Forgotten buildings: Earls Court House and Dr Hunter’s menagerie

The manor of Earl’s Court is one of the oldest parts of Kensington. The Manorial Rolls date back to the 16th century. Even as late as the 1820s our old friend Starling’s map of Kensington shows it as a separate settlement, like Little Chelsea, Old Brompton and the cluster of dwellings near St Mary Abbots Church and Kensington Palace.

Starling 1822 A3 - Earls Court - Copy

Earls Court Lane, as Earls Court Road was called then, runs left to right joining up with Brompton Lane (You can see the fish pond in the grounds of Coleherne Court on the right). The village is surrounded by fields. Another of our old friends, William Cowen depicts  this scene of rural life in the 1840s:

002 Near Earls Court Road C19

On one side of the lane is Earls Court Farm.

Earl's Court Farm

Farm workers obligingly pose for the photographer. The building in the background is the Manor House.

The date is round about the early 1860s. Urban influences were creeping down the lane from Kensington High Street although the men in the picture seem unconcerned. The Manor House and the farm were demolished in the mid-1860s when the first Earls Court Station was built.

Across the lane there was another example of the semi-rural past, Earls Court House, which survived until 1886.

GC2408 Earls Ct Hose A4

Snug behind its wall in its tree lined garden with extensive lawns it kept the encroaching city at bay in its final years. (Look back at the map – the grounds are the plot labelled 4.1.24.The house is the long building near the lane.)

The house was built about 1772 on land purchased by Dr John Hunter. There had been another house on the site whose ornamental gardens contained fountains and a luxurious bath house. Hunter had a town house in Leicester Square where he had his medical practice. He needed a country house for his collections.

John Hunter CPic0071

Dr Hunter was famous for his work as an early trauma surgeon (gunshot wounds), his interest in venereal disease (a clinic at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital was named after him), and as an anatomist with a vast collection of animal and human specimens. He also kept live specimens in a private menagerie.

Some of the later pictures of the house make it look quite innocuous.

Earls Court House CPic413

A conventional front, and at the rear:

Earls Court House1793 CPic415 Frederick Shepherd 1875

Some harmless cows, nothing like the host of creatures who used to make their homes there. According to one of Hunter’s biographers he kept “fowls, duchs, geese, pigeons, rabbits, pigs, oppossums, hedgehogs, a jackal, a zebra, an ostritch, buffaloes, leopards, dormice, bats, snakes and birds of prey, deer, fish, frogs, leeches, eels and mussels.” And a young bull, given to him by Queen Charlotte, which he used to wrestle.

The person we call the Artist of the Red Portfolio painted a more appropriate picture.

Earls Court House 1785 RP2534

She or he has written some notes on the back of the picture about Dr Hunter and his house . “On the right of the house is the conservatory for his bees. On the right & left artificial rocks on which live eagles were chained.” Quite a sight for passers by. As you look closely the eagles become apparent, and the heraldic beasts on the roof of the house.

When I first saw this photograph I assumed the mound was an ice house or some other storage space, which it may have been at the time the picture was taken.

GC2409 Earls Ct House A4

But in Dr Hunter’s day it served a different purpose.

Earls Court House lion's den CPic413

“In the meadow at the bottom of the garden Dr Hunter kept his lions”. This mound contained excavated vaults with at least two dens. A correspondent to the Times in 1886 says “..two leopards broke loose from their confinement and …engaged in a fierce encounter with the dogs when Hunter appeared on the scene and without a moment’s reflection, seized both animals and chained them up in their cages.”  (Although he was much agitated afterwards when he realised the risk he had taken.)

The same writer (a Dr Farquarson) describes another of Dr Hunter’s exploits concerning “Byrne or O’Brian the famous Irish giant”. 

“Hunter wished to secure O’Brian for dissection and the giant naturally wished to evade the scalpel. (He) arranged that after death his remains should be enclosed in a leaden coffin and buried at sea. In compliance with his directions the undertaker engaged some men to watch the body alternately, but a bribe of £500 removed all scruples, and Hunter, placing his ghastly burden in his own carriage, conveyed it immediately to Earls-Court. Fearing a discovery should take place Hunter did not chose to risk what the ordinary method of preparing a skeleton would require. Accordingly the body was cut to pieces and the flesh separated by boiling; hence has arisen  the brown colour of the bones.”

