Author Archives: Dave Walker

Silver Street: Kensington Church Street part 4

For this final post on Kensington Church Street we’re in Silver Street, which, as I said last week, is the name by which the northern section of the street used to be known. Church Lane was the southern section. ( Or originally Love Lane according to some sources.)

This is number 118.

 

 

The home of one of Kensington’s local newspapers, (the other one was the Post although different names had been used over the years) at a time when the titles were independent.

Below, D C Monk and Sons at 132-134.

 

 

 

This was another one of those shops John Rogers seemed very taken with, and took several pictures of at different times and days. can you see the three balls above the awning? D C Monk was a traditional pawn brokers, and the three balls a traditional sign. The pawn broker could do business in any kind of neighbourhood, even next to a big residential property. (These pictures are from 1969.)

 

 

 

We actually starting to walk downhill at this point. I have some recollection of standing outside The Kensington Bookshop, below, window shopping, and I think it was a general bookshop. I can’t recall actually going inside though. I have a feeling that I would have been passing by on my way to Kensington Library and would already have been tired from that slight upward incline. This was 1980 so I could easily have been in the picture myself.

 

 

The shop was later taken by Adrian Harrington, a well know book dealer who, I met once, but who is sadly no longer with us. His brother Peter also sold or sells books and there are still shops bearing his name, one on the Fulham Road.

 

 

Farther along on the west side, another traditional style of shop, a large timber merchants, with two smaller businesses nestling under the main sign. Yes, at number 144 Bits and Pieces. Hello, are you looking for some bits? No today I thought I’d get some pieces. The big sign still exists.

 

 

The traffic heading south in this picture has come out of Kensington Mall through the odd one way system which takes southbound buses past the top of Church Street so they can turn into a narrow street and turn again before they can enter the street. A barrier planted with shrubs and a couple of small trees (these days) keeps vehicles from going the wrong way, or is it to stop them entering a one-way street the wrong way? Traffic experts can tell me if they wish.

 

 

From this point on Kensington Church street is northbound only and traffic is filtered either towards Central London or towards Shepherds Bush.

The east side of the street consists of a couple of modern buildings from the early 1960s when Notting Hill Gate was redeveloped. (There’s a post here)

Part of this building is a Post Office which is still in business.

 

Here is the actual corner, and a glimpse of Notting Hill Gate.

 

 

Before we take another look at Notting Hill Gate we need to go back to the west side of the street.

At number 113, Appel, a tailor.

 

 

And next door to him at 115, the Rowley Gallery, another survivor.

 

 

At this point the Gallery had a workshop nearby in Campden Street.

 

 

At the end of that block is number 119, the Churchill Arms, one of London’s most attractive pubs. My personal bible of Kensington history, the Survey of London tells us that although the pub is now associated with Winston Churchill ( a Freeman of the Borough, among other things), the name may originally derive from the descriptive phrase “church hill”. But we shouldn’t quibble.

Anyone who travels along this section will have noticed the new building rising behind boards and scaffolding between Edge Street and Kensington Place. It has one of those pointy designs over the glass facade.

This of course replaces what I now have to call a “forgotten building” although many of you will remember the building which was there before, at number 145. I did wonder if this wasn’t simply a case of a new facade over an older building but Google Maps has that excellent retrospective street view (a boon to local historians and many others I should think) which shows the absent building in May 2015.

 

 

The offices of Chapman Taylor Partners, architects, newly built in 1973 and shown in Architectural Review. Not perhaps to everyone’s taste, but many of the buildings at this end of the street were now modern, and although it might be stretching a point to call it “charming brutalist”, it was not too overwhelming for the neighbourhood.

 

 

A side view in Edge Street. We can even go inside and see architects drawing.

 

 

Below, some administrative offices viewed from “one of the secretary’s cubicles”.

 

 

And there’s the secretary busy typing and waiting for the phone to ring as they did in the 70s.

This 1961 picture shows a view of Notting Hill Gate, and the east side of the street as it had been 10 years before the 1971 pictures we’ve already seen.

 

 

You can see the tower, Newcombe House on the corner at the left of the picture. It’s a building which has not worn well over the years and it’s not long for this world if current development plans go through. (A decision is expected soon.)

But let’s finish with a view of Silver Street which won’t be superseded by events.

 

 

This pencil drawing by the artist Frank Emanuel captures the narrow version of Silver Street in the early years of the previous century. It’s always been one of my favourites. The figure of the woman is particularly good I think. I’ll come back to some of the artists who drew or painted this part of Kensington in a future post. But for now our journey is done.

Postscript

My absence the week before last was purely accidental. But I am about to take a couple of weeks off, and to maintain sanity at home, I will temporarily cease blogging. Hopefully new ideas will come bubbling forth in late August, and in the meantime I can point you to my extensive back catalogue of posts, more than 370 of them, on a variety of subjects

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Kensington Church Street: farther along

Resuming our progress up Kensington Church Street, we’re now round the corner now but still heading up the hill. This is the corner of another cul-de-sac, Melon Place

 

 

Numbers 62 and 64 date from the 1850s when the short street was originally laid out. Let’s take a peek down there.

 

 

You can just see the name Jay in the sign for Melvyn and Gary Jay (Antiques and Objet D’art) on the left. Up till this point there have been retail establishments on both side of the street, but now these alternate with shops.

 

 

Number 66, home of the Vintner. See that man lounging against the window? He looks a little surprised. I suppose he never found out that he was becoming part of the historical record of Kensington. This is an area for antiques and art works. Note the Japanese Gallery at the end of this short parade of shops. The street which leads off Church Street is Vicarage Gardens.

This is a postcard view from the early 1900s.

 

The reason this picture is particularly interesting is that the church you can make out at the end of the road is St Paul’s, which suffered bomb damage during the war and was subsequently demolished. It doesn’t feature in many photographs.

The basis for this post as for many others is our Photo Survey created by John Rogers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the photos of Church Street are from 1971. But for some reason almost all of them are of the east side of the street, the even numbers. I don’t know why but to balance things out I went looking for odd numbers from other times.

From 1929, Dick Turpin’s Old Historical Posting House (it claims on the sign).

 

 

From 1909, a couple of advertisements.

 

 

“Celebrated Snowdrift Pastry Flour”? I’d try that.

 

That Pynolia sounds good. We’ll continue the pharmacy theme in a moment. But first another glance at a side street, Campden Grove.

 

 

I think this is a view looking west, towards Hornton Street and Observatory Gardens, but it’s often difficult to tell in these postcard views.

The name Campden Grove commemorates another great house which stood near Church Lane, Campden House. That is almost certainly a post in itself so we’ll pass by for the moment, and just note that the stretch of street between numbers 83 and 95 was once known as Campden House Terrace.

The next side street on the east side is Sheffield Terrace.

 

 

Another name which recalls an old house. Sheffield House and its grounds were on the east side of Church Lane.

Now we can return to the 1970s. Here is a quirky mixture typical of the street, of residential and retail, with an interesting structure above the side entrance to number 1 Berkeley Gardens.

 

 

 

So we’ve come to another corner.

 

 

John seemed quite fascinated by this chemists at number 106. He even went inside.

 

 

Many bargains to be had in their closing down sale. (Closing down sales were one of John’s specialties. See this post) One particular display caught my eye.

 

 

Do you remember when Lucozade bottles (usually reserved for people who were ill, hence them being sold in a chemist) came wrapped in orange cellophane? There they are, on a Ki-ora stand. What purpose did the cellophane serve? If you know, please tell us in a comment.

 

 

The gentleman obviously spent some time examining the window before moving on.

Here is Berkeley Gardens in 1980.

 

 

You can  just make out that the Chemist at number 106 has become another antiques shop. Opposite, the discrete entrance to John Hussey, funeral directors.

 

 

106 Kensington Church Street and the building opposite on the west side, 103, more or less mark the spot where Church Lane, the original name of Kensington Church Street, ended, and Silver Street, the original name of the final section of the street began. This seemed like a good place to start the fourth and final part of this subject, which will be in the next post. Notting Hill Gate is almost in sight….

 

Postscript

I may have been guilty of prevarication this week. Not only was it too hot to blog, but I had plenty of actual work to do and as I started looking for pictures of the west side of the street I found some quite interesting ones, including a “forgotten building” as I used to call them, which will appear in the final part of this struggle uphill, which will definitely appear on time one week after this post.

I din’t think there would be an obituary this week, but death always surprises us, and on Tuesday evening I read about the death of Polish musician Tomasz Stanko, one of the greats of modern jazz. Some may not have heard of him, and I know I sometimes feature quite obscure people in these postscripts simply because I have some of their albums or books, but the odd thing is that if you ever watched the TV series Homeland, you have heard Stanko. His piece Terminal 7, from the album Dark Eyes is used during the end titles (or was in early seasons I believe).

 


Cul-de-sac: St Mary Abbot’s Place

Last Saturday, on one of those hot, hot days we’ve been having I was sitting with my son at the bus stop on Kensington High Street opposite St Mary Abbot’s Place, looking at the short terrace called Earls Terrace where there are several Iranian businesses and restaurants. Early 19th century I was saying. (And I was right – 1827-30). The bus came, but it looked intolerably crowded (and hot) so we decided not to bother, and to restore sanity we crossed the road to have a closer look at the cul-de-sac in question, about which I knew some random facts. This picture wasn’t taken last week of course.

 

 

St Mary Abbot’s Place looks like a random collection of buildings squeezed onto a strip of land between Edwardes Square and Warwick Gardens. . And that’s kind of what it is. On the western side, facing the High Street is Warwick Close, a two-storey collection of apartments enclosing a small courtyard. The picture below shows part of it in 1971 along with numbers 2 and 4.

 

 

This is 2a in 1985, from an estate agent’s brochure.

 

 

We’ll come back to the western side in a moment but first we have to take a look at the eastern side of the street. Again this picture shows numbers 1-5 in 1971.

 

 

1-5 was the home of the Viking Film Studios, where films and TV programmes were made from the late 1940s through the 1950s and early 1960s, including the earliest version of the BBC’s Tonight programme. (Much more can be found here, so I won’t duplicate someone else’s research, but I was interested to see that Powell and Pressberger once had offices in the building.)

Before its time as a film studio, the building had been an artist’s studio run by Frank Calderon. Among his activities was a school devoted to drawing animals.

 

 

These pictures scans of a photocopy, slightly improved by me, from a 1913 publication called the Family Friend. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the original, (which would have taken us back to an old library story and a room that no longer exists) but I wanted to include these two images because they are so strange. According to a short piece on the School of Animal Painting, Calderon kept a small menagerie at the back of the studio for his animal models.

The buildings were demolished about 1990 and the current buildings, although in keeping with the rest of the street, are new.

Number 7, next door, is perhaps just a house, although quite a picturesque one, in this pictures from 1986.

 

 

 

Some interesting interiors,including this vaulted hall.

 

 

Next door to that are numbers 9 and 9A, once the home of The White Eagle Lodge.

 

 

The innocuous exterior conceals some interesting interior features.

Another courtyard,

 

A library,

 

 

And of course, a place of worship.

 

 

An Ordnance Survey map of 1974 describes it as a “spiritualist church”. The brochure from which these pictures come speaks of meditation and healing. Although no longer in this building the organisation still exists. Further information here.

The houses at the end of the street look to me as though they belong to a completely different setting, far from urban Kensington and deep into a more rural location.

This is number 15. Somewhere through that alley there must be access to number 11, which you can’t really see from the street, although it’s clear enough on maps.

 

 

In 1971 the building looks plain enough, although you can imagine anything you like going on inside. The maps and aerial photos show a long garden at the back, abutting Pembroke Studios. Here you can play about with the notion of a hidden garden, though of course every garden is hidden to some extent, and all gardens are mysterious in their own way.

 

 

 

These days there is a growth of ivy over the side.

 

 

The other houses at the end of the cul-de-sac had a similar look of coming from another time and place in 1971.

 

 

 

Number 16, and below, number 12.

 

 

 

So our quick excursion to a quiet corner of Kensington yielded some fascinating material. I took the photos of the ivy above, and the Eagle below.

 

 

And, another curiosity for my car loving readers, An actual Trabant.

 

 

We walked back to the High Street, pausing only to look at Warwick Close, and its courtyard.

 

 

After which we crossed Warwick Gardens. I of course pointed out the memorial to Queen Victoria which now stands in the middle of the road. It was moved there because it was getting in the way of traffic in its original location, at the bottom of Kensington Church Street.

 

 

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I should be getting back to Church Street. Next week, I hope.

 


Did you say an ostrich? High jinks at Batty’s Hippodrome

It’s a high summer at the moment so my mind is wandering back to a summer in another year, 1851. Was it a hot July in Kensington that year? Hot enough I expect, but not hot enough to deter a hypothetical young woman in her early 20s from looking for fun. We’ll call her Miss Charlotte Green, daughter of the widower Franklin Bryce Green, an American who had prospered in the wine trade whose British wife had died comparatively young, as wives sometimes did in those days of a disease which would be treated quite easily a hundred or so years later. (She was buried in the extensive and elegant grounds of Kensal Green cemetery near the mausoleums of the rich and famous). Charlotte had a governess/ companion always called  Freeman by her father although her first name was Nancy.

