Category Archives: 20th Century

St Ervans Road: another era

Firstly, I should apologise for those readers who accidentally got an early draft of this post emailed to them a couple of days ago. I pressed the wrong button while preoccupied with the way the streets near St Ervans Road had changed since 1970. The idea for the post came out of a conversation I recently had with a former resident of St Ervans Road, reminiscence of his childhood days living there. It stuck in my mind because his memories were largely happy, as opposed to some other memories of North Kensington I’ve heard recently.

 

 

The post box on the left was a goalpost when he and his friends were playing football in the street. As the picture shows, things were a bit quieter then. If you look at St Ervans Road now you will find that these houses are gone. The street is part of a whole set of streets filled with relatively new housing. The picture above looks towards Golborne Road. You might not be able to see it at this magnification / brightness but there is a street sign on the left for Acklam Road, which once ran west from the end of St Ervans Road to Portobello Road. Acklam Road still exists of course but it now snakes away from a gap on the north side of St Ervans towards a junction under the Westway and then back to the bottom of Blagrave Road. (If you’re not familiar with this part of North Kensington, follow it on Google Street View, as I did earlier.)

It’s complicated, jumping backwards and forwards from the past to the present. All I intended to do was to take a look at the street in 1970.

This is the norther corner of the street where it met Acklam Road.

 

 

 

I hadn’t planned to include a map but to avoid any further confusion here is a section from the 1935 Ordnance Survey.

 

 

You can see how Acklam Road once linked St Ervans, Wornington, Swinbrook, Bevington and Blagrove Roads before reaching Portobello. It now stops short of that at the end of Blagrove where the Acklam Village is located. And of course the southern side of Acklam Road where the houses backed onto the railway was swept away by the Westway.

One of the interesting aspects of these pictures is that the Westway was already there, in the background. The street looks quiet and the people are ambling around.

 

 

In close up the two women look quite unhurried.

 

 

There are plenty of old cars to spot, as you know we like to do. I haven’t named any myself – this post has taken up enough time already, but as always I welcome contributions from car enthusiasts. Does anyone remember that series of books from a publisher called Olyslager which covered British and American cars by decades? My friend Steve referred to one volume as “the Bible”. American cars of the 1950s, obviously.

 

 

 

People are chatting in the street, unconcerned with traffic. Above, a young woman offers servicing advice to a man with the bonnet of his car open. Perhaps he’s got a Haynes manual just out of sight.. Below, one man slouches on his bike while talking to a couple of friends.

 

 

Houses are for sale as you can see so no-one is expecting the development to come in later years. Perhaps some owners made a decent profit.

 

 

This is I think the northern end of the street at the junction with Golborne Road.

Below, the other end, with that post box again.

 

 

 

Some of the housing looks a little rough, like this section.

 

 

 

Some of those house may be empty, especially the one with all the rubbish outside.

But there’s plenty of activity for a quiet street.

 

 

Another conversation by a pair of mopeds.

Is that a Rover below?

 

 

 

And is that Trellick Tower rising just behind the houses?

 

 

A Morris 800, and the view back to where we started. What’s that in the distance?

Is it the Westway itself? This view is looking east from the junction of Acklam Road and Portobello Road.

 

 

The final view links us up with Acklam Road at the end of St Ervans, looking west.

 

 

The Westway has an anniversary next year, so expect some more pictures of it here then. St Ervans Road is now in another era.

 

Postscript

I was working on various matters yesterday so I never got to finish this post till this morning. There was also a slight digression when I checked on the Olyslager books. It seems there’s a copy of one in the Reference store. I’m going downstairs now to see if I can find it. (One of the pleasure of working in a library.Allow me to indulge myself while I can.)

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Demolition on the high street

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.

 

 

 

Postscript

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.

 


The Kensington: a High Street Cinema

Ignore  my name at the top of this post. (We still haven’t worked out how to add an author.) This weeks’s post was written by my co-author and colleague Isabel Hernandez who is continuing her work on the cinemas of Kensington and Chelsea.

 

I mentioned in my last blog post that I might revisit the cinema theme and see what I could find in our collection for The Kensington Odeon. Given its fairly recent closure I wanted to acknowledge its history and presence on the High Street for the best part of 89 years or so. Not old by historic standards, but certainly not dull.

The Kensington Kinema opened on the 6th January 1926 on the site of what was 8-13 Leonard Place – a range of houses that existed between Earl’s Court Road and Earl’s Terrace along the High Street. The redevelopment of this part of the High Street was completed around 1930-31 with shops and flats erected on the site alongside the cinema.

The Kensington was designed by one of the foremost cinema architects of the day, Julian Randolph Leathart, and his partner, W F Granger; experienced men in their field. The owner was Joseph T. Mears, a builder by profession, and President of the (then) Cinematograph Exhibitors Association. It was the first of four cinemas in his collection.

The image below shows the building’s magnificent Neo-Classical style; the most notable feature being the proscenium with three entrance points. Some thought it an austere facade, but others, like Philip Hepworth (British architect 1888-1963), compared it to an ancient Egyptian temple…

“It prepares the mind for the great void behind.”

Certainly you can clearly see Greek and Egyptian influences when you look at these old images.

 

The Kensington. Opening January 1926 - Copy

 

Ideas for the cinema’s construction were being discussed from as early as 1921, but there was considerable opposition to this which delayed construction until 1923-24. However, the encouraging design was well received in architectural journals and eventually it won over the sceptics. The result was the creation of one of the largest cinemas in Britain.

The Kensington was constructed with a steel frame (much like the Kensington Central Library) with vertical posts and horizontal beams to carry its weight. Steel frames are nothing unusual now where buildings are concerned, but it was a rather modern technique to include in the assemblage of a cinema building of that time.

The opening of the cinema was successful. The new building even had the unique privilege of having its own tune. A music composition by Charles Williams to commemorate the opening was played. It was succinctly called: The Kensington March.

 

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A few passers-by and a policeman in the forefront of the image below is a good way to gauge perspective. The building does look like a temple.

It is interesting to note that as elegant and impressive as the cinema was at the time, there appears to be very little if no film publicity on display, giving the building a conservative reputation. On first appearance it doesn’t appear to convey the vitality that later cinemas exuded with pomp, promising visual entertainment unlike anything else at the time. Perhaps with only one major screen, very little open advertising was required. As to how you would know what time a film was to start is a mystery to me. It seems that films were usually run on a continuous loop throughout the day and it was perhaps by chance that you would catch a film from the beginning.  Early adverts would appear to show that performances were continuous.

 

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Obviously, this later changed with the Odeon’s gaudy advertising as I remember it, so you could say it is a matter of opinion what it is that one prefers with regards to information.

Most of us will remember the display board that was attached to the facade of the building. It was rather unattractive and not in keeping with the good-looking building, but as a cinema it was recognisable and informative. Whether you were walking by or sitting on the top deck of a bus, you could see what was advertised.

If you’ve read my previous blog post on the Westbourne Grove Odeon  you will remember I mentioned that Oscar Deutsch, who founded the Odeon brand, was very much a man who liked to advertise his cinemas extrovertly, including the use of neon lights with some buildings. In the case of The Kensington, it would appear initially that advertising was left to the local newspapers. In fact, newspaper and magazine listings were still the best form of information right up until the internet took over from printed material.

Below is the only clue I could find in the local newspapers of the time that there was a new cinema in town. The first film ever shown at The Kensington was Quo Vadis. It was advertised on the 8th January 1926, in the weekly Kensington News and West London Times.

 

 

Two of my more interesting finds in the collection were these architect’s plans for the cinema. I often think that some plans are works of art in their own right, so I always enjoy scrutinizing the intricacies of the drawings in some cases, even if I’m not wholly versed in the architectural details. These are not originals, yet interesting nonetheless.

The seating capacity for The Kensington, including the stalls and circle levels, was estimated to be between 2,350 – 2,370 seats, depending on what source you are reading. That’s a lot of seats! I’m not sure even the West End cinemas had that capacity. The plan was for more, around 2,700, but practically this would have reduced the comfort factor by reducing the leg room for customers. Something I think is not often considered after a major refurbishment in current cinemas. A case of – use all available profitable space, never mind the long legs! It would appear that numb legs are not considered within the design remit of modern auditoriums, except where recliners have been introduced. I have not had the pleasure...

 

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Another plan showing the proscenium opening where the screen is located and interestingly, the five levels of the cinema: the billiard room in the basement; the entrance hall; the tea room; the lounge and the roof gardens. A large entertainment establishment for sure!

 

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The auditorium was decorated in a Neo-Greek style. I think of it as new antiquity.  According to the Kine Weekly 1926, the furnishings were colourful, decorated in warm hues ranging from amber to red to warm grey. The terracotta murals and carpet also added to the welcoming atmosphere of this spacious cavern and it was said that the screen never presented a distorted view no matter where you sat. Something of a boast considering how large the auditorium was.

 

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The curtained screen below in regal repose until the next show.

 

The Kensington, later Odeon. RIBA

 

Below you can see the stalls and balcony, or circle if you prefer. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a large theatre, like The London Palladium, only slightly bigger.

The Kensington was sometimes used as a venue for other events, such as: variety performances, concerts, award ceremonies, premieres, even an exhibition held at the cinema in 1959 called “Better Towns for Better Living”. Its multiple usage was always a boon for the local community.

 

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Below is the elegant tea room with its art nouveau decor. Tea rooms have always been a staple of British social life since they were established in the 18th century. They came after the coffee houses of the 17th century which were places for social discourse and debate (usually men only). Tea, on the other hand, was very much the prerogative of the elite. It was very expensive and heavily taxed in that early period, which lends a whole new meaning to Tetleys and PG Tips. Fortunately, tea rooms later became a lot more affordable and considered reputable public spaces that women could frequent. Such egalitarian notions must have seemed avant-garde at the time.

 

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Below is an original poster I found advertising the cinema programme for Christmas Eve 1934.

 

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On the other side of the poster I was surprised by this rather interesting drawing, dated January 11th 1935. Rather than throw the poster away, it would seem it was better utilised as a doodling sheet. And why not? Perhaps this was the anonymous artist’s pet dog.

 

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It’s not every day one sees an elephant on the High Street and probably just as well. This image was taken around the 1950’s. National Savings was being publicly encouraged. It provided an easy and safe way for ordinary people to save small sums of money.

 

Circus elephants march past the Odeon with National Savings Slogans

 

The Kensington cinema changed its name to The Majestic in July 1940; a wartime security measure to prevent the enemy from identifying locations within the London area.

In January 1944 Odeon Theatres Ltd acquired The Kensington, bringing it into the fold of one of the largest cinema chains in the country. It reopened as The Odeon on the 9th October 1944.

Later, in 1976 the Kensington Odeon underwent a refurbishment that upgraded it into a triple screen cinema. The image below shows the cinema around 1967, before the change. Only one film is advertised: The Deadly Affair, based on John Le Carre’s first novel, Call for the Dead.

The recognised symbol of the-man-with-the-gong (Arthur J. Rank Ltd) can be seen on both ends of the display board. Fancifully, I look at that now and see a portent of the future being sounded.

In 1980 a further screen was added. And by 1991 two further screens made it into a six screen multiplex. Not a cinema to sit on its laurels the Kensington cinema upgrades were all attempts to maximise audience attendance allowing for variety and choice. But it was never the same. Just like most other picture palaces, something of the original quality of the cinematic experience was lost.

Unfortunately, much of the internal design of the cinema was altered through the decades after various refurbishments. So much so that it would appear much of the original decor was subject to damage, even if some of it was still intact. A short-sighted, cavalier attitude towards something so interesting.

 

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In July 1998 the Odeon underwent yet another refurbishment. By this point the once grand auditorium was no longer visible. It was reputed to have been the largest built in England, and yet not immune to the many changes over the years. Original details still remained around public areas like the main staircases, but overall the original design was mostly buried beneath modern contrivances.

 

Kensington High Street - south side, 265-267 1971

 

In 2007, the RBKC gave planning permission for the cinema to be demolished retaining only the façade.

It was hoped through a campaign led by the local community that the cinema should be listed as a heritage building and saved from ignominious obscurity.

 

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An image I took recently of the now defunct cinema on my phone of multiple talents. Looking at it I couldn’t help but remember all my visits to watch films there. And seeing it like that I felt perhaps sentimental about the change. It was, if you’re a more sanguine-natured individual, just a building in the ‘greater’ scheme of things.  But that old nostalgia has a way of bringing out the history in us, and at the risk of being accused of personifying the building, it seemed to me, forlorn.

The Kensington Odeon closed on 11th September 2015.  Never to reach its centenery as a purpose built cinema. The redevelopment includes a six-screen cinema, along with residential flats. I stated earlier that there was a strong opposition to the closure and a robust campaign was begun with a view to challenge the developers and the council.  Many in the community felt that they were excluded from the consultations which led to a rethink of the original plans. Still, the end result, after many years of uncertainty, has led to the cinema’s final demise. Its last curtain call, if you like. It has hosted celebrities, royalty, and best of all, those of us within the community who will remember it as it was for a very long time. Not just a building, but a High Street landmark – a disappearing way of life.

 

Kensington Odeon closed

 

Postscript:

Changes often do evoke strong feelings and unsurprisingly this includes anything deemed of historic import that is vulnerable to redevelopment. After all, we tend to form attachments to what we consider heritage or culture; our past. I suppose, in many ways, it gives us a sense of identity. Cinemas have come and gone over the decades. Closures are not a new phenomenon. Their former grandeur is much more sedate these days. Time sometimes has a way of transforming or diluting things in this way. I have already made the point about our evolving technology and the internet in my previous post, which has exacerbated the problem. Less people attend and less money is generated. Sometimes things simply fall out of ‘fashion’. But often we do not notice something is there until it is gone. On the one hand, if we don’t frequent the cinemas, then questions are asked as to their viability. Our changing habits do influence the existence of these places. The same can be said of libraries and museums in some respects. They cannot exist without people, or money. Cinemas can only upgrade to a point before the constant push of modernism keeps changing the script and that requires investment and innovation.  Unfortunately, we also live in a world where profit and wisdom are often incompatible. Ideally we would welcome a balance that benefits society as a whole – perhaps I am naively utopian in my view. There is no doubt that life is ephemeral, no less the physical buildings we associate our past with. But I think sometimes we need to reconsider our complacency about anything, and more to the point, the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at the images in this post. I initially thought we had very few for a blog post, but there were enough to show you. Thanks for reading! Dave will resume posting next week.

Another Postscript – Dave

I saw a tabloid story from 2017 about Prince William and Kate Middleton (as they were then) going to see The Avengers at the Odeon High Street Kensington. Rumour has it that Princess Diana took the much younger Prince William and his brother to see the Harrison Ford film Patriot Games there also. For myself, I went there to see the first Alien film, and took my future wife there to see Bad Timing. Isabel is right. Something has been lost with the passing of these big old cinemas.


Health and welfare: streets in North Kensington 1966

I’m grateful this week to one of our volunteers, who found these pictures together in an envelope among a collection of pictures given to us by the Planning department .They originate in another Council department, the Health and Welfare department, which was once located in Kensington Square.

 

 

It says on the back of this picture” Appleford Road”, which means the road you see at the top of the picture could be Adair Road. Nothing in the picture remains today after redevelopment in the early 1970s.

The picture could have been taken from a new housing block. It is dated, as many of today’s pictures are, 12th September 1966. The Health and Welfare department would have been interested mainly in the condition of the housing in North Kensington which had been causing concern for some years.

Below, a view of the narrow spaces between the terraces of houses. You can see how cramped they were.

 

 

This is the space between Bramley Road and Testerton Street. I’ve looked at some of these streets before in this post for example. Those pictures were taken by our photographer, John Rogers who wanted to chronicle some of the streets that were about to be demolished.

Blechynden Street, below, was one of those. It only exists today as a stub, facing towards the Lancaster West Estate. Here it is still a place where life was going on.

 

 

Some demolition had already occurred.

 

 

That fence in Barandon Street, behind which rubbish was accumulating, is supposed to be 14 feet high according to the caption. Note the graffitti which has been concealed. The swastikas do not show some right wing message: the words read “Nazi-occupied Britain” which puts a slightly different slant on the sign. The message “Down with Taggart’s” must be personal in some way. Too early to show an antipathy towards the Scottish crime drama.

The picture below shows more rubbish building up in a back yard. But the neighbours have hung their washing up undeterred by the mess behind the wall.

 

 

The yards were between Lancaster Road and Testerton Street.

 

 

This is a cul-de-sac where Testerton Street was bisected by Barandon Street. Although the houses look rough, they’re still being lived in. I should know the distinctive rear of that car on the right. Anyone?

Cars and other vehicles were still a focus of life and work in this area.

 

 

 

This scrap yard was in Bramley Mews which ran between Bramley Road and Silchester Terrace. The Silchester name only survives on the eponymous estate.

This was Bramley Road. The houses were already vacant at this point.

 

 

I think that’s the rear of a Jaguar on the left. You often find these relativity upmarket cars in less than affluent neighbourhoods. As I’ve said before, there was a Jaguar collector in Dalgarno Gardens in these days.

This picture is the rear of Golborne Gardens , a now demolished street near Appleford Road.

 

 

 

See the two women looking out at the photographer from the top floor. The one of the left is definitely smiling.

The front of these house looked like this.

 

Those two women were photographed nearly ten years earlier in 1957. Was one of them the same person?

Below, a street under demolition which has not even left its name behind.

 

 

Lockton Street ran between Bramley Road and Mersey Street (another name which was not used again). One end of it was underneath the railway close to Latimer Road station.

The picture below is not dated like the others although Hazelwood Tower could have been the vantage point for a couple of the pictures.

 

 

It would have been almost new at this time. You can see that it looks as if it had just materialised, plonked down in the midst of the terraced streets

We’ve jumped back to Blechynden Mews in this picture. Another instance of these mews streets being devoted to m otor vehicles.

 

 

Finally, a quick look back to Hurtsway Street, which we know quite well. I won’t go on about the cars (although I could)

 

 

Instead, take a look at the woman looking at the photographer from a first floor window on the right. If you follow that line of windows you’ll just about see another woman looking towards the camera. The men in the street are paying no attention, but take note of the pile of tires in the distance. There were a lot of them in this area when these pictures were taken.

I can’t say exactly how these pictures were passed on between Council departments before arriving here in Local Studies. But this is where they will stay as a witness to some forgotten street scenes. (More on Lancaster Road here.)

Postscript

It seems appropriate this week that the death I noticed most was that of John Haynes, the creator of the Haynes workshop manuals. At one time this library had dozens of his books, a couple of bays of them down in the sub-basement to which library staff, myself among them, regularly went to pick out the relevant volume from the 600s.

The Haynes company was clever enough to produce some less serious works in more recent years, including such items a as workshop manual for the Starship Enterprise which we bought for my son on year. I also own, somewhere, a key ring with a cutaway drawing of a Ford Capri.

 


The high life – at the Royal Palace Hotel

We caught a glimpse of the Royal Palace Hotel last week but it looked pretty dull and gloomy in that rather faded photograph, even though it was probably only a few years old. To capture the aspirational feel of a new hotel you really need promotional material and especially artwork. So, for the most part, we’ll give the photographs a week off. Here is a view from an architectural publication showing the grand design.

The hotel, built in 1892-93 was built on the site of the King’s Arms Hotel (basically a large tavern) but was a far more ambitious building, towering over the surrounding houses and shops and looking down on Kensington Gardens.

 

 

It was intended to serve the growing number of visitors to London, and entice them in with many modern features, such as the grand entrance.

 

 

 

This week’s pictures are all illustrations from a contemporary periodical The style reminds me at least of William Luker. In the 1890s it was still somewhat easier for magazines to use artists to portray scenes like the exciting interior life of a brand new hotel.

 

 

An elegant woman glides through the entrance hall on her way out for a promenade through fashionable Kensington. A gentleman reads a newspaper in the hall. Not an aspidistra perhaps, but some kind of giant fern.

Below another view of the entrance hall, looking down from the gallery. Guest linger in the sumptuous public areas of the hotel.

 

 

 

Inevitably, the interior design of some of the public rooms is influenced by the exotic cultures of the near and far east such as this one, the “Eastern Lounge”

 

 

 

Or this one, an “eastern room” another young woman chats with a gentleman in formal dress, under a kind of canopy, surrounded by more of those giant ferns.

 

 

Guests could dine in a variety of dining rooms, some of them small and intimate.

 

 

Other larger, and more grand.

 

 

 

There were also the usual convenience of London life, such as a billiard room.

 

 

One of the features the hotel was most proud of were the extensive suites where residents could effectively have their own apartments, with private sitting rooms.

 

 

 

The husband sits around with a newspaper, while his wife concentrates on looking good. Below, a family group are actually making themselves comfortable and settling in in front of a warm fire.

 

 

In a private drawing room, a mother and daughter spend some quality time together.

 

 

I’m not quite sure what they’re doing. Perhaps the girl is insisting she should be wearing something more fashionable now she’s quite old enough to wear adult clothes. Maybe her mother (or is it an older sister?) is quietly asserting that she’ll just have to wait.

There’s a nice view out of the window of course, and they can go walking in the Gardens as often as they like. I could refer them to Mr Luker’s pictures of Kensington life, or some postcards of the Gardens.

 

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After an outing, it’s only a short walk back to the wondrous hotel.

 

 

It’s conceivable that the young lady might live to see this view in her old age.

