A short stroll down Westbourne Grove 1971-2

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.

Westbourne Grove looking east Nov Dec 1971 KS2297

These are the high numbers of Westbourne Grove. The street begins over the border in Westminster but we won’t go there today.

Westbourne Grove north side 304-306 nov 1971 KS2298

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]

Westbourne Grove south side 295-287 Dec 1971 KS2487

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:

Westbourne Grove south side 291-293 Dec 1971 KS2489

Past Portobello Road comes our friend from last week, Portobello Court.

Westbourne Grove Portobello Court Dec 1971 KS2470

It has settled into the local  landscape and become a familiar feature.

Westbourne Grove south side Longlands Court DEc 1971 KS2485

Across the road was Longlands Court.

At the intersection with Denbigh Road, Westbourne Grove widens out.

Westbourne Grove looking east from Denbigh Road Dec 1971 KS2472

The shops continue on both sides of the road, north:

Westbourne Grove north side 224-228 Dec 1971 KS2473

And south:Westbourne Grove south side 241-243 Dec 1971 KS2484

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.

Westbourne Grove north side 194-196 Dec 1971 KS2476

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?

Westbourne Grove south side 187-189 Jun 1972 KS3568

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?

Westbourne Grove south side 155-157 Jun 1972 KS3563

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.

Westbourne Grove south side 141-143 Jun 1972 KS3562

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.)

Westbourne Grove south side 113-135 Jun 1972 KS3561 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

Postscript

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.


4 responses to “A short stroll down Westbourne Grove 1971-2

  • Jamie Davis

    Hi Dave,

    In photo 10 the “vintage item” is an old Mercedes-Benz.

    In photo 11 the car you refer to isn’t an MG, but an Austin Healey 3000.

    However in the next photo the sportscar in front of the Fiat 500 is, I believe, an MGA Roadster.

    Best wishes,

    Jamie

  • Tony Fellowes

    I built a Holdsworth bicycle from parts (including the ‘gold mist’ frame) bought from EJ Barnes in 1981 which must be just out of shot in the 7th photo down. I believe he had had his shop there for a while as I have read of it being a racer’s ‘mecca’ and regular cafe stop much earlier than that.
    I foolishly sold the bicycle to pay for a speeding fine not long after but that’s another story…

  • Ginty Squire

    I have just found your site which has taken me down a lane full of memories. As a former Westbourne Grove resident, I can tell you that L’Artiste Assoiffe was a great restaurant but in the forties and fifties the building was a chemist and I went to school with the children. A very old-fashioned chemist with huge glass jars in the windows. I think it was briefly a coffee place before becoming the restaurant. I remember Obelix which was later and next door I think and the Express Dairy and Merton’s the newsagents were further along. Opposite, there were antique shops either side of the theatre/cinema all owned by the Jones family and again their daughter was at school with me. Finches was on the corner opposite the ‘chemist’ on Kensington Park Road.
    For a while, until the mid-eighties, I lived opposite Jimmy James and always used to have a drink with him on Christmas Day! Beyond the Star of Bombay was a large house with a drive-in which housed lodgers in my time opposite but became an upmarket hotel in the late nineties. I don’t know what it is now. And, of course, on the City of Westminster border was the Westbourne Grove Odeon cinema on the north/west corner with a shoe shop opposite. Shops replaced the cinema and 7 11 took over from shoes. That junction was Bradley’s Corner after the fur house on the south side which then became DSS offices.
    So many memories. Thank you. I shall follow you to see more of my old haunts.
    Regards

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