Category Archives: 19th Century

Mr Railton returns

After a lengthy gap, we’re back with the artist and book illustrator Herbert Railton. I recently bought a copy of a book which combines three interesting characters: Railton, and blog favourite Hugh Thomson who both created illustrations for “Coaching days and coaching ways” (1893) by the entertainingly named W. Outram Tristram. It was he who wrote the final book Railton worked on, the fascinating, “Moated houses”, which was featured in the first post about him. I’m sure I’ll come back to the Railton/Thomson team-up in a future post but first I want to look at Railton’s Kensington connection.

One of his other projects was an illustrated edition of Leigh Hunt’s “The Old Court Suburb” (1855 / 1902) a rambling historical account of Kensington. Railton did most of the topographical pictures in the book. The Library possesses many of his original sketches for this project.

I have to say at this stage that Railton’s delicate and almost impressionistic pictures can be hard to scan. It is often easier to use the published versions, which have firmer lines. In this post I’ll use some of each. I’m concentrating on one location, Holland Park and Holland House.

If you’ve never encountered Railton’s work before this is a quite characteristic piece. The house is solid and rendered in some detail but at the same time it’s a little vague, glimpsed through some kind of summer haze, the foliage blending into the architecture. The one below is actually called “A peep at Holland House”

The house is even more indistinct. The focus of the picture is the sculpture of an urn, like a funery urn at the edge of the hedge frame.

If you know the park you’ll recognize the summer ball room turret, but perhaps not the wild trees and hedges which threaten to overwhelm it.

In the context of Hunt’s book, Railton’s illustrations work well in contrast to those of the other two artists, Claude Shepperson and Edmund J Sullivan, who were given the task of doing pictures of people from Kensington’s past.

 

Chloe and Delia admiring the flowers.

A bit of courtly behaviour.

After which the ladies and gentlemen could go on to some picturesque spots in the grounds, such as the famous sundial.


(Some of the originals are on this coloured paper. I don’t think it’s any kind of age-related deterioration but it does add a pleasingly antique feel to the pictures).

Lord Camelford, memorialised with a Roman altar, perished in a duel conducted in the grounds. There is a view of the wild looking site of his death in the first post.

We can head back to the house via the Dutch Garden.

And see some more details

The Oriel front, and the Terrace.

Even when Holland House was a private house, the grounds had visitors who might not be guests of the family. After their tour they might stroll to a nearby tavern, like this conveniently located hostelry.

See how once again Railton brings the picture to a point with some birds, in this case some fairly free range chickens.

When he wrote the Old Court Suburb, Hunt was also not far away ftom the house.


Edwardes Square (The name is from the family name of the first Baron Kensington. The square was laid out in 1811.) is just down the road . Here is another view.

Two girls stroll along next to the garden railings. Railton could manage figures well enough but he was sparing in his use of them.

When the illustrated edition of Hunt’s book was published, tourists were an established part of London life.

Note the editor, our old friend Austin Dobson, the go-to guy for scholarly introductions in those days.

Railton’s fellow illustrator Mr Edmund J Sullivan put a lady visitor (dressed in the fashions of the 1850s) in a couple of his pictures  who doesn’t seem too happy.

Here she looks like she’d like to sit down if the sign permitted.

(Is she bracing her back with her right hand, completely ignoring the guide book in her left, and waiting for her companion to get on with it so they can get to the gift shop?)

And here she (or a similar lady) looks a little melancholy, perhaps remembering those she mourns herself.

These two pictures have intrigued me since I first looked at the book, so forgive me for letting Mr Sullivan squeeze a few pictures into Mr Railton’s post. I wish he’d been able to develop the theme as an interesting contrast with the  topographical pictures but Railton was the headline act on this bill.

Postscript

Posthumous apologies to Claude Shepperson I suppose for not including any of his pictures in the post. Unfortunately, they’re a bit dull. By contrast, I’d like to see more of Edmund Sullivan’s’ work.


