My mother-in law’s flat – Milmans Street 1974

This is something like week four of the great scanning famine here at the library and I’ve been looking through the many images from our 1970s photo survey for something you’ll like. I thought I’d do a Chelsea street but this time not one filled with interesting artistic or architectural  features. More of an ordinary street, but significant for me because this is where my wife lived when we first started going out.

Milmans Street - west side, 7-12 Purcell House 1970 KS 1985

Right there, on the first foor,the windows to the right of the stairwell. And this was close to the very year my wife and her family moved into the flat, 1974. My wife, a teenager at the time, recalls spending an afternoon transporting two cats from the old flat, further along the King’s Road on the bus, followed by a walk along the embankment carrying a fish tank with goldfish sloshing around in a small amount of water at the bottom of it. (You may not need the extra detail but her family were the recipients of a number of former laboratory animals no longer needed for scientific purposes including the fish, a black and white rat and a pair of slow worms which liked to curl themselves around my wife’s fingers in a way she suspects she would no longer find charming.)


Milmans Street - west side, 1-6 Purcell House 1970 KS 1986

Milmans Street is an old street which went between the curve in the King’s Road and Cheyne Walk. The view looking south:

Milmans Street - looking south 1970 KS 1967

The Globe pub subsequently became the Water Rat and then a number of different eating places. Next to it was the entrance to the Moravian burial ground which I have touched on elsewhere. It is always worth mentioning that contrary to the urban legend, the Moravians were not buried standing up. But Christian the Lion was exercised there.

Milmans Street - east side, The Globe public house 1970 KS 1968

Opposite the pub in 1974 was a community centre which had previously been a police station.


Kings Road - south side, 387-385 1970 KS 2034

Milmans Street was the eastern edge of the Cremorne Estate, a 1950s housing development. One of the few tall blocks, Gillray House was named after a tiny adjunct to the street, Gillray Square.

Cremorne Estate - Gillray House 1970 KS 2018

Opposite that was Jean Darling House, a low-rise sheltered housing block named after a local housing officer and ARP warden who was killed in September 1940 when a bomb hit a nearby shelter. Local diarist Jo Oakman wrote “3 awful blasts from Beaufort Street – God help them…..two terrific fires shot up from the gas. More bombs till 5.40 all clear..went to help in the trouble – did stretcher work, counted poor bodies. God! What a day dawning! Peace after a night of hell but what a price! Over 41 poor dead things in that shelter including our own warden Jean Darling whose head was blown in.”  [I’ve told this story before- for more see this post]

Milmans Street - east side, Jean Darling House 1970 KS 1970

In the background the fairly new Moravian Tower (as it was called then.)

Further down the street was another block named after a feature of the area’s rural past, Chelsea Farm House.

Milmans Street - east side, Chelsea Farm House 1970 KS 1974

The original Chelsea Farm:

Chelsea Farm A0214

This was followed by a building which like the Community Centre was demolished in the 1980s


Milmans Street - east side, St Georges 1970 KS 1980

At the time it was a hostel for ex-prisoners and others. My prospective mother-in-law looked at it a bit dubiously but apart from the occasional noise of raised voices (and smashed bottles) there was very little trouble. That car on the right (anyone?) was certainly safe.

On the other hand it should be remembered that just at the end of the street, across the groovy King’s Road was Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop SEX, something of an epicentre for the nascent punk movement. It’s probably almost forgotten now but the new punks were regarded with some animosity by the remnants of another youth tribe, the teds (was this something to do with the shop’s previous incarnation as Let it Rock?). There were some pitched battles which echoed the old rivalry between mods and rockers. My wife recalls watching from her bedroom window the following scene: a line of police vans parked in Milmans Street into which the police were roughly decanting the struggling youths. One punk was strongly resisting being deposited into a van full of teds, clamouring to be put into another van. He was ignored. My wife reports the van moving violently from side to side as the fight continued within. We sometimes forget now that punk was once regarded as a threat to civilisation.

There’s that car again.

Milmans Street - west side, 14-13 1970 KS 1983


At the end of the street was the last section of Cheyne Walk, the embankment and the houseboats.

Milmans Street - west side, Rear of Brennel House 1970 KS 1084

The rear of Brunel House which fronts onto Cheyne Walk. Before it was built that stretch of the street was home to many artists (you can still see some blue plaques) and picturesque views.

Milmans Street attributed to Hedderly

A picture attributed to James Hedderly showing the east side of Milmans Street but probably simply from the same period as his riverside work. [This post from 2011 the first  of several looks at the riverside with a picture of Cheyne Walk in which you can just about see where Milmans Street was.]

Milmans Street - looking north from Cheyne Walk 1970 KS 1982

This picture looks north from Cheyne Walk and dates from 1982 by which time I was a regular visitor to my future mother-in-law’s flat, the first address in Chelsea I ever slept at now I come to think of it. But not the last. Coming from a very tidy household I was pleasantly surprised to find that my girlfriend’s mother was at least as untidy as me.

Cheyne walk north side 104A, 1970 KS 1935



This view, the east side has changed a little. the building on the far right is still there.In the 1980s it was said that Jack  Nicholson stayed there while he was making the Shining. That garage has been remodelled. Usually something better than a Reliant is parked there. Check it out on Google Maps and you’ll see one of a pair of remarkable cherished number plates.




15 responses to “My mother-in law’s flat – Milmans Street 1974

  • Neil Harrison

    Jack Nicholson did stay in the corner house. I bumped into him in Pidingtons the paper shop on Kings road while walking my dog. We got talking, as you do :D, and walked back to that house, where he told me he was staying and we spent at least 20 minutes talking about the area. My girlfriend at the time, diane Fenner, lived above you’re mother-in-laws flat in Purcell house at the same time you were their. Small world.

  • Francis Serjeant

    The white car could be a Bentley. Similar shaped bonnet and bodywork to images of 1950’s models found on Google images. In the early 60’s my parents bought a 1930’s Rolls Royce as it was cheaper than a new Mini.

  • anglosardo

    Yes Dave, Gillray House was named after the square it replaced. Gillray Square had originally been called Strewan Square and was renamed at the behest of Chelsea MP Sir Charles Dilke in honour of caricaturist James Gillray, born in Chelsea, possibly at the Moravian Chapel and Burial Ground off Milmans Street, where his father was sexton.

    Strewan Square had taken its name from Strewan Place, an early terrace on the corner of King’s Road and Milmans Street, where the police station would be built half way through the 19th century. Strewan Place must be one of the earliest terraces to have been built along this stretch of the King’s Road, as just the other day, while searching the net for any reference to it, I came across the following words: “At the corner of Strewan Place, Milman Street,. Chelsea, is “Strewan Place 1739.”

  • anglosardo

    By the way, the cleverly-designed riverside block, which, while having much in common with the other blocks on the Cremorne Estate, manages not to look out of place next to the older houses on the embankment, is not Blemel House, but Brunel House, after civil engineers Marc Isambard Brubel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel who lived nearby in part of Lindsey House on the other side of Milmans Street and who share a blue plaque there.

    • Dave Walker

      Yes of course. I had a slight feeling as I was writing (away from the Library) that I wasn’t quite sure. Also interesting about 2B and Not 2b which have migrated from car to car over the years.

  • anglosardo

    Apparently, the two Hamletian number plate belong to property developer Robert Bourne and his wife, theatre impresario, Sally Greene OBE. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets here because I got the information from Wikipedia.

  • Tony Fellowes

    The very elegant white car looks like a late 1930s Lagonda, possibly an LG6. Only 85 were made between 1938 and 1940, so quite a rare beast.

  • Bryan Hemming

    You are right to think that any trouble in the King’s Road probably was due to SEX having been ‘Let it Rock’ beforehand. But ‘Let it Rock’ was not so much a Rocker shop as a Teddy boy revival shop and it also was run by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood. I bought a pair of brothel creepers there in 1973. It changed its name to “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” before becoming SEX, and a magnet for punks. Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock worked there. The punks and Teds used to meet up to fight on Saturday afternoons in the mid 1970s.

    Before then – though not an ex-prisoner – I stayed at the Milmans Street hostel for a few months in 1970. There were actually two hostels, one for women and one for men. I have the strong suspicion the men’s hostel always was a hostel, as it was a completely separate building in its own grounds.

    The main buliding contained cell-like rooms for permanent residents. Mainly older, there may have been a couple of ex-prisoners among them. Some were ex-servicemen, others were probably widowers, and one or two appeared to have mental problems. There was one blind Irishman called Terry. At the rear of the main building in the photo was a two-storey annex comprising two dormitories with around ten or twelve beds in each. Both floors were sparsely occupied. On the top floor, where I stayed, there were three Canadian travellers, Bruno and Mart from Toronto, staying in London for a few months, and Gordon from Winnipeg. There was also an Irish scaffolder, Mark, who had been in the British army, and Mao, a Ugandan Indian refugee, who had escaped Idi Amin’s Uganda. Mao took up work as a storeman at Ponting’s in Kensington High Street. Gordon and I work for a plasterer’s on New King’s Road between Foskett Road and the tube line bridge to earn enough money to hitchhike to Portugal. We were all in our teens and early twenties.

    I hope this helps with your records.

    I recently published part of an interview I conducted with Glen Matlock in 1978 on my blog. The introduction to the second part of the interview includes bits on the history of that part of King’s Road, and will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

  • Amy Godiva

    Wonderful photos, blogs, narration and comments! Thanks so much for sharing all this rich history. We lived in Chelsea in 2005-6 at 74 Cathcart Road and thoroughly enjoyed the area.

  • Richard

    Great . I live at 23 Milmans House. Wonderful place to live . Richard

  • Antony Donoghue

    I worked part time in the ‘dubious’ building between 1978 and 1983. 47 Milmans street was run as St George’s Community Centre and later by Stonham Housing Association. And yes it was a halfway house for people coming back into society from prison. I believe it was also London’s first venue for Narcotics Anonymous. “Tinker” from Lovejoy used to come to the stass office every Tuesday night to borrow our kettle. At the back of the site was a low former brick baking building which served as a tourist hostel called “The Bakehouse Hostel” from about 1977 -1981. I also saw Jack Nickolson while he was making the Shining, He was the ground floor window of that corner house looking out.

    • John Nightingale

      I stayed at the Bakehouse Hostel from August 1978 until June 1979. I first stayed in the “brick baking building” and then in the main building where near the end of my stay they were mixing travelers and halfway house folks. One night in a mixed-room I was woken by a bunch of yelling and screaming to see a burning mattress tossed out the window…count my lucky stars that someone was patrolling the hallway and saw the smoke. Did you hang out with the hostel-folk? For the most part we spent our time at the “Man In The Moon” and “The Kings Head”. The odd time at The Water Rat but it was a bit of a posh-bar where rumor had it Bryan Ferry would hang out. At one point one of the hostlers, a lad from Wales, convinced the “Man in the Moon” to open a music club in the basement. I remember opening night but not going there much after. Hostel types I remember: Joey from Liverpool, Dave and Andrea from New Zealand or Australia. Cathy from USA, dated one of the locals. There was an older Greek-Cypriot gentlemen who sold socks. Lots of good memories from those days but not so many name-facts. (:-))

  • Anthea

    Fell across your research by accident and its fascinating – We live at 104, Cheyne Walk which is the white house you can just see in the picture on the corner. We have 2 Blue Plaques Walter Greaves and Hilare Belloc. I want to find more if I can how did you go about it?

  • Jeff Hart

    My great-aunt’s family – the Middleton’s – lived in Gillray Square for many years and subsequently occupied two flats in Apollo House on the Cremone Estate. The family lived in Chelsea for generations and my aunt’s father, Edward Arthur, was a fireman there. I have just been looking at old family photos trying to identify various individuals. One photo shows my great aunt with a 21st birthday cake at what appears to be the back door of Gillray Square in 1951.

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