Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

More Notting Hill – 1987

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

As a schoolboy I used to cycle up a hill past some grand large houses on a street probably of a similar age to these, though not quite as grand, most of them in poor repair and multi-occupied, divided into flats and rooms. My first student flat with two friends in Manchester was in a not dissimilar house where one would meet men, usually the worse for drink, on the stairs when we went to use the shared toilet; we soon realised the occupation of two of the women who had rooms on other floors of the house, including the very motherly woman who collected our rent each week and offered consolation when she arrived one week to find me in on my own and still in bed.

Stanley Gardens, Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-11-positive_2400

When I started work in the 1960s I could have bought one of those houses I cycled past for with a mortgage for around three times my then annual salary. There would have been a few sitting tenants, some of whom could have been easily persuaded to leave. Had I been like Peter Rachman I would have first made a modest cash offer, then if they refused would make their lives miserable by holding loud and noisy all-night parties in the already empty flats, moving finally to cutting off the water and electricity and perhaps sending men with large angry dogs to harass them. He made his fortune mainly in the more northerly parts of Kensington, and not so far as I’m aware in any of the areas shown in my pictures. But even for more law-abiding landlords there were fortunes to be made. Those houses I cycled past, now converted into self-contained flats are now worth at least a thousand times more, allowing for inflation around 50 times as much.

Stanley Gardens, St Peter's Church, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-12-positive_2400

Stanley Gardens was as a part the Ladbroke Estate owned by James Weller Ladbroke who in the 1820s employed Thomas Allason to make a grand overall plan for the whole area. Ladbroke ran into problems with various developers and the plans were modified in the 1840s by landscape artist and architect Thomas Allom in the 1840s. After James Weller Ladbroke died in 1847 his cousin Felix Ladbrooke sold the land to developer Charles Blake who employed a builder in 1853 to build the houses to Allom’s designs and street plan. The builder went bust before finishing the job and others finished the work in 1858. Most of the houses in Stanley Crescent are also to Allom’s designs and THe Survey of London comments that these streets represent “grand display in the latest taste” of the Victorian era. All were Grade II listed in 1969. You can read a very full account of the area and its history at The Ladbroke Association.

St Peter’s Church Notting Hill was also designed by Thomas Allom and was built before the houses were completed in 1855-7. The site had been donated by Charles Henry Blake (1794–1872) who had made a fortune trading in indigo in India before coming back to make more as a developer in Notting Hill. Its classical style was out of fashion by the time it was built, but fits in better with the housing than would a gothic design.

Man on Skateboard, Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-31-positive_2400

My father, born in 1899, was a man of few if any qualifications but skilled in many trades including carpentry, all kinds of building work, plumbing, painting and decorating, bee-keeping and gardening. It was in this latter respect that he became a member of the Soil Association and we grew up eating the food and vegetables he grew in several gardens and an allotment, organic before anyone had thought of the marketing name.

We knew about Whole Earth Foods and Ceres, set up by Nebraska-born brothers Craig and Gregory Sams in 1967, though I don’t think we ever shopped there. Their shop on Portobello Rad was said to be the first English bakery selling wholemeal goods, though I think dedicated to them would be more accurate. They advertised Ceres as “London’s complete natural food centre featuring a full range of organically grown vegetables and grains.”

According to Craig’s blog “This was on the Portobello Road in the 1970s where we were in competition with 30 fruit and vegetable stallholders as well as cheap bakers, and when the yuppification of Notting Hill was just a glint in the property developers’ eyes.”

At some point Craig and his family moved away from Notting Hill to Hastings to continue their business – which went on to include various other companies including the fantastic ed Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate. The shop at the left of the picture had been the Ceres Bakery (which perhaps accounts for the rather American fire hydrant pictured on its front), and to the right is the entrance to Portobello Garden Arcade.
The shop is now Portobellow Health Foods.

I grabbed this image rapidly as a skateboarder came into view, which accounts for the more than usual tilt.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-41-positive_2400

Pembridge Crescent dates from 1854-9. Much of the area was developed by brothers Francis and William Radford, with Francis being the architect for the houses, and was one of the most financially successful developments in Notting Hill. The Survey of London suggests their work in Pembridge Crescent was “coarse in comparison with the earlier, gracious proportions of the houses” in the rest of the area they developed.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-43-positive_2400

Since 1969 the area has been a part of the Pembridge Conservation Area. There is a description of the architecture of the area in the Survey of London on the British History Online web site.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-55-positive_2400

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All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


More West End 1987

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020
Dover St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5l-35-positive_2400

I can offer little explanation for this rather sad looking bust, odd cup and plates which my contact sheet says I photographed in Dover St. I think the odd cup in the foreground is actually an extremely naff clock, with the lower snake’s head pointing to the hour and the upper head to a disk showing minutes. In the unlikely event it was working I took this picture at around 11.58. What it lacks is a rod coming out of the top with an arm holding a small bird or fly whizzing around for the seconds.

