Tag Archives: Ashburn Mews

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.

 

 

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Courtfield Road meets Gloucester Road

One of the people who read the recent post on Ashburn Mews asked if I could continue my walk into Courtfield Road, which has also had significant development since the 1970s. So I looked, and there were indeed pictures of the original buildings next to Bailey’s Hotel and Gloucester Road Station. I’m a little obsessed with that small corner of London myself, as I described in a post about South Kensington, as it lies way down in the lowest levels of  my personal archaeology of London. (Along with Crystal Palace and Clapham South, for family history rather than geographical reasons.) So my apologies to less obsessed readers if we take another turn around the “backside of Cromwell Road” as another reader put it. Here’s our patch again.

 

 

We’re looking east along Courtfield Road. The gardens of Ashburn Gardens are just on our left and way in the distance is that curious single storey white building, the Midland (now HSBC) Bank, a good point to focus on as we head towards Gloucester Road again.

The buildings on the right are still there. This is a closer look.

 

 

I’ve always liked those arch features, although I don’t know if they serve any purpose apart from decoration.

 

 

I had to check to see if that pale protuberance at first floor level was still there, and it is (somewhat cleaner today or is that the effect of colour photography?)

This section, (1-13 Courtfield Road), leading up to Bailey’s Hotel has been replaced by a modern purpose built hotel, functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but not ugly either.

 

 

This close up shows the join between the buildings as it was in 1969. The arch is still there but now it is the entrabce to the Bombay Brasserie. (There was a catering company and restaurant in there in 1969.)

 

 

I rather like the maxi coat worn by the woman crossing the road. As well as being fashionable, it was December when these pictures were taken.

The picture below shows the full facade of Bailey’s Hotel.

 

 

If we move back a little and swing round to look northward, we can see the other side of the street.

 

 

We’re looking from Ashburn Place at 2-12 Courtfield. There’s another tower or turret at the end of the row, and below, a closer look at that.

 

 

See the tall chimney stacks behind the blocks, and below, by the entrance to Ashburn Mews, another curious detached building with a tower, which looks at first as though some very dry business was conducted inside.

 

 

The building was called Gloucester Lodge and was the location of one of the offices of the estate agents Roy Brooks. The company was once famous for its forthright descriptions of properties in Sunday newspapers, some of which were collected in two slim volumes, “A brothel in Pimlico” and “Mud, straw and insults”. If this passed you by let me quote from the cover of the first volume: “Wanted: someone with taste, means and a stomach strong enough to buy this erstwhile  house of ill-repute in Pimlico. It is untouched by the 20th century as far as convenience is concerned. Although it reeks of damp and worse, the plaster is coming off the walls and daylight peeps through a hole in the roof, it is still habitable judging by the bed of rags, fag ends and empty bottles in one corner….10 rather unpleasant rooms with slimy back yard. £4650 freehold – tarted up these houses make £15000. ” Those were the days when £15000 was a lot of money.

It has the look of a resolutely traditional business which disguised the iconoclastic methods of its proprietor.

 

 

On the ornamented tower, a large sign pointing you into the Mews, where there were indeed more than one garage. A few cars are huddled against the buildings as they frequently did in mews streets, perhaps as unnerved as pedestrians by the lack of pavements.

 

 

And the edge of the Piccadilly Line side of Gloucester Road Station.

It looks as though the second station was still in use for Underground purposes although the florists shop is already there.

 

 

We’ve looked at the station before of course in a number of posts, but I can’t help circling round it once more, in an era when it was not surrounded by much taller buildings.

 

 

These wintry scenes show the slightly seedy charm of this still windswept corner of London.

 

 

Finally, the mirror image of the first picture, looking west up Courtfield Road at a small area of now forgotten buildings with its mixture of ordinary Victorian facades and quirky towers. This was once the modern face of urban life, and although altered by development it retains the atmosphere of an arrival point for west London.

 

 

Postscript

I don’t mind being back here at the station. The question I always ask myself, given the dates of the pictures, is did I just miss seeing the towers and the rest myself, or have I actually walked past them at some point without paying much attention? If the images are all there somewhere in my mind will they surface sometime from the lost past, or were they never there in the first place?

Almost certainly, we’ve now finished with this small corner of Kensington. I think. Next week something completely different as we used to say in the 60s.


A walk down Ashburn Mews

We left off last week near here.

 

 

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

There was an actual garden in Ashburn Gardens.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

A couple of women are exiting onto Courtfield Road.

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

Postscript

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


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