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.
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 is an old street which went between the curve in the King’s Road and Cheyne Walk. The view looking south:
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.
Opposite the pub in 1974 was a community centre which had previously been a police station.
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.
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]
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.
The original Chelsea Farm:
This was followed by a building which like the Community Centre was demolished in the 1980s
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.
At the end of the street was the last section of Cheyne Walk, the embankment and the houseboats.
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.
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.]
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.
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.