Posts Tagged ‘Kensington & Chelsea’

Landlords, Turkey in Syria, Grenfell

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In 2018 I began the day on 14th April with a tour of some of the plushiest areas of London on a tour led by the Land Justice Network. Land ownership in Britain, both in urban and rural areas is among the most unequal across the world.

As I noted on My London Diary:

Unequal ownership of land is the basis of the class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

The Landlords’ Game

Much of the London Borough of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, and our tour stopped for informational speeches at various points in Mayfair and Park Lane, part of the Grosvenor Estate, now “an internationally diversified property group” founded in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor, whose family owned large areas in Cheshire, married the heiress of the manor of Ebury, which included much of what is now Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. Wikipedia has a long list of the other properties around the world the group now own, and the 7th Duke of Westminster and is family fortunes is estimated at £10.1 billion – now 30, he was until his recent birthday the world’s richest person under 30.

The tour ended in another of the huge London estates, the Cadogan estate owned by the Cadogan family, which Wikipedia states covers 93 acres of Kensington & Chelsea and came from the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane who had bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712 marrying the second Baron Cadogan. The family is said to be worth £6.7 billion.

I left the tour as it was coming to an end to walk back to Belgrave Square, named after one of the Cheshire villages owned by the Grosvenor family, where Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain were protesting outside the Turkish Embassy against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad. Their criticisms of Turkey go back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they see the Palestinian struggle for freedom as a part of the fight for an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East.

But it was the 14th of the month and I was on my way to the monthly protests calling for justice over the fire which killed over 70 people at Grenfell tower. These protests have been silent marches, but the first event on this day at Kensington Town Hall was far from silent as bikers from the Ace Café including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Café on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then to Kensington Town Hall roared past the waiting marchers.

Coming up to four years later, we have still to see any justice over Grenfell, where the failures of the Kensington & Chelsea Council to have any real regard for the safety of residents, and by those who recommended unsafe materials and carried out the improper installation, those who gave false safety certificates, the politicians who decided essential safety measures were ‘red tape’ that should be cut, the Mayor who cut the fire service and others have not yet led to any prosecutions.

So far the prolonged enquiry has simply tried to shift blame onto the fire service, with unfair criticism of their incredible efforts to save victims and seems more and more to be a way to ensure that most of those who should bear responsibility escape scot-free. I’m not convinced that these silent walks are the best way to bring pressure to get some action – but at least on this day the bikers made some noise.

I went with the marchers for a short distance as they silently made their way back towards Grenfell, and then left. It had been a long day and I had much work to do to at home, filing my pictures of the events.

Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


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.


Earls Court & South Ken: 1987

Saturday, March 27th, 2021
Melbury Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12d-63-positive_2400
Melbury Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Another of those artists houses in Melbury Rd, just a short walk north from Earls Court. The house, now Grade II* listed, was commissioned by painter and illustrator Marcus Stone from achitect Richard Norman Shaw and completed in 1875. Stone’s best work was probably his illustrations for books by Charles Dickens, Antony Trollope and others, and his paintings, particularly his later works, though technically superb have been described as “a particular type of dainty sentiment, treated with much charm, refinement and executive skill” or more bluntly, “chocolate box.” The many windows of the studio were probably more to light his work for clients than for painting, as the larger group shown here are east-facing.

Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12e-31-positive_2400
Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Collingham Gardens is one of a number of streets on the edge of Earls Court and South Kensington which together have a wide range of late Victorian architecture, sometimes rather overdone.

Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12e-26-positive_2400
Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Many of the houses in this area were built by Peto Brothers to the plans of Ernest George (1839-1922) and the younger Harold Ainsworth Peto (1854–1933). These architectural partners also designed houses for the Cadogan Estate before Peto decided to leave London in 1891. Many of the leading architects of the early 20th century trained in George’s London office, includint (according to Wikipedia) “Herbert Baker, Guy Dawber, John Bradshaw Gass, Edwin Lutyens and Ethel Charles”, who was the first woman to be admitted to the RIBA.

Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987   87-12e-46-positive_2400
Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

George and Peto added a remarkable range of vernacular elements derived from across Northern Europe to the basically Queen Anne design of the hourses in the area, particularly in Harrington Gardnes and Collingham Gardens, based on the sketches they had made of houses in Holland, Germany and elsewhere. It was an eclecticism that was not always admired, either at the time or now.

Harrington Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12e-35-positive_2400
Harrington Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

These houses are large and many have been converted into flats. Some are listed but many are not. The overall effect of wandering these streets is overpowering and best taken in small doses. A 2-bed flat in the area may cost you a million, and houses perhaps £15m.

Kenway Rd, Earls Court, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12e-41-positive_2400
Kenway Rd, Earls Court, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Coming out of Earls Court Station I often crossed Earls Court Road and made my way down Hogarth Road and then along the narrow Hogarth Place past shops onto Kenway Road as a short cut to a friend’s studio not far away. Or rather than wait for the crossing I might walk a few yards north and then cross directly to Kenway Road, where this shop was at No 9 on the north side of the street, with Arabic script on the window and its illuminated sign, together with an animal I was never sure was a sheep, cow or goat.

Kenway Rd, Earls Court, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12e-42-positive_2400
Kenway Rd, Earls Court, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

I think Kashmir Stores was more or less opposite, where a short alley leads off to a rear yard. The owner saw me taking photographs and was very keen not to be left out.

There are a few more pictures of the area in my 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.


Wealthy Kensington – 1987

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

The London I grew up in, on the outskirts of the capital was an area of small late Victorian terraces and Edwardian and inter-war two or three-bed semis, interspersed with the occasional factory, church and municipal buildings, with few or any sizeable private houses of any age. It was largely working class, poor and largely honest but not particularly deprived. And back then we had the NHS, free education and the welfare state.

Walking around Holland Park and other wealthy areas of Kensington is a completely different world; another country of large detached house and large blocks of mansion flats, an opulence based both on the exploitation of the British Empire and of the exploitation of the workers in the mass of England. I wrote first “our country”, but I think it was never really our country, but their country, “England” or “Great Britain” a deception that sent many working people to toil in factories or die in the trenches – as well as profiting from slavery and working in mines and plantations across the world.

Looking at these pictures now, it’s hard not to think of the times I have walked past some of these and similar places more recently, often on my way to Grenfell Tower or to join the monthly silent marches in memory of those who died there, some of which have passed through this area, walking from Kensington Town Hall.

Vintage car, Philbeach Gardens,  Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-65-positive_2400
Vintage car, Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

The Addison Road area was the first to be developed, on 200 acres of farmland belonging to Lord Holland, beginning in the 1820s. The estate was sold off in parts for development from 1823 to 1930.

Royal Crescent, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12d-12-positive_2400
Royal Crescent, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Royal Crescent to the north of Holland Park Avenue was built in 1846, and the whole crescent of houses is Grade II* listed. The picture shows the eastern corner of the crescent with Holland Park Avenue.

St Anns Villas, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12d-15-positive_2400
St Anns Villas, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

The road leading north from the centre of Royal Crescent is St Ann’s Villas and is lined with substantial houses. After a few in stucco and a road junction it is lined with a development of 12 similar but not identical semidetached houses in a red brick Tudor style, with attractive stonework and blue brick diapering, built in 1852 and Grade II listed. The blue plaque here is for music hall artist Albert Chevalier, born here and best remembered for one of his many songs “My Old Dutch”. Although he wrote and performed in cockney as a costermonger and was called ‘the coster’s laureate’, he was from a rather more middle-class background, his father being the French master at Kensington School, Jean Onésime Chevalier, and Albert was christened Albert Onésime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier. His mother was Welsh, which accounts for the Gwathveoyd, more usually spelt Gwaithfoed.

87-12d-23-positive_2400
Debenham House, Peacock House, Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Debenham House, also known as Peacock House, is the only Grade I listed building in the Addison Rd, designed by architect Halsey Ricardo for department store owner Ernest Ridley Debenham and completed in 1907. it became known as Debenham House after it was sold following Debenham’s death in 1952. The exterior, designed to retain its appearance despite the ravages of London’s soot with coloured tiles and glazed bricks is in an Italianate style, but the interiors are Arts and Crafts, with work by some of the leading designers of the time. Unfortunately we can only see them in photographs and in several films made using it as a location.

