Tag Archives: The Pheasantry

Chelsea stories – east from Sydney Street

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

And looking in the other direction.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

Here’s the empty space:

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

A colour view, from the side.

 

 

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

 

 

What’s that next door?

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

along with an original feature:

 

 

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

Postscript

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

Another postscript

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

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

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

Thank you Water Becker.

 

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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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