1971. A bright day, in November possibly. On the right of the picture 120 Kensington Park Road,a branch of Finch’s Wine. The start of our little walk.
These are the high numbers of Westbourne Grove. The street begins over the border in Westminster but we won’t go there today.
The restaurant on the corner was called L’Artiste Assoiffe. We looked quite closely at the building one day at the Library and concluded that it was larger than the ones beside it because it may have been the developer’s own house. It has always stuck in my mind because my friend Tony did some temporary work there one day in the 1970s and was given four LPs by the German band Faust who had eaten there. The music meant nothing to the proprietors and not much more to Tony but I was a bit of a fan so they ended up with me, and I still have them. (I saw Faust at the Rainbow about 1974 although saying saw is stretching it as the stage was in near total darkness, a complete contrast to the support band Henry Cow who practically brought a whole circus with them including jugglers, dancers and a man who ironed clothes throughout the performance.I digress)
Kelly’s Directory of 1972 conforms the identity of the shops – the Catherine Buckley boutique, an Express Dairy and several antique shops. (Portobello Road is just up the road.) I think the pancake restaurant Obelix was later on this part of the street. That was more in my price range at the time – I remember going there a lot in the early 80s. (I’ll look it up when I get back to the Library.)[Update – it was at 294, so probably in the right block just out of the picture]
The south side also had many antique shops. The picture is dated December 1971 although that group of girls on the left don’t look like they’re dressed for winter. The photographer John Rogers was also in the street in June 1972 so there may be room for confusion. I’ll ask him next time I see him.
Number 291, an antiques warehouse, the building with the classical arch in the centre of the picture had been the home of the Twentieth Century Theatre used by the Rudolf Steiner Association. Before that it was a cinema and the headquarters of the Lena Ashwell Players. If you remember we encountered Miss Ashwell a couple of weeks ago having dinner with Yoshio Markino. A closer look:
Past Portobello Road comes our friend from last week, Portobello Court.
It has settled into the local landscape and become a familiar feature.
Across the road was Longlands Court.
At the intersection with Denbigh Road, Westbourne Grove widens out.
The shops continue on both sides of the road, north:
The retail ground floors all jut out from the solid mid-19th century houses above.
This has also become a walk for my car identifying readers.
Look at the vintage item in the foreground and the Jaguar / Daimler on the other side. What does it tell us about the residents and visitors to this semi-Bohemian quarter? Look closely at the twin towered building in the distance, the former Baptist Chapel. Modern residents will note that it lacks the spires it has now and did once before. What befell the original structures?
In the centre of the picture a shop called Dodo Designs, wholesalers of fancy goods. We’re moving away from the antique district now. Is that an MG in the foreground?
Further along another sports car, in front of a Fiat 500. Opposite, the Star of Bombay restaurant, still there today.
Below, a motorbike to be identified.
Over the road the Jimmy James grocers (one of two shops Jimmy James had in the street at the time), next door to Chipstead Productions, film editors and cutters, and further along a little shop called Bon Bon (confectioners – not many shops these days are exclusively devoted to confectionery. Even Hotel Chocolat serves coffee.)
You can also see Bon Bon in the final picture in the shadow of the tall building with an ornate tower at the intersection of Pembridge Villas and Chepstow Place. In its glory days it had been a bank but at the time of this photo (dated June 1972, as are all the pictures from this end of the street) it was another antique dealer’s premises.
Westbourne Grove goes on into the City of Westminster, but John had reached the end of his mission so we don’t have the resources to step over the border. Our walk comes to an end with the sun shining brightly on 1970s Westbourne Grove. I came to London in 1973 so these pictures come from an era when it was all new and exciting for me. So I never tire of going back there
Just as this week’s post was suggested by last weeks I’m now thinking of turning south and heading towards Pembridge Road for another Secret Life of Postcards special. We’ll see if that works out.