Tag Archives: Campden Hill

Hidden water – subterranean reservoirs

This post is a kind of addendum to one I did a few years ago about the old water works in Campden Hill Road and the demolition of its water tower. I was taken with the way our photographer John Rogers had documented the slow dismantling of the brick tower with a pair of water pipes embedded within it.  I hadn’t  seen those pictures before I wrote the post and although they sit in the same filing cabinet I hadn’t seen these pictures either until a week ago.

This picture, which I used in the first post shows the tower and the main building. More importantly for us it also shows the grass area in front of the works.

Demolition of the tower took place in 1970. After they finished with that, the demolition team turned to the water reservoir which had been under the grass since the late 1850s and was suddenly revealed.

You can see that the grass grew in a thin layer of soil supported by pillars, above a space which could be filled with water.

The structure looks remarkably flimsy for something which existed for just over a hundred years.

At any rate, it was soon cleared.

You can still see traces of water as the debris is cleared away.

A few shallow pools of water remain. In this picture you can see details of the brickwork.

Here is a wider view of the site.

As with the tower, the perimeter wall was breached so that rubble could be removed.

The original works and the reservoir were built in the later 1850s. The Company acquired more land to the west and built a second reservoir adjacent to the first in 1886-89. The land above the underground chamber became a set of tennis courts stretching as far as the grounds of Aubrey House. Unlike its brother, this reservoir was not demolished in 1970, as demonstrated by this photograph from 1994.

It looks like a slightly more solid design.

At this point in the research stage one of my volunteers went downstairs and returned with some planning photos from 1998 showing the area above ground.

Thames Water still in occupation. Behind the fence you can see Aubrey Walk and St George’s Church.

The tennis courts.

A closer look at the perimeter of the site showing some evidence of what lies beneath.

 

Along with a few loose pipes.

 

And this distinctive object.

The courts were much used in their day. (Although not much on this particular day.)

But after these pictures were taken about half the site, and the remaining works buildings were redeveloped for housing.

There are still some courts there, accessible via a narrow set of steps from Aubrey Walk. And the reservoir? Well I don’t know. It would be interesting if a brick vault covering a shallow underground pond was still there, dark and silent.

Postscript

Thanks to Isabel, and Barbara for finding most of these pictures. If anyone can add more detail to the story, I’d be very grateful for further information.


Christmas Days: in another Kensington garden

Today’s post is the last of my Christmas mini-posts and this one has nothing to do with the time of year. Consider it the equivalent of one of those nostalgic TV costume dramas. We’re back in another of those country house gardens on Campden Hill which I looked at a few weeks ago. This is the garden of Aubrey House which is of course still exists.

Aubrey House garden front c1893 GN71 - Copy

I featured this lethargic group of young women before in a post called Victorian dreamtime. The eldest stands waiting with her tennis raquet, surely not expecting the younger pair to stop reading. One of them looks far too engrossed, the other momentarily distracted. In another part of the same garden:

Aubrey House 5047 woman and boy - Copy

A woman and a boy inspect the contents of a stone bowl or planter. The same set of steps came be seen closer up below.

Aubrey House 5047 woman - Copy

The creased picture shows a woman also making a close examination of the flowers

Copy of Aubrey House 5047 woman

A close up version in greyscale shows her taking a very close interest in a particular flower. The leg of mutton sleeve of her dress places her in the 1890s. It’s possible she may be one of the two in this picture:

Aubrey House Two women in the garden MS5047 160 - Copy

Or one of them may have featured in a previous post set in wilder territory, Mary and Rachels’s Walk in the Country. Once again a little bit of gardening is going on. I think this is a view of the same path from the opposite direction facing away from the stairs.

This small set of pictures shows the tranquil but perhaps restricted life of women in affluent households at the tail end of the 19th century. Or maybe they’re just snapshots of sunny afternoons more than a hundred years ago, of no particular significance. After all if you changed the clothes you could still find women in gardens today looking just as tranquil and picturesque.

magazine-edith-wharton-05_140528156279 - Copy

Photo by one of the greats of modern photography, Annie Leibowitz, for a series inspired by the work of Edith Wharton featured in Vogue.

