Backwaters: behind the streets you know

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north east 1970 KS799

A quiet secluded spot not that far from here.

Some of this week’s pictures are places you can still go to today, others have vanished entirely. Most of them are quite different now. All of them are off the beaten track. You may have passed them by without noticing. London is full of such places. A name which ends in close, or place, or walk or court may be the sign of a backwater. Or mews – Kensington and Chelsea is full of those. A mews can be a short stretch of cobbled street just off a main street, or be part of a hidden network of semi-pedestrian paths behind a big public street.

Or it can be a daunting passage you never knew existed.

Railway Mews looking west 1970 KS1692

Leading to a place you never wanted to go.

Railway Mews looking north 1970 KS1691

Mewses (is that the word?) are often connected with motoring even today. In the 1970s, where all of these pictures originate, small workshops and showrooms were everywhere.

Such as here, Lexham Mews:

Lexham Mews entrance looking north 1976

between the large houses an arch leads to the mews, where you could have kept your horses and carriages if you had them and tradesmen could make discreet deliveries. Later, the chauffeur could live over the garage. The mews turns right and leads behind the houses.

Lexham Mews 3-6 looking south 1976 KS4102

In later times these buildings could be converted into small houses, with or without an integral garage. In this picture a woman stands at a door, possibly about to park her Rover, the quintessential manager’s car of the age. I first saw these kind of houses and streets in programmes like the Avengers (Steed lived in one). They had become trendy boltholes for the new classes of urban dwellers.

Lexham Mews no25 1976 KS4107

Just like this man.

Lexham Mews met Radley Mews.

Radley Mews no1 looking east 1976 KS4095

A mark 3 Cortina peeps out of a garage.

Mewses were also good locations for outlets of the motor trade, with the full range of services, workshops and even sales, especially the exotic marques like SAAB.

Radley Mews looking south SAAB showroom - Ace Motors 1976 KS4093

Now we turn to a vanished street, perhaps even forgotten by some.

Lenthall Place looking west 1969

Lenthall Place was next to Gloucester Road station. There is now  an office building on this corner, with a shopping arcade between it and the station. I often use the Waitrose store in the arcade so I must regularly walk this route in its modern form. But back in 1969..

Lenthall Place south side 1969 2

A grocery/bakery, the Casa Cura cafe (“hot meals served every day”) and Frank’s Sandwich Bar all single storey buildings built as makeshift appendages to the station. On the other side of Gloucester Road there are some surviving examples of this style. Further along some older terraced housing with retail businesses at ground level.

Lenthall Place south side 6-8 1969

Hair fashions by Leslie (“Posticheur”), with another snack bar which relies on a sign saying Continental rather than a regular shopfront. Somewhere for a dedicated set of customers I imagine. Including workers connected with the businesses at the end of the street.

 

Lenthall Place west end garages 1969

Like in many a backwater a set of garages, these ones more anonymous than most. Take a look back at Gloucester Road…

Lenthall Place looking east 1969 - Copy

Finally, a backwater that still exists but massively altered over time.

Cavaye Place looking south 1972 KS242

Cavaye Place is a street which begins and ends on the Fulham Road. This view looking south shows the covered alley entrance on the right and the gap where some older buildings were demolished and the buildings on the south side of Fulham Road are visible, like the former Midland Bank, the pale building on the left. At this point Cavaye Place was a muddy patch of open ground used as a car park. A modern building was inserted into the space behind the wooden fence housing offices at the back and retail at the front. For many years the Pan Bookshop (now a branch of Daunt’s) was there, a treat fro local residents like myself – back in the 80s you could have a meal at the now sadly gone restaurant Parsons, while away some time in the bookshop and then take in a film at the cinema visble in this picture.

Cavaye Place looking east 1972 KS232

The side of the cinema on the left where the other entrance to Cavaye Place is, once an ABC but later with many other names, and now currently part of the Cineworld chain.

This post might be the first of a series. There are may more backwaters in Kensington and Chelsea, and we could visit some more of them. But while you decide let’s get back to that quiet garden.

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north west 1970 KS798

Postscript

I’m also introducing a new occasional item which I’m calling “where are they now?”. In the course of looking at the Photo Survey I often come across people caught by accident during the course of their day. Here are three 70s people waiting to cross the road at Lexham Gardens. Are you one of them, or do you recognize anyone? A bit of a long shot I know….

Lexham Gardens 94-96 1976 KS4135 - Copy

Do you think they’re together? Or just three random strangers. Interestingly, it’s the woman who could walk down this same road today without attracting comment. But those flares…

 


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