 

 

1958. The Royal Palace Hotel looks intact, and still looks tall and elegant through the trees. But, if not actually empty at this moment, it didn’t have long before the end. It was demolished, and a larger hotel built on the site with a new name. We have a few pictures of that process but I’ll save those for another time. Today, let’s remember the hotel in its glory days as that young woman might have done.

 

Postscript

You might have expected me to mark the sad death of Mark Hollis, leader of the now reasonably obscure band Talk Talk with a few words. Talk Talk went from sounding like successors to Duran Duran to making avant garde, almost jazz-like music.  I actually own four of their albums (bought during the era when Fopp Records sold back catalogue CDs at pretty reasonable prices), so this morning I put on Spirit of Eden, thought to be one of their best.

Actually, I never really got it, despite many attempts. I was much more of a fan of David Sylvian, who trod a similar path from pop to avant garde, much more successfully to my mind. I hope he’s okay. I wonder what the residents of the Palace Hotel circa 1894 would have made of either of them being played in the public rooms?

I’m posting this quite late in the day at nearly 6pm. One of my regular readers (M) will soon let me know if there are any typos.


Slaters

Sometimes a post arises out of  nothing but curiosity. I started with a few pictures of a shop called Slaters.

 

 

Alfred Slater began as a butcher but by 1909, the date of this picture, he was a butcher and provision dealer. The building caught my interest because of its elaborate frontage, not unlike some of the nearby buildings we’ve seen in other posts. The other pictures of the shop show the interior.

 

 

A fine marble slab featuring a selection of dead animals including a set with lolling necks. The interior is as well decorated as the front.

Below, a selection of cured meats, with many cheeses and other products.

 

 

Some chairs for the customers to sit in while giving and waiting for their orders . It seems like a high class establishment to me. No sawdust on the floor here.

But although there is plenty to think about in these three pictures, I wondered if that was all I was going to see of Slaters. The three pictures might make a good short post for Christmas.

After all, 18-20 Kensington High Street is no longer with us. Since 1909 a whole stretch of the north side of the street has been redeveloped.

I was still curious to find out more, so I went to look at more photographs, and street directories.

This part of the High Street was much photographed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Look at this post. (And its companions) But there are  more images in which to look for Slaters.

It’s actually in this picture, in the distance.  The railings are by the entrance to Kensington Gardens. The gateway has a heraldic lion holding a coat of arms. (Which survives to this day, like one other feature in the picture. Can you see it)

Behind that, The King’s Arms public house. This picture is probably from 1887. the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The public house would soon be demolished.

 

 

I used this picture in that previous post, but I enlarged a different section. The close up below shows Slaters, especially decorated as many shops were that year.

 

 

 

And a nice further detail of two young women hurrying across the street, rushing to get between the carriages. You can actually see that the one bringing up the rear has her right foot off the ground.

In this picture the street is plainer, but you can see just by the lamp of the Cumberland Arms the sign above the alley on the right of Slaters which says Hodgson.

 

 

 

We know from Kelly’s Street Directory of 1889 that this alley was called Cumberland Yard, and in it were the businesses of G T Patterson, Veterinary Surgeon and William Hodgson, coach builder. This picture might show Cumberland Yard.

 

 

 

(Look closely and find two men on the roofs of two of the buildings crammed together behind shops and inns.)

On the other side of Slaters, heading west was a wine merchants..

 

 

Three smart dudes in top hats, obviously all wine merchants thinking seriously about getting someone to load or unload those crates and barrels. The horse is thinking he’ll just wait till they decide what to do. No point in rushing things.

Those gates and railings? Still there today, I think, at the bottom of Kensington Palace Gardens. Even then, not just anybody could enter.

The next picture must be after 1890.

 

 

Slaters is stiil there on the far left. You can see part of a sign reminding clients of its services to the royal family. Outside, are another horse and cart are ready to go. You can even see the alley leading to Hodgson’s.  Next door is the Duke of Cumberland public house and a few other businesses. Above them all towers the side of the newly built  Royal Palace Hotel. Although the photo is faded you can just see the word Hotel in big letters.

Here’ a map section pinpointing Slaters.

 

 

The map also marks the Bank I referred to in this post, named after a favourite phrase from the Survey of London.

You’ve probably noticed that the Slaters in the first picture is not the same building as in the earlier pictures. This section of the High Street was subject to a London County Council road-widening scheme in 1902-1905. The management of Slaters took this opportunity to  build a much more prestigious and striking  structure.

