I had an enquiry the other day about the photographer Albert Argent Archer. A website devoted to photographers said we had a collection of his work, which was news to me. The name did ring a bell though and when I went looking through our ephemera collection I found several old photographic prints with his distinctive imprint in the section on Kensington High Street. There might be a full length post next year devoted either to Archer or to a series of pictures of the High Street as it used to be, but for today I thought we might have a quick before and after. Geographically these pictures come from a spot less than five minutes walk from where I now sit, huddled in a Dickensian fashion next to a heater.
Although this picture was taken in the 1920s, the distinctive architecture of Hornton Court is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Kensington High Street. This tall redbrick block of apartments and shops was unique in 1905 when it was built but it formed the model for a whole series of blocks along the north side of the high street which were built in the 1930s.
Note the small tobacconists to the left of Chesterton’s, selling Abdulla Cigarettes, a popular brand of the time. I can still remember a tobacconist / confectioner there when I first worked in Kensington in the 1980s.
This picture doesn’t have Archer’s embossed stamp on it, but the rest of today’s pictures do. This one shows the same corner as the one above when it was a simple terrace of houses and shops.
In both pictures you can catch a glimpse of the building in Phillimore Walk which filled the whole block.
Our old friend, the Abbey with its gothic windows and other features, which must have been a bit of a spooky sight, lurking behind the “modern” high street.
This view shows the 116-138 block from the west.
You can see the wide pavement and how in a couple of cases there are front gardens or yards. Imagine a long series of these going west along the high street facing the Promenade on the south side. These terraces were destined for demolition and many were knocked down in 1931. We’ll see more of them in the new yaear but for now, here is Archer’s own studio at 140 Kensington High Street.
Miscellany: melancholy animals
Back in the days when my son was young and people did most of their shopping in actual (as opposed to virtual retailers) another familiar high street name, Boots, offered shoppers a free soft toy after they spent a certain amount. (I don’t recall the actual terms and conditions but I remember you didn’t pay for them, and you sent off for them.) As regular users of Boots we acquired a few examples but what struck us was the consistently downbeat demeanor of the stuffed creatures: the depressed giraffe, the worried zebra, the suicidal rhino. The biggest one was the one you see below: the sad tiger.
We wondered why no-one spotted this general unhappiness of soft fauna. But we’ve done our best for them. These days the tiger is in a support group with this slightly anxious gorilla, and supervised by monkey therapist Doctor Trevor (whom God preserve) of Utrecht.
The final daily post will probably be on Saturday. I have a lot to do tomorrow. Oh, there she is again.