Tag Archives: Sydney Street

Figg’s Chelsea

This is another post devoted to the work of JW (Bill) Figg, skating through some of his regular themes and obsessions. Figg liked particular streets (the King’s Road as you’ve already seen, but other less obvious ones like Dovehouse and Sydney Streets), particular buildings and particular details in streets and alleys. We’ll look at some examples of all these in today’s post, starting with a bit of a scoop, at least as far as I was concerned.

The Chelsea Workhouse in Dovehouse Street was an institution I’d read about and seen as a detail in pictures of a larger area but the first time I saw a picture of the entrance was among Figg’s pictures.

 

 

This is the main entrance in Britten Street. Dovehouse Street is on the right of the picture. Some familiar words occur to me when I see this image: “abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

This is the side of the building, with the old Chelsea Hospital for Women visible in the distance, now part of the Royal Brompton Hospital complex of buildings.

 

 

The original workshop was laid out in the 1730s and expanded several times in the 19th century. In the 1920s it became the Chelsea Institution, a presumably less punitive place to stay. The building was demolished in the 1970s and replaced by an old people’s home called Kingsmead which has itself been demolished in the last year.

Moving along Britten Street to Sydney Street you come to a small row of houses which have survived all the building upheavals around them.

 

 

Figg took more than one picture of this block. In this colour image (1980s?) you can see the highly decorated Britten Street part of the corner building.

The next picture is also in the vicinity.


 

A view into the garden of the St Wilfred’s Convent building. This became part of the hospital complex in 1968.

Figg was a lover of the small details that can be found on the walls of buildings, like this sign on the old fire station.

 

 

 

Or openings and holes in, around and under buildings, like this one in Manresa Road.

 

He describes the hole as “tunnel exit college site”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been into the tunnel

We’re moving in a southwards direction into Old Church Street. As you can see from the cow’s head at the top of the façade this was the site of an urban dairy (see this post).

 

 

You can also see that it was the home of a recording studio, Sound Techniques. Behind this unassuming frontage albums were recorded by John Cale, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, John Martyn, Pentangle, Pink Floyd, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Steeleye Span and many famous names from the late 1960s / early 1970s. You can find out more here.

Those names set me thinking of the Chelsea Pageant pictures including one in this post . But that’s probably just a personal flight of fancy.

Not too far away was an example of what are now called ghost signs, remnants of old businesses who have left faded signs on walls.

 

 

This picture was taken by Figg when the site on the corner of Oakley Street and Cheyne Walk was being cleared for the construction of Pier House, a large residential block down by the river. (Figg was also obsessed with the statue outside it, Boy with Dolphin, but we’ll leave that for another day.)

From one wall you can’t see any more to another.

 

 

This is Crosby Hall, the City of London building transplanted to Chelsea in the 1920s,  before it was bought in the 1980s and converted into a private residence with a couple of wings of pastiche Tudor palace added cutting off this view.

Literally, round the corner in Beaufort Street was the Convent of Adoration Repatrice, damaged by bombs in 1940. The building was replaced by a chapel in 1985.

 

 

It now forms part of a Catholic educational establishment, Allen Hall, which is the building on the left.

We’re crossing the King’s Road again now, into another much changed street, Park Walk. Many of Figg’s pictures are unlabelled so I have a few named Unknown Street, which I may put before you in a set one of these days.

 

 

I’ve identified this one (1950s I think) as Park Walk because of the wall and pavement on the right, recognizable as Park Walk School, and the Globe pub visible in the distance. (see one of my first Figg posts). The left side of the street up to the back of the former Man in the Moon pub also visible has been completely redeveloped.

By contrast the view in the picture below, looking north up Limerston Street is virtually intact. But the Sporting Page pub was called the Odell Arms, a fact which pleases me because of its coincidental connection with a cuddly octopus. (If you like that sort of thing)

 

 

We’ve been a little short of people this week so here is literally a bunch of them in nearby Hobury Street.

 

 

Finally, another Figg obsession: bomb camage.

 

 

This shows Cadogan Gardens after an IRA bomb. I’m not sure of the date to be honest. My wife remembers seeing bomb damage in Chelsea on her way to school on one occasion at least but neither of us could pin this down to a particular year. Perhaps someone could help with that?

Postscript

I’m a bit late posting this week. Too much of my proper work to do, and a bit of an upheaval in the archive rooms. But Figg is worth waiting for, I think. I’ll  do a few more of these random selections in the coming months, and definitely think about showing you some as yet unidentified locations.

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The artist in the mirror world – Yoshio Markino

Some years after Mortimer Menpes made his first journeys to Japan and brought a Western sensibility to an Eastern country, another artist was making the same journey in reverse. Yoshio Markino (Heiji Makino as he was born, in 1869) sailed from Yokohama to San Francisco at the age of 24. In 1897 he travelled to London where he stayed for more than forty years, bringing the artistic sensibility of Japan to his new home.

Markino lived in various parts of London including Greenwich, New Cross, Kensal Rise, Norwood and Brixton. But he found his longest lasting home in Kensington and Chelsea.

Chelsea Embankment - JAIL

He painted the city in many moods but his preference seemed to be for overcast  days, for night time and above all for fog.  London in mist is far above my own ideal….the colour and its effect are most wonderful. I think London without mists would be like a bride without a trousseau….The London mist attracts me so that I do not feel I could live any other place but London.

He was sometimes called the painter of fog.

The Thames at Ranelagh - JAIL

Some of the figures in his pictures look lost and lonely as if he was anticipating the night time urban views of Edward Hopper. Here is a view of his lodging house in Sydney Street.

Copy of Our Lodgings in Sydney Street RAR

The monochrome view makes the street look grim and cold. But there were bright lights in the misty places as in this picture of Earls Court Station.

Earls Court Station - JAIL

Look at the bright clothes of the two women in the foreground, travelling to or from a theatre or the nearby exhibition centre:

The Lake Earls Court by night COL

There is that Japanese love of water too. The wet pavement reflects everything as if the whole city was built on a lake.

Sloane Square wet day COL

“A wet day in Sloane Square”

He did venture out in daylight too but as he says December is my favourite month in London.

Cale Street Chelsea in snow January 1907

Cale Street, quite close to his lodging house, perhaps looking out of the window.

There were some summer and autumn days, never entirely without the hint of mist.

Reading in Kensington Gardens - JB

A woman sits reading in Kensington Gardens. A little further south there were crowds in Brompton Road outside the  museums Markino admired.

Outside South Kensington Museum - JAIL

But it was the gloom he loved best, the glimpses of people entering or leaving  brightly lit interiors setting out on a night time journey.

The Oratory Brompton Road COL

Here at Brompton Oratory, or below at the Carlton Hotel.

The porch of the Carlton Hotel at night COL

Markino wrote several books about his life in London. He experienced hardship and illness before he could make a comfortable living as a freelance artist and writer but never lost his commitment to his adopted home. At one point he worked for a stonemason in Norwood designing angels  for memorials in the nearby cemetery. The stonemason regretfully let him go because his angels were too feminine – “more like ballet girls than angels”.

Perhaps the feeling of being a stranger gives his pictures that air of lonely detachment. I was pleased to find this one in My Recollections and Reflections (1913).

Copy of Thistle Grove RAR

Thistle Grove with its Narnian lamposts which bring back memories of William Cowen the water colour artist who painted that area nearly seventy years before.  It’s difficult to be sure whether this view is looking north or south. Because of the wall I’m leaning towards the Fulham Road end. Not so far from this scene:

Fulham Road - JAIL

The tall grimy buildings, the distant tower of St Stephen’s hospital, the shadows, the damp, the mist and amid the gloom the lights of shops and the brightness of the people living in the dark city.

Postscript

I had only been vaguely aware of Markino when I was looking for something to follow up last week’s post on Menpes. And this, if you don’t mind me saying, is the value of  special collections in libraries, in our case of biographies and books about London. I found  a great many pictures by Markino in his memoirs and his collaborations with other writers. The  quotations come from the introductory essay in The Colour of London.

Like Mortimer Menpes we may come back to Yushio Markino.

A Japanese artist in London (1912)

My recollections and reflections (1913)

The colour of London (with W J Loftie) (1907)

Yoshio Markino: a Japanese artist in Edwardian London (1995). By Sammy I. Tsunematsu.


Forgotten Chelsea: scenes you’ll never see

More photographs of old Chelsea this week but these are quite different from the Hedderly pictures. In Hedderly’s day Chelsea was still a suburb. The market gardens and nurseries were still there, some of the big houses and grounds survived, and Cremorne Gardens was still going strong. Thirty years or so later Chelsea was part of the city, only a few of the nurseries were left and Cremorne was already erased, the Gardens covered with housing. The open spaces have been filled in.

You can still see many of the places in Hedderly’s pictures, Rossetti’s house, Belle Vue House, the embankment, a reasonable facsimile of the Old Church. But the remarkable thing about these pictures is that almost everything you see in them is now gone.

You will never look at the north side of the King’s Road from Paultons Square and see houses and gardens like these or take a walk towards Beaufort Street and see the King’s Road Forage Stores with its intriguing Steam Chaff Cutting and Crushing Mill.

Or Osborn and Shearman’s paperhanging manufactory at numbers 332-336. Light industry was cheek by jowl with housing – turn around and look at the south side of the street

These pleasant and permanent looking dwellings on the corner of the King’s Road and Beaufort Street are also gone.

The block below looks familiar.

The buildings look a little like parts of the Fulham Road today but this is the corner of King’s Road and Edith Grove which looks quite different now. That woman striding along with an air of determination is walking past a missing piece of London.

This was Camera Square, off the northern section of Beaufort Street.

It was thought to be a bit of a slum at the time and after the Great War it was demolished and replaced by the rather more upmarket dwellings in the garden suburb style Chelsea Park Gardens.

Here is another side street off the King’s Road:

I think this is the eastern side of Manresa Road showing Wentworth Villa and Studios where several artists worked undisturbed through a large part of the 20th century. This is a view a little further down the road:

These buildings were opposite the first Chelsea Library which has survived through the years although it is no longer a library.

Moving eastwards you come to Sydney Street.

The Wilkinson Sword Company had their Oakley Works here. Just beyond it is this row of buildings:

The street on the right is Upper Manor Street. Later there was a Post Office on this site.

Turn back to the south side again. This is the south section of Manor Street in 1901:

Demolition is under way. The whole street has an air of impermanence as if it hadn’t yet decided what sort of street it was going to be.

There is more than a hint of what is to come at the Sloane Square end of the road.

This picture from October 1900 shows the previous incarnation of the Peter Jones store, a building gone but definitely not forgotten.

One final place for you to go, up Sloane Street and into Sloane Terrace.

The Wesleyan Chapel, replaced by the grander Christian Science church which is now Cadogan Hall. But don’t linger, there’s something I want to show you round the corner.

This is D’Oyley Street, and that is the Woodman Tavern. As I promised you at the start almost everything in these pictures is gone. But do you see that hanging sign? That is still with us in a library archive room, a survivor against the odds.

One of these days I’ll show you a close up of it as it is today.


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