We’re back again at street level for this post and we’re continuing west, taking in the shops from the junction with Church street, concentrating on the branches of big names and the independents in the last couple of decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st. It was a time when I think it would be fair to say that most people in this period mostly bought things in actual shops. Online retailing existed, and was growing in importance but the high street was still doing fine. The big names still had the prestige and the power and there was room for independent shops, whether they were long established family firms or new ventures. We’ll see example of both, as well as looking at how the physical structure of the high street altered and some of the names changed. Some of the names you’ll see may be just memories now.
This one is 1994
Sacha (a Dutch company?) of course sold shoes, then still a staple of high streets everywhere. This picture also takes a look down Kensington Church Court.
I can’t be sure if Derber came before or later.
But they too sold shoes. You can see more shoe shops. in one of my previous posts.
Below,the Leeds Permanent Building Society merged with the Halifax and later the Bank Of Scotland to form HBOS
David Clulow, the opticians, is still with us, unlike the Aberdeen Steak House, another former high street staple.
I was pleased to find a couple more examples of a style which has been called by the Survey of London “pungently Burgundian” . In the later years of the 19th century banks seemed to have favoured this style. Here is the Midland.
Some elegant patterned brick work above the modernised fascia at street level. Next door, another branch of the National Westminste,r also pleasingly ornate.
Don’t be confused by the two dates 1834 and 1890 in the centre, probably refer to the founding of the London County and Westminster Bank (one of its constituent parts) and the date of the building itself. On the left you can see part of its neighbour, a building which was neither pungent nor particularly Burgundian. the old Kensington Town Hall. Here it is after demolition had begun in 1985.
I’ve covered that story before so we won’t linger.
Here is the building which replaced it still under construction but already partly occupied.
The central shop is a branch of Laura Ashley, an iconic fashion brand in its day whose clothes were in many women’s wardrobes and which epitomised a certain 70s look still influencing fashion.
With that end of the building completed, the front is symmetrical. This picture shows an alley which leads to the gardens and ultimately joins up wit the passage seen in the first picture.
The older building is the Kensington Vestry building, built in 1865. It served as the main local government building for Kensington and after the Town Hall was built became the Central Library (I sometimes come across references to “Box K” or “Box S” on old catalogue cards, a notation which indicated the position of items in the attic of the former Vestry building.)
The Library moved to its current location in 1960 (and here I sit writing about it). The old building was ultimately bought by an Iranian bank. This picture, date unknown, shows the banking hall.
I don’t know what it looks like today. (For another quirky Iranian site see this post, but read down to the comments.) Below is another shoe shop.
Now Clark’s (I may have bought a pair there once). Alongside is another ancient municipal object, a water fountain.
I’ve included this frontal view of Peter Lord because that policeman seems to be looking right at us. Was he keeping a beady eye on the photographer.
Our Price, seen in once of those photo collages below.
There is a snippet on Our Price in this post about Church Street. As record shops went Our Price was not the most full of character. I usually remember buying something at a particular branch, which was convenient for the Library but not with this one.
Big Apple. Who remembers them?
The picture below shows a blurred motorcyclist and Lloyds Bank but it’s actually the branch of McDonalds that catches my attention. And why?
Well, as it happens I think this branch was one of the first in London and I have a distinct memory of driving down from Kensal Rise in my friend Steve’s Mark 1 Cortina specifically to visit this McDonalds and sample this new dining experience. (Only Wimpy Bars before this remember)
We probably ate inside, although we might have parked up somewhere nearby to savour this new taste. I can’t remember waht we thought about the food though. I have had many McDonalds since though.
I’ve included the rather poor picture below because of its notoriety value.
The Bank of Credit and Commerce was involved in one of the greatest banking scandals of this era, and was implicated in money laundering and other nefarious activities. When I checked it on Wikipedia I was intrigued to see that the international bank in the Clive Owen film The International was based on BCC. It’s a pretty good film actually.
The film strip below must be from the 1970s. A branch of the Village Gate is visible.
Sticking on the south side of the street for a while here are some more well known names.
I like this picture because of the man talking to the traffic warden. Are they friends, or is the man attempting to make a case for leniency? Is he begging or berating the implacable uniformed officer? (The local headquarters of the traffic wardens was in an obscure building in the aforementioned Kensington Church Court. Perhaps the warden is walking swiftly back to base so he can get changed and go home.
The man in civvies looks quite animated to me.
This picture was taken at the same time. The pair have a certain bright quality.
Do you see the woman in the white skirt and blue jacket? She is another in the series of women who bear a superficial resemblance to my late mother in law. I come across them from time to time.
In this view looking west a woman waits at a bus stop with a branch of C&A in the background.
The companion picture looking east shows a pair of skaters.
And a bargain price for Harvey’s Bristol Cream.
Back to the north side and the front of Phillimore Court. Look past that Jaguar/Daimler saloon at Chelsea Girl nearly in the centre of the block, with Mothercare next door.
This view shows the Chelsea Girl sign sharing the frontage with Concept Man.
Among the collection of pictures I found these two images of shop signs:
The two signs have been put up somewhere to see how they look. The version of Concept Man seen below is just in some basement on a random wall. Concept Man sounds like a peculiar idea anyway. He’s not a man he’s just a concept! No contest against Chelsea Girl. (She’s a girl from Chelsea?)
Neither of them made the final cut in 1986. Chelsea Girl stayed at 124-126 for a few years. My research indicates that the same address was the home of River Island.
I quite liked this picture, which shows the more upmarket image River Island were looking presumably for in the 1990s.
Unfortunately, it’s obviously not actually on the High Street despite the address on the back.
Could it have been in Barkers Arcade? It’s actually too hot to ponder this question.
One or two names have been left out of this post. Bradford and Bingley, Dorothy Perkins, Video Vision to name but three.
But with the disappointment of River Island I decided to let one more picture in.
Foothold, purveyors of athletic shoes. . And a runner in green shorts! He’s a conceptual man if ever I saw one.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
These words are already being quoted across the internet and hailed as of one the great speeches in cinema, up there with Orson Welles’ cuckoo clock. And it is a great moment for lovers of science fiction.
My wife once came across Rutger Hauer (who died this week aged 75) in a cafe in the Fulham Road. He asked her friend for a light. Afterwards she had to explain who he was to her friend. Not everyone had heard of Blade Runner then.
Thank you, Mr Hauer for being part of our collective dream.
I sent a couple of these pictures to my son and transport correspondent, Matthew. I can only quote his reply in full:
The first bus is actually the more readily identifiable, as we can see it’s fleet number – RM1830. This would be towards the end of it’s career in the capital, as London Transport began withdrawing RM class Routemasters (though clinging fiercely to it’s RMLs, many of which would remain in service until the very final days of their operation on route 159).
At this point, RM1830 was operating out of Westbourne Park garage, the natural home of the 31 since just after the new garage (nestled under the Westway) opened in 1981. The garage would keep the 31 until 2011, enduring the infamous days of minibus operation on the route. Anyone who knew the 31 (which is now two routes, the 31 and 328) in the 1990’s will remember the wholly inadequate little vehicles (Wright “Handybuses” for those seeking details, not that any passenger would have described the diminutive things as “handy”) that took over from proper buses in 1992, and continued for a remarkably long time, despite nobody having anything positive to say about them.
This insult in bus operation was made after RM1830 had moved on from London – it would only stay until 1987, when it was withdrawn by London Transport. It was aquired in 1988 by Clydeside Scottish, and made the journey north, though sadly it never saw service – it was just there to provide spare parts to Clydeside’s existing fleet of ex-London Routemasters. What was left of RM1830 was later sold for scrap, and RM1830 passed on to the great bus garage in the sky.
We can’t go into such detail for the second image, despite actually being able to see the whole bus, as both fleet number and registration number are obscured by the surrounding traffic.
What is visible is the unusual advertising panel for Miss Selfridge on the offside of the bus. As the Routemaster hurriedly departing from the picture frame on the right can show us, most RMs and RMLs had “L” shaped advertising panels, taking advantage of the blank panel over the staircase to provide as much lucrative advertising space as possible. This vehicle, one of many Tottenham garage-based RMLs, received special illuminated advertising panels instead – these were supposed to increase visibility at night on routes like the 73 that ran through central London after dark. The experiment was evidently not deemed a success, and London Transport never expanded the practice, and most lost the illuminated panels when they were overhauled. One member of the class still retains the panels to this day though, working as a heritage vehicle for Ensignbus in Essex. The idea meanwhile has begun to return, with some buses now having LED-based advertising panels installed, allowing for the adverts to flash and scroll and display other dazzling effects to their audience. How long will this latest version of the experiment last?
Nonetheless, an RML on route 73 to Stoke Newington tells us a lot. Not least that the photo’s label is wrong – this is emphatically not 1989. It can’t be, unless that particular bus had rebelled against the dictats of London Transport and decided that it was too good to be curtailed to such a location as Victoria.
Route 73, until August of 1988, ran from Stoke Newington to Hammersmith. In that year though, the new route 10 (King’s Cross to Hammersmith Broadway) would take over the Hyde Park Corner – Hammersmith section, leaving the 73’s to turn sullenly south at Hyde Park Corner in order to wheeze to a halt at their new terminus on the forecourt of Victoria Station.
The 10 would exist in this form almost precisely 30 years – it was withdrawn entirely in 2018 in order to reduce the number of buses on Oxford Street. The madness that is pedestrianisation of this thoroughfare continues to plague the minds of those in power, and small steps towards this absurd and laughable goal continue to be taken, heedless of the impact it will have on the travelling public.
However, in order to maintain a connection between Hyde Park Corner and Hammersmith (for apparently this connection must be maintained at all costs) the 23, shorn of its run between Marble Arch and Liverpool Street, was redirected down Park Lane to take over. Now the 23 runs in an absurd “C” shape, connecting Hammersmith with Westbourne Park via Marble Arch – a route so circuitous as to be almost entirely pointless – as demonstrated by the near-empty buses plying the route!
July 31st, 2019 at 5:03 pm
Very much enjoying the series on Kensington High Street. I think the last shoe shop -Russell & Bromley, closed not so long ago
There was, I think, one on the corner of Adam &Eve Mews, (the site that housed Hotel Chocolat for a while) but it’s name escapes me, even having searched for defunct shoe/retail names on the internet. Anyone remember it?
Not until you start searching for shops no longer with us, you realise how many have gone and that once were a part of your everyday shopping.
August 1st, 2019 at 2:30 pm
I think it was Ravel. Number 163. Do you remember that just down Adam and Eve Mews were the office of the Society for Psychic Research?
August 1st, 2019 at 2:44 pm
Ravel, that was it. Ravel was my shoe shop of choice, a slight cut above Bata, but more affordable than Russell and. Bromley.. Was at art school with a girl called Bridget Eliot and as we passed a row of shoe shops one day she waved at a branch of Eliot – expensive footwear – and said that was her family shop.
Vaguely remember the Psychic Research, but by name more than anything.
December 6th, 2019 at 6:09 pm
I bought a Nick Lowe cassette in the Our Price shop on Notting Hill Gate during 1980s, I crossed the road to the Windsor Castle pub he was sitting there as I walked in. He signed it for me.
December 7th, 2019 at 7:39 am
December 23rd, 2020 at 11:12 am
Derber shoes came before Sacha. It was owned by Bernard Derber who bought Sacha shoes and changed the name of his shops to Sacha.
*former employee (1993-95)
October 10th, 2022 at 9:16 pm
Thank you so much for this. I googled “apple 1990s shop kensington high street” and found your blog. I was convinced it was called Apple but it’s Big Apple so thanks for clearing that up. I used to shop there all the time as a teenager. They had great tops. Nobody remembers it! The racks were definitely rammed full of clothes back then. Lots of surplus apparel.
Kensington Market was nearby and edgy and didn’t really fit in with the high street but a good place to find a leather jacket.
This is still my favourite street in London but it could do with a record shop, preferably one cheaper than Our Price or Tower Records was. £17.99 for a CD album in the 90s. What a joke.
Do you have any photos of Whiteley’s from the 90s? There’s a few shops specific to Whiteley’s I never learned the names of that I miss. Short lived ones, too.
I really regret not taking pictures of shops back then. Just took it for granted.