Tag Archives: Cromwell Road

Forgotten buildings: a few numbers in Cromwell Road

Just before Christmas I did a post which largely arose out of the large number of people you could see in some Survey photos taken around South Kensington Station. I  thought I might do something similar based around the Gloucester Road / Cromwell Road area, another busy area where pedestrians get into the pictures.

We’ve previously examined Gloucester Road Station and the area around it, including one back street which no longer exists (Lenthall Place, pleasingly called a “pokey cul-de-sac” by the Survey of London, another one for my list of excellent phrases from that great work) and the view from above. (How many links can I get into a couple of opening sentences?)

As it turned out I became more interested in a comparatively short stretch of road from the corner of Gloucester Road to Ashburn Gardens, on the south side of Cromwell Road. This section has been entirely redeveloped since John Rogers took these picture in December 1969. The pedestrians for the most part were squeezed out as I realised I had another Forgotten Buildings post on my hands.

There are a couple of interesting women crossing the road here, though heading southwards.

 

 

The building on the left, at one time a bank, was by 1969 the home of Jack Solomons and Bud Flanagan (“Turf Accountants”, an elegant phrase from the past), but as the large sign above their names indicates had been acquired by Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd for the construction of “London’s largest hotel”.  This acquisition included a large section of the south side of Cromwell Road.  The plan might not have been carried off quite as intended, but there has been some substantial development on this stretch of road including a pretty large hotel (the Penta/Forum/Holiday Inn) and a shopping arcade behind the corner, where Lenthall Place  used to run which  also covers the tube station platforms. (If you look at the post called “From the Penta Hotel” you can see a view from the 1980s when there was little left behind the wall.)

 

 

This view looks west from the middle of the road (I hope John was standing in a safe spot). On the left, you can see the wall with a balustrade which enclosed the area including the station and its platforms (and Lenthall Place) I think the arches may be purely decorative, although a couple of them contained actual doorways as you can see below, along with another copy of the same announcement from the ambitious hoteliers.

 

 

John paused to photograph the pavement in front of one of the doorways at number 87

 

 

Albert Rawlings was a motor company. You can see the doorway in the picture below.

The wall went as far as a short section of three storey houses which filled the space up to Ashburn Place.

 

 

Here’s a close up of the entrance to Albert Rawlings.

 

 

And, in one of the houses an Estate Office.

 

 

We might as well let those three women and the cable reels have their own close up.

 

 

The rest of the block consisted of a set of houses built about 1877-78 which were shorter than most of the surrounding buildings. To make up for a lack a height the row ends with a tower.

 

 

A nicely gothic touch. The corner of Ashburn Place.

 

 

Perhaps because they had already been bought for demolition, these buildings have an air of grubby neglect, and a certain dark atmosphere in there old monochrome pictures. They would not survive to be improved with interior refurbishment and double glazing.

This is the next block, between Ashburn Place and Ashburn Gardens, with yet another notice.

 

 

This is where the Penta Hotel was built, not an especially attractive building, and not popular with architectural writers or local residents, but functional.

Many of these buildings were already hotels, like the Courtland or the Eversleigh House Hotels.

Some of the detail of the frontage is quite pleasant, as below.

 

 

Here is the whole block, number 97-109.

 

 

Behind the block, there was a garden square, now also gone.

Below, John turns and looks back again, eastwards.

 

 

On the left is the wall which conceals the railway line. Next to it, just out of picture was the road out of the West London Air Terminal. (The post I wrote about that has become one of the most popular posts on the blog , so it’s hardly a forgotten building although I still sometimes have to explain what the Terminal was and how it worked. )

Finally a map showing the area we’ve been looking at.

 

This is about 1950. We don’t have many of this series so we’re lucky to get a good view of what used to be in this tiny part of London.

Postscript

This post changed as I wrote it. I might use some of the pictures I discarded another time. But it’s quite timely, as there are plans to rebuild the Holiday Inn. I’ll probably continue it soon with a look at those side streets, Ashburn Place and Ashburn Mews.

Thanks to all those who wrote comments last week and offered corrections and solutions.

Another postscript

This week it was the turn of a great author to die, Ursula K LeGuin. Her key works, the Dispossessed and the Left Hand of Darkness were two of the most influential science fiction books ever written. The latter, with its theme of gender fluidity, is still relevant today. Her Earthsea books remain one of the best fantasy series. That K stands for Kroeber, her father’s surname. He was an anthropologist. This background may be one of the reasons why her created worlds are so well realised. (I also have a soft spot for her Philip K Dick influenced novel The Lathe of Heaven. Apparently she and Dick went to the same high school at roughly the same time but never met. When they were adults they also never met although they spoke on the phone.)

Thanks to Ursula K Le Guin, one of the greats of science fiction.

And another

Oh no. Another obituary. My wife once described Mark E  Smith as “that drunk who shouts over music”. Which is unkind, but there is a grsin of truth there. It’s also true that he was acerbic, imaginative and capable of astonishing flights  of lyrical fancy. He also had the ability to assemble talented musicians time and again from the first notes of Bingo Master’s Break Out up till the end.  Fall fans will have dozens of highlights to savour in the years to come. Frightened, Fiery Jack, Prole Art Threat, Victoria, Theme from Sparta FC. Start your own list. Smith’s death can hardly be described as a surprise, but it’s a shame.

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Beside the Cromwell Curve: 1985

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.

Sainsburys Cromwell Road 30 jun 85 -10

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.

Hotel Cromwell Road 30 Jun 85 - 36A

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.

Buttressed house 30 jun 85 -18

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.

Rear of houses near track 30 Jun 85 -15

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.

Rear of houses near track and side of car park 30 Jun 85 -17

It’s always curious to see the rear of these comparatively tall residential blocks.

 

Cromwell Road with view of Gloucester road station 30 jun 85 -25

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?

Genesta Hotel 30 jun 85 -30

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.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -35

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.

Rear of buildings 30 jun 85 -34

Look at the complex set of  fire escape in the next couple of pictures. Is there a train coming?

no train 30 jun 1985 -22

Yes.

Train 30 jun 1985 -24

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.

Cromwell Road with scaffolded building 30 jun 85 -28

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:

Blimp and tower 30 jun 85 -31

Who can resist a blimp? Note the remaining tower of the Imperial Institute poking up above the skyline.

Postscript

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.

unidentified building 30 jun 85 -7A

No prize, but it would be quite nice to know.

 


Forgotten buildings: the West London Air Terminal

This forgotten building still exists, at least in its physical manifestation as a 1960s tower block overlooking the Cromwell Road. In all other respects it is forgotten and when I wander around the extensive interior of Sainsbury’s Gloucester Road I never think of what was there before, or of the original purpose of this strangely sited structure. Because this building served a purpose which could now be regarded as obscure and archaic. It was British European Airways’ West London Air Terminal.

WLAT vehicle entrance

[A Rover 3.5 litre coupe, a car much favoured by managers in the 60s heads to the car park bypassing the ramp to the departures area on the first floor.]

The idea of an air terminal away from the actual airport it served goes back to the days when Croydon was London’s Airport. It had a remote terminal at Victoria Station. In the period after the war Heathrow was in the ascendant so the search was on for a site in West London. The airport authorities settled on an area in Kensington already occupied by another form of transport: the Cromwell Curve where the District and Circle lines came together and tube trains from Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington and Earls Court passed each other. It was decided to build a concrete raft over the train lines and construct the new terminal above them.

The need for the terminal was so great that they couldn’t wait to build a full scale versionl. A temporary two storey terminal was completed in 1957.

WLAT K61-474 first terminal

This is a truly forgotten building, barely recalled at all I should think except by those who used it.

