Category Archives: North Kensington

Forgotten buildings: The Odeon Westbourne Grove Cinema

To start the new year, here is a post from my friend and colleague Isabel Hernandez, fresh from her grueling magnum opus on the Natural History Museum, and onto a more personal topic.

 

The subject for my post this week is the Odeon Westbourne Grove cinema. I happened to find some photographs within our collection whilst looking for something else; one of those distracting moments when the original plan went out the window in favour of my newly found stash of local treasure. I thought it might be an interesting one to post about. Even if sadly, what I found were photographs of the cinema just prior to closure.

Local history is really a nostalgic trip inviting us to remember our past selves more than anything else. Places, like people, ingrain themselves in our memories. How many of us have incorporated the cinema as part of a date, for example? Many relationships/courtships may well have begun around these stalwart picture houses like no other place. It is probable that most of us will have set foot in a picture house over the course of our lives, so it is something we can all relate to. Once there were local cinemas everywhere in the UK. Hundreds, in fact. Now you would be hard-pressed to find many of them because they no longer exist.

I still remember the red brick cinema building. It wasn’t, in my opinion, the prettiest of creations, but it had character. A pleasant way of saying it was a good solid building that did what it said on the programme. Spacious and intrinsically functional, it was at the time of building, a modern spectacle for all to enjoy. Attractive in its own way. Not far from the ABC cinema in Queensway (also gone), it was one of quite a few purpose built cinemas in the area at the time of opening. And although it wasn’t one I frequented much, as perhaps I did the Kensington Odeon, or the ABC Queensway, it was a local building I was familiar with.

 

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The Odeon Westbourne Grove opened its doors to the public in 1955. It filled an otherwise unremarkable spot on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Chepstow Road and was a welcome social pastime addition for the Bayswater and Notting Hill population. Interestingly, the cinema was planned at a much earlier stage than when it was completed. The Odeon Theatre was the conception of the Oscar Deutsch Theatres Ltd chain in 1937. Oscar Deutsch was the cinema owner and film exhibitor who founded the Odeon franchise. The first five Odeons opened in 1933. By 1936 he had opened 142 cinemas.

 

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The initial plan was to build a 2,050 seat cinema to the design of architect Andrew Mather. But subsequently, it was decided to reduce that to 1,870 seats with some building work beginning in 1938. Although planning permission was granted in the spring of 1939 to complete the cinema, the outbreak of war in September halted the process.

Below you can see how the ODEON letter signage has already been removed. Signs generally, were often lit in neon at night. It was Oscar Deutsch’s desire that his cinemas be eye-catching and this use of lighting was particularly effective.

Ironically, the telephone boxes you see outside the entrance have also been relegated to the past. With the advent of more personal – though I use that word loosely – communication devices, the iconic red telephone box, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, are few and far between now. I think some are still maintained in London, purely as British iconic designs, like the red post box, and London’s Routemaster buses.

 

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The interior of the Odeon Westbourne Grove was practical without many design frills. It was contemporary and simple. The space was enormous. At least it seemed that way to me. Initially only having one screen to entertain the potential 1,870 customers, it has to be said, functional, comes to mind again.

 

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The view towards the other end of the Foyer. At the time of closure, the cinema had three screens. The colour scheme you see here is probably not unfamiliar to cinema goers of the time. Deutsch’s wife Lily was usually a consultant on the colour schemes for a lot of his cinemas. The wooden doors and panelling were made from Sapeli mahogany. The colour palate used in the soft furnishings, such as the carpet, apparently were a combination of Indian-red, powder-blue and straw-pink. Carpet was standard for most cinemas and still is. Some even boasted settees and other decorative furniture in art deco designs – comfort away from home. During the ‘smoking allowed’ epoch (a number of decades), it wasn’t long before the stale smell of cigarette smoke clung to the furnishings. Ash-stands were not an uncommon part of the scenery.

