Two hospitals

I’m starting this week’s post with a few pictures by our new best friend Bill Figg who sometimes strayed as far north as the Fulham Road

 

 

Although this view is about 25 years years old I still remember St Stephen’s Hospital pretty well. I went there several times, including one memorable occasion not long after my wife and I were married. She had managed to stab herself with a screwdriver while opening a tin of paint. Annoyed with the situation, and with me, she only lingered at the hospital long enough to get the small injury stitched. When we got out onto the street she was as pale as a vampire but refused to go back inside. I concentrated on getting her home.

 

 

There’s another pale woman in a long dark coat. St Stephen’s was a former workhouse / infirmary (more of its history in this post). Despite the addition of a new wing it was showing its age and the plan to replace it was on the whole a good idea. On the right of the picture,  you can see another new building, the Kobler Centre / St Stephen’s Clinic under construction, on the corner of Netherton Grove.

 

 

This picture shows the other buildings in Netherton Grove, including the nurses’ home.

 

 

The new hospital the Chelsea Westminster, finished and opened in 1993, which combined units from several hospitals in west London was under some planning constraints. The building could not be too high so the architects opted to use the maximum amount of space on the site to create a large box with an atrium inside it.

The Library is lucky enough to have been given given a folder containing a set of photographs taken during the construction of the hospital. Regular readers will know that I love a building site so I make no apology for presenting these construction scenes without much further historical commentary. In fact the Figg photos merely act as an introduction. As I frequently do I scanned far more pictures than I could us in one post. I’ve been trying to cut down the number but  haven’t entirely succeeded. If you’re not a fan of building construction stop here. The rest of us can enter a world of scaffolding, concrete, mud and heavy machinery.

 

 

A view looking down at Netherton Grove. Blobs of cement scattered around like they were flicked from a giant brush.

 

 

Another view of Netherton Grove showing the collection of temporary working spaces.

 

 

A view of the Fulham Road from the site.

 

 

A nice big hole. With its extensive basements and car park, the building began as a giant pit but this is just a minor hole by comparison.

 

 

One side of the building

 

 

A gathering of small vehicles.

 

 

The framework of Internal spaces before walls and ceilings.

 

 

A wider internal space, possibly one of the wards taking shape.

 

 

A mass of scaffolding.

 

 

The central atrium with the skeleton of a staircase.

 

 

Another red steel skeleton, of one of the lift shafts.

 

 

The vertiginous view down an almost finished shaft.

 

 

In another light well, an enormous pipe, now clad in a pleasant colour, almost as if it was one of the many art installations in the finished space.

 

 

And onto the roof. Here in the distance you can see the World’s End Estate.

 

 

 

And on a much brighter day Stamford Bridge football ground. I love these views from the calm spaces at the top of buildings.

 

 

Back on ground level with some scaffolding and the usual green material behind some billboards. A quick visual credit for the Laing company who have been involved with many of London’s major building projects.

 

 

As as local resident I was pleased to see our new hospital open. I never realised at the time how much time I would spend inside it over the years so let me thank its designers and builders and all the doctors, nurses and other staff who have worked there in the last 24 years.

Postscript

Special thanks to Dr Sarah Cox and Professor Mark Bower. (I could add many more names but you don’t want to see a long list) Thank also to Les Wallis without whom we would not have these photographs.

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The Children’s Library murals: 1947 and afterwards

Today’s post requires another story about the archive life. Sometime in the late 1990s I found myself, with a couple of companions piloting a large trolley (with pneumatic tires, bought for transporting paintings) down the King’s Road, carrying some large metal sheets from a basement in Manresa Road, the home of the first Chelsea Library to the second Chelsea Library in Chelsea Old Town Hall, where they would be stored in the Print Room. Why? Well , here goes. And this is just the short version.

