Forgotten buildings: the lock house

We’re back to the same place we started last week, near the junction of West Cromwell Road and Warwick Road in the company of Bernard  Selwyn, urban explorer.

This picture shows the east side of Warwick Road, looking north. You can see a large building known now simply as the Council Offices, Pembroke Road. There are residential floors on top of it with walkways leading to entrances in an adjacent building, an unusual arrangement I haven’t seen anywhere else. When I first worked for the Council it was simply called the Depot.

You can’t see the west side of the road but many of you will know that what is there now is a Tesco superstore, surmounted by a car park. From the car park there is still a good view of the railway track we looked at last week.

 

On the other side is a large building which was formerly a repository for Whiteley’s, the Bayswater department store. It now forms part of a development called Kensington Village.On the eastern side of the picture was a wide, relatively open space.

Now you will recall I mentioned the Kensington Canal last week. Originated by Lord Kensington and Sir John Scott Lillie (of Road fame) and opened in 1828 this was a comparatively short lived venture intended to link Kensington with the Thames, following the course of an existing waterway called Counter’s Creek which rises near Kensal Green Cemetery and flows south, under several names (including Billingswell Ditch as which it featured in a post about Brompton ), ending up at the river under the name Chelsea Creek. On Starling’s 1822 map of Kensington Parish the stream is called a “common sewer”.

The canal would follow the course of the creek north to a basin just short of the “Great Western Road” (the road from Hyde Park Corner to Hammersmith which Kensington High Street is part of), the ultimate plan being to join up with the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington. This was happening in the 1830s when railways were also on the rise, somewhat complicating matters.  The story is told in an excellent book called London’s Waterways by Martyn Denney (1977) but to cut this account short the canal suffered throughout its existence from silting up and the most profitable section was the part running up from the river to the King’s Road. There don’t seem to have been many views of the canal. The artist William Cowen painted a water colour, showing the walled garden that was Brompton Cemetery in the background.

 

 

The banks look like they’re already suffering. The canal was tidal so was only navigable for part of the time. It ended up in the hands of the West London Extension Railway Company who began filling in the upper section of the canal in the 1860s. This detail from a plan of 1854 shows the basin at the end of the canal.

 

And this  detail from an 1848 map shows the basin, with its various wharves, in relation to nearby streets.

 

 

 

The railway, which still goes under the King’s Road ran alongside the remainder of the canal and crosses the river near Chelsea Harbour. You can see the remains of the canal in 1972 in this post about Lots Road, and this one.

Mr Denney tells us that at the time he was writing, the “site of the canal basin” was behind “a pair of high wooden gates that open onto a patch of waste ground..opposite Pembroke Gardens“. He speculates that some of the old buildings in the railway goods depot could date back to the old wharves. What was definite though was the continuing existence of the old lock house and board room. Back in 1983 this was Selwyn’s quarry.

Where is it?

 

It’s there

 

 

A lock keeper’s cottage and what was called the board room where meetings were held and the records of the company kept. If you can stand one more map, this is from about 1968.

 

 

You can see that at one point the board room had been taken over by the Kensington Rifle Club who used it for shooting practice I suppose.

 

 

You can see that by 1983 it was located in the centre of some waste land which was being used as a car park.

 

The building itself is looking dilapidated and the area around it overgrown.

 

 

Fair game for the questing camera of Bernard Selwyn. Canals and the remnants of them were just one of his interests.

 

 

 

But we have to thank him for his diligence. Below the level of a major road he had found his way to a small piece of transport history.

 

 

He slipped back there in 1990 to take a colour picture.

 

 

The building looks worse than before.

The Tesco Superstore was built in 1998, and the lock house became a forgotten building. But Selwyn and others transport aficionados preserved its memory.

Postscript

Friend of the blog Roger Morgan gave the game away last week. But perhaps he just whetted your appetite. The old lock house was familiar to many people while it still stood. I’m sorry I never took a detour to look at it when I was visiting the Depot (for training courses, particularly the ones where the trainer started a fire in the garage and you had to put it out with the correct colour coded extinguisher) in pre-Tesco times. For those who do remember I hope Selwyn’s pictures bring it all back.

