This week’s post is a kind of sequel to the one about the West London Air Terminal which has proved to be enormously popular and attracted comments from many people who remembered a building I dared to call forgotten. Regular readers will be aware of the photographs of Bernard Selwyn, a surveyor who worked in west London who left the Library in his will a large number of photos he’d taken during the course of his work. He had time to indulge his own interests in London history and he frequently had access to vantage points not everyone could visit. This was in June 1985, well after the Terminal had closed, but before some of the development in the area around it.
The big change was the arrival of Sainsburys in 1983 which would then have been the biggest supermarket in the area.
Selwyn seems to have got inside the space above the supermarket, either in the main structure or the parking/lift tower beside it. Either way he found a few spots well above ground level, looking down on the Cromwell Curve, that point where railway lines coming from Gloucester Road, Earls Court and Kensington High Street meet just below ground level.
There is the point where the tracks go underneath Cromwell Road to get to Gloucester Road Station. In the background is the Penta Hotel, later the Forum and now the Holiday Inn. On the left are houses in Emperor’s Gate. You can see some extensive undergrowth by the side of the tracks which extends onto a then vacant area. It’s built on now but in 1983 there was a curious sight.
One of the buildings has some serious buttress work. It almost looks as though wooden arms were stretched out, frantically trying to keep the building standing. in the background you can see what was then a church of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile which took over a building which had been a Baptist, then a Presbyterian Chapel. the Russian Orthodox Church was there from 1959-1989. Later it became a church hall for St Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road.
This view shows the track heading north towards High Street Kensington Station. The buildings next to the track belong to the Underground. You can see them more clearly in the picture below which also shows what look like ramps for cars.
It’s always curious to see the rear of these comparatively tall residential blocks.
There are the twin tunnel entrances heading under Cromwell Road, and a neat little staircase leading up that odd little overgrown space. Across the street you can see the site where the Gloucester Arcade was built and beyond, the station platforms which were covered over by the development. I don’t know what the white building was. Anyone? [Update Thursday afternoon – see the comments section below for the actually quite obvious when you look answer, provide by an eagle-eyed reader.]
Selwyn was obviously taken by the view towards Emperor’s Gate. See the signs for the Genesta hotel?
Now he swivels back to the closest rear view, of Cromwell Road itself. These buildings follow the curve of the track and because of that some of them are surprisingly narrow.
I always imagined that this could be the spot in the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Bruce Partington Plans” in which a body is dumped on top of the roof of a train and carried away for miles before discovery at Aldgate. (Holmes works it out of course with his keen knowledge of the the then modern railway system). But Holmes experts have determined that it was actually further west. You can see how close the windows are to the tracks though. The rear configuration of the buildings is surprisingly varied.
Look at the complex set of fire escape in the next couple of pictures. Is there a train coming?
And Selwyn can’t resist taking a picture as one passes.
This (almost) final picture takes us back to the start with that heavily scaffolded building next to the tunnel entrance for the tracks to Earls Court.
That coach, or one very much like it is still parked on the pavement.
Of course, when you’ve got a camera in your hand there’s one thing you’re always going to take a quick picture of:
Who can resist a blimp? Note the remaining tower of the Imperial Institute poking up above the skyline.
In a previous Selwyn based post I included my personal tribute to the late Glenn Frey. By coincidence there was another recent death in the music world which saddened me. Sandy Pearlman was not a performer. He wrote lyrics for the Blue Oyster Cult, managed them and produced many of their albums. BOC were a strange hybrid of heavy metal, psychedelia and that glossy hard rock of the early 1970s. Pearlman contributed to the atmosphere of the occult in many of their songs, but his main claim to fame is as a producer. Albums he produced had a unique guitar sound, whether it was the Dream Syndicate (the only time I ever bought an album because of the producer), the Dictators (their album Manifest Destiny contains my personal theme song, “Sleeping with the TV on”). Pavlov’s Dog (featuring the bizarrely high voice of David Surkamp) or most famously the Clash whose second album Give ’em enough rope was produced by Pearlman in an attempt to break the band in America. Someone on the radio called it the best guitar album ever made. I wouldn’t go that far but if you’re not convinced play the first three tracks on the album (or just the third,”Tommy Gun” ) and you’ll see for yourself. After you’ve recovered try “Astronomy” by the Blue Oyster Cult, one of my favourite songs ever.
Thank you and farewell, Sandy Pearlman.
Postscript to the postscript
In the days of film cameras you always used to use up the film with a few unrelated pictures at the end. Selwyn was no exception to this rule. In this pack of photos there were a few of St Paul’s Cathedral and a couple of this building, which I’m sure one of you London experts will immediately identify.
No prize, but it would be quite nice to know.