Tag Archives: Wellington Square

Bignell’s people

This week we’re back with the skilled eye of John Bignell and if there is a theme to this collection it’s “ordinary” people going about their lives barely realising that a photographer can take a moment of that daily life and turn it into something permanent.

World's End c1958 jb46

A group of men standing outside a pub  in 1958 waiting for it to open, bantering with each other. A regular activity that by time, memory and the photographer’s art becomes emblematic of all the men who have ever waited outside a pub.

Peter Jones  JB3 vmbp0125

A pair of women look  into a  window at the Peter Jones store on a quiet morning.

Demolition in Manresa-Kings Road c1955 JB296

A lone man hacks away at a wall. Dangerous work, perched on top of a crumbling building that you yourself are making more hazardous to stand on. Did Bignell see the poster for the 1958 film The Last Days of Pompeii? A classical case of destruction echoing the destruction of a building in Manresa Road? The star of the film was former bodybuilder Steve Reeves, the hero of many sword and sandal epics. Reeves played Hercules on several occasions. Is it stretching a point to say that the man above the poster is engaged in a Herculean labour? Probably. You can find lots of fascinating and possibly unintentional details in photographs just like when you walk down a familiar street and notice some telling detail in a building or a shopfront.

Magrie's forge Dovehouse Street c1951 jb122

In Magrie’s forge in 1951 a moment of high concentration

Man on bench in Dovehouse Street jb45

Not far away on Dovehouse Street a man resting on a bench looking for all the world like he’s using a mobile phone. Except that it’s  still the 1950s. One of those poses we always had ready for when the relevant technology emerged. As if I had been blogging in 1966. Speaking of the sixties:

Royal Avenue opposite Crapper's 1960s jb89

Royal Avenue: a trio consult a map or a guide book, a couple of genuine hippies, a woman surprised or a bit shocked at something she sees. But not at that dog behind her and what he’s doing. There used to be a sign forbidding “illegal dog fouling” in Royal Avenue. It’s one of those phrases that fascinates me because it can be read a number of different ways, like “hot bread shop” or “building alarmed”. Perhaps it’s me.

King's Road jb29

I’m not entirely sure where this street market was. My first thought was that it was opposite Royal Avenue. Before they built the mini shopping mall there was an open area like this with a Sainsburys and a Boots (and a shoe shop?). The mall was built in the late 80s or early 90s with a big Virgin shop at its heart, But I wonder about the building behind it, a residential block not really visible on this picture. Any suggestions?

Couple JB4

Back on the King’s Road, a cool looking girl and a man with big ears.

King's Road c1961 jb62

A collector for the British Red Cross meets up with one of those end of the world guys you used to see on London streets. I’m not sure what the earnest young man (who looks like a young version of Michael Gove) is saying. Is it an impromptu theological discussion, or is he resolving a dispute? We may never know.

King's RoadWellington Square jb24

Not far away geographically but in the previous decade a couple pose for the camera in Wellington Square.

Below, a picture Bignell has set up:

St Pancras rail strike day

A pensive child in a near deserted St Pancras Station. Bignell’s writing on the back of the print says “rail strike day”, which explains the quietness of the scene. The girl is cooperatively looking away from the camera, probably at one of her parents. Perhaps the photograph was a welcome distraction from the tedium of waiting for a train that might not come.

Victor Sylvester's - girls dancing

This picture of a Victor Sylvester dance class is not exactly set up but it’s a pleasing image of the girls having to dance with each other because you could never get the boys to go to these things.

The all girl sporting picture below is more unexpected:

Cricket at Duke of York's jb75

Cricket practice outside the Duke of York’s Headquarters.

Nearby, at the Royal Hospital:

Oak Apple Day Royal Hospital jb98

Oak Apple Day, according to Bignell’s note. A very effective picture – the two Pensioners standing at ease echoing the line of bandsmen. The conductor in the background provides the only sense of movement.

Finally, another puzzle.

Unknown shop front with bus reflection

Who are these four sixties people? Where was that shop? The bus, I’m told, doesn’t look much like a London bus. Again I’m happy to hear any ideas about people or location.


Hardly anything to add this week. Bignell’s book Chelsea Photographer can still be found from second hand dealers although prices vary considerably.


Side streets of Chelsea: part two

We took a look at the Cross Keys in part one, and I was pleased to hear it would be opening again. So let’s start with another look at it down one of the side streets of Chelsea, Lordship Place.

Lordship Place looking west 1970 KS 3182

All the pictures this week are glimpses of the places behind the well known thoroughfares, the back streets, the short cuts, the hidden alleys and openings or the odd buildings you somehow failed to notice. Like this one:

Danvers street east side 1970 KS 3100Danvers street east side 1970 KS 3099

Two views of the Danvers Street garage, the only business on a mostly residential street at one time. Did I walk past the sign offering lubrication myself when I lived nearby or had it gone by then? The other sign “Chauffeur driven hire” looks unconvincing now, slightly dodgy in fact. It might have come from an episode of Minder.

This is another possible location for a seventies TV drama:

Radnor Walk east side Chelsea Pottery 1975 KS4636

Imagine one of those quirky detectives peering out from that balcony off Radnor Walk wondering where the missing girl has gone.

Here is another atmospheric alley bearing the name of a famous local resident, Joubert Studios.

Joubert Studios 3724

The detective has just gone into one of the mews style houses.

The other theme this week is cars parked on narrow streets.

Danube Street 17805

That’s Danube Street again. I like the rear view of those houses, the jumble of flat roofs and railings. It wouldn’t have been much of a view but on a sunny day you could sit out in the open and look down on that Vauxhall Victor. (Am I right, car experts?)

Paradise Walk W side 1974 KS 4653

This is Paradise Walk, a salubrious residential street today like most of the side streets of Chelsea but back in 1974 this set of commercial buildings look like they were only recently adapted for residential use. The tall building in the distance is still there, but now has a glass door and an entry phone.

Paradise Walk runs into Royal Hospital Road. Here’s a view further east.

Royal Hosp Rd looking W fr Tite St 1974 KS 4361

Royal Hospital Road is an enclave far enough from the King’s Road to support a few shops. Oakeshotts was a chain of grocery shops you used to see all over London. This one is now a Tesco Express. Let’s move on back towards the main drag.

Royal Hosp Rd N side Burtons Court 1974 KS 4366

I don’t suppose this view has changed much since 1974, but it does have the still quality of that time as the photographer, John Rogers caught a moment when there was virtually no traffic.

Wellington Square gardens 1975, KS 4140Nearby John paused to get a picture of this ornamental fountain in Wellington Square where Aleister Crowley lived briefly in the 1930s.

On the northern side of the King’s Road, Blacklands Terrace named after Blacklands Farm.

Blacklands Terrace 1970The John Sandoe  bookshop has been a Chelsea institution for many years. According to rumour Dirk Bogarde used to go there to sell review copies of books. A couple of typical seventies people emerging not from the shop but the pub next door.

Moving west again, to Bramerton Street.

Bramerton street East side 39-37, 1970 KS 33889An otherwise dull view enlivened by the woman standing in her doorway peering at something we can’t see.

Burnsall street 19-17,15, 4In Burnsall Street, an Austin Allegro, perhaps one of the worst cars British Leyland ever made. I cleaned a great many of them at Mamos Motors in Soho. This was the period when Ford were in the ascendant and it was slightly surprising that Leyland continued to sell cars

Despite all the Allegros, Marinas and Princesses I had a good time during my brief spell in the motor trade. London was full of surprising places to see even in the most obscure streets, like this last picture of an odd turret in Jubilee Place.

Jubilee Place East Side 8-10 Postscript

We’ll be back for a part three, but not for a while. I’m not sure what’s coming next week but it will be quite different from idyllic Chelsea in the 1970s. Thanks to everyone for their best wishes for my health. I’ll try and stay out of trouble.

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