Category Archives: 20th Century

Alfred Waterhouse, the affable artist, and the Natural History Museum

This week’s post is the work of my friend and colleague Isabel Hernandez for whom this has been a labour of love. I can only thank her for her hard work in giving us another epic post, and me a week or so off.

The Natural History Museum in South Kensington has to be one of the most attractive buildings in London, arguably the most aesthetically beautiful. When asked if I have a favourite, this is it. The museum’s distinctive terracotta facade and wonderful collection of decorative animals dotted around the building’s heights is impressive. The expansive central hall as you walk in through the arch front entrance resembles a religious sanctum – the building in fact is a Romanesque-like cathedral commissioned to house the expansive collection of flora and fauna specimens that began with Sir Hans Sloane in the 18th century.

But, as with most grand schemes, the inception, design and subsequent building was not a smooth sailing affair. It would be twenty years, give or take a few, before the building you see today came into being. And I for one am very pleased it did. I have visited many times and admit to being biased in my view. I have a love for natural history. I still enjoy looking at all the detail of the building, not as an architect, but as someone who can only appreciate its aesthetic appeal as an ordinary onlooker. The Victorians were big on grandeur. I think Alfred Waterhouse managed to infuse it with a little artistry too.

 

 

If you want to distinguish Alfred Waterhouse from his contemporaries then look no further than his red brick, terracotta creations: The Manchester Town Hall, the Prudential Assurance building in London’s Holborn, Eaton Hall in Cheshire and many, many more commissions. Many still stand, but a few have been demolished over the years. Even his own home in reading, Foxhill House, was a distinctive red. He was a man known for his professionalism and his reliability and amassed quite a fortune. One who would take on small projects and was not intimidated by large ones either. Proof of that is in the rescue of a building that almost never came to be: London’s Natural History Museum.

 

(Alfred Waterhouse courtesy the RIBA)

Alfred Waterhouse came from a strict Quaker background. His parents belonged to the Society of Friends and his education at Grove House School, Tottenham is where he met many of his future clients, sons of influential Quaker families. He showed a very early aptitude for drawing and was mainly self-taught. Although his passion was for painting – many of his watercolours were regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy later in life – it was not considered a suitable profession, and so architecture became his focus.

He was by nature a practical and meticulous professional and soon established himself as a man who was able to design a workable building and knew exactly how to cater to his clients, right down to the smallest of commissions. His amicability with committees and his willingness to modify his designs made him the perfect candidate for the creation of the Natural History Museum. Below you will see examples of his drawings.

 

 

The Natural History Museum first opened to the public in April 1881 after many years of planning and design changes. The growing collections, originally housed in the Natural History Departments of the British Museum in Bloomsbury, desperately needed a new, more suitable home. And so it was Sir Richard Owen, the natural scientist and curator of the existing collection, who convinced the Board of Trustees to find the adequate space needed to house this vast treasure. It was eventually decided that a new site and purpose built building was needed. A competition was set up, and the architect and engineer, Captain Francis Fowke, who designed the 1862 Exhibition building (Ironically on the site of the present NHM building) produced the winner. Although his previous creation was at one time considered a possible building to house the Natural History collections, it was eventually decided, after much debate, that it wasn’t suitable after all. So the whole edifice was pulled down and the site purchased in June 1863 by the government. How the museum eventually came to fruition is nothing short of a colossal feat with so many ideas vying for the helm.

 

(The 1862 Great Exhibition building as it was before being demolished)

Captain Fowke’s original design was considered a handsome winning entry, but was by no means everybody’s favourite. When he died unexpectedly in 1865 the government was at a loss as to what to do. In the end it was decided that rather than the commission going to the runner up, Robert Kerr – who was not happy –  Fowke’s design would be kept and a new architect appointed. That man was the promising, but relatively unknown, 36-year-old, Alfred Waterhouse. Although Fowke’s design was the original blueprint for the museum, Waterhouse’s artistic flare was imbued over most of it.

