Category Archives: 21st Century

Christmas Days: a bunch of busts

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

This was Holland House at the time.

holland-house-east-front-autocorrect

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

holland-house-breakfast-room-autocorrect

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

holland-house-interior-of-conservatory-and-ball-room-autocorrect

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

holland-house-interior-of-conservatory

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

 

Monkeys

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

ptdc0002-copy

And out in the park.

ptdc0007-copy

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

Another short post, and more monkeys tomorrow.

 


Christmas Days: the old old town hall

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

chelsea-old-town-hall-1900s-from-london-town-cs711

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

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

 

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2832-copy

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

Now look at this view of the side.

 

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2835a-copy

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

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

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2835a-copy-2

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

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

jubilee-011-l_1358-a4

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. No expense spared.

 

The 12 monkeys of Christmas

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

copy-of-dsc_1281

And getting amongst the drainage plans.

copy-2-of-dsc_1287

See you tomorrow.


The Commonwealth Institute – the fallow years

I seem to have fallen into a pattern of one post on a subject followed by a supplement. I had originally intended to use some pictures of the dormant days of the Commonwealth Institute building and a few of the recent redevelopment work in last week’s post but I found so many interesting pictures of the Institute in action that there wasn’t space. So this week there are some pictures of the days when the Institute was closed and waiting for its fate to be decided, and some of the building work progressing.

I took these photos. I don’t claim to be a great photographer but I can point and click which is sometimes all you need to do to catch the essence of a place.

As with this image of open water, the pond clogged with branches and covered with algae.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bridge, or walkway. Note the photographer’s error focusing on the barrier rather than what was behind it. It makes an interesting image, but only by chance.

dsc_0870

Here it is in focus. I took this picture in 2007, when you could get quite close to the building without encountering any barriers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The main building with the concrete supports looking like they really are holding it up, and the administrative block beside it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The flags, in 2009..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and 2012, with the green boards cutting most of them off from access.

dsc_0874

Work begins, with digging and metal barriers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is that a theodolite?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another picture taken through the barriers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Work on the wall of the main building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The last weeks of the admin block.

dsc_1316

In close up.

dsc_1440

Ten days later, the dust is rising over the perimeter boards.

dsc_1561

The curtain walls are stripped away.

dsc_4840

And the new buildings rise.

dsc_4836

You could only stand on the edge, looking for some action.

dsc_1553

More of that dust, from the relatively tranquil Holland Park side.

Not quite finally, an image I’ve used before from the time when overgrown grass surrounded the main building. (The wilderness years, you might say.)

used-dsc_0869

And finally, one more picture from the archives. Back in 1962:

ci-opening-ceremony-1962-k63-153-copy

The Queen, opening the Institute. Perhaps the visiting dignitaries thought it would last longer than it did.

Postscript

The earlier photos were taken with an Olympus compact camera, the later ones with a big Nikon which is very forgiving and nearly always gives a good picture. I’ve told the story before, in the early days of the blog but now that the Design Museum is up and running I wanted to present a few more pictures of the declining years. Hopefully, the new Museum will redeem the building and make us forget the days when it could almost have vanished for good.

Thanks to Roger Morgan for some error correction, and for general support of the blog.


Halloween story – the invitation

This week’s guest blogger from the European Institute of Applied Cyanography is the recently appointed Chief Investigator Kristina Jones who is following up on a previous post.

1.

The customer, whose name was Phelps, was a man with an obsession, He was convinced of the existence of a subterranean passage which ran from a basement somewhere in Chelsea House towards the river. It had once been possible to exit the tunnel in the octagonal summer house built by Lady Cathryn Beck in the grounds of Beck House, according to Mr Phelps. Proof of this lay in a 19th century account of a walk through the tunnel by Henrietta Cole-Elliott, unpublished of course, but thought to be among the papers deposited in our collection.

He had seen the watercolours by Mrs Fletcher showing the summer house and a tunnel, possibly unconnected but I knew she couldn’t always be trusted on the details. I said as much but he wanted to believe differently, as people sometimes do.

.summer-house

 

subterranean-passage-on-the-west-side-which-1098-leads-to-discovered-by-collapse-of-wall-by-ladder-1099-g47

I promised to look through the boxes and Mr Phelps reluctantly left. I admit to being in a less than perfect mood that morning. I had finally been appointed to the post formerly held by my colleague and friend Marianne Collins only to be told by the Deputy Director that the new dress code applied to anyone who sat on the enquiry desk or went to meetings outside the building. I had nothing against the black dress and tights but the outfit definitely enflamed the desires of some of the customers. I imagined Marianne would have been quite amused.

Feeling a little guilty about not taking Mr Phelps seriously, I sat down with the Elliott boxes, wearing a warehouse coat and the white archive gloves and looked at every item, checking them against the deposit list. There was no sign of the tunnel account but to be thorough I also went through all our copies of Mrs Elliott’s books. I frittered away some time reading passages from her faery novel but finally got back to business and the last thing I looked at was a large format edition of Esoteric Churches of London (1905) with many photographs. Stuck to the rear endpapers by some desiccated Sellotape was a pamphlet entitled “Traveller’s notes for Lady Beck’s House”. It came away from the book in my hand. The title was so intriguing that despite the air conditioned coldness of the room I settled down in the most comfortable chair with my overcoat draped over my shoulders to read the whole thing.

“For the amateur Traveller Lady Beck’s house presents a particular challenge. At the present time the house is quite empty and lacking in furnishings, particularly the many carpets and wall hangings which were sold at auction when the Lady became a widow. There is no atmosphere to speak of, aside from the feeling of abandonment. I saw no sign of the celebrated tunnel. I found no portals”

There, then – no tunnel. Surely that settled it? I decided to ignore the reference to portals. I have heard quite enough about doors which lead to unexpected places. Marianne has been gone for more than a year and her flatmate Blanka hasn’t been seen for some time. I miss Marianne but not her friend.

Mrs Elliott goes on to say. “Adepts of the Trick will imagine Beck House and wish fervently that it had survived into the age of photography. Or that the strange combination of light and chemicals had occurred to some savant in the previous century. Miss Collins has hinted that the higher adepts had employed other methods, a workaround she called it, an example of her idiosyncratic phraseology.”

She moved on to a discussion of another matter. Nevertheless, I felt the already cold room turn chillier at the thought that this Miss Collins was the same as the one I knew. I put the book aside and let my mind wander off, thinking about her and her sudden departure. I wished I had Blanka there to ask questions.

I picked out a copy of the standard edition of the book and went through both side by side. Closing time rolled round and the motion sensitive lights went out one by one until I sat in a single cone of light, the rest of the basement room in darkness. I put my arms into the sleeves of the coat and buttoned it up before continuing. I did this as surreptitiously as possible out of a superstitious desire not to trigger the lights. By the end of each copy I was exhausted, and I could easily have missed it. But when I forget myself and stretched out my arms several lights went on and I could see the rear end-papers of the de luxe edition more clearly, and the bulge where something had been pasted over. I used a craft knife to cut a slit around the bulge and carefully removed a small envelope. On the front, in neat copperplate handwriting was written my name

Inside was a single piece of card, with fancy edges.

“Beck House, Putney Heath.

Miss Kristina Jones is invited to a fancy dress ball for Halloween, on Thursday 31st October 1906.7.30pm”

On the back was a printed notice: “Lady Beck recommends Mrs Matilda Stuart’s Photographic Studio and Costume Hire, Brompton Road.

I put the card and the envelope together in a larger envelope which I put in the inner pocket of the overcoat. I didn’t dare put it in my bag, out of an irrational fear that it would vanish or get stolen. I keep a change of clothes in my locker but I didn’t want to linger in the building. I looked up at the picture we call “The Cross Dressing Count”.

the-countess-c-fletcher

I let myself out the back way, my coat belted up and my hat pulled down low as if I was trying to disguise myself.

2.

I had no desk duties or meetings the next day so I dressed in my usual clothes. I subjected the card and the Cole-Elliott collection to some routine enquires looking in street directories and the ephemera collection and particularly looking for photographs. I actually found what looked like the Stuart studio, and several images of Brompton Road from that period. I also tracked down a picture of Henrietta Cole-Elliott in one of the Fletcher family albums.

 

2-women

I didn’t show the picture to any of the others at the Institute. I didn’t want any of them to tell me that the woman next to Henrietta wasn’t Marianne. I knew it was.

Then there was the question of getting to the ball. I knew about Marianne’s ex, Daniel and had even met him once. And I’d spent a few evenings at Marianne’s flat. At the end of an evening, when the creepy flatmate had gone off she had told me about the Trick. And that was how I could get to the ball

If you can believe it, I can explain the Trick quite easily. Some people can use photographs as gateways to other times and places. Marianne’s ex was one of them. And according to her, so was I. She told me this when we were both tired and slightly drunk. The memory had a fuzzy frame around it as if I could easily choose to believe it was a mistake or a misunderstanding. Or it could suddenly sharpen and I could see that my view of reality had been fundamentally altered. She had told me about the first time Daniel had used the Trick. And now it was my turn

I looked through some photos of Brompton Road which looked like they came from the right period. I settled on a couple from a collection by Ernest Milner who took pictures of streets for the new railway companies who were building deep level tube lines beneath them. . I wondered if I could use one of them

 

brompton-road-footway

There was no problem with a costume. I used to work at the Sekmet Gallery in Holborn. The photographer Aiofe Campbell had an exhibition of her Goth pictures there. The staff all wore elaborate Euro-Goth costumes for the opening, paid for by a Dutch TV company. We kept them. So on Saturday morning I put on a vaguely 18th century outfit, some appropriately gloomy make-up and sat down at the table with the picture in front of me.

 

photo

The main problem was taking the idea seriously. But after a few minutes I calmed down and allowed the picture to take over all my attention. I ignored the white letters showing the date at first but then changed them in my mind. I imagined the view in 3D. I heard distant sounds clattering. At the last moment there was an unfamiliar smell, quite pungent. I felt myself leaning forward.

bell-and-horns-2-fulham-road-oct-18-1902-woman-in-black

The clattering was the wheels of a wooden trolley being pushed along the street. A man in dark clothes wearing a peaked cap was pushing the trolley walking beside another man in an overcoat. A woman in black with a pale face across the road stared at me but showed no sign of seeing me appear out of nowhere. The two men looked at me and shared some joke, but they didn’t seem hostile. I grabbed the skirts of my dress on both sides and walked onto the main road. It was early in the morning. There were a few people about, mostly men, but a few women in dark, heavy dresses, or skirts with white blouses. Everyone looked at me, but no one spoke. One young woman in an elaborate wide brimmed hat smiled at me and nodded. I nodded back. I looked at the shop fronts, noticing the numbers. It wasn’t long before I reached Stuart’s studio.

brompton-road-45-49-july-20-1902-lte83

I had to wait for it to open. A young woman in an ankle length artist’s smock let me in and called for Mrs Stuart a middle aged woman in the white blouse and skirt combination. I couldn’t imagine how they dressed like that every day. My costume was bulky and a little tricky to move around in but it had been made in the 21st century. Compared to the women around me I was lightly dressed.

Mrs Stuart looked me up and down as if gauging how I would look in one of her photographs. I showed her the invitation, now a hundred years older than any other example.

“You’re rather early Miss Jones. But I suppose you had no way arriving at a more convenient time. Please, come into the studio. Many of the guests are coming here today in costume to have their portraits made. You can wait here. Some of us are travelling by automobile, and I know Mrs Hope-Elliott would want me to extend every courtesy to a special guest.”

She was formal, but friendly. If she knew where I was from I must have been an object of great curiosity. Perhaps she was even a little worried. I spent the morning sitting in a hall. Once I’d seen one picture done I didn’t need to stay in the studio and drawer attention to myself. For a while a morose teenager sat with me waiting for her mother.

girl-dressed-like-a-joker-1880a

I carefully took a few pictures on my phone. I was particularly taken with a group of witches.

witches

The day passed. Mrs Stuart put on her own costume.

witch-or-night

Four of us got into the rear of a substantial vehicle shut into a cab with curtained windows while a chauffeur and a uniformed attendant sat in front. Mrs Stuart drew the blinds but I knew where we were going, and took a peek as we crossed Putney Bridge. Something was happening in the distance

rejoicings

masque

The new Beck House must have been a step down for the widowed Lady Beck, but it was still a large property. It was only late afternoon

[Picture withdrawn – B. Azdajic]

Inside I started shaking at the thought of actually seeing Marianne who had traveled so far from home and was now presumably stuck in the wrong time. Inside my dress was a packet of photographs I had taken only yesterday and printed on high quality paper. That should be all we would need I assumed. I jumped when I saw her.

witch2

But when she hugged me I realised that she had simply made a bit of an effort for the costume party. I asked her what I considered to be the obvious question.

“Couldn’t you just have sent me a letter? Wasn’t it all a bit tenuous? I could easily have missed that invitation.”

“Well, when you send a message across a hundred years you have to be sure it only gets to the recipient.”

“Haven’t you heard of solicitors? Don’t you remember that bit in Dr Who? The guy in Blink who comes to the door?”

“You have to make sure that no-one else gets the message. I’ve been on quite a journey. When I wanted to come home I thought of you. But I had to hide my intentions from anyone else who might be interested. Blanka thought any of the living in the Third City could do the Trick, but she was wrong”

Now that I’d found her I was much more impressed by the Trick and wanted to show off.

“I’ve got a bunch of photos with me. And my phone. Does anyone use those to Travel? I’m ready when you are. Back in time for a tuna melt at that place you like.”

She kept her arm round my shoulder.

“There are a couple of things to do here first. We can’t go from this house anyway. . And like I said, there are other interests involved, and a few obstacles. We’ll have to get past some of the guards.”

She looked out of the window at the Heath. I did the same.

pointy

As she said, still a few obstacles

 

Postscript

The picture of Ms Jones is a detail from a photograph by the German photographer Luna Feles.

Normal service will be resumed next week.

DW


Hidden in plain sight: Chelsea’s Jewish cemetery

Last week, on Friday, I was on the 211 bus heading home with a bag of shopping when I saw that  there had been some damage to a brick wall on the corner of the Fulham Road and Old Church Street. A whole section of the wall had been knocked inwards possibly as a result of some kind of impact. I thought I should take some photographs but when I went out on Sunday the area was surrounded by workmen and equipment, with a temporary set of traffic lights. On my way in this morning I took a few pictures, as the breach in the wall was still there.

20160815_090110

Not only is there a hole, but behind it a pile of bricks.

20160815_090125

Beyond that you can see the gravestones themselves.

20160815_090133

It’s not the first time this wall has been disturbed. Back in 1989 I was also there with a camera when the whole wall was partially demolished and there was the opportunity to take some pictures of an obscure corner of Chelsea. In normal circumstances you only get the chance to see the area behind the wall if you’re sitting on a passing bus. This corner, between the Institute of Cancer Research and a short row of shops devoted to antiquarian books and interior design, is the location of Chelsea’s Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 04

The wall, as you can see, was then short enough to look over. The original wall was tall enough to completely conceal the cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 01

It was a bright day for October. The pictures were taken with an Olympus pocket (film) camera so they look a little grainy.

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 02

But you can make out the Hebrew inscriptions.

The cemetery, or burial ground appears on Thompson’s famous Chelsea map of 1836.

Copy of Thompsons 1836_Chelsea 4006 - Copy - Copy

The area was called Queen’s Elm after the Queen’s Elm tavern which was right opposite. On this detail you can see Trafalgar Square (later Chelsea Square) and Bath Lodge (later Catharine Lodge along with a number of houses with large gardens on the west side of Old Church Street,

George Bryan, in his 1869 book “Chelsea in the olden and present times” tells us the burial ground was “erected in 1816 by the individuals whose names are inscribed on the wall of the entrance building” (visible on the map).

Hugh Meller, in the third edition of his London Cemeteries (an invaluable book for London historians) which has details of 14 Jewish cemeteries in London says: “The impression given by this tiny cemetery is more typical of Prague than London.”. I can see his point. The 300 gravestones are in a comparatively small area, almost hermetically sealed behind a brick wall and “a rusty iron gate“. I imagine the burial ground fitting into a Bruno Schulz story (or a film by the Quay Brothers for that matter) especially as modern Prague is often used as a location for Victorian London in recent films and TV dramas.

Jewish Cemetery in Fulham Road c1896

The picture comes from The London Burial Grounds (1896) by Mrs Basil Holmes. Mrs Holmes called it “a dreary place” and remarked on the lack of proper paths between the graves. By the time she wrote her book the prayer hall and office had been replaced by the parade of shops. The last burial was said to be in 1913, although Meller gives the date of closure as early as 1884. He also notes the presence of mulberry trees. (That is actually another story altogether, associated with the estate called Chelsea Park which was on this side of the Fulham Road. Parts of it still survive in Elm Park Gardens and so what he says is possible.)

These pictures, from one of our scrapbooks are also dated 1896.

Jewish Cemetery Queen's Elm 1896 CM142c

In this one, possibly taken from one of the shops you can see South Parade and beyond it Trafalgar Square, and the tower of St Luke’s Church.

I’m not so sure of the angle in this picture:

Jewish Cemetery Queen's Elm 1896 CM142

In the 1970s the cemetery was under the threat of redevelopment and there was a plan reported in local newspapers in 1974 to have the ground deconsecrated, and any surviving remains removed to Israel.

cutting 1974

This never occurred. I was told that a benefactor paid for some restoration work to keep the cemetery secure. It remained an obscure corner of Chelsea, safe behind its walls. A place of absolute stillness beside a busy road, its continued existence a source of satisfaction for those who like the quiet places of the city.

Whether in 1989,

Jewish Cemetery Oct 1989 03or 2016

20160815_090130

20160815_090142

The hole in the wall is now boarded up, which you can almost see in this picture but the main point of it is to show that even with the wall breached the cemetery is well hidden by the abundant trees.

20160820_091709

Postscript

I promised you a new post by my colleague Isabel this week but she has gone to ground in Kent, somewhere near here:

Old Road Chatham - Copy

Hugh Thomson steps in to help again. The picture is from Highways and Byways in Kent (1907). Isabel will be back soon.

It was fortunate this subject presented itself to me out of nowhere. I’ve noticed that I’ve written posts about almost every point of my journey to work, with very few gaps and this is a further addition to the psycho-geographical trail. I’ll work on those gaps in the future.

 


Sarah Raphael – a session with Bignell

The name of Sarah Raphael was familiar to me before I first looked at this week’s photographs but I have to admit I didn’t know a great deal about her. I had some inkling that she had died comparatively young but I don’t know where that came from. To summarise: she was born in 1960 and became known as a painter of portraits, landscapes and abstract pictures. She was married with three children. She died in 2001 aged 41. The people who have written about her including Clive James, William Boyd and her father Frederic Raphael agree that she was a significant artist. Had she lived we would know a lot more about her.

And at some point she met John Bignell. I’ve scanned a couple of regular sized prints from our Bignell collection but also isolated a few more from a contact sheet as I did once before with Regis de Bouvier de Cachard. This gives us a record of one photo session with Bignell. I don’t know if this was one of Bignell’s magazine or newspaper assignments or if she was one of his artistic acquaintances. (There were quite a few of those.) But they are fascinating pictures of an artist .

Sarah Raphael 01

There won’t be a lot of commentary from  me this week. Sometimes the pictures speak for themselves. Here she sits on a stool in an elegant room looking at one of her pictures.

There are some variants of this pose.

Sarah Raphael 01a

They seem to have tried out quite a few poses showing Ms Raphael at work, putting brush to canvas.

Sarah Raphael 03

In her studio (or just a pleasantly untidy room nearby).

Sarah Raphael 04

Sarah Raphael 3 from contact sheet - Copy

Using a mirror to create a picture within a picture effect.

Sarah Raphael 07

Or using the mirrors (and some plates?) as props.

Sarah Raphael 01c

Taking a break.

Sarah Raphael 09

If you’ve never encountered her work you can see in the photographs that the painting has a slightly surreal feel to it.

Sarah Raphael 02

See how that tower in the painting has moved from right to left as Bignell set up the shots.

I found some similar images in her illustrations to a book by her father, “The Hidden I” (Thames and Hudson 1990) which demonstrate the same qualities.

00002 - Copy

Perhaps Bignell was trying to capture some of the same playfulness in his pictures of the artist.

00001 - Copy

She was also influences by pop art and comics.

Strip Page 1

Sarah_Raphael_Strip_page_5_1997_en

[Strip Page 1 and Page 5]

And could work in the space between landscape and abstract art as in one of her Australian paintings.

Gibber Desert Constellation II

[Gibber desert Constellation II]

But I promised as little commentary as possible, and no attempt at art criticism so let’s just remember a talented artist at work being photographed by a talented photographer.

Sarah Raphael 06

Postscript

You can see more of Sarah Raphael’s work at http://www.clivejames.com/gallery/painting/sarah-raphael

As hinted at last week I’m doing what you might call quirky posts at the moment. I did consider trying to assemble some of Bignell’s odder images into a post called Weird Bignell but I’ve already used some of the best. I also looked through the run of a short lived 1970s periodical called the Times of Chelsea for which he was the picture editor and got a few ideas for later. I never did find the reason for this particular session, but I’m glad to have found the pictures and been to use them on the blog.