Hunter himself died in 1793 and left his collection to the Royal College of Surgeons. His widow Anne, a distinguished figure in society in her own right stayed on in the house. She was a friend of Elizabeth Montagu, Horace Walpole, the author of the Castle of Otranto and our old friend Madame D’Arblay (Fanny Burney)

John Hunter's house at Earl's Court

This view shows a gentleman escorting a lady into the house. If she is showing any reluctance that may be at the prospect of seeing the item in the insert, “the copper in which the body of the Irish Giant was boiled.” Or perhaps if this picture is depicting a scene after 1832 when the house was (according to another Times correspondent Benjamin Ward Richardson) turned into “an asylum for ladies under restraint for lunacy” she is reluctant to enter for another reason.

[It’s been pointed out to me -see comment below -that the couple are facing away from the house, not going in. Perhaps they’re quietly creeping out having seen the infamous copper. The door is open – are they strolling away casually? “Just act nonchalant, we’re almost at the gate.”)

Of course, it might not have been too bad in there. Look at Mrs Bradbury’s “Establishment for the reception of ladies nervously affected.”

Earls Court house -mrs Bradbury's 02

No more wild animals under the mound. Ladies stroll around the grounds. Is that archery?

Earls Court House - Mrs Bradbury 01

Bows and arrows for the inmates? Perhaps Mrs Bradbury was sitting inside the mound in one of the cages after a sensation novel type insurrection at the establishment? Is there a Victorian novel featuring the inmates taking over the asylum?

In any case the house as it was called was eventually taken over by a Dr Gardner Hill, a comparatively enlightened reformer “of the system of the treatment of the insane.”

This picture may come from that period. A couple of gardeners pause for the photographer on the tranquil lawn.

GC2411 Earls Ct House A4

Richardson and Farquarson both mourned the passing on Earls Court House and its “absorption” into a red brick street“. As along Old Brompton Road, the houses of the semi-rural  days in Earls Court disappeared, but Dr John Hunter is still remembered many years later.

GC2410 Earls Ct House A4

Postscript

In week five of the great scanning famine I began this post thinking I was going to do a general look at the way Earls Court changed in the 19th century using some of the many postcards we have of the area. Then I found out that what I thought looked like an ice house was in fact a lions’ den so I lingered over John Hunter. I’ve told a couple of sensational anecdotes but of course Hunter was a great doctor as well as a famous eccentric.

We’ll come back to those postcards quite soon though.


My mother-in law’s flat – Milmans Street 1974

This is something like week four of the great scanning famine here at the library and I’ve been looking through the many images from our 1970s photo survey for something you’ll like. I thought I’d do a Chelsea street but this time not one filled with interesting artistic or architectural  features. More of an ordinary street, but significant for me because this is where my wife lived when we first started going out.

Milmans Street - west side, 7-12 Purcell House 1970 KS 1985

Right there, on the first foor,the windows to the right of the stairwell. And this was close to the very year my wife and her family moved into the flat, 1974. My wife, a teenager at the time, recalls spending an afternoon transporting two cats from the old flat, further along the King’s Road on the bus, followed by a walk along the embankment carrying a fish tank with goldfish sloshing around in a small amount of water at the bottom of it. (You may not need the extra detail but her family were the recipients of a number of former laboratory animals no longer needed for scientific purposes including the fish, a black and white rat and a pair of slow worms which liked to curl themselves around my wife’s fingers in a way she suspects she would no longer find charming.)

 

Milmans Street - west side, 1-6 Purcell House 1970 KS 1986

Milmans Street is an old street which went between the curve in the King’s Road and Cheyne Walk. The view looking south:

Milmans Street - looking south 1970 KS 1967

The Globe pub subsequently became the Water Rat and then a number of different eating places. Next to it was the entrance to the Moravian burial ground which I have touched on elsewhere. It is always worth mentioning that contrary to the urban legend, the Moravians were not buried standing up. But Christian the Lion was exercised there.

Milmans Street - east side, The Globe public house 1970 KS 1968

Opposite the pub in 1974 was a community centre which had previously been a police station.

 

Kings Road - south side, 387-385 1970 KS 2034

Milmans Street was the eastern edge of the Cremorne Estate, a 1950s housing development. One of the few tall blocks, Gillray House was named after a tiny adjunct to the street, Gillray Square.

Cremorne Estate - Gillray House 1970 KS 2018

Opposite that was Jean Darling House, a low-rise sheltered housing block named after a local housing officer and ARP warden who was killed in September 1940 when a bomb hit a nearby shelter. Local diarist Jo Oakman wrote “3 awful blasts from Beaufort Street – God help them…..two terrific fires shot up from the gas. More bombs till 5.40 all clear..went to help in the trouble – did stretcher work, counted poor bodies. God! What a day dawning! Peace after a night of hell but what a price! Over 41 poor dead things in that shelter including our own warden Jean Darling whose head was blown in.”  [I’ve told this story before- for more see this post]

Milmans Street - east side, Jean Darling House 1970 KS 1970

In the background the fairly new Moravian Tower (as it was called then.)

Further down the street was another block named after a feature of the area’s rural past, Chelsea Farm House.

Milmans Street - east side, Chelsea Farm House 1970 KS 1974

The original Chelsea Farm:

Chelsea Farm A0214

This was followed by a building which like the Community Centre was demolished in the 1980s

 

Milmans Street - east side, St Georges 1970 KS 1980

At the time it was a hostel for ex-prisoners and others. My prospective mother-in-law looked at it a bit dubiously but apart from the occasional noise of raised voices (and smashed bottles) there was very little trouble. That car on the right (anyone?) was certainly safe.

On the other hand it should be remembered that just at the end of the street, across the groovy King’s Road was Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop SEX, something of an epicentre for the nascent punk movement. It’s probably almost forgotten now but the new punks were regarded with some animosity by the remnants of another youth tribe, the teds (was this something to do with the shop’s previous incarnation as Let it Rock?). There were some pitched battles which echoed the old rivalry between mods and rockers. My wife recalls watching from her bedroom window the following scene: a line of police vans parked in Milmans Street into which the police were roughly decanting the struggling youths. One punk was strongly resisting being deposited into a van full of teds, clamouring to be put into another van. He was ignored. My wife reports the van moving violently from side to side as the fight continued within. We sometimes forget now that punk was once regarded as a threat to civilisation.

There’s that car again.

Milmans Street - west side, 14-13 1970 KS 1983

 

At the end of the street was the last section of Cheyne Walk, the embankment and the houseboats.

Milmans Street - west side, Rear of Brennel House 1970 KS 1084

The rear of Brunel House which fronts onto Cheyne Walk. Before it was built that stretch of the street was home to many artists (you can still see some blue plaques) and picturesque views.

Milmans Street attributed to Hedderly

A picture attributed to James Hedderly showing the east side of Milmans Street but probably simply from the same period as his riverside work. [This post from 2011 the first  of several looks at the riverside with a picture of Cheyne Walk in which you can just about see where Milmans Street was.]

Milmans Street - looking north from Cheyne Walk 1970 KS 1982

This picture looks north from Cheyne Walk and dates from 1982 by which time I was a regular visitor to my future mother-in-law’s flat, the first address in Chelsea I ever slept at now I come to think of it. But not the last. Coming from a very tidy household I was pleasantly surprised to find that my girlfriend’s mother was at least as untidy as me.

Cheyne walk north side 104A, 1970 KS 1935

 

Postscript

This view, the east side has changed a little. the building on the far right is still there.In the 1980s it was said that Jack  Nicholson stayed there while he was making the Shining. That garage has been remodelled. Usually something better than a Reliant is parked there. Check it out on Google Maps and you’ll see one of a pair of remarkable cherished number plates.

 

 

 


Sarah Raphael – a session with Bignell

The name of Sarah Raphael was familiar to me before I first looked at this week’s photographs but I have to admit I didn’t know a great deal about her. I had some inkling that she had died comparatively young but I don’t know where that came from. To summarise: she was born in 1960 and became known as a painter of portraits, landscapes and abstract pictures. She was married with three children. She died in 2001 aged 41. The people who have written about her including Clive James, William Boyd and her father Frederic Raphael agree that she was a significant artist. Had she lived we would know a lot more about her.

And at some point she met John Bignell. I’ve scanned a couple of regular sized prints from our Bignell collection but also isolated a few more from a contact sheet as I did once before with Regis de Bouvier de Cachard. This gives us a record of one photo session with Bignell. I don’t know if this was one of Bignell’s magazine or newspaper assignments or if she was one of his artistic acquaintances. (There were quite a few of those.) But they are fascinating pictures of an artist .

Sarah Raphael 01

There won’t be a lot of commentary from  me this week. Sometimes the pictures speak for themselves. Here she sits on a stool in an elegant room looking at one of her pictures.

There are some variants of this pose.

Sarah Raphael 01a

They seem to have tried out quite a few poses showing Ms Raphael at work, putting brush to canvas.

Sarah Raphael 03

In her studio (or just a pleasantly untidy room nearby).

Sarah Raphael 04

Sarah Raphael 3 from contact sheet - Copy

Using a mirror to create a picture within a picture effect.

Sarah Raphael 07

Or using the mirrors (and some plates?) as props.

Sarah Raphael 01c

Taking a break.

Sarah Raphael 09

If you’ve never encountered her work you can see in the photographs that the painting has a slightly surreal feel to it.

Sarah Raphael 02

See how that tower in the painting has moved from right to left as Bignell set up the shots.

I found some similar images in her illustrations to a book by her father, “The Hidden I” (Thames and Hudson 1990) which demonstrate the same qualities.

00002 - Copy

Perhaps Bignell was trying to capture some of the same playfulness in his pictures of the artist.

00001 - Copy

She was also influences by pop art and comics.

Strip Page 1

Sarah_Raphael_Strip_page_5_1997_en

[Strip Page 1 and Page 5]

And could work in the space between landscape and abstract art as in one of her Australian paintings.

Gibber Desert Constellation II

[Gibber desert Constellation II]

But I promised as little commentary as possible, and no attempt at art criticism so let’s just remember a talented artist at work being photographed by a talented photographer.

Sarah Raphael 06

Postscript

You can see more of Sarah Raphael’s work at http://www.clivejames.com/gallery/painting/sarah-raphael

As hinted at last week I’m doing what you might call quirky posts at the moment. I did consider trying to assemble some of Bignell’s odder images into a post called Weird Bignell but I’ve already used some of the best. I also looked through the run of a short lived 1970s periodical called the Times of Chelsea for which he was the picture editor and got a few ideas for later. I never did find the reason for this particular session, but I’m glad to have found the pictures and been to use them on the blog.

It’s possibly not of general interest but the total number of page views on the blog recently passed three quarters of a million. I was quite pleased anyway.

Finally, after the recent sad news of the death of Muhammed Ali, here he is in a couple of Bignell pictures.

Mohammed Ali - Cassius Clay_jb_241

Mohammed Ali - Cassius Clay_jb_242

The Greatest of all time.


Now you see it, now you don’t..now you see it again

We’re still having technical problems here so this week’s post is one I’ve had in draft form for some time because I wasn’t sure about it. It’s just a shaggy dog story really which I’m telling because I happened to take some photographs of a building I found interesting. But enough prevarication.

The other thing is that I’m not going to go into any issues about planning, or ownership or  development because I don’t know anything about those in relation to this particular building. It’s just a curiosity and one of those things you might not even have noticed if you weren’t a regular visitor to the place concerned. So, here’s the story.

There was a building on the corner of Tregunter Road and the Little Boltons, just down the road from where I used to work at Brompton Library which had a big garden. So big that one year it was in the National Gardens Scheme, a once a year event when people would open their gardens to interested members of the public. This is the building in 2007.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I took the photos then on my old camera because the property was clearly empty, and had that sad look of a substantial house worn down by the years. It was typical of the area – a large suburban villa it might have been called. That tower feature is not uncommon in the area. Look at a nearby house in Gilston Road. (picture from 1970)

Gilston Road 1970

The garden was overgrown, and no longer of interest to visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then in 2009 the house was gone. These two pictures show the view of where the rear of the house would have been.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The complete disappearance of the house was unusual but not remarkable. The size of the site would have been attractive to a new owner, whether an individual or a company. As far as I know the demolition happened in 2009. I wasn’t in the area so much by this time but I kept my eyes open when I was.

And then in 2014..

DSC_4353 Tregunter house

The house was miraculously back.

DSC_4354 tregunter house

Or at least someone had carefully built a new house which looked very much like the old one. A little bigger I thought when I first saw it, with slightly different proportions, but that could have been an illusion. A part of the builder’s sleight of hand. It’s there. Now it’s gone. Now it’s back. Magic in slow motion.

I’m sure there must have been problems of one kind or another. Given the size of the site and the popularity of subterranean development in Kensington and Chelsea there might be several basements or garages underneath it. But as I said I’m not interested in generating any controversy. It’s just one of those things that happens in London. The city I live in never fails to surprise me.

As I said above I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to anyone but me. The wandering blogger sometimes catches odd occurrences like in January 2011 when developers were refurbishing a whole terrace on the Fulham Road and one of the middle houses collapsed leaving this gap:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Accidents happen I guess. I heard that part of the road was closed so I went to have a look. (Quite a few years ago near where I live a short terrace of buildings, its facade completely covered in scaffolding caused a sensation one Sunday morning when the whole structure of scaffolding collapsed into the street. I didn’t take a camera to that incident). Nowadays this stretch of road has a series of new businesses at ground level with residential accommodation above. I was there the other day and the facade looked completely homogeneous. You would never know the unfortunate collapse had happened.

In another part of South Kensington, you can find this nice seamless looking terrace behind a garden square:

DSC_6556

You would hardly know that a couple of years ago in 2014 the end of the terrace looked like this:

DSC_4180

Not knowing what was going to happen I never had the forethought to photograph the unremarkable three-storey block of flats (1960s, or late 1950s) which had occupied the corner site for years. And I haven’t been able to find any pictures of how that corner used to look. So you’ll have to take my word for it that the new version looks better than the old.

Tales from the building trade like these no doubt happen all the time, and not everyone is as fascinated by them as I am. But keep your eyes open. Buildings come and go like everything else.

Postscript

We my be experiencing “hardware issues” on the computer connected to our scanner so I may need to be creative in the weeks to come, and I might need to go off-piste. I have an interesting idea for next week but after that who knows?

Postscript to the Postscript

Thanks to a comment from London Remembers we can now see the former building as it was:

Hereford Square

This image is from Google Maps and is copyright by Google. The hoardings  are down in Tregunter Road so if you’re interested take a look at it.


Louisa’s album, and other memories of an ancient house

Louisa Boscowen Goldsmid’s album is a threadbare scrapbook with a stained fabric cover. Inside it are a set of watercolours.

DSC_6268

Mrs Goldsmid was clearly an amateur but like other amateur artists featured on the blog what she lacked in technique she made up with a kind of quirky charm, and a sense of atmosphere. Louisa lived for a short time at Aubrey House.

South front of Notting Hill House - Goldsmid - colour

This is the house in 1893. Some young members of the Alexander family pose listlessly on the rear lawn. Louisa  was still alive by then but she belongs to an earlier period of the house’s history.

Aubrey House Campden Hill c1893 P1194

Aubrey House was built in 1698 by a group of doctors and apothecaries as a spa. There was a well nearby among the Kensington gravel pits (a more picturesque spot than the name implies) which provided mineral water, a fashionable drink at the time (“a famous Chakybial Spring ” according to John Bowack’s Antiquities of Middlesex). The spa house became a private residence under the name Notting Hill House. It was the home of the eccentric albino Lady Mary Coke who did a great deal of work on the extensive gardens. She departed in 1788 after which a series of tenants lived there

In the 1790s the  house became a school for young ladies. From about 1808 Philip de Visme occupied it moving from  a house in Putney Heath considered to be too lonely and unsafe for younger members of his family

Louisa Goldsmid was one of his grandchildren. She had  married  Mr Goldsmid in 1809 aged 28 but spent time at Notting Hill House with her three children in 1817 and 1818. She painted a number of exteriors and interiors. This was the White Room:

Goldsmid Album 0009 the White Room 1817

Mrs Goldsmid’s pictures are noteworthy in our collection because they depict the interior of the house as fully furnished and inhabited (which doesn’t always happen in pictures of late 18th/ early 19th century interiors).

Here in the pink room Jane de Visme poses with her harp.

Goldsmid album pink room 165

Nothing on the table as yet in the dining room but a couple of the younger residents wait hopefully:
Goldsmid album 166a dining room

It must be admitted that things look a bit dull in the nursery.

Goldsmid album 167 nursery

But the children seem to have found  better amusements in the gallery.

Goldsmid album  00 The Gallery 1817

 

The children are lounging around at the top of the house, away from parental interference.

Goldsmid album 00012 The Gallery 1817

 

With a parrot on the lookout. Downstairs, the ladies engaged in more elegant pursuits.

 

Goldsmid album 166b drawing room

The picture itself is quite elegant with the ceiling design reflected in the tall mirror, and a pair of open doors showing the rooms beyond.

The de Vismes had left by 1819. Other tenants and owners followed. From 1830 to 1854 the Misses Emma and Caroline Shepheard ran another school for young ladies at the house. Miss Euphemia Johnston (one of the pupils) sketched them “in mysterious conference” in 1853.

Miss Shepeard and Miss Caroline in mysterious conference Oct 23rd 1853

Florence Gladstone who wrote a history of Aubrey House reports that the picture “bears little resemblance” to the “very attractive”sisters.

This picture, also by “Effie”, shows the students hard at work.

The working days Notting Hill June 1854 by E Johnson MS5053 197b

Heads are bowed, work baskets are open, and possibly a couple of laptops on the right.

After the sisters the property was sold and the grounds “somewhat truncated” according to the Survey of London (who were refused access to the property during the preparation of their volume on Northern Kensington). This was the period when the name Aubrey House was adopted. In 1873 the house was bought by William Cleverley Alexander. The house remained associated with his family for nearly a hundred years.

Aubrey House by William Cleverley Alexander 1914 showing tower MS5053 162

Mr Alexander was also an artist. This view of the house includes the famous structure known as Tower Cressey , visible on the right (covered here). Other members of the family were also amateur artists. One of them has been featured  on the blog before (see the post here). Another member of the family painted this  view of the more crowded Victorian interior:

Aubrey House 1890 photocopy of paintings by the Misses Alexander 01 detail

Maybe even this one, Jean Alexander, photographed in 1906.

Aubrey House south front June 1906 Jean Alexander MS5051 161 - Copy

Or one of these two ladies walking in the garden.

Aubrey House Two women in the garden MS5047 160 - Copy

But perhaps the last word should go to Louisa Goldsmid with one more view of the house and the garden  in 1817

Goldsmid album Notting Hill House garden side 1817 169

Postscript

I first had a good look at the Goldsmid album while some researchers were looking at the history of Aubrey House for a forthcoming book, which I await with interest. In the meantime I thought the time was right for a look at Louisa’s pictures, although as it turned out, that was just a jumping off point. We will return to the further contents of the album at some point in the future.

DSC_6269

Florence Gladstone’s book about Aubrey House is a bit of a confusing read so I hope the facts and quotes I’ve extracted from it are accurate.She also wrote the first history of North Kensington, Notting Hill in Bygone Times in 1926.

Posts about two of my other favourite watercolourists , Marianne Rush and someone we only know as the Artist of the Red Portfolio might also be of interest.

