Category Archives: Brompton

Gloucester Road – gateway to London

Last week at Notting Hill Gate I looked at one of the deepest layers of my personal archaeology of London. This time I’m going to begin at an even deeper level.When I first came to London in 1973 I lived in Camden. But most Sundays I would get the tube from Camden Town to Gloucester Road, walk south to Old Brompton Road, turn left into Roland Gardens which took me to Evelyn Gardens where Imperial College had some halls of residence. My friend Carl lived there. Some Sundays we would just hang out, sometimes we would go and have a meal at a cafe in the Earls Court Road and sometimes we would begin to explore London.

I wasn’t the first person to start out with London from Gloucester Road. It’s still a place full of hotels,  tourists and coaches, people with trolleys puzzling over the tube map and the rules for using Oyster cards, tour buses getting in the way of the 49. And plenty of people not quite sure why they are starting out their journeys from this particular ordinary street.

Back in 1969 when you left the station, this is what you saw on the other side of the road:

Gloucester Road - east side KS 357075-73

Individual retailers mostly, still operating in a time-honoured fashion (note the delivery bike.)

Gloucester Road - east side, 83-81 KS 3571

The shops are under a 19th century terrace.

Gloucester Road - east side, 85 KS 3573

The Empire Grill, now home of Burger King, and a couple of old friends:

Gloucester Road - east side, 95-93 KS 3574

The Wimpy Bar, home of the UK’s own brand of hamburger, (waitress service and individually cooked burgers), now part of a branch of Tesco, and the Midland Bank, later part of HSBC.

If you were to turn around you could see another familiar building, Bailey’s Hotel.

Gloucester Road 140 Baileys Hotel KE75-36

But this week we won’t confine ourselves to living memory. Turn the dial back further:

 

Gloucester Road Baileys Hotel PC456

The old version of the building – it was owned by James Bailey and was at the time one of the best hotels in London, with many “American” features including an “ascending room” (lift). In 1890 it had over 300 apartments. Some of the spectacular internal features survive today.

The structure on the island opposite the station is an air vent for the railway

Further south down the road you come to this pleasant looking house opposite Hereford Square. I must have walked past it hundreds of times before I found that J M Barrie lived there. It has no blue plaque. That was taken by his house in Bayswater. But this was the house where he wrote some of his early successes, Quality Street and the Admirable Crichton.

 

Gloucester Road 133 J M Barrie

This stretch of Gloucester Road has houses and flats in the same scale, low-level, almost suburban. The mix of styles is probably to do with postwar development. There was some bomb damage in the area so the buildings have a charming individual quality. We’re coming to the end of the road at this point and I’m not going to take you along the rest of my 1970s route. We’re going back to the intersection with Cromwell Road. You won’t find this building there today. This is how the corner with Cromwell Road appeared in the 1930s.

Gloucester Road 118 1920s30s K4611B - Copy

Later, in 1969 you can see that entrance on the right of this picture:

 

Gloucester Road looking south from Cromwell Road dec 1969 - Copy

The grand entrance remained but there was no longer a bank on the site.

North from Cromwell Road, the buildings on either side of the road grow taller, even in the earlier days of the street.

Gloucester Road PC505 fp - Copy

This picture obviously comes from a quieter period for traffic. That street sweeper would not be standing there in later years. If you look in the distance as the road curves can you see this building?

Gloucester Court

St George’s Court, an apartment block built in 1907-09.  Here it is in another postcard:

St George's Court Gloucester Road

The ornate apartment block with its shops surmounted by small roof gardens is still there today of course.  Having already looked at the Survey of London for information on Bailey’s Hotel I naturally turned to them for some details on St George’s Court and they have done us proud again:  “This hefty building..is in one of the dowdier styles of Edwardian architecture, mixing elements  of Tudor and Baroque. red brick and brown stone dressings”.  Words I could not argue with, although I still like to look at it while passing by on the upper deck of a 49.

Arguably a more interesting block than on the opposite side of the road where there have been a few changes.

00014 - Copy (2)

A branch of Waitrose, 1970s, but I’m not sure of the exact date.

00013 - Copy (2)

And a couple of flash cars. These two pictures are from a contact sheet. It almost looks as though the photographer was on the move at the time.

As we come to another curve in the road and the end of Gloucester Road, this postcard image of a recognizable corner predates St George’s Court.

PC108 - Copy

This slightly blurred image is further north but shows the end of the road with a man running towards it for some reason best known to himself.

Pc511 - Copy

Finally, as we’ve bobbed about through the years this week, let’s go back to one of my favourite artists, William Cowen for a Gloucester Road view before the age of photography when a narrow road which was still called Gloucester Road ran through a rural setting.

 

C23 Mr Rigby's cottage

Mr Rigby’s cottage, near the station.

