Tag Archives: Ladbroke Grove

Carnival: 1980-1983

Regular readers will have noticed that I have never covered the Notting Hill Carnival (except once in passing). There are a few reasons for this: I’ve never been to it myself (I’m not a fan of crowds in streets, even happy ones);  I don’t know that much about its history, but I do know that there are a lot of people who are experts, who don’t always agree with each other about a number of matters, and I don’t want to get dragged into controversy;  and, let’s be honest: I’m a middle aged white man – what do I know? I’ve always tried to make what I write on the blog either historically accurate or (sometimes) drawn from my own experience. Or both. So I’m always a bit circumspect about some topics, (transport is another one) because there are real experts out there. Also, this blog is about pictures, and lots of pictures of Carnival in our collection don’t belong to us, or come from magazines and other sources.

But  we do have some pictures that as far as I know (see later) are ours, and when I was looking at some photo albums from the 1980s recently I noticed that some of the pictures in it were losing some of their natural colour, as colour prints from that period are prone to doing, so I thought they should be scanned for preservation purposes if nothing else. And once I’ve scanned a bunch of pictures, it’s only a matter of time before I start to think I should put them on the blog. So this week, it’s a case of letting the pictures speak for themselves.




You can see that the pictures are taking on a brown tone, accntuated by the scanning process I think but are still full of interesting details.







The photographer has taken a little interest in the police officers who were on duty.



But has mostly concentrated on the crowds and the costumes



Oh and one local landmark, North Kensington Library. I wasn’t working there for most of the year.




I was back there the following year. The scaffolding was in place after problems with slates falling from the roof, but it resulted in this covering, which was mostly corrugated iron. It was a little disconcerting from inside.



This year’s pictures have kept their colour quite well.










It seems to have rained the day the photographer went but that doesn’t seem to have deterred anyone.





The many umbrellas  show that the rain was pretty determined.



But people carried on.




This looks like a brighter year. I particularly like this picture of a float turning slowly through the crowds.



The many costumes seem brighter too this year.
















A modest amount of rubbish in the aftermath of the event.



The question of how the Library came to have these pictures was solved on the final page of the 1980 album.

This is Neville Price, Community Libarian, a colleague and friend who must have taken a group of library staff out into the Carnival crowds.



So thanks to him for all these pictures. If you went to the Carnival this year I hope you had a good time. If you recognize yourself, or anyone you know, please leave a comment. These images have not been seen for many years so it’s good to put hem out on the blog. I hope Neville will approve.


Lancaster Road: mostly 1969

This is one of those posts about North Kensington which come with an explanatory map. Lancaster Road is one of those east to west streets which originally stretched from St Luke’s Road in the east, crossing Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove ending up at Bramley Road. It doesn’t go that far any more, but I’m going to save the western end for a second post as we have plenty of pictures to look at before we get that far. I’ll show you a map in a moment but in deference to Twitter, who always display the first image of the post in the automatic tweet which WordPress sends out for me, here is something a little more engaging than a map:


The horse and cart is always a good image to start with, as they were still a common sight in North Kensington in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And here’s the map:


Have a closer look at this one because it shows several places of interest, some buildings still there like the Library or the Serbian Church, others used for different purposes like the Ladbroke Technical School, some of them no longer in existence at all, particularly on the west side of Ladbroke Grove.

When I think about Lancaster Road I think about the crossroads with Ladbroke Grove and the section leading up to Portobello Road. That was the part of the road that was most familiar to me when I first worked at North Kensington Library and used to walk up to the Portobello Road to buy some lunch. This picture shows the south side of the street near the intersection with Portobello.



And this one shows the north side of the road a little further west, the entrance to the old Isaac Newton School and the Kensington Institute (adult education).



Here’s a flashback showing the intersection more than a hundred years ago.


And this is a similar view from 1969.


Behind the man crossing the road on the right you can see the KPH public house. We’ve looked at that before in the post on Ladbroke Grove. On the other side of the road, the branch of Barclays Bank is under construction. Next to it the building with a white section of wall used to be a bakery. (The date 1933 is visible at the top of the building)

Next to that is the Royalty Cinema building. By 1969 it was a bingo hall. It has a certain place in local history because of the unsubstantiated rumour that Reginald Christie worked there as a projectionist.


A closer look at the other side of the road shows a row of surviving buildings.



No longer in existence though is the white building beyond the Royalty.


This was Solomon Wolfson Jewish School. I remember classes from the school coming into the Library when I was there there in the early years of my library career (when I must admit I had no idea where the school was exactly)  The building was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by the London Lighthouse. The Museum of Brands moved in there more recently.

Next door was another school.


Ladbroke Lower School at the time of the photograph, a substantial building where you can now find a Virgin Active centre.

It’s at this point that St Mark’s Road crosses Lancaster Road. This is the view from there:


The spire belongs to the Methodist Church, our destination for today. On the left on the picture is another religious establishment, also visible on the map.


At number 133, the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. North Kensington at this time had several convents, although the nearby Convent of the Poor Clares on Westbourne Park road / Ladbroke Grove had already been demolished.  Note the empty space on the map. Thomas Darby Court, a sheltered housing block is now on this site.

Staying with the map  if you look on the north side of the road at this point you can see the last remaining piece of Ruston Close, the renamed Rillington Place, and the Council buildings next to it (formerly an iron works), all behind Lancaster Road facing the railway line.

A second section of the same map is useful now.


On the south side of the road between St Mark’s Road and Walmer Road, most of the area on the map has been redeveloped. One of the surviving buildings is Morland House.


A housing block. Look at it on Google Maps these days and you will see it behind a number of trees with thick foliage. The whole area looks much greener in this century.

On the opposite side of the road between numbers 236 and 238 is a barely visible passage.


It’s just about where that sign is. (check back with the map). I had to have this pointed out to me by a local resident, so don’t just take my word for it. If you had gone down that covered passage about 1969 this is what you would have seen.


And if you had walked further the buildings on the left would be revealed.


These were Council buildings at the time, probably used for maintenance and repair of Council vehicles. On the  right of the picture you can just see a chimney dating back to the period when the building was the Bartle Works. That chimney often appears from another angle in pictures of Rillington Place, looming over the wall at the end of the street.

Below, a quick look back across the street at the terraced houses typical of Lancaster Road aside from the larger buildings (numbers 139-149 I think).


They look a little run down. (Is that a Ford Zephyr?) But suitable for gentrification. It was not to be for this particular stretch of houses.

We’re almost at our stopping point now.


Here you have a better view of the Methodist Church, at the place where Lancaster Road crossed Walmer Road. Clarendon Road and Silchester Road also converged at this point in an area which was called Lancaster Cross, and also Lancaster Circus (I’ve seen that term on an old postcard.). Here is another part of the Cross, diagonally opposite the church.


The Lancaster public house curving around the corner with Walmer Road heading south on the left. This is where we pause at a part of Lancaster Road which would be more or less unrecognizeable today, except perhaps for the zebra crossing which may be in the same place. (If you follow the link to the Walmer Road post you’ll see the same crossing and street light from the south.) We’ll continue our tour down Lancaster Road in part 2 of this post.


Thanks to Maggie Tyler who helped me identify many of the pictures of Lancaster Road in our collection. Her expertise in North Kensington matters (and other areas too) is invaluable. Part 2 will probably not be next week as I’ll be out of town again. Instead, I’ve already written another self-indulgent post about one of my favourite topics.

Also thanks to people who have sent their condolences about my mother’s death, Lucy, Karen, Marcia, London Remembers, Sue and Steph, plus others who have spoken to me in person. As I hinted last time I now own a large number of family photographs which may find their way onto a future blog post. Families and their history are a core part of what we do here and everyone is part of the larger story.



The Bridge: Ladbroke Grove 1938

The original station at Ladbroke Grove was called Notting Hill station and was part of the Hammersmith and City Railway (later the Metropolitan Railway). It was built in 1864. If you look back at the post on Ladbroke Grove you can see it as it was before the street north of the station was built up. This is a slightly later view:

Ladbroke Grove Station PC1137

This kind of view, showing the railway lines passing over the street on a steel bridge is familiar in many parts of London. The station was subsequently called “Notting Hill (Ladbroke Grove)”, “Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove” and “Ladbroke Grove (North Kensington)”. It didn’t settle down as “Ladbroke Grove” until 1938.

This coincides with the replacement of the bridge itself, a tricky maneuver  as the plan was to prefabricate the new span, detach the old one, roll it away on trestles and slide the new one into place. This week’s pictures show the story of the new bridge from the foundry in Middlesborough where it was constructed to its new home in North Kensington. Just as in our posts on the Westway when it helps if you’re a fan of concrete this week is for devotees of steel.

K61-1115 624.2 wide view of wokshop

At Dorman, Long & Co of Middlesborough, in the apparent chaos of the foundry sit the parts of the bridge, dim light from the glass roof streaming through the overhead gantry.

K61-1116 624.2 girder and roof

And men at work, welding the sections of the girder together.

K61-1113 624.2 outside girder

A helpful sign has been placed in front of the workers by management. Photography was becoming part of the industrial process, keeping a record of big jobs. Note the brick huts at the rear of the picture. They remind me of a summer job I had at the Shotton Steel Works in North Wales. Within the vast space of the cold strip mill the fitters huddled in huts waiting for the call (and I carried the bag of tools).

K60-130 624.2 outside girder

Here a man uses an oxy-acetylene torch, holding the mask between his face and the flame.

K61-1114 624.2 welding

And below, with the girder on its side. You can see the flare of another torch on the left.

K61-1112 624.2panel

The same view from another angle:

K61-1111 624.2 panel

The upside down writing reads: end plate girder B. A couple of indistinct men pass by taking a close look at the work.

A picture showing some detail with another caption, pointing out the flange splice (a piece of industrial poetry).

K60-129 624.2 flange splice

And this, another expressive phrase.

K60-131 624.2 butt weld

After all the assembly work, all that remained was the small matter of installing the new bridge at Ladbroke Grove

K61-1109 FP bridge

Cranes on the track with a house on the western side of Ladbroke Grove on the other. Can you see the word Greig? Not something superimposed on the pictures but a sign above a shop on some kind of metal superstructure. Two workmen and a manager (distinguished by his homberg hat) look on as the cranes lower the girder into place.

K61-1118 624.2 bridge on top

You can see the street below the work as the bridge is put into place.

A finished weld:

K60-133 624.2 weld

We can tell that this picture was taken on site because you can just see the top of a roof line on the right.

K61-1117 624.2 bridge from south

A final view looking north at the bridge, a few decades after the first picture in the post. A couple of men in coats confidently watch from below. You can see the steel trestle supporting the new and old sections of the bridge. The street (and the railway) were closed for the work which was completed in a single day. The bridge was then the largest of its kind.

Girder C has another painted sign : Hammersmith End. Very useful. You wouldn’t want to have got it the wrong way round, would you?



After May Queens and shops in South Kensington it was good to get back to some industrial images. Remember the posts on the gas works, the water tower and the building of Chelsea Bridge in 1936? We had a discussion in the department about how we think about the 1930s and how political and social events seem to crowd out the technological changes which were happening between the two world wars.

Thanks to Tim who found these pictures and suggested them for the blog. He also came up with the suggestion that a phrase I was particularly taken with,”butt weld” was a brand name for an American anti-diarrhea medicine. Sorry.


Better living through gas: Kensal House

This post is an  appendix to the journey up Ladbroke Grove I’ve been on in the last two weeks. I won’t bother you with many more of my personal reminiscences but I do remember being struck by Kensal House in the time when I was working in North Kensington and taking the 52 bus home every night to Kensal Rise. Looking down from the upper deck of a bus I recognized the unique character of Kensal House sitting below the level of the road next to the railway. I wasn’t any kind of expert on the architecture of the area then but I could see it came from a more optimistic time than the late 1970s and had seen better days.


Kensal House 1936 K66-702 - Copy

[Ladbroke Grove 1936]

In the 1930s planners and architects were enthused with the possibilities of new forms of housing, and possibly were no longer in thrall to paternalistic Victorian notions of raising up the working classes by improving their living conditions. Le Corbusier’s description of a house as a machine for living in was a fresh idea. (from 1923) It was a brave new world of course as of 1931 (although Aldous Huxley’s phrase was ironic). The housing scheme which utilised a no longer needed corner of the Gas Works site was sponsored by the Gas, Light and Coke Company. There was a team of architects headed by Maxwell Fry, with Robert Atkinson, C H James and Grey Wornum (whose work has been on the blog before). They were joined by a housing consultant, Elizabeth Denby.

In 1938 Ascot Water Heaters Ltd published a survey of recent developments called “Flats: Municipal and Private Enterprise” which featured the new estate.

Kensal House site plan - Copy

In the introduction Bernard Friedman says: “To the Greeks physical fitness, beauty of form, and congenial environment were essential to the harmony of life.”

Kensal House 1936 p68 top

[On the left, the school]

Maxwell Fry goes on to describe the thinking behind the scheme. Although he sounds a bit patronizing (“The idea that animated both sides of the work was the desire to build a group of homes where people whose incomes allow them little above sheer necessity could experience as full a life as can be”.) it is also clear that he was concerned with the lives of future residents – ” hardship centres around the lack of practical things, such as space, sun, air hot water, cooking facilities and so on. If these things are not remedies in the new home…then it is no great change for the better.” He goes on to explain that a “type plan” for three and two bedroom flats. The bedrooms would be all on one side of the flats allowing them to be smaller and the living rooms bigger with light on the bedrooms in the morning and the living rooms in the afternoon. Above the ground floor the flats all had balconies with built-in flower boxes. The kitchens were equipped with “drying balconies” and of course Ascot Water Heaters provided constant hot water. (Fry emphasizes these, but then they were the publishers.). Fry also emphasizes the “more civilised” internal staircases (“a nice feeling of going up your own staircase.”)

Kensal House 1936 p68

[1936. Note the balconies]

The consultant to the project, Elizabeth Denby describes it as “the first urban village to be built in Britain“. The design committee also had responsibility for ensuring the new residents settled in and that rent and fuel costs remained reasonable. She remained on the new estate for a while in her consulting role. She reports on the success of the Club Rooms and the social club which took in members from the surrounding area, and took particular pleasure in the enthusiastic take-up of the gardening facilities. “On a sunny evening or at the weekend each balcony was its tenants leaning elbows on the rail, smoking, gossiping,  happy, like a group of cottagers perched above each other on a steep cliff. The possession of canaries by some of the tenants intensifies the country illusion.” Again, you can see a degree of condescension in her surprise that working class people responded to improved living conditions by looking after their new homes but the scheme was well-intentioned and did succeed in showing the way forward for planners.


Kensal House 1937 K70-565

Both Denby and Fry mention the light available in the new flats – big windows, airy spaces, the feeling of a garden. This was an idea that was taking hold in the sun-worshiping 1930s. Sun lounges, gymnasiums, fresh air and exercise. I’ve encountered that enthusiasm for the outdoors in various spheres such as the Bauhaus houses in Chelsea and the dancing philosophy of Margaret Morris.

As it grew older Kensal House got a little worn down, as I saw it in the 1970s but its fortune revived and the atmosphere of pleasant living in a garden-like environment is still visible in a set of photographs from 1992.

Kensal House 1992 K-191

This one and the one below show the same walkway between blocks, possibly even the same trees.

Kensal House 1992 K-197

So that little pocket of 1930s optimism remained.


Kensal House 1992 K-192

The gas lamps have been replaced as in this view of a grassy knoll, but the sense of separateness is still intact.

Kensal House 1992 K-193

Behind this picture you can see the same water tower from last week and the site of the Sainsbury’s super store as it was.

Kensal House 1992 K-194

The fenced gardens and the curved facade.

Kensal House 1992 K-196

The shaded lane between the blocks.

Kensal House 1992 K-198

Kensal House (a Grade II* listed building) is still in the architectural text books, still praised as an example of well designed urban development. So Fry and Denby and their committee could claim to have done something useful and interesting on a small slice of industrial land.


A little while ago I worked with the SPID Theatre Company on a project they were doing with residents of Kensal House so thanks to them and the residents’ group who visited the library during the course of their project. Read more at their website: spidtheatre.com/wordpress where you can download a brochure about Kensal House.

A shoot in Ladbroke Grove: Part Two – W10

Last week we left off at Ladbroke Grove station. This is the dark looking entrance on the north side of the bridge in the shadow of the Westway.

Ladbroke Grove station 1980s 01 - Copy

Note the tiny branch of the record shop Dub Vendor right next to the entrance.

This is the W10 section of Ladbroke Grove. The tall houses of the southern end of the street have been left behind. The 19th century housing at this end of the road was built to accommodate local workers and commuters after the district line came to the area.The major part of the growth of the area took place in the 1870s.

Ladbroke Grove E side 152-154 1970 KS 564

Nevertheless this was still an area of desirable housing and in the period I worked around here it was ripe for the process of gentrification. There are a few shops but Ladbroke Grove was and still is a road of houses, although the Victorian town houses in this part of the road had mostly been converted into flats.

Ladbroke Grove E side 194-196 1970 KS 568

Below, the bus stop by Chesterton road.

Ladbroke Grove E side 204-206 1970 KS 569

Opposite that, the Earl Percy, no longer a pub but a hotel /bistro called the Portobello House.

Earl Percy

The buildings here were solid but a little run down, awaiting that wave of improvement.


Ladbroke Grove E side 226-228 1970 KS 384

I don’t have as many anecdotes for the w10 section of Ladbroke Grove. But my wife and I did have an encounter with the angriest taxi driver in the world after spending the evening with some friends who had a flat along the eastern side of the road. It was late at night and we’d had a couple of drinks. The driver was one of those who abhored stopping at traffic lights so was forever turning into side streets, flinging us from side to side, causing a fit of giggling which just seemed to make him drive faster. A tour of obscure streets between Ladbroke Grove and Beaufort Street ensued which served to improve my growing knowledge of the Borough.

This picture puzzled me for a while and I briefly wondered whether it had been mis-labelled as 240 Ladbroke Grove.

Ladbroke Grove E side 240 1970 KS 382

I showed it to a local expert, we zoomed in on the door and she identified the Raymede Clinic, a welfare centre for mothers and children which stood where the new fire brigade station is now located on the corner of Telford Road. (Not the only street in the vicinity named after a scientist/engineer.)

It feels like a long road at this point. On the western side there is some postwar housing in front of the gothic tower of St Charles’ Hospital but the photo survey doesn’t have many pictures of that side from this period


Ladbroke Grove E side 252-254 1970 KS 380

Moving north we cross a railway line. North of that was one of the big industrial structures in the area, the Gas Works. For more on that see this post. The Works originally stood in isolation but was surrounded by the northward development of housing. In 1936 the Gas Company itself moved into housing with the construction of Kensal House

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove fp - Copy

We won’t linger here. I’m going to give Kensal House a post to itself shortly.

The final northernmost section of Ladbroke Grove has seen the most changes, The area looks completely different now from pictures in the 1970s and 1980s. The most dramatic change was the building of the large branch of Sainsburys on the gas works site. But other features have changed too as you can see in these planning photos from the 1980/90s.


320-322 Ladbroke Grove

A row of shops and houses on the eastern side of the road.

320-322 Ladbroke Grove 1989

A closer look shows a then well known establishment.

Hamrax Motors Ladbroke Grove 1999

Hamrax Motors (their motto, as I recall it on the side of their van: “You bend’em, we mend’em”), a crowded room where owners of Japanese motorcycles could go to be patronised by scornful middle aged men who preferred Triumphs and other British bikes.. There was a workshop below it accessible around the back where I took one of my bikes was repaired after my most damaging accident.

On the other side of the road the gas works site, cleared in this picture.

Gas works site Ladbroke Grove

The building just visible on the right is Canalside House, almost the sole survivor.

Below the edge of Kensal Green cemetery, the Dissenter’s Chapel over the wall.


Ladbroke Grove near Cemetery 1991 2 - Copy

Behind that gate is a path to the canal.

Canal - Gas works site

The path is just about visible here in this photograph of 1961 from a private collection.



Note the water tower which  has also survived and been convertrd for residential use. On the left a building I was particularly glad to see – a pub called the Narrow Boat which was a stopping off point for people like me heading north towards the pub desert of Kensal Rise.

There was another pub right at the end of Ladbroke Grove seen here, the Plough. Another one I never entered, now gone. These pictures come from the 80s or 90s.


Ladbroke Grove - Harrow Road Plough 1991 - Copy

The narrow entrance onto the Harrow Road by the Plough. This takes us out of the Borough. But I’ve one more motoring story for you. On that bike ride I began with in the last post I would cross the Harrow Road and head up Kilburn Lane/ Chamberlayne Road to Kensal Rise. On one weekday afternoon, ascending the hill of one of the bridges over the railway I was caught in slow moving traffic. A yappy dog who must have had a particular dislike of motorcycles launched himself at me and sank his teeth into my leg piercing the boot on one side (quite a nice pair of boots from Lewis Leathers of Great Portland Street). Imagine me attempting to accelerate away while trying to shake the dog off my leg. When I got home it was decided I needed a tetanus shot so I was off again back down Ladbroke Grove to St Charles’s Hospital. So a set of photographic shots ends with another kind of shot.

Harrow Road c1981

(One final picture. One the right you can see the roof of the stone mason’s showroom, the only structure left from this 1981 picture.)


Thanks to Maggie for clearing a few matters up, and Barbara for unearthing some of the pictures. Also to Mr Peter Dixon for the canal photograph.

Wide awake, the cold cold light of day
Realize my taste
My taste just slips away
I say my taste just slips away

Song by Bob Stanley, Peter Stewart Wiggs and Sarah Jane Cracknell.

A shoot in Ladbroke Grove: Part One – W11

Last Thursday
A shoot in Ladbroke Grove
Hours later
Hey, waiter
Could you pour some more of those?
All for you and when I’m all alone
I’m by the microphone
I see your photograph
Don’t even want to laugh

Saint Etienne – The Bad Photographer

Round about 1980 I owned a couple of motor bikes. I wasn’t the world’s best rider. I had a few near misses and one actual crash and after a few years I stopped riding. But I enjoyed it while it lasted and I had a few favourite routes. One was late at night, on the way home from Richmond. When you turned into Ladbroke Grove from Holland Park Avenue you drove up the hill and from the summit you saw a straight road heading north. If it was sufficiently late you could speed down the hill and if you were lucky shoot through three sets of green traffic lights until you went from W11 to W10 and up Ladbroke Grove all the way to the Harrow Road.

Ladbroke Grove is one of London’s great streets. It takes you from one of the central areas of Kensington, Notting Hill to the very edge of the Borough and like many London streets it changes in character along the way.

Ladbroke Grove West Side The Mitre Public House 1968 KS 591

The Mitre, on the corner  of Ladbroke Grove and Holland Park Avenue. Many of these photos were taken in 1968, some of the earliest in our photo survey but from time to time I’m going to insert others for comparison.


This 2013 photo doesn’t tell us very much more but occasionally the comparison can be revealing. I went for a walk that year in the opposite direction and took a few pictures on the way. The Mitre has been a feature of Ladbroke Grove since the 1830s when it was built in “within the curtilage” (as the Survey of London says) of a farm house.

Ladbroke Grove PC1133

Building began on the lands of the Ladbroke Estate in the 1820s and originally there were plans for a “great circus”, a giant circular street bisected by Ladbroke Grove (or Place as it was originally called). This was never executed but the street did become the centre of a development which went right up the hill you can see in this postcard.

The street is wide, spacious and has many trees. In the picture below you can see another set of houses built by the the builders of the Mitre, the Drew family.

Ladbroke Grove 11.13,15 1968 KS 596

You can see there is “a central pediment and flanking ornamentation” (SoL again). Some of the other houses in this stretch are three-storey but they are not as tall as the houses further up the hill.

Ladbroke Grove West side 21,23 1968 KS 598.

The later houses on the east side look a little more elaborate.

Ladbroke Grove E side 42-44 1971 ks 2311


At the top of that hill stands St John’s Church.

St John's Church 1968 K71-282 - Copy

It would have a commanding presence even if it wasn’t at the top of a hill. A 2013 photo shows it towering over the photographer.


On the other side of the road is a large apartment block.


The Lodge, a 1930s building. There are modern blocks along this part of the road which contrast heavily with the 19th century buildings but the Lodge seems to fit in better with the older buildings. This part of the street is comparatively calm (or my calm might well have been my relief at getting up the hill). The buildings are tall but the street is spacious. You’re at the top of a hill after all.

