Pelham Street 1970: down by the station

Anyone who lives in the South Kensington area will probably recognise this view even though the picture was taken about 1970.

Malvern Court corner of Pelham Street KS5979

The building is Malvern Court. On the right side is Onslow Gardens, where most of the buses get down to the Fulham Road. On the left is Pelham Street. Both of these streets face South Kensington Station, from which the picture was taken.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970

South Kensington Station, like its near neighbour Gloucester Road (see this post) is actually two stations. One is the original Metropolitan and District Railway station opened in 1868.

The other is the Piccadilly Line station.

Pelham Street north side 1970

The deep line was opened in 1906 . In those days it looked like this:

PC304 fp - Copy

(The Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway)  The two stations existed side by side although eventually access was purely through the District and Metropolitan entrance.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970KS33

Note the older wrought iron lettering below the “modern” sign. And see how close the road is to the station entrance. The pedestrianised zone around the front of the station has enlarged considerably in recent years creating the modern plaza which makes things easier for walkers and the traffic management simpler.

I cannot resist a peek inside the arcade.

South Kensington Station arcade looking south 1970 - Copy

Vinces (groceries?) , (Hudson Brothers in grander times) are closing down and some winter fashions are being worn. (It’s January) The iron lettering is visible, as is the 3 minute heel bar.

But this post is not actually about the station so much as the shops and services clustered around it. In 1970 this included Dino’s Restaurant, and the intriguing Brazilian Yerbama Company, importers of medicinal herbs.

Pelham Street east side 7 Brazilian Yerbama 1970

The anonymous looking shopfront next to them with the handwritten notices in the window is an estate agent, the imaginatively named Pelham Estate Offices. And beside them, where you can now queue up for Ben’s Cookies, is Kontad Limited who sold Typewriters, Calculators and office equipment. Many of them are on view in the window with a sign for Grundig who made many electonic devices in those days. I used to own typewriters….(drifts away, reminiscing….)

Pelham Street east side 7-9 Kontad 1970

Those of you brought up in the digital age cannot imagine the relief I felt when I started to use a computer regularly for that new-fangled word processing. Readers of my own age group can spare a moment for nostalgia about worn out ribbons, jammed keys, carbon paper and correcting fluid

On the other side of the station building was a business with a puzzling sign.

,Pelham Street north side 15 LW Fleet upholsterers 1970

LW Fleet Limited, upholsterers. “Curtain makers, Upholsters, Decorating consultants” I think. Perhaps they were shutting down and didn’t mind the falling letters.

But hold on a minute. If you take a moment now and check out the eastern side of Pelham Street on Google Maps Street View all you will find next to the station is a wall, behind which are the rail tracks. It’s difficult to imagine a row of buildings in that spot, seemingly perched on the edge of a railway line but here it is – Station Buildings as you can see in the roof line sign below.

Pelham Street north side 17-19 Primitives formerly Cathay Gifts 1970

Although it looks unlikely, clearly there was room at the top of the slope to the tracks to fit in a row of two storey buildings with retail outlets such as Primitives (“dealers in works of art”). I was at the station this morning to have a look in the flesh (or should that be in the bricks?) and if you factor in the width of the Piccadilly line station there was room, although you must have had to be careful at the rear exits of the buildings. Let’s just look at the view from the platform.

South Kensington Station interior looking east 1970 - Copy

There is no view of the back of the station buildings. I had some hopes for the building on the right above the platform roof with a fire escape but I eventually found:

OS map 1949-50 South Kensington Station - Copy - Copy

A 1:2500 scale OS sheet which showed them. The building with the fire escape is an electricity sub station on the other side of the bridge (which is still there today).

Next to Primitives was Flair (“gowns”, according to Kelly’s Post Office Directory).

Pelham Street north side 21 Flair gowns 1970

Those two young women striding by look as though the goods in the Flair window are not going to delay them. (The puzzle is that clock, but more on that in a moment.) I’ve been looking at the windows above the shops. Something about those open windows and the visible light says office space to me, rather than residential (there are no entries in the eelctoral register for this section of the street)

Pelham Street north side 23 Ashley Shops 1970

At last, a famous name, Laura Ashley, with some of her distinctive dresses in the window. “Sale now on”.

In the picture below at numbers 27-29, the Rice Bowl, a Chinese restaurant and coffee bar. I don’t know why the clock with their name on it is still attached to Flair at number 21.

Pelham Street north side 27-29 Rice Bowl 1970

Beside the Rice Bowl at 31/33 another place to eat, Bistro 33. The owner didn’t spend too much time naming his or her establishment.

Pelham Street north side 31-33 Bistro 33 1970

Nice 70s lettering though, and a 70s dude walking by to give us some local colour. In close up you can see through the windows of the Mini that shepherd’s pie and Spanish omelette were on offer. Fairly standard bistro fare for the period I suppose.

I have no pictures of the remaining establishments, Stefan’s Delicatessen, Elsa (milliner) or Roger W Pliszka Antiques Limited, which is a shame. After them Kelly’s tells us: here is Pelham Place.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS133

Beneath the road (which is actually part of Thurloe Square) where those Morrises or Austins are parked and behind that ragged and overgrown wall is the railway, now going underground.

