Category Archives: Chelsea

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.

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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.


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.

 


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