 

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The programme for the opening of the Odeon Westbourne Grove on 29th August 1955 lists the following:

  • National Anthem
  • Opening ceremony by the Mayor of Paddington, Councillor Miss Catherine P. Rabagliati
  • Jack Hawkins on stage
  • Universal News
  • The film screening of “Doctor at Sea” starring Dirk Bogarde (incidentally, my mother-in-law’s favourite actor)

You can see below in the main auditorium the typical raked design of the seats. It was meant to obviously enhance an obstacle free view of the screen. A given for most large cinemas. The auditorium was quite plain, but much of it was panelled in special acoustic tiling to ensure a good sound quality that could be enjoyed throughout the theatre. At the time of building, the Odeon’s main and only screen was…

“of a revolutionary new type, and the widening of the proscenium arch to accommodate its 46ft width is one of the major changes made from the pre-war plans. This screen gives the most brilliant black and white pictures ever shown and sets a new standard of beauty and realism in colour film preservation. Its size and shape can be instantly altered by variable black ‘masking’ operated by press button control.”

The screen curtain had sewn sequins on it. With the right lighting they would twinkle. A small luxury for an otherwise practical, well-equipped cinema.

The best twinkles I think I ever saw were at the Empire, West End, before it was turned into a multi-screen.

 

 

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No cinema can function without its projectors. The first projector used at the Odeon Westbourne Grove, was the Gaumont Kalee 21 projector.

 

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I’m not sure what this is, or its function. I have very little knowledge of the technical terms for a lot of these interesting mechanisms, I’m hoping a cinema aficionado will perhaps enlighten me. It looks like an organ without the keys, but plausibly it looks more like a lighting or sound controlling device.

 

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How to rewind a film? Or at least that is what I think is happening in this next image. It reminds me in some small way of our microfilm readers, but on a massive scale. Macrofilm. Or is this really a long-play turntable?

 

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The scale of the projector is clearly posed here. When you consider how much smaller and more advanced our technology has become, this almost seems excessive. With the advent of digital cinema, we now look upon these remarkable instruments as museum pieces. Projectionists too were no longer required once automation came into play in cinema projection booths. It almost seems blasphemous.

 

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The projector again, this time with a 35mm film reel attached.

 

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Although initially the cinema boasted one large screen, it was temporarily closed in December 1978 for tripling. Something that nearly all cinemas succumbed to, to maximise profit. In March 1983 the Odeon itself was later taken over by Panton Films Ltd, and re-named Coronet Cinema. The same company that operated the Coronet, Notting Hill. However, this was short-lived. By June 1986 the cinema was closed for the last time.

Below you can just about make out the posters for the films last shown there: “Delta Force”, “To Live and Die in LA” and “Jewel in the Nile”.

 

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The beginning of the end.

When I consider the recent closure of the Odeon Kensington I am reminded that the cinemas of old are vulnerable. How many can be left? Unfortunately, these old theatres are gradually losing out to our ever inventive technology and the developers bulldozers. It would seem that video didn’t just kill the radio star, it also started a home cinema revolution. We can even watch films on our mobile phones now, that’s how fast technology moves.

By 1939, Oscar Deutsch had built and taken over many cinemas, including his flagship cinema in London’s West End, naming and renaming them Odeon. By this point they were equal to the Gaumont and ABC. Two of the longest established circuits in the country. In 1941 Oscar Deutsch died at the age of 48 from cancer. His ambition had been to take over the rival Gaumont chain and to expand abroad, but this was left to the man who succeeded him as chairman of Odeon Theatres, J. Arthur Rank; the man-with-the-gong symbolising the finest in screen entertainment.

 

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 A shadow of its former self. And yet you can almost imagine that opening night with the lights and the buzz of the excited crowd:

“Tonight the lights go up and the doors are opened at the latest theatre to join the J. Arthur Rank Organisation’s proud family of more than 550 ODEON and GAUMONT cinemas in Britain.”

It couldn’t be more different in this image.

 

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Of course, there were protests by the local residents. But it was to no avail. The site was sold for re-development and the building was demolished in October 1986. In its place is a block of flats with a few shops on the ground level.

Finally, I will conclude with this interesting acronym I found online:

ODEON = Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation

That he did, for many years.

 

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Postscript:

A few cinemas still exist, just about, so they are not confined to the past (yet); I would hope that we can at least preserve what is left. But is that realistic?

It seems to me that those that remain and survive are always undergoing ‘upgrades’. Much tweaking has been afoot in the last few years technologically. The multi-screen attempt to attract more customers is no longer enough to keep the customers visiting, forcing some cinemas to bump up their ticket prices. In some cases, extortionately. Large one screen auditoriums were soon done away with and divided up to keep up with the increasing demand for more variety and profit. Now, with the advent of the internet, streaming, and home cinema, we have opted for a more personal experience with regards to watching films. Our viewing habits have changed so much we barely recognise what it is to concentrate on one thing at a time. There’s so much choice now the mind boggles.

I don’t know whether it is missing buildings, people, or both that feeds that nostalgia for what was. One cannot stop things from changing and evolving. It would seem it is the natural order of things. But at what point do we need to think about striking a balance?

I realise that there are cine-files who have excellent knowledge regarding the history of these fascinating picture houses, so if I have made any errors I do apologise. I am really not a tech expert, so I have kept that aspect of film to a minimum. In a short post such as this I have simply provided a few facts obtained from several sources to compliment the photographs. Perhaps at some point I will also write about the Kensington Odeon. We have very few images unfortunately, so it would be a very, very short one.

Meanwhile, I will continue to visit the occasional cinema for old time’s sake, and try not to strangle the person behind me kicking the chair, or the one rustling with crisp packets, popcorn buckets, and slurping through straws as they shake the ice at the bottom of their plastic cups for the duration of the film. When you’ve been spoilt like we have with the home cinema experience, getting used to behaving around others in a cinema setting is probably not a consideration remotely within the sphere of social etiquette for some. But then, where would cinemas be if all we did was complain? Anyone fancy the IMAX Experience? They’ll throw in the 3D glasses as part of the deal. I draw the line at Smell-O-Vision though. 4D may be the latest craze, but I blame William Castle for the ideas. Ultimately, it all goes back to cinema’s heyday. Nostalgia, you see.

 

 

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Horse locomotion: at the Hippodrome

Among the many William Luker illustrations to Loftie’s Kensington: Picturesque and Historical  is this one. At this size it just looks like a mound or hill with a small crowd of people and a few horses. But click on the image and look at it in a larger form.

 

 

This is the Hippodrome, and this is one of the few illustrations which gives a sense of the hill and what it must have been like to see it from ground level. (This is the hill on the summit of which St John’s Church now stands.)

Some of you will have heard of it before. Its story has been told before in many places, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with Kensington’s famous race course, today I’ll give you a brief version of the tale.

It’s gone now,of course, utterly vanished, but here is where it was:

 

 

This is the Davies map of London from 1841, the first to show the main rail lines into central London. The area north of Notting Hill Gate / Uxbridge Road is barely developed and you can see just south of the railway line the two farms Portobello Farm (just off Portobello Lane) and Notting Barn Farm.

 

 

Given the Hippodrome’s brief life span, we’re lucky it made it onto the map. Counter’s Creek flows freely to the west of the Hippodrome grounds and the area known as the Potteries nestles against them. Just the sort of area for setting up a sporting enterprise.The area was part of the Ladbroke Estate and in 1836 it was optimistically leased by a Mr John Whyte foe a period of 21 years.

 

 

On paper perhaps it looked like a decent proposition. Plenty of space – it was laid out for flat racing and steeple chasing, and the area was expanded to accommodate different distances. There was room for stabling horses and carriages and as you can see below it was fine for a young man to drive a young lady there in his new carriage and pair.

 

 

Room for plenty of enthusiastic spectators too.  Saying it was in Bayswater added a certain cachet to the name. So close to London you see. No need to go to Epsom.

 

There were one or two legal issues. A right of way went through the grounds, which the Vestry has ordered Whyte to keep open. This allowed an uncouth crowd of locals and other malcontents to gain free access. Eventually the course was altered so as not to obstruct the pathway.

On the plan below you can see that the entrance path stretched all the way to what is now Pembridge Road.

 

 

Barbara Denny, in her book on Notting Hill records that the path became known as Cut-Throat Lane because of the many instances of robbery committed along it.  (although we must remember that street robbery was not uncommon in the outer parts of London . The area known as the Five Fields in Knightsbridge was notorious for violent crime too.

We have a series of prints depicting the racing at the Hippodrome.

 

 

This shows the high fence that was erected around the ground, (to exclude, in the word of my constant companion the Survey of London “the rude and licentious populace” of the neighbourhood,) The smoking kiln in the background reminds us how close the Potteries area was.

 

 

Some chaotic jumping, and below a fallen horse.

 

 

Unfortunately the going was never too good because of the clay soil.

Below a rider is unseated at the Brook.

 

 

You will have noticed that the horses are depicted with all their legs outstretched in what is known as a “flying gallop”. This was a convention of horse pictures which can be seen in ancient pictures of horses in motion and in the work of the 18th century painter of horses and other animals, George Stubbs. Slow motion moving pictures were not available in the days of the Hippodrome, so while it’s easy for us to say things like “horses just don’t do that”, it wasn’t actually obvious to the naked eye.

The first person to prove otherwise was the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge who devised a method of taking a number of pictures in rapid succession which captured the actuality of horse locomotion.

 

 

Below is a jump.

 

 

His work also gave rise to an early form of motion pictures, the zoopraxiscope, which could project these images in rapid succession creating the illusion of movement. An early form of stop  motion filming. Kingston Museum has a special collection of Muybridge material including an actual zoopraxiscope.

Even Luker, who was certainly around when Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion was published keeps this convention up in this close up of his illustration. The crowd of spectators looks carefree. By Luker’s day the Hippodrome was a picturesque memory.

 

 

 

 

After 13 race meetings the Hippodrome was wound up. A new proprietor took over but the final race took place in June 1841. The developers moved in and Notting Hill as we know it today came into existence. But that memory of the Hipodrome remains as an example of how in early and mid -19th century times, Londoners had an urge for outdoor entertainments which only grew as the century progressed.


Backwaters 3

This is another of those posts about the quiet streets of the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring pictures taken by our roving photographer John Rogers. Some of these images are nearly fifty years old now, which certainly gives me pause, as I contemplate my own mortality. (Not to be morbid or anything.)

 

 

John has to be standing in the middle of the road here at the western end of Bomore Road with a view of one of the towers of the Silchester Estate in the background. All is quiet with barely a car on the street.

Here is a nice view of some varied brickwork.

 

 

And here, the corner of Avondale Park Road.

 

 

Note Lily’s Toy’s and Novelty Goods  (prop. A.  Bridges)  with its makeshift table of stuff outside. How much passing trade did they get, I wonder?

There is some life in Bomore Road though.

 

 

Can’t quite make them out? Allow me:

 

 

A couple of sisters happen by on their way home from school. How do I know they’re sisters? Well the fact is I’ve spoken to one of them. Her sister found out somehow that John had accidentally caught them on camera, and she came in to get a printout of the photo, which I did. for her. It was she who told me the anecdote which ended up in a post from the early days of the blog. This kind of thing has happened more often than you’d think.

 

 

So the theme of this post is not empty streets (which I am fond of), but passers by. Above, a woman with a perm, a Mark 1 Cortina (those rear lights) and Star Radio. (“The shop that buys anything” Anything? Really? I wonder if they sold everything too?) Norland Road, by the way.

A man pauses under the awning.

 

 

Is he thinking about BACON, or on his way for a haircut? I like the glasshouse structure you can just see on the left at the rear of the building.

 

 

Almost a crowd by backwater standards. The Stewart Arms has a slightly plain exterior. The van with the open door is in the process of dropping off some Mother’s Pride bread. And the woman is in a hurry, seemingly oblivious of John.

Something more elaborate  further east in Moscow Road.

 

 

 

A lone young man passes The Leinster. Is he about to swerve and go in? Or not?

 

 

Back west in Murchison Road, another girl is about to leave or enter her house. I’ve never met her. Or perhaps I have. Not everyone is interested in old photographs.

Even further off the main road was Munro Mews

 

 

Munro Mews was of those slightly run down streets which seem in retrospect to be mostly occupied by people doing things with motor vehicles, servicing them on an amateur or professional basis,

 

 

Gathering up old tyres, or just abandoning cars and vans.

The mews was more of an alley.

 

 

And this trio are the real stars of the show, weary but confident travellers almost certainly on their way home.

(And what about the pile of crated milk bottles by the wall at the back?)

 

 

It’s possible to read all sort of situations into the three girls. Are the two standing together best friends, with the other only tolerated, or more likely, is it an entirely random moment of walking down the street, all three living in the same street? Are two of them sisters?

So you know what I have to ask. Do you recognize anyone? Is one of them a friend of yours, or a relative? Or is one of them you? I’m no longer surprised by coincidence. I almost expect it now.

But even if all the people in these pictures remain unknown, these are still good photographs.

 

Postscript

It’s not really my place to pay tribute to John Cunliffe, the creator of Postman Pat, who died recently, but Pat Clifton (did you know his surname?) loomed large in our house at one point, on VHS videos, played incessantly, and in wool form brought to life by my late mother-in-law, Jean. The wool version of Pat still sits on the shelf of a wardrobe along with ancient bears and a blue hippo, but all that is left of the monstrous giant version of Jess the cat  is a head, somewhere in another cupboard. Alas, poor Jess. And thank you to John Cunliffe.

 

 


Notting Hill Gate: the other High Street

After my marathon series on Kensington Church Street it was suggested that we simply turn left at the top and carry on into Notting Hill Gate, the actual street of that name, formerly High Street, Notting Hill. Some of it changed considerably in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while other sections remained much the same. I’ve covered the 1960 development already but we’ve never seen the 1970s version. The Photo Survey pictures were taken about the same time as most of the pictures of Church Street, although there are a few gaps which I’ve filled in with picture from other decades.

I went back and read that post from 2016, and I’m perfectly happy with that opening paragraph about my personal history with this part of London so I won’t waste your time by repeating myself when through the magic of hypertext you can see for yourself. Let’s just start with a picture from 1963 which shows the north side of the street when it was brand new.

 

 

From this angle it looks clean, spacious and optimistic. Note the WH Smith and the Timothy White’s, with a Boots nearby. I think I may have mentioned before that my wife and I bought a number of household items at Timothy White just before we were married. We have agreed that the only remaining item is a cheese grater, which we still use. I’m also sure that after Timothy White there was a branch of Virgin Records there. I can recall buying the first Joy Division album there, and the second XTC LP (which came with an EP of dub versions as I recall).

And having taken in that old vision of the future we can go back, but this time turn right at Church Street.

 

 

Astley House is on the south side of the street next to the intersection with Church Street. If you look back at that redevelopment post you can see the site before it was built, obscuring the 1930s block of flats behind it. The picture is from 1980, as is this close up.

 

 

Bank, dry cleaners, bank. Quite standard high street stuff for 1980. (The Midland Bank is still there as HSBC)

Below you can see another anonymous looking block. On the north side of the street the buildings are very much older, surviving from the days of the High Street.

 

 

 

Note the sign for Bland Umbrellas at number 24b, a fine old firm.

The next set of pictures go back to 1972. Number 2 Notting Hill gate was a branch of the employment agency Manpower. I think I may have had some temporary work from them in the 1970s, as many others did.

 

 

There’s Bland again, on the corner of Linden Gardens.

 

 

Moving west from there you can see how the street retains its small scale pattern with buildings of different heights.

 

 

Below, numbers 36 and following – more employment agencies, a tiny boutique called Brave New World and an Aberdeen Steak House. The Nat  West branch looks small but still grand.

 

 

Yet another agency, Alfred Marks, and another boutique (Pop-In). A tall person crosses the street.

 

 

I think there’s a Reed Employment agency in the mix there, but on the corner of Pembridge Gardens a large branch of Burton and Montague (tailors).

 

 

It all seems rather dull considering that Notting Hill Gate was just a stone’s throw from the heart of the counter culture in 1972. Here with the Devonshire Arms, is the corner of Pembridge Road. just a few steps from the start of the trail down Portobello Road.

 

 

We haven’t got any picture from 1972 of the south side of the street from Church street but this picture shows the view looking east, taking in the colored panels and the tower of Newcomb House.

 

 

This picture is one of a group given to the library by PhotoBecket (website) so acknowledgements to them and thanks for filling in a visual gap.

Below, the companion view looking west.

 

 

Now, back to 1972 and to the location of the first picture.

 

This shows the central crossing, the Coronet cinema, and Woolworths. I must admit to barely recalling that branch.

We now take another jump back to 1960.

 

 

 

The Hoop, located by the narrow passage to Uxbridge Street would have been relatively new in 1960.

 

 

The Classic Cinema, later of course, the Gate had also been redeveloped at this time. If I think about it, I haven’t been to the Gate very much, but I do recall my wife and I seeing Tim Burton’s Batman there. One of the first of that era’s  summer blockbusters.

 

 

We’re on familiar territory in 1972. WH Smith, Boots, a Wimpy Bar and Woolworth’s. I’m pausing now for  a bit of confusion. Boots must have ousted Timothy White’s from their position at the start of this post at one point and pushed them aside. Kelly’s Directory came to my rescue, showing that in 1980, Boots were at 96-98, and Timothy Whites (described as hardware retailers) were at 102. So my recollections were not mistaken. Phew.

In the next three picture, you can see the rest of that parade, west of the entrance to Campden Hill Towers.

 

 

More ladies’ outfitters, small grocers, dry cleaners and of course Radio Rentals.

 

 

The road starts of slop away from the hill of Notting Hill and retailers give way to residential properties.

 

 

A final look back up the hill.

 

 

Postscript

I don’t know which direction to go from here, so I might do a Chelsea post next time. My apologies for not publishing this last week, but I was quite busy.

Thanks to PhotoBecket for their photographs, which are copyright by them.

After the previous Notting Hill post there were some lively exchanges in the comments about St Vincent’s  Primary School which was at 6 Holland Park Avenue. Many former pupils have exchanged email addresses through the blog. I can pass on the email addresses of any more interested parties without breaching any regulations on privacy if anyone is interested.

 

 


Carnival: 1980-1983

Regular readers will have noticed that I have never covered the Notting Hill Carnival (except once in passing). There are a few reasons for this: I’ve never been to it myself (I’m not a fan of crowds in streets, even happy ones);  I don’t know that much about its history, but I do know that there are a lot of people who are experts, who don’t always agree with each other about a number of matters, and I don’t want to get dragged into controversy;  and, let’s be honest: I’m a middle aged white man – what do I know? I’ve always tried to make what I write on the blog either historically accurate or (sometimes) drawn from my own experience. Or both. So I’m always a bit circumspect about some topics, (transport is another one) because there are real experts out there. Also, this blog is about pictures, and lots of pictures of Carnival in our collection don’t belong to us, or come from magazines and other sources.

But  we do have some pictures that as far as I know (see later) are ours, and when I was looking at some photo albums from the 1980s recently I noticed that some of the pictures in it were losing some of their natural colour, as colour prints from that period are prone to doing, so I thought they should be scanned for preservation purposes if nothing else. And once I’ve scanned a bunch of pictures, it’s only a matter of time before I start to think I should put them on the blog. So this week, it’s a case of letting the pictures speak for themselves.

1980

 

 

You can see that the pictures are taking on a brown tone, accntuated by the scanning process I think but are still full of interesting details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photographer has taken a little interest in the police officers who were on duty.

 

 

But has mostly concentrated on the crowds and the costumes

 

 

Oh and one local landmark, North Kensington Library. I wasn’t working there for most of the year.

 

 

1981

I was back there the following year. The scaffolding was in place after problems with slates falling from the roof, but it resulted in this covering, which was mostly corrugated iron. It was a little disconcerting from inside.

 

 

This year’s pictures have kept their colour quite well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1982

It seems to have rained the day the photographer went but that doesn’t seem to have deterred anyone.

 

 

 

 

The many umbrellas  show that the rain was pretty determined.

 

 

But people carried on.

 

 

1983

This looks like a brighter year. I particularly like this picture of a float turning slowly through the crowds.

 

 

The many costumes seem brighter too this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A modest amount of rubbish in the aftermath of the event.

 

 

The question of how the Library came to have these pictures was solved on the final page of the 1980 album.

