Ghosts of 1923


A little bit more than a short pause I suppose. But I had to get back on the horse eventually, and now I have a bit of a breathing space, This post is one I started last year, with every intention of finishing it quickly, but circumstances intervened. I’ve added some more material to bring things up to date.

As far as I can tell, these pictures were all taken on a single day in 1923,  by Albert Argent Archer. I’m not an expert on the evolution of photographic techniques but I would have thought that by this time the problem of the ghostly images of people who failed to keep still long enough to be clearly visible on the picture would have been overcome. Or perhaps by using a long exposure, Archer got a clearer image of the buildings he was trying to photograph.

We’ve come across Kensington photographer Argent Archer before in posts from late 2017 and early 2018 (a more innocent historical period), and his embossed mark is on these pictures. Leonard Place was a section of Kensington High Street between Earls Court Road and Edwardes Square.



I’m inclined to think the building on the far left may have survived into the present, although the last time I saw it it was covered in scaffolding. It was/is a branch of the Yorkshire (formerly Chelsea) Building Society.



In 1923 it was a branch of the London City and Midland Bank. In the close up you can see a Haircutting and Shaving Saloon, a Servants Agency and what looks like a newsagent. But everything to the west of the bank is gone. The premises next door, home of some Shippers and Exporters were truncated sharply, possibly to make way for the now (almost?) demolished Odeon cinema.

Strachan and Brown, High Class Coach Builders and Engineers, have another sign in a prominent position, “Garage”. Serving motor vehicles may have been the most significant part of their business by this time.



You can also see ghosts in this picture, people who didn’t linger long enough to fully register on the photographic plate, or who shuffled around as they waited by a bus stop. (Note the London Transport roundel.)


From our point of view, nearly a century ahead, they might as well be actual ghosts, watching and waiting to be recognized.

Another angle shows the north side of the road. The wall encloses the then private Holland House estate. Ghosts are still visible and two parked cars.


Here is a closer view of one of those cars.

Behind it is one of the gatehouses of (I think) Edwardes Square.

This ghostly bus must have been moving when the picture was taken.


Finally, a group of ghosts, looking out at us from beyond (presumably) the grave.

Leonard Place 1923 01898 (2) trio


Ever since the death of David Bowie, I’ve written short obituary paragraphs in the past when authors or musicians I liked died, and even once about one of my customers. But I’ve never had to write about a colleague and friend.

I met Karen Ullersperger in the 1980s when she came to work at Kensington Library and we became friends. We worked together on Reference matters and as part of the Senior Librarians team. We also spent some time together recruiting staff, which was something we both enjoyed. We made some pretty good appointments, even if we said so ourselves. Karen moved to a more senior position in her later years in the Tri-Borough service but we stayed in touch. I think I filled a particular role in Karen’s life, listening to her when she had issues with other staff and in other areas of her life. She would sometimes call me Dr Dave when she wanted to let off steam about something. She was sometimes pretty angry about life. I won’t pretend I was the only one who could help her with that. She had plenty of friends at work not to mention her family, and her cats. Karen was a very conscientious person, professionally and personally. She left the Borough intending to have a rest before resuming her career, but she became ill and had to concentrate on that. I’m glad to say I saw her on a couple of occasions before lockdown, and the last time we spoke she was optimistic about her condition, but more importantly than that she seemed to have gotten rid of her anger. There was a calmness about her, perhaps from accepting whatever life had in store for her. Nevertheless, it is extraordinarily sad that she passed away not long ago at a comparatively young age. Her friends and family are all diminished by her death.


001 DW Mamos 1978

Above: me circa 1978, for your amusement. Oddly, my hair is about this length now, due to the lockdown and personal laziness.

Nobody knows how long they have but I do know that I have made it through a 43 year accidental career in libraries and earlier this year I resgned and retired. I survived the ups and downs of local government in recent years . I’ve had interesting times and boring times. I’ve met excellent colleagues, and a few that were perhaps not so excellent. I’ve irritated many people and perhaps entertained a few more. When I started work in libraries back in 1978 I was looking for something that was socially useful and didn’t oblige me to wear a tie. (I didn’t have great ambitions.) Somehow, I’ve enjoyed myself and maybe did a few useful and helpful things. (This blog may be one of them.) So thank you to all the people I’ve worked with and friends I’ve made. And thank you to everyone who has read the blog, which has been one of the highlights of my career. Above all, thank you to my wife Cathryn and my son Matthew who have tolerated me for most of their lives.

This isn’t the end of the blog. Although I have been quiet lately, during lockdown and post-Covid, I have a few ideas bubbling up so there may be a few more posts to come. I sincerely hope so.


20 responses to “Ghosts of 1923

  • layeruponlayer

    What a delight that you’re back! Fascinating as always. And more important I hope this means you’re fully recovered, or at least on the road to thatWarmest best wishesDavid Winner(You helped me with some stuff about Norland Rd years ago, and we spoke about the archive of the now sadly late poet Michael Horovitz some time later)

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  • Diana

    Great to receive your post! The photographs are beautiful with their ghostly images. I love this part of London. Oh to have lived here in the 20’s! I lived and worked in this area in the early 90’s for 5 years and admired it every day. So much to discover. Since covid I miss my annual visits. Thank you for this and I do hope you will continue. Best wishes.

  • Ruth Beaty

    Glad to hear things are well with you, and retirement isn’t so bad (go ahead, ask me how I know, lol). I’ve enjoyed your blog for the years I’ve read it, been entertained and educated so that’s a win. I look forward to the ideas you have bubbling! As for the loss of friends, and sometimes loved ones, it happens. The sad and most troublesome part of life. Hopefully they will live on in our memories and thoughts with the pleasure we had in their company.

  • David frewin

    Oh welcome back Dave. I have really missed your writing.


  • billkerrblog

    Thanks for your excellent photos- fascinating and your comments … I had worked at what was The Penta Hotel – the 27 storey edifice in The Cromwell Rd., opposite The West London Air Terminal in the mid to late 70’s, beginning my hotel career.
    I have always had a soft spot for this part of London, and it was convenient for me to get to having a flat in Battersea Park Rd., – bought in the mid-’70’s for £11500 !!
    I subscribe to blogs on The Library Time Machine related to The Penta Hotel and its environs…
    If you have any relevant anecdotal material I would be delighted to be copied – thanks a lot,

    Bill Kerr, 68 retired and living in Seaford, Sussex

  • Charlotte Frost (@CharlotteFrost1)

    So good to hear from you, Dave. Part of my heart will always be in Kensington, and I’ve missed your posts.

  • Aidan Christor McCarthy

    Looking forward to many more of your brilliant posts !

  • Gijs Leffelaar

    Very glad to have come across your blog. Now living in Haarlem, the Netherlands, I, as many, have a soft spot for London (South Kensington).
    One of the pictures of that area has been my desktop-background for a number of years now.
    Thanks! and the best.
    Gijs Leffelaar

  • Jo Statham

    Delighted you are back and in good health. I discovered your blog completely by chance, and became quite addicted to it. Your picture research is astounding. I even found a fabulous photo of the house in Holland Park (converted to flats when we lived there in the 1980s) where I still find myself occasionally in dreams. In the photo, a group of Edwardian children are walking past it, and, as someone wrote, it looks like it belongs in a book by E Nesbit. Please keep up the great work – you’ve been greatly missed.

  • Marcia Howard

    So pleased to hear from you again Dave, and all best wishes for a long a healthy retirement. If it’s like retirement, I’ve never been busier (I’m not counting this past 21 mths!) I’m also really grateful that my brother Patrick and myself got to meet you on his last visit over from Australia, and that we were able to view the paintings again that once adorned the Children’s Library in Manresa Road. A great privilege. I treasure the photos of you, me, and those paintings taken that day. Thank you also for your subsequent blog on them that same week. Glad you’ve made a good recovery from your illness and hospital stay a while back, and look forward to any new blogs you choose to post. Forever grateful, M
    PS: Sorry to hear about Karen. Hopefully now at peace. I sadly joined the funeral (via video) on Monday afternoon this week, of a close friend who I’d known since the day we started senior school in Sept 1959.

    • Dave Walker

      Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments. The murals have attracted a lot of interest. So it looks like my recovery of them from the Manresa Road building back in the 90s was a bit of a highlight.

  • havanagold

    Superb! Thank you for all your marvelous historical blogs.

    Please try and do some more!

    Our best wishes to you, Dave

    David M (130 Notting Hill Gate 1970s Virgin shop manager) & Jacquie

    On Thu, 2 Dec 2021, 00:46 The Library Time Machine, wrote:

    > Dave Walker posted: ” A little bit more than a short pause I suppose. > But I had to get back on the horse eventually, and now I have a bit of a > breathing space, This post is one I started last year, with every intention > of finishing it quickly, but circumstances inter” >

  • Bob Taylor

    Good to have you back!

  • Colin Clare

    I too have missed your blogs which were always richly illustrated by some wonderful photographs and prints that told me so much about the history of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
    I was shocked to hear about the death of Karen, because as you know I worked alongside her for many years in Kensington Reference Library until I retired four and a half years ago.Yes ,she had periods of anger and resentment when she felt the world was against her, but she was at heart a committed professional person and a competent, intelligent work colleague.
    Enjoy your retirement!

    • Dave Walker

      Good to hear from you. I’m sorry if you hadn’t heard about Karen before. As I recall, you were one of the people she and I hired, which was of course a great decision. I miss her.

  • guyliane bariaud

    Hi Dave,
    Glad to know you’re ok and you are going to keep posting great articles about Kensington and Chelsea. This one is amazing as usual. I lived in Queen’s Gate Place in the 80’s/90’S and worked with you in Brompton library! I had such a wonderful time walking around South Kensington during those years, and reading your posts and watching photos from another time takes me back there. Thanks again ¡
    Guyliane Bariaud

    Enviado desde Correo para Windows

    De: The Library Time Machine
    Enviado: jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2021 1:45
    Asunto: [New post] Ghosts of 1923

    Dave Walker posted: ” A little bit more than a short pause I suppose. But I had to get back on the horse eventually, and now I have a bit of a breathing space, This post is one I started last year, with every intention of finishing it quickly, but circumstances inter”

  • Karen M.

    So pleased to see you back, Dave. I missed you! Enjoy your retirement, keep well, and thank you for continuing with your wonderful blog.

  • ken peers

    Great to have you back,and sounding fighting fit,and particularly pleased to see Axl Rose and his Dave Walker tribute act.Looking forward to many more blogs.

  • iChristopher John Pain

    Welcome back Dave! Missed your posts. Looking forward to reading more in the future.

  • Satish Pujji

    I check in with this blog every now and then. Thank you for making and keeping it going. As a resident of K&C its always a fascinating read/view.

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