 

 

A photograph showing the cavernous main hall of the NHM before it was occupied by the main exhibits that were to greet the many visitors throughout the decades. Without the displays the space is overwhelming. It is hard to imagine now with all the visitors in attendance just how quiet such a place can be, despite its size.

 

 

(Central Hall, 1882. Courtesy of the NHM)

The drawing below shows detail of the first floor windows; an elaborate portion of the building, including the archways at the end of the galleries.

“The format of the window was inspired by those of Fowke’s museum design of 1864, but Waterhouse changed the detailing from Fowke’s Italian Renaissance into Romanesque.”

(Alfred Waterhouse and The Natural History Museum – Mark Girouard)

 

 

You may recognise the front of the building here. A half plan, detail elevation of the principal entrance showing some of the ornamentation above the arches.

 

 

 

Below are some of the wondrous creatures you will see dotted around the museum. Gargoyles and guardians of a large menagerie.

 

 

The Central Hall again C. 1924, this time displaying a number of cases showing a collection of hummingbirds and four elephants, the largest being named George, as he was dubbed by the journalists of the day.

 

(Central Hall with elephants and cases, 1924. Courtesy of the NHM)

The Illustrated London News showing George with a pygmy shrew. The biggest land mammal contrasting with the smallest. It is difficult for us now to appreciate just how fantastical these creatures were to the general public at the time. We have come a long way since then. With more and more scientific breakthroughs and our access to information being much more accessible now, we are perhaps less awed by such specimens. The world is a smaller place. The technological advances in the making of natural history documentaries, for example, is simply astounding. And seeing these creatures in their natural habitats, even if vicariously through the cameraman’s lens, is nothing short of extraordinary. We are very lucky. And yet we cannot simply dismiss the extraordinary work behind the scenes of these great museums. Education and awareness of the natural world is all the more important in an age when we almost seem so far removed from it we fail to understand our part in it.

 

 

Details of stairs, panels and columns all beautifully illustrated located at the north end of the large hall.

 

 

Thirty-six crates and three months of jigsaw puzzling later in May 1905, the cast of Diplodocus is put together, fondly known to many of us as Dippy. The original skeleton is in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, USA. He is currently on tour around the UK, details of which are on the NHM website.

 

 (Diplodocus on display, 1905. Courtesy of the NHM)

 

More details showing the frieze and panels over the main entrance. A pair of binoculars to get a better look at these in the museum would be ideal. And with my eyesight, a magnifying glass too. The decoration of the east and west wings of the museum depict animals within the collection of both extinct and living species respectively. This was a feature Professor Richard Owen, superintendent of the natural history departments, and the man responsible for the commissioning of a new museum was keen on having on as a feature of the building.

 

 

The reptile gallery in 1889. Formidable looking crocodiles and other stuffed specimens in glass cabinets on display. Imagine seeing the open jaws of a crocodile for the first time, all be it a museum specimen and not a live one? I know my daughter would have been the first to want to touch those teeth once upon an age ago when her curiosity about such things was ripe.

 

(Reptile Gallery, 1889. Courtesy of the NHM)

 

The drawing below shows a complete bay on the side of the entrance hall, depicting plants, land, and marine mammals. Mark Girouard points out in his book that:

“The Natural History Museum was the first building in England, and possibly in the world, where the main facades were entirely faced with terracotta. It was also the first of a long series of such buildings designed by Waterhouse; his enthusiasm for terracotta was so great that it is all many people remember about him.”

Terracotta was relatively cheap too and resistant to the bane of all city buildings – acid. The spaces between the terracotta and the iron was filled with fine cement concrete, “so as to render the casing impervious to either fire or water.” The casing is what houses the ornaments.

 

 

The Shell Gallery in 1911 with an impressive model of a giant squid in the background. A creature Captain Nemo and the Nautilus are all too familiar with. Unfortunately, an incendiary bomb hit the gallery in 1940, damaging the roof and causing a fire. It was later converted into a lecture hall.

 

(Shell Gallery, 1911. Courtesy of the NHM)

 

Details showing the terracotta details of the arcade, gallery and windows in the Central Hall. Note the stone monkeys on the bottom right, used to enrich the main arches of the gallery.

 

 

A group of school children crowd around the flea case in 1927. The museum has ever been educational, and no less during World War 1 when they produced information regarding the danger of parasites such as fleas and ticks. Creatures that are still with us today, but less problematic in terms of what we now know about them. Knowledge and awareness goes a long way.

 

(Crowd around flea case, 1927. Courtesy of the NHM)

Having read about the feat it took to get the Natural History Museum built I am amazed it was completed at all. It is important to note that Alfred Waterhouse had to alter his original plans several times to try and mitigate the rising costs of the project and the opposing views of the various museum authorities. His frustration at times with this and the various contractors may well have been palpable. His idealistic, artistic vision was being curtailed by practicalities, bureaucracy and the differing aesthetic viewpoints of all those involved in the commission. Understandably, there are limits. He was not immune to criticism either. Macmillan Magazine in January 1872 ridiculed Waterhouse’s ‘period’ style. And some of Fowke’s supporters, namely George Cavendish and Lord Elcho, tried to get rid of Waterhouse’s ‘abomination’ as they called his design. It was even suggested that ‘the Board should in future use only architects over whom they could exercise more control’. Such was the opposition. But, despite all that, Waterhouse remained stoic and was allowed to build his masterpiece. I think you would have to be generally good-natured in order to succeed when things happen to thwart you. If one thing doesn’t work, you try something else. If somebody objects, you present an alternative. He was pragmatic enough to understand what was required and overall he succeeded. When the museum finally opened in in April 1881 the reception of Waterhouse’s building was on the whole favourable. His reputation, despite the setbacks, was not compromised.

 

A quote from the Building News 1876 based on the initial drawings by A Waterhouse:

“It may have provoked some hostile criticism from the Royal Engineers and amateurs – its ground floor space has been said to be not more than half that provided by Captain Fowke – but, whatever may be said, its plan is certainly one of the best we have seen for museum purposes, and its architecture, when finished, will disarm opponents.”

 

 

Fortunate then that he accepted the commission. It’s hard to imagine a different building in place of what we have now. Below is Alfred Waterhouse’s acceptance letter to the First Commissioner of Works stipulating some of his requirements.

 

 

 

Here is an image taken from W.J Lofitie’s, Kensington Picturesque and Historical of a scene along Cromwell Road showing the newly built Natural History Museum in the background. It has something of a charming, Christmas card feel about it – certainly picturesque and historical.

 

 

 

Postcscript:

Phew! Well, that’s more than enough for this week’s blog.

I thought that a blog about the Natural History Museum would be a straightforward piece to write. After all, how difficult can talking about a series of photographs be? I have done it before. And yet the NHM has proved something of a conundrum for me, simply because it is so well known, and sometimes condensing something to only a few paragraphs doesn’t do it justice.

There are books that give a more detailed account of this remarkable museum which I recommend you read should you want a deeper knowledge of this institutions history and its origins. My less than scholarly approach has only provided glimpses.

Most of the images I’ve used are from our own Local Studies collection, unless otherwise indicated. I would like to thank the Natural History Museum Archives department, in particular Laura Brown, the NHM’s archivist and colleagues, for their wonderful help. They have a fantastic collection! You will find them and many more fascinating photographs in the book: Museum through a Lens – photographs from 1880 to 1950, which I highly recommend. It’s a great gift for anyone interested in pictorial history. And for a more detailed account of the museum’s building and history there is: The Natural History Museum at South Kensington by William Stearn and Alfred Waterhouse and The Natural History Museum by Mark Girouard. Both are well researched and good reference books. The Survey of London is also an invaluable source for building history. I have thumbed through Volume XXXVIII many times to make sure I didn’t go too far astray.

 

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Backwaters 3

This is another of those posts about the quiet streets of the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring pictures taken by our roving photographer John Rogers. Some of these images are nearly fifty years old now, which certainly gives me pause, as I contemplate my own mortality. (Not to be morbid or anything.)

 

 

John has to be standing in the middle of the road here at the western end of Bomore Road with a view of one of the towers of the Silchester Estate in the background. All is quiet with barely a car on the street.

Here is a nice view of some varied brickwork.

 

 

And here, the corner of Avondale Park Road.

 

 

Note Lily’s Toy’s and Novelty Goods  (prop. A.  Bridges)  with its makeshift table of stuff outside. How much passing trade did they get, I wonder?

There is some life in Bomore Road though.

 

 

Can’t quite make them out? Allow me:

 

 

A couple of sisters happen by on their way home from school. How do I know they’re sisters? Well the fact is I’ve spoken to one of them. Her sister found out somehow that John had accidentally caught them on camera, and she came in to get a printout of the photo, which I did. for her. It was she who told me the anecdote which ended up in a post from the early days of the blog. This kind of thing has happened more often than you’d think.

 

 

So the theme of this post is not empty streets (which I am fond of), but passers by. Above, a woman with a perm, a Mark 1 Cortina (those rear lights) and Star Radio. (“The shop that buys anything” Anything? Really? I wonder if they sold everything too?) Norland Road, by the way.

A man pauses under the awning.

 

 

Is he thinking about BACON, or on his way for a haircut? I like the glasshouse structure you can just see on the left at the rear of the building.

 

 

Almost a crowd by backwater standards. The Stewart Arms has a slightly plain exterior. The van with the open door is in the process of dropping off some Mother’s Pride bread. And the woman is in a hurry, seemingly oblivious of John.

Something more elaborate  further east in Moscow Road.

 

 

 

A lone young man passes The Leinster. Is he about to swerve and go in? Or not?

 

 

Back west in Murchison Road, another girl is about to leave or enter her house. I’ve never met her. Or perhaps I have. Not everyone is interested in old photographs.

Even further off the main road was Munro Mews

 

 

Munro Mews was of those slightly run down streets which seem in retrospect to be mostly occupied by people doing things with motor vehicles, servicing them on an amateur or professional basis,

 

 

Gathering up old tyres, or just abandoning cars and vans.

The mews was more of an alley.

 

 

And this trio are the real stars of the show, weary but confident travellers almost certainly on their way home.

(And what about the pile of crated milk bottles by the wall at the back?)

 

 

It’s possible to read all sort of situations into the three girls. Are the two standing together best friends, with the other only tolerated, or more likely, is it an entirely random moment of walking down the street, all three living in the same street? Are two of them sisters?

So you know what I have to ask. Do you recognize anyone? Is one of them a friend of yours, or a relative? Or is one of them you? I’m no longer surprised by coincidence. I almost expect it now.

But even if all the people in these pictures remain unknown, these are still good photographs.

 

Postscript

It’s not really my place to pay tribute to John Cunliffe, the creator of Postman Pat, who died recently, but Pat Clifton (did you know his surname?) loomed large in our house at one point, on VHS videos, played incessantly, and in wool form brought to life by my late mother-in-law, Jean. The wool version of Pat still sits on the shelf of a wardrobe along with ancient bears and a blue hippo, but all that is left of the monstrous giant version of Jess the cat  is a head, somewhere in another cupboard. Alas, poor Jess. And thank you to John Cunliffe.

 

 


Figg’s about

This week we’re having another near random look through the Chelsea pictures of A W (Bill) Figg, beginning with this decorative feature.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, Figg was a devotee of the  small features or details which can be found on many buildings. Some will seem familiar or almost familiar and you will swear you can recall them. Others remain obscure or unknown. One of these days I’ll fill an entire post with them but not this week. It’s not entirely clear from the pencil written note next to the picture which tells us that the feature was “taken down”. I’m assuming it was in Pavillion Road, the narrow street behind Sloane Street because the pictures accompanying it is captioned as such. But I’m going to leave that until the end.

This picture is of Chelsea Fire station.

 

 

Can you make out the message? “Where’s your conscience Mr Rees? We helped you in your time of need, now help us.” This was the Firefighters strike of 1977 and Mr Rees was Merlyn Rees, the Home Secretary of the day.

I set off down a mental side track at this point recalling that just as the army deployed the “Green Goddess” fire trucks during the strike, the army were also used in the 1989-90 ambulance strike. I remember that because my wife had a kidney stone during the strike and was taken to the old Westminster Hospital in a military ambulance. Happy days.

There is no connection between that event and this view of the burial ground in Dovehouse Green.

 

 

As you can see from the layout, this shows the green before 1978, when it was landscaped and arranged as it is today. The obelisk monument to Philip Miller one of the gardeners at the Chelsea Physic Garden, which now sits in the centre of the green (and hasn’t moved) is seen here behind a hedge. This view, down the central path is looking north.

 

 

It shows the Thamesmead old people’s home and part of the workhouse buildings.

The picture below shows the nursery section of what is now the Chelsea Farmer’s Market.

 

 

The picture below shows the edge of the nursery building and the short terrace of houses next to it in Sydney Street. Did the nursery ever go by the name of Jack Beanstalk?

 

 

Take a note of that brown car in the foreground.

Below, is Hemus Place, off Chelsea Manor Street, another side street which fascinated Figg.

 

 

He must have been carrying two cameras that day because here it is again in colour, featuring the same vehicles.

 

J

ust an urban backwater in the 1970s, but now the loading bay and delivery pick-up point for the Waitrose branch in the King’s Road. We’ve seen in a previous post how Waitrose had a comparatively small frontage, behind which was a substantial shop. Figg’s 1990 photo shows a new building and a reception hut.

 

 

 

Since then a block of flats Friese-Green house has been built here, at the rear of the Odeon / Habitat building. More changes are under way at the moment.

In another bit of then and now (or strictly speaking then and then), here is the bank /post office building on the corner of Manor Street, and the site of the the recently demolished Chelsea Palace Theatre opposite the Town Hall.

 

 

The first shopping based building on the site was called simply the Gallery, (with its “indoor waterfall” – anyone remember that?) Later it was replaced with a branch of the Reject Shop.  Like Timothy White’s (see last week), this is another place where my wife and I bought many household items.

 

 

Finally (almost), back to Pavilion Road.

 

 

The building is not especially distinguished but the car (compare it with the brown car in the picture above) sets off many memories for me. Just skip the next two paragraphs if you’re not interested in cars, or my employment history.

Back in the last years of the 1970s I worked for a garage in Soho which had a British Leyland franchise. In those days the cars from BL were the last gasp of a fading company. They had Allegros, Marinas, a few Triumphs and MGs. In the mid market saloon car range they were beaten hands down by Ford, who had a new Cortina, a new Granada and the Mark 2 Capri, all much better than anything BL had to offer. In some ways worse was to come with the Princess, a car so bad and ugly it seems to have been erased from history. (One month I cleaned and prepared an entire fleet order of these, which earned me a good bonus, but inflicted considerable psychic damage). The one bright light was the new Rover, a completely redesigned version of the V8 3.5 litre saloon for middle managers, company directors and other aspirational types. For months before its launch it had been hidden from view under the project name SD1, and when it came out as the Rover 3500 it was a  success for the ailing company and was Europen Car of the Year for 1977.