WLAT K61-475 first terminal showing Cromwell Curve

This picture has something for everyone: some unusual buses, a glimpse of one of the demolished towers of the Imperial Institute and a view of the Cromwell Curve still in the open air, before the concrete platform reached its full extent. Although temporary, the first terminal was celebrated in print as this cutaway diagram from the Illustrated London News shows:

WLAT first terminal 1957 K61-476

The first terminal’s time was limited. In a few years the new version was under construction.

WLAT K63-924 construction

The new tower rose and the platform was extended to accommodate a second entrance.

WLAT K64-13 east entrance

This view of the east entrance shows the other end of the ramp and the lift tower. That lone pedestrian looks like he’s taking his life in his hands.

Here at the west entrance an early photo shows some minimal signage for BEA.

WLAT K64-183 west entrance

Inside was a modern concourse with flight information displayed on actual television sets.

WLAT K64-8 interior

It looks a little under-populated but that may be what the photographer was asked to produce.

Down in the restaurant it looks lively enough with people sitting around some bar style tables.

WLAT K64-9 interior - resturant

At this point I have to ban the word modern from any further use.

The idea in case I haven’t spelt it out was that you checked in for your flight here and then you and your luggage were transported to Heathrow in special airline buses.

WLAT K64-12 interior

I tried to explain to a younger person why this might have been thought to be a good idea but I didn’t succeed. It is enough to say that for many years the airline and its passengers agreed that it was.

The Cromwell Road location, a short convenient distance up the road from Gloucester Road Station meant that when the time came to fly you could put on your sheepskin coat, walk down some stairs, put your case in the coach and be on your way. On the way back the airline deposited you back in Central London.

WLAT K64-10 interior

They even had a baggage carousel, with uniformed porters on hand to help. It doesn’t look too busy.

Copy of WLAT K64-11 interior

I suspect the whole arrangement was something to do with the relative novelty of regular air travel and once people were used to the idea of going to airports, and there were plenty of options for getting there, it was just as easy to make your own way.

So the exciting days of air travel were over.

WLAT pedestrian entrance

Nice dress, Madam.

And as I said the actual building, now remodelled under the name Point West is still with us. Look at this aerial view:

WLAT K65-108 aerial view 1965

The curling ramps are gone and the building is clad in an inoffensive colour.

As always with aerial photos you can spot some interesting detail you can’t see from below. That light well in the centre for example. What does it look down on these days? An ornamental garden, or a sports field?

Next time you travel on the tube between Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington you can look for the steel girders holding up the concrete platform you are travelling beneath. You can also look all the way up, and wonder what the view all the way down looks like to residents.


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.


A tale of two tube stations – Gloucester Road

Gloucester Road Station 1868 385.643 GLO - Copy (2)

Back in 1868 a gang of workers poses in front of the station they have built for the Metropolitan Railway. The road in front of the booking office is still a dirt track. Although the station is only yards away from Cromwell Road, which will become one of London’s major thoroughfares it stands on its own on an otherwise empty site waiting for development to catch up with it. The first Ordnance Survey map of the area shows some development on the east side of the road around Stanhope Gardens but to the west is a market garden and on the north side of Cromwell Road St Stephen’s Church also stands isolated.

Gloucester Road  1869

Just below ground level are the platforms.

Copy of Gloucester Road Station under construction october 1868

The interior is still recognisable today. I walked down a staircase in more or less the same position this morning. In 1868 steam trains will be running on these tracks so although this is an underground railway it will stay as close to the surface as possible with plenty of open air sections. Take a look at that roof by the way.

Jump forward almost exactly a hundred years to December 1969.

Copy of Gloucester Road west side - Station

The original building is still there, stripped of some of its ornament, and the front of the building has been taken over by retail. Gloucester Road itself looked quite different in 1969. The area had become a tightly packed urban conclave of retail outlets, hotels and houses.

To the north of the entrance were more shops.

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969

There was a narrow street, Lenthall Place, which has now gone and clustered next to the station a series of ramshackle looking shops.

Gloucester Road west side 2 Lenthall Place - 178 GR dec 1969

There was this substantial building on the corner of Cromwell Road.

Gloucester Road west side 120-122 dec 1969

The specialist shops and the flats above have all gone now of course, replaced by this development behind which is a modern shopping arcade:

DSC_2267

But I promised you two tube stations, didn’t I? And there are two stations at Gloucester Road. Look back at 1969 again:

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969 stations

There on the left you can see the second station, built for the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in 1906 to serve their deep level tunnels and the lifts which took passengers up and down.  The Piccadilly Line then ran between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. This 2013 view is rather clearer:

DSC_2256

The colour image shows the distinctive ox-blood coloured tiling which was a characteristic of Piccadilly and Northern Line stations in Central London. The Exit sign is still visible on the left although the exit from the lifts is now through the old station. The Metropolitan and District Railway was then part of the United Electric Railway Companies. They ran both the District and Circle Lines (as they are now known) through the old station.

You can see the same twin station set up at South Kensington Station.(And in a larger format at Victoria main line Station which was also originally two separate stations.) The two stations at Gloucester Road were later joined up internally so they shared the same entrance and ticket office.

In 1969 Gloucester Road was looking very like a hundred year old building.

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969 - Stations detail

The signs are faded and the frontage cluttered.

Gloucester Road looking north from Courtfield Road dec 1969

That roof I told you to look out for?

Gloucester Road Station 1970s

Gone in this 1972 picture. In fact if it wasn’t for the station signs on the right you might think you were looking at a different building. I think this is an east to west view with an eastbound District Line train entering the station. Check out the weighing machine. Weighing yourself was once a common recreation for tube travellers along with trying to get chocolate bars out of those unhelpful machines which sometimes dispensed them.

The 1990s development next to the station gave us Waitrose and Boots and a covered way through to Cromwell Road was built on a deck which covered the platforms. The strange thing for me is that I can’t remember how it looked before. I suppose I didn’t use the station that much in those days.

If you look at a modern picture of the station you can see that some effort has been made to restore the original façade and balustrade.

DSC_2258

The entrance is back where it started out and although the ornamentation on the top is not quite the same the 1868 building has survived more or less intact even though it is now dwarfed by the surrounding offices and hotels. The tube network has expanded but Gloucester Road’s two conjoined stations are still a destination for travellers entering London for the first time.

1969 pictures by John Rogers. 2013 pictures by myself.

This post is the first in a month long series which will be based on the general theme of transport and ties in with this year’s CityRead campaign. The book is Sebastian Faulks’ A month in December. Unlike last year when I had all four posts worked out in advance I have no idea what I’m writing next week, so keep your fingers  crossed.


Return of the Edwardian sartorialist – Sambourne’s Kensington street style

I have good reason to be grateful to Edward Linley Sambourne. My original post about his street photography (Street Style 1906) has been the most popular single item on this blog and has brought in many readers who might not otherwise have heard about the Library Time Machine. What is it about his street photography which is so compelling?

The first point is one I made on that first post. We are used to thinking of the Edwardian period as the last great period of formal dress for women and men, the last gasp of 19th century fashion and the ancien regime of costume before the revolution of the Great War and the 1920s. Sambourne’s pictures show another side to the early years of the 20th century, a casual attitude to dress demonstrated by the mostly young women in them. The roots of the dress revolution are apparent from the 1890s onwards in candid photographs and picture postcards. Sambourne’s pictures are one instance of this movement.

The other point is another one I have made on previous occasions. We shouldn’t think of these photographs as curious items from past times. These pictures are of the present. When Linley Sambourne roamed the streets of Kensington with his hidden camera between 1905 and 1908 he was catching images of the now.

Have I spent too long on opening remarks? Let’s look at some pictures.

LSL39 Notting Hill 20 Jul 1906

20th July 1906 in Notting Hill Gate – even in summer gloves are worn and one of these two women carries a muff. They’re in a hurry, striding along, oblivious to the photographer.

