Three Queens at Whitelands: 1906

It’s that time of year again when a blogger returns to the subject of the May Queen Festival at Whitelands College for the annual blog post on that subject. Can I find something new to say? Well, earlier in the year I wrote a piece for the Chelsea Society Annual Report about the May Queens and read the Whitelands Annual for 1906. I thought it was interesting enough to look at that year in more detail.

I should add that the particular copy of the Annual I was reading originally belonged to a student at the College, Violet J Welch. She’s written her name on the cover.

WA 1906 cover

This copy is also unique because between the pages I discovered two pressed leaves.

Pressed leaf WA 1906 p25

Were they from a tree in the grounds of the College?

Pressed leaf WA 1906 p39

There were a few available in the quadrangle.

Quadrangle WA 1906 p96 - Copy

1906 was the year of three queens. Usually there would be an outgoing queen and an incoming one. It was a two year course and the new queen was always chosen from the first year. But for some reason the queens of 1904, 1905 and 1906 were all in attendance. I’ve used this picture before as it’s one of my favourites and because the queens look a little as though they were characters in a Hammer film. (In reality they would probably have been scandalised by the idea if you tried to explain Hammer films to three young Edwardian ladies, but I ask your indulgence for my fancies)

017f Queen Florence with Queen Mildred and Queen Evelyn 1906

I promise that it’s the last picture I’ll repeat.

The first queen of this trio was Mildred Harvey

012c Queen Mildred Harvey Mrs Moss 1904 - Copy

Mildred, Queen of the May!

Queen of our hearts we hail today!

Sweetest and best among all girls art thou,

Fair as the flowers that rest on thy brow.

So said one R. Paton in 1904. And why not? The camera liked Mildred and she looks convincingly Medieval with the chair and the background (although I can’t quite make up my mind whether that’s actually a corridor in the College or one of those painted backcloths portrait photographers used then.)

The official photographs seem to have begun to be a significant part of the annual festival. There are plenty of photos of Queen Mildred. But none better than this one:

013b Queen Mildred I 1904 - Copy

The throne, the gown, the draped platform, the ivy, the arches and the flowers. I don’t know if she’s about to bless you or sink her fangs into your neck. Or if I could modernise my frame of reference a little hint of Daenerys Targaryen in that costume (Not as revealing obviously) . Stand back if she gives that command to the dragons.

The second queen is Evelyn Farthing. Here she is with Mildred, supplanting her on the throne.

014b Queen Evelyn and Queen Mildred 1905 - Copy

Mildred has been relegated to a stool next to the throne but remains the focus of the picture. That pillar looks even more like a backcloth.

Below the photographer is aiming for an artistic pose dispensing with the flowers. Evelyn’s gloved left hand holds a volume of Ruskin, usually the Queen of the Air. “Evelyn, the gentle, modest, dignified new queen.”

015e Queen Evelyn 1905 - Copy

I detect a sense that Evelyn was a little overshadowed by Mildred who got a poem in the 1905 Annual.

All happiness surround thy paths

Sweet Mildred!  None can tell,

What sadness now it seems to us,

To bid thee this Farewell!

Although Evelyn was not forgotten by the poets.

Evelyn, with beaming face,

And violet’s tender grace

Thy goodness we can trace with love abiding

Who leaves not dusty ways

When violets’ scent betrays

Where the flower nestling stays, its sweet face hiding.

From the 1906 Annual:

“May Day has come…the brightest, happiest day of all the glad new year.It heralded in the spring, the time of flowers, of the singing of birds, of a renewal of fresh life and hope to everything on this fair earth.It brought us Florence, a Queen with a name of happy meaning and a charm of gentle grace – a real queeen of hearts.”

017c Queen Florence 1906

Like Mildred, Queen Florence Hadaway poses outdoors by the throne with the leopard skin rug.

“The procession round the old world garden..Cloistered and secluded, the white robed maidens chanting in slow and stately array under the fresh budding lime trees, the warm sunlight dappling all their fairness. It seemed a picture of far off medieval days, when the sun went slowly and there was time and will and opportunity to rejoice in youth and joy and hope and in sunshine and flowers.”

017d Queen Florence and bodyguards 1906

After Queen Evelyn’s abdication speech there was some singing and country dancing but while the newly crowned Queen Florence was “engaged in state affairs” the Dowager Queen Mildred’s third year was celebrated with a masque just for her, subtitled the Pageant of trees and flowers was written especially for the occasion.