You can still see this distinctive building on the west side of Pelham Street, the brick chimney contrasting with the  plastered front. The wall is still there, benefiting from a little tidying up.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS143

The woman in the leather coat on the other hand has moved on now and might be harder to find these days.



I was off work last week and arrived back not quite sure what to do for this week’s post. Would it be Shakespeare related? What about those water colours by a 19th century lady? Or possibly Backwaters 2? I’d almost settled on that but found myself getting fascinated by these vanished shops which had been drawn to my attention by Michael Bach. So thanks to him.

On the subject of last week’s backwaters I should add that the pictures were of Royal Crescent garden square, W11, Railway Mews W11 (off Ladbroke Grove), Lexham and Radley Mews, W8, Lenthall Place, SW7 and Cavaye Place SW10. All north of the Fulham Road and therefore all in Kensington according to the traditional boundary. There will be more of them soon.


13 responses to “Pelham Street 1970: down by the station

  • Peter Freeman

    I like these photos very much. Real time-trippers. We had a Vanden Plas Princess (last two photos-front car)…& all the KEN phone numbers on the front of the shops. KEN became 589.

    (I apologise for not making more profound observations).

  • Gleffelaar

    How nice to be treated with pictures of my own street (1976-1980)! My parents house is on the second to last picture: one of the sooted ones.
    Same picture, far left, is the entrance to Pelham Cottage. It has a wonderful garden which I would sneak into every so often. Sir Mark Birley and Lady Annabel Goldsmith lived there in the same periode.
    Lately she wrote a book on her life in which Pelham cottage gets a mention.
    Thanks Dave for doing one on Pelham street.

  • William

    I used South Ken tube for several months starting in May 1963, going to Barnaby Place, a few hundred yards away down Old Brompton Road, where there was a training centre. It was underground with no daylight! I would wander the area at lunch times and so was very familiar with the streets back then. Different times.

  • Basia Korzeniowska

    i used to live in Egerton Court, just opposite Dino’s from 1959 till 1974. we used to go to the Rice Bowl a lot, for sweet and sour pork with boiled rice. there was also a restaurant somehere called Ding How i think, but I cant rmemeber where it was. I remember Stefan’s delicatessen and Kontad because they were Polish, as am I.
    inside the arcade there was the Persian Carpet Store and Alice’s flower shop.
    I used to go down Pelham Street everyday towards Sloane Avenue where my primary school was, Marlborough, past the Harrods depositories

  • Sue Jewell

    I used to get the tube to school, 1970-1974 and remeber the record shop in South Ken aracade, we used to blag posters from there!

  • Anthea Glibbery

    In the last half of the sixties, my boyfriend often took me to Bistro 33 in Pelham Street! It was a great favourite. There was a window at the back looking out over the station, I always had Potage….?Bonne Femme to start. Lovely to see the pictures!

    • Dave Walker

      It’s marvellous to hear that there was a window looking out at the station. When you look at the metal supports on that side of the station which have survived it’s hard to imagine that they supported a whole series of shops and restaurants.

  • davidmcc3

    Hello Dave

    I have a particular interest in the area around South Ken. station – at my model railway club, we’re modeling a ‘might-have-been’ extension of the West London Line … and we’ve placed the terminus across the road from the Tube station. This is based on an old map from 1841 (by Davies) which shows a ‘Proposed Extension’ towards Kensington and Knightsbridge.

    Your various articles and pictures have been a great help in establishing what the area looked like, and how this might have been affected by an overground terminus built in the 1860s

    This means we’re modelling some of the buildings around there. One which appears in the background is Malvern Court. I’m wondering if you know when it was built.Our model is set in the late 1950s-early 60s … so we have assumed it would be there then.

    Is our assumption correct?

    Best regards, David McCarthy

    • Dave Walker

      Malvern Court was built in 1930-31 according to the Survey of London. The building opposite, Melton Court was built a few years later in 1935. Or was it? In your alternate reality would the terminus have been there? This all sounds fascinating, I’d love to see pictures of the model when it’s complete.

  • Peter Collins

    Thanks Dave, two of the pictures show my late father at his newspaper pitch outside South Ken station.

    • Gijs Leffelaar

      Was your father at his pitch in the mid to late seventies? I always got out of my mother’s car on my way back from school to buy the Standard or Evening Express. Not for myself but for my father, who was a journalist for a group of dutch newspapers.

  • Basia Korzeniowska

    I used to live opposite the station inEgerton Court from1959 to 1974. The Rice Bowl was one of the first Chinese restaurants and people used to go there to eat one dish and a bowl of rice. Very exotic in those days. The dress shop was owned by a Polish man I believe, mr Sulimirski. Dinos was made famous by Roman Polanski in his filmRepulsion, with Catherine de Neuve and Sharon Tate. A lot of the film ws also made in my house Egerton Court. Just on the stairs and in the lift. The residents were asked to keep out of the way but I was ten and quiet so was allowed to watch!

  • South Kensington tube station development approval delayed until the autumn

    […] but used to have buildings on both sides. The tube-station side, a low rise row of shops known as Station Buildings was cleared in the 1970s to make space for the Piccadilly line escalator, and the plans will see […]

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