Category Archives: Kensington

Holland Park 1987: after the storm

This set of photographs is kept in our main picture collection with the prints, paintings and other picture,s filed under the relevant class number, so the large envelope they’re kept in isn’t something I come across often. In fact I’d been in one of our archive rooms checking on the floor – there’s a water pipe underneath the concrete which sometimes gets hot, something you try to avoid in archive rooms and I was looking in cabinet drawers checking on the temperature in the room. I recognized the set of images and as I often do thought is there a blog post here? Obviously there was.

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I showed these picture to one of my younger colleagues, who wasn’t even born at the time of the storm and found she had never even heard of it. So it goes. But the great storm of 15-16 October 1987 was a huge event across south west and south east England involving loss of power, damages to buildings, vehicles and trees. In addition 22 people died as a result of the storm. It deserves its popular title, the Great Storm.

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I have vivid memories of the lights going out in our old flat that night. Our son was only two weeks old and we were going out the next day to register the birth at Chelsea Old Town Hall. On our way there the next morning we saw masses of leaves and small branches in the street and even a few fallen trees in the back streets of Chelsea. Later it became clear that there was masses of destruction across the London area. In the communal garden of the flats where we live now one massive tree had fallen, though not into the buildings, and the replacement trees that you see today are small compared to the others nearby.

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I think these pictures are the work of the library photographer John Rogers, who must have gone to Holland Park in the days following the storm to make a record of the damage. Many parks, gardens and open spaces in London and elsewhere suffered damage similar to what you see here and I’m sure many people remember seeing similar scenes in the days and weeks that followed.

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In many cases trees were knocked down completely and lie with their roots exposed, large pieces of soil still attached.

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Paths were scattered with fallen branches.

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Some of them blocked.

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Familiar features looked quite different

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And familiar statues look forlorn

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Some of the paths were open.

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Others were not.

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Parts of the park were reduced to a tangle of undergrowth.

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But the structures in the park remained intact.

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And life went on

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But some inhabitants look pretty shocked.

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You can almost hear the bird thinking what on earth happened here?

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Postscript

In a flurry of scanning I digitised 70 pictures, thinking that if I did them all it would never need to be done again. But It did make it harder to select the final set to use here.  Of course the damage was repaired over a number of years and the park now looks  like a sylvan paradise again. In the wider picture you might say we got off lightly. But you can mourn trees as well as animals and people.

In terms of  a word count this has been quite a slight post. But sometimes the pictures tell the story without the need for too much commentary. Even talking about what was coming this week on the blog induced some reminiscing among colleagues who were in London at the time. If you have any stories to tell about your experiences during or after the storm please leave a comment.

Another postscript

As I said last week I have noted a number of deaths in the last year. I was saddened to hear of the recent death of David Le Lay. David was a local architect and a leading figure in the Chelsea Society. I worked with him on several exhibitions and helped him with some of his research. He was an expert on Chelsea, much more of an expert than me. He was good-humoured and courteous with an eye for life’s absurdities. He once did me the favour of coming to the library to appear in a Dutch TV show to explore the recollections of a woman who believed she lived in Chelsea as a servant in a former life. He kept a straight face throughout and even thanked me for arranging the experience. Chelsea will miss him. My sympathies to his partner and friends.

Here he is working on one of his projects – the landscaping of Dovehouse Green.

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Lancaster Road: mostly 1969

This is one of those posts about North Kensington which come with an explanatory map. Lancaster Road is one of those east to west streets which originally stretched from St Luke’s Road in the east, crossing Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove ending up at Bramley Road. It doesn’t go that far any more, but I’m going to save the western end for a second post as we have plenty of pictures to look at before we get that far. I’ll show you a map in a moment but in deference to Twitter, who always display the first image of the post in the automatic tweet which WordPress sends out for me, here is something a little more engaging than a map:

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The horse and cart is always a good image to start with, as they were still a common sight in North Kensington in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And here’s the map:

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Have a closer look at this one because it shows several places of interest, some buildings still there like the Library or the Serbian Church, others used for different purposes like the Ladbroke Technical School, some of them no longer in existence at all, particularly on the west side of Ladbroke Grove.

When I think about Lancaster Road I think about the crossroads with Ladbroke Grove and the section leading up to Portobello Road. That was the part of the road that was most familiar to me when I first worked at North Kensington Library and used to walk up to the Portobello Road to buy some lunch. This picture shows the south side of the street near the intersection with Portobello.

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And this one shows the north side of the road a little further west, the entrance to the old Isaac Newton School and the Kensington Institute (adult education).

 

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Here’s a flashback showing the intersection more than a hundred years ago.

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And this is a similar view from 1969.

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Behind the man crossing the road on the right you can see the KPH public house. We’ve looked at that before in the post on Ladbroke Grove. On the other side of the road, the branch of Barclays Bank is under construction. Next to it the building with a white section of wall used to be a bakery. (The date 1933 is visible at the top of the building)

Next to that is the Royalty Cinema building. By 1969 it was a bingo hall. It has a certain place in local history because of the unsubstantiated rumour that Reginald Christie worked there as a projectionist.

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A closer look at the other side of the road shows a row of surviving buildings.

 

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No longer in existence though is the white building beyond the Royalty.

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This was Solomon Wolfson Jewish School. I remember classes from the school coming into the Library when I was there there in the early years of my library career (when I must admit I had no idea where the school was exactly)  The building was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by the London Lighthouse. The Museum of Brands moved in there more recently.

Next door was another school.

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Ladbroke Lower School at the time of the photograph, a substantial building where you can now find a Virgin Active centre.

It’s at this point that St Mark’s Road crosses Lancaster Road. This is the view from there:

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The spire belongs to the Methodist Church, our destination for today. On the left on the picture is another religious establishment, also visible on the map.

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At number 133, the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. North Kensington at this time had several convents, although the nearby Convent of the Poor Clares on Westbourne Park road / Ladbroke Grove had already been demolished.  Note the empty space on the map. Thomas Darby Court, a sheltered housing block is now on this site.

Staying with the map  if you look on the north side of the road at this point you can see the last remaining piece of Ruston Close, the renamed Rillington Place, and the Council buildings next to it (formerly an iron works), all behind Lancaster Road facing the railway line.

A second section of the same map is useful now.

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On the south side of the road between St Mark’s Road and Walmer Road, most of the area on the map has been redeveloped. One of the surviving buildings is Morland House.

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A housing block. Look at it on Google Maps these days and you will see it behind a number of trees with thick foliage. The whole area looks much greener in this century.

On the opposite side of the road between numbers 236 and 238 is a barely visible passage.

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It’s just about where that sign is. (check back with the map). I had to have this pointed out to me by a local resident, so don’t just take my word for it. If you had gone down that covered passage about 1969 this is what you would have seen.

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And if you had walked further the buildings on the left would be revealed.

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These were Council buildings at the time, probably used for maintenance and repair of Council vehicles. On the  right of the picture you can just see a chimney dating back to the period when the building was the Bartle Works. That chimney often appears from another angle in pictures of Rillington Place, looming over the wall at the end of the street.

Below, a quick look back across the street at the terraced houses typical of Lancaster Road aside from the larger buildings (numbers 139-149 I think).

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They look a little run down. (Is that a Ford Zephyr?) But suitable for gentrification. It was not to be for this particular stretch of houses.

We’re almost at our stopping point now.

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Here you have a better view of the Methodist Church, at the place where Lancaster Road crossed Walmer Road. Clarendon Road and Silchester Road also converged at this point in an area which was called Lancaster Cross, and also Lancaster Circus (I’ve seen that term on an old postcard.). Here is another part of the Cross, diagonally opposite the church.

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The Lancaster public house curving around the corner with Walmer Road heading south on the left. This is where we pause at a part of Lancaster Road which would be more or less unrecognizeable today, except perhaps for the zebra crossing which may be in the same place. (If you follow the link to the Walmer Road post you’ll see the same crossing and street light from the south.) We’ll continue our tour down Lancaster Road in part 2 of this post.

Postscript

Thanks to Maggie Tyler who helped me identify many of the pictures of Lancaster Road in our collection. Her expertise in North Kensington matters (and other areas too) is invaluable. Part 2 will probably not be next week as I’ll be out of town again. Instead, I’ve already written another self-indulgent post about one of my favourite topics.

Also thanks to people who have sent their condolences about my mother’s death, Lucy, Karen, Marcia, London Remembers, Sue and Steph, plus others who have spoken to me in person. As I hinted last time I now own a large number of family photographs which may find their way onto a future blog post. Families and their history are a core part of what we do here and everyone is part of the larger story.

 

 


Holland Park 1980: a day out

Although we’ve seen some images of Holland Park on the blog on most occasions I’ve concentrated on some detail, like the murals, or more recently on interiors of Holland House. This week I want to show you some photographs taken as part of our photographic survey by our photographer John Rogers back in 1980. He wasn’t concerned with documenting every corner of the Park but was looking for interesting views which might be familiar to visitors and odd details which might have been missed.

In 1980 the Greater London Council (GLC) still ran the park. It was transferred to the Royal Borough of Kensington  and Chelsea in 1985. Some features have changed in the last thirty six years, some have remained the same.

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This fairly dull looking colonnade facing the Orangery is now the home of the highly decorative murals I mentioned above.

Here is the nearby pond, which now has some railings around it.

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And the other side the Belvedere Restaurant which probably no longer admits bare chested men.

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The pleasures of a municipal park, however grand its history, have remained the same for many years. Hanging around on a sunny day doing nothing much at all.

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Stretching in the sun as in this south view of the Orangery.

 

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(I believe this sculpture is by Eric Gill, called The Maid, placed on this spot in 1976 but moved  in the 1990s because of weather damage and now in the park cafe. Judging from recent pictures, where the figure looks very worn in comparison the weathering was significant.)

Playing at the play centre.

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Especially in the sandpit.

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holland-park-rope-ladders-playcentre-1980And swinging by rope.

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For older visitors there were  ducks and other avian creatures to feed.

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From the large, not easily missed varieties.

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To the small and sometimes well camouflaged.

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On land, or on water.

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Or between the two.

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There was sport, for the athletically inclined.

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Or you could just stroll down a secluded avenue of trees.

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Discover statues, some prominent, as the one below.

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(Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland . The statue is now found in the middle of a pond, although here it seems to be entirely on land. It was moved when the block of flats, Melbury Court was built)

Some obscure, almost concealed.

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(The so-called Melancholy Old Man)

And some just plain odd.

 

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Cherubs about their business near the Ice House gallery, accompanied by fish, innocent in this case. (They’re not always so blameless).

The High Street is not so far away.

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Postscript

Regular readers will have noticed that there was no post last week, just about the only occasion we’ve missed a week. I was going to be vague about my absence on a personal matter but it may have some bearing on future content so I’ll just say that my mother passed away over Christmas after a short illness and I went home to deal with the funeral arrangements and other matters. Frankly, I was not in a blogging frame of mind even though I already had this week’s pictures selected. It was about this time last year that she was complaining to me about the extensiveness of the news coverage of the death of David Bowie and I was explaining that for some of us this was a significant event. It’s been said that 2016 was a year with a great many deaths. I can only agree.


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.

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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.

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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?)

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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.

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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.

 


The Commonwealth Institute – the fallow years

I seem to have fallen into a pattern of one post on a subject followed by a supplement. I had originally intended to use some pictures of the dormant days of the Commonwealth Institute building and a few of the recent redevelopment work in last week’s post but I found so many interesting pictures of the Institute in action that there wasn’t space. So this week there are some pictures of the days when the Institute was closed and waiting for its fate to be decided, and some of the building work progressing.

I took these photos. I don’t claim to be a great photographer but I can point and click which is sometimes all you need to do to catch the essence of a place.

As with this image of open water, the pond clogged with branches and covered with algae.

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The bridge, or walkway. Note the photographer’s error focusing on the barrier rather than what was behind it. It makes an interesting image, but only by chance.

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Here it is in focus. I took this picture in 2007, when you could get quite close to the building without encountering any barriers.

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The main building with the concrete supports looking like they really are holding it up, and the administrative block beside it.

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The flags, in 2009..

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and 2012, with the green boards cutting most of them off from access.

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Work begins, with digging and metal barriers.

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Is that a theodolite?

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Another picture taken through the barriers.

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Work on the wall of the main building.

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The last weeks of the admin block.

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In close up.

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Ten days later, the dust is rising over the perimeter boards.

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The curtain walls are stripped away.

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And the new buildings rise.

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You could only stand on the edge, looking for some action.

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More of that dust, from the relatively tranquil Holland Park side.

Not quite finally, an image I’ve used before from the time when overgrown grass surrounded the main building. (The wilderness years, you might say.)

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And finally, one more picture from the archives. Back in 1962:

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The Queen, opening the Institute. Perhaps the visiting dignitaries thought it would last longer than it did.

Postscript

The earlier photos were taken with an Olympus compact camera, the later ones with a big Nikon which is very forgiving and nearly always gives a good picture. I’ve told the story before, in the early days of the blog but now that the Design Museum is up and running I wanted to present a few more pictures of the declining years. Hopefully, the new Museum will redeem the building and make us forget the days when it could almost have vanished for good.

Thanks to Roger Morgan for some error correction, and for general support of the blog.


What is the Commonwealth Institute?

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Now that the new version of the Design Museum has now opened in the former Commonwealth Institute building it seemed like a good time to look again at the old place. I’ve written about it as an empty vessel and a near forgotten building but not really as a going concern.

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So,  according to this explanatory pamphlet: “What is the Commonwealth Institute? Put simply it is a centre for information about the Commonwealth; a supermarket of resources and activities……The Commonwealth Institute exists to promote a better understanding of the Commonwealth and its people in Britain.”

Or was it a place for children to race around on school trips or during the holidays?

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I never went there myself but I know that a generation of London school children frequently did so I asked one of them, my wife, what she remembered and this odd object on the central platform was one of them.

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She recalls some kind of globe in there, but I’m happy to get further information. Most of this week’s images come from Commonwealth Institute publications from 1964, 1965 and 1973. My wife would of course have been too young to have been there in the early years.

She also remembers this sort of time honoured activity, still happening in museums today.

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The institute shop, featuring a brownie. At this point my wife gave me a detailed account of the changes in uniform she remembered. This will strike a chord with some of you.

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The art gallery has a distinctly 1970s look in this picture.

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And a 60s look here:

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The exhibition: “Commonwealth Art Today”.

Many people also remember the entrance hall, with its stained glass.

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And some of the exhibits.

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This one was recalled by more than one person.

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The lion was described as “a bit mangy”, but he had his fans.

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Diplomats were also a significant category of visitor.

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“Well, that’s our bit, now shall we go to the shop?”

The Institute also had a library, in the now demolished administrative wing.

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And this place, the Resources Production Unit, which used all sorts of new-fangled equipment.

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Not to mention the restaurant with its view of the park, which some people I’ve spoken to remember fondly.

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Another feature now gone, much recalled by many was the walkway to the entrance. (My wife remembers it as “a bridge” which is how it would have seemed to the groups of children passing over it.)

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You can find some other views of it in my previous posts.

As we started with a postcard, let’s finish with an artist’s impression of the new building as it would look in 1962, the start of an new era.

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And let’s wish the Design Museum success in its new home.

Postscript

The Commonwealth Institute was one of those buildings I have photographed myself on many occasions. I’ve used a few of those picture in previous posts but there will be some more next week in a supplementary post featuring more images of the building’s fallow years. If you have any memories or pictures of this quirky but much loved building please feel free to share them with us, so that the Commonwealth Institute does not ever become a forgotten building.


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