A Second hand Clothing shop in Portobello Road by Pat Terry and Mick Kasmir.

Kasmir Portobello Road

Isaac Kasmir and his assistant outside his shop at 276 Portobello Road

Our stepfather Alfred Kasmir came over to England when he was six from the Ukraine with his parents and sister, Regina. We have not got a lot of the history of this time except that his father Isaac bought a house in Lancaster Road (Pat still lives there), and then opened a shop in Portobello Road, which we can only think was rented at that time. He sold second hand clothing and had an assistant who did alterations and tailoring.

Our stepfather learnt the violin. His father was very strict with him about learning this instrument and he started his working life playing in orchestras at various venues, one being the Lyons Corner House at Marble Arch which had silver service with afternoon tea (which we went to often). He had given up playing because of the lifestyle, so he said, as in between jobs (gigs) he had passed the time by gambling, to which he became a bit too addicted! Also his health had suffered after swallowing a mouthful of ice cream during a break whilst playing in the West End one summer, which had the effect of freezing his stomach.

He then became a ‘Tally’ man, going around collecting money from people for stuff they got on TICK (hire purchase). He had plenty of interesting stories to tell. The firm he was working for was called Evans, a furniture store on the corner of Cambridge Gardens and Ladbroke Grove, which is now a Tesco. He met our mother there where she worked in the office and when he was a Tally man. They married in 1948. Friday the 13th as it happens! The News of the World somehow heard of this and thought it so amusing that they published a tiny note about it on their front page! Wish we still had a copy of this.

When he and our mother got married, he opened 276 Portobello Road (his father’s old shop) and sold and bought second hand clothes with an assistant called Joan doing the alterations. This is now the men’s clothing shop called Tonic.

Kasmir first shop now.ss

276 Portobello Road in 2014

When they first opened our mother had to put a lot of her own clothes in the shop to stock up the rails, also countless pairs of small boys short trousers made by a friend of theirs.

She used to come and collect us each day from our primary school in Hammersmith, which was in St. Paul’s Church on Hammersmith Broadway, till we moved to Solomon Wolfson Jewish School in Lancaster Road.

Next door to this shop on the north side, towards Golborne Road, was a newsagent and sweetshop where our father bought his cigarettes and our sweets, and which also delivered our newspapers and comics (my first job was as a paperboy). This shop is now Honest Jons record shop.

There was a bakers on the corner of Cambridge Gardens and Portobello Road opposite our shop from which we had a cake each day on our return from school, one in particular sticks in my mind was a cream bun, with the synthetic cream of the time, pretty yucky.


Looking south towards the railway bridge (pre Westway)

Next door to his shop going South was a chemist, Mr. Fish, which is now Falafel King on the corner of Acklam Road. The next corner going down was a pub. And next to this another newsagent named Tommy Littles (the boxer), and next to this a rag and bone shop to which us kids took old newspapers, rags and lemonade bottles that we had collected and which we got a few pennies for.

Moving further down on the same side was a shop named Kirk’s selling workmen’s clothing. This was about the only place one could buy jeans at that time – they were Levi’s too! Trouble was you had to take them to an alteration shop opposite the Royalty cinema in Lancaster Road just past the KPH pub, because our father wouldn’t allow Ada, his alteration assistant to do them because he didn’t agree with narrow trousers (drainpipes)!

Still going South from Kirk’s just as you come from under the tube train bridge was our GP’s surgery, a very unprepossessing green wood clad structure, where now exists as a metal gate into a council area.

Opposite this are the two arched metal gates that led into North Kensington Central (Technical) School, the other entrance to the school being in Lancaster Road near the traffic lights, and which is now the private Chepstow School. You now go through these two gates on Portobello past some colourful clothes stalls into an Italian restaurant. Next to this, back on Portobello Road is the Grain Store which then was a pie and mash shop.

Many years later he was offered 259 Portobello Road to rent, so moved down to a new part of Portobello Road. This shop, now One of a Kind, in the 1950s used to be a very good toy shop. So when the leaseholders retired my father took it over, and moved his second hand clothes business down from no 276.


We were a lot older then so have much clearer memories of this shop.

He used to buy clothes from people in the shop, and then sell them on to other customers. People always needed money in those days. John Christie, the famous 1950s serial murderer came in sometimes and sold some of his wife’s (not only his wife’s!) clothing to our father, who had to record all items bought and sold in a large ledger. He later had a visit from the police to check this out. Also Timothy Evans’ mother used to come in to talk about her son (who was hanged for crimes committed by John Christie). She desperately wanted her son to be pardoned, which he was years later with the help of Ludovic Kennedy.


Our father died in 1978 from cancer, and our mother carried on running the shop for a few months, but her heart wasn’t in it. There was still about eleven years left on the lease, but she decided to hand it over to the landlady’s son. The landlady, Mrs Holland, was a really charming woman, but had died a few years previously. She probably wouldn’t have let our mother Anne simply hand back the lease. When friends asked what was happening to the shop, they were all aghast. How could someone simply hand back a leasehold shop in Portobello Road, with still eleven years to run on the lease? As far as they were concerned she was simply throwing away thousands of pounds a year in rental income.

But she was adamant that she wanted no more to do with it. And even though friends would ask if they could try to talk her out of relinquishing the property, they all failed. She never did take much interest in money! The landlady’s son then sold it on to the Notting Hill Housing Trust. I think the shop carried on selling second hand clothing for a while and then turned into the ‘Bead Shop’ run by Stephanie Heatherwick. And possibly after this it became ‘One of a Kind’, which it still is (see below).

Kasmir shop now.ss

More memories of Portobello from Mick

There was a stall outside the shop at 276 that sold some kind of cure for tape worms. On the stall was a huge collection of large glass jars containing various worms in formaldehyde, which I found so fascinating that I couldn’t stop thinking about them!

I remember one morning in 1956 having breakfast whilst listening to the Today programme, with my father shaving in front of the mirror with his cut throat razor, when they announced the news of the Russian invasion of Budapest. He immediately put down his razor, wiped the shaving cream from his face, put on his coat and went straight up to the newsagent and cancelled his Daily Worker. He had become a communist more from being an anti-Fascist than anything else. This being quite common during that time, being very left wing because repulsed by the other side.

I have a lot of memories of sitting at the back of the shop chatting to the amazingly varied collection of regular customers who often as not popped in to see the ‘guvnor’, making cups of tea on a small gas ring next to the gas fire. The customers varied from manual workers to out of work actors, with a few writers and artists chucked in for good measure.

Pat remembers….

My memories are from the late 1960s , early 70s.

259 Portobello 1960s.ss

Other shops alongside 259 were 257 which was the Dry Cleaners. It did change and eventually sold Jamaican Patties for a while and now after quite a few changes of trade, it’s a Tourist shop. No 255 was an English butcher, which then changed to a Halal butcher and now sells Japanese merchandise

Going the other way towards the railway bridge was a TV sales and repair shop which I think at some time before that was a Radio Rentals shop, then on to No 269, the famous Ceres natural food store, the first in the UK. Ceres stills sells lovely vegetarian food and is now called the Grain Shop. After Ceres was Isaac Newton School. Then came the betting shop which our father frequented regularly, leaving a back in ten minutes sign on his own shop door.

Opposite was Tavistock Road with a café on one corner and a fabric shop on the other. Then going back towards Lancaster Road came Kay’s children and ladies outfitters as it was called in those days. It is now Garcia’s Spanish Delicatessen. Then Food for Thought where they stir-fried food while you waited, in giant woks, it was delicious.


After that came the really tasty Jacks Fish & Chips Shop which was next to the Golden Cross Pub, a really thriving community premises where our father played cards and everyone knew each other, market stall holders included. They also had a Public Bar on the corner entrance, but we used the Saloon Bar entrance in Lancaster Road. It is now Ukai, a bar and restaurant serving Japanese food.

I used to help dress his windows which he really liked me to do for him. I also helped out with the customers on Saturdays, my Saturday job. He had a lot of characters popping into the shop to chat to him which made it very lively.

He was there in his shop till he died of cancer in 1978.


Pat Terry and Mick Kasmir, June 2017

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Horsmans West London Saw Mills and Joinery Works

The Electric Cinema is a Portobello landmark.  Building work for it started in 1910 and it opened on 27th February 1911. It was built on the site of a Saw Mill and Timber Yard, which the Trade directories of the period describe as Thomas Saunders Timber Merchants. But at some point – we cannot say exactly when, it was taken over and run by William James & Henry Horsman – their West London Saw Mills And Joinery Works was a substantial company of master joiners, carpenters and timber merchants. They were also involved in the construction of quite a few buildings and rides for the 1908 White City Exhibition.

Until recently facts about the family and the business were quite sparse. Hopefully more information will eventually come out.


Portobello Road looking north from Finch’s pub towards the woodyard. Love the painted advertisements on the walls of the building beyond it. No space that could be used for advertising was wasted in those times either (early 1900s). Photo RBKC Local Studies.


Woodyard looking South from Blenheim Crescent/Talbot Rd (early 1900s). Photo RBKC Local Studies

The development of the Ladbroke Estate was like the Wild West, a tangled web of frontier capitalism with developers going bankrupt, buying land off each other and my favourite – lending someone the money to buy the land off you. The owner/developer of the block between Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent was a solicitor Thomas Pocock who was active elsewhere in the Ladbroke Estate. It seems he did not have any money of his own, but operated as an intermediary. He had sold (and bought back) land to the other big developer in the area – Blake.

Pocock sold the south side of Blenheim Crescent to a Charles Chambers, who is described as a Timber Merchant and Engineer. Chambers probably built the first saw mill and timber yard on the site as shown in the 1862 map. In 1862 there was only Finch’s pub, the  Chapel, and shops north up to the saw mill on the block. Just past and next to the saw mill were a stables and a garage for Hansom Cabs. By 1896 the whole block was filled up with buildings.


OS map Portobello Road, 1862


Portobello Road, OS map 1896

A 1909 booklet called The Interesting History of Portobello Road by Ernest P. Woolf suggests that the Horsmans were related to Charles Chambers and that Chambers’ saw mill/timber yard had been constructed in 1853. At that time house construction was going up all around the area at a very rapid rate. The builders would have needed timber and at that time it was all pretty locally sourced.


1874 Plan Of the Layout of the Saw Mill in order to get permission to lay a sewer pipe. RBKC Local Studies


Architect Seymour Valentin’s 1909 drawings for the proposed  Electric Theatre handily shows the outlines of the existing Saw Mill/Woodyard buildings. RBKC Local Studies


W.J. Horsman is third from left with black flower, Henry Horsman 2nd from right.

In 1890 William James Horsman had moved to London from Beirton, Buckinghamshire where his family were woodworkers and carpenters. The 1891 census has him living at 19 Montgomery Rd, Acton, the home of another carpenter. William James brother Henry and his partner in the business followed him along with other brothers. WJ and H obviously established themselves with their trade and the family must have built a reputation as quality woodworkers and created a thriving business. Big and good enough to create the newel post, supposedly carved by WJ himself, for the staircase at the very swanky Piccadilly Hotel which opened in 1908.


