Walmer Road – the day Hollywood star Bette Davis set foot on the streets of North Kensington – more recollections from John.

nan008At our weekly local history group in 2012, we were focusing on the area demolished for the building of Westway, in particular the section between Bramley Road and Latimer Road.

John who grew up on Walmer Road asked if any of us remembered seeing Bette Davis there.

“In the spring of 1965 Bette Davis came to Walmer Road to film a scene for ‘The Nanny’. I recall there being great excitement and my Mother wondering why on earth a scene from a Bette Davis film was being made in such a down at heel location. The reason for this became apparent later upon seeing the film.  At first, as the scene was being prepared I harboured hopes of being a child playing in the background but I was 16 and they wanted younger children and so my hopes of stardom were dashed!  They began filming around numbers 45-55 on the same side of the road as I lived (no77) but eventually shot the scene that appears in the film exactly opposite my house with Miss Davis walking past nos.60-68 which were adjacent to the particularly nefarious looking Silchester Mews (I loved it down there!). I recall the excitement rose to fever pitch when after hours, Miss Davis finally appeared – you could have heard a pin drop. She looked terrifying to me and I didn’t scare that easily!! I managed to take a photo of her with my Brownie camera which proved rather grainy and distant. Naturally when the film appeared amid much publicity I couldn’t wait to see it.”

During the following week, on the internet, we found the scenes as shown here on a website that identifies film locations.  However these particular scenes of Bette Davis visiting a run down house, where a woman has just had an abortion, remained unidentified. We watched the relevant section of the film (parts 8/9) which at that time you could find on Youtube.

nan009

“The proprietor was Fred Hannington, a nice gentle man and I watched him build a horsebox on a Rolls Royce chassis in that yard. Fred Hannington must have been the only man to specialise in breaking Rolls Royces and customers came from all over. One day a man pulled up in a nice yellow and black 1925 Doctors Coupe and asked if I knew where Hanningtons Breakers Yard was (there were no signs as you can see from the photograph) He was about 10 yards away. I told him if he gave me a ride in the Rolls I would show him where the yard was. I jumped in and took him up St.Helens Gardens around Oxford Gardens, up to the ‘Latimer’ and back down Walmer Road to where we started and pointed to the yard ! He saw the funny side.

Most (sane) people wouldn’t have dreamt of walking down the Mews – it smelt for a start and looked decidedly tricky – I practically lived there some days – all along the side following on from Fred’s Yard, were Totters stables where their horses were kept, so naturally there was always that horsey smell. I used to go in the stables when the horses were being fed and put to bed. It also served as a general dump, particularly the half mews which was obscured from view from Walmer Road – there were always TVs and radios being dumped and so I developed a nice little business stripping all the copper wire from them and selling to the scrap merchants. There were two or three in the immediate area. It was more lucrative than my earlier business trawling around streets collecting waste newspaper, which was heavy and much less valuable.

Also whilst in the area Ms Davis went to White City dogs – probably the same evening – had a meal in the restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed herself backing a dog called ‘I’M CRAZY’ which she thought appropriate (so do I!!) and got very excited and cheered it home all the way around the track until it crossed the line in front. She won £16 7 shillings and was delighted.
The above are all guaranteed facts and come from Bette herself.”

nan007

The location of the drab house next to a railway bridge proved more challenging. John initially thought that it was Blechynden Street. However I had sent the information to Maggie Tyler who runs the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group and former residents of Bramley Road identified the bridge scene as Lockton Street – a very small street that ran from Bