Sometimes a post arises out of  nothing but curiosity. I started with a few pictures of a shop called Slaters.



Alfred Slater began as a butcher but by 1909, the date of this picture, he was a butcher and provision dealer. The building caught my interest because of its elaborate frontage, not unlike some of the nearby buildings we’ve seen in other posts. The other pictures of the shop show the interior.



A fine marble slab featuring a selection of dead animals including a set with lolling necks. The interior is as well decorated as the front.

Below, a selection of cured meats, with many cheeses and other products.



Some chairs for the customers to sit in while giving and waiting for their orders . It seems like a high class establishment to me. No sawdust on the floor here.

But although there is plenty to think about in these three pictures, I wondered if that was all I was going to see of Slaters. The three pictures might make a good short post for Christmas.

After all, 18-20 Kensington High Street is no longer with us. Since 1909 a whole stretch of the north side of the street has been redeveloped.

I was still curious to find out more, so I went to look at more photographs, and street directories.

This part of the High Street was much photographed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Look at this post. (And its companions) But there are  more images in which to look for Slaters.

It’s actually in this picture, in the distance.  The railings are by the entrance to Kensington Gardens. The gateway has a heraldic lion holding a coat of arms. (Which survives to this day, like one other feature in the picture. Can you see it?)

Behind that, The King’s Arms public house. This picture is probably from 1887. the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The public house would soon be demolished.



I used this picture in that previous post, but I enlarged a different section. The close up below shows Slaters, especially decorated as many shops were that year.




And a nice further detail of two young women hurrying across the street, rushing to get between the carriages. You can actually see that the one bringing up the rear has her right foot off the ground.

In this picture the street is plainer, but you can see just by the lamp of the Cumberland Arms the sign above the alley on the right of Slaters which says Hodgson.




We know from Kelly’s Street Directory of 1889 that this alley was called Cumberland Yard, and in it were the businesses of G T Patterson, Veterinary Surgeon and William Hodgson, coach builder. This picture might show Cumberland Yard.




(Look closely and find two men on the roofs of two of the buildings crammed together behind shops and inns.)

On the other side of Slaters, heading west was a wine merchants..



Three smart dudes in top hats, obviously all wine merchants thinking seriously about getting someone to load or unload those crates and barrels. The horse is thinking he’ll just wait till they decide what to do. No point in rushing things.

Those gates and railings? Still there today, I think, at the bottom of Kensington Palace Gardens. Even then, not just anybody could enter.

The next picture must be after 1890.



Slaters is stiil there on the far left. You can see part of a sign reminding clients of its services to the royal family. Outside, are another horse and cart are ready to go. You can even see the alley leading to Hodgson’s.  Next door is the Duke of Cumberland public house and a few other businesses. Above them all towers the side of the newly built  Royal Palace Hotel. Although the photo is faded you can just see the word Hotel in big letters.

Here’ a map section pinpointing Slaters.



The map also marks the Bank I referred to in this post, named after a favourite phrase from the Survey of London.

You’ve probably noticed that the Slaters in the first picture is not the same building as in the earlier pictures. This section of the High Street was subject to a London County Council road-widening scheme in 1902-1905. The management of Slaters took this opportunity to  build a much more prestigious and striking  structure.





Higher, and definitely more Burgundian. In 1902 it was celebrated in The Architect magazine. This image is what is called an ink photo, which I take to be an actual photograph gone over in ink to make it more suitable for publication in an illustrated periodical like the Illustrated London News. (You can see more examples of these in this post). It’s a nice clear image, which even offers a tantalising view up the alley. Is that a ladder in the distance? Unfortunately you can’t zoom in on these ink photos as easily as with a photographic print.

They also provided an interior view.


I love those light fittings.

I haven’t called Slaters a forgotten building as I sometimes do on the blog because it had a long history on the High Street and stayed in the lee of the Royal Palace Hotel until both of them were demolished at the end of the 1950s.  The early days of the hotel are another story of course, and one we will come back to soon. Kensington High Street always has more stories to tell.

Although my Kensington memory doesn’t go back to the 1950s I’m sure there are still plenty of people who saw Slaters in its heyday, or have family memories of it. If so, please leave a comment.


12 responses to “Slaters

  • Marie Dean

    I follow you as I love all these photos. I lived in the borough of Kensington for a while on Cromwell Road and love the area. Thank you for all your postings.

  • Karen

    Thanks Dave, I love this week’s post and photos. Especially the interior pictures. Those high class grocery emporiums really did look like palaces inside!

  • David

    Fascinating and beautifully written, as always. Thank you.

    Have you noticed the difference in the shop fronts between the first photo (1909) and the last photo at the end (dated around 1902) ? Clearly business was so good, they needed more space to display their wares.
    The thing that made me notice this is this. If you zoom in on the first photo, you see the outlines of a previous name sign, on the facia.
    OK, so I’m a geek. But I love your articles and the amazing photos that you have access to.

    • Dave Walker

      There are some discrepancies between the 1909 and 1902 pictures, not least the existence of an entrance to the offices. It could be that alterations to the shop front and interior were made in that period or it could be that the 1902 pictures reflected un-executed aspects of the design – a little uncertainty hangs over these “ink photos”. This is another of those instance when an actual time machine would be useful. Remember this is the age of the geek.

  • ken peers

    I really enjoyed these last two blogs,just love snaps of old butchers ,chandlers,haberdashers,grocers,etc.,marvellous stuff,thanks Dave.

  • Chris

    Re the faint signage on the fascia of the first photo, it looks like the letters ‘ers’ at the end followed by a very faint ‘ltd’. Perhaps it was the original size of the name and it was re-done to look maybe neater, and a tad more up market? Some of that section is darker than the other – repainting and at the same time new signage?
    Another geek who likes looking at photos for little bits of information of the time and these ordinary ones are the very basis of clues to the past! Most enjoyable.

  • Peter Hurst

    Thanks for this very interesting article.

  • Elizabeth Sitwell

    Fascinating photographs of Slater’s Kensington High Street. My mother shopped there in the 1940s and 50s. It was in two sections. Dry provisions like sugar and flour were bought on the left of the shop as you entered, weighed and wrapped in blue sugar-paper bags, and ration books clipped. There was a large staircase, at the far end, taking you to the restaurant upstairs which had masses of little tables and brown tub-like chairs. On the ground floor on the right you went through an archway where there was the dairy produce counter and a new, long fridge for blocks of vanilla ice cream at 1s 6d, which would serve about six. Next to that was the meat counter with sides of bacon hanging up. Paying was done at a small, dark wooden kiosk with a hang-up telephone. All receipts were put on a spike.

    I noticed in the photograph of Kensington High Street – next to the King’s Arms Hotel there is a house with a deep overhanging roof of unusual height. It looks older than the Georgian houses, certainly the tiles on the roof are small and irregular. It is also shown in a drawing next to the newly built Royal Palace Hotel (1892-3). I think it could be the same building as depicted in the foreground of the print “The South View of Kensington” published by Laurie and Whittle of 53 Fleet Street in the mid-18th century. Its position is approximately the same distance form the church, and on a road one would assume that leads to Kensington Palace. (The Georgian buildings along Kensington High Street had yet to be built).

    Could the house in the print on the left in the distance be Colby House? Colby made his fortune clothing Marlborough’s army.

    Most interested in your opinion.

    • Dave Walker

      First, thanks for your memories (or your mother’s) of Slaters. Just the sort of thing I was hoping for when I wrote the post. On the question of the house next to the King’s Arms, I have to say that I don’t think it’s the same building as the one in the South view of Kensington. I’ve always found that particular print a bit of a puzzle anyway and quite hard to reconcile with photographs. In the first place there are some differences – number of windows, height of roof. and then the general size of the building in the print. The building was a kond of lodge or gatehouse although it was a buisness address by the late 19th century. It actually survived until the Royal Garden Hotel was completed. I’m going to be looking at the demolition in this section of Kensington High Street in more detail in a future pose so watch this space.
      And Colby House? Well, possibly. I find the print confusing with regard to the location of buildings, but Colby House was a substantial building of a similar kind to the one in the print so it could be the one.

      • Elizabeth Sitwell

        Dear Dave,

        I was really chuffed that you think it is possible that the little house next to the old Royal Palace Hotel (Kensington High Street) could be the building in “A Southern View of Kensington” 18th-century print. I passed it for years on my daily walk in Kensington Gardens with my nanny, we always sat on the bench nearest the statue of King William III, even on freezing days.

        Kind regards,


  • tomfarrell2k6

    Where did you get those lovely Slaters photos?

  • Louisa Thomson-Price (1864-1926) – Women Who Meant Business

    […] first target in her portfolio was Slaters, a food business that floated in 1889 and now had both food stores and branded restaurants in its […]

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