Tag Archives: Chelsea

A meal you can shake hands with in the dark: the Arts Club Ball

There comes an affair in the tides of men
When you can’t go back again
Yes there comes a darkness in the affairs of light
When you can’t hold back the night
So you go where your mind will keep
Where the rain plays the restless to sleep
On the notes of a broken piano

1953 street

1950s papier mache apocalypse? Carnival mishap? The set of a Jan Svankmaier film? None of those.

What about a woman with a tail?

CACB 001 - Copy

We’ve got one of those.

And an elephant, ready to dance. Some kind of elephant anyway.

1958 elephant

And we’ve got a strange object on wheels with young women balanced on it.

1953

What does it all mean? Well obviously, the Chelsea Arts Club Ball.

It’s a dance.

1954a

It’s a giant costume party.

Some of the costumes look good, like this couple.

1952

Some maybe not.

1955b

(What is that man doing?)

It’s also an artistic event.

Laughing devils break out of…something.

1950

Exuberant costumes.

CACB 1953 008
More exuberant costumes.

Primavera

Maybe we could get those guys out of here. We’ve had enough mishapen heads for one night.

1955c

On with the party. See, it’s in full swing now. How did Richard Nixon get in?

1957

The climax will be spectacular…..

CAC Royal Albert Hall 1954-59 Ronald Searle seven seas

The party stopped in the end but for a long while the fun was endless.

I’m going to a wedding
I’m going to a wedding dressed in black
I’m going to a party
I’m going to party, won’t be back

I’m going to a funeral
I’m going to a funeral dressed in white
I’m going to a nightclub
I’m going to a nightclub to sleep with night

Postscript

For quite a few years the Chelsea Arts Club, that ancient haven for artists and bohemians has kept its archive in our sub-basement. I’ve been happy to look after it. but now they have their own search room which can be visited by the serious researcher and the curious amateur alike.  In remembrance of their stay with us they’ve let me use some of their pictures of the Arts Club Ball. My thanks to Stephen Bartley.

The poet Pete Brown made albums with the group Piblokto including “Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever” which I referred to in a previous post. His first band was called the Battered Ornaments and from them I got the title of this post, a phrase I have always admired. I don’t believe he ever had anything to do with the the Ball but I’ve always loved his lyrics, particularly the songs he wrote with Jack Bruce. The lyrics quoted above are from “He the Richmond” and “Weird of Hermiston” from the Jack Bruce album Songs for a Tailor.

 

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Once upon a time in the 20s – 1: at the Royal Court Theatre

I have a feeling we may be looking at the 1920s quite a lot this year, so I’m getting into the mood with a trip to the theatre. What better place to stop at but the Royal Court, in Sloane Square. What’s on?

HH p1 1921

In 1921 another work by the theatrical master George Bernard Shaw, the only person to win a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. But those came later

Who’s in it?

HH p3 - Copy

Sounds good to me. Do you see the fourth on the bill?

HH p4 - Copy (2)Edith Evans as Lady Utterwood, aged 33 but still looking as if she had just uttered those immortal words: “a handbag?”

Heartbreak House 1923 - Copy

Doing a fine bit of lounging there.

Heartbreak House 1923 - Copy (2)

The action features a Zeppelin raid.

Interval

While we’re waiting, have a flick through the programme.

Ad from Cosi Fan Tutte programme 02 - Copy

Marshall & Snelgrove, already merged with Debenhams by this time, but the name survived until the 1970s

Ad from Cosi Fan Tutte programme 03a

The permanent wave, the look of the moment.

HH p4 - Copy - Copy

Only yards from the theatre…..

Ad from Cosi Fan Tutte programme 04 - Copy

Harvey Nichols, of course still a name we know.

One with the show, a couple of years later.

2nd act

It wasn’t all highbrow stuff at the Royal Court. Here’s Carte Blanche, a revue from 1923.

Carte Blanche 1923 - Copy

As well as the Two Bobs (unknown to Wikipedia), it featured the many faces of Odette Myrtil, playing the fiddle,

Odette Myrtil in Carte Blanche - Copy (2)

and whoever she is here.

Odette Myrtil in Carte Blanche 02 - Copy

We have a programme for the revue but I can’t work out which pieces these costumes come from. I was intrigued by one line in the credits: “Pig kindly supplied by C and T Harris”. No pictures I’m afraid.

But back to more serious stuff. In 1924 Edith Evans was back at the Royal Court playing several roles in Shaw’s five-night epic Back to Methuselah

Back to Methuselah 1924 - Copy

The first section features Adam and Eve. Eve is played by the young Gwen ffrangcon Davies. Hammer filmafficionados may remember as the Countess, one of the sinister house guests in The Devil Rides Out. But here she had an innocent role.

Back to Methuselah 1924 - Copy (2)

It’s Miss Evans who takes the sinister role as the Serpent. Nice costume.

Back to Methuselah is a series of five plays which start in the Garden of Eden but three of which are set in the future as far as 31,920 AD so it’s science fiction (but not as we know it.) Shaw apparently thought it would be read rather than performed but there were productions in New York, Birmingham and London.

Back to Methuselah 1924 02 - Copy

[Cain and Abel]

Below Scott Sunderland and Evelyn Hope play statues of Ozymandian and Cleopatra-Femiramis brought to life by a sculptor. Or are they robots? The press coverage and the synopsis don’t quite tally.

Back to Methuselah 1924 03 - Copy

I cannot imagine what audiences made of the cycle of plays. Perhaps they were ready for Shaw’s wild speculations.

I was intending to leave it there, with the intention of coming back to the theatre in the 20s later. But in case I don’t let me leave you with an image of a play much more frequently performed, on more than one occasion at the Royal Court.

MND 1921 O and T - Copy

You know it, don’t you?

Postscript

No postscript this week.


Royal Court posters

I’m not a great afficionado of the theatre, so I haven’t been able to think of a clever title for this week’s post. In fact when I tried to think of all the times I’ve been to a theatre since I came to London in the 70s I got past the fingers of one hand but didn’t make it to the end of the second. Still, more by luck than judgement I’ve managed to see some good performances – Malcolm McDowell and Beryl Reid in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Jack Shepherd in Michael Kerr’s Dispatches, local hero David Rappaport (and many others) in Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus Trilogy, and one visit to the Royal Court Theatre to see David Edgar’s Mary Barnes, which is chiefly memorable to me for Simon Callow’s performance as a psychiatrist.

But anyway, my inconsequential reminiscences bring us to the Royal Court Theatre and the collection of posters we have in the Chelsea Local Studies picture collection. I’m not attempting any kind of thematic or chronological selection.I’ve picked these particular ones because I’ve heard of the play, or the  author, or one of the actors, or (mostly) because I just liked the image.

00002 Top Girls

Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls from the early 1980s featuring several well known names.

This revival of Alfred Jarry’s 1896 absurdist drama has just one name on the poster:

00010 Ubu Roi

Max Wall the former music hall / variety comedian famous for his iconic physical style of comedy who turned to straight acting in his later years and did many “serious” roles. It also featured Colin Welland, Kenneth Cranham, Robert Powell and Jack Shepherd and was designed by David Hockney.

Somewhat earlier (note the phone number):

00006 The Ginger Man

An adaptation by J P Donleavy of his own sensational novel. This may not be the original production which starred Richard Harris but the names are famous enough for me. That 1959 version went to Dublin but was closed after three days for “offensiveness”. I’ve read the novel and from this distance in time I can barely grasp what the problem might have been.

A different degree of offensiveness was also a problem in 1972. John Osborne’s career wasn’t going too well. His new play A sense of detachment didn’t altogether help.

00018 A sense of detachment

His own wife Jill Bennett pulled out from a leading role to be replaced by the diminutive actress Denise Coffey. (In 1972 I would have known her as one of the cast of the pre-Python children’s comedy show Do not adjust your set.). The play was pornographic according to critics and many were outraged by the lines Rachel Kempson had to say – although Kempson herself was deeply committed to the part and dived into the audience to attack two of the most vociferous hecklers. Clever poster, though.

In an earlier age Carry On star Jimy Thompson took the lead in a version of a French farce.

00007 Monsieur Blaise

It was adapted by his wife in 1964.

There was some nudity in this 1974 production.

00003 Life class

Rosemary Martin spent an hour naked on stage as an artist’s model. Alan Bates, who famously performed nude in Women in Love, kept his clothes on. There was a poster featuring the unclothed Ms Martin which caused a minor scandal on the tube but this version is more decorous.

Another pair of actors who rose to fame in the 1960s were in this 1973 double bill:

00017 Krapps last tape

Krapp’s last tapes is a solo performance as was Not I, in which Bille Whitelaw, now celebrated as one of the great performers of Beckett’s work delivers her monologue with only her mouth visible.

Tony Richardson directed this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in January 1962.

00019 A Midsummer night's dream

It featured Ronnie Barker, James Bolam, Samantha Eggar, Alfred Lynch, Corin and Lynne Redgrave, Rita Tushingham, David Warner and Nicol Williamson (to name, unfairly, just the ones I’ve heard of.) And the image is pretty striking.

Edward Bond did his own version of a Shakespeare story in 1971.

00020 Lear

Quite a violent piece of work by all accounts. Bond also produced another new version of a classic.

00012 Three sisters

It’s a more conventional poster.

A couple of famous names in the last part of a trilogy of absurdist drama in 1962:

00011 Exit the King

Big Wolf (1972) by the German playwright Harald Mueller. I’ve included this one purely because I like the image.

00003 big wolf - Copy

This 1970 comedy by the Brooklyn writer  Michael Weller has a provocative title.

00005 Cancer

The play was an examination of communal living in the counter culture. Weller later changed the title to the far less interesting Moonchildren.

One of my favourites:

00009 Other worlds

Robert Holman’s play is set in north Yorkshire in the 18th century. One of the main characters was a talking monkey, which apparently confused the critics.

I may have demonstrated that I don’t know that much about the theatre. But I do know that these posters are a fascinating aspect of the history of graphic art in the second half of the 20th century.

Postscript

Was it colourful enough for you? If you enjoyed theses images let me know. There are many more. We’ll be back in black and white next week.

Finally, a bonus image – a poster I scanned before we had the book scanner so the top and bottom are cut off, but it’s still worth seeing.

Sugar and Spice - Royal Court poster

Sugar and Spice by Nigel Williams  (1980) featuring the young Toyah Willcox and just over her shoulder a just as young Caroline Quentin.


Home front volunteers: Chelsea, 1940s

We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so remembering the Great War and I’ve spent time researching what we’ve got in our collection. But it always brings me back to the Second World War,the one that lives in my imagination through my parents and other family members and in the popular consciousness as I grew up. Because of that we’re in no danger (yet)of forgetting those who served whether in the armed forces on the home front. The first war was not without danger for civilians in the cities, but the Zeppelin attacks were nothing like the Blitz. In London and other cities there were volunteer fire fighters, volunteer ambulance crews and volunteer ARP wardens.

This is the post that got away from the Christmas series. I thought of these photographs of volunteers and vehicles at outposts in Chelsea as light-hearted, a mismatched group of amateurs muddling through in a motley selection of uniforms and overalls, the slightly comedic way in which the home front is sometimes portrayed.

6 - Copy

Some of our men were outrigged in blue battle dress tonight – with black boots and gaiters. One chap asked me what I thought his looked like. I told him – he looked as if he’d just come out of jail or Borstal!

I scanned these pictures of men and vehicles (1,2 and 4) several years ago when a gentleman brought them in to show me. He had been a schoolboy at the time and told me an intriguing story about a friend of his mother’s, a librarian as it happens, who had the macabre ability to match separated body parts together by sight. He would be called down to the morgue in Sydney Street to consult with the pathologists who had to reassemble victims of bomb blasts.

That was the other side of the home front. You might pose for a picture with your fellow volunteers and smile for the camera. But when the bombs were falling a quite different world opened up.

September 10th
13.30 Bramerton Street fire has broken out again I hear 11 folks are underground. Mrs Castillo’s head has been found. Poor soul.
We heard the Jerry plane has been brought down. During this raid I was caught out in the road on my bike as the plane made a dive, machine gunning. I fell off the bike, fled up some steps in Glebe Place – somebody opened a door and I fell inside.

3 - Copy

September 11th
3.47 3 awful blasts from Beaufort Street – God help them. One struck Cadogan House Shelter – one Kings Road and caught gas main. Two terrific fires shot up from the gas. I ran for shelter and then went out to help. More bombs till 5.40 all clear. Lay down till 6.30 then went to Beaufort Street to help in the trouble – did clearing work, stretcher work, counted bodies, messenger work for hours. God! What a day dawning! Peace after a night of hell but what a price! Over 41 poor dead things in that shelter including our own warden Miss Darling whose head was blown in. Stayed there till 12.15. Came home to bath and got to Food Office at 12 o’clock.

