Christmas Days: a couple of pictures of Chelsea in the 30s

I bought both of these pictures on eBay, having been shown them by a friend. They’re only really connected by the decade in which they were taken. We don’t have very many pictures from that period though, so it’s worth putting them together for one of these mini-posts.



1937.Chelsea Bridge. The 51st Anti-Aircraft Brigade is the caption for this convoy of odd looking equipment heading south across the recently built bridge. The Brigade was a unit of the Territorial Army  based at the Duke of York’s Headquarters just off the King’s Road (now the Saatchi Gallery).

What is that stuff on the trailer? Military experts will no doubt tell us in due course that the giant metal nipples  serve a perfectly reasonable purpose. I can’t find an angle in which that sign is legible. Nor can I complete the phrase “Load not..” on the rear of the truck pulling the trailer which appears to have a large metal cylinder in the back. The two vehicles ahead of the truck are clearly pulling anti-aircraft guns.

It’s not strange that in 1937 plans were already being made on how London would be defended from air attack. I dealt with a civil defense exercise in 1939 in this post.  The man on the bike doesn’t seem bothered and the two pedestrians look quite calm.



The picture wasn’t very expensive. I paid a little more for this one.



I liked it because it was very clear, and even though it was just a view looking north up Edith Grove, across the King’s Road, with Fulham Road visible in the distance. There is good detail on  F W Norris’s Wine Stores, featuring draught and bottled beers. The few passers by are good too especially the two girls in the foreground wearing distinctly 30s hats.



I didn’t actually unwrap the picture from its plastic and cardboard packaging until I came to scan it and then I turned it over to find that on the back was some information which completely changed the picture.

Double motor cycle tragedy. Brother and sister killed.”

The picture came from a newspaper picture library. There is a short account of an accident in which a brother and sister on a motor bike travelling north to south towards their home in Clapham were struck by a car in the early hours of a Sunday morning. She died instantly, he later at a hospital. The picture has been cut from a larger piece of paper. It looks like there was a diagram below the short account in red ink.

So my attractive picture of a Chelsea street in 1930 becomes a record of sudden death.

Drive carefully this Christmas.


Miscelleany: Madonna through the looking glass

Some of you will have read the recent post about the King’s Road in the 1980s featuring photographs by my friend CC. One of them was a monochrome version of one of her friends, a hairdresser who works in the King’s Road dressed as Madonna for a Christmas Eve party at the salon. CC told me there was a colour version so I thought that would look good for one of my Christmas posts.

This one is one of “Madonna’s” co-workers, also dressed up for the day.

The lady herself.

And the back view, which rather gives the game away.

I should add that the gentleman himself has given permission for these pictures to go up on the blog.

See you tomorrow.

11 responses to “Christmas Days: a couple of pictures of Chelsea in the 30s

  • Vendramin, Francesca: TTS-EnvHealth: RBKC

    Thank you Dave! I really enjoyed reading this. I walk and travel these roads quite often and it is so magical to see what they looked like in the past and imagine what life people had back then.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

    Best wishes

    Francesca Vendramin | Bi-borough Technical and Admin Officer | Corporate Health & Safety Team
    London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham | Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
    DD: 0207 361 3380 and
    Our Values:
    Responsive; Innovative; Collaborative; Enterprising; Serving our Public

  • anglosardo

    The Edith Grove picture appeared in the Daily Mirror:

  • Ed P

    In the first photograph, the ‘metal cylinder’ in the lorry is most likely to be a searchlight. The metal nipples look as if they’re lamps on a telescopic stand.

  • Chris Tuft

    LOAD NOT.. Evenly Distributed ?

  • reg francis

    I suspect that Kings /Edith road junction was always a dangerous one . A little lad from Slaidburn street was run over by a bus and killed right outside the ‘Off-Licence’ just after the last war. The shop was still there towards the end of the 1960’s, About six shops to the right there was a Dairy with a painting of a dairy maid to the right of the shop entrance, she poor love had been riddled by bullets from a german fighter plane . He got the bucket as well! Damn poor show, what!?


  • reg francis

    Apologies good people, for bucket please read milking pail!


  • VG

    Those metal nipple things on the trailer in the first picture are the front end of an acoustic aircraft locator, which is what the guns had before radar (and after the Mk I eyeball). That particular version looks like the one atributed to Metrolplitan Vickers, as seen at

    A model of this is visible at

    And this site has a picture of ATS personnel operating the system (the site seems slow to load, but wait for the post of 5/8/09 at 7:16pm). The same post has a picture supporting Ed P’s suggestion that in the lorry is a searchlight.

    Thanks for a fascinating site, which has helped a slow afternoon zoom by.


  • Janet Louise Mitchener

    this is such a brilliant site, and after researching my family tree for years it is lovely to see the old photographs. my dads side side of the family are from chelsea, about 200 yrs worth and so i have followed alot of ancesters all over chelsea and surrounding areas. it is great to see photos of the places that once mattered to them so much. thankyou for such a great site but i have one question. I have never seen a picture of Ives street SW3 or any streets surrounding it which was where my dad was born….. maybe it was never photographed x

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