The newal post for the Piccadilly Hotel Staircase


Inside the Workshop, with WJ supposedly carving the newel Post for the Piccadilly Hotel


Piccadilly Hotel – Staircases


The Horsmans were also busy working on three or four of the buildings and at least one rollercoaster ride at the 1908 White City Exhibition

191 Portobello Road must have been a busy little yard, factory and business. They had a rough lumber storage shed along the southern side, a steam engine to power the saws, A workshop for the joiners and a cut timber storage space, then a office back on the street. Seasoned wood for them would arrive in logs or rough cut standard lengths and sizes which would have been delivered by horse and cart. Cut and planed to size and shape then worked on. Or sold. Whatever you wanted made in wood Horsmans could make it.

At their peak, when  building for the White City Exhibition, Horsmans had up to 100 (sub) employees and shared 191 Portobello Rd with a company of plasterers’ Mortlemans, who were doing the fibrous plaster work at the 1908 Exhibition. We can assume that Horsmans and Mortlemans had worked together on other jobs as well.

The White City Exhibition

The 1908 White City buildings the Horsmans were involved in were –

The Scenic Alpine Railway – the Great Divide.



The Wooden Framework for the Great Divide/Alpine Ride.


Carriage made by Horsman’s.


Horsman workers at the ride.

The Palace of Fine Art


Palace of Fine Art under construction


Palace of Fine Arts – completed.

Palace Of Women’s Work


Palace of Women’s Work completed.

The Congress Hall


Congress Hall under construction. You can see the frame supporting the roof and the wooden exterior shape being constructed by Horsmans


Congress Hall and cascade at night.

The 1911 Census finds WJ and his family living very near work, at 151 Portobello above the City and Midland Bank on the corner of Portobello and Colville Terrace. So they probably had been doing well, as the White City contract was pretty substantial and it must have taken them a few years to finish


Midland and City Bank, Portobello Road. Photo RBKC Local Studies.

However in 1910, the plot of land on which their West London Saw Mills And Joinery Makers sat was sold. The freehold was bought by the London And Provincial Electric Theatre Ltd to build the Electric Theatre. It was the end of an era for them and the Horsmans filed for bankruptcy. Then they seemed to concentrate on building wooden rides in Ghent in Belgium and France and invented a ride called the Snake Wiggle. We assume that European enterprise was curtailed by WW1. There is no information about any WW1 war work they did and in England during the war nobody seemed to be spending money on fairground rides. After the war part of the family moved to Grays in Essex to start a Building and Decorating business.

WJ married twice, after becoming a widower went and lived in Abergavenny Wales with his daughter. Of the descendants of the family, a few are in England and one branch went out to Australia in 1964. I am in contact with Sam Horsman in Adelaide who is carrying on the family tradition and is a carpenter!

People talk about the history of the Electric Cinema as being a significant development in the history of Portobello Road. Yes but it is also on plot of land that has had a prior claim to fame that is only now being discovered. I think you could make an argument for putting Chambers original Saw Mill & Timber Yard as the first building on that block?

This has been a voyage of discovery for the Horsmans family as well as for me. I worked at the Electric Cinema in the 1970’s and wondered about when the saw mill/timber yard was actually built, then seeing pictures of it made me realise it had always been there.

Dave Hucker, 2017

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North Kensington at War

Last summer our local history group did some research and a walk on the effects of WW2 bombing raids in North Kensington. Posted below is an excerpt from a history originally written by Carole Ann Burnett in 1997 for the 40th Anniversary of St Pius X, St Charles Square. It was deposited in the Local Studies Archive of RBK&C and also with Kensington & Chelsea Community History Group (no longer in operation). It seems to be a very good account of the area during the war.

North Kensington during WW2

Kensington suffered a total of over 12,000 air attacks, most of these being by incendiary bombs. Many of these incidents were in North Kensington. In the borough as a whole 2,718 people were injured, 412 fatally. There were over 3,000 seriously damaged houses and over one thousand had to be demolished.

The Parish (St Pius, St Charles Square), was quite heavily bombed, possibly because of the proximity of two Railway Lines and the Canal, still used then for some freight transport. Extra gates were installed along this to contain flooding from possible damage to the elevated sections – the remains of these can still be seen today. North Pole Road Station on the West London Railway was damaged in 1940; all the stations down to Clapham Junction were closed to the public and the line came into its own, becoming a vital link between all the main railway systems. The line was used for troop, hospital and ammunition trains, and even had anti-aircraft guns running up and down it.

In the St Charles area there were many reported incidents. On one night in October 1940, no less than eight high explosive bombs fell on the area. This was to be the pattern for many months to come as the Blitz raged over London. One of the incidents concerned was the gardener’s cottage (the house next to the Presbytery) belonging to the Training College, where there was ‘damage to the building, with a large crater outside’. A First Aid Post which had been at number sixty St Charles Square had to be evacuated to the College because of extensive damage. On this same night, eleven adjoining houses in Rackham Street were all damaged: this was redeveloped in 1949 and is now part of the Balfour of Burleigh Estate, with Bruce Close roughly being where the street stood. The Sutton and Peabody Estates were also badly damaged: a Community Centre in Sutton Way was hit, with many casualties, including five dead.

The St Charles College and school buildings suffered badly during the Blitz. On the first raid, bombs fell near the Carmelite Convent, almost completely destroying the Demonstration School and smashing all the College Chapel windows. A week later incendiary bombs destroyed much of the top floor of the College, and a few days later more bombs fell in the grounds. Finally, on 25th October 1940 incendiary bombs fell along most of the building, almost totally destroying the top floor. Only the block facing Norburn Street remained relatively intact and the Hall was used for dances and other Parish functions. The already-damaged school buildings were badly burned, but thankfully no one seems to have been killed or injured in these raids. The ruined buildings were still standing in the early 1950’s.

The Carmelite Monastery thankfully, seems to have escaped many of these raids. A bomb fell in the road outside (Hewer Street)  with some damage to the wall and to the roof of the lodge, so that for a short time curious children were able to peep through into what was previously forbidden territory!  St Charles Hospital, considering its size and height, was very fortunate in remaining so intact, as was the nearby Princess Louise Hospital although an incident reported on the same night as the College damage reads “Hospital unable to accept casualties as all windows blown in and no lights.”

Some of these air attacks delivered mines, two of which fell on St Mark’s Road, damaging the houses adjacent to the Kensington Memorial Park. Others landed in the Cemetery- with not surprisingly, noone injured and one fell on the Sunbeam Talbot factory (Rootes site) on Barlby Road, at the time used for the assembly of Rolls Royce Merlin Aero Engines. Land nearby, a playground (now Notting Barn Road Estate) was requisitioned from Barlby Road School and used as a Barrage Balloon depot. St Helen’s Church was heavily bombed during the blitz and was completely destroyed when a V1 Flying Bomb landed where the vicarage is now. What little was left was demolished along with houses in Kelfield Gardens. There were thirty eight casualties with two dead.

During the period of late 1940 and early 1941 there were no public basement shelters in North Kensington and it was not until later in the war that these were built. Some people had Anderson shelters in their gardens or a Morrison shelter indoors; many used coal cellars and the like. Further afield, at Holland Park station, many of those sheltering were killed when a high explosive bomb fell directly on it..

The land belonging to the St Charles Training College (in St Charles Square) was given over for the “Dig for Victory” campaign, as were the Notth Kensington Lawn Tennis Club grounds. For a short time the Training College was put to another use. In a Council Report of “The Emergency and Finance Committee”, it states that instructions have been received from the Ministry of Heatlh as to ‘arrangements for the billeting of Dutch and Belgian refugees’. Accordingly a dispersal centre was opened at the college. Apart from the Belgian and Dutch there were also refugees from France, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Russia and Czechoslovakia: their ages ranged from infants to people in their eighties. Landladies were paid 21 shillings a week for ‘full board and lodging’ and official records had to be kept by them listing every visitor a person had, presumably to lookout for spies!

Later on in the war, the grounds of the College were used for a Wartime Day Nursery. This was housed in prefabricated huts and would have stood at the back of where the Parish Centre is now. It opened on 1943 and was to remain in use until December 1948.

Early on in the war, the Home Guard were stationed on Wormwood Scrubs, attached to a heavy-duty anti-aircraft battery. In the later years of the war a Prisoner-of-War camp was established close by for German prisoners. These prisoners were allowed to come to Mass in the Parish:they were permitted to walk unsupervised, two at a time, and had to wear an identifying patch on their clothes.

Carole Ann Burnett, 1997.


n.b. Carole Burnett, who researched the above at RBK&C Local Studies Centre would have used the Bomb Index files.  On small index cards. filed under the address of each incidents are details concerning the date, time and type of incident and include the damage to both property and injury to residents.   They form a great record from the War. The index box is not complete – there are some missing.

The next posting  will be about three particular bombsites in North Kensington:  St Helen’s Church and Kelfield Gardens, the northern end of St Helen’s Gardens near the Kensington Memorial Park and the crossroads of Wallingford Avenue and Kelfield Gardens. All of these resulted in buildings and homes being demolished and rebuilt.

If you have some information about any of these WW2 incidents and would like to share it,  please send it to me,  Sue Snyder at northkenhistories@yahoo.co.uk


Posted in Churches, Hospitals, Schools, Streets, Uncategorized, World War Two | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Maxilla Gardens


Maxilla Gardens , 1908 from St Mark’s Road. Photo: RBK&C Local Studies.

In recent years Maxilla Walk (previously Maxilla Gardens) has been familiar to the local community as a small patch of green that hugs the motorway. For many years it was used annually for the much loved Westway fireworks display (sadly no longer) and for Maxilla Nursery School, also now closed. There seem to be few pictures of the small road that ran from Cambridge Gardens, curving round to come out on St Mark’s Road. These houses were of generous proportions with front gardens and basement, all demolished to make way for Westway,  so it was good to hear from Brian who sent in both photos and stories of the original Maxilla Gardens.

A second account written by one of his neighbours, Audrey Burtt (nee Waite) follows. Thanks to Audrey for sending it in. Because of its length, I have added it to this posting rather than putting it as a ‘comment’.

Growing up in Maxilla Gardens –An account by Dr Brian Wybrow Ph.D. (London)

maxilla gdns.1950.2

OS map 1950 showing 11a Maxilla Gardens. Where Maxilla Gardens exited on Cambridge Gardens there is now a house.