Chelsea Reach auxilliary ambulance station - Copy

In this picture I can’t work out if the two men at the front are acting the business of examining the engine while the others stand in line.

Sept 14th
18.27 (edited) Bomb on Holy Redeemer. Got sent off by Bert Thorpe on bike patrol in Glebe Place and hardly got away when HE sailed through church window through crypt floor to cellar where it exploded…among 80 odd people…..A 20 stone woman blocked the doorway and we couldn’t get her up the stairs….later we got her up with some help from the police but she died…..
Thorpe was under the arch – I rolled him over and saw his face – he had none.. recognized him by his hair, uniform and ring on his hand.. I think my heart broke this night…….

5 - Copy

Note the modifications to the headlights on this car, so they hardly gave out any light at all during the blackout. A dangerous time for driving whether you were in the car or a pedestrian.

In the picture below you can see four sniffer dogs used in rescues.

Air Raid Precaution Chelsea

I’m quoting fom the unpublished diaries of Jo Oakman, who worked as a warden and at Chelsea Town Hall throughout the war.

In October 1940 there was much interest in an unexploded bomb nicknamed Ernestine which was sitting in Embankment Gardens. Oakman describes it as “our pet Bomb” The bomb was dug out and “tickled” by 6 “Scotchmen” Oakman found it difficult to understand. Eventually the Scots drilled the bomb and removed its nose. “She” was removed in a lorry but bits of the “ outerwork” given to people. Oakman kept a screw.

Also in October her size six boots were swapped by someone for a size three. She swapped them back and hid them in a house near the post. On the way back :“Got hit across the knuckles by a bit of shrapnel… rather painful”

She was also an amateur artist. This sketch shows the ruins of Chelsea Old Church which was bombed in April 1941

Oakman Old Church 01

Oakman was out of London when the Old Church was bombed. I looked for an account of the incident in Frances Faviell’s war memoir “A Chelsea Concerto” but found that at almost the same time Faviell’s home in Royal Hospital Road was bombed and she  barely made it out alive, the building reduced to rubble. “there was not a warden, not a soul about – it looked like a dead place – not a sign of life  from anywhere and yet we knew that in many of the houses people were down in their basements unconscious of the horrors above them. I looked down at my legs – they felt cold – and saw that I had no dress below the thighs. It, and my slip had vanished; the top of the black dress was quite whole – but the skirt was gone. The whole of it felt wet and sticky – and I knew it was the blood from Anne’s arm

Faviell refers to Jo Oakman a few times in her book. She recounts the story of Oakman discovering the body of Bert Thorpe and wishing she hadn’t so she could remember him as he was, and also Oakman’s part in the rescue of Mildred the daughter of Mrs Castillo (mentioned above). The 12-year old girl was trapped for four days in the debris before being rescued. “The first to reach the heap of ruins was Jo Oakman, a doctor’s daughter and a clever painter…”

This view by Oakman is of a temporary bridge erected near Albert Bridge for troops and heavy vehicles. (Some of you will know the famous sign on Albert Bridge instructing troops to break step when crossing. It wasn’t designed for  military work.)

oakman - temporary bridge 2

This view from 1947 shows the bridge being dissassembled.

oakman - temporary bridge

I don’t imagine Miss Oakman is in any of these pictures. But she might well have known some of the people who are, most of them amateurs, who turned themselves into heroes.

Chelsea Reach auxilliary ambulance station volunteers - Copy

Nov 29th

(edited) Was on Embankment talking to 2 coppers when 3 bombs came along….the third HE landed in the River near me and blew me down flat. I saw.. a flash of yellow in a red cloud descend into river – followed by a thud, a smack of water and rising foam and the crash of broken glass all around in Cheyne Walk.. I got covered in mud. Ran along Cheyne Walk and found mostly glass all over the road..Reported at Post and it was phoned to CCC with “no casualties”.

Jo Oakman survived the war. This is a painting of the Town Hall decorated for VE Day.

Oakman Chelsea Town Hall

Postscript

The Library has an ancient photocopy of a transcript of the Oakman diaries made I think by her nephew. All rights for the text remain with the family. Josephine Oakman died in 1970.

The third and final photos, featuring the Auxilliary Ambulance station were donated to the Library in 2010. Thanks to JS.

Jean Darling, referred to in the text was a Chelsea Housing Officer who died when an incendiary bomb fell on a shelter she was supervising in Cadogan House, Beaufort Street. The Council commemorated her in the name of a housing block in nearby Milmans Street.


Christmas Days: a little bit of Bignell

I had another mini-post almost written when I realised that with a few related pictures and a bit of research I could make it into a full-length post and I never waste those ideas when they come so who could I turn to for today’s mini-post but my old friend John Bignell? I’m breaking my own mini-post rule because I could easily grab a few more Bignell pictures and make it another long post but actually putting this handful of images into a short post throws them into relief and emphasises how special they are.

So here are three great Bignell pictures.

From the artistic world, the Tate Gallery in 1959.

Tate gallery Epstein retrospective 1958

A group of men wrestle with a massive sculpture at a retrospective for Jacob Epstein. Struggle seems to bleed out of the statue into the effort to move it. Not being familiar with Epstein’s work at first glance I thought this was a kiss between two titans, but of course thanks to Google Images I realise now that this is a Biblical struggle – Jacob and the Angel. The figure at the rear is lifting the other upward supported by his alabaster wings.

I’ve taken photos of men moving a massive object (a giant safe which had to be taken out of an archive room and moved the length of the basement to a suitable lift) so I understand the process but Bignell has caught the emotional content of the action. The comparatively thin sculpture at the rear seems to convey a sense of anxiety, for the movers, or the statue.A clever bit of framing by Bignell, or just a piece of luck?

If you look at my post about Lionel Davidson’s novel the Chelsea Murders you’ll see one of Bignell’s fanciful pictures, Satan Triumphant featuring a black clad man in a devil’s mask with a woman in white.

This picture from 1955 is in the same vein.

Virtue fight back - Bignell 1955l

Entitled “Virtue fights back” this is a very strange image. On a rooftop opposite St Paul’s Cathedral another black clad man with the face of a skull and clawed hands fences with a woman who looks like a circus performer. What is going on? Is it the same couple? It looks like the same cape. I’ve yet to find any more Bignell pictures in this vein so you may never read a long post about Bignell and urban fantasy. That’s what it reminds me of though,Neal Gaiman’s novel/TV series Neverwhere and Christopher Fowler’s first (and best in my opinion) novel Roofworld, both about hidden worlds which co-exist with the mundane version of London.

From the circus to a funfair:

Battersea fun fair 1957 jb113

This is another late 50s picture, one of a small set featuring the fun fair in Battersea Park. The woman having some 1950s difficulty with her wide skirt and its supporting petticoat is climbing out of the Caterpillar, a favourite ride for couples.You have to wonder if Bignell set this up but what is definitely genuine is the atmosphere of good humoured fun.

So there’s Bignell playing with the real and the artificial, in three different ways. Every photograph sits somewhere on the line between chance and intention.


Forgotten streets of Chelsea

I’ll have to start by qualifying that title. Chelsea people have long memories so I should really say streets forgotten by some people. For others the streets demolished in 1969/70 to clear the area for the building of the World’s End Estate will never be forgotten, and for others still the act of demolition never be forgiven. But for those of you who don’t remember, or those who never knew let me just say there was an enclave of streets in the west of Chelsea which no longer exist. This 1935 map shows them and gives you the roll call of streets which have passed into history.

1935 OS map X29 World's End streets - Copy

Raasay Street, Bifron Street, Vicat Street, Dartrey Road, Seaton Street, Luna Street – all gone now, and somehow the names themselves are redolent of another time and an older, slightly rougher version of Chelsea. The stub of Blantyre Street lingers on at the edge but you can see that the five (or six) sided shape is now a sunken island among the more familiar names like Edith Grove and Cremorne Road.

Our photographer John Rogers went down there in 1969 and caught those streets in their final transition from a living neighbourhood to an empty shell. You may have seen pictures of some of these streets before. (I did a post on the general history of the World’s End). But this post is purely concerned with the last days of these almost forgotten World’s End streets.

World's End looking north 1969 KS1913

1969. Look at that woman waiting to use the phone. If she could step into 2014 and stand in pretty much the same spot she would see more or less the same buildings. But if she turned around and looked behind her…

St John's Church World's End 1969 KS1848

She would see St John’s Church and Mission Hall at the intersection of Blantyre Street and Dartrey Road. If she looked to her left and she could see Blantyre Street.