There was not much fun in Kensington in the 1850s . Barbara Denny and Carrie Starren, in their book Kensington Past  actually have a section called “Not much fun” to illustrate this unpopular aspect of Kensington life. There was the Great Exhibition of course  in the Crystal  Palace in Hyde Park (May to October 1851). But Charlotte and Miss Freeman had been to that several times and although she enjoyed herself wandering around in the giant glass house, seeing and being seen, in the end it was just walking and looking. She wanted some excitement.

Charlotte pasted pictures from newspapers and journals into a scrapbook. Many years later the images were faded and stained but they brought back memories of that summer.

 

 

She was a regular reader of this publication.

 

 

It featured news of a new venture launched by Mr William Batty. Batty’s National Hippodrome. Hoping to catch visitors to the Exhibition Batty had set up his arena on the south side of Kensington road near the road we now call Palace Gate.

The handbills promised some marvelous equestrian and musical displays.

 

 

All set in a splendid new arena, built to contain these wonders.

 

 

 

 

The Lady’s Newspaper published artist’s impressions of the races, including these two gentlemen recreating a chariot race between two Roman consuls.

 

 

Charlotte wondered if the consuls of ancient Rome had the time to engage in this sort of activity? Weren’t they involved with the Senate? (Charlotte had a sketchy idea of Roman history). But if they had then surely the spectacle would have looked something like that. Charlotte and Miss Freeman had every intention of going to see for themselves, and they attended several events, including the inevitable balloon ascent. These were very popular in London at the time. Charlotte had not yet persuaded her father to allow her to see similar events at Cremorne Gardens, in louche, forbidden Chelsea. (We are not so restricted, follow this link.)

 

 

 

The glue Charlotte used  for her scrapbook wasn’t very good, and left stains on the cutting. (Her apologies.)

 

 

Charlotte like the idea of doing some fancy riding herself.

 

 

She could do that, she was sure, and she had a decent riding habit.

 

 

So they went, on Monday July 21st.

 

And they saw the “French equestriennes”, having their own chariot race.

 

 

Charlotte could easily imagine herself at the reins of a chariot, outpacing the less adventurous Miss Freeman in the other vehicle.

And the ostriches?

 

 

 

 

Well, they were good too, but Charlotte didn’t like the idea of riding one of those. She didn’t imagine the bird cared for it much either.

Batty’s Hippodrome closed after one season but the arena stayed on the map for some years.

 

 

 

Charlotte took some proper riding lessons, but she still dreamed of equestrian stunts. I believe she inherited a considerable sum on the death of her father. Still unmarried, she and Miss Freeman travelled abroad, and who knows what feats of  horsemanship they accomplished far away from Kensington?

 

 

Postscript

This was meant to be a quick throwaway post after the rigors of Kensington Church Street, but it’s a day late already. I’ve been a bit busy.

Many of you will have heard of North Kensington’s  lost horse racing track, the Hippodrome. I did a short post on it for an internal publication back at the beginning of the blog called Horse Locomotion. I might revive that as one of this year’s Christmas posts.

This week’s obituary notice is for the comic artist Steve Ditko, who collaborated with Stan Lee in the creation of some of Marvel’s best known characters, such as Spiderman and Doctor Strange. His quirky style  could not be mistaken for any other artist in the years when Marvel had many of the greats. But looking back at the tributes online I realised that his post-Marvel work for DC and others was equally inventive. We may not remember the Blue Beetle, Nukla, Captain Atom, and the Creeper quite as well as the heroes of the Marvel universe, now being brought to cinema, but i did remember how many times I broke my vow of loyalty to Marvel by buying a DC comic featuring one of Ditko’s heroes. Thank you Mr Ditko.


Kensington Church Street – grand houses and large houses

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.

 

Postscript

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.


Kensington Church Street – slowly up the hill

Kensington Church Street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Kensington, and as essential to the identity of Kensington as the High Street. So given that we have plenty of pictures of it in the collection it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a post on it before. Well perhaps I’ve overlooked it, as people sometimes do, thinking of it as just the winding street which takes you up the hill to Notting Hill Gate, where North Kensington begins. That’s quite a steep hill in parts (steeper as I’ve gotten older), so I’ve nearly always got the 52 or the 28 or the 27 or their variations over the years. But we’ll take it in stages this time. This view, more than a hundred years old, is still recognizeable.