Hidden water – subterranean reservoirs

This post is a kind of addendum to one I did a few years ago about the old water works in Campden Hill Road and the demolition of its water tower. I was taken with the way our photographer John Rogers had documented the slow dismantling of the brick tower with a pair of water pipes embedded within it.  I hadn’t  seen those pictures before I wrote the post and although they sit in the same filing cabinet I hadn’t seen these pictures either until a week ago.

This picture, which I used in the first post shows the tower and the main building. More importantly for us it also shows the grass area in front of the works.

Demolition of the tower took place in 1970. After they finished with that, the demolition team turned to the water reservoir which had been under the grass since the late 1850s and was suddenly revealed.

You can see that the grass grew in a thin layer of soil supported by pillars, above a space which could be filled with water.

The structure looks remarkably flimsy for something which existed for just over a hundred years.

At any rate, it was soon cleared.

You can still see traces of water as the debris is cleared away.

A few shallow pools of water remain. In this picture you can see details of the brickwork.

Here is a wider view of the site.

As with the tower, the perimeter wall was breached so that rubble could be removed.

The original works and the reservoir were built in the later 1850s. The Company acquired more land to the west and built a second reservoir adjacent to the first in 1886-89. The land above the underground chamber became a set of tennis courts stretching as far as the grounds of Aubrey House. Unlike its brother, this reservoir was not demolished in 1970, as demonstrated by this photograph from 1994.

It looks like a slightly more solid design.

At this point in the research stage one of my volunteers went downstairs and returned with some planning photos from 1998 showing the area above ground.

Thames Water still in occupation. Behind the fence you can see Aubrey Walk and St George’s Church.

The tennis courts.

A closer look at the perimeter of the site showing some evidence of what lies beneath.

 

Along with a few loose pipes.

 

And this distinctive object.

The courts were much used in their day. (Although not much on this particular day.)

But after these pictures were taken about half the site, and the remaining works buildings were redeveloped for housing.

There are still some courts there, accessible via a narrow set of steps from Aubrey Walk. And the reservoir? Well I don’t know. It would be interesting if a brick vault covering a shallow underground pond was still there, dark and silent.

Postscript

Thanks to Isabel, and Barbara for finding most of these pictures. If anyone can add more detail to the story, I’d be very grateful for further information.


The family album

Readers who have been following the postscripts will know that my mother passed away over Christmas and I have now taken possession of a number of family photographs which have now joined my personal archive along with a small Kodak camera, a Box Brownie and a few Instamatics (remember those?). It was inevitable that a few of these pictures would end up on the blog. Although I’ve never researched my family history I’ve met many people who were in the process of genealogical research and helped some of them on their way. Family albums are often the start of such a quest. Census returns, electoral registers, street directories, parish registers and Ancestry / Find my Past (other online genealogical tools are available) tell the story but it’s often family photographs which bring the search to life.

So this post is not just about me and my collection of old photographs. It’s about how family ties connect all of us to the historical past. In this post I start by looking at the oldest photos I could find some of which feature people I never knew personally. Like this one which my mother had copied for me several years ago.

 

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This is my grandparent’s wedding. Ellen Barwise has just married Charles Williamson. He has his hand on her shoulder. His two brothers stand with him. One of them married one of the Barwise sisters standing near Ellen. The guests are a mixture of Barwises and Williamsons. The diminutive lady on the right side of the picture is a Williamson. She has her arm linked with an elderly Barwise lady.

A studio portrait of the two.

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Charles did a variety of jobs

This was one of them.

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The fire brigade at the lunatic asylum in Liverpool Road, Chester. Charles is dead centre, behind the man in the helmet.

In the picture below, an action shot of the brigade in action. He is eighth from the left standing in shirt sleeves.

