Category Archives: Chelsea

Figg’s then and now (continued)

I got stuck in one small street and its environs the last time I started looking at Bill Figg’s unfinished draft for a small book on Chelsea in the “then and now” mode. This week I’m going back to that and starting on the main drag with a picture of the King’s Road.

 

 

 

The Emperor of Wyoming was a boutique (remember that word, when it was first used?) named after an instrumental on Neil Young’s first solo album. It sold what we would now call vintage Americana, mainly of course jeans, which were imported by the proprietor, Billy Murphy. This version of the shop only lasted a few years – Murphy moved to smaller premises near the World’s End. (I don’t have a picture of that shop.) Figg did a “now” picture of the building in the early 1980s.

 

 

This is one of Figg’s tentative, almost surreptitious, pictures, a little out of focus. I can remember this branch of Waitrose opening. My wife and I were impressed with how spacious it was compared to the other supermarkets in the area. I particularly recall a large display of seafood in large glass  jars. Octopus tentacles floating in brine. Despite what friends have told me, I have never enjoyed the texture of invertebrate flesh. But let’s not go any further with that.

In a previous Figg post I looked at the building next door, the Trafalgar pub, and so did Figg, in “now” mode:

 

 

(1991 I should think. An arty film called Proof was released that year.)

And before:

 

 

The pub under its original, but related name, the Lord Nelson. Note on the edges of the picture, a decorative feature on the cinema building, the Odeon at the time (Some of the decoration on the upper part of the building is still there) and on the other side a branch of Allied Carpets, a well known 70s retailer.

We’re going to move up the King’s Road, as we have before and probably will continue to do so as I explore Figg’s legacy so I have to apologise for a little repetition along the way. This picture shows the junction with Jubilee Place. The former Lloyds Bank building is still there occupied by fashion retailer LK Bennett. But the buildings east of the junction which look as though they’re still there are actually gone.

 

 

Here they are from the west.

 

 

There is the famous shop Kleptomania on the corner. You can just make out the Pheasantry on the right. Figg’s “now” pictures shows the modern development which surrounded the Pheasantry.

 

 

Featuring the bookshop Dillons, a chain which was expanding from its roots as “the university bookshop” in Gower Street near University College. The countrywide chain was eventually bought and most of the shops like this one re-branded as Waterstones

While we’re here we might as well look down Jubilee Place, a narrow street which leads down to Chelsea Green.

 

 

Note that picturesque turret feature. (the King’s Road is in the distance).

And the same view a couple of decades later.

 

Like other photographers, Figg has his favourite spots. This is the now version of one of them.

 

 

The shadowed entrance to Charles II Place and the Marks and Spencer car park, about 1990.

Formerly, the Carter Patterson goods yard, one of the remaining light industrial sites on the King’s Road.

 

 

We’ll skip the Pheasantry this time. You know what it looks like by now, and the Classic Cinema and move on to a site that Figg felt ambiguous about, the King’s Walk Mall. Before the gap seen below was filled in

Many of Figg’s photos, it must be admitted are not very good technically, or were taken in a hurry. I needed to turn down the brightness on this one to capture the name of the bookseller on the corner of the ramp down to Sainsburys and Boots.

 

 

The same shop a little earlier or later, Rock Dreams.

 

 

This is the view after the miniature mall had filled the gap.

 

 

Figg did take a picture inside the small precinct, concentrating on a metallic sculpture at the centre of the space. But when I mentioned this area in a previous post someone responded by sending me a picture which is better than Figg’s, so I’m using that one.

 

 

Figg records that the nondescript, vaguely modernist sculpture had “disappeared”. Had it? If you know where it is now let me know. Figg actually disapproved of the new mall, saying it was “too clinical for a shopping area”. Personally, although it was useful to have a Sainsburys there, I actually liked the new mall, especially when there was a branch of Virgin there. (And my son was forever dragging me down there to buy the latest game. Ridge Racer 4, anyone?)

It’s quite appropriate for the history of the King’s Road that we should start with a boutique which became a supermarket and a supermarket which became a mini-mall. A part of the trend towards the King’s Road becoming a conventional high street. Not there yet though.