My parents, and my brother and sister, moved to 11a Maxilla Gardens from Cornwall Crescent W11, before WWII. The houses had a first, second, and third floor, with a basement flat below, presumably originally for the servants. This was in the times when the street had (from my mother Edith’s memory) top hatted men on duty at the gates to Maxilla Gardens, at the entrances from St Mark’s Road and Cambridge Gardens. The houses in Cambridge Gardens were similar, with a basement flat, but tended to be semi-detached, with a side-passage between each pair of houses. We, of course, in our basement flat had the advantage of the garden, and this was essential for my father’s building business. My father, Harold Wybrow, was a Master Builder before, and after WWII, living in Maxilla Gardens until 1957, and then moving to Clarendon Road, W11. He worked for a Mr Crump, an Edwardian gentleman who owned lots of houses in North Kensington. Harold worked with my brother, Clive, and the building business was based at 11a Maxilla Gardens, North Kensington, W10, with the ladders, etc., in the back garden. They maintained houses all over North Ken. and would have been very well known to those who lived in the associated houses.

The surrounding streets, e.g. Cambridge Gardens, Oxford Gardens, and St Marks Road, were all about of the same standard, but Rillington Place (famous for the Christie Murders) was rather older looking, and more primitive, with quite short, sometimes concreted, front gardens, and narrow, cramped rear gardens. There was thus rather a contrast between our side of the railway to the North, and the other, to the South!

During my early years, after WWII, from about 1947 onwards, I remember that Maxilla Gardens was a peaceful street, due to its “U” shape, with little traffic. We children had the street to ourselves, playing cricket (at the other end, where Maxilla Gardens joined Cambridge Gardens; my stretch was from the St Marks Road end, down to the bend) and many games were played, including, Rounders, Hopscotch (marked on the pavement with chalk, outside 11a) and of course, hide and seek; plus stone throwing (no doubt getting on the nerves of neighbours!). I used to help the Express Dairy milkman deliver milk from his horse-drawn milk cart, and I remember the street being re-laid a number of times. They used wooden blocks; covered them with tar, and then spread sand on that. They then rolled over that with a steam roller.

Brian outside 11a Maxilla Gardens looking towards St Mark's Road.

Brian outside 11a Maxilla Gardens looking towards St Mark’s Road

When living in Maxilla, I attended Lancaster Road Infants School, which was situated in the continuation of St Marks Road past the junction with Lancaster Road, on the left, and near the corner; it had large green gates for access in Camelford Road, and I used to like the gates being open, because of the connection with “the outside world”! I attended Oxford Gardens School from the age of 7 years, to 11. Following this, I attended Haverstock School, Chalk Farm, and I then attended Holland Park School, from 1959 to 1961.


Our basement flat had an internal staircase up to the first floor, which was presumably originally used by the servants. In our time, there was a brown curtain draped across the bottom of these stairs, and I often felt rather scared when I was in the house on my own, which was quite often! For instance, in the winter, I would get home from school before my mother came home from her work as a cleaner/housekeeper for some wealthy people around Kensington, and the house would be rather spooky. We only had lino on the floors, and, because the coal fire had “died out”, the house would be cold when I came home from school. The solitary feeling, coupled with the dark winter atmosphere, led me to put on the wireless as soon as I got in (to listen to Children’s Hour) and as many lights as possible; whilst the cellar, just to the right of the front door, added to the drama. As one walked down the passageway to the kitchen, with a narrow, partitioned off bathroom to the right, one passed that curtain, and the stairs to the first floor flat. It always scared me!


Brian with his sister Shirley.

One entered the basement flat via the front door, which was on the right, at the bottom of a set of steps, which were to the left of the steps which led up to the first floor flat. The region to the left of the basement steps, and in front of the basement bay window, was known as “The Area”, and there was a gap of about two and a half feet between the front of the bay, and the wall holding back the front garden. I had a pedal-driven jeep, which I am amazed to remember that I threw down the steps when I wanted to come in! I also used to play “buck and four stones” at the top of our steps.

Pat Friend (the friend of my sister, Shirley) who lived next door to us, at number 9, in the first floor flat, moved to Maxilla at the age of about 8 in about 1936, and Pat has told me that she did have electricity, but that she remembered the man coming to “light the gas lamps in the street, with a long pole”. We had electricity, but I do remember my mother plugging the electric iron into the lighting socket, which was presumably because the, I believe, only two-pin, mains socket in the room, was being used for something else, probably the radio. We had a second-hand radiogram, at one stage, and a radio that could receive all wavelengths (Short, Medium, and Long). The aerial for the radio was strung-up into the Poplar tree at the end of the back garden. My brother Clive used to climb the tree, with me following him. We must have got higher than the railway line!

We did not have a television until we moved to Clarendon Road, but I used to go to a neighbour’s house around the corner, to watch children’s’ television with other children. We watched “Muffin the Mule”.

In the right-hand corner of the kitchen, at number 11a, and built against the wall overlooking the back garden, there had been a “copper”, which was originally used as a boiler for water, but this was not used in my time. The kitchen sink was a large white one, of rectangular shape; now popular as the “in thing”. It was located against the back wall, and just below the kitchen window, which overlooked the garden. The sink had just one cold-water tap.

Brian with his mother, Edith, looking northeast towards No 9 Maxilla Gardens

Brian with his mother, Edith, looking northeast towards No 9 Maxilla Gardens

My father used to boil a bucket of water on the gas cooker, which was just beyond the entrance to the bathroom, and was located against the party wall with number 13a, Maxilla Gardens. Many of these “buckets full of hot water” were tipped into the adjacent bath. Alternatively, I would have a “bath”, in front of the coal fire, in the front room of the house, standing up, in a so-called tin bath, which was probably made from galvanised iron. Clothes washing was either done in the bath or sink (neither, very often) or at the “Bagwash” (very often, and particularly the bed sheets) which was located at the bottom of Lancaster Road, opposite the swimming baths. I believe that one would go to collect it when it was ready, but I also believe that it was delivered to us. We cleaned our teeth with, I believe, toothpaste from a small round, low profile, metal container; and shampoo was in a sachet.

Washing was hung out on a conventional clothes line, with a pole to support it, in the garden, but others, living in the first floor flats of some of the houses, used a continuous clothes line that had a pulley wheel fixed to one of the poplar trees at the end of the garden, so that they could put out, and then retrieve, their washing.

The coal fire needed the ash emptying almost every day, and it was rather messy. It also had to be lit every day, unless it had been “kept alive”.  My father used to frighten me and my mother by placing a newspaper across the front of the fire, in order to draw the air into the fire place, via the grill, below. This paper would often catch fire, but my father would quickly screw it up into a ball, and throw it up the chimney! Although it did not happen to us, this could well have been the cause of some chimney fires, or even house fires!

Sometimes some paraffin would be added from a paraffin lamp (used for my father’s plumbing work) to “get the fire going”!  Chimneys often caught fire, due to the build-up of soot on the internal brickwork up to the chimney pot on the roof. The Chimney Sweep, with his collection of interconnecting wooden “rods”, having threaded metal ends (male threads at one end, and female threads at the other) connected at the end with the “brush”, used to come every few years to clean out the soot which had built up in the chimney.

Since we lived in the basement flat, we had our coal delivered by so-called “shooting it” down the “coal hole”; a hole in the roughly horizontal concrete path, leading to the steps which rose to the front door of No. 11. The hole was covered by a metal cover, which thieves would try to lift out, in order to get into the house via the cellar! This was countered by having a lock inside, or having a lock on the cellar door, inside the house. The gas meter, which was in the cellar, was a prime target! One could hear the roar and tumble of the coal as it entered the coal cellar, and, since we had no light in our cellar, it was dark, and spooky, and had that characteristic smell of coal dust. The coal came in a horse-drawn cart, operated by I believe, Earlies Coal (spelling may be wrong) which I believe had a depot at West Drayton.

The stairs to the first floor from our flat, were generally unused, except in WWII, when the people on the first floor (“the Proctors”) would come down and shelter in our flat. One place to “hide” from the “bombing”, was the cupboard under the internal stairs to the first floor flat. I had one of those WWII babies’ gas masks but would not go into it. However, I did play with it and with the family gas masks, after WWII. I also used to play with my father’s bits of electrical equipment, such as wires, transformers, a meter, and other junk, and all of this (which was a great inspiration for a future scientist and inventor) was in an old Bluebird Toffee tin! My father also used to make me toy soldiers, from lead (poisonous!) moulded in a special moulding block, into which he would pour the molten lead which had been melted in a pot on the gas stove. He would then wait for it to cool down, so that the toy soldiers would solidify.

There were two cupboards in the hallway. One cupboard was on the left, just beyond the entrance to the front room, and the other, was also on the left, and was located just before the entrance to the kitchen and after the entrance to the back room. Both cupboards were full of my father’s tools, general “junk” (including shrapnel which was collected by my brother and sister; after the bombing) and paint tins; although many of these tins were stored outside. During WWII, there were thus just two rooms; for two adults and three children!

Brother Clive in the back garden.

Brian’s brother Clive in the back garden.

We only had an outside toilet (those upstairs must have had internal toilets). Outside, at the rear, immediately outside the back door, the area was covered by the floor of the first floor flat, from the outside of the rear bedroom wall, to a line about three or four feet back from the front of the kitchen wall. After exiting via the back door of the kitchen, you would see the outside toilet, under cover, in the left corner of the intersection of the continuation outwards, of the rear bedroom wall, with the wall dividing 11a Maxilla from number 9a, next door. Mr Waites and Family, lived at number 9a; he was an electrician, and above him, on the first and second floors, lived Pat Friend (my sister Shirley’s friend) and her mother, Doris. Mr Waites would often sit in a hammock, in his rear garden. Pat has told me that, roughly opposite 11a, a famous Band Leader, named Sydney Lipton, and his daughter, Celia Lipton, who was a famous actor and singer, lived for a period.

My mother used to collect her groceries from a small grocers shop on the left side of St Marks Road, in its stretch which continued on the other side of Lancaster Road, beyond Lancaster Road Infants School, and she used an open-topped, single-handled, wickerwork shopping basket to get her daily shopping. Other shopping was done in Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Road, Shepherds Bush (particularly the market) and in Hammersmith; which latter two, were travelled to by Metropolitan Line train from Ladbroke Grove. There were also trips to Edgware Road (where my grandparents on my mother’s side, lived) by train from Ladbroke Grove Station. My grandparents on my father’s side, died before I was born, and although my grandmother died before WWII, my grandfather was alive during WWII, but was “bombed out ” of the family’s “second hand-come builders’ supplies shop” in Westbourne Grove. A frequently bought meal, was fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper in the early days, and bought either in Ladbroke Grove or at the bottom of Lancaster Road, opposite the swimming baths.

I remember that the lady in the top flat of the house opposite number 9, in which Mrs Reynolds lived (first floor flat) often used to throw down her door key, plus money, wrapped in paper or a cloth, so that I could go round to the newsagents (named Maslin’s and later Thomas’s; or the reverse!). I got just threepence for that! I always used to be going into the newsagents to ask if my “Beano” and “Dandy” comics were in. Later, I also had “The Eagle” comic, which was quite instructive.


Brian in the back garden with a fish.

I remember the winter of 1947, during which the gutters of the houses had icicles about 18 inches long hanging from them, and that it was always very cold and snowing.

A boy named Terry (no surname known) who lived above Mrs Reynolds, once went to the White City Stadium with me and my parents, and we spoke to Gordon Pirie, the long distance runner, in the region underneath the stadium seats. My parents often went to the White City, more often, greyhound racing, and I was always dropping used tickets through the gaps, in the concrete seating/standing area, for the supporting pillars for the roof, to see if I could get them to land on mens’ trilby hats! There was not much else to do! I also used to collect “Turf” cigarette cards, which were part of the packaging for the cigarettes.

We finally moved to Clarendon Road in about 1957, and the house was in complete contrast with the basement flat in Maxilla, which we had rented. We owned the whole house in Clarendon Road, and we occupied the basement flat because of my father’s building business.

Dr Brian Wybrow Ph.D. (Lond.) 30-04-16

Growing up in Maxilla Gardens, London W10 by Audrey Burtt (nee Waite) following an account above by Dr Brian Wybrow PhD

IMG_20170929_0001 copy

Sisters Audrey and Joyce in front of the dahlias in the garden of No 9 Maxilla Gardens. 1930.

I was very interested to read the account by Dr Wybrow about growing up on Maxilla Gardens, as I was the girl next door to him at No 9. More accurately I was one of the girls next door, as I remember there were four of us between 1920 and 1939. I am now 94 years old and was born Audrey Waite in 1923 at No 9 Maxilla Gardens, following my sister Joyce who was born in 1921. The other two were Barbara Acland and Patricia Friend who came to live in the flat upstairs much later nearer WW2.

Number 9, although attached to No 11 was rather different because it was semi-detached and had a substantial, gated, side passage next to the side passage of No 7. This meant that the garden was wider and that the side wall of the house was pierced by quite a lot of large windows on every floor, thus avoiding the cold and creepy atmosphere felt by Dr Whybrow as a little boy, home alone in a Victorian basement.

My family was lucky, as we shared two floors of No 9, the basement and the first floor with my grandmother, Elizabeth Scott and my unmarried Aunt Florence. So, as children, my sister and I had the run of a fairly large garden which faced south with a flight of iron stairs leading up to the big rooms of the first floor where my grandmother lived. From up there one could get a good view of several other gardens facing south to the huge brick viaduct of the Metropolitan Railway (now Hammersmith and City Line) screened by a row of lovely Lombardy poplars. It was a leafy, flowery part of North Kensington with a horse chestnut in No 5, three purple lilacs at No 7, dahlias and sweet peas at No 9 and ladders and builders’ paraphernalia at No 11. These last were of course essential to Mr Wybrow senior’s successful business as a builder based at 11A Maxilla Gardens until 1957.

Other successes were achieved in those times in Maxilla Gardens. For example, Barbara Acland, the oldest girl next door, won a scholarship to the City of London School and dazzled us all with her scarlet blazer and gym slip. My sister and I, starting out at Oxford Gardens Infant and Junior School both won scholarships to the Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith. Pat Friend, who was much younger and also very pretty did well too. Joyce, Audrey and Barbara met again, by chance at Oxford University where they all got degrees.

Now I must write about another very successful inmate of No 9. His name was Joycelyn Acland, Barbara’s little brother who, when he grew up, became Joss Acland the famous actor. I last saw him in a film, Gosford Park playing an old aristocrat, which he was.

Across the road among the even numbered houses at No 6 possibly, lived a little girl called Celia Lipton, the daughter of Sidney Lipton, a musician who became a famous band leader and his beautiful wife, a singer. Every night, the couple would go off wearing evening dress in a taxi to appear at the Grosvenor Park Hotel in Park Lane, waving goodbye to little Celia watching from her bedroom window. Celia herself became a singer and eventually married a rich American.

After the houses and the people, I must not forget my father, the ‘Mr Waites’ referred to by Dr Wybrow, described asleep on Sundays in a string hammock, strung up in the garden. Harold Waite (not Waites) was a veteran of the 1914-1918 war and afterwards suffered badly from post traumatic stress. He countered this by filling his house, No 9 and his garden with pet animals and birds. We had pigeons in their house in the garden, canaries and budgerigars inside our house, an Alsatian dog, a black cat and finally a large heated tank of tropical fish.

When not attending his pets, my father planted and tended a lovely garden, full of roses, sweet peas, dahlias, lily of the valley etc. He even allowed us to pick the flowers for the house. On Sundays he sang regularly in the choir at St Helen’s Church and he had a fine tenor voice. He soothed this, after the service by drinking a quantity of beer at the Earl Percy in Ladbroke Grove. Consequently on sunny Sundays he slept the whole afternoon in his hammock to the amusement of the family next door.

My sister and I finally left No 9 Maxilla Gardens in August 1939 as evacuees with Godolphin and Latymer School. We landed in Newbury, Berkshire, eventually got to Oxford University and married there. We did not return to Maxilla Gardens until after the Second World War, when we both settled in the North Kensington/Notting Hill area in flats in Kensington Park Gardens.

Audrey Burtt, September 2017

Postcript: For more on Maxilla Gardens, see


Maxilla Nursery Archive    http://maxillaarchive.com/

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Workplaces in Kensal New Town –

There is currently a lot of redevelopment along the northern end of Ladbroke Grove with the construction of a huge housing development called “The Ladbroke Grove”. This new building stretches from Kensal Road south to the steps that still lead down to Southern Row. We are going to take a stroll down the steps and recall what was there in the past in particular the places that provided employment and useful services.

doorways.Lad grove.jennifer

The ph0to above showing the dark entry to the steps on the left of the old tobacconist/sweetshop was taken back in 2008. The bright blue building on the right was built on the site of Hamrax (shown below) a landmark for all motor bike owners in West London.

Hamrax Motors Ladbroke Grove 1999.ssBiker Dave Hucker recalls the shop seen above in 1999 (photo from RBKC local Studies)

This Ladbroke Grove institution served motor bikers, three-wheelers & custom car owners needs for over 40 years.

Inside the 3 blue shop fronts,  were stacked a cornucopia of mechanical porn. It was packed floor to ceiling with parts. The ceiling had bits of bikes – like exhausts – hanging off it. Every square inch seemed to have something shoehorned in. There was stuff that had not moved in 20 years. There was no filing system or any rhyme or reason to it all. But the staff knew exactly where every little part was, because they had put it there.

There seemed to be a large number of cubbyholes – which the person who served you seemed to reach deep into. There was ingrained grease and dirt on the frequently touched surfaces. A smell of oil and old dust hung in the air. It called it self Happy Hamrax . With a sign outside- ‘You Bend’em We Mend’um’.

Hamrax also was one of the biggest stockists of spare parts for the AMC Corporation. The Plumstead manufacturer of AJS, Matchless, Francis Barnett & James bikes. They had bought up all the stock of spares when AMC closed down.

hamrax adHamrax was started by Don Houseman and someone called Butch in 1953 in a tin shed in Scrubs Lane, Motorbikes were still utilitarian transport for many people. Cars were for export only at this time. They moved to Ladbroke Grove in about 1960. They did have a reputation for grumpiness and not suffering fools gladly. But they knew more about everything to do with bikes than the person buying probably did and then there was the person who whilst buying a 10p nut or bolt fastener would tell them their whole life story and all about their Tiger Cub. Hamrax had a workshop round the back in Southern Row that was very busy, certainly with my Triumph Trident which always seemed to be in there!

I was on a flight to Japan once and over Mongolia, I got talking to the elderly gentleman beside me. He asked where I lived.

“Ladbroke Grove”, I said.

“Do you know Hamrax?” he asked? “I get bits for my AJS from there”.

So the rest of the flight was spent talking bikes.

Dave Hucker 2016

At the bottom of the steps on Southern Row Hamrax had their workshop. The blue gates can still be seen as in this recent photo. Underneath is a photo from 1969. The large tenement building with the laundry hanging from windows was Victoria Dwellings.

backof Hamrax 2015 snyder.2015


Southern Row west end rbkc.ss

Outside Hamrax’s Workshop at the bottom of the steps on Southern Row, 1969 (RBKC Local Studies).

Along West Row Dalyte engineering works also known as Deco occupied workshops on both sides of the street.

West Row west side Deco Engineering 1969 KS70.rbkc.ss

West side of West Row, 1969. (RBKC local studies)

West Row east side 27 onwards 1969 KS68.ss

Eastern side of West Row 1969, (RBKC local studies)

The photo below is of the workers from Dalyte (Deco) on West Row . It was sent to me by Helen Tilley.

Dalyte Engineering Co West Row.H.Tilleyj.pg

My father Bill Morse is the man on the very far left of the shot holding the newspaper and it was taken in West Row.  I can’t tell you the date exactly, but from the clothes and the general ‘feel’ of it I would say late 1950’s to early 1960’s.  Hopefully someone else might be able to pin point it a little closer.  My father worked for Grill Floors which was part of the Deco or Dalyte as it was locally called.  He worked on a site that was on the left of West Row as the photo is looking towards Kensal Road. The main Dalyte site is shown on the right, where you can see a white banner with ‘& Co’ written above the entrance.  My Grandparents Phyl and Albert Capp along with my mother Marion and her brother Peter lived at 19 West Row which was almost next to that entrance.

At the moment I don’t have any more information about the Deco.  I know that the subsidiary company Grill Floors moved to Peterborough in 1966 and we all moved too. I think Deco made light bulbs and fittings, quite a big concern judging by the number of people in the photograph.

Helen Tilley 2015

Many of the houses in Southern Row were originally built as working laundries, with large double doors leading to yards behind.

Southern Row.Ernest005

This photo above of former laundry houses on Southern Row was taken in 2008. On our last walk around Kensal in 2015, the houses were in the process of redevelopment.

Below, the same houses in 1969. The laundry sign is visible over the double doors.

Southern Row 1969 (RBKC local studies)

For many years only one laundry remained in Kensal, the White Knight,  a family business  with premises that went from Kensal Road back to Conlan Street providing employment for many  women- and that finally closed it’s doors last year, so here are a few photos that were shown to us by the owners when on a trip around the premises in 2005. The Laundry is still a thriving business but no longer based in London.

Top left shows the Petrol station that White Knight operated on Kensal Road. Across Kensal Road can be seen another local workplace, Askeys Premier Biscuit Company, famous for their ice cream wafers.

Of course there were many more work places in the Kensal area and the nature of work has changed. The factories have become ‘studios’ and now the studios are becoming flats. If you have memories or photos of workplaces in and around Kensal please send them to northkenstories@yahoo.co.uk or put them in a ‘comment’ below.

n.b For more photos of Southern Row go to Dave’s blog at Local Studies

Local studies blog

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The Science District of North Kensington

Dave Walker from RBK&C Local Studies recently put a posting on his excellent blog that he called The Science District of North Kensington. These were the streets, named after eminent Victorian scientists and engineers,  that used to run between Ladbroke Grove and Wornington Road.  This was when Wornington Road and Portobello Road continued all the way northwest to join Ladbroke Grove near the junction with Barlby Road.