Blantyre street looking east 1969 KS 1878

A street full of parked cars which leads tothe last few numbers of Cheyne Walk. (What’s that large one on the right?)

Check the map. You can turn right from Blantrye Street into Seaton Street.

Seaton St looking south 1969 KS 1896

The tree at the end is on the embankment overlooking the houseboats.

Seaton St east side 1969 KS 1900

In Seaton Street there’s all sorts of semi-erased football graffitti on the wall next to the Chelsea Corner Cupboard including the incomplete inscription Osgood Aven(u)e which must be a reference to Peter Osgood. (“Osgood is God” vied with “Clapton is God” as mottos on the wall  back in 1969)

Behind Seaton Street was Luna Street,

Luna St West side 35-37 1069

where you could still kick a ball down the street if you wanted to. Dartrey Road ran north to south.

Dartrey road looking south 1969 KS 1832

Those tower blocks in the distance are on the Battersea side of the river. Running west from Dartrey Road was the oddly named Raasay Street.

Raasay Street south side 1969 KS1790

Here you can see the first signs of demolition. This is a closer view of the same scene.

Raasay St north side 1969 KS 1793

Mixed rags and scrap metal still available.

In Bifron Street houses were already vacated.

Bifron street looking West 1969 KS 1795
Some signs of a road closure as a truck gets ready to go.  And below, the interior of a house is laid bare.

BIfron street north side 1969 KS1798

In Vicat Street (Vicat sounds like the name of a dissolute Victorian aristocrat) the process is further along.

Vicat St North side 1969 KS 1813

You can almost smell the dust rising in this picture and the ones below.

Vicat St South Side 1969 KS 1807

Wallpaper is still visible on the walls of those exposed rooms, and debris in the street.

Vicat St South side 1969 KS 1810

The empty A F Stokes shop, along with some more unsuccessfully executed football related graffitti. It all looks quite forlorn.

So let’s go back, away from the devastation. If that woman is still in the phone box she can look west and see this view.

Dartrey terrace 1969 KS 1845

Still a little life left in those World’s End streets. The corner of a pre-war car, second hand goods, fish and chips plus whatever they sold at Gandalf’s Garden. All gone, not so very long after these pictures were taken.

Postscript

Don’t think I’m down on the World’s End Estate. I’ve been inside and there are some very nice flats there. And the view is astonishing. I’ve no doubt that living conditions some of the houses in the demolished streets must have been pretty grim. But there is aways a price to be paid for development.


Shepherd in Chelsea

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd is one of the few artists in our collection who seemed equally happy in Chelsea and Kensington. It could be argued that his Chelsea watercolours have the edge for the variety of the subject matter, although some of these views are familiar from the work of other artists. Take Gough House as an example.

Gough House 238A

We’ve seen it before in the paintings of Mariane Rush. She painted Gough House from different angles, even from old prints and her imagination. Shepherd’s view is more exact, his trees less exotic, but he does allow a certain darkness about the place. Gough House was built in 1704 but the Gough family didn’t own it until ten years later. It lay adjacent to the later building Walpole House – susequent researchers wish that Shepherd (or Rush) had painted that.  In 1790 Gough House was a girl’s school (inevitably) . The grounds were gradually absorbed in the 19th century by the building of the Embankment and the laying out of Tite Street but the house itself partly survived into the 20th century as The Victoria Hospital for Children

The Chelsea Bun House in Grosvenor Row was the home of the Chelsea Bun but also had a museum of curiosities, not the only one in the area.

Chelsea Bun House 167A

The Bun House was run by several members of a family named Hand. The often quoted figure of a quarter of a million buns sold on Good Friday 1829 is probably apocryphal but the buns themselves “a zephyr in taste, fragrant as honey” sound  a little more interesting than the modern version.

Below, a view of St Joseph’s Convent, Cadogan Street occupied then by the Sisters of Mercy. Boys and girls’ schools and alms housas were later added and the street now also has a Catholic Church, St Mary’s.

St Soseph's Convents and Schools, Cadogan Street 172A

Some of this building still survives. Another building with ecclesiastical connnections is now gone, Winchester House, home of the Bishop of Winchester after the destruction of Winchester Palace. While the Bishop lived there it was outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, but by 1825 Earl Cadogan’s estate had acquired it. After its demolition, Oakley Street was built, running south from the King’s Road to the river right through the former house.

