Now, I had intended to do something colourful this week and get away from the zooming in on old photographs thing but this matter came up and the more I looked at it the more interesting it seemed (to me at least). So bear with me, and cast your minds back to the first of the short posts I did for Christmas. The one featuring these two photographs.
Unknown street number one:
And unknown street number two:
I invited readers to identify the streets. One guess was incorrect but the second which recently came in was spot on. Number one is Argyll Road and number two is Upper Phillimore Gardens. These streets are located only minutes from where I’m sitting writing this and as you can see from this map detail are joined at a right angle:
The red spots indicate the houses visible at the ends of the two streets. (I would be hovering somewhere in or over the buildings at the southern end of the big garden you can see on the right.)
To verify the identification I looked for some other later images of the two streets, first in our postcard collection. This is a picture of Argyll Road:
The viewpont is further up the hill I think so the slope as shown by the garden walls on the right is accentuated. The house at the end (which is located in Upper Phillimore Gardens of course) looks more or less the same, although some alterations may have been made in what might 30 years or more between the images.
I think this picture might be closer to the first one:
Let’s take a moment to zoom in on this incident packed image.
You have a girl looking at the photographer, a couple of men, a cart, a woman walking away, and a dog keeping an eye on the scene.
Now compare those pictures with a couple I took myself:
We won’t make too much of all the parked cars. It’s just something the modern photographer has to put up with. You can see that the house, which looks quite similar to the one in the older photographs has had some extensive work done to it. My colleague K looked it up on the Council website and found an extensive planning history not uncommon in the Campden Hill area. But the shape of the house and its position in the street are sufficiently similar to identify it as the same building.
If you walk up the hill and turn left (west) , you’re in Upper Phillimore Gardens.
The postcard, once again about 30 years later than the sepia print was taken from a viewpoint further back but it’s recognizeably the same tranquil street. The trees have had some years to grow but it still looks like the same peaceful (and affluent) backwater. Here it is now:
A rather less uniform lines of fences and walls.
The house at the end of course is on Phillimore Gardens, which runs south to Kensington High Street. Here it is in the orginal picture:
Some changes to the facade obviously, but essentially the same structure. (These things can be deceptive of course. I know a house in the Brompton area which was completely demolished and a copy of it built on the same site. If it wasn’t for the photos of the empty site you could have mistaken the copy for the original. I might tell you that story one day.)
So we’re done then. Streets identified, problem solved. That’s true but I think that time spent looking at old photographs is never wasted. The first time I looked at picture number 2 I was intent on the woman, who both dates the image and gives it some character. I honestly never noticed that guy on the left.
The tall hat gives him a distinctly mid-Victorian look. And what’s he up to? It almost looks as if he’s watching the woman on the other side of the road. Are we in The Crimson Petal and the Rose territory? Well let’s not get carried away. There’s another interesting detail in the picture, an architectural feature.
This slice of an ornate facade is described in Charles Eastlake’s A history of the Gothic Revival: The front is of red brick, with stepped gables. A picturesque staircase turret is on the right hand of the building, and a Venetian-looking balcony projects from one of the windows. As K read the words out loud I thought that was the last piece of evidence we needed to identify the street. Photographs of this house are evidently rare. The Survey of London didn’t have one and referred to a 1924 edition of another book. I’m trying to get to see that. The reason for the rarity is that the house was extensively remodelled in a modern style in 1937. When I went looking I found some pictures of that version of the building and, you’ve guessed it, they will form the basis of another post. This of course is one of the benefits of doing a little bit of research to confirm an identification.
Not too obsessive for you I hope. The credit for identification (and thanks) should go to reader Sebastian S who set the ball rolling. I’m still not sure where the two photographs came from but I’m glad to make the most of them.
Next week, postively, definitely something different from zooming in on old photographs, as much as I like that. And apologies to Camilla. I promised her a Chelsea post this week. Definitely next week!