Postscript

Thanks to everyone who has left comments or sent pictures adding to our collective knowledge about the King’s Road. The nature of blogging is that you sometimes have to go over old ground. I’m actually hoping for some more pictures of King’s Road shops coming soon. (Hint). The library in the Old Town Hall celebrated its 40 years in the building  this year and there is a small exhibition on there right now. 40 years is a bit like Shakespeare’s 400 year a year or so ago. 50 would be a rounder number. But we couldn’t wait for 500 years and who knows what will have happened to libraries by 2028? As it happens this is also my 40th year working in libraries. Another 10 years seems unlikely. But there’s no upper age limit on blogging.

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Crooked usage, and other tales of then and now

This week’s post started as a straight borrowing of one of Bill Figg’s book ideas, left behind in a loose leaf folder of photographs showing the same location at different times. We did the same sort of thing on our Virtual Museum project a few years ago. It’s a durable idea and worth repeating. Of course the complication is that Figg’s “now” is the early 1990s.  So really it’s “then and then”. But I can live with that if you can.

This is view in Cale Street, further north from the workhouse (see this post)  showing the northern side of St Luke’s Hospital, another little photographed building. (Actually, ever since I said that I had seen very few pictures of the workhouse i keep coming across them.)

 

 

Figg refers to this as the Crooked Usage entrance. It’s not certain that he took many of the “then” pictures, which accounts for the relatively poor quality of some of them. Photographs of photographs basically.

His modern picture, taken in 1993,  is not perfectly aligned because the fire escape you see in the middle is part of the former Chelsea Women’s Hospital, which is still there today, but that’s the point of “now” pictures.

 

 

Now, about that term Crooked Usage.At first I wondered if it was just a bit of local folklore, which Figg knew plenty about. Was that a real street name, for what appeared to be just an obscure entrance? Well, no. I did a bit of digging  and it seemed that not only was it real, but that it had been the subject of correspondence in the Star newspaper (not the current one) in 1920. A man named J Landfear Lucas, who perused the “stationery office’s list of streets” by way of amusement posed the question of what the name meant. An anonymous correspondent from Broadstairs called simply Student replied that “usage” was a term applied to the strips of common land or paths which ran between private plots of cultivated land which were used by all. “A crooked usage would be one such strip which departed from the usual straight line.

Here is a detail from the 1862 OS map showing Crooked usage, midway between Robert (Sydney) Street and Arthur (Dovehouse Street)

 

 

But there’s a problem, isn’t there? As the Antiquary notes in 1907: “How this singularly inappropriate name came to be assigned to this street must ever remain a mystery and can only be regarded as the outcome of purely poetic fancy, untrammeled by any regard for prosaic fact. It runs in as straight a line as any tie-square could make it and , except by a stray cat or two, appears to be entirely unused. There do not appear to be any house in it, and the London directory knows it not.” Or to put it another way, Crooked Usage is more or less straight and not really crooked.

And it does look to me as though there were some houses. Look at this further detail.

 

 

There, opposite the grounds of St Wilfred’s Convent is the pleasant sounding Elm Cottage, home of John Adams, one of the subscribers to Faulkner’s History of Chelsea. It looks like a nice spot to live as well, as do many of the lone properties marked on the maps of this period and earlier. (Sadly, no pictures appear to have survived. I imagine it being like some of the small houses I’ve looked at in posts about Old Brompton. Look at this one for an example.)

Crooked Usage is no longer on the map. But here it is today.

 

 

It’s either the access road going down between the two hospital buildings, (the Royal Brompton and the former Chelsea Hospital for Women) or the driveway in front of the BOC tanks. It must have survived for some time though. St Luke’s Infirmary and Chelsea Women’s co-existed as separate institutions for many years.

We must now follow Cale Street to another odd feature of Chelsea history. This postcard is captioned Sutton Dwellings but what Figg wanted to show was the area known as Chelsea Common with, as he says in his notes, “not a blade of grass” visible.

 

 

In later years estate agents and some local residents made much of the tiny patch of land’s status as a common. There was once “an ample expanse of field and woodland” between the King’s Road and the Fulham Road which was enclosed in 1674 to raise parish funds and thrown open again in 1695. (According to Richard Edmonds in his useful 1956 book Chelsea: from the Five Fields to the World’s End)

Famously, one eccentric resident,  sadly no longer with us, announced her intention of buying  a goat to graze on the common, as was her right. Although even at the time there wouldn’t have been much room.

 

 

Although it must be admitted it’s a much nicer spot these days. It has also been called Chelsea Green in its day but that is also quite an ambitious name.

Still on the common, we turn back to Dovehouse Street. This picture, according to Figg, is from 1950.

 

 

It’s hard to recognise now, but this is the junction of Dovehouse Street with South Parade and the taller buildings in the background still form part of the rear of the  old Brompton Hospital. This more modern view makes it clearer.

 

 

The west side of Dovehouse Street has been almost completely redeveloped.

 

 

E J Magrie and Sons, General Smiths, was located near the King’s Road end.

A 1990s view shows part of the fire station and the 1960s building next to it.

 

 

Below, from this point Figg was able to take a picture across the car park hospital, showing one section of the new building and the elegant tower of St Luke’s Church beyond it.

 

 

 

He couldn’t quite find the right spot to match this earlier picture.

 

 

An overgrown garden or patch of waste ground waiting for its future role.

Finally a “then”picture with no corresponding “now.”

 

 

This is a view from South Parade some time after WW2 showing an open space, looking across at Chelsea Women’s. The raised garden area in the foreground must have been mostly paved over to make the stepped feature so familiar today to local residents. To complete this part of Figg’s job, I went down there to try and take a matching photograph.

 

 

Could that be the same tree? Possibly. That’s my shopping in the foreground by the way, and I’m standing close to the top of Chelsea Square. My son pointed out to me that the garden portion of the square is also now known as Chelsea Common. Chelsea seems to be prone to this sort of thing. Chelsea Cross, Chelsea Triangle (in which land vehicles disappear?). Perhaps the Chelsea Pentagram will be next.

 

Postscript

There will be more then and now courtesy of Mr Figg in the near future. (We haven’t even finished with Dovehouse Street) In the course of my walk I also spotted one of his  Hidden Chelsea / building details which may also form the basis of a future post.

None of my musical or literary heroes heroes have died this week so let’s spare a thought for Sudan,the last male northern white rhino, the so called gentle giant. Survived by his daughter and grand-daughter. He was born in Africa, lived part of his life in a European zoo but eventually returned to his homeland and died in Kenya this week. His frozen seed may one day revive his species.

 


A King’s Road Classic

I had something different in mind for the blog this week but on Monday evening I saw a picture tweeted by one of the people I follow (sorry I think I know who but as is often the way  I couldn’t find the tweet again) showing the demolition site of the Cinema on the corner of the King’s Road and Old Church Street. We’d glimpsed the work in progress already but yesterday my wife and I went down there so I could take a couple of snaps on my phone (in case I never got around to paying a formal visit with the Local Studies camera).  With the mid-morning traffic and the passers by, conditions weren’t ideal for making a historical record but here are a couple of them anyway.

 

 

I like to take a look whenever a prominent building is demolished, not from a love of demolition sites (although I do like those) but because demolition reveals the backs of other familiar buildings and views you’ve never seen before.

 

 

Behind the boards a mechanical digger chewed at brickwork like a large animal stripping a tree.

 

 

The site is pretty large of course. The cinemas of our collective memories were often huge. Look at this blank wall from the 1970s, well before shops colonised part of this frontage.

 

 

Cinemas are known for changing of course. One screen becomes several as the grand auditoriums shrink. Names change frequently. This cinema has been known by a confusing variety of names in its time, some of which I’ll mention here, some of which I’ll miss. But I do have a few pictures. (And let me apologise if I’ve used some of them before, even recently, but it’s good to get the pictures all in one post.) When I first lived in Chelsea I knew it as the Classic (I was used to the notion that every city had a Classic, an ABC, and an Odeon), but that wasn’t its first name.

According to a reliable source, it opened in 1910 as the Palaseum, then became the Kings (1911) and the Ritz (1943).

In 1949 it became the Essoldo. Here it is under that name.

 

 

What was on that week? Well I can’t help this close up.

 

“Can Hieronymous Merkin ever forget Mercy Humpe and find true happiness?” was a vehicle for writer/director/star Anthony Newley (“What kind of fool am I…….?”), featuring Joan Collins and even Bruce Forsyth. Now forgotten, perhaps mercifully.

Later (1972) the Essoldo  became the Curzon, showing an Oscar winning film in “continuous performance”.

 

 

But the Curzon didn’t last long. Here it is as the King’s Road Theatre, home of the stage version of the Rocky Horror Show, about 1973.

 

 

And here in colour, on a rainy day.

 

 

It wasn’t until 1980 that it actually became a Classic, with four screens as in the picture below. But it also served as a Cannon and an MGM, as it is in the picture.

 

 

The King’s Road frontage was now given over to shops, like Mr Light and is that a Europa, or a Cullens, which were there before the Tesco Metro? (They’re all gone now.)

Probably it was a Vue too. If you can remember any other names, please leave a comment.

A cinema is mainly memorable for the films you’ve seen there. I’ve been to this one a few times of course. I remember seeing the first Scream film one afternoon, and Mona Lisa, and Silence of the Lambs, all with my wife. Then a number of cartoon,s when we were joined by our son. The Lion King sticks out, but there were many others. After the cartoon period there was a time when my son and I went together to see films where lots of things exploded. (His taste for big action thrillers needs no explanation, but I always wonder if it has anything to do with the time when I took my wife, only about a week from her due date to see the original Lethal Weapon at the other local cinema, in Fulham Road). I even took him to his first 18 film, Blade 2 at this very cinema. (He was not far off 18, I would have said at the time, if I’d been asked) Children grow up fast so the father-son visits only occupied a short period of time, and I admit that the last time we went to a film together it was at the multi-screen place at Fulham Broadway, so I can’t claim to have been a faithful supporter of any particular cinema. And I hardly go at all now, like many of my contemporaries, so it would hardly be fair for me to complain that this building has gone. But it is still worth marking its passing.

I don’t know what will come next for this site. A researcher I met last year told me that there may well be a new cinema on the site as part of the development, but let’s wait and see.

Back to the beginning, a picture I had quite forgotten about until I found it this morning.

 

 

The Kings Picture Playhouse in the early years of another century.  And here a ticket from the not so cheap seats.

 

Finally, a reminder of another Chelsea cinema.

 

The Odeon, formerly the Gaumont, now Habitat, and the Chelsea Cinema.

 

Postscript

While we were out on Tuesday, we also stopped to take a look at the site of another absent building, the former old people’s home in Dovehouse Street, which was built on the site of Chelsea Workhouse, which we saw last week. My wife had unpleasant memories of the building – as a Brownie she and her  pack had once trailed through a series of depressing rooms there singing Christmas carols to residents.

 

 

Another postscript

I normally only mention the deaths of famous people if I feel I have some connection with their work, which is why I have mostly noted the passing of musicians or authors. It was sad to hear of the death of Professor Stephen Hawking  but I can’t claim to have been particularly interested in his work (apart from his occasional appearances in Big Bang Theory). I was once waiting for the lift in the basement of Chelsea Library, back in the 1990s or early 2000s. The lift opened and there he was, with a small entourage, on his way I assumed to attend a wedding in the Register Office. Not a little dumbfounded by the sudden appearance of a famous person, I stepped silently to the side and allowed his group to pass, briefly perhaps sharing eye contact. That’s all there is to my Stephen Hawking story. May he rest in peace.

And Ken Dodd. No fleeting memories there but I do remember his radio show from the 1960s. What a wonderful day for publishing a new blog post.


Figg’s Chelsea

This is another post devoted to the work of JW (Bill) Figg, skating through some of his regular themes and obsessions. Figg liked particular streets (the King’s Road as you’ve already seen, but other less obvious ones like Dovehouse and Sydney Streets), particular buildings and particular details in streets and alleys. We’ll look at some examples of all these in today’s post, starting with a bit of a scoop, at least as far as I was concerned.