The sales manager at the garage had one problem – he couldn’t get them (supply was another perennial problem.). So I never actually dealt with many of them but we would stand around and admire the few examples that came in. Apparently the police liked them too. BL created a police version for them and when the range was coming to an end a consortium of police forces bought everything that was left and stored them around the country so they could carry on using the car for years to come. Time though, has been no kinder to the SD1 than it was to the Princess and while the previous versions of the Rover are now classics, the SD1 has joined much worse cars in motor vehicle limbo. You can apparently see SD1s driven by George Cowley in the Professionals and John Steed in the New Avengers. And here’s a Lego version.

 

Did Figg know all that, or is it just me, my friend Steve and a few other Rover affianados? I am anticipating a few comments on this matter.

Finally, your brain teaser.

 

I thought this was Sydney Street at first, but I can’t figure out how the big building in the distance, and the old buildings on the left fit together. And it’s all a bit faded. So if someone can say for sure, I’ll be grateful.


Notting Hill Gate: the other High Street

After my marathon series on Kensington Church Street it was suggested that we simply turn left at the top and carry on into Notting Hill Gate, the actual street of that name, formerly High Street, Notting Hill. Some of it changed considerably in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while other sections remained much the same. I’ve covered the 1960 development already but we’ve never seen the 1970s version. The Photo Survey pictures were taken about the same time as most of the pictures of Church Street, although there are a few gaps which I’ve filled in with picture from other decades.

I went back and read that post from 2016, and I’m perfectly happy with that opening paragraph about my personal history with this part of London so I won’t waste your time by repeating myself when through the magic of hypertext you can see for yourself. Let’s just start with a picture from 1963 which shows the north side of the street when it was brand new.

 

 

From this angle it looks clean, spacious and optimistic. Note the WH Smith and the Timothy White’s, with a Boots nearby. I think I may have mentioned before that my wife and I bought a number of household items at Timothy White just before we were married. We have agreed that the only remaining item is a cheese grater, which we still use. I’m also sure that after Timothy White there was a branch of Virgin Records there. I can recall buying the first Joy Division album there, and the second XTC LP (which came with an EP of dub versions as I recall).

And having taken in that old vision of the future we can go back, but this time turn right at Church Street.

 

 

Astley House is on the south side of the street next to the intersection with Church Street. If you look back at that redevelopment post you can see the site before it was built, obscuring the 1930s block of flats behind it. The picture is from 1980, as is this close up.

 

 

Bank, dry cleaners, bank. Quite standard high street stuff for 1980. (The Midland Bank is still there as HSBC)

Below you can see another anonymous looking block. On the north side of the street the buildings are very much older, surviving from the days of the High Street.

 

 

 

Note the sign for Bland Umbrellas at number 24b, a fine old firm.

The next set of pictures go back to 1972. Number 2 Notting Hill gate was a branch of the employment agency Manpower. I think I may have had some temporary work from them in the 1970s, as many others did.

 

 

There’s Bland again, on the corner of Linden Gardens.

 

 

Moving west from there you can see how the street retains its small scale pattern with buildings of different heights.

 

 

Below, numbers 36 and following – more employment agencies, a tiny boutique called Brave New World and an Aberdeen Steak House. The Nat  West branch looks small but still grand.

 

 

Yet another agency, Alfred Marks, and another boutique (Pop-In). A tall person crosses the street.

 

 

I think there’s a Reed Employment agency in the mix there, but on the corner of Pembridge Gardens a large branch of Burton and Montague (tailors).

 

 

It all seems rather dull considering that Notting Hill Gate was just a stone’s throw from the heart of the counter culture in 1972. Here with the Devonshire Arms, is the corner of Pembridge Road. just a few steps from the start of the trail down Portobello Road.

 

 

We haven’t got any picture from 1972 of the south side of the street from Church street but this picture shows the view looking east, taking in the colored panels and the tower of Newcomb House.

 

 

This picture is one of a group given to the library by PhotoBecket (website) so acknowledgements to them and thanks for filling in a visual gap.

Below, the companion view looking west.

