Tag Archives: Jubilee Place

Old Chelsea – more photographs from the Miscellany

This week’s post is a belated sequel to one I did a couple of years ago called Forgotten Chelsea – scenes you’ll never see, in which I concentrated on views which no longer exist. They all came from original photographs pasted into one of our scrapbook sets – Chelsea Miscellany. I’m returning to the same source this week to reward Chelsea enthusiasts for their patience in putting up with so many recent Kensington-based posts and to present a few more vanished places along with some that have survived but have changed considerably since the pictures were taken. They all have some kind of interesting feature or connection.

We start in the same part of Chelsea in which I finished the last post.

Earl Street and D'Oyley Street 1895 CM707

The corner of D’Oyley Street and Earl Street where there was a fascinating shop front. Above the shopkeeper are metal signs for the Weekly Despatch, the People and the Weekly (word obscured) Echo. By his feet are adverts for soft drinks: Batey’s Ginger Beer (and Ale), Batey’s Kola, Batey’s Limo (that’s one I’d like to try) and something called Coda.

Earl Street and D'Oyley Street 1895 CM707 - Copy

But also some hard news on the billboard: why did Lord Rosebery resign? Well apparently he lost a confidence vote, called an election and was resoundingly defeated. Archibald Primrose was a protege of Gladstone, the first chairman of the London County Council, a Foreign Minster and successor to Gladstone as Prime Minister (both old Etonians by the way). A right leaning Liberal but according to Wikipedia a man who had three ambitions in life: to win the Derby (well, to own the winning horse), to marry an heiress and to be Prime Minister. He did them all. These events date the picture to 1895 or 1896.

Heading in the opposite direction from last time, westwards, we stop off here on a much grander street:

St Leonard's Terrace house CM683b

The interest here is not number 19 St Leonard’s Terrace, a perfectly good house which takes up most of the picture, but the door to number 18 on the left, the house of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, not to mention the Lair of the White Worm which made a curious Ken Russell film, and the Jewel of Seven Stars which was turned into one of my favourite Hammer films, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. Stoker wrote both of those at number 18 where you can find a blue plaque, but wrote Dracula next door at number 17. He also lived in a house in Cheyne Walk which makes him suitable for a blog post of his own one of these days.

Jumping to the other side of the King’s Road we come to a curious view of the garden of a house in Jubilee Place.

Rockery and figures from Cremorne in garden in Jubilee Place CM699b

The collection of masonry and plants are an early case of reclamation. Like fireplaces and garden features are recovered and traded today these items all came from the Cremorne Gardens, the visitor attraction down by the river.

A closer look shows a series of gargoyle heads around window spaces.

Rockery and figures from Cremorne in garden in Jubilee Place CM699b - Copy

And one of the toughest looking garden gnomes you’ve ever seen. I wonder if Dr Phene had a man at the sale.

Nearby was Marlborough Road, a street I’ve featured before looking crowded, but here is what must be an early morning view.

Marlborough Road 1900 CM687a

The men in the centre deserve a close up.

Marlborough Road 1900 CM687a - Copy

I imagine they must be waiting to load up the trolley for a delivery. Across the street is a manufacturer of boots. There were a few of those in Marlborough Road so I can’t quite pinpoint the building next door with an excessive number of pipes on the wall and some odd devices on the roof. Perhaps one of those steampunk imventors lived there.A little girl is at the door, knocking for entry possibly.

You can see a pair of girls in this picture of a quiet street.

King Street St Luke's Scholl on right CM697b

This shows King Street, a narrow road which ran north from Cale Street. On the right are the entrances to the two St Luke’s Schools (Boys and Girls) which were behind St Luke’s Church, Sydney Street.

We had better have a look now at the King’s Road.

King's Road south side from Town Hall eastwards and Flood street 1900 CM659c

I should have included this one in the recent transport related post. Looking east along the King’s Road from the Vestry Hall / Town Hall it shows a two animal version of the horse bus festooned with adverts. The two horses must be working hard with a full upper deck of passengers to pull.

If we turn off the King’s Road onto the northern section of Church Street, where there were (and still are) a wide variety of interesting houses.

Church Street west sid enorth of King's Road demolished 1912 CM673a

I’m not entirely sure if this is a view from the front or the rear of the house. It’s an interesting looking house and it does have one of my favourite photographic features – a person standing in a window. A close up shows more detail.

Church Street west sid enorth of King's Road demolished 1912 CM673a - Copy

Above the stone lions (are they exactly the same?) stands a woman in white, wearing a uniform, possibly a nurse or a maid watching the photographer at work. Was he aware of her looking at him? I almost avoided calling her mysterious but you can’t avoid that word with faces at the window. They just have that ghostly quality about them. The next time you look she could be gone.

The picture below is definitely a rear view.

Madame Venturi's House 318 Kings Road CM1606

Demolition is under way as the handwritten caption tells us. It returns us  to an image I used in the Forgotten Chelsea post

Kings Road north side opposite Paultons Square CM655c

The two storey villa with tall chimneys in the centre of the picture opposite Paulton Street was the house of Madame Venturi.

Madame Venturi was the wife of an Italian patriot and the friend of another, She was also a friend of the nationalist Joseph Mazzini (and his biographer), the Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell and Tom Taylor, the editor of Punch.

Madame Venturi's House 318 Kings Road pulled down April 1911CM1606

She was also an associate of Whistler. She apparently persuaded Thomas Carlyle to sit for a portrait and she owned some of Whistler’s pictures.She wrote this about the artist’s book Ten o’clock lecture:

‘There is one most amazing and ever renewed delight in this book – the dear, impossible butterfly; now gentle as a sucking dove, now defiant dangerous as a wasp; now artful as a mousquito [sic] that pricks so delicately you don’t know where the sting entered, yet the flesh blisters and cannot forget that it did enter with a vengeance; now coy, now pert now playful, now rampant, now defiant, but always new, always graceful and gentle.”

She died in 1893 so she never saw the picturesque ruin her suburban villa became as the old Chelsea became part of modern London.

 

Postscript

Finally, a further addition to the 2012 post in which I used this picture:

The Woodman D'Oyley St before 1897 CM707 detail

Which of course shows the Woodman public house in D’Oyley Street. I mentioned at the time that the wooden sign visible in the picture had survived and was in our archives. I said I would put it in a post when we had a photograph of it but I never followed that up. So to remedy that here is a photo taken as part of the National Public Catalogue / BBC Your paintings project:

LW_KCLS_362

The lighting shows the sign, which is pretty big, as it could never have been seen by patrons of the pub.

Whistler’s correspondence, where I found the information about Emelie Venturi at:  http://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/


The Chelsea Murders: fiction in Kensington and Chelsea 2

Lionel Davidson was a famous writer in his day, although not much mentioned these days. Many of his books are still in print though. He was big in the 60s. He wrote what you might call international thrillers -The Night of Wenceslas (1960) set in cold war Czechoslovakia, The Rose of Tibet (1962) set in India and Tibet and A long way to Shiloh (1966) set in Israel and Jordan. They were all bestsellers. The paperbacks were published by Penguin which made them look serious, like Len Deighton novels. (People sometimes forget now how innovative and influential Deighton was with books such as the Ipcress File and Billion Dollar Brain). Davidson himself is a literary ancestor of the modern authors of spy novels and techo-thrillers.

Chelsea Murders 01 - Copy (2)

The covers of his books from the 60s and 70s tell their own story:

LionelDavidson covers

In the centre a classic Penguin crime cover – green for crime. On the left a later Penguin edition typical of the early 70s – the arty but somewhat gratuitous notion of a map projected on a naked body was used on a series of Davidson novels. On the right the semi-surreal hardback cover for the Sun Chemist also typical of books from Jonathan Cape

In 1978 Cape published another Davidson crime thriller (with a tasteful cover ) in another exotic setting – The Chelsea Murders.

Chelsea Murders 01 - Copy - Copy

The novel begins with a lone woman who is surprised by a grotesquely masked man and killed. But she is not the first victim.

Unknown woman from JB2 02

Previously another woman was murdered in Jubilee Place, and a man in Bywater Street.

Jubilee Place 17817 23

The police begin to wonder if  a maniac is killing people in Chelsea.

I have read that Davidson never visited Chelsea before writing the book and employed researchers to get the local colour. He lived in Israel by this time so his own knowledge of London may be a little out of date – for example there’s no mention in the book of the punk scene which would have been well established by 1978.

There are some scenes set in Chelsea Library. In the book it’s the reference library at the old Chelsea Library in Manresa Road (well before my time although I have been in the old reference libary with its dark curving shelves and balcony). Here it is in a picture from the 50s 0r early 60s:

Manresa Road- ref - Copy

Several characters visit the library where Brenda the library assistant supplies information about famous local residents to a police detective. Mason notices her shelving – “Very nice bird,(he) thought. Victorian looking, yellow hair, parted in the middle; something a bit classical happened to it at the back.” Artie Johnson who will become one of the suspects notices Brenda in the first few pages of the and notes that she had “the look of a Pre-Raphaelite chick.”

Unfortunately for the police Brenda also tells Mary Mooney, an ambitious young reporter following the case (and are there any other kinds of journalists in thrillers?), and some of the suspects. One of those two women ends up in the killer’s sights but I won’t give away which one.

The exterior of the 1890s building, which you can still see today in Manresa Road:

Library exterior - Copy

When ITV did an adaptation of the book, those scenes were filmed in the new Chelsea Library at Chelsea Old Town Hall. I was already working for the Libraries then, and several years later I was reference librarian there, so whatever Davidson’s personal experience of Chelsea was, I feel like this is a book set more or less  in my own habitat.

There are some characters familiar from the 60s and 70s:

Filming under Battersea Bridge 1970 jb63b - Copy

A group of former art students who are making a film. Two of them and their mentor, a sleazy academic become the main suspects in the series of murders in which it seems that the killer is choosing his victims by their initials which match the names of some of those famous residents.

Rossetti VAW

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, (hence the painting on the cover of the book) is the first of the series which also features James McNeill Whistler, Algernon Swinburne, Leigh Hunt, AA Milne, W S Gilbert and even Oscar Wilde.

DGR was a woman murdered and dumped in the river. Ogden Wu, the owner of a slightly seedy shop selling denim in all its forms like in this market off the King’s Road is one of the later victims:

Chelsea Village Market 1970 - Copy

One of the desperate film makers works for Wu and finds himself even more deeply embroiled in the investigation after his boss’s death.

The police fixate on the suspects fairly early on. They trail them around, create a card index for the case (no mention of a computer in the book), even consult a reference book at the library to trace the provenance of a poem.

As you might expect they spend some time in one of the famous Chelsea pubs of thr era.

Chelsea Potter

Some of the language in the book has dated in a way which modern readers might find distasteful. The character Artie Johnson, the producer of the film is described (by a tabloid journalist ) as “a spade..a real one, all black” and Mooney thinks of him as “a long black cat, his golliwog smile in place under his beehive” (afro, presumably). That’s a phrase you couldn’t use (and wouldn’t want to) these days, but in 1978 casual racism was still prevalent in life as well as literature. The author was not of course necessarily endorsing the attitudes of his characters. Thrillers from previous eras exhibit many archaic attutudes whether it’s the off putting right wing opinions of Dennis Wheatley or the less offensive 1930s mannerisms of Michael Innes. The modern reader has to tread carefully when reading and the modern blogger when recommending books.

In fact I’m not sure whether I’d actually recommend the Chelsea Murders to anyone who wasn’t interested in the Chelsea setting. The local colour is the thing. It’s not quite the 1978 I remember, but then Chelsea in those days probably still contained pockets of previous eras.

Also, the serial killer genre has moved on since 1978 for better or worse. Davidson’s book is also a traditional whodunnit and the two genres don’t work very well together. The motivation of the killer is rather perfunctory and  you get the impression that he is simply play acting.

Although, like the Chelsea Murders, that can sometimes be effective:

Satan triumphant 1958 - Copy

And there is a decent twist at the end.