 

In 1947 a group of students from the Royal College of Art designed and painted a set of murals for the Children’s Library in Chelsea Library as part of their course. The murals were installed with some fanfare and written about in the Studio magazine in 1950.  A few generations of children and librarians lived with them. In 1978 the Library moved to larger premises at Chelsea Old Town Hall on the King’s Road but apparently no-one  thought to bring the murals along. The Manresa Road building was taken over by Chelsea College / King’s College. The ground and first floors carried on as a library, and the basement became a student refectory.  Possibly straight away, possibly a little later, the murals were deemed surplus to requirements and were painted over with emulsion, in  the usual dull colour. Time passed by. But not much time. In 1981 when some electrical work was under way the murals were noticed and some interested parties took them down and removed some of the paint. There was a little bit of interest in the local press (some of it inaccurate) and one of the original artists was brought in to see his old work. The murals were stored in a back room. More time passed, until I got a call at a point when it looked like the building was about to be rented out. Would I like to retrieve the murals? Like a proper archivist I said yes definitely and organised an expedition to remove them and transport them by trolley to the Library. At that point more time passed, and the murals remained preserved in temperature controlled conditions until they were moved to this building. Finally I was recently asked if someone could view them and three of us took them out and pieced them together like a jigsaw.

Naturally, one of the first things I thought was: there’s a blog post in this.

 

 

The three artists were Malcolm Hughes, who went on the become head of the Slade School of Art,  Neville Dear and George Ball.  That’s George Ball in the picture above doing some touching up while balancing on a shelf, a picture almost certainly posed for the benefit of the photographer. (The pictures were painted at the College and brought in when completed).

Below, Neville Dear. Possibly. The picture is by Dear but that guy looks a little like George Ball again to me. I wonder if the photographer is using a bit of artistic licence.

 

 

It’s definite though that the man below is Malcolm Hughes.

 

 

And here is Hughes with one of the others pausing from their labour and looking artistic.

 

In this picture they look a bit visionary. Matter of life and death?

 

 

Some credit should be given to the photographer, John Vickers for setting up some excellent pictures of children.

Some of them are awed.

 

 

(Although the girl in the beret got distracted by a book, which as a librarian I can only approve of)

Let’s have another try.

 

No, she’s still thinking of what she’ll take home.

All right then, pretend it’s a library. Get a girl to stand under the arch and pretend to read a book.

 

 

The girl in the beret had her book stamped and has gone home to read it. When she grows up she writes about fairies and vampires and in the later stages of her career writes a series of crime novels which are ultimately turned into a television series by Netflix starring Natalie Dormer.  Or not.

There is an actual mystery.

 

The murals in the entrance hall, depicting a lively mob of children tumbling down some stairs.

 

 

And another group in the corridor leading to the library.

The whole set of murals has not survived but  we have 18 panels, most of the ones in the two rooms of the Children’s Library. The Malcolm Hughes panels from the entrance hall are now gone. I’ve heard it suggested that they were destroyed during building work but we do know that Hughes was consulted about the panels in 1981 and may have visited the site so I have no idea why they were not in the basement when we collected the panels we have now. Perhaps someone took them away but we don’t know who.

What you want to know now I expect is how do they look now?

Well considering they’ve been covered in emulsion and had it scraped  off and some damage was sustained installing and removing them they’re mostly not in bad condition.

 

Here you see a couple of panels from Neville Dear’s series about the seasons of the year set on an imaginary farm, and below the two that went next to them.

 

 

There were also some isolated panels we couldn’t quite join together.

 

Some of the figures are a bit odd.

The next ones are from  George Ball’s series about childhood activities and these also join up

 

 

Many of the panels still have sections of emulsion on them.

This side panel which obviously went over a doorway still has plenty of paint on it.

 

 

I rather liked the slightly weird soft toy.

This one also had paint on, but I was intrigued by the continuing image so I did some careful but amateur restoration work on it and revealed the faces of the girl with the drum and the boy next to her. You can see them in one of the photographs above.

 

I should add that the unfortunate mark on her chin was already there and not due to any carelessness on my part.

Why a rural setting in a city library? Well all I can say is that it was intended by the artists “to offset the town background of the actual library” according to the Studio magazine. When I casually referred to the Powell and Pressberger film “A matter of life and death” earlier perhaps I was picking up on the atmosphere of their films which combined nostalgia for a rural past with the notion of a clean optimistic future of garden cities. It seems to fit with the pictures.