It’s possibly not of general interest but the total number of page views on the blog recently passed three quarters of a million. I was quite pleased anyway.

Finally, after the recent sad news of the death of Muhammed Ali, here he is in a couple of Bignell pictures.

Mohammed Ali - Cassius Clay_jb_241

Mohammed Ali - Cassius Clay_jb_242

The Greatest of all time.


Now you see it, now you don’t..now you see it again

We’re still having technical problems here so this week’s post is one I’ve had in draft form for some time because I wasn’t sure about it. It’s just a shaggy dog story really which I’m telling because I happened to take some photographs of a building I found interesting. But enough prevarication.

The other thing is that I’m not going to go into any issues about planning, or ownership or  development because I don’t know anything about those in relation to this particular building. It’s just a curiosity and one of those things you might not even have noticed if you weren’t a regular visitor to the place concerned. So, here’s the story.

There was a building on the corner of Tregunter Road and the Little Boltons, just down the road from where I used to work at Brompton Library which had a big garden. So big that one year it was in the National Gardens Scheme, a once a year event when people would open their gardens to interested members of the public. This is the building in 2007.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I took the photos then on my old camera because the property was clearly empty, and had that sad look of a substantial house worn down by the years. It was typical of the area – a large suburban villa it might have been called. That tower feature is not uncommon in the area. Look at a nearby house in Gilston Road. (picture from 1970)

Gilston Road 1970

The garden was overgrown, and no longer of interest to visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then in 2009 the house was gone. These two pictures show the view of where the rear of the house would have been.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The complete disappearance of the house was unusual but not remarkable. The size of the site would have been attractive to a new owner, whether an individual or a company. As far as I know the demolition happened in 2009. I wasn’t in the area so much by this time but I kept my eyes open when I was.

And then in 2014..

DSC_4353 Tregunter house

The house was miraculously back.

DSC_4354 tregunter house

Or at least someone had carefully built a new house which looked very much like the old one. A little bigger I thought when I first saw it, with slightly different proportions, but that could have been an illusion. A part of the builder’s sleight of hand. It’s there. Now it’s gone. Now it’s back. Magic in slow motion.

I’m sure there must have been problems of one kind or another. Given the size of the site and the popularity of subterranean development in Kensington and Chelsea there might be several basements or garages underneath it. But as I said I’m not interested in generating any controversy. It’s just one of those things that happens in London. The city I live in never fails to surprise me.

As I said above I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to anyone but me. The wandering blogger sometimes catches odd occurrences like in January 2011 when developers were refurbishing a whole terrace on the Fulham Road and one of the middle houses collapsed leaving this gap:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Accidents happen I guess. I heard that part of the road was closed so I went to have a look. (Quite a few years ago near where I live a short terrace of buildings, its facade completely covered in scaffolding caused a sensation one Sunday morning when the whole structure of scaffolding collapsed into the street. I didn’t take a camera to that incident). Nowadays this stretch of road has a series of new businesses at ground level with residential accommodation above. I was there the other day and the facade looked completely homogeneous. You would never know the unfortunate collapse had happened.

In another part of South Kensington, you can find this nice seamless looking terrace behind a garden square:

DSC_6556

You would hardly know that a couple of years ago in 2014 the end of the terrace looked like this:

DSC_4180

Not knowing what was going to happen I never had the forethought to photograph the unremarkable three-storey block of flats (1960s, or late 1950s) which had occupied the corner site for years. And I haven’t been able to find any pictures of how that corner used to look. So you’ll have to take my word for it that the new version looks better than the old.

Tales from the building trade like these no doubt happen all the time, and not everyone is as fascinated by them as I am. But keep your eyes open. Buildings come and go like everything else.

Postscript

We my be experiencing “hardware issues” on the computer connected to our scanner so I may need to be creative in the weeks to come, and I might need to go off-piste. I have an interesting idea for next week but after that who knows?

Postscript to the Postscript

Thanks to a comment from London Remembers we can now see the former building as it was:

Hereford Square

This image is from Google Maps and is copyright by Google. The hoardings  are down in Tregunter Road so if you’re interested take a look at it.


%d bloggers like this: