They call it the Council Offices, Pembroke Road these days. But we used to call it the Depot. I’ve been there for training courses, sat in rooms and listened to trainers, practiced recruitment interviews, done the occasional bit of role playing. I’ve even extinguished fires in one of the big sheds at the back as part of fire training. But that was all in the modern version, constructed in 1972 -75, a two part edifice on the north and south sides of Pembroke Road with the terraced housing blocks Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace on the top which were sometimes called “gardens in the sky” and are joined by a walkway over Pembroke Road. I sometimes looked up and wondered what it was like up there, above the place where refuse trucks and other council vehicles used to come and go.
Back in the 19th century there was a piano factory on part of the site, and an urban dairy. The Vestry acquired some of the buildings in the 1870s and used them as stables, and later somewhere for all its vehicles and the men who drove them to use. The site expanded but eventually it was decided to replace the lot with two large buildings which combined workshops, offices and housing. These pictures come from 1969 and show the “old” Depot.
This is one of the entrances on Warwick Road. Confusingly, there were two, and several buildings on the site, so it’s not always clear which direction you’re looking at.
That set of steps is a useful marker for one part of the site.
You can see a coupl of refuse trucks behind the parked cars. At one time all the trucks came and went from the depot.
A lone motorbike parked by another entrance to the main building, where there was a large interior space.
I wonder what purpose it served. Offices?
This is another entrance with a gatehouse, and a row of terraced houses beyond, looking south I think.
If you look closely you can see that this is a different entrance. But it also faces east to the large building in the background.
With more vehicles, this one a petrol tanker.
This building with an arched structure was part of the piano factory.
A few employees are coming and going as the photographer works.
Inside the site you can see some industrial wear and tear and some signs of neglect.
At this date some of the buildings may be emptying out.
The site must have been a bit of a maze.
But it was the Council’s largest property bigger than the then Town Hall. The early 1970s was also when the new building in Hornton Street was built.
The final picture shows number 104 Warwick Road, demolished a few years later, one of the few signs of retail life in the area, although there was a pub called the Warwick Arms on the corner of Pembroke Road, between the two parts of the Depot. That building is still there. The tunnel visible here showed the way through to the northern depot buildings.
These pictures demonstrate that for me at least, even with visual evidence in the form of photographs and maps, you can’t always figure out exactly how a small area looked, but you are left with an impression of a somewhat decayed light industrial area with nothing of the current Tesco superstore and the blocks of upmarket housing which stretch up to Kensington High Street. Have a look at this post to see how things looked on the west side of Warwick Road.
There are proposals to demolish the 1970s depot, and its housing so perhaps they too will need to be recorded in photographs…
As you might imagine, I took notice of the death of the actress Jacqueline Pearce, who played the larger than life character Supreme Commander Servalan in the ramshackle dystopian SF series of the 70s, Blake’s 7 (Blake himself was the least interesting character). Pearce was also the title character of one of Hammer’s most interesting films, the Reptile. Try that on Google images for a striking bit of make-up. I believe she at one time lived on one of the house boats on Chelsea Reach. I definitely saw her one day walking up Beaufort Street, but she didn’t look like she would have wanted to stop and talk to me. She made the stern, dominatrix-like Servalan very believable.