Dulac and Shakespeare: faeries and phantoms

The first two decades of the twentieth century are sometimes referred to as the golden age of book illustration. It was a combination of skilled artists, advances in printing techniques and a book loving public willing to buy prestige or gift editions of classic books. We’ve already featured examples of this in posts about the artist Hugh Thomson who tried to produce one “big” book a year in the pre-WW1 period. Hodder and Stoughton were one of the publishers who embraced this trend, and one of their lines was a series of new versions of Shakespeareare plays. Thomson himself did As you like it for Hodder and later the Merry Wives of Windsor for Heinemann. W. Heath Robinson did Twelfth Night. And our new friend Edmund Dulac did one of the best illustrated editions, the Tempest.

008 Act 1 scene 2 And to my state grew stranger being transported and rapt in secret studies

Prospero in his magical laboratory when he was still Duke of Milan. I have read that Dulac tended to depict not so much the action of the play as scenes implied or referred to such as the “rotten carcass of a butt” in which Prospero and the infant Miranda were set adrift which was nevertheless  equipped with “rich garments, linens, stuffs and necessaries” courtesy of the noble Gonzalo, not to mention volumes “from my own library that I prize above my dukedom” (grimoires etc, perhaps).

Act 1 scene 2 A rotten carcass of a butt not rigged nor tackle sail or mast - Copy

Another is these Dulac mermaids presiding over a line which was echoed in another famous work by T S Eliot. (A Kensington and Chelsea resident we haven’t got around to yet.)

015 Act 1 scene 2 Full fathom five thy father lies - of his bobes are corals made - tose are the pearls that were his eyes

“Full fathom five thy father lies /of his bones are corals made / those are the pearls that were his eyes”

On the apparently deserted island Miranda had to be home schooled, and when the play starts is a teenage girl.

020 Act 3 scene 1 No womans's face remember save my own

“No woman’s face remember but my own” The only other inhabitant of the island is the monstrous Caliban the half-human son of a witch who had also been exiled to the island. Caliban is Prospero’s unwilling servant.

Propero uses his magical powers and those of his faery servant Ariel to capture a ship and move some of its passengers and his former associates into his sphere of influence.

Caliban refers to other non-human residents: “the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

021 Act 3 scene 2 Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not

On the other hand the scene below does occur on stage with Ariel in the guise of a harpy.

022 Act 3 scene 3 You are three men of sin

He/she harangues them: “You are three men of sin, whom Destiny, / that hath to instrument this lower world /and what is in’t, the never surfeited sea / hath caused to belch up you, and on this island / where man doth not inhabit – you ‘mongst men / being most unfit to love. I have made you mad.”

On another part of the island Miranda has met Ferdinand and they have rapidly become a couple. After a stern warning about making sure his daughter remains a virgin Propero entertains the couple with a pageant of spirits. The Goddess Iris speaks of “turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep”

023 Act 4 scene 1 Thy turfy mountains where live nibbling sheep

She calls for: “you sunburned sickle-men, of August weary / come hither from the furrow and be merry;/ make holiday; you rye-straw hats put on, / and these flesh nymphs encounter every one / in country footing.”

027 Act 4 scene 1 Enter certain Reapers properly habited - they join with the Nymphs in a graceful dance

After the fun Prospero dismisses the spirits and prepares to face Caliban and some of the hostile visitors to the island. There are mant famous phrases in the play but at this point Prospero utters the most well known: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on

028 Act 4 scene 1 We are such stuff as dreams are made on

These much quoted words were featured quite effectively in that Ikea advert for beds. Do you remember that one?

Propsero and Ariel prepare for more magic

“Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves….

031 Act 5 scene 1 Ye elves of hills brooks standing lakes and groves

…..you demi-puppets that by moonshine do the green sour ringlets make..”

033 Act 5 scene 1 You demi-puppets that by moonshine do the green sour ringlets make

Prospero speaks of the darker side of his powers: “…Graves at my command / have waked their sleepers, oped and let ’em forth/ by my so potent art”

034 Act 5 scene 1 Graves at my command have waked their sleepers

But at the conclusion of the play he promises: “But this rough magic I here abjure….I’ll break my staff….. I’ll drown my book….”  and vows to set Ariel free.

“On the bat’s back I do fly

037 Act 5 scene 1 On the bat's back I do fly after summer merrily

While Prospero concludes his magical business Miranda and Ferdinand play chess.

038 Act 5 scene 1 Sweet lord you play me false

And finally, returning his visitors to their ship Prospero promises “calm seas, auspicious gales, and sail so expeditious that shall catch your royal fleet far off.”

Dulac picks up on that image for a final picture.

042 Act 5 scene 1 Calm seas auspicious gales and sail so expeditious

There have been many versions of The Tempest, on stage, as an opera and as a general influence. I happened upon this one:

Elsa 01 - Copy

Elsa Lanchester as Ariel, with Charles Laughton as Prospero in 1934. Elsa Lanchester went on of course to play her most famous role the following year in one of the most fantastical of Universal’s horror films, the Bride Of Frankenstein. As well as the Bride she also played Mary Shelley in the film’s prologue.

