and she is wearing the second of the two shared robes.

Eveline looks very young in the pictures from this year, like this one with her predecessor, the first Queen Agnes.

 

 

And in this portrait.

 

 

Miss Eveline Head’s part in this story is now finished but in the regular world of time moving forward, her life, like the new century, was just beginning. (Later she married and became Mrs Grey.)

Postscript

This was a tricky post to do, looking back and forth between pictures trying to spot faces from year to year. And, as you’ve noticed, a bit of a marathon in terms of pictures. So one final picture won’t matter.

Queen Minnie, possibly the oldest queen in the 1930s pictures. (Or possibly not. At one point I wondered if she was Ellen II, but more of that another day.

 

 

My thanks as always to Gilly King, the Archivist at Whitelands when I first became fascinated by the subject, and to the College itself. My best wishes to this year’s May Monarch, who will be crowned on May 13th.


Bignell in colour

I’ve been thinking about doing a new Bignell post recently, but what decided me was a chance meeting last Saturday which ended up with me standing inside “The Manse” as Bignell referred to the house in the Moravian church yard (the former home of the designers Mary and Ernest Gillick) which was his last address. I only met Bignell once, in passing, and recall him as a tall man, who would have been close to the ceiling in the living room where I stood. It is possible that this picture, which has a sticker with the Manse address on the back was taken there.

 

 

The picture (Morning Reflections) was in the RPI international print exhibition in 1991.

There’s no actual theme to this post apart from the colour, and than the hope that these pictures are new to you. For most of his career Bignell took pictures in black and white and only used colour when necessary. Like here:

 

 

What better subject than a rainbow? Or perhaps below.

 

 

The picture is actually entitled Chelsea Sunset.

Below, the photographer’s equivalent of a still life, entitled Fallen Tulip.

 

 

From a minimalist view of a flower to a luxuriant view of vegetation.

 

 

And below, a frog.

 

 

These nature pictures might be the professional photographer’s version of holiday snaps. It seems to me that Bignell regarded his main body of work in black and white as the main expression of his skill as a photographer, and his main subject as people. Colour and nature were a kind of a vacation from his day job.

Most of these pictures are comparatively late work, taken in the 1970s and afterwards, so I guess they were also his way of relaxing after years of work in the city streets and in various studios.

 

 

Almost all his colour pictures are landscapes of some kind, like this shoreline.

 

 

Beach scenes, boats:

 

 

And features on the beach.

 

 

I had to crop those last two to scan them, hopefully not ruining the composition in the process.

The picture below seems to relate to his Wimbledon series although the body of water looks bigger.

 

 

In any case, the picture of a group of people fishing is equally tranquil.

Below, this creased print is of an unknown urban location.

 

 

Is it even in the UK?

This one certainly is, Battersea Park 1960.

 

 

I scanned most of these images this week, searching through the new Bignell drawers for colour pictures once that theme emerged. I found some nice black and white pictures too, which we’ll come back to later. I also looked on our server and found this picture, one of three which must have been part of a session I’ve looked at before. These were kept separately. Perhaps they were rejects, or out takes, as they are the only ones taken in the evening. You can look at the day time pictures in the post Bignell and the Goddess (link below). Bignell was in Turkey for that series.

 

 

I never gave the name of the woman as I wanted to concentrate on the pictures. I could tell you now, but do you really want to know? (Don’t worry, it’s not a particularly big deal.0

It occurs to me now that this image  of a woman in white robes, links us to next week’s post, which will be the latest in an annual series.So a good point to stop.

Anyway, this week’s low key post is also a response to the mini-summer we’ve had this week. I should add that by visit to Bignell’s old house was facilitated by Ian Foster who has a pop-up exhibition featuring photographs of the King’s Road in the 1960s in a nearby shop front, the former Carphone Warhouse. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Finally, it occurs to me that there are quite a few Bignell posts, which I hope have helped to bring his work to a wider public. And here they are:

 

John Bignell and the celebrities (2012)

That’s entertainment: Bignell at the Palace (2012)

Bignell’s world (2013)

Bignell and the Goddess (2013)

Portrait of the artist as a young dude (2013)

Bignell meets Hedderly (2013)

Bignell at the pub (2014)

Bignell’s people (2014)

Christmas Days: a little bit of Bignell (2014)

Bignell and women: models, friends and strangers (2015)

Sarah Raphael: a session with Bignell (2015)

Bignell at work (2016)

Christmas Days:Bignell – a childhood in the 50s (2016)

Bignell’s world of the strange: an anthology (2016)

Bignell in Wimbledon: sunny days (2017)

Water: Bignell’s travels (2017)

Bignell’s travels: back streets and backwaters (2017)

I think that’s all of them. Bignell pictures also pop up inside other posts . You can’t read this blog without coming across them, and no doubt there will be more.