Have a look at the photos and map on his blog – all from 1969 and 1970, just before over half the area was demolished to make way for the Wornington Estate. Paradoxically, that estate is now in the process of being redeveloped again and the original street layout reinstated to make way for Portobello Square.

Dave’s blog………………….

The Time Machine

So the photos and stories here are to supplement those that you can see on Dave’s blog.

Science district W10

Ordnance Survey Map 1894-96

The map above shows the original layout of the roads. Running from the bottom left of the map in a north west direction are Ladbroke Grove, then Portobello Road and finally Wornington Road. Wornington School (the first  building) is clearly marked and on the corner of Wornington Road and Telford Road is Christ Church, with th  Vicarage and Church Hall on Farady Road.  By the time the photos on Dave’s blog were taken for the borough in 1969, the Church and Vicarage are gone.  Only the Church Hall remains and an adventure playground takes its place in the vacant plot.

On the map at the other end of Faraday Road where it meets Ladbroke Grove is the Fire station seen below, fronting Faraday Road not Ladbroke Grove as it does now.

Faraday Road Fire Station

Fire Station on Faraday Road (with the tower). The building on the left, on the corner of Ladbroke Grove was Raymede Clinic, later pulled down and moved to Telford Road. Photo: RBK&C Local Studies

Brian Haynes sent me some photos he took on Faraday Road  and included a few memories.

“I was born in November 1937 in Hammersmith Hospital, and apart from a few weeks when we lived in Ladbroke Grove with my maternal grandparents (close to Barlby Rd). I was resident with my folks at 14 Faraday Rd. until the houses were demolished during the slum clearances of the early ’70s.

Wornington Road School

I was about 5 years old when I started at Wornington Rd School, and left when about 8 to go to Bevington, so early memories are rather thin. The school was only about 150 yards from home at 14 Faraday Road. It accommodated mixed infants on the ground floor, and ‘secondary’ level girls-only in the rest of the building. The rear of the building backed onto the GWR lines, and the playground was at the front and was divided to ‘segregate’ the senior and infant pupils. Nobody had cars then, so there was no need for the car-park which now occupies part of the old playground. At the far right of the building was a very small sweet shop which we called ‘the Cabin’ and opposite this, between the Mitre pub and the mews, was another sweet-shop of sorts, run by a friendly but rather strange old fella who we called Bert. Inside there were 2 pin-tables, a few large jars of sweets on otherwise empty shelves, and a couple of chairs. Bert’s main income seemed to be from selling ‘penny drinks’ to us school children. He always wore an Arkwright’ type brown shop coat, and invariably had an unlit roll-up ciggie in his mouth or behind an ear.

My photos:

BSH 057

I had just bought my Ensign Selfix camera (my pride and joy) when I took this ‘experimental’ shot through the front-room window on a wet and miserable day…the rain on the windows blurred the shot ( that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).  It shows the ‘high’ end of the ‘odd’ numbers, some of the plane trees, and one of the old gas-lamps. We had great fun on these by tying a washing line into a large loop, hooking the loop over one of the cross-bars, and swinging round. During the war, roughly alongside the first tree, was an air-raid shelter, and another one was further down on the right-hand side. Portobello Road is seen crossing at the far right, and the corner shop still remains, as does the rest of Faraday which is out of shot.

Fire Stn.Faraday

This colour shot shows the bomb-site adjacent to the ‘old’ Fire Station, one of the many that we played in and had ‘raids’ with ‘gangs’ from other streets….bloody, but great fun, and all friends afterwards !”

(Not sure about this particular  ‘bomb-site’.  Maybe it is the Clinic site after it was demolished and not a ‘bomb-site’ as here  is the Clinic still there in the RBKC photo of 1969).

Faraday Road north side with clinic 1969 KS317.ss

More of Brian’s photos of ‘wheels’  on Faraday Road

Faraday rd 3 boys

Faraday rd boy,girl,bike

brian on bike

“That is me on my bike. Below is my 3-wheel Morgan, a very famous, and nowadays, a very valuable and sought after motor vehicle. This particular car had a JAP V-twin engine, and was built in 1932. I bought it because I already had a motor-bike licence, and by ‘blanking-off’ reverse I was legally entitled to drive it. I called her “Moggie”. I bought her with the birthday money my Mother gave me when I was 21, in 1958/9.  It cost £100. Later, I got £90 for it in part exchange for a beautiful 1949 Alvis TA14.



Brian Haynes Alvis and Beetle

Above is  my lovely Alvis (1949, 2-tone green with leather and corduroy upholstery), and the ‘Beetle’ which replaced it.”

Brian Haynes 2015

In 1969 at the other end of Faraday Road where it meets Wornington Road there was an Adventure Playground. This was on the site of Christ Church and its Vicarage which according to some notes on a photograph of the interior shown below, was demolished 1n 1949,  perhaps because of bomb damage incurred earlier during the war?

Christ Church North Kensington looking NW from Wornington Rd.ss

Christ Church and its vicarage viewed  from Wornington Road. The Church Hall on the left on Faraday Road remained until the early 1970s.

Christ Church North Kensington Telford Road.ss

Geoff Davis sent in some photos and memories relating to the Church.

 “My father, Herbert William Davis was  born in 1901; his parents were James and Ellen with brothers Alfred and James. On the 1911 census the family are living at 2 Branstone Street, later moving to number 11. No longer there, Branstone St was close to the junction of Ladbroke Grove and Barlby Road.
I know that my father was an active member of Christ Church that was in Telford Road until about 1941. Herbert sang in the choir – boy and man – played football and cricket, was a scoutmaster and in 1931, was married there to another member of the church, who came from a family in Wornington Road.”


The Football team, 1915/1916. Herbert, aged 14  is in the centre with the ball.


The Choir of Christ Church Telford Road about the time of the First World War


Christ Church Cricket team, early 1920s.

 Geoff Davis 2015

Wheatstone Road

Wheatstone Road looking east 1970 KS345.ss

Wheatstone Road looking west ,1970. (RBKC Local Studies)

The school/college building on Wornington Road is at the end and Trellick Tower is under construction.

Wheatstone Road south side 1970 KS347.ss

Wheatstone Road, southern side 1970, (RBKC Local Studies)

In the 1920s, my mother lived in one of the houses above on the southern side backing on to Munro Mews.

“As a child, I lived in Wheatstone Road, no 20. The house was owned by a Mr Clayton who lived on the ground floor with his daughter and wife. His father had bought the house soon after it was built. All the houses were 3 or 4 storeys but only one at that time – right opposite us was not let out as rooms or flats. We considered them to be ‘toffs’, having the whole house for one family. There was a lot of poverty on the street as most people had bigger families than at our house. I lived on the first floor with my mother,  and my grandma lived on the top floor with my aunt. No bathroom of course, just a sink, a cold water tap and a toilet on the middle landing. We all had to use the same toilet which was just outside our kitchen/dining room.

There was a long backyard, concreted over. Attached to the house was a Laundry Room with a copper for heating the water (we cooked the Christmas puddings in the copper). Alongside the wall of the yard were outhouses for Mr Claytons ‘tools of the trade’ as he was a chimney sweep.”

Many of the  conditions she described in the 1920s did not change and houses remained without bathrooms and hot water until they were pulled down in the 1970s.

Finally a couple of photos of the Wornington Estate that replaced these streets,  taken I think in the 1980s.

Wornington Estate 1980s.1.ss

Wornington estate 1980s? So,  if anyone has any more information regarding TelfordRoad, Faraday Road, Wheatstone Road and Murchison Street,  please send it to me, Sue at the website.


Or add your own comment directly below.

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Latymer Mission, Blechynden Street.

A small folder of images of The Latymer Mission has been passed on to me so I will take the opportunity to share them. I have also included photos that came originally from Rose Vinten and Charles Buckle and from the Latymer Christian Centre.

Timely,  since I notice that there is a new comment on the posting on Walmer Road that mentions the Boys Brigade run by John Buckle at the Latymer Mission.

Latymer Mission in the 1920s or 1930s, Blechynden Street.

Latymer Mission in the 1920s or 1930s, Blechynden Street.


The Latymer Mission is highlighted in red in this map of 1935

The Latymer Mission is highlighted in red in this map of 1935

The Latymer Mission featured here disappeared in the redevelopment programme in the 1960s and 1970s for the construction of Westway and the housing estates to the south.

Latymer Road Mission Rooms were opened in 1863 as a Ragged School (before the introduction of state education) and later became a Boys Evening Institute. An Infant Day Nursery was opened in 1880 to provide help to the many women employed in the local laundries.

From the early days there are many postcards that probably existed to help fund raising (see below) and they give a good ides of the varied activities in the nineteenth century.

Feeding Hungry Children.LAT C.C.1Latymer Mission gymnasium.ssLatymer Mission girl guidesCripples.Latymer.C.CLatymer Mission soup kitchen








There are also some fine images of the Infant Day Nursery.

Bathing Children 1917 L.Miss.BuckleHigh Chair.Lat Miss.Buckle







Latymer road Mission Nursery School.ssActivities continued after World War Two. Perhaps remembered most by local people was the Boys Brigade,  run since the 1930s by John Buckle and seen and heard throughout the local streets as they marched past on Sundays.

Boys brigade laymer Miss.Buckle

Jean Rixon marrying Phillip Buckle, the son of "Skip" Buckle who ran the Boys' Brigade at the Mission. This information was supplied by Rosalind Jackson (nee Rixon, of 38 Mersey Street until demolition).

Jean Rixon marrying Phillip Buckle, the son of “Skip” Buckle who ran the Boys’ Brigade at the Mission. This information was supplied by Rosalind Jackson (nee Rixon, of 38 Mersey Street until demolition).

Rosalind Jackson and her sisters belonged to the Girls’ Life Brigade at the Mission. They attended Sunday School and also played in the Girls’ Band.

The pictures below were sent in by Margaret Pitcher who sent in the following memories.

Attached are some personal memories of Latimer Road Mission.
I attended Sunday school there from the age of six (1948) until 1954. The main hall is where it was held and we (children) split into age appropriate groups each with a teacher for our lessons. I can recall the minister Mr Lyddel.  I loved Harvest Festival. The hall was decorated and we all went up to the stage to place our gifts of fruit and vegetables etc. There was also a play centre with evening activities, arts and music etc. I remember the Boy’s Brigade. My brother was involved in that and I was in the Brownies. The chapel was lovely, small and plain. We attended many weddings and christenings there.

About 1949 at the Latymer Mission. Margaret is in the front fourth from left.

About 1949 at the Latymer Mission. Margaret is in the front fourth from left.

May Queen Pageant  1953.  Margaret is seated at left (looking at photo) My younger sister is seated in front of me.

May Queen Pageant  1953.  Margaret is seated at left (looking at photo) My younger sister is seated in front of me.


More memories below from James Farndale

I lived in Oldham Road from about 1942 until 1959/1960 when I was called up for National Service. When I was discharged in 1961 I went home to a new address at East Acton. I remember going to Sunday school at the Mission and being a cub scout for a very short time. I seem to think we went with the Mission to Windsor for a short holiday. I had rickets when I was 3 or 4 years old, and I was led to believe the Mission (via The Shaftsbury Society) paid for my treatment at the Children’s Hospital at Carlshalton. I have since tried to find out what treatment I received (I was away from home for some time), but because it was before the formation of the NHS no one knows where the records are. I knew the Rixon Twins, from Mersey St. I wouldn’t say we played together but we certainly hung out together with other young people, who I can’t remember.

And from Brian Iles 

      I was born four months before the outbreak of the second world war at number 70 Blechynden Street which was at the end of the block of houses seen on the right of the first picture shown on the site, and lived there until I got married in 1963. The shop by the lamp post on the corner of Oldham Road and Blechynden Street was Sleeps the greengrocers and the one at the far end on the corner of East Mews Road was an oil shop owned by Mr and Mrs Webster, which sold all sorts of interesting things like little tied up bundles of wood for lighting the fire. Opposite the mission was Tom Fox’s sweets and newspaper shop.

     During the war part of the Mission was used as an air raid shelter and I can still recall being carried there by my mother as the raids started and staying there until the “all clear” siren sounded. As a toddler there I experienced my first ever “sense of false security” when the Air Raid Warden let me put on his helmet and I went to the door of the shelter thinking I would be safe if a bomb dropped on me. When I was old enough I became a member of the Life Boys which was run by a woman whose name I can’t remember but we had to call her captain. It was held in the main hall on the first floor of the mission a couple of evenings a week and you could not go unless you had attended Sunday School the preceding weekend. I can remember that there was a large painting on the hall wall of Lord Shaftsbury, the one time president of the Ragged School Union and promoter of reforms to help and educate children of poor families.

I always aspired to progress to the Boys Brigade because I had wanted to join in with  the band and march round the streets on a Sunday morning which we used to follow as younger children. I didn’t last long there though as I joined the Harrow Boys Club. Happy days with lots of sports and camping holidays at the Isle of Wight. Does anyone remember Lou Ashman the club manager?

I recognize some of the names of people posting their memories. I remember Jimmy Farndale and Norman Norrington as I believe we were all at Latimer Road school, and I certainly remember the Rixon twins.

The Latymer Christian Centre is now on Bramley Road next to Westway.

If you can tell us more or have your own memories of the Mission, email them to me here at northkenstories@yahoo.co.uk and they can be added to this posting or add them directly to the comments below.

Sue Snyder


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All change for the houses on the St Quintin Estate

This gallery contains 37 photos.

For those of us who have lived for many years in the Edwardian terraces of the St Quintin Estate in North Kensington i.e. Wallingford Avenue, Kelfield and Oxford Gardens, Kingsbridge, Balliol, Finstock and Highlever Roads, we may be the last … Continue reading

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Kensal Road and beyond before Trellick Tower, part 2

Copyright London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. COLLAGE 82260: Catalogue ref. SC/PHL/01/209/AV62/1401 Edenham Street, 1962.

Copyright London Metropolitan Archives, City of London.
COLLAGE 82260: Catalogue ref. SC/PHL/01/209/AV62/1401 Edenham Street, 1962.

Two places where I deposited some of my pocket money – the Post Office and, to the left, Wardle’s sweet shop.

When dad thought I was marginally less irresponsible, he started giving me pocket money. He was paid monthly and thought I would learn to manage my money better if he paid me monthly too and so it was that I got £1 a month. It was tricky to make sure the money didn’t run out before the month and there was plenty of temptation to spend it.

I always had to buy sweets to eat while watching Dr Who early Saturday evenings and, for some reason, I usually left it to the last minute before sprinting round to either Wardle’s in Golborne Road or Ada Smith’s in Kensal Place. The Wardles were usually in their back room watching their television, which was very high up and appeared to be on the top of a wardrobe facing the shop while they had their backs to the shop so they weren’t always that swift in coming into the shop to serve. Likewise Ada was the biggest woman I have ever seen and walked at a shuffling snail’s pace so either way, it was always a challenge to get back before Dr Who started.

My dad wanted me to save some pocket money and I usually managed to put a minimal amount into my savings book each month in the post office at the corner of Golborne Road and Edenham Street. Further down Golborne Road on the left over the iron bridge, however, there was a toy shop, where I went from time to time to add to my Corgi and Matchbox car collection. I always looked forward to the release of the new Corgi model catalogue and would pore over it deciding what to buy next, although, at fifteen shillings, the James Bond DB5 with ejector seat, machine guns and other impressive gadgets, was always out of reach.

Further down from the toy shop was Harper’s record shop, where I later started my record collection. In the days before the introduction of prices ending with 99 (new) pence, I can remember singles cost six shillings and threepence before going up to six and eight so this was a major investment out of my pocket money. Woolworth’s sold cover versions of many hit singles on their own Embassy label and these were cheaper but they were almost as bad as the records I occasionally liberated from the boxes outside the factory in Kensal Road.

My records would be played at home on our grey and red Philips portable record player, which had a folding lid and carrying handle in the style of a lot of players at that time. The volume never bothered our neighbours, even when pushed up to maximum because it certainly wasn’t a match for the Cullen’s radiogram downstairs, which often boomed out the bassy sounds of Jim Reeves on Sunday mornings, not that I ever heard my parents complain about noise from our neighbours. Anyway, they were probably in no position to complain as I’m sure the Cullens could often hear me running around over their heads, not mention the Old Man’s Zorba like dancing on his occasional visits. I think everyone accepted the odd bit of noise as a natural consequence of living in close proximity with their neighbours.

I don’t recall dad actually liking any kind of music although he was quite happy to listen to music of the ‘Two Way Family Favourites’ kind on the radio. My mum, though, enthusiastically supported my new interest even though Duane Eddy, with his twangy guitar of course, and the Shadows were my early heroes when my mum preferred the likes of Russ Conway and Percy Faith and his Orchestra. For much anticipated new releases by the Beatles and the Stones, I ordered their new singles in advance so I could collect my copy on the day of release or usually it was my mum who collected them for me, to give me some bragging rights by being among the first to hear their new single in the days when pop music didn’t have the blanket media exposure it did later.

By the way, there was a pawnshop further along on the corner of Golborne and Bevington Roads and I mention it because it had the traditional pawnbrokers’ sign of three brass spheres hanging from an ornate bar high up the wall. Golborne and Portobello Road markets don’t seem to have changed much over the years, based on my first visit since 1966(!) before Christmas last year.

There were probably more stalls selling fresh fruit, veg and other food then as street food hadn’t yet been invented, in England anyway, and second hand clothes stalls at the Golborne Road end of the Portobello market, which were a lot less salubrious than the vintage clothing on sale now. There was also usually a large van just before the railway bridge in Portobello Road piled high with towels, bedding and other household goods, which often drew a crowd while the seller put on a performance along the lines of ‘I’m not asking for a pound, I’m not even asking for ten bob, move closer madam, look at the quality, I’m giving them away, here, two for ten bob’.

Up the hill towards Westbourne Grove, as now, the stalls sold antiques and upmarket bric a brac. In the days before computer games, boys did a lot of collecting and collecting coins was quite popular. This was helped because, even in the 1960s, there were still halfpennies and pennies in circulation dating back to the 1860s across five different monarchs so there was real history to be found in our change. A lot of the coins were almost worn flat but it did mean that boys could start their own collection for not very much. Anyway, a boy came to school one Monday showing off a gold George III coin called a spade guinea, which he said he had found in the gutter after the stallholders at the top of the hill had cleared away. That was a lucky find or maybe it was more than luck.

While on the subject of collecting, I collected Brooke Bond tea cards, supervised by my mum, which always featured educational subjects like ‘Wild Flowers of Britain’ and ‘Wildlife in Danger’. I imagine we bought vast quantities of tea as I always got close to, but never quite, completing each set. They were free as my mum bought the tea of course but worth paying for was a series of trading cards in packets of bubblegum featuring the American Civil War. These were swapped enthusiastically by a lot of the boys in my class and featured gory scenes of soldiers being bayonetted, crushed, blown up, burned or, probably if they were lucky, merely shot.

Another draw on my money slightly later was football as we would sometimes get together in the playground on Friday and decide to go to a football match the next day. We would either meet at the number 28 bus stop opposite Westbourne Park station and take the bus to Stamford Bridge or meet at the station to take the train to Shepherds Bush for Loftus Road. Standing on the terraces at Stamford Bridge cost two shillings for boys and a programme was sixpence, the same cost as the bus fare, so football on Saturday was easily affordable from my pocket money and something we could decide to do almost on the spur of the moment, usually about once a month. As the turnstiles at Stamford Bridge stood on Fulham Road at that time, fans could move about freely once inside behind the stands and opposing sets of fans would often pass each other to change ends at half time without any trouble. One time, we set out at our usual time to watch Chelsea play Manchester United and the crowd at the turnstiles was immense. Adults were pressing in on our small gang from all sides, the crowd was barely moving and we could hardly breathe. As much as we wanted to see the match, we were in fear of injury more and decided to struggle, with difficulty, against the crowd to get out.

My income was supplemented slightly by being in the church choir at St Helen’s just off St Quintin Avenue. I got sixpence for attending Friday evening choir practice and two shillings and sixpence for a wedding and, once, we sang at two weddings in one day so that felt like a real pay day. It was an impressive choir comprising a large contingent of male and female choristers and equally large contingent of slight rebellious boys with angelic voices. One year, for weeks before Easter, we practiced singing the, for me anyway, very difficult Matthew Passion by Bach but we all had a great sense of achievement when we sung it on the day.

I’m not sure who recruited me for the choir but I would walk either with a friend or on my own to and from choir practice in Barlby Road without any problem. However, I had a narrow escape when walking to choir practice one dark night when crossing the road at the zebra crossing at Ladbroke Grove as a speeding car came out of nowhere and caught me a glancing blow and sped off without even braking. Other than a badly cut leg, I was ok but, if I had taken just one more step forward, it would have been much more serious. Somehow, my parents thought it was my fault and they really didn’t want me to go again but they relented in the end.

Another boy I knew at school supplemented his pocket money by stealing Matchbox models to order from Woolworth’s in Harrow Road and selling them for half price but, as keen a collector as I was, a mixture of fear of getting caught and my moral code meant I would rather pay full price.

