Tag Archives: South Kensington Station

South Kensington: pedestrians and other travellers 1970

One of the differences between Londoners born in London and those who come to it later in life like me is the way we “learn” London. My wife was born and raised in Chelsea. She got to know the area round her home as a child and as she grew up her world grew logically. I first came to London on holiday, to stay with relatives and see the sights.

“A foreign student said to me / Is it really true? / There are elephants and lions too / At Piccadilly Circus?”

Then I was a student myself. My London grew around the first travel aid I had, the tube map, so isolated pockets of familiar territory gradually expanded and (usually) joined up. These pockets are also chronological layers so occasionally a piece of your deep history comes up against a new place you’ve come to know. I pass through the area near South Kensington Station several times a week but it was also one of the first parts of London I visited regularly. It’s near the museums of course and there’s  a small district of shops clustered around the station on the four or five streets which converge on it. We’ve looked at one of those streets, Pelham Street, before in the photographs of John Rogers. John’s task was to take pictures of the streets and the buildings in them. The inhabitants of the streets were incidental. But in this week’s collection the people take over that small territory and become the main subject of the images.

 

 

There’s a good selection of 1970 people waiting for the bus westwards.  Three examples of the middle aged woman in a headscarf, still common back then. Two young women with fashionable carrier bags , one in an early maxi-coat, a hefty teenage boy out of uniform but not yet sure what he is supposed to wear, and walking past the queue a dude whose hair is getting good in the back wearing a trendy coat. Lots of life here, and an advert for Red Bus Rovers, a boon for anyone who wanted to kill time by going to,  say Homerton, at the end of the line. This is the Thurloe Street entrance to the station.

 

To the right, a tobacconist (with room for toys and games) a fruiterer, and a confectioner. Note the people crossing the road , including the mother with two sons.

 

 

 

There is a ladies outfitters, Merle, occupying two shop fronts (business rates must have been low, but of course for clothes in 1970 it was either shops or mail order catalogues). According to Kelly’s directory the next unit is Dino’s Restaurant which you can see in this post about Pelham Street.  Below, we’re looking east along Thurloe Street.

 

 

 

A father and daughter are crossing the road, looking out for traffic. They might have appreciated the modern Thurloe Street which is now largely pedestrianised.

 

 

 

A young woman has crossed safely and the bus has gone. The woman at the stop was in the first picture I think. There were two stops, one I think for 14s and one for 74s. The 49 also stopped there, and the 45A started and terminated just round the corner in Exhibition Road.

Then as now, many of the businesses in this area were food outlets of one kind or another. Here is the South Kensington Restaurant (or the SKR).

 

A quite extensive establishment. Note the road marking for Fulham.

Her’s the other bus stop with an expectant family duo.

 

 

Along with a TV and electrical store, and another Cafe.

Next to it the Medici Society shop, for prints and cards, the only one that remains today.

 

 

And a Wimpy Bar! The rather half-hearted British attempt at a hamburger chain which we had before McDonalds. Remember the plastic covered menus, and the waitress service (the British didn’t queue up in a cafe back then)? The burgers were okay as I recall but then we didn’t know any better.

 

 

Pultney, for books and prints, with a smart father and son passing by, and another restaurant, Daquise, on the corner. You can see some paving in the middle of the road which kept the streams of traffic apart in the comparatively narrow street which had to take, cars, pedestrians and buses turning off Brompton Road.

I’ve enlarged a detail from the next image to show you the most fashionable woman in this group of pictures.

 

 

 

The lady on the left of the duo, wearing a very 1970 cape, a new trend at the time. As always with these pictures you can enlarge them enough to get a sense of the person but not much more.

Opposite the shops Thurloe Street meets the tail end of Exhibition Road. That island can be seen more clearly.

You can also see some metal structures on the island. These are air shafts for the foot tunnel which leads from the ticket hall of the station under the road to the museums in Exhibition Road.

The bus is actually a 207a (a former trolley bus route) which came all the way from Hayes, sometimes terminating here, sometimes going onto Chelsea to where the 31s (now 328s) finished. You can just about see a man in a London Transport white coat standing next to the bus.

Almost occluded by the bus  is another restaurant, Chompers, which I note partly because it’s a characteristically 1970s name but also because I ate there once with my friends Carl and Trixie. I’ve already recorded on another occasion that Carl sadly died in 1999.  Pictures of South Kensington remind me of him because he went to nearby Imperial College and lived in student accommodation in Cranley Gardens, very close to where I live now. So those two small areas are among the deepest layers of my personal chronological map of London.

Beyond the air shafts are the offices of the Kensington and Chelsea Post newspapers.

 

 

This is the opposite corner of Thur;oe / Exhibition Road.

 

 

(With a nice Jaguar / Daimler.)

 

 

 

That single story outcrop from the two terraces runs the length of the block. Here are some more air shafts, and a bookseller, with a purposeful dude striding across the street. There used to be a shop on that side of the road that sold all sorts of paper crafts and art materials. There are no pictures of that in this set. But it’s in a different chronological layer of my London history. You can’t visit them all at once.

Postscript

When I was first in London I wanted to go to Blake Hall, a station I saw on the Tube map near the end of the Central Line. It sounded interesting. But I never did, and you can’t now, although I believe the station buildings still exist, on the way to Ongar.

The lyric at the start comes from a song on the Jethro Tull album Aqualung, which I might have already disowned before I came London. But the words stuck in my mind.

I should also apologise to anyone called Blanka Azdajic, a name I have used  a couple of time in my Halloween stories. I consulted by friend Nina when I wanted an authentic sounding Serbo-Croatian name. Too authentic it seems. So let me just say my Blanka is a fictional character and her place of work is not located in this universe. I was a bit short of inspiration this year. I had thought of sending Blanka on an urban exploration expedition to some desolate industrial site but I couldn’t think what might have happened there so I left it thinking I wouldn’t bother this year. Then I saw some pictures of the old market hall in Chester and I remembered buying magazines and comics there. I still own some dilapidated  copies of Castle of Frankenstein and other magazines including one whose cover is devoted to a film called the Brain that wouldn’t die. (You can find it on YouTube. ) In the information poor early 1970s the monster magazines were often the only  way horror film fans could find out about particular films. Castle of Frankenstein was one of the more literate of the genre. The reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Frankenstein on the cover last week was to an obscure book by the creator of Tarzan and John Carter called the Monster Men, a sort of cross between Frankenstein and the Island of Dr Moreau. I had (and presumably still do have somewhere) a tiny Ace edition.

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Pelham Street 1970: down by the station

Anyone who lives in the South Kensington area will probably recognise this view even though the picture was taken about 1970.

Malvern Court corner of Pelham Street KS5979

The building is Malvern Court. On the right side is Onslow Gardens, where most of the buses get down to the Fulham Road. On the left is Pelham Street. Both of these streets face South Kensington Station, from which the picture was taken.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970

South Kensington Station, like its near neighbour Gloucester Road (see this post) is actually two stations. One is the original Metropolitan and District Railway station opened in 1868.

The other is the Piccadilly Line station.

Pelham Street north side 1970

The deep line was opened in 1906 . In those days it looked like this:

PC304 fp - Copy

(The Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway)  The two stations existed side by side although eventually access was purely through the District and Metropolitan entrance.

South Kensington Station south entrance 1970KS33

Note the older wrought iron lettering below the “modern” sign. And see how close the road is to the station entrance. The pedestrianised zone around the front of the station has enlarged considerably in recent years creating the modern plaza which makes things easier for walkers and the traffic management simpler.

I cannot resist a peek inside the arcade.

South Kensington Station arcade looking south 1970 - Copy

Vinces (groceries?) , (Hudson Brothers in grander times) are closing down and some winter fashions are being worn. (It’s January) The iron lettering is visible, as is the 3 minute heel bar.

But this post is not actually about the station so much as the shops and services clustered around it. In 1970 this included Dino’s Restaurant, and the intriguing Brazilian Yerbama Company, importers of medicinal herbs.

Pelham Street east side 7 Brazilian Yerbama 1970

The anonymous looking shopfront next to them with the handwritten notices in the window is an estate agent, the imaginatively named Pelham Estate Offices. And beside them, where you can now queue up for Ben’s Cookies, is Kontad Limited who sold Typewriters, Calculators and office equipment. Many of them are on view in the window with a sign for Grundig who made many electonic devices in those days. I used to own typewriters….(drifts away, reminiscing….)

Pelham Street east side 7-9 Kontad 1970

Those of you brought up in the digital age cannot imagine the relief I felt when I started to use a computer regularly for that new-fangled word processing. Readers of my own age group can spare a moment for nostalgia about worn out ribbons, jammed keys, carbon paper and correcting fluid

On the other side of the station building was a business with a puzzling sign.

,Pelham Street north side 15 LW Fleet upholsterers 1970

LW Fleet Limited, upholsterers. “Curtain makers, Upholsters, Decorating consultants” I think. Perhaps they were shutting down and didn’t mind the falling letters.

But hold on a minute. If you take a moment now and check out the eastern side of Pelham Street on Google Maps Street View all you will find next to the station is a wall, behind which are the rail tracks. It’s difficult to imagine a row of buildings in that spot, seemingly perched on the edge of a railway line but here it is – Station Buildings as you can see in the roof line sign below.

Pelham Street north side 17-19 Primitives formerly Cathay Gifts 1970

Although it looks unlikely, clearly there was room at the top of the slope to the tracks to fit in a row of two storey buildings with retail outlets such as Primitives (“dealers in works of art”). I was at the station this morning to have a look in the flesh (or should that be in the bricks?) and if you factor in the width of the Piccadilly line station there was room, although you must have had to be careful at the rear exits of the buildings. Let’s just look at the view from the platform.

South Kensington Station interior looking east 1970 - Copy

There is no view of the back of the station buildings. I had some hopes for the building on the right above the platform roof with a fire escape but I eventually found:

OS map 1949-50 South Kensington Station - Copy - Copy

A 1:2500 scale OS sheet which showed them. The building with the fire escape is an electricity sub station on the other side of the bridge (which is still there today).

Next to Primitives was Flair (“gowns”, according to Kelly’s Post Office Directory).

Pelham Street north side 21 Flair gowns 1970

Those two young women striding by look as though the goods in the Flair window are not going to delay them. (The puzzle is that clock, but more on that in a moment.) I’ve been looking at the windows above the shops. Something about those open windows and the visible light says office space to me, rather than residential (there are no entries in the eelctoral register for this section of the street)

Pelham Street north side 23 Ashley Shops 1970

At last, a famous name, Laura Ashley, with some of her distinctive dresses in the window. “Sale now on”.

In the picture below at numbers 27-29, the Rice Bowl, a Chinese restaurant and coffee bar. I don’t know why the clock with their name on it is still attached to Flair at number 21.

Pelham Street north side 27-29 Rice Bowl 1970

Beside the Rice Bowl at 31/33 another place to eat, Bistro 33. The owner didn’t spend too much time naming his or her establishment.

Pelham Street north side 31-33 Bistro 33 1970

Nice 70s lettering though, and a 70s dude walking by to give us some local colour. In close up you can see through the windows of the Mini that shepherd’s pie and Spanish omelette were on offer. Fairly standard bistro fare for the period I suppose.

I have no pictures of the remaining establishments, Stefan’s Delicatessen, Elsa (milliner) or Roger W Pliszka Antiques Limited, which is a shame. After them Kelly’s tells us: here is Pelham Place.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS133

Beneath the road (which is actually part of Thurloe Square) where those Morrises or Austins are parked and behind that ragged and overgrown wall is the railway, now going underground.

You can still see this distinctive building on the west side of Pelham Street, the brick chimney contrasting with the  plastered front. The wall is still there, benefiting from a little tidying up.

Pelham Place north end west side LT land 1970 KS143

The woman in the leather coat on the other hand has moved on now and might be harder to find these days.

 

Postscript

I was off work last week and arrived back not quite sure what to do for this week’s post. Would it be Shakespeare related? What about those water colours by a 19th century lady? Or possibly Backwaters 2? I’d almost settled on that but found myself getting fascinated by these vanished shops which had been drawn to my attention by Michael Bach. So thanks to him.

On the subject of last week’s backwaters I should add that the pictures were of Royal Crescent garden square, W11, Railway Mews W11 (off Ladbroke Grove), Lexham and Radley Mews, W8, Lenthall Place, SW7 and Cavaye Place SW10. All north of the Fulham Road and therefore all in Kensington according to the traditional boundary. There will be more of them soon.


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