Category Archives: Chelsea

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.

.

 

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.

 

 

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Figg’s about

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.

 

J

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.


CC’s King’s Road in the 80s: shop windows and window shoppers

We’re back on the King’s Road this week for some more summer in the city pictures of retail life in the 1980s, for some as much of a golden summer as any years in the previous couple of decades. And as before, our guide is the roving eye and camera of my friend CC.

 

 

Here a couple of smoking dudes with elaborate hair cuts linger briefly in the middle of Sydney Street behind an unconnected woman, the three of them waiting to cross.

(Sometimes I look down from buses and look out for people smoking. There are far fewer of them these days, which is possibly some kind of progress.)

CC started like this with pictures taken from an upstairs window.

It was a useful vantage point but it was never going to last.

 

 

She had to get down to street level.

 

 

The register office steps of Chelsea Old Town Hall, where people often pause to sit amongst the confetti, although not for too long as people keep getting married.

 

 

Review was at number 81a, and despite the interesting walls and windows above (which look quite familiar to me) the building is now gone.

 

 

I actually had trouble with this one but this is the corner of Tryon Street and the Bertie, plus the corner shop (Just Men) at number 118 is where Muji is today. They’ve done away with those pillars. (not structural as it turns out). The upper floors are usually the feature that helps you to place a building. A little bit of art deco going on there.

Below, the actual Markham Arms.

 

 

And a shop full of clothes on hangers, crammed in up the first floor. Is it me or was there a lot more stock on the shelves in those days? I think that might have been Abidat, who dealt in army surplus gear, as many shop still did at this time.

Chopra was at number 73.

 

 

Another vanished building. Holland and Barrett are there now in one of those Egyptianate (is that a word?) buildings you see now, with the top of the structure curved outwards.

At this point we need a slight break, so here’s another smoker.

 

 

Casual as you like, with a look that’s still worn today, and below, a couple of non-smokers (I hope).

 

 

Those two just caught CC’s eye. We talked about it, and yes we knew it wasn’t the King’s Road but I liked it so I’ve included it. Somewhere in Vauxhall I think, but we’re open to suggestion on that one.

This location is still with us. Rider, sold shoes, as so many high street shops did. P W Forte? I’m not quite sure. This photo may be a slightly different date.

 

 

 

The window line has been tidied up since the picture and now looks uniform, and a little cleaner. The handbag store Bagista was there when I checked Google Street View earlier but I think they’ve moved back to the King’s Walk mall. To get ahead of Goggle I went and checked in person, and found Blaiz, an attractive  South American fashion boutique now occupying the space.

The lady below has not moved, and is thankfully a permanent and unmistakable King’s Road feature.

 

 

I don’t know what she was celebrating with pink balloons that day.

The final picture taken nearby, near the Chelsea Potter features another well known character, and this is the companion to the picture of Leigh Bowery and Trojan in the first CC post.

 

 

It is of course the somehow unmistakable David Bailey, attracting a bit of a crowd as he works.

More 80s shop fronts, passers by and local characters in the next CC post, but that will not be for a while. CC herself likes to read about something else, and who can blame her? I’m starting a Kensington based epic next week. More by luck than judgement today’s post goes out on the summer solstice, so I wish you all a pleasant sun-drenched summer whether you spend your time by the sea, in the country or in the heart of the city.


CC’s King’s Road in the 80s: people and places

We’ve had a few visits to the King’s Road in recent months. No sooner had I introduced you to the work of Bill Figg than my old friend CC came along with some equally interesting (and technically superior) pictures. I initially divided CC’s pictures into people and shopfronts, but the photos she has recently allowed me to scan are a mixture of the two, and best of all, there are several posts’ worth, so you can expect to see more of them over the coming weeks. To anyone who asks the question: Dave, aren’t you tired of the King’s Road? My answer is always: No, you can never have too many pictures of that ever changing thoroughfare, and those of us who live nearby will probably never tire of it.

As I’ve been examining then, I’ve seen pictures of individuals, and locations. This post has some of both, and this one which combines the two.