The Chelsea Workhouse in Dovehouse Street was an institution I’d read about and seen as a detail in pictures of a larger area but the first time I saw a picture of the entrance was among Figg’s pictures.

 

 

This is the main entrance in Britten Street. Dovehouse Street is on the right of the picture. Some familiar words occur to me when I see this image: “abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

This is the side of the building, with the old Chelsea Hospital for Women visible in the distance, now part of the Royal Brompton Hospital complex of buildings.

 

 

The original workshop was laid out in the 1730s and expanded several times in the 19th century. In the 1920s it became the Chelsea Institution, a presumably less punitive place to stay. The building was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by an old people’s home called Kingsmead which has itself been demolished in the last year.

Moving along Britten Street to Sydney Street you come to a small row of houses which have survived all the building upheavals around them.

 

 

Figg took more than one picture of this block. In this colour image (1980s?) you can see the highly decorated Britten Street part of the corner building.

The next picture is also in the vicinity.


 

A view into the garden of the St Wilfred’s Convent building. This became part of the hospital complex in 1968.

Figg was a lover of the small details that can be found on the walls of buildings, like this sign on the old fire station.

 

 

 

Or openings and holes in, around and under buildings, like this one in Manresa Road.

 

He describes the hole as “tunnel exit college site”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been into the tunnel

We’re moving in a southwards direction into Old Church Street. As you can see from the cow’s head at the top of the façade this was the site of an urban dairy (see this post).

 

 

You can also see that it was the home of a recording studio, Sound Techniques. Behind this unassuming frontage albums were recorded by John Cale, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, John Martyn, Pentangle, Pink Floyd, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Steeleye Span and many famous names from the late 1960s / early 1970s. You can find out more here.

Those names set me thinking of the Chelsea Pageant pictures including one in this post . But that’s probably just a personal flight of fancy.

Not too far away was an example of what are now called ghost signs, remnants of old businesses who have left faded signs on walls.

 

 

This picture was taken by Figg when the site on the corner of Oakley Street and Cheyne Walk was being cleared for the construction of Pier House, a large residential block down by the river. (Figg was also obsessed with the statue outside it, Boy with Dolphin, but we’ll leave that for another day.)

From one wall you can’t see any more to another.

 

 

This is Crosby Hall, the City of London building transplanted to Chelsea in the 1920s,  before it was bought in the 1980s and converted into a private residence with a couple of wings of pastiche Tudor palace added cutting off this view.

Literally, round the corner in Beaufort Street was the Convent of Adoration Repatrice, damaged by bombs in 1940. The building was replaced by a chapel in 1985.

 

 

It now forms part of a Catholic educational establishment, Allen Hall, which is the building on the left.

We’re crossing the King’s Road again now, into another much changed street, Park Walk. Many of Figg’s pictures are unlabelled so I have a few named Unknown Street, which I may put before you in a set one of these days.

 

 

I’ve identified this one (1950s I think) as Park Walk because of the wall and pavement on the right, recognizable as Park Walk School, and the Globe pub visible in the distance. (see one of my first Figg posts). The left side of the street up to the back of the former Man in the Moon pub also visible has been completely redeveloped.

By contrast the view in the picture below, looking north up Limerston Street is virtually intact. But the Sporting Page pub was called the Odell Arms, a fact which pleases me because of its coincidental connection with a cuddly octopus. (If you like that sort of thing)

 

 

We’ve been a little short of people this week so here is literally a bunch of them in nearby Hobury Street.

 

 

Finally, another Figg obsession: bomb camage.

 

 

This shows Cadogan Gardens after an IRA bomb. I’m not sure of the date to be honest. My wife remembers seeing bomb damage in Chelsea on her way to school on one occasion at least but neither of us could pin this down to a particular year. Perhaps someone could help with that?

