Now you see it, now you don’t..now you see it again

We’re still having technical problems here so this week’s post is one I’ve had in draft form for some time because I wasn’t sure about it. It’s just a shaggy dog story really which I’m telling because I happened to take some photographs of a building I found interesting. But enough prevarication.

The other thing is that I’m not going to go into any issues about planning, or ownership or  development because I don’t know anything about those in relation to this particular building. It’s just a curiosity and one of those things you might not even have noticed if you weren’t a regular visitor to the place concerned. So, here’s the story.

There was a building on the corner of Tregunter Road and the Little Boltons, just down the road from where I used to work at Brompton Library which had a big garden. So big that one year it was in the National Gardens Scheme, a once a year event when people would open their gardens to interested members of the public. This is the building in 2007.

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I took the photos then on my old camera because the property was clearly empty, and had that sad look of a substantial house worn down by the years. It was typical of the area – a large suburban villa it might have been called. That tower feature is not uncommon in the area. Look at a nearby house in Gilston Road. (picture from 1970)

Gilston Road 1970

The garden was overgrown, and no longer of interest to visitors.

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Then in 2009 the house was gone. These two pictures show the view of where the rear of the house would have been.

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The complete disappearance of the house was unusual but not remarkable. The size of the site would have been attractive to a new owner, whether an individual or a company. As far as I know the demolition happened in 2009. I wasn’t in the area so much by this time but I kept my eyes open when I was.

And then in 2014..

DSC_4353 Tregunter house

The house was miraculously back.

DSC_4354 tregunter house

Or at least someone had carefully built a new house which looked very much like the old one. A little bigger I thought when I first saw it, with slightly different proportions, but that could have been an illusion. A part of the builder’s sleight of hand. It’s there. Now it’s gone. Now it’s back. Magic in slow motion.

I’m sure there must have been problems of one kind or another. Given the size of the site and the popularity of subterranean development in Kensington and Chelsea there might be several basements or garages underneath it. But as I said I’m not interested in generating any controversy. It’s just one of those things that happens in London. The city I live in never fails to surprise me.

As I said above I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to anyone but me. The wandering blogger sometimes catches odd occurrences like in January 2011 when developers were refurbishing a whole terrace on the Fulham Road and one of the middle houses collapsed leaving this gap:

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Accidents happen I guess. I heard that part of the road was closed so I went to have a look. (Quite a few years ago near where I live a short terrace of buildings, its facade completely covered in scaffolding caused a sensation one Sunday morning when the whole structure of scaffolding collapsed into the street. I didn’t take a camera to that incident). Nowadays this stretch of road has a series of new businesses at ground level with residential accommodation above. I was there the other day and the facade looked completely homogeneous. You would never know the unfortunate collapse had happened.

In another part of South Kensington, you can find this nice seamless looking terrace behind a garden square:

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You would hardly know that a couple of years ago in 2014 the end of the terrace looked like this:

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Not knowing what was going to happen I never had the forethought to photograph the unremarkable three-storey block of flats (1960s, or late 1950s) which had occupied the corner site for years. And I haven’t been able to find any pictures of how that corner used to look. So you’ll have to take my word for it that the new version looks better than the old.

Tales from the building trade like these no doubt happen all the time, and not everyone is as fascinated by them as I am. But keep your eyes open. Buildings come and go like everything else.

Postscript

We my be experiencing “hardware issues” on the computer connected to our scanner so I may need to be creative in the weeks to come, and I might need to go off-piste. I have an interesting idea for next week but after that who knows?

Postscript to the Postscript

Thanks to a comment from London Remembers we can now see the former building as it was:

Hereford Square

This image is from Google Maps and is copyright by Google. The hoardings  are down in Tregunter Road so if you’re interested take a look at it.


13 responses to “Now you see it, now you don’t..now you see it again

  • London Remembers

    Fascinating post. So often one sees a development in a street one knows well and thinks “What used to be there? I can’t remember.” For the block of flats in the South Ken street – have you tried Google Maps Streetview History? To get Streetview – drop the little figure onto the street you are interested in. To get the History slidebar – click the small circle icon in the top left corner, under the address. That’s how it works here, anyway. Sorry if you are a grandmother who already knows how to suck eggs!

    • Dave Walker

      Dear London Remembers (or can I call you London?)
      Thank you! That worked perfectly. Now I can see it again I agree with Peter Harris that it was an ugly building. And it was looking rather worn out.
      Regards

  • Roger J Morgan

    And of course the north side of Observatory Gardens, where the developer demolished half of it as unsafe (due possibly to the German bomber that crashed into it), and intended to develop the rest behind the façade, but then found I think that the rest was unsafe – so the whole thing was rebuilt in replica, and in fact much better than it was before – you would never know.

  • Thomas Tompion

    Hello Dave,

    The last photo you show was formally some kind of post office I think. A very ugly post war bomb site replacement. The new terrace looks fantastic. Not so the flat ugly building around the back which has been there about 8 years. Looks to be in someones back garden. Some idiots gave the thing an award! The only good thing is it is small. You could always add the new building on the crossroads of Old Brompton Road and Warwick Road. It replaces the pub that used to be called The Lord Ranelagh, 294 Old Brompton Road. This pub closed c.2011 at which time it was known as Infinity. Its welcome replacement and a brilliant design, blending very well into the surrounding conservation area. The scaffolding is still up but it should be finished soon. These developer’s were were one of the few that took into account what the local residents wanted. It deserves an award.

    Best wishes

    Peter

    Peter Harris Tel: 07930 536 818 Email: thomas.tompion@gmail Dave Walker posted: “We’re still having technical problems here so this week’s post is one I’ve had in draft form for some time because I wasn’t sure about it. It’s just a shaggy dog story really which I’m telling because I happened to take some photographs of a building I fo”

    • Dave Walker

      Peter
      That’s interesting about the last picture. (24 Hereford Square). I remember it as having three floors with a set of stairs up to the entrance. (residential I thought but I never looked that closely at it) I haven’t been able to find any kind of image of it. I have to disagree about the modernist building behind it though which I quite like in a sort of Grand Designs- squeezing into a small place way. I agree that the new terrace is perfect for the site, almost indistinguishable from its neighbours which is why I added it to this post.
      Dave

  • Debbie Robson

    Wow that is fascinating Dave. Where did the building go? Did they take it somewhere else and repair it and then bring it back. Or rebuild to such an unusual design. It is a mystery!

    • Dave Walker

      Debbie
      I didn’t want to go through the publicly available information on the planning history of the site in the post which was meant to a light-hearted look at the disappearance and re-appearance but from what I have looked at the empty building had become a dangerous structure so the developers had to rebuild the house. There are apparently a couple of basements beneath the new house which is not unusual in K&C in recent years.
      Dave

      • Debbie Robson

        Thanks Dave. Was it heritage listed and thats why they went to all the trouble?

      • Dave Walker

        Debbie
        The building was not listed but it was/is in a conservation area (as is most of Kensington and Chelsea) so the developers would have been expected to build something which was in keeping with the rest of the area. The guidelines can be quite strict.
        Dave

      • Debbie Robson

        So it was more likely rebuilt rather than removed, repaired and put back? The logistics of either scenario are pretty mind-blowing for such a building.

  • robinadelegreeley

    It is so wonderful to see these period buildings restored rather than torn down. Thanks for the post (and for soldiering on despite computer problems )!

  • Chelseaharbouramateuroperaticsociety

    Dear David, I saw the building in the Fulham road collapse making me think that the bard was correct about all the world being a stage. The seeming permanence of buildings is but an illusion. Eyeam still inside this stupid avatar David and as ever enjoying another hit from Rambling Dave Walker. Eye appear to be locked out of my own actual name…several senior moments…with password nightmare… but “Carry on Blogger” through your difficult times Dave…we all love your posts.

  • cboot

    I used to live opposite that collapsing block in what we always considered to be one of the ugliest buildings in London. However it was very nice inside, or so we thought, until it was bought by author and boulevardier Joan Wyndham ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Wyndham ), when she described it in a rather disparaging way. Ho hum.
    I used to sleep and play in my bedroom opposite, overlooking that terrace, and watching various bits of its decoration dropping off over the years, it was then I think mostly divided up into flats above the shops. I used to photograph the shop fronts with my instamatic camera; the shops changed quite often, well one or two did, others remained the same for years — I’ll have to try and find them.
    I am always surprised to find that barely a shop survives along the Fulham Road as you walk from there eastwards, because I can conjure up very nearly every one as I walked up east towards South Ken. When I last did that walk a couple of years ago I think the only survivor from my childhood was Farmer’s the ironmongers. The most missed, O.C.Summers the bakers, with its memorable Chelsea Buns.

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