Tag Archives: Figg

Figg’s then and now (continued)

I got stuck in one small street and its environs the last time I started looking at Bill Figg’s unfinished draft for a small book on Chelsea in the “then and now” mode. This week I’m going back to that and starting on the main drag with a picture of the King’s Road.

 

 

 

The Emperor of Wyoming was a boutique (remember that word, when it was first used?) named after an instrumental on Neil Young’s first solo album. It sold what we would now call vintage Americana, mainly of course jeans, which were imported by the proprietor, Billy Murphy. This version of the shop only lasted a few years – Murphy moved to smaller premises near the World’s End. (I don’t have a picture of that shop.) Figg did a “now” picture of the building in the early 1980s.

 

 

This is one of Figg’s tentative, almost surreptitious, pictures, a little out of focus. I can remember this branch of Waitrose opening. My wife and I were impressed with how spacious it was compared to the other supermarkets in the area. I particularly recall a large display of seafood in large glass  jars. Octopus tentacles floating in brine. Despite what friends have told me, I have never enjoyed the texture of invertebrate flesh. But let’s not go any further with that.

In a previous Figg post I looked at the building next door, the Trafalgar pub, and so did Figg, in “now” mode:

 

 

(1991 I should think. An arty film called Proof was released that year.)

And before:

 

 

The pub under its original, but related name, the Lord Nelson. Note on the edges of the picture, a decorative feature on the cinema building, the Odeon at the time (Some of the decoration on the upper part of the building is still there) and on the other side a branch of Allied Carpets, a well known 70s retailer.

We’re going to move up the King’s Road, as we have before and probably will continue to do so as I explore Figg’s legacy so I have to apologise for a little repetition along the way. This picture shows the junction with Jubilee Place. The former Lloyds Bank building is still there occupied by fashion retailer LK Bennett. But the buildings east of the junction which look as though they’re still there are actually gone.

 

 

Here they are from the west.

 

 

There is the famous shop Kleptomania on the corner. You can just make out the Pheasantry on the right. Figg’s “now” pictures shows the modern development which surrounded the Pheasantry.

 

 

Featuring the bookshop Dillons, a chain which was expanding from its roots as “the university bookshop” in Gower Street near University College. The countrywide chain was eventually bought and most of the shops like this one re-branded as Waterstones

While we’re here we might as well look down Jubilee Place, a narrow street which leads down to Chelsea Green.

 

 

Note that picturesque turret feature. (the King’s Road is in the distance).

And the same view a couple of decades later.

 

Like other photographers, Figg has his favourite spots. This is the now version of one of them.

 

 

The shadowed entrance to Charles II Place and the Marks and Spencer car park, about 1990.

Formerly, the Carter Patterson goods yard, one of the remaining light industrial sites on the King’s Road.

 

 

We’ll skip the Pheasantry this time. You know what it looks like by now, and the Classic Cinema and move on to a site that Figg felt ambiguous about, the King’s Walk Mall. Before the gap seen below was filled in

Many of Figg’s photos, it must be admitted are not very good technically, or were taken in a hurry. I needed to turn down the brightness on this one to capture the name of the bookseller on the corner of the ramp down to Sainsburys and Boots.

 

 

The same shop a little earlier or later, Rock Dreams.

 

 

This is the view after the miniature mall had filled the gap.

 

 

Figg did take a picture inside the small precinct, concentrating on a metallic sculpture at the centre of the space. But when I mentioned this area in a previous post someone responded by sending me a picture which is better than Figg’s, so I’m using that one.

 

 

Figg records that the nondescript, vaguely modernist sculpture had “disappeared”. Had it? If you know where it is now let me know. Figg actually disapproved of the new mall, saying it was “too clinical for a shopping area”. Personally, although it was useful to have a Sainsburys there, I actually liked the new mall, especially when there was a branch of Virgin there. (And my son was forever dragging me down there to buy the latest game. Ridge Racer 4, anyone?)

It’s quite appropriate for the history of the King’s Road that we should start with a boutique which became a supermarket and a supermarket which became a mini-mall. A part of the trend towards the King’s Road becoming a conventional high street. Not there yet though.

Postscript

Thanks to everyone who has left comments or sent pictures adding to our collective knowledge about the King’s Road. The nature of blogging is that you sometimes have to go over old ground. I’m actually hoping for some more pictures of King’s Road shops coming soon. (Hint). The library in the Old Town Hall celebrated its 40 years in the building  this year and there is a small exhibition on there right now. 40 years is a bit like Shakespeare’s 400 year a year or so ago. 50 would be a rounder number. But we couldn’t wait for 500 years and who knows what will have happened to libraries by 2028? As it happens this is also my 40th year working in libraries. Another 10 years seems unlikely. But there’s no upper age limit on blogging.


Figg’s Chelsea

This is another post devoted to the work of JW (Bill) Figg, skating through some of his regular themes and obsessions. Figg liked particular streets (the King’s Road as you’ve already seen, but other less obvious ones like Dovehouse and Sydney Streets), particular buildings and particular details in streets and alleys. We’ll look at some examples of all these in today’s post, starting with a bit of a scoop, at least as far as I was concerned.

The Chelsea Workhouse in Dovehouse Street was an institution I’d read about and seen as a detail in pictures of a larger area but the first time I saw a picture of the entrance was among Figg’s pictures.

 

 

This is the main entrance in Britten Street. Dovehouse Street is on the right of the picture. Some familiar words occur to me when I see this image: “abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

This is the side of the building, with the old Chelsea Hospital for Women visible in the distance, now part of the Royal Brompton Hospital complex of buildings.

 

 

The original workshop was laid out in the 1730s and expanded several times in the 19th century. In the 1920s it became the Chelsea Institution, a presumably less punitive place to stay. The building was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by an old people’s home called Kingsmead which has itself been demolished in the last year.

Moving along Britten Street to Sydney Street you come to a small row of houses which have survived all the building upheavals around them.

 

 

Figg took more than one picture of this block. In this colour image (1980s?) you can see the highly decorated Britten Street part of the corner building.

The next picture is also in the vicinity.


 

A view into the garden of the St Wilfred’s Convent building. This became part of the hospital complex in 1968.

Figg was a lover of the small details that can be found on the walls of buildings, like this sign on the old fire station.

 

 

 

Or openings and holes in, around and under buildings, like this one in Manresa Road.

 

He describes the hole as “tunnel exit college site”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been into the tunnel

We’re moving in a southwards direction into Old Church Street. As you can see from the cow’s head at the top of the façade this was the site of an urban dairy (see this post).

 

 

You can also see that it was the home of a recording studio, Sound Techniques. Behind this unassuming frontage albums were recorded by John Cale, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, John Martyn, Pentangle, Pink Floyd, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Steeleye Span and many famous names from the late 1960s / early 1970s. You can find out more here.

Those names set me thinking of the Chelsea Pageant pictures including one in this post . But that’s probably just a personal flight of fancy.

Not too far away was an example of what are now called ghost signs, remnants of old businesses who have left faded signs on walls.

 

 

This picture was taken by Figg when the site on the corner of Oakley Street and Cheyne Walk was being cleared for the construction of Pier House, a large residential block down by the river. (Figg was also obsessed with the statue outside it, Boy with Dolphin, but we’ll leave that for another day.)

From one wall you can’t see any more to another.

 

 

This is Crosby Hall, the City of London building transplanted to Chelsea in the 1920s,  before it was bought in the 1980s and converted into a private residence with a couple of wings of pastiche Tudor palace added cutting off this view.

Literally, round the corner in Beaufort Street was the Convent of Adoration Repatrice, damaged by bombs in 1940. The building was replaced by a chapel in 1985.

 

 

It now forms part of a Catholic educational establishment, Allen Hall, which is the building on the left.

We’re crossing the King’s Road again now, into another much changed street, Park Walk. Many of Figg’s pictures are unlabelled so I have a few named Unknown Street, which I may put before you in a set one of these days.

 

 

I’ve identified this one (1950s I think) as Park Walk because of the wall and pavement on the right, recognizable as Park Walk School, and the Globe pub visible in the distance. (see one of my first Figg posts). The left side of the street up to the back of the former Man in the Moon pub also visible has been completely redeveloped.

By contrast the view in the picture below, looking north up Limerston Street is virtually intact. But the Sporting Page pub was called the Odell Arms, a fact which pleases me because of its coincidental connection with a cuddly octopus. (If you like that sort of thing)

 

 

We’ve been a little short of people this week so here is literally a bunch of them in nearby Hobury Street.

 

 

Finally, another Figg obsession: bomb camage.

 

 

This shows Cadogan Gardens after an IRA bomb. I’m not sure of the date to be honest. My wife remembers seeing bomb damage in Chelsea on her way to school on one occasion at least but neither of us could pin this down to a particular year. Perhaps someone could help with that?

Postscript

I’m a bit late posting this week. Too much of my proper work to do, and a bit of an upheaval in the archive rooms. But Figg is worth waiting for, I think. I’ll  do a few more of these random selections in the coming months, and definitely think about showing you some as yet unidentified locations.


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