Postscript

It’s week eight of the great scanning famine (possibly the last week, fingers crossed) but I’m still finding pictures. I could almost have done a whole post just on postcards, but I decided to give you a touch of everything. There may be a iteration of the secret life of postcards coming up soon. I’ve just acquired an illustrated book by High Thomson, so if I can only scan the pictures, you can expect another post about him. It’s nearly time for some holiday posts.

In another postscript I referred to the fact that my friend Carl died quite young in 1999 but that I didn’t find out until quite recently. Writing this made me think of him again, our early days in London and the things he missed by never seeing this century. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dedicating a post once again to my friend Carl Spencer.

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Backwaters: behind the streets you know

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north east 1970 KS799

A quiet secluded spot not that far from here.

Some of this week’s pictures are places you can still go to today, others have vanished entirely. Most of them are quite different now. All of them are off the beaten track. You may have passed them by without noticing. London is full of such places. A name which ends in close, or place, or walk or court may be the sign of a backwater. Or mews – Kensington and Chelsea is full of those. A mews can be a short stretch of cobbled street just off a main street, or be part of a hidden network of semi-pedestrian paths behind a big public street.

Or it can be a daunting passage you never knew existed.

Railway Mews looking west 1970 KS1692

Leading to a place you never wanted to go.

Railway Mews looking north 1970 KS1691

Mewses (is that the word?) are often connected with motoring even today. In the 1970s, where all of these pictures originate, small workshops and showrooms were everywhere.

Such as here, Lexham Mews:

Lexham Mews entrance looking north 1976

between the large houses an arch leads to the mews, where you could have kept your horses and carriages if you had them and tradesmen could make discreet deliveries. Later, the chauffeur could live over the garage. The mews turns right and leads behind the houses.

Lexham Mews 3-6 looking south 1976 KS4102

In later times these buildings could be converted into small houses, with or without an integral garage. In this picture a woman stands at a door, possibly about to park her Rover, the quintessential manager’s car of the age. I first saw these kind of houses and streets in programmes like the Avengers (Steed lived in one). They had become trendy boltholes for the new classes of urban dwellers.

Lexham Mews no25 1976 KS4107

Just like this man.

Lexham Mews met Radley Mews.

Radley Mews no1 looking east 1976 KS4095

A mark 3 Cortina peeps out of a garage.

Mewses were also good locations for outlets of the motor trade, with the full range of services, workshops and even sales, especially the exotic marques like SAAB.

Radley Mews looking south SAAB showroom - Ace Motors 1976 KS4093

Now we turn to a vanished street, perhaps even forgotten by some.

Lenthall Place looking west 1969

Lenthall Place was next to Gloucester Road station. There is now  an office building on this corner, with a shopping arcade between it and the station. I often use the Waitrose store in the arcade so I must regularly walk this route in its modern form. But back in 1969..

Lenthall Place south side 1969 2

A grocery/bakery, the Casa Cura cafe (“hot meals served every day”) and Frank’s Sandwich Bar all single storey buildings built as makeshift appendages to the station. On the other side of Gloucester Road there are some surviving examples of this style. Further along some older terraced housing with retail businesses at ground level.

Lenthall Place south side 6-8 1969

Hair fashions by Leslie (“Posticheur”), with another snack bar which relies on a sign saying Continental rather than a regular shopfront. Somewhere for a dedicated set of customers I imagine. Including workers connected with the businesses at the end of the street.

 

Lenthall Place west end garages 1969

Like in many a backwater a set of garages, these ones more anonymous than most. Take a look back at Gloucester Road…

Lenthall Place looking east 1969 - Copy

Finally, a backwater that still exists but massively altered over time.

Cavaye Place looking south 1972 KS242

Cavaye Place is a street which begins and ends on the Fulham Road. This view looking south shows the covered alley entrance on the right and the gap where some older buildings were demolished and the buildings on the south side of Fulham Road are visible, like the former Midland Bank, the pale building on the left. At this point Cavaye Place was a muddy patch of open ground used as a car park. A modern building was inserted into the space behind the wooden fence housing offices at the back and retail at the front. For many years the Pan Bookshop (now a branch of Daunt’s) was there, a treat fro local residents like myself – back in the 80s you could have a meal at the now sadly gone restaurant Parsons, while away some time in the bookshop and then take in a film at the cinema visble in this picture.

Cavaye Place looking east 1972 KS232

The side of the cinema on the left where the other entrance to Cavaye Place is, once an ABC but later with many other names, and now currently part of the Cineworld chain.

This post might be the first of a series. There are may more backwaters in Kensington and Chelsea, and we could visit some more of them. But while you decide let’s get back to that quiet garden.

Royal Crescent Garden Square looking north west 1970 KS798

Postscript

I’m also introducing a new occasional item which I’m calling “where are they now?”. In the course of looking at the Photo Survey I often come across people caught by accident during the course of their day. Here are three 70s people waiting to cross the road at Lexham Gardens. Are you one of them, or do you recognize anyone? A bit of a long shot I know….

Lexham Gardens 94-96 1976 KS4135 - Copy

Do you think they’re together? Or just three random strangers. Interestingly, it’s the woman who could walk down this same road today without attracting comment. But those flares…

 


Halloween story: the door

This year we have another post from regular guest blogger Marianne Collins, Head of Investigations at the European Institute of Archives. This piece was forwarded to us by her deputy Ms B. Azdajic

To: centrallocalenquiries@rbkc.gov.uk
From: Blanka33@gmx.com
Date: 31 Oct 15

1.

It was a cold Monday morning in February.

The dead girl wore black clothes – a big padded black parka, shiny in the winter light. She had black jeans, fur lined boots laced up the front and a wool hat with an incongruously large pom-pom. Being dead she didn’t need the warmth, but she said she admired our dedication to keeping warm and comfortable. She wished she’d had that parka when she was alive.

But she’d been dead a long time, and would never tell me when she last walked around as a living person. Her first sponsor, my ex, told me that the longer the dead survive in their new bodies the less human they are. They stop thinking like us from the moment of their death and every dead day that passes the more alien they become.

So Blanka, the dead girl, who last walked around London alive sometime in the 19th century, must have been making a considerable effort to pass for human since she returned from wherever it is they return from. Don’t worry, Daniel said, they’re not dangerous. They don’t eat brains and blood. They don’t need to eat at all, although some do. They watch and listen, sometimes they lie dormant, and some of them speak. Blanka had even taught herself to breathe, or imitate breathing. So she came across as a slightly weird Goth. With her pale skin and calm manner she was attractive to a certain kind of man, or woman. I had no worries about taking her to the building site where yet another subterranean development had unearthed a basement room no one had known was there. I had a feeling she might be able to help me with the contents.

The site manager spoke to me to tell me about how his men had found the basement room when they were digging out the roots of a tree. He kept glancing at Blanka. I wanted to shout at him: hey, I’m wearing a parka and a wool hat and I’m also interestingly pale. I’m also blonde, which should count for something. So why are you staring at the dead girl? I refrained from saying anything of the kind and listened as he explained that there were ladders which we could get down through the hole they had enlarged but nobody else wanted to go down with us. His men were afraid of the room he said, and he had a meeting at another site. I would have exchanged a knowing glance with Blanka but as I’ve said they don’t think like us so I just said we would go down.

The Institute is on a retainer paid by a professional organisation the big building firms use so we get the occasional call to have a look when something unexpected connected with books and records turns up.

At the bottom of the ladder there was a room with bookshelves covering two walls. There was a big table against one of the other walls, neat and clear of mess. The other wall had a door. The site manager hadn’t said anything about that.

The books on the shelves were interesting, no doubt about that, and I would have them packed up and shipped back to the Institute. Some of them were familiar, some not. There were a large number of guide books, none later than 1900 I thought, some for cities I couldn’t quite place.

There were a number of interesting items. Vincent’s New Map of Faery (1924), Dr Zachary Smith’s Experiments with Spiritism (1913), the 1903 illustrated version of Ariel Fletcher’s picaresque 18th century novel Miranda. Collected editions of de Sade and de Selby.
There was also a quarto volume – a copy of Hiram Endicott’s Skeleton Etchings, of 1910.

I looked at the cover with its complex gold embossed pattern of shapes which looked abstract but at the same time gave the impression of surgical instruments. That alone made it worth coming. I had to look at it with Blanka leaning over my shoulder, her head against mine, her whole body pressed against me in the impersonal way of a marine iguana basking on a rock.
The Asylum Edition, she said in a flat voice, her accent barely discernible.

Yes. There are people who would pay the price of whatever building they’re making here to get it. We’ll take it back ourselves.

Let’s look.

I held the book closed. It’s very unpleasant I hear.

She gave me a look I knew which said something like: such dark sights I have seen, mortal woman, which you could not imagine. I gave her a look back which said: stop pissing about, dead woman.

There are some images which are literally unforgettable I’ve been told which neither time nor death can erase. So let’s leave this one to the end user.

She shrugged. Another of her “living” gestures. I got on the phone to the office and arranged for a van to come straight away.

I was about to say let’s go back up when Blanka detached herself from me and went to the door. I was going to say there wouldn’t be anything behind it when she opened it, and afternoon sunlight fell into the room.

Through the doorway I could see a ruined building like a temple surrounded by undergrowth.

garden

Blanka had a distinct expression on her face somewhere between surprise and resentment. She stayed to one side of the door with air of not wanting to step through accidentally. I moved closer but I also had no intention of passing that threshold.

Blanka closed the door and spoke.

The Choronzon Sanctuary. It used to be in my country.

What happened to it?

The communists destroyed it I heard.

This time the door opened on a quite different view, a noisy room full of women working in cubicles. A telephone exchange  I thought. Nothing sinister there, although it was odd to be staring at the living past, if that’s what it was. One of the standing women glanced at me.

room

The third time there was a gloomy room with stone walls and and a window. As the interior door swung open you could see something like a wooden operating table in the foreground. There were heavy steps coming closer. Katya didn’t need telling to shut the door quickly.

door
The fourth time there was a desert landscape. There were the remains of a wooden building in the foreground. A distinctly cold breeze blew through at us. I still had no inclination to step through.

Leng, Blanka said.

Desert

 

Once she’d shut the door Blanka said this: The fifth time opens a gate to the Third City.

The van won’t be long. Let’s go up. I wasn’t at all sure about the Third City.

The site was now deserted, with no hint of any building work. Perhaps they all had meetings. It was quiet behind the wooden fencing. There were still some patches of muddy grass and irregular depressions in the ground. Blanka spoke again. Pretty garrulous for her.

There are any number of entrances to the Third City but for each person only a limited number of exits.

She might have been quoting from something, or it could just  have been one of her enigmatic comments.

2

After the excitement of the find I had to work hard in the office listing the books. In the evenings we did normal stuff. We watched DVDs. I tried to explain to Katya why I thought Nicky and Bourne had been lovers. When I couldn’t convince her I put an episode of Hannibal on to illustrate my point that there are plenty of images you wish you hadn’t seen.

That night I dreamed about two women in hooded costumes walking through an empty film studio. Although I was watching in the dream I knew the two women were Blanka and I.

Women in Hooded Dresses - Copy

Something had been going on in my subconscious which burst out late one night.

I want to go back and go through the door.

I couldn’t say why I’d changed my mind but somehow the idea had taken hold of me. Blanka pointed out that everyone goes there eventually but that didn’t deter me.

We returned to the site the next day. It had been cleared to a depth of thirty feet or more, and flattened out. They were spreading concrete at the bottom. The old site manager had moved on but the foreman told me the site would be a car park, notwithstanding the loss the developers would incur. The building that had been demolished was a three-storey block of flats slotted into the site in the sixties. Its predecessor, we had discovered in the local achive, presumably the home of the basement room, had been an odd building with a normal sort of Victorian town house exterior surrounding a mock Tudor courtyard. The house was left empty after the war following the death of the owner, a book dealer named Trankler who was murdered in his shop in the City in 1944 in the course of a burglary. I’d found a reference to an incident at the house in the war diaries of Jane Fletcher, a local ARP warden: “Called to _____ Street. Incendiaries in some of the gardens. We entered one house where a ceiling had collapsed inside. I saw part of a body, the foot, sticking out of the rubble. A woman’s leg. I turned away to call Mr Carter and when I looked back the leg was gone, as if the woman had slithered away under the wreckage. I was in a funk. Mr Carter told me not to be a b____y fool and we left the house.”

sundial

The foreman also told me there had been plans to construct an extensive new basement utilising the footprint of the building and the garden, but the developers had changed their minds for some vague reason to do with the Fletcher Estate who owned property nearby. That was all very interesting but I had one question.

I asked Blanka: What about the door?

Gone. Moved probably. That can happen.They open for people like me. Her calm was irritating.

I can look for another, if that’s what you want.

We didn’t discuss it again. I prepared a go-bag with a camera,binoculars, a tablet, a solar battery provided by the buyer of the Endicott book and a few other necessities. I kept it in the car. Some months later I was called to a building awaiting demolition after a partial collapse. The damage had uncovered a hidden room on the top floor.

Although it was a warm day I carried my black parka in with me. I made sure I was the first person inside the newly revealed room and looked carefully around. The door between the bookshelves wasn’t apparent until Blanka came up behind me. We stood there in our hard hats looking faintly comic.

The first scene was a river in summer, a house visible on the other side. The water was disturbed as if someone had just vanished beneath the surface.

026

The second showed an eccentric house with a tower. American I thought. There were figures in the porch.

house

Without leaning through the door I looked closer through the binoculars.

costumes
Halloween costumes I supposed. Or not. None of my business anyway.

The third time we saw an empty gallery, picture frames laid out on the floor. Either they were moving out, or some pretty throrough thieves had paid them a visit.

A door opened in the distance and a small group of people started coming towards us. We held our nerve for a good thirty seconds before closing the door.

gallery

The fourth was an old fashioned photographer’s studio. I didn’t care for the woman having her portrait done.

veiled woman

The fifth was close to a decayed classical structure. High above it there was a vertiginous stone staircase. I could see the spindly towers of an enormous impossibly ornate Gothic railway station.

