Tag Archives: Holland Park

Holland Park 1987: after the storm

This set of photographs is kept in our main picture collection with the prints, paintings and other picture,s filed under the relevant class number, so the large envelope they’re kept in isn’t something I come across often. In fact I’d been in one of our archive rooms checking on the floor – there’s a water pipe underneath the concrete which sometimes gets hot, something you try to avoid in archive rooms and I was looking in cabinet drawers checking on the temperature in the room. I recognized the set of images and as I often do thought is there a blog post here? Obviously there was.

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I showed these picture to one of my younger colleagues, who wasn’t even born at the time of the storm and found she had never even heard of it. So it goes. But the great storm of 15-16 October 1987 was a huge event across south west and south east England involving loss of power, damages to buildings, vehicles and trees. In addition 22 people died as a result of the storm. It deserves its popular title, the Great Storm.

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I have vivid memories of the lights going out in our old flat that night. Our son was only two weeks old and we were going out the next day to register the birth at Chelsea Old Town Hall. On our way there the next morning we saw masses of leaves and small branches in the street and even a few fallen trees in the back streets of Chelsea. Later it became clear that there was masses of destruction across the London area. In the communal garden of the flats where we live now one massive tree had fallen, though not into the buildings, and the replacement trees that you see today are small compared to the others nearby.

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I think these pictures are the work of the library photographer John Rogers, who must have gone to Holland Park in the days following the storm to make a record of the damage. Many parks, gardens and open spaces in London and elsewhere suffered damage similar to what you see here and I’m sure many people remember seeing similar scenes in the days and weeks that followed.

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In many cases trees were knocked down completely and lie with their roots exposed, large pieces of soil still attached.

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Paths were scattered with fallen branches.

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Some of them blocked.

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Familiar features looked quite different

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And familiar statues look forlorn

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Some of the paths were open.

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Others were not.

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Parts of the park were reduced to a tangle of undergrowth.

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But the structures in the park remained intact.

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And life went on

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But some inhabitants look pretty shocked.

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You can almost hear the bird thinking what on earth happened here?

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Postscript

In a flurry of scanning I digitised 70 pictures, thinking that if I did them all it would never need to be done again. But It did make it harder to select the final set to use here.  Of course the damage was repaired over a number of years and the park now looks  like a sylvan paradise again. In the wider picture you might say we got off lightly. But you can mourn trees as well as animals and people.

In terms of  a word count this has been quite a slight post. But sometimes the pictures tell the story without the need for too much commentary. Even talking about what was coming this week on the blog induced some reminiscing among colleagues who were in London at the time. If you have any stories to tell about your experiences during or after the storm please leave a comment.

Another postscript

As I said last week I have noted a number of deaths in the last year. I was saddened to hear of the recent death of David Le Lay. David was a local architect and a leading figure in the Chelsea Society. I worked with him on several exhibitions and helped him with some of his research. He was an expert on Chelsea, much more of an expert than me. He was good-humoured and courteous with an eye for life’s absurdities. He once did me the favour of coming to the library to appear in a Dutch TV show to explore the recollections of a woman who believed she lived in Chelsea as a servant in a former life. He kept a straight face throughout and even thanked me for arranging the experience. Chelsea will miss him. My sympathies to his partner and friends.

Here he is working on one of his projects – the landscaping of Dovehouse Green.

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Holland Park 1980: a day out

Although we’ve seen some images of Holland Park on the blog on most occasions I’ve concentrated on some detail, like the murals, or more recently on interiors of Holland House. This week I want to show you some photographs taken as part of our photographic survey by our photographer John Rogers back in 1980. He wasn’t concerned with documenting every corner of the Park but was looking for interesting views which might be familiar to visitors and odd details which might have been missed.

In 1980 the Greater London Council (GLC) still ran the park. It was transferred to the Royal Borough of Kensington  and Chelsea in 1985. Some features have changed in the last thirty six years, some have remained the same.

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This fairly dull looking colonnade facing the Orangery is now the home of the highly decorative murals I mentioned above.

Here is the nearby pond, which now has some railings around it.

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And the other side the Belvedere Restaurant which probably no longer admits bare chested men.

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The pleasures of a municipal park, however grand its history, have remained the same for many years. Hanging around on a sunny day doing nothing much at all.

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Stretching in the sun as in this south view of the Orangery.

 

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(I believe this sculpture is by Eric Gill, called The Maid, placed on this spot in 1976 but moved  in the 1990s because of weather damage and now in the park cafe. Judging from recent pictures, where the figure looks very worn in comparison the weathering was significant.)

Playing at the play centre.

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Especially in the sandpit.

holand-park-toddlers-playing-centre-copyFor older kids there were the climbing ropes at the adventure playground.

holland-park-rope-ladders-playcentre-1980And swinging by rope.

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For older visitors there were  ducks and other avian creatures to feed.

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From the large, not easily missed varieties.

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To the small and sometimes well camouflaged.

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On land, or on water.

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Or between the two.

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There was sport, for the athletically inclined.

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Or you could just stroll down a secluded avenue of trees.

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Discover statues, some prominent, as the one below.

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(Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland . The statue is now found in the middle of a pond, although here it seems to be entirely on land. It was moved when the block of flats, Melbury Court was built)

Some obscure, almost concealed.

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(The so-called Melancholy Old Man)

And some just plain odd.

 

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Cherubs about their business near the Ice House gallery, accompanied by fish, innocent in this case. (They’re not always so blameless).

The High Street is not so far away.

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Postscript

Regular readers will have noticed that there was no post last week, just about the only occasion we’ve missed a week. I was going to be vague about my absence on a personal matter but it may have some bearing on future content so I’ll just say that my mother passed away over Christmas after a short illness and I went home to deal with the funeral arrangements and other matters. Frankly, I was not in a blogging frame of mind even though I already had this week’s pictures selected. It was about this time last year that she was complaining to me about the extensiveness of the news coverage of the death of David Bowie and I was explaining that for some of us this was a significant event. It’s been said that 2016 was a year with a great many deaths. I can only agree.


Christmas Days: a bunch of busts

I scanned today’s pictures in response to an enquiry about busts inside the former Holland House. We have an album from the 1880s with some views of the interior taken before a bout of redecoration. On another occasion I might have scanned the whole album which could have resulted in a full length post but I didn’t have much time so I only did a few. I was particularly intrigued by the conservatory.

This was Holland House at the time.

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The east front with, a couple of guys standing patiently in front of it to add some local colour. At least one of them might have come from breakfast.

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Here, in the sumptuous breakfast room. I spotted a bust up there in the corner but then turned a page and found a whole set of busts. (Is there a collective noun for busts?)

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This is the conservatory, looking back into the house. A pleasing number of busts are on view, and some convenient chairs in which to sit and contemplate the outside while inside. You can see another Kensington conservatory near the end of this post.

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This is the view looking in the other direction into the garden, You can just make out a full length statue in the daylight. Wouldn’t you want to sweep through the conservatory after that nice breakfast and tale a turn in the grounds? You can’t walk through this space anymore but the grounds are still available for all, winter and summer.

 

Monkeys

Today’s monkeys, Boris and Dino (who live in the Park) have taken the opportunity to do just that, while wishing you a happy Christmas. Here they are in the office:

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And out in the park.

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I was checking the link above to an earlier post and was reminded of my Christmas 2013 post about Irving and Caldecott’s Old Christmas. That was one of my first posts about book illustration, and Caldecott was a contemporary of our friend Hugh Thomson. Check out a traditional Christmas here.

Another short post, and more monkeys tomorrow.

 


From darkest Peru to West London: Paddington Bear in Kensington

This week features the return of our Paddington correspondent, my esteemed colleague Isabel Hernandez who has turned her attention to the other Paddington.

“It’s nice having a bear about the house.”

Well you know, I cannot dispute that. As bizarre as that line seems out of context I actually think it has a point, for I do indeed have a rather earnest-looking, anthropomorphic bear gracing my bookshelves often making me laugh when nothing else will. He lives in the pages of a certain set of stories I keep on there as well as physically imposing himself in a small space next to the books wearing a red hat, blue duffel coat and red wellington boots with a label attached that says, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Many will know who Paddington Bear is, where he came from and why he was named after a London station. I also think of him as a West London bear, even if he did originate from Darkest Peru, not Africa, as Michael Bond had originally written, until it was pointed out that there are no indigenous bears living in Africa, so he set about diligently doing his research by paying a visit to Westminster Public Library followed by a trip to London Zoo until he eventually settled on Peru.