I guess the guy in the background could be Titus or Vespasian; most of the other Emperors had fancier hair, at least in their busts. This one looks around life-size and could well be the sculptor’s grandfather but more likely a copy of an older figure. From the number of similar busts around I have a picture of circles of student sculptors around a bust in a gallery at perhaps the V&A, each chipping away at a block of marble as an exam piece. Whoever did this one would have deserved a decent grade.

Berkeley St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5l-56-positive_2400

More sculptures with two young stone ladies pretending to hold up a porch in Berkeley St. It looks a rather boring job. But although both seem to be scratching their heads they don’t appear to be putting a great deal of effort into it.

Ukrainian RC Cathedral, Duke St, Mayfair, Westminster, 1987 87-5m-24-positive_2400

Whenever I see this building it amazes me that this gaudy and extravagant edifice was built as a Congregational Church, the King’s Weighouse Church, built in 1889-91 to the designs of Alfred Waterhouse, better known for his Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Congregationalists are Puritans, tracing their heritage back to the Brownists and the London Underground Church of the 1560s. Rejecting the ecclesiastical trappings at the centre of the Anglican Church – cathedrals, bishops, vestments, formal liturgies, priests, the sign of the cross and more – they espoused a simple austere faith based on the priesthood of all believers.

Of course over the years there was some back-tracking. But most Congregational church buildings remained suitable austere, often with at least a hint of the Classical – and some did it very finely but without great ornament. Sadly their practices deteriorated to the extent of allowing church choirs, though these consisted of adult members who considered they could sing, and organs. But as someone raised in the tradition (though no longer involved) I still fine the ornate nature of this building surprising.

Perhaps it was becuase the King’s Weighouse came from an older – and Royal tradition, tracing its ancestry back to Queen Matilda’s ‘Free Chapel’ at the Tower of London, founded by her in 1148 and not subject to the rule of any bishop. When the 1662 Act of Uniformity made the Book of Common Prayer and other aspects of Anglican practice compulsory almost the entire congregation left and shortly after began to worship as an independent congregation in an ancient building on Cornhill where foreign goods coming into London were weighed – the King’s Weigh House. They kept the name when they built their own chapel where Monument station now is, and later in other buildings, bringing it to Mayfair where they combined with a congregation already on this site and then built a new church.

Perhaps it was the influence of this building which in the 1920s led the church, then led by Rev Dr W. E. Orchard to moving towards Rome and developing what became known as ‘Free Catholicism’. The church never really recovered from wartime requisition and bomb damage and closed in the 1950s. Since June 1968  it has been the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of he Holy Family of Exile, which seems a far more suitable use for the building. You can read more about it on the Cathedral web site, from which much of the above comes.

Air St, Piccadilly, Westminster, 1987 87-5m-33-positive_2400

In Air Street we could almost be inside a cathedral. The rebuilding of the area around Piccadilly Circus was a subject of various proposals, plans and debates from around 1886 until 1928 which you can read in some detail in British History Online and possibly make more of than me. It involved many of the UK’s leading architects of the era, including Richard Norman Shaw and Sir Reginald Blomfield. I think that this section was built to Blomfield’s designs in 1923-8, but by that point in the text my eyes were fully glazed.

Regent St, Westminster, 1987 87-5m-34-positive_2400

In Regent St I was faced with the problem of photographing something which I find rather bland and boring – like most of the more monumental architecture of that period.

I found another curve to go with the two of the street, but I think it is no longer there – and many other details of the shops etc have changed. Bus Stop C is still there, but no longer served by Routemasters.

Christ Church, Cosway St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-5m-36-positive_2400

Christ Church in Cosway street, Marylebone was no longer a church when I took this picture having been made redundant in 1978 and converted into offices. This Grade II* church was built in 1824-5 by Thomas Hardwick and his son Philip Hardwick, one of the more interesting of the many cut-price Commissioner’s Churches built from 1820-1850 to cope with the rapid expansion of the urban population.

Despite the appearance it is a largely brick building with stone dressing. It was altered in 1887 by Sir A W Blomfield but I think this did not affect the portico or tower, a rather unusual construction, “3-stage tower with square Ionic peristyle with cylindrical core rising into octagonal cupola with volutes.”

More on page 4 of my album 1987 London Photos.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.