Postscript

I’m a bit late posting this week. Too much of my proper work to do, and a bit of an upheaval in the archive rooms. But Figg is worth waiting for, I think. I’ll  do a few more of these random selections in the coming months, and definitely think about showing you some as yet unidentified locations.


Figg’s World’s End

Like Bernard Selwyn (see this post among several others), our other chronicler of Chelsea (and other places), JW (Bill) Figg took his camera to work, and the locations he visited gave him access to some unusual perspectives. We’ve already seen his pictures of the interior of Lots Road Power Station. This week we’re following him onto the roof.

 

 

In this picture (he’s looking north east I think) across the streets of terraced houses near the Station towards the World’s End Estate.  I suspect this is about 1977. Here he zooms in a little.

 

 

The estate wasn’t the only thing he could see from his vantage point. Here, he looks down at the river and some of the buildings on the bank.

 

 

Note that single car parked right at the end of the jetty. (Why drive all the way to the end?)  The short section of ramp puzzled me for a while because I was sure someone had told me exactly what it was in a comment on another post. And they had. Here’s a link to the post and a thank you to Roger Morgan.

Below , the view also takes in both Battersea and Albert Bridges, with Battersea power station in the distance.

 

 

Coming down from his vantage point, Figg also took pictures from the other side.

On a far more sunny day, the World’s End Estate from the south, including the houseboats at Chelsea Reach and in the background the Cremorne Estate.

 

Below, the Wharf buildings, including what must be the two chimney version of the power station, with the furthest chimney hidden by the angle of the shot.

 

 

The water looks deceptively calm and pleasant.

This tranquil view across the river as it curves around the bend towards Wandsworth and Putney shows the railway bridge and the completed Chelsea Harbour development.

 

 

These pictures date from the 1990s, but Figg had been keeping an eye on the development for a while.

 

 

He must be back on the roof of the power station for the next series of images. He dates this one (and presumably the others) 1989.

This section was just a muddy hole with a temporary car park at this stage.

 

The buildings soon emerged from the mud.

 

 

I’m not entirely sure what this one is. I’m sure someone can tell me.

 

 

Here you see the overall structure taking shape as the development grows.

 

 

The completed Harbour seemed a remarkably optimistic piece of work when it sat there on its own at the end of the increasingly gentrified Lots Road, but since the tide of development has moved along Townmead Road through Imperial Wharf, with new housing and retail development, and a new railway station it looks like the first outpost of a new urban riverside strip heading towards Wandsworth Bridge, with similar developments on the south side of the river.

Figg is still on his perch when he looks north again.

 

In the distance, Chelsea Football Stadium. Immediately below, I’m tentatively identifying the street as Tettcott Road. Follow its path past the ramshackle adventure playground to the blue building which I think is the Fyna Works, which was pictured at the end of a previous Figg post.

When you read the title, Figg’s World’s End, I imagine you thought it would involve images like this one.

 

 

A rare colour view looking up Dartrey Road, one of the lost streets of the World’s End at the King’s Road. Or this view of St John’s Church.

 

 

We have seen picture like that before, but this one  is a bit of an scoop.

 

 

This shows the power station looking across the cleared streets where the World’s End Estate was built. A unique image in our collection.

Finally, one for World’s End enthusiasts like friend of the blog Mr Chris Pain.

 

 

 

I’m pretty sure this is a view of a surviving World’s End building from the opposite direction to the preceding picture. Can anyone identify it and say exactly where it was? A friend of mine came into Local Studies this afternoon as I was finishing up and suggested it might be an antiques shop on the King’s Road but some close work on Google Street View makes me doubtful. Any suggestions?

Postscript

Thanks to all the people who left comments on last weeks post, especially the identification of the cars, and about of the eastern end of Kensal Road. You all add immeasurably to the character of the blog, and its usefulness as a source of information. We’re enjoying a bit of a surge in page views at the moment  (post-Christmas energy?) so welcome to anyone who’s just started reading. There are plenty of links this week to take you back to older parts of the blog.

