This week we’re starting with a return to the splendour of the Royal Palace Hotel, which we visited a couple of weeks ago.
Unfortunately this was in 1961, when its demolition had started. Parts of the interior were now part of a new exterior and many of its windows were just blank holes.
This picture shows the early stages of the work.
The parade of shops next to the hotel, of which Slaters was one, has gone. Note the original location of the bus stop.
The gate remains.
Soon the hotel itself was just rubble, piling up behind billboards.
No more guests.
Just pipes and exposed basements.
The north side of Kensington High Street was no stranger to demolition.
Look at this scene from the early 1900s.
The LCC had a road widening scheme in 1902/03 and nothing would stand in its way. See the sign?
Here it is again.
This picture was made from a glass negative which has a crack on the left. The small building to the right of the crack can be seen in two of the pictures in the post about Slater’s.
Here is another view of the same open space.
Where’s St Mary Abbots? Look closely, it’s just behind that metal structure, which must be an Edwardian crane
Into this space later emerged a striking building.
This building, in a 1924 illustration, is sometimes referred to as the Crown building (the land belonged to the Crown Estate), or the Ladymere building. It was built for the John Barker Company and had seven public floors, with many lifts and a subway leading to the main Barkers building on the south side of the street. It is now more known for the ground floor shops which have stripped away part of the facade so you barely know what a grand building lies above street level. Like many buildings in the High Street, it’s at its best when seen from the upper deck of a bus heading west, particularly the tower (or “pavilion”) which is an unexpectedly exuberant feature.
Check it out next time you pass it. We’ll take a look at the shops in this area in more modern times in a future post, and possibly come back to this building, but first we should finish our business with the hotel.
This grainy picture from 1961 shows the site ready for development with now just the trees of Kensington Gardens showing beyond the billboards.
The empty site was to be filled with a new hotel, the Royal Garden Hotel.
In this picture the lodge building which stood next to the King’s Arms hotel is still there. This small building survived the entire history of the Royal Palace Hotel.
One of my readers (see the comments section of the Slaters post) thinks it can also be seen in this print, a detail from an 18th century print called called A southern view of Kensington.
I wasn’t sure at first, but I’m warming to the idea. What do you think? (The viewpoint is I think from a spot just inside the Gardens looking south.)
In any case, the building was finally demolished as you can see in this 1965 picture of the new hotel.
It was designed by the Richard Seifert company in the style often referred to as brutalist, although you could say it was simply large and practical. It has been a popular hotel and temporary residents include members of popular beat group the Monkees (I believe. I’m recalling a documentary) and of course the 1966 England World Cup squad.
The current version features aluminium cladding which was installed in the 1990s. I often hesitate to criticize or dismiss contemporary buildings but the truth is I haven’t found anyone willing to praise the refurbished version. Our ephemera collection contains this snippet from the Evening Standard.
Thank you, Mr Nellen (and friend whose name was unfortunately torn off?)
The penultimate image this week is that original hotel, The King’s Arms, back in the 1880s, together with its small friend.
This should have been last week’s post, but I was quite busy with work matters so I let it go for a week, and Isabel’s post last week attracted so much attention it deserved a second week as the lead post. As I hint above, you will soon be sick of Kensington High Street as I have recently been shown an extensive collection of images from our Planning collection which I intend to use in future posts.
On another matter, when I was much younger, I liked the Walker Brothers, even though they were no relation to me at all, and later I was fond of Climate of Hunter, one of Scott Walker’s later, more experimental works. But I can’t claim to have listened much to his late avant-garde works. Nevertheless I felt I should note his passing.
Another recent notable death (for me anyway) was that of Larry Cohen, film director / producer and screen writer. He was perhaps best known for “It’s alive!”. But my favourite was his 1982 horror film “Q – the winged serpent”, which featured a kind of Aztec dragon, the Chrysler Building and the late David Carradine. It’s probably one of those films people call guilty pleasures, but I just call films I like, such as Night of the Demon, The Devil rides out and Constantine.
I didn’t manage to fit this 1961 picture into the main body of the post but I thought I’d slip it in at the end. Two people asleep in the warmth of an afternoon undisturbed by the sound of the traffic.