I have been asked (and asked myself) why this establishment needed its own fire brigade. Perhaps they were ready for general emergencies in the area? In my last visit to the house I found a number of pictorial histories of Chester to one of  which my mother contributed the picture of the men in action. The author confirms that the hospital did indeed have its own fire brigade

That doesn’t seem to have been Charles’s only job. He also worked part time as a gardener. Here he is with some of the others staff. The lady in the dark outfit might be on eof the family.

I’ve left the caption. I think this is my mother’s careful printing but I’m not sure when she did it.

Other members of the family were involved in agriculture, as this badly faded pictures of Walter Barwise, one of my grandmother’s brothers shows.

Here is a studio picture of another of Ellen’s brothers, Bill. A distinctly country man.

And a later picture of Bill and his wife.

There are several other pictures of men in uniform in the album, but I’m saving them until some further research on uniforms and badges can be done.

This particular album is pretty old and was obviously started by someone in the family well before I got my hands on it. I’m lucky because at some point my mother annotated it with notes on who the people in the pictures were and their relationship to each other. But even she wasn’t sure of all of them, and was sometimes going on what she had been told when she was young. Such as this one, simply captioned “relations in America”. I never knew we had any at this point.

In every family perhaps there is someone who gathers together loose photos and puts them in an album. The explanation of the picture is not always clear like this picture of a crowd of people being addressed by some eminent man.

Others need no explanation like this picture of my mothers’ two aunts, Lizzie and Martha and her cousin, also called Martha.

I knew Aunt Lizzie (on the right I think) when she was quite old. But before we get to the end of the post I should show you another picture of Cousin Martha, who was my mother’s godmother.

She is sitting with Auntie Em (and friend)

Family albums and the pictures in them tell a story of people getting older, living their lives. In this case the album started with what to me was the historical past, gradually becoming more personal.

When someone dies they become ageless. My mother is no longer the exhausted woman who passed away in a hospital bed. She is just as  much this little girl aged 8

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Or the young woman who served in the ATS.

Or the woman who met my father after the war and became my mother.

 

Postscript

I don’t make any claims for my family being especially noteworthy. But as a lover of old photographs I believe all the pictures in all the family albums are interesting. If you like these, start looking back at your own family photographs. In my case there are several more albums and many loose photos, some of which may get used in the future.

I’ve been working on this post for ages , thinking I might add more information or thoughts. But I finally decided to leave the pictures with a fairly minimal commentary. This post is dedicated to my mother of course, but also to my father who died in 2003. More about both of them on another occasion perhaps.


Forgotten buildings: the lock house

We’re back to the same place we started last week, near the junction of West Cromwell Road and Warwick Road in the company of Bernard  Selwyn, urban explorer.

This picture shows the east side of Warwick Road, looking north. You can see a large building known now simply as the Council Offices, Pembroke Road. There are residential floors on top of it with walkways leading to entrances in an adjacent building, an unusual arrangement I haven’t seen anywhere else. When I first worked for the Council it was simply called the Depot.

You can’t see the west side of the road but many of you will know that what is there now is a Tesco superstore, surmounted by a car park. From the car park there is still a good view of the railway track we looked at last week.

 

On the other side is a large building which was formerly a repository for Whiteley’s, the Bayswater department store. It now forms part of a development called Kensington Village.On the eastern side of the picture was a wide, relatively open space.

Now you will recall I mentioned the Kensington Canal last week. Originated by Lord Kensington and Sir John Scott Lillie (of Road fame) and opened in 1828 this was a comparatively short lived venture intended to link Kensington with the Thames, following the course of an existing waterway called Counter’s Creek which rises near Kensal Green Cemetery and flows south, under several names (including Billingswell Ditch as which it featured in a post about Brompton ), ending up at the river under the name Chelsea Creek. On Starling’s 1822 map of Kensington Parish the stream is called a “common sewer”.

