Tag Archives: Gloucester Road

Courtfield Road meets Gloucester Road

One of the people who read the recent post on Ashburn Mews asked if I could continue my walk into Courtfield Road, which has also had significant development since the 1970s. So I looked, and there were indeed pictures of the original buildings next to Bailey’s Hotel and Gloucester Road Station. I’m a little obsessed with that small corner of London myself, as I described in a post about South Kensington, as it lies way down in the lowest levels of  my personal archaeology of London. (Along with Crystal Palace and Clapham South, for family history rather than geographical reasons.) So my apologies to less obsessed readers if we take another turn around the “backside of Cromwell Road” as another reader put it. Here’s our patch again.



We’re looking east along Courtfield Road. The gardens of Ashburn Gardens are just on our left and way in the distance is that curious single storey white building, the Midland (now HSBC) Bank, a good point to focus on as we head towards Gloucester Road again.

The buildings on the right are still there. This is a closer look.



I’ve always liked those arch features, although I don’t know if they serve any purpose apart from decoration.



I had to check to see if that pale protuberance at first floor level was still there, and it is (somewhat cleaner today or is that the effect of colour photography?)

This section, (1-13 Courtfield Road), leading up to Bailey’s Hotel has been replaced by a modern purpose built hotel, functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but not ugly either.



This close up shows the join between the buildings as it was in 1969. The arch is still there but now it is the entrabce to the Bombay Brasserie. (There was a catering company and restaurant in there in 1969.)



I rather like the maxi coat worn by the woman crossing the road. As well as being fashionable, it was December when these pictures were taken.

The picture below shows the full facade of Bailey’s Hotel.



If we move back a little and swing round to look northward, we can see the other side of the street.



We’re looking from Ashburn Place at 2-12 Courtfield. There’s another tower or turret at the end of the row, and below, a closer look at that.



See the tall chimney stacks behind the blocks, and below, by the entrance to Ashburn Mews, another curious detached building with a tower, which looks at first as though some very dry business was conducted inside.



The building was called Gloucester Lodge and was the location of one of the offices of the estate agents Roy Brooks. The company was once famous for its forthright descriptions of properties in Sunday newspapers, some of which were collected in two slim volumes, “A brothel in Pimlico” and “Mud, straw and insults”. If this passed you by let me quote from the cover of the first volume: “Wanted: someone with taste, means and a stomach strong enough to buy this erstwhile  house of ill-repute in Pimlico. It is untouched by the 20th century as far as convenience is concerned. Although it reeks of damp and worse, the plaster is coming off the walls and daylight peeps through a hole in the roof, it is still habitable judging by the bed of rags, fag ends and empty bottles in one corner….10 rather unpleasant rooms with slimy back yard. £4650 freehold – tarted up these houses make £15000. ” Those were the days when £15000 was a lot of money.

It has the look of a resolutely traditional business which disguised the iconoclastic methods of its proprietor.



On the ornamented tower, a large sign pointing you into the Mews, where there were indeed more than one garage. A few cars are huddled against the buildings as they frequently did in mews streets, perhaps as unnerved as pedestrians by the lack of pavements.



And the edge of the Piccadilly Line side of Gloucester Road Station.

It looks as though the second station was still in use for Underground purposes although the florists shop is already there.



We’ve looked at the station before of course in a number of posts, but I can’t help circling round it once more, in an era when it was not surrounded by much taller buildings.



These wintry scenes show the slightly seedy charm of this still windswept corner of London.



Finally, the mirror image of the first picture, looking west up Courtfield Road at a small area of now forgotten buildings with its mixture of ordinary Victorian facades and quirky towers. This was once the modern face of urban life, and although altered by development it retains the atmosphere of an arrival point for west London.




I don’t mind being back here at the station. The question I always ask myself, given the dates of the pictures, is did I just miss seeing the towers and the rest myself, or have I actually walked past them at some point without paying much attention? If the images are all there somewhere in my mind will they surface sometime from the lost past, or were they never there in the first place?

Almost certainly, we’ve now finished with this small corner of Kensington. I think. Next week something completely different as we used to say in the 60s.

Gloucester Road – gateway to London

Last week at Notting Hill Gate I looked at one of the deepest layers of my personal archaeology of London. This time I’m going to begin at an even deeper level.When I first came to London in 1973 I lived in Camden. But most Sundays I would get the tube from Camden Town to Gloucester Road, walk south to Old Brompton Road, turn left into Roland Gardens which took me to Evelyn Gardens where Imperial College had some halls of residence. My friend Carl lived there. Some Sundays we would just hang out, sometimes we would go and have a meal at a cafe in the Earls Court Road and sometimes we would begin to explore London.

I wasn’t the first person to start out with London from Gloucester Road. It’s still a place full of hotels,  tourists and coaches, people with trolleys puzzling over the tube map and the rules for using Oyster cards, tour buses getting in the way of the 49. And plenty of people not quite sure why they are starting out their journeys from this particular ordinary street.

Back in 1969 when you left the station, this is what you saw on the other side of the road:

Gloucester Road - east side KS 357075-73

Individual retailers mostly, still operating in a time-honoured fashion (note the delivery bike.)

Gloucester Road - east side, 83-81 KS 3571

The shops are under a 19th century terrace.

Gloucester Road - east side, 85 KS 3573

The Empire Grill, now home of Burger King, and a couple of old friends:

Gloucester Road - east side, 95-93 KS 3574

The Wimpy Bar, home of the UK’s own brand of hamburger, (waitress service and individually cooked burgers), now part of a branch of Tesco, and the Midland Bank, later part of HSBC.

If you were to turn around you could see another familiar building, Bailey’s Hotel.

Gloucester Road 140 Baileys Hotel KE75-36

But this week we won’t confine ourselves to living memory. Turn the dial back further:


Gloucester Road Baileys Hotel PC456

The old version of the building – it was owned by James Bailey and was at the time one of the best hotels in London, with many “American” features including an “ascending room” (lift). In 1890 it had over 300 apartments. Some of the spectacular internal features survive today.

The structure on the island opposite the station is an air vent for the railway

Further south down the road you come to this pleasant looking house opposite Hereford Square. I must have walked past it hundreds of times before I found that J M Barrie lived there. It has no blue plaque. That was taken by his house in Bayswater. But this was the house where he wrote some of his early successes, Quality Street and the Admirable Crichton.


Gloucester Road 133 J M Barrie

This stretch of Gloucester Road has houses and flats in the same scale, low-level, almost suburban. The mix of styles is probably to do with postwar development. There was some bomb damage in the area so the buildings have a charming individual quality. We’re coming to the end of the road at this point and I’m not going to take you along the rest of my 1970s route. We’re going back to the intersection with Cromwell Road. You won’t find this building there today. This is how the corner with Cromwell Road appeared in the 1930s.

Gloucester Road 118 1920s30s K4611B - Copy

Later, in 1969 you can see that entrance on the right of this picture:


Gloucester Road looking south from Cromwell Road dec 1969 - Copy

The grand entrance remained but there was no longer a bank on the site.

North from Cromwell Road, the buildings on either side of the road grow taller, even in the earlier days of the street.

Gloucester Road PC505 fp - Copy

This picture obviously comes from a quieter period for traffic. That street sweeper would not be standing there in later years. If you look in the distance as the road curves can you see this building?

Gloucester Court

St George’s Court, an apartment block built in 1907-09.  Here it is in another postcard:

St George's Court Gloucester Road

The ornate apartment block with its shops surmounted by small roof gardens is still there today of course.  Having already looked at the Survey of London for information on Bailey’s Hotel I naturally turned to them for some details on St George’s Court and they have done us proud again:  “This hefty building..is in one of the dowdier styles of Edwardian architecture, mixing elements  of Tudor and Baroque. red brick and brown stone dressings”.  Words I could not argue with, although I still like to look at it while passing by on the upper deck of a 49.

Arguably a more interesting block than on the opposite side of the road where there have been a few changes.

00014 - Copy (2)

A branch of Waitrose, 1970s, but I’m not sure of the exact date.

00013 - Copy (2)

And a couple of flash cars. These two pictures are from a contact sheet. It almost looks as though the photographer was on the move at the time.

As we come to another curve in the road and the end of Gloucester Road, this postcard image of a recognizable corner predates St George’s Court.

PC108 - Copy

This slightly blurred image is further north but shows the end of the road with a man running towards it for some reason best known to himself.

Pc511 - Copy

Finally, as we’ve bobbed about through the years this week, let’s go back to one of my favourite artists, William Cowen for a Gloucester Road view before the age of photography when a narrow road which was still called Gloucester Road ran through a rural setting.


C23 Mr Rigby's cottage

Mr Rigby’s cottage, near the station.


It’s week eight of the great scanning famine (possibly the last week, fingers crossed) but I’m still finding pictures. I could almost have done a whole post just on postcards, but I decided to give you a touch of everything. There may be a iteration of the secret life of postcards coming up soon. I’ve just acquired an illustrated book by High Thomson, so if I can only scan the pictures, you can expect another post about him. It’s nearly time for some holiday posts.

In another postscript I referred to the fact that my friend Carl died quite young in 1999 but that I didn’t find out until quite recently. Writing this made me think of him again, our early days in London and the things he missed by never seeing this century. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dedicating a post once again to my friend Carl Spencer.

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:


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:


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.


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.

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