Posts Tagged ‘West Kensington’

Holland Park, Earls Court & West Kensington: 1987

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Melbury Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-13-positive_2400
Melbury Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Grade II listed 18 Melbury Road is now distinguished by two blue plaques, neither of which appear in my picture. Like many houses in this street in Holland Park it was home to a noted artist, in this case William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The house was built in 1877, but Hunt only moved here in 1903 and it was here that he died. His widow was still living here when the plaque to him was added to the front of the house in 1923.

Cetshwayo (c.1832-1884) King of the Zulus enjoyed a rather shorter stay, arriving in August 1882 after his defeat and capture in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, an entirely uncalled for attack on Zululand by British forces, who at first suffered an ignominious defeat at Isandhlwana before finally winning the war and taking Cetshwayo prisoner. He was brought to London together with his chiefs, where he was welcomed by inquisitive crowds and met with both the Prime Minister and Queen Victoria, and they agreed to re-instate him as King of Zululand, to where he was secretly returned the following January.

His reinstatement did not go well and he returned to a bloody civil war and had to seek refuge in a British reserve. He died, officially of a heart attack, but possibly poisoned in February 1884 and two months later his heir became king. The English Heritage blue plaque commemorating his stay, just above that of Hunt’s was only unveiled in 2006, long after I took this picture.

Tower House, Melbury Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-15-positive_2400
Tower House, Melbury Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

In 1875 noted architect William Burges began the building and furnishing of the Tower House in a French Gothic Revival style as his home, but died as it was more or less completed in 1881 and was inherited by his brother-in-law, who later sold it. After several owners and tenants, and Grade I listing in 1949 John Betjeman inherited the remaining lease in 1962, but found the property needed expensive repairs and moved out without extending the lease. He claimed that after this it was deliberately left empty and left it to rot and be vandalised, hoping to be allowed to demolish it and develop the site.

Lady Jane Turnbull bought the house in the mid-60s to save it and began its restoration, selling it to actor Richard Harris for £75,000 in 1969 who continued the work. Three years later he sold it to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin (who outbid David Bowie for the property) for £350,000 and Page still owns it and has in recent years carried out a long legal battle with his neighbour Robbie Williams over his plans for underground excavations to develop his property that might threaten the structure of Tower House.

Earls Court Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-35-positive_2400
Earls Court Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Christmas was coming as I took these pictures in December as the multi-lingual messages on The Canning School suggest.

Moscow Mansions, Cromwell Rd,  Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-44-positive_2400
Moscow Mansions, Cromwell Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Pineapples, brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus soon became a symbol of wealth and status – and were apparently available for hire to be displayed (but now consumed) at posh dinner parties in the 18th century. Only the incredibly rich could afford to eat them at around the equivalent of £5,000 a fruit. And although they are now commonplace in supermarkets and market stalls, back in my working-class youth they only came in tins as rings or chunks. They can be seen on many buildings across London from St Paul’s Cathedral down – and here on the gateposts of Moscow Mansions.

Hoarding, car, West Cromwell Rd,  Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-12c-54-positive_2400
Hoarding, car, West Cromwell Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

The queues of traffic dawdling into London on the A4 were greeted by a car in an unusual parking place on this hoardiing.

Railway, West Cromwell Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Looking over a wall or fence you can still see these railway lines, at left is now the London Overground going down to West Brompton Station, but in 1987 this line was only in use for goods trains, with passenger services only being resumed in 1994 and the Network Rail platforms at West Brompton only coming into use in 1999. At lower level is the District Line of the London Underground, coming from Olympia behind me and West Kensington at right. Behind that is the Lillie Bridge Railway and Engineering Depot; missing now from the right of centre is the large bulk of Earls Court Exbition Centre, but the Metropolitan Police tower at right is still present.

Ashfield House, London Underground, West Cromwell Rd, Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987

Out of the previous picture to the right is Ashfield House in West Kensington, a block of offices for London Underground, which now includes a mock Underground Station, West Ashfield, used for training purposes. The building was purpose-built for London Underground and opened in 1983. It is likely to be demolished as a part of the redevelopment plan for the area.

Clicking on any of the pictures above will take you to a larger version on my Flickr album 1987 London Photos from where you can browse through over 750 black and white pictures I made that year – these are all on Page 8.

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.

Boris’s Biggest Blunder?

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Earl’s Court

Probably the largest desert in London – thanks to Boris!

Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor was in many ways a disaster for London, but while the media obsess about his sexual peccadilloes and to a lesser extent his racist comments, little is said about his more important failures, which may have enriched some of his city friends but whose consequences will remain to impoverish Londoners for many years after he has left office. One of these, and probably the biggest, is the stalled £12 billion Earls Court redevelopment, which makes even the £53 million Garden Bridge Fiasco fade into insignificance.

The vacant site where one of London’s iconic 1930s building once stood

It’s wrong of course to call it a blunder. It was a deliberate scheme for the enrichment of a few, undoubtedly including friends and financial supporters of the Conservative Party at the expense of London and Londoners, aiming to provide a huge high-rise development of investment properties largely for sale to foreign investors, a huge empty triangle in what was once a thriving part of London, contributing greatly to the local area and more widely, housing several thousand people who would lose their homes and removing jobs from the area.

Along with Boris, and Transport for London, then a part of his fiefdom, the villains in this £12 billion scheme are developers CAPCO, (Capital & Counties Properties) whose development proposals bear no relation to the considerable history, needs of the area and its locality and the contribution it would pay to the local economy, simply wiping the whole area clean and imposing a solution based on maximising profit to the developers. As soon as they acquired the site in 2008 they applied to English Heritage for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing for the 1930s Earls Court Exhibition Centre, granted despite its iconic status – and the fact that some aspects of it were apparently already listed.

We look at the site of Earls Court 2, with a photograph before demolition

The site falls into two London Boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham, both when the project began under Conservative control. Hammersmith and Fulham council agreed to sell off the two council estates which cover a large part of the area to Capco in 2012. Since Labour took over in H & F in 2014 they have set up an inquiry into the decision to sell and have called for Capco to return the two housing estates. In February 2019 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated that he wanted the two estates to be transferred back to the council by Capco unconditionally after they demanded unacceptable planning permission in return for their release.

Empress Place would make a fine entrance to a new estate – but Capco will knock it down

There are two large office blocks on the site, both visible in the top picture. The tower at left has already been sold and is now occupied by the Metropolitan Police. The smaller block, at right, belongs to TfL and is a part of their site which also includes extensive workshops; it seems that they have so far failed to find suitable alternative sites for these essential facilities.

Thanks to determined opposition from local people the scheme has so far failed to materialise, and the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are still there, along with the TfL workshops, but the demolition of the two exhibition centres has created the largest desert in London. The cleared area, left as dusty bare cleared rubble is a local eyesore and pollution source, with wind carrying dust into local homes and businesses, creating thick and possibly dangerous grime.

West Kensington, a well built and much loved estate that Capco would demolish

Opposition to the demolition of the exhibition centres is led by the Earl’s Court Area Action Group, one of whose members took me and other journalists on a tour of the area last week. They now demand the demolished area be developed with a replacement venue for the demolished iconic Earls Court Exhibition Centre as a large green space for exhibitions, sports and cultural events, along with “low rise, high density, exemplary green housing with a wide range of housing options including social housing, green space, community and social infrastructure, reflecting the demographic and unique characteristics of Earl’s Court.”

The residents of West Ken & Gibbs Green estates have been campaigning against the demolition of their homes since 2009, and as a part of their campaign for ‘The People’s Estates’ commissioned Architects for Social Housing (ASH) who in 2016 produced ‘the People’s Plan’ for improvements and new homes on the estates without demolition. They want the estates to be transferred to community ownership.

Gibbs Green estate also well built, loved and in good conditions and under threat of demolition by Capco

Earl’s Court Area Action Group
WKGGCH – West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes
ASH – Architects for Social Housing

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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.

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