But naturally this film is the most memorable later version of the story for me.


But you already knew that I’m sure. Forbidden Planet (1956) featuring Robby the Robot as himself/ Ariel, Walter Pidgeon as Morbius/Prospero, the young Leslie Nielsen as Commander Adams, a kind of Ferdinand (not to mention an early model for James T Kirk) and Anne Francis as Altaira / Miranda. Caliban came in at the end as the monster from the Id.


I’ve looked at some other illustrated Shakespeare volumes from the Hodder series – W G  Simmonds’s version of Hamlet, Sir James D Linton’s Merchant of Venice, but they looked rather conventional after Dulac’s Tempest.I’m going to keep looking.

As well as tying in with the previous post on Dulac this one also occurs in a Shakespeare anniversary year. In November one of our London History Festival author events will be Shakespeare related. But before then I’ll be featuring a couple of those special editions. Look out for them.

This post has a companion piece on our WW1 website where you can see some pictures from Dulac’s book in support of the French Red Cross.

Thanks to Peter Collins for loaning the Dulac volumes and Kim for transportation.


On the border 2: the edge of Kensington 1971

I was juggling with ideas about edge lands and terminal wastelands and that kind of thing when I was trying to find a title for this post, which is a kind of prelude to something coming up in a couple of weeks when I made the connection with another post featuring the photographs of Bernard Selwyn which I called On the border. That was set in the south west tip of the Borough in the area next to Fulham where Chelsea Harbour was built. This week, we’re right at the border with Hammersmith looking at an area in the throes of development in 1971.

South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 004 - Copy - Copy

I should explain that the man who took the pictures which make up this photo collage, Bernard Selwyn, was a professional surveyor with an abiding interest in the history and development of west London. A few years ago he left the Library in his will a mass of material – notes, photocopies, maps and above all photographs. One of our volunteers spent a couple of months or more combing through this material and arranging it by subject in a set of boxes and plastic crates. Since then I (and Isabel) been able to draw on it for a variety of purpose including a few posts on this blog.

In this case Selwyn is standing near the top of Frinstead House looking south. The road on the right is the West Cross Route. (which I imagined would have changed its name by now, but that name still appears on maps.) At the centre rear you can see one of the towers of the Edward Wood estate. We’ll fill in the gaps with some later pictures, but first look at the foreground where you can see the elevated railway line and what remains of a spur line which went into Hammersmith. You can see it better in this picture.South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 003 3And again in this close up view.

col 06 27 jul 1971 - CopyNote how light the traffic is on a major road to Shepherd’s Bush. Some of these colour prints are tiny by modern standards but the colour has lasted well and they give us a detailed view of these spaces between roads and rails and industrial sites.

col 04 27 jul 1971 - Copy

The Patent Steam Carpet Beating Company, right up against the railway arches in July 1971.

Let’s just go off on a tangent for a moment and look at at a close up from one of the pictures above.

South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 002 6 and 7 - Copy

On the Hammersmith side of the border just in front of those two towers you can see a pair of walkways which (I am informed by a local expert) were once an entrance way to the Franco British Exhibition at White City which remained in use for some time afterwards. But I won’t stray too far into someone else’s territory. Let’s get back on our own side of the border. About that truncated section of railway….

The end of the spur sat in an empty space. Selwyn’s job got him inside the fence.

Land between Bard Road and 163 Latimer Road 22 june 1971 - Copy

The concrete niches on the left are where the spur was blocked off. The tall building just off centre is the Phoenix Brewery towering above the just visible roof of the former Bramley Arms.

If Selwyn turns around and looks in another direction (he’s marked them on the card the photos are glued to), this is what he sees.

Land between Bard Road and 163 Latimer Road 22 june 1971 - Copy (3)

The gap in the fence where two men are walking is Bard Road and the industrial buildings beyond. The narrow chimney is on the other side of the motorway in Hammersmith.

Selwyn visited the area two or three times  in 1971, sometimes with monochrome film in his camera.

Fidelity Radio site looking southt 02 may 1971 BS34

Another view south, from May this time, with the practically empty motorway.

Looking north, back at the Brewery, and next to it, a then relatively new inhabitant of the west London skyline.

Fidelity Radio site looking north west 02 may 1971 BS27

Trellick Tower, barely visible next to the brewery buidling but one of the tallest buildings in the area.

Selwyn took more tiny prints of the area and taped them together to make larger images, a technique surveyors and planners made considerable use of in those days.

FD24-26 and 28 02 May 1971 BS

I’ve left some of these images uncompressed so you can see more detail when you click on them.

FD31-32 02 May 1971 BSSelwyn hovered around that building on the left like an obsessed stalker.

Fidelity Radio site 02 may 1971 BS17 - Copy

Waste paper blowing around in a deserted street in front of the locked gates.