The masquers assembled below, represented Primrose, Laurel, Bluebell, Ivy, Violet, Moss, Daffodil, Woodbine, Hawthorn, Rose and Oak.

016b Masque 1906

They all addressed Queen Mildred swearing loyalty and devotion, laying flowers and branches at her feet. She replied to them all (the speeches are transcribed over several pages of the Annual) ending with these words: “So we bid you lift these blossoms from the lowly place in which ye have laid them, set them high in your hands and gather round us that we may gaze on their beauty before we pass on. ‘Tis love to us that ye have shown, and happiness that ye have promised and for that I thank you from my heart.”

All this sounds completely earnest and certain. It’s not hard to imagine that the participants took away a memory and a sense of having joined in with something special that they would carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The picture below looks like some kind of finale. All three queens are visible on the dais. (You can see a picture of Mildred’s masque in progress here in my first post mentioning the May Queens.)

017b Masque 1906

I’ve said before that this decade was some kind of peak of Edwardian optimism, expressed through fantasies of an older England  like the Chelsea Historical Pageant and many other instances of ritualistic celebrations. The optimism was never going to last. But the rituals linger on.  I attended last year’s May Monarch Festival.  I travelled there by bus through Fulham and Putney and kept seeing young men and women in costume dressed as fairies and astronauts and cartoon animals (it turned out that there was some rugby based event at Twickenham). It all seemed quite appropriate to a Saturday morning in early summer. So the urge to dress up and celebrate hasn’t left us. And it’s good to look back at Evelyn, Florence and Mildred, Christian Queens honouring pagan traditions.
017a Queen Florence Hadaway Mrs Robbins with Queen Evelyn and Queen Mildred 1906


The 1905 annual also contains a notice of the death of Queen Agnes Gourlay the 1899 Queen, who could have been no more than 25 or 26 : “The sweet soul of Agnes Gourlay entered into rest on March 28th of this year. Her illness was short and painful, but borne with the beautiful serenity of perfect resignation.” The annual often contained an account of a female saint usually martyred. Agnes’s sad death is portrayed as having something of that quality as though the Queens entered into a heightened spiritual state by joining this sisterhood.  Agnes I was missed out in last year’s post on the pre-1900 queens, so here’s her photo.

022 Queen Agnes I Gourley 1899

The backdrop places her in a sylvan scene. I found myself looking for her in the group photos of the following years to see if I could see any sign of her early passing. She doesn’t appear in any pictures after 1901.

The coronation of the 2106 May Monarch is on May 14th at Whitelands College, Roehampton. As it happens I’m working that day but my best wishes to the new Queen or King.

Pelham Street 1970: down by the station

Anyone who lives in the South Kensington area will probably recognise this view even though the picture was taken about 1970.

Malvern Court corner of Pelham Street KS5979

The building is Malvern Court. On the right side is Onslow Gardens, where most of the buses get down to the Fulham Road. On the left is Pelham Street. Both of these streets face South Kensington Station, from which the picture was taken.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970

South Kensington Station, like its near neighbour Gloucester Road (see this post) is actually two stations. One is the original Metropolitan and District Railway station opened in 1868.

The other is the Piccadilly Line station.

Pelham Street north side 1970

The deep line was opened in 1906 . In those days it looked like this:

PC304 fp - Copy

(The Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway)  The two stations existed side by side although eventually access was purely through the District and Metropolitan entrance.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970KS33

Note the older wrought iron lettering below the “modern” sign. And see how close the road is to the station entrance. The pedestrianised zone around the front of the station has enlarged considerably in recent years creating the modern plaza which makes things easier for walkers and the traffic management simpler.

I cannot resist a peek inside the arcade.

South Kensington Station arcade looking south 1970 - Copy

Vinces (groceries?) , (Hudson Brothers in grander times) are closing down and some winter fashions are being worn. (It’s January) The iron lettering is visible, as is the 3 minute heel bar.

But this post is not actually about the station so much as the shops and services clustered around it. In 1970 this included Dino’s Restaurant, and the intriguing Brazilian Yerbama Company, importers of medicinal herbs.