The canal would follow the course of the creek north to a basin just short of the “Great Western Road” (the road from Hyde Park Corner to Hammersmith which Kensington High Street is part of), the ultimate plan being to join up with the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington. This was happening in the 1830s when railways were also on the rise, somewhat complicating matters.  The story is told in an excellent book called London’s Waterways by Martyn Denney (1977) but to cut this account short the canal suffered throughout its existence from silting up and the most profitable section was the part running up from the river to the King’s Road. There don’t seem to have been many views of the canal. The artist William Cowen painted a water colour, showing the walled garden that was Brompton Cemetery in the background.

 

 

The banks look like they’re already suffering. The canal was tidal so was only navigable for part of the time. It ended up in the hands of the West London Extension Railway Company who began filling in the upper section of the canal in the 1860s. This detail from a plan of 1854 shows the basin at the end of the canal.

 

And this  detail from an 1848 map shows the basin, with its various wharves, in relation to nearby streets.

 

 

 

The railway, which still goes under the King’s Road ran alongside the remainder of the canal and crosses the river near Chelsea Harbour. You can see the remains of the canal in 1972 in this post about Lots Road, and this one.

Mr Denney tells us that at the time he was writing, the “site of the canal basin” was behind “a pair of high wooden gates that open onto a patch of waste ground..opposite Pembroke Gardens“. He speculates that some of the old buildings in the railway goods depot could date back to the old wharves. What was definite though was the continuing existence of the old lock house and board room. Back in 1983 this was Selwyn’s quarry.

Where is it?

 

It’s there

 

 

A lock keeper’s cottage and what was called the board room where meetings were held and the records of the company kept. If you can stand one more map, this is from about 1968.

 

 

You can see that at one point the board room had been taken over by the Kensington Rifle Club who used it for shooting practice I suppose.

 

 

You can see that by 1983 it was located in the centre of some waste land which was being used as a car park.

 

The building itself is looking dilapidated and the area around it overgrown.

 

 

Fair game for the questing camera of Bernard Selwyn. Canals and the remnants of them were just one of his interests.

 

 

 

But we have to thank him for his diligence. Below the level of a major road he had found his way to a small piece of transport history.

 

 

He slipped back there in 1990 to take a colour picture.

 

 

The building looks worse than before.

The Tesco Superstore was built in 1998, and the lock house became a forgotten building. But Selwyn and others transport aficionados preserved its memory.

Postscript

Friend of the blog Roger Morgan gave the game away last week. But perhaps he just whetted your appetite. The old lock house was familiar to many people while it still stood. I’m sorry I never took a detour to look at it when I was visiting the Depot (for training courses, particularly the ones where the trainer started a fire in the garage and you had to put it out with the correct colour coded extinguisher) in pre-Tesco times. For those who do remember I hope Selwyn’s pictures bring it all back.

 

 

 


Christmas Days: a bunch of busts

I scanned today’s pictures in response to an enquiry about busts inside the former Holland House. We have an album from the 1880s with some views of the interior taken before a bout of redecoration. On another occasion I might have scanned the whole album which could have resulted in a full length post but I didn’t have much time so I only did a few. I was particularly intrigued by the conservatory.

This was Holland House at the time.

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The east front with, a couple of guys standing patiently in front of it to add some local colour. At least one of them might have come from breakfast.

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Here, in the sumptuous breakfast room. I spotted a bust up there in the corner but then turned a page and found a whole set of busts. (Is there a collective noun for busts?)

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This is the conservatory, looking back into the house. A pleasing number of busts are on view, and some convenient chairs in which to sit and contemplate the outside while inside. You can see another Kensington conservatory near the end of this post.

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This is the view looking in the other direction into the garden, You can just make out a full length statue in the daylight. Wouldn’t you want to sweep through the conservatory after that nice breakfast and tale a turn in the grounds? You can’t walk through this space anymore but the grounds are still available for all, winter and summer.

 

Monkeys

Today’s monkeys, Boris and Dino (who live in the Park) have taken the opportunity to do just that, while wishing you a happy Christmas. Here they are in the office:

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And out in the park.

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I was checking the link above to an earlier post and was reminded of my Christmas 2013 post about Irving and Caldecott’s Old Christmas. That was one of my first posts about book illustration, and Caldecott was a contemporary of our friend Hugh Thomson. Check out a traditional Christmas here.

Another short post, and more monkeys tomorrow.

 


Christmas Days: the old old town hall

The grand municipal building  on the King’s Road which is the home of the Chelsea Registry Office, the Sports Centre  and Chelsea Library is called Chelsea Old Town Hall. It was completed in 1908 and designed by Leonard Stokes. Let’s remind ourselves what it looks like. This view is from an early moment in its history.

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It’s called the Old Town Hall now I suppose to distinguish it from Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall which would have become “the” Town Hall when the boroughs united in 1965. (Not the current K&C Town Hall of course. There was an old town hall in Kensington too, if you remember it, but we won’t go into that now.)

But Chelsea Old Town Hall was not the first Chelsea Town Hall. In fact Chelsea Old Town Hall was once the new Chelsea Town Hall because it replaced the original Vestry Hall, the home of the  Chelsea Vestry, the precursor of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, which began in 1900. Is this confusing? You wait. Here’s a picture:

 

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This is the Vestry Hall of 1886 designed by J M Brydon which actually replaced the first Vestry Hall of 1860 designed by William Wilmer Pocock (an old old old town/vestry hall, which had problems with the walls and was declared unsafe in 1885) a more modest affair than the 1908 building, which only occupied part of the space its successor now commands. You can see that the word Town has replaced Vestry below the balustrade. The land next to the Town Hall was occupied by public baths and a couple of commercial premises.

Now look at this view of the side.

 

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A man is unloading some crates but has paused to look down the street. Behind him a couple of others are looking into the basement area. Do those crates have to go down? Or up that staircase?Next to the wall is a slope leading down to the premises of W F Picken. But have a look at that roundel and the door beneath it further back. Those features and the whole of the rear section of the building still exist. The 1908 building simply replaced the front section. The old part was grafted on to the new building. If you go round to the back into Chelsea Manor Gardens you can see it, looking slightly grander than you might expect the rear of a municipal building to look. So part of the old old town hall is still in the old town hall if you follow me.

And that door under the roundel? I have walked through it many times.

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Finally, have a closer look at number 181, next to Mr Picken’s sign. Next to the door is a sign for Miss Annie Northcroft and her school of singing.  Miss Northcroft lived there with William Northcroft (brother? father?) and a few other names. Strictly speaking this was 181A. 181 itself was one of the first homes of the Chelsea Arts Club and later the Chenil Galleries were built on the site.

I feel I’ve slightly short changed you on pictures so here’s a view from 1897.

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Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. No expense spared.

 

The 12 monkeys of Christmas

Following on from last year’s Christmas posts which featured members of the soft toy community, this year I’m featuring the 12 monkeys of Christmas paying visits to the archives. To start with, here is the eldest monkey Keith Phelps sitting with the scrapbooks.

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And getting amongst the drainage plans.

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See you tomorrow.


Italian Gardens of the mind

Many years ago I had a dream after watching the original 1934 version of a film called “Death takes a holiday” featuring Frederic March and Evelyn Venable in which Death, taking a breather from collecting human souls, has a mini break in the land of the living and falls in love with a mortal woman. (It’s been remade a couple of times since, in a mostly uninspired fashion).

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My dream, as far as I can recall it, took place in an afterlife which took the form of an unending ornamental garden. We’ve seen plenty of unearthly gardens in films and books so I couldn’t have claimed any originality in the idea. The one I always think of is the garden in the Draughtsman’s Contract where the young Anthony Higgins as Mr Neville, comes to grief.

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(I’ve also imagined the afterlife as a beach in some autumn northern climate, and a small town set on a steep slope near an ocean, not to mention an endless city full of tall buildings and giant statues but I’ve read a lot of fantasy and horror so what do you expect?) We’ve seen Death in a variety of forms from Terry Pratchett’s morose character to Neal Gaiman’s teenage goth girl. Don’t forget the Blue Oyster Cult song Don’t fear the Reaper. But don’t get me started on the BOC.

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This is a long way round to recalling the post featuring Hugh Thomson’s illustrations to As you like it, which has a few pictures set in an ornamental garden, possibly in Italy. I mentioned then that the American novelist Edith Wharton had written a book called “Italian villas and their gardens” (1904) illustrated with photographs, and paintings by the artist Maxfield Parrish. These have exactly the right atmosphere about them, slightly ominous and unearthly. The sky looks as if dusk was not far away.

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The Villa Vicobello was near Sienna. Miss Wharton’s text is descriptive and precise but has nothing weird about it, which is a shame, as her ghost stories are excellent, and very atmospheric.

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The Villa Scassi, Genoa. The statue in the garden has something to do with a childhood nightmare, the details of which I am thankfully unable to recall, although the image used to be persistent in the moments before sleep.

At the Boboli Gardens, a body of still water, a favourite feature of Parrish’s, and mine.

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Below the Villa Deste, featuring the only figure in this set of pictures, a naked youth like a minor Roman  deity. Do you remember the living statue in the Draughtsman’s Contract?

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I’ve also been looking at a book by the artist George Elgood who depicts an even larger number of villas and gardens in his book “Italian Gardens” (1907). They too have a certain mysterious edge about them.

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[The Dragon Gateway, at Villa Garzoni]

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[The cascade, at the Villa Cicogna]

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Villa Collana – slightly too many statues for comfort, if you and your companion were otherwise alone in a quite garden with dusk approaching. Picture a young Edwardian couple suddenly taking fright and hurrying away to shelter. Some of these images are verging on the sinister.

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I’m not an expert on garden history but I imagine that English travellers on the Grand Tour (and before that time) saw many of these gardens and brought ideas about garden design back with them. This process has embedded these gardens in our collective memory so the pictures in these books seemed familiar as well as sometimes unearthly. Well that’s my excuse anyway. As a fan of illustrated books from the early 20th century I don’t really need a better reason to write a post about the pictures in these two books.

Some of you of course will be far more experienced at visiting ornamental gardens, in Europe and the UK. I can’t help wandering if my own conception of the unearthly garden is based on childhood recollections of a municipal park in Chester, far less grand but having some stone seats and an excellent view over the river and the meadows on the other side.

Some pictures don’t need much of a push to seem disturbing, whether as a painting…

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..or a photograph

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This view calls to mind the scene in the Innocents (a version of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw featuring Deborah Kerr) in which the governess sees the ghost of Miss Jessel across a stretch of water. Instead of a ghost it has a temple, and some statues.

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There’s some still water here too. Is it another one of my things, finding still water a little spooky?

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Death has to go home in the end. I can’t remember if he takes the young lady with him.

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The Blue Oyster Cult seem to think he would have done.

Love of two is one / Here but now they’re gone
Came the last night of sadness / And it was clear she couldn’t go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don’t be afraid
Come on baby, and she had no fear
And she ran to him, then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodbye, she had become like they are
She had taken his hand, she had become like they are
Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper

Donald Roeser, 1976

Postscript

I’ve managed to get through this post without overusing words like sinister and mysterious. Just about anyway.  And yes, I realise that this one doesn’t have much of a connection with Kensington and Chelsea. But both books come from our Reference Library, and also from the golden age of book illustration, examples of which we’ve looked at many times.

We’re heading towards the holiday season after all. What better time to take a mental break in a sunny garden, even if some of the trees and statues look a little disturbing. And if you’d like to see an atmospheric garden closer to home try this one.

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That could be an island of the dead, like this one:

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[Arnold Bocklin – Isle of the Dead]

Next week, that Christmas tradition, the daily post. From Monday to Friday, short posts on short subjects.


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