At the end I suppose you have to ask about artistic merit and it must be admitted that the surviving panels are not the greatest things ever put on a wall. But they have a certain atmosphere about them, a feeling of the post war period, and a naive charm. From the photographs it looks like the Hughes panels were the most accomplished so it’s a shame that those are the ones we don’t have. But that’s the unlikely story of the Children’s Library murals. I sometimes call myself a professional hoarder  because I have the instinct to collect things for the collection that other people might have thrown away. Sometimes this pays off.

Postscript

The Royal College of Arts is said to have a full set of slides of the murals, presumably taken in the days when they were new and hadn’t been through years of alternating careless and considerate treatment. I hope so anyway. As I said above we got them out because someone expressed an interest in seeing them and although I can’t leave them laid out in our archive rooms for a long period if anyone’s interested in the next couple of weeks, email me.


The King’s Road in the 80s – portraits of a moment

There have been many months of chance meetings, hints and even some begging and pleading but my friend, photographer CC has finally allowed me to see part of her collection of photographs taken in and around the King’s Road in the 1980s. I’m not going to give you a whole lot of social/fashion history by way of introduction but for the few who don’t remember, the King’s Road, having been part of a  fashion revolution in the 1960s did the whole thing again in the 1970s and 1980s when punk came along and suddenly a new teenage tribe was parading through London.

A few weeks ago I featured some street scenes from the King’s Road in the 1990s photographed by Bill Figg. I made the point that Bill knew there was something new in Chelsea which needed to be photographed, but he just wan’t quite sure what it was, and I imagine he found the idea of taking photographs of people in the street a little daunting. Well that’s true even today in the era of street style photography. But in the punk era part of the point of the new fashion /anti fashion was to to be seen, and whether you were admired or denigrated by the “normal” world didn’t make much difference. Punk was either a step forward into a new weird scene or a threat to civilization. What I sometimes have to explain to people who weren’t around then was that it was both playful and serious. CC was around then, camera in hand, and set off to record what she saw. Unlike our friend  Mr Figg she understood what she was looking at and had an artist’s eye for what she saw.

 

 

This picture was taken outside Chelsea Old Town Hall. What strikes me most is the precision of the look, as carefully constructed as any  Regency dandy. Punk began out of a kind of do it yourself style. Like this young man, improvising with found objects.

 

 

The style developed although it retained that improvised element.

 

 

Some people like to be photographed, some don’t. CC’s rule of thumb was ask – Can I take your photograph? – and if the answer was no, just walk away. Quite a lot of people said yes.

 

 

These two were quite happy to pose, even revealing the all-important rear view.

 

 

In the early days it was always useful to walk around as a duo.

 

 

There was a certain amount of hostility from the straight world so it helped to have a friend, and look like you could resist any physical abuse. My recollection of London in this period was that it was a little more violent than it is today (although knives and guns were a lot rarer then) and it took a certain amount of bravery to be a punk.

You should blame me for the colour in this image. the original is a slide, which I scanned not entirely successfully. But I wanted to use a picture of a striking young woman.

 

Here is another.

 

A picture taken in a tattoo parlour in the Great Gear Market.

As the 80s progressed some of the punks became New Romantics.

 

And the modern boys and girls got jobs in King’s Road shops.

 

Outside Boy. This young man was one of CC’s favourite subjects. (Look at the size of his Walkman) This is his girlfriend.

 

Another willing subject from the same vicinity.

 

 

The teenage tribes morphed onwards. Punk was followed by New Romantics, Goths and other less definable looks. What didn’t change in the 80s was the desire to get out there and be seen.

CC also photographed her friends. Her is her hair stylist dressed up for a party as a famous 80s person.

 

You don’t need me to tell you who.

You also might not need me to identify one of this duo posed outside the Chelsea Potter.

 

 

Leigh Bowery and Trojan, both sadly no longer with us. CC saw them being photographed by David Bailey and asked if she could take a picture as well. Neither of them could resist posing for one more shot. Showing off was the essence of the art of being seen.