Another postscript

I haven’t done any death notices for a while but I must note the passing of Peter Wyngarde announced this morning. My first reaction was surprise that he hadn’t died years ago, which is a bit mean but it is a common phenomenon. I was a fan of all those ATV shows in my teens, not just Department S but also the Champions, Randall and Hopkirk, the Baron etc. I can also admit to turning back my shirt cuffs over the cuffs of my jacket (yellow shirt, black jacket – it was the 70s) on at least one occasion and having a younger boy from next door shout “Jason King” at me. TV aficionados will also remember Wyngarde in that Hellfire Club episode of the Avengers (despite the memory of what Diana Rigg wore in that episode). I actually met Wyngarde on a couple of occasions when he came into the library, usually to borrow the text of a play. He died at the Chelsea-Westminster Hospital so perhaps he remained a local boy. Thank you, Peter.


Christmas Days: a couple of pictures of Chelsea in the 30s

I bought both of these pictures on eBay, having been shown them by a friend. They’re only really connected by the decade in which they were taken. We don’t have very many pictures from that period though, so it’s worth putting them together for one of these mini-posts.

 

 

1937.Chelsea Bridge. The 51st Anti-Aircraft Brigade is the caption for this convoy of odd looking equipment heading south across the recently built bridge. The Brigade was a unit of the Territorial Army  based at the Duke of York’s Headquarters just off the King’s Road (now the Saatchi Gallery).

What is that stuff on the trailer? Military experts will no doubt tell us in due course that the giant metal nipples  serve a perfectly reasonable purpose. I can’t find an angle in which that sign is legible. Nor can I complete the phrase “Load not..” on the rear of the truck pulling the trailer which appears to have a large metal cylinder in the back. The two vehicles ahead of the truck are clearly pulling anti-aircraft guns.

It’s not strange that in 1937 plans were already being made on how London would be defended from air attack. I dealt with a civil defense exercise in 1939 in this post.  The man on the bike doesn’t seem bothered and the two pedestrians look quite calm.

 

 

The picture wasn’t very expensive. I paid a little more for this one.

 

 

I liked it because it was very clear, and even though it was just a view looking north up Edith Grove, across the King’s Road, with Fulham Road visible in the distance. There is good detail on  F W Norris’s Wine Stores, featuring draught and bottled beers. The few passers by are good too especially the two girls in the foreground wearing distinctly 30s hats.

 

 

I didn’t actually unwrap the picture from its plastic and cardboard packaging until I came to scan it and then I turned it over to find that on the back was some information which completely changed the picture.

Double motor cycle tragedy. Brother and sister killed.”

The picture came from a newspaper picture library. There is a short account of an accident in which a brother and sister on a motor bike travelling north to south towards their home in Clapham were struck by a car in the early hours of a Sunday morning. She died instantly, he later at a hospital. The picture has been cut from a larger piece of paper. It looks like there was a diagram below the short account in red ink.

So my attractive picture of a Chelsea street in 1930 becomes a record of sudden death.

Drive carefully this Christmas.

 

Miscelleany: Madonna through the looking glass

Some of you will have read the recent post about the King’s Road in the 1980s featuring photographs by my friend CC. One of them was a monochrome version of one of her friends, a hairdresser who works in the King’s Road dressed as Madonna for a Christmas Eve party at the salon. CC told me there was a colour version so I thought that would look good for one of my Christmas posts.

This one is one of “Madonna’s” co-workers, also dressed up for the day.

The lady herself.

And the back view, which rather gives the game away.

I should add that the gentleman himself has given permission for these pictures to go up on the blog.

See you tomorrow.


The King’s Road with CC

I know we’ve been up and down the King’s Road a number of times over the course of this blog and seen it through the eyes of a number of photographers, John Rogers, John Bignell and most recently Bill Figg. But I can’t resist doing again one more time through pictures by another of our Chelsea photographers, CC, who supplied the pictures for a recent post about Chelsea punks. She told me that today’s pictures were among her earliest efforts, mostly taken in the early 1970s or the very late 1960s. She also said that a few of them are not quite in focus. But I’m going to use those because of the things you can still see: shopfronts and other details.

Just for the sake of variation we’re going east to west this time.