 

 

 


On the border 4: roads, railways and the ghost of a canal, 1983

After a bit of a hiatus we’re returning to the photographs of itinerant surveyor Bernard Selwyn and this time we’re following him on a walk around the rail tracks which partly follow the course of the old Kensington Canal, which at one time ran down the western side of Kensington and Chelsea and ended up at Chelsea Creek, (where you can still see some water). Selwyn was particular interested it seems in the rail line which runs past the station at Olympia (see some of the pictures in this post), alongside Warwick Road and south under West Cromwell Road.

An uncharacteristically quiet view of West Cromwell Road as it rises away from the junction with Warwick Road and curves towards Hammersmith.

Up the hill, with a closer look at those signs.

 

Below, the railway tracks. A man manages a quiet stroll along a major road on the 30th May 1983. (All these pictures were taken in April or May of that year.). The rail track running below the bridge is part of the West London Extention Railway which was built on the filled-in canal.

 

 

That office block ahead is called Ashfield House. Selwyn took a great interest in it.

As you get closer to it you can see it is separated from the main road by more rail tracks, which run by the rear of the building.

 

 

The tracks can barely be seen by motorists.

 

 

In the distance you can see the roof of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, a massive presence on the skyline in west London. Oddly you don’t always see it from ground level as this picture showing the other side of Ashfield House demonstrates.

 

Selwyn examined the building from several angles.

Looking west, with an approaching tube train.

 

And east, with the same train passing him.

 

This is part of the District Line heading towards Earls Court. You see ahead of the train the tangle of tracks, bridges, a gantry and railway buildings as these tracks move alongside the north-south route.

 

 

Here, Selwyn changes his vantage point, looking south west. You can see the cluster of rail-related huts and small buildings.

 

 

He then, for some obscure purpose, took a look directly below him.

 

 

It doesn’t tell us a lot but it shows the level of his interest. Remember, in the day before digital photography you had to set up the shot, take the picture and wait for the result. The amateur photographer would have to hope for the best. That may be why Selwyn took so many pictures. Or he might just have been a little obsessive, for which we can be grateful, thirty years or so later. London wasn’t quite so tidy in the 80s, and there were still plenty of spaces in the city to capture the attention of urban wanderers whose interest lay in industrial locations and the hidden parts of the city.

 

 

This picture shows underground tracks meeting the main line which is just beyond a small fence. On the left you can see the rear of St Cuthbert’s Church (the roof and spire are a little hard to make out in this picture ). On the right of the picture is that other prominent landmark of west London, the distinctive but somehow obscure Empress State Building. You can see the church spire clearer in the view below, looking straight down the line showing the wide space between the tracks and the various buildings at the rear of Philbeach Gardens. More of the canal next week but it was in some sections pretty wide.

 

 

Just beyond the track is a road which runs behind the church. If you look back at the post about the church you will find a 19th century picture of the church hall. Here it is in Selwyn’s time.

 

 

Now back to his view from the bridge. Or was he closer? Had he found his way to a better vantage point using his skills as a surveyor and/or an urban explorer?

 

This post has really been a prelude to next week’s, which also continues a series. When I scan pictures for a possible use on the blog I don’t always know at the start of the process what stories are going to emerge from the images. Maybe Selwyn worked the same way.

Postscript

This post moved back and forth across the border with Hammersmith and Fulham, an interzone which was one of Selwyn’s favourite haunts. He moved from the very north of Kensington to the river edge of Chelsea as we have seen in several posts. Next week’s post is almost entirely inside the boundary of Kensington and Chelsea. So here is a Hammersmith bonus for you.

 

Where West Cromwell Road met North End Road was this pub, called the Three Kings, next to West Kensington tube station. It’s now called the Famous 3 Kings but for a short period from 1975-1980 it was the Nashville Room (or Rooms?), a music venue, and that is what I thought when I saw the picture. A few of you may have seen some famous bands there. On an obscure personal note I was once told that a doppelganger of mine sold newspapers and magazines at a stall in the station. I never went there to find out.


Robinson and Shakespeare: Dreaming

Some of the illustrated editions of Shakespeare I’ve looked at in the last year were published by Hodder and Stoughton – Dulac’s The Tempest, Thomson’s As you like it and Robinson’s Twelfth Night. Most recently I looked at Arthur Rackham’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was published by Heinemann. I read recently that the Hodder books were an attempt to compete with and surpass Rackham’s MND which is sometimes said to be his masterpiece. Despite the different publishers the books followed a similar format – 40 coloured plates with some additional black and white pictures and decoration. Thomson followed the same formula when he did the Merry Wives of Windsor for Heinemann (a blog post looking at those pictures will be coming up in the next month or so, almost certainly the last of these Shakespeare related posts). But when Robinson was asked to do his own version of MND for Constable in 1914 he went his own way and produced a completely different kind of book with only a dozen colour plates and many more black and white pictures.