87-12d-31-positive_2400
Holland Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Holland Road is a long straight street largely lined with 4 storey terraces of substantial houses like the one in this picture. Expect to pay something around £4m for one of them – or perhaps £700,000 for a 1-bed flat.

Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12d-35-positive_2400
Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

This house at 77 Addison Road is opposite Debenham House and I rather prefer its more restrained manner.

Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987  87-12d-41-positive_2400
Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

One of a row of similar houses on Addison Rd, in a neo-Gothic style dating from around the 1850s. The next door house is listed but for some reason this one is not.

Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12d-42-positive_2400
Addison Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

And this is the house next door, rather hidden behind its more impressive gate

All pictures are from page 8 of my album 1987 London Photos.

Kensington 1987

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Kensington Square,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10f-65-positive_2400
Kensington Square, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Kensington often seemed to me to be more a film set than a real place.

HyperHyper, Kensington High St,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10f-55-positive_2400
HyperHyper, Kensington High St, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

And it was certainly in places ‘HyperHyper’; this designer collective was launched in 1982 at 26-40 Kensington High St with stalls selling the latest and often looniest fashions from young designers. The caryatids were a hangover from the store’s previous incarnation as the Antiques Hypermarket. They are now long gone, and the site is now a rather down-market clothing store.

Viscount Hotel, Victoria Rd, Kensington,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10f-02-positive_2400
Viscount Hotel, Victoria Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

This building is still there, though under a different name and has lost its urns. Victoria Road is one of a number of streets that have at least once been named as the most expensive streets in the United Kingdom, though the hotel seems rather reasonably priced for the area.

Kensington Gardens,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10e-56-positive_2400
Kensington Gardens, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Mainly I went to Kensington Gardens to sit and eat my sandwich lunch when I was in the area, but I did take the odd picture.

Kensington Palace Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10e-01-positive_2400
Kensington Palace Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

And another, of the sunken garden, set out in 1908. In 2017 it was named the Princess Diana Memorial Garden, but this picture was taken around ten years before she was killed.

Man with model yacht, Round Pond, Kensington Gardens,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10e-42-positive_2400
Man with model yacht, Round Pond, Kensington Gardens, Westminster, 1987

Parts of the gardens, including the Round Pond, are in the London Borough of Westminster. The Round Pond is not remotely round, closer to an oval, but more a rectangle with very rounded corners.

Kensington Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10e-23-positive_2400
Kensington Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

This building with its magnificent winged lions is still there, and still a hotel, but with a different name, and a different entrance and railings.

De Vere Mews, Canning Place, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10e-14-positive_2400
De Vere Cottages, Canning Place, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

As the out of focus area at right indicates, I took this picture of a private courtyard through a gate from the street. It was originally built as Laconia Mews in 1877-8, with rooms for coaches at ground level, a steeply curved ramp leading to stables on the first floor with living accomodation for the carriage drivers and grooms on the second floor. It was converted into cottages shortly after the First World War and most has been considerably rebuilt since then, and a ‘cottage’ here now sells for £2-3 million.

Kensington Church St, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-10d-62-positive_2400
Kensington Church St, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

This row of shops remains, although all the names are different. Then they were mainly antique dealers and galleries, now slightly more varied.


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.


Architectural Icing

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Brunswick Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-35-positive_2400

I suppose my photography is always a catalogue of obsessions, but at times and in particular places this shows more strongly.

Palace Garden Terrace,  Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-43-positive_2400

Most of these pictures were taken in Kensington, with just a couple in Primrose Hill.

Brunswick Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-32-positive_2400

Photographically there is a certain interest in rendering these essentially white surfaces – as some photographers have found with subjects like white eggs on a white plate.

Inverness Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-26-positive_2400

But I suppose that there might be more Freudian interpretations of at least some of these pictures.

Inverness Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-24-positive_2400

London developed hugely in the nineteenth century with stock brick for the workers and stucco for the middle classes, and I still feel something of an outsider in these wealthy areas, although some had become pretty down-at-heel by the 70s and 80s when I was making these pictures.

Inverness Gardens, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10d-22-positive_2400

Since then, most of them have been tidied up and refurbished, and more divided into flats now often worth rather my than my own outer suburban house.

