The famous fish shop

Philip Norman’s 1905 book “London vanished and vanishing” describes a “quaint building…four doors west of a tavern called the Rising Sun”.  It was Maunder’s fish shop and its address was 72 Cheyne Walk according to the 1889 edition of Kelly’s Chelsea Directory. The shop had been demolished by the time of Norman’s book but he had painted it.

The interesting thing for me is that he wasn’t the only one, and Elizabeth Maunder’s modest establishment was painted, sketched, etched and photographed in its time. Here is a painting by Alice Boyd:

Here is a drawing by Percy Thomas:

And here is an etching by William Burgess from his collection “Bits of Old Chelsea”:

Burgess was a talented engraver and watercolourist who created many images of Chelsea. I’ll devote a whole post to him sometime soon; this picture has one of his characteristic touches which I will explain then. See if you can guess what I mean. Finally here is a photograph of the building just before its sale and demolition.

I can’t say why all these artists felt compelled to depict Mrs Maunder’s shop. Why are certain places recorded for us while others are lost and forgotten – vanished as Philip Norman puts it? One thing is sure, that none of these images could have been created until the artists had the space to step back from the shop, which they wouldn’t have had until the creation of Chelsea Embankment. Before Maunder’s had a address in Cheyne Walk it was located in Lombard Street one of a pair of streets between Beaufort Place and Cheyne Walk (the other was Duke Street) both of which were partly demolished to make way for the Embankment. This small stretch of riverside Chelsea has been recorded in numerous formats. On the river side was the rear of several buildings including the Adam and Eve tavern shown here in a photograph by James Hedderly but also depicted by Burgess and other local artist including Walter Greaves. (We’ll come back to him at a later date)

On the land side were the two narrow streets of shops and taverns. This view is east to west with Beaufort Place, now Beaufort Street just visible in the distance.

From the other direction the streets look like this:

You can see Arch House at the end creating a narrow tunnel which leads to Cheyne Walk. And if you look carefully at the buildings on the left you can just about make out the fish shop again.

I can’t tell you anything about Mrs Elizabeth Maunder. Trading fish before refrigeration must have been a little unpleasant for the shopkeeper and the customer but you have to think it was a popular shop for a while at least, and Mrs Maunder must have had a tolerant disposition to put up with all those artists forever drawing or painting.  If we could get the Local Studies Time Machine going she’d probably be pleased to see us. Lombard Street / Duke Street is one of those forgotten streets I would have like to walk down.

Mrs Maunder’s shop was demolished in 1892 but lives on, possibly the most depicted shop in Chelsea.

I know some of you like me appreciate the facilty to zoom in on the details of old photographs so here is a close-up of Duke Street looking west. Although the image is blurred you can still make out some interesting features.

5 responses to “The famous fish shop

  • Michael Gall

    Another excellent post…thank you.

    I’ll have two Haddock and half a pound of jellied eels please.

  • Chris Pain

    I came across this the other day, and I just had a flash: “That’s the same shop Dave Walker was on about in his blog a while back!” It didn’t get it straight away because I’m usually more interested in Chelsea west of Battersea Bridge.

    It’s called “An Impromtu Dance – a Scene on the Chelsea Embankment” and was painted by Frederick Brown in 1883. I love it! Like some of the photos you’ve published of young women out and about in Paris and London, it reminds us that girls just wanted to have fun back in those days, too.

    • Dave Walker

      Well spotted Chris, I said that place was a magnet for painters. It’s interesting how wide the Embankment looks without the traffic.

      • Chris Pain

        That’s because it was (wider). In those days, after the south side of Duke and Lombard Streets had been demolished to make way for the embankment, the shops and the pavement went in a straight line from the corner of Danvers Street to the church. Now the pavement is a good 15 metres closer to the embankment. So Maunder’s fish shop would have been right in the middle of Roper’s Garden, close to where the statue “The Awakening Nude” is today.
        After the war,with the destruction and rebuilding of the church, the main road along the embankment was narrowed at this point, so much so that the Chelsea Embankment Memorial (to Joseph Bazalgette), which can be seen in Frederick Brown’s painting standing right in the middle of the road, now lies on the pavement on the north side.
        At least that’s what it looks like happened – from a close inspection of some old maps!

      • Chris Pain

        Maybe I just exaggerated a little bit. At this point the pavement is probably about 5 metres closer to the river than it was back in 1883 and before the war. In front of the church it’s more like 15-20 metres.

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