Last week’s pictures took us back to a time when there were still dozen of pubs in Chelsea. It’s true that they were changing in the early 1970s. The Lord Nelson in the King’s Road changed its name to the Trafalgar and became a “pub-discotheque” with a fairground theme. (The opening ceremony in 1970 featured the then up and coming British film star Julie Ege and George Lazenby pulling the first pint)The nearby Six Bells (featured in this post) also underwent a transformation which might not be to modern tastes. But at least these pubs were still there. Those two pubs are two of the survivors.
Here’s the Six Bells in its 70s guise as the Bird’s Nest (zoom in on the name):
But this week’s post is not about the 1970s. The heyday of Chelsea pub life was in the 1950s and 1960s, and John Bignell can take us back there.
It’s a world of men wearing suits where all the cool kids (and everyone else) smoked.
When pubs were popular:
The food was minimal.
But the staff were friendly:
[Freda, barmaid at the Chelsea Potter]
The conversation was good:
[Also the Potter, in 1955 when it was still called the Commercial]
Young and old all went to the same establishments:
[As is often the case with 1950s fashion, this couple could walk around today without attracting much commentbut you seldom see women with fur stoles over their shoulders]
And there were characters:
[Stratford Johns, television actor, star of crime dramas Z-cars and Softly, Softly]
[The landlady of the Lord Nelson before its transformation]
Gina Warr, not strictly speaking a pub landlady but the manager/co-owner of the Gateways Club in Bramerton Street, the legendary lesbian club. She was definitely a character.
Not to mention Bignell himself of course:
He’s at the Six Bells, one of his favourite haunts, where he could pull a pint, or just get back to what he did best:
An unusual view of the Six Bells garden, with some affluent looking Chelsea residents sitting in the sun.
My favourite of Bignell’s pub interiors though is this one:
I’m not sure where it is – all there is on the back of the print is “Chelsea pub interior”, but it catches something not only about the period – the intense young man in the suit juggling with half empty glasses and the woman in dark glasses listening to the man next to her – but also about pub life in general, the moments of quietness in the midst of a crowd of convivial drinkers.
This era was ending of course but there was something else starting.
Back at the Chelsea Potter the 50s was giving way to the 60s. That’s another story of course.
I was preoccupied with medical matters again this week, so my apologies if this post looks like it was put together quickly from a vague idea I had at the back of my mind – it was. Regular readers will spot a couple of pictures I’ve used before, but they did fit the theme. Thanks to all the people who liked last week’s post (lots of you). I’ll be getting around to part 2 as soon as I can.
The picture of the Bird’s Nest is by John Rogers. All the others are by John Bignell.