Category Archives: South Kensington

A walk down Ashburn Mews

We left off last week near here.

 

 

That’s 109 Cromwell Road, the corner of Ashburn Gardens. Ashburn Gardens still exists of course, but the buildings you see in the picture do not.

There was an actual garden in Ashburn Gardens.

 

 

I don’t know if any of it survives. The site was cleared when the Penta Hotel was built but there are still a few patches of open ground on the south west corner of the site. The hotel was built at an angle to the road, possibly  leaving one corner intact.

(The Architectural Review of September 1972 covered the completed building in an article called Bad Dreams Coming True in which a number of then recent large hotels were given a critical mauling. The Penta was called “a monster apparition.” The article is worth a look if you find yourself in the vicinity of a copy)

 

 

There are some mature trees on that corner today which could well be the ones you see in this nearly fifty year old photograph. Or perhaps not.

Behind the buildings you see was Ashburn Place. This is the west side looking south, complete with another of those signs sayingthe site had been acquired for that big new hotel. Is that a Mini-Moke?

 

 

This, I think is the bottom end, although I’m having some difficulty fitting it into my mental map of the area.

 

 

 

Next To Ashburn Gardens was Ashburn Place. We saw the intersection with Cromwell Road last week. In this picture you can see the tower building on the corner, and next to it the “Cottage” (1A), a slightly shorter building.

 

 

And there, the arch marking the entrance to our destination.

Ashburn Mews doesn’t even exist in name any more.

 

 

 

It had one of those grand-ish mews entrances seen at several points in the South Kensington area. Obviously we go down here next. But first a quick look at the Cottage.

 

 

Which can also be seen from the side nestled in the mews itself.

 

 

Now off we go. Like many mews streets, Ashburn Mews was given over to garages above which there were small residences, often featured in television dramas. (Steed lived in one if you remember, and I saw one in the oddly titled McMafia the other night.) Some of the ground floors were given over to small motor businesses. We’ve seen plenty of those. The mews streets that have survived into more affluent times have frequently been gentrified, and the ground floors converted into living accommodation. One thing that hasn’t changed is a lack of foot traffic. A person is just about visible at the end of the street, where you can see the rising bulk of Bailey’s Hotel, a long- standing and much photographed feature on Gloucester / Courtfield Roads.

 

 

Even today, you seldom see other pedestrians when you walk down a mews. There’s one off Cranley Gardens that I used to use as a short cut. The only problem was cars coming at you and baleful looks from the residents.

A lone woman creeps around, perhaps about to enter through one of the garage doors.

 

 

Perhaps it was a bit of a bleak day when John Rogers was here but the street looks uniformly grim. This is one mews that would never be improved. Those garage doors would never be painted in bright colours, and you would never pass by and see someone’s living room. It seems very quiet, without the usual collection of cars waiting to be serviced that you often see in these back waters.

 

 

At the end of the mews you see the corner of Gloucester Road Station, and another conical tower, echoing the one on the corner of Ashburn Place.

A couple of women are exiting onto Courtfield Road.

 

A closer view of the tower with its round windows, a small business, (“typing office and business service” a vanished trade I should think), an unusual brick feature (a chimney?), and a telephone box, conveniently sited in a quiet spot round the corner from the station.

 

 

Finally, looking back the way we came you see a small cluster of cars  and a pair of pedestrians making slow progress back towards Cromwell Road.

 

One of my Twitter followers called last week’s post the backside of Cromwell Road, which was correct. This week we’ve looked even further off the main road, into another one of the forgotten corners of London.

Postscript

None of my musical or literary heroes died this week, I’m glad to say, so this week’s postscript has just one item. This month we had over 20,000 page views, the second highest month ever on the blog, so thank you all for your continued interest and welcome again to new readers.

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Forgotten buildings: a few numbers in Cromwell Road

Just before Christmas I did a post which largely arose out of the large number of people you could see in some Survey photos taken around South Kensington Station. I  thought I might do something similar based around the Gloucester Road / Cromwell Road area, another busy area where pedestrians get into the pictures.

We’ve previously examined Gloucester Road Station and the area around it, including one back street which no longer exists (Lenthall Place, pleasingly called a “pokey cul-de-sac” by the Survey of London, another one for my list of excellent phrases from that great work) and the view from above. (How many links can I get into a couple of opening sentences?)

