Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell Fry’

Old Church St, Chelsea, 1988

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-21-positive_2400
Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-21

Old Church St is, as its name suggests a rather old street in Chelsea, running north from Chelsea Old Church by the river up to the Fulham Road. It is thought to be the oldest street in Chelsea but it contains two of Chelsea’s most significant modern buildings. No 66 at the left was designed in 1935–1936 by Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry for the scriptwriter Benn Levy and his actress wife Constance Cummings. They had bought a large site – perviously the garden of a large house – here together with publisher Denis Cohen, and shared it to build a house each, with a communal garden.

Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, came to England in 1934 and was fortunate to get a flat in the Isokon building in Lawn Road, Belsize Park, where he met many leading left-wing intellectuals of the age including modernist architects, among them the designer of the flats, Jack Pritchard. Pritchard and Gropius worked on several projects together, few of which were ever built.

Gropius also worked with Maxwell Fry, and this house they designed together was his most significant domestic work during the 3 years before he left to take up a professorship in the USA. My photograph doesn’t show it well, as it was built to face the private garden to which I did not have access, but for those interested there are plenty of pictures on-line. It was offered for sale in 2013 for £45 million, but I couldn’t afford it. Surprisingly the house is only Grade II listed.

Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-34-positive_2400
Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-34

Cohen House on the other half of the site, also completed in 1936 was designed by Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff for the publisher Denis Cohen and is more visible from the road. Like Gropius, Mendelsohn was also fleeing from Nazi Germany and went on the the USA; Chermayeff, born to a Jewish family in Russia had come here as a young boy, was educated here and became a British citizen in 1928 and emigrated to the USA in 1940 . This building is Grade II* listed. The partnership between Mendelsohn and Chermayeff only lasted a few years but produced some of the country’s outstanding modernist buildings.

Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-24-positive_2400
Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-24

153 Old Church St. The gate at right I think leads to 153a. THe house at the right which you cannot see much of has a blue plaque for John Francis Sartorius (fl. 1775-1831), an English painter of horses, horse-racing and hunting scenes. Accord to Mark Keble in Chelsea The Resident, 153 Old Church Street was built between 1956-57 on the former site of the studio of the renowned Welsh portrait painter Augustus John (1878-1961).

Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-32-positive_2400
Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-32

This house is on the corner of Carlyle Square and Old Church St and the gatepost gives its address as 26 Carlyle Square. The land here which contained a number of buildings was sold to Lord Cadogan in 1835, who quickly had the existing houses and cottages cleared and building of a new square, Oakley Square, began in 1836-7. But progress was slow and there were only a few houses completed by 1851. The square was renamed Carlyle Square in honour of the historian and writer Thomas Carlyle in 1872.

Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-33-positive_2400
Old Church St, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-33

This house is on the corner of Old Church St and Elm Park Rd at 125-127. The plaque records the fact that William De Morgan Ceramic Artist And Novelist (1839-1917) And His Wife Evelyn De Morgan Artist (1855-1919) Lived & Died Here. The house was specially adapted for their work – and you can just see the bottom of a large studio window in this picture.

Queen's Elm Square, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-26-positive_2400
Queen’s Elm Square, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-26

Queen’s Elm Square is on the west side of Old Church St close to the Fulham Rd. It was built in 1904-6 for the Sloane Stanley Estate, just behind the Queen’s Elm pub on the corner of Fulham Rd and Old Church St. This famous pub closed in the 1990s and the ground floor is now shops. The site was earlier a field known as the Queen’s Elm Field and began to be developed – including an earlier pub – in 1792.

The Vale, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-42-positive_2400
The Vale, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea, 1988 88-5b-42

The Vale is a short street running parallel to Old Church St north from the King’s Rd about 200 yards to its west. The unusual Russian House, at 27 The Vale, was built in 1914 just before the start of the First World War by architect F.E. Williams and incorporates at in the frontage of the substantial property a Russian Dacha that had formed a part of an exhibition at the Crystal Palace in the 1890s. The house was occupied by the British Red Cross during the war and later became the home of members of the Sainsbury family. It was then converted into flats, but in the 1990s converted back into a single house. It sold in 2018 for 12.75m

Click on any of the above images to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos and to browse other pictures in the album.


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.


North Kensington

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Pall Mall Deposit, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-54-positive_2400
Pall Mall Deposit, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

There were several reasons I used to like going to this area of North Kensington to make photographs, one of which was that when people asked me where I had been I could tell them I’d been to the North Pole, which was just down past the end of Barlby Rd on North Pole Rd. Sadly the North Pole was bought by a property company in 2012 who turned the upper floors into flats and soon closed the pub which became a Tesco Express around 2015.

Pall Mall Deposit, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-53-positive_2400
Pall Mall Deposit, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

The Pall Mall Deposit and Forwarding Co became a limited company in 1899, with premises just off Regent St, and built this large storage facility to the design of W G Hunt in 1911 (the often given date of 1901 is most probably a much-quoted typo.) Furniture storage was quite big business at the time as a large proportion of the more affluent lived in rented houses, often moving frequently. The building extends some way back from Barlby Road and has been a rather trendy centre for offices, studios etc, selling itself as close to Portobello Road.

Ladbroke Hall, Clement-Talbot Motor Works, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-52-positive_2400
Ladbroke Hall, Clement-Talbot Motor Works, Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Barlby Road was also the location of the first purpose built English car factory, the Clement-Talbot Motor Works built from 1903-11, architect William T Walker. According to Cherry and Pevsner (London 3 : North West) this reinforced concrete building used the Hennebique system, but for the office building fronting the road this was well-disguised by “a festive Wrennaisance front”.

Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 88-1f-46-positive_2400
Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea

North of the Great Western mainline, which bisects the area, is its greatest architectural gem, Kensal House, built in 1936 by Maxwell Fry leading a small group of like-minded architects. Even in the rather run-down state I photographed it, the ensemble is impressive. It’s and impressive modernist building and rather more functional than some, and the low cost flats included what were for the time some very up-to-date features.

Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 88-1f-45-positive_2400
Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea

The site was developed by the Gas Light & Coke Company who owned the site and the adjoining gas works to provide housing for their employees – 54 three-bedroom and 14 two-bed flats- and virtually everything – down to the irons – was gas powered. Of course gas lighting was still very common – and in my youth there were still many older people who preferred its more gentle light. But as built there was no electricity in these gas company flats.

Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 88-1f-42-positive_2400
Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea

As well as two large blocks of flats the site also contained a nursery, with a curved frontage that ran around the former site of a gas holder. One of those who worked with Fry on the designs was social reformer Elizabeth Denby who had also worked with him at the Peckham Health Centre.

Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea 88-1f-34-positive_2400
Kensal House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea

The gas works have gone, with Sainsbury’s and Argos in their place, but the railway remains. Some of these flats must have been great places for train spotters, but the Kings and Castles thundering past might have upset the sleep in those days of single glazing and poor sound insulation. And gas works did produce some fairly noxious odours and pollution, though if they provided your living that probably seemed less of a problem.

Kensal Green Basin, Grand Union Canal, Paddington Branch, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-35-positive_2400
Kensal Green Basin, Grand Union Canal, Paddington Branch, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

You can still see Kensal Green Basin when you go to get your shopping at Sainsbury’s on Canal Way, though it is largely well hidden behing bushes around the car park and seems an missed opportunity – as do many of the planning decisions in this area. A large and ugly canalside building now straddles its entrance from the canal. Further along Canal Way there are still a couple of gas holders at the west end of the gas works site.

Exmoor St,North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-26-positive_2400
Exmoor St,North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Late Victorian Housing on Exmoor St with some nice detailing and later railings.

Hewer St,North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-25-positive_2400
Hewer St,North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

At left is the Grade II listed St Charles’ Hospital in Exmoor St, built in 1881 as the St Marylebone Union Infirmary. Surprisingly it is still in medical use, providing mental health services and as a community health centre. Part of the building are rather more attractive than this view suggests. John Nodes and Sons Ltd provided a very handily based funeral service.

Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1f-22-positive_2400
Barlby Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Finally back to Barlby Rd, and a terrace of houses still present close to Ladbroke Grove. On the left you can still see one of the gas holders of the Kensington Gas Works, and to the right of the block the Great Western Mainline and one of the blocks of Kensal House.

As usual there are a few more pictures from my walks around the area in 1988 in the album, and clicking on any of the pictures here should take you to a larger version in the album from which you can move through it to see all those I have put online.


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.