Category Archives: Interiors

Christmas Days : afternoon tea

Some of the ideas I had for short posts didn’t quite work out in practice so for this last one I asked myself the question: can I make a post out of a single picture?

To start with, here’s a nice family group.

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Mother, eldest son on holiday from school, still in the tight stiff collar, youngest child a bit impatient for her ice cream, bored with waiting for the photographer to finish and absolutely not enjoying wearing that hat

Look behind them.

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A couple of the waitresses, and the singers in their nearly matching dresses.  That woman whose face we can just see in front of them might be sitting at a piano. Two young ladies are glancing up at the photographer from under wide brimmed hats.

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Look up at the many treats on offer such as the Parfaits at 1s/3d and the New Jersey Sundae, just a shilling. Order from your waitress who will bring it from the counter.

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That may be the entrance to a lift behind the curtain. The photographer has the patrons’ attention but are they all quite willing to pose . This is an exclusive establishment after all, and being photographed in it is a sign of distinction. A couple of .gentlemen at the back, but on the whole this is a place for the ladies.

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On the other side of the aisle more ladies enjoying afternoon tea, more waitresses in their black headbands and another selection of treats.

This is the whole picture.

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The terrace garden at Barker’s department store, sometime on a long leisured afternoon in the 1930s. Make the most of it, ladies and gentlemen.

Monkeys

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Bern, Chloe and Suze exploring the archives.

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And finding a few spots to perch on in the manuscript stacks.

From them and me, a happy Christmas to you all.

 


Christmas Days: a bunch of busts

I scanned today’s pictures in response to an enquiry about busts inside the former Holland House. We have an album from the 1880s with some views of the interior taken before a bout of redecoration. On another occasion I might have scanned the whole album which could have resulted in a full length post but I didn’t have much time so I only did a few. I was particularly intrigued by the conservatory.

This was Holland House at the time.

holland-house-east-front-autocorrect

The east front with, a couple of guys standing patiently in front of it to add some local colour. At least one of them might have come from breakfast.

holland-house-breakfast-room-autocorrect

Here, in the sumptuous breakfast room. I spotted a bust up there in the corner but then turned a page and found a whole set of busts. (Is there a collective noun for busts?)

holland-house-interior-of-conservatory-and-ball-room-autocorrect

This is the conservatory, looking back into the house. A pleasing number of busts are on view, and some convenient chairs in which to sit and contemplate the outside while inside. You can see another Kensington conservatory near the end of this post.

holland-house-interior-of-conservatory

This is the view looking in the other direction into the garden, You can just make out a full length statue in the daylight. Wouldn’t you want to sweep through the conservatory after that nice breakfast and tale a turn in the grounds? You can’t walk through this space anymore but the grounds are still available for all, winter and summer.

 

Monkeys

Today’s monkeys, Boris and Dino (who live in the Park) have taken the opportunity to do just that, while wishing you a happy Christmas. Here they are in the office:

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And out in the park.

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I was checking the link above to an earlier post and was reminded of my Christmas 2013 post about Irving and Caldecott’s Old Christmas. That was one of my first posts about book illustration, and Caldecott was a contemporary of our friend Hugh Thomson. Check out a traditional Christmas here.

Another short post, and more monkeys tomorrow.

 


Louisa’s album, and other memories of an ancient house

Louisa Boscowen Goldsmid’s album is a threadbare scrapbook with a stained fabric cover. Inside it are a set of watercolours.

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Mrs Goldsmid was clearly an amateur but like other amateur artists featured on the blog what she lacked in technique she made up with a kind of quirky charm, and a sense of atmosphere. Louisa lived for a short time at Aubrey House.

South front of Notting Hill House - Goldsmid - colour

This is the house in 1893. Some young members of the Alexander family pose listlessly on the rear lawn. Louisa  was still alive by then but she belongs to an earlier period of the house’s history.

Aubrey House Campden Hill c1893 P1194

Aubrey House was built in 1698 by a group of doctors and apothecaries as a spa. There was a well nearby among the Kensington gravel pits (a more picturesque spot than the name implies) which provided mineral water, a fashionable drink at the time (“a famous Chakybial Spring ” according to John Bowack’s Antiquities of Middlesex). The spa house became a private residence under the name Notting Hill House. It was the home of the eccentric albino Lady Mary Coke who did a great deal of work on the extensive gardens. She departed in 1788 after which a series of tenants lived there

In the 1790s the  house became a school for young ladies. From about 1808 Philip de Visme occupied it moving from  a house in Putney Heath considered to be too lonely and unsafe for younger members of his family

Louisa Goldsmid was one of his grandchildren. She had  married  Mr Goldsmid in 1809 aged 28 but spent time at Notting Hill House with her three children in 1817 and 1818. She painted a number of exteriors and interiors. This was the White Room:

Goldsmid Album 0009 the White Room 1817

Mrs Goldsmid’s pictures are noteworthy in our collection because they depict the interior of the house as fully furnished and inhabited (which doesn’t always happen in pictures of late 18th/ early 19th century interiors).

Here in the pink room Jane de Visme poses with her harp.

Goldsmid album pink room 165

Nothing on the table as yet in the dining room but a couple of the younger residents wait hopefully:
Goldsmid album 166a dining room

It must be admitted that things look a bit dull in the nursery.

Goldsmid album 167 nursery

But the children seem to have found  better amusements in the gallery.

Goldsmid album  00 The Gallery 1817

 

The children are lounging around at the top of the house, away from parental interference.

Goldsmid album 00012 The Gallery 1817

 

With a parrot on the lookout. Downstairs, the ladies engaged in more elegant pursuits.

 

Goldsmid album 166b drawing room

The picture itself is quite elegant with the ceiling design reflected in the tall mirror, and a pair of open doors showing the rooms beyond.

The de Vismes had left by 1819. Other tenants and owners followed. From 1830 to 1854 the Misses Emma and Caroline Shepheard ran another school for young ladies at the house. Miss Euphemia Johnston (one of the pupils) sketched them “in mysterious conference” in 1853.

Miss Shepeard and Miss Caroline in mysterious conference Oct 23rd 1853

Florence Gladstone who wrote a history of Aubrey House reports that the picture “bears little resemblance” to the “very attractive”sisters.

This picture, also by “Effie”, shows the students hard at work.

The working days Notting Hill June 1854 by E Johnson MS5053 197b

Heads are bowed, work baskets are open, and possibly a couple of laptops on the right.

After the sisters the property was sold and the grounds “somewhat truncated” according to the Survey of London (who were refused access to the property during the preparation of their volume on Northern Kensington). This was the period when the name Aubrey House was adopted. In 1873 the house was bought by William Cleverley Alexander. The house remained associated with his family for nearly a hundred years.

Aubrey House by William Cleverley Alexander 1914 showing tower MS5053 162

Mr Alexander was also an artist. This view of the house includes the famous structure known as Tower Cressey , visible on the right (covered here). Other members of the family were also amateur artists. One of them has been featured  on the blog before (see the post here). Another member of the family painted this  view of the more crowded Victorian interior:

Aubrey House 1890 photocopy of paintings by the Misses Alexander 01 detail

Maybe even this one, Jean Alexander, photographed in 1906.

Aubrey House south front June 1906 Jean Alexander MS5051 161 - Copy

Or one of these two ladies walking in the garden.

Aubrey House Two women in the garden MS5047 160 - Copy

But perhaps the last word should go to Louisa Goldsmid with one more view of the house and the garden  in 1817

Goldsmid album Notting Hill House garden side 1817 169

Postscript

I first had a good look at the Goldsmid album while some researchers were looking at the history of Aubrey House for a forthcoming book, which I await with interest. In the meantime I thought the time was right for a look at Louisa’s pictures, although as it turned out, that was just a jumping off point. We will return to the further contents of the album at some point in the future.

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Florence Gladstone’s book about Aubrey House is a bit of a confusing read so I hope the facts and quotes I’ve extracted from it are accurate.She also wrote the first history of North Kensington, Notting Hill in Bygone Times in 1926.

Posts about two of my other favourite watercolourists , Marianne Rush and someone we only know as the Artist of the Red Portfolio might also be of interest.

The computer that was giving us grief has now been restored to a semblance of its former self so we can scan again. Thanks to K. I’ve still got drafts of a couple of odd posts which I may still use.


In Estella’s house

In the previous post  about Estella Canziani I showed you some  of the pictures she painted or drew of the garden and the area around the house she lived in for her whole life. This week we’re continuing the story with more pictures inside the house in Palace Green. In 1967, shortly after her death a newspaper described her as the Bird Lady, an eccentric old woman still wearing the fashions of her youth and the house as a shambles infested by birds and other small animals. It seems a shame that people are often judged by how they were (or might have been) at the end of their lives. When a life is finished we are free to look at the whole story, see the whole pattern  and pick the greatest hits. No doubt the house in Palace Green was a bit of a mess but you could also choose to view it as a collection of wonders, mundane and exotic and a kind of wonderland. A lively little girl grew up to be a talented artist. She filled the house with mementos of her life and travels. Given her interest in folklore and fairies and the proximity of faery-infested Kensington Gardens you could imagine her house as a gateway into a world of wonders.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green Cpic 581 00002_1 - Copy

The corridor at the rear of the house looking out onto the garden. Estella painted it more than once.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green with Mrs Squeaky from round about book

In this version, taken from her memoirs she has included Mrs Squeaky, a companion of hers for thirteen years. Estella was encouraged in her love of animals by her mother and the family pets included dogs, cat and rats but above all birds. Mrs Squeaky, an Indian Tumbler actually came from a shop where Estella found her in a tiny cage too small to turn around in: “I bought her for one-and-sixpence, and in three months she was a different bird, flying after me up the long corridor and then walking into the studio. She was called Mrs Squeaky because she invented a special squeaky coo for me.”

This is a photo of that same long corridor.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green fp

So too, I think is this.

Corridor at 3 Palace Green K69-112

But who’s that at the end of the corridor glimpsed like a secret inhabitant of the maze? We’ve met her before in the preview post where we saw her in a painting looking out of a room.

Here she is taking centre stage.

Staircase at 3 Palace green Cpic 564 00002 - Copy (2)

Florence, the housemaid again, probably well used to Estella’s ways by now.

As was Mrs Squeaky.

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Posing on the sofa.

I think this is the same window. The house seems to have been full of objects, vases, glassware and ornaments collected from a wide variety of sources across Europe.

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And paintings, on the wall and stacked up on the floor.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-116

Paintings Estelal collected, and her own work, scattered about the place.

Studio at 3 Palace Green K68-117

It must sometimes have been a relief to relax in the conservatory.

Conservatory at 3 Palace Green Cpic570

Or just sit in front of the fire.

Fireplace at 3 Palace Green Cpic 583 00001

Estella’s memoirs also feature a few family photographs. Here she is in the garden with her father.

Canziani p50 photos 02

One of the items donated to the Library by the trustees of Estella’s estate was a small family album featuring a series of pictures taken when she was very young. As we started with Estella as an old woman let’s finish with her as that lively little girl whose imagination encompassed the house and the whole world outside it.

Young Estella Plate 12

 

Postscript

This is another bookplate, probably a little earlier than the one in the previous post.

 

Bookplate 70-123

As a professional hoarder I imagine that those who come after me might be appalled by the accumulation of stuff I left behind. But I like to think some of it might be just as interesting as the contents of Estella’s house.


Christmas days: a preview for Estella

Only the second year of short posts for Christmas week and I’m already breaking my own rules. I had intended these posts to cover subjects where there wasn’t much to say or where we only had a few pictures. But this one is purely because I don’t have time to write a long post about the pictures of Estella Canziani. I can come back to her in the new year and try to give you a fuller picture of a Kensington resident whose first memory was being held up by her nursemaid to see Queen Victoria pass by in a procession, and who lived until the mid 1960s.

Christmas for me is a time for being at home. So it’s appropriate that these pictures from our collection feature the house she lived in all her life in Palace Green.

Garden door at 3 Palace Green Cpic 582

I love this image of fiery plants glimpsed out of the back door from the corridor.

Estella had a particular liking for domestic interiors, and the garden outside.

Garden at 3 Palace Green Cpic 579

(The family also kept pigeons.)

Trees in the garden can also be seen through the skylight in this view from the studio.

Studio at 3 Palace Green Cpic 565

Below a picture I had to scan on our book scanner. Images copied this way are often a bit pale so I did some post production in Photoshop.

Corridor z at 3 Palace Green with Florence Cpic 563 00003

It restores the blue elements of the orginal, particularly Florence’s dress. Another brightly coloured dress is featured in this painting of a friend of Estella’s playing the piano.

Annette Hullah playing in the drawing room at 3 Palace Green 1925 Cpic 561

We’ll come back to this Kensington house on another occasion and I can tell you how I identified a picture by Estella’s mother.

That’s the last of these short posts for Christmas week. I hope you had a good day and that your friends and family appreciated all the presents you gave them. The final soft toy Happy Christmas is from a group of animals.

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The 12 monkeys of Christmas obviously.

And a happy new year to you all.

Next week, party season, there will be another visit to that perennial blog favourite the Duchess of Devonshire’s costume ball of 1897.


A room decorated by Conder

1982. An estate agent’s brochure announces the sale of a large property in North Kensington just off Holland Park Avenue. The brochure speaks of a room with “polished satinwood panels painted in the style of Charles Conder”.  The artist seemed of less interest to the writer of the brochure than the fact that the club had been used in the filming of the TV series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which we were all glued at the time but of which I now recall nothing) The asking price, if you’re interested was £650,000. (The picture below is more of a side view.)

Chestertons 1982 p01

The Knights of St Columba were selling their London club house. The Knights were a Catholic fraternal organisation for men. A KSC brochure from 1971 describes the facilities for members. Many bedrooms, a chapel, rooms for conferences and meetings, a bar

KSC Club 1971 p4-5 - Copy

The brochure is fairly clear that one of the rooms was called the Conder room – presumably because the paintings in it were by Conder.

KSC Club 1971 p6-7 - Copy

That section of wooden paneling in the centre of the picture is what you should be looking at, although it’s impossible to make out much detail.

Why the estate agents were cautious in their assessment is not clear. We are quite sure that Conder did decorate a room for the then owner of the house, a wealthy art collector and patron named Edmund Davis who was born in Australia and made a fortune in mining in southern Africa.

You can see an invitation to a fancy dress ball at the house in my previous post on Conder.  Davis had commissioned the architect F W Marshall to create an arts and crafts house at 11-13 Lansdowne Road in 1896. The house was covered by the Architectural Review in 1914.

Arch Review Vol 35 1914 plate IX - Copy

The rooms are cool and austere in these pictures which look as if they belong to a palace rather than a large Victorian town house.

Arch Review Vol 35 1914 p39 - Copy (3)

Even the roof has an exotic look, like a hidden temple.

Arch Review Vol 35 1914 p39 - Copy (2)

Below is the Conder room. You can make out a few more of Conder’s pictures and get a better sense of the size of the space.

Arch Review Vol 35 1914 plate X Conder room

Another angle on the room  matches the picture from the 1971 brochure although the comparison does not favour the later version.

Arch Review Vol 35 1914 p39 - Conder room

This is described as a recess in the Conder room in the 1914 article.

I’ve spent a little while getting us to this point partly because the research was interesting in itself but also because I wanted to ground Conder’s pictures in historical reality. Now we have now reached what I thought of as the substance of this post and we can have a look at several of Conder’s watercolours painted on silk. Fortunately the Studio magazine had published an appreciation of Conder’s paintings in 1905 by Martin Wood. The photographs are monochrome but they still give a strong sense of Conder’s artistic vision

001 p201 - Copy

Wood says: “the eye is engaged, the intelligence is aroused, but only to a point; a story is told, a drama is enacted in them which is never finished. There is a purpose about the actions of the figures which evades us, an anecdote in each of the panels that escapes us and this elusiveness gives us rest – the restfulness which is to be demanded of perfect decoration.”  You have to leave the ordinary world of buildings and rooms behind and follow the logic of the costume parties he attended to enter into Conder’s imaginary places which are part ancient Greece, part 18th century France.

002 pp202-03 - Copy (4)

The pictures are all set out of doors in some landscaped open place, part garden, part temple, part theatre,  where clothed and naked people disport themselves in a carefree fashion, sitting, posing or engaged in enigmatic actions.

005 pp208-09 - Copy (3)

I’ve looked around for a passage from the fantastic literature of the early 20th century to complement Conder’s pictures and I’ve picked out a piece from an anthology of the stories of Lord Dunsany who was most famous as a dramatist but who also wrote curious short stories set in an invented world. They were reprinted in the post-Tolkien fantasy boom of the 1970s and fitted in well with the interest in fin de siecle decadent art and literature. Dunsany was highly influenced by Belasco’s play the Darling of the Gods, an oriental fantasy which we last encountered in a post about another of our favourite London artists, Yoshio Markino, although Conder’s images are far from Markino’s urban fantasies.

002 pp202-03 - Copy (2)

The two artists do share a certain indistinctness which adds to the unworldly tone. Some of Conder’s pictures were painted using the grisaille technique, a kind of monochrome water colour, so we don’t lose that much from seeing the pictures in black and white.

004 pp206-07 - Copy (3)

So I came down through the wood to the bank of the Yann and found, as had been prophesied, the ship Bird of the River about to loose her cable.
The captain sat cross-legged on the white deck with his scimitar lying beside him in its jewelled scabbard, and the sailors toiled to spread the nimble sails to bring the ship into the central stream of Yann, and all the while sang ancient soothing songs. And the winds of the evening descending cool from the snowfields of some mountainous abode of distant gods came suddenly, like glad tidings to an anxious city, into the wing-like sails.

From Idle days on the Yann, a story which is more middle eastern / oriental than classical but it remains one of my favourites one Dunsany’s. The narrator is a man from London who enters the land of dreams via a shop in Go-by Street, just off the Strand. Conder’s pictures also seem like entrances to another world.

004 pp206-07 - Copy

The pleasure seekers have come indoors and put their clothes on as the day grows chilly.

005 pp208-09 - Copy

Like Dunsany’s dreamer you can come back into the world and perhaps find many years have passed. Here is the house in a Planning photograph from the 1990s when presumably it had been restored to its constituent parts. I can’t tell you what became of the Conder pictures. Perhaps someone knows.

Lansdowne Road 9-13 planning photo 1990s possibly

Edmund Davis was a well known figure in the art world in his lifetime, and a friend of far more famous artists than Conder – Frank Brangwyn (who also painted wall panels at Lansdowne Road for him), Charles Ricketts, Edmund Dulac (who lived in one of Davis’s properties in Ladbroke Road). He was knighted in 1927. At his country house Chilham Castle he had old masters and many works by August Rodin. (There was an enclosed swimming pool surrounded by Rodin sculptures). There was a significant art theft there in 1938, a year before Davis’s death. Oddly, it was hard to find out a great deal of information about him. In an excellent article in Apollo  in 1980 Simon Reynolds wrote: “his name is forgotten in every field of endeavor”  His wife Mary who also worked in water colours on silk influenced by Conder died three years after him.

As the two of them have played a bigger role in this post than I anticipated here is a picture by Edmund Dulac depicting them dancing at a musical soiree.

Edmund Dulac The musical soiree p53 - Copy - Copy

This picture is the end of this post but the starting point for another one in the near future.

Postscript

I’m finishing this off just after the two minutes silence for Remembrance Day. It’s a good moment to remind anyone who is interested about our local WW1 website at http://www.kcworldwar1.org.uk .

On a less serious note for those of you who like such things the London History Festival is back again, starting next week. See our website for details.

And on an even less serious note I have been reading Catie Disabato’s recent novel the Ghost Network which is a Pynchonesque narrative about a disappearing pop star and the Chicago transport network. If anyone else is reading it I draw your attention to page 130. (Near the bottom of the page – how did she know?)


Modern life in Kensington:1937

This week we’re going back to that house we caught a glimpse of in the post about two photographs from the 1860s. In the course of the research about them I came across not only an estate agent’s brochure for the house but also a hand written mock-up of the brochure from Chesterton’s, who have been long established in Kensington.

This week’s pictures are not of the same house though, not really, because in 1937 when it went on the market the Victorian suburban villa had been turned into an ultra-modern town house, with every new convenience. It was “a model example of the art of reconstruction, combing all the advantages of the old and new; with every possible labour-saving refinement.” They always say that though, don’t they? Let’s go on a tour and see for ourselves.