Pelham Street east side 7 Brazilian Yerbama 1970

The anonymous looking shopfront next to them with the handwritten notices in the window is an estate agent, the imaginatively named Pelham Estate Offices. And beside them, where you can now queue up for Ben’s Cookies, is Kontad Limited who sold Typewriters, Calculators and office equipment. Many of them are on view in the window with a sign for Grundig who made many electonic devices in those days. I used to own typewriters….(drifts away, reminiscing….)

Pelham Street east side 7-9 Kontad 1970

Those of you brought up in the digital age cannot imagine the relief I felt when I started to use a computer regularly for that new-fangled word processing. Readers of my own age group can spare a moment for nostalgia about worn out ribbons, jammed keys, carbon paper and correcting fluid

On the other side of the station building was a business with a puzzling sign.

,Pelham Street north side 15 LW Fleet upholsterers 1970

LW Fleet Limited, upholsterers. “Curtain makers, Upholsters, Decorating consultants” I think. Perhaps they were shutting down and didn’t mind the falling letters.

But hold on a minute. If you take a moment now and check out the eastern side of Pelham Street on Google Maps Street View all you will find next to the station is a wall, behind which are the rail tracks. It’s difficult to imagine a row of buildings in that spot, seemingly perched on the edge of a railway line but here it is – Station Buildings as you can see in the roof line sign below.

Pelham Street north side 17-19 Primitives formerly Cathay Gifts 1970

Although it looks unlikely, clearly there was room at the top of the slope to the tracks to fit in a row of two storey buildings with retail outlets such as Primitives (“dealers in works of art”). I was at the station this morning to have a look in the flesh (or should that be in the bricks?) and if you factor in the width of the Piccadilly line station there was room, although you must have had to be careful at the rear exits of the buildings. Let’s just look at the view from the platform.

South Kensington Station interior looking east 1970 - Copy

There is no view of the back of the station buildings. I had some hopes for the building on the right above the platform roof with a fire escape but I eventually found:

OS map 1949-50 South Kensington Station - Copy - Copy

A 1:2500 scale OS sheet which showed them. The building with the fire escape is an electricity sub station on the other side of the bridge (which is still there today).

Next to Primitives was Flair (“gowns”, according to Kelly’s Post Office Directory).

Pelham Street north side 21 Flair gowns 1970

Those two young women striding by look as though the goods in the Flair window are not going to delay them. (The puzzle is that clock, but more on that in a moment.) I’ve been looking at the windows above the shops. Something about those open windows and the visible light says office space to me, rather than residential (there are no entries in the eelctoral register for this section of the street)

Pelham Street north side 23 Ashley Shops 1970

At last, a famous name, Laura Ashley, with some of her distinctive dresses in the window. “Sale now on”.

In the picture below at numbers 27-29, the Rice Bowl, a Chinese restaurant and coffee bar. I don’t know why the clock with their name on it is still attached to Flair at number 21.

Pelham Street north side 27-29 Rice Bowl 1970

Beside the Rice Bowl at 31/33 another place to eat, Bistro 33. The owner didn’t spend too much time naming his or her establishment.

Pelham Street north side 31-33 Bistro 33 1970

Nice 70s lettering though, and a 70s dude walking by to give us some local colour. In close up you can see through the windows of the Mini that shepherd’s pie and Spanish omelette were on offer. Fairly standard bistro fare for the period I suppose.

I have no pictures of the remaining establishments, Stefan’s Delicatessen, Elsa (milliner) or Roger W Pliszka Antiques Limited, which is a shame. After them Kelly’s tells us: here is Pelham Place.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS133

Beneath the road (which is actually part of Thurloe Square) where those Morrises or Austins are parked and behind that ragged and overgrown wall is the railway, now going underground.

You can still see this distinctive building on the west side of Pelham Street, the brick chimney contrasting with the  plastered front. The wall is still there, benefiting from a little tidying up.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS143

The woman in the leather coat on the other hand has moved on now and might be harder to find these days.



I was off work last week and arrived back not quite sure what to do for this week’s post. Would it be Shakespeare related? What about those water colours by a 19th century lady? Or possibly Backwaters 2? I’d almost settled on that but found myself getting fascinated by these vanished shops which had been drawn to my attention by Michael Bach. So thanks to him.

