I got stuck in one small street and its environs the last time I started looking at Bill Figg’s unfinished draft for a small book on Chelsea in the “then and now” mode. This week I’m going back to that and starting on the main drag with a picture of the King’s Road.
The Emperor of Wyoming was a boutique (remember that word, when it was first used?) named after an instrumental on Neil Young’s first solo album. It sold what we would now call vintage Americana, mainly of course jeans, which were imported by the proprietor, Billy Murphy. This version of the shop only lasted a few years – Murphy moved to smaller premises near the World’s End. (I don’t have a picture of that shop.) Figg did a “now” picture of the building in the early 1980s.
This is one of Figg’s tentative, almost surreptitious, pictures, a little out of focus. I can remember this branch of Waitrose opening. My wife and I were impressed with how spacious it was compared to the other supermarkets in the area. I particularly recall a large display of seafood in large glass jars. Octopus tentacles floating in brine. Despite what friends have told me, I have never enjoyed the texture of invertebrate flesh. But let’s not go any further with that.
In a previous Figg post I looked at the building next door, the Trafalgar pub, and so did Figg, in “now” mode:
(1991 I should think. An arty film called Proof was released that year.)
The pub under its original, but related name, the Lord Nelson. Note on the edges of the picture, a decorative feature on the cinema building, the Odeon at the time (Some of the decoration on the upper part of the building is still there) and on the other side a branch of Allied Carpets, a well known 70s retailer.
We’re going to move up the King’s Road, as we have before and probably will continue to do so as I explore Figg’s legacy so I have to apologise for a little repetition along the way. This picture shows the junction with Jubilee Place. The former Lloyds Bank building is still there occupied by fashion retailer LK Bennett. But the buildings east of the junction which look as though they’re still there are actually gone.
Here they are from the west.
There is the famous shop Kleptomania on the corner. You can just make out the Pheasantry on the right. Figg’s “now” pictures shows the modern development which surrounded the Pheasantry.
Featuring the bookshop Dillons, a chain which was expanding from its roots as “the university bookshop” in Gower Street near University College. The countrywide chain was eventually bought and most of the shops like this one re-branded as Waterstones
While we’re here we might as well look down Jubilee Place, a narrow street which leads down to Chelsea Green.
Note that picturesque turret feature. (the King’s Road is in the distance).
And the same view a couple of decades later.
Like other photographers, Figg has his favourite spots. This is the now version of one of them.
The shadowed entrance to Charles II Place and the Marks and Spencer car park, about 1990.
Formerly, the Carter Patterson goods yard, one of the remaining light industrial sites on the King’s Road.
We’ll skip the Pheasantry this time. You know what it looks like by now, and the Classic Cinema and move on to a site that Figg felt ambiguous about, the King’s Walk Mall. Before the gap seen below was filled in
Many of Figg’s photos, it must be admitted are not very good technically, or were taken in a hurry. I needed to turn down the brightness on this one to capture the name of the bookseller on the corner of the ramp down to Sainsburys and Boots.
The same shop a little earlier or later, Rock Dreams.
This is the view after the miniature mall had filled the gap.
Figg did take a picture inside the small precinct, concentrating on a metallic sculpture at the centre of the space. But when I mentioned this area in a previous post someone responded by sending me a picture which is better than Figg’s, so I’m using that one.
Figg records that the nondescript, vaguely modernist sculpture had “disappeared”. Had it? If you know where it is now let me know. Figg actually disapproved of the new mall, saying it was “too clinical for a shopping area”. Personally, although it was useful to have a Sainsburys there, I actually liked the new mall, especially when there was a branch of Virgin there. (And my son was forever dragging me down there to buy the latest game. Ridge Racer 4, anyone?)
It’s quite appropriate for the history of the King’s Road that we should start with a boutique which became a supermarket and a supermarket which became a mini-mall. A part of the trend towards the King’s Road becoming a conventional high street. Not there yet though.
Thanks to everyone who has left comments or sent pictures adding to our collective knowledge about the King’s Road. The nature of blogging is that you sometimes have to go over old ground. I’m actually hoping for some more pictures of King’s Road shops coming soon. (Hint). The library in the Old Town Hall celebrated its 40 years in the building this year and there is a small exhibition on there right now. 40 years is a bit like Shakespeare’s 400 year a year or so ago. 50 would be a rounder number. But we couldn’t wait for 500 years and who knows what will have happened to libraries by 2028? As it happens this is also my 40th year working in libraries. Another 10 years seems unlikely. But there’s no upper age limit on blogging.