Category Archives: 21st Century

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.

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Christmas Days: a nice sleep

This post is a kind of sequel to the one we had about this time last year featuring paintings of women reading. Reading is one of my favourite activities. So is sleeping. At night, usually. But anytime really. All regular readers will know that reading a few pages of a book is a relaxing activity at the end of the day, or after lunch, and if you nod off you may well find yourself drifting away from the shores of sleep into deeper waters and wilder dreams.

 

 

This woman’s about to go. The book is barely on her lap. She just needs to swing her legs up and get settled and she’ll soon be away.

Like these two, by the same artist, August Toulmouche.

 

 

Or this lady, making herself comfortable.

 

 

It’s possible to nod off at any time.

 

 

The lid of that box may be padded. If she keeps still, she won’t ruin her hair.

Of course it’s best to have a good place for a nap during the day.

 

 

Even a recognized time of day such as after lunch when sleep is permitted. (Another hammock picture in this post)

 

 

Especially outdoors, in the summer.

 

 

(More river pictures here and here.)

But the best place for some serious sleep and deep dreams is in bed.

 

 

It’s still light outside in this picture. Perhaps a summer evening.

In the morning you can still catch a few more winks.

 

 

The cat can watch the sunrise.

Sleep is nevertheless, a pastime for any time of day, even if others would rather read.

 

 

A reader and a sleeper in harmony here in this famous picture. The lady on the right may find the book sleeping out of her hand at any moment – a situation many of us have experienced.

 

This is the last post of 2018. We’re sleeping through the rest of December, but we’ll see you in January. Have a happy Christmas, and as I said last year, may your God go with you.

 

Book

Borne is a 2017 book by Jeff Vandermeer. In a city devastated by an unspecified form of biological warfare a scavenger called Rachel discovers a creature / artifact in the fur of the giant flying bear Mord which terrorizes the city. Borne, who initially takes a form somewhere between a squid and a vase, learns to speak, but is he Rachel’s friend or an agent of more destruction?

Jeff Vandermeer takes a form somewhere between Angela Carter and J.G. Ballard. He also wrote Annihilation, which was turned into a film of the same name, which I have seen four times (so far). There is another book set in the Borne world, the Strange Bird.

I couldn’t lay my hands on a soft toy squid so Borne is vouched for by some octopi.

 

 

Now, I’m going to watch a ghost story. Annihilation is on Netflix.


Christmas Days: underground and round about

As we’re nearing the end of the year, and possibly the end of  my tether, today’s post is mostly photographs, the work of that obscure photographer Dave Walker. These pictures were taken in 2014, so they’re already history, when Kensington Library was undergoing some building work intended to keep it going in the 21st century. The front of house refurbishments had been done in 2012-2013 but the infrastructure of the building needed some work. Armed with a new camera I took hundreds of pictures over two or three years, some of them useful for documenting the changes, which included considerable work in the two basements, others more whimsical, because I liked the process and the materials.

 

 

Like this one, seconds after the wall of the old archive room B08 started being knocked down, by the low tech method of hitting it with a big hammer. I loved the colour of the inside, where brick dust is still floating around and the lights are glowing through a kind of mist.

Cables like the one here, hung in the air as the wall they had been attached to disappeared.

 

 

Empty rooms were another feature of the work.

 

 

 

This one is at the opposite vertical extent of the building from the basement.

And back to the sub-basement.

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Piles of debris, obviously.

 

 

Note the sign on the door. The asbestos cubicle (the other door said Clean) (I don’t think they found any by the way.)

Quirky sights.

 

 

And quirky close- up views.

 

 

Enigmatic signs.

 

 

And sights / lights.

 

 

Dark spots.

 

 

New places.

 

 

Exposed areas.

 

 

Hidden places.

 

 

And new furniture.

 

 

I did get out from time to time that year.

 

 

Genius.

 

 

The Boltons

 

 

Olympia.

A light shines in a dark space.

 

 

 

Monkeys Recommend

Jim prefers non-fiction.

 

Ben Macintyre’s account of the career of Oleg Gorsievsky is as exciting as any thriller and hard to put down. Also, Jim found, hard to get out from under.

 

 

With a bit of effort, under the eye of the spirit of archives, he made it.

 

 

Postscript

That turned out to be a pretty lengthy post in the end, but easier to write with many fewer word. The final Christmas post will be on Monday, after which I am assured, Isabel will be storming back with a new post for 2019.

 

 


Halloween story – the photocopier

I have a friend called Dave who works in a library in west London, and is sometimes involved with archives. He’s about my age so naturally some people get us confused. He knows a woman named Blanka who works at the something or other institute somewhere in London.She seemed to think we were the same person. We’re not. For one thing he doesn’t write a blog. But he does like my blog and he was very taken with the posts about the Gloucester Road / Cromwell Road area I did a while back. He remembered walking down Ashburn Mews once or twice. I told him that someone else I know had walked down the same road just after the buildings were demolished, leaving just the paving along the route of the street. I also had some pictures of the cleared site. When he saw them he made me take him on a pilgrimage to the place where Ashburn Mews used to be. It’s just an apartment block now, not really evocative in itself so we soon ran out of things to say about this “ghost street” as he called it.

 

 

 

This took us onto ghost stories. I knew that he attended the gatherings at Trankel’s bookshop near the Barbican and that once a year they dressed up in period costume and told ghost stories. This year a guy called Andy told a story about his grandmother who saw fairies. (Andy saw them too apparently) Blanka had a curious and fantastic tale about a portal under an office block in Holborn which took a party of people to a cold desert full of decaying ships. That sounds good I said. The trouble is, I think she believes it. In fact, I think she was one of the people in it. We agreed that Blanka was a pretty strange woman and debated the chances of her telling the truth. (Low, but not impossible). I asked him what story he told and he said it was more of an anecdote really and didn’t rise to the level of a supernatural tale. We had reached a pub in one of the streets off Gloucester Road and found a quiet corner so he told me the story, apologetically.

 

[ The entrance as it was]

[The exit, some years later]

He began by saying that this all happened in the 90s when we had the internet but weren’t quite sure what it was for. People who worked in offices had email and scanners, and phones were getting smaller every year as if poised in preparation for the great leap forward to smartphones when they could start getting bigger again. He remembered going to a meeting about what was thought at the time to be a controversial topic, moving a collection from the branch where it had always been to somewhere not far away. The minutes of the meeting were printed out on red paper to make photocopies harder. Yes, he said that was weird but it was not the weirdest photocopier story he had.

 

 

It seemed they had this big colour photocopier in the reference section, quite an expensive model which produced very good copies. Dave had used it to make copies of some pastel sketches which he then put on display without anyone noticing they were copies. Someone went so far as to steal a couple of them. Imagine the art dealer’s face when the person tried to sell them. Old Man Trankler himself came in on one occasion with his daughter Nicola. They copied an entire book, including some intriguing illustrations which Dave thought was pretty barbarous behaviour for an antiquarian book dealer. Later he wondered if this had anything to do with what happened subsequently.

 

 

Hardly anyone remembers Amy K these days. She was an actress/singer who was in the single season supernatural drama Heaven is Wide. I can’t even remember what channel it was on. Amy also had a moderately successful single singing with Dr Hoffmann, another group nobody remembers. Weapons of Love? Velocity Girl? The video featured, I don’t know, something supernatural. Killers, angels, refugees. One of those probably.

 

 

And there was a scandal. Amy was believed to have slept with some chat show host, a married man, whose wife kicked off big time in the tabloids out for Amy’s blood. Metaphorically speaking.So at the height of this minor furore, Amy K was sitting in Dave’s reference library, listlessly flicking through old bound copies of Vogue and Harper’s and L’Officiel, and occasionally wrestling the volume onto the photocopier to take a copy of some 70s fashion item. That’s a tricky business with tight binding and heavy volumes. So it wasn’t untoward for Dave to help her, and engage in some light chat.

 

 

We got side tracked here by a discussion of whether Amy K was more famous than Alex Cox, who Dave had also spoken to in the library. I naturally stood up for the pre-eminence of the director of Death and the Compass. Dave acquiesced, and said that, in addition, Mr Cox was a very pleasant man to talk to, while it had to be admitted that Amy was sometimes a bit vague, as if she was recovering from a hard night creating scandal.

The odd thing about all this was that this was the zenith of the scandal and Amy K was being chased all over London. One day, a pair of photographers came into the library to look for her. They apparently failed to spot her in her usual seat near the photocopier, opposite where Dave sat. He looked over at her and she smiled back. He kept a straight face and They went away. On another occasion another guy had caught her in the street and followed her inside. Once again, he failed to spot her, even when she picked up a book and photocopied a couple of pages from it.

 

 

The same guy came back the next day and asked Dave straight out had he ever seen Amy K. This presented Dave with a mild professional dilemma. Should he give a customer a piece of information he knew, or should he protect another customer’s privacy? Well, Data Protection was paramount in this case, Dave said, and the fact that Amy was attractive and friendly had nothing to do with it.

Then the guy asked another question. Is there something here which might interfere with a camera? I took some pictures just outside and none of them worked. He had one of those new-fangled digital cameras so it was not as though there could be anything wrong with the film.

 

 

The next day when Amy arrived a whole throng of photographers had gathered outside but the porters, who also knew Amy it seemed, wouldn’t let them in. Amy fixed Dave with another smile. Was there a back way out of the building? There was of course, a particularly obscure route through the basement which came out in a street behind the building. When the two of them emerged, Amy asked if there was a quiet pub nearby where they could hide out. There was, a couple of streets away, and they spent an hour or so there with Amy chatting about Vixen and the general unreliability of people in the music industry.

Dave was very pleased with himself, but thought that the library was too well known now for Amy to hole up there again, and he was right. He did receive a DVD of Vixen in the post, with some extras that never made it to the version that was eventually released, but apart from that he never heard from Amy again.

 

 

 

The punch line, if there is one, is that one morning a week or so later he came in early and found that the photocopier had spewed out dozens of copies apparently of its own volition. There was paper scattered all over the floor. Among all the second and third copies that had never appeared were pictures that couldn’t have come from the copier, including several of Amy, sitting in the library, or running down the street. And one of her sitting in the pub with Dave.

 

The fault on the photocopier never re-occurred But a few months later, a highly strung member of staff punched the touch screen, which had to be replaced at considerable cost. The photocopier was never the same afterwards and was replaced with a model which was newer, but never gave such high quality copies

So was that a ghost story? Call it a Fortean anecdote I said. I took out the pictures of Ashburn Mews and its mutation into a temporary car park out of my bag and we turned back to the subject of vanished streets, forgotten places and buildings that never were.

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Postscript

I was once told I had a doppelganger, who sold newspapers and magazines at Baron’s Court Station. I never went to look for myself. I didn’t want to tempt fate. Neither of the Daves in this week’s post are me, but in some alternate world maybe..

I usually say at Halloween that normal service will be resumed next week. But this week I’ll just apologise to those who don’t like having the real and the imaginary mixed up. Anyone who recognizes themselves or someone they know in this post must surely be mistaken as of course a resemblance to any real person would be entirely coincidental.

 

 


Kensington Church Street – slowly up the hill

Kensington Church Street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Kensington, and as essential to the identity of Kensington as the High Street. So given that we have plenty of pictures of it in the collection it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a post on it before. Well perhaps I’ve overlooked it, as people sometimes do, thinking of it as just the winding street which takes you up the hill to Notting Hill Gate, where North Kensington begins. That’s quite a steep hill in parts (steeper as I’ve gotten older), so I’ve nearly always got the 52 or the 28 or the 27 or their variations over the years. But we’ll take it in stages this time. This view, more than a hundred years old, is still recognizeable.

 

There’s the Civet Cat on the corner. There’s no pub there now (it’s been a bank in its time and even a pizza restaurant) but the sign depicting the eponymous cat is still there. The blurred person on the left must have been an early riser because this has always been a busy spot.

 

 

A 1980 view. Where was the photographer standing? Somewhere safe I hope. See the security bars on the ground floor windows?

It was possibly a little safer back in 1912. safe enough for that guy on the left to be sitting down.

 

 

That canopy was about to be removed, hence the photograph, taken on June 4th that year. Number 6 was not a place for refreshment or theatrical performances but was in fact the Kensington Trunk Stores. (For all your trunking needs). The building next door at number 8 was the Prince of Wales public house (Mrs Jane Evans licensee) , and beyond that, Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms, the Edwardian equivalent of a Starbucks or a Costa.

This end of the street was dominated by St Mary Abbots Church which towered over the terrace of house while seeming to brush against it.

 

 

The buildings in that terrace are actually older than the church, (numbers 1-5 were built in 1760) which is the version completed in the 1890s (see Isabel’s post here for a thorough account of the church itself)

There have been some alterations to the house but the old structures remain. Compare the view with this one from 1949.

 

 

(courtesy of the National Monuments Record)

And a closer view from 1964.

 

 

Mother and daughter looking in the window of number 13 (Robinson Joshua, linen drapers).

A few years later the daughter might be looking here, a few doors up the street at 19/21.

 

 

The picture below is one of my favourites and was taken by our friend Albert Argent Archer.

 

 

The print is from a glass negative and contains many fascinating details. I could almost write an entire post about this one image, with it’s multiplicity of advertising posters for Pear’s Soap, Nestle and Rowntree products (and Birds, of custard fame – the “Rhubard Girl”). One of the Nestle ads is I’m sure by John Hassall. And then the theatre posters – the “Pink Lady”, “The Monk and the Woman” and most familiar, “Ben-Hur”, an adpatation of the novel by Lew Wallace.

Further down the side street you can see, already boarded up a “Fish Dinner and Supper Bar”. Spare a glance for the two semi-visible boys with a tricycle working for Armfield and Sons, Chemical Cleaners. And right on the corner a hunched up man in a coat peering round the corner.

If you can’t see them all, try another, lighter version of the print:

 

 

You can also follow the shops heading south to the High Street: at number 28, James Turner (laundry receiving office), Edmund William Evans (photographer) the Belgravia Dairy Company (an urban dairy), the Kensington Restaurant (proprietor  Agostino de Maria) at number 20.

Speaking of which,let’s take a quick look inside.

 

A comfortable spot, for lunch or dinner.

Followed by  Mrs Rose Schofield (corsetiere), Davis and Son (dyers and cleaners), the National Telephone Company (for making public calls), Kenyon J H (funeral furnishers) which takes us back to Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms

A similar view from 1961. The view is not as sharp as the earlier picture but there is another selection of posters.

 

 

And the chemists at 26-28 offers “Toilet Requisites” a phrase you don’t hear much nowadays, redolent of 1970s sit-coms. (In my mind I hear the words being uttered by John Cleese, with a repetition of the final syllable)

As we move up the street you can see the line of boards covered with posters continues. The church’s spire, one of the largest of its day, towers over the street.

 

 

In the style of our Secret Life of Postcards series, a close up:

 

 

The young woman on the left making her way deliberately..somewhere. It’s almost possible to make out her features, and wonder what she was up to that day. Beside her, a man looks into the window of James Keen (furniture  warehouse) and behind her the Misses Dodson and Green have a Catholic repository. The other name visible is Giandoni (confectioner and restaurant).

On the east side of the street was the Kensington Barracks, built in the 1850s on the site of the former Kensington Palace Forcing Gardens.

 

 

A view showing the interior, still dominated by the church.

 

 

Although we haven’t got very far up the street, I hope you won’t mind if we digress a little here. The barracks closed in 1972. At one point it was proposed to move the Russian Embassy onto the site but that attracted a degree of controversy and didn’t happen. I discovered this alternative plan dating from 1978.

