I had feeling that this week’s post was going to be as late as last week’s. But maybe not. As I recall we were about here…
Just at the point where Kensington Church Street veers left (or north west if you prefer) while Vicarage Gate carries on northwards. The building which looms above us in this picture is Winchester Court, a nicely curved block of flats built in 1935. Before it was there, according to my constant companion, the Survey of London there was “a large house” which became a convent, and then the Orphanage of St Vincent de Paul.
Winchester Court allows me to use the word faience for the first time on the blog, meaning a glazed ceramic surface. Even in monochrome you can see the first and second floors are finished in black faience. (Now I have the name I can also say that the oxblood tiles on some Piccadilly Line stations are also examples.)
We haven’t quite got round the corner. If I mention one convent I should also mention the impressive Carmelite Priory and Roman Catholic Church on the west side of the street. The current building was finished in 1959 and was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. (Famous for, among many other buildings, both Battersea and Bankside power stations and the frankly staggering Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.) His grandfather designed St Mary Abbots Church, of course. The odd thing is that I can’t seem to find a photo of the 1959 building in our collection. Naturally, I could lay my hands on a couple of views of the old building, and here is one of them:
The front of the church can also be seen in this picture.
The original print is small in size but crisp. You can see the spire of St Mary Abbots, the old Barker’s building at the bottom of the hill and the walls of the houses opposite the church. I have naturally enlarged the image to have a look at the pedestrians.
Note the horse bus climbing slowly up the hill.
This historical view actually fits in with my other idea for this week. When I looked at an old plan of Kensington Church Street circa 1833 it showed several example of the “large houses” which were fairly common in Kensington at the time.
Maitland House, demolished 1905 stood in grounds next to the Palace Forcing Grounds (see last week).
It was the home of the artist Sir David Wilkie and the father of John Stuart Mill. The photo is by Augustus Stieglitz.
Its next door neighbour was York House, seen here from the west.
York House, demolished at about the same time was even grander than Maitland House.
It was once the home of Princess Sophia Matilda, one of the daughters of George III, who lived there from 1839 till her death in 1848
We’ll come to other grand houses as we proceed. They all met a similar fate as Kensington turned from country to city. (not one shared by the grand houses of nearby Campden Hill Road which lasted well into the 20th century. I covered some of them in this post.)
This 1980 picture shows the buildings which replaced Maitland and York Houses. block on the left was the York House flats and the office/showroom in the centre was originally built for The Gas Light and Coke Company in 1924.
There was a house called Bullingham House round the corner to the north west.
But here things get a little complicated. There were two houses called Newton House, named after Sir Isaac who lived in one of them (possibly) quite near to each other on this side of Church Street (or Lane as it would have been). We’ve been here before in a post about the artist Thomas Hosmer Shepherd You can see some pleasant water colours of these houses, but also a factual error I didn’t notice at the time.
Let’s go forward in time a little.
Here, by the side of the old church is Newton Court, the opposite side of the road from Winchester Court. This one was modern and desirable in 1926. Probably still quite desirable.
Moving even further forward to 1980 again, and crossing the road once more..
The east side of the street, next to Winchester Court.
We have at least got round the corner and are heading north. But remember that bus, heaving up the hill?
In full uncompressed colour, not the same vehicle but one very like it, anticipating many of the journeys I have made up the hill. Although we’ve moved even slower this week a matter of yards even, we are now pointing north, and poised for the next stage in our journey.
I might do something else next week, just for fun, but we will be returning to Kensington Church Street soon. For added clarity, here is the plan of Church lane as it was in 1833.
Before the postscript though thanks to the late Barbara Denny and the still going strong Carrie Starren for their book Kensington Past which has helped me when the water of the Survey of London grew too murky. I’ll be drawing on this work again.
I was a bit late posting last week so although I had heard of the death of Harlan Ellison I didn’t have time to write anything. Then this week I heard about the passing of Peter Firmin so now I have to mention them both without incurring cognitive dissonance. Harlan Ellison was a science fiction writer and polemicist, a champion of “new” SF in the sixties and seventies, a gifted writer of short stories, many of which had extraordinary, typically 60s titles (“I have no mouth and I must scream”; “The beast that shouted love at the heart of the world”; and my personal favourite: “Repent, Harlequin! said the TickTock Man” – the collection Deathbird Stories would be a good place to start. I think my copy is in a box in a storage unit in Fulham so finding it would be a good story in itself) He was editor of the seminal series of Dangerous Visions anthologies, TV script writer (The Outer Limits episodes Demon with a Glass Hand and Soldier for example, and the Start Trek time travel episode City at the Edge of Forever) and more. A media personality before SF writers did much of that and a thorn in the flesh of the establishment. The film of his story A boy and his dog can currently be seen on Prime – a great twist at the end.
Peter Firmin was the co-creator of the Clangers, and many other collaborations with Oliver Postgate. So in his own way another giant of science fiction.
I’ve been doing a bit a period reading recently, in a 1966 edition of Geoffery Ashe’s book King Arthur’s Avalon. There is a certain kind of pleasure in reading a non-fiction book written in 1956 which is quite different from reading an old novel. It feels like i was once again reading a book from the city library when I was a teenager and picked up lots of books concerned with history and mythology.
In the modern life of informaton I can find out that, unexpectedly to me (we’re always consigning people to the grave before their time) Ashe is still alive, now aged 95. No obituary for him just yet. I hope he is well.