St Mark's Square, Primrose Hill, Camden, 1987 87-10c-53-positive_2400

There are times I find myself rather despising what appears to be overdone icing on the architectural cake, and looking for something with a little more depth and variation.

Park Village East, Regent's Park Camden, 1987 87-10c-31-positive_2400


Kensington Church St, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 87-10c-15-positive_2400

There is something of the fairly tale about these houses and the pictures, and although I had committed myself to photographing all of London I felt a longing to get away from Kensington and back to the real world.



Clicking on any of the pictures above will take you to my Flickr Album 1987 London Photos where you can view larger versions.


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.



More West London 1987

Sunday, November 8th, 2020
Campden Hill Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-9b-32-positive_2400

Although my caption states than this modern house is in Campden Hill Rd, its address is in Campden Street which leads off at the left of the picture. The building by architect Douglas Stephen is said to be in the style of pioneering Italian modernist architect Giuseppe Terragni, (1904-43), something perhaps best seen in his 1937 Villa Bianca in Seveso. I think like a similar larger block by Stephen in Bedford Gardens it was probably built in the mid-60s.

Gourmet Gascon, Hillgate St, , Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-9b-51-positive_2400

Le Gourmet Gascon gives I think a fairly clear idea of the population of this area of Kensington, where there is a takeaway service offering Quenelles au Brochet. The shop is no longer there and a short walk away you can now get rather more plebian food for tourists at Notting Hill Gate, though I think there is still no shortage of over-priced restaurants in the area and of course Fortnum & Mason still deliver.

Doulton, Southbank House, Black Prince Rd, Lambeth High St, Lambeth, 1987 87-9d-12-positive_2400

Later in September I was back south of the river in Lambeth, and photographing in Lambeth. The terracotta carving above the doorway on the corner of Black Prince Rd and Lambeth High St is of Mr Doulton in his studio, and seated at left Hannah Bolton Barlow paints on one of the vases from his pottery, her pet cat under her chair.

Doulton, Southbank House, Black Prince Rd, Lambeth High St, Lambeth, 1987 87-9d-13-positive_2400

Pottery was produced not far from this site in Vauxhall Walk by  Jones, Watts & Doulton from 1815 and they moved to Lambeth High St in 1826. In the early years their most successful product was ceramic sewage pipes, for which their was a surge in demand driven by the 1846-60 cholera pandemic.

The company had several parts and a complex history but by the time this building was erected as their museum, school and design studio in 1871, with close links to Lambeth School of Art. The Lambeth studio pottery was producing signed works of art as well as more mundane items in the rest of the factory – and they later bought a factory in Burslem for making bone china tableware. The company only became Royal Doulton when it obtained a Royal Warrant in 1902. Production at Lambeth was forced to end in 1956 with the Clean Air Act which prohibited their salt glazing in this urban area, and all work went to the Potteries.

Doultons were major producers of the architectural terracotta or stoneware which adorns many Victorian buildings, and their building acted as a real life catalogue for their wares, though they also produced many specifically commissioned pieces as well as the more general stock.

London Fire Brigade, obelisk, snorkel tower, Albert Embankment, Lambeth, 1987 87-9e-03-positive_2400

A few yards up Lambeth High St is a view of this rather strange obelisk in the yard beside the (now former) headquarters of the London Fire Brigade, which moved to a new building here on a part of the former Doulton pottery factory site in 1937. This obelisk or ‘snorkel tower’ was built to provide ventilation for the war-time underground control room, according to the listing text “constructed to withstand a direct hit and a gas attack, with its own reserve electric light installation and forced ventilation.”

Ventilator, Metropolitan Police Central Communications Command Centre, Lambeth Rd, Lambeth, 1987 87-9e-45-positive_2400

A short distance away in Lambeth Rd is another rather bulkier structure, also a ventilator, for the underground Metropolitan Police Central Communications Command Centre. A new special operations room was opened there in 2008, but there are also other communications centres in Bow and Hendon.

Works, Old Paradise St, Lambeth, 1987 87-9e-56-positive_2400

As this and other pictures in the Flickr album 1987 London Photos show, there was rather more evidence of the area’s industrial past then. This chimney and works was a former soap factory.