And now we’re skulking in the hidden spaces ourselves, the fence marking the edge of the new road.

Fidelity Radio site 02 may 1971 BS30 - Copy

I have to admit that I was always prone to this mild form of urban exploration, as a teenager and even later. The interstices of the city.

This is the area that later became known as Frestonia. I’ve touched on its history before and used some post-Selwyn views which add to the story in this post so forgive me for a bit of repetition.

Cover of planning document

This shows a similar view to the first, with the spaces more crowded but relatively little change in the overall scene. 1980s?

The view below, 1990s I think,  shows a more developed, tidier area with some extra housing and more office buildings. Selwyn would have lived to see this view but he never recorded his thoughts. I would like to go back to Frinstead House and take some pictures myself but that’s not as easy as it used to be.

Freston Road area - modern photo

For a moment let’s go back to Selwyn in June 1971 looking down from his perch.

22 june 1971 from Frinstead House

Focus on that irregularly shaped block of houses just off centre near the top of the picture. Can you see a shop at the junction of two roads? We’ll be down there soon.


If you can spot any errors in locations or directions please point them out. I’ve gone over them with a couple of local residents but you can never be completely sure you’ve got everything right.  The follow-up post to this one which will come in a couple of weeks stays in the same area but goes down to street level. Thanks to Barbara and Maggie for their invaluable local expertise.

Postscript to the postscript – a vaguely related matter

There’s been some fuss about reactions to the recent death of Glenn Frey, formerly of the Eagles. After David Bowie was praised to the skies (by me also) why was Frey derided by some people? So I thought it only fair to say that although I was over the Eagles by the time of Hotel California I loved their first three albums (one of which was called On the Border) particularly Desperado, a definite country rock classic. And who could say bad things about a man who wrote one of the great lyrics in pop history: “Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona / Such a fine sight to see / It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford / Slowing down to take a look at me” (Take it easy – Jackson Browne gave the song to Frey for the Eagles and he wrote many fine lyrics but Frey himself wrote those crucial lines. ) So thank you, and rest in peace Glenn Frey.

In Estella’s house

In the previous post  about Estella Canziani I showed you some  of the pictures she painted or drew of the garden and the area around the house she lived in for her whole life. This week we’re continuing the story with more pictures inside the house in Palace Green. In 1967, shortly after her death a newspaper described her as the Bird Lady, an eccentric old woman still wearing the fashions of her youth and the house as a shambles infested by birds and other small animals. It seems a shame that people are often judged by how they were (or might have been) at the end of their lives. When a life is finished we are free to look at the whole story, see the whole pattern  and pick the greatest hits. No doubt the house in Palace Green was a bit of a mess but you could also choose to view it as a collection of wonders, mundane and exotic and a kind of wonderland. A lively little girl grew up to be a talented artist. She filled the house with mementos of her life and travels. Given her interest in folklore and fairies and the proximity of faery-infested Kensington Gardens you could imagine her house as a gateway into a world of wonders.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green Cpic 581 00002_1 - Copy

The corridor at the rear of the house looking out onto the garden. Estella painted it more than once.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green with Mrs Squeaky from round about book

In this version, taken from her memoirs she has included Mrs Squeaky, a companion of hers for thirteen years. Estella was encouraged in her love of animals by her mother and the family pets included dogs, cat and rats but above all birds. Mrs Squeaky, an Indian Tumbler actually came from a shop where Estella found her in a tiny cage too small to turn around in: “I bought her for one-and-sixpence, and in three months she was a different bird, flying after me up the long corridor and then walking into the studio. She was called Mrs Squeaky because she invented a special squeaky coo for me.”

This is a photo of that same long corridor.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green fp

So too, I think is this.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green K69-112

But who’s that at the end of the corridor glimpsed like a secret inhabitant of the maze? We’ve met her before in the preview post where we saw her in a painting looking out of a room.

Here she is taking centre stage.

Staircase at 3 Palace green Cpic 564 00002 - Copy (2)

Florence, the housemaid again, probably well used to Estella’s ways by now.

As was Mrs Squeaky.


Posing on the sofa.

I think this is the same window. The house seems to have been full of objects, vases, glassware and ornaments collected from a wide variety of sources across Europe.


And paintings, on the wall and stacked up on the floor.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-116

Paintings Estelal collected, and her own work, scattered about the place.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-117

It must sometimes have been a relief to relax in the conservatory.

Conservatory at 3 Palace Green Cpic570

Or just sit in front of the fire.

Fireplace at 3 Palace Green Cpic 583 00001

Estella’s memoirs also feature a few family photographs. Here she is in the garden with her father.

Canziani p50 photos 02

One of the items donated to the Library by the trustees of Estella’s estate was a small family album featuring a series of pictures taken when she was very young. As we started with Estella as an old woman let’s finish with her as that lively little girl whose imagination encompassed the house and the whole world outside it.

Young Estella Plate 12



This is another bookplate, probably a little earlier than the one in the previous post.


Bookplate 70-123

As a professional hoarder I imagine that those who come after me might be appalled by the accumulation of stuff I left behind. But I like to think some of it might be just as interesting as the contents of Estella’s house.

East and west on Southern Row: 1969

This post starts just off Ladbroke Grove, like we have before, and with a request for further information from a friend of Local Studies who wanted to know when this picture was taken.

Southern Row west end Victoria Buildings 1969 KS117

This is the rear of a tenement style block called either Victoria Buildings or Western Dwellings. The blocks are tall because Ladbroke Grove was raised at this point having crossed the railway and being about to cross the canal, after which it could slope down to the Harrow Road as we saw in the second post about the long road heading north from Holland Park Avenue. As we saw, at street level there were retail outlets, one of which was Hamrax Motors, hence the group of motor cycles, scooters and mopeds parked here. That open yard might lead to the Hamrax workshop. The set of steps you can see leads up to the main road. Brick staircases like that one remind me of an older London, not West London in the cool days of the late 1960s.

(The question arises in my mind as to whether the staircase was covered like a tunnel as I remember it or was it in a narrow gap between buildings? In this picture you might think the latter but there’s an answer in a later picture)

In 1969, Southern Row, the street that ran west to east from the northern end of Ladbroke Grove (stay with me here) was an old street in the area near the railway and the road to Paddington that had been originally settled by light industry and the people who worked here before the housing on Ladbroke Grove bridged the gap between the underground line and the Harrow Road. In 1969 it looks like a street on the brink of decay.

Southern Row south side Octavia House 1969 KS116

Octavia House, on the south side of Southern Row, the most modern building in the street, had its own shop.

Southern Row south side Octavia Stores 1969 KS109

With a delivery bicycle parked outside. The picture below is looking east showing the flats and the shop. You can also see the first pub going in this direction at number 78.


Southern Row looking east1969 KS121

This view moves further east showing  the modern housing block in the distance (Adair Tower, probably – a modern view would include Trellick Tower just behind the block but it wasn’t on the skyline in 1969), and on the right the then derelict Davis’s laundry.

Southern Row centre looking east 1969 KS114

This view looks back towards Octavia House on the south side of the road

Southern Row south side from No 74 1969 KS110

Note the Car Hood Company (“trimmers” according to Kelly’s Directory) at number 73.

Below a partially cleared site on the south side of the road showing the rear of some industrial buildings.


Southern Row south side industrial area 1969 KS105

This is a closer view of the Davis building (“Davis the Cleaners”). By this time virtually all the windows were broken.

Southern Row south side Davis Cleaners 1969 KS103This view looks west, showing Victoria Buildings again and one of the gasometers on the other side of Ladbroke Grove.

Southern Row looking west 1969 KS115

I think the car in the foreground has some trade plates on. These were used by garages to drive unregistered vehicles around legally.Is that a Sprite facing us on the other side of the road?

The view below is also looking west and features the pub we saw above, one of several pubs on Southern Row.

Southern Row north side Foresters Arms 1969 KS111

The Forester’s Arms. Pub buildings often remained when the houses next to them had been demolished as seems to have happened her.The car in the foreground is a Daimler I think, not characteristic of the neighbourhood. A little way behind it a woman seems to be brushing soap or detergent into the gutter. Had she been scrubbing the pavement in front of a shop?

Below two large dogs patrol the north side of the street next to a pub building from which the signs have been removed.

Southern Row north side dogs 1969 KS112

The Prince of Wales was still a going concern in this picture, also on the north side.

Southern Row north sidePrince of Wales 1969 KS113

The next picture shows a different angle on the Forester’s Arms.


Southern Row north side Foresters Arms 1969 KS118

I’ve jumped about from the north to the south side of the street because I wanted to lead you to a final picture with an intriguing detail. This is another pub, the Earl Derby.


Southern Row north side Earl Derby 1969 KS102

Can you see the man standing on some kind of balcony at first floor level? Look closely.

Southern Row looking west with dog 1969 KS107

There he is again on the right in another westward view. And he’s been joined by a dog (an Alsatian, as we used to call German Shepherds in 1969) looking back at the photographer. Details like this, and the woman pushing a pram, narrowly skirting round the tall van, are what enliven these documentary images for me, and bring the tired looking back street to life.

If you look at a couple of these westward views in close-up (the one with the Daimler and the one with the trade-plated Ford ) you can just see the stairs featured in the first picture.  And they do appear to be covered over by the smaller buildings which seem to lean against Victoria Buildings. This answers my question at least.


As always comments and reminiscences about Southern Row are welcome. (And any corrections.) The street has changed considerably since 1969 although some of the buildings from that period are still standing. Octavia House survives, and there is still a set of steps up to Ladbroke Grove, which are at least partially covered over according to Kim who was there last year. Look at it on Google Maps and you see a street very far from urban decay.