It may seem strange that a bear should be so iconic (not unlike Winnie-the-Pooh) but Paddington just happens to be so in a very down to earth way. In re-reading the stories recently and hunting for the 50 statues dotted around parts of London before they were auctioned off, I was prompted into reading Michael Bond’s autobiography, Bears & Forebears. A Life So Far, which not only is a guide to how he came to breathe life into all of his creations (for there are others aside from Paddington), but also gives a wonderful insight into his own life and the influences and inspiration that later (I think) contributed to his best known character.

Meet Paddington. Here he is as originally drawn by British illustrator Peggy Fortnum, a lady who (according to Michael Bond) using pen and ink ‘understands Paddington perfectly and with a few seemingly deft strokes….manages to convey a living breathing creature.’

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A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958 by Collins. There were eight stories in that first book of the series. Several more were written in subsequent years and are still being written to the present day. Paddington, you see, moves with the times. As it turns out Paddington was conceived on a typewriter one spring morning in a one-roomed garden flat near the Portobello Road, “…it was a bit like living in a caravan,” said Michael Bond, “The kitchen had to be tucked away in a cupboard at night and during the day the bed was used to provide extra seating for visitors. But the market was just around the corner, and Holland Park, with its peacocks and its shady walks, was only a short distance away.”

Not difficult to see why this was a haven….

Holland Park 1962

 

Much has been made of the location of 32 Windsor Gardens where the Browns live. Many have made the literary pilgrimage visiting a location by the same name in West London – only a stone’s throw away from where I used to live in the Paddington area. Karen Jankel (Michael Bond’s daughter) has since explained how the fictitious address came into being, which is not in any way related to the real address with the same name. Michael Bond himself reveals in his autobiography that number 32 Windsor Gardens was “in my mind’s eye Lansdowne Crescent – a quiet street of rather grand houses off Ladbroke Grove and close to Arundel Gardens where we lived.” Imagine my surprise at the revelation! I too was under the same misapprehension as everyone else.

 

Lansdowne Cres 1970

Lansdowne Crescent, named after the Lansdowne area of Cheltenham, was built about 1842-1846. The houses are typical Victorian builds and here we have a 1970s photograph showing some typical cars of the day.

29, Lansdowne Crescent 1979

 

We all have our own ideas about what fictional places look like when we are reading a story so I decided to look and see if we had anything interesting that might live up to my imagination. Above is a rather picturesque image of a house that exists along Lansdowne Crescent taken in 1979 although you would be forgiven for thinking this might be more of a 1950s film studio print. The dramatic lighting here must have been caught in the early morning. There are milk bottles still waiting to be taken in and (no doubt) breakfasts to be served. I could imagine the Browns living here under Mrs Bird’s scrutiny. I rather think Paddington might have been taken with the foliage growing around the house too.

But, I’m a little ahead of myself. Geographically we need to start at the beginning and that is Paddington Station seen in the photograph below (courtesy of my colleagues at the Westminster City Archives).

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This location has been the terminus for the Great Western Railway from as early as 1838, but the larger part of the mainline station, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, dates from around 1854 with the underground Metropolitan Railway being the first in the world following in 1863. Paddington Station warrants a blog all to itself and summarising its history here would be an injustice. (Something for another day perhaps…)

Why was Paddington Bear named thus, aside from the obvious?

“We called him Paddington because for some years Paddington Station had been my first port of call whenever I travelled to London, and it was also just down the road from where we were living at the time. Besides, it had a nice, West Country ring to it; safe and solid”

We also know that Paddington wears a label round his neck with the words:

“Please look after this bear. Thank you”

“It was the memory of seeing newsreels showing trainloads of evacuees leaving London during the war, each child with a label round its neck and all its important possessions in a tiny suitcase, that prompted me to do the same for Paddington.”

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(Image first published in The Daily Telegraph)

And so a bear was named and rescued by the Browns, “an immigrant in a strange country with no money and nowhere to go”.

The strangeness of a place and the sudden upheaval of one’s life can be a daunting and frightening experience and yet perhaps there can be found, when we look closely, almost a haven or familiarity in the new friends we make and the new places we explore, depending on where we end up.

Portobello Road 1951

 

Which brings us to Portobello Road, a familiar haunt of Paddington’s, seen here in 1951; it has always been a bustling and diverse community selling everything from antiques, bric-a-brac, fruit and vegetables to fashion, household goods and street food. Indeed this year both Portobello and Golborne Markets celebrate a 150 year anniversary.

In the books, Mr Gruber (a family friend) is a central character in Paddington’s life. An immigrant himself he has an understanding of the young bear’s unfamiliarity with his new home:

“Mr Gruber was born in Hungary and his antique shop in the Portobello Road is an oasis of peace and quiet in Paddington’s life: a retreat where every day he can share his elevenses, discuss the world in general over cocoa and buns, and seek sound advice from his friend whenever the need arises.”

Perhaps his antique shop resembles this one?

Portobello Road Market 1970

Everybody sells something a little different and people are always on the lookout for something unique.

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Portobello Road - Kennedy McCreadie 1964

(Photograph by Kenny McCready 1964)

This gentleman appears to be about to pay for something but we have no idea what.

The market also has many fruit and vegetable stalls –that was its main function before the antiques moved in. Back in the 1950s shopping in markets was where the average shopper would buy things. The concept of supermarkets was not yet realised to a great extent. Everything was pennies and shillings, pounds and ounces and people knew each other by name. That may still be the case to a degree but times have definitely changed. Paddington certainly seems to enjoy doing his daily shopping in the market – not sure what he would think of a large Tesco store.

Portobello Market 1958 Mrs I.M Cain's fruit stall

[Mrs I.M Cain’s fruit stall in 1958.]

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[Mrs Rudd’s salad stall in 1958.]

Portobello Market 1958 Jaffas

This unnamed gentleman also has a fruit stall with what appears to be a fish stall next to him (1958). I rather like his sign, shaped like individual oranges saying JAFFAS on the top of the stall – the oranges and not the cakes I suspect – seems to be the most popular orange variety sold in Portobello.

Portobello market 1958

Here’s another unnamed gentleman also selling Jaffa oranges.  I wonder if they are any good for marmalade…

I almost wish these photographs were in colour. The colours on that stall would have been very vibrant.

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A Lyons Tea van with a fresh delivery. Paddington does like his buns after all.

Portobello Market 1958 Imperial Playhouse Ltd

In the background is 191, Portobello Road, home of the Electric Cinema, first opened in 1910. In the London Post Office directory of 1958 it is listed as The Imperial Playhouse having been renamed in 1932 during one of Notting Hill’s less salubrious periods in history. It went back to its original name in the late 1960s and despite its precarious existence it remains an iconic survivor. Few original cinemas remain in London now, not least those of the West End which are succumbing to the indignities of redevelopment. How much has changed since Paddington Bear’s original debut! And yet, modern technology has brought him to life on the big screen premiering him in Leicester Square for the first time. Our bear from Darkest Peru has come a long way, and even though he has very much become something of a universal bear despite his being quintessentially an English bear, I personally think of him as a West London bear and I almost half expect to see him traipse down the Portobello Road with his trolley in search of some tasty buns for his elevenses with Mr Gruber any day now.

Postscript

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The quotes I have used are taken from Michael Bond’s 1996 autobiography: Bears and Forebears. A life so far which I borrowed from the library’s biography  collection. (Out of print but still available through Amazon and other sources)

The post itself is not about any one specific place; it’s more of a geographical jaunt following some of the places we know Paddington Bear has frequented and still does by all accounts: a fictional character set in real surroundings given one or two imaginative alterations here and there.

Michael Bond has expressed that he has no intention of retiring as a writer and I do believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of Paddington, which I, for one, am very pleased about. You see when I feel a little put out upon occasions, for example; during my commute in and out of London, I too have a particular stare that usually indicates my displeasure at someone’s rudeness or lack of consideration. Whether this is a universal thing we learn as we age I do not know. This is why when Paddington directs his formidable stare at anyone he deems discourteous I cannot help but crack a smile – it’s incredibly funny when it’s done by a bear:

“Paddington had a very persistent stare when he cared to use it. It was a very powerful stare. One which his Aunt Lucy had taught him and which he kept for special occasions.”

And here I conclude my rather whimsical homage to Paddington Bear.

Postscript to the postscript (by Dave)

My thanks to Isabel, and apologies because I still haven’t worked out how to add an author on WordPress. This post kills two birds with one stone for me. Not only do we get Paddington but also the Portobello Market which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. You can expect more on the market in the months to come.

