Tag Archives: Brompton Road

Christmas Days: A sunny day in Knightsbridge

It’s always good on a cold winter’s day to remind yourself of the pleasures of city life in the summer. If it’s a more innocent age so much the better. These pictures go back to the 1950s and were taken in Knightsbridge, on or around the Brompton Road, a busy street which had wide pavements with pleasant mews streets running off it.

 

 

A street with a passing 2CV  trundling along, dogs walking, women strolling, men  sitting in benches, on eof them smoking a pipe. And, Erik’s ladies hairdresser, one of the many small businesses.

I’ve taken advice on the two buses, by way of dating the pictures, assuming they were taken the same day. Between the 14 above and the 9 below my transport correspondent got it down to a date between 1952 and 1958, which looks about right in terms of what people were wearing.

 

Oh, and it’s apparently a Sunday. The 9 ran further on Sundays as many buses used to, and this one is ging all the way to Becontree Heath. (It ran out of the Barking Garage)

The gentleman with the newspaper looking back at the Roller. Is a notable person about to emerge?

 

This sort of chair stringing activity used to be seen quite a lot, even up to relatively modern times. It’s a bit of street theatre in some ways. It has certainly captured the attention of the boy with the almost finished ice lolly.

More leisurely work activity below, in a nearby mews.

 

Are the two young women making miniature trees? Something like that, with a non-working friend sitting nearby. Check out all the chalk messages on the wall. 1950s graffitti? One of them appears to read “Cymru am byth” – “Wales forever” of course.

 

Nearby perhaps , in Brompton Square I think, some more light work as a man waters hanging plants, assisted by a lady and watched by a couple of poodles.

And as it might be a Sunday, the best leisure activity of all, just hanging out in the park. Did they hang out in those days?

 

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The photos were taken by a photographer named Mark Hamilton. Our thanks to him and whoever gave them to the Library.

Miscelleany: what a way to earn a living

While we’re in Knightsbridge I have another snippet for you.  I came across this Harrods Christmas catalogue last year in a filing cabinet containing some quite dull ephemera, along with with a few interesting items.  The nice people at Harrods thought it might be a good idea to persuade this young lady to put on a silly costume.

 

As we sometimes do at Christmas. But how did they persuade her?

Perhaps it was a fun afternoon out. If you know who she is, please get in touch.

More tomorrow I hope.

 

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Shepherd in Kensington

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd doesn’t get a whole entry to himself in  the Dictionary of National Biography. The details of his life are tagged on to the entry about his more eminent older brother George Sidney Shepherd who was also a painter of watercolours and a draughtsman. The difference in status between the two seems less significant now that some time has passed since they both died in the 1860s.

It’s Thomas we’re dealing with here though .His fame is based on the large number of watercolour paintings of London many of which were turned into into engravings for use in books about London.

You won’t find any of today’s images in any of the editions  of Shepherd’s London because of course strictly speaking we’re not in London. Kensington was a suburb, near to the City of Westminster but not quite in it.

Last week we finished with a view in Brompton, of Holy Trinity Church which is on the road to another vaguely defined area, Knightsbridge. This is another ecclesiastical picture of the Brompton Oratory Buildings, hence the black robed figures in the foreground.

Brompton Oratory Buildings THS22a Cpic69

Below is a more secular view, of Brompton Road, a terrace of its fashionable new houses, complete with  the dashing horseman, some admiring ladies and the obligatory feature of Shepherd pictures, the little running dog.

Onslow Square

If we move north we come to the main road west from the same area, the road formerly known as the Kensington Turnpike.

Kensington Cavalry Barracks THS6a Cpic15

The large buidling is the Kensington Cavalry Barracks next to the Kensington Toll Gate on what is now Kensington Road. Here it is on Crutchley’s map 0f 1827 (click on the image for a larger view):

Cruchley 1827 Earls Court-Brompton-Little Chelsea

East of the barracks the building below stood on the site of the current Albert Hall Mansions.