As it turned out I became more interested in a comparatively short stretch of road from the corner of Gloucester Road to Ashburn Gardens, on the south side of Cromwell Road. This section has been entirely redeveloped since John Rogers took these picture in December 1969. The pedestrians for the most part were squeezed out as I realised I had another Forgotten Buildings post on my hands.

There are a couple of interesting women crossing the road here, though heading southwards.

 

 

The building on the left, at one time a bank, was by 1969 the home of Jack Solomons and Bud Flanagan (“Turf Accountants”, an elegant phrase from the past), but as the large sign above their names indicates had been acquired by Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd for the construction of “London’s largest hotel”.  This acquisition included a large section of the south side of Cromwell Road.  The plan might not have been carried off quite as intended, but there has been some substantial development on this stretch of road including a pretty large hotel (the Penta/Forum/Holiday Inn) and a shopping arcade behind the corner, where Lenthall Place  used to run which  also covers the tube station platforms. (If you look at the post called “From the Penta Hotel” you can see a view from the 1980s when there was little left behind the wall.)

 

 

This view looks west from the middle of the road (I hope John was standing in a safe spot). On the left, you can see the wall with a balustrade which enclosed the area including the station and its platforms (and Lenthall Place) I think the arches may be purely decorative, although a couple of them contained actual doorways as you can see below, along with another copy of the same announcement from the ambitious hoteliers.

 

 

John paused to photograph the pavement in front of one of the doorways at number 87

 

 

Albert Rawlings was a motor company. You can see the doorway in the picture below.

The wall went as far as a short section of three storey houses which filled the space up to Ashburn Place.

 

 

Here’s a close up of the entrance to Albert Rawlings.

 

 

And, in one of the houses an Estate Office.

 

 

We might as well let those three women and the cable reels have their own close up.

 

 

The rest of the block consisted of a set of houses built about 1877-78 which were shorter than most of the surrounding buildings. To make up for a lack a height the row ends with a tower.

 

 

A nicely gothic touch. The corner of Ashburn Place.

 

 

Perhaps because they had already been bought for demolition, these buildings have an air of grubby neglect, and a certain dark atmosphere in there old monochrome pictures. They would not survive to be improved with interior refurbishment and double glazing.

This is the next block, between Ashburn Place and Ashburn Gardens, with yet another notice.

 

 

This is where the Penta Hotel was built, not an especially attractive building, and not popular with architectural writers or local residents, but functional.

Many of these buildings were already hotels, like the Courtland or the Eversleigh House Hotels.

Some of the detail of the frontage is quite pleasant, as below.

 

 

Here is the whole block, number 97-109.

 

 

Behind the block, there was a garden square, now also gone.

Below, John turns and looks back again, eastwards.

 

 

On the left is the wall which conceals the railway line. Next to it, just out of picture was the road out of the West London Air Terminal. (The post I wrote about that has become one of the most popular posts on the blog , so it’s hardly a forgotten building although I still sometimes have to explain what the Terminal was and how it worked. )

Finally a map showing the area we’ve been looking at.

 

This is about 1950. We don’t have many of this series so we’re lucky to get a good view of what used to be in this tiny part of London.

Postscript

This post changed as I wrote it. I might use some of the pictures I discarded another time. But it’s quite timely, as there are plans to rebuild the Holiday Inn. I’ll probably continue it soon with a look at those side streets, Ashburn Place and Ashburn Mews.

Thanks to all those who wrote comments last week and offered corrections and solutions.

Another postscript

This week it was the turn of a great author to die, Ursula K LeGuin. Her key works, the Dispossessed and the Left Hand of Darkness were two of the most influential science fiction books ever written. The latter, with its theme of gender fluidity, is still relevant today. Her Earthsea books remain one of the best fantasy series. That K stands for Kroeber, her father’s surname. He was an anthropologist. This background may be one of the reasons why her created worlds are so well realised. (I also have a soft spot for her Philip K Dick influenced novel The Lathe of Heaven. Apparently she and Dick went to the same high school at roughly the same time but never met. When they were adults they also never met although they spoke on the phone.)

Thanks to Ursula K Le Guin, one of the greats of science fiction.

And another

Oh no. Another obituary. My wife once described Mark E  Smith as “that drunk who shouts over music”. Which is unkind, but there is a grsin of truth there. It’s also true that he was acerbic, imaginative and capable of astonishing flights  of lyrical fancy. He also had the ability to assemble talented musicians time and again from the first notes of Bingo Master’s Break Out up till the end.  Fall fans will have dozens of highlights to savour in the years to come. Frightened, Fiery Jack, Prole Art Threat, Victoria, Theme from Sparta FC. Start your own list. Smith’s death can hardly be described as a surprise, but it’s a shame.


South Kensington: pedestrians and other travellers 1970

One of the differences between Londoners born in London and those who come to it later in life like me is the way we “learn” London. My wife was born and raised in Chelsea. She got to know the area round her home as a child and as she grew up her world grew logically. I first came to London on holiday, to stay with relatives and see the sights.

“A foreign student said to me / Is it really true? / There are elephants and lions too / At Piccadilly Circus?”

Then I was a student myself. My London grew around the first travel aid I had, the tube map, so isolated pockets of familiar territory gradually expanded and (usually) joined up. These pockets are also chronological layers so occasionally a piece of your deep history comes up against a new place you’ve come to know. I pass through the area near South Kensington Station several times a week but it was also one of the first parts of London I visited regularly. It’s near the museums of course and there’s  a small district of shops clustered around the station on the four or five streets which converge on it. We’ve looked at one of those streets, Pelham Street, before in the photographs of John Rogers. John’s task was to take pictures of the streets and the buildings in them. The inhabitants of the streets were incidental. But in this week’s collection the people take over that small territory and become the main subject of the images.

 

 

There’s a good selection of 1970 people waiting for the bus westwards.  Three examples of the middle aged woman in a headscarf, still common back then. Two young women with fashionable carrier bags , one in an early maxi-coat, a hefty teenage boy out of uniform but not yet sure what he is supposed to wear, and walking past the queue a dude whose hair is getting good in the back wearing a trendy coat. Lots of life here, and an advert for Red Bus Rovers, a boon for anyone who wanted to kill time by going to,  say Homerton, at the end of the line. This is the Thurloe Street entrance to the station.

 

To the right, a tobacconist (with room for toys and games) a fruiterer, and a confectioner. Note the people crossing the road , including the mother with two sons.

 

 

 

There is a ladies outfitters, Merle, occupying two shop fronts (business rates must have been low, but of course for clothes in 1970 it was either shops or mail order catalogues). According to Kelly’s directory the next unit is Dino’s Restaurant which you can see in this post about Pelham Street.  Below, we’re looking east along Thurloe Street.

 

 

 

A father and daughter are crossing the road, looking out for traffic. They might have appreciated the modern Thurloe Street which is now largely pedestrianised.

 

 

 

A young woman has crossed safely and the bus has gone. The woman at the stop was in the first picture I think. There were two stops, one I think for 14s and one for 74s. The 49 also stopped there, and the 45A started and terminated just round the corner in Exhibition Road.

Then as now, many of the businesses in this area were food outlets of one kind or another. Here is the South Kensington Restaurant (or the SKR).

 

A quite extensive establishment. Note the road marking for Fulham.

Her’s the other bus stop with an expectant family duo.

 

 

Along with a TV and electrical store, and another Cafe.

Next to it the Medici Society shop, for prints and cards, the only one that remains today.

 

 

And a Wimpy Bar! The rather half-hearted British attempt at a hamburger chain which we had before McDonalds. Remember the plastic covered menus, and the waitress service (the British didn’t queue up in a cafe back then)? The burgers were okay as I recall but then we didn’t know any better.

 

 

Pultney, for books and prints, with a smart father and son passing by, and another restaurant, Daquise, on the corner. You can see some paving in the middle of the road which kept the streams of traffic apart in the comparatively narrow street which had to take, cars, pedestrians and buses turning off Brompton Road.

I’ve enlarged a detail from the next image to show you the most fashionable woman in this group of pictures.

 

 

 

The lady on the left of the duo, wearing a very 1970 cape, a new trend at the time. As always with these pictures you can enlarge them enough to get a sense of the person but not much more.

Opposite the shops Thurloe Street meets the tail end of Exhibition Road. That island can be seen more clearly.

You can also see some metal structures on the island. These are air shafts for the foot tunnel which leads from the ticket hall of the station under the road to the museums in Exhibition Road.

The bus is actually a 207a (a former trolley bus route) which came all the way from Hayes, sometimes terminating here, sometimes going onto Chelsea to where the 31s (now 328s) finished. You can just about see a man in a London Transport white coat standing next to the bus.

Almost occluded by the bus  is another restaurant, Chompers, which I note partly because it’s a characteristically 1970s name but also because I ate there once with my friends Carl and Trixie. I’ve already recorded on another occasion that Carl sadly died in 1999.  Pictures of South Kensington remind me of him because he went to nearby Imperial College and lived in student accommodation in Cranley Gardens, very close to where I live now. So those two small areas are among the deepest layers of my personal chronological map of London.

Beyond the air shafts are the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea Post newspapers.

 

 

This is the opposite corner of Thur;oe / Exhibition Road.

 

 

(With a nice Jaguar / Daimler.)

 

 

 

That single story outcrop from the two terraces runs the length of the block. Here are some more air shafts, and a bookseller, with a purposeful dude striding across the street. There used to be a shop on that side of the road that sold all sorts of paper crafts and art materials. There are no pictures of that in this set. But it’s in a different chronological layer of my London history. You can’t visit them all at once.

Postscript

When I was first in London I wanted to go to Blake Hall, a station I saw on the Tube map near the end of the Central Line. It sounded interesting. But I never did, and you can’t now, although I believe the station buildings still exist, on the way to Ongar.

The lyric at the start comes from a song on the Jethro Tull album Aqualung, which I might have already disowned before I came London. But the words stuck in my mind.

I should also apologise to anyone called Blanka Azdajic, a name I have used  a couple of time in my Halloween stories. I consulted by friend Nina when I wanted an authentic sounding Serbo-Croatian name. Too authentic it seems. So let me just say my Blanka is a fictional character and her place of work is not located in this universe. I was a bit short of inspiration this year. I had thought of sending Blanka on an urban exploration expedition to some desolate industrial site but I couldn’t think what might have happened there so I left it thinking I wouldn’t bother this year. Then I saw some pictures of the old market hall in Chester and I remembered buying magazines and comics there. I still own some dilapidated  copies of Castle of Frankenstein and other magazines including one whose cover is devoted to a film called the Brain that wouldn’t die. (You can find it on YouTube. ) In the information poor early 1970s the monster magazines were often the only  way horror film fans could find out about particular films. Castle of Frankenstein was one of the more literate of the genre. The reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Frankenstein on the cover last week was to an obscure book by the creator of Tarzan and John Carter called the Monster Men, a sort of cross between Frankenstein and the Island of Dr Moreau. I had (and presumably still do have somewhere) a tiny Ace edition.


Beside the Cromwell Curve: 1985

This week’s post is a kind of sequel to the one about the West London Air Terminal which has proved to be enormously popular and attracted comments from many people who remembered a building I dared to call forgotten. Regular readers will be aware of the photographs of Bernard Selwyn, a surveyor who worked in west London who left the Library in his will a large number of photos he’d taken during the course of his work. He had time to indulge his own interests in London history and he frequently had access to vantage points not everyone could visit. This was in June 1985, well after the Terminal had closed, but before some of the development in the area around it.

The big change was the arrival of Sainsburys in 1983 which would then have been the biggest supermarket in the area.

Sainsburys Cromwell Road 30 jun 85 -10

Selwyn seems to have got inside the space above the supermarket, either in the main structure or the parking/lift tower beside it. Either way he found a few spots well above ground level, looking down on the Cromwell Curve, that point where railway lines coming from Gloucester Road, Earls Court and Kensington High Street meet just below ground level.

Hotel Cromwell Road 30 Jun 85 - 36A

There is the point where the tracks go underneath Cromwell Road to get to Gloucester Road Station. In the background is the Penta Hotel, later the Forum and now the Holiday Inn. On the left are houses in Emperor’s Gate. You can see some extensive undergrowth by the side of the tracks which extends onto a then vacant area. It’s built on now but in 1983 there was a curious sight.

Buttressed house 30 jun 85 -18

One of the buildings has some serious buttress work. It almost looks as though wooden arms were stretched out, frantically trying  to keep the building standing. in the background you can see what was then a church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile which took over a building which had been a Baptist, then a Presbyterian Chapel. the Russian Orthodox Church was there from 1959-1989. Later it became a church hall for St Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road.

Rear of houses near track 30 Jun 85 -15

This view shows the track heading north towards High Street Kensington Station. The buildings next to the track belong to the Underground. You can see them more clearly in the picture below which also shows  what look like ramps for cars.

Rear of houses near track and side of car park 30 Jun 85 -17

It’s always curious to see the rear of these comparatively tall residential blocks.

 

Cromwell Road with view of Gloucester road station 30 jun 85 -25

There are the twin tunnel entrances heading under Cromwell Road, and a neat little staircase leading up that odd little overgrown space. Across the street you can see the site where the Gloucester Arcade was built and beyond, the station platforms which were covered over by the development. I don’t know what the white building was. Anyone? [Update Thursday afternoon – see the comments section below for the actually quite obvious when you look answer, provide by an eagle-eyed reader.]

Selwyn was obviously taken by the view towards Emperor’s Gate. See the signs for the Genesta hotel?

Genesta Hotel 30 jun 85 -30

Now he swivels back to the closest rear view, of Cromwell Road itself. These buildings follow the curve of the track and because of that some of them are surprisingly narrow.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -35

I always imagined that this could be the spot in the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Bruce Partington Plans” in which a body is dumped on top of the roof of a train and carried away for miles before discovery at Aldgate. (Holmes works it out of course with his keen knowledge of the the then modern railway system). But  Holmes experts have determined that it was actually further west. You can see how close the windows are to the tracks though. The rear configuration of the buildings is surprisingly varied.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -34

Look at the complex set of  fire escape in the next couple of pictures. Is there a train coming?

no train 30 jun 1985 -22

Yes.

Train 30 jun 1985 -24

And Selwyn can’t resist taking a picture as  one passes.

This (almost) final picture takes us back to the start with that heavily scaffolded building next to the tunnel entrance for the tracks to Earls Court.

Cromwell Road with scaffolded building 30 jun 85 -28

That coach, or one very much like it is still parked on the pavement.

Of course, when you’ve got a camera in your hand there’s one thing you’re always going to take a quick picture of:

Blimp and tower 30 jun 85 -31

Who can resist a blimp? Note the remaining tower of the Imperial Institute poking up above the skyline.

Postscript

In a previous Selwyn based post I included my personal tribute to the late Glenn Frey. By coincidence there was another recent death in the music world which saddened me. Sandy Pearlman was not a performer. He wrote lyrics for the Blue Oyster Cult, managed them and produced many of their albums. BOC were a strange hybrid of heavy metal, psychedelia and that glossy hard rock of the early 1970s. Pearlman contributed to the atmosphere of the occult in many of their songs, but his main claim to fame is as a producer. Albums he produced had a unique guitar sound, whether it was the Dream Syndicate (the only time I ever bought an album because of the producer), the Dictators (their album Manifest Destiny contains my personal theme song, “Sleeping with the TV on”). Pavlov’s Dog (featuring the bizarrely high voice of David Surkamp) or most famously the Clash whose second album Give ’em enough rope was produced by Pearlman in an attempt to break the band in America. Someone on the  radio called it the best guitar album ever made. I wouldn’t go that far but if you’re not convinced play the first three tracks on the album (or just the third,”Tommy Gun” ) and you’ll see for yourself. After you’ve recovered try “Astronomy” by the Blue Oyster Cult, one of my favourite songs ever.

Thank you and farewell, Sandy Pearlman.

Postscript to the postscript

In the days of film cameras you always used to use up the film with a few unrelated pictures at the end. Selwyn was no exception to this rule. In this pack of photos there were a few of St Paul’s Cathedral and a couple of this building, which I’m sure one of you London experts will immediately identify.

unidentified building 30 jun 85 -7A

No prize, but it would be quite nice to know.

 


Gapp’s Stores: a retail empire – 1950

Now that we’re able to do new scanning properly again I wanted to show you a recent addition to our collection donated  by a gentleman who used to work for a chain of grocer’s shops in west London called Gapp’s Stores. Gapp’s began in 1869 at a shop in the Fulham Road from which they expanded across west London until there were 16 branches. These pictures which came in a small album were almost all taken in 1950. They show a form of retailing which lasted from the mid 19th century until the late 1950s and early 1960s. The donor notes that the heads of the company, John and Roland Gapp were unwilling to make the transition to self service as companies like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s had done. (Last week I included a picture showing a branch of Waitrose in Gloucester Road which closed in 1989. I’ve just found out that this was in fact their first branch after their original shop in Acton.  It opened in 1913)

So these images are a record of the way shopping was done, and how small retailers looked for most of the 20th century.

Gapp's store 50 Fulham Road

50 Fulham Road is opposite Sydney Street. You can just see the sign for Sydney Mews, an obscure, nearly hidden area behind Fulham Road and Onslow Square. The store now forms part of a bar called PJs.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road 02

177 Fulham Road, despite the contrast in the numbers,  is actually opposite number 50, on the corner of Sydney Street. (The address on the shop front, 4 Sydney Terrace was  a hangover from the days when small sections of a long street would have their own name. By the time of the photograph the sign would have been a quaint old feature.) It’s now occupied by the  Amanda Wakeley bridal shop.

Here’s the view from the other side:

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road

Gapp’s specialised in wines, spirits and all kinds of bottled drinks as you can tell from the window dispaly. You can also see the reflection of the other side of the street in the window, including the small greenhouse like building which is still there, and is now a florist.

We won’t stay in the Borough on this retail tour, but this location is definitely in our territory: 194-196 Earls Court Road.

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road

See how carefully the goods are displayed in painstakingly constructed piles. Another view of the same shop (at what must be a different date) is reminiscent of the Ernest Milner photographs from nearly 50 years before. (The Gapp’s store was at 136 in 1904 – there  was a re-numbering later).

Gapp's store 194-196 Earl Court Road 02

Our next stop is Lillie Road.

Gapp's store 88 Lillie Road

Gapp’s made  Lillie Road  (88-90) the location of its head office. They also had a warehouse there for dried fruit and tea. The shop is signed as a wine merchants. Our donation also contained various pieces of wine related ephemera.

Gapp's wine list - Copy

As you can see, by 1905 Gapp’s already had quite a few stores. By 1950 more had been added as they ventured outwards.

Gapp's store 1 Goldhawk Road Shepherds Bush

Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

Gapp's store 13-15 Jerdan Place Walham Green

13-15 Jerdan Place, Walham Green.

Gapp's store 52 The Broadway Ealing

52 The Broadway, Ealing. (Some nice pillars there.) And on into the suburbs.

 

Gapp's store 2 Ethorpe Crescent Gerrards Cross

2, Ethorpe Crescent, Gerrards Cross.

Gapp's store 155 Thornbury Road Osterley

155 Thornbury Road, Osterley. I haven’t covered them all but you get the idea. Gapp’s seems to have reached a kind of peak in the days of rationing and austerity when the strict virtues of a tightly run shop chimed with the expectations of customers. In the 1960s the company was sold to William Perry Ltd, a subsidiary of John Harvey of Bristol who needed licensed premises. And that was the story of Gapp’s.

But before we go, a picture from 1956, back at the Fulham Road branch with a special promotion for Schweppe’s.

Gapp's store 177 Fulham Road May 1956 Schweppe's window

Not so much of the hard sell. Just a suggestion.

Gapp's Christmas List 1937 - Copy

Postscript

My thanks to Mr Richard Browne.

On an unrelated matter I have to say goodbye to an old friend, but not a person.

DSC_6571

This Epson scanner was here at Kensington  when I was still at Chelsea. It has served through a number of digitisation projects and since I got my hands on it it has scanned hundreds, if not thousands of images. It would not be going too far to say it taught me about the wonders of scanning details close up. It was also responsible for most of the images on this blog and introduced the world to the street photography of Edward Linley Sambourne among many other historical images. It has even survived a minor flood. It couldn’t however survive the march of progress. A way was found to make it work with Windows 7 but it was going to be very unlikely for us to find a driver for it which would work with Windows 10 when we go over to that later this year, so when the computer it was attached to expired its time had come. We’re currently using a smaller but snazzier scanner to keep the work going. But thank you to a venerable piece of kit.

I refer you to the Grandaddy song “I’m on standby”.


Gloucester Road – gateway to London

Last week at Notting Hill Gate I looked at one of the deepest layers of my personal archaeology of London. This time I’m going to begin at an even deeper level.When I first came to London in 1973 I lived in Camden. But most Sundays I would get the tube from Camden Town to Gloucester Road, walk south to Old Brompton Road, turn left into Roland Gardens which took me to Evelyn Gardens where Imperial College had some halls of residence. My friend Carl lived there. Some Sundays we would just hang out, sometimes we would go and have a meal at a cafe in the Earls Court Road and sometimes we would begin to explore London.

I wasn’t the first person to start out with London from Gloucester Road. It’s still a place full of hotels,  tourists and coaches, people with trolleys puzzling over the tube map and the rules for using Oyster cards, tour buses getting in the way of the 49. And plenty of people not quite sure why they are starting out their journeys from this particular ordinary street.

Back in 1969 when you left the station, this is what you saw on the other side of the road:

Gloucester Road - east side KS 357075-73

Individual retailers mostly, still operating in a time-honoured fashion (note the delivery bike.)

Gloucester Road - east side, 83-81 KS 3571

The shops are under a 19th century terrace.

Gloucester Road - east side, 85 KS 3573

The Empire Grill, now home of Burger King, and a couple of old friends:

Gloucester Road - east side, 95-93 KS 3574

The Wimpy Bar, home of the UK’s own brand of hamburger, (waitress service and individually cooked burgers), now part of a branch of Tesco, and the Midland Bank, later part of HSBC.

If you were to turn around you could see another familiar building, Bailey’s Hotel.

Gloucester Road 140 Baileys Hotel KE75-36

But this week we won’t confine ourselves to living memory. Turn the dial back further:

 

Gloucester Road Baileys Hotel PC456

The old version of the building – it was owned by James Bailey and was at the time one of the best hotels in London, with many “American” features including an “ascending room” (lift). In 1890 it had over 300 apartments. Some of the spectacular internal features survive today.

The structure on the island opposite the station is an air vent for the railway

Further south down the road you come to this pleasant looking house opposite Hereford Square. I must have walked past it hundreds of times before I found that J M Barrie lived there. It has no blue plaque. That was taken by his house in Bayswater. But this was the house where he wrote some of his early successes, Quality Street and the Admirable Crichton.

 

Gloucester Road 133 J M Barrie

This stretch of Gloucester Road has houses and flats in the same scale, low-level, almost suburban. The mix of styles is probably to do with postwar development. There was some bomb damage in the area so the buildings have a charming individual quality. We’re coming to the end of the road at this point and I’m not going to take you along the rest of my 1970s route. We’re going back to the intersection with Cromwell Road. You won’t find this building there today. This is how the corner with Cromwell Road appeared in the 1930s.

Gloucester Road 118 1920s30s K4611B - Copy

Later, in 1969 you can see that entrance on the right of this picture:

 

Gloucester Road looking south from Cromwell Road dec 1969 - Copy

The grand entrance remained but there was no longer a bank on the site.

North from Cromwell Road, the buildings on either side of the road grow taller, even in the earlier days of the street.

Gloucester Road PC505 fp - Copy

This picture obviously comes from a quieter period for traffic. That street sweeper would not be standing there in later years. If you look in the distance as the road curves can you see this building?

Gloucester Court

St George’s Court, an apartment block built in 1907-09.  Here it is in another postcard:

St George's Court Gloucester Road

The ornate apartment block with its shops surmounted by small roof gardens is still there today of course.  Having already looked at the Survey of London for information on Bailey’s Hotel I naturally turned to them for some details on St George’s Court and they have done us proud again:  “This hefty building..is in one of the dowdier styles of Edwardian architecture, mixing elements  of Tudor and Baroque. red brick and brown stone dressings”.  Words I could not argue with, although I still like to look at it while passing by on the upper deck of a 49.

Arguably a more interesting block than on the opposite side of the road where there have been a few changes.

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A branch of Waitrose, 1970s, but I’m not sure of the exact date.

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And a couple of flash cars. These two pictures are from a contact sheet. It almost looks as though the photographer was on the move at the time.

As we come to another curve in the road and the end of Gloucester Road, this postcard image of a recognizable corner predates St George’s Court.

PC108 - Copy

This slightly blurred image is further north but shows the end of the road with a man running towards it for some reason best known to himself.

Pc511 - Copy

Finally, as we’ve bobbed about through the years this week, let’s go back to one of my favourite artists, William Cowen for a Gloucester Road view before the age of photography when a narrow road which was still called Gloucester Road ran through a rural setting.

 

C23 Mr Rigby's cottage

Mr Rigby’s cottage, near the station.

Postscript

It’s week eight of the great scanning famine (possibly the last week, fingers crossed) but I’m still finding pictures. I could almost have done a whole post just on postcards, but I decided to give you a touch of everything. There may be a iteration of the secret life of postcards coming up soon. I’ve just acquired an illustrated book by High Thomson, so if I can only scan the pictures, you can expect another post about him. It’s nearly time for some holiday posts.

In another postscript I referred to the fact that my friend Carl died quite young in 1999 but that I didn’t find out until quite recently. Writing this made me think of him again, our early days in London and the things he missed by never seeing this century. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dedicating a post once again to my friend Carl Spencer.


Now you see it, now you don’t..now you see it again

We’re still having technical problems here so this week’s post is one I’ve had in draft form for some time because I wasn’t sure about it. It’s just a shaggy dog story really which I’m telling because I happened to take some photographs of a building I found interesting. But enough prevarication.

The other thing is that I’m not going to go into any issues about planning, or ownership or  development because I don’t know anything about those in relation to this particular building. It’s just a curiosity and one of those things you might not even have noticed if you weren’t a regular visitor to the place concerned. So, here’s the story.

There was a building on the corner of Tregunter Road and the Little Boltons, just down the road from where I used to work at Brompton Library which had a big garden. So big that one year it was in the National Gardens Scheme, a once a year event when people would open their gardens to interested members of the public. This is the building in 2007.

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I took the photos then on my old camera because the property was clearly empty, and had that sad look of a substantial house worn down by the years. It was typical of the area – a large suburban villa it might have been called. That tower feature is not uncommon in the area. Look at a nearby house in Gilston Road. (picture from 1970)

Gilston Road 1970

The garden was overgrown, and no longer of interest to visitors.

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Then in 2009 the house was gone. These two pictures show the view of where the rear of the house would have been.

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The complete disappearance of the house was unusual but not remarkable. The size of the site would have been attractive to a new owner, whether an individual or a company. As far as I know the demolition happened in 2009. I wasn’t in the area so much by this time but I kept my eyes open when I was.

And then in 2014..

DSC_4353 Tregunter house

The house was miraculously back.

DSC_4354 tregunter house

Or at least someone had carefully built a new house which looked very much like the old one. A little bigger I thought when I first saw it, with slightly different proportions, but that could have been an illusion. A part of the builder’s sleight of hand. It’s there. Now it’s gone. Now it’s back. Magic in slow motion.

I’m sure there must have been problems of one kind or another. Given the size of the site and the popularity of subterranean development in Kensington and Chelsea there might be several basements or garages underneath it. But as I said I’m not interested in generating any controversy. It’s just one of those things that happens in London. The city I live in never fails to surprise me.

As I said above I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to anyone but me. The wandering blogger sometimes catches odd occurrences like in January 2011 when developers were refurbishing a whole terrace on the Fulham Road and one of the middle houses collapsed leaving this gap:

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Accidents happen I guess. I heard that part of the road was closed so I went to have a look. (Quite a few years ago near where I live a short terrace of buildings, its facade completely covered in scaffolding caused a sensation one Sunday morning when the whole structure of scaffolding collapsed into the street. I didn’t take a camera to that incident). Nowadays this stretch of road has a series of new businesses at ground level with residential accommodation above. I was there the other day and the facade looked completely homogeneous. You would never know the unfortunate collapse had happened.

In another part of South Kensington, you can find this nice seamless looking terrace behind a garden square:

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You would hardly know that a couple of years ago in 2014 the end of the terrace looked like this:

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Not knowing what was going to happen I never had the forethought to photograph the unremarkable three-storey block of flats (1960s, or late 1950s) which had occupied the corner site for years. And I haven’t been able to find any pictures of how that corner used to look. So you’ll have to take my word for it that the new version looks better than the old.

Tales from the building trade like these no doubt happen all the time, and not everyone is as fascinated by them as I am. But keep your eyes open. Buildings come and go like everything else.

Postscript

We my be experiencing “hardware issues” on the computer connected to our scanner so I may need to be creative in the weeks to come, and I might need to go off-piste. I have an interesting idea for next week but after that who knows?

Postscript to the Postscript

Thanks to a comment from London Remembers we can now see the former building as it was:

Hereford Square

This image is from Google Maps and is copyright by Google. The hoardings  are down in Tregunter Road so if you’re interested take a look at it.


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