 

Postscript

My thanks to CC for supplying these pictures. None of them are part of the Library’s collection and copyright is retained by the photographer. If anyone wishes to reproduce them in a professional capacity I can put you in touch.

And if you like them, there may be more. And of course if you are one of CC’s subjects, please leave a comment.

Another one

You could say that Tom Petty, who died sadly young this week at the age of 66, doesn’t belong with punks and new romantics even though his career began with a 1978 album. But death isn’t neat, so once again I’m noting the passing of a musical hero. Tom Petty’s music looked back to the 60s as well as forward in to the 80s and he captured the essence of the times in many memorable songs. many of the tributes and features have mentioned “American Girl”, quite rightly, but I was drawn back to another song on his first album.

“…didn’t go to bed, didn’t go to work/ picked up the telephone and told the boss he was a jerk….

…I know what I want, I want it right now / While electric guitars are playing way up loud..”

Anything that’s rock’n’roll’s fine ”

A sentiment few old punks would argue with.


Up Clarendon Road: 1970

Clarendon Road is another of the streets that converged at Lancaster Circus running roughly north to south. In 1970 it ran from the junction with Lancaster Road all the way down to Holland Park Avenue. This week’s post is another in a series exploring the streets of North Kensington as they looked in the late 1960s and early 1970s when there were many streets in the area like Walmer Road which took a journey from relative affluence to relative poverty. The recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower put the contrast between the different conditions of life and property in the Borough into a new perspective. But we can still look back at how the streets of North Kensington used to be.

 

 

This first picture shows the short section of street on the west side of Clarendon Road after the pub (The Castle) on the corner of Holland Park Avenue. In 1970 there was a Radbourne Garage, a small car dealer at number 1. Next to it was a low rise block of flats in a recognizeably 1960s style.

 

 

The block wasn’t typical of the street though. The early numbers on both sides were more like this.

 

 

The houses were substantial, showing the ambitions of the original builders and developers of the Ladbroke Estate. By 1970 some of them were a little run down. But the process of gentrification was well under way.

This section of the street is relatively narrow, with one or two surprisingly striking houses.

 

 

The one above, a double house, the work of the builder William Reynolds. Below a leaf-clad detached house.

 

As you move north the street widens out.

 

I’m not entirely sure of the vantage point in this picture, but I was taken with the woman strolling slowly towards the photographer on what I think would be a winter’s day.

This view is also looking north up the hill from the junction with Clarendon Cross


 

Clarendon Road intersects with a number of other streets, Ladbroke Road, Lansdowne Walk, St John’s Gardens, Lansdowne Rise, Portland Road. Below, a girl crosses the road near Portland Road unconcerned about traffic.

 

 

The Britannia public house was on that corner.

 

 

As we get to the junction with Elgin Crescent the street becomes more mixed and the pictures more interesting.

The east side of the road again.

 

 

On the west side Nottingwood House.

 

 

This view looks north again.

 

 

The next turn off is Cornwall Crescent. This is the point where we need some help from a map.

 

 

This is actually a detail from the 1935 Ordnance Survey map, which shows the layout of the streets before 1970s development and also has had the individual houses numbered by some unknown hand at Kensington Town Hall. If you look at the point where Cornwall Crescent meets Clarendon Road, the house numbers above 120 on the east side, you see which houses were later demolished when the Lancaster West Estate was built.

 

 

This one, 122

Its neighbours,

 

128 onwards

 

Outside Telemart (“radio and television distributors”), a man is making some kind of adjustment to a camper van.  You have Talbot Grove visible on the left. Dulford Street was almost opposite, visible in this view of the west side of the street.

 

 

 

Then looking north again you see the final curve of Clarendon Road.

 

 

The tower block in the background is one of the towers on the Silchester Estate built by the GLC a few years earlier. although its sudden appearance above the traditional streets reminds us that this was the start of a period of housing development in the area.

Back to the east side:

 

 

Below, a number of somewhat run-down shops.

 

 

I can’t help wondering what ID Clearance might have been.

This view turns back to look southwards.

 

 

And again. We’ve seen this picture before.