 

There’s the Civet Cat on the corner. There’s no pub there now (it’s been a bank in its time and even a pizza restaurant) but the sign depicting the eponymous cat is still there. The blurred person on the left must have been an early riser because this has always been a busy spot.

 

 

A 1980 view. Where was the photographer standing? Somewhere safe I hope. See the security bars on the ground floor windows?

It was possibly a little safer back in 1912. safe enough for that guy on the left to be sitting down.

 

 

That canopy was about to be removed, hence the photograph, taken on June 4th that year. Number 6 was not a place for refreshment or theatrical performances but was in fact the Kensington Trunk Stores. (For all your trunking needs). The building next door at number 8 was the Prince of Wales public house (Mrs Jane Evans licensee) , and beyond that, Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms, the Edwardian equivalent of a Starbucks or a Costa.

This end of the street was dominated by St Mary Abbots Church which towered over the terrace of house while seeming to brush against it.

 

 

The buildings in that terrace are actually older than the church, (numbers 1-5 were built in 1760) which is the version completed in the 1890s (see Isabel’s post here for a thorough account of the church itself)

There have been some alterations to the house but the old structures remain. Compare the view with this one from 1949.

 

 

(courtesy of the National Monuments Record)

And a closer view from 1964.

 

 

Mother and daughter looking in the window of number 13 (Robinson Joshua, linen drapers).

A few years later the daughter might be looking here, a few doors up the street at 19/21.

 

 

The picture below is one of my favourites and was taken by our friend Albert Argent Archer.

 

 

The print is from a glass negative and contains many fascinating details. I could almost write an entire post about this one image, with it’s multiplicity of advertising posters for Pear’s Soap, Nestle and Rowntree products (and Birds, of custard fame – the “Rhubard Girl”). One of the Nestle ads is I’m sure by John Hassall. And then the theatre posters – the “Pink Lady”, “The Monk and the Woman” and most familiar, “Ben-Hur”, an adpatation of the novel by Lew Wallace.

Further down the side street you can see, already boarded up a “Fish Dinner and Supper Bar”. Spare a glance for the two semi-visible boys with a tricycle working for Armfield and Sons, Chemical Cleaners. And right on the corner a hunched up man in a coat peering round the corner.

If you can’t see them all, try another, lighter version of the print:

 

 

You can also follow the shops heading south to the High Street: at number 28, James Turner (laundry receiving office), Edmund William Evans (photographer) the Belgravia Dairy Company (an urban dairy), the Kensington Restaurant (proprietor  Agostino de Maria) at number 20.

Speaking of which,let’s take a quick look inside.

 

A comfortable spot, for lunch or dinner.

Followed by  Mrs Rose Schofield (corsetiere), Davis and Son (dyers and cleaners), the National Telephone Company (for making public calls), Kenyon J H (funeral furnishers) which takes us back to Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms

A similar view from 1961. The view is not as sharp as the earlier picture but there is another selection of posters.

 

 

And the chemists at 26-28 offers “Toilet Requisites” a phrase you don’t hear much nowadays, redolent of 1970s sit-coms. (In my mind I hear the words being uttered by John Cleese, with a repetition of the final syllable)

As we move up the street you can see the line of boards covered with posters continues. The church’s spire, one of the largest of its day, towers over the street.

 

 

In the style of our Secret Life of Postcards series, a close up:

 

 

The young woman on the left making her way deliberately..somewhere. It’s almost possible to make out her features, and wonder what she was up to that day. Beside her, a man looks into the window of James Keen (furniture  warehouse) and behind her the Misses Dodson and Green have a Catholic repository. The other name visible is Giandoni (confectioner and restaurant).

On the east side of the street was the Kensington Barracks, built in the 1850s on the site of the former Kensington Palace Forcing Gardens.

 

 

A view showing the interior, still dominated by the church.

 

 

Although we haven’t got very far up the street, I hope you won’t mind if we digress a little here. The barracks closed in 1972. At one point it was proposed to move the Russian Embassy onto the site but that attracted a degree of controversy and didn’t happen. I discovered this alternative plan dating from 1978.

 

 

A harmless but unexciting artist’s impression of shops and offices, mostly imaginary.

