Tag Archives: King’s Road

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]

[March 2018. I came across the picture below while trawling through some backwaters on the server and for the sake of history I am adding it here:

 

Photo by Mr Tomblin. Thank you. Now back to July 2017 where my previous self wrote:]

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.

chelsea-town-vestry-hall-by-arthur-j-long-of-stewarts-grove-2835a-copy-2

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.

jubilee-011-l_1358-a4

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.

copy-of-dsc_1281

And getting amongst the drainage plans.

copy-2-of-dsc_1287

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.

loris-rey-01

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.

milk

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.

 

operating-room-02

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.

 

seafood-stall

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.

 

fruit-and-veg-stall

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

Not far away from that location, a flower stall.

flower-stall

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.

grocer

And Loris Rey works on something else.

loris-rey-02

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

japanese-maybe

Bignell was forever popping into art shops and small galleries.

art-shop-03

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.

butcher

And fish shops

fish-shop

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”).

barber

And a classy looking florists.

florist

The Pottery. Anyone remember that one?

pottery

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

kings-road-used-car-lot-on-corner-of-manresa-road-now-fire-station-1950s-jb195

Finally, some actors at work.

acors-02

I wonder what she made of it all?

loris-rey-03

 

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.

crossing-the-street

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.


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/


Manufactured in Chelsea

I was looking through some old proof sheets for John Bignell’s book Chelsea seen from its earliest days (enlarged edition 1987 but now out of print), in which Bignell contrasted his own photographs with equivalents from an earlier era. I decided to use some of the old photographs in a post but couldn’t think of a unifying theme. Then we got an email enquiry about the effect of that “structured” reality TV show set in Chelsea on the real borough. (Short answer: none at all probably.) And so I had a title for a random selection of images of Chelsea as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The first image is probably the oldest. We begin as Chelsea itself did on the riverside.

The Old Swan

This is the Old Swan Tavern, before the Embankment, at low tide I would assume judging from how far back the photographer is standing from the river steps and the obliging patrons. I think this is a James Hedderly photograph. The Old Swan lay at the end of Swan Walk near the Physic Garden. This of course was not the original Old Swan but I don’t want to make things too complicated (for myself) at the moment. There are some paintings of the Old Swan in this post.

I’m following a winding path through Chelsea east to west, south to north taking in high and low society. This entails a few leaps back and forth in time. This picture is a distinctly post embankment view of Lombard Terrace, which lay to the west of the Old Church.

Lombard Terrace

The distinctive art nouveau buildings on the left are 72-74 Cheyne Walk, designed by C R Ashbee. They were built on the site of Maunder’s fish shop, a building painted by many, including Whistler which is appropriate as number 74 was  the last house in which he lived. The building was demolished by 1927 and the fight to save some of the remaining houses was one of the causes around which the Chelsea Society was formed. Whatever was left was destroyed along with the Old Church in an air raid in 1941.

The picture below shows part of the original Lombard Terrace with Mr Spell’s Post Office and store on the corner of Danvers Street. I think that’s Mr Spell and his daughter standing in the doorway. This is another picture by James Hedderly.

Cheyne Walk - Hedderly

I’d quite forgotten this picture so I was quite struck by this view looking north from Battersea Bridge up Beaufort Street.

Beaufort Street

Belle Vue House on the left remains and the terrace of tall houses beyond, but on the right all the old houses of Duke Street have gone.

We’re not quite finished with Cheyne Walk. Let’s take a walk past the King’s Head to the pleasingly named Aquatic public house.

Cheyne Walk - Turner's House

The three boys are just about to reach the house with the balcony rail on the roof line, where JMW Turner lived. We saw a picture of it by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd in a previous post.

If we turn back back and go up Beaufort Street we can cross the King’s Road into a quiet cul-de-sac called The Vale, where William and Evelyn de Morgan lived.

The Vale

The Vale now intersects with Elm Park Road but at this time it was a dead end, just a pleasant residential enclave. (That man Whistler lived at mumber 1) Here is an interior from number 4:

2 the vale

We don’t know who the lady is, but she looks quite comfortable.

We go back to the main road for a couple of pictures

Kings Road

A horse bus on the King’s Road, at the corner of Sydney Street, pretty much where the Old Town Hall (and Chelsea Library of course) are today. The King’s Road still had many purely residential houses along this stretch.

We can take a short detour down nearby Oakley Street to take a look at one of its famous residents.

