This week we’re having another near random look through the Chelsea pictures of A W (Bill) Figg, beginning with this decorative feature.
As I’ve mentioned before, Figg was a devotee of the small features or details which can be found on many buildings. Some will seem familiar or almost familiar and you will swear you can recall them. Others remain obscure or unknown. One of these days I’ll fill an entire post with them but not this week. It’s not entirely clear from the pencil written note next to the picture which tells us that the feature was “taken down”. I’m assuming it was in Pavillion Road, the narrow street behind Sloane Street because the pictures accompanying it is captioned as such. But I’m going to leave that until the end.
This picture is of Chelsea Fire station.
Can you make out the message? “Where’s your conscience Mr Rees? We helped you in your time of need, now help us.” This was the Firefighters strike of 1977 and Mr Rees was Merlyn Rees, the Home Secretary of the day.
I set off down a mental side track at this point recalling that just as the army deployed the “Green Goddess” fire trucks during the strike, the army were also used in the 1989-90 ambulance strike. I remember that because my wife had a kidney stone during the strike and was taken to the old Westminster Hospital in a military ambulance. Happy days.
There is no connection between that event and this view of the burial ground in Dovehouse Green.
As you can see from the layout, this shows the green before 1978, when it was landscaped and arranged as it is today. The obelisk monument to Philip Miller one of the gardeners at the Chelsea Physic Garden, which now sits in the centre of the green (and hasn’t moved) is seen here behind a hedge. This view, down the central path is looking north.
It shows the Thamesmead old people’s home and part of the workhouse buildings.
The picture below shows the nursery section of what is now the Chelsea Farmer’s Market.
The picture below shows the edge of the nursery building and the short terrace of houses next to it in Sydney Street. Did the nursery ever go by the name of Jack Beanstalk?
Take a note of that brown car in the foreground.
Below, is Hemus Place, off Chelsea Manor Street, another side street which fascinated Figg.
He must have been carrying two cameras that day because here it is again in colour, featuring the same vehicles.
ust an urban backwater in the 1970s, but now the loading bay and delivery pick-up point for the Waitrose branch in the King’s Road. We’ve seen in a previous post how Waitrose had a comparatively small frontage, behind which was a substantial shop. Figg’s 1990 photo shows a new building and a reception hut.
Since then a block of flats Friese-Green house has been built here, at the rear of the Odeon / Habitat building. More changes are under way at the moment.
In another bit of then and now (or strictly speaking then and then), here is the bank /post office building on the corner of Manor Street, and the site of the the recently demolished Chelsea Palace Theatre opposite the Town Hall.
The first shopping based building on the site was called simply the Gallery, (with its “indoor waterfall” – anyone remember that?) Later it was replaced with a branch of the Reject Shop. Like Timothy White’s (see last week), this is another place where my wife and I bought many household items.
Finally (almost), back to Pavilion Road.
The building is not especially distinguished but the car (compare it with the brown car in the picture above) sets off many memories for me. Just skip the next two paragraphs if you’re not interested in cars, or my employment history.
Back in the last years of the 1970s I worked for a garage in Soho which had a British Leyland franchise. In those days the cars from BL were the last gasp of a fading company. They had Allegros, Marinas, a few Triumphs and MGs. In the mid market saloon car range they were beaten hands down by Ford, who had a new Cortina, a new Granada and the Mark 2 Capri, all much better than anything BL had to offer. In some ways worse was to come with the Princess, a car so bad and ugly it seems to have been erased from history. (One month I cleaned and prepared an entire fleet order of these, which earned me a good bonus, but inflicted considerable psychic damage). The one bright light was the new Rover, a completely redesigned version of the V8 3.5 litre saloon for middle managers, company directors and other aspirational types. For months before its launch it had been hidden from view under the project name SD1, and when it came out as the Rover 3500 it was a success for the ailing company and was Europen Car of the Year for 1977.
The sales manager at the garage had one problem – he couldn’t get them (supply was another perennial problem.). So I never actually dealt with many of them but we would stand around and admire the few examples that came in. Apparently the police liked them too. BL created a police version for them and when the range was coming to an end a consortium of police forces bought everything that was left and stored them around the country so they could carry on using the car for years to come. Time though, has been no kinder to the SD1 than it was to the Princess and while the previous versions of the Rover are now classics, the SD1 has joined much worse cars in motor vehicle limbo. You can apparently see SD1s driven by George Cowley in the Professionals and John Steed in the New Avengers. And here’s a Lego version.
Did Figg know all that, or is it just me, my friend Steve and a few other Rover affianados? I am anticipating a few comments on this matter.
Finally, your brain teaser.
I thought this was Sydney Street at first, but I can’t figure out how the big building in the distance, and the old buildings on the left fit together. And it’s all a bit faded. So if someone can say for sure, I’ll be grateful.