Postscript

The last picture is unmistakeably one of John Bignell’s arty but playful images, called Satan triumphant (1958). As with many of his pictures there’s no hint as to why it was taken. Some of the other pictures in this post are also by Bignell.

I’ve been tinkering with this post for weeks and reading the book in installments (I hate being obliged to read a book even when it was my own idea) so I’m glad to finally put it to bed. I hope it was worth the effort.


Side streets of Chelsea: part two

We took a look at the Cross Keys in part one, and I was pleased to hear it would be opening again. So let’s start with another look at it down one of the side streets of Chelsea, Lordship Place.

Lordship Place looking west 1970 KS 3182

All the pictures this week are glimpses of the places behind the well known thoroughfares, the back streets, the short cuts, the hidden alleys and openings or the odd buildings you somehow failed to notice. Like this one:

Danvers street east side 1970 KS 3100Danvers street east side 1970 KS 3099

Two views of the Danvers Street garage, the only business on a mostly residential street at one time. Did I walk past the sign offering lubrication myself when I lived nearby or had it gone by then? The other sign “Chauffeur driven hire” looks unconvincing now, slightly dodgy in fact. It might have come from an episode of Minder.

This is another possible location for a seventies TV drama:

Radnor Walk east side Chelsea Pottery 1975 KS4636

Imagine one of those quirky detectives peering out from that balcony off Radnor Walk wondering where the missing girl has gone.

Here is another atmospheric alley bearing the name of a famous local resident, Joubert Studios.

Joubert Studios 3724

The detective has just gone into one of the mews style houses.

The other theme this week is cars parked on narrow streets.

Danube Street 17805

That’s Danube Street again. I like the rear view of those houses, the jumble of flat roofs and railings. It wouldn’t have been much of a view but on a sunny day you could sit out in the open and look down on that Vauxhall Victor. (Am I right, car experts?)

Paradise Walk W side 1974 KS 4653

This is Paradise Walk, a salubrious residential street today like most of the side streets of Chelsea but back in 1974 this set of commercial buildings look like they were only recently adapted for residential use. The tall building in the distance is still there, but now has a glass door and an entry phone.

Paradise Walk runs into Royal Hospital Road. Here’s a view further east.

Royal Hosp Rd looking W fr Tite St 1974 KS 4361

Royal Hospital Road is an enclave far enough from the King’s Road to support a few shops. Oakeshotts was a chain of grocery shops you used to see all over London. This one is now a Tesco Express. Let’s move on back towards the main drag.

Royal Hosp Rd N side Burtons Court 1974 KS 4366

I don’t suppose this view has changed much since 1974, but it does have the still quality of that time as the photographer, John Rogers caught a moment when there was virtually no traffic.

Wellington Square gardens 1975, KS 4140Nearby John paused to get a picture of this ornamental fountain in Wellington Square where Aleister Crowley lived briefly in the 1930s.

On the northern side of the King’s Road, Blacklands Terrace named after Blacklands Farm.

Blacklands Terrace 1970The John Sandoe  bookshop has been a Chelsea institution for many years. According to rumour Dirk Bogarde used to go there to sell review copies of books. A couple of typical seventies people emerging not from the shop but the pub next door.

Moving west again, to Bramerton Street.

Bramerton street East side 39-37, 1970 KS 33889An otherwise dull view enlivened by the woman standing in her doorway peering at something we can’t see.

Burnsall street 19-17,15, 4In Burnsall Street, an Austin Allegro, perhaps one of the worst cars British Leyland ever made. I cleaned a great many of them at Mamos Motors in Soho. This was the period when Ford were in the ascendant and it was slightly surprising that Leyland continued to sell cars

Despite all the Allegros, Marinas and Princesses I had a good time during my brief spell in the motor trade. London was full of surprising places to see even in the most obscure streets, like this last picture of an odd turret in Jubilee Place.

Jubilee Place East Side 8-10 Postscript

We’ll be back for a part three, but not for a while. I’m not sure what’s coming next week but it will be quite different from idyllic Chelsea in the 1970s. Thanks to everyone for their best wishes for my health. I’ll try and stay out of trouble.


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