Dr Phene

The good Dr Phene strikes a pose outside the house in which he never actually lived. He only had to go across the road to his actual house. Read more in this post. It’s a fact that I’ve never been able to use on the blog, but another local resident I’ve written about, Margaret Morris once took a party of local residents on a tour of the house. I don’t suppose the two of them ever met but I’d like to imagine they did.

Speaking of my personal obsessions here’s another one, a photograph showing the teacher training establishment Whitelands College, home of the May Queens. Behind those walls lay a unique story, which I have covered here and here. (You can probably expect another one in April). Readers of History Today (February issue) can see a rather disturbing photograph of the college quadrangle a few years after the Staff and students moved to Putney.

Whtelands College

I promised you a bit of high life so here is a picture of the King’s Dinner held in Burton’s Court in 1902 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII. The idea was that the poor of Chelsea would be served by charitable members of high society.

Coronation

The lady in white is clearly doing her best but apparently the whole affair was a bit of a disaster, with not enough food, general bad behaviour and insulting language used against the lady volunteers, some of whom had to flee the scene.

By contrast there was a servants’ dinner at Chelsea Town Hall (organised by the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants), where 40 ladies served the maids.This was a smaller and much more civilised affair

Servants' dinner

And everyone went home with a gift bag.

The Chelsea Flower Show was always a big social event, attended by the highest in the land.

Queen Alexandra at the Chelsea Flower Show

Queen Alexandra in 1913 accompanied by some important men.

But let’s go back to ordinary life. This is the street market in Marlborough Street.

Marlborough Road

The shoppers of 1900 look pretty smart.

Finally a picture in another Chelsea street, Upper Cheyne Row showing a horse drawn fire engine.

80

Is there something wrong here? I’ll leave that thought with you.

Postscript

I think I must have set some kind of record for the number of hyperlinks I’ve inserted into this post, so just ignore them if they irritate you. I balked at linking to all the Hedderly posts. Why not try the search box?

And I’ve had to rush through some of the background detail so fact checking is welcome. Next week I’ll go back to a much smaller area.

 

 


Bignell’s people

This week we’re back with the skilled eye of John Bignell and if there is a theme to this collection it’s “ordinary” people going about their lives barely realising that a photographer can take a moment of that daily life and turn it into something permanent.

World's End c1958 jb46

A group of men standing outside a pub  in 1958 waiting for it to open, bantering with each other. A regular activity that by time, memory and the photographer’s art becomes emblematic of all the men who have ever waited outside a pub.

Peter Jones  JB3 vmbp0125

A pair of women look  into a  window at the Peter Jones store on a quiet morning.

Demolition in Manresa-Kings Road c1955 JB296

A lone man hacks away at a wall. Dangerous work, perched on top of a crumbling building that you yourself are making more hazardous to stand on. Did Bignell see the poster for the 1958 film The Last Days of Pompeii? A classical case of destruction echoing the destruction of a building in Manresa Road? The star of the film was former bodybuilder Steve Reeves, the hero of many sword and sandal epics. Reeves played Hercules on several occasions. Is it stretching a point to say that the man above the poster is engaged in a Herculean labour? Probably. You can find lots of fascinating and possibly unintentional details in photographs just like when you walk down a familiar street and notice some telling detail in a building or a shopfront.

Magrie's forge Dovehouse Street c1951 jb122

In Magrie’s forge in 1951 a moment of high concentration

Man on bench in Dovehouse Street jb45

Not far away on Dovehouse Street a man resting on a bench looking for all the world like he’s using a mobile phone. Except that it’s  still the 1950s. One of those poses we always had ready for when the relevant technology emerged. As if I had been blogging in 1966. Speaking of the sixties:

Royal Avenue opposite Crapper's 1960s jb89

Royal Avenue: a trio consult a map or a guide book, a couple of genuine hippies, a woman surprised or a bit shocked at something she sees. But not at that dog behind her and what he’s doing. There used to be a sign forbidding “illegal dog fouling” in Royal Avenue. It’s one of those phrases that fascinates me because it can be read a number of different ways, like “hot bread shop” or “building alarmed”. Perhaps it’s me.

King's Road jb29

I’m not entirely sure where this street market was. My first thought was that it was opposite Royal Avenue. Before they built the mini shopping mall there was an open area like this with a Sainsburys and a Boots (and a shoe shop?). The mall was built in the late 80s or early 90s with a big Virgin shop at its heart, But I wonder about the building behind it, a residential block not really visible on this picture. Any suggestions?

Couple JB4

Back on the King’s Road, a cool looking girl and a man with big ears.

King's Road c1961 jb62

A collector for the British Red Cross meets up with one of those end of the world guys you used to see on London streets. I’m not sure what the earnest young man (who looks like a young version of Michael Gove) is saying. Is it an impromptu theological discussion, or is he resolving a dispute? We may never know.

King's RoadWellington Square jb24

Not far away geographically but in the previous decade a couple pose for the camera in Wellington Square.

Below, a picture Bignell has set up:

St Pancras rail strike day

A pensive child in a near deserted St Pancras Station. Bignell’s writing on the back of the print says “rail strike day”, which explains the quietness of the scene. The girl is cooperatively looking away from the camera, probably at one of her parents. Perhaps the photograph was a welcome distraction from the tedium of waiting for a train that might not come.

Victor Sylvester's - girls dancing

This picture of a Victor Sylvester dance class is not exactly set up but it’s a pleasing image of the girls having to dance with each other because you could never get the boys to go to these things.

The all girl sporting picture below is more unexpected:

Cricket at Duke of York's jb75

Cricket practice outside the Duke of York’s Headquarters.

Nearby, at the Royal Hospital:

Oak Apple Day Royal Hospital jb98

Oak Apple Day, according to Bignell’s note. A very effective picture – the two Pensioners standing at ease echoing the line of bandsmen. The conductor in the background provides the only sense of movement.

Finally, another puzzle.

Unknown shop front with bus reflection

Who are these four sixties people? Where was that shop? The bus, I’m told, doesn’t look much like a London bus. Again I’m happy to hear any ideas about people or location.

Postscript

Hardly anything to add this week. Bignell’s book Chelsea Photographer can still be found from second hand dealers although prices vary considerably.

 


Bignell at the pub

Last week’s pictures took us back to a time when there were still dozen of pubs in Chelsea. It’s true that they were changing in the early 1970s. The Lord Nelson in the King’s Road changed its name to the Trafalgar and became a “pub-discotheque” with a fairground theme. (The opening ceremony in 1970 featured the then up and coming British film star Julie Ege and George Lazenby pulling the first pint)The nearby Six Bells (featured in this post) also underwent a transformation which might not be to modern tastes. But at least these pubs were still there. Those two pubs are two of the survivors.

Here’s the Six Bells in its 70s guise as the Bird’s Nest (zoom in on the name):

Six Bells

But this week’s post is not about the 1970s. The heyday of Chelsea pub life was in the 1950s and 1960s, and John Bignell can take us back there.

pub scene 1564

It’s a world of men wearing suits where all the cool kids (and everyone else) smoked.

When pubs were popular:

Kings Head and Eight Bells 1950 1840A

The food was minimal.

pub interior_jb_313

But the staff were friendly:

Freda - barmaid at the Potter jb92

[Freda, barmaid at the Chelsea Potter]

The conversation was good:

The Commercial later Chelsea potter 1955 jb207

[Also the Potter, in 1955 when it was still called the Commercial]

Young and old all went to the same establishments:

Chelsea pub interior 2562

[As is often the case with 1950s fashion, this couple could walk around today without attracting much commentbut you seldom see women with fur stoles over their shoulders]

And there were characters:

Stratford Johns_jb_344

[Stratford Johns, television actor, star of crime dramas Z-cars and Softly, Softly]

Landlady of Lord Nelson fac_rbkc_jb_95

[The landlady of the Lord Nelson before its transformation]

Gina Warr proprieter of the Gateways Club jb54

Gina Warr, not strictly speaking a pub landlady but the manager/co-owner of the Gateways Club in Bramerton Street, the legendary lesbian club. She was definitely a character.

Not to mention Bignell himself of course:

JB at the Six Bells jb205 (2)

He’s at the Six Bells, one of his favourite haunts, where he could pull a pint, or just get back to what he did best:

Six Bells garden 1954

An unusual view of the Six Bells garden, with some affluent looking Chelsea residents sitting in the sun.

My favourite of Bignell’s pub interiors though is this one:

Chelsea pub interior 2433

I’m not sure where it is – all there is on the back of the print is “Chelsea pub interior”, but it catches something not only about the period – the intense young man in the suit juggling with half empty glasses and the woman in dark glasses listening to the man next to her  – but also about pub life in general, the moments of quietness in the midst of a crowd of convivial drinkers.

This era was ending of course but there was something else starting.

