Christmas days: an empty lot

If you know South Kensington you’ll have seen this car park on the corner of Queen’s Gate and Harrington Road. it’s basically a patch of land gradually sloping down into a depression with a hut at the entrance and cars parked at various angles. The current owners have made some efforts with the boards that surround the site, commissioning an artist to paint cryptic phrases on them, which are mildly diverting as you pass them on the  bus. The site has been a car park since before 1989. I recently had a conversation with a customer who had been researching Queen’s Gate who asked the rhetorical question why had it never been developed in the last 25 years? Since 1989 we’ve had the  fall of the Soviet Union, the entire Prime Ministerial career of Tony Blair and the entire vampire killing career of Buffy Summers, but no-one has built on this site.


I said that although it wasn’t a reason, the clearing of the site has given us a side view of St Augustine’s Church, an interesting building which would previously have been obscured.

I’ve used this picture before in another context but it does illustrate the point.

Queen's Gate

The church looks quite hemmed in by the block on the left which includes the Hotel Imperial. The view below shows the church frontage. The church occupies a narrow site which aligns with the street behind it, Reece Mews, rather than Queen’s Gate. it looks a little squeezed in early pictures.

St Augustine's Church Queen's Gate PC817 - Copy

The clearing of the site behind the Hotel Imperial was the first step to visibility. These pictures from 1989 show the hotel closed and boarded up. The the lower floors are covered in corrugated iron.

Queen's Gate - Harrington Gardens Imperial Hotel 1989 K12543-B - Copy (4)

We must have sent our photographer John Rogers down there especially for these images.

Queen's Gate - Harrington Gardens Imperial Hotel 1989 K12543-B - Copy

An NCP car park already occupied part of the site.

Queen's Gate - Harrington Gardens Imperial Hotel 1989 K12543-B

Quite why the Hotel Imperial was demolished I can’t say. It doesn’t quite qualify as a “forgotten building” in the way I use the term on this blog, but it is certainly a vanished building, and therefore worth noting here. And, as I noted, its absence shows us the decorative (Byzantine?) style of the full length of St Augustine’s

DSC_5815 - Copy

Along with a number of enigmatic statements constituting a form of graffiti. My personal favourite:

DSC_5814 - Copy

But I’m a Talking Heads fan.

There is no particular connection with the church or the parking space and our soft toy picture of the day:


But Happy Christmas from three gorillas all called Tumba. See you tomorrow.

7 responses to “Christmas days: an empty lot

  • fitz

    Owned by the Shah of Iran I believe and left derelict after the Shah was deposed. Was supposed to be the site of a new Iran Embassy but given the chaotic situation in that country nothing’s ever come of it. A planning application for a modernist looking embassy was refused as recently as 2013.

    • Dave Walker

      Thanks, that’s excellent.

      • Edward

        IT still is owned by the Iranians Fitz/Dave, as I understand it they allowed it to become totally run down an there have always been rumours ref the fire etc.. a convenient way of clearing a site, if so an architectural crime! They are rich enough not to need to sell it so every few years a new App goes in for a Mosque/Islamic Cultural Centre and there is the usual local uproar etc! Could all be heresy but with the value of land round there you need deep pockets not to have to sell!

  • Dredwina

    I remember when the propped-up derelict building burnt down in the late 80’s. We were intrigued to see the remains of the Marquis of Queensberry’s private boxing rink visible in the rubble & lit by firelight with firemen and hoses all about. It was owned by the inventor of Queensberry Rules: was he also the scourge of Oscar Wilde?

  • teresastokes

    I have just unearthed a letter from a cousin of my grandfather, writing from the Hotel Imperial in 1956. She was a rich 90 year old widow (named Maive Boothby), and I believe that she actually lived there full time i.e. the Hotel Imperial was one of those residential establishments where well-off single ladies were able to respectably live on their own. This sort of lifestyle used to be very common for retired middle class folk with no dependants, but you almost never hear of people nowadays actually choosing to live in hotels in this manner. Apart from the Library Time Machine, I don’t seem to be able to find out anything else about the Imperial.

  • Carlos Vélez

    Hello, just adding a comment 4 years after the original post! I came across this post after hearing Pete Townsend in an interview talk about a club called “Blazes” which was the first place he ever saw Jimi Hendrix live. This peaked my interest as I hadn’t heard of the club before so I looked it up and it turns out it’s not Blazes but Blaises named after a comic book heronie from the 60s. The club was located in the basement of the Imperial Hotel on Queens Gate! Obviously all long gone. Anyway, glad to come across this post and looking forward to looking at the rest of the site. I know exactly where this empty lot is as I don’t live far and it’s been interesting to see all these connections come together. All the best!

  • Mike Abbott

    I too recall Jimi Hendrix in 1967 at Blaise’s, blasting out (alongside King Curtis) soul hits such as ‘Midnight Hour’. Access to Blaise’s was via an entrance at the junction of Queen’s Gate and Harrington Gardens, a steep flight down into the basement of the hotel. Exit, at 3 a.m., was via an exit on Harrington Gdns. The club’s oweners, Shieldhead, opened the Revolution club in the West End. The club’s exit, from basement to street level, inspired a 60s hit, ‘From The Underground’

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