The cars in this post are possibly not as notable as those in some recent posts but identifications are also encouraged. By way of contrast we’ll be back at Estella’s house next week.



What Estella saw

`In 1965 a woman died in an old house in Palace Green, a house she had lived in all her life. The house had once been the laundry of Kensington Palace but her parents had just been looking for a pleasant family dwelling. The houses around it had become grander (and more valuable) over the course of the 20th century but for Estella Canziani her house was the family home and garden she had always known.

Estella had done many things in her life. She was a writer on travel and folklore (and local history), a campaigner for the RSPCA and RSPB,  a book illustrator and painter. She painted landscapes, portraits, animals and costumes but what we’re looking at today are paintings of her home and the places around it. What Estella saw were gardens, trees, small animals and rooms full of objects.  She wrote a memoir of her life in the house, her travels and her charity work called  Round about 3 Palace Green (Methuen, 1938)

Here is her garden:

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 580

Estella, encouraged by her parents had a fondness for birds, particularly pigeons and had several as pets. She also had many friends among the birds which visited the garden including pheasants and a parrot.

The rear view of Mr Clementi’s house in nearby Kensington Church Street.

Clementi's House 128 Kensington Church Street Cpic569

The colours of the plants and flowers are what immediately caught my attention. “Flowers on walls have always fascinated me and some of my earliest memories are associated with them.”

Estella’s mother was also a painter.

LSC in studio

Louisa Starr, who was born in Liverpool of American descent married an Italian engineer called Frederico Enrico Canziani. Estella reports that her mother dreamed of an ideal house and recognized it while driving in Kensington Gardens, seeing a board up advertising it to let. She telegraphed to her husband to come back from Paris and they secured the property just five minutes ahead of a gentleman who was also waiting for the office to open. Estella was born there two years later.

The photograph of Louisa in the studio she had built in the courtyard comes from a feature in the Ladies Field of about 1900. This photograph from the same feature shows the garden in Estella’s picture.

LSC in garden fp

Is that Louisa on the stepladder with Estella beside her? Estella is said to be aged 13 in the article which describes her as inheriting her mother’s talent. The young Estella was often around artists. She remembers being kissed while in her pram by Lord Leighton and of visiting him at “his beautiful house in Holland Park Road.” “He gave me rides on his shoulders about his studio to the Arab Hall and fountain…He showed me the stuffed peacock at the foot of the stairs and also the beautiful tiles on the staircase…”

Estella also knew Val Princep and his family who lived next door to Leighton as well as G F Watts, Holman Hunt, Luke Fildes and John Everett Millais. She also recalls visiting the studios of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and W P Frith, and attending fancy dress parties at Walter Crane’s house.

Louisa often signed her paintings with a little pictogram of a star. Estella adopted this motif with the addition of a C. You can see this in the picture of a window at the house below.

Window at 3 Palace Green Cpic562

More plants on walls. The Ladies Field describes the house as ivy-covered. Below Estella is a little older than in the previous picture, seen with her father.

Estella and her father in the garden fp

She is wearing her artist’s smock and carrying a plaette so the picture is posed but the affection between them is quite apparent. The identity of the superflous man standing by them is unknown. The precision of her work can be seen in this line drawing entitled Mulberry trees in the garden at Palace Green.

Mulberry Trees in the back garden at 3 Palace Gren Cpic577

Estella had been told that Queen Victoria had picked mulberries from the two trees in the garden.

Here’s another view from the garden showing the houses beyond the fence and a lone pigeon

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 560 00005 - Copy

Animals and birds, particularly pigeons frequently feature in Estella’s pictures. This one shows the Paddock in Kensington Gardens.

The Paddock 3 Palace Green Cpic574

This view at dusk is looking  from Kensington Gardens, westwards I think.

Kensington Gardens Cpic572 00004 - Copy auto

The distant light of the setting sun, and the frantic activity of the squirrels recalling Rackham’s furtive faeries. Estella painted several fairy pictures influenced by European folklore. Her picture the Piper of Dreams of 1915 was much reprinted and became very popular during the war. In her memoir she recalls being told by Philip Lee Warner of the Medici Society that they had sold 250,00 copies in the first year. There was a signed edition of a thousand (at 2 guineas each) – “the old man who looked after me while I autographed them sat me at a table and passed one to me at a time…he watched carefully to see that I was not getting tired and writing badly and after every hundred gave me a rest…He had worked for Leighton, Burne-Jones and many other artists and explained how he had watched each on to see that their signature was perfect.”

The picture below, of the sunken garden in Kensington Gardens also has an unearthly quality, like an illustration to an Edwardian fantasy.

Sunken garden Kensington Gardens Cpic 566



We’ll be back at Estella’s house again soon I think. There are many more things to see.