Blanka spoke into my ear in a low voice. She had never said so much at one time.

Go up the stairs. Don’t talk to the caryatids. There’s a plaza in front of the Grand Terminus. Look for a nun. Ask her to show you the way to the Doll Makers’ Cafe. Amelia is one of the waitresses. She can get you work at Lord Gregory’s house – it’s got a library. You may need to stay for a while.

She had given up pretending to breathe in my presence. All I felt was a slight impression of cold at my back as if I was standing next to an open fridge.

I’m standing here keying in a few more words on my phone. Blanka has her hand on my shoulder as if about to propel me through the door into an autumn afternoon in the Third City.

villa - Copy

[Message sent 21/06/15]

BA- Marianne Collins is on sabbatical leave from her post for an indefinite period. I told her she would have to learn the Trick before she could come back. I found a print inside that copy of the Endicott book.

drawing

There was also a note written by Bernard Trankler:

“Copy of the Skeleton Etchings by Hiram Endicott. A set of etchings he did in the 1880s, images of inmates at the notorious Crypt Penitentiary in New York State. The Crypt was a vicious place. Doctors, guards and some of the inmates got up to all sorts of mischief there and committed many atrocities. No one there got out alive, it was said. How Endicott got access is a mystery. How he got the book published is another. But he did, in a limited edition of twenty-five nearly all of which are in the hands of private collectors. Five of the twenty five were bound with a supplement of a further dozen plates. Those were called the asylum edition. This copy is one of them. Formerly the property of the library at the Society of Holy Angels in Brooklyn. We know this is their copy because of the extensive handwritten annotations assumed to be by Endicott himself. One note refers to the peculiar nature of some copies which have the capacity to open doors. The book is of considerable value to some collectors although I must assume this copy was stolen”

Postscript

As I always say, normal service will be resumed next week. DW


Thomson and Barrie: The admirable Crichton

The recent post about Hugh Thomson’s illustrations to J M Barrie’s play Quality Street attracted quite a bit of attention in an otherwise quiet month so I was happy to take up an offer to do the same with Barrie’s other play of 1901/02, The Admirable Crichton. This was one I had heard of, thanks to the 1957 film version starring Kenneth More, seen many years ago on one of those Sunday afternoons of childhood when you’d watch anything that was on. The final scene has remained in my memory, but no spoilers yet.

1901 had been a good year for Barrie. Quality Street opened in New York and he finished Crichton while he was attending rehearsals for Quality Street. Within a short space of time he had two plays on the London stage. He and his wife were in the process of moving out of their Gloucester Road house to another house in Leinster Gardens, Bayswater which was close to Kensington Gardens, a favourite haunt of both of them.

Crichton is an odd sort of story. It was described as “a fantasy in four acts” but it is also a satire or maybr even some kind of parable about the rigidly stratified structure of Edwardian society. It begins with a portrait of an aristocratic household with the mildly eccentric Lord Loam, his three daughters and Crichton the butler a man who knows his place and wishes everyone else would stay in theirs.

001 p38 Lord Loam - My friends I am glad to see you all looking so happy

Here Lord Loam addresses his family, some friends and his staff at one of his regular teas at which the family serve the staff. Everyone  is uncomfortable with this arrangement but him.

Lady Mary’s fiance Lord Brocklehurst has an uncomfortable conversation with Tweeny the “in between” maid.

002 Brocklehurs and Tweeny - what sort of weather have you been having in the kitchen

Lord Loam has also annoinced that on the forthcoming sea voyage his three daughters will have to share one lady’s maid between them. The whole thing leaves the Ladies Mary, Catherine and Agatha shocked and dismayed.

003 I have decided --- one maid between them

And then really quite tired.

008 The ladies are at rest until it is time to dress

This portrait of  the indolent trio in a state of profound relaxation is one of Thomson’s best. It’s curious to see him portraying contemporary dress.

The next time the three are pictured together is after the party is shipwrecked on an island. They still look pretty relaxed.

009 They have a sufficiency of garments

Of course the hapless aristos are not really equipped for life in the wild.

013 Lord Loam - Not one monkey had sufficient intelligence to grasp my meaning

Lord Loam cannot get the monkeys to understand him. Just as the story has now moved into the realm of fantasy Thomson’s illustrations shift into another mode to show a partly realistic, partly magical setting.

Crichton and Tweeny of course turn their hands to the business of staying alive on the island.

010 Tweeny- Look what I found

Their practical skills and the ability to cook food changes the group dynamic and puts Crichton in a leading role.

014 One by one they steal nearer to the pot

After a couple of years on the island Crichton is in charge and goes by the title the Guv.

Tweeny now runs the household.

016 Tweeny had dressed wisely for an island

While the three sisters have become able hunters.

017 We've some ripping fish for the Gov's dinner

This is all very reminiscent of Never Never Land.

020 We were chasing goats on the big slopes and you out-distanced us all

Lady Mary now callede Polly hunts down a goat.

Crichton asks her to marry him to general consternation.

????????????????????????????????????

At almost the exact moment they hear the sound of a ship. Lady Mary wants Crichton to ignore it so they can all stay in the wild world. But Critchton does his duty as he sees it and sets off a signal to the rescuers. They return to their old social positions back in London for the final act.

026 Well were you all equal on the island

They all deny the truth despite an interrogation from Lord Brocklehurst’s mother. Barrie playe around with the ending. At one tiem it was suggested that Crichton and Tweeny went off together to run a pub in the Harrow Road. In the first version I looked at, the limited edition, he simply announces his intention to depart and turns out the light.

The first actress to play the role of Lady Mary was  Irene Vanbrugh who has featured on the blog before in this post about Trelawny of the Wells.

Irene-vanbrugh-Admirable-crichton-1902-mary

She looks a little like Peter Pan in this photograph and even more so in this picture, which was much reproduced at the time:

Van1

The first Peter Pan was actually Nina Boucicault the daughter of the impressarion Dion Boucicault (we’ve  met him before at his house in the Old Brompton Road).

From a modern standpoint the play looks like a quaint comedy of manners, but writing in 1922 H M Walbrook called it “one of the most penetrating dramatic social pamphlets of the day.” For me it’s an interesting foray into a fantasy world which never seemed too far away with Barrie. And I wonder what influence Thomson’s illustrations had on later works.

Postscript

Thanks once again to Peter Collins of Westminster Central Reference Library for suggesting the Admirable Crichton and loaning it to me. And thanks to Kim for transporting it.


The Cancer Hospital

It was about this time last year that I had to visit Accident and Emergency at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital in Fulham Road which resulted in a blog post about the history of the site. By coincidence, on World Cancer Day (February 4th), I was at the Royal Marsden Hospital, also in Fulham Road. There was no long waiting period for me to speculate about history but nevertheless when I got back to Local Studies I had a look to see if we had any interesting pictures.

The Royal Marsden has only been named after its founder since 1954. It was originally known as the Cancer Hospital and had several homes inclusing a building on the north of the Fulham Road called Hollywood Lodge before the current site was acquired.

Cancer Hospital The Builder April 28 1860  K61-504 - Copy

This is the design by David Mocatta of Young and Sons.

As you can see from this map of 1862 only the front part of the building was built orginally and the hospital with its garden only occupied part of the block.

1862 OS map showing Royal Marsden X10

This picture shows the extensive redesign of 1885 by Alexander Graham which adopted the familiar red brick facade.

Cancer Hospital - Copy

The hospital was the brainchild of Thomas Marsden, already an eminent surgeon and founder of hospitals. This picture illustrates the incident which brought about the creation of the Royal Free Hospital.

Marsden and the sick woman - Copy

Marsden found a young woman dying on the steps of St Andrew’s Church in Holborn. No less than three hospitals turned him away when he tried to get her admitted because he lacked a letter of introduction from a governor of the hospital. As a result he started a committe to found a free hospital with no such requirements, the first in London.

We sometimes imagine the Victorians as hypocritical, ignoring social and health issues but they were surprisngly direct in such matters as the namimg of institutions. The Free Hospital was just that (as later “free” libraries did not charge subscriptions).  On the north side of the Fulham Road the hospital subsequently called Brompton Hospital had a different name originally.

 

Consuption Hospital Fulham Road PC1003 - Copy

The largely untreatable condition Consumption (Tubercolosis) needed its own hospital as many of the existing insitutions would not take those who suffered from it. Marsden’s next venture which stemmed from his dissatisfaction with the current treatments for cancers was naturally called the Cancer Hospital. Marsden believed, contrary to many doctors of the time that cancers could only be treated successfully with a combination of surgery and medicine. This sounds obvious now but at a time when caustic substance were applied to patients to treat cancers it was a great step forward.

He had considerable help and finance from one of the great philanthropists of the day, Angela Burdett-Coutts:
NPG 2057; Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts by Sir William Charles Ross

She loaned money, paid a  yearly subscription, donated to the building fund and took a great interest in the progress of the hosiptal. She laid the foundation stone in 1859.

Extensions to the building were added, though the gardens remained for  many years. This is a rear view from 1893:

Garden 1893 K2801B - Copy

In close-up you can see this group of women sitting together on a bench. The picture as a whole is obviously posed but the three of them look quite natural, especially the one at the end, her face turmned towards, but not quite looking at the camera.

Garden 1893 K2801B - Copy (2)

The middle one seems to be wearing a veil, and the other has a dressing over part of her face.

The picture below shows the hospital in in the 1930s, just before the “Royal” was added to the name during the brief reign of Edward VIII.

Royal Cancer Hospital 1930s - Copy

The 1935 map below shows how the building had expanded. The girls’ school behind it remained, and the convent. Both those buildings have been absorbed since into medical buildings of one kind or another. Note the Chelsea Hospital for Women at the bottom of the image, which existed as a seperate institution until the 1980s.

1935 OS map showing Royal Marsden X10

The garden was smaller by 1958 but had survived.

Garden 1958 - Copy

The picture below is un-dated. It seems to have come from the cover of one of the nursing magazines (the Nursing Times or the Nursing Mirror) and must date from the 1960s or 70s.

Nursing magazine - no date - Copy

Some professionals may recognize the “new micro-pump” being demonstrated

Also in the 1960s the Hospital celebrated 100 years of its existence. On these occasions hospitals always seem to ask a couple of nurses to dress up in 19th century uniforms.
Nurses Scrivenor and Dutch - Nursing Mirror 1967 - Copy

No matter how funny they look. We have in the collection a picture of a group of nurses in old-fashioned (but slightly more flattering) uniforms at the Chelsea Westminster Hospital, so this sort of thing still goes on. It’s a pleasing note to end on. The Royal Marsden, although devoted to conditions which can end in death,  has always aimed to be as pleasant for staff and patients as possible. The gothic architecture of the surving 19th century hopsitals now often looks dark and gloomy and by contrast I think this view from 1885 exemplifies the slightly fanciful, optimistic look of the Royal Marsden.

New Cancer Hospital The Builder Sept 26 1885 GC2430a - Copy

Postscript

If anyone is interested I have no big health concerns following my visit to the Marsden. In fact I should say here that I was very impressed with the way I was registered, scanned and saw the consultant all in one morning. The staff were unfailingly polite and helpful. But inevitably my mind went back to one of my heroes, the late John Diamond who was treated at the Marsden and who wrote a light-hearted lifestyle column for the Times magazine which turned into a chronicle of his life with cancer. He was one of the first of the group of people who have written first person accounts of cancer and his story, told in his book “C: because cowards get cancer too” and in the archives of his Times column (if you can find them) should not be forgotten.

The picture of William Marsden comes from Surgeon Compassionate (Peter Davies 1960), Frieda Sandwich’s biography of her great-grandfather.

If you’ve gone so far as to read this post twice today you may have noticed that I’ve changed one of the pictures to make the history of the building a bit clearer. My thanks to the authors of the Victoria County History volume on Chelsea (Middlesex XII) and to David Brady (the Antiprofessor) for some eagle-eyed fact checking,


Christmas Days: Miss Potter’s House

Beatrix Potter 1882

Today’s post arises from one picture.  We know about the fact that Beatrix Potter lived on the Old Brompton Road when she was growing up in a house in a section of the road called Bolton Gardens. And we know the site is now occupied by Bousfield School and that there is a marker on the exterior wall of the school commemorating the fact that she lived there. But I for one had never seen a picture of the house until I came across this photo in the the Selwyn Papers.

Bolton Gardens 2-7 BP's house - Copy

You can see that Mr Selwyn has marked up the photo with the house numbers. Now unfortunately for my purposes the young Miss Potter lived at number 2 which is only just visible. However, you can also see that number 2 looks like it was a mirror image of number 3 so you can probably fill in the rest from your imagination. Personally I found the picture fascinating. It’s now easy to picture the young Beatrix making her way from left to right in this picture perhaps on her way to Brompton Cemetery, where she is supposed to have noted down names from the gravestones – Jeremiah Fisher, Mr Tod, Peter Rabett (bit of a long shot that one) – for later use as character names.

Although there are many similar houses in the area there is something about the fact that this is the one, where the young Beatrix lived and kept a diary. The picture below is her, her father and brother in the Lake District.

Beatrix Potter with her father and brother 1885

She lived at 2 Bolton Gardens for more than forty years. Although she had friends in London, visited art galleries, lived a normal middle class life, you suspect her heart was in the country. She would have seen something of the old Brompton being absorbed into the city, which is probably why she spent time in the Cemetery.

Postscript

Sorry, a bit late tonight. We were watching Elementary.


Shepherd in Kensington

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd doesn’t get a whole entry to himself in  the Dictionary of National Biography. The details of his life are tagged on to the entry about his more eminent older brother George Sidney Shepherd who was also a painter of watercolours and a draughtsman. The difference in status between the two seems less significant now that some time has passed since they both died in the 1860s.

It’s Thomas we’re dealing with here though .His fame is based on the large number of watercolour paintings of London many of which were turned into into engravings for use in books about London.

You won’t find any of today’s images in any of the editions  of Shepherd’s London because of course strictly speaking we’re not in London. Kensington was a suburb, near to the City of Westminster but not quite in it.

Last week we finished with a view in Brompton, of Holy Trinity Church which is on the road to another vaguely defined area, Knightsbridge. This is another ecclesiastical picture of the Brompton Oratory Buildings, hence the black robed figures in the foreground.

Brompton Oratory Buildings THS22a Cpic69

Below is a more secular view, of Brompton Road, a terrace of its fashionable new houses, complete with  the dashing horseman, some admiring ladies and the obligatory feature of Shepherd pictures, the little running dog.

Onslow Square

If we move north we come to the main road west from the same area, the road formerly known as the Kensington Turnpike.

Kensington Cavalry Barracks THS6a Cpic15

The large buidling is the Kensington Cavalry Barracks next to the Kensington Toll Gate on what is now Kensington Road. Here it is on Crutchley’s map 0f 1827 (click on the image for a larger view):

Cruchley 1827 Earls Court-Brompton-Little Chelsea

East of the barracks the building below stood on the site of the current Albert Hall Mansions.

Gore House THS3a Cpic73

Gore House was the home of William Wiberforce and the society beauty and author Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. She lived in lavish style there until the money ran out. Later the French chef Alexis Soyer of the Reform Club lived there and had a Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations in the grounds. Soyer ran soup kitchens in Dublin during the Irish potato famine and organised hospital kitchens during the Crimean War. He was the last occupant of Gore House. Soon after his death it was demolished, in 1858.

Far from modest itself was Kensington House.

Kensington House THS7a Cpic33

This was not the magnificent and short lived Kensington House built by the financial speculator Baron Albert Grant in the 1870s (In some ways the Forgotten Building par excellence. But I only have a couple of pictures of it.). This Kensington House was bought and demolished by Grant. But in its time it had been the home of the Russian Ambassador (the first one to live in Kensington but not the last), a boy’s school and a scandalous lunatic asylum.

Now we take a detour up Kensington Church Street.

Maitland House THS8 Cpic68

This is Maitland House, from inside the grounds where an elegant couple are walking that same dog. There is no mystery in Shepherd’s architectural views which are sometimes a little fussy. They resemble something an estate agent of the day might have used to promote sales. They make up for the lack of atmosphere with accuracy and a certain charm. Maitland House was the home of the Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie  and the philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Newton House THS10a Cpic32

A street view of another house in Kensington Church Street, Newton House. A street vendor with his daughter, perhaps, and a boy with his dog. Newton House was named after Sir Isaac Newton who had lived in one ot the houses owned by Stephen Pitt in the area but it’s unlikely it was this one.

The building below, in Marloes Road on the south side of Kensington High Strret looks pleasant in Shepherd’s picture. But you wouldn’t want to have ended up living there.

Kensington Workhouse THS12 Cpic74

This is the Stone Hall section of Kensington Workhouse,built in 1846. Like its cousin in the Fulham Road it was built for a neighbouring parish in Westminster and eventually became a hospital, St Mary Abbotts. As these places went it wasn’t one of the worst, but still. When it closed as part of the reconstruction which created the new Chelsea Westminster Hospital the buildings became part of a housing complex.

Further down the High Street on the way to Hammersmith is an inn on the western edge of Holland Park.

White Horse Inn THS13a Cpi14

This view of the White Horse (not the two dogs) must have been a historical view. Shepherd also painted the building which replaced it on the site, another inn.

The Holland Arms THS14 Cpic63

This inn was called the Holland Arms. although the scene is rather less rural than the previous one and the inn has lost its garden, the place still looks relaxed. The people stand as though having their photographs taken. The horse stands as though its rider is about to dismount. Even the dog is now still. I think the woman on the left looks a little more modern in her dress but I suppose you shouldn’t read too much into Shepherd’s figures. They’re a little like the stock people who inhabit architectural drawings. I’m programmed to wonder about them despite that.

Both Shepherd and his brother had precarious artistic careers and died in reduced circumstances within a couple of years of each other, well before photography took over as the principal method of recording the appearance of places.

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd also left us some interesting views of Chelsea which we’ll look at another day.

 

Postscript

The rather annoying message “The property of the Kensington Public Libraries” must have been stamped rather barbarously on the front (what was wrong with the back?) of these pictures by some pre-1965 employee of the Council. You don’t come across that very often, I’m glad to say.

I’ve been taking a break from work and I’ve been working on three posts at once. The other two still need a little more research so who knows what’s coming next week.

Continuing the practice of acknowledging sources, I leaned heavily on Kensington Past this week, a book by the late Barbara Denny and Carolyn Starren, now unfortunately out of print.


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