 

 

This picture, with the cars of the time and the conventional dress of the couple on the right shows that the older King’s Road was still visible, probably even still dominant. This is roughly the period when I first walked down the King’s Road, not because I was drawn there by a new trendy fashion culture, but because my mother wanted to see one of the newest “sights” of London. I was with my parents and we were staying in Clapham with my uncle, who had a restaurant in Crystal Palace, or it could have been his later one in the Wandsworth Road. I would have been happier not venturing into counter cultural territory with my parents and leaving the King’s Road for the day when I could go there unencumbered, but I didn’t have the option that day. Perhaps that’s why I have only the vaguest impression of the day. It’s a bit of chronological geography (see the previous post) which has been almost obliterated by time.

 

 

That’s the north side of the road with a view of Cecil Gee (an established chain now catching up with new fashions) and a couple or routemasters for the bus enthusiasts.

This is the corner of Blacklands Terrace with the venerable John Sandoe bookshop already long established, and the Colville Wine Stores, close to the Colville pub.

 

 

 

A more obviously contemporary place, still recognizable today:

 

 

With a nice contrast in passers by. Below, CC has successfully created a rather clever image using the distinctive frontage of the Drugs Store.

 

 

This contrasts nicely with this tranquil view down the avenue of trees at Royal Avenue with vehicles at work.

 

 

Here, the now long departed Markham Arms.

 

Before the remodeling which retained the facade but little else, another distinctive building.

 

 

 

At this point I started consulting Kelly’s Street Directory and Richard Lester’s excellent book Boutique London to try and find the location of this famous shop, the first branch of which was in Carnaby Street.

 

 

I eventually found it in a photo by John Rogers, our first King’s Road photographer, on the corner of Jubilee Place.

This one too looked like a tricky one.

 

 

But Gipsy (“gowns” according to Kelly’s Directory – some whimsy at work  there) was at number 184a, between Jubilee Place and Manor Street.

This picture’s s blurred but you can see we’re at 137, one of the homes of Top Gear, another well known name of the time.

 

 

Moving west, a more familiar landmark.

 

 

The King’s Head and Six Bells under the pseudonym The Bird’s Nest. For an earlier phase in its varied history try this post. CC thought it was worth a glance upwards (as it often is, above the shopfronts on high streets).

 

 

Further along, a couple of nondescript retailers (except that none of them are completely without interest). S.Borris was a sandwich bar which was there for a long time. (Although I never went in very much. At some point someone warned me off the place for hygiene reasons – whether that was justified or not I cannot say.)

 

 

Nearby, another long standing feature of this section of the road.

 

 

I think the next shop was on the corner of Old Church Street. If you know otherwise please leave a comment.

 

 

Now we move on the the last section of new shops, coming to the  the curve leading to the final bit of the road.

 

 

Near Mata Hari, you could speed by in your nippy little sports car. Is it an MG Midget? [It’s been pointed out on twitter that in fact it’s a Triumph Spitfire. Of course, the Midget looked weirder! Thanks to DB.]

 

 

This is another slightly blurred picture but it does show us 430 King’s Road, then the home of Mr Freedom where Tommy Roberts and Trevor Myles continued their retail progress in the shop that would become SEX (among other names) later in the seventies.

And as I’ve not been blogging for the last couple of weeks, here’s a couple of bonus pictures, one of the World’s End itself

 

What is that thing?

Note the advertising slogan: “Give him a Guinness.”

And, probably from somewhere nearby:

 

[Update: This is the King’s Road end of Anderson Street, which I can now see as plain as day. Thanks to CC herself for that.]

Postscript

My time has been rather taken up for the last two weeks with the London History Festival. Although it’s of academic interest now, thanks to Roger Moorhouse, Marc Morris, Michael Jones, John McHugo and Keith Lowe who all gave their time for free.

I decided on a blogging breather so I didn’t spread myself too thin. I thought I had a good comeback post but it proved to be quite labour intensive so I fell back on this excellent series of pictures by CC.  Thanks again to her. And as I’ve not been present for a short while Chelsea aficionados  get twenty pictures.  I’ve got another couple of ideas bubbling under, but I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing next week.


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