 

 

A harmless but unexciting artist’s impression of shops and offices, mostly imaginary.

There really was a branch of Our Price records on that corner. While attempting to confirm that fact I looked at the 1976 Kelly’s Directory and saw that Revolution Cassettes was there before Our Price. This stirred a memory. Was that the old name for Our Price? Wikipedia came to the rescue. It seems that the company started out as Tape Revolution and specialized in Music Cassettes and 8 track Cartridges before adopting the more familiar name in 1978.

The barracks were ultimately replaced in the late 1980s by a retail/ office development which created a central space called Lancer Square.

 

 

The only image I found was one from the developers brochure which includes architect’s model and  a little cartoon of a typical Kensington shopper of the 80s. (Big hair, big shoulders – a bulkier look than the next decade) I can remember going to a leaving meal in one of the restaurants at one point but apart from that not being much of a visitor to Lancer Square.

The last time I passed by the spot was on the way to another farewell meal, this time at Wagamama. I took the opportunity to take a quick snap of what was left of Lancer Square, which barely lasted longer than its original lease.

 

 

It’s always odd when something rises and falls entirely within your own personal timeline. Building work on the site is taking place behind another set of boards. They seem to be keeping the Lancer Square name.

The first leg of our latest journey hasn’t taken us far, and we may be pausing to allow some movement backward in time, but this is a good pace for summer. Here at the Library, a bit of data entry is going on, a bit of stock movement, and in the basement some immersive theatre. We’ll make our way slowly up the hill and see what we find on the way.


Christmas Days: a good read

One way or another reading has played a large part in my life, at home and at work, so it’s not surprising that I was given a calendar called Women Reading a few years ago (that’s pictures of women reading, not pictures of women from Reading) and since then I’ve been saving images of paintings, drawings and photographs on the same subject. It’s amazing how many of them there. I can start with our old friend Hugh Thomson  (I am unable to stop myself linking to other posts featuring pictures by Thomson but as it’s Christmas you can rest your mouse finger if you wish and follow him up at your leisure.)

 

Miss Fanny reading in Quality Street the play by J M Barrie.

Or here, in his illustrations to Goldsmith’s She stoops to conquer.

“I have seen her and her sister cry over a book for an hour together”

Sometimes the book gets dropped in favour of just nodding off.

 

(From The Admirable Crichton“.) I admit to dropping off now and again while reading.

But others are quite attentive.

 

 

We’ve seen examples of reading while walking along before. Which is a tricky activity.

As is reading when you’re supposed to be working.

 

 

Thomson has another example of shelf searching in Northanger Abbey.

 

 

 

Reading is supposed traditionally to be a leisurely activity suitable for respectable young ladies. Like this one:

 

 

But sometimes they turn to more urgent reading matter.

 

 

One of my favourites by Haynes King showing two young country women taking an interest in current affairs. I came across a variation, catching the two on another day, exchanging places I think.

 

 

As a librarian, I can only approve, even if the spinning doesn’t get done. Women reading newspapers is almost a sub set of the genre.

Sometimes at breakfast, like this woman.

 

 

And this one, another favourite.

 

 

This picture by the Danish artist Laurits Andersen Ring of his wife Sigrid might be familiar to you. My fellow bloggers the Two Nerdy History Girls use it for their Breakfast Links feature. Anyone who hasn’t seen the blog already should check it out. (I had the pleasure of meeting one of the two, Loretta Chase, earlier this year when she and her husband were in London, to give you an idea of the dizzy social life bloggers lead.)

Some ladies prefer to read their newspapers in the evening.

 

Once you start looking  for pictures with this theme you find more and more. I’ve already exceeded my quota for a short post. Perhaps I should end with one in a library.

 

Serious study in progress.

But no, there’s time for a couple more. Indoors.

 

And outdoors.

 

 

Maybe that’s the end.

 

 

Sorry to disturb you Madam, go back to your book.