On the subject of last week’s backwaters I should add that the pictures were of Royal Crescent garden square, W11, Railway Mews W11 (off Ladbroke Grove), Lexham and Radley Mews, W8, Lenthall Place, SW7 and Cavaye Place SW10. All north of the Fulham Road and therefore all in Kensington according to the traditional boundary. There will be more of them soon.

Backwaters: behind the streets you know

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north east 1970 KS799

A quiet secluded spot not that far from here.

Some of this week’s pictures are places you can still go to today, others have vanished entirely. Most of them are quite different now. All of them are off the beaten track. You may have passed them by without noticing. London is full of such places. A name which ends in close, or place, or walk or court may be the sign of a backwater. Or mews – Kensington and Chelsea is full of those. A mews can be a short stretch of cobbled street just off a main street, or be part of a hidden network of semi-pedestrian paths behind a big public street.

Or it can be a daunting passage you never knew existed.

Railway Mews looking west 1970 KS1692

Leading to a place you never wanted to go.

Railway Mews looking north 1970 KS1691

Mewses (is that the word?) are often connected with motoring even today. In the 1970s, where all of these pictures originate, small workshops and showrooms were everywhere.

Such as here, Lexham Mews:

Lexham Mews entrance looking north 1976

between the large houses an arch leads to the mews, where you could have kept your horses and carriages if you had them and tradesmen could make discreet deliveries. Later, the chauffeur could live over the garage. The mews turns right and leads behind the houses.

Lexham Mews 3-6 looking south 1976 KS4102

In later times these buildings could be converted into small houses, with or without an integral garage. In this picture a woman stands at a door, possibly about to park her Rover, the quintessential manager’s car of the age. I first saw these kind of houses and streets in programmes like the Avengers (Steed lived in one). They had become trendy boltholes for the new classes of urban dwellers.

Lexham Mews no25 1976 KS4107

Just like this man.

Lexham Mews met Radley Mews.

Radley Mews no1 looking east 1976 KS4095

A mark 3 Cortina peeps out of a garage.

Mewses were also good locations for outlets of the motor trade, with the full range of services, workshops and even sales, especially the exotic marques like SAAB.

Radley Mews looking south SAAB showroom - Ace Motors 1976 KS4093

Now we turn to a vanished street, perhaps even forgotten by some.

Lenthall Place looking west 1969

Lenthall Place was next to Gloucester Road station. There is now  an office building on this corner, with a shopping arcade between it and the station. I often use the Waitrose store in the arcade so I must regularly walk this route in its modern form. But back in 1969..

Lenthall Place south side 1969 2

A grocery/bakery, the Casa Cura cafe (“hot meals served every day”) and Frank’s Sandwich Bar all single storey buildings built as makeshift appendages to the station. On the other side of Gloucester Road there are some surviving examples of this style. Further along some older terraced housing with retail businesses at ground level.

Lenthall Place south side 6-8 1969

Hair fashions by Leslie (“Posticheur”), with another snack bar which relies on a sign saying Continental rather than a regular shopfront. Somewhere for a dedicated set of customers I imagine. Including workers connected with the businesses at the end of the street.


Lenthall Place west end garages 1969

Like in many a backwater a set of garages, these ones more anonymous than most. Take a look back at Gloucester Road…

Lenthall Place looking east 1969 - Copy

Finally, a backwater that still exists but massively altered over time.

Cavaye Place looking south 1972 KS242

Cavaye Place is a street which begins and ends on the Fulham Road. This view looking south shows the covered alley entrance on the right and the gap where some older buildings were demolished and the buildings on the south side of Fulham Road are visible, like the former Midland Bank, the pale building on the left. At this point Cavaye Place was a muddy patch of open ground used as a car park. A modern building was inserted into the space behind the wooden fence housing offices at the back and retail at the front. For many years the Pan Bookshop (now a branch of Daunt’s) was there, a treat fro local residents like myself – back in the 80s you could have a meal at the now sadly gone restaurant Parsons, while away some time in the bookshop and then take in a film at the cinema visble in this picture.

Cavaye Place looking east 1972 KS232

The side of the cinema on the left where the other entrance to Cavaye Place is, once an ABC but later with many other names, and now currently part of the Cineworld chain.

This post might be the first of a series. There are may more backwaters in Kensington and Chelsea, and we could visit some more of them. But while you decide let’s get back to that quiet garden.

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north west 1970 KS798


I’m also introducing a new occasional item which I’m calling “where are they now?”. In the course of looking at the Photo Survey I often come across people caught by accident during the course of their day. Here are three 70s people waiting to cross the road at Lexham Gardens. Are you one of them, or do you recognize anyone? A bit of a long shot I know….

Lexham Gardens 94-96 1976 KS4135 - Copy

Do you think they’re together? Or just three random strangers. Interestingly, it’s the woman who could walk down this same road today without attracting comment. But those flares…


Monsieur Bibendum’s house: the Michelin Building

People who know the way my mind works will already have been expecting this post after I reminded myself about the Michelin Man’s connection with Chelsea the other week and been wondering why we haven’t been here before. Those who know me spookily well will also make the connection with one of my literary heroes William Gibson, who included the image of the man made of tyres in his novel Pattern Recognition (which doesn’t have quite enough scenes set in the Borough to qualify for my fiction in K&C series). The protagonist Cayce Pollard finds some brands and trademarks toxic and disruptive to her talents. An enemy of hers uses the image of the Michelin Man against her. “that weird, jaded, cigar-smoking elder creature suggesting a mummy with elephantiasis. ” She counters the effect in various ways including a mantra: he took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots. Fortunately she never goes near 81 Fulham Road. (Any other sufferers from semiotic distress should avert their eyes for the next few pictures)

The Michelin Man himself goes back to the 1890s when Edouard Michelin was struck by the anthropomorphic possibilities of a pile of tyres at a trades exhibition and asked the uniquely named graphic artist O’Galop to bring the conception to life. The new mascot got his name from a Latin phrase from the poet Horace: Nunc est bibendum (now is the time to drink) which in this case referred to the unstoppable nature of the pneumatic tyres, drinking up obstacles . (“le pneu Michelin boit l’obstacle!”) Bibendum was depicted holding up a glass full of nails and other debris of the highway. (The other hand of course held a cigar, indicating a love of the good life). He starred in a variety of posters from 1898 onwards.

Nunc est bibendum - Copy

Bibendum rapidly became not just a symbol of the Michelin company but a cultural icon in his own right, popping up in all sorts of places.

Theatre 01 - Copy

He had become one of the new icons of industry and advertising. Andre Michelin entered motor races to demonstrate the superiority of the tyres. The Michelin company  published its first guide book, promoting the idea of road travel, tourism and the rating of restaurants – the start of a parallel industry for them.

In the UK the company decided it needed a headquarters which would combine administrative, retail and promotional functions. The Michelin building was born in what was then a relatively obscure, largely commercial, area where Chelsea met Kensington.


Michelin House, designed by  Francois Espinasse and opened in 1911 turned out to be an imaginative, stylish and unique addition to the Chelsea landscape, and a celebration of their emblem. Bibendum had long since attained corporeal form and appeared in public for trade fairs, publicity events and even carnivals, as we saw a couple of weeks ago. He had become very much like a figure from folklore or a minor deity. Below he pays a visit to his new Art Nouveau temple in its opening year.

1911 London Olympia Motor Show

Note the stained glass windows, suitable for a 20th century cathedral, and the two spherical structures on either end of the facade. Originally two giant effigies of Bibendum were intended to stand there.

Inside there was a grand reception area.


A “touring office” like a reference library where travelers could plan their road trips.

touring office - Copy

And a workshop. Tyres could be bought, fitted, checked and repaired on the premises.

Workshop 1912

The exterior of the building also celebrated the company’s sporting achievements.

Michelin House postcard photo by Peter Moore

A series of 34 ceramic panels  depicted the exciting days of early motor sport.

Tiles 01b


tiles 05

Tiles 01a

The building added prestige to the Michelin brand and its ubiquitous emblem.

But times change, even for the demi-gods of advertising iconography. Michelin moved its head office in the 1930s, the stained glass windows were removed for fear of possible bomb damage (and subsequently lost) in 1940. The two globes had also gone by the time of this photo from 1971.

1971 article - Copy

This gloomy undated picture from our planning department shows that alterations were planned.

Michelin House pl03

But in 1985 the whole building was bought by Sir Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn. The picture below also came from our planning collection. The globes were restored and the windows recreated as the building entered a new phase of its history.

Michelin House photo 1990s photo by David Nolan

The new version of the interior featured restaurants.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 03a - Copy

And retail – below,  an 80s woman choosing candles.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 04 - Copy

In 1988 the Illustrated London News featured the building as the first in a series they called sacred cows. As I went down to the Reference Store to find the article featuring these three images (“Palace of Vanities”) I noted that the bound volumes of the illustrious ILN came to an end a few years later. The great magazine unfortunately ceased publication in 1994.

Bibendum’s house survives, and  still amazes the passer by.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 02 - Copy

Finally, back to where we began, with the early history of the man of tyres. Anyone sensitive to advertising, or just sensitive, should look away now….

Olympia 1908


The Michelin building is more of a hidden treasure than a sacred cow. As someone who lives in Chelsea I have to admit that I seldom see it. I just don’t go that way very often. But whenever I do it cheers me up. London should have more buildings like it.

The Library has a virtually complete set of the Illustrated London News from 1842 to 1994. It remains an amazing historical source. A digital version of the ILN archives is also available.


The Westway in colour: 1971

A friend of mine once defined psycho-geography as walking around and thinking about what you see. By that definition we’re all psycho-geographers at one time or another. So although Bernard Selwyn had no notion of psycho-geography when he took these pictures, he was on a psycho-geographical tour into new territory. This  week’s post takes us north of the Latimer Road areas we’ve been looking at recently to look at the almost new Westway in full 1970s colour.


A concrete island, with high rise blocks of flats on the Silchester Estate.


It looks remarkably pleasant doesn’t it, even if you discount the bright tone of film processing in those days? A garden space with newly planted trees, above which interlocking curves of concrete soar in a harmless fashion. In the distance bright airy towers bring modernity and convenience. The residents lived in the sky, where once they had to huddle in crowded streets. Well, that was the idea anyway. The high rise living concept was optimistic, but already tinged with misgivings even by 1971.

Construction work was still going on when Selwyn passed by.


This is the point where the Westway met the giant roundabout which connected with the West Cross route, which we’ve already seen in Selwyn’s pictures. One of those towers is Frinstead House, Selwyn’s vantage point for some of his pictures, although the one that looms largest in the picture may be Markland House and the far distant one to the left Dixon House.

Those two drums caught his attention more than once.

There is little traffic as yet on the road above, and that van looks like it barely belongs in 1971.


What’s that in the middle of the road. Some kind of roller?

This view looking more or less east.


A single resident crosses the new space. Here she is again.


This view is looking south. You can make out the towers of the Edward Wood Estate and signs of life beneath the concrete decks.


Behind the chain link fence wagons, possibly belonging to totters or market traders.


The chimney is another landmark, on the Hammersmith side of the West Cross Route.

Now we head south.


Beneath the shadow of the slip road we head back towards the streets we already know.


The building in the foreground is a school, labelled Thomas Jones School on the 1971 OS map but later I think, known as Latimer school. It became a referral unit. In the gap between is the Phoenix brewery and then the Harrow Club glimpsed in the previous Selwyn post, formerly Holy Trinity Church. In front of that, the yellow painted building, formerly a pub, was the Ceres Bakery.


The classic  late 19th/early 20th century school design, tall and imposing with large windows for enlightenment.  It makes an interesting contrast  with the tower behind


Here, Selwyn took a look back.


The slip road runs into the West Cross rout. In the emptiness the lights, the gantry, the grass and the saplings wait for whatever comes next.

Later there was a a BMX track here.


The fence on the right conceals the West Cross Route heading south to Shepherd’s Bush.  If we follow around the corner….


we come to the point where Bard Road gives up the ghost. We’re now looking directly south.


A train crosses above the road. In the foreground the steps lead up to the former Harrow Mission, the oldest building in the immediate area, a precursor of the Club. The entrance is bricked up but that was just a temporary measure. then but not now. The building beyond is the rear of the steam cleaning company seen in the previous Selwyn post, later demolished  and now one of those large storage facilities with identical silent corridors.

All these pictures come from 1971. A picture from 1988 shows the Westway after more than a decade of use.

Silchester Estate 1988 003 - Copy

There you can see Markland Tower with the full sweep of the roundabout and the interconnecting roads behind it, a gasometer in the distance an a view looking down at the school building in the foreground. That may be the BMX track behind it.

I can’t say what Selwyn’s feelings about this new landscape were. But there are some more pictures on this roll of film which provide an addendum to this post.

Latimer Road had like Bard Street been truncated by the new road but if you follow its path north on older maps, it comes to a junction with North Pole Road. In that vicinity you find Wormwood Scrubs, then as now an open patch of land.

I can’t place these photos exactly. Perhaps they’re on the west side of the Scrubs. Old Oak Common, Acton and Park Royal have all been suggested to me. Selwyn was evidently up here to record some activity connected with scouts or cadets.


So in contrast with the new development further south, here’s an idyllic patch of land with some small scale activity going on.


A couple of men in suits walk through an quiet landscape heading home.


For those of you who know the area this picture should provide a good clue.


Any suggestions are very welcome.


My thanks to Maggie and Barbara for their help identifying buildings and general orientation. This is the last Selwyn post for a while but we’ll definitely see him again.

We’ll be doing more on the Westway this year so watch out if you’re a fan of concrete.

The Arts Club Ball: some early costumes

I found today’s illustrations in one of our scrapbooks while looking for something else entirely, but they fit very well with other examples of fancy dress we’ve looked at on the blog.

The first costume balls associated with the Chelsea Arts Club were held in the artists’ studios in Manresa Road, the first in 1887 to celebrate their own Mardi Gras. Later they used Chelsea Town Hall but the first of the famous fancy dress balls was at the Royal Opera House in 1908. The first organiser George Sherwood Foster, emboldened by the success of the event decided to move to a bigger venue.The first at the Albert Hall was in 1910, where there was a huge space for dancing, the Great Floor.

The Ball was now an artistic  success and was making a modest profit. It was, according to the Illustrated London News “the greatest fancy dress ball ever held in London.”

ILN 1910 03

That year there were 4000 people on that dance floor. (The big chicken was probably a homage to Chanticler, a play whose characters were all birds which was a sensation on the Paris stage that year.)

Coverage followed in the other weekly illustrated magazines. The Graphic published this picture of rehearsals for the Ball in 1912:

Arts Club Ball 1912 green room combined - no caption

Some rather shady characters there, up to no good in a dimly lit room perhaps.

This double page spread from the Sphere on the other hand, shows guests taking a convenient rest between dancing at the 1912 Ball.

17 March 12 1916 CM1485

To appreciate the costumes you have to take a close-up look:

19 detail

Clowns, harlequins, characters from history, and minor deities sit together casually, a far cry from other costume balls we’ve seen on the blog. Other exotic young women disport themselves below, along with an early outing for the Guy Fawkes/V for Vendettta persona so popular at modern protests.

18 detail

An issue of the Sketch for March 5th 1913 featured photographs of some of the guests. The main theme was “the Goya period”, although only a few guests seem to have gone along with that idea.

05 Fair ladies and brave men

A group of “fair ladies and brave men.”

02 Miss P Lacon in manly garb

Miss P Lacon in “manly garb”.

07 Chess-board and Domino - mrs Richard Davis and Mr R Grey

“In chess board and domino”, Mrs Richard Davis and Mr R Grey

Below, Miss Heron as “a queen of Egypt”, “and a pharaoh” (any old pharaoh, played by an unknown gentleman).

06 Miss Heron as a Queen of Egypt and a pharoah06

The caption has to be quoted for these two “As Hitchy Koos: Mr Frank Levison, and a friend”

10 Hitchy Koos - Frank Levison and a friend

The reference is to a musical revue, although this seems to be quite an early usage.

On the same page Mr Cole as the Keeper

08 Keeper and bear - Mr and mrs Cole

With Mrs Cole sweating inside the bear costume. Hardly fair, is it?

I include the next one purely for the link to another post.

13 the red fisherman - Tom Heslewood

The Red Fisherman (don’t ask me) is portrayed by Mr Tom Heslewood, whom we previously encountered as the costume designer for the 1908 Chelsea Pageant. You can see some of his designs here.

By 1920 the Arts Club Ball was a regular feature of the artistic/social scene in London. The 1920 Ball had a theme of Pre-History (“By the genius of Augustus John” according to the Ladies Field magazine of December that year.)


As well as this Egyptian gentleman, there would be a “70 foot Sun Temple” in which an “everlasting flame” would burn, flanked by two huge canvases depicting the Paleozoic Era. Some reference is made to costumes of the Atlantians (Atlanteans I guess) so the designers obviously didn’t feel enslaved by historical facts.

