Tag Archives: Barker’s

Goodbye Ball Street: behind Barker’s

At its height the John Barker Company owned all three of Kensington High Street’s great department stores: Barkers itself, Derry and Toms and Pontings and a few other buildings in the area. Two of the store buildings remain as reminders of the great era of department store shopping: the Barker’s building itself, home of Whole Foods, Gap and of course Northcliffe House and the Derry and Toms building, home of M&S and H&M, still surmounted by the Roof Garden. (I won’t attempt to say exactly when that era was, pick your favourite: the 30s, the 50s, the 60s?).

Today’s post takes us back to the 1920s and 1930s to the period before and during the construction of the current Barker’s and Derry and Toms buildings and uses an album of photographs given to the Council by the Company. The whole story of the construction is a long one. You can find a good account of it in the Survey of London which I will not try to compete with. But to summarize: the Company had to acquire all the land it needed and close at least one street for building purposes. The process of the construction of the new Barker’s  was interrupted by the building of the new Derry and Toms (1929-1931) which took over the attention of the Company, and later the Second World War during which operations were suspended  so the Barkers building wasn’t completed until 1958.

You’ll need a plan to grasp this, but first a picture taken from the corner of Ball Street in October 1924.

 

This shows Young Street looking north west. The house in the foreground is Thackeray’s house. Next to it is Kensington Square Mansions,  the first buildings to be demolished to make way for the new Barkers.

And now the plan:

Carefully colour-coded, as you can see, to show the all the Company’s properties, the three stores, and Ball Street. Young Street has retained its name but King Street is now called Derry Street for obvious reasons.

[It’s well past lunch time so I’m pausing now to get a sandwich and take a quick field trip to the site.] [Back – interesting to see the rear of the two buildings.]

This is also Young Street.

In the centre is the Post Office sorting office, and beside it the entrance to the Bakery and Cooked Meats Kitchens.

This picture shows Ball Street on January 11th 1928, the day the hoarding to close Ball Street was erected.

If we turn north on that same day…

The rear of Ball Street with the ghostly spire of St Mary Abbots Church rising in the distance.

The point of view shifts east in this picture.

This was the first section of the new premises. On the left you can see a temporary bridge over Ball Street.

This is the east side of King Street showing a Derry and Toms building and a door to the old fire station.

The hoarding on the left shows the location of Ball Street.

This is a view of the rear of the west side of King Street with part of Burden Mews (look back at the plan).

Demolition is in progress.

I’ve included this picture of the corner of Burden Mews purely for the convertible. Motoring experts will soon identify it I’m sure.

This is Derry’s Yard, a narrow mews on the west side of Derry and Toms well out of the public eye, with a rough bridge connecting two buildings.

March 1928

More demolition in Burden Mews with a couple of figures in the background exchanging a few words about the work in progress.

Here another group lurk in a doorway perhaps avoiding the camera.

Can you spot another solitary figure below?

A man in a white coat on the first floor.

Back to Ball Street now.

It’s filled with the “covered way”, a temporary structure (man on the roof) and a clearer view of the bridge connecting the old and new buildings.

This is the way it looked from the other direction in October 1929.

The men on the scaffolding are actually posing for this one. The group on the ground are standing by the temporary staff entrance.

Finally, an image from nearly a decade later in July 1938.

This is on the east side of Kensington Square. The Staff Cafeteria is in the centre and the entrance to Lower Yard, where there was a Wine Cellar, a Bonded Cellar and a charging station for electric vehicles. (Ahead of its time?)

The construction of the Barkers building seems to have been a bit of a struggle but even though the stores that were their original purpose are gone, both it and the Derry and Toms building remain as are 20th century classics which have in their way influenced the whole of Kensington High Street.

 

Postscript

I wanted something to break up a flurry of posts about book illustration so the Trevor Bowen Estate came to the rescue again.

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Christmas Days : afternoon tea

Some of the ideas I had for short posts didn’t quite work out in practice so for this last one I asked myself the question: can I make a post out of a single picture?

To start with, here’s a nice family group.

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Mother, eldest son on holiday from school, still in the tight stiff collar, youngest child a bit impatient for her ice cream, bored with waiting for the photographer to finish and absolutely not enjoying wearing that hat

Look behind them.

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A couple of the waitresses, and the singers in their nearly matching dresses.  That woman whose face we can just see in front of them might be sitting at a piano. Two young ladies are glancing up at the photographer from under wide brimmed hats.

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Look up at the many treats on offer such as the Parfaits at 1s/3d and the New Jersey Sundae, just a shilling. Order from your waitress who will bring it from the counter.

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That may be the entrance to a lift behind the curtain. The photographer has the patrons’ attention but are they all quite willing to pose . This is an exclusive establishment after all, and being photographed in it is a sign of distinction. A couple of .gentlemen at the back, but on the whole this is a place for the ladies.

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On the other side of the aisle more ladies enjoying afternoon tea, more waitresses in their black headbands and another selection of treats.

This is the whole picture.

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The terrace garden at Barker’s department store, sometime on a long leisured afternoon in the 1930s. Make the most of it, ladies and gentlemen.

Monkeys

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Bern, Chloe and Suze exploring the archives.

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And finding a few spots to perch on in the manuscript stacks.

From them and me, a happy Christmas to you all.

 


Shopping in the 50s: the Kensington High Street experience

Although I spent my childhood far from Kensington, in the 1960s I did once visit the High Street and its famous triumvirate of department stores, Barker’s, Derry and Tom’s and Ponting’s. Even as a disinterested teenager I could recognize the distinctive high class air of the three establishments. Many people I’ve spoken to have reported that Kensington High Street was regarded as a cut above shopping destinations like Oxford Street, if not quite as exalted as Knightsbridge. The 1950s were the heyday of that shopping experience.

Barkers High Street Kensington 1955 K61-1003An artist’s impression of Barker’s in 1955 with Derry and Tom’s on the right. The slightly curved, prow of a ship frontage and the series of flags demonstrates the  absolute confidence of the John Barker company in its store.

This night time picture of Derry and Tom’s from 1933 shows a similar stylistic pride in its image.

Derry and Toms 1933 (Ponting’s on the other hand was very much the least prestigious of the three. But it was the first one I wrote about on the blog – link.)

The three stores catered primarily for the middle class woman who had shopping as one of the key activities in her job description. And as their customers came from far and wide the shops used in-house magazines and catalogues as part of their promotional efforts.

Shopping cover July 1954July 1954’s issues of Shopping was concerned with Barker’s satellite store in Eastbourne and was geared towards summer fashions.

Shopping pp10-11A bright summer’s day at the seaside but no beachwear in sight.

Copy of Shopping pp10-11It looks a bit windswept in fact.

Derry and Tom’s of course had its own exotic location:

Derry and Toms 1950s 009 cover - colourThe famous roof garden, an integral part of the store identity.

The 50s were also a heyday for the commercial artist.

Derry and Toms 1950s 006The store catalogues were not just about fashion. There were furnishings:

Derry and Toms 1950s 001Haberdashery  (note that there is a whole Hall devoted to linen::

Derry and Toms 1950s 002And Christmas gifts for all the family:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for all the familyIf you can’t make out  the small print what about the Triang Minic Garage Service Station or the Toy Fort, or the Chemistry Set (with Bunsen Burner)? There’s a His and Hers towel set (thick Turkish towels at 17/6), or some Beaver Lamb Back Gloves (32/6). The Pedigree Dressed Bunny  at 17/11 shows how soft toy technology has advanced since the 50s. For the curious, the Gilbert Harding Question Book (an early version of QI?) And for Her, a Novelty Nightdress Case or a Nylon Straw Evening Bag.

But for husbands, the best bet for a present for her indoors was something from the lingerie collection:

Dery and Toms Christmas 1957 gifts for the wife Most of the year the ladies were shopping for themselves, and the stores offered “a delightful experience”.

Derry and Toms 1950s 005 colour

The in house magazines had helpful hints as in these month by month suggestions:

Shopping pp18-19

And after all that shopping you might want to get away from it all back in sunny Eastbourne:

Shopping pp14-15 - Copy

Postscript

Whenever I do a shopping related post someone always asks me when I’m going to do something about Biba? The  unfortunate answer is that the collection has almost no pictures of Biba in the period when it took over Derry and Tom’s. So it’s my turn to ask: does anyone have any photos of Biba in that era (particularly of the interior) that we could scan and use on the blog?

Curiously, while working on this week’s post I found some interior pictures of Pettit’s, the least known of the High Street’s shops, which I might use one of these days.


The lost department store

The great days of the department store are probably over. There are survivors including two of the best known, Harrods in Kensington and Peter Jones in Chelsea. But the time when every city and every large London suburb had its own individual department store is gone.

The old names are not forgotten. In Kensington High Street the two great buildings which were home to the two department stores Barker’s and Derry and Tom’s are still there. The Barker’s building has a number of retail businesses and is also home to Associated Newspapers. The Derry and Toms building contains three separate stores and of course the Roof Garden is still a going concern. The Roof Garden deserves a post of its own and we’ll come back to it at a later point.

But I remember a third store on Kensington High Street as I’m sure many others will. I was dragged through all three of them by my parents at some point in the late 1960s. I remember the roof garden of course, a pushy salesman trying to foist a nasty pullover on me (my mother resisted all his efforts) and a fascinating vacuum tube payment system which sucked your money away at an alarming speed and returned your change just as quickly. That happened I think in the third of the great stores of Kensington High Street – Ponting’s.

Here are two photos from 1971 of the arcade which leads to Kensington High Street tube showing on one side an entrance to Derry and Tom’s (now the side entrance to Marks and Spencer) and on the other the display windows of Ponting’s.

As you can see, the Grand Removal Sale has already begun.  So what did Ponting’s look  like? This photo is from the 1950s.

The “House for Value” was located on the corner of Wright’s Lane. Twenty or so years later the sign is still in place but the closing down sale is on.

Note the sign for the roof garden in the top left of the picture.

Inside Ponting’s everything was for sale.

Some departments were busier than others.

By this point the House of Fraser owned all three stores. The John Barker Company had acquired Ponting’s in 1907 and Derry and Tom’s in 1920. It was they who built the architecturally demanding Derry and Tom’s building (1929-31, with the Roof Garden being completed in 1938) along with their own flagship building (1936 -1958 work being interrupted by the war). Ponting’s also had many improvements and some expansion but was never quite as prestigious as its two neighbours. It was the first to go, a victim of House of Fraser’s rationalisation programme in 1970. Derry and Tom’s followed shortly afterwards in 1973 but the building remains. After a short spell as the Kensington Super Store the Ponting’s main building was redeveloped in 1976-78.  The only section remaining is the building around the station arcade where La Senza and Accessorize are currently located. (Ironically it was the expense of developing the western side of the arcade which took the original business into liquidation.)

When I first started working in Kensington High Street I had to do some research to even work out where it had been. But although it is now lost many still remember the golden age of shopping on Kensington High Street.  Here is a Ponting’s invoice from 1930:

And finally an image of Pontings from an even earlier time, an interior from 1913 when retail therapy as we know it was still in its infancy.

Next week I’ll be doing another vanished shop, but quite a different one from Ponting’s.


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