It only remains for me to add that I am currently reading Adam Gopnik’s Through the children’s gate, Frances Hardinge’s A skinful of shadows and a couple of others and  expect to be starting M John Harrison’s You should come with me now, and Andy Weir’s Artemis, sometime soon.

A happy Christmas to all my readers. As Dave Allen used to say: “May your god go with you”. This applies to us atheists as well.

 

 


On the border 6.2: road

1998, a sunny day near the end of a century at the junction of Ladbroke Grove with Kensal Road.

 

When I thought of covering the canal and Kensal Road in a couple of posts I took one of those Google Street View tours from this point up to Golborne Road and realised that the road has changed enormously in the last 40 years. There are many new buildings and conversions and the road looks quite different from how it did at the end of the 1960s, but some older buildings have survived along with something of the semi-domestic semi-industrial feel of the area.

 

 

It’s been suggested to me that the car beneath the advertising hoarding is a Fiat Panda, but surely not. (Too much of a coincidence? What was that advert “Ol’ Balck Eyes is back” about?) The pub which is still there today is the Western Arms which can also be seen in this picture looking back towards Ladbroke Grove.

 

 

 

At the back of the picture is another survivor, Canalside House. But the building on the right is no longer there. The rather larger, mostly white, corporate headquarters of the Innocent Company is there now. Behind the wall is the Portobello Dock.

We have some other pictures from the modern era but perhaps now is the moment to step back to 1969.

 

 

There is the pub again, with an unmistakable and unlovely Ford Anglia parked outside.

A couple of women stroll towards us, along the comparatively quiet street. This was one of the first streets John Rogers covered in his photo survey of the Borough, and one of the earliest chronologically. He must have started right at the top of Kensington, intending to work his way south.

 

 

 

Across the road is the entrance to the Dock, which went under many names. As well as Kensal Wharf when it was owned by the Chelsea Vestry, it was also called Kensington Wharf and also the Council Depot. (A favourite term for council buildings which were not predominantly offices. The main depot was in Pembroke Road and was still known by that name when I started working for the borough, in another semi-forgotten era.)

 

 

This view shows the yard just inside the entrance. Below the view inside.

 

 

Again, you can see the Narrow Boat pub in the background on the other side of the canal, which I once thought undocumented but is now turning up a lot in pictures.

 

 

 

The ramp was originally for horses to pull wagons up to the dock side. The building in the centre was used for several light industrial purposes including the manufacture of “gramophone records”, as Kelly’s describes it.

Also just visible are a pair of  early social housing blocks from the 1930s, Ruth House, below.

 

 

And Pollock House. Both of them have survived into this century.

 

 

The Saga Records building is also still here, although the front is currently boarded up.

 

 

A little further along the north side of the road, number 298 and a couple of neighbouring houses. Only the pram betrays any sign of habitation.

 

 

On the south side of the road, a part of Middle Row School.

 

 

This part of the school no longer exists, but the main building on Middle Row itself is still in action. The houses and shops on the left are also gone.

At this point I have to admit that it looks like we’re not going to get back to our starting point in Wedlake Street this week, so we’ll be doing another week in Kensal Road. I’ll leave you with another view of a pub.

 

 

The excellently named “Lads of the Village”.  It was later known as the Village Inn and by 2014 it seems to have become a wine bar type establishment called “Frames” (some snooker reference?) The building is currently intact according to Street View but it is now boarded up, awaiting further developments.

And for a final general image with a bit of a change of pace, a colour aerial view of the western section of Kensal Road.

 

 

This is from a series we have  taken about 1985. (A fascinating but sometimes confusing set of images) You can see the junction of Kensal Road and Ladbroke |Grove where we started today on the top left, with a few of the remaining features of 1969 and some new buildings. The canal is visible at the top, and (just about) the dock.

We’ll go a bit further, and come back to Wedlake Street in the next weekly post but before then it’s the week  before  Christmas when, by Tradition, I do a week of daily posts. Sooner than I thought, and only one of those is written so far. So fingers crossed.

 


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