Tag Archives: Walmer Road

Lancaster Circus: a vanished crossroad

It really was called Lancaster Circus at one time, the confluence of Lancaster Road, Walmer Road, Clarendon Road and Silchester Road, and was also called Lancaster Cross. This is where we stopped on our journey along Lancaster Road, at the point where the modern Lancaster Road peters out and morphs into Silchester Road with a gentle curve past the new Aldridge Academy.

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This early 20th century postcard view is looking south from Silchester Road towards Clarendon Road. The Lancaster public house is the largest building in the picture and next to it Walmer Road (where the plain awning is visible) also heads south. (See the post here). Lancaster Road is crossing the picture. A map helps, and here is one from 1935.

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As you can see, the public house was not the largest building in the vicinity. That was the Kensington Public Baths, also called the Silchester Baths.

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This picture is dated about 1970. The baths were closed in the late 1970s , despite a local campaign to retain the building for community purposes and a new sports centre was built nearby which was iteslf rebuilt in 2015.

This picture shows the baths at the time of demolition.

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You can see other changes to the local landscape across the road from the baths.

This earlier picture shows a whole section of the area near Lancaster Road, including the Council buildings we looked at in the previous post on Lancaster Road.

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Take a quick look back into Silchester Road as it was in the early 20th century.

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A very pleasant looking scene. Does it seem like a more affluent area than the 1960s?

And as it was in 1970, looking in the opposite direction towards the railway.

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There’s one of those double street lights again. This is another view of the Lancaster pub.

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Walmer Road is visible on the left, and here is the view south from there.

 

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There are more pictures of Walmer Road in a previous pair of posts. (Starting here) If we alter the point of view you can look down Clarendon Road.

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And finally south into Lancaster Road.

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This picture shows the corner of Fowell Street, which ran south off Lancaster Road opposite the Baths.

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This is what the area looked like on a 1971 map.

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You can see that a wide section of the area has gone. This picture shows part of the demolition.

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Those buildings in the background are, I have been told, two of the towers of the Edward Wood Estate. I must admit that I find it hard to get the angle right in my head, so have a think about that yourselves. It’s always tricky conceptualising places that no longer exist.

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This picture shows the edge of the demolished area on the rights. The photographer could not see any numbers on these houses so they might already be empty.

We’re in the final stretch of the old Lancaster Road now.

 

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252 Lancaster Road. The cross street is Blechynden Street (which we have also covered before – some pictures here)

About ten doors down that side of the road, the trees, bushes and other undergrowth are quie luxuriant.

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This impressive building which is part of St Francis School is on the corner of Treadgold Street.

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And this is looking back up Treadgold Street at the corner opposte the school.

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This corner in fact.

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The picture shows the final section of Lancaster Road as it was in the 1960s and early 1970s in the 29os and 300 house numbers. This is where it went down to meet Bramley Road. The tall buildings in the background were part of the Phoenix Brewery. Most of the buildings in the picture have been replaced but the street survives under the name Whitchurch Road. The name Whitchurch had  formerly applied to a small area around this spot (A man named James Whitchurch was a local landowner.)

This takes us almost outside the borders of Kensington and Chelsea as they used to be when Latimer Road was in Hammersmith. I’ve explored that area through the pictures of Bernard Selwyn and there are a series of posts set around that border zone which I wrote last year. [Links: here, here, here and here ]

Postscript

I hadn’t anticipated continuing the story of Lancaster Road immediately when I wrote last week’s postscript, but I’ve been preparing several posts at the same time and this one did get finished in time.

This part two post turned out to be almost entirely set in streets or parts of streets which have changed completely since the photographs were taken. For me this is another venture into a space that only exists in pictures and memories. For those of you who remember this period of North Kensington’s history I hope these images take you back there.

Thanks once again to Maggie.

Another postscript on an unrelated matter

I seem to have got into the habit of noting the deaths of rock musicians as they occur. I must be at the age when my heroes are starting to die. This time it’s someone who was never particularly famous in the wider world, but was nevertheless a significant figure in the history of popular music, Jaki Liebezeit, the drummer of the German avant garde rock group Can. I loved that band, have most of their albums, even saw them on five occasions (quite a lot for me). More importantly I still listen to them, forty years or more ago after I first heard their music. Jaki himself was very influential on later music whether it was post-punk or EDM. The music world is a little less interesting without him.


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:

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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:

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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.

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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).

 

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

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And this is a similar view from 1969.

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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.

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

 

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

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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.

lancaster-road-south-side-ladbroke-lower-school-1970-ks1582-copy

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Postscript

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.

 

 


Building the Westway 1966 – 1971

Very few  stretches of motorway have any kind of cultural significance  outside their own locality. You might cite the M25 whose psychological and geographical resonance was investigated at book length by Iain Sinclair. When you’re thinking of new roads in west London generally, J G Ballard’s work might come to mind. There must be others. But none of them are quite as resonant as the Westway, that stretch of road which bisected north Kensington in the late 1960s.

I wrote a piece about the new landscape created by the motorway earlier this year, and afterwards one of my readers sent me some scans of pictures he owned. I knew I would use them on the blog one day and as I was looking through them last week I thought they would make a good contrast with the rather decorative images you’ve seen in the last few weeks. As the man who writes the words I often look for an angle when I select pictures for a post. But these images don’t require much in the way of commentary. They come with a built-in set of impressions and ideas. Obviously I won’t be able to stop myself adding a few words…..

002 walker 11 1966

Normally I crop images and straighten them out before putting them up but with these I think it looks better if you see them as I first saw them, with their typed or hand written captions. The pictures look like they come from an album put together by a contractor as a record of their firm’s work. You can see something similar here in a post about Chelsea Bridge. Before digital cameras and data storage this was common practice on big construction jobs. Equally commonly images like this end up being lost or destroyed.

1966 was the year of demolition. Streets were cleared, and areas of derelict land expanded, revealing the detritus of urban living or just providing a place among the churned mud and rubble for all kinds of abandoned stuff to accumulate.

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In the background the houses and housing blocks look like they’re half concealed behind a layer of mist. (That may be the weather of course, or the photographs themselves).

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Abandoned vehicles look like discarded toys. Below, a pair of cars look like they are sinking in a sea of tires, barely corralled behind a fence.

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Behind another corrugated iron fence one of the few people visible in these pictures, a surveyor working for the main contractor.

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The cars below look stranded as if by a sudden subsidence.

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Behind them the fence is collapsing and  you can see a partially demolished  or crumbling building.

Below a group of boys find a quiet spot for exploration and play near a railway footbridge.

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Some semblance of order has been imposed as a site is prepared for clearance.

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By 1967 this process continues as some of the demolition sites were ready for construction.

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In the background a Metropolitan Line train passes over the empty scene.

Below the first signs of the road construction to come, with two column bases.

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Several photos were taken from this vantage point on Whitstable House as the work progressed. The photo above was taken in April 1967.

The one below is from December:

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In March 1968:

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A smoke or dust cloud rises from the ground on the right of the picture like steam.

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Further west the road is starting to take shape.

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Here is the view from Whitstable House four months after the previous picture:

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Progress was steady rather than rapid . This view from February 1969 shows how close the emerging road was to housing that was still in full use:

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There are no pictures  from 1970 in the set so there is a sudden jump to the completed motorway which looks clean and empty.

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The last image was taken early in 1971. It takes us back to the beginning of Walmer Road, now separated from the rest of the street.

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The Latimer Arms which used to sit at the start of Walmer Road, now also isolated.

The Westway was about to become a physical and psychological feature of North Kensington and of London in general. There were many positive aspects to it as an advance in the transport infrastructure of west London. These pictures show how it began as a kind of scar on the urban landscape of the area, unavoidable perhaps but undeniably traumatic.

Postscript

My thanks to the reader who sent me these pictures, for which I am very grateful.


A long walk down Walmer Road 1969-1971 Part 2

I left you last week at Dulford Street facing south.

Walmer Road looking south from Dulford Street Feb 1971 KS1047 detail

Those two women are staring at you so we’d better move on. This section of Walmer Road is where there had been most changes since the 1930s. Here is Barlow House under construction (see how the crane is running on rails?):

Barlow House Walmer Road 1951 K4347B L-5983

The Beehive pub is visible in this picture but look opposite Barlow House at the row of terraced houses and the low industrial building.  The street between them is Bomore Road, which was actually moved southwards when Kensington Sports Centre was built. (Forgive me if I find that fascinating – it took me several minutes staring at two nearly identical 1960s OS maps to realise what had been done.) I once met someone who was in one of our photos of Bomore Road. It’s a good story but I can’t show you the picture.

This view is from 1937:

Notting Hil Brewery Site, Front elevation to Walmer Rd Dec 1937

This shows the Walmer Road entrance to the Notting Hill brewery. When that was demolished a new housing block was built, Nottingwood House. You can see pictures of the demolition in the Ruins and reconstruction in North Kensington post (link opposite).

Walmer Road east side Nottingwood House 1971 KS1049

Further south more industrial buildings were replaced.

Walmer Road east side 223 1971 KS1051

The Rugby Club was a long standing sporting and social club for young people first established in an old bus yard as a boys’ club in 1889 by a former pupil of Rugby School. This building dates from the early 1960s. (Who was Jim Shay- a name significant enough to be repeated by the writer but now forgotten?).

Some original buildings survived. Below you can see number 239 one of two surviving artisan’s cottages showing some signs of early gentrification.

Walmer Road East side 243-241 1971 KS1053

Shutters, a recent paint job and a Renault 4 parked outside. These two houses have survived and now look even more prosperous.

On the west side of the road there was a Council depot:

Walmer Road west side RBKC depot about 236 1971 KS1034

See the pile of rubbish bags on the left. Was there a strike on at the time?

Walmer Road west side The Cottage 1971 KS1033 Ford Galaxie

Also on the west side a building called the Cottage which I wouldn’t have included as it’s still there today but is that a Ford Galaxie parked outside incongruously juxtaposed with a Morris Traveller?

The final stretch of Walmer Road had a long narrow school building, St John’s disused in 1971.

Walmer Road east side St Johns School - disused - 1971 KS1054

Two men are doing something with a long pole or plank but I couldn’t say what exactly.

Walmer Road east side St Johns School gate 1971 KS1055

They didn’t choose to go through the open gate where several other planks are stacked.

On the west side of the road was the main feature of this end of Walmer Road, Avondale Park.

Walmer Road looking north from Hippodrome Place 1971 KS1026

This view northwards shows the disused kiln the only thing from this section of the east side of the road which survives to this day.

At this time Avondale Park was a classic municipal park as laid out in their hundreds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Lodge seen below has the faintly rural look of park buildings with a hint of Arts and Crafts about it.

Walmer Road west side Avondale Park Lodge 1971 KS1028

In 1971 when John Rogers took these pictures it had been more or less forgotten that beneath the park was a small network of tunnels built in 1939 as air raid shelters. They were revealed a couple of years ago during landscaping work and I got a chance to go into them before they were sealed again. I wrote about them in one of my first blog posts, Secrets of Avondale Park (see drop down menu Complete list of posts) but here is one of my low resolution photos:

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Back in February 1971 this woman, struggling with her inquisitive dog had no idea what lay below:

Walmer Road west side Avondale Park 1971 KS1031 detail of woman

Avondale Park marks the southern end of Walmer Road. In 1971 there was a junction with Princedale Road, Kenley Street, Hippodrome Place and Pottery Lane.  All street names which sound picturesque and rural rather than sinister as the narrator of Absolute Beginners described the street names at the Latimer Road end. He could see the difference:

On the south side of this area, down by the W11, things are a little different, but in a way that somehow makes them worse, and that is. Owing to a freak of fortune, and some smart work by the estate agents too, I shouldn’t be surprised, there are one or two sections that are positively posh: not fashionable, mind you, but quite graded, with their big back gardens and that absolute silence, which in London is the top sign of a respectable location. You walk about in these bits, adjusting your tie and looking down to see if your shoes are shining, when – wham! Suddenly you’re back in the slum area again – honest, it’s really startling, like where the river joins on to the shore, too quite different creations of dame nature, cheek by thing

Princedale Road in 1971 was already looking upwardly mobile:

Princedale Road west side 125-127 1971 KS1106

The houses and shops look well kept, the cars cleaner.

Princedale Road east side 46-50 1970 KS705

Is that a Bristol on the right? Remember their only showroom is a short drive away in Kensington High Street. The demonstrator cars there had the cherished number plates 100 MPH and MPH 100.  But don’t let me get bogged down in motoring trivia. What are those two guys doing in the camper van? That’s probably another story.


A long walk down Walmer Road 1969-1971 Part 1

When I did the post on Hurstway Street a few weeks back regular reader Chris Pain drew my attention to a passage from Absolute Beginners (1959), the second book in the London trilogy by Colin MacInnes:

On the east side, still in the W10 bit, there’s another railway, and a park with a name only Satan in all his splendour could have thought up, namely Wormwood Scrubs, which has a prison near it, and another hospital, and a sports arena, and the new telly barracks of the BBC, and with a long, lean road called Latimer road which I particularly want you to remember, because out of this road, like horrible tits dangling from a lean old sow, there hang a whole festoon of what I think must really be the sinisterest highways in our city, well, just listen to their names: Blechynden, Silchester, Walmer, Testerton and Bramley—can’t you just smell them, as you hurry to get through the cats-cradle of these blocks? In this part, the houses are old Victorian lower-middle tumble-down, built I dare say for grocers and bank clerks and horse-omnibus inspectors who’ve died and gone and their descendants evacuated to the outer suburbs, but these houses live on like shells, and there’s only one thing to do with them, absolutely one, which is to pull them down till not a one’s left standing up.