 

 

Now, back to 1972 and to the location of the first picture.

 

This shows the central crossing, the Coronet cinema, and Woolworths. I must admit to barely recalling that branch.

We now take another jump back to 1960.

 

 

 

The Hoop, located by the narrow passage to Uxbridge Street would have been relatively new in 1960.

 

 

The Classic Cinema, later of course, the Gate had also been redeveloped at this time. If I think about it, I haven’t been to the Gate very much, but I do recall my wife and I seeing Tim Burton’s Batman there. One of the first of that era’s  summer blockbusters.

 

 

We’re on familiar territory in 1972. WH Smith, Boots, a Wimpy Bar and Woolworth’s. I’m pausing now for  a bit of confusion. Boots must have ousted Timothy White’s from their position at the start of this post at one point and pushed them aside. Kelly’s Directory came to my rescue, showing that in 1980, Boots were at 96-98, and Timothy Whites (described as hardware retailers) were at 102. So my recollections were not mistaken. Phew.

In the next three picture, you can see the rest of that parade, west of the entrance to Campden Hill Towers.

 

 

More ladies’ outfitters, small grocers, dry cleaners and of course Radio Rentals.

 

 

The road starts of slop away from the hill of Notting Hill and retailers give way to residential properties.

 

 

A final look back up the hill.

 

 

Postscript

I don’t know which direction to go from here, so I might do a Chelsea post next time. My apologies for not publishing this last week, but I was quite busy.

Thanks to PhotoBecket for their photographs, which are copyright by them.

After the previous Notting Hill post there were some lively exchanges in the comments about St Vincent’s  Primary School which was at 6 Holland Park Avenue. Many former pupils have exchanged email addresses through the blog. I can pass on the email addresses of any more interested parties without breaching any regulations on privacy if anyone is interested.

 

 


The Depot – Warwick Road 1969

They call it the Council Offices, Pembroke Road these days. But we used to call it the Depot. I’ve been there for training courses, sat in rooms and listened to trainers, practiced recruitment interviews, done the occasional bit of role playing. I’ve even extinguished fires in one of the big sheds at the back as part of fire training. But that was all in the modern version, constructed in 1972 -75, a two part edifice on the north and south sides of Pembroke Road with the terraced housing blocks Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace on the top which were sometimes called “gardens in the sky” and are joined by a walkway over Pembroke Road. I sometimes looked up and wondered what it was like up there, above the place where refuse trucks and other council vehicles used to come and go.

Back in the 19th century there was a piano factory on part of the site, and an urban dairy. The Vestry acquired some of the buildings in the 1870s and used them as stables, and later somewhere for all its vehicles and the men who drove them to use. The site expanded but eventually it was decided to replace the lot with two large buildings which combined workshops, offices and housing. These pictures come from 1969 and show the “old” Depot.

This is one of the entrances on Warwick Road. Confusingly, there were two, and several buildings on the site, so it’s not always clear which direction you’re looking at.

 

 

That set of steps is a useful marker for one part of the site.

 

 

You can see a coupl of refuse trucks behind the parked cars. At one time all the trucks came and went from the depot.

 

 

A lone motorbike parked by another entrance to the main building, where there was a large interior space.

 

 

I wonder what purpose it served. Offices?

 

 

This is another entrance with a gatehouse, and a row of terraced houses beyond, looking south I think.

 

 

If you look closely you can see that this is a different entrance. But it also faces east to the large building in the background.

 

 

With more vehicles, this one a petrol tanker.

This building with an arched structure was part of the piano factory.

 

 

A few employees are coming and going as the photographer works.

 

 

Inside the site you can see some industrial wear and tear and some signs of neglect.

 

 

At this date some of the buildings may be emptying out.

 

 

The site must have been a bit of a maze.

 

 

But it was the Council’s largest property bigger than the then Town Hall.  The early 1970s was also when the new building in Hornton Street was built.


 

The final picture shows number 104 Warwick Road, demolished a few years later, one of the few signs of retail life in the area, although there was a pub called the Warwick Arms on the corner of Pembroke Road, between the two parts of the Depot. That building is still there. The tunnel visible here showed the way through to the northern depot buildings.

 

 

 

These pictures demonstrate that for me at least, even with visual evidence in the form of photographs and maps, you can’t always figure out exactly how a small area looked, but you are left with an impression of a somewhat decayed light industrial area with nothing of the current Tesco superstore and the blocks of upmarket housing which stretch up to Kensington High Street. Have a look at this post to see how things looked on the west side of Warwick Road.

There are proposals to demolish the 1970s depot, and its housing so perhaps they too will need to be recorded in photographs…

Postscript

As you might imagine, I took notice of the death of the actress Jacqueline Pearce, who played the larger than life character Supreme Commander Servalan in the ramshackle dystopian SF series of the 70s, Blake’s 7 (Blake himself was the least interesting character). Pearce was also the title character of one of Hammer’s most interesting films, the Reptile. Try that on Google images for a striking bit of make-up. I believe she at one time lived on one of the house boats on Chelsea Reach. I definitely saw her one day walking up Beaufort Street, but she didn’t look like she would have wanted to stop and talk to me. She made the stern, dominatrix-like Servalan very believable.

 


Carnival: 1980-1983

Regular readers will have noticed that I have never covered the Notting Hill Carnival (except once in passing). There are a few reasons for this: I’ve never been to it myself (I’m not a fan of crowds in streets, even happy ones);  I don’t know that much about its history, but I do know that there are a lot of people who are experts, who don’t always agree with each other about a number of matters, and I don’t want to get dragged into controversy;  and, let’s be honest: I’m a middle aged white man – what do I know? I’ve always tried to make what I write on the blog either historically accurate or (sometimes) drawn from my own experience. Or both. So I’m always a bit circumspect about some topics, (transport is another one) because there are real experts out there. Also, this blog is about pictures, and lots of pictures of Carnival in our collection don’t belong to us, or come from magazines and other sources.

But  we do have some pictures that as far as I know (see later) are ours, and when I was looking at some photo albums from the 1980s recently I noticed that some of the pictures in it were losing some of their natural colour, as colour prints from that period are prone to doing, so I thought they should be scanned for preservation purposes if nothing else. And once I’ve scanned a bunch of pictures, it’s only a matter of time before I start to think I should put them on the blog. So this week, it’s a case of letting the pictures speak for themselves.

1980

 

 

You can see that the pictures are taking on a brown tone, accntuated by the scanning process I think but are still full of interesting details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photographer has taken a little interest in the police officers who were on duty.

 

 

But has mostly concentrated on the crowds and the costumes

 

 

Oh and one local landmark, North Kensington Library. I wasn’t working there for most of the year.

 

 

1981

I was back there the following year. The scaffolding was in place after problems with slates falling from the roof, but it resulted in this covering, which was mostly corrugated iron. It was a little disconcerting from inside.

 

 

This year’s pictures have kept their colour quite well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1982

It seems to have rained the day the photographer went but that doesn’t seem to have deterred anyone.

 

 

 

 

The many umbrellas  show that the rain was pretty determined.

 

 

But people carried on.

 

 

1983

This looks like a brighter year. I particularly like this picture of a float turning slowly through the crowds.

 

 

The many costumes seem brighter too this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A modest amount of rubbish in the aftermath of the event.

 

 

The question of how the Library came to have these pictures was solved on the final page of the 1980 album.

This is Neville Price, Community Libarian, a colleague and friend who must have taken a group of library staff out into the Carnival crowds.

 

 

So thanks to him for all these pictures. If you went to the Carnival this year I hope you had a good time. If you recognize yourself, or anyone you know, please leave a comment. These images have not been seen for many years so it’s good to put hem out on the blog. I hope Neville will approve.

 


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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