Forgotten buildings: The Terrace

The last couple of posts have been a bit of a departure from my recent blog activity, hanging around Kensington High Street. We’re back on track this week moving across Wright’s Lane from Scarsdale House to a forgotten group of buildings called the Terrace.

By the Terrace I mean 129-163 Kensington High Street. Here’s a panoramic view from 1978.

The Terrace - 129-163 Kensington High Street 1978 K3051-B

This is the southern side of Kensington High Street between where Boots is now, and Hotel Chocolat, or in 1978 the Adam and Eve pub which was then just to the west of the covered entrance to Adam and Eve Mews. You could get lost looking at shop names like Scotch House, Barratts, Jean Machine, Salisburys, Saxone, Dorothy Perkins and..er..Saxone (two of them, with different shop fronts?), and by all means do that. We’ll have a further look at the 70s shops of the High Street on another occasion but I wanted to show you this picture to say that’s all relatively modern stuff. It was built by our old friend Jubal Webb in the 1890s. The Survey of London with its usual ear for a telling phrase describes the Promenade as it was originally known as “an orthodox, restless, ornamental range  of shops and flats”. This tells you what you need to know (and it’s why I keep reading the small print in the Survey). I see those buildings every working day from the bus stop opposite and have become fascinated by the repeating pattern of the roof line.

But before the Promenade was the Terrace:

The Terrace Kensington High Street 19th C K62-194

The Terrace (or the Terrass as it was known in the 1760s) emerged piecemeal between the 1690s and the 1840s, a series of houses which grew together over the years. So not a classic terrace as we know them today but one of the first blocks of dwellings to have that term applied to them. The Survey also tells us that the original houses were “as commodious and respectable as any of their contemporaries in Kensington Square”. (We’ll get there another day.)

I used a couple of pictures of the Terrace by the H and R Stiles company in a previous post. This is number 1:

The Terrace 1 GN242

(If you do look back at that previous post you’ll see a crucial difference between the picture I used then and this one. ) Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were the oldest, dating back to the early 1690s although a little altered over the years.

This is number 2 and number 3.

The Terrace 2-3 GN246

The windows looked a little mismatched and the people at number 3 have left their gate open. The lamp post has the word Kensington above the light indicating that it was provided by the Kensington Vestry.

The slightly ramshackle quality continues as you go along the row.

The Terrace 4 GN243

Number 4 seems to have confusingly varied facades and more than one entrance.

Number 5 is a smaller house but still the work of Richard Beckington, the builder of the others.

The Terrace 5 GN247

Number 6 was added in 1718.

The Terrace 6 GN248

This was the home of the highly regarded Punch illustrator John Leech who died there in 1864 at the age of 47 after “a laborious life..the victim of overwork and an organisation morbidly sensitive to the small worries of town life, of spasm of the heart” according to Wilmot  Harrison in Memorable London Houses (1890)

A slouching youth lends some character to the photograph.

During the 19th century there was work on the facades and the gaps between the original houses were filled in by additional structures and some smaller houses. Other occupants of the Terrace included Sir Henry Cole and the artist David Wilkie.

However, I think the most interesting aspect of this group of houses is not what you saw from the High Street but what lay behind, where there were extensive gardens almost the length of Wright’s Lane and for the most part hidden behind high walls.

Here is Mr Leech’s garden.

Back of Leech's house 6 the Terrace GN40

The steps took you down into a large space where you could find some impressive trees.

Mulberry Tree behind the Terrace GN41

This one is a mulberry.

Willow tree in garden of 6 the Terrace GN95

This is a willow. Like at Scarsdale House these gardens show another kind of lifestyle. Their inhabitants enjoyed seclusion and leisure in large open spaces a little like those of the grand houses of Campden Hill.

There was also room for sport.

Garden behind the Terrace GN39

Is he trying to hit the gardener? Luckily he seems to be serving underarm.

You could of course just sit in your tranquil garden like the couple on the left.

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west GN108

Wait a moment. Who’s that?

Gardens behind the Terrace looking west Jubal Webb and wife GN108

It’s that man again, Jubal Webb, cheese magnate and owner of number two. Webb was a local vestryman and property developer. A slight hint of sleaze surrounds him but London was built in part by ambitious entrepreneurs like him. He does seem to have a gift for publicity though, and for sneaking in when you least expect him.

That would be it for the Terrace, except that I went looking for the original version of that panoramic view above and found it, more than a yard long.

It’s signed by Richard Stiles and dated 1892. At one end is a slightly clearer view of the woman in black I mentioned in the glass negative post.

The Terrace 9 detail from CPic092

Now that I’ve looked at a slightly clearer version I think she might be wearing a hat, which would make all the difference to her appearance and the conclusions you might draw about her. The condition of a print can completely alter a photograph, especially when you are dealing with details.

And at the other end there is a better view looking down Wright’s Lane, showing the shops on the corner.

The Terrace - Wright's Lane details of shops from CPic 092

You can see people heading down the road past the walls of Scarsdale House and in the foreground a slightly indistinct woman with a child in a pram is standing outside an early version of Derry and Toms. The lady with her back to us on the left is window shopping, her head hidden in the shadow of the awning on which the name Ponting’s can be seen. It’s another one of those images you’d like to step inside and have a look around.

Postscript

Once again I have benefited from close scrutiny of the relevant Survey of London volume. Along with the information I have also collected some descriptive phrases which are one of the pleasures of the Survey.

Next week I’m taking a week off as we have a guest blogger.

 


Manufactured in Chelsea

I was looking through some old proof sheets for John Bignell’s book Chelsea seen from its earliest days (enlarged edition 1987 but now out of print), in which Bignell contrasted his own photographs with equivalents from an earlier era. I decided to use some of the old photographs in a post but couldn’t think of a unifying theme. Then we got an email enquiry about the effect of that “structured” reality TV show set in Chelsea on the real borough. (Short answer: none at all probably.) And so I had a title for a random selection of images of Chelsea as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The first image is probably the oldest. We begin as Chelsea itself did on the riverside.

The Old Swan

This is the Old Swan Tavern, before the Embankment, at low tide I would assume judging from how far back the photographer is standing from the river steps and the obliging patrons. I think this is a James Hedderly photograph. The Old Swan lay at the end of Swan Walk near the Physic Garden. This of course was not the original Old Swan but I don’t want to make things too complicated (for myself) at the moment. There are some paintings of the Old Swan in this post.

I’m following a winding path through Chelsea east to west, south to north taking in high and low society. This entails a few leaps back and forth in time. This picture is a distinctly post embankment view of Lombard Terrace, which lay to the west of the Old Church.

Lombard Terrace

The distinctive art nouveau buildings on the left are 72-74 Cheyne Walk, designed by C R Ashbee. They were built on the site of Maunder’s fish shop, a building painted by many, including Whistler which is appropriate as number 74 was  the last house in which he lived. The building was demolished by 1927 and the fight to save some of the remaining houses was one of the causes around which the Chelsea Society was formed. Whatever was left was destroyed along with the Old Church in an air raid in 1941.

The picture below shows part of the original Lombard Terrace with Mr Spell’s Post Office and store on the corner of Danvers Street. I think that’s Mr Spell and his daughter standing in the doorway. This is another picture by James Hedderly.

Cheyne Walk - Hedderly

I’d quite forgotten this picture so I was quite struck by this view looking north from Battersea Bridge up Beaufort Street.

Beaufort Street

Belle Vue House on the left remains and the terrace of tall houses beyond, but on the right all the old houses of Duke Street have gone.

We’re not quite finished with Cheyne Walk. Let’s take a walk past the King’s Head to the pleasingly named Aquatic public house.

Cheyne Walk - Turner's House

The three boys are just about to reach the house with the balcony rail on the roof line, where JMW Turner lived. We saw a picture of it by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd in a previous post.

If we turn back back and go up Beaufort Street we can cross the King’s Road into a quiet cul-de-sac called The Vale, where William and Evelyn de Morgan lived.

The Vale

The Vale now intersects with Elm Park Road but at this time it was a dead end, just a pleasant residential enclave. (That man Whistler lived at mumber 1) Here is an interior from number 4:

2 the vale

We don’t know who the lady is, but she looks quite comfortable.

We go back to the main road for a couple of pictures

Kings Road

A horse bus on the King’s Road, at the corner of Sydney Street, pretty much where the Old Town Hall (and Chelsea Library of course) are today. The King’s Road still had many purely residential houses along this stretch.

We can take a short detour down nearby Oakley Street to take a look at one of its famous residents.

Dr Phene

The good Dr Phene strikes a pose outside the house in which he never actually lived. He only had to go across the road to his actual house. Read more in this post. It’s a fact that I’ve never been able to use on the blog, but another local resident I’ve written about, Margaret Morris once took a party of local residents on a tour of the house. I don’t suppose the two of them ever met but I’d like to imagine they did.

Speaking of my personal obsessions here’s another one, a photograph showing the teacher training establishment Whitelands College, home of the May Queens. Behind those walls lay a unique story, which I have covered here and here. (You can probably expect another one in April). Readers of History Today (February issue) can see a rather disturbing photograph of the college quadrangle a few years after the Staff and students moved to Putney.

Whtelands College

I promised you a bit of high life so here is a picture of the King’s Dinner held in Burton’s Court in 1902 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII. The idea was that the poor of Chelsea would be served by charitable members of high society.

Coronation

The lady in white is clearly doing her best but apparently the whole affair was a bit of a disaster, with not enough food, general bad behaviour and insulting language used against the lady volunteers, some of whom had to flee the scene.

By contrast there was a servants’ dinner at Chelsea Town Hall (organised by the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants), where 40 ladies served the maids.This was a smaller and much more civilised affair

Servants' dinner

And everyone went home with a gift bag.

The Chelsea Flower Show was always a big social event, attended by the highest in the land.

Queen Alexandra at the Chelsea Flower Show

Queen Alexandra in 1913 accompanied by some important men.

But let’s go back to ordinary life. This is the street market in Marlborough Street.

Marlborough Road

The shoppers of 1900 look pretty smart.

Finally a picture in another Chelsea street, Upper Cheyne Row showing a horse drawn fire engine.

80

Is there something wrong here? I’ll leave that thought with you.

Postscript

I think I must have set some kind of record for the number of hyperlinks I’ve inserted into this post, so just ignore them if they irritate you. I balked at linking to all the Hedderly posts. Why not try the search box?

And I’ve had to rush through some of the background detail so fact checking is welcome. Next week I’ll go back to a much smaller area.

 

 


The Cancer Hospital

It was about this time last year that I had to visit Accident and Emergency at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital in Fulham Road which resulted in a blog post about the history of the site. By coincidence, on World Cancer Day (February 4th), I was at the Royal Marsden Hospital, also in Fulham Road. There was no long waiting period for me to speculate about history but nevertheless when I got back to Local Studies I had a look to see if we had any interesting pictures.

The Royal Marsden has only been named after its founder since 1954. It was originally known as the Cancer Hospital and had several homes inclusing a building on the north of the Fulham Road called Hollywood Lodge before the current site was acquired.

Cancer Hospital The Builder April 28 1860  K61-504 - Copy

This is the design by David Mocatta of Young and Sons.

As you can see from this map of 1862 only the front part of the building was built orginally and the hospital with its garden only occupied part of the block.

1862 OS map showing Royal Marsden X10

This picture shows the extensive redesign of 1885 by Alexander Graham which adopted the familiar red brick facade.

Cancer Hospital - Copy

The hospital was the brainchild of Thomas Marsden, already an eminent surgeon and founder of hospitals. This picture illustrates the incident which brought about the creation of the Royal Free Hospital.

Marsden and the sick woman - Copy

Marsden found a young woman dying on the steps of St Andrew’s Church in Holborn. No less than three hospitals turned him away when he tried to get her admitted because he lacked a letter of introduction from a governor of the hospital. As a result he started a committe to found a free hospital with no such requirements, the first in London.

We sometimes imagine the Victorians as hypocritical, ignoring social and health issues but they were surprisngly direct in such matters as the namimg of institutions. The Free Hospital was just that (as later “free” libraries did not charge subscriptions).  On the north side of the Fulham Road the hospital subsequently called Brompton Hospital had a different name originally.

 

Consuption Hospital Fulham Road PC1003 - Copy

The largely untreatable condition Consumption (Tubercolosis) needed its own hospital as many of the existing insitutions would not take those who suffered from it. Marsden’s next venture which stemmed from his dissatisfaction with the current treatments for cancers was naturally called the Cancer Hospital. Marsden believed, contrary to many doctors of the time that cancers could only be treated successfully with a combination of surgery and medicine. This sounds obvious now but at a time when caustic substance were applied to patients to treat cancers it was a great step forward.

He had considerable help and finance from one of the great philanthropists of the day, Angela Burdett-Coutts:
NPG 2057; Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts by Sir William Charles Ross

She loaned money, paid a  yearly subscription, donated to the building fund and took a great interest in the progress of the hosiptal. She laid the foundation stone in 1859.

Extensions to the building were added, though the gardens remained for  many years. This is a rear view from 1893:

Garden 1893 K2801B - Copy

In close-up you can see this group of women sitting together on a bench. The picture as a whole is obviously posed but the three of them look quite natural, especially the one at the end, her face turmned towards, but not quite looking at the camera.

Garden 1893 K2801B - Copy (2)

The middle one seems to be wearing a veil, and the other has a dressing over part of her face.

The picture below shows the hospital in in the 1930s, just before the “Royal” was added to the name during the brief reign of Edward VIII.

Royal Cancer Hospital 1930s - Copy

The 1935 map below shows how the building had expanded. The girls’ school behind it remained, and the convent. Both those buildings have been absorbed since into medical buildings of one kind or another. Note the Chelsea Hospital for Women at the bottom of the image, which existed as a seperate institution until the 1980s.

1935 OS map showing Royal Marsden X10

The garden was smaller by 1958 but had survived.

Garden 1958 - Copy

The picture below is un-dated. It seems to have come from the cover of one of the nursing magazines (the Nursing Times or the Nursing Mirror) and must date from the 1960s or 70s.

Nursing magazine - no date - Copy

Some professionals may recognize the “new micro-pump” being demonstrated

Also in the 1960s the Hospital celebrated 100 years of its existence. On these occasions hospitals always seem to ask a couple of nurses to dress up in 19th century uniforms.
Nurses Scrivenor and Dutch - Nursing Mirror 1967 - Copy

No matter how funny they look. We have in the collection a picture of a group of nurses in old-fashioned (but slightly more flattering) uniforms at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital, so this sort of thing still goes on. It’s a pleasing note to end on. The Royal Marsden, although devoted to conditions which can end in death,  has always aimed to be as pleasant for staff and patients as possible. The gothic architecture of the surving 19th century hopsitals now often looks dark and gloomy and by contrast I think this view from 1885 exemplifies the slightly fanciful, optimistic look of the Royal Marsden.

New Cancer Hospital The Builder Sept 26 1885 GC2430a - Copy

Postscript

If anyone is interested I have no big health concerns following my visit to the Marsden. In fact I should say here that I was very impressed with the way I was registered, scanned and saw the consultant all in one morning. The staff were unfailingly polite and helpful. But inevitably my mind went back to one of my heroes, the late John Diamond who was treated at the Marsden and who wrote a light-hearted lifestyle column for the Times magazine which turned into a chronicle of his life with cancer. He was one of the first of the group of people who have written first person accounts of cancer and his story, told in his book “C: because cowards get cancer too” and in the archives of his Times column (if you can find them) should not be forgotten.

The picture of William Marsden comes from Surgeon Compassionate (Peter Davies 1960), Frieda Sandwich’s biography of her great-grandfather.

If you’ve gone so far as to read this post twice today you may have noticed that I’ve changed one of the pictures to make the history of the building a bit clearer. My thanks to the authors of the Victoria County History volume on Chelsea (Middlesex XII) and to David Brady (the Antiprofessor) for some eagle-eyed fact checking,


Street life: Kensington close ups – part one

This week’s post is in a similar vein to the Secret Life  of Postcards series. I select a picture, then zoom in on some detail, usually a person or group of people. It’s surprising how much of a sense of actual people going about their lives you can get by this simple method. So pardon me for repeating myself, but for me the close examination of photographs never gets old.

This selection comes partly from the glass negative prints of the H and R Stiles company and partly from other paper prints in our collection. They cover a period from about 1890 to 1909. They cover the short stretch of Kensington High Street from the corner of Kensington Gardens to the junction with Kensington Church Street, a distance you can walk then and now in five minutes or less. Even with such a small area I still had about 20 images to choose from including close ups.  I’ll be doing more in another post, going further west down the High Street. Next week I’ll do something different but I’ll come back to this set soon.

Kensington High Street looking west c1880s - Copy

In this picture you’re looking west where a crowd of smart looking men has gathered.

Kensington High Street looking west c1880s

The full picture shows flags over the street and carriages going by. This could be a royal visit to St Mary Abbott’s church whose tall spire towers over the streets like…well it’s like a tall church spire, from an era when churches were some of the tallest buildings in London. Despite the growth of high rise office blocks and imposingstructures like the Imperial Institute, church towers were the great landmarks.

This picture looks back in the opposite direction. I’ve left the reverse writing on the edge of the plate.

Kensington High Street 1890 GN5

In the distance, the trees of Kensington gardens. On the left you can see the Civet Cat, an old inn at the bottom of Kensington Church Street. In front of it is an orderly queue for the number 9 bus. The route in those days went from Mortlake to Romford, so Liverpool Street (you can see the sign on the stairs) was somewhere in the middle of the route.

Kensington High Street 1890 GN5 looking west another close up

A few seats left on top, but those ladies might prefer to travel inside. Do you see the man crouching on the narrow balcony?

The view on the other side of the street shows more horse-drawn vehicles and even a couple of hand carts.

Kensington High Street 1890 GN5 close up

The ladies with their  umbrellas up seem to be using them for shade, so this is probably a summer’s day. The men with handcarts are in their shirt sleeves, hot and sweaty no doubt. Look at the lady on the right holding an umbrella. Above her you can see the name Jubal Webb (retail proprieter and property developer ) on the awning. We’ve come across him before. Don’t imagine this is his last mention either, as he seems to have a knack for inserting himself into history.

This is another one for bus lovers:

Kensington High Street looking east at junction with Church Street1890 GN23

The bus on the right may be an early form of the number 28, on its way to Fulham. I like the two guys slouching against the shop fronts on the edge of the picture. The one on the left is another 9, advertising Pears Soap and a product called Taunus. Any ideas?

Kensington High Street looking east at junction with Church Street1890 GN23 - Copy

The next image flips around again to look from east to west.

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN22

On the left are the substantial premises of Frank Giles and Co, “cabinet makers, upholsterers, auctioneers  and house and estate agents and builders and house decorators” according to Kelly’s Directory. On the right:

Kensington High Street looking east 1890 GN22 close up

Two ladies having a spirited discussion.

You must be getting use to the change in viewpoint by now.

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN10

I’m rather taken with this westward looking picture but mostly because of the detail in the bottom right corner:

Kensington High Street looking westt 1890 GN10 close up

The dangerously overladen wagon seems to hold no fear for the young man walking past Anthony Bell’s establishment on the narrow side street to Kensington Court.

The next picture almost seems to have been taken seconds later.

Kensington High Street north side 32 onwards Q

There is a similar wagon full of baskets and straw, the same shop front on the right, and another view of the shop of H and R Stiles (“art photographers [side door]”). But let’s look at the group at the bottom right.

Kensington High Street north side 32 onwards Q - Copy

And zoom in again.

Kensington High Street north side 32 onwards Q detail - Copy (2)

An eldely lady with a cadaverous face, and behind her a pair of fashionably dressed women. I also like the  woman on the left facing away from us, checking her hair in a timelsss gesture.

I’ve become fond of some of these people you can only see in fleeting images. This picture is a good one, a paper print, looking east towards the Royal Garden Hotel.

Kensington High Street 1909 G37-47

There are a couple of familiar names on the shop fronts- Keith Prowse and Budgen. This is about 1909 so it’s a few years later than the others but it contains possibly my favourite back view of people standing in the street.

Kensington High Street 1909 G37-47 - Copy

These two women are wearing the slightly more modern and extravagant fashions of the Edwardian era. What intrigues me most is the similarity of their oufits combined with the disparity in their height.

Kensington High Street 1909 G37-47 zoom

I imagine them intent on what’s in the shop window and talking intensely about that or some other matter of interest but this is all we’ll ever see. We’ll never get them to turn round and say a few words. We’ll need an actual time machine for that. But if that time ever comes, we’ll know where to go.

Postscript

Thanks to Matthew, my transport correspondent who covers bus-related matters for the blog.

In today’s (Tuesday’s) Guardian is a piece about the reissue of Roger Perry’s book about 70s graffitti, The Writing on the Wall. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/feb/03/the-writing-on-the-wall-1970s-pioneers-of-british-graffiti.  Inspired by the original edition I wrote a post about graffitti in Kensington and Chelsea here.

 


Forgotten Buildings: Scarsdale House

Turn off Kensington High Street by Boots the Chemist. On the left you see a coffee shop, a corporate headquarters, some tall anonymous buildings and in the distance a hotel. On the right is a pair of 1890s mansion blocks with fascinating towers at the corner, both called Iverna Court. Wright’s Lane curves round to meet Cheniston Gardens and togther they join Marloes Road, which goes all the way down to Cromwell Road. On both sides of Wright’s Lane the south front of Kensington High Street is a twentieth century or late nineteenth century creation. The older buildings are gone now. But there was a different kind of view not all that long ago,less than a hundred and fifty years ago and well within the reach of photography. You can still see that other place today.

Take a look down a narrow street with high unwelcoming walls on either side, first to the south where Jobmaster Mr D Ridge hires Victorias, Landaus and Broughams.

Wright's Lane looking south GN52

Linger there at the bottom of the quiet road, far from the high street. There are no tall buildings. Although the city has expanded around the walled gardens this street still looks like a backwater.

Wright's Lane looking north GN43

You can vaguely make out a couple deep in conversation walkling towards the camera on the side of the road with a pavement. There are street lamps but the road still looks like a country lane. On the right is a house in a secluded garden behind the wall.

Scarsdale House from Wright's Lane GN46

Here’s another gentleman, and a lady carrying a fur muff (the day looks cold). Beyond them a  figure, wrapped up in a cloak, a young woman I think, and some other indistinct figures. Then there is the dark house and the garden with bare trees. Here is the entrance.

Scarsdale House entrance Wright's Lane GN44

The walls look old with many stains and there is some irregular brick work.

Scarsdale House entrance gate Wright's Lane GN47

In this picture the entrance is open and entry seems to be  permitted. Photographers can go inside and walk into the garden.

Scarsdale House garden photograph by Augustus Rischgitz CPic0171

The house is old, built in the 1690s for his own occupation by Francis Barry. Wright’s Lane was then just a footpath leading to Earl’s Court. On some maps it is called Barrow’s Walk. The house’s grounds were larger, including a fishpond. Several eminent persons lived there, including the Duchess of Monmouth, but it was not until the Curzon family acquired it that was called Scarsdale House after the peerage granted to Nathaniel Curzon.

Two centuries later, despite extensive building work it still has a forbidding look.

Scarsdale House garden looking north Wright's Lane GN45

In another season the house still looks worn but less gloomy.

Scarsdale house garden front GN153

At the time of the picture it was back in the hands of another Curzon, Edward  Cecil. It had spent nearly a century as a school of one sort or another. In the early 1800s a Mr Winnock owned it, and his wife ran a boarding school for girls there, a typical use for large houses at that time. Kensington had many of those small enclaves of genteel learning.

Scarsdale House garden  front 1815 watercolour by H Oakes Jones CPic0038

In those days the country south of the High Street was full of gardens and lanes. Scarsdale House was on the edge of the urbanised area as you can see from Starling’s map of 1822. Houses had been built in front of it on the High Street.

Starling 1822 A3 (2)

The house could look welcoming.

Scarsdale House garden  front July 1892 watercolour by Elizabeth Gladstone BG2502

Isn’t that woman gesturing for you to enter?

It was the same Curzon who brought in a pair of alabaster chimney pieces with allegories of Peace and War. W J Loftie calls them interesting. The Survey of London describes them as “in the grotesque style”.

Scarsdale House fireplace GN48

They survived the house and now in a house near Cardiff.

The tranquil isolation of the house ended with the arrival of the railway  and Kensington High Street Station which was just beyond the east wall of the property.  Mr Curzon died in 1885 so by the time most of these picture were taken the house was probably unoccupied as the land around it was used for other purposes. This may be why the house looks so bleak in the photographs.

Perhaps it would be better to remember it in views like this one:

Scarsdale House - old house in Wright's Lane May 12 1888 watercolour by Elizabeth Gladstone BG2501

Scarsdale House was sold in 1893 to its neighbour Pontings, which had started in the houses behind the house in 1873. The house was absorbed into the store but dictated the susequent shape of the building – “narrow frontage and great depth” according to Brian Curle, a predecessor of mine. Whatever remained of the old house was obliterated by re-building and nothing of it remained by 1907. The new proprieters told stories about a haunted room, and a murder, so perhaps the Gothic atmosphere isn’t entirely my imagination.

Postscript

All but one of the photographs were by the H and R Stiles company (featured in this post, with more to come soon). The sepia photograph of the garden was by Augustus Rischgitz. The first watercolour (about 1815) is by H. Oakes Jones, based on an unfinished sketch by John Claude Nattes. The final two colour pictures are by Miss Elizabeth Gladstone and were made in 1892 and 1888.

This drawing is by Herbert Railton and has taken my fancy.

Scarsdale House entrance gate 1901 by Herbert Railton CPic274

We may see more of his work in posts to come.

Another Postscript

I was sorry to hear today of the death aged 100 of Nesta Macdonald, ballet expert, photographer, local historian and user of Chelsea Library for many years. My condolences to her family and friends.

I covered one aspect of her interests in this post.

 


From darkest Peru to West London: Paddington Bear in Kensington

This week features the return of our Paddington correspondent, my esteemed colleague Isabel Hernandez who has turned her attention to the other Paddington.

“It’s nice having a bear about the house.”

Well you know, I cannot dispute that. As bizarre as that line seems out of context I actually think it has a point, for I do indeed have a rather earnest-looking, anthropomorphic bear gracing my bookshelves often making me laugh when nothing else will. He lives in the pages of a certain set of stories I keep on there as well as physically imposing himself in a small space next to the books wearing a red hat, blue duffel coat and red wellington boots with a label attached that says, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Many will know who Paddington Bear is, where he came from and why he was named after a London station. I also think of him as a West London bear, even if he did originate from Darkest Peru, not Africa, as Michael Bond had originally written, until it was pointed out that there are no indigenous bears living in Africa, so he set about diligently doing his research by paying a visit to Westminster Public Library followed by a trip to London Zoo until he eventually settled on Peru.

It may seem strange that a bear should be so iconic (not unlike Winnie-the-Pooh) but Paddington just happens to be so in a very down to earth way. In re-reading the stories recently and hunting for the 50 statues dotted around parts of London before they were auctioned off, I was prompted into reading Michael Bond’s autobiography, Bears & Forebears. A Life So Far, which not only is a guide to how he came to breathe life into all of his creations (for there are others aside from Paddington), but also gives a wonderful insight into his own life and the influences and inspiration that later (I think) contributed to his best known character.

Meet Paddington. Here he is as originally drawn by British illustrator Peggy Fortnum, a lady who (according to Michael Bond) using pen and ink ‘understands Paddington perfectly and with a few seemingly deft strokes….manages to convey a living breathing creature.’

paddington-bear-peggy-fortnum[1]

A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958 by Collins. There were eight stories in that first book of the series. Several more were written in subsequent years and are still being written to the present day. Paddington, you see, moves with the times. As it turns out Paddington was conceived on a typewriter one spring morning in a one-roomed garden flat near the Portobello Road, “…it was a bit like living in a caravan,” said Michael Bond, “The kitchen had to be tucked away in a cupboard at night and during the day the bed was used to provide extra seating for visitors. But the market was just around the corner, and Holland Park, with its peacocks and its shady walks, was only a short distance away.”

Not difficult to see why this was a haven….

Holland Park 1962

 

Much has been made of the location of 32 Windsor Gardens where the Browns live. Many have made the literary pilgrimage visiting a location by the same name in West London – only a stone’s throw away from where I used to live in the Paddington area. Karen Jankel (Michael Bond’s daughter) has since explained how the fictitious address came into being, which is not in any way related to the real address with the same name. Michael Bond himself reveals in his autobiography that number 32 Windsor Gardens was “in my mind’s eye Lansdowne Crescent – a quiet street of rather grand houses off Ladbroke Grove and close to Arundel Gardens where we lived.” Imagine my surprise at the revelation! I too was under the same misapprehension as everyone else.

 

Lansdowne Cres 1970

Lansdowne Crescent, named after the Lansdowne area of Cheltenham, was built about 1842-1846. The houses are typical Victorian builds and here we have a 1970s photograph showing some typical cars of the day.

29, Lansdowne Crescent 1979

 

We all have our own ideas about what fictional places look like when we are reading a story so I decided to look and see if we had anything interesting that might live up to my imagination. Above is a rather picturesque image of a house that exists along Lansdowne Crescent taken in 1979 although you would be forgiven for thinking this might be more of a 1950s film studio print. The dramatic lighting here must have been caught in the early morning. There are milk bottles still waiting to be taken in and (no doubt) breakfasts to be served. I could imagine the Browns living here under Mrs Bird’s scrutiny. I rather think Paddington might have been taken with the foliage growing around the house too.

But, I’m a little ahead of myself. Geographically we need to start at the beginning and that is Paddington Station seen in the photograph below (courtesy of my colleagues at the Westminster City Archives).

paddington-is-better-known-for-its-magnificent-railway-station-than-for-its-saxon-namesake[1]

 

This location has been the terminus for the Great Western Railway from as early as 1838, but the larger part of the mainline station, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, dates from around 1854 with the underground Metropolitan Railway being the first in the world following in 1863. Paddington Station warrants a blog all to itself and summarising its history here would be an injustice. (Something for another day perhaps…)

Why was Paddington Bear named thus, aside from the obvious?

“We called him Paddington because for some years Paddington Station had been my first port of call whenever I travelled to London, and it was also just down the road from where we were living at the time. Besides, it had a nice, West Country ring to it; safe and solid”

We also know that Paddington wears a label round his neck with the words:

“Please look after this bear. Thank you”

“It was the memory of seeing newsreels showing trainloads of evacuees leaving London during the war, each child with a label round its neck and all its important possessions in a tiny suitcase, that prompted me to do the same for Paddington.”

pic03_evacuation_from_station.1[1]

(Image first published in The Daily Telegraph)

And so a bear was named and rescued by the Browns, “an immigrant in a strange country with no money and nowhere to go”.

The strangeness of a place and the sudden upheaval of one’s life can be a daunting and frightening experience and yet perhaps there can be found, when we look closely, almost a haven or familiarity in the new friends we make and the new places we explore, depending on where we end up.

Portobello Road 1951

 

Which brings us to Portobello Road, a familiar haunt of Paddington’s, seen here in 1951; it has always been a bustling and diverse community selling everything from antiques, bric-a-brac, fruit and vegetables to fashion, household goods and street food. Indeed this year both Portobello and Golborne Markets celebrate a 150 year anniversary.

In the books, Mr Gruber (a family friend) is a central character in Paddington’s life. An immigrant himself he has an understanding of the young bear’s unfamiliarity with his new home:

“Mr Gruber was born in Hungary and his antique shop in the Portobello Road is an oasis of peace and quiet in Paddington’s life: a retreat where every day he can share his elevenses, discuss the world in general over cocoa and buns, and seek sound advice from his friend whenever the need arises.”

Perhaps his antique shop resembles this one?

Portobello Road Market 1970

Everybody sells something a little different and people are always on the lookout for something unique.

Portobello Road Market 1960s K4075B

Portobello Road - Kennedy McCreadie 1964

(Photograph by Kenny McCready 1964)

This gentleman appears to be about to pay for something but we have no idea what.

The market also has many fruit and vegetable stalls –that was its main function before the antiques moved in. Back in the 1950s shopping in markets was where the average shopper would buy things. The concept of supermarkets was not yet realised to a great extent. Everything was pennies and shillings, pounds and ounces and people knew each other by name. That may still be the case to a degree but times have definitely changed. Paddington certainly seems to enjoy doing his daily shopping in the market – not sure what he would think of a large Tesco store.

Portobello Market 1958 Mrs I.M Cain's fruit stall

[Mrs I.M Cain’s fruit stall in 1958.]

Portobello Road 1958 Mrs Rudd's salad stall 79450

[Mrs Rudd’s salad stall in 1958.]

Portobello Market 1958 Jaffas

This unnamed gentleman also has a fruit stall with what appears to be a fish stall next to him (1958). I rather like his sign, shaped like individual oranges saying JAFFAS on the top of the stall – the oranges and not the cakes I suspect – seems to be the most popular orange variety sold in Portobello.

Portobello market 1958

Here’s another unnamed gentleman also selling Jaffa oranges.  I wonder if they are any good for marmalade…

I almost wish these photographs were in colour. The colours on that stall would have been very vibrant.

Lyons van 1958

A Lyons Tea van with a fresh delivery. Paddington does like his buns after all.

Portobello Market 1958 Imperial Playhouse Ltd

In the background is 191, Portobello Road, home of the Electric Cinema, first opened in 1910. In the London Post Office directory of 1958 it is listed as The Imperial Playhouse having been renamed in 1932 during one of Notting Hill’s less salubrious periods in history. It went back to its original name in the late 1960s and despite its precarious existence it remains an iconic survivor. Few original cinemas remain in London now, not least those of the West End which are succumbing to the indignities of redevelopment. How much has changed since Paddington Bear’s original debut! And yet, modern technology has brought him to life on the big screen premiering him in Leicester Square for the first time. Our bear from Darkest Peru has come a long way, and even though he has very much become something of a universal bear despite his being quintessentially an English bear, I personally think of him as a West London bear and I almost half expect to see him traipse down the Portobello Road with his trolley in search of some tasty buns for his elevenses with Mr Gruber any day now.

Postscript

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The quotes I have used are taken from Michael Bond’s 1996 autobiography: Bears and Forebears. A life so far which I borrowed from the library’s biography  collection. (Out of print but still available through Amazon and other sources)

The post itself is not about any one specific place; it’s more of a geographical jaunt following some of the places we know Paddington Bear has frequented and still does by all accounts: a fictional character set in real surroundings given one or two imaginative alterations here and there.

Michael Bond has expressed that he has no intention of retiring as a writer and I do believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of Paddington, which I, for one, am very pleased about. You see when I feel a little put out upon occasions, for example; during my commute in and out of London, I too have a particular stare that usually indicates my displeasure at someone’s rudeness or lack of consideration. Whether this is a universal thing we learn as we age I do not know. This is why when Paddington directs his formidable stare at anyone he deems discourteous I cannot help but crack a smile – it’s incredibly funny when it’s done by a bear:

“Paddington had a very persistent stare when he cared to use it. It was a very powerful stare. One which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for special occasions.”

And here I conclude my rather whimsical homage to Paddington Bear.

Postscript to the postscript (by Dave)

My thanks to Isabel, and apologies because I still haven’t worked out how to add an author on WordPress. This post kills two birds with one stone for me. Not only do we get Paddington but also the Portobello Market which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. You can expect more on the market in the months to come.

I know lots of readers don’t live in London but forgive me a bit of advertising. For Holocaust Memorial Day this year we have an event on January 27th at Kensington Library featuring historian Roger Moorhouse. Follow the link for more details. Roger gave an excellent talk at our London History Festival in November based on his book “The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s pact with Stalin 1939-41″ so despite the sombre subject I can highly recommend this talk especially in the light of recent events.

 


Fiction in Kensington and Chelsea 3: Offshore

When I do these posts about fiction set in Kensington and Chelsea I’m normally scrabbling around for pictures to go with the text but this post came about because there were plenty of pictures of the specific location.

Chelsea Reach houseboats 1975 Bignell

A view of the houseboats at Chelsea Reach, with both Battersea and Albert Bridges in the background (even the distant chimneys of Battersea Power Station). A quinessentially Chelsea view from 1975. Chelsea reach was one of the subjects of James Hedderly’s early photography, and the location of the Greaves Boatyard, where the artist Walter Greaves painted and got some mentoring from one of his customers James McNeil Whistler. By the time John Bignell took this photograph the boating on the Reach was all residential.

The writer Penelope Fitzgerald had gone by then  but the experience of living on one of the boats had left its mark and she used the enclave of houseboats as the setting for her Booker-winning novel Offshore.

3525366652_e673e3f1cc

This is the cover of the first hardback edition, a view which would be quite familiar to readers of this blog as it shows the main landmark looking in the other direction, Lots Road Power Station.

Chelsea Reach 1960s jb334 - Copy

I’ve cropped this Bignell picture to show the whole sweep of the view looking west as the river curves towards Wandsworth. The houseboats are just visible on the right.

In real life Fitzgerald lived in the last boat along which was called Grace, nearest the offices of the Chelsea Boat Company. She lived there with her semi-estranged husband and their two daughters – there was also a son, away at boarding school. He was not surprised apparently to not find himself depicted in the book. The heroine Nenna James lives with her daughters Martha and Tilda in a fictional boat also called Grace – her husband in in Stoke Newington, a far away part of London in the early sixties.

The houseboats would eventually become fashionable and sought after locations but for the author and her fictional alter ego they were quite grim. This was a time in Fitzgeralds’s life when she had very little money.

Houseboats

At low tide, the boats sat on the smelly Thames mud the and residents weren’t supposed to use the toilets. At high tide they were afloat, not always a comfortable position:

At that moment Lord Jim was disturbed from stem to stern by an unmistakeable lurch….she seemed to shake herself gently, and rose. The tide had lifted her.

Cheyne Walk - looking east, riverside 1972

On every barge on the Reach a very faint ominous tap, no louder than the door of a cupboard shutting, would be followed by louder ones from every strake, timber and weatherboard, a fusillade of thunderous creaking, and even groans that seemed human.

Cheyne Walk - looking east, riverside 1972 (2)

These two pictures taken by John Rogers in 1972 depict that sense of being cut off by water. The passing vehicles on Cheyne Walk might have little sense of the little world on the water beside them.

Cheyne Walk - looking west from Riley Street 1970 KS 1946

Fitzgerald depicts a dislocated, melancholy community on the houseboats, shrouded in fog, both literal and metaphoric, which Bignell does justice to in this picture:

Chelsea Reach in fog Bignell 94

For the two girls Martha and Tilda the foreshore at low tide is a kind of playground.

houseboats and goose 1968 jb213

Not wanting to compete with local children from Partisan Street (Dartrey Street) for  coins, medal and lugworms they go on expeditions across the bridge to the other side of the river. On one occasion they go with a handcart to scavenge the wreck of a Thames barge. They look for tiles in the mud.

Tilda lay full length on a baulk of timber…..far beyond the point at which the mud became treacherous..she stood poised on the handlebars of a sunken bicycle.

She retrieves two tiles which turn out to be by de Morgan. They take them to an antique dealer at a shop called Le Bourgeous Gentilhomme where they get three pounds, a decent sum for two young girls in 1961.

Bignell depicts some equally dangerous play on the river.

Chelsea Reach 1960s Bignell 81

Near the end of the novel the small family have a visitor, a teenage boy from Vienna called Heinrich. The girls take him to the King’s Road, up Partisan Street - a rough place..the refuge of crippled and deformed humanity – which Tilda no longer fears, past the Moravian burial ground where they tell him the urban myth about the Moravians being interred in a standing position, “so on Judgement Day they can rise straight upward.” (Not true by the way – every so often I have to deny it). The King’s Road is already like a gypsy encampment, another life compared to their impoverished life on the barge.

Nenna and her daughters eventually go to live with her sister in Canada. In the last chapter a storm hits the river and two of the other characters find their boat slipping its moorings and heading into the river, as good a way to end as any.

I haven’t found a picture of stormy weather on the river but here’s one of Bignell’s elegant views looking east.

Albert Bridge (2)

Fitzgerald turned her experience of comparative poverty into a sucessful book. In 1979 she won the Booker Prize against the odds. (There’s a fascinating account of the TV coverage in Hermione Lee’s excellent 2013 biography of Fitzgerald). So for her at least her life on the houseboats at Chelsea Reach turned out well.

I once saw the actress Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan!) disembarking from one of the houseboats in the more fashionable 1980s. That would be another story.

Battersea Bridge - looking east from Cheyne Walk 1970 KS 1926

Postscript

The photographs were by John Bignell and John Rogers, both mainstays of the blog. Thanks particularly to John Rogers for his many contributions to the Local Studies collection.


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