Gore House THS3a Cpic73

Gore House was the home of William Wiberforce and the society beauty and author Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. She lived in lavish style there until the money ran out. Later the French chef Alexis Soyer of the Reform Club lived there and had a Gastronomic Symposium of All Nations in the grounds. Soyer ran soup kitchens in Dublin during the Irish potato famine and organised hospital kitchens during the Crimean War. He was the last occupant of Gore House. Soon after his death it was demolished, in 1858.

Far from modest itself was Kensington House.

Kensington House THS7a Cpic33

This was not the magnificent and short lived Kensington House built by the financial speculator Baron Albert Grant in the 1870s (In some ways the Forgotten Building par excellence. But I only have a couple of pictures of it.). This Kensington House was bought and demolished by Grant. But in its time it had been the home of the Russian Ambassador (the first one to live in Kensington but not the last), a boy’s school and a scandalous lunatic asylum.

Now we take a detour up Kensington Church Street.

Maitland House THS8 Cpic68

This is Maitland House, from inside the grounds where an elegant couple are walking that same dog. There is no mystery in Shepherd’s architectural views which are sometimes a little fussy. They resemble something an estate agent of the day might have used to promote sales. They make up for the lack of atmosphere with accuracy and a certain charm. Maitland House was the home of the Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie  and the philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Newton House THS10a Cpic32

A street view of another house in Kensington Church Street, Newton House. A street vendor with his daughter, perhaps, and a boy with his dog. Newton House was named after Sir Isaac Newton who had lived in one ot the houses owned by Stephen Pitt in the area but it’s unlikely it was this one.

The building below, in Marloes Road on the south side of Kensington High Strret looks pleasant in Shepherd’s picture. But you wouldn’t want to have ended up living there.

Kensington Workhouse THS12 Cpic74

This is the Stone Hall section of Kensington Workhouse,built in 1846. Like its cousin in the Fulham Road it was built for a neighbouring parish in Westminster and eventually became a hospital, St Mary Abbotts. As these places went it wasn’t one of the worst, but still. When it closed as part of the reconstruction which created the new Chelsea Westminster Hospital the buildings became part of a housing complex.

Further down the High Street on the way to Hammersmith is an inn on the western edge of Holland Park.

White Horse Inn THS13a Cpi14

This view of the White Horse (not the two dogs) must have been a historical view. Shepherd also painted the building which replaced it on the site, another inn.

The Holland Arms THS14 Cpic63

This inn was called the Holland Arms. although the scene is rather less rural than the previous one and the inn has lost its garden, the place still looks relaxed. The people stand as though having their photographs taken. The horse stands as though its rider is about to dismount. Even the dog is now still. I think the woman on the left looks a little more modern in her dress but I suppose you shouldn’t read too much into Shepherd’s figures. They’re a little like the stock people who inhabit architectural drawings. I’m programmed to wonder about them despite that.

Both Shepherd and his brother had precarious artistic careers and died in reduced circumstances within a couple of years of each other, well before photography took over as the principal method of recording the appearance of places.

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd also left us some interesting views of Chelsea which we’ll look at another day.

 

Postscript

The rather annoying message “The property of the Kensington Public Libraries” must have been stamped rather barbarously on the front (what was wrong with the back?) of these pictures by some pre-1965 employee of the Council. You don’t come across that very often, I’m glad to say.

I’ve been taking a break from work and I’ve been working on three posts at once. The other two still need a little more research so who knows what’s coming next week.

Continuing the practice of acknowledging sources, I leaned heavily on Kensington Past this week, a book by the late Barbara Denny and Carolyn Starren, now unfortunately out of print.


