Empty streets: Sloane Street and Lowndes Terrace 1902

It’s another early start so we’ve left the time machine at Maison Nouvelle, in Brompton Road next to Tudor Bros, the fancy drapers. (We met the proprietor in the last Empty Streets post) If we go west we can sneak under the arch into Hooper’s Court which is little more than an alley leading to New Street. If we take a detour past the livery stables we see this house:

The rear view of these buildings reveals a strange jumble of shapes and styles. The middle one is the back of number 4 Sloane Street, the Swan Tavern. Round the corner is the front.

If you look closely you can see two men doing some early morning drinking. Or perhaps they’re looking for someone. Check out the second floor window.

What’s that guy looking at? It is an unwarranted assumption that he’s looking but doesn’t want to be seen? He could be looking down waiting for the two men in the bar to leave. He could be intending to make it out the back way. Or maybe none of this is true. It could just be my suspicious nature.

If we move up the street past the ghost of the person who didn’t stand still long enough for the camera you can see that J Carver is on the move.

Although 10 Brompton Road is not too far to go. Past the National Fur Company it’s hard to tell if Barnard’s Restaurant is still secured from the evening before or if they too are closed for and ready to move.

Sloane Street is eccentrically numbered, consecutively down each side of the street so across the road from 1-5 you have 207.

Mitchell and Co are high class grocers with a Royal appointment insignia above the shop.

At 210 Peter Yapp had a boot maker’s business sandwiched between two outposts of the original Harvey Nichols store. See the woman in white just visible on the left, the first of a particular group of morning people.

Harvey Nichols is listed in the directories as a draper’s, but they were already becoming something much bigger.

The main shop occupied the whole block between Sloane Street and Seville Street as it still does. In those days this stretch of Knightsbridge was called Lowndes Terrace. I think the people standing around are shop workers waiting to be let inside

They look too smart to be just hanging around for no reason.

Our photographer Ernest Milner (my apologies to him for not naming him in the previous Empty Streets post) was assiduous in his task to record the buildings under which the Piccadilly Line would run. As in Sloane Street he also found his way around to the back of the building.

Three more men waiting to get into the building to start work. You wouldn’t want to be late I imagine.

In 1902 Harvey Nichols had some competition. On the other side of Seville Street was another large draper’s store.

A lone boy waits in front of Woolland Brothers who traded from a rather more impressive building than Harvey Nichols.

Quite a grand facade I think. Maybe it was just the luck of the drawer that Woolland Brothers ended up in a finer building.

The next picture takes us right to the border of Chelsea with the City of Westminster. We can’t go any further today.

See how both stores have their names displayed in the same position on the top floor so you would see them as you walked down Knightsbridge or better still, rode on an open top bus.

At the left of the picture down William Street you can see the trees of Lowndes Square. In the foreground three people have found themselves in Mr. Milner’s photograph.

The two men have faded more than the woman. She lingered a little longer before going into Woolland’s. In one brief  moment she stood alone on the pavement in her distinctive Edwardian outfit of white blouse, dark skirt and wide-brimmed hat. Is she carrying a coat or an umbrella? Was it a warm autumn morning as she briefly faced Milner’s camera? Was she curious about the early morning photographer? Did she know I would be looking at her image and asking myself unanswerable questions about her more than a century later?

Time to get back to Maison Nouvelle. I’m sure someone could tell me why Woolland’s store and even the building they traded from is gone and almost forgotten while Harvey Nichols is a location and a brand known around the world. Businesses are as subject to the processes of history as people.

I have one last stop to make, back to New Street (now Basil Street) off Sloane Street.

I want to see if I have any relatives inside. I could have a look at the Handy Shop while I’m in the neighbourhood. who knows what they might have on their shelves?


6 responses to “Empty streets: Sloane Street and Lowndes Terrace 1902

  • Lust & Rum

    Magnificent photographs, they should be cherished.

  • Michael Gall

    Poetic as ever Mr Walker. On a separate point I did photograph Lots Road my forty years later project. When I feel less unwell I will come into Local Studies to match my photographs with your Photographs from Lots Road 1972. Thank you for this blog.

  • Richard Kershaw

    I’d rather still see the Woolands building at the corner of Knightsbridge and William Street than the horrible, rotund Sheraton Park Tower building that replaced it. Thank you as always for the photographs of times gone by.

  • Clare

    Thank you for these wonderful photographs and words.

    The following link explains what became of Woollands http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45898#s5 If you click on the Plate references it will lead you a couple of images.

    My Mum used to work in Woollands in the late 40’s/early 50’s as a shop assistant and window dresser. She remembers Princess Margaret and her lady in waiting used to comevto buy gloves, scarves, handbags etc. which was the department in which Mum worked.

    The shop assistants had a secret language that they used to communicate in the presence of customers. I wonder if anybody knows anything about this secret language?

  • liz

    Great pictures, thank you! We lived directly behind Woollands at 69 Lowndes Square (a tidy four-story block of former “garconnieres” complete with bird-cage lift). I remember seeing the little gold chairs stacked up in the back for when they had fashion shows. We hated to see it pulled down and replaced by that hideous hotel. My mother loved Woollands and I still have a coat with their label in it.

  • c smith

    I recently acquired an advertising page for Woollands for their babywear department showing wonderful layette.

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