Back in May of the same year in nearby Kensington Church Street:

LSL43 Church St 2 May 1906

This woman is slightly more formally dressed than the first two. Perhaps she is on her way to work. Sambourne liked to record women at work as below:

LSL45 Cheniston Gdns 29 Jul 1906

This picture taken in Cheniston Gardens shows a young maid engaged in the perennial and tedious task of cleaning the steps. You might think this is another example of Sambourne’s secretive gaze, spying on her working life but to me it has the look of a posed picture. Sambourne had many contacts in the Kensington area across the social classes – people he used as models for his studio photography and the young maid may have been one of them. I think it’s more obvious in this image:

LSL46 Cheniston Gdns 26 Jun  1906

A different set of steps, and (I think) a different woman but she looks to me as though she is responding to a request from Sambourne to hold that pose for a moment.

There is probably a great deal to be said about the interest shown in maids by gentlemen of Sambourne’s age and class but in the absence of firm evidence we can probably acquit him of improper thoughts. As has also been discussed on the blog and in comments, the concept of privacy with regard to photographs taken in the street was underdeveloped in Sambourne’s time. It’s probably true that as an upper middle class man he thought that his right to pursue his art outweighed any violation of his subjects’ privacy. (Some photographers still believe that today.)

To complete a trio of servants here is a maid taking a break, no doubt well deserved:

LSL47 Cromwell Road 26 Jun 1906

The next subject is someone much closer to Sambourne’s own class, a distinctly middle class married woman.

LSL60 Cromwell Road 15 May 1907

In May 1907 she is escorting her two sons along a tree-lined Cromwell Road with just a few horse drawn vehicles in the background. Cromwell Road looks more like a prosperous wide street of upmarket houses as it was originally intended than the major transport artery of today.

LSL19 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

This is one of those pictures where the woman is looking right at the photographer as though she knows what he is doing.

LSL20 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

I think this may be a picture of the same woman from behind. They were both taken on the same day in the same place so that may be a reasonable assumption.

Perhaps you recognize this woman:

LSL04a  21 Jul 1905 720

I think it’s the same woman who featured in the first Sambourne post photographed in Earls Court Road in 1905. (I’ve looked back and forth comparing details of dress and features. I know that some of my readers are very eagle eyed so I won’t commit myself absolutely.) It’s a slightly less flattering image but that is a feature of candid photography. Everyone has seen poor pictures of people who normally look good in photographs. I would say she had been caught by the flash but I’m not sure if Sambourne’s camera had one. Actually the detail I like is the dog sniffing something out in the background so I hope she would forgive me for showing her not quite at her best.

This picture is another example of the big hat, still a common fashion item at the time:

LSL48 Church St 2 Aug 1906

This view is of Kensington Church Street, with some horse drawn buses in the background.

Another family group, from the front and the side:

LSL62 St Albans Road May 1907

LSL61 St Albans Road 10 May 1907

This was in St Albans Road, well off the main streets of Kensington and well out of Sambourne’s main patch.

Another of his pictures from the rear:

LSL21 Kensington 27 Jun 1906

Finally, I’ve been saving one of Sambourne’s best pictures till last. This picture is simply captioned Kensington. It looks a little like one of the streets running off Notting Hill Gate but really it could be any number of streets.

LSL24 Kensington 3 Jul 1906

Sambourne captures a young woman of the early twentieth century walking confidently forward looking straight into the eye of the camera. Forget the photographer. She is looking out at us.

Postscript

Just as this time last year I’m about to start a month of posts related to this year’s CityRead campaign. The book is A week in December by Sebastian Faulks. The posts will all be transport related and the first will be A tale of two tube stations.

One of the many bloggers who wrote about Sambourne after my first post coined the phrase Edwardian Sartorialist to describe him. I can’t remember which one, but my thanks to her/him.

The Sambourne pictures belong to Leighton House Museum. If you would like to reproduce any of them in a book or magazine ask my colleagues there.

The other Linley Sambourne posts are here (Holland), here  (Paris)and here (at the beach).

The text is written by me so if you run a website based in Spain which likes to reprint vintage photographs why not write your own words?


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