The Westway in colour: 1971

A friend of mine once defined psycho-geography as walking around and thinking about what you see. By that definition we’re all psycho-geographers at one time or another. So although Bernard Selwyn had no notion of psycho-geography when he took these pictures, he was on a psycho-geographical tour into new territory. This  week’s post takes us north of the Latimer Road areas we’ve been looking at recently to look at the almost new Westway in full 1970s colour.


A concrete island, with high rise blocks of flats on the Silchester Estate.


It looks remarkably pleasant doesn’t it, even if you discount the bright tone of film processing in those days? A garden space with newly planted trees, above which interlocking curves of concrete soar in a harmless fashion. In the distance bright airy towers bring modernity and convenience. The residents lived in the sky, where once they had to huddle in crowded streets. Well, that was the idea anyway. The high rise living concept was optimistic, but already tinged with misgivings even by 1971.

Construction work was still going on when Selwyn passed by.


This is the point where the Westway met the giant roundabout which connected with the West Cross route, which we’ve already seen in Selwyn’s pictures. One of those towers is Frinstead House, Selwyn’s vantage point for some of his pictures, although the one that looms largest in the picture may be Markland House and the far distant one to the left Dixon House.

Those two drums caught his attention more than once.

There is little traffic as yet on the road above, and that van looks like it barely belongs in 1971.


What’s that in the middle of the road. Some kind of roller?

This view looking more or less east.


A single resident crosses the new space. Here she is again.


This view is looking south. You can make out the towers of the Edward Wood Estate and signs of life beneath the concrete decks.


Behind the chain link fence wagons, possibly belonging to totters or market traders.


The chimney is another landmark, on the Hammersmith side of the West Cross Route.

Now we head south.


Beneath the shadow of the slip road we head back towards the streets we already know.


The building in the foreground is a school, labelled Thomas Jones School on the 1971 OS map but later I think, known as Latimer school. It became a referral unit. In the gap between is the Phoenix brewery and then the Harrow Club glimpsed in the previous Selwyn post, formerly Holy Trinity Church. In front of that, the yellow painted building, formerly a pub, was the Ceres Bakery.


The classic  late 19th/early 20th century school design, tall and imposing with large windows for enlightenment.  It makes an interesting contrast  with the tower behind


Here, Selwyn took a look back.


The slip road runs into the West Cross rout. In the emptiness the lights, the gantry, the grass and the saplings wait for whatever comes next.

Later there was a a BMX track here.


The fence on the right conceals the West Cross Route heading south to Shepherd’s Bush.  If we follow around the corner….


we come to the point where Bard Road gives up the ghost. We’re now looking directly south.


A train crosses above the road. In the foreground the steps lead up to the former Harrow Mission, the oldest building in the immediate area, a precursor of the Club. The entrance is bricked up but that was just a temporary measure. then but not now. The building beyond is the rear of the steam cleaning company seen in the previous Selwyn post, later demolished  and now one of those large storage facilities with identical silent corridors.

All these pictures come from 1971. A picture from 1988 shows the Westway after more than a decade of use.

Silchester Estate 1988 003 - Copy

There you can see Markland Tower with the full sweep of the roundabout and the interconnecting roads behind it, a gasometer in the distance an a view looking down at the school building in the foreground. That may be the BMX track behind it.

I can’t say what Selwyn’s feelings about this new landscape were. But there are some more pictures on this roll of film which provide an addendum to this post.

Latimer Road had like Bard Street been truncated by the new road but if you follow its path north on older maps, it comes to a junction with North Pole Road. In that vicinity you find Wormwood Scrubs, then as now an open patch of land.

I can’t place these photos exactly. Perhaps they’re on the west side of the Scrubs. Old Oak Common, Acton and Park Royal have all been suggested to me. Selwyn was evidently up here to record some activity connected with scouts or cadets.


So in contrast with the new development further south, here’s an idyllic patch of land with some small scale activity going on.


A couple of men in suits walk through an quiet landscape heading home.


For those of you who know the area this picture should provide a good clue.


Any suggestions are very welcome.


My thanks to Maggie and Barbara for their help identifying buildings and general orientation. This is the last Selwyn post for a while but we’ll definitely see him again.

We’ll be doing more on the Westway this year so watch out if you’re a fan of concrete.

12 responses to “The Westway in colour: 1971

  • Roger J Morgan

    The scout tents are at the junction of Old Oak Common Road and Wulftstan Street, on the NW corner of Wormwood Scrubs. You can see Braybrook Street housing in the distance on one of them. Unbelievably changed but the breeze block wall is still there, lowered.

  • Dave Hucker

    It was called Tent City and was for (European) backpackers to find somewhere cheap to sleep during the summer.

  • theworldismymarble

    I never even thought that at one point it was so empty. I go there almost everyday, I wonder how quickly the west way got build it up.

  • James Farndale

    Great pictures, I’m glad you’re enthusiastic about this history and doing a fine job. I hardly recognized Latimer Road primary school that I attended after coming home from being evacuated to Wales with my Brother to a place that didn’t feed us the same food that his son had. I attended the school from 1943 to 1950,

  • Matthew

    These are great. A side note: this junction is the setting for J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, a couple of years later.

    • Dave Walker

      i did toy with the idea of inserting titles of Ballard novels into the text but it seemed too tricksy so I only used the two unavoidable ones.But one of these days I’ll do a proper Ballard-based post.

  • John white

    Funny I would move in 22 years later in the area as I kid.i remember my dad driving parking and saying no fucking way.i am not living here.the Markland entrance was a disaster and open for all stairway.the lift full of piss and spit.funny we still live there.i wouldn’t want to live anywhere just never know how things turn out.

  • Dave Clemo

    I went to school at St Clement Danes in DuCane Rd and we used to run cross country on the scrubs. Out of the school gates, turn right in front of the hospital, up the track between the hospital and the prison then turn left and run between the prison wall and the trees. At the end of the trees turn right past the football pitches, down to the railway, then along the boundary to the avenue of trees by the railway bridge over Scrubs Lane, run down Scrubs Lane past the girls school and the Pavilion pub, turn into Ducane road back to school. There was a longer course that involved running past the tent city up past Old Oak Common Depot to the canal, run along the towpath to Mitre Bridge and down Scrubs Lane to Ducane Rd and school.

  • David Rowe

    We had a house in Crocus Walk, just off DuCane Road. It was bombed in 1940. We were allocated another just off Westway by St Catherine Colemans Church, the night before we were to move in, both were destoyed by bombing. Finally we moved to Bryony Road. At first we had no Air Raid Shelter, so had to sleep on the Underground at Chancery Lane, don’t no why we couldn’t have been allocated a place a little nearer Shepherds Bush. Finally got a Shelter at No 25. Then the bombing stopped and VI’s and V2’s took over. Blaxland `house White City was destroyed by a Vi, and a V2 took out the Peabody Building Flats near to our house, killing a lot of the residents, including the girl I shared a desk with at Wormholt Park School. I later changed schools to St Clement Danes School in Du Cane Road

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