This is Neville Price, Community Libarian, a colleague and friend who must have taken a group of library staff out into the Carnival crowds.

 

 

So thanks to him for all these pictures. If you went to the Carnival this year I hope you had a good time. If you recognize yourself, or anyone you know, please leave a comment. These images have not been seen for many years so it’s good to put hem out on the blog. I hope Neville will approve.

 


One year

No words this week.

 


Addison Place – an urban fantasy

I had just finished the Golborne Road from the week before last which had involved looking at details of a street full of shops, cars and people, and consulting a directory. I had selected some images, scanned others and worked out an order. This stuff doesn’t make itself you know. Although the pictures are the  main focus any any post I still have to put some work into the process and not  neglect the main business of Local Studies. Contrary to some opinion we don’t sit around all day studying pictures and identifying obscure features of the urban landscape. (Although there is some of that). I was a little tired and it was a Thursday afternoon and while looking for something else I came across some pictures in a folder which must have been intended for some future post on obscure streets or backwaters.

 

 

These pictures were all of Addison Place, W11, a narrow, almost mews-like street in North Kensington. What struck me was the contrast between the busy, familiar street I had been looking at for the post I had been writing, and the tranquil, enigmatic even, atmosphere of the almost empty street which I had never seen in actual walking around reality. I wasn’t sure if there was much to say about Addison Place but the pictures cast a kind of spell. At one stage in the history of the blog I might have tried to spin some sort of urban fantasy around the images. (I used to think that any reaction to a set of images was perfectly valid, even a fictional one. I only do that once a year now).

 

 

Nevertheless, these are pictures out of the past, in that strange place 1970, where ordinary things are slightly unfamiliar. It’s a little like watching a film or TV programme set in another country. The landscapes of a scandi-noir thriller or a Japanese horror film are recognizeably part of our world but at the same time exist in a parallel universe. Or it might be part of some 60s London black and white drama, a detective story with a hint of existential doubt. But don’t get me started..

 

 

The actual Addison Place runs between Addison Avenue and Queensdale Road just north of Holland Park Avenue.

It has a distinctly Mews-ish entrance.

 

 

A mark 1 Cortina (the distinctive tail light), possibly an MGB.

Another discreet entrance at the other end

 

 

And a comparatively spacious central section

 

 

A Triumph Spitfire? Definitely a Rover,and possibly a Mini.

There’s the Rover again.

 

 

A place where little cottages with gardens meet mew garages, those two story “modern” flats seen above and below.

 

 

Interesting shutters, if that’s what they are

This picture with tall trees behind the cottages is particularly rural (and yes a bit Steed and Mrs Peel – incidentally,try telling a young person that Olenna Tyrrel, the scheming old woman in Game of Thrones was once known for martial arts style fighting while wearing fashionably skin tight outfits.

 

 

A few doors down, a traditional, slightly run down distinctly urban mews

 

 

And a small business with a yard

 

 

Which is right next to the cottages.

 

 

And these.

 

 

Now have you seen any people?

Those two talking over the garden wall by the Rover (picture 6)

The woman behind the lamppost (picture 2)

And one more, right out in the open.

 

 

 

Perhaps she didn’t know John was there. It is a bit like an episode of the Avengers. Perhaps one where some village or street is inexplicably deserted.

My apologies if you live in Addison Place or nearby and do not find the place remotely obscure or enigmatic. But I’m sure most of us live near to some kind of interesting backwater.

Postscript

Another mystery was that I was sure that I had used a couple of these pictures before but couldn’t remember where. As it happened it was another post devoted to a quest. Searching for the Ford Capri back in 2013. I didn’t leave a wide enough space between the pictures and the text back then but it’s too hot to go back and do some revising today.

Another postscript

Another entry in my personal obituary column. Let’s remember John Julius Norwich, diplomat, broadcaster and historian who has just passed away. Like many people, I was enthralled by his trilogy about the Byzantine Empire which introduced me to a then unfamiliar part of history. Unlike many of the authors I’ve mentioned here, I actually met him once when he appeared in an event which was part of our London History Festival. He lived up to the impression I had from his books – erudite, friendly and charming. A great man.

 


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