Category Archives: Transport

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.

 

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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.

 


Pelham Street 1970: down by the station

Anyone who lives in the South Kensington area will probably recognise this view even though the picture was taken about 1970.

Malvern Court corner of Pelham Street KS5979

The building is Malvern Court. On the right side is Onslow Gardens, where most of the buses get down to the Fulham Road. On the left is Pelham Street. Both of these streets face South Kensington Station, from which the picture was taken.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970

South Kensington Station, like its near neighbour Gloucester Road (see this post) is actually two stations. One is the original Metropolitan and District Railway station opened in 1868.

The other is the Piccadilly Line station.

Pelham Street north side 1970

The deep line was opened in 1906 . In those days it looked like this:

PC304 fp - Copy

(The Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway)  The two stations existed side by side although eventually access was purely through the District and Metropolitan entrance.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970KS33

Note the older wrought iron lettering below the “modern” sign. And see how close the road is to the station entrance. The pedestrianised zone around the front of the station has enlarged considerably in recent years creating the modern plaza which makes things easier for walkers and the traffic management simpler.

I cannot resist a peek inside the arcade.

South Kensington Station arcade looking south 1970 - Copy

Vinces (groceries?) , (Hudson Brothers in grander times) are closing down and some winter fashions are being worn. (It’s January) The iron lettering is visible, as is the 3 minute heel bar.

But this post is not actually about the station so much as the shops and services clustered around it. In 1970 this included Dino’s Restaurant, and the intriguing Brazilian Yerbama Company, importers of medicinal herbs.

Pelham Street east side 7 Brazilian Yerbama 1970

The anonymous looking shopfront next to them with the handwritten notices in the window is an estate agent, the imaginatively named Pelham Estate Offices. And beside them, where you can now queue up for Ben’s Cookies, is Kontad Limited who sold Typewriters, Calculators and office equipment. Many of them are on view in the window with a sign for Grundig who made many electonic devices in those days. I used to own typewriters….(drifts away, reminiscing….)

Pelham Street east side 7-9 Kontad 1970

Those of you brought up in the digital age cannot imagine the relief I felt when I started to use a computer regularly for that new-fangled word processing. Readers of my own age group can spare a moment for nostalgia about worn out ribbons, jammed keys, carbon paper and correcting fluid

On the other side of the station building was a business with a puzzling sign.

,Pelham Street north side 15 LW Fleet upholsterers 1970

LW Fleet Limited, upholsterers. “Curtain makers, Upholsters, Decorating consultants” I think. Perhaps they were shutting down and didn’t mind the falling letters.

But hold on a minute. If you take a moment now and check out the eastern side of Pelham Street on Google Maps Street View all you will find next to the station is a wall, behind which are the rail tracks. It’s difficult to imagine a row of buildings in that spot, seemingly perched on the edge of a railway line but here it is – Station Buildings as you can see in the roof line sign below.

Pelham Street north side 17-19 Primitives formerly Cathay Gifts 1970

Although it looks unlikely, clearly there was room at the top of the slope to the tracks to fit in a row of two storey buildings with retail outlets such as Primitives (“dealers in works of art”). I was at the station this morning to have a look in the flesh (or should that be in the bricks?) and if you factor in the width of the Piccadilly line station there was room, although you must have had to be careful at the rear exits of the buildings. Let’s just look at the view from the platform.

South Kensington Station interior looking east 1970 - Copy

There is no view of the back of the station buildings. I had some hopes for the building on the right above the platform roof with a fire escape but I eventually found:

OS map 1949-50 South Kensington Station - Copy - Copy

A 1:2500 scale OS sheet which showed them. The building with the fire escape is an electricity sub station on the other side of the bridge (which is still there today).

Next to Primitives was Flair (“gowns”, according to Kelly’s Post Office Directory).

Pelham Street north side 21 Flair gowns 1970

Those two young women striding by look as though the goods in the Flair window are not going to delay them. (The puzzle is that clock, but more on that in a moment.) I’ve been looking at the windows above the shops. Something about those open windows and the visible light says office space to me, rather than residential (there are no entries in the eelctoral register for this section of the street)

Pelham Street north side 23 Ashley Shops 1970

At last, a famous name, Laura Ashley, with some of her distinctive dresses in the window. “Sale now on”.

In the picture below at numbers 27-29, the Rice Bowl, a Chinese restaurant and coffee bar. I don’t know why the clock with their name on it is still attached to Flair at number 21.

Pelham Street north side 27-29 Rice Bowl 1970

Beside the Rice Bowl at 31/33 another place to eat, Bistro 33. The owner didn’t spend too much time naming his or her establishment.

Pelham Street north side 31-33 Bistro 33 1970

Nice 70s lettering though, and a 70s dude walking by to give us some local colour. In close up you can see through the windows of the Mini that shepherd’s pie and Spanish omelette were on offer. Fairly standard bistro fare for the period I suppose.

I have no pictures of the remaining establishments, Stefan’s Delicatessen, Elsa (milliner) or Roger W Pliszka Antiques Limited, which is a shame. After them Kelly’s tells us: here is Pelham Place.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS133

Beneath the road (which is actually part of Thurloe Square) where those Morrises or Austins are parked and behind that ragged and overgrown wall is the railway, now going underground.

You can still see this distinctive building on the west side of Pelham Street, the brick chimney contrasting with the  plastered front. The wall is still there, benefiting from a little tidying up.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS143

The woman in the leather coat on the other hand has moved on now and might be harder to find these days.

 

Postscript

I was off work last week and arrived back not quite sure what to do for this week’s post. Would it be Shakespeare related? What about those water colours by a 19th century lady? Or possibly Backwaters 2? I’d almost settled on that but found myself getting fascinated by these vanished shops which had been drawn to my attention by Michael Bach. So thanks to him.

On the subject of last week’s backwaters I should add that the pictures were of Royal Crescent garden square, W11, Railway Mews W11 (off Ladbroke Grove), Lexham and Radley Mews, W8, Lenthall Place, SW7 and Cavaye Place SW10. All north of the Fulham Road and therefore all in Kensington according to the traditional boundary. There will be more of them soon.


Monsieur Bibendum’s house: the Michelin Building

People who know the way my mind works will already have been expecting this post after I reminded myself about the Michelin Man’s connection with Chelsea the other week and been wondering why we haven’t been here before. Those who know me spookily well will also make the connection with one of my literary heroes William Gibson, who included the image of the man made of tyres in his novel Pattern Recognition (which doesn’t have quite enough scenes set in the Borough to qualify for my fiction in K&C series). The protagonist Cayce Pollard finds some brands and trademarks toxic and disruptive to her talents. An enemy of hers uses the image of the Michelin Man against her. “that weird, jaded, cigar-smoking elder creature suggesting a mummy with elephantiasis. ” She counters the effect in various ways including a mantra: he took a duck in the face at two hundred and fifty knots. Fortunately she never goes near 81 Fulham Road. (Any other sufferers from semiotic distress should avert their eyes for the next few pictures)

The Michelin Man himself goes back to the 1890s when Edouard Michelin was struck by the anthropomorphic possibilities of a pile of tyres at a trades exhibition and asked the uniquely named graphic artist O’Galop to bring the conception to life. The new mascot got his name from a Latin phrase from the poet Horace: Nunc est bibendum (now is the time to drink) which in this case referred to the unstoppable nature of the pneumatic tyres, drinking up obstacles . (“le pneu Michelin boit l’obstacle!”) Bibendum was depicted holding up a glass full of nails and other debris of the highway. (The other hand of course held a cigar, indicating a love of the good life). He starred in a variety of posters from 1898 onwards.

Nunc est bibendum - Copy

Bibendum rapidly became not just a symbol of the Michelin company but a cultural icon in his own right, popping up in all sorts of places.

Theatre 01 - Copy

He had become one of the new icons of industry and advertising. Andre Michelin entered motor races to demonstrate the superiority of the tyres. The Michelin company  published its first guide book, promoting the idea of road travel, tourism and the rating of restaurants – the start of a parallel industry for them.

In the UK the company decided it needed a headquarters which would combine administrative, retail and promotional functions. The Michelin building was born in what was then a relatively obscure, largely commercial, area where Chelsea met Kensington.

Announcement

Michelin House, designed by  Francois Espinasse and opened in 1911 turned out to be an imaginative, stylish and unique addition to the Chelsea landscape, and a celebration of their emblem. Bibendum had long since attained corporeal form and appeared in public for trade fairs, publicity events and even carnivals, as we saw a couple of weeks ago. He had become very much like a figure from folklore or a minor deity. Below he pays a visit to his new Art Nouveau temple in its opening year.

1911 London Olympia Motor Show

Note the stained glass windows, suitable for a 20th century cathedral, and the two spherical structures on either end of the facade. Originally two giant effigies of Bibendum were intended to stand there.

Inside there was a grand reception area.

Reception

A “touring office” like a reference library where travelers could plan their road trips.

touring office - Copy

And a workshop. Tyres could be bought, fitted, checked and repaired on the premises.

Workshop 1912

The exterior of the building also celebrated the company’s sporting achievements.

Michelin House postcard photo by Peter Moore

A series of 34 ceramic panels  depicted the exciting days of early motor sport.

Tiles 01b

 

tiles 05

Tiles 01a

The building added prestige to the Michelin brand and its ubiquitous emblem.

But times change, even for the demi-gods of advertising iconography. Michelin moved its head office in the 1930s, the stained glass windows were removed for fear of possible bomb damage (and subsequently lost) in 1940. The two globes had also gone by the time of this photo from 1971.

1971 article - Copy

This gloomy undated picture from our planning department shows that alterations were planned.

Michelin House pl03

But in 1985 the whole building was bought by Sir Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn. The picture below also came from our planning collection. The globes were restored and the windows recreated as the building entered a new phase of its history.

Michelin House photo 1990s photo by David Nolan

The new version of the interior featured restaurants.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 03a - Copy

And retail – below,  an 80s woman choosing candles.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 04 - Copy

In 1988 the Illustrated London News featured the building as the first in a series they called sacred cows. As I went down to the Reference Store to find the article featuring these three images (“Palace of Vanities”) I noted that the bound volumes of the illustrious ILN came to an end a few years later. The great magazine unfortunately ceased publication in 1994.

Bibendum’s house survives, and  still amazes the passer by.

Palace of Vanities ILN Mar 1988 02 - Copy

Finally, back to where we began, with the early history of the man of tyres. Anyone sensitive to advertising, or just sensitive, should look away now….

Olympia 1908

Postscript

The Michelin building is more of a hidden treasure than a sacred cow. As someone who lives in Chelsea I have to admit that I seldom see it. I just don’t go that way very often. But whenever I do it cheers me up. London should have more buildings like it.

The Library has a virtually complete set of the Illustrated London News from 1842 to 1994. It remains an amazing historical source. A digital version of the ILN archives is also available.

 


On the border 2: the edge of Kensington 1971

I was juggling with ideas about edge lands and terminal wastelands and that kind of thing when I was trying to find a title for this post, which is a kind of prelude to something coming up in a couple of weeks when I made the connection with another post featuring the photographs of Bernard Selwyn which I called On the border. That was set in the south west tip of the Borough in the area next to Fulham where Chelsea Harbour was built. This week, we’re right at the border with Hammersmith looking at an area in the throes of development in 1971.

South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 004 - Copy - Copy

I should explain that the man who took the pictures which make up this photo collage, Bernard Selwyn, was a professional surveyor with an abiding interest in the history and development of west London. A few years ago he left the Library in his will a mass of material – notes, photocopies, maps and above all photographs. One of our volunteers spent a couple of months or more combing through this material and arranging it by subject in a set of boxes and plastic crates. Since then I (and Isabel) been able to draw on it for a variety of purpose including a few posts on this blog.

In this case Selwyn is standing near the top of Frinstead House looking south. The road on the right is the West Cross Route. (which I imagined would have changed its name by now, but that name still appears on maps.) At the centre rear you can see one of the towers of the Edward Wood estate. We’ll fill in the gaps with some later pictures, but first look at the foreground where you can see the elevated railway line and what remains of a spur line which went into Hammersmith. You can see it better in this picture.South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 003 3And again in this close up view.

col 06 27 jul 1971 - CopyNote how light the traffic is on a major road to Shepherd’s Bush. Some of these colour prints are tiny by modern standards but the colour has lasted well and they give us a detailed view of these spaces between roads and rails and industrial sites.

col 04 27 jul 1971 - Copy

The Patent Steam Carpet Beating Company, right up against the railway arches in July 1971.

Let’s just go off on a tangent for a moment and look at at a close up from one of the pictures above.

South views from Frinstead House Latimer Road 22 June 1971 002 6 and 7 - Copy

On the Hammersmith side of the border just in front of those two towers you can see a pair of walkways which (I am informed by a local expert) were once an entrance way to the Franco British Exhibition at White City which remained in use for some time afterwards. But I won’t stray too far into someone else’s territory. Let’s get back on our own side of the border. About that truncated section of railway….

The end of the spur sat in an empty space. Selwyn’s job got him inside the fence.

Land between Bard Road and 163 Latimer Road 22 june 1971 - Copy

The concrete niches on the left are where the spur was blocked off. The tall building just off centre is the Phoenix Brewery towering above the just visible roof of the former Bramley Arms.

If Selwyn turns around and looks in another direction (he’s marked them on the card the photos are glued to), this is what he sees.

Land between Bard Road and 163 Latimer Road 22 june 1971 - Copy (3)

The gap in the fence where two men are walking is Bard Road and the industrial buildings beyond. The narrow chimney is on the other side of the motorway in Hammersmith.

Selwyn visited the area two or three times  in 1971, sometimes with monochrome film in his camera.

Fidelity Radio site looking southt 02 may 1971 BS34

Another view south, from May this time, with the practically empty motorway.

Looking north, back at the Brewery, and next to it, a then relatively new inhabitant of the west London skyline.

Fidelity Radio site looking north west 02 may 1971 BS27

Trellick Tower, barely visible next to the brewery buidling but one of the tallest buildings in the area.

Selwyn took more tiny prints of the area and taped them together to make larger images, a technique surveyors and planners made considerable use of in those days.

FD24-26 and 28 02 May 1971 BS

I’ve left some of these images uncompressed so you can see more detail when you click on them.

FD31-32 02 May 1971 BSSelwyn hovered around that building on the left like an obsessed stalker.

Fidelity Radio site 02 may 1971 BS17 - Copy

Waste paper blowing around in a deserted street in front of the locked gates.

And now we’re skulking in the hidden spaces ourselves, the fence marking the edge of the new road.

Fidelity Radio site 02 may 1971 BS30 - Copy

I have to admit that I was always prone to this mild form of urban exploration, as a teenager and even later. The interstices of the city.

This is the area that later became known as Frestonia. I’ve touched on its history before and used some post-Selwyn views which add to the story in this post so forgive me for a bit of repetition.

Cover of planning document

This shows a similar view to the first, with the spaces more crowded but relatively little change in the overall scene. 1980s?

The view below, 1990s I think,  shows a more developed, tidier area with some extra housing and more office buildings. Selwyn would have lived to see this view but he never recorded his thoughts. I would like to go back to Frinstead House and take some pictures myself but that’s not as easy as it used to be.

Freston Road area - modern photo

For a moment let’s go back to Selwyn in June 1971 looking down from his perch.

22 june 1971 from Frinstead House

Focus on that irregularly shaped block of houses just off centre near the top of the picture. Can you see a shop at the junction of two roads? We’ll be down there soon.

Postscript

If you can spot any errors in locations or directions please point them out. I’ve gone over them with a couple of local residents but you can never be completely sure you’ve got everything right.  The follow-up post to this one which will come in a couple of weeks stays in the same area but goes down to street level. Thanks to Barbara and Maggie for their invaluable local expertise.

Postscript to the postscript – a vaguely related matter

There’s been some fuss about reactions to the recent death of Glenn Frey, formerly of the Eagles. After David Bowie was praised to the skies (by me also) why was Frey derided by some people? So I thought it only fair to say that although I was over the Eagles by the time of Hotel California I loved their first three albums (one of which was called On the Border) particularly Desperado, a definite country rock classic. And who could say bad things about a man who wrote one of the great lyrics in pop history: “Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona / Such a fine sight to see / It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford / Slowing down to take a look at me” (Take it easy – Jackson Browne gave the song to Frey for the Eagles and he wrote many fine lyrics but Frey himself wrote those crucial lines. ) So thank you, and rest in peace Glenn Frey.


A secret life of postcards special: first gear

When I do posts featuring picture postcards I normally focus on the people in the pictures, zooming in on the street life of the ordinary passers by. I have looked at a few buses along the way in an incidental way. But this week I thought I would concentrate on images involving transport, mostly of buses but also a few other ways of getting around in the golden age of the picture postcard. That era spans the transition from the horse drawn bus to the motor bus. You can see both in this picture:

Cromwell Place

Cromwell Place is the point near South Kensington Station where a number of bus routes converge. If you look on the right of the picture you can see one of the towers of the Natural History Museum. But never mind that. Let’s look at the buses.

Cromwell Place - Copy

Two motor buses and one horse bus. Before the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC ) absorbed them, bus services were operated by a number of different companies and the buses themselves manufactured in small runs by coach building companies who did other  types of vehicle, hence some variation in design (although features such as the curved staircase at the rear set a pattern which was followed into the 1960s). Here a lone horse bus with the inevitable advert for Pear’s Soap meets up with a couple of buses from the fleet of a company called Union Jack (later, the London Road Car Company).

Turn to the left of the picture and you would be looking down Harrington Road.

Harrington Road PC312 Norfolk Hote

This view would be quite recogniseable today. That grand doorway on the left is still there as is the hotel building. (Then the Norfolk Hotel, now the Ampersand). The low rise building next to it also still exists, and the Local Studies team went for a meal in a resturant on the left very recently. But the young musician crossing the road is presumably no longer with us.

Harrington Road PC312

Nor is the woman in the apron crossing behind the private carriage (or is that two?). The bus, whose driver seems to be making some sort of adjustment to the side of the vehicle, looks like it was on a route involving Turnham Green and Kensington Church Street, so it’s odd to find it at South Kensington. Although route numbers were not introduced until the LGOC controlled most bus traffic, the actual routes were often laid down in the horse bus era.

High Street Notting Hill PC 369

This bus making its way along Notting Hill Gate (with the almost regulation Pear’s advert) terminates at Liverpool Street as many did in this part of London, crossing the west End to get there. Although you can’t really make out the lone animal pulling it, it is another horse bus, with larger back wheels. A little bit of research makes us think it’s a number 7.

Here is a quite sharp detail of a horse bus in Redcliffe Square, festooned with adverts:

Redcliffe Square - Copy

Pears again, a committed advertiser. An LGOC 31, heading towards Westbourne Grove with three wild hats on the top dek.

Further north an unusual view of Holland Park Avenue.

Holland Park Avenue 01

You’ll have to take my word for it, but that’s a 12 going past the skating rink to Dulwich, maybe as far as South Croydon.

As well as the rear staircase the horse buses also bequeathed the larger set of rear wheels to some of the initial motor buses which followed them. (Look back at the Cromwell Place picture). Below, on the other hand is a bus with the same sized wheels at front and rear:

Ladbroke Grove Library PC 1456

It’s waiting at a stop in Ladbroke Grove outside that well known local instituition North Kensington Library.

Ladbroke Grove Library PC 1456 - Copy

You can see that this is a more standardised vehicle, a member of the first class of mass produced buses, a London General B-type. This one is also a number 7, indicated on the baord along with the routee from Wormwood Scrubs to Liverpoool Street. Todays’ number 7s, (Gemini IIIs I’m told) sigh to an  exhausted halt at Russell Square rather than soldiering on all the way to Liverpool Street, as my transport correspondent has it. Generally speaking the epic bus routes of old have been shortened so it’s no longer possible to make lengthy journeys to legendary places like Homerton on a 19 for example. ( I now regret I never did this. I did take a 49 to Crystal Palace once though.)

At this point let’s pause to look at some of the other vehicles on the roads of late Victorian / Edwardian London.

Campden Hill Road PC162

Delivery carts bringing barrels of beer to the Windsor Castle in Campden Hill Road.

Ladbroke Grove funeral

A funeral procession in Ladbroke Grove for William Whiteley, the founder and owner of the Bayswater department store. Whiteley had an illegitimate son named Horace Rayner (paternity was disputed). He was confronted by Rayner at one of his regular inspections of the store. Being asked for financial assistance he ordered the police to be summoned. Rayner shot him. The procession is on its way to Kensal Green cemetery. Rayner was convicted of murder but sentenced to life imprisonment due to the circumstances, and was released in 1919. I had no idea of this when I chose the picture – I was simply struck by the crowds and the carriages.

Ladbroke Road PC 601

By contrast, a fire engine ladder outside the fire station in Ladbroke Road.

Nearby in affluent Kensington Park Gardens, some examples of private transport:

Kensington Park Gardens PC 341

The Church in the background is St John’s. Parked outside one house is this luxurious looking vehicle.

Kensington Park Gardens PC 341 - Copy

The top is down and if the driver or chauffeur is ready to go, the owners can hit the road. Back in the south of the Borough, another couple of cars:

Queen's Gate

As you can see the original buyer of the postcard crossed out Queen’s Gate and wrote in Cromwell Road. look a bit closer:

Queen's Gate - Copy

You can see an inked X marking a spot, possibly where the buyer was staying. He or she was wrong of course. This is unmistakeably the south end of Queen’s Gate where it meets Old Brompton Road in the background.

There is a proud looking man (a chauffeur?) standing in front of the parked car, mug in hand, possibly watching the woman crossing the road. In the middle a chauffeur driven car goes past with a lady in the rear. Not much traffic to contend with on this particular road.

Let’s jump forward in time to another quiet day.

Kensington Church Street PC1532

This is Kensington Church Street looking south sometime in the 1950s.

Kensington Church Street PC1532 - Copy

Four well-dressed ladies wait in the summer sun at a request stop.

Down on the High Street:

Kensington High Street 1953 K61-937

The old Town Hall, Barker’s department store (no scandals there) and parked outside Derry and Toms’ , an RTW on the 31 route on its way to Chelsea. The W stood for wide – these models were a whole six inches wider than previous versions and had been subject to trial runs in case they added to traffic congestion.

Through the medium of detailed information gathering my transport correspondent is able to tell us that this particular bus, RTW372 stayed on the streets on London as a 31 or a 22 until 1966 when it was sold to the Ceylon Transport Board for service in what is now Sri Lanka. I wonder how long it stayed in use.

Speaking of 1966:

Kensington High Street - 1966 K67-100

One of those narrow RTs, comically thin by today’s standards making its way to the same stop. The RTs were actually more numerous than the more celebrated Routemasters. This one, RT2912 had recently come from the Aldenham Works and would subsequently move from Chalk Farm Garage to New Cross in 1968.

We can’t track the individual fates of the old horse buses but you can imagine their mechanical existences were lively:

Cromwell Gdns & Thurloe Square PC315 L-6403

Postscript

My thanks are obviously due to my transport correspondent my son Matthew who has had what you might call an  interest in buses since I first bought him a Corgi model when he was 3. I didn’t realise at the time that this would be  a turning point in all our lives.


Manufactured in Chelsea

I was looking through some old proof sheets for John Bignell’s book Chelsea seen from its earliest days (enlarged edition 1987 but now out of print), in which Bignell contrasted his own photographs with equivalents from an earlier era. I decided to use some of the old photographs in a post but couldn’t think of a unifying theme. Then we got an email enquiry about the effect of that “structured” reality TV show set in Chelsea on the real borough. (Short answer: none at all probably.) And so I had a title for a random selection of images of Chelsea as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The first image is probably the oldest. We begin as Chelsea itself did on the riverside.

The Old Swan

This is the Old Swan Tavern, before the Embankment, at low tide I would assume judging from how far back the photographer is standing from the river steps and the obliging patrons. I think this is a James Hedderly photograph. The Old Swan lay at the end of Swan Walk near the Physic Garden. This of course was not the original Old Swan but I don’t want to make things too complicated (for myself) at the moment. There are some paintings of the Old Swan in this post.

I’m following a winding path through Chelsea east to west, south to north taking in high and low society. This entails a few leaps back and forth in time. This picture is a distinctly post embankment view of Lombard Terrace, which lay to the west of the Old Church.

Lombard Terrace

The distinctive art nouveau buildings on the left are 72-74 Cheyne Walk, designed by C R Ashbee. They were built on the site of Maunder’s fish shop, a building painted by many, including Whistler which is appropriate as number 74 was  the last house in which he lived. The building was demolished by 1927 and the fight to save some of the remaining houses was one of the causes around which the Chelsea Society was formed. Whatever was left was destroyed along with the Old Church in an air raid in 1941.

The picture below shows part of the original Lombard Terrace with Mr Spell’s Post Office and store on the corner of Danvers Street. I think that’s Mr Spell and his daughter standing in the doorway. This is another picture by James Hedderly.

Cheyne Walk - Hedderly

I’d quite forgotten this picture so I was quite struck by this view looking north from Battersea Bridge up Beaufort Street.

Beaufort Street

Belle Vue House on the left remains and the terrace of tall houses beyond, but on the right all the old houses of Duke Street have gone.

We’re not quite finished with Cheyne Walk. Let’s take a walk past the King’s Head to the pleasingly named Aquatic public house.

Cheyne Walk - Turner's House

The three boys are just about to reach the house with the balcony rail on the roof line, where JMW Turner lived. We saw a picture of it by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd in a previous post.

If we turn back back and go up Beaufort Street we can cross the King’s Road into a quiet cul-de-sac called The Vale, where William and Evelyn de Morgan lived.

The Vale

The Vale now intersects with Elm Park Road but at this time it was a dead end, just a pleasant residential enclave. (That man Whistler lived at mumber 1) Here is an interior from number 4:

2 the vale

We don’t know who the lady is, but she looks quite comfortable.

We go back to the main road for a couple of pictures

Kings Road

A horse bus on the King’s Road, at the corner of Sydney Street, pretty much where the Old Town Hall (and Chelsea Library of course) are today. The King’s Road still had many purely residential houses along this stretch.

We can take a short detour down nearby Oakley Street to take a look at one of its famous residents.

Dr Phene

The good Dr Phene strikes a pose outside the house in which he never actually lived. He only had to go across the road to his actual house. Read more in this post. It’s a fact that I’ve never been able to use on the blog, but another local resident I’ve written about, Margaret Morris once took a party of local residents on a tour of the house. I don’t suppose the two of them ever met but I’d like to imagine they did.

Speaking of my personal obsessions here’s another one, a photograph showing the teacher training establishment Whitelands College, home of the May Queens. Behind those walls lay a unique story, which I have covered here and here. (You can probably expect another one in April). Readers of History Today (February issue) can see a rather disturbing photograph of the college quadrangle a few years after the Staff and students moved to Putney.

Whtelands College

I promised you a bit of high life so here is a picture of the King’s Dinner held in Burton’s Court in 1902 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII. The idea was that the poor of Chelsea would be served by charitable members of high society.

Coronation

The lady in white is clearly doing her best but apparently the whole affair was a bit of a disaster, with not enough food, general bad behaviour and insulting language used against the lady volunteers, some of whom had to flee the scene.

By contrast there was a servants’ dinner at Chelsea Town Hall (organised by the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants), where 40 ladies served the maids.This was a smaller and much more civilised affair

Servants' dinner

And everyone went home with a gift bag.

The Chelsea Flower Show was always a big social event, attended by the highest in the land.

Queen Alexandra at the Chelsea Flower Show

Queen Alexandra in 1913 accompanied by some important men.

But let’s go back to ordinary life. This is the street market in Marlborough Street.

Marlborough Road

The shoppers of 1900 look pretty smart.

Finally a picture in another Chelsea street, Upper Cheyne Row showing a horse drawn fire engine.

80

Is there something wrong here? I’ll leave that thought with you.

Postscript

I think I must have set some kind of record for the number of hyperlinks I’ve inserted into this post, so just ignore them if they irritate you. I balked at linking to all the Hedderly posts. Why not try the search box?

And I’ve had to rush through some of the background detail so fact checking is welcome. Next week I’ll go back to a much smaller area.

 

 


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