 

 

The lightly clad gentleman and his snake (it is a snake isn’t it?) are standing in the old Sainsburys / Boots area (with its now identified sculpture, thanks to a knowledgeable reader ) which at one time I had no pictures of, but now there are several.

Here it sneaks into another picture.

 

 

You can just see the edge of the sculpture.

At the other end of the street, a view of the former police station on the corner of Milmans Street.

 

 

One the left, obscured by scaffolding a shop called 20th Century Box.

 

 

After the Police had moved on the building ended its days as a community centre, and finally a boarded up shell, replaced in the 1990s by a new building. (Some pictures in this post)

We’ve passed this spot before.

 

 

Now, of course, a survivor at the edge of a new development.

Some buildings survive though the shops in them change.

 

 

Lord John, at number 72.

Then closing down.

 

 

Some people are there for a short while

 

 

And then move on.

Some messages are more long lasting, and the same point is still being made.

 

 

I don’t remember this shop, but thanks to failing light bulbs I won’t forget ot.

 

 

Continuing the night time theme, a view of one of CC’s regular stops.

 

 

One more theme to come is looking above the shopfronts at what can be seen above, something I’ve always wanted to do in other Kensington and Chelsea streets.

Here you see a now obliterated ghost sign.

 

 

Close up. The wall above Sweaty Betty is now a uniform white.

 

 

Finally, a couple hanging around by the entrance to Boy.

 

 

Nice shorts, sir.

More of the same in a future post.

 

Postscript

I should perhaps have anticipated this series with a more coherent title from the start, but we’ll see how we go.

All this week’s images are copyright by CC who for the moment prefers to remain anonymous, although some of you may know her. Lavish thanks to her once again.


Eveline, Elsie, Agnes and Joan – May Queens through time

We are all time travellers. Our dilemma is that we can only go in one direction. Sometime time goes slowly, like one of the endless summers of childhood. Sometimes hours or even days get eaten up like minutes. But we can only get off the flow of time by stopping, something you don’t usually want to do. And you can’t go back. But you can fake it sometimes. History, like memory, is one of the ways of hanging onto the past, and one of the best methods is photography.

Another feature of time travel is the regular appointment and my time machine visits this subject every year, the May Queen Festival of Whitelands College. This year’s post is about going back, and we start in 1937. This happens to be the last group photograph in the third volume of the May Queens scrapbooks which are in the College archives. The archivist generously let me have a set of digital images of the pictures in the scrapbooks some years ago, and I have been using them every year since.

In 1937 the College was in Putney. The original Chelsea building couldn’t contain the numbers of students and staff. But the traditions continued and every year there was a new May Queen who was joined on the day of her coronation by former holders of the same office.

 

 

[For reasons of clarity I have not compressed all of this week’s pictures so if you click on a picture to see a bigger version, you should be able to join in the game by studying faces.]

Queen Betty, in the centre of the group,sits on the wooden throne, has some child attendants, holds a bouquet but she is not the main focus of our attention. Look at a few of the other faces.

 

 

The Queen in the red circle is Queen Eveline, who would probably have been in her late 50s, We’re going to follow her back in time to the day she was crowned. I picked her because her dress is quite distinctive, but we won’t follow her on her own. We’re also going to look at Queen Agnes II who was a particularly faithful annual returnee, and Queen Elsie III. I’ve also circled a more recent queen, Queen Joan, but she won’t be with us for long.

 

 

Queen Joan is seated with Agnes at her left shoulder. I did wonder if the the other queen in a blue circle was our old friend from the 2016 post, Queen Mildred but as I looked further I  realised she was Queen Marjorie. By looking carefully and comparing pictures it should be possible to identify them all. But frankly there is a point where careful examination shades into time-consuming obsession so I’m limiting myself to a few names and if there are any other experts I’m happy to hear from you. But this isn’t like spotting vintage cars.

We’re not going back year by year but here is the 1936 group photo which has a good view of the new college building designed by Giles Gilbert Scott.

 

 

Queen Kathleen was the new queen then. You can see her in the first picture, sitting next to Queen Betty. Last year’s queen has to come back to pass on the title. Conveniently, Queen Eveline is just behind her, standing next to Queen Agnes. Queen Joan is there and behind her stands Queen Elsie, who hadn’t made it the following year.

 

 

Now  we move back to 1933.

 

 

Our group of three have clustered together again, with Joan still in the front row.

 

 

In 1932, Elsie was absent.

 

 

Eveline is behind Joan, while Agnes is on the far left, her robes billowing in a breeze. Keep you eye on the white or grey haired queen next to Eveline.

The previous year, 1931, was Joan’s year as Queen.

 

That’s the last time we see her, and the first ceremony in the new College, so to mark her special day, here she is planting a tree to celebrate the occasion, with some hand maidens in attendance.

 

 

In 1929 the College was still in Chelsea.

Queen Eveline wasn’t there that year, but Queens Elsie and Agnes were.

 

 

Elsie is quite plain to see on the right of the group.

 

 

Can you see Queen Agnes?

 

In 1923 there was a smaller gathering.

 

 

Fourteen years younger than the in 1937 picture, Eveline stands at the left next to one of the teenage girls (or younger children) who were were also a feature of the group photos.

This was Queen Marjorie’s year as Queen.

Eveline is also in the 1919 group.

 

 

The Queen that year was Janet, standing next to the Mother Queen, Ellen I.  Janet eventually appeared at the centenary of the festival in 1981.

 

There are Eveline, Elsie and Agnes. The Queen next to  Eveline is Mildred, the 1904 Queen, I think, who doesn’t seem to have attended many ceremonies.

 

 

Next to her is an older queen who might be the one we saw earlier. I’m leaning towards this being Queen Minnie, the 1884 queen. Something about her hairline. But I’m not certain.

 

The 1914 picture is crammed with children, but our trio is all here.

 

 

 

1911 was Elsie’s year. Here she is in the throne room being crowned by Queen Ellen I, the first queen (1881) also know as the Mother Queen, a title passed on to the oldest living queen.

 

 

Note the bust of Ruskin (?) on the far right.

Queen Eveline stands at the back. It’s not a good quality photo but you are beginning to see her as a young woman.

 

 

We mark Elsie’s leaving in this counter clock world with this view of her and her predessor Queen Louise.

 

 

Agnes’s day is coming. Here she is in 1909.

 

 

Mildred and Florence are there with more of the pre-1900 queens.

We’ve seen pictures of Agnes in previous posts but as a farewell, here is a studio  portrait against a painted backdrop.

 

.

Our next step in to go back to Eveline’s own year, 1900. This was the year that Ruskin died, and his influence over the festival was fading. Queen Eveline sits between Queen Annie and Queen Agnes I.

 

 

The three queens behind her who seem to be in civilian dress are from the period when the robes were passed on from year to year. They adopted a variety of dresses over the year.

On the right is Queen Elizabeth II with another distinctive dress. Behind her is Queen Minnie, and next to her Elizabeth I.

The little woman sitting on the floor is Queen Jessie, and she is wearing the second of the two shared robes.

Eveline looks very young in the pictures from this year, like this one with her predecessor, the first Queen Agnes.

 

 

And in this portrait.

 

 

Miss Eveline Head’s part in this story is now finished but in the regular world of time moving forward, her life, like the new century, was just beginning. (Later she married and became Mrs Grey.)

Postscript

This was a tricky post to do, looking back and forth between pictures trying to spot faces from year to year. And, as you’ve noticed, a bit of a marathon in terms of pictures. So one final picture won’t matter.

Queen Minnie, possibly the oldest queen in the 1930s pictures. (Or possibly not. At one point I wondered if she was Ellen II, but more of that another day.

 

 

My thanks as always to Gilly King, the Archivist at Whitelands when I first became fascinated by the subject, and to the College itself. My best wishes to this year’s May Monarch, who will be crowned on May 13th.