Arthur Rackham’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was acclaimed as one of the finest illustrated books of its day so its reputation overshadows William Heath Robinson’s version of the same play published only six years later. To my mind however, the Robinson version is better.

It isn’t a competition of course. Rackham’s version stuck to the formula for that set of books, Robinson wisely tried another way.

Many of Robinson’s picture are openly comedic, almost cartoon-like  in a way that Rackham doesn’t attempt. But many of them are very special and striking, – minimalist, stark, graphic, modern – where Rackham’s pictures are intricate, detailed, grotesque and resolutely Victorian. You can enjoy both. But give Robinson a chance.

The monochrome pictures show Robinson’s debt to Aubrey Beardsley. (Or does any intricate black and white image from this period echo Beardsley?)

The colour plates, like some of the pictures for Twelfth Night, have an interesting quality about them. Something like a stage set. Or something like a dream in fact. A not quite three dimensional space. An exterior masquerading as an interior.

A scene with classical costumes and a small number of props. A floor with a regular geometric pattern, as we saw in some of the Twelfth Night pictures.

Minimalism is the key here. A cool  place with the air of antiquity.

 

Calm beings , human or semi-supernatural sit and wait by the side of a calm pool, its surface barely disturbed.

When action occurs it is magical. Titania shakes smaller faeries out of her hair, sending them on their way to serve her. She poses like a dancer.

 

It’s a striking image, perhaps my favourite. Robinson shows the raging sea but somehow you imagine the sound muted as she shakes her hair and the wings rustle. Robinson uses the blank space in the pictures to add to the sense of distance and unreality. As below.

 

 

 

He also uses blocks of black to convey the mood.

 

This makes the coloured prints leap out as in this scene of lush foliage, water, and a temple.

 

The major  characters are visible, but sometimes seem like features in the landscape.

Oberon, casting his spell while Titania sleeps, accompanied by a pair of perturbed lesser fairies.

Puck squatting on an overgrown pillar.

 

And Bottom. Here again, at a distance we see. We see his companions retreating at the sight of his transformation.

 

 

Later, he sleeps and Titania seems quite content with her new companion.

 

 

Robinson’s lesser fairies, like Rackham’s,  also look like a different species but don’t have any of the repellent qualities of his insect-like creatures.

The forest of the play is a dream landscape of ruined temples, broken columns and obelisks around which the fairies play.

 

 

An almost science fiction book cover image of an overgrown landscape around a temple as the fairies stream past.

 

 

And Puck says goodnight.

 

Postscript

Taking my cue from the pictures my comments have been quite minimal. I’m posting late this week because as sometimes happens the post stalled about half way through and I had to wait for inspiration. Inspiration didn’t quite come so I fell back on the pictures. You can always rely on them. Next week, inspiration might arrive, or (whisper it), Isabel’s latest post might be ready. Either way there will be something here for you to look at.

Thanks again, for the final time, to Peter Collins for loaning a copy of this wonderful book.

 


The secret life of postcards 6

As this is the sixth outing for this series of posts let’s start with something different.

This is another aspect of the secret life of postcards – the writing on the back. JH (?) is sending the 1906 version of an instant message. With two deliveries a day in some places it could be fairly close to instant. “Monday’s coming too fast for me now. Had a ripping time this year. Plenty to see. Very hot here today.”

Quicker by telegraph of course but you probably wouldn’t use a telegram for such an inconsequential message. And you wouldn’t get the picture along with it.

A coloured version of a photo of St Luke’s Church in Sydney Street. More from JH later.

One of my great pleasures with picture postcards is the details, where you might see a lively street scene, the early numbers of Kensington High Street with an unexpected close up of a thoughtful young man.

You can see another view of two of the same buildings below, the London and County Bank (“pungently Burgundian” according to the Survey of London, one of my favourites of their pithy descriptions – I was once asked if it had ever been a church. Built as a bank I’m afraid, but you can’t help speculating about a little know Cathar sect which somehow made it to London and was the scene of some sinister events..well I can’t anyway once the suggestion arises)

Next to the bank was Madame Kate Ker-Lane’s  court dress emporium.

You can see the ornate lettering  better in close up.

 

And is that Madame Kate at the window on the left? The presence of the two policemen indicates that some event was happening that day and a procession might be about to pass by.

Off the high street, a little way up Campden Hill a more ordinary scene. Campden Hill Court, on Holland Street. Flats are available…

 

 

A flower cart, a woman pushing a pram and a lamp post. The photo crops down into a nice composition.

 

 

Close by is Airlie Gardens. Looking up at the glassed in room above the porch (a conservatory?) you would like to see another figure looking down at the photographer.

 

 

There is the hint of someone or something at that window but you can’t really be sure. It could just be some kind of ornament.

 

 

But that pile of cases must have a story to tell. Someone moving in? Or out? Or off on a trip?

For the start of a journey you might go down to the station, the entrance to the arcade just where it is today.

Plenty of travellers on their way in or out, or pausing at the entrance.

 

Here are some local travellers in Church Street, taking the bus.

 

A crowded upper deck.

 

 

If all the modes of transport were crowded with people, you could stroll to Kensington Gardens.

 

 

A trio of friends taking a leisurely walk near the fountains.

 

 

As well as zooming in on postcards you can also zoom out.

Below, a woman strides out on a quiet street, a typical day in Kensington.

 

 

Look at the wider picture though and you can see she is in Philbeach Gardens. The metal spire of St Cuthbert’s Church rises above the houses, and a section of the Great Wheel at the Earls Court Exhibition.

 

 

While we’re in that neck of the woods what about this unlikely view in the Cromwell Road area?

 

 

A motley group of people stand in the middle of an apparently deserted road. On the back of the card a message for a younger relative of the sender.

 

Master Paddie Law, of Oswestry gets the distressing news that HM(WM?) has been digging in his garden

Shall we get back to our friend JH?

Here is another of those coloured postcards he favoured, showing the statue of Carlyle in the gardens by the embankment on Cheyne Walk, with a curious young boy looking at the photographer.

 

What did JH have to say?

 

 

“Having a fine time. Better than doing sheets(?) all over London every day. Just what Richardson would like over at Putney seeing the crews practice”. For the University Boat Race I assume. A pleasant way to spend an afternoon in suburban London, at the end of which you can send a postcard to Mr Joyce in Brighton.

I can’t remember the last time I sent a postcard, although I can recall the pleasure of receiving some inconsequential words from a friend. No need to overdo the comparison but this was definitely a form of Edwardian social media.

Postscript

The point of this series is the details found in the pictures themselves, but if it is possible to see the message on the back (some of the postcards are glued down unfortunately) it’s always worth having a look.

 


Cheyne Walk: heading west 1970

I was looking for a picture of 120 Cheyne Walk, where Arthur Ransome lived for a while in the period he describes in his book Bohemia in London. Number 120 is right on the edge of the World’s End Estate in a short terrace of 19th century houses between Blantyre Street and the smaller, older and more famous house next to it where JMW Turner had his last home.

That section of Cheyne Walk, from the Old Church to Cremorne Road traditionally took you from the grandest and most affluent part of the street into a much lowlier part of Chelsea as you enter Lots Road. When I looked at John Rogers’s  1970 photographs I naturally thought here’s a blog post. So here you are.

It’s an area that’s very familiar to me. My mother-in-law lived in Milmans Street, and my wife and I spent the early years of our marriage in a flat in Beaufort Street, so I’ve walked along this part of the embankment, crossed both bridges, caught buses north and south on many occasions. A bit arbitrarily I’ve decided to start here:

We’re right by Chelsea Old Church. You can see the Sloane Monument and the houses nearby which feature in a photograph by James Hedderly, as do many of today’s locations. There is the drinking fountain monument to George Sparkes (if the East India Comapny) and the 1969 statue of Thomas More (“Scholar, Statesman, Saint” as it says on the plinth.)

And there is the Old Church itself, reconstructed after the war, following severe damage during an air raid in 1941.

Next to it is Roper’s Garden, a sunken garden also built on the site of buildings destroyed in the air raid. I have sat in it many times. The small block of flats is called Roper’s Orchard. Margaret Roper was the married name of one of Thomas More’s daughters. The statue in the garden is called Awakening and is by Gilbert Ledward, who was born in Chelsea.

The sheltered seats at the top of the stairs were a pleasant spot to shelter if the rain caught you on your way home from Battersea Park.

