Category Archives: Kensington

The Roof Gardens 1979: for your pleasure

Strictly speaking I know we should have Kensal Road part 3 this week but I’m a little bit under the weather after Christmas and these pictures recently fell into my lap courtesy of my volunteer, BC, who is going through our collection of former planning photos with a fine tooth comb, looking for visual truffles.

They come from a pair of photo albums, undated and unattached to any records. But it was only a bit of minor detective work to spot the sign for the 28th Kensington Antiques Fair and work out that the year was 1979.

 

 

I didn’t even have to go to my transport correspondent to work out the date from the buses. There is Barker’s, still Barker’s at this point, and the Derry and Toms Building.

Although by this time Derry and Toms was no more.

 

 

Biba to, had been and gone, and BHS occupied the eastern part of the building. You can see the foliage at the top of the building indicating the presence of the Roof Gardens which had also survived.

In 1979 we were looking forward into an era of conspicuous consumption and people in London being comfortable about money and the display of spending it. Looking backward, you had  the disturbances of punk rock and the new wave and before them the glam era of Biba and Roxy Music. A good year to have some pictures of the Roof Gardens in its new-ish incarnation as a venue for dining and dancing.

Arrive in your nice big car.

 

 

The staff are waiting for you.

 

 

And the relatively innocuous  lift.

 

 

To take you to a more sumptuous entrance.

 

 

Regine’s. In the Biba era wasn’t it the Rainbow Rooms?

A sumptuous dining room awaited.

 

 

Soon to be filled.

 

 

BC said something to the effect of how many bubble perms could you fit into one room? Several, apparently. (I spotted a couple more in a TV programme I watched this week from 1979. Were they ubiquitous?)

After dining, there was dancing.

 

 

The joint was jumping (quietly).

But let’s not forget the main reason we came here.

 

 

Yes, it’s that garden again.

At this time I think they hadn’t quite got around to the day light potential of the gardens, so we can see some pictures of it more or less deserted.

 

 

With many of the old features extant.

 

 

The gardens still have that tranquil atmosphere, as if they were far away from a city street.

 

 

The wildlife still enjoys the familiar habitat.

 

 

Flags still fly over the sunny garden.

 

 

And there are still hidden corners.

 

 

I’ve looked at the gardens before in this post which combines its real and imaginary history, and this one (one of my early flights of fancy, but the pictures do show the garden empty). There is a certain timeless quality to the gardens. You can still go there, as I think I’ve pointed out before. But would I want to revisit what remains for me a childhood/adolescent memory? Probably not.

But don’t let me stop you.

Postscript

Just as I was about to publish the post I saw a small item  in the news, namely that Virgin, the current owners of the Roof Gardens, had decided to close them. Since 1981 the gardens have been used as an events venue. They’re listed of course so they’ll be used again. But they’ll be quiet again for a while.

Original Postscript

I wrote this just as I was coming down with a cold and finished it just as the cold is coming to an end. I gave myself last week off as I was feeling rough and I’d read another of those articles about how blogging is dead. (On a tablet – I was too ill to turn on my laptop.) I hope it isn’t, I’m just getting the hang of it. I’m certainly going to carry on for a while and hopefully we’ll be back on Kensal Road next week.

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Christmas Days: Argent Archer

I had an enquiry the other day about the photographer Albert Argent Archer. A website devoted to photographers said we had a collection of his work, which was news to me. The name did ring a bell though and when I went looking through our ephemera collection I found several old photographic prints with his distinctive imprint in the section on Kensington High Street. There might be a full length post next year devoted either to Archer or to a series of pictures of the High Street as it used to be, but for today I thought we might have a quick before and after. Geographically these pictures come from a spot less than five minutes walk from where I now sit, huddled in a Dickensian fashion next to a heater.

 

 

Although this picture was taken in the 1920s, the distinctive architecture of Hornton Court is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Kensington High Street. This tall redbrick block of apartments and shops was unique in 1905 when it was built but it formed the model for a whole series of blocks along the north side of the high street which were built in the 1930s.

Note the small tobacconists to the left of Chesterton’s, selling Abdulla Cigarettes, a popular brand of the time. I can still remember a tobacconist / confectioner there when I first worked in Kensington in the 1980s.

 

 

This picture doesn’t have Archer’s embossed stamp on it, but the rest of today’s pictures do. This one shows the same corner as the one above when  it was a simple terrace of houses and shops.

 

 

In both pictures you can catch a glimpse of the building in Phillimore Walk which filled the whole block.

 

 

Our old friend, the Abbey with its gothic windows and other features, which must have been a bit of a spooky sight, lurking behind the “modern” high street.

This view shows the 116-138 block from the west.

 

 

 

You can see the wide pavement and how in a couple of cases there are front gardens or yards. Imagine a long series of these going west along the high street facing the Promenade on the south side. These terraces were destined for demolition and many were knocked down in 1931. We’ll see more of them in the new yaear but for now, here is Archer’s own studio at 140 Kensington High Street.

 

 

 

Miscellany: melancholy animals

Back in the days when my son was young and people did most of their shopping in actual (as opposed to virtual retailers) another familiar high street name, Boots, offered shoppers a free soft toy after they spent a certain amount. (I don’t recall the actual terms and conditions but I remember you didn’t pay for them, and you sent off for them.) As regular users of Boots we acquired a few examples but what struck us was the consistently downbeat demeanor of the stuffed creatures: the depressed giraffe, the worried zebra, the suicidal rhino. The biggest one was the one you see below: the sad tiger.

 

We wondered why no-one spotted this general unhappiness of soft fauna. But we’ve done our best for them. These days the tiger is in a support group with this slightly anxious gorilla, and supervised by monkey therapist Doctor Trevor (whom God preserve) of Utrecht.

 

 

The final daily post will probably be on Saturday. I have a lot to do tomorrow. Oh, there she is again.

 


Christmas Days: the wonder of Woolies

Woolworth’s stores were once upon a time a seemingly immovable feature of the British high street. Every town had one, some more than one, and every London district. Think back now to all the different branches you’ve been into in your life. I remember one in Chester with a bewildering number of entrances, a cavernous one on Oxford Street, and a fairly big one in Victoria. This Bignell picture was taken there.

 

For myself, I remember one near where my uncle lived in Clapham, there were two in the King’s Road. Many I’ve forgotten of course. And there was one in Kensington High Street.

Here, a little way along from corner of Old Court Place, where you now find Zara and Uniqlo, you can see a sign announcing  “Woolworths New Store.” It’s 1963.

 

On the corner a woman stares into the window of another vacant store front, wondering what will be here next.

Within, a bit of internal modelling is occurring.

 

Soon, the shop fitters are at work, setting up the store, still tantalizingly empty at this point.

 

But not for long, obviously and this picture shows the shop up and running.

 

Is that a Volvo? (I’ve been corrected on car identification more than once recently so I’m prepared for motoring experts to step in at this point).

Woolworth’s were at  54-60 Kensington High Street until the mid 1980s, after which the site was sub-divided. Woolworth’s itself went on. I remember particularly associating the one at Clapham Junction with Christmas decorations and the general run-up to Christmas. But they’re all gone now, like many high street names we thought would last forever. The actual “wonder of Woolies” (their old advertising slogan) was that they lasted as long as they did.

Miscellany: Shopping archaeology

We have a few items in our collection of what librarians used to called realia (“real things”, I expect as opposed to books, which are somehow unreal.) Among those are some examples of artifacts from previous layers of history. As today’s theme was shopping, here are a few of those items related to shops on Kensington High Street. (There was once going to be a whole post on the archaeology of shopping but I couldn’t find very much.)

 

From Barkers, a paper bag, a plastic bag and a gift box. Let’s take a closer look at that one.

 

Carefully assembled by me the other day after many years of being flat and unused.

And of course, next door to Barkers:

Our friends at Biba. A selection of their stylish plastic bags, representing what they were good at, fashion, and an empty packet of soap flakes, representing the areas of retail they should have perhaps left to others.

 

But undeniably striking. If only we had a tin of their own brand baked beans. Unopened, obviously.

See you tomorrow.

 


Blog extra: one million

It’s only a number.

Obviously.

But a million page views is still a bit of  a landmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone who has read and supported this blog since 2011.

[Photographs by James Hedderly, John Bignell, Edward Linley Sambourne, unknown, unknown, Adam Ritchie and Kate Pragnell (possibly). Cremorne cover also anonymous]


In the gallery

Local Studies and Archives collections often contain paintings and prints connected with the area they cover, particularly if like Kensington and Chelsea the area is or has been one where artists lived or worked. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that our collection contains dozens of Turners or works by other famous artists. A Local Studies collection is far more likely to have works by lesser known professionals like William Ascroft or William Walter Burgess, or William Cowen, obscure figures like Francis Griffen, amateurs like Walter Greaves (or were he and his brother Henry semi-professionals?),  illustrators like Herbert Railton, unknowns like Marianne Rush and annonymous figures like the artist of the Red Portfolio.

But this is how we like it. It’s nice to loan out one of our small number of Whistler etchings to an exhibition as we recently did but there is far more pleasure in having a much larger number of sketches by Railton or Ascroft or possibly the entire oeuvre of Rush which can be shown to interested parties or blogged about.

This post is an  almost random selection of pictures I have shown to visitors or come across in the course of enquiries or have had at the back of my mind for years.

 

 

The river entrance gate to Cremorne Gardens, by Walter Greaves. The gardens were just a short step down the road from the Greaves boat yard where he and his brother worked in the family business. During the course of business they struck up a relationship with Whistler who liked to make sketches from their boats. Walter and Henry became close enough to the great artist to get some lessons from him, although it all turned sour in the end as Whistler’s friendships seemed to do. Walter inserted the figure of Whistler into many of his pictures, but the man in this picture could just as easily have been Greaves himself who modeled his personal style on that of the master. Neither of them are in this picture.

 

 

Lindsey Wharf, looking east I think.  The pub is the Queen’s Arms, a different pub from the King’s Arms, which was also in that vicinity. Chelsea enthusiasts may like to try to reconcile this view with photographs of the area. Forgive me if I  don’t do that today. Normally I like the minutiae of locations but we could be here all day.

[Added 18 September – at the prompting of Chris Pain, Chelsea history expert – see his comments below – I have reverse this image to make things clearer]

I’ve done a couple of posts of Ascroft in the early days of the blog, but cannot resist putting in one of his pastel sketches showing a country lane, probably in the Putney area, with one of his characteristic skies.

 

 

Horace Van Ruitl, on the other hand was an unfamiliar name to me until a few weeks ago when a researcher working on hid biography asked to see what we had. Scattered in the Chelsea general sequence were several pictures mostly of the interior of Chelsea Old Church. Once I had gathered them together I was quite impressed. This is a detail from one of the larger pictures which I chose because of the two women who add a burst of colour to the subdued scene.

 

 

Van Ruitl was like Ascroft a well known professional name in his day, and not completely forgotten.

This artist, Juliet Williams, is probably an amateur but an artist who was absolutely obsessed with the gates of Cheyne House. Here they are in winter:

 

 

And here in summer:

 

 

We also have an autumn and a spring, but also eight other versions, smaller and larger, sketches and completed pictures. I could practically fill a whole post with them. But I won’t. (Although that’s an idea for Christmas).

Chelsea is full of picturesque locations for painters. But the Kensington amateurs produced plenty of pictures too.

 

 

This is a pen and ink sketch by Frank Emanuel. We’ve seen his work before here, a picture of Tower Cressey, but this a a simple street scene showing Silver Street, which was the former name of the northern section of Kensington Church Street, leading up to Notting Hill Gate. The figure of the woman is what makes this one special I think. I wish he’s done more pictures of people.

Elizabeth Gladstone was an amateur watercolourist who was featured in the same post as Emanuel. This picture looks down Derry Street / King Street towards Kensington Square.

 

 

If you study the 6th image in this post on the development of the Barker’s building, you will recognize one of the buildings.

in contrast to Gladstone’s mostly late 19th century work, Joan Bloxham painted and drew in the 1930s.

 

 

Victoria Grove, still quite recognizable.

 

 

Another view I’m familiar with, Holland Street, a few minutes walk from the Library, showing the house of Walter Crane. He’s a famous artist we do have some work by, which we may look at one of these days.

Like many amateur artists, Elizabeth Gladstone’s pictures are usually simply views of street and buildings but occasionally she includes a curious detail as in this one.

 

 

York House, also in Kensington Church Street in the 1890s, featuring a sinister hooded figure, or is it simply a harmless monk? There were many religious establishments in Kensington in that period.

Finally, another Greaves for the road, signed by Henry, the less prolific of the two brothers, although they both often added to each other’s picture.

 

 

Chelsea riverside east of the Old Church, before the Embankment. Not an unfamiliar view for regular readers but we can always have one more.

This post is a bit of a trailer for others I might do this autumn about artists I haven’t covered in any detail so far so pardon me if it looks like a bit of a filler between Chelsea stories. I do need time between those.