I think he was a bit harsh in his judgement although by 1969, the year John Rogers did our photo survey Hurstway, Testerton, Blechynden and Barandon Streets were looking quite run down. (Another correspondent told me that a film company painted some of the houses in the area black to make them look even worse for the filming of the early John Boorman film Leo the Last , released in 1970)

We may get to Silchester Road on another occasion but this week we’re going to start a long walk down the remaining street, Walmer Road. In its prime Walmer Road ran west from Latimer Road then curved south and ended at Princedale Road.

Here is number one Walmer Road:

Walmer Road north side no1 Latimer Arms 1971 KS2710

The Latimer Arms, an impressive Victorian tavern. Next to it is number 1a:

Walmer Road north side 1a 1971 KS2709

By 1971 these two buildings were all that remained of the low numbers of Walmer Road. Here they are on an OS map:

OS map featuring Walmer Road sept 1971 sheet11 - Copy

It looks as though Walmer Road had fallen off the edge of the world, which is not far off the immediate effect of the construction of the Westway. It obliterated a whole section of Walmer Road and truncated Latimer Road. Walmer Road continued further on in the shadow of the new roundabout which included the spur road to Shepherd’s Bush.

OS map featuring Walmer Road 1968 - Copy

Some side streets had gone altogether while the inhabitants of the others and the north side of Walmer Road had been cut off from the rest of the street.

Walmer Road looking east from Pamber Street 1970 KS2702

This is a view looking east from Pember Street. A resident told me that as houses were demolished and the elevated road was constructed, apart from the expected problems of noise and dust, rats left the site in large numbers heading north towards the remaining houses. This is what the residents saw looking west:

Walmer Road site looking west from Pamber Street 1970 KS4703

In the other direction they could see see the rest of Walmer Road, now a long way off for them.

Walmer Road looking east from Westway 1970 KS2707

The street numbers began again at 117 and beyond the railway viaduct Walmer Road continued.

Walmer Road south side 122-124 1969 KS1454

This is an earlier picture taken in July 1969, the same month John Rogers took the Hurstway Road pictures. Knowing that, I can feel something of the more relaxed atmosphere of the summer. Although beyond the bridge demolition and construction was already well under way the old community survives on this side. There’s another Ford Zephyr, and is that an estate version of the Citroen DS?

You can see the new road in the distance as well as more of the strange configuration of lights on the Citroen in this picture:

Walmer Road Metropolitan Line bridge 1969 KS1455

Here the rows of shops and small businesses begin.

Walmer Road north side side no129 1969 KS1460

England’s Dairy with milk crates and delivery bikes ready for the next morning.

Further along at 137, Orridge’s supplied food for pets and working animals.

Walmer Road south side no 137 1969 KS1459

You saw one of those working horses in the Hurstway Street post. I’ve been told that in the late afternoon the cart drivers and their animals would converge on Orridge’s and the boys working in the shop would have to load up the nose bags for the horses, quite hard work.

Walmer Road crossed Lancaster Road at this point and Clarendon Road split off on its own.

Clarendon Road looking south from Lancaster Road 1970 KS1690

In this picture Clarendon Road is in the centre heading south and Walmer Road continues to the right between the building with the dark shop front ( a closed down TV rental place) and where the three women are standing in the road.

The man in the doorway in the picture below looks a bit suspicious but is probably innocently leaving the upstairs flat.

Walmer Road east side 145 1971 KS1500

The picture below looks back up Walmer Road. You can see the Beehive pub and the Methodist Church on the corner of Lancaster Road.

Walmer Road looking north from Bomore Road 1969 KS1503

Look at the open minivan.

Walmer Road west side no176 1969 KS1504

In this picture taken seconds later the van is closed and its owner about to drive off. A man in an upstairs window continues their conversation till the last possible moment. Did you notice Nick’s Café earlier? Nick had also diversified into hairdressing just across the road it seems. I suppose it could be a completely separate Nick.

Walmer Road has now finished its curve and is now going south towards Notting Hill Gate. The terraced housing and shops give way to newer housing blocks such as this one:

Walmer Road east side Barlow House 1971 KS1048

Barlow House, part of a 1950s LCC development. This is where we draw breath for a week before attempting the final stretch which takes us into different territory and made Colin MacInnes’s protagonist change his tune.

I’ll almost certainly take you down Clarendon Road in the not too distant future.

Thanks to John Henwood for his reminiscences and a discussion about the tricky question of dating the demolitions in Walmer Road.

Details from OS maps copyright Ordnance Survey.


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