In the background you can see part of Crosby Hall, an ancient building which formerly stood in Bishopsgate in the City of London which was disassembled and reassembled in Chelsea in the 1910.

When I lived nearby Crosby Hall and its attendant buildings were used as a hall of residence. The hall was rented out for ceremonies and wedding receptions. This pictures shows the open front onto Cheyne Walk. In 1989 the building was acquired as a private residence by Christopher Moran who built a pastiche of a Tudor palace around it so you can’t see this view any more.

Across the river in Battersea there have been considerable changes as well. many of the buildings visible in the distance are no longer there.

The photographer John Rogers has captured a pretty quiet moment on the road.

This iron structure sits in the small green space where Battersea Bridge meets Cheyne Walk and Beaufort Street.

 

Belle Vue House, on the right is on the opposite corner. There is a well know Hedderly photograph showing the same corner more than a hundred years earlier.

 

 

This is the view looking west, on a February morning in 1970, the same day as almost all the other pictures this week.

 

 

You can just about make out this quizzical bird looking east. He sits on the gatepost of another ancient residence, Lindsey House.

 

 

Lindsey House is another ancient house (built 1674), subdivided in the 18th century. The various parts of it have been home to the artists Whistler and John Martin and the engineers Marc and Isembard Kingdom Brunel.

 

 

We’re going to move past the end of Milmans Street as I’ve covered it before.

Moving west, this collection of houses curves away from the main road and leads north into Riley Street. Car spotters can start here although I’m sure no one will be able to identify the car under cover on the left.

 

 

These should be pretty obvious though.

This is the point where Munro Terrace curves away to become Riley Street. (once upon a time Davis Place became World’s End Passage) , with Apollo Place hiding behind the main road.

Apollo Place (partly visible on the right in the picture below) was once the home of Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. On more than one occasion when I was at Chelsea Library teenage girls would ask to consult the electoral register to locate him. (When I worked at Brompton Library I would see groups of teenage girls gathered outside the home of another Duran Duran member in Gilston Road, off Fulham Road).

The building on the corner used to be a pub (or at least a “beer retailer” as listed in the 1899 Kelly’s directory. The 1888 edition lists The Queen’s Arms at this number, along with a “fried fish shop”)

 

Next to it was another more long lasting pub, the King’s Arms.

 

An apocryphal story is told about a local celebrity buying one of these two pubs and closing it down because of the noise. I won’t name the person concerned because I don’t know if this is in any way true. Many pubs in Chelsea have closed since 1971 for a variety of reasons.

Closeby, the building below is the house of JMW Turner (have a look at it here)

Or for comparison:

 

A picture from the late 1940s I think.

Now go back to the first picture in the blog to see the taller buildings next to these as we move west. Those still survive but the ones in the final two pictures have gone.

 

 

This is the corner of Luna Street (have a look at Luna Street another others here). You can see the street name, just about, and the word “shed” referring of course to one end of the Chelsea Football ground, and the group of fans associated with it. The final picture shows what remained of the terrace around number 132 as Cheyne Walk becomes Ashburnham Road.

 

 

Marked by an advertisement for Carlsberg Special Brew. Close to this point is the end of Lots Road which we’ve looked at before. I’ve touched on the houseboats in another post but we may come there again in the future.

Postscript

This was a light post in terms of text and commentary but I know many of you will enjoy the pictures and don’t need much comment from me. I welcome any comments, corrections or reminiscences from readers. I’m a little late posting this week because of some last minute fact checking and link creating. I’m off now to see if I can find a 19th century photograph of the King’s Arms which I have in my mind but I don’t think I’ve ever scanned it.

A little later….. I found it and will scan it soon.I also discovered that you can just see the King’s Arms and the Queen’s Arms side by side in one of my early Hedderly posts. (the 6th picture.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rackham and Shakespeare: mortal fools, offending shadows

I know it was Shakespeare’s year last year (400 years – I suppose waiting for 500 might be asking too much) so I’m a little late celebrating by continuing this series of posts featuring illustrations to Shakespeare plays by some of the great artists of the pre-WW1 golden age of book illustration. But let’s not stand on ceremony.

The last pair of posts featured the Hugh Thomson As you like it and the Heath Robinson Twelfth Night. (I started much earlier in the year with Edmund Dulac’s the Tempest.) I couldn’t leave this subject without devoting a post to Arthur Rackham’s illustrated version of A midsummer night’s dream, Shakespeare’s other “magical” play.

