Tag Archives: Wimbledon Common

Water: Bignell’s travels

I seem to have Bignell on my mind at the moment. I assembled a set of pictures for a recent post mostly taken in Wimbledon which I thought were very pleasant and evocative and I didn’t realise they were part of a larger group of pictures. Someone has been doing some Bignell related research at the library and I went looking for negatives only to find that some of the stacks of yellow photograph boxes contained prints, among which was a set Bignell called “Rural London”. He had evidently roamed around looking for parts of London which looked like the countryside, mostly in west London but occasionally going as far as Leytonstone and Wanstead. Actually I think he got sidetracked a bit because some of the pictures look decidedly urban to me. I decided to start by looking at the views featuring the river, or streams and ponds, because I like waterscapes .(See this post).

Some of them link up with some of the individual pictures I’ve used on the blog. Like this one:

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I think we saw some of these boys before, playing about on the river, where the houseboats are moored west of Battersea Bridge.

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If you look at the south shore you can just see St Mary’s Church. The thing I always remember about it is that William Blake married Catherine Boucher here in 1782.

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Here it is at high tide one of the few surviving buildings from this era. A slightly different view below shows all the giant lettering on the Silver Bell Flour Mill. You can see another view of the church and the former surrounding buildings in this Bernard Selwyn post.

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If we follow the path further along along the south side of the Thames you come here, another industrial stretch of building at Mortlake gives way to a tree covered path, now part of the Thames Walk.

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The path as I recall it from walking part of the Thames Path when my son was younger gets quite narrow as you make your way to Kew.

Let’s take a watery detour south back to the Wimbledon of that recent post. I feel we’ve seen some of these people before.

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Engaged in that traditional pastime of messing about at the edge of a body of water on a warm summer day.

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In this picture the mother of some of the party attempts to move them for a pleasant stroll, although not everyone is convince that’s a good idea.

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In any case for a casual picture Bignell has produced a marvelously evocative picture of that lazy summer day.

While I’m on the subject of detours a quick verbal sidetrack into the question of dating. I said in the Wimbledon post that the pictures were taken in 1970 while Bignell was living in Tedworth Square (he lived there roughly from 1963-1975). Most of the pictures are stamped on the back with that address. But some of them are also stamped with his previous address in Trafalgar Studios in Manresa Road. (He was there until 1962. The purpose built artists’ studios Trafalgar Studios and Wentworth Studios were demolished in the 1960s). So we have quite a long span for the possible dates of these pictures from 1958 to 1975. Some of them look to be on the early side of that, judging by the clothes or the hairstyles. For others it’s difficult to tell.

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Barnes Bridge, with a pleasure cruiser, another timeless scene. From this point there are a lot of pleasure craft on the river.

Like here at Richmond.

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And here with that other traditional feature, a ferry.

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In the next two pictures the hairstyles provide a clue to the date.

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Surely the reason why he took two pictures. The woman and the girl  both have striking holiday hairdos.

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Any hair experts who could put a date to the picture would be very welcome.

Let’s leave the riverside suburbs for now and get back to what I think is the Serpentine on another summer day.

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I’ll come back again to Bignell’s travels on another occasion. If anyone has any thoughts on dates or locations please leave a comment.

Postscript

The post I was going to write this week is not quite ready as I’m getting some informed input so forgive me for returning to Bignell so soon. However I’m sure you’ve found these pictures interesting as I have, and the post did prompt me to doing some research on Bignell’s various addresses which was long overdue.

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Bignell in Wimbledon: sunny days

In my last post about John Bignell I tried to make the argument that he was much more than a working photographer and that we should take him seriously as an artist. Now I may be undermining my own argument by presenting a set of photographs which at one level are just quick snapshots of what he might have seen on a day out, like you or I might. I came across these pictures while trawling through the Bignell collection for “strange” photos but found myself charmed by these pictures of an ordinary summer day.

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These pictures taken on or near Wimbledon Common were taken about 1970, a comparatively idyllic period in London life after the tumult of the 1960s and before the complications of the 1970s. I was 15 then and I would have enjoyed walking on the Common on a summer day. Many years later I used to like walking across Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common to Wimbledon village and getting the bus back to Putney. It’s a part of London that makes me feel calm and relaxed. Above is the famous windmill.

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I don’t know who this family is, or whether Bignell knew them. Something about the casual nature of the pictures make me think he did. The dog of course is perfectly placed for the composition, which Bignell can’t have arranged.

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Bignell is particularly good at photographing children. In this period it was still possible to wander around with a camera and take pictures of children playing.

In trees,

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Or by water.

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Bodies of water of course are particular attractive when you’re 9 or 10 or 11. (Remember that scary public information film about its dangers?)

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Wading through shallow water

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Poking around from a distance, with soem help from your parents

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Taking a few minor risks

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And getting a bit of help from the grown up kids.

There were not quite enough pictures here for a full post, but rather than do a short one I’m adding a few related pictures.

This is Putney Heath, a little further north than Wimbledon

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I think this is the cricket pitch. It’s another special spot on a sunny day.

This picture is back in Chelsea at the St Luke’s playground in Sydney Street in 1975  when it was rather more unstructured than it is today.

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A vintage piece of playground equipment from the same day.

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And another view of some play with balls. Many girls from the 70s will recall games of two balls. I’m not sure of the date of this one

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So, John Bignell then. Not just an artist but a master of the commonplace and capturing the moment.

Postscript

Perhaps a bit of an inconsequential post this week, but  I wrote four posts in one week when I was preparing to go to my mother’s funeral. It was pretty cold that day, and now we come to publishing the post it’s pretty cold again with more of the same promised. So this is a good time to remember sunny days from past decades when some of us were younger and as close to carefree as you can get after childhood.

Postscript to the postscript – from the department of Corrections

I’ve been delving deeper into the Bignell collection recently looking for some specific negatives but along the way I came across a box of pictures I hadn’t seen before which contained other pictures from the same sessions as the ones in this post. So it is now clear that the final picture is not of St Luke’s playground but features a playground next to a church in Clapham. When you look closer this is pretty obvious. Oops. (Substitute a stronger expletive if you wish.)

On the plus side, we now have a set of pictures which Bignell kept together under the theme of “rural London” some of which you can expect to see soon.

 


Christmas Days: snow and ice

We should really have turned to something seasonal by now. Do you remember the winter of 1963?

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I suspect it’s a case of you had to be there. This picture is from that January in Campden Hill Road, looking south down the hill and it looks cold and treacherous underfoot, but we’ve all seen snow before. I was seven years old then and I don’t remember the cold. But I do remember my mother taking me to walk on a frozen river.

The river Dee in Chester is not a particularly deep river. I’ve waded in it and (in summer) swum in it, even rowed on it. But only in that particular winter could you walk on it, and see people skating on it. So that’s why I remember the cold days of 1963.

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This was further down river, in the city. We were at Dee Banks. But it gives you some idea.

I don’t think the Thames froze in Central London in 1963 although I’ve found picture of places like Windsor with people walking on the river. And while I was looking at Kensington Gardens last week I found this images of a crowd gathered on the forzen Serpentine.

Kensington Gardens skating 712.5 KEN-Jh K61-1174.

And John Bignell liked a snow scene, whether it was sliding on  Wimbledon Common:

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Or getting more serious:
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Look at that bench in the background, just dropped through the ice, making the skater’s job a little harder.

If that looks too risky you could always try some serious snow balling in Tedworth Square.

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That was in 1959 according to the man himself.

It hasn’t been a white Christmas although according to the forecasts, some of us might get snow tomorrow. There won’t be any in tomorrow’s post though.

I hope you all had a happy Christmas Day whether you were with family or friends or both. See you tomorrow.

Source of the Dee picture: http://www.chesterwalls.info/river3.html

 


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