Category Archives: World’s End

King’s Road blues – part one

When I was writing the post about the World’s End a couple of weeks ago I came across the photograph below.

Right in the middle at number 475 you can see a shop called Sophisto-Cat (next to Decro-Cat of course). I’d been looking for a picture of that shop for ages and finally it had presented itself. Sopisto-Cat was the home of the now famous Christian the Lion who was bought at Harrods by two Australian men and kept at the shop in that devil may care sixties way. I showed this picture to interested parties and someone even remembered that she and her sister were always asking their mother to take them to see the lion sleeping in the window.

This set me off trawling through our collection of photographs in search of interesting views of the King’s Road around the same time 1970 so let’s go on a tour up and down Chelsea’s most famous street.

The next two pictures show the shops next to Sophisto-Cat:

Note the pre-decimal prices at Starways and the offer of new dresses for £1 at Quick Nicker. 475 and its neighbours were soon demolished. This view from 1972 of the Guinness Trust Buildings shows the towers of the World’s End estate under construction although the end of the terrace above is still in place.

Further west we see another defunct building Kings Road Junk City. A large and anonymous red brick office block stands on the site today

Further along you find this parade of shops including the engagingly named El Cheapo

This is followed by the still existing Furniture Cave building, today looking much smarter and very much greener in colour than it did in the 1970s.

Stanley Bridge visible in the distance marks the border of Chelsea so now we have to do a virtual u-turn and head back eastwards.

We’ve passed the World’s End now and the next picture shows the parade of shops on the Cremorne Estate.

The branch of Woolworth’s is long gone but the Portch Brothers butchers were there until comparatively recently.

This photo shows the construction of Moravian Tower at what was then 343-379 King’s Road. The building was a Council block of flats for many years until problems with the infrastructure of the building made it uneconomical to repair. It was sold to a property company and now has the far less evocative name 355 King’s Road. The Tower took its name from The Moravian Chapel and Burial Ground located directly behind it.

This brings us back to Christian the Lion. The burial ground was where he exercised when he wasn’t dozing at Sophisto-Cat. I can’t mention the Moravian Burial Ground without also mentioning the urban myth associated with it. Because the headstones are flush with the ground and appear to be quite close together a rumour grew that the Moravians were buried vertically. Every so often we get a query about this so I should state for the record that as far as I know the deceased inhabitants of the burial ground were laid to rest in a conventional manner. The positioning of the headstones probably related to the desire for a simple and unadorned burial marker. The fact that this arrangement is also convenient for the exercise of big cats is entirely coincidental.

I haven’t got us very far along the King’s Road but time travel can’t be rushed. I’ll continue next week but to get us as far as Beaufort Street at least here are another couple of images:

329 and 331 King’s Road, now home to Just Kitchens and the Azteca Resturant. Just beyond Beaufort Street on the north side is the Bluebird Garage building. Once the home of the largest and one of the first petrol stations in the country, it is now devoted to a number of upmarket food /consumer outlets. But in the early seventies it was an ambulance station.

Next week we will push on to the heart of the King’s Road at the height of its fame as a fashionable shopping destination.

This is the first of a number of virtual trips along the streets of Kensington and Chelsea so let me know if there are any other streets you’d like to see.


Down at the World’s End

There is more than one World’s End. As a name for inns and taverns it seems to have emerged in the reign of Charles II and been used in other parts of London and elsewhere in the British Isles.  But the Chelsea World’s End tavern which gave its name to the area around it has been on local maps since there have been maps of Chelsea. The narrow alley which ran down diagonally to the river has been called Hobs Lane and World’s End Passage. This route was important as many of the tavern’s customers came by boat from London to enjoy its gardens and its hospitality. It is mentioned in Congreve’s play Love for Lover in 1695.

The surrounding area was farmland and nurseries in those days. The tavern was an island of leisure and a safe haven for travellers. (The water route was preferred – the area called the Five Fields between Chelsea and Knightsbridge was notorious for street robbery) By 1836 there were houses along World’s End Place and new streets nearby, Lackland Place and Riley Street. To the south west Baron de Berenger had started his National Sporting Club in the grounds of Cremorne House. Thirty years later at the time of the first Ordnance Survey map there were houses around the tavern and the Sporting Club had become the Cremorne pleasure gardens. By 1894 the Pleasure Gardens had gone and a network of streets had grown up to the south of the tavern – Blantyre Street, Vicat Street, Raasay Street, Dartrey Road, Bifron Street, Luna Street and Seaton Street all clustered in the triangle between the King’s Road and Cremorne Road.

Here is the tavern in the early 20th century:

 

And here is a view from the 1930s looking south with St John’s church on the left and the chimneys of Lots Road power station in the distance:

 

 

Hardly any of those street names are familiar today because the streets themselves are gone, all demolished to build the World’s End Estate which now covers the entire area. Work began building the estate in 1969 and by 1975 tenants had begun moving into what was then the largest Council housing estate in Europe.

For the purpose of this post everything I’ve written so far is a preamble to the photographs which follow which show some of those gone but not forgotten streets just at the point when demolition had begun. Here is a view showing the same block of shops in Dartrey Terrace in 1969:

The former Home and Colonial store has become the home of the famous counter-cultural emporium Gandalf’s Garden.

At the same date demolition was well under way in Dartrey Road:

The Chelsea Flower Mill is visible at the rear of the picture and if I’m not mistaken Lots Road Power Station has lost at least one chimney. (The chimneys of Lots Road are probably a story in themselves.)

In another view of Dartrey Road children are playing near the now empty houses:

But in two streets east in Luna Street normal life proceeds:

At the end of the street the Battersea  side of the river is just visible.

The final photo below also of Luna Street shows a woman looking out of an upstairs window. Thanks to an enquiry from one of our customers I know her name and that the van in the picture was her husband’s. This is one way of reminding us that the pictures of old buildings which are part of my stock in trade are important, but what truly makes history live is the people inside the buildings.

(While I was selecting pictures for this post I noticed that boy on the bike who got himself into several pictures the photographer took that day.)

The title of this post comes from the theme song to BBC2’s short lived 1980s Chelsea soap opera World’s End. It centred on a pub called the World’s End but was actually filmed at the Cross Keys in Lawrence Street. Anyone remember it?


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