Bignell in colour

I’ve been thinking about doing a new Bignell post recently, but what decided me was a chance meeting last Saturday which ended up with me standing inside “The Manse” as Bignell referred to the house in the Moravian church yard (the former home of the designers Mary and Ernest Gillick) which was his last address. I only met Bignell once, in passing, and recall him as a tall man, who would have been close to the ceiling in the living room where I stood. It is possible that this picture, which has a sticker with the Manse address on the back was taken there.

 

 

The picture (Morning Reflections) was in the RPI international print exhibition in 1991.

There’s no actual theme to this post apart from the colour, and than the hope that these pictures are new to you. For most of his career Bignell took pictures in black and white and only used colour when necessary. Like here:

 

 

What better subject than a rainbow? Or perhaps below.

 

 

The picture is actually entitled Chelsea Sunset.

Below, the photographer’s equivalent of a still life, entitled Fallen Tulip.

 

 

From a minimalist view of a flower to a luxuriant view of vegetation.

 

 

And below, a frog.

 

 

These nature pictures might be the professional photographer’s version of holiday snaps. It seems to me that Bignell regarded his main body of work in black and white as the main expression of his skill as a photographer, and his main subject as people. Colour and nature were a kind of a vacation from his day job.

Most of these pictures are comparatively late work, taken in the 1970s and afterwards, so I guess they were also his way of relaxing after years of work in the city streets and in various studios.

 

 

Almost all his colour pictures are landscapes of some kind, like this shoreline.

 

 

Beach scenes, boats:

 

 

And features on the beach.

 

 

I had to crop those last two to scan them, hopefully not ruining the composition in the process.

The picture below seems to relate to his Wimbledon series although the body of water looks bigger.

 

 

In any case, the picture of a group of people fishing is equally tranquil.

Below, this creased print is of an unknown urban location.

 

 

Is it even in the UK?

This one certainly is, Battersea Park 1960.

 

 

I scanned most of these images this week, searching through the new Bignell drawers for colour pictures once that theme emerged. I found some nice black and white pictures too, which we’ll come back to later. I also looked on our server and found this picture, one of three which must have been part of a session I’ve looked at before. These were kept separately. Perhaps they were rejects, or out takes, as they are the only ones taken in the evening. You can look at the day time pictures in the post Bignell and the Goddess (link below). Bignell was in Turkey for that series.

 

 

I never gave the name of the woman as I wanted to concentrate on the pictures. I could tell you now, but do you really want to know? (Don’t worry, it’s not a particularly big deal.0

It occurs to me now that this image  of a woman in white robes, links us to next week’s post, which will be the latest in an annual series.So a good point to stop.

Anyway, this week’s low key post is also a response to the mini-summer we’ve had this week. I should add that by visit to Bignell’s old house was facilitated by Ian Foster who has a pop-up exhibition featuring photographs of the King’s Road in the 1960s in a nearby shop front, the former Carphone Warhouse. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Finally, it occurs to me that there are quite a few Bignell posts, which I hope have helped to bring his work to a wider public. And here they are:

 

John Bignell and the celebrities (2012)

That’s entertainment: Bignell at the Palace (2012)

Bignell’s world (2013)

Bignell and the Goddess (2013)

Portrait of the artist as a young dude (2013)

Bignell meets Hedderly (2013)

Bignell at the pub (2014)

Bignell’s people (2014)

Christmas Days: a little bit of Bignell (2014)

Bignell and women: models, friends and strangers (2015)

Sarah Raphael: a session with Bignell (2015)

Bignell at work (2016)

Christmas Days:Bignell – a childhood in the 50s (2016)

Bignell’s world of the strange: an anthology (2016)

Bignell in Wimbledon: sunny days (2017)

Water: Bignell’s travels (2017)

Bignell’s travels: back streets and backwaters (2017)

I think that’s all of them. Bignell pictures also pop up inside other posts . You can’t read this blog without coming across them, and no doubt there will be more.

Thanks to John Bignell and his family for all the pleasure his work has given us.

 

 


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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