A while later, I joined a Boy Scout troop, which met somewhere in Paddington. We wore traditional khaki uniforms with shorts of course and campaign style hats and probably looked like extras from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, although that was on television much later. The troop met on Friday evenings at the same time as choir practice but learning handicrafts and playing boisterous games was a lot more fun than singing hymns.

I didn’t have to buy my own comics as mum bought me the Beano and the Dandy, which I couldn’t wait to read each week, and dad bought me Look and Learn, which as the name suggests, was more educational, but I found harder going.

Birthdays and Christmases were always a treat. Our front room was always highly decorated for Christmas with paper chains and lanterns hanging from the ceiling and a real tree, which was decorated with glass baubles and lights of course. One year, our tree started to shed its needles early on and, as my parents carefully took the decorations off one by one when Christmas was over, there was a series of heavy downfalls of needles until it looked like it has been napalmed. They bought an artificial tree the following year.

I always got a very nice present for Christmas. Some of the presents that still stand out from that time were a Meccano set, a Hornby Dublo train set, a chemistry set, and a Kodak Brownie camera, which is where many of the photos attached to my posts came from.

A trip to Bertram Mills circus at Olympia was a regular Christmas outing. A traditional circus may seem slightly outmoded and definitely non-PC now but the clowns, acrobats and animals performing various tricks seemed an absolute spectacle then. Just before Christmas too, we would board a bus at Notting Hill Gate to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street and Regent Street after what always seemed like a long and freezing wait at the bus stop. We would always try to get the seats at the front of the top deck if we could as the lights were really something to see at a time before almost every High Street had some form of Christmas lighting. The sight of the enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square always capped a rare evening out in London.

I mentioned before that we would sometimes go to the cinema. Our usual venues were the Cartoon cinema in Baker Street or the Odeon in Westbourne Grove, where I remember seeing the X rated Forbidden Planet with my parents. They were keen to see the film and couldn’t find anyone to babysit their four year old so they took me along on the off chance. The usherette let us in anyway as she said it would all go over my head or words to that effect and it did but the futuristic music and Robby the robot made an immediate impression and I think it’s still a great film. The one cinema we never went to was what most people called the fleapit in Portobello Road although, how times change, it seems quite trendy now.

Other than the cinema and days out in central London or out to the ‘country’ like Richmond Park, entertainment was limited and eating out was something I only remember we did once. The closest we often got to that was a Friday night treat of fish and chips from the Greek Cypriot fish shop just over the iron bridge although mum sometimes took me to the Wimpy Bar in Westbourne Grove. I had mentioned that my dad spent a long time in hospital after collapsing while cycling from work and, evidently, it was thought that I may have similar problems with my chest as my mum would take me to what we knew as the chest clinic just off Westbourne Grove for regular check ups. The large X ray machine, and the fact that the adults always left the room before switching it on, was always slightly frightening but not at all painful unlike the dentist so, for being good, I was usually taken for a Wimpy or sometimes even two.

Copyright London Metropolitan Archives, City of London. COLLAGE 82263: Catalogue ref. SC/PHL/01/209/AV62/1409 Edenham St rooftops, 1962

Copyright London Metropolitan Archives, City of London.
COLLAGE 82263: Catalogue ref. SC/PHL/01/209/AV62/1409 Edenham St rooftops, 1962

The canal and Kensal Road to the left, Edenham Street to the right, Golborne Road at the bottom. Our house is almost in the centre of the photo. Notice the children playing and lack of cars in Edenham Street

Only once, when I must have been only about five years old as my younger brother hadn’t yet been born, the three of us went out to dinner, and it must have been a special occasion because this was at the Ognisko in Exhibition Road, which seemed the absolute height of elegance even though the outside steps leading up to the restaurant was like the side of the mountain to me. I don’t know what the occasion was but I’m pleased to say the Ognisko is still going and still serving very good food.

Not only was the idea of dining out almost totally unknown to us, so was foreign food. Maybe as with most people at that time, my introduction to exotic tastes came with the introduction of Vesta chow mein, beef curry and spaghetti Bolognese in the early 60s. These were very basic kits in a box so the box for spaghetti Bolognese just contained spaghetti, Bolognese sauce and a small sachet of parmesan cheese, which always smelt like sick to me. The chow mein was a bit of favourite, though, as it included crispy noodles. It’s almost laughable now to look back on them but they were like food from another planet at the time.

Whatever the concern about my health, apart from the odd cold, I was never seriously ill, which my mum put down to making sure I caught measles as a baby more than the series of inoculations I queued up for with my classmates at St Andrew’s. The syringe always seemed enormous and like the kind that might be used for vaccinating horses. Mum was a firm believer that, if we caught measles when young, we would build up our immunity and my younger brother went through the same process as mum invited a suitable child with measles round to play with Chris. He spent, I think, a week in his cot and in the dark while I was instructed what seemed about every five minutes not to make a noise, which the Cullens might have been grateful for.

Because we were fairly close to the BBC television studios, the local roads were sometimes used to shoot on location. I’m sure that most people know the entrance to Steptoe’s yard was filmed in Adela Street off Kensal Road. At least one episode of Z Cars was filmed in the area between Bosworth and Golborne Roads, which drew a large crowd of curious children and Hazlewood Crescent was used as the location for a play shown one Sunday evening. The plot would have been hugely relevant as a play today as it featured a fictional country’s embassy in which someone had planted a nuclear warhead threatening to destroy London, which was being evacuated rapidly. You had to use your imagination for that as there was a lot of tooting of car horns in the background and lots of references to the evacuation in the script. Believe or not, most of the houses in the area were impressive architecturally as they were originally built for middle class families and Hazlewood Crescent must have contained houses that were less dilapidated than the majority so that one of them could pass for an embassy in one of the more upmarket parts of London. The street was full of glaring arc lights, trailing cables, impressive cameras and vans full of equipment and, of course, crowds of curious children.

The side streets between the canal and the railway line, where there was less traffic than on Kensal and Golborne Roads, were usually more or less full of children anyway playing, talking, arguing or fighting but usually just playing. Edenham Street was usually my destination of choice as it was closest.

Other, more disturbing, events took place in the area including the race riots of 1958, which I had heard about on the grapevine as a five year old and I remember asking my parents about it. I was easy to placate then as they said it was only a party and some people dancing in the street, inadvertently prophesying the Notting Hill carnival that, to an extent, came out of those riots. Also, in about the early 60s, the exploits of Peter Rachman, the notorious landlord in Notting Hill, were becoming widely known and Rachmanism became a common term for the exploitation and intimidation of tenants but my parents considered themselves fortunate to have the gentlemanly Mr Sohacki for a landlord who allowed my dad to chop up his old furniture and decorate our flat more or less as he pleased.

Even though the Rillington Place murders came to light in the early 50s and the street was renamed Ruston Close soon after, it was still a bit of a minor tourist attraction for years after and people walking past along Ladbroke Grove would sometimes slow down and look or point at the notorious number 10.

It’s been difficult to put the names of friends to these stories and only have a list of disconnected Christian or surnames in my head. I suppose this is a consequence of my having not given those North Kensington days much thought over the years until the last few weeks and I regret that my recollections aren’t as detailed as some of the posters on this site. Kevin Magill, Maurice Condon and Sandra King are about the only names of children I remember going to St Andrew’s school with and I remember three sisters in Edenham Street, one of who was Linda Murray who I may have gone to school with.

An Italian friend, Pompeo Pompeii, who lived along Kensal Road near the swimming baths and who went to St Andrew’s with, stands out for me as I remember being invited to his house and being offered a small glass of dry white wine and a small plate of biscuits, which I thought was a bit strange. I wasn’t sure I should be drinking alcohol although, at Pompeo’s mother’s instance I did even though I’m sure I would have preferred a glass of Tizer. My parents explained that this was just a tradition and I was right to accept.

I also remember Michael Hedges as a friend from primary school days. He lived in an upper storey flat somewhere off Kensal Road and his family were then moved to a prefab in the area. I was quite impressed with the prefab and the idea that a family could have a whole detached house surrounded by a garden all to themselves even though it was tiny.

michael hedges outside prefab abt 1962Michael Hedges outside his prefab home about 1962. Note the old houses in the background

Like a lot of parents in the area I imagine, mine wanted something better for themselves and their growing sons. Even before my brother was born, I recall my parents talking about emigrating to Australia as it was possible to go then on an assisted package for ten pounds. My mum’s uncle and aunt and their families had emigrated and settled in Melbourne after the war and my dad had already effectively, albeit forcefully emigrated from Poland so this was a realistic possibility. We went one day to Australia House in the Strand to get more information but, for whatever reason, they decided not to although their wish to move out of North Kensington continued to come up in conversation from time to time.

About a year before we moved, the Bird family, who referred to themselves as Anglo Indians, moved in next door having recently arrived from Calcutta. I was struck by how well they and their children spoke and how well behaved their children were, in contrast to most of the boys and girls I usually hung around with. However, it was Jackie with her long dark hair and who was thirteen, a year older than me, who made the biggest impression. It was more than fifty years ago and memory plays tricks but I think the feeling may have been a bit mutual because she would often come round and we would sometimes sit and talk and giggle on the sofa in an only semi innocent way.

About that time, dad had the option to relocate from his office in Carnwath Road to a new one in central Croydon and so it was that I turned thirteen and, three months later, one day in late May 1966, in a slightly less dramatic move than emigrating to Australia, we moved to Croydon.


Roger Rogowski 2015

To look at more photos from the collection of the London Metropolitan Archives go to


Posted in Canal, Churches, Golborne, Schools, Shops, Streets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Kensal Road before Trellick Tower

Kensal Road looking west Oct 1967 (RBK&C Local Studies).

Kensal Road looking west Oct 1967 (RBK&C Local Studies).

I lived in Kensal Road from when I was born in 1953 until 1966, for two years at number 87 and eleven years at number 89, so it might seem like a world class act of procrastination that I didn’t get round to going back until December last year. Actually, it wasn’t procrastination. As we were moving to Croydon in 1966, I made a conscious decision that it was going to be impossible to maintain my old friendships and, a few years later, I heard that everything I knew between the canal and the railway had been bulldozed so there seemed no point in going back although I got as close as Harrow and Portobello Roads on several occasions.

First impressions were that Westbourne Park station had hardly changed apart from the loss of its kiosk, ticket collector’s box and old style ticket machines and the walk along the Great Western Road towards the canal bridge hasn’t changed ignoring the new bus station on the other side of the road. However, after that junction, Kensal Road bore right down the hill following the line of the canal and, today, the new, well new to me, Elkstone Road bears to the left joining Golborne Road at the old junction with Southam Street. Second impressions were that distances seemed to have shrunk in the last fifty years.

Number 89 was on the left about fifty yards before the old junction with Golborne Road exactly where Trellick Tower now stands. A four storey terraced house like most of the houses in the area, we lived on the ground floor, which was slightly higher than road level.  Both number 87 and 89 were owned by a nervous looking Polish man, Mr Sohacki, who was apparently an officer in one of the Polish divisions in the Eighth Army. More of that later. His nervousness always seemed to change to profound gratitude followed by a slight bow before replacing his hat when my mum handed the rent money over in a weekly ritual. Maybe he was nervous because some of his other tenants weren’t quite so ready to pay up.

I can describe the interior fairly accurately as I seemed to have the run of the house with the blessing of all the other tenants. Below, in the basement flat, were the Cullen family, father, mother and son Cornelius, which was shortened to Con. They had a separate entrance to their flat down a few steps from the road and an internal entrance under the first flight of internal stairs, which I used on a regular basis.

Their basement flat was almost identical to ours with a large living room at the front, a single large bedroom at the rear, a corridor running front to back with the living and bedroom doors on the left and toilet on the right and, in a rear extension narrower than the house, a kitchen and bathroom. They had sole access to the coal cellar. I remember the rumble of coal being tipped into the cellar by the coal man who delivered sacks from the back of his horse drawn cart through the manhole at the bottom of the external flight of steps. The Cullens also had a garden at the rear of the house, which was really a scrubby rectangle of grass where they hung their washing and Con and I let off our fireworks on bonfire night. Our respective mums usually then took us to see the big bonfire and the older children letting off their fireworks on the bomb site in Golborne Road, where Hazlewood Tower now stands.

Me with Con on the left, about 1956 outside number 89 with the knitwear factory in the background, looking towards the junction with Golborne Road

Me with Con on the left, about 1956 outside number 89 with the knitwear factory in the background, looking towards the junction with Golborne Road

My dad, who had immigrated to the UK in 1947 after serving in the Eighth Army, worked in the accounts department for Limmer and Trinidad Asphalt Company in Carnwath Road, Fulham and, on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, as a baker although I’m a bit hazy about where that was. It meant he was a bit of a shadowy figure at times and, while its no exaggeration to say he probably hated doing a second job, it meant we were a bit more comfortable than most families in the area and he was usually keen to make up for lost time by taking us out on Sunday, sometimes to see a film or see the sights in central London.

As we had a shared front door and all of the other tenants walked in and out past our living room door, that had a lock on it and the room was locked at night but left open during the day. The living room was originally full of heavy, brown Victorian furniture and had an open fireplace, which I remember was a major performance to light. Although I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, Barry Bucknell had a major influence on my parents and, looking back, I don’t suppose any of the furniture would have achieved antique status as, piece by piece over time and with the blessing of Mr Sohacki, my dad chopped up the old furniture and replaced it gradually with sleek 60s style, a coffee table with spindly legs, pine dining table, chairs and sideboard, three piece suite and two rattan easy chairs. The fireplace was boarded up and replaced by an electric fire.

Until our first television arrived in 1962, the radio was our main contact with the outside world. Heavy and wooden like the old furniture, it lit up when switched on. Choices included the Light Programme and the Home Service and more exotically, Hilversum and Luxembourg. It was a big deal for me to be invited next door by Mr or Mrs Little to watch their television where the sitting room was often packed with local children.

Mum and dad’s friends would seem to just pop in from time to time without any prior arrangement. As we didn’t have a phone and we didn’t know many people who did, social life just happened that way. The arrival of two single male friends of my dad’s, both Polish, would always mean a late night. I don’t remember their names except that one was young and the other old with a grey walrus moustache and, in fact, we only ever referred to him as ‘the Old Man’ although not to his face. The routine was always the same. The young man would knock on the door first and give my mum a huge bunch of flowers, which was the softening up process. This would be followed by the Old Man struggling under the weight of bags of food and drink, which would be distributed on the dining table. Thereafter, I was occupied with the gift of a large quantity of sweets and the occasional pat on the head while the adults ate, drank and talked their adult talk while the room filled up gradually with cigarette smoke. At some point in the evening, a music programme would be found on the radio and the Old Man would get up and dance, a bit, well quite a lot really, like Zorba the Greek, stamping on the floor, a point in the evening my parents dreaded as they tried to calm him down and avoid giving the Cullens below a headache, although they were always very good natured about it the next day.
The Old Man was generous to a fault and took me out on a few occasions for a treat. He was a hospital porter and I know he was single and maybe a widower or divorced and often seemed to act like he had more money than he needed.

Whatever his circumstances, he treated me as a kind of part time son, on one occasion buying me a very smart suit with long trousers, which my parents thought was ridiculous as all boys always wore short trousers then.

In fact, our television arrived just before the 1962 cup final and it played a major part in home life after that. Robin Hood, William Tell, Dr Who and slightly later, the Avengers and the Prisoner kept me captivated and the swinging 60s with Ready Steady Go and Juke Box Jury heralded things to come for me. Although Sunday Night at the London Palladium was a perennial favourite for mum and dad, I was strangely attracted to Emma Peel and her Lotus Elan in equal measure without understanding why.

All the big news events of the time were magically shown right in our front room, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination, the first men in space and Winston Churchill’s funeral although my ten year old self could never understand what Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies were supposed to have done or why John Profumo had to resign no matter how many times they talked about it on television. I mentioned that our living room door was unlocked during the day and one of the other children in the house, probably attracted by the sound of the television, opened the door one day to have a look and I’m sorry to say I punched him in the face and got into trouble.

Family meals were always eaten in the kitchen as the dining table in the front room was for entertaining guests. Sunday lunch was always a ritual, on the table at the same time every week and always much more than I could ever eat. A portable transistor radio later provided the soundtrack to Sunday lunch with the Clitheroe Kid or Round the Horne followed by Two and later Three Way Family Favourites. Barry Bucknell’s evil influence stuck again when my mum decided to paint the old kitchen table pink. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the kind of paint that never really dried and it went the way of the rest of the old brown furniture shortly afterwards to be replaced by a table with spindly tapered legs.

Our bathroom was beyond the kitchen and was just about big enough for the bath and a huge menacing looking geyser suspended from the wall. I’m sure I had a vivid imagination as I was always worried about the geyser coming off the wall and drowning me in gallons of scalding hot water.
Upstairs from our flat was an intermediate floor with a bathroom and toilet, which was shared by all of the other tenants. One further flight of stairs up to the first floor was a two roomed flat occupied by a family, living room in front and bedroom to the rear with a kitchenette on the landing and, a further two flights up to the second floor were two bedsits, one in the front and one in the back. One bedsit had a kitchenette on the landing and the other had a kitchenette in an extension that looked like a garden shed, up a narrow set of wooden temporary looking stairs. They were all very friendly, no doubt attracted by my sweet and cheeky nature although I’m now very hazy about who they were. I remember a single mother and newly born baby who had moved from Helston, who left her husband and older children behind. I’m sure there was a story there. And before her in the same bedsit was a woman in her early twenties, Anna, who had beautiful blond hair usually set in a long plait trailing down her back. Probably another sign of the approaching swinging 60s, she was saving to travel to the Greek islands with Mykonos as one of her intended stops. Before she left, she gave me a book on Greece, which I’m afraid is long gone. My mum much later told me that Anna was a prostitute although she was always seemed to be like a younger version of mum to me.

The bombed out St Thomas’ church on the corner of Kensal Road and West Row, about 1961.

The bombed out St Thomas’ church on the corner of Kensal Road and West Row, about 1961.

My mum did what most mums probably did and was a full time housewife. Of course, there was no washing machine, vacuum cleaner, fridge or even a dishwasher, so housework was definitely more labour intensive then and my mum probably had it easier than most as there was only me to look after until my brother was born in 1959.

Mum went shopping every day and the first stop was almost always Vic Martin’s shop. That photo at the top of Gwen’s blog could almost have been printed from my memory. I know that he was a serious stamp collector as he very generously gave me a large quantity of old British and Colonial stamps in a folder, which more than supplemented my meagre schoolboy level collection. He also gave me a few old Stanley Gibbons catalogues, which I pored over, cross referencing the stamps he had given me. My stamp collecting days gave way to other boyish pursuits and the catalogues are long gone but I still have those stamps. It was such a generous act that I often thought about why he would have done that and, although I will never know for sure, it’s possible that, as my father lived in Silesia before the war, where Vic Martin was interned as a POW, there was some kind of connection between them.

Holmes the baker was usually the next stop followed by the greengrocer further down Golborne Road on the right hand side and then Hamperl the butcher on the same side back towards the iron bridge. The Hamperls were German, which meant that, as well as the usual choices of meat, they sold smoked sausages and delicious liver sausage the like of which I haven’t tasted since. Chicken was a relatively expensive meat then and turkey almost unknown so chicken was always considered as a Christmas treat. One year on Christmas eve, my dad returned from shopping, as I guess there was some heavy lifting required, and said he was sure that we had the winning raffle ticket displayed in Hamperl’s window. Mum and dad hunted high and low for the raffle ticket and finally found it at the bottom of the kitchen bin, slightly crumpled and dad struggled home later with our prize 20lb turkey, which they had to cut the legs off to fit in the oven. I think we had turkey for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few days running that year.

There was an RSPCA surgery in a small parade of shops between our house and the junction with Golborne Road and a red phone box, which usually had a queue of people waiting their turn to press button A or B. I think everyone respected that people were waiting and each call never seemed to be long and, anyway, we could only ever call someone with a private phone so calls were limited to my mum’s parents and sister. A betting shop was opened later along the same parade and I’m sure they did good business next door to the Britannia, a light and dark green tiled pub that stood on the corner. It always seemed to be packed as I remember, if one of the doors was opened whenever I walked past, there was always a blast of noise mixed with the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke. I bet it was good in there.

Opposite number 89 stood a small chapel where I sometimes went to Sunday school, although I preferred the ABC Minors at the Prince of Wales in Great Western Road. Next to the chapel heading west was a large knitwear factory and next to that a Greek Cypriot barber where I had my haircut. Beyond the junction with Golborne Road, on the left, there were a number of small businesses operating, one of which pressed records. There were usually boxes of rejects outside, sometimes only rejected because they had the same label on both sides or the labels stuck on slightly off-centre. It was always a bit of a game to see how many records we could pick up and run off with before someone came out and tried to catch us. Actually, the best they could ever do was shout at us as we were always halfway down the road by then. I guess they needed them for recycling but the records were usually rubbish.

Further along Kensal Road, on the corner of the path leading to the Ha’penny Steps, was the old swimming baths, which was always freezing and smelt so strongly of chlorine, my eyes were almost watering before I got in. It wasn’t all bricks and tarmac as, at the junction of Kensal Road and West Row was, and still is, beautifully landscaped Emslie Horniman Pleasance, which was a favourite walk.

My mum and baby brother Chris in Emslie Horniman Pleasance, about 1961

My mum and baby brother Chris in Emslie Horniman Pleasance, about 1961







To be continued……..

Roger Rogowski 2015

Posted in Before the Westway, Golborne, Shops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments