Tag Archives: King’s Road

Chelsea stories – onward to Sloane Square

It’s taken us longer than I thought to reach the final stretch of the King’s Road but we’ve got here. Most of this week’s photos are from the early 1990s and at first you might think that nothing much has changed in the last twenty odd years but there have been a few changes.

We left off roughly about here, looking east.

 

We’re on the corner of Smith Street. The building, modern at street level, Victorian above was once an urban dairy. The cow’s head can still be seen on the third floor. Have a look at this post.

Nearby on the north side of the street was another retail outlet for dairy products.

 

 

The original location of the Mary Quant shop, at this point, a branch of Haagen-Dazs. Remember when that was a novelty? The pub next door was already a branch of Abbey National by then.

Further along the north side of the road you come to the small mall created around this time, King’s Walk.

 

 

 

Mr Figg wasn’t entirely impressed with the development but he took some pictures anyway

 

 

Empty in this picture with some nice reflections. There used to be a Virgin shop in there and in olden days when we bought CDs and videos at actual physical shops I would go there with my wife or my son. I think it was there I bought him the first Grand Theft Auto and I certainly remember going there to buy another driving game on the day of its release. I guess people still do that.

Here’s the mall with a few people about.

 

 

The small area in which the mall was built had contained a pedestrian close with a branch of Sainsbury’s at the rear, a Boots on the left and a shoe shop on the right. As I recall there was some kind of public sculpture in the centre with some wooden seating.

Further along, the corner of Tryon Street where there was later a branch of Superdrug (useful) followed by a branch of Muji (not so useful, for me at least).

 

 

Opposite the Mall is the once controversial branch of McDonalds, with a “discreet” version of their usual signage (to avoid “lowering the tone of the neighbourhood”, although some might say the Chelsea Drug Store had already done that.)

 

 

This picture shows the building after the Drug Store, which finally closed in 1985, but before McDonald’s. As you can see, after that it was a wine bar called Drummond’s. I can’t recall exactly when McDonald’s opened but I think it must have been around 1991, as I found some evidence of complaints about a “fast food restaurant” about then.

 

 

On the other side of Royal Avenue, which we have seen before, is an anonymous building which was occupied at ground level by a Safeways store, which probably withered away in the face of competition from M&S and Waitrose. You can see the building on the right in this picture, with the shops at street level below Whitelands House, one of those large apartment blocks built in the 1930s which you can find several examples of in Chelsea. Regular readers of the blog will remember my fascination with the original Whitelands House / College. (I won’t burden you with a link.)

 

 

Beyond Whitelands House is the Duke of York’s Square development, which most residents thought of as an improvement on the previous arrangement, seen in the picture below which Figg must have taken from the upper floors of Whitelands House.

 

 

It also show the final group of shops on the norther side before you reach Peter Jones, such as Woolworth’s, which was gone before I was a regular shopper on the King’s Road.

 

 

Peter Jones itself is another 1930s builing, still iconic, and still good for views over Chelsea if you go up to the furniture section, or the cafe.

 

 

I cannot help pointing out this single decker example of the short lived bus route the 249, which apparently is anomalous in Sloane Square. The 249 mostly travelled between Crystal Palace and Battersea.

Another of Figg’s random picture of shoppers, at Sloane Square from 1990.

 

The old configuration of Sloane Square, with the fountain and the WW1 memorial.

 

 

This picture shows the east side of the square looking south, with The Royal Court Theatre, and Sloane Square Station, surmounted by  a block of offices.

 

 

There was time of course when the station stood alone, quite plain and unadorned. (This is a picture from the 1950s I think. The station was severely damaged in an air raid during the war.)

 

 

To finish, a bonus picture. Everyone who has stood on the platform at Sloane Square knows that the track, like many sub-surface tube stations, does not have  a roof, and that  there is a large rectangular covered pipe which goes across the track above you, through which the River Westbourne (one of the “lost” rivers of London) flows on its way to the Thames. You may have told someone that as a fun fact. I know I have. But have you ever seen it from above?

 

There it is, caught by Mr Figg (or he may have copied the picture from an earlier one) before it was entirely surrounded by development. An example of Figg’s love for “hidden Chelsea”.

Postscript

Although we’ve now covered the length of the King’s Road, don’t imagine we’ve finished with JW Figg. Chelsea Stories will return soon.

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Chelsea stories – east from Sydney Street

People seemed to enjoy the last Chelsea stories which featured plenty of images from the 1990s, so we’re carrying on in a similar vein, with a mixture of photos by JW Figg from different decades.

You might think that this section of the King’s Road, the main shopping section since the 1960s is just a succession of shops, some trendy and some not so trendy and that the story of the street is one of hip new independent boutiques gradually giving way to chain stores and international brands. But it’s a lot more mixed than that, with a few sections which have provoked controversy along the way. Come with me on a journey through time and space…… (as one of the presenters of the new version of Bake-off used to say. He probably won’t be mentioning eels in his new job).

This picture from a rooftop vantage points shows where we left off, with Chelsea Old Town Hall, Chenil Galleries, Moravian Tower (with scaffolding and green mesh), the World’s End Estate, and Lots Road Power Station visible in the distance.

 

Just past Habitat, almost opposite the these shops, there was a pub called the Lord Nelson which John Bignell used to like. In the 1970 it got a bit of a makeover.

 

According to the Chelsea Post of July 10th that year you could “do your own thing” in this “supersonic..disco pub” .

That woman wasn’t convinced. Ind Coope goes painfully pop art. Let’s follow her example and turn our eyes away and look  across the road.

To another view from above, of Antiquarius, one of the road’s survivors.

 

 

And looking in the other direction.

 

 

Looking down at the corner of Radnor Walk, with the Chelsea Potter just visible on the right. The building where there was a branch of Hugo was a hole in the ground a year or so ago, although its replacement bears a slight resemblance to the overall shape. Here a couple of pictures from few years earlier showing the view at ground level.

First, the plain 1970s frontage of the Potter, with Green and London, builder’s merchants, beside it.

 

 

then the corner building again as an outlet for the Wine Growers Assocaition.

 

 

Take note of the mixed bag of buildings beyond it. After the one with the gabled roof and the three story building, most of them were demolished in the 1990s.

Here is the entrance to a small semi-industrial zone which hid behind the shops. You can just make out the name Carter Patterson on one of the buildings. If you look back to this post on aerial views you can see a little of what was there.

 

 

Residential apartment buildings were created at the back with a row of shops including Marks and Spencer’s at the front. Of course M&S wasn’t the first supermarket in that location. Local residents will remember a branch of Gateway (one of the many names of the supermarket chain also called Somerville and International) which was there for only a matter of months it seemed. The cavernous interior always seemed semi deserted when my wife and I went into it, like a ghost shop in my memory, although it can’t have been as bad as that. It was a case of the wrong shop in the wrong place, especially as that branch of M&S feels like a King’s Road institution now.

Here’s the empty space:

 

And what filled it, looking back. The buildings beside it, such as the Good Earth restaurant were also demolished. M&S and a few other businesses are there now.

 

 

The north side of the road includes that other architectural fixture, the Pheasantry. These days it looks like it hasn’t changed since the 19th century, but there was a time  when it was reduced to the bare essentials.

 

The facade, held in place by scaffolding as we’ve seen many times before all over London.

A colour view, from the side.

 

 

This was the Pheasnatry in earlier years. The statues have been painted various colours over different periods. There is a post on some of the building’s inhabitants here.

 

 

What’s that next door?

 

 

A colourful branch of the Classic cinema chain, showing Jack Lemmon and Julie Mills in Avanti! (1972). I saw it quite a few years ago and liked it, but I don’t know if I would now.

Some of you enjoyed Figg’s random shots of people passing Manresa Road in the last post. Figg wasn’t all that good at street photography. He puts me in mind of Dylan’s Mr Jones – “something is happening around here but you don’t know what it is”. Here are two passable pictures taken opposite the Pheasantry.

 

 

An old school cool dude as far as 70s style is concerned.

 

 

And some classic punks from the late 70s. The woman with her back to us looks like she’s being photographed from front and rear. I have a friend who took many pictures of Kings Road style in the 70s/80s. One day I hope to present some of her work here. (Hint)

This picture shows the Pheasantry with its new companions, after redevelopment. If you go there today you can see how the new buildings were joined to the section of the façade that was preserved.

 

 

In the next block is a relatively modern build, for a branch of Barclays Bank. It looks like a bank I have to say, not much like a branch of French Connection, although it has been that for many years. The feeling of a bank has remained though,

 

 

along with an original feature:

 

 

This sculpture, placed on a plinth above some steps to the basement just inside Markham Square, was installed by one of the branch managers, who was, according to one of my correspondents, a sculptor himself.  The odd thing about the object is its obscurity. Despite having walked past it for years I (and others I asked) had never noticed it. The stairwell has been covered over but the sculpture sits in more or less the same place, huddled up next to the window near some steps leading to a locked side door. Does it qualify as a public sculpture, or is it sitting on private land? Whichever it is, just have a look for it next time you’re passing. I have taken several people to look at it recently, taking credit for “discovering” it, although of course the credit is not mine.

Postscript

We haven’t even got to Sloane Square! Maybe next time. This post is dedicated to Christine, whose time I am often wasting.

Another postscript

I haven’t noted any deaths recently, I’m pleased to say, but in keeping with my habit of recording the passing of musicians can we spare a thought for Walter Becker of Steely Dan who died this week. As a man of a certain age the period when Steely Dan were at their peak was also an era when I was young and preoccupied with music. Nearly  all their lyrics are memorable in some way but the song that sticks in my mind is one of the best science fiction songs I know, King of the World, from my favourite Steely Dan album Countdown to ecstasy

If you come around
No more pain and no regrets
Watch the sun go brown
Smoking cobalt cigarettes
There’s no need to hide
Taking things the easy way
If I stay inside
I might live til Saturday

No marigolds in the promised land
There’s a hole in the ground
Where they used to grow
Any man left on the Rio Grande
Is the king of the world
As far as I know

Thank you Water Becker.

 


Chelsea stories – various days and various times along the King’s Road

We’re returning to the photographs of Bill Figg this week and taking up more or less where we left off in the first “Chelsea stories”. Very few of Bill’s pictures are dated, but we can make a few educated guesses along the way, from the various shops we see. We’ll jump from the 1990s to the 1970s and the 1950s and back again as we go, and I’ll try to proceed from east to west. We start here with a couple of shops you thought might be permanent fixtures but have gone now. In some ways, remembering the more recent decades is harder. You might think a day in May 1990 was just yesterday. (Well, I might) But it isn’t, is it? It was 27 years ago. It’s not the present, no matter how much my mind tells me it was.

As I recall it the Emperor of Wyoming (named after a Neil Young song?) sold western style clothes, and Johnsons was more of a rock’n’roll leather jacket sort of place, as was the shop nearby

You can see it on the far right of the picture, American Classics. Here’s a better view from another year.

Remember the name for later.

Around Moravian corner was a row of shops with an entrance into a courtyard. The site had been rebuilt for modern use but there had been a small social housing estate called Chelsea Park Dwellings (built 1885)

Beyond them was a row of single storey buildings which were replaced in the early 21st century.

The pub on the corner of Beaufort Street had been known as the Roebuck but in the 1990s it was called the Dome, after the feature on the top. Of course, it’s had other names since.

On the other side of Beaufort Street was another unique building, the Bluebird Garage. This picture comes from a prospectus from the 1920s. The Bluebird was one of the first garages in London with all the facilities the growing band of private motorists needed.

It was later known as Carlyle Garages, and used by the Ambulance Service. In this early 90s or late 80s picture you can see the name and the generally poor condition of the building.

 

But a few years later the space had a new use. The garage and the two buidlings on either side were re-purposed for retail and leisure as the King’s Road headed towards the 21st century.

One of the things I like about the work of our in-house photographer from the 70s, John Rogers was the way he accidentally caught people out and about. This is before what we later called street style photography. Figg stumbled across a few interesting images in the same way.

Nice jacket, Madam.

On the south side of the road is another local landmark.

 

This cinema has gone by many names. The Essoldo, the Classic, the ABC, the Canon and others. A researcher has recently been looking into the history of the building for a magazine article which I hope to read soon, so I won’t attempt to list all its incarnations. Just one more:

Students of film history will date the pictures from the movies showing. This link takes you to an anecdote about another version of the building.

Staying on that side of the road, and remaining in the 1970s, some buildings which have remained intact despite occasional attempts to redevelop them.

 

Who remembers the Chelsea Antique Market?

Look out for that guy in the hat.

 

There he is again. I can remember the builder’s yard, and going in there for some household item, as we used to back then.

 

 

I wasn’t going to use the next picture but then I saw the two shops in the tall building.

 

 

The Loose Rein? Miller’s of Chelsea became a toy shop called Tiger Tiger. It was on the corner of Glebe Place, at the bottom of which was the Chelsea Open Air Nursery, which my son attended. We were frequent visitors until it closed after there was a fire in the building.

Is that why the scaffolding is there?

 

 

In this series of pictures Figg is obviously sitting in his car, parked in Manresa Road. I can’t say whether he was trying to get a picture of the shops, including the excellently named Naf Naf. or whether he was snapping passers by. But the sequence is interesting.

 

 

Do random pictures tell us much about the changes in how we dressed? In the interests of historical perspective I consulted my colleague Kimberley who is 27 years old (I have her permission to mention this fact). She thought those denim shorts were a bit tight.

 

 

I don’t quite know what the look is that this trio are doing, but whatever it is, they’ve got it.

 

 

Now check out the woman on the left of the trio, the one in the striped tights . Her carrier bag says “American Classics”.  So we know exactly where she had just been. (Kim didn’t like the hemline on that blue skirt and wondered if striped tights were a thing back then.)

 

They were. (I think I remember that?) Historical note: Argyll House is in the background, still the oldest surviving house in Chelsea. (Although part of the nursery building in Glebe Place may be just as old).

Speaking of history, let’s look across the road, and back to the 1950s.

 


King’s Parade under demolition. There was a terrace of house on the north side of the road extending from Dovehouse Street to Manresa Road.

After the demolition was complete there was a used car lot on the site.

 

Finally, let’s move on to Sydney Street, the goal I set myself for this post.

 

The Board of Guardians building at 250 King’s Road (later the Registry Office, and now private businesses) and the infirmary wing of the Workhouse, still in existence, although that central section is gone now. The billboard on the right is where the Chelsea Palace used to be – music hall, theatre, cinema, TV studios and even a bingo hall in its time. We may look at it in more detail one day. The demolition dates the photograph to the late 1960s I think. Not quite time for the current location of Chelsea Library, but close.

Postscript

That was another marathon of pictures. Maybe I’m still making up for the two weeks off. Some people on twitter have already started congratulating me for the upcoming millionth page view. Thanks, but there’s still a few thousand to go. I reckon sometime in November. We can get there sooner of course. Tell your friends!

I’m already writing next week’s post which will be of interest to fancy dress fans.


Chelsea stories – your Granny, your Junk, your Cave

This week we continue looking at the western end of the King’s Road, using the photos of our new friend JW “Blll” Figg. and a couple of others. And we’re going to take a look at a few buildings over time. To start with, just to get you orientated:

 

 

The World’s End Tavern, a permanent fixture on this stretch of road, often changing hands, but hanging on, even when the surrounding buildings change.

 

 

This looks like the 1950s judging by the vehicle and the people. Keep your eye on that innocuous shop on the left with the awning. It would see some changes in the years to come. There always seem to be a couple of shops there on the corner of Langton Street, part of a terrace of houses  leading to Shalcomb Street.

 

 

One of the shops changes over time. Here, in the 1960s it’s called “Granny takes a trip”, one of the sights of the slightly cooler World’s End. And here it is with added car.

 

 

I’m not completely sure of the time sequence. This one could have come first.

 

 

[A John Rogers photo]

The reliable Sunlight Laundry kept the wacky shop front company throughout Granny’s time. I’m just guessing that Granny gave way to the fruiterer’s first.

 

 

Or were they before Granny? Anyway,  in the 8os or 90s a more staid establishment occupied the spot.

 

 

Between you and me, I think this property is destined for change. (It’s currently given over to interior design, as is the former cleaners).

Now back across the road before you get sick of the sight of the same place.

 

 

A rare colour picture of the shops leading up to the junction with Edith Grove: Quick Nicker ( I don’t know…cheap clothes, but one picture shows a guitar in the window). Field’s newsagents, the World’s End Pharmacy and another laundrette, Speed Queen). These were the shops next to Sophisticat, which we saw last week, and round the corner from another counter-culture establishment, Gandalf’s Garden. There are some black and white views in a previous post. The first three images in that post show the whole corner.

We’re going to cross the road again.

 

 

Another rare picture, of Watney’s Brewery, a characteristically 20th century industrial building with a touch of art deco about it. It was later occupied by a business with a distinctly 1960s/70s name.

 

 

Junk City, an SF sort of name like a location in a post-apocalyptic novel/film. The site was up for sale when this picture was taken in the early 1970s. It was replaced by a building a few people will remember, a redbrick office building which was the headquarters of Penguin Books. I don’t have a picture of that. It was there into the 21st century,in fact it was still there when I wrote that previous post about the King’s Road in 2011 (Where did six years go? Is the blog itself now part of history?) but has now been replaced with a residential block distinguished by a set of solar  panels on the front which resemble crumpled sweet wrappers (something from Quality Street maybe). A step in the right direction perhaps, and one of those odd phenomena of modern life – a building is built when you’re around, and knocked down while you’re still here. You outlived an office block. I suppose it happens more often than we think.

[Added 19th August. A little Google maps research found this, to complete the story:

Possibly even more nondescript than I remembered it.]

One more jump back across the road.

 

To another retail landmark. This is another John Rogers photograph from 1972, which I used before, showing the now painted bright green building mostly occupied by the Furniture Cave. Here it is from another angle.

 

 

Mr Figg captions this “after the fire, 1974”. No mistaking what happened there, or that part of the building has just disappeared.

 

 

This version is a more modern view, 90s perhaps. The corner of Lots Road has been occupied by a relatively new building, and although the picture is monochrome you can guess the Furniture Cave was probably not green at the time.

 

 

I’m including this rather blurred view of the new building not to fill in the gap in a post I did on on Lots Road, but for the just legible sign on the corner of the Furniture Cave – Crazy Larry’s. Not an establishment I ever attended but I used to go past this spot a lot in the 1980s and I used to wonder what it was like. Does anyone have any memories? I was usually on my way to an Indian restaurant called the Kabana just over the hill. These were the days when takeaway deliveries were less common, but I actually enjoyed the walk, and sitting in the restaurant with a lager waiting for the food. By the time I got back Dynasty was thankfully nearly finished. Simpler days.

So, a quick look back at some buildings you may have seen. We’re not finished with the World’s End but in the next Chelsea Stories we’ll be heading east.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with something quirky for you, typical of Bill Figg who, like myself, was “a snapper up of unconsidered trifles” if I’m not misusing Shakespeare. In nearby Tettcott Road you could at one time see this:

Maybe the Brothers Quay were inside.

Postscript

I’ll be off for a couple of weeks from next Monday so there may or may not be a post next week. I’m thinking about another Hugh Thomson book which is a kind of holiday in itself.  If not, expect to see a new post sometime in August.


Chelsea Stories – on the corner of a street

Before we start I have a little story. Sometime before 2004,  the author and journalist Tom Pocock introduced me to a man called J W Figg,  (known as Bill) whom I knew as the author of an interesting book called Hidden Chelsea published by the local bookshop Chesea Rare Books. Mr Figg, it seemed, was an amateur scholar and photographer whose main interest (he had many more) was the history of Chelsea.  He had worked with the Library many years back in the 50s and 60s and we had some of his photographs in our collection. Tom’s idea was that I should be as charming as possible in the hope that Bill would bequeath his personal collection of Chelsea photographs to the library. That wasn’t really a difficult thing to ask. Bill and I got on immediately. I showed him round the archives and we began an email exchange, sending each other obscure pictures of Chelsea for identification. (I never caught him out.) This was sadly curtailed quite early on when Bill died suddenly. I thought no more about the lost photographs, and never bothered his family. Tom Pocock died a little while after that in 2007, another loss to people who love the history of Chelsea.

Then, a few weeks ago, quite out of the blue a lady phoned me up and asked me if I was interested in a collection of Chelsea books and photographs which she and her husband were now looking after. I said yes, we would be happy to have the collection and when she brought the first installment to the Library I noticed a box full of copies of Hidden Chelsea. “Bill Figg!” I exclaimed. The collection of books and photographs which I had heard about so many years before had finally made their way to the Local Studies collection.

As I started looking through the material I kept finding photographs of places and buildings I had never seen pictures of, which is unusual for me as I’ve been looking at pictures of Chelsea since the 1980s. There is plenty for me and my team to work through, conserving and preserving this collection for posterity and making it available for future research. You saw some of his electricity related pictures  in previous weeks – Bill worked in the industry, which often gave him access to locations and vantage points closed to the average person. (Like the surveyor Bernard Selwyn, whose areas of interest included Kensington, North KensingtonEarls Court and Hammersmith even occasionally Chelsea)

I guess this story would normally go in the postscript. But it acts as a kind of introduction to any number of posts to come so this time it goes at the front. Now, on with the pictures.

[Moravian Tower, a former Council block, about 1990, when it started to be known as 355 King’s Road ]

If you know a street very well and walk along it regularly, you take the way it looks for granted even though you know that it looked different in the past. If like me you’re familiar with old photographs there are some vanished scenes which are as familiar as the present. And some which take you by surprise. Chelsea residents will know the corner where the King’s Road makes a curve by the former Moravian Tower , opposite the former Man in the Moon pub. At the base of the tower is Rymans, a paint and DIY shop, the post office, a second hand bookshop and a phone shop (I’ve used all of them at some point), before passing the entrance to the Moravian burial ground  (where those who rest in peace are not standing upright) a restaurant (another former pub with various names – the Water Rat and the Globe to name a couple of them), and heading down Milmans Street. There’s a car showroom and opposite that the Vivian Westwood shop. But what if on that corner there was no wide curved pavement but just another block of houses and shops?

This is that block where the  tower was built. You can see the pub (The Globe then) and the view towards Milmans Street, a little  more  than thirty years  earlier, in the  late 1950s.

Here’s the view looking in the opposite direction towards Park Walk with the Man in the Moon pub in the centre, and St Andrew’s Church in the distance.

 

 

Round the corner is the view up the King’s Road. the essential structure is very similar to day, with a few modifications.

 

The shop on the extreme left is Paramount Cleaners (dyers and cleaners), next door to which is a branch of Mac Fisheries, (a national chain of fishmongers). The corner shop could be a branch of Cullen’s. But we’re not going down there yet. Let’s turn back.

There is the Globe again and next to the gate to Moravian Close, David Gray (dining rooms). On the right, the former police station, at this time a community centre.

We’re moving further west along the King’s Road. You can see the block which was demolished and in the right foreground you can see the absence of the Cremorne estate with its parade of shops. This makes it likely that some of these black and white pictures may be from the early 1950s  (the Cremorne Estate was completed in 1956) Possibly building work is going on behind some hoardings.

Those shopfronts on the left look familiar though.

Below you see  Limerston Street, where the old 31 bus (now the 328) used to park.

Here it is in 1990.

Just a few details changed.

Still in 1990, a view of the block with the Vivian Westwood shop World’s End.

Next to it an entrance to the basement restaurant, and beside that an Oxfam shop, which can be seen below.

As Timmis and Richards, another branch of a chain, this time of chemists. The name lingered on for many more years.

We won’t go down to the actual World’s End today, but we will go as far as the block of shops next to Dartrey Road, just past the World’s End pub. Ten years or so after the black and white pictures the King’s Road was looking much livelier.

The Moravian burial ground was once used to exercise the famous lion of Chelsea, Christian, before he went back to Africa and became a star on YouTube. Here he is in one of his early homes, where he lived with the two young Australian men who bought him at Harrods. Bill Figg says in his notes that he knew the man who sold the young lion. I have heard that children used to go down to Sopistocat, a shop in that black,  to see him in the window and here is one of them to prove that.

Fur coats were quite fashionable back then, even for kids, but never as appropriate as on this occasion. Now, does anyone know who the little girl is?

 

Postscript

Tom Pocock  was himself a remarkable man, the author of many books (including “Chelsea Reach” the definitive book about the Chelsea artist Walter Greaves), a journalist and reviewer for the Evening Standard, and one of the first war correspondents to visit the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. (He encountered the artist and novelist Mervyn Peake there and once told me how much of that experience had entered Peake’s work). Tom was a friendly, unassuming man with a love of Chelsea. I didn’t know him well but I’m grateful to have been able to talk to him about our shared interests. I’m glad to have finally seen the end of one of Tom’s projects. Lovers of Chelsea can look forward to many future posts based on Bill’s photographs.


Christmas Days: the old old town hall

The grand municipal building  on the King’s Road which is the home of the Chelsea Registry Office, the Sports Centre  and Chelsea Library is called Chelsea Old Town Hall. It was completed in 1908 and designed by Leonard Stokes. Let’s remind ourselves what it looks like. This view is from an early moment in its history.

chelsea-old-town-hall-1900s-from-london-town-cs711

It’s called the Old Town Hall now I suppose to distinguish it from Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall which would have become “the” Town Hall when the boroughs united in 1965. (Not the current K&C Town Hall of course. There was an old town hall in Kensington too, if you remember it, but we won’t go into that now.)

But Chelsea Old Town Hall was not the first Chelsea Town Hall. In fact Chelsea Old Town Hall was once the new Chelsea Town Hall because it replaced the original Vestry Hall, the home of the  Chelsea Vestry, the precursor of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, which began in 1900. Is this confusing? You wait. Here’s a picture:

 

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2832-copy

This is the Vestry Hall of 1886 designed by J M Brydon which actually replaced the first Vestry Hall of 1860 designed by William Wilmer Pocock (an old old old town/vestry hall, which had problems with the walls and was declared unsafe in 1885) a more modest affair than the 1908 building, which only occupied part of the space its successor now commands. You can see that the word Town has replaced Vestry below the balustrade. The land next to the Town Hall was occupied by public baths and a couple of commercial premises.

Now look at this view of the side.

 

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2835a-copy

A man is unloading some crates but has paused to look down the street. Behind him a couple of others are looking into the basement area. Do those crates have to go down? Or up that staircase?Next to the wall is a slope leading down to the premises of W F Picken. But have a look at that roundel and the door beneath it further back. Those features and the whole of the rear section of the building still exist. The 1908 building simply replaced the front section. The old part was grafted on to the new building. If you go round to the back into Chelsea Manor Gardens you can see it, looking slightly grander than you might expect the rear of a municipal building to look. So part of the old old town hall is still in the old town hall if you follow me.

And that door under the roundel? I have walked through it many times.

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Finally, have a closer look at number 181, next to Mr Picken’s sign. Next to the door is a sign for Miss Annie Northcroft and her school of singing.  Miss Northcroft lived there with William Northcroft (brother? father?) and a few other names. Strictly speaking this was 181A. 181 itself was one of the first homes of the Chelsea Arts Club and later the Chenil Galleries were built on the site.

I feel I’ve slightly short changed you on pictures so here’s a view from 1897.

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Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. No expense spared.

 

The 12 monkeys of Christmas

Following on from last year’s Christmas posts which featured members of the soft toy community, this year I’m featuring the 12 monkeys of Christmas paying visits to the archives. To start with, here is the eldest monkey Keith Phelps sitting with the scrapbooks.

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And getting amongst the drainage plans.

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See you tomorrow.


Bignell at work

I’ve been having trouble with the post I was going to do this week. I had the pictures I wanted to use but I couldn’t find the right way to write about them. I came into work on a Saturday and while I was waiting for the computer to finish the things it likes to do when I log in the cursor alighted on a folder of pictures by John Bignell, a not quite random selection of images which showed people doing various forms of work. So almost immediately I decided not to force the other post into existence but to let Bignell take the reins. We haven’t had a Bignell post for a while so why ever not?

As always with Bignell he moves from the world of art and artists in which he had many friends to a more ordinary world of shops and street stalls where he appeared to be equally welcome. Here is the sculptor, Loris Rey at work in his studio in 1959.

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We’re lucky to know the date of that picture. In others you have to infer from the picture itself when it might have been taken. In this case the late 1950s or early 1960s is as close as you can get.

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An old school  milk float with a perky horse pulling milk, a man and a dog. You can imagine Bignell wandering the streets setting up pictures like that as he came across people he might have known, or struck up an acquaintance with, but on other occasions it looks like he was invited.

 

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Everything looks clean and modern in this picture but it has an undeniably period feel to it. It’s sparse compared to a modern operating theatre.

Back on the streets, a rare colour picture taken in the old World’s End area.

 

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Sea food al fresco. The St John’s Church Hall visible in the back ground and the green grocer’s stall we’ve seen before.

This is another street stall much further east along the King’s Road.

 

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The three people posing for the picture look eminently recognizable (if anyone knows them?)

Not far away from that location, a flower stall.

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Thank you Madam, says Bignell. The lady herself is clearly not quite sure what he’s doing, and why she’s in the picture.

Bignell also went into shops. Here a grocer slices meat.

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And Loris Rey works on something else.

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Here is a shop which is possibly devoted to Japanese goods, complete with a kimono-clad member of staff.

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Bignell was forever popping into art shops and small galleries.

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Framing work done here. Half a notice on the subject is visible in the door.

Art supplies available here. The picture below may be at Green and Stone, the long established shop on the King’s Road.

Bignell was in  butchers.

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And fish shops

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A 1970s look to that picture – the woman’s hair (and the guy with his back to us whose hair is getting good in the back as Frank Zappa used to say). And see the slogan – “Go to work on an egg”.

More hair in this picture where Bignell looks in a a barbers (“well groomed hair”).

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And a classy looking florists.

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The Pottery. Anyone remember that one?

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Bignell even looked at used car lots. This one was where the new fire station on the corner of Dovehouse Street was built.

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Finally, some actors at work.

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I wonder what she made of it all?

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Postscript

I know sometimes a Bignell post can seem like a random selection, but there’s always something interesting there, even in the most throwaway  sort of pictures.

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Note the little figure of the girl in leg braces, a charity coin box, in the background. Those used to be everywhere. The two women are crossing to the south side of the King’s Road possibly near Glebe Place (E A Fownes is now My Old Dutch).

Have fun identifying some of these locations.

Next week there will be another guest blogger for Halloween so I make no guarantee about factual accuracy.


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