I know lots of readers don’t live in London but forgive me a bit of advertising. For Holocaust Memorial Day this year we have an event on January 27th at Kensington Library featuring historian Roger Moorhouse. Follow the link for more details. Roger gave an excellent talk at our London History Festival in November based on his book “The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s pact with Stalin 1939-41” so despite the sombre subject I can highly recommend this talk especially in the light of recent events.

 

Another Postscript (June 2015)

There is a Paddington related event in Portobello / Goldborne market on June 20th. See below.

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Sunny afternoon: a garden party in Holland Park

The taxman’s taken all my dough / and left me in my stately home /Lazing on a sunny afternoon.

[Ray Davies]

After last week’s look at a couple of the lost houses of Campden Hill I was reminded that I’d hardly referred in this blog to the most famous house with extensive grounds in that area, not completely lost today as it is one of the best public parks in London and is home to Opera Holland Park. However, looking at the picturesque grounds today the casual visitor might not realise that Holland House and the surrounding estate were once  an important feature of social, cultural and political life in London. The house was damaged by bombing during the war and the whole estate was sold and passed into public hands  afterwards but until then the park was a private estate.

Most of the images this week come from a set of postcards produced by the Friends of Holland Park which show the murals by the artist Mao Wenbiao for the Orangerie Arcade in Holland Park. At the start of December it’s good to go back to the summer.

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The murals depict an afternoon in the 1870s when a garden party is in progress. The social elite sit around as casually as they can in formal wear and make the most of a pleasant day. Some of them look like they’re enjoying it more than others.

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They’re not far away from the Kensington High Street we looked at a few weeks ago, in terms of physical distance. But just like with last week’s country houses they’re a world away from the daily life of the High Street.

There are photographs which show the gardens.

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This is a particularly good example, with the foliage-covered  arches, and the couple having a quiet talk in a secluded spot. But the murals catch the colour of a Victorian summer’s day.

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You can see the same kind of crowds in contemporary images:

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But an engraving like this one seems a little distant compared to the immediacy of the mural paintings.

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Is someone going to use the phrase chocolate box? I think that would be unfair. Sometimes an artist’s impression tells the story more effectively than a more authentic image.

A photograph of the Dutch Garden shows the intricate design of the formal garden and by necessity accentuates the stillness and tranquility of the scene.

Dutch Garden Port C-51

But it’s also good to see such a garden inhabited by a throng of guests.

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The intricate design of the garden is echoed by the equally intricate costumes of the ladies parading around it. The post-crinoline fashions of the 1870s reached a kind of zenith of the elegant and the impractical which fits very well with a formal garden on a sunny day.

Hang on, I hear you say. Is that the same garden? Well, I admit to some doubt. The fountain looks the same but I can’t say how much artistic licence is being used here. There are many experts on Holland Park who know very much more than me and there was more than one formal garden near the big house.

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All I can say is the question of design doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the pictures.

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Here, a few of the guests take a break from the crowd. Their gentleman companion  looks a little uncomfortable or bored. It occurs to me that another of the reasons why I like these pictures is the faint air of English psychedelia about them which makes me think just as much of Pink Floyd or Traffic albums as the actual 1870s.

Another icon which echoes the same notion is the glass house below – a feature of the Victorian garden which has entered literary / musical consciousness.

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The last two pictures show a maid helping a child with dirty hands and finally a view from the point of view of people outside the gilded enclosure.

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An “ordinary” woman looks on as the affluent guests enjoy themselves. The two girls with her though don’t look very interested in the activities beyond the shady spot where they are sitting, near the Armillary Sphere. These three can also enjoy for a moment or two the pleasure of being in the Park on that same  summer’s day of the mind.

Postscript

There are quite a few books on Holland House and the Park but I would recommend The Pleasure Grounds of Holland House by Sally Miller for  a detailed description of the history of the estate grounds and the Famillies of Holland House by Carolyn Starren for a history of the occupants of the house. Both of these were published in 2012 by Scotsforth books for the Friends of Holland Park.

I went down to Holland Park today and had a look at the formal gardens and the murals for myself.

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I was told that the artist included the faces of members of Park staff among the figures in the murals.

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So who knows who this pensive lady is, caught in an involuntary act of time travel?

The dark figure below on the other hand is definititely contemporary.

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