This was another in a series of illustrated Shakespeare texts mostly published by Hodder and Stoughton and like Thomson’s Merry Wives of Windsor it was published by Heinemann in  a similar format with 40 colour plates and many other monochrome illustrations and decorations. Rackham agreed to do the pictures in 1906 when he was also working on a set of illustrations for J M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, another work which features Rackham’s unique perspective on fairies.

Rackham’s conception of fairies seems initially to be that they are inhabitants of the natural world at the same level as insects.

He sees them competing with small animals, like creatures which crawl through the undergrowth, infesting the trees like a fungus or a parasite. (You can see some  more of his fairy-insect action here)

As always with Rackham the trees are a presence in themselves, often grotesque and threatening.

In this image you see spiders, caterpillars, an anthropomorphic beetle, worms, something which looks like a scorpion, along with a surprised hedgehog, a snake and a crow (or is that a rook?) above an ethereal crowd of fairies.

But at the same time the fay take other forms, larger and more like humans.

Titania and Oberon,ill met by moonlight.  Rackham noted that Shakespeare’s fantasy was “full of the wildest anachronisms…Titania seems to have been entirely (his) own creation, but Oberon is doubtless drawn from the German Erl King, whilst Puck was never know in classical times”

One of the best ideas (I nearly wrote explanations but then realised that might not be the right word) of the nature of fairies and the worlds they live in comes from John Crowley’s 1981 fantasy novel “Little, Big”. One of the characters says this:

Paracelsus is of the opinion that the universe is crowded with powers, spirits, who are not quite immaterial – whatever that means or meant, perhaps made of some finer. less tangible stuff than the ordinary world. They fill up the air and the water and so on; they surround us on every side, so that at our every movement we displace thousands…..

……The difference observed in size is another matter. What are the differences? In their sylphlike or pixie manifestation they appear no bigger than a large insect or a hummingbird; they are said to inhabit the woods, they are associated with flowers. Droll tales are spun of their spears of locust-thorns and their chariots of nut-shells drawn by dragonflies, and so on. In other instances, they can appear to be a foot to three feet in height, wingless, fully-formed little men and women of more human habits. And there are fairy maidens and warriors on great steeds, banshees and pookahs and ogres who are huge, larger by far than men.

The explanation is that the world inhabited by these beings is not the world we inhabit. It is another world entirely, and it is enclosed within this one; it is in a sense a universal retreating mirror image of this one……I mean by this that the other world is composed of a series of concentric rings, which as one penetrates deeper into the other world, grow larger. The further in you go the bigger it gets. Each perimeter of this series of concentricities encloses a larger world within, until at the centre point, it is infinite

Hence the title, Little,Big. I had to  edit  that  passage down a bit. But I think it provides a rationale for the fairies of folklore and fiction. Here they are again, flowing like water through the trees with faces.

Fairies are fond of tricks of course and the trick played on Titania by Oberon is one of the most celebrated in literature.The transformation of Botttom into a creature with an ass’s head looks to modern eyes like an instance of body horror reminiscent perhaps (if you’ve got a mind like mine) to Jeff Goldblum’s metamorphosis in Cronenberg’s The Fly. (Another insect connection.)

Titania’s acceptance of the new flesh is also reminiscent of Cronenburg.

Let’s stay with the human characters for now. Here is Helena:

 

She’s dressed for classical Greece but Rackham also reminds us of the play’s setting in Shakespeare’s own times.

Hermia looks all set for another woodland drama.

 

Like some of Thomson’s Shakespearean characters she could get away with that outfit in a modern high street.

Also like Thomson, Rackham shows us some sleeping al fresco.

Ministering to the sleepers we mustn’t forget Rackham’s slightly androgynous Puck.

“What fools these mortals be..”

In the end, with Titania and Oberon reconciled, the two pairs of human lovers are prepared to wake up and forget the world of dreams.

As far as they can.

Rackham’s biographer Derek Hudson says “Rackham cast his spell over the play: his drawings superseded the work of all his predecessors…..his gnarled trees and droves of fairies have represented the visual reality of the play for thousands of readers.” He quotes William de Morgan who described MND as “the most splendid illustrated work of the century so far.” (although it was only 1908).

