Category Archives: Transport

Peter Dixon’s Paddington

This week’s post is written by my colleague and friend Isabel Hernandez. It’s a day later than usual, but that’s my fault, not hers,  as I was off for a few days after a minor medical procedure.

 

It has been a little while since my last contribution to The Library Time Machine, and I am long overdue on this blog that, really, should have been written several months ago. It was during this time that I was fortunate to have met local photographer, Peter Dixon, during an exhibition that was held in the Central Library and organised by the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group. On display were some fantastic photographs he took in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mainly of the North Kensington and Paddington areas, which had never been seen before. So, it’s with great pleasure that I am able to share with you some photographs that Peter Dixon was kind enough to give us as part of the Local Studies collection.

Later on in the postscript I will add a link to the website that shows more of Peter’s work and also how the project came about. I think you will find it of great interest, and is well worth a visit.

First, some photographs to pique your interest.

 

 

Above is one of my favourite images of the Harrow Road showing the New Red Lion pub. It has that magnificent lion on the top which I imagine must have been red. I’m probably stating the obvious, but it was before my time and I never saw it before the pub was demolished. To the right is a billboard advertising lager, just in case you fancied something other than your usual brew.

The New Red Lion was one of many pubs in the area, but it is listed in the directories (at least) since 1902. It survived many decades and probably served a good number of those employed by the Great Western Railway. As well as the station there were several wharves, Goods yards, and the Grand Junction Canal. Enough to keep the pub busy with workers enjoying some respite.

If alcohol wasn’t to your taste, there might have been the possibility of some milk. To the right of the Westbourne Bridge, practically next door, there used to exist a number of cattle pens, evidently serving a dairy that must have supplied the local area.

Beyond the Westbourne Bridge was Bishop’s Bridge Road. Some of you may remember the Bridge Café. But here I digress.

 

 

Above Is the junction between Lord Hill’s Road and possibly Westbourne Park Crescent. Familiar territory for those of you following the Paddington blog posts. What’s great about the following images is how Peter captured the local people. He was able to snap images of people going about their business or posing. Children, particularly, were often seen playing on the streets. In those days we didn’t have the technology or the means to amuse ourselves with the current plethora of indoor entertainment we have now. We spent more time outdoors, making up our own games.

 

 

A young lad on his bicycle possibly looking at the strange, if not cheeky, graffiti on the pillar of the house in front of him. Most of the houses in the area at this point were condemned for demolition to make way for the new Warwick Estate.

 

A bonfire burning fiercely to the left of the image. The gentleman in the foreground could be one of the workers in the area burning flammable items (wood perhaps) that might have resulted from the obvious destruction of the old houses once the bulldozers moved in. Safety helmets and formal attire were not compulsory at the time so it’s difficult to say if this was a construction worker, or a local resident. In the background you can just make out the eerie shadows of the new blocks that were going up almost as quickly as the terraces were being demolished. The past and the future, as I have probably mentioned in previous posts, was very marked during this period of redevelopment. It’s not unlike those glass behemoths being built all over London today giving everything a futuristic flavour.

 

 

St Mary Magdalene to the right, next to what I think was Woodchester Street. All the existing streets at the time were later demolished, rerouted or renamed. In the background is a tobacconist with the title: The Boar’s Head Tobacco, and a grocery shop: I &S Jones, advertising what looks like, Benedict peas. It would appear the premises were already vacant and no longer serving the local community at this point. There is a large ‘Sold’ sign between the two stores.

 

 

A young lad squints into the sun as Peter takes the photograph. His shadow visible on the right of the image.

 

 

Two chaps smiling at the camera. Peter did say that people were generally very friendly and obliging when asked if they could have their photo taken. It was considered something of a novelty.

 

 

A really nice candid shot of a group of gentlemen clearly enjoying a joke.

 

 

And here’s another wonderful image of some children being candidly themselves sitting outside a convenience store. Confectionery of any kind was always considered a real treat and the young lad in the middle is clearly enjoying a lollipop as he poses for the camera.

 

 

Two boys crossing the footbridge that links Formosa Street with Lord Hill’s Road, separated by the canal.

The footbridge no longer exists as you see it here. It was originally built by the canal company, taken over by the Metropolitan Board of works, and later conveyed to the vestries. I used to call it the dodgy bridge. It always seemed so destitute and neglected. Every time it was newly painted, it wasn’t long before the graffiti would leave its mark and time would strip away its freshness.

I used this footbridge frequently whenever I walked towards, Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale or to the library in Sutherland Avenue. It was replaced in the 1980’s, perhaps early 1990’s (if I remember correctly) by a far nicer, more open footbridge that has a better view of the canal and the surrounding area. The Paddington Stop pub as I remember it (now a gastro pub called The Waterway) was on the corner, and all the wharves that existed opposite Clarendon Street over the canal were all eventually pulled down and the area became residential with the Amberley Estate built as part of the redevelopment of the area.

 

 

The bridge with the canal and Delamere Terrace in view. The terraces you see were subsequently demolished and replaced by the flats you still see today as part of the Warwick Estate. The lady in the image appears to have, what looks like, a wash bag with her. Not an uncommon sight at the time. The luxury of having a washing machine is a relatively modern concept. I distinctly remember in my early years my mum taking our laundry, with us in tow, to the local launderette on the Harrow Road. It was next door to the off-licence, just before Cirencester Street. The interminable waiting for the washing cycle to end rendered me bored most of the time, so I would often have a library book with me to ease my impatience.

 

 

The same side of the bridge. Only here we see Blomfield Road where the difference in housing was evident. The villas that still exist along this side of the canal were a marked contrast to the terraces opposite. We always remarked on this distinction. ‘Posh people’ lived here! Perhaps these gentlemen were moving in?

 

 

A fantastic photograph taken from Delamere Terrace showing the wall that divided the street from the canal. The footbridge was flanked by a house, and at the foot of the stairs you can see a slightly leaning telephone box that seems, in my fanciful mind, like it doesn’t want to be there. The leaning phone box of Paddington was not there when I moved in, but neither was most of what you see in this image. Railings had replaced the wall. The roads were resurfaced and newly paved. Even the trees and lampposts were replaced. It wasn’t just the buildings that went, but much of what furnished the rest of the streets too.

 

 

This is another favourite of Peter Dixon’s Paddington photographs that I think summarises this particular area nicely. One to end this post on. He took this in 1964 – a few years after he first started photographing the area. By this time a lot of the new flats had been built and the tower blocks were going up. The Warwick Estate, with the elegant St Mary Magdalene as its centre piece, was nearing completion. A few new blocks were still to be insinuated into the fabric of the LCC plan, but it was almost done. The area was opened up and became less crowded. The wall by the canal was taken down and eventually replaced with railings. The canal sidewalk would be paved and made more accessible to the general public. And yet…in the foggy distance to the right, the buildings of old were still awaiting their fate. As with all the photographs I have talked about in the Paddington blogs, the juxtaposition between the old and the new is stark.

Interestingly, to the right of the image you can see a canal boat. Nothing unusual. The canal was always a working waterway, used to transport goods and sometimes passengers. But with the decline of the canal transport industry and the deteriorating condition of the waterways beginning to show, it was the leisure industry that helped to revive interest in the canals. Although the pool at Little Venice was always intended for pleasure boats, there was no obvious leisure service. Summer excursions from Little Venice to Camden Town, was really only just started in 1951 by John James. That’s his boat in the background. The company still exists to this day. I remember a number of trips to London Zoo in Regents Park from here and the echoing tunnels as we passed through. Fond memories of a long ago childhood.

 

Postscript:

Firstly, I would like to thank Peter Dixon for allowing me to use these images for the library blog (all copyright is his). Thanks also go to Maggie Tyler and the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group for their contribution in bringing these marvellous photographs to light and the exhibition that ensued. For more on this please visit:

http://outandaboutandplay.weebly.com/about.html

I hope you have enjoyed revisiting this part of Paddington again. I have been reading all your comments and reminiscences from previous posts with interest, and realise just how many stories there are to tell. With this in mind I would like to tell you about the St Mary Magdalene’s website which references an oral history project that is collecting stories about north Paddington from anyone who wishes to contribute.

https://st-mary-magdalene.co.uk/2017/07/20/community-projects-st-mary-mags/

George Kambouroglou is the heritage officer working on this oral history project as part of the St Mary Mags church development. The oral history project looks at historic north Paddington and the surrounding area. So if anyone is interested in contributing their memories, please contact him directly at George@pdt.org.uk .

Thanks for reading!

 

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Mews views

We’re starting this week back with our old friend Ashburn Mews. I thought I’d dealt pretty comprehensively with that comparatively small piece of territory but I realised while looking for some pictures of mews arches that Ashburn Mews had also been looked at by the Edwardian photographer Ernest Milner who worked for the District and Piccadilly Circus Railway in the early years of the 20th century doing his own photo survey of streets under which the deep tunnel Piccadilly line was to run. You can see more of his work in this post on Brompton Road, this one on Earls Court Road and this one  on Sloane Street and Lowndes Terrace.

One of the other, humbler streets on his list was Ashburn Mews.

 

 

The entrance arch in Ashburn Place is dimly visible at the end. A man is working on a carriage. The mews streets were not used for horses and stable with dwellings on the first floor but also for other workplaces like this:

 

 

My transport correspondent tells me that there plenty of electric vehicles which ran on rechargeable batteries in this era and electric vehicles vied with petrol engine cars and buses for market domination. An electric car held the land speed record until 1900. By 1907 the London Electro Bus Company ran 20 buses in London. The company turned out to be some kind of scam rather than a serious bus company and it closed, but for a while there had been a contest which might have been won by the cleaner technology. ( For more on this subject look at this post from the always fascinating blog the Beauty of Transport).

Further down the mews some evidence of human habitation with  these clothes hanging on a line.

 

 

The arch at either end of the mews, with one main entrance and two smaller ones on either side was a frequent feature.

This one is in Egerton Gardens Mews.

 

 

Note the small sign which reads “Commit no nuisance.”

Below Clarke Brothers announce their ability to do “all kind of jobbing work”.

 

 

Many mews arches have survived into the present, like this one.

 

 

The plain looking entrance to Cornwall Mews.

A much more grand arch below.

 

 

Queen’s Gate Place Mews, looking inwards.

 

And outwards (almost as grand)

 

 

These arches are often immediately inspired by arches in the classical world. The one below. This one, Holland Park Mews is said to be influenced by the Arch of Constantine in Rome.

 

 

Unusually, the mews slopes down at both ends, both here in Holland Park (the street of that name rather than the actual park), and below at the other end (in the same street).

 

 

I’ve been looking out for them as I travel, wondering if I should do by own survey . On the  49 I pass Kynance Mews, two iterations of Stanhope Mews (east and west) and also see mewses which have either lost their arches or never had one like Reece Mews. Sometimes a Mews is just a convenient back way for pedestrians, or a useful location for film and television (from the Avengers to McMafia).

The actual reason for this post is a postcard  I recently bought on Ebay of another mews arch which like the one in Ashburn Mews no longer exists. I wanted to feature it here.

This image of Elvaston Mews shows a different style of arch, although the ground floors of these buildings have the same sets of doors, and the upper floors are living spaces with useful openings.

 

And those metal bins, perhaps for forage deliveries. You can see that Elvaston Mews crossed Elvaston Place and that there were two arches, both visible in the picture. One of them now only exists as a pair of stumps. (Try it on Street View) The arch was removed in the 1930s. It’s hard to say which arch is the survivor from this picture.

Here is that figure on the upper floor enlarged.

 

 

A boy, keeping an eye on the photographer. He can’t tell us which arch survived.

Postscript

Thanks to Councillor Sam Mackover who drew my attention to the postcard.

If your appetite for mewses is whetted, there is a book called Mews Style by Sebastian Decker  (Quiller Press 1998) which might satisfy you. I certainly found it fascinating.

Thanks also to Lucy Elliott who just came into Local Studies to ask me about Kensington Court Mews (some more interesting pictures but no arch) and told me there there are 19 mews streets in Kensington and Chelsea. Not all of them have arches of course but they’re all interesting in their own way.

 

 


Car spotting in Oxford and Cambridge (Gardens)

The content of this post arises from the use of an occasional method of mine to stimulate inspiration. Start scanning with one picture you like and keep going until a theme emerges. I don’t know if it always work.

For some reason probably to do with my teenage ideas about what London was like and my deep-seated desire to live there I was very taken with this picture.

 

 

Possibly it was because this block of “new flats”, as John Rogers calls them,  in Oxford Gardens struck me as a distinctly 1960s design, light, airy, optimistic and modern in a street dominated by 19th century suburban villas. I have a weakness for these anonymous boxes which can be found all over Europe. It looks a bit like a student hall of residence.

The old style houses have their own charms of course.

 

The mid-Victorian terrace is another trope of London living in the late 60s and early 70s. Characters in sit-coms and modern dramas lived in them. Pleasant tree lined avenues, a bit windswept, plenty of fallen leaves and a scattering of rough looking British cars.

I know I’ve already implied in the title that there’s going to be some car identification in this post (that was the “theme” which emerged) , but the truth is I’m not that strong on British cars of this era, so I’m going to have to rely on the car aficionados among my readers to do most of the actual spotting. I just know when I see something interesting.

 

 

Now that chunky two-tone monster has got to be something good. It looks like it could swallow the Hillman Imp (?) behind it, maintaining a safe distance from the big-eyed creature.

The two cars below look a little exotic.

 

 

Is that a Volvo? The sporty one I mean. The one I’m not so sure of, but that grille feature on the side looks familiar somehow. I feel I should know it.

Here’s a Cortina in Cambridge Gardens.

 

 

The fairly distinctive rear end of the Mark 1. When I was young you knew that the GB sign meant that the car had been abroad, cruising along continental roads. An Austin Something in the background.

Some of the houses look a little dilapidated, awaiting the coming tide of gentrification.

 

 

A Fiat on the right, and between the houses a glimpse of the Westway, or the Western Avenue Extention as it was sometimes referred to at the time. You can see it again here.

 

 

Some characteristic graffiti late 60s by the entrance to an access point for builders and other workers .

 

 

Above some indistinct graffiti you can see a sign for Laing, the giant construction company which built the Westway. We used some pictures which originated with the company in a few earlier posts. (A typical one) We have many more, and may come back to them again this year.

But back to cars. Here’s a crowd of them, further down the road.

 

 

Is that a Triumph in the foreground? A line of parked cars back in 1969/1970/1971  is always interesting, to me at least. In recent times parked vehicles have become an obstruction for the wandering photographer, as I’ve found many times when looking for equivalent scenes to the ones in our photo survey.

There are other sights from the era , such as this low-slung light industrial building, which is still there today.

 

 

Or of course the occasional pedestrian.

 

 

A different Cortina, with some pedestrians worth zooming in on.

 

 

Despite the unlikeliness of one of these people seeing this post, such things have happened, so if one of them is you , or you know who they are, please leave a comment. In any set of photos there are always people you wonder about. That also applies to the cars. In one of my recent posts about Kensal Road, a reader spotted his father’s Studebaker, which I found very pleasing.

Finally, back to where we started. The “new flats”, which are not so new these days but do look more colourful in this century.

 

 

And another line of cars for identification.

 

I’ve jumped about this week so sorry for that and also for giving out identification work and expecting wiser heads to fill in the gaps in my knowledge but as is often the case, the cars stick out for me when looking at pictures from this era. On the subject of cars here is another question. I think I’ve mentioned before that around the late 1970s, somewhere off Dalgarno Gardens (I think) there was a small street which was filled with old Jaguars, which must have been someone’s collection. Does anyone remember this, or are there any photographs? I’m sure I haven’t imagined it.

 

Obituary Postscript

Having had nothing to report at the end of the last post in the way of the deaths of people I liked, since the last post a fortnight ago  (I gave myself Easter off as I was mostly at home) we have had two deaths in the world of crime fiction.

Philip Kerr was the author of many books but is mainly remembered for the Bernie Gunther series, following a Berlin detective through WW2 and into the Cold war. Although he lived far from the usual haunts of hard boiled detectives, Gunther was a true noir character (although far more ambiguous in his moral code than any Chandler or Hammett hero). If you haven’t read any of the books, I envy you because you now have the chance to read them in chronological order – one of the challenges for Gunter fans was where and when Gunter would start each story. (I see there is some disagreement on this point though, so follow your own instincts) Kerr also wrote three entertaining thrillers in which a football manager solved crimes, surely a first for the genre. His death at what I consider to be a young age is a great loss.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Stephen Bochco, writer, producer and showrunner of many American television crime shows has also passed away. Hill Street Blues was a genuinely innovative show which has influenced a huge number of TV programmes in many genres over the years, and I remember watching each episode avidly in the days before binge-watching. For me and others his masterpiece is NYPD Blue, 12 seasons of police work in one New York precinct in the 1990s, when New York’s mean streets were very mean. It was fascinating to watch the secondary lead character, Detective Andy Sipowicz, become the hero as he made a journey from personal disasters and tragedies to some kind of redemption, contending with his own shortcomings as well as major and minor crimes.

Be careful out there.


On the border 6.1: Canal

The next couple of posts arise from this photograph, which  my  friend  Maggie  got excited about a couple of weeks ago. (There aren’t too many pictures of this building.) This one comes from our collection of former Planning photos  and was taken on October 16th 1984. You can see the staple in the middle which joins two prints together, as we used to do before we could get help from a computer.

 

 

 

 

It shows the rear of the former public  baths in Kensal Road which backed onto the  Grand Union Canal. (Previously known as the Grand Junction Canal) Two  faded lines  of graffiti seem to read “Save  our baths“.Too late perhaps. The impressive building must have been close  to demolition given the date . You can see Trellick Tower in the background to give you some idea of the location.

The highlighted graffiti  reads “An eye for an eye – in the end the whole world goes blind.” A characteristically seventies bit of instant sloganeering. See this old post about graffiti.

On the left is one of those scary high sided foot  bridges which were hated by young and old alike because you never knew what you might encounter on them while crossing. (Known locally as the halfpenny steps I’m told.)

This picture shows the steps up to the bridge, and the main entrance to the baths in Wedlake Street (the baths were sometimes called the Wedlake Baths). No amount of peering with a magnifying glass (another piece of old tech used in local studies) will reveal the wording text of the graffiti.

 

 

This is the view around the corner in Kensal Road, another carefully stapled image. The building on which JM and his friends have left their mark were once the Vestry Offices.

 

 

Historical note: up to 1900 the Chelsea Vestry owned a piece of territory called Kensal New Town which straddled the later border between Kensington and Paddington, so these Vestry offices originally belonged to Chelsea, as did the wharf, as we’ll see later.

Kensal Road now runs from Ladbroke Grove to Golborne Road, ending more or less at Trellick Tower but it formerly went all the way to the Great Western Road, running parallel with the canal, and north of the railway line. This is why I wanted to look at this border area, the canal and the road, together. This week we’ll look at the canal, so back to the water.

 

 

This view of the towpath is the last of this series from 1984.

This older image shows the backs of the industrial buildings on the south side of the canal.

 

 

This one gives a better view of the north side.

 

 

It’s a slightly discoloured image (some colour prints go that way) which shows how the houses and shops on the Harrow Road went right up to the edge of the canal. My houseboat correspondent tells me that one of these was the rear of a fish and chip shop and that boat people could get their order handed to them without leaving their boats.

We’re heading west from this point back towards Ladbroke Grove. But before we get there we should stop off at Portobello Dock.

 

 

The dock (once called Kensal Wharf) is a small basin off the canal. As part of Kensal New Town it would once have belonged to the Chelsea Vestry. (Access to the canal might well have been useful to the Vestry, just as some landlocked nations like to have access to the sea or to useful waterways. The Kensington Vestry once owned a riverside section of Chelsea and later had a wharf on the river near Chelsea Creek.)

 

 

These two pictures have been cropped from a contact sheet. (See the pen mark at the top of the image.) This one shows where the dock area could be entered from Kensal Road.

This picture by local photographer Peter Dixon shows the somewhat waterlogged towpath with the gas works in the background and on the right the Narrow Boat public house.

 

 

There is another photograph showing the now demolished pub by Peter in the Ladbroke Grove post I did a couple of years ago.

On the other side of the road, in a picture from 1975, you can see the gas works (covered quite extensively in this post) and on the other side of the canal, the wall of Kensal Green Cemetery.

 

 

The gas works had two basins of its own. You can see the entrance to the smaller one  (which still exists) in the foreground. The bridge over the entrance to the larger basin is visible in the distance.

Here is a picture of a barge actually entering the basin.

 

 

This view shows the rear of the barge as it performs this manoeuvre.

 

 

I think this is the smaller basin, about 1970.

 

 

Back on the main body of the canal we carry on westwards. This view of the less grand section of the cemetery looks quite rural, as it would have been once.

 

 

And finally, this view just around the corner gives us a traditional motor barge passing by  a stand of trees with only the gasometer to give the setting away.

1970s we think, based on the plastic sheathed tree on the right.

That takes us along the northern border of Kensington and Chelsea by canal. The next post gets back to the road.

Postscript

Thanks to Peter Dixon for his photograph, which is reproduced by permission. Please do not use it without his permission.

Thanks also to Barbara for providing the two pictures of the barge entering the basin, and for finding many of the others which come from our Planning collection. I’m grateful for the continuing interest of North Kensington residents in their history which is just as fascinating as the more “historical” parts of Kensington and Chelsea.


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.

 


The Bridge: Ladbroke Grove 1938

The original station at Ladbroke Grove was called Notting Hill station and was part of the Hammersmith and City Railway (later the Metropolitan Railway). It was built in 1864. If you look back at the post on Ladbroke Grove you can see it as it was before the street north of the station was built up. This is a slightly later view:

Ladbroke Grove Station PC1137

This kind of view, showing the railway lines passing over the street on a steel bridge is familiar in many parts of London. The station was subsequently called “Notting Hill (Ladbroke Grove)”, “Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove” and “Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington)”. It didn’t settle down as “Ladbroke Grove” until 1938.

This coincides with the replacement of the bridge itself, a tricky maneuver  as the plan was to prefabricate the new span, detach the old one, roll it away on trestles and slide the new one into place. This week’s pictures show the story of the new bridge from the foundry in Middlesborough where it was constructed to its new home in North Kensington. Just as in our posts on the Westway when it helps if you’re a fan of concrete this week is for devotees of steel.

K61-1115 624.2 wide view of wokshop

At Dorman, Long & Co of Middlesborough, in the apparent chaos of the foundry sit the parts of the bridge, dim light from the glass roof streaming through the overhead gantry.

K61-1116 624.2 girder and roof

And men at work, welding the sections of the girder together.

K61-1113 624.2 outside girder

A helpful sign has been placed in front of the workers by management. Photography was becoming part of the industrial process, keeping a record of big jobs. Note the brick huts at the rear of the picture. They remind me of a summer job I had at the Shotton Steel Works in North Wales. Within the vast space of the cold strip mill the fitters huddled in huts waiting for the call (and I carried the bag of tools).

K60-130 624.2 outside girder

Here a man uses an oxy-acetylene torch, holding the mask between his face and the flame.

K61-1114 624.2 welding

And below, with the girder on its side. You can see the flare of another torch on the left.

K61-1112 624.2panel

The same view from another angle:

K61-1111 624.2 panel

The upside down writing reads: end plate girder B. A couple of indistinct men pass by taking a close look at the work.

A picture showing some detail with another caption, pointing out the flange splice (a piece of industrial poetry).

K60-129 624.2 flange splice

And this, another expressive phrase.

K60-131 624.2 butt weld

After all the assembly work, all that remained was the small matter of installing the new bridge at Ladbroke Grove

K61-1109 FP bridge

Cranes on the track with a house on the western side of Ladbroke Grove on the other. Can you see the word Greig? Not something superimposed on the pictures but a sign above a shop on some kind of metal superstructure. Two workmen and a manager (distinguished by his homberg hat) look on as the cranes lower the girder into place.

K61-1118 624.2 bridge on top

You can see the street below the work as the bridge is put into place.

A finished weld:

K60-133 624.2 weld

We can tell that this picture was taken on site because you can just see the top of a roof line on the right.

K61-1117 624.2 bridge from south

A final view looking north at the bridge, a few decades after the first picture in the post. A couple of men in coats confidently watch from below. You can see the steel trestle supporting the new and old sections of the bridge. The street (and the railway) were closed for the work which was completed in a single day. The bridge was then the largest of its kind.

Girder C has another painted sign : Hammersmith End. Very useful. You wouldn’t want to have got it the wrong way round, would you?

 

Postscript

After May Queens and shops in South Kensington it was good to get back to some industrial images. Remember the posts on the gas works, the water tower and the building of Chelsea Bridge in 1936? We had a discussion in the department about how we think about the 1930s and how political and social events seem to crowd out the technological changes which were happening between the two world wars.

Thanks to Tim who found these pictures and suggested them for the blog. He also came up with the suggestion that a phrase I was particularly taken with,”butt weld” was a brand name for an American anti-diarrhea medicine. Sorry.

 


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