London 1980 (2)

More black and white images I made in 1980 and which I posted day by day on Facebook a year or so ago, along with comments and stories

Mural, Vauxhall, Lambeth. 1980
23j-33: mural

The mural announcing the presence of Vauxhall City Farm has I think long gone, and there has been considerable development of the buildings there. It now seems to me obviously to be a picture I should have taken in colour, and possibly I did, though quite likely I had only a single camera with me loaded with black and white film.

This picture was taken on a Minox EL, a tiny 35mm camera hardly large enough to take the film cassette, with plastic case whose front folded down pulling out the lens into position. Said to be the smallest 35mm camera in the world, it had a 35mm f2.8 lens, weighed only 200g and fitted into even a shirt pocket. For over 20 years one of these cameras (I got through 3 or four) went with me more or less everywhere.

They weren’t cheap (they were distributed by Leica in the UK) and were tricky to use, and the auto-exposure was often unreliable – later I found it worked better if you held the camera upside-down. The first one I bought just couldn’t take sharp pictures, and I sent it back to Leica, who wrote a rather snooty letter saying there were no performance specifications for the lens, but did exchange it for one that was tack-sharp. A few years later, that stopped working after it jumped out of my pocket when I was cycling to work and I got it replaced on insurance (and a hefty jump in premiums the following year.) When I had to send that one back to Leitz they said it was beyond economic repair but sold me a replacement at cost.

The Russians liked the Minox 35mm cameras so much they produced their own exact copy, the Kiev 35A, and I expect their spies still carry one on their visits to English cathedrals.

Duck pond, Vauxhall City Farm, Vauxhall, Lambeth. 1980
23j-33: ducks, pond, farm,

Rather more buildings along the riverside are now visible across Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens from Tyers St than when I took this picture, but the backs of the houses on Kennington Lane are still recognisable, and the shops along their front have changed only a little to reflect the increasing gentrification of the area – at had at least last time I walked along there from the station to take a camera in to Fixation. The buildings on the green have also been replaced by a newer block along Glyn St.

The area in the distance, where only two blocks of buildings appear has become one of the fastest growing areas in London. I think the block right of centre might be the Nine Elms Cold Store, closed in 1979 but not demolished until the late 1990s, but cannot identify the block at left. There are now high rise buildings covering almost the whole of Nine Elms with more still being built. Along with expensive flats for foreign investors there is also expensive student housing built to lower standards but equally tall.

I think the duck pond with its duck house (presumably less ornate than MPs can afford on their expenses) has also gone, with new building on the City Farm site and an expansion of the farm estate.

Jesus, Mornington Crescent, Camden, 1980
23l-65: graffiti, horse trough,

Another picture of the faded message on a horse trough which I wrote about in an earlier post.

Lillieshall Rd, Clapham, Wandsworth. 1980
23q-56: house,

The house here was clearly a corner shop in use as an off-licence and it can still be seen on the corner with North St, though now simply housing. The adverts, including that covering the window at right, are long gone.

It was that faded upper sign advertising ‘RADIO REPAIRS’, and under it what I think must have once been the word ‘EXPERTS’ above the blanked out doorway that attracted me to take the picture of what was otherwise a very ordinary Victorian working-class building, typical of the area.

I’m surprised I didn’t take a picture of the whole side of the building, which actually has three such doors in a row, only the central one in use, each with a window above. But probably only the window in my picture was covered by advertising, and I suspect that the lens on my Leica simply did not have a wide enough view to show all three.

I also failed to photograph the now listed former “Tim Bobbin” pub, just down Lillieshall road, named after the Lancastrian schoolmaster, caricaturist and dialect poet who called himself the Lancashire Hogarth, and was a schoolmaster and notorious drinker born in Urmston who lived and died in Milnrow on the edges of Rochdale, where he is buried in St Chad’s Churchyard, his gravestone carrying the epitaph “Jack of all trades…left to lie i’th dark” he wrote for himself minutes before his death.

I don’t know why he should be celebrated by a pub in Clapham (there is one in Burnley too) nor why the owners should have decided around ten years ago to change the name to ‘The Bobbin’ and replace his rather pleasant portrait on the pub sign to a rather less interesting silhouette.

Death to Fascism, Bus Shelter, Battersea, Wandsworth. 1980
23t-32: house, graffiti,

I can’t at this remove remember why I was wandering around South London taking pictures with the Minox on a day in April 1980, but I’m fairly sure I had not gone out with the main intention of taking pictures, otherwise I would have picked up the Leica or possibly my Olympus OM-1.

There must have been some other reason for my being there, and obviously having some time to spare. One possibility is that I had gone early and decided to walk from Queen’s Road Battersea to a meeting or exhibition at the Photo Co-op in Webbs Road in Clapham, which had started the previous year, rather than take the shorter walk from Clapham Junction.

As usual at the time I have no record of exactly where I was, and this street is fairly typical of many of the wider streets in the area, with its late Victorian housing. Only the main roads are this wide and have a pavement where I could get back far enough to make a picture like this with the 35mm lens.

I suspect I will have waited some time, not for the bus, but for people at the bus stop to arrange themselves rather better in the frames provided, but with little luck, and I think made this exposure as the bus the bus was about to arrive, knowing they would board.

Obviously it was the graffiti that attracted my attention. The large white letters of ‘DEATH TO FASCISM’ are easy to read in this small image but the smaller black ‘Kill A BLACK TODAY’ is perhaps harder to read.

House, Battersea, Wandsworth. 1980
23t-51: house,

This is a section of a terrace somewhere in the Park Town estate in Battersea, around Queenstown Road, built up from the 1860s by James Knowles junior, one of London’s early organised and managed estates. Though well conceived it was not a great financial success, as the middle-classes for whom it was intended rather looked down on the pollution from the adjoining railways to north and east, and the estate was then re-purposed towards more working class artisan tenants.

Probably this property – a ‘six-roomed’ house – with external decoration to make it look rather grander than it was – was built as the three flats the doorbells now indicate, one on each floor. Much has been written about the estate, which led down to the rather grander buildings of Cedars Road and the North Side of Clapham Common.

Broughton St, Battersea, Wandsworth. 1980
23t-53: house, pub, church, hall

This corner of Broughton St and St Philip St, looking towards Queenstown Road is still recognisable, though the Market House pub is now a private house and the RIdley Hall at the right of the picture has been rebuilt as Ridley Hall Evangelical Church, though in a similar design.

I took two frames with the Minox, with a fairly similar composition, but while the other was a little more upright, this is sharper. They were obviously taken within a few seconds, though the film wind on the camera was rather difficult to do at any speed, as neither the two men on the street corner or the group further down the street appear to have moved, but the cars are a few yards further down the road in the other image.

The ladders on the handcart reminded me of my father who often used a similar conveyance to take his ladders, paint, tools and occasionally beehives around Hounslow (and sometimes further afield) until his retirement in the late 1960s. By 1979 this was becoming rather less common, though one still saw window cleaners and others who had not yet acquired vans.

To be continued…

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