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.


Levitation, Police Robbery and Catalonia

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

Three years ago on October 21st I spent an interesting Saturday travelling around London and photographing several quite different events – unlike last Saturday when all I did was sit at a computer and work on old pictures and take a short walk along a familiar stretch of the River Thames close to my home, taking care to avoid getting close to the other strollers.

The Catalan protest at Piccadilly Circus was colourful, with many of the several hundred present fyling or wearing flags and calling for independence. And many of the placards were in English, unlike some other protests about overseas events. While Spain seems to have managed so far to have stopped the indepenence movement by forceful policing and political trials in the longer term I think there has to be movement towards a more federal approach with much greater autonomy for the region. We are begining to see a similar trend here in the UK, where our government appears to be failing to honour the 1707 Acts of Union between England and Scotland as well as creating increasing division between Wales, Northern Ireland and Westminster, with the likely no-deal (or very limited deal) over Brexit seeming certain to lead to to a break-up of at least parts of the union.

Conveniently the Catalan march took me to Parliament Square where I could take the Circle line to Kensington and join a small group of Class War in their attempt to levitate the offices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, responsible for the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower.

It was also a celebation of the 50th anniversary of the Yippee levitation of the Pentagon during anti-Vietnam War protests, and Class War’s Ian Bone and shaman Jimmy Kunt (aka Adam Clifford) stood on the steps of the town hall and called “Out, demons, out! Out, demons, out!” to the demons of councillors Nicholas Paget-Brown, Rock Feilding-Mellen & Elizabeth Campbell in their attempted to levitate the town hall to a height of over 70 metres. Unfortunately I failed to capture a photograph of the building in mid-air.

As I reported in My London Diary:

Inspired by their success at the town hall, Class War’s Levitation Brigade then moved on to Northcliffe House, the home of the Daily Mail.

Security staff there reacted angrily to Class War calling out the demon of Paul Dacre and their attempt to raise the building by over 70 metres, perhaps fearing it might damage the Rolls-Royce parked outside, but the levitation ceremony went ahead despite considerable interference.

Class War levitate the Daily Mail

Several security staff objected to the protesters and told me that I couldn’t take pictures, although there is strong evidence that this was not the case, though I did have to move back several times when one attempted to grab my lens. But most of the time at least I was on the public highway and knew I had the right to photograph as I liked and told him so. But it was perhaps this harassment that again made me miss the moment of actual levitation – or perhaps not.

It was a rather longer journey to Kentish Town by Underground, but only around half an hour (Circle to Embankment and then the Northern line) and I arrived in good time for the protest outside Kentish Town Police Station. Police, urged on by Camden Council had been removing and stealing tents from homeless people on the nearby streets ‘in the interest of public safety‘.

A small group of protesters met outside the police station carrying tents before five of them went inside to hand themselves in for being in possession of these now illegal items, calling on the police to arrest them. The police were rather suprised and kept them waiting for an hour or so, before telling them after I had left that carrying a tent was not a crime.

Later both police and Camden Council denied they were harassing the homeless – in direct contradiction to the evidence from the street that they had done so. Perhaps this small protest meant that at least in Camden this cruel policy used in some other boroughs in London and elsewhere will no longer apply.

More at:
Stop Robbing the Homeless
Class War levitate the Daily Mail
Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall
March in Solidarity with Catalonia


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.


Another Grenfell protest

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

It seems increasingly unlikely that we are ever going to see justice for the victims of Grenfell as the establishment use all the tricks in their book to protect those responsible.

Perhaps in the end after years of purposefully drawn out inquiry by police and judges a few small companies will be found guilty of failing to follow some aspects of building regulations and be given insignificant fines, though I doubt even that. But the real culprits seem almost certain to escape scot-free.

THe RCG have a fine banner by Andrew Cooper

So far we have only seen the first stage of the official  Grenfell Tower Inquiry which appears to have been a travesty, with the judge shifting blame on those responsible for fighting the fire and coming to a conclusion that not only flies in the face of what experienced fire-fighters say, including those who were there on the night, but could well lead to more deaths in other high-rise fires. People are almost certain given the publicity by the report to die in some future fires because they try to escape rather than staying safe in their homes. And quite clearly had the idiotic Jacob Rees Mogg lived in Grenfell he and his family would have died there.

These blocks – Grenfell included – only got approval on the basis that any fire would be contained within a flat and would be expected to be able to burn itself out even if fire-fighters did not attend. Building regulations made sure that this was the case, and the towers were built to enable any firest that did occur to be safely fought from within the building. The flats were essentially small self-contained concrete units, isolated from each other, with dry risers to supply water on the landings when needed and smoke traps.

Simon Elmer of ASH who produced a report on Grenfell

The blame for Grenfell lies squarely with the government ministers who altered the regulations and allowed building owners to make their own fire inspections, with owners who saved money by arranging inadequate inspections and employing contractors to add unsuitable cladding and otherwise compromise the building safety. Contractors too bear some resposiblity for agreeing to install unsafe cladding and for doing so in a way which removed the gaps essential for safety.

Another small left-wing group declined the offer to join the RCG protest

Kensington & Chelsea Council and its TMO must bear the main responsibility for this particular building, with councillors and others taking the decisions which made the building a fire-trap. They were more than incompetent, bullying those who informed them of some of the problems.

The council too failed to properly deal with the survivors, despite some extravagant promises made in the early days after the fire by Theresa May and others. A full year after the fire only 41% of the households from Grenfell Tower and adjoining Grenfell walk had been permanently re-housed. Of those in the wider affected area, 29% had been able to return to their homes and 1% – one family – permanently rehoused. The other 70% (90 families) were still in some form of temporary accomodation. This despite Kensington & Chelsea being one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country.

Many of those most closely involved are still suffering intensely from trauma and both initial relief and counselling were other areas where the council and other official response are felt by many to have been inadequate – and put to shame by the community response. As an outsider I don’t feel entitled to comment, though I’ve certainly heard the pain expressed by some of the community.

People pose on the council steps at the end of the RCG protest

Various groups formed after the fire, some with more support among the victims and wider community than others. Although all have I think taken part in the monthly silent walks which aim to keep the memory of the events alive, there have been arguments with some groups urging a more radical stance is needed to get action.

Two of these groups, both relatively small, had come to protest at the Kensington & Chelsea town hall outside the council meeting. I had gone to photograph the protest by the Revolutionary Communist Group who have run street stalls on Ladbroke Grove close to Grenfell and organised other protests in the area as well as taking part in the silent walks. As well as their own speakers they had invited others to talk, and as main speaker Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, whose report and film produced within a few weeks of the fire remains the most authorative account of the reasons why Grenfell was a tragedy waiting to happen.

More at No Justice for Grenfell


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.

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Grenfell – 2 Years on

Sunday, October 27th, 2019
Just Us – the community has responded to the disaster while council and government mouth empty promises and attempt to let long grass grow over Grenfell

Thousands walked in silence from close to Grenfell Tower remembering the victims of the disaster on the second anniversary of the disastrous fire which killed 72 and left survivors traumatised.

Some people brought flowers to mark the occasion

Promises made by Theresa May and her government and Kensington & Chelsea council have not been kept and the inquiry seems to be simply providing an excuse for inaction and passing blame onto the fire-fighters who risked their lives to save people. There have been no arrests, no prosecutions, no improved building regulations and few buildings have had unsafe cladding removed.

and many – including this photographer – wore green scarves for Grenfell

The community feels failed and abandoned by the authorities and angry that Grenfell victim Reis Morris in jail for the anniversary after an angry exchange with a fire chief over the flammable plastic cladding on the building in which the traumatised campaigner who lost a relative in the fire put his hands around the fire chief’s neck.

Grenfell Tower has been covered up, but the community refuses to let the atrocity be covered up
Some carried portraits of the victims who died in what was the largest mass killing in this country since the war
but one for which no one has yet been brought to justice.

A large slogan on the bridge over Ladbroke Grove stated “In The Face Of Injustice Anger Is Justified – #IamReis Morris – #JusticeforGrenfell“.

More pictures on My London Diary: Grenfell Silent Walk – 2 Years on.


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

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