The secret life of postcards 3: walking around in the afternoon

I was going to call this post “Son of the secret life of postcards” in homage to the naming of old fashioned horror fims (Son of Dracula, Son of Frankenstein etc) but not everybody would get that (sequels are usually just numbered these days) or even find it funny and if I did another one in the future (as I’m sure I will) I would be obliged to call it House of the secret life of postcards (or even Bride of the secret life of postcards) which would be stretching the joke too thin. So a simple “3” will have to do.

So that minor point aside I’ve been looking again at the people and details you can find in picture postcards of the late 19th century and early 20th century. The photographers liked to include a few figures to liven up the pictures and it seems passers by took an interest in the work of the photographers. Some of the images are sharp enough to show us a great deal of detail. Enough to get an impression of the people in the pictures, and enough to speculate about their lives if you find that interesting. We recently had a creative writing course at the Library which used photographs from the Local Studies collection including postcards as the basis for writing short stories. You can try it yourself.

It may be my speculation but most of the pictures this week look like they were taken in the afternoon, when middle class husbands were at the office, their wives walked around doing various errands and their children amused themselves.  Like this group of girls strolling together along Holland Park. (The street of that name rather than the park itself).

Holland Park PC804 again

Big houses, wide streets. Five sisters?

Holland Park PC804 detail

Just like in an E Nesbit novel.

Here’s another gang:

Addison Gardens PC825

This group is obligingly posing for the photographer.

Addison Gardens PC825 copy

Another bunch of sisters taking the youngest siblings out for a walk? The girl on the left is shielding her eyes as she looks across the road at our man with the camera.

Holland Park Avenue PC881

Holland Park Avenue, the main drag in this area.

Holland Park Avenue PC881 detail

Three young friends out together, a delivery boy from the West London Dairy Company and what about that tall guy? A parcel, or a paper in his hands?

Princedale Road junction PC874

Two more women walk past Clarke’s Drug Store (“High class drug and photographic stores”) with its enormous sign urging the guys on the corner to “Drink Vicora!”

Princedale Road detail PC874

You could make a telephone call inside Parkes.

Holland Park Tube Station PC869

Holland Park Station is little changed from this picture. A little less signage these days but essentially the same shape.

Holland Park Station PC869 detail

Two women wearing aprons wait outside. Are they meeting someone?

Some postcards haven’t survived very well, like this one of Holland Road:

Holland Road PC494

Chemical decomposition has done its work. But the over exposed effect and the slightly monotonous view makes the main detail the focus of interest:

Holland Road PC494 detail

The mismatched pair of women, one tall, one short. Are they walking together, or is the tall one just passing the other who may have just emerged from that gateway?

This view of Holland Walk has also suffered a little.

Holland Walk pc 289

But mothers and /or nursemaids out with children in prams can still be made out:

Holland Walk PC289

I don’t know why there are more prams than women to push them.The woman’s white dress has lost some definition.

By contrast this view from south of the high street has stayed quite sharp:

Victoria Grove PC950

I recognized this quiet corner as soon as I came across it. I used to walk this way sometimes on my way to the library.

Victoria Grove PC950 zoom

This time it’s two boys hanging around watching the photographer work.

Now a couple of views of the same building, Kensington High School in Norland Square.

Norland Square PC870

The close up makes the building look much more exotic,  like a French chateau.

Norland Square PC870 - Copy

A lone woman pauses at the door.

In this view also a close up of a similar picture a different woman waits at the door:

Norland Square PC871 - Copy

Perhaps she is waiting for the girl in the foreground. A late-comer?  And that dog looks a little weary.

We’ve skirted around Holland Park but in the next picture we’re right outside.

Holland Park gates PC889 - Copy

The gates are quite recognizable but at this time remenber, Holland House was a home for the Illchester family and the park was a private estate. Some photographers got inside though.

Holland House PC801

In this view you can just make out a solitary figure by the house, just a flash of white.

Holland House PC801 detail

The close up makes thelady barely more visible. This time the photographer was probably there by invitation with the intention of just recording the house. Like in a Victorian Blow-up he catches the image of the woman in white by accident. That’s definitely one for the creative writing group. I had better not go there. Back to the busy streets.

Addison Road PC910 detail

Places to go, people to see.


If you like postcards there are plenty of books full of them. One excellent example is Hermione Cameron’s Notting Hill behind the scenes. Some of the images in Hermione’s book come from our collection. She has a sequel due out in August: Holland Park behind the scenes. This will be one to look out for if you’re a lover of old Kensington.

I had a lot of new readers last week, who set a new daily record of 5169 pageviews on July 4th. So thanks to all of them and to everyone who reads this blog regularly. I really can’t do it without you.

6 responses to “The secret life of postcards 3: walking around in the afternoon

  • Pam

    I always look forward to receiving your blogs. love the old photos.

  • William

    Very nostalgic. Using Google Earth I’ve pinpointed the exact spots where the girls were standing in Holland Park (the street) and Addison Gdns. Also Victoria Grove. Truly a time machine, but somehow sad at seeing what we have lost.

  • Clare Greenall

    Hi – another fab post. The drink being advertised at Parkes is Vicoral, a sort of beefy tonic of the day. Urgh!

  • Michael Hollamby

    Very interesting pages……..The two pictures below the caption “Some postcards haven’t survived very well, like this one of Addison Road:” are actually pictures of Holland Road,not Addison Road.Cheers.

    • Dave Walker

      Well spotted. I don’t know why no-one’s seen that before now.

      • Michael Hollamby

        Have you ever done a report or have any old pictures of Addison Road Dave? I lived at number 16 from 1963 to 1979 so would be very interested in anything you might be able to find about it!…… I believe number 16 was once owned by the politician brother of Sir Robert Peel;founder of “The Peelers” London Metropolitan Police.

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