There really was a branch of Our Price records on that corner. While attempting to confirm that fact I looked at the 1976 Kelly’s Directory and saw that Revolution Cassettes was there before Our Price. This stirred a memory. Was that the old name for Our Price? Wikipedia came to the rescue. It seems that the company started out as Tape Revolution and specialized in Music Cassettes and 8 track Cartridges before adopting the more familiar name in 1978.

The barracks were ultimately replaced in the late 1980s by a retail/ office development which created a central space called Lancer Square.

 

 

The only image I found was one from the developers brochure which includes architect’s model and  a little cartoon of a typical Kensington shopper of the 80s. (Big hair, big shoulders – a bulkier look than the next decade) I can remember going to a leaving meal in one of the restaurants at one point but apart from that not being much of a visitor to Lancer Square.

The last time I passed by the spot was on the way to another farewell meal, this time at Wagamama. I took the opportunity to take a quick snap of what was left of Lancer Square, which barely lasted longer than its original lease.

 

 

It’s always odd when something rises and falls entirely within your own personal timeline. Building work on the site is taking place behind another set of boards. They seem to be keeping the Lancer Square name.

The first leg of our latest journey hasn’t taken us far, and we may be pausing to allow some movement backward in time, but this is a good pace for summer. Here at the Library, a bit of data entry is going on, a bit of stock movement, and in the basement some immersive theatre. We’ll make our way slowly up the hill and see what we find on the way.


CC’s King’s Road in the 80s: shop windows and window shoppers

We’re back on the King’s Road this week for some more summer in the city pictures of retail life in the 1980s, for some as much of a golden summer as any years in the previous couple of decades. And as before, our guide is the roving eye and camera of my friend CC.

 

 

Here a couple of smoking dudes with elaborate hair cuts linger briefly in the middle of Sydney Street behind an unconnected woman, the three of them waiting to cross.

(Sometimes I look down from buses and look out for people smoking. There are far fewer of them these days, which is possibly some kind of progress.)

CC started like this with pictures taken from an upstairs window.

It was a useful vantage point but it was never going to last.

 

 

She had to get down to street level.

 

 

The register office steps of Chelsea Old Town Hall, where people often pause to sit amongst the confetti, although not for too long as people keep getting married.

 

 

Review was at number 81a, and despite the interesting walls and windows above (which look quite familiar to me) the building is now gone.

 

 

I actually had trouble with this one but this is the corner of Tryon Street and the Bertie, plus the corner shop (Just Men) at number 118 is where Muji is today. They’ve done away with those pillars. (not structural as it turns out). The upper floors are usually the feature that helps you to place a building. A little bit of art deco going on there.

Below, the actual Markham Arms.

 

 

And a shop full of clothes on hangers, crammed in up the first floor. Is it me or was there a lot more stock on the shelves in those days? I think that might have been Abidat, who dealt in army surplus gear, as many shop still did at this time.

Chopra was at number 73.

 

 

Another vanished building. Holland and Barrett are there now in one of those Egyptianate (is that a word?) buildings you see now, with the top of the structure curved outwards.

At this point we need a slight break, so here’s another smoker.

 

 

Casual as you like, with a look that’s still worn today, and below, a couple of non-smokers (I hope).

 

 

Those two just caught CC’s eye. We talked about it, and yes we knew it wasn’t the King’s Road but I liked it so I’ve included it. Somewhere in Vauxhall I think, but we’re open to suggestion on that one.

This location is still with us. Rider, sold shoes, as so many high street shops did. P W Forte? I’m not quite sure. This photo may be a slightly different date.

 

 

 

The window line has been tidied up since the picture and now looks uniform, and a little cleaner. The handbag store Bagista was there when I checked Google Street View earlier but I think they’ve moved back to the King’s Walk mall. To get ahead of Goggle I went and checked in person, and found Blaiz, an attractive  South American fashion boutique now occupying the space.

The lady below has not moved, and is thankfully a permanent and unmistakable King’s Road feature.

 

 

I don’t know what she was celebrating with pink balloons that day.

The final picture taken nearby, near the Chelsea Potter features another well known character, and this is the companion to the picture of Leigh Bowery and Trojan in the first CC post.

 

 

It is of course the somehow unmistakable David Bailey, attracting a bit of a crowd as he works.

More 80s shop fronts, passers by and local characters in the next CC post, but that will not be for a while. CC herself likes to read about something else, and who can blame her? I’m starting a Kensington based epic next week. More by luck than judgement today’s post goes out on the summer solstice, so I wish you all a pleasant sun-drenched summer whether you spend your time by the sea, in the country or in the heart of the city.


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