 

 

But it takes us back to Lancaster Circus and joins us up once more with Lancaster Road and Walmer Road.

Postscript

I’m a little late publishing again today. One or two other demands on my time, plus the fact that there were quite a lot of pictures of Clarendon Road in the end. I’ve been uncomfortable with the idea of writing about North Kensington since the fire but in the end it’s one of my jobs so I  knew I would be back. All this week’s photographs were by John Rogers.


Chelsea stories – onward to Sloane Square

It’s taken us longer than I thought to reach the final stretch of the King’s Road but we’ve got here. Most of this week’s photos are from the early 1990s and at first you might think that nothing much has changed in the last twenty odd years but there have been a few changes.

We left off roughly about here, looking east.

 

We’re on the corner of Smith Street. The building, modern at street level, Victorian above was once an urban dairy. The cow’s head can still be seen on the third floor. Have a look at this post.

Nearby on the north side of the street was another retail outlet for dairy products.

 

 

The original location of the Mary Quant shop, at this point, a branch of Haagen-Dazs. Remember when that was a novelty? The pub next door was already a branch of Abbey National by then.

Further along the north side of the road you come to the small mall created around this time, King’s Walk.

 

 

 

Mr Figg wasn’t entirely impressed with the development but he took some pictures anyway

 

 

Empty in this picture with some nice reflections. There used to be a Virgin shop in there and in olden days when we bought CDs and videos at actual physical shops I would go there with my wife or my son. I think it was there I bought him the first Grand Theft Auto and I certainly remember going there to buy another driving game on the day of its release. I guess people still do that.

Here’s the mall with a few people about.

 

 

The small area in which the mall was built had contained a pedestrian close with a branch of Sainsbury’s at the rear, a Boots on the left and a shoe shop on the right. As I recall there was some kind of public sculpture in the centre with some wooden seating.

Further along, the corner of Tryon Street where there was later a branch of Superdrug (useful) followed by a branch of Muji (not so useful, for me at least).

 

 

Opposite the Mall is the once controversial branch of McDonalds, with a “discreet” version of their usual signage (to avoid “lowering the tone of the neighbourhood”, although some might say the Chelsea Drug Store had already done that.)

 

 

This picture shows the building after the Drug Store, which finally closed in 1985, but before McDonald’s. As you can see, after that it was a wine bar called Drummond’s. I can’t recall exactly when McDonald’s opened but I think it must have been around 1991, as I found some evidence of complaints about a “fast food restaurant” about then.

 

 

On the other side of Royal Avenue, which we have seen before, is an anonymous building which was occupied at ground level by a Safeways store, which probably withered away in the face of competition from M&S and Waitrose. You can see the building on the right in this picture, with the shops at street level below Whitelands House, one of those large apartment blocks built in the 1930s which you can find several examples of in Chelsea. Regular readers of the blog will remember my fascination with the original Whitelands House / College. (I won’t burden you with a link.)

 

 

Beyond Whitelands House is the Duke of York’s Square development, which most residents thought of as an improvement on the previous arrangement, seen in the picture below which Figg must have taken from the upper floors of Whitelands House.

 

 

It also show the final group of shops on the norther side before you reach Peter Jones, such as Woolworth’s, which was gone before I was a regular shopper on the King’s Road.

 

 

Peter Jones itself is another 1930s builing, still iconic, and still good for views over Chelsea if you go up to the furniture section, or the cafe.

 

 

I cannot help pointing out this single decker example of the short lived bus route the 249, which apparently is anomalous in Sloane Square. The 249 mostly travelled between Crystal Palace and Battersea.

Another of Figg’s random picture of shoppers, at Sloane Square from 1990.

 

The old configuration of Sloane Square, with the fountain and the WW1 memorial.

 

 

This picture shows the east side of the square looking south, with The Royal Court Theatre, and Sloane Square Station, surmounted by  a block of offices.

 

 

There was time of course when the station stood alone, quite plain and unadorned. (This is a picture from the 1950s I think. The station was severely damaged in an air raid during the war.)