London Transport: travelling in Kensington and Chelsea

In his recent book “What we talk about when we talk about the tube” (the District Line volume of Penguin Lines, a series of books which celebrate the 150 years of the London Underground) John Lanchester makes the point that London and the Underground grew together. The railway lines made it possible for workers to travel further to work and so communities like Morden for example sprang up because the railway was there. London grew around the railway map – the city made the map but the map also made the city. He makes the further point that the reason that the London Underground network was started thirty seven years before the Paris Metro (a huge number of years in a period of rapid technological development) was that sending steam trains through underground tunnels was daring to the point of recklessness. But they did it anyway, and made London the biggest city in the world (two and a half million people in 1850, seven million in 1910).

Train at West Kensington 1876

[A steam train at West Kensington 1876]

Look at this map, a section of Davies’s 1841 Map of London and its environs:

Davies 1841 Kensington and Chelsea 002

Davies’s map is interesting because it’s one of the first London maps to show railways. You can see the main line to Paddington and the West London Railway heading south towards the river with a proposed route alongside the Kensington Canal. You can also see the empty space between the comparatively built up Chelsea and the line of development along the Kensington Turnpike, the road from Hammersmith to Hyde Park Corner or Kensington High Street as we now know it.

Click on the map for a bigger version and look for the villages of Little Chelsea and Earls Court, the Hippodrome race course north of Notting Hill, Notting Barn Farm and Portobello Farm, the “proposed Norland Town” beside the Railway and the “proposed extension” following a similar route to the eventual District Line.

In the second half of the 19th century those spaces were filled by housing, and the railways which linked Kensington and Chelsea to the rest of London.

Parish map 1894

This Kensington parish map of 1894 with the wards shaded shows how most of the space devoted to market gardens and open country was occupied by the end of the century and how the railways made their mark. (Apologies to Chelsea for being squeezed out a bit at the bottom but maps which show both parishes equally are hard to find before they became London Boroughs and eventually joined.) You can also see how development north of Notting Hill Gate moved northwards first to meet the Metropolitan Line at Ladbroke Grove and then to meet the main line.

PC 1137 Ladbroke Grove Station

As I said in the Gloucester Road post the stations were often built before the housing and the major roads. The District, Circle and Metropolitan lines crossed the two parishes knitting them together. The sub-surface lines weren’t actually underground for most of their routes (the longest underground section on the District / Circle line is the tunnel between Kensington High Street north to Notting Hill Gate) so they had a visible impact on the map especially in certain areas such as the Cromwell Curve where three lines (and the trains of three companies originally) met.

Cromwell Road Dec 02 1902 LTE

This is a rear view of Cromwell Road after building development showing the District Line rails in 1902. It’s by Ernest Milner, and has one of his characteristic faces at the window.

After the sub-surface lines came the deep tunnels (the actual Tube as Lanchester also points out) of the Central Line and the Piccadilly Line.

Brompton Road Station K10105B

This one is the short lived Brompton Road Station opened 1906 and closed in 1934, being by then too near to both Knightsbridge  and South Kensington Stations.

South Kensington Station K12953B

This picture shows the Piccadilly Line station at South Kensington, which like the one at Gloucester Road sat right next to the Metropolitan and District Line Station.

The picture also has a good view of a comparatively small horse-drawn bus. The buses which had carried people around London before the railways could not compete in terms of numbers even when motor buses were introduced in the 1890s and early 1900s. But they would soon catch up, and I can’t leave the subject of transport without some pictures of the buses that have served Kensington and Chelsea.

Notting Hill Gate PC 369

A horse-drawn bus proceeds along Notting Hill Gate.

Below an early motor bus on its way to Westbourne Grove.

Arrow line bus early 1900s

The bus routes we know today were established quite early.

S742 number 27 pulling out of Hammersmith 1920s

A number 27 departs from Hammersmith bus station. The buses got bigger and more frequent.

Coronation Dec. Kensington Gore -1953 DSC 005 A4

This picture shows an AEC Regent on Kensington Gore in 1953 when the border of the Royal Borough was decorated for the Coronation. Below, the most iconic London bus of them all, the Routemaster, heading into Kensington in the 1960s (The Royal Garden Hotel is visible in the distance.)

73 routemaster bus - by John Bignell

Finally, on Kensington High Street the bus I use most frequently.

DSC_1220 bus

At any given bus stop the bus you’re waiting for is always the least frequent. Or is that just me? At least there’s the Tube.

Postscript

That was the last of my transport related posts which were part of our contribution to this year’s Cityread campaign. It’s been a bit of a challenge to do four whole posts on the subject so I hope the strain hasn’t shown and I’ve showed you some interesting images.

John Lanchester’s book is one  a  series of 12 . (Link)  They’re a bit of a mixed bag and I haven’t seen them all but I’d also recommend Paul Morley’s Earthbound (the Bakerloo Line).

Other writers have made the same points as Lanchester, such as Andrew Martin in his history of the Underground “Overground Underground”. but Lanchester’s little book was the first I read. It’s a subject with a large bibliography.

Next week a special post for May Day heading taking us right back into the depths of the Edwardian imagination.


Empty streets: Brompton Road 1902

Photographers unlike painters or engravers often have no idea of the uses their creations may be put to once out of their hands. Vickie and Nance (see lists of posts opposite) had no idea that their holiday snaps would one day be spun into a kind of narrative by me. That applies to many of the others whose images you can see on this blog such as Kate Pragnell (Games for May) and possibly even James Hedderly (although I think he had a definite eye for posterity). This week’s photographer is another case of the unconscious artist.

The photographs were all taken early in the morning, before many people were about. Shops are closed, some of the shutters are down, and curtains on the upper floors are drawn. He was interested in the buildings not the people in them or the people passing by, or even the signs and banners of the shops and businesses. He wasn’t interested in rain on the pavements or the early morning light or the calm atmosphere of the empty streets.

He’s caught some impressive architecture in the process of his work such as this now vanished building which would have been impressive in any Edwardian high street.

Or this somewhat sinister building.

The highly decorative façade looks decayed as if it belongs in a horror story, an impression enhanced by the closed shutters, deserted pavement and even the condition of this particular photograph.

The other feature which catches our attention is the shops themselves which offer products we see less of these days, and services we no longer require. The signage has an insistent quality which is still part of retail life however curious some of these examples appear.

The tobacconist and his high class cigarettes.

Gooch the boot maker also has an extensive range of travelling accessories according to the sign on the left.

People do get into the pictures though. Photography attracted interest in the early years of the 20th century just like television cameras do today. Once I started looking carefully I saw plenty of early morning people. The policeman on his beat stands to attention as his picture is taken.

A woman leans out of a window taking a moment to stare out at the street coming to life before the working day begins.

At the back of 47 Brompton Road next door to the Aerated Bread Company Depot another woman in a maid’s uniform is at the window, her working day already begun. Look above her to the left. A cage placed in a window so the captive bird can get some fresh air. This was in the days when the air above Brompton Road was still fresh.

A delivery man with a barrow pauses to look at the photographer.

The man in the doorway looks like a waiter. Is he on his way to work, or just coming back to his room on one of the upper floors above the stationers or the corset-maker?

Here is a man on a ladder, precariously perched half way up a tall building. Not window cleaning I should think, but I’m not quite sure what he’s doing. There’s room for speculation.

This photograph gives a clue to the photographer’s mission.

The Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway Company were in the process of building the Piccadilly Line. The photographs formed part of a legal record of the condition of the buildings above the new line. But they have come down to us as another kind of record showing us a London street coming to life in the early years of a new century.

(Brompton Road Station incidentally didn’t have a long life. It turned out to be too close to South Kensington on one side and Knightsbridge on the other and never had huge numbers of passengers. It closed in 1934. If you’re travelling on Brompton Road you can still see the distinctive ox-blood tiling characteristic of the Piccadilly line stations if you look up the side streets on the northern side.)


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