Winchester House 150A

Some clerical figures strolling on the left perhaps, and one of Shepherd’s running dogs on the other path.

East of the point where Oakley Street met the river was a grand terrace of houses we’ve seen in Hedderly photographs. The house with the signs is Don Saltero’s Tavern,  once home to an even more famous museum of curiosites.

Cheyne Walk - Don Saltereo's 151A

James Salter (“Don Saltero” was his exotic alter ego) had been a servant of Sir Hans Sloane. The original coffee house was further east near Lawrence Street but he finally moved to 18 Cheyne Walk. He died in 1728. The collection was sold in 1799 and by the time Shepherd painted this picture the house was just a tavern.

The collection itself deserves a post of its own, which I may do one day but let me just give some random examples from the 1734 version of the catalogue:

21 Petrified crab from China; 27 The Worm that eats into the Piles in Holland; 31 A piece of rotten wood not to be consumed by fire; 67 A pair of Nun’s stockings; 69 A Nun’s Whip; 70 the Pope’s infallible candle; 76 A little Lobster;102 A curious snuff box, adorn’d with ivory figures;119 the Hand of an Egyptian Mummy; 135 An Ostritch’s Leg; 142 A Cat of Mountain; 302 A Whale’s pizzle: 305 A Batt with four Ears

As you can see, it was a collection you’d want to see if you could. I once displayed the whole list in the gallery at Chelsea Library. In the end though the whole lot sold for £50.

We now begin a walk along the riverside, one of the most illustrated parts of Chelsea [link]

Another familiar view shows the pre-Embankment riverside heading towards the Old Church. The river was wider, and maybe gentler at this time.

Chelsea waterfront 152A

Getting closer to the church you can see the Sloane Monument and the terrace leading up to it, both photographed by Hedderly. (plus other posts under his name)

Chelsea Old Church 145A

Shepherd gave the dog some time off and puts a horse in this one. Arch House, the covered way to Lombard Street is just visible.

Lindsey House 146A

On the other side of the bridge, the dog returns in this view of Lindsey House, built in 1694 but substantially altered over the years. The Brunels, father and son lived there for several years in the early 19th century.

Turner's House 119 Cheyne Walk 147A

Further along Cheyne Walk at number 119 (the house in the centre) was rented from 1838 by the painter J M W Turner. The rail on the roof was supposedly the point from which he watched the river, particularly at sunset.  He lived there almost incognito only visited by a few friends such as Leopold Martin, son of the painter John Martin. It’s not recorded whether the misspellings at Alexander’s are what Shepherd actually saw or whether Shepherd himself was a poor speller.

Time-journeys along this stretch of river often end here:

Cremorne Gardens 1852 148A

The Cremorne Pleasure Gardens, where I imagine there were no dogs allowed, apart from the performing variety [link]

Cremorne Gardens 1852 149A

Shepherd doesn’t show the crowds. Perhaps he’s imagining a quiet afternoon at Cremorne. These two ladies, the gentleman and the boy can have their pick of the chairs. A few figures make their way out of what I assume is Ashburnham Hall, part of the old estate now convereted into an exhibition area.. This is the genteel version of the Gardens. Some edifying displays in the hall, a chance to sit quietly, almost in the country with only the sound of the wind in the trees and the river in the background. Later the entertainments will begin and presumably Cremorne won’t be so quiet or so staid.

Let’s go one step further and pass through the gardens onto the westernmost stretch of the King’s Road. St Mark’s College was built right across from the entrance to Cremorne. As a teacher training college the authorities there naturally deplored the licentious activity in the evenings at Cremorne and the Principal of the College was one of the main objectors whenever Cremorne’s licences were up for renewal. (Although the main reason for the closure of Cremorne was probably a decline in profitability and the desire of developers to build housing on the site.) The days of seasonal  outdoors entertainment on the scale of Cremorne were coming to an end.

On the Fulham Road side of the College site was the chapel:

St Mark's College Chapel 138A

It looks like another tranquil spot. But London was growing around all the quiet places Shepherd depicted and the modern city was taking over. The only animals in this picture are a small flock of birds.

Postscript

Shepherd brings together many strands of Chelsea history. I’m almost certainly going to pick one of those up next week, I’m not sure which one right now.


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