 

Postscript

We haven’t finished with Shakespeare’s fairies yet, because at the same time as borrowing the Rackham book from our good friends at Westminster Central Reference Library (Thanks again to Peter Collins) I also took the opportunity to look at another illustrated version of MND, by William Heath Robinson created for Constable in 1914. I know some people who read the Twelfth Night post were pleasantly surprised by Robinson’s dark view of the play. He has his own take on MND too, which we’ll come to in the next week or so.

If you’ve never read John Crowley’s Little, big (1981), don’t hang about, read it. Anyone who liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell should love it.

I found the quote from Rackham in James Hamilton’s excellent book Arthur Rackham: a life with illustration (1990). Derek Hudson’s Arthur Rackham : his life and work (Heinemann 1960) is also excellent.

For another fairy narrative look here.

 

 


Goodbye Ball Street: behind Barker’s

At its height the John Barker Company owned all three of Kensington High Street’s great department stores: Barkers itself, Derry and Toms and Pontings and a few other buildings in the area. Two of the store buildings remain as reminders of the great era of department store shopping: the Barker’s building itself, home of Whole Foods, Gap and of course Northcliffe House and the Derry and Toms building, home of M&S and H&M, still surmounted by the Roof Garden. (I won’t attempt to say exactly when that era was, pick your favourite: the 30s, the 50s, the 60s?).

Today’s post takes us back to the 1920s and 1930s to the period before and during the construction of the current Barker’s and Derry and Toms buildings and uses an album of photographs given to the Council by the Company. The whole story of the construction is a long one. You can find a good account of it in the Survey of London which I will not try to compete with. But to summarize: the Company had to acquire all the land it needed and close at least one street for building purposes. The process of the construction of the new Barker’s  was interrupted by the building of the new Derry and Toms (1929-1931) which took over the attention of the Company, and later the Second World War during which operations were suspended  so the Barkers building wasn’t completed until 1958.

You’ll need a plan to grasp this, but first a picture taken from the corner of Ball Street in October 1924.

 

This shows Young Street looking north west. The house in the foreground is Thackeray’s house. Next to it is Kensington Square Mansions,  the first buildings to be demolished to make way for the new Barkers.

And now the plan:

Carefully colour-coded, as you can see, to show the all the Company’s properties, the three stores, and Ball Street. Young Street has retained its name but King Street is now called Derry Street for obvious reasons.

[It’s well past lunch time so I’m pausing now to get a sandwich and take a quick field trip to the site.] [Back – interesting to see the rear of the two buildings.]

This is also Young Street.

In the centre is the Post Office sorting office, and beside it the entrance to the Bakery and Cooked Meats Kitchens.

This picture shows Ball Street on January 11th 1928, the day the hoarding to close Ball Street was erected.

If we turn north on that same day…

The rear of Ball Street with the ghostly spire of St Mary Abbots Church rising in the distance.

The point of view shifts east in this picture.

This was the first section of the new premises. On the left you can see a temporary bridge over Ball Street.

This is the east side of King Street showing a Derry and Toms building and a door to the old fire station.

The hoarding on the left shows the location of Ball Street.

This is a view of the rear of the west side of King Street with part of Burden Mews (look back at the plan).

Demolition is in progress.

I’ve included this picture of the corner of Burden Mews purely for the convertible. Motoring experts will soon identify it I’m sure.

This is Derry’s Yard, a narrow mews on the west side of Derry and Toms well out of the public eye, with a rough bridge connecting two buildings.

March 1928

More demolition in Burden Mews with a couple of figures in the background exchanging a few words about the work in progress.

Here another group lurk in a doorway perhaps avoiding the camera.

Can you spot another solitary figure below?

A man in a white coat on the first floor.

Back to Ball Street now.

It’s filled with the “covered way”, a temporary structure (man on the roof) and a clearer view of the bridge connecting the old and new buildings.

This is the way it looked from the other direction in October 1929.

The men on the scaffolding are actually posing for this one. The group on the ground are standing by the temporary staff entrance.

Finally, an image from nearly a decade later in July 1938.

This is on the east side of Kensington Square. The Staff Cafeteria is in the centre and the entrance to Lower Yard, where there was a Wine Cellar, a Bonded Cellar and a charging station for electric vehicles. (Ahead of its time?)

The construction of the Barkers building seems to have been a bit of a struggle but even though the stores that were their original purpose are gone, both it and the Derry and Toms building remain as are 20th century classics which have in their way influenced the whole of Kensington High Street.

 

Postscript

I wanted something to break up a flurry of posts about book illustration so the Trevor Bowen Estate came to the rescue again.


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