 

 

 

 

Higher, and definitely more Burgundian. In 1902 it was celebrated in The Architect magazine. This image is what is called an ink photo, which I take to be an actual photograph gone over in ink to make it more suitable for publication in an illustrated periodical like the Illustrated London News. (You can see more examples of these in this post). It’s a nice clear image, which even offers a tantalising view up the alley. Is that a ladder in the distance? Unfortunately you can’t zoom in on these ink photos as easily as with a photographic print.

They also provided an interior view.

 

I love those light fittings.

I haven’t called Slaters a forgotten building as I sometimes do on the blog because it had a long history on the High Street and stayed in the lee of the Royal Palace Hotel until both of them were demolished at the end of the 1950s.  The early days of the hotel are another story of course, and one we will come back to soon. Kensington High Street always has more stories to tell.

Although my Kensington memory doesn’t go back to the 1950s I’m sure there are still plenty of people who saw Slaters in its heyday, or have family memories of it. If so, please leave a comment.

 


Princes Place: another backwater

We’ve had a bit of a hiatus on the blog since the end of January caused partly by the fact that I had a cold, and partly by some general upheavals in the building which have occupied us somewhat. Both Isabel and I have been working on posts which require a bit more work than usual  to do properly so this week I decided to pull some Photo Survey pictures off the back burner and do a relatively straightforward post.

Princes Place fits the description backwater as I’ve used it on other occasions. (Here, and in other posts – try this one.) It’s a narrow street which makes its way from Queensdale Road to Princedale Road near to Holland Park Avenue. Try navigating it now on Google Street View and you’ll see some modern flats, some walls at the backs of gardens and a few original houses. But it was a bit more varied back in 1970, when most of these pictures were taken.

This particular image has always been a favourite of mine because of a detail in the bottom left of the picture.

 

 

That dog, who seems to be engaged in quiet contemplation of some canine matter, not bothered by the photographer. Perhaps he’s decoding some olfactory clue in his immediate vicinity. It’s the internet of dogs, their sense of small. A little way to the rear a woman leans on her garden gate. She may be the dog’s solicitous owner, wondering what he’s up to. Or she may be keeping an eye out in case he wanders in through that open gate in front of him. We’ll never know. But I think I can detect a thoughtful look to him (or her). At one point I considered doing a post entirely about animals caught randomly by our photographer, but I’ll leave that for another day.

With its terraced houses and gardens, the street looks more substantial than it does today but to orientate us, here is the narrow entrance in Queensdale Road,

 

 

The building on the right is still there, and that shuttered garage entrance can still be found.

 

 

 

The street looks pleasant enough to me. Homely, if a bit ramshackle about the edges. Are these back gardens, perhaps?

The house on the right is definitely quirky, almost rural.

Slightly further along is some demolition, with one exposed interior.

 

 

 

Further detail of the ongoing work in other houses. Princes Place, as people in 1970 knew it, wasn’t long for this world.

 

 

Below, a man perches on top of an empty house.

 

 

 

Look back at the dog picture and you might just be able to make him out again.

The same picture has a man on a bicycle in the distance

Here he is again on the edge of this picture.

 

 

Experiencing some slight difficulty, I think

These pictures invariably  allow us to to see some cars of the period.

 

 

 

The rather ugly Ford Anglia (does anyone have fond memories of those?).

And a Vauxhall.

 

 

 

 

The estate version of…the Victor? (I’m sure someone can confirm this or correct me.)

Equally invariably in back street,s a working vehicle attached to a nearby garage.

 

 

 

And a variety of buildings.

 

 

The intriguing 17a, home of some eccentric person I hope.

And at the end of the road…

 

 

The aforementioned garage, named after the street.

 

 

Note that this is not the same entrance.

 

 

Sales and servicing available within.

This view looking back.

 

 

You can see the entrance to the garage, a Morris Minor “woody”, the only car subject to dry rot, and in the distance of course, the same man on the same bicycle (his third appearance you will have noticed.)

Take a walk through what is still a backwater today, virtually or actually, and you will will only see a few remnants of how the secluded enclave of Princes Place looked in 1970.

Postscript

I’m writing my way back in to blogging in this post, getting myself moving again after a period of exhaustion. But I’m not complaining. Mortality has not been idle while I took a breather. I’ll just mention the sad death of one of the country’s funniest men, Jeremy Hardy. Another name added to  the roll call of the News Quiz, and I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue.


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