Christmas Days: A street in Kensington

This is the first of my Christmas bite-size mini-posts, daily for as long as I can stand it. A few pictures and a few words. I’ll publish mid evening to see how that goes.

I don’t know about any other archives but in our archive you sometimes find odd cuttings, odd papers and odd photographs which you can’t identify. Sometimes you can’t work out the source either. Mostly these things will be unremarkable, just stuff which someone in the past put aside intending to deal with one day. But sometimes there is something interesting there. Today’s post is about two photographs. I’ve called it a street in Kensington but it could be two streets.

Kensington unknown street 01

This is a modern (but not recent) print of an old photograph. The original had turned sepia with age but I don’t know where that is, or when the print was made. The view is of a quiet residential street near the middle of the 19th century. You can tell that the half a dozen or so people in the picture have gathered to look at the photographer.

Kensington unknown street 01 detail

The figures at either end, the two men and the boy haven’t stayed long enough for their images to be captured properly. The picture is reminiscent of the work of James Hedderly. The woman pushing a primitive pram is wearing a crinoline skirt, which dates the picture: somewhere between 1855 and 1865 and therefore quite early in the history of photography. This is an era before street photography was commonplace so people would stop and look. You have a little bit of a social cross section here – a couple of prosperous fellows, a cabman, a man and a boy leaning on the railings, the nursery maid. Street life in suburban London.

It might be possible to identify the street, but there were a lot of streets in Kensington which looked like this.

The other photograph looks down a similar street. Or are we just looking in the other direction?

Kensington unknown street 02

The houses on the left are detached and one has a distinctive facade, and the house facing us at the end looks similar to the one in the first picture.

As always with me, what makes a picture like this is the human factor. That woman  gliding slowly towards us.

Kensington unknown street 02 detail

Not much detail, but you can see another pram. (I think that must be a pram, although it’s a little hard to make out – possibly an effect of motion) The woman in the first picture could have been a nursery maid or some other kind of servant. This woman has a white parasol and a wide skirt trailing in the dust so is clearly the mother of the child in the pram, pushing it one-handed. (A very sunny day? Or was the parasol an essential accessory that year?) It might be my imagination working but she looks quite relaxed strolling up the empty street seemingly unaware that the photographer is capturing this random moment on a summer afternoon which will make it through to a December day a hundred and fifty years or so in the future.

Any keen-eyed readers who can name the street, or streets, please let me know. See you tomorrow.

6 responses to “Christmas Days: A street in Kensington

  • Zoe b

    St James square w11..

  • Sebastian

    The first photo is of Argyll Road looking North towards Campden Hill
    The second is of Upper Phillimore Gardens looking West towards Phillimore Gardens

    • Dave Walker

      Thanks, I think you’re right. I did a little bit of research today and I’m going to do a postscript featuring some later pictures.

      • Sebastian

        Hi Dave,my response was a bit slow but I think it’s right. Those streets are a stone’s throw from the RBKC customer centre.(Are you located there?)
        Looking forward to your post about the more recent shops on Ken.High St. There were quite a few innovative businesses back then,keep up the great work and thanks,Sebastian

      • Dave Walker

        Knowing where the streets were has thrown up some interesting information. I’ve even been out to take some pictures of how the streets look now. So I’m going to do a whole post on the subject in a couple of weeks. Thanks for giving me some new material to work with. We’re not in the cusomer service centre but in the building next door, the Library.

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