Bookplate K61-238

On an unrelated matter:

On Sunday, a courier handed me a package containing David Bowie’s new album Blackstar. Thanks to the practices of a certain online retailer the album’s tracks were already on my MP3 player although I hadn’t heard any of them yet. This is a contrast with the arrival of the first Bowie album I received in the post, The Man who sold the World which came to me in a large cardboard packet from the first incarnation of the Virgin empire back in the early 70s. I had heard all the tracks on the album on a late night programme on Radio Luxembourg. After listening to it I remember walking down the wide road near our house feeling…. something, not quite realising that the world had changed and that David Bowie would be with me for the rest of my life.

You get more emotional as you grow older I’ve found and quite banal things can move me to tears these days but I was surprised on Monday morning at quite how upsetting the news of Bowie’s death was. I was sad when I heard the news of John Lennon’s death but I was still young and cynical then so I got over it quite soon. I don’t know how long it will take me to regain my equanimity this time. I didn’t play Blackstar on Sunday, there was too much to do. Now I wish I had, so the first time I do play it, it won’t be with the realisation that this is the last word.

Bowie was one of the cleverest pop stars. It’s so like him to deliver one final surprise.

Gimme your hands.

The Science District: some streets in W10 1969-70

Okay, I made the name up. Nobody ever called a few streets in North Kensington by that term. You’ll see what I did by their names: Faraday, Telford, Murchison (named after scientists and engineers in 1868) They’re all much altered since 1969 when most of these pictures were taken, especially Murchison Road which has pretty much ceased to be. (There’s another one, Wheatstone Road which is now little more than a stub). After identifying the former home of the Raymede Clinic in the post on Ladbroke Grove I was looking at some pictures of the streets  running east off Ladbroke Grove with some interested parties and we started talking about the streets named for scientists.

Faraday Road looking east 1969 KS316

The clinic is on the left and the picture is looking down Faraday Road. The tower you can see above the lush foliage belongs to the old fire station. Can you see the small vehicle on the left at the end of the row of parked cars? I believe it’s an invalid carriage, an example of the small, three-wheeled, under-powered “cars” which disabled people could get at the time. I don’t know much about the arrangements involved in the issuing of these institutional looking vehicles (they were the same all over the country). I can remember from my brief time in the motor trade that some people regarded them as death traps, especially when it was possible to adapt regular cars for disabled users. However some users must have liked them.

Before we go any further, and see some more curious vehicles, let’s have a look on a map.

1971 OS map Faraday Road area W10 - Copy

As you can see both Telford and Faraday Roads were longer in 1971 (the approximate date of this Ordnance Survey map) and Murchison actually existed.

At this point the rough photo itinerary I had worked out called upon me to work my way up Faraday Road but I had to stop to work this picture out.

Faraday Road looking west from Portobelllo 1969 KS325

It took me a while to workout from the description “looking west from Portobello” that this picture shows the rest of the fire station (see the glimpse of the tower on the right) and that the buildings visible in the centre at the end of the  street are on the other side of Ladbroke Grove and according to the map must be part of the Church of St Pius X.

I’ve let myself get sidetracked so now let’s get back to the plan and carry on east up Faraday Road.

Faraday Road south side 13-15 1969 KS333

I can’t resist this view of what I think is a 50s or 60s Volkswagen sports car with a wary boy peeking out at the photographer. As usual I would welcome extra information from motoring buffs about any of the cars  in the pictures. Is this a Volvo?

Faraday Road south side 27-29 1969 KS334

The cars may be flash but there’s a general air of dilapidation about the houses. In 1969 W10 had not even begun the process of gentrification. The building below, Christchurch Hall was described as “disused” by the photographer.

Faraday Road north side disused Christchurch Hall 1969 KS329

The actual Christchurch had already been demolished. The empty lot became one of the incarnations of the Notting Hill Adventure Playground. You can see the fence in the picture below.

Faraday Road looking west 1969 KS336

A couple of boys are playing in the street, a sign that this end of the street where it met Wornington Road was a relatively quiet area.

If we walk round the playground we’re looking down Telford Road.

Telford Road looking east 1970 KS358

Once again there’s a certain amount of confusion as the picture is captioned “looking east” but with the playground on the left I think we’re looking west.

This is the corner of Portobello Road and Telford Road.

Telford Road south side corner of Portobello 1970 KS362

J A Cook are listed in Kelly’s Directory for 1969 at number 373 Portobello Road. You can see the number 371 next door along with some excellent billboards. (Another ad for Harp lager which must have been ubiquitous at the time)

Kelly’s also lists at number 1 Telford Road the London Transport Canteen. Hence the buses and their crew in this picture.

Telford Road looking east 1970 KS364

It was taken in June 1970. You can see Trellick Tower under construction in the distance rising above the remaining terraced housing. Note that truck with a long pole or plank in the back, and then here it is looking in the other direction, parked next to the Eagle public house.

Telford Road north side 3-5 Eagle 1970 KS353

The canteen is in the building next to the pub.  I can’t quite make out the manufacturer’s name on the back of the convertible The little car in motion looks rather older than 1970 too. Any ideas?

Incidentally. Kelly’s tells us that next door to the canteen, at 3 Telford Road was Hy Soloway, ladies tailor (you can just make out some photos by the door and also on the premises (basement or upper floors) was Hauer and Co, doll’s wig makers. A niche service if ever there was one. I have cropped a larger version of the image. The lettering on the canteen door is just visible.

Telford Road north side 3-5 Eagle 1970 KS353 - Copy

Having satisfied my idle curiosity we have to make our way back up Telford Road and then up to Murchison Road.

Murchison Road looking east 1969 KS242

The bundle of material on the cart could indicate the presence of a rag and bone man working the street. Murchison Road was shorter than the other two and ran between Portobello Road and Wornington Road as they converged and met in an intersection with Ladbroke Grove. There were only about 20 houses in the street.


Murchison Road south side 1969 KS240

A line of old British cars headed by a bug-eyed Ford Anglia, not one of Ford’s cooler models.  I haven’t cropped out the detritus in the foreground  because it could be more evidence of the rag and bone man, or his horse at least.

This is a view looking west.

Murchison Road looking west 1969 KS247

That’s the same shop and line of cars but we can now see on the other side a Triumph Spitfire (I think) and a truck telling us that we need Pink. Pink what?

Here is a final view of Murchison Road.


Murchison Road north side 1-2 1939 KS244

A clean looking Volkwagen camper and two people either just leaving or just arriving at their homes, a young girl and a man (or just his arm). She must be in her 50s by now. I did once meet a customer who appeared in one of these survey pictures as a child so I’m always hoping another person will come along and say “it’s me”. It’s not as unlikely as you might think.


I was pulling pictures and information together as I wrote so I’m quite surprised that it was reasonably coherent in the end. My thanks to Sue Snyder who asked me to scan some of these and to Maggie Tyler for starting me off at the Raymede Clinic. I don’t think the Science District will ever catch on as a name unless an estate agent takes it up.  As I mentioned the street names were all adopted in 1868 by the Kensington Vestry.

For the record:

Michael Faraday (1791-1867), physicist,chemist and pioneer in the study of electricity

Thomas Telford (1757-1834), civil engineer

Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871), geologist

Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) scientist and inventor

Costume Ball 6: mothers, daughters and others

We’re back, possibly for the last time, at the Duchess of Devonshire’s Jubilee Costume Ball of 1897. Although we’ve seen many of the best pictures there are still a few of interest worth looking at if you’re fond of this sort of thing. (I know many of you are, and so am I)

There are even a few famous names left, like this one.

Countess Helena Gleichen as Joan of Arc p271

Joan of Arc, played by Countess (or Lady) Helena Gleichen, later a well known painter of landscapes and animals. We have a copy of her memoirs Contacts and Contrasts (John Murray, 1940) in our biographies collection at Kensington Library and she has this to say about the ball:

” I must have been about twenty when the celebrated Devonshire House fancy-dress ball took place…..(it was) settled that I, as the youngest should go. My mother went dressed as an ancestress, the Margravine of Anspach only discovering to her horror afterwards that the lady was not at all respectable… The first idea was that I should go as St Elisabeth of Hungary, the Queen who spent all her money feeding the poor of her realm much to the annoyance of her husband…Unfortunately the head dress did not suit me and when it was adjusted round my face I looked….disreputable.. so it was decided that I should go as Joan of Arc.. I was fitted with a tabard made of white cloth sprinkled wit gold fleur-de-lis. Sir Guy Laking lent me a small suit of real armour which was too heavy to wear in its entirety so I wore only the jambs and sollerets with spurs and the brassards. These last were agony as whenever I bent my arm they took pieces of flesh out. I should have had on a leather jerkin underneath as a protection but I wore only imitation leather which helped not at all. One of the Peels and Victor Corkran were my esquires and they walked behind me in full armour carrying my banner and big two-handed sword. My helmet was carried in front by Sir Arthur Sullivan and we made a very imposing cortege clattering up the marble stairs.

It shows how completely occupied I was with my own importance on that occasion that I remember no one else , only the general effect of brilliance and magnificence, which I have never seen equalled in any other function that I have attended.”

Helena’s mother:

page 48 - Copy

Princess Victor Hohenlohe as the Margravine of Anspach. (“a lovely red velvet gown with hoops and powdered hair… I wore part of the same gown at the jubilee of King George V and the material looked as fresh as it did forty years before.”)

Maybe you could never be sure what you got with ancestors. At least with scandalous fictional characters you knew what you were taking on.

The Hon Mrs Brett as Manon Lescaut p188 (2)

The Honourable Mrs Brett as Manon Lescaut, the title character of a notorious 18th century French novel by the Abbe Prevost. It was turned into an opera by both Massenet and Puccini, has twice been adapted as a ballet and has been filmed several times.

Next, Lady Hilda Keith-Falconer in a relatively simple dress.