And best of all there were some fanciful sketches of costumes from ancient history:

20 December 25 1920 CM1485 - Copy

To me these look like they belong in humorous pictures from the 50s or 60s, but maybe that’s me, remembering artists like Norman Thelwell, Osbert Lancaster and others.


Let’s leave the prehistoric folk now and go back to 1912. Did you notice who was standing in the background behind the lady in the face-concealing bonnet?

Is that the Michelin Man?

19a detail - Copy

Bibendum, as he is properly known, is one of the oldest trademarks, first seen in 1894, so his presence here is no anachronism. The Michelin House building in the Fulham Road was opened in 1911 so he’s bang up to date for the 1912 Ball. I cannot resist one final picture I stumbled across in the Illustrated London News while looking for more coverage of the Ball.

ILN 1910 01 - Copy

He was no stranger to carnivals.


Background detail on the origin of the Arts Club Ball came from Tom Cross’s book Artists and Bohemians. The Chelsea Arts Club has its own archive relating to the history of the Club and the Ball which is open to researchers.

Wonders of Cremorne: acrobats and angels

This is a companion piece to the author’s recent post called Dancing at Cremorne. The Cremorne crowd loved their dancing and drinking but it wasn’t the only reason to come there.


There was something for thrill seekers of all tastes.


De Vere

De Vere, changing things in a startling way, creating illusions and surprises, even dabbling in necromancy.

De Vere 00011

And the rabbit in the hat of course.


Professor Risley

Fresh from Drury Lane, Professor Risley and his slightly not to scale sons.

And the Chantrells:


No end to their balancing skills, it seems.


Madame Caroline

If Madame Caroline wasn’t enough for you, on special occasions there could be some re-enactments.

Cremorne Gardens tournament 1863

A medieval tournament brought back to life for entertainment and edification.


Beckwith frogs

The remarkable underwater activities of the Beckwith Frogs, an entire family capable of diverse aquatic pursuits.

Beckwith frogs 00007

Your author has been reading Matthew Sweet’s excellent treatise Inventing the Victorians, included in which is an educational chapter on “freaks”, a term not much used in the days of Cremorne. The term prodigies was preferred when referring to performers such as this gentleman:


This “remarkable specimen of humanity on a small scale, who was present at the Massacre at Cawnpore and an eye-witness of many of the battles in India” held court at the Indian Temple (near the King’s Road  entrance).

Performers such as Mr Baux became celebrities of the age, rather than objects of ridicule or pity. I cannot promise the same for these two performers.

Kostroma people - Copy

Discounting the possibility of fakery, there is a medical / genetic condition which would give rise to excessive body hair. There were of course many bearded women in circuses and travelling fairs well into the twentieth century. Mr Sweet argues that the Victorian attitude to people who made a living from their unusual appearance was no more unenlightened than modern views. (Think of all those television documentaries about sensational afflictions).

World of the Strange!

fortune teller

Step inside, Madam and see what awaits in the fortune teller’s booth. Or come and see an even stranger phenomenon.

Fakir of Oolu - Copy - Copy

The Fakir performed a levitation act, apparently balancing the “entranced girl” on “two solid silver pedestals” which are then removed leaving her floating unsupported in the air.

There were skeptics then as now, who insisted that it was merely an illusion, and the Fakir a faker. But there were greater marvels to be found in the spiritual world:

Anderson combined

While bound to a chair (purely to prevent any cheating) Mrs Anderson makes contact with the world beyond our own, conversing with angels and cherubs, causing musical instruments to play themselves, and messing about with disembodied objects, with witnesses seated close by observing all. Who could fail to be amazed?

No? Well, get back to the Dancing Platform, ladies and gentlemen. The orchestra is in full swing, and there will be fireworks later.

And come back another day. There is always something happening.

Handbill 1855

And I haven’t even mentioned the Talking Fish.


Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians is an excellent antidote to the cliches about 19th century life and I have been enjoying it recently.

I referred you to Lee Jackson’s The last pleasure garden in the recent Cremorne post. The book also features the Beckwith Frogs.

The Talking Fish, like the Great Sea Bear was a phrase describing a performing seal, or sea-lion. You can see a picture in one of our early posts. Another early post featured a balloon adventure.


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