Front view - loose photo

The house was re-modelled according to the design of George Grey Wornum, a leading architect of the day, now remembered best for the RIBA building in Portland Place, and the interior of the ocean liner the Queen Mary. One of the pieces about him I read called him something like a progressive traditionalist. You can see that. It looks like a 30s building but not nearly as radical as say the two houses in Chelsea Old Church Street we looked at last year.

Inside the prospective buyer could see some understated luxury.

Drawing Room 02

One end of the drawing room, with its “recessed hardwood staircase providing additional access from the dining room ..and leading to the south terrace.”

The view of the other end of the room shows “the maximum natural light” (the 20s and 30s were the era when people really began to appreciate , and even worship sunlight”. This “superb room” is “of a height quite unusual in a modern London house and, while homely, is suitable for receiving 150 guests”. Not that homely then.

Drawing Room 01

In those days you also had a library, “panelled in a rich brown walnut” with “large concealed cupboards built in.”

Library - Study

There’s another example of a library in a 30s conversion here.

“The casement door leads to the garden beyond.”

Garden view - loose photo

“Campden Hill is quiet and healthy” Far from the madding crowds of Kensington High Street down the hill but still convenient for the shops. The three big stores on the high street all owned by the John Barker company by this time were in their heyday in the 30s.

rear view showing terraces

“The Terrace is electrically lit”. The door on the left is the Library. The other three open off the drawing room. Note the sun terrace on the second floor, another favourite feature of the sun worshippers.

Far end of the garden

The far end of the garden “contains an Italian pool and a delightful sunken rose garden, overlooked by a small summer house.”

You could have quite exhausted yourself by this point, trekking to the rear of the property. Just have a quick look at some of the “fittings and equipment”:

Boiler

“The Iron Fireman Stoker fitted to the Boilers is Thermostatically controlled and stokes automatically for weeks on end with no labour other than the simple operation of the removal of clinker.” Sounds great. Just get the parlour maid some overalls and she can do it. She can relax afterwards in the Servants  Sitting Room.

“The house is centrally heated on the Panel System. Electric Power Points are also provided in every room.”

There’s more natural light in the dining room through the “glazed ornament cases”. The artificial lights are “cleverly concealed in ceiling and cornice”.

Dining Room

Here’s the view of the dining room from the hall.

Hall

At this point in the tour you’ll want to have a look upstairs, via the “circular sweep of the landing”.

1st floor landing

And we can relax in the principal bedroom.

Principal bedrom 01

It’s another nice large room, with a shiny ceiling.

Principal bedrom 02

You get a rug by the fireplace with its own sheep.

The suite is completed by a large dressing room, two bathrooms in pastel shades and a wardrobe corridor, its walls lined with seven completely fitted and automatically lit lady’s wardrobes (gentleman’s wardrobes are in the dressing room).

Principal bedrom 03

Is that the door to the wardrobe corridor? Some nice padding there. If you get lost in there, the maids’ bedroom (for four occupants) is also on this floor, with their own bathroom in a seperate corridor. An improvement on the attic, no doubt.

I certainly wouldn’t complain. Just take the weight off your feet before you go.

cover - sitting room

Postscript

The house is still there, in Upper Phillimore Gardens with some alterations to the front (and possibly many inside). Apart from the other links I’ve inserted you could also have a look at some slightly earlier “modern” interiors added to the gothic mansion known as the Abbey, which was just down the hill. There are some colour pictures of 1930s interiors here.

A couple of days ago we had a launch for our World War 1 exhibition which will travel around libraries, schools and community centres in the Borough over the next few months. My tanks to everyone who made it happen. For those of you who won’t get to see it, much of the material we used, from our archives, and contributions from local people, is also on our Great War website: http://www.kcworldwar1.org.uk. Have a look.

Postscript to the postscript – April 1st

I’ve just looked at a copy of Trystan Edwards’s Good and bad manners in architecture (1924) courtesy of my colleagues at Westminster Central Reference Library. It contained a picture of the house prior to Wornum’s remodelling. Here it is:

15 Upper Phillimore Gardens from Food and bad manners in archittecture - Edwards 1924 p138 captioned a house designed by Ruskin - Copy

It’s the gothic one. If you remember this was also discussed in the post Two streets in Kensington. Thanks to Susie H for retrieving the book.


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