Next week we’re sticking with fashion and the 1890s as it’s time for another visit to the ever-popular 1897 Duchess of Devonshire’s Jubilee Costume Ball.


A little bit of faded grandeur – country life in Kensington

Inevitably, I came across the photograph below while looking for something else. If you had no idea where or when it was, what would you have guessed?

Campden Hill lookingsouth west from roof of Cam House 1951 K60-41

Trees, a lawn, part of a building, a cloudy sky and the hint of hills on the horizon. The year is 1951.

Campden Hill looking north west from roof of Cam House 1951 K60-43

A house and an overgrown garden surrounded by trees. The location was no more than 15 minutes from where I was looking at the pictures. It’s Campden Hill which rises from Kensington High Street comes to a peak and slopes down to Notting Hill Gate.

Campden Hill looking north east from roof of Cam House 1951 K60-42

Here you can see more detail including the famous water tower at the top of the hill. The house is Cam House, also called Bedford Lodge, one of seven large houses built in the area by John Tasker in the early years of the 19th century. In other posts I’ve written about the rural hinterland of old Brompton, between Kensington and Chelsea where there were market gardens, inns and cottages. Kensington once had its own semi-rural enclave of grand houses with extensive ornamental gardens.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge garden K66-622

In 1951 Cam House was only four years away from demolition. Formerly the home of the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Argyll ( renamed Argyll House for nearly 50 years) and Sir William Phillimore, it was requisitioned during WW2 after which it seems to have fallen into decline.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge 1951 K60-44

Once these buildings had ceased to be family homes they had very little chance of going back, especially in the post war climate of development.

The lawn leading up to the row of columns looks wild. The pictures give the impression of a crumbling house gradually being overwhelmed by undergrowth. Although below you can see a lone gardener fighting a rear guard action against the vegetation.

Cam House-Bedford Lodge 1951 K60-46

It had once been a highly desirable property, as demonstrated in the agent’s particulars of 1930.

Cam House - particulars 1930

Those were the days of course when £8,000 was a lot of money. Where’s that time machine when you need it?

Bedford Lodge / Cam House, Bute / Blundell House, Thornwood Lodge, Holly / Airlie Lodge, , Elm Lodge,  and Thorpe Lodge, with their grounds were almost in a row leading to the grounds of the big house of the area -Holland House. Moray Lodge was the seventh, slightly to the north.

Moray Lodge prospectus 1893

Tasker himself may have lived in Moray Lodge but only for a short while. He died the same year he became the leaseholder, 1817. The longest period of occupation was by Arthur Lewis, a silk mercer, who used it to host artistic and social events..

Moray Lodge - Copy

Music and oysters, in 1865.

By the time of the sale particulars, 1893, it had been extensively remodelled.

Moray Lodge avenue 1893

It had this avenue, best described in the brochure as one of “two pretty avenue carriage drives… passing between borders thickly planted with old-established shrubs and overhung by well-grown trees forming a complete canopy.”

The “imposing mansion” had a large vestibule, a decorated entrance hall, a “spacious inner or corridor wall” with a “handsome stained glass window two staircases….. a pleasant library…..a cosy morning room…. a fine dining saloon…..and two charming drawing rooms.”

Not to mention the conservatory, “supplied with water, heated by hot water and lighted by gas.”

Moray Lodge conservatory 1893

The full -size replica of “The Grapplers” (original in Stockholm) came from the 1862 Great Exhibition. To be sold separately, if you were interested.

The adjoining billiard room could double as a ball room (Just think about that for a moment.)

There was a lift (“operated by hydraulic power”) and a lot of other rooms, with “ample domestic offices” in the extensive basement. “Speaking tubes are fitted in many convenient parts” and sanitary arrangements are by Messrs. Dent and Helyer (who were no slouches at that sort of thing.)

If you couldn’t find enough to occupy you indoors there was a “pretty Italian garden with fountain… a fully stocked rosery.. and a broad rhododendron walk” outside. The “repleteness and seclusion” was “of a wondrous nature.”

If  if you tired of the ornamental gardens and the many outbuildings, there was always the “capital grass paddock.”

Moray Lodge cow paddock 1893

Complete with working cow. Poultry also available.

Now you should probably lie down in the boudoir.

Moray Lodge interior-boudoir 1937

This advert from the Field shows that 38 years later Moray lodge still looked good.

Moray Lodge particulars 1937The house was also commandeered by the military during the war and never became a private residence again. By 1951 it was a Civil Service rest home.

Moray Lodge garden Civil Service rest home1951 K60-50

The lawn still looks smooth and well kept. You just need a couple of ladies from 1893 with tennis rackets strolling back to the house after a strenuous match and the previous fifty years might never have happened.

Moray Lodge garden 1954 K60-51

A tranquil garden, mature trees and barely a hint of the city around it.

 

Moray Lodge from garden 1951 K60-49

A quiet country residence in fact. Take a seat on that bench while your man of business rings the bank to see if you can afford it. Actually, you’d better not.

Moray Lodge and Bedford Lodge were both demolished in 1955. Another famous feature of Kensington, Holland Park School was built on the site. Of the rest of Tasker’s houses only Thorpe Lodge survives. The quiet life is still possible on Campden Hill. But I suspect the sense of seclusion has gone.

Postscript

Back in modern times it’s the second week of another successful  London History Festival here at the library. Just Dan Jones on the Wars of the Roses still to go. Tickets still left.

On the blog, I’m working on a Christmas surprise and my colleague Isabel is writing another post. Plus, our annual visit to the costume ball, and we might go back to Irving and Caldecott.


Forgotten buildings: the tower at the top of the hill

Grand Junction Water Works Company Campden Hill 1857 628.14 CAM

For the Victorians the movement of water around London whether for drinking, bathing or washing sewage away was much more than a simple utilitarian process. It was one of the pinnacles of new technology, and an essential part of the growth of civilisation. The mastery of flowing water was one of the great skills of urban living. So the buildings and structures associated with it whether below or above ground were subject to the same aesthetic principles as any other grand public building. Hence the impressive Italianate tower above which stood at the peak of Campden Hill and dominated the local skyline for more than a hundred years. You saw it first in the Towers of Kensington post but as I looked deeper I found quite a few pictures illustrating the tower’s rise and fall.

The Grand Junction Water Works Company acquired the site in 1843 in order to build a high level reservoir but they added the pumping station and the water tower a few years later. The tower did not contain a tank but a series of pipes into which water could be pumped to gain extra pressure to power its subsequent progress through the water network.

The Tower was a popular local sight and can be seen in a number of pictures by local artists my favourite of which is this watercolour by Elizabeth Gladstone:

Waterworks tower Campden Hill Road June 1888 BG2459

Remember that spire on the left.

The Grand Junction Water Works Company and all its assets were taken over in 1904 by the Metropolitan Water Board. The tower remained undamaged in both world wars. Here it is in 1964 surmounted by some kind of electronic device:

Campden Hill Water Works 1964 628.14 CAM 024

And again in 1969:

Campden Hill Water Works 1969 628.14 CAM 021

This picture shows the space around the works including part of the covered reservoir. The truncated tower of the “strange and wilful” St George’s Church. Aubrey Walk (1863) is visible behind the works and the tower block on the right is the equally wilful Campden Hill Towers at Notting Hill Gate.

Campden Hill Water Works 1965 628.14 CAM 006

This 1965 picture shows the intricate detail of the brickwork.

Inside the works was some impressive machinery.

Campden Hill Water Works 1965  interior 628.14 CAM 005Campden Hill Water Works 1965  interior 628.14 CAM 003

By 1970 the tower was surplus to requirements and the land it stood on ripe for development. As luck would have it our photographer John Rogers was on hand to chronicle its slow demolition. Here the main pipe is exposed.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 008

This was not one of those Fred Dibnah style spectacular demolitions. Because of the solidity of the structure and its closeness to a residential area the tower had to be disassembled almost brick by brick. Here is the first sign of the secondary pipe:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 017

A man is working up there with a hand held jack hammer which would have made progress slow. Gradually the double pipe is revealed:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 019

The pipe falls:

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 002

Finally the base is demolished. It is now safe to use a wrecking ball.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 014

You can see how massive the walls of the tower were. The crumbling brickwork spills out of the gate.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 023

The tower is gone. A few short weeks before there was snow on the ground and a family walked up the hill on a chilly February day.