The computer that was giving us grief has now been restored to a semblance of its former self so we can scan again. Thanks to K. I’ve still got drafts of a couple of odd posts which I may still use.


Backwaters 2

I was going to do a sequel to Backwaters a couple of weeks ago when I got sidetracked onto Pelham Street so this week we’re going back to the mewses crowded with parked cars and street names you can’t quite place back in the early years of the 1970s.

Like Ledbury Mews North, featuring the usual cluster of cars awaiting servicing, men at work and cramped first floors, offices or homes reached by odd looking staircases:

 

Ledbury Mews North south side 1972 KS3654

Or names like Sheldrake Place.

 

Sheldrake Place garages behin 17- east leg 1969 KS2877

A sunny  little spot off Duchess of Bedford’s Walk not all that far from the Library. Or Morton Mews:

 

Morton Mews KS5842

A semi-residential alley in Earls Court, a stone’s throw from Cromwell Road, dominated by the rears of apartment blocks in Barkston Gardens and Knaresborough Place. It’s the element of seclusion which is the essence of a backwater. They can be close to major thoroughfares or hidden away.

Russell Mews looking north 1972 KS21

This was Russell Mews in 1972, now known as Russell Gardens Mews, a cul-de-sac which sneaks away from the north end of Russell Road. Take a virtual walk up Russell Road on Google Maps these days and you see a residential street with comparatively modern housing on its western side. There is a discreet gap which leads to a footbridge over the railway to the station at Olympia but in 1972…

Russell Road west side Olympia 1972 KS144

The area by the footbridge was an open space mostly used as a car park. You can see the station at Olympia and the great curved roof of the exhibition hall.  There was a fine selection of 70s vehicles.

Russell Roadwest side Olympia 1972 KS124

A lone VW camper van parked outside the fence.

Russell Roadwest side Olympia 1972 KS174

A triumph Herald, parked next to the fat more stylish Ford Capri (see this post for my quest for this particular car). The mark 1 version I think (the mark 2 had a hatchback as I remember it. Car experts can correct me if I’m wrong). I wonder what TWA stood for? Not the airline I assume.

Our photographer got as close as he could without crossing the border into Hammersmith.

Russell Road Olympia station looking north from garage courtyard 1972 KS20

Park between the lines? I can’t see any lines.

Here you can make out a sign.

Russell Roadwest side Olympia 1972 KS124

“Motorail Terminal” Now look back at the picture featuring the Capri. Are cars lined up on a platform waiting to be loaded onto a train?

Not one of these:

Russell Road Olympia station looking north from garage courtyard 1972 KS194

A regular tube train I think, but I’m happy for further information from rail enthusiasts.

I seem to have got stuck in this particular backwater, but before we move on, one more picture.

Russell Roadwest side Olympia 1972 KS104

This shows Russell Road looking south, leading down to Kensington High Street. The house just visible to the right of the trees are on over the railway bridge on the south side of the street, and they’re in Hammersmith.

We’ll stay on the border though, heading north to a street off Holland Park Avenue, just before the roundabout at Shepherd’s Bush.

LOrne Gardens Duke of Clarence 1977 KS2

Lorne Gardens, with the Duke of Clarence pub.

Lorne Gardens 13 and wall 1977 KS8

There is another of those residential enclaves but there is also this paved open space.

Lorne Gradens looking north rear of Beacon House 1977 KS17

Note the abandoned bike and on the rear of a building called Beacon House some graffitti, including a name: Chico.

And unusually this concrete staircase which looks as if it belongs in a much wider space.

 

Lorne Gradenssteps to Kensington Hilton 1977 KS20

It forms part of the unexpectedly brutalist rear of the Hilton Hotel in Holland Park Avenue which had a much milder front facade. It looks distinctively late 60s / early 70s.

Lorne Gradens looking north 1977 KS19

Did it ever appear as a film/TV location? I’m thinking Man in a Suitcase, or possibly Edge of Darkness.

Postscript

We’ve been having a few technical problems with the computer linked to our scanner so at the moment there’s no scanning being done. Hence an early appearance for this post. I have a few posts in draft form in various stages of completion some of which are a bit left field so if it takes a while to sort out our computer you might see some slightly odd or tangential posts in the next few weeks. The longer it takes, the stranger the posts. Bear with me, and expect the unexpected.


The Bridge: Ladbroke Grove 1938

The original station at Ladbroke Grove was called Notting Hill station and was part of the Hammersmith and City Railway (later the Metropolitan Railway). It was built in 1864. If you look back at the post on Ladbroke Grove you can see it as it was before the street north of the station was built up. This is a slightly later view:

Ladbroke Grove Station PC1137

This kind of view, showing the railway lines passing over the street on a steel bridge is familiar in many parts of London. The station was subsequently called “Notting Hill (Ladbroke Grove)”, “Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove” and “Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington)”. It didn’t settle down as “Ladbroke Grove” until 1938.

This coincides with the replacement of the bridge itself, a tricky maneuver  as the plan was to prefabricate the new span, detach the old one, roll it away on trestles and slide the new one into place. This week’s pictures show the story of the new bridge from the foundry in Middlesborough where it was constructed to its new home in North Kensington. Just as in our posts on the Westway when it helps if you’re a fan of concrete this week is for devotees of steel.

K61-1115 624.2 wide view of wokshop

At Dorman, Long & Co of Middlesborough, in the apparent chaos of the foundry sit the parts of the bridge, dim light from the glass roof streaming through the overhead gantry.

K61-1116 624.2 girder and roof

And men at work, welding the sections of the girder together.

K61-1113 624.2 outside girder

A helpful sign has been placed in front of the workers by management. Photography was becoming part of the industrial process, keeping a record of big jobs. Note the brick huts at the rear of the picture. They remind me of a summer job I had at the Shotton Steel Works in North Wales. Within the vast space of the cold strip mill the fitters huddled in huts waiting for the call (and I carried the bag of tools).

K60-130 624.2 outside girder

Here a man uses an oxy-acetylene torch, holding the mask between his face and the flame.

K61-1114 624.2 welding

And below, with the girder on its side. You can see the flare of another torch on the left.

K61-1112 624.2panel

The same view from another angle:

K61-1111 624.2 panel

The upside down writing reads: end plate girder B. A couple of indistinct men pass by taking a close look at the work.

A picture showing some detail with another caption, pointing out the flange splice (a piece of industrial poetry).

K60-129 624.2 flange splice

And this, another expressive phrase.

K60-131 624.2 butt weld

After all the assembly work, all that remained was the small matter of installing the new bridge at Ladbroke Grove

K61-1109 FP bridge

Cranes on the track with a house on the western side of Ladbroke Grove on the other. Can you see the word Greig? Not something superimposed on the pictures but a sign above a shop on some kind of metal superstructure. Two workmen and a manager (distinguished by his homberg hat) look on as the cranes lower the girder into place.

K61-1118 624.2 bridge on top

You can see the street below the work as the bridge is put into place.

A finished weld:

K60-133 624.2 weld

We can tell that this picture was taken on site because you can just see the top of a roof line on the right.

K61-1117 624.2 bridge from south

A final view looking north at the bridge, a few decades after the first picture in the post. A couple of men in coats confidently watch from below. You can see the steel trestle supporting the new and old sections of the bridge. The street (and the railway) were closed for the work which was completed in a single day. The bridge was then the largest of its kind.

Girder C has another painted sign : Hammersmith End. Very useful. You wouldn’t want to have got it the wrong way round, would you?

 

Postscript

After May Queens and shops in South Kensington it was good to get back to some industrial images. Remember the posts on the gas works, the water tower and the building of Chelsea Bridge in 1936? We had a discussion in the department about how we think about the 1930s and how political and social events seem to crowd out the technological changes which were happening between the two world wars.

Thanks to Tim who found these pictures and suggested them for the blog. He also came up with the suggestion that a phrase I was particularly taken with,”butt weld” was a brand name for an American anti-diarrhea medicine. Sorry.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 942 other followers

%d bloggers like this: