Forgotten streets of Chelsea

I’ll have to start by qualifying that title. Chelsea people have long memories so I should really say streets forgotten by some people. For others the streets demolished in 1969/70 to clear the area for the building of the World’s End Estate will never be forgotten, and for others still the act of demolition never be forgiven. But for those of you who don’t remember, or those who never knew let me just say there was an enclave of streets in the west of Chelsea which no longer exist. This 1935 map shows them and gives you the roll call of streets which have passed into history.

1935 OS map X29 World's End streets - Copy

Raasay Street, Bifron Street, Vicat Street, Dartrey Road, Seaton Street, Luna Street – all gone now, and somehow the names themselves are redolent of another time and an older, slightly rougher version of Chelsea. The stub of Blantyre Street lingers on at the edge but you can see that the five (or six) sided shape is now a sunken island among the more familiar names like Edith Grove and Cremorne Road.

Our photographer John Rogers went down there in 1969 and caught those streets in their final transition from a living neighbourhood to an empty shell. You may have seen pictures of some of these streets before. (I did a post on the general history of the World’s End). But this post is purely concerned with the last days of these almost forgotten World’s End streets.

World's End looking north 1969 KS1913

1969. Look at that woman waiting to use the phone. If she could step into 2014 and stand in pretty much the same spot she would see more or less the same buildings. But if she turned around and looked behind her…

St John's Church World's End 1969 KS1848

She would see St John’s Church and Mission Hall at the intersection of Blantyre Street and Dartrey Road. If she looked to her left and she could see Blantyre Street.

Blantyre street looking east 1969 KS 1878

A street full of parked cars which leads tothe last few numbers of Cheyne Walk. (What’s that large one on the right?)

Check the map. You can turn right from Blantrye Street into Seaton Street.

Seaton St looking south 1969 KS 1896

The tree at the end is on the embankment overlooking the houseboats.

Seaton St east side 1969 KS 1900

In Seaton Street there’s all sorts of semi-erased football graffitti on the wall next to the Chelsea Corner Cupboard including the incomplete inscription Osgood Aven(u)e which must be a reference to Peter Osgood. (“Osgood is God” vied with “Clapton is God” as mottos on the wall  back in 1969)

Behind Seaton Street was Luna Street,

Luna St West side 35-37 1069

where you could still kick a ball down the street if you wanted to. Dartrey Road ran north to south.

Dartrey road looking south 1969 KS 1832

Those tower blocks in the distance are on the Battersea side of the river. Running west from Dartrey Road was the oddly named Raasay Street.

Raasay Street south side 1969 KS1790

Here you can see the first signs of demolition. This is a closer view of the same scene.

Raasay St north side 1969 KS 1793

Mixed rags and scrap metal still available.

In Bifron Street houses were already vacated.

Bifron street looking West 1969 KS 1795
Some signs of a road closure as a truck gets ready to go.  And below, the interior of a house is laid bare.

BIfron street north side 1969 KS1798

In Vicat Street (Vicat sounds like the name of a dissolute Victorian aristocrat) the process is further along.

Vicat St North side 1969 KS 1813

You can almost smell the dust rising in this picture and the ones below.

Vicat St South Side 1969 KS 1807

Wallpaper is still visible on the walls of those exposed rooms, and debris in the street.

Vicat St South side 1969 KS 1810

The empty A F Stokes shop, along with some more unsuccessfully executed football related graffitti. It all looks quite forlorn.

So let’s go back, away from the devastation. If that woman is still in the phone box she can look west and see this view.

Dartrey terrace 1969 KS 1845

Still a little life left in those World’s End streets. The corner of a pre-war car, second hand goods, fish and chips plus whatever they sold at Gandalf’s Garden. All gone, not so very long after these pictures were taken.

Postscript

Don’t think I’m down on the World’s End Estate. I’ve been inside and there are some very nice flats there. And the view is astonishing. I’ve no doubt that living conditions some of the houses in the demolished streets must have been pretty grim. But there is aways a price to be paid for development.


31 responses to “Forgotten streets of Chelsea

  • Jane Battye

    I doubt that anything much was sold at Gandalf’s Garden. There is a website about it with a gallery of pictures of the shop.

    • Dave Walker

      Jane
      Good to hear from you. I always thought GG was some kind of counter cultural emporium – when I was at school I once got a letter from them after a letter I wrote to the science fiction / fantasy bookshop Dark they were and golden eyed got delivered there.
      Dave
      PS You should see your old office.

  • actonbooks

    And a Wikipedia entry no less…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandalf%27s_Garden
    It seems that Tolkien was happy to allow them to use the name.

  • Scott Hatton

    Raasay is a Inner Hebridean island

  • Paul Grace

    I grew up in these very streets. We left in about 1966. Far from being a grim place to live, it was great. we could play out in the streets without fear of cars and kick a ball or play on homemade go carts. Very happy memories. Thanks for posting these photos. Wonderful.

  • neil harrison

    Before it became Gandolfs garden it was the Home & Colonial, a grocer/food shop. And pre Rashbrooks scrap shop it was a coffee shop with pinball machines etc owned by a large woman named Wiggy, where “it was alleged” you could buy speed and other mind altering concoctions😀, and the rolling stones used to practise out the back. My mum worked even further out the back making curtains for Tates, the curtain makers.

  • Linda James

    My cousins, Lou Byrne, Coral Byrne, Heather Byrne, Mary Byrne lived in Raasay street. More cousins, June,Jack and Robert Holmes lived in Dartrey road, their Mum and Dad was Rosie and Jack Holmes. I loved the World’s End. I lived in Uverdale road. If I think of “Home” it looks like this, not tower blocks. Great photo’s

    • Paul Grace

      Are you related to Iain and Stephen Byrne?

    • Alan King

      Are you related to Steven Holmes, I’m sure he lived either Uverdale or Upcerne roads, and went to Ashburnham school, in the same class as me, he also had a cousin in the class.

      • Linda James

        Hi Alan, there lives a little story around Steven Holmes. I only knew him when I was an adult as he knew my brother through playing football. To shorten the story. I connected through friends reunited an old friend who I had not seen for 46 years and she lived in California. She grew up with me across the road in Uverdale. We went out to her and her husband they lived a magnificent life ! Whilst her husband was driving around in his huge Mercedes a guy spotted his plate which was. CFC BLU. This guy popped a card under the wiper to say. You must be. CFC fan. I am also. My friends husband rang the guy, inviting him over to watch the game and the guy said. I have a friend who is from Chelsea can I bring him. My friends husband said fine so they all met up. Barry my friends hubby spoke to the guys and the friend that was brought along said he came from Chelsea, Barry asked what road. Uverdale was the answer, Barry could not believe it and said his wife grew up there as well! You have probably guessed it was Steven Holmes. We went out to California. Met up with my pal after 46 years. Met Steven who has a second marriage and children out there and even more bizarre was the guy who put the card under Barry’s windscreen in the first place, came from a little place we once lived in and knew everyone we knew. It was wacky ! 6000 miles and that happens !!! Nice to be in touch. If only we could go back just for a day to see old friends and places as they were in the 1950’s. Ah well, it shaped us as we are now.
        Kind regards. Linda James. ( Was Linda Duffield)

  • Alan King

    Thanks for the photo’s, I lived in 5 Raasay St until moved out in 1966, our next door neighbours were Mr & Mrs Holmes and daughter Elaine,

    • Tina Hilson

      Hello Alan, I was actually in your class too at Ashburnham, Tina Hilson, and I have been trying to trace Elaine Holmes for years. You might remember that we were best friends but I moved away from Lots Road when it was demolished 1965. Elaine also had an older sister Joyce.
      I know she went to Carlyle after Ashburnham, but all my searches are proving fruitless.

      • alan143king

        Hiya Tina, I thought Elaine moved to Fulham from Raasay St, when we moved to Stockwell I lost contact with everyone,

        Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    • Tina Hilson

      Thanks Alan, I will continue my search then! Derek Smith was Steven Holmes’s cousin. Like you I moved away and lost contact with everyone. Such a shame as I have lovely memories of my life in Chelsea and of Ahburnham School.

    • Tina Hilson

      Actually, Steven’s cousin might have been Keith Thatcher, not Derek Smith!

      • Alan King

        Tina, I think you were right first time, Stevens cousin was Derek, i’m sure of it, they lived in the pre fans in Upcerne or Uverdale rd, as you say good times, would like to go back to Chelsea one dayfor a look see, just finding the time, I live in GlGloucestershire now.

  • Minkie Best

    I lived in Luna Street all my childhood until the area was smashed down. We moved out on the 1st of January 1970, the last possible day, with two thirds of the street already demolished.

    I’d go to Gandalf’s Garden every week for their talks on topics now found at the Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit, and other alternative and hippy events. Don’t know about drugs, I was too young, but we’d be handed cups of camomile tea while we sat cross-legged on the floor of the basement in great rows.

    I didn’t dare go down Seaton Street because I’d been told there had been a murder there.

    So many memories, I never understood why the houses were not rehabilitated instead of killed – money to be made I suppose.

  • Brendan Gardiner

    Hi, Thanks very much for these interesting photos and article. For some time I’d been curious about the location of the ‘Second Hand Dealer’ on the cover of the 1973 album rock ‘Brian Joseph Friel’. Viewing the photos in your article it’s clearly the building on the corner of Dartrey Road and Raasay Street. http://rateyourmusic.com/artist/brian_joseph_friel The US release had photos of Mr. Friel in a cafe, which I guess was taken in the same area and wondered if any of your readers might recognise that? This is the front sleeve photo, showing the exterior of the cafe http://www.musicstack.com/album/brian+friel/brian+joseph+friel and this is from the back cover and shows the interior http://www.proaudioinfo.com/disk-market/jk/2L-04267a.jpg

    Regards, Brendan

    • Neil Harrison

      Hi Brenden – the cafe in the picture is on the corner of lots road and ashburnham road – it’s not been a cafe for some years -it’s still a shop premises but at the moment it’s empty and unoccupied .

      • Brendan Gardiner

        Hi Neil, Thankyou very much for that information. I’ve just looked at the shop on Google Streetview and it’s amazing that it is virtually unchanged in over 40 years. Incredible it hasn’t succumbed to renovation. I wonder how much longer it will remain recognisable?

  • Roger Tiller

    What fantastic photos, remember it well, keep them coming.

  • Tracy Erdos

    Thankyou so much for these photos. My grandad Thomas Bolton lived in Dartrey Rd, I visited the worlds end estate as it is now but could bear no relation to his memories before he left to join the navy, aged 18 in 1938. He attended Park Walk school and I can just imagine him kicking a ball around these streets. He was a lifelong Chelsea fan & it was an unwritten rule we all followed suit!

  • mspector39

    What interesting and lovely photos,but it makes me sad to see all these houses which are no longer here. Terrible demolition is happening now to heritage buildings in the guise of Regeneration (social cleansing) and behind closed doors so that by the time one hears about it, it is too late to campaign.

  • Ray Lamb

    Great to read all these happy memories from lots road and worlds end area , I lived there myself in uverdale road from 1957 and left to move to Fulham when I was eleven . I went to ashburnham school. They were great days for me , I was never indoors , always playing football in the streets , go karting or Jacko skating until the sun went down with my friends . I lived at number 53 and I am sure our neighbours over the road were called duffield , the name john comes to mind but it was long ago 😀 . My parents were Stan and maria lamb , my dad was a postman and my mum who was Austrian which made her stand out a bit 😉, did cooking and cleaning jobs along kings road , I think it was tough times for people then but they had good friends who lived around them and they were happy. I saw a post from Neil Harrison and I’m sure I knew him to , other names were the Pullingers , Fraser Granham ( excuse the spelling ) and Anthony keen , Ian Dew . I remember The Chelsea player Alan Hudson lived around the corner in the prefabs . I’m coming up for 59 now but I never forget my lots road roots 😀 . Thank you all for bringing it all back .

    • Linda James

      Hi Ray Lamb ! I am Linda the middle Duffield child. Yes I do remember your family, very nice mum and dad you had. You must join our group: History and memories, our West London connections. It’s a Facebook group that is very very friendly. Amazing memories of our area, you will love it. Kind regards. Linda James. ( Duffield )

    • Neil Harrison

      HI Ray, I remember you and your mum and dad very well . I once went to your house for tea straight after school aged 7/8 . Your mum asked me if my parents knew I was having tea at your house, to which I replied “they knew” ( I hadn’t in fact told them ). Come 7pm there were police and other parents searching for “missing” Neil Harrison who hadn’t been seen since leaving school at 3.30 , oh how they laughed when they found me, i can still feel the pain – on a sadder note David Pullinger and Frank Dew both tragically died at a young age.

      • Ray lamb

        Good to hear from you Neil , same thing I can remember having T at yours , great story about the police , that must been interesting !! . have got it in my head that you went on to do photography , could be wrong 😀. I did know about David I think he was in a coma for many years , very sad . Anyway I hope things are well with you and it was great to catch up. I have been back to uverdale and everything looks so small from how I remember it , I think my dad would have liked a pint in the Chelsea Ram , it was empty in those days . I will keep an eye out for more posts , all the best , Ray .

  • John Harler

    Hi Dave! Thanks for a fascinating website, which I just stumbled across. I grew up in Twickenham in 1950’s and ’60’s with frequent visits to London and this blog is a real trip down memory lane. I left the UK in 1969 and have only visited for holidays and I’m shocked at the changes since then. I have always visited the West Country where my family is and was not aware of the drastic changes in parts of London. The car you ask about is, I believe, a 1960 Humber Super Snipe. Keep up the good work!

  • Carole Stewart

    Wow, so good to see these photos. Just as I picture my first home in Dartrey Road in my memory. We lived at number 5, the top flat. My mum moved there before she was married. By the time we left in 1968, there was my dad, me aged 6 and a baby brother.- one bedroom, shared toilet with the flat downstairs and a bath in the kitchen! The place they moved us to in Roehampton seemed wonderful. A lot of us moved to the new estates in Roehampton. I went to Servite Convent and was so upset when I had to leave. Thank you for posting all of this

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