 

 

To finish, a bonus picture. Everyone who has stood on the platform at Sloane Square knows that the track, like many sub-surface tube stations, does not have  a roof, and that  there is a large rectangular covered pipe which goes across the track above you, through which the River Westbourne (one of the “lost” rivers of London) flows on its way to the Thames. You may have told someone that as a fun fact. I know I have. But have you ever seen it from above?

 

There it is, caught by Mr Figg (or he may have copied the picture from an earlier one) before it was entirely surrounded by development. An example of Figg’s love for “hidden Chelsea”.

Postscript

Although we’ve now covered the length of the King’s Road, don’t imagine we’ve finished with JW Figg. Chelsea Stories will return soon.


In the gallery

Local Studies and Archives collections often contain paintings and prints connected with the area they cover, particularly if like Kensington and Chelsea the area is or has been one where artists lived or worked. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that our collection contains dozens of Turners or works by other famous artists. A Local Studies collection is far more likely to have works by lesser known professionals like William Ascroft or William Walter Burgess, or William Cowen, obscure figures like Francis Griffen, amateurs like Walter Greaves (or were he and his brother Henry semi-professionals?),  illustrators like Herbert Railton, unknowns like Marianne Rush and annonymous figures like the artist of the Red Portfolio.

But this is how we like it. It’s nice to loan out one of our small number of Whistler etchings to an exhibition as we recently did but there is far more pleasure in having a much larger number of sketches by Railton or Ascroft or possibly the entire oeuvre of Rush which can be shown to interested parties or blogged about.

This post is an  almost random selection of pictures I have shown to visitors or come across in the course of enquiries or have had at the back of my mind for years.

 

 

The river entrance gate to Cremorne Gardens, by Walter Greaves. The gardens were just a short step down the road from the Greaves boat yard where he and his brother worked in the family business. During the course of business they struck up a relationship with Whistler who liked to make sketches from their boats. Walter and Henry became close enough to the great artist to get some lessons from him, although it all turned sour in the end as Whistler’s friendships seemed to do. Walter inserted the figure of Whistler into many of his pictures, but the man in this picture could just as easily have been Greaves himself who modeled his personal style on that of the master. Neither of them are in this picture.

 

 

Lindsey Wharf, looking east I think.  The pub is the Queen’s Arms, a different pub from the King’s Arms, which was also in that vicinity. Chelsea enthusiasts may like to try to reconcile this view with photographs of the area. Forgive me if I  don’t do that today. Normally I like the minutiae of locations but we could be here all day.

[Added 18 September – at the prompting of Chris Pain, Chelsea history expert – see his comments below – I have reverse this image to make things clearer]

I’ve done a couple of posts of Ascroft in the early days of the blog, but cannot resist putting in one of his pastel sketches showing a country lane, probably in the Putney area, with one of his characteristic skies.

 

 

Horace Van Ruitl, on the other hand was an unfamiliar name to me until a few weeks ago when a researcher working on hid biography asked to see what we had. Scattered in the Chelsea general sequence were several pictures mostly of the interior of Chelsea Old Church. Once I had gathered them together I was quite impressed. This is a detail from one of the larger pictures which I chose because of the two women who add a burst of colour to the subdued scene.

 

 

Van Ruitl was like Ascroft a well known professional name in his day, and not completely forgotten.

This artist, Juliet Williams, is probably an amateur but an artist who was absolutely obsessed with the gates of Cheyne House. Here they are in winter:

 

 

And here in summer:

 

 

We also have an autumn and a spring, but also eight other versions, smaller and larger, sketches and completed pictures. I could practically fill a whole post with them. But I won’t. (Although that’s an idea for Christmas).

Chelsea is full of picturesque locations for painters. But the Kensington amateurs produced plenty of pictures too.

 

 

This is a pen and ink sketch by Frank Emanuel. We’ve seen his work before here, a picture of Tower Cressey, but this a a simple street scene showing Silver Street, which was the former name of the northern section of Kensington Church Street, leading up to Notting Hill Gate. The figure of the woman is what makes this one special I think. I wish he’s done more pictures of people.

Elizabeth Gladstone was an amateur watercolourist who was featured in the same post as Emanuel. This picture looks down Derry Street / King Street towards Kensington Square.

 

 

If you study the 6th image in this post on the development of the Barker’s building, you will recognize one of the buildings.

in contrast to Gladstone’s mostly late 19th century work, Joan Bloxham painted and drew in the 1930s.

 

 

Victoria Grove, still quite recognizable.

 

 

Another view I’m familiar with, Holland Street, a few minutes walk from the Library, showing the house of Walter Crane. He’s a famous artist we do have some work by, which we may look at one of these days.

Like many amateur artists, Elizabeth Gladstone’s pictures are usually simply views of street and buildings but occasionally she includes a curious detail as in this one.

 

 

York House, also in Kensington Church Street in the 1890s, featuring a sinister hooded figure, or is it simply a harmless monk? There were many religious establishments in Kensington in that period.

Finally, another Greaves for the road, signed by Henry, the less prolific of the two brothers, although they both often added to each other’s picture.

 

 

Chelsea riverside east of the Old Church, before the Embankment. Not an unfamiliar view for regular readers but we can always have one more.

This post is a bit of a trailer for others I might do this autumn about artists I haven’t covered in any detail so far so pardon me if it looks like a bit of a filler between Chelsea stories. I do need time between those.

Postscript

I feel that I tempted fate last week by noting the death of another musician from the golden age of popular music. I was saddened to read that even as I was writing last week’s post, another bass guitar player from one of the great bands of the 1970s had died. The name Holger Czukay may not be as familiar as Walter Becker, but for me he was an even greater name. He played bass and other instruments and electronics for the German avant garde rockers Can. I saw Can play live in several London venues  – the Lyceum, the Roundhouse, Hammersmith Palais, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – all of which are no longer used as music venues . They practiced “spontaneous composition” rather than merely improvisation and seldom played the same material without some massive variations, according to the weather, their mood, or the audience’s mood (I once saw them suddenly turn on an audience whose attention was wavering and shock them into submission). Czukay also made a number of remarkable solo albums. He was one of the first to use samples in his recordings. I’d better stop with that before I get maudlin. Can’s drummer Jaki Lieberzeit also died this year, leaving only their two vocalists and founder member Irmin Schmidt.


Chelsea stories – east from Sydney Street

People seemed to enjoy the last Chelsea stories which featured plenty of images from the 1990s, so we’re carrying on in a similar vein, with a mixture of photos by JW Figg from different decades.

You might think that this section of the King’s Road, the main shopping section since the 1960s is just a succession of shops, some trendy and some not so trendy and that the story of the street is one of hip new independent boutiques gradually giving way to chain stores and international brands. But it’s a lot more mixed than that, with a few sections which have provoked controversy along the way. Come with me on a journey through time and space…… (as one of the presenters of the new version of Bake-off used to say. He probably won’t be mentioning eels in his new job).

This picture from a rooftop vantage points shows where we left off, with Chelsea Old Town Hall, Chenil Galleries, Moravian Tower (with scaffolding and green mesh), the World’s End Estate, and Lots Road Power Station visible in the distance.

 

Just past Habitat, almost opposite the these shops, there was a pub called the Lord Nelson which John Bignell used to like. In the 1970 it got a bit of a makeover.

 

According to the Chelsea Post of July 10th that year you could “do your own thing” in this “supersonic..disco pub” .

That woman wasn’t convinced. Ind Coope goes painfully pop art. Let’s follow her example and turn our eyes away and look  across the road.

To another view from above, of Antiquarius, one of the road’s survivors.

 

 

And looking in the other direction.

 

 

Looking down at the corner of Radnor Walk, with the Chelsea Potter just visible on the right. The building where there was a branch of Hugo was a hole in the ground a year or so ago, although its replacement bears a slight resemblance to the overall shape. Here a couple of pictures from few years earlier showing the view at ground level.

First, the plain 1970s frontage of the Potter, with Green and London, builder’s merchants, beside it.

 

 

then the corner building again as an outlet for the Wine Growers Assocaition.

 

 

Take note of the mixed bag of buildings beyond it. After the one with the gabled roof and the three story building, most of them were demolished in the 1990s.

Here is the entrance to a small semi-industrial zone which hid behind the shops. You can just make out the name Carter Patterson on one of the buildings. If you look back to this post on aerial views you can see a little of what was there.

 

 

Residential apartment buildings were created at the back with a row of shops including Marks and Spencer’s at the front. Of course M&S wasn’t the first supermarket in that location. Local residents will remember a branch of Gateway (one of the many names of the supermarket chain also called Somerville and International) which was there for only a matter of months it seemed. The cavernous interior always seemed semi deserted when my wife and I went into it, like a ghost shop in my memory, although it can’t have been as bad as that. It was a case of the wrong shop in the wrong place, especially as that branch of M&S feels like a King’s Road institution now.

Here’s the empty space:

 

And what filled it, looking back. The buildings beside it, such as the Good Earth restaurant were also demolished. M&S and a few other businesses are there now.

 

 

The north side of the road includes that other architectural fixture, the Pheasantry. These days it looks like it hasn’t changed since the 19th century, but there was a time  when it was reduced to the bare essentials.

 

The facade, held in place by scaffolding as we’ve seen many times before all over London.

A colour view, from the side.

 

 

This was the Pheasnatry in earlier years. The statues have been painted various colours over different periods. There is a post on some of the building’s inhabitants here.

 

 

What’s that next door?

 

 

A colourful branch of the Classic cinema chain, showing Jack Lemmon and Julie Mills in Avanti! (1972). I saw it quite a few years ago and liked it, but I don’t know if I would now.

Some of you enjoyed Figg’s random shots of people passing Manresa Road in the last post. Figg wasn’t all that good at street photography. He puts me in mind of Dylan’s Mr Jones – “something is happening around here but you don’t know what it is”. Here are two passable pictures taken opposite the Pheasantry.

 

 

An old school cool dude as far as 70s style is concerned.

 

 

And some classic punks from the late 70s. The woman with her back to us looks like she’s being photographed from front and rear. I have a friend who took many pictures of Kings Road style in the 70s/80s. One day I hope to present some of her work here. (Hint)

This picture shows the Pheasantry with its new companions, after redevelopment. If you go there today you can see how the new buildings were joined to the section of the façade that was preserved.

 

 

In the next block is a relatively modern build, for a branch of Barclays Bank. It looks like a bank I have to say, not much like a branch of French Connection, although it has been that for many years. The feeling of a bank has remained though,

 

 

along with an original feature:

 

 

This sculpture, placed on a plinth above some steps to the basement just inside Markham Square, was installed by one of the branch managers, who was, according to one of my correspondents, a sculptor himself.  The odd thing about the object is its obscurity. Despite having walked past it for years I (and others I asked) had never noticed it. The stairwell has been covered over but the sculpture sits in more or less the same place, huddled up next to the window near some steps leading to a locked side door. Does it qualify as a public sculpture, or is it sitting on private land? Whichever it is, just have a look for it next time you’re passing. I have taken several people to look at it recently, taking credit for “discovering” it, although of course the credit is not mine.

Postscript

We haven’t even got to Sloane Square! Maybe next time. This post is dedicated to Christine, whose time I am often wasting.

Another postscript

I haven’t noted any deaths recently, I’m pleased to say, but in keeping with my habit of recording the passing of musicians can we spare a thought for Walter Becker of Steely Dan who died this week. As a man of a certain age the period when Steely Dan were at their peak was also an era when I was young and preoccupied with music. Nearly  all their lyrics are memorable in some way but the song that sticks in my mind is one of the best science fiction songs I know, King of the World, from my favourite Steely Dan album Countdown to ecstasy

If you come around
No more pain and no regrets
Watch the sun go brown
Smoking cobalt cigarettes
There’s no need to hide
Taking things the easy way
If I stay inside
I might live til Saturday

No marigolds in the promised land
There’s a hole in the ground
Where they used to grow
Any man left on the Rio Grande
Is the king of the world
As far as I know

Thank you Water Becker.

 


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