Campden Hill Water Works 1970 628.14 CAM 022

The tower has joined the ranks of vanished buildings left behind as London moves on. But at least its passing was recorded.

Postscript

“Strange and wilful” is one of those slightly odd descriptive phrases from the Survey of London which I have come to treasure. “Pungently Burgundian” is another. If you come across any yourself in the Survey or any other architectural guides please send them. There might be a whole post based on them one day.


Towers of Kensington

Towers aren’t necessarily tall. But they are often unexpected. You see them from a couple of streets away and you’re not quite sure where they are exactly. You glimpse them from an upstairs window. Or sometimes they’re miles away and even when they’re big it’s not always clear where the bottom of the tower lies. You can watch them for years from your bedroom window or walk past them on your way to work and then suddenly they’re gone. Like this one:

Tower in grounds of Campden House on corner of Sheffield Terrace and Kensington Church Street GN57

This photograph from the early 1900s shows the remains of tower that stood in the grounds of Campden House. Campden House was a very old house which burned down in the 1860s. There was a dispute about the insurance but it was rebuilt. This must have been a piece of the old property which lingered on until it too vanished in the twentieth century.

They liked a tower in the Campden Hill area.

Tower Cressy

This gothic pile is Tower Cressey which lurked mysteriously at the end of Aubrey Walk near the top of the hill.

Tower Cressy by Frank Emanuel FE14 Cpic683

The artist, Frank Emmanuel, slightly exaggerates the slope from left to right but Campden Hill is quite steep in parts. A hill is a good place to build a tower and makes it even more imposing but when the German bombers came it was an easy target.

Tower Cressy ruins by Gertude Keeling Cpic795

It became a picturesque gothic ruin for a short time in this picture by Gertrude Keeling. Tower Cressey no longer exists but here is a tower which never was:

Central Library architect's drawing view from south

This impossible view of Kensington Central Library from the south shows the equally impossible tower architect Vincent Harris had planned for Kensington Town Hall. It would have been an act of municipal shock and awe and would have dominated the skyline of Kensington. I don’t think it could ever have been built – it would have been just a bit too tall, and by the time there were serious plans for the site Harris was dead and his moment had passed. But I wish he had left some more drawings of his skyscraper.

In its day this was nearly the tallest tower in Kensington:

St Mary Abbotts from Observatory Gardens July 1892 by Elizabth Gladstone BG2453

The second St Mary Abbots Church glimpsed in the distance as towers should be in this water colour by Elizabeth Gladstone.

When it was completed in 1879 the 250 feet spire was the tallest in London and the sixth tallest in the country.

St Mary Abbotts c1898 K71-384  283 ABB-C

A view from 1898 showing the original roof over the nave which was destroyed in a WW2 air raid.

The most impressive tower in Kensington and slightly taller than St Mary Abbots lies a little further south.

Imperial Institute c1920 942-IMP-CS

This is the Imperial Institute about 1920 on its own road Imperial Institute Road. The green domed tower sometimes called the Collcutt Tower after its architect now usually known as the Queen’s tower is all that remains.

Imperial Institute tower 1961-2 K62-762 942 IMP-CS

The same scene in the 1960s.It’s an old story. When Imperial College was built it was decided to retain the tower. I came to London in 1973. My friend Carl was at Imperial and he took me to see the tower looking alone and immense in the setting of the college. And unfortunately completely closed to the public then. It is possible to arrange visits now I believe but apparently there are a lot of stairs to climb to get to the viewing gallery. Perhaps it’s merely ornamental now but it is a pleasing landmark. There were two secondary towers which were demolished and this is one of them:

Imperial Institute secondary tower possibly looking wes K61-7 942 IMP-Ct

You can just about make out Gloucester Road at the junction with Victoria Grove on the left and the lengthy mews behind Queen’s Gate. So we’re pointing west again back towards Campden Hill.

I have one final lost tower for you back on the hill, a tower which stood for a hundred years.

Campden Hill Gardens with water tower PC664

It’s the water tower for the Grand Junction Company water works here seen looking up Campden Hill Gardens but visible on the skyline in many views of Kensington. In a couple of weeks it will have a blog post to itself but next week I’m doing something topical (for 1890).

Postscript

I missed out Tower House but that too will get a post to itself one of these days.


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