Thanks to John Bignell and his family for all the pleasure his work has given us.

 

 


Figg’s then and now (continued)

I got stuck in one small street and its environs the last time I started looking at Bill Figg’s unfinished draft for a small book on Chelsea in the “then and now” mode. This week I’m going back to that and starting on the main drag with a picture of the King’s Road.

 

 

 

The Emperor of Wyoming was a boutique (remember that word, when it was first used?) named after an instrumental on Neil Young’s first solo album. It sold what we would now call vintage Americana, mainly of course jeans, which were imported by the proprietor, Billy Murphy. This version of the shop only lasted a few years – Murphy moved to smaller premises near the World’s End. (I don’t have a picture of that shop.) Figg did a “now” picture of the building in the early 1980s.

 

 

This is one of Figg’s tentative, almost surreptitious, pictures, a little out of focus. I can remember this branch of Waitrose opening. My wife and I were impressed with how spacious it was compared to the other supermarkets in the area. I particularly recall a large display of seafood in large glass  jars. Octopus tentacles floating in brine. Despite what friends have told me, I have never enjoyed the texture of invertebrate flesh. But let’s not go any further with that.

In a previous Figg post I looked at the building next door, the Trafalgar pub, and so did Figg, in “now” mode:

 

 

(1991 I should think. An arty film called Proof was released that year.)

And before:

 

 

The pub under its original, but related name, the Lord Nelson. Note on the edges of the picture, a decorative feature on the cinema building, the Odeon at the time (Some of the decoration on the upper part of the building is still there) and on the other side a branch of Allied Carpets, a well known 70s retailer.

We’re going to move up the King’s Road, as we have before and probably will continue to do so as I explore Figg’s legacy so I have to apologise for a little repetition along the way. This picture shows the junction with Jubilee Place. The former Lloyds Bank building is still there occupied by fashion retailer LK Bennett. But the buildings east of the junction which look as though they’re still there are actually gone.

 

 

Here they are from the west.

 

 

There is the famous shop Kleptomania on the corner. You can just make out the Pheasantry on the right. Figg’s “now” pictures shows the modern development which surrounded the Pheasantry.

 

 

Featuring the bookshop Dillons, a chain which was expanding from its roots as “the university bookshop” in Gower Street near University College. The countrywide chain was eventually bought and most of the shops like this one re-branded as Waterstones

While we’re here we might as well look down Jubilee Place, a narrow street which leads down to Chelsea Green.

 

 

Note that picturesque turret feature. (the King’s Road is in the distance).

And the same view a couple of decades later.

 

Like other photographers, Figg has his favourite spots. This is the now version of one of them.

 

 

The shadowed entrance to Charles II Place and the Marks and Spencer car park, about 1990.

Formerly, the Carter Patterson goods yard, one of the remaining light industrial sites on the King’s Road.

 

 

We’ll skip the Pheasantry this time. You know what it looks like by now, and the Classic Cinema and move on to a site that Figg felt ambiguous about, the King’s Walk Mall. Before the gap seen below was filled in

Many of Figg’s photos, it must be admitted are not very good technically, or were taken in a hurry. I needed to turn down the brightness on this one to capture the name of the bookseller on the corner of the ramp down to Sainsburys and Boots.

 

 

The same shop a little earlier or later, Rock Dreams.

 

 

This is the view after the miniature mall had filled the gap.

 

 

Figg did take a picture inside the small precinct, concentrating on a metallic sculpture at the centre of the space. But when I mentioned this area in a previous post someone responded by sending me a picture which is better than Figg’s, so I’m using that one.

 

 

Figg records that the nondescript, vaguely modernist sculpture had “disappeared”. Had it? If you know where it is now let me know. Figg actually disapproved of the new mall, saying it was “too clinical for a shopping area”. Personally, although it was useful to have a Sainsburys there, I actually liked the new mall, especially when there was a branch of Virgin there. (And my son was forever dragging me down there to buy the latest game. Ridge Racer 4, anyone?)

It’s quite appropriate for the history of the King’s Road that we should start with a boutique which became a supermarket and a supermarket which became a mini-mall. A part of the trend towards the King’s Road becoming a conventional high street. Not there yet though.

Postscript

Thanks to everyone who has left comments or sent pictures adding to our collective knowledge about the King’s Road. The nature of blogging is that you sometimes have to go over old ground. I’m actually hoping for some more pictures of King’s Road shops coming soon. (Hint). The library in the Old Town Hall celebrated its 40 years in the building  this year and there is a small exhibition on there right now. 40 years is a bit like Shakespeare’s 400 year a year or so ago. 50 would be a rounder number. But we couldn’t wait for 500 years and who knows what will have happened to libraries by 2028? As it happens this is also my 40th year working in libraries. Another 10 years seems unlikely. But there’s no upper age limit on blogging.


Mews views

We’re starting this week back with our old friend Ashburn Mews. I thought I’d dealt pretty comprehensively with that comparatively small piece of territory but I realised while looking for some pictures of mews arches that Ashburn Mews had also been looked at by the Edwardian photographer Ernest Milner who worked for the District and Piccadilly Circus Railway in the early years of the 20th century doing his own photo survey of streets under which the deep tunnel Piccadilly line was to run. You can see more of his work in this post on Brompton Road, this one on Earls Court Road and this one  on Sloane Street and Lowndes Terrace.

One of the other, humbler streets on his list was Ashburn Mews.

 

 

The entrance arch in Ashburn Place is dimly visible at the end. A man is working on a carriage. The mews streets were not used for horses and stable with dwellings on the first floor but also for other workplaces like this:

 

 

My transport correspondent tells me that there plenty of electric vehicles which ran on rechargeable batteries in this era and electric vehicles vied with petrol engine cars and buses for market domination. An electric car held the land speed record until 1900. By 1907 the London Electro Bus Company ran 20 buses in London. The company turned out to be some kind of scam rather than a serious bus company and it closed, but for a while there had been a contest which might have been won by the cleaner technology. ( For more on this subject look at this post from the always fascinating blog the Beauty of Transport).

Further down the mews some evidence of human habitation with  these clothes hanging on a line.

 

 

The arch at either end of the mews, with one main entrance and two smaller ones on either side was a frequent feature.

This one is in Egerton Gardens Mews.

 

 

Note the small sign which reads “Commit no nuisance.”

Below Clarke Brothers announce their ability to do “all kind of jobbing work”.

 

 

Many mews arches have survived into the present, like this one.

 

 

The plain looking entrance to Cornwall Mews.

A much more grand arch below.

 

 

Queen’s Gate Place Mews, looking inwards.

 

And outwards (almost as grand)

 

 

These arches are often immediately inspired by arches in the classical world. The one below. This one, Holland Park Mews is said to be influenced by the Arch of Constantine in Rome.

 

 

Unusually, the mews slopes down at both ends, both here in Holland Park (the street of that name rather than the actual park), and below at the other end (in the same street).

 

 

I’ve been looking out for them as I travel, wondering if I should do by own survey . On the  49 I pass Kynance Mews, two iterations of Stanhope Mews (east and west) and also see mewses which have either lost their arches or never had one like Reece Mews. Sometimes a Mews is just a convenient back way for pedestrians, or a useful location for film and television (from the Avengers to McMafia).

The actual reason for this post is a postcard  I recently bought on Ebay of another mews arch which like the one in Ashburn Mews no longer exists. I wanted to feature it here.

This image of Elvaston Mews shows a different style of arch, although the ground floors of these buildings have the same sets of doors, and the upper floors are living spaces with useful openings.

 

And those metal bins, perhaps for forage deliveries. You can see that Elvaston Mews crossed Elvaston Place and that there were two arches, both visible in the picture. One of them now only exists as a pair of stumps. (Try it on Street View) The arch was removed in the 1930s. It’s hard to say which arch is the survivor from this picture.

Here is that figure on the upper floor enlarged.

 

 

A boy, keeping an eye on the photographer. He can’t tell us which arch survived.

Postscript

Thanks to Councillor Sam Mackover who drew my attention to the postcard.

If your appetite for mewses is whetted, there is a book called Mews Style by Sebastian Decker  (Quiller Press 1998) which might satisfy you. I certainly found it fascinating.

Thanks also to Lucy Elliott who just came into Local Studies to ask me about Kensington Court Mews (some more interesting pictures but no arch) and told me there there are 19 mews streets in Kensington and Chelsea. Not all of them have arches of course but they’re all interesting in their own way.

 

 


Car spotting in Oxford and Cambridge (Gardens)

The content of this post arises from the use of an occasional method of mine to stimulate inspiration. Start scanning with one picture you like and keep going until a theme emerges. I don’t know if it always work.

For some reason probably to do with my teenage ideas about what London was like and my deep-seated desire to live there I was very taken with this picture.

 

 

Possibly it was because this block of “new flats”, as John Rogers calls them,  in Oxford Gardens struck me as a distinctly 1960s design, light, airy, optimistic and modern in a street dominated by 19th century suburban villas. I have a weakness for these anonymous boxes which can be found all over Europe. It looks a bit like a student hall of residence.

The old style houses have their own charms of course.

 

The mid-Victorian terrace is another trope of London living in the late 60s and early 70s. Characters in sit-coms and modern dramas lived in them. Pleasant tree lined avenues, a bit windswept, plenty of fallen leaves and a scattering of rough looking British cars.

I know I’ve already implied in the title that there’s going to be some car identification in this post (that was the “theme” which emerged) , but the truth is I’m not that strong on British cars of this era, so I’m going to have to rely on the car aficionados among my readers to do most of the actual spotting. I just know when I see something interesting.

 

 

Now that chunky two-tone monster has got to be something good. It looks like it could swallow the Hillman Imp (?) behind it, maintaining a safe distance from the big-eyed creature.

The two cars below look a little exotic.

 

 

Is that a Volvo? The sporty one I mean. The one I’m not so sure of, but that grille feature on the side looks familiar somehow. I feel I should know it.

Here’s a Cortina in Cambridge Gardens.

 

 

The fairly distinctive rear end of the Mark 1. When I was young you knew that the GB sign meant that the car had been abroad, cruising along continental roads. An Austin Something in the background.

Some of the houses look a little dilapidated, awaiting the coming tide of gentrification.

 

 

A Fiat on the right, and between the houses a glimpse of the Westway, or the Western Avenue Extention as it was sometimes referred to at the time. You can see it again here.

 

 

Some characteristic graffiti late 60s by the entrance to an access point for builders and other workers .

 

 

Above some indistinct graffiti you can see a sign for Laing, the giant construction company which built the Westway. We used some pictures which originated with the company in a few earlier posts. (A typical one) We have many more, and may come back to them again this year.

But back to cars. Here’s a crowd of them, further down the road.

 

 

Is that a Triumph in the foreground? A line of parked cars back in 1969/1970/1971  is always interesting, to me at least. In recent times parked vehicles have become an obstruction for the wandering photographer, as I’ve found many times when looking for equivalent scenes to the ones in our photo survey.

There are other sights from the era , such as this low-slung light industrial building, which is still there today.

 

 

Or of course the occasional pedestrian.

 

 

A different Cortina, with some pedestrians worth zooming in on.

 

 

Despite the unlikeliness of one of these people seeing this post, such things have happened, so if one of them is you , or you know who they are, please leave a comment. In any set of photos there are always people you wonder about. That also applies to the cars. In one of my recent posts about Kensal Road, a reader spotted his father’s Studebaker, which I found very pleasing.

Finally, back to where we started. The “new flats”, which are not so new these days but do look more colourful in this century.

 

 

And another line of cars for identification.

 

I’ve jumped about this week so sorry for that and also for giving out identification work and expecting wiser heads to fill in the gaps in my knowledge but as is often the case, the cars stick out for me when looking at pictures from this era. On the subject of cars here is another question. I think I’ve mentioned before that around the late 1970s, somewhere off Dalgarno Gardens (I think) there was a small street which was filled with old Jaguars, which must have been someone’s collection. Does anyone remember this, or are there any photographs? I’m sure I haven’t imagined it.

 

Obituary Postscript

Having had nothing to report at the end of the last post in the way of the deaths of people I liked, since the last post a fortnight ago  (I gave myself Easter off as I was mostly at home) we have had two deaths in the world of crime fiction.

Philip Kerr was the author of many books but is mainly remembered for the Bernie Gunther series, following a Berlin detective through WW2 and into the Cold war. Although he lived far from the usual haunts of hard boiled detectives, Gunther was a true noir character (although far more ambiguous in his moral code than any Chandler or Hammett hero). If you haven’t read any of the books, I envy you because you now have the chance to read them in chronological order – one of the challenges for Gunter fans was where and when Gunter would start each story. (I see there is some disagreement on this point though, so follow your own instincts) Kerr also wrote three entertaining thrillers in which a football manager solved crimes, surely a first for the genre. His death at what I consider to be a young age is a great loss.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Stephen Bochco, writer, producer and showrunner of many American television crime shows has also passed away. Hill Street Blues was a genuinely innovative show which has influenced a huge number of TV programmes in many genres over the years, and I remember watching each episode avidly in the days before binge-watching. For me and others his masterpiece is NYPD Blue, 12 seasons of police work in one New York precinct in the 1990s, when New York’s mean streets were very mean. It was fascinating to watch the secondary lead character, Detective Andy Sipowicz, become the hero as he made a journey from personal disasters and tragedies to some kind of redemption, contending with his own shortcomings as well as major and minor crimes.

Be careful out there.


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