Summer in the city: the last days of Hurstway Street 1969

July 1969. A boy sits on the kerb playing, his father or brother nearby on the wall of the steps leading up to a house.  Take a look at the other houses and the general air of stillness in Hurstway Street. The streets were quieter in those days but this street is quiet because it’s awaiting demolition. If the house with the steps is where they live then they’re almost the last residents.

I picked Hurstway Street almost at random, looking through the Photo Survey pictures taken by the then library photographer John Rogers. It was this one which caught Imy eye first:

This shows the street from the other direction. It’s possible the boy and his father/brother are the figures visible in the distance but I was looking at the car. It’s a Ford Zephyr. A few years later in 1976 my friend Steve had one which he attempted to restore to working order. I think I sat in it, on one of the bench seats, in the cleaning bay at M——-  (P—- Street) Garage. On its maiden voyage the engine blew up and Steve was left on some road in north west London sitting with most of his worldly possessions in a vehicle which would never move under its own power again. So for me the car prefigures the fate of the street. And to make the point further look at the poorly parked vehicle in the distance on the right on the picture.

Some kind of Triumph? John was here that day to record the streets in the area in their last days but you can see why he took one of this wreck.

This is the location from a contemporary OS map:

Several of the streets in this space between Lancaster Road and the Metropolitan line were ready for demolition or slum clearance  as they used to call it. John walked several of them that day. Hurstway Street runs into Barandon Street.

Demolition has already begun. There is evidence of a much older way of life here too.

The street is quiet enough for the rag and bone man’s horse to take a break and have some refreshment. Do you see the advert for Tizer (the appetizer) that strange unnaturally coloured soft drink with a flavour I can barely recall now?

Beyond the blackened houses and boarded up shop fronts you can see the railway and the more recent housing blocks.

I imagine John turning from Barandon Street into Testerton Street.

There is another tiny group of people with business in the empty street. See the pile of tires and the house next to it with writing on the wall?

A strange and cryptic set of signs or slogans representing a final comment on the street?

As he inspected it John thought this van too had been abandoned.

Seeing the doors open he went into one of the houses and got this picture from a rear window:

Finally he completed the rectangle by entering Blechynden Street.

Blechynden Street looks slightly more active at first glance. But the houses are just as empty.

The only significant activity is taking place at the far end by the railway.

It looks as though a large number of tires are being loaded onto trucks and taken away. (Or it could be a delivery I suppose).

Here you can see a train passing overhead and through the tunnel a younger housing block on the way to Bramley Road. Another one of those cars with vestigial tail fins, which are the dull descendants of those baroque American cars of the 50s.

John’s walk round this rectangle of doomed streets is complete. I’m assuming that in the middle of July it would have been a sunny day, maybe even hot but you can’t see that in these pictures. Elsewhere in London people are sitting in the sun and having a good time, but here you can only see the grim business of a tiny part of the city being wound up and turned into a fading memory.

There are the boy and the man again, and a woman walking up the street. Perhaps they were just visitors like John taking a final look at Hurstway Street before it disappeared.  The names Testerton and Barandon were used again in new housing on Lancaster Road as was Hurstway – you can  find Hurstway Walk on modern maps but to the best of my knowledge the curious name Blechynden vanished with the street.

Map detail copyright Ordnance Survey.

All photos by John Rogers.

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27 responses to “Summer in the city: the last days of Hurstway Street 1969

  • Michael Gall

    Thank you David for crediting the photographer in this post. I have long wondered who we have to thank for these captured moments. As always with kindest regards. Michael

  • Chris Pain

    This is what Colin MacInnes thought about these streets:
    “On the east side, still in the w.10 bit, there’s another railway, and a park with a name only Satan in all his splendour could have thought up, namely Wormwood Scrubs, which has a prison near it, and another hospital, and a sports arena, and the new telly barracks of the BBC, and with a long, lean road called Latimer road which I particularly want you to remember, because out of this road, like horrible tits dangling from a lean old sow, there hang a whole festoon of what I think must really be the sinisterest highways in our city, well, just listen to their names: Blechynden, Silchester, Walmer, Testerton and Bramley—can’t you just smell them, as you hurry to get through the cats-cradle of these blocks? In this part, the houses are old Victorian lower-middle tumble-down, built I dare say for grocers and bank clerks and horse-omnibus inspectors who’ve died and gone and their descendants evacuated to the outer suburbs, but these houses live on like shells, and there’s only one thing to do with them, absolutely one, which is to pull them down till not a one’s left standing up.”
    Absolut Beginners (1958)

  • Des Elmes

    Blechynden Street hasn’t disappeared completely – the short section between the Hammersmith & City viaduct and Bramley Road is still there and still signed as such.

    The only things on it, though, are Bramley House (the housing block in the photo with the train passing over the viaduct), a car wash and a modern-day artists’ studio.

  • Carol Anne Walton

    Many good, decent, hardworking families lived in these streets and although they did not have all the mod cons of today, they kept themselves and the inside of their homes clean and tidy. I can assure you, YOU COULD NOT SMELL THE STREETS. Most of the properties were rented by people who only cared about the rent and nothing else.
    Latimer Road and all the other roads leading from it were by no means
    “the sinisterest highways in our city”. Times were very hard in those days. From a former resident of Walmer Road, whose family, going back generations were born and raised in that area.

  • margo

    Thank you for sharing the photos. My great great great grandmother is listed in the 1881 census as a laundress, aged 73, living alone at 10 Hurstway St. Thanks for giving me an insight into what her life might have been like.

  • mark

    I lived at number 23 Hurstway Street with my dad Roy and my nan and grandad George and Irene Holley. It’s fantastic seeing these pictures because my memory is very hazy because i was still very young when we moved from there due to it being demolished.

    • maggie oleary

      I am absolutely gobsmacked because I have just logged onto this site and lived in 6 Hurstway street where your family originally lived. We shared the house with them and then they moved across the road. We moved out in 1962 and still have great memories of those days.Maggie

      • Mark

        Wow, it’s great to hear from someone that remembers my family from all those years ago. Thanks for sharing you’re memories Maggie

  • sharon

    I wanted to ask if anyone remembers a photo being taken in hurstway st in 1968/69 or all the kids in the street. It was in a local paper entitled something like “kids in poverty”? I would love to get a copy of the photo

  • Susan Pull (Walsh)

    we left the street in 1963-64 , i was 10 yrs old, i was born in number 14, which is the house with the steps in photo, i have a pic somewhere of the street, it was my birthday and a lot of kids sitting on the steps , i remember Mrs rose used to live next door to us and the Coleman family lived further down , my friend Brenda Cannon lived opposite in the houses that backed onto our street , she lived with her gran Mrs moore , next door to them were the Woodhouse’s, and Dolly Woodhouse used to work at Latimer road station and let me sit on her high stool and collect tickets , also remember the Pugh’s, had twin girls ‘ Mrs Smith , did the then King of Englands ironing , so the story goes , also the Martin family lived opposite us, and the Hayley family lived in our house on the top floor , they currently reside in the tower block by the station , and are still in touch with my mother they are all in their 80’s now , also the Hayley family has a sister that lived in little tess, Testerton street, was divided, so one bit was big tess & the other little tess , great memories , but the street never looked that ramshackle i’m sure in as in the death throes in those pics, also remember going to the dairy to take the milk bottles back, Mrs Begley and her daughter Maria worked there, we also played in the mews which was at the end of the street and turn left and under the bridge , to sharon from an earlier reply i would like to see that photo as well but if it was taken that late i doubt i would know anyone .

    • karen cowley (bowen)

      Hi susan, my mum was a pugh, i am one of the twins, i had two older sisters linda and gill..
      I think we lived with margaret martin, who we called our aunty..
      love reading these stories..

      • susan pull

        Hi Karen Cowley
        Great t hear from you i have a pic here of my sister and I wearing outfits that your mum had given us because we were close in age every one thought we were twins as well where did you mpve to from there I don’t think you went to our school as it was ST Francis in Pottery Lane a Catholic school sorry didn’t reply sooner as just seen your message

  • Brian Lucas

    Hi Dave / John first I would like to say what a great collection of photos you have and a big thanks for all your hard work. The question I would like if you can help is one of the photos in the article of Blechynden Street south side 1969 there is a public house on the corner I don’t think there was a pub in Blechynden Street apart from the one on the corner of Bramley Road which was the york pub. I think this could be mersey street and the pub on the corner of silchester terrace am I wrong if i am do you know what the pub was called? I need to correct a few people that have no idea where this is.

    • Dave Walker

      I had to go back to the orginal photos and maps for this one as the pub has no trace of a name and the street sign above it is also obliterated. The 1935 OS map gives a clearer picture. Blechynden Street used to cross Bramley Road and eventually join up with Latimer Road (St Francis School was on that corner). By the time John took these photos quite a bit of Blechynden Street west of Bramley Road was already under development. So the pub is the York I think and its street address was 59 Bramley Road. As most of the rest of the pictures were from the west of Bramley Road in the Hurstway Street area I may have unwittingly caused some confusion as the main subject of the post was Hurstway Street. Over the years me, my staff and our customers have spent many hours looking at photos and maps trying to figure these things out. John’s photo survey pictures have become an invaluable tool for local history.

      • sharon athy

        Hello Dave,

        Can you find out or do you know of some journalist photos that were taken of ” the children living in poverty” in hurstway street between 1966 and 1969? I would love to get copies of the photos. My husband (Kevin Power ), was in those photos and they were published in a local newspaper. Needless to say his parents were so proud of the newspapers description of children in poverty, lol!! I would appreciate any help you can give me


        On Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:55 AM, The Library Time Machine wrote:

        > Dave Walker commented: “Brian I had to go back to the orginal photos > and maps for this one as the pub has no trace of a name and the street sign > above it is also obliterated. I had to go back to the 1935 OS map for a > clearer picture. Blechynden Street used to cross Bramley Road ” >

      • Dave Walker

        I’m not aware of any “poverty” photos of Hurstway Street in our collection. The newspaper concerned (The Kensington Post?) might have kept files – they were owned by the London Newspaper Group which still publishes local papers. The photographer Roger Mayne was also active in North Kensington in the 60s.

      • sharon

        Hello Dave, thank you for your reply. Unfortunately none of my husbands family can remember which newspaper took the photos. But the article was definitely about children living in poverty, which of course, no-one living in Hurstway at the time, considered themselves living in poverty. I am wondering now if it could have been a foreign journalist, as it would be unlikely a local paper would use such a harsh description. Unless anyone else out there remembers this photo and article, I guess we will never know. Thanks again Sharon

      • Brian Lucas

        Hi Dave thanks for your reply I have a photo of the york pub and it not the one in the photo the york was on the other side of the street to the other one in the photo, i had a look on the OS map of the area and there was a public house on the corner of mersey street and silchester terrace i sure this could be it i trying to find out the name of it, if you have any news it would be great. This is my photo of the York Pub

  • Carol Anne Walton

    Yes, the pub on the corner of Blechynden Street and Bramley Road was the York, next door to Mancini Icecream Shop. Their icecream was delicious.

  • Paul Todman

    I have just discovered this site and I find the pictures and posts amazing. My grandparents used to live in Blechynden Street – my grandfather was an Italian immigrant and he ran a shoe repair shop (no. 65) on the left hand side as you walked down from Bramley Road towards Latimer Road. I always found this environment slightly threatening but I was also always curious about it and strangely attracted to it. The house was just after the kink in the road as I recall. I reckon I have more or less pinpointed, using old maps, the exact place where their quirky old house used to be, which of course is under the Westway now. I would love to see any more pictures of the area and hear any more stories from locals or visitors at the time. My memories are mainly from my childhood early teenage years in the late 1950’s early 1960’s.

  • karen cowley (bowen)

    Hi susan, we moved to oakworth road, up by st quintens park. it’s lovely looking back at the old photo’s.
    we went to thomas jones school, then labroke ..
    where did you move too?
    where are you now?
    what was your sisters name?
    sorry for all the questions.
    my mum passed away when i was 29, bless her, she was only 69..

  • karen cowley (bowen)

    Hi Anyone remember the pugh family who had the coal merchants and totters?

  • Debbie Potter

    As a child I lived at no 25. I was part of the Bloomfield family. I remember a shoe menders in Blechynden St called ‘Buzzy Bees’. As a teenager my mum used to take her shoes in, usually just before a night out. I remember Pugh’s and the coalman delivering coal to the air raid shelter in our yard. I also remember the ‘Holly’s’ who lived next door. What I don’t remember is the street looking so run down and sad. it was a happy and lively place to live. My mum, Rose Bloomfield is still alive and healthy. She couldn’t believe the photos that I showed her and couldn’t stop talking about the good and colourful times when we lived there.

  • paultodman

    Hi Debbie. Can you remember whereabouts in Bletchynden Street the shoe repairers was? My grandfather had a shoe repairers at no. 65 but I don’t remember it being called Buzzy Bees, although my Nan’s maiden name was Bee and she was certainly a ‘buzzy’ character.

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