Lady Hilda Keith Falconer as Lady Susan Gordon afterwards Duchess of Manchester p215

She was photographed several times in this costume, in her role as Lady Susan Gordon, Duchess of Manchester. (Who apparently ran off with her footman before separating from her husband the Duke – another scandal) She was taken standing and sitting and even with another guest, the Countess of Kintore (her mother, who was the daughter of the 6th Duke of Manchester and grand daughter of the same Lady Susan I think.)

The Countess of Kintore as Jane Duchess of Gordon (Lady Hilda Keith-Falconer with her) p211

They don’t make it easy for the modern blogger although this information would have been well known to celebrity devotees of 1897.

Another duo as The Duchess de Lavis and the Marquise de Vintimille.

Lady Cardross as La Duchesse de Lavis, the Hon Miss Erskine as La Marquise de Vintimille du Luc p262

The two young women are Lady Cardross and the Hon.Miss Muriel Erskine, another mother and daughter as far as I can work it out from the string of titles they have between them. (I expect someone can correct me on this one if I’m wrong.)

To further complicate matters we now have a trio:

Rt Hon Sir W V Harcourt MP as Simon Lord Harcourt, Lord Chancellor 1710, The Rt HOn A J Balfour MP as a gentleman of Holland, Mrs Grenfell as Marie de Medici p28

The Rt Hon Sir W V Harcourt MP (then Leader of the Opposition) as Simon Lord Harcourt, a Lord Chancellor of 1710 (possibly a relative of his), another MP, A J Balfour as “a gentleman of Holland” (pleasingly vague), and a Mrs Grenfell as Marie de Medici. It could be that the photographer herded three random guests together for this composition but perhaps they too were relatives. A J Balfour, of course was only five years away from being a Conservative Prime Minister. (Harcourt was a Liberal.)

Here is a less complicated trio. The Empress Josephine played by  The Marshioness of Tweedale simply has a couple of willing attendants by her side. The dress is a representation of Josephine’s coronation robes.

The Marchioness of Tweedale as the Empress Josephine page 133


At this point I long for some simplicity. Below, Emilia Yznaga plays Cydalise, a character in the Comedie Italienne at the time of Louis XIV. Miss Yznaga does not have a complicated back story.

Miss Emilia Yznaga as Cydalise of the Comedie Italienne in the time of Louis XV p210 (2)

Of course that’s easy for me to say. Everybody has a complicated back story if you dig deep enough.

The Hon Mrs George Curzon a Valentina Visconti of Milan AD1447 p200

Valentina Visconit was the wife of the Duke of Orleans (brother of King Charles V of France).  Lady Mary Curzon looks commanding in this recreation of a costume of 1447. Are you convinced of its historical accuracy? The dress below only goes back to the 17th century.

Lady St Oswald as Duchessa di Calaria a Venetian Lady of the XVI century p172 (3)

The classical background  seems to place it somewhere else. My mind wonders off to Westeros a little. But for the record Mabel, Lady St Oswald plays the role of a Venetian noblewoman, the Duchessa de Caluria.

The Hon Mrs A Lyttleton after a picture by Romney (2)

Mrs Lyttleton, according to the caption is simply wearing a dress from a Romney painting, something we’ve seen before. Dame Edith Sophie Lyttleton was a novelist, a political campaigner and a spiritualist, who lived until 1948. I haven’t stressed that aspect of these pictures but it is odd to think that many of these guests were to live through two world wars and witness unprecedented changes in the world they inhabited.

The stern looking Lady Margaret Spicer, below, as another Russian aristocrat Countess Zinotriff, lived till 1949.

Lady Margaret Spicwe as Countess Zinotriff Lady in Waiting to the Empress Catherine of Russia p248

She was also painted by John Singer Sargent.

It’s time to  end this visit to the costume ball. I’m not so sure now that this was the final visit. When I went looking for Helena Gleichen’s mother I spotted a few more pictures I liked, so I can’t say that we won’t be back here again this time next year. Helena’s account spurred me on – surely some of the other guests must have written about “the brilliance and magnificence” of the event?

I can’t leave you with 13 pictures so let’s have just one more.

The Hon Mrs Algernon Grosvenor as Marie Louise p177 (2)

The Hon Mrs Algernon Grosvenor as Marie Louise, looking just a bit tired of the whole business.


Helena’s mention of Elisabeth of Hungary brought me back to another favourite subject, the Whitelands May Queens. The story of the saint, which was unfamiliar to me was evidently popular in this period and she features as a character in performances at the May Queen Festival. That’s another angle for my annual post on the May Queens. But here’s a taster for you, showing a slightly less magnificent and brilliant (but possibly more entertaining) performance.

031e Princess Elizabeth of Hungary 1913

I’m a bit late publishing this post as there were a few things I wanted to chase first. I nearly kept it till the early hours of the new year but in the end perhaps it’s better as the final post of 2015. Next year another year of searching for and waiting for ideas begins. A happy new year to you all.


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