Postscript

I feel that I tempted fate last week by noting the death of another musician from the golden age of popular music. I was saddened to read that even as I was writing last week’s post, another bass guitar player from one of the great bands of the 1970s had died. The name Holger Czukay may not be as familiar as Walter Becker, but for me he was an even greater name. He played bass and other instruments and electronics for the German avant garde rockers Can. I saw Can play live in several London venues  – the Lyceum, the Roundhouse, Hammersmith Palais, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – all of which are no longer used as music venues . They practiced “spontaneous composition” rather than merely improvisation and seldom played the same material without some massive variations, according to the weather, their mood, or the audience’s mood (I once saw them suddenly turn on an audience whose attention was wavering and shock them into submission). Czukay also made a number of remarkable solo albums. He was one of the first to use samples in his recordings. I’d better stop with that before I get maudlin. Can’s drummer Jaki Lieberzeit also died this year, leaving only their two vocalists and founder member Irmin Schmidt.


A Lyttle Blogge Poste about Ye Old English Fayre

One of the ways you can indicate that something is old and quaint is to misspell all the words, adding e’s indiscriminately and throwing in the word Ye as often as possible. You can see it in old films and TV programmes, not to mention in the names of shops in seaside resorts and other places of interest: Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe, Mistress Miggins’s Pye Shoppe, Ye Olde Internette Café etc. The other day I came across a fascinating little book which seemed to be a souvenir or programme for an event called the Old English Fayre.

I should add that this was not some obscure little venture. Although it sounded a little like a sale of work in a church hall it was held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1881 and the stalls were staffed by some of the great and the good of late 19th century London. It was all to raise funds for the Chelsea Hospital for Women. The Hospital was started in 1871  in a house in the King’s Road with just eight beds but by the early 1880s a new building was being built for it on the Fulham Road, where the Institute of Cancer Research is now. The Fayre must have been part of the fund raising for this building. (The building most people will remember is the one on Dovehouse Street, opened in 1916, closed in 1988 and now incorporated into The Royal Brompton Hospital.)

There was a full programme of musical and dramatic performances over three days, (June 8-10 1881) plus a fete in the arena of the hall.

A lot of trouble was taken over the souvenir which contains some stories in medieval settings and some amusing pseudo medieval illustrations, like this one:

 

 

But the main interest for us now is the back half of the book. Before it was possible to easily print photographs in a book or magazine, actual photographic prints were bound in, and the copy of the Old English Fayre programme we have contains about 25 photographs of some of the ladies who participated in the event.

“Ye centre of ye halle is used by ye flower stalle, from ye centre of whyche a large and eke gaye Maiepole hath been builded, Ye appropriyate olde English costumes of ye ladies who preseiden ate ye stalls doth gyve great effect tp ye whole scene and doth perfect ye style and character of ye tout ensemble.”

And a part of a summary of what was for sale

 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy seeing pictures of Victorian and Edwardian ladies in fancy dress, which they seemed to engage in whenever possible. (Pageant, Costume Ball, School Play , not to mention another blog regular). So, no more playing arounde (those e’s are catching), here are a few of the ladies in the hall that day.

 

 

The Countess Cadogan, at “Ye olde Chelsea Bun House”

 

 

The Countess Kintore, at “Ye Sherwoode Oak”

 

 

Mrs Arthur Sassoon, Mrs Leopold de Rothschild and the Lady Forbes of Newe at “Ye Goulden Fleece”

 

 

Mrs Lambert Rees at “Ye Olde Crowne”.

 

 

The Lady Garvach at “Ye Wheel of Fortune”

An ensemble picture,

 

 

Mrs Craigie, assisted by Youth and Beauty at “Ye Robyn Hode”. Do I detect a slight reluctance on the faces of some of the younger ladies?  I recently saw a photograph of a mother and daughter in full steampunk costume for an event at Whitby, home of many goth and steampunk related  events,  which gave me the impression that it was the mother’s obsession which had brought the two there, which her daughter was indulging with increasing reluctance. I wish I could insert it here, but I could be completely wrong, and if I’m not it would still seem unfair. The Old English Fayre looks like an event driven by mothers, not daughters

Miss Venetia Cavendish Bentinck:

 

 

And, I’m guessing her mum, Mrs Cavendish Bentinck.

 

 

Both at the sign of “Ye Maltese Crosse”

Mrs Alexander Ross:

 

 

and Mrs Aveling.

 

 

Both at “Ye lion and Unicorne”.

Finally, another group:

 

 

Mrs Thompson, Mr Claremont (a rare appearance from a gentleman), Mrs Mackenzie, Miss Buckton, Mrs Rally and Miss Walker who were “aiding at ye theatre revels”. Miss Walker is the one sitting on the floor. (Not a relative of mine as far as I know). The young girl’s name is unrecorded, although I’m guessing she’s a Mackenzie because of the lady, her mother perhaps,  holding her in position.

I’m saving the other pictures for Christmas. There are a few good ones left.

Postscript

This week’s post shows that it’s still possible to find surprises lurking on the shelves in basement stores. You should always open any book, no matter how dull it looks from the outside.


Mr Railton returns

After a lengthy gap, we’re back with the artist and book illustrator Herbert Railton. I recently bought a copy of a book which combines three interesting characters: Railton, and blog favourite Hugh Thomson who both created illustrations for “Coaching days and coaching ways” (1893) by the entertainingly named W. Outram Tristram. It was he who wrote the final book Railton worked on, the fascinating, “Moated houses”, which was featured in the first post about him. I’m sure I’ll come back to the Railton/Thomson team-up in a future post but first I want to look at Railton’s Kensington connection.

One of his other projects was an illustrated edition of Leigh Hunt’s “The Old Court Suburb” (1855 / 1902) a rambling historical account of Kensington. Railton did most of the topographical pictures in the book. The Library possesses many of his original sketches for this project.

I have to say at this stage that Railton’s delicate and almost impressionistic pictures can be hard to scan. It is often easier to use the published versions, which have firmer lines. In this post I’ll use some of each. I’m concentrating on one location, Holland Park and Holland House.

If you’ve never encountered Railton’s work before this is a quite characteristic piece. The house is solid and rendered in some detail but at the same time it’s a little vague, glimpsed through some kind of summer haze, the foliage blending into the architecture. The one below is actually called “A peep at Holland House”

The house is even more indistinct. The focus of the picture is the sculpture of an urn, like a funery urn at the edge of the hedge frame.

If you know the park you’ll recognize the summer ball room turret, but perhaps not the wild trees and hedges which threaten to overwhelm it.

In the context of Hunt’s book, Railton’s illustrations work well in contrast to those of the other two artists, Claude Shepperson and Edmund J Sullivan, who were given the task of doing pictures of people from Kensington’s past.

 

Chloe and Delia admiring the flowers.

A bit of courtly behaviour.

After which the ladies and gentlemen could go on to some picturesque spots in the grounds, such as the famous sundial.


(Some of the originals are on this coloured paper. I don’t think it’s any kind of age-related deterioration but it does add a pleasingly antique feel to the pictures).

Lord Camelford, memorialised with a Roman altar, perished in a duel conducted in the grounds. There is a view of the wild looking site of his death in the first post.

We can head back to the house via the Dutch Garden.

And see some more details

The Oriel front, and the Terrace.

Even when Holland House was a private house, the grounds had visitors who might not be guests of the family. After their tour they might stroll to a nearby tavern, like this conveniently located hostelry.

See how once again Railton brings the picture to a point with some birds, in this case some fairly free range chickens.

When he wrote the Old Court Suburb, Hunt was also not far away ftom the house.


Edwardes Square (The name is from the family name of the first Baron Kensington. The square was laid out in 1811.) is just down the road . Here is another view.

Two girls stroll along next to the garden railings. Railton could manage figures well enough but he was sparing in his use of them.

When the illustrated edition of Hunt’s book was published, tourists were an established part of London life.

Note the editor, our old friend Austin Dobson, the go-to guy for scholarly introductions in those days.

Railton’s fellow illustrator Mr Edmund J Sullivan put a lady visitor (dressed in the fashions of the 1850s) in a couple of his pictures  who doesn’t seem too happy.

Here she looks like she’d like to sit down if the sign permitted.

(Is she bracing her back with her right hand, completely ignoring the guide book in her left, and waiting for her companion to get on with it so they can get to the gift shop?)

And here she (or a similar lady) looks a little melancholy, perhaps remembering those she mourns herself.

These two pictures have intrigued me since I first looked at the book, so forgive me for letting Mr Sullivan squeeze a few pictures into Mr Railton’s post. I wish he’d been able to develop the theme as an interesting contrast with the  topographical pictures but Railton was the headline act on this bill.

Postscript

Posthumous apologies to Claude Shepperson I suppose for not including any of his pictures in the post. Unfortunately, they’re a bit dull. By contrast, I’d like to see more of Edmund Sullivan’s’ work.


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