The Lodge is on the corner of Ladbroke Square, one of the large communal gardens which give the area its spacious feel. (The Garden’s eastern border is Kensington Park Road. It’s large enough to have been the garden seen in the film Notting Hill, but that’s another garden altogether. The area has many of them.)



The houses look more imposing for being on the side of the hill.


As you go down the hill back in 1968 as well as today the street remains wide but the houses are a little smaller, more likely to be divided into flats.

The intersection with Elgin Crescent is where the 52 (in 1968)and 452 (more recently) buses turn into Ladbroke Grove as you can see in this picture. [Planning photo -undated]

Ladbroke Grove 78 A - Copy

I started my walk here in 2013 heading up the hill into  relatively unfamiliar territory. But this section of the street, heading north towards the station was much more familiar – I worked for six years a little way up the street.

The first time I ever came to Ladbroke Grove was a literary pilgrimage to an address I thought was the home of the author Michael Moorcock, a hero of mine. I can’t remember how I came by the address. Information of that kind was not so accessible in the pre-internet era. There was supposed to be a notice on the door discouraging unwanted callers but I never saw it. I was perfectly happy just to be there. I was too late to see the Convent of the Poor Clares which was nearby on the east side of the street. As I have mentioned in a previous post it featured in Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius books. You can make out the housing block which replaced it. This was the Ladbroke Grove of science fiction, underground comics and magazines, New Worlds, Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies, the pre-punk counter culture. None of that is really visible here but like Hunter Thompson said if you had the right eyes you could see it.

( I later encountered Moorcock in the more conventional manner at a book signing. It was my wife who met him in the normal course of his day and got his autograph for me.)

In the picture below you can see that Advance House, as part of this terrace was called ,was a bank in 1968. The bank later moved to the corner of Lancaster Road. In the late 1970s the offices of Virgin Records were there.

Ladbroke Grove W side 101-109 ( Bank) 1970 KS 1699

At this point I have another motoring story. One Saturday lunchtime I was out and about and saw a Jaguar parked at about this point with a notice in the window offering it for sale for £100. Even then that looked like a bargain. Either I phoned my friend and flatmate Steve or I told him when I went back to the flat in Kensal Rise. Either way we were soon in his mark 1 Cortina coming back down to get the phone number. The car was Steve’s that evening. I recall a memorable drive down to Amersham to test the fuel consumption, which wasn’t that good actually. (He didn’t keep the car long). That inconsequential story has for me the flavour of those times – no smart phones, no tablets, no internet.  A more casual age.


Ladbroke Grove E side N K Public Library 1971 KS 2144

And that’s where I worked, North Kensington Library, built in the 1890s as part of the free library movement. What was it about that building, or that area which kept me in the library business for so long? I think it may have been something about the run down but lively atmosphere of North Kensington and its people, which grounded me in this particular London borough and made me feel at home here.

Ladbroke Grove W side Kensington Pk Hotel 1970 KS 1695

On the opposite corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road is the Kensington Park Hotel, an establishment I have never entered. In those days it had a bit of a reputation. (And is said to have been John Reginald Christie’s local). I was standing outside it one Saturday afternoon in 1980 around 5pm waiting for the Library to close and was stopped by a pair of friendly policeman for the suspicious behaviour of wearing a leather jacket and mirror shades. What was I thinking?

My colleagues and I always went to the Elgin, a few doors down from the Library where we felt more comfortable. The Elgin is now a pleasant gastro-pub and the KPH is undergoing changes.

Ladbroke Grove E side ' The Elgin PH' 1971 KS 2141

There has always been a parade of shops between Lancaster Road and the station.

Ladbroke Grove W side 141-143 1970 KS 1694

On both sides of the street.

Ladbroke Grove E side 110-112 1971KS 2146

Paul Tregeser there, the “Hot Bread Shop”.

The underground station marks the boundary between W11 and W10 so it’s the place where we pause.

Ladbroke Grove W side 159 & LT Station 1970 KS 1693

It was originally called Notting Hill Station.

Old Notting Hill

This is quite an early image. The blank space behind the railway bridge may be due to the quality of the print but it is true that there wasn’t much housing development up there until the railway came to the area and turned it into a London suburb.

In 1980, when I was nearby, the station was waiting for further development.

Ladbroke Grove station 1980s 02 - CopyLadbroke Grove station 1980s 03 - Copy - Copy

We’ll start Part 2 on the other side of the bridge.


There was quite a lot about me this week. There’s a reason for that. These photo survey posts about particular streets often attract comments from people who lived in those streets who obviously know much more about them than I do and have many welcome reminiscences to add to the images. But Ladbroke Grove is a street full of memories for me so I thought that was a good place to start. This is my Ladbroke Grove, a few years at the start of my career when I lived and worked in west London. I met my wife here.

What about your stories?

Oh, and sorry. A little late posting this week. I had to check something first.

A secret life of postcards special: first gear

When I do posts featuring picture postcards I normally focus on the people in the pictures, zooming in on the street life of the ordinary passers by. I have looked at a few buses along the way in an incidental way. But this week I thought I would concentrate on images involving transport, mostly of buses but also a few other ways of getting around in the golden age of the picture postcard. That era spans the transition from the horse drawn bus to the motor bus. You can see both in this picture:

Cromwell Place

Cromwell Place is the point near South Kensington Station where a number of bus routes converge. If you look on the right of the picture you can see one of the towers of the Natural History Museum. But never mind that. Let’s look at the buses.

Cromwell Place - Copy

Two motor buses and one horse bus. Before the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC ) absorbed them, bus services were operated by a number of different companies and the buses themselves manufactured in small runs by coach building companies who did other  types of vehicle, hence some variation in design (although features such as the curved staircase at the rear set a pattern which was followed into the 1960s). Here a lone horse bus with the inevitable advert for Pear’s Soap meets up with a couple of buses from the fleet of a company called Union Jack (later, the London Road Car Company).

Turn to the left of the picture and you would be looking down Harrington Road.

Harrington Road PC312 Norfolk Hote

This view would be quite recogniseable today. That grand doorway on the left is still there as is the hotel building. (Then the Norfolk Hotel, now the Ampersand). The low rise building next to it also still exists, and the Local Studies team went for a meal in a resturant on the left very recently. But the young musician crossing the road is presumably no longer with us.

Harrington Road PC312

Nor is the woman in the apron crossing behind the private carriage (or is that two?). The bus, whose driver seems to be making some sort of adjustment to the side of the vehicle, looks like it was on a route involving Turnham Green and Kensington Church Street, so it’s odd to find it at South Kensington. Although route numbers were not introduced until the LGOC controlled most bus traffic, the actual routes were often laid down in the horse bus era.

High Street Notting Hill PC 369

This bus making its way along Notting Hill Gate (with the almost regulation Pear’s advert) terminates at Liverpool Street as many did in this part of London, crossing the west End to get there. Although you can’t really make out the lone animal pulling it, it is another horse bus, with larger back wheels. A little bit of research makes us think it’s a number 7.

Here is a quite sharp detail of a horse bus in Redcliffe Square, festooned with adverts:

Redcliffe Square - Copy

Pears again, a committed advertiser. An LGOC 31, heading towards Westbourne Grove with three wild hats on the top dek.

Further north an unusual view of Holland Park Avenue.

Holland Park Avenue 01

You’ll have to take my word for it, but that’s a 12 going past the skating rink to Dulwich, maybe as far as South Croydon.

As well as the rear staircase the horse buses also bequeathed the larger set of rear wheels to some of the initial motor buses which followed them. (Look back at the Cromwell Place picture). Below, on the other hand is a bus with the same sized wheels at front and rear:

Ladbroke Grove Library PC 1456

It’s waiting at a stop in Ladbroke Grove outside that well known local instituition North Kensington Library.

Ladbroke Grove Library PC 1456 - Copy

You can see that this is a more standardised vehicle, a member of the first class of mass produced buses, a London General B-type. This one is also a number 7, indicated on the baord along with the routee from Wormwood Scrubs to Liverpoool Street. Todays’ number 7s, (Gemini IIIs I’m told) sigh to an  exhausted halt at Russell Square rather than soldiering on all the way to Liverpool Street, as my transport correspondent has it. Generally speaking the epic bus routes of old have been shortened so it’s no longer possible to make lengthy journeys to legendary places like Homerton on a 19 for example. ( I now regret I never did this. I did take a 49 to Crystal Palace once though.)

At this point let’s pause to look at some of the other vehicles on the roads of late Victorian / Edwardian London.

Campden Hill Road PC162

Delivery carts bringing barrels of beer to the Windsor Castle in Campden Hill Road.

Ladbroke Grove funeral

A funeral procession in Ladbroke Grove for William Whiteley, the founder and owner of the Bayswater department store. Whiteley had an illegitimate son named Horace Rayner (paternity was disputed). He was confronted by Rayner at one of his regular inspections of the store. Being asked for financial assistance he ordered the police to be summoned. Rayner shot him. The procession is on its way to Kensal Green cemetery. Rayner was convicted of murder but sentenced to life imprisonment due to the circumstances, and was released in 1919. I had no idea of this when I chose the picture – I was simply struck by the crowds and the carriages.

Ladbroke Road PC 601

By contrast, a fire engine ladder outside the fire station in Ladbroke Road.

Nearby in affluent Kensington Park Gardens, some examples of private transport:

Kensington Park Gardens PC 341

The Church in the background is St John’s. Parked outside one house is this luxurious looking vehicle.

Kensington Park Gardens PC 341 - Copy

The top is down and if the driver or chauffeur is ready to go, the owners can hit the road. Back in the south of the Borough, another couple of cars:

Queen's Gate

As you can see the original buyer of the postcard crossed out Queen’s Gate and wrote in Cromwell Road. look a bit closer:

Queen's Gate - Copy

You can see an inked X marking a spot, possibly where the buyer was staying. He or she was wrong of course. This is unmistakeably the south end of Queen’s Gate where it meets Old Brompton Road in the background.

There is a proud looking man (a chauffeur?) standing in front of the parked car, mug in hand, possibly watching the woman crossing the road. In the middle a chauffeur driven car goes past with a lady in the rear. Not much traffic to contend with on this particular road.

Let’s jump forward in time to another quiet day.

Kensington Church Street PC1532

This is Kensington Church Street looking south sometime in the 1950s.

Kensington Church Street PC1532 - Copy

Four well-dressed ladies wait in the summer sun at a request stop.

Down on the High Street:

Kensington High Street 1953 K61-937

The old Town Hall, Barker’s department store (no scandals there) and parked outside Derry and Toms’ , an RTW on the 31 route on its way to Chelsea. The W stood for wide – these models were a whole six inches wider than previous versions and had been subject to trial runs in case they added to traffic congestion.

Through the medium of detailed information gathering my transport correspondent is able to tell us that this particular bus, RTW372 stayed on the streets on London as a 31 or a 22 until 1966 when it was sold to the Ceylon Transport Board for service in what is now Sri Lanka. I wonder how long it stayed in use.

Speaking of 1966:

Kensington High Street - 1966 K67-100

One of those narrow RTs, comically thin by today’s standards making its way to the same stop. The RTs were actually more numerous than the more celebrated Routemasters. This one, RT2912 had recently come from the Aldenham Works and would subsequently move from Chalk Farm Garage to New Cross in 1968.

We can’t track the individual fates of the old horse buses but you can imagine their mechanical existences were lively:

Cromwell Gdns & Thurloe Square PC315 L-6403


My thanks are obviously due to my transport correspondent my son Matthew who has had what you might call an  interest in buses since I first bought him a Corgi model when he was 3. I didn’t realise at the time that this would be  a turning point in all our lives.

From the air: Kensington

Just like the picture postcard the fascination of the aerial photograph is in the detail. The difference between the two is the puzzle element of the aerial view. The angle you are looking from is unnatural possibly even unimaginable when some of the places you see were first built. Even when buildings were constructed in the age of aircraft you see things the observer from the ground could never see.

I had quite a number of images to choose from so this selection (the first in an occasional series) is simply some of the photos which struck me as interesting or showed some buildings I have dealt with before in the blog. Like this one:

Gas works and railway 1965 K66-202

This 1965 picture shows the gas works in Ladbroke Grove which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. North of it you can see Kensal Green Cemetery, most of the ground concealed under foliage. At the edge of the gas works site is Kensal House. This is the last stretch of Ladbroke Grove before it hits the Harrow Road. The 52 bus used to take me along here up Chamberlayne Road to Kensal Rise. Either before the railway bridge or after it was the block of shops and houses which was the location of Hamrax Motors where I (the owner of a Honda) used to go to be patronised by the owners of British motorbikes. South of the railway you can see Raymede and Treverton Towers, like two open books propped up on the ground and to the left of them this building:

Gas works and railway 1965 K66-202 - Copy

Is that a grand ecclesiastical building? In another universe perhaps but in our world it’s St Charles Hospital a well known building but quite different from the air.

We’re heading in a roughly southwards direction now to see a quite different building.

Holland Park Avenue looking south 1965 K66-188

The trick with aerial photos is to orientate yourself using some obvious landmark. You can just make out the Commonwealth Institute at the top of the picture. The mass of trees behind it is Holland Park. Move to the foreground where Holland Park Avenue is going to meet Holland Road.

Holland Park Avenue looking south 1965 K66-188 - Copy

At the time of the photograph that long building was owned by the BMC (a forerunner of British Leyland) but it was built as a roller skating rink. The Hilton Hotel is now on the site.

Now we move east into Notting Hill Gate.

Notting Hill Gate looking south 1965 K66-196

This picture is also from 1965 when the redevelopment of the former Notting Hill High Street was relatively new. You can see Campden Hill Tower, that unexpectedly (in this neighbourhood) high building and all the working spaces between it and Ladbroke Road which curves up to meet Pembridge Road. To the right of the picture you can see Holland Park School and another old friend of ours:

Notting Hill Gate looking south 1965 K66-196 - Copy

The Campden Hill Water Works, with its microwave mast which one of my readers wrote a comment about in the post about the tower. This picture shows the location of the Water Works for another reader who enquired about that.

We can follow Campden Hill Road south now to the Kensington High Street of 1967.

Kensington High Street 1967 K68-158

St Mary Abbotts Church should be easy to spot and Barker’s department store opposite. Next to Barker’s is Derry and Tom’s with its famous roof garden.

Kensington High Street 1967 K68-158 - Copy (2)

You get an idea from the air of how big the garden is and some sense of the effort involved in creating it. Ponting’s, the diminutive cousin of Barker’s and Derry and Tom’s is also visible. The size factor alone shows why Ponting’s was the first to go.

Here is another close-up from the same picture:

Kensington High Street 1967 K68-158 - Copy

It’s my place of work again, Kensington Central Library, but this was before the building of the Town Hall so all there was in front of the Library was a car park and the two houses on the top of the site Niddry Lodge and the Red House which I’ve written about before. I’ve also covered the building which was there before the Library which is in this similar view from a 1939 picture:

Kensington High Street 1939 K-3266-B - Copy

There it is – the Abbey, the gothic folly built by William Abbott,  before the bombs fell. This picture shows the full extent of the grounds.

Now another close-up from a few years before in 1935:

Kensington High Street 1935 K-3291-B - Copy

The Derry and Tom’s building before the Garden, a bare canvas.

Before we leave Kensington High Street let’s take another step back in time.

Kensington High Street 1921 K-3267-B

You’re now looking at 1921. The narrow spire of St Mary Abbotts dominates the picture. In the foreground is Kensington Barracks and at the top of the picture an older incarnation of Barker’s but it’s that block in the centre which intrigues me.

Kensington High Street 1921 K-3267-B - Copy

The interesting thing about this building is not that it’s gone but that it’s still there. So is the fire station in front of it and the short row of houses almost attached to it. Other buildings have grown up around it so it no longer looks separate. With the row of modern shopfronts on the High Street side there is complete continuity. At first glance anyway. When I finished writing this I went out and walked round it just to be sure.

We could look at Kensington High Street in much more detail but I can’t end this ramble through recent subject matter seen from a different angle without moving to South Kensington.

Museums area 1951 K65-8

In this 1951 picture you can see the Albert Memorial swathed in scaffolding again, the Albert Hall and in the foreground the Natural History Museum. But in the centre you can see the building whose interior we explored a few weeks ago, the Imperial Institute. There are other details here: is that the site of Mrs McCulloch’s house on the corner of Queen’s Gate and Prince Consort Road Road?

But we’ll come back here another day.

This week’s images were almost all taken by Aerofilms Ltd, the UK’s first commercial aerial photography company. English Heritage now owns their historic collection and many of the images can be seen at www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Gas works: Ladbroke Grove 1970

Where the Grand Junction Canal and the main line railway to Paddington diverge from their parallel course there is a teardrop shaped  patch of land bounded on the east by Ladbroke Grove. In 1845 the Western Gas Company built a gas works there facing All Souls Cemetery on the other side of the canal. When North Kensington was developed for housing in the second half of the 19th century the Gas Works sat waiting at its northern edge. And there it stayed as London grew around it. In 1936 the Gas and Light Company built a progressive housing development on the Ladbroke Grove edge of the site powered by the wonder of gas, Kensal House, but more of that another day.

Today only a couple of gasometers remain overlooking the cemetery. Most of the site is taken  up by a Sainsbury’s super store. But in 1970 although gas production had ceased the owners seem to have been wondering what to do with the gas works, and denying rumours that the whole site would be given over to housing.

That’s the history bit. And possibly the reason why these photographs were taken. They show the Gas Works in a half way state, not shut down but not quite working either.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-594

For the uninitiated like me this is just an inexplicable tangle of pipes, doing something impressive no doubt, but I like it simply because of the shape. The lure of the industrial landscape can be just as strong as the desire to see a famous church or museum.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-599

You expect to see people on those gantries checking pressure gauges for signs of the chemical activity within these giant units.

Here are more of those pipes, and a ladder waiting to be climbed.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-608

See another ladder leading to a door on the right of the picture. What was inside that narrow tower that meant you couldn’t have a door at the foot of the structure?

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2177-B

Two of the gasometers, showing their 19th century origins in the ornate ironwork.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2182-B

This picture shows the link to the railway, and the first sign of human life as two men point out something to each other. We’ll see them again.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2180-B

Here is the basin which linked the works to the canal. I imagine coal or coke being moved on conveyor belts up these covered structures (I don’t know the correct term for them). You see signs of decay and disuse here. The water is still and silent.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2183-B

There are those men again in front of one of the older buildings on the site. One of them wears a brown work coat over his suit. He’s the one who knows the works. The other may be a visitor.

There are further signs of the age of the works in the already abandoned sections.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-600

Crumbling brickwork and growing weeds – as much picturesque decay as in any gothic folly.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-609

Continuing that idea a silent interior space as quiet as a cathedral, bright light visible through the arched windows.

The size of the pipes induces its own kind of awe.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-610

I spent a brief summer working at Shotton Steel works in North Wales an installation as large as a small town it seemed at the time with internal bus routes to take you to the various outposts. It was particularly striking at night, maybe even beautiful. Perhaps it was there I developed a liking for these industrial structures, or perhaps it’s something we all have.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-612

Beyond this ramshackle storage unit the trees, possibly in the cemetery.

Below there are other signs of the world outside glimpsed under the gantry.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2176-B

Among the quiet buildings there are some surprises:

Gas works 1970 665.7 K70-611

Some kind of crane on rails I think looking like a forgotten half-folded Transformer.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2179-B

So let’s leave these sleeping giants and withdraw along the access road.

Gas works 1970 665.7 K2175-B

“Things were melancholy and industrial” as Paul Haines and Carla Bley once said.


There are other pictures of the gas works in earlier days in our collection so we may be back here again. Next week another forgotten building.

London Transport: travelling in Kensington and Chelsea

In his recent book “What we talk about when we talk about the tube” (the District Line volume of Penguin Lines, a series of books which celebrate the 150 years of the London Underground) John Lanchester makes the point that London and the Underground grew together. The railway lines made it possible for workers to travel further to work and so communities like Morden for example sprang up because the railway was there. London grew around the railway map – the city made the map but the map also made the city. He makes the further point that the reason that the London Underground network was started thirty seven years before the Paris Metro (a huge number of years in a period of rapid technological development) was that sending steam trains through underground tunnels was daring to the point of recklessness. But they did it anyway, and made London the biggest city in the world (two and a half million people in 1850, seven million in 1910).

Train at West Kensington 1876

[A steam train at West Kensington 1876]

Look at this map, a section of Davies’s 1841 Map of London and its environs:

Davies 1841 Kensington and Chelsea 002

Davies’s map is interesting because it’s one of the first London maps to show railways. You can see the main line to Paddington and the West London Railway heading south towards the river with a proposed route alongside the Kensington Canal. You can also see the empty space between the comparatively built up Chelsea and the line of development along the Kensington Turnpike, the road from Hammersmith to Hyde Park Corner or Kensington High Street as we now know it.

Click on the map for a bigger version and look for the villages of Little Chelsea and Earls Court, the Hippodrome race course north of Notting Hill, Notting Barn Farm and Portobello Farm, the “proposed Norland Town” beside the Railway and the “proposed extension” following a similar route to the eventual District Line.

In the second half of the 19th century those spaces were filled by housing, and the railways which linked Kensington and Chelsea to the rest of London.

Parish map 1894

This Kensington parish map of 1894 with the wards shaded shows how most of the space devoted to market gardens and open country was occupied by the end of the century and how the railways made their mark. (Apologies to Chelsea for being squeezed out a bit at the bottom but maps which show both parishes equally are hard to find before they became London Boroughs and eventually joined.) You can also see how development north of Notting Hill Gate moved northwards first to meet the Metropolitan Line at Ladbroke Grove and then to meet the main line.

PC 1137 Ladbroke Grove Station

As I said in the Gloucester Road post the stations were often built before the housing and the major roads. The District, Circle and Metropolitan lines crossed the two parishes knitting them together. The sub-surface lines weren’t actually underground for most of their routes (the longest underground section on the District / Circle line is the tunnel between Kensington High Street north to Notting Hill Gate) so they had a visible impact on the map especially in certain areas such as the Cromwell Curve where three lines (and the trains of three companies originally) met.

Cromwell Road Dec 02 1902 LTE

This is a rear view of Cromwell Road after building development showing the District Line rails in 1902. It’s by Ernest Milner, and has one of his characteristic faces at the window.

After the sub-surface lines came the deep tunnels (the actual Tube as Lanchester also points out) of the Central Line and the Piccadilly Line.

Brompton Road Station K10105B

This one is the short lived Brompton Road Station opened 1906 and closed in 1934, being by then too near to both Knightsbridge  and South Kensington Stations.

South Kensington Station K12953B

This picture shows the Piccadilly Line station at South Kensington, which like the one at Gloucester Road sat right next to the Metropolitan and District Line Station.

The picture also has a good view of a comparatively small horse-drawn bus. The buses which had carried people around London before the railways could not compete in terms of numbers even when motor buses were introduced in the 1890s and early 1900s. But they would soon catch up, and I can’t leave the subject of transport without some pictures of the buses that have served Kensington and Chelsea.

Notting Hill Gate PC 369

A horse-drawn bus proceeds along Notting Hill Gate.

Below an early motor bus on its way to Westbourne Grove.

Arrow line bus early 1900s

The bus routes we know today were established quite early.

S742 number 27 pulling out of Hammersmith 1920s

A number 27 departs from Hammersmith bus station. The buses got bigger and more frequent.

Coronation Dec. Kensington Gore -1953 DSC 005 A4

This picture shows an AEC Regent on Kensington Gore in 1953 when the border of the Royal Borough was decorated for the Coronation. Below, the most iconic London bus of them all, the Routemaster, heading into Kensington in the 1960s (The Royal Garden Hotel is visible in the distance.)

73 routemaster bus - by John Bignell

Finally, on Kensington High Street the bus I use most frequently.

DSC_1220 bus

At any given bus stop the bus you’re waiting for is always the least frequent. Or is that just me? At least there’s the Tube.


That was the last of my transport related posts which were part of our contribution to this year’s Cityread campaign. It’s been a bit of a challenge to do four whole posts on the subject so I hope the strain hasn’t shown and I’ve showed you some interesting images.

John Lanchester’s book is one  a  series of 12 . (Link)  They’re a bit of a mixed bag and I haven’t seen them all but I’d also recommend Paul Morley’s Earthbound (the Bakerloo Line).

Other writers have made the same points as Lanchester, such as Andrew Martin in his history of the Underground “Overground Underground”. but Lanchester’s little book was the first I read. It’s a subject with a large bibliography.

Next week a special post for May Day heading taking us right back into the depths of the Edwardian imagination.

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