Chelsea Potter 1960s

Back at the Chelsea Potter the 50s was giving way to the 60s. That’s another story of course.

Postscript

I was preoccupied with medical matters again this week, so my apologies if this post looks like it was put together quickly from a vague idea I had at the back of my mind – it was. Regular readers will spot a couple of pictures I’ve used before, but they did fit the theme. Thanks to all the people who liked last week’s post (lots of you). I’ll be getting around to part 2 as soon as I can.

The picture of the Bird’s Nest is by John Rogers. All the others are by John Bignell.


The Princess at the Pheasantry

152 King’s Road is the address of the grandest looking pizza restaurant in London. The wall in front is surmounted by a pair of eagles, a couple of caryatids  and a quadriga and the entrance is flanked by two more carvings of classical figures.These household gods may have protected the building during its mixed history.  The Pheasantry has proved to be a survivor.

It has seen difficult times as in these pictures from 1974 and 1970 when the threat of demolition was looming over it.

Pheasantry  1974 9731

Pheasantry 1970

The Pheasantry is so called because a farmer named Evans formerly sold live pheasants from the site. But the building served all kinds of purposes in its day. The cabinet makers and interior design company of Felix Joubert and his family worked from  there for many years. From 1932 until the mid 1960s it was a nightclub. You can make out the words Pheasantry Club above the door.

The club closed in 1966 when the then owner Mario Cazzini died. It was in 1969 when Bevis Hillier wrote: “what a profoundly insipid name for this perverted palace, which might be a chapel of Beelzebub, Aleister Crowley’s pied a terre, A creche for Rosemary’s baby or a finishing school for vampires…”

It was probably none of those things but does seem to have been a lively haunt for the bohemian crowd in Chelsea in the 50s, 40s and the 30s.

Kellys 1933

Note the old Chelsea exchange name Flaxman and the three categories  of members. (Artists paid the least). Then look at the entry below the advert.

One of the other tenants of the building was the Russian Academy of Dancing: proprietor Madame Seraphine Astafieva.

Astafieva signed photo

Princess Serafine Astafieva to give her her proper title died the following year, 1934. Her Academy had been at the Pheasantry since 1916.

Although she had been a dancer herself Astafieva’s main fame is as a teacher. Dame Margot Fonteyn spent the last year of Astafieva’s life at the academy. Another dame, Anna Neagle had also attended. But the most famous of her pupils were Anton Dolin and Alicia Marks who we now know as Dame Alicia Markova.

Copy of Astafieva prepares pupils including Markova for the Ypres Ball 1922

This pictture shows Astafieva (on the right) preparing some of her pupils for the Ypres ball of 1922. The young Markova is among them, possibly the one at the front but I’ll leave that to the experts. The year before both Dolin and Markova had been spotted by Serge Diaghilev at Astafieva’s studio. Markova was only ten at the time. After auditions for the choreographers Nijinsky and Balachine she joined his company in 1925.

Diaghelev had been a friend of Astafieva’s since her days in the Russian Ballet. She joined the company in 1909 and when it came to London in 1911 she took on a role created for Ida Rubinstein, Cleopatra.

Astafieva as Cleopatra 01

Astafieva as Cleopatra 02

Astafieva was not apparently a great dancer but was tall, beautiful and she had the right kind of exotic look for that period . The fin de siecle decadence of the 1890s hangs over pictures of her as well as the aura of the early sex symbols of the silent cinema like Theda Bara (who also played Cleopatra, in 1917). This pair of images shows Astafieva as an early vamp.

Astafieva 02

Astafieva 03

Astafieva was born in 1876. She was related to Tolstoy and it is said that it was he who suggested when she was recovering from an illness that she would benefit from entering the Imperial School of Ballet in St Petersburg.

Copy of Astafieva

It’s hard to date the pictures we have of her in the collection, most of which come from a display donated to the Library by the writer and photographer Nesta MacDonald. So I don’t know quite when this last picture of Astafieva was taken. Probably later than the previous ones judging by the costume. But it shows her as she might have liked to be remembered best – as a dancer.

Astafieva 05

Postscript

The Pheasantry deserves a post of its own but I thought I’d start with Princess Astafieva as a tribute to the (presumably) late Nesta MacDonald. Nesta was sometimes difficult to cope with as the people who tried to demolish the Pheasantry discovered but her first love was the world of ballet.

Postscript to the postscript

January 2015. We now know of course that Nesta Macdonald was still alive when I wrote this post and that she died only a few days ago, aged 100.


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