King’s Road Blues part two

There has been a cinema on the corner of King’s Road and Old Church Street since 1910. This picture shows that part of the King’s Road. You can see the side of the cinema, the Marjorie Parr shop (Parr was a well known Chelsea art dealer) and interestingly what looks like a statue of a woman visible over the top of the van.

Was it something on the back of a vehicle?

The cinema has gone under many names. As the King’s Road Theatre it was the home of the first live version of the Rocky Horror Show. It has been a Ritz, a Curzon, a Classic, a Cannon and an ABC. It was also called the Essoldo when this picture was taken:

These were the days when cinemas showed one film at a time so there was room on the display board for “Can Hieronymous Merkin ever forget Mercy Humppe and find true happiness?” (1969, a musical featuring Anthony Newley and Joan Collins regarded by some as a work of genius but by most critics of the day as pretentious rubbish)

Moving east we pass Oakley Street. In this image you can see the wall that once marked the edge of the Old Burial Ground. The area was landscaped in the late 1970s.

You soon come to another cinema, the Odeon (Formerly the Gaumont). In 1972 another film with a long title was showing:

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972, a French comedy thriller about a musician caught up in a spy caper) This view is looking west, the way we came. Turn around to see the view east with the Antiquarius building in its heyday.

And the recently deceased Picasso Café:

This picture by John Bignell shows a group of typically sixties King’s Road characters hanging out at the Picasso.

(It’s an excellent picture but it has a dark subtext. Claudie Delbarre the woman in the curly wig on the right of the picture was murdered a few days after the picture was taken. I wasn’t sure whether to mention this but the case itself is quite well-known and somehow you can’t look at the picture without thinking of the murder. I can’t anyway.)

On either side of the road there are individual shops rather than branches of famous chains.

And there are famous names among the pubs -the Chelsea Potter and the Chelsea Drug Store.

The Drug Store is one of the King’s Road’s most famous buildings. You can still see the late Victorian superstructure of the upper storeys from when it was known as the White Hart. The flamboyant sixties additions have created a unique building which has been celebrated in songs and in films. (The one which sticks in my mind was that scene in A Clockwork Orange when Alex goes to pick up an album, among other things)

In the final stretch you go past the old fence of the Duke of York’s headquarters. I haven’t commented on the cars but here are a couple of Minis and a sports car I can’t identify. Suggestions?

At the opposite end of the road from last week’s branch, another Woolworth’s:

Near Sloane Square you can see a poster advertising the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of a referendum on the Common Market.

There are still many more pictures in our files. One thing that strikes me about these photographs most of which were taken purely to show what the buildings looked like is how ordinary the street and the people in it look. With the exception of the Bignell picture they seem to show a conventional high street in a big city. I suppose only the inhabitants of this time-zone could tell you how extraordinary the King’s Road was then, compared to the rest of London.

Some things about the King’s Road never change though. I’ve lived in Chelsea since the 80s and at various times I’ve seen Dustin Hoffmann, John Lydon, Michael Caine, David Puttnam, Bob Geldof, even Richard Strange walking in the King’s Road. There’s this double-take moment when you think “isn’t that….?”. John Bignell has captured that exact moment in this picture.

Have you unexpectedly come across a famous person in the King’s Road? And did you just smile to yourself and let them go without a word?


I’ve mentioned the photographer John Bignell but the man who took most of these pictures was our own John Rogers, formerly our staff photographer now working freelance. His work has been invaluable for Local Studies in general and for this blog in particular.

27 responses to “King’s Road Blues part two

  • Ruth (@Kensal)

    I really enjoyed this entry although it sent me off on a few tangents before I could finish reading it. Your allusion to the Claudie Delbarre murder sent me off on a google search, where I found this most interesting article:

    Then later on, I was attracted to the picture of the Chelsea Drugstore but needed a clearer image, which I found in your archive here:

    Shame it no longer exists, as I think I would quite like to don a purple catsuit and fly around Chelsea on a motorcycle…

  • Lance Johnson

    I think the car outside the Duke of Yorks headquarters is an American Ford Mustang.

  • stephen frankling

    I lived just off King’s Rd during the 60’s, and even when I moved to Kensington in the 70’/80’s I continued to use King’s Rd, esp. as I had an account in Peter Jones.
    One of my memories was watching the making of the film, ” The Jokers”, being made 1 AM in the freezing morning.
    In a flat in the recently finished block at the back of a small shopping courtyard, a forst floor flat, at the director’s wave a number of balloons were released and extra’s would dance wildly as at a party, this looked very strange because of course the music was added later at a dubbing session.
    Oliver reid and Michael Crawford were acting in it, and at one point a street person, yes a tramp! would keep putting his head around the corner..the director kept asking the chap to stop it…but the man persisted..then without warning Reid lost it, and started to chase the guy along King’s Rd….the director and others shouted for, Ollie to come back,
    which he did, and he had to cool was very funny..and as the film was
    a clownish thing about stealing the Crown Jewel’s, it seemed to fit in with
    the mood.

    • Dave Walker


      Thanks for your recollections. The Jokers was of course directed by Michael Winner now much derided but some of his early stuff was okay. His other Chelsea film was “I’ll never forget whatisname” which also featured Oliver Reed as a disillusioned advertising man (as I recall – it’s been a long time since I saw it). Check out this (BFI copyright) image showing Winner, Reed and facing away from the camera but still recognizeable Orson Welles:
      Of course WordPress isn’t letting me insert it here (might be Interent Explorer getting in the way) so I’ve tweeeted it: I hope that works

  • Bern Kruse

    Saw jack nicholson on the corner of oakley st not long after one flew over the cuckoos nest. I said hey macmurphy without stopping and got the famous grin

    • Dave Walker

      Nicholson lived with Angelica Huston in a house at the bottom of Milmans Street, possibly around the time you saw him, possibly later during the making of the Shining.

      • P Taylor

        I once was told that Nicholson visited a (in)famous restaurant near Milmans Street where the owner would initiate new attendees by cutting off their tie, should they be wearing one, with a pair of scissors, which he did to Nicholson as soon as he walked in the door. Took him a couple of seconds to work out what was going on.

  • libertarianspirit real name Tim Crook

    These images were taken when I was 12 and 13 and living in Chelsea at the time. They really capture the atmosphere and are evocative documents of the time. At the top- The Essoldo was one of a number of cinemas in the King’s Road. I bought my first books in the Chelsea Book Shop- shown. Little books on geology and astronomy, and Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ novels- largely because they were read to us at the Marlborough Primary school. The top picture roughly from the pavement where the photograph was taken may have been the site for Laffertys Toy shop, which had to move to the top of the road- before the bend into New Kings Road at around this time. The charming, cosy atmosphere of retail businesses came to an end when affordable leaseholds expired- I have a feeling that property legislation might have had something to do with it.
    Imagine a little bookshop surviving there now!

  • Walking Down The King's Road, Chelsea -

    […] then I stumbled upon this absolute gem, King’s Road Blues part two By Dave Walker, […]

  • Og

    I think the car outside the Duke of York would be an American Camero.

  • Jamie Flynn

    Think the guy who cut Jack Nicholsons tie off was a friend of my dads called Jackie King, he was a bit of a character back in the day!

  • Peter Freeman

    Here’s another Chelsea scene from ‘I’ll Never Forget What’sisname’

  • yiddengoy

    Thanks. I loved this. I lived in Jubilee Place, Chelsea, in my late teens in the late sixties, prior to returning to Scotland.
    I recently found an Oliver Reed early sixties film on YouTube, called The Party’s Over. A small part of it is filmed in King’s Road, as the actors walk from the area of the end of Jubilee place into a an early Georgian (I think) building a few yards along–in the Sloane Square direction. That’s from the Kleptomania shop, shown in one of your pictures, going into the neo-classical entrance.
    There is another picture you produce showing the Picasso, where I had the occasional snack. The are I’m referring to is on the other side of the road behind the folk outside the Picasso. I can’t remember what the “Georgian” building was. I’ve seen it on a couple of more recent YouTube films but the building now has some kind of bronze representation above the doorway.
    I’d love to find out more about the buliding.
    Anyway, thanks again. It was nice to be reminded of Chelsea.

  • John From Baltimore

    Brought back memories of walking home towards the Stanley Arms along the Kings Road in the late 60’s early 70’s, from my school, St Thomas More in Cadogan Street,

    Interesting to see the photo of Sammy Davis taken opposite the Odeon/Trafalgar pub. Going home from school on the top deck of a Number 11, saw a commotion outside the Pheasantry which was caused by Sammy Davis exiting the club getting into his Rolls Royce. Perhaps the photo was taken the on same day (wonder if that is his Rolls behind?)

    The American car outside the Duke Of York’s is a Gen-2 Camaro 1970-1981.

    Is there a picture of the clothes shop “Stop The Shop” which was opposite the Chelsea Drugstore? Having a revolving floor for the shop display was unique

    Also, a picture of “Granny Takes A Trip” in the World’s End part of Kings Road (not sure if the article covers west of the “S Bend) with the 1948 Dodge saloon car poking outside the shop window onto the pavement?

  • d. clark

    I worked in Garbo ( shop next to Kleptomania)in the late 60s early 70s, been searching for a photo for a long time.
    We used to see many famous people passing through, but saw Ozzie Clark, and Ricky burns often!

    • Martin Horan

      My sister used to often shop in Garbo’s. Sometimes I would go in there with her. There was a beautiful, young Swedish girl worked there called Bridget. I was about 18 or 19 at the time and I never had the nerve to aske her out.

  • Carolan Weibel

    We lived in London in 1969-71 at Cadogan Sq, and walked and shopped often on Kings Road. One day my mom took me to buy boots at Papagallos and none other than Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland were sitting directly across from us while I was trying on my boots. Peter looked VERY put out and quite ill but Bitt looked the ultimate London bird. I didn’t stare because Peter looked so uncomfortable. But it’s quite a memory. Chelsea was fun. I’d buy chain and bead necklaces at the Chelsea Drug Store and a whippy with a Flake when they installed a booth in front from the sidewalk. Then we moved to South Kensington.

  • Georgie Holman ( nee Barker)

    I lived in Carlyle Square for 23 years since birth which was in 1957. I saw Sammy Davis Jnr too in that exact same spot so I must have been just out of shot. I think there was a pet shop there. I saw many famous people in the Kings Road. David Frost, Edna O’Brian and Felicity Kendal were neighbors of mine. I worked in Glebe Place for a while and John Phillips was renting the house next door and I often saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards visiting him. And then there was the lion I saw in the passenger seat of a car . Life was exciting for a child growing up in Chelsea at that time.

  • chris madsen

    Kings Road was special to me because I grew up there.
    My father was a sculptor, had his studio on Stamford Bridge. John Bignell was his favourite photographer; I remember him well.
    I grew up in and around Kings Road until I moved out of London in 72. As a kid, I used to be sent to return bad eggs to Sainsburys, when Kings Road wasn’t extraordinary. Then it started to be trendy: Mary Quant, Kenco coffee house [I recall a provincial visitor describing it as ‘exotic’]…
    I was a member of the Chelsea Arts Club in Old Church Street, and an honorary member of the Pheasantry Club – where I once went with a guest and came across my father and Annigoni sharing a few bottles.
    The Royal Court Theatre was an important influence, too, because at first night perfomances they would sell off any unsold seats at a flat rate to make sure of a full house. I went to all the first-night performances when I was at school, which was an education in itself.
    I could ramble on for ever. But I wont 🙂

  • Ian Muir

    I’ve been a visitor to Kings Road since the early 70s. Seen a few famous faces during that time including Bob Geldof (In November 2018) and Jimmy Page in the same month, I didn’t say a word to them. Saw the delightful Anita Harris in Mona Lisa last year (2017). I nearly spoke to her because I had a teenage crush on her having seen her in the 70s. I read an article in a magazine that featured Graham Nash, he had a habit of putting down his former band The Hollies, I thought to my self that If I ever saw him I would pull him up about it, two weeks later he walked past me at The Worlds End, kept my mouth shut.

    It is still good to walk down the Road noting the continuing changes and always happy seeing The Potter still there. During the 70s and 80s there were plenty of independent men’s clothes shops around, sadly all gone now.

  • Kenny

    Hi all. My name is Kenny I worked for firstly Jean Junction “for a short time; then Jean machine for a couple of years.
    I really enjoyed my time at both but whilst working for Jean machine Keith Moon popped in w6a stunning girl. He looked at me and said do you partake !! I said yes Keith we hopped into the back of his limousine he pushed a button “I think! And a wooden tray appeared with 6 white line’s. I’ll stop there but we became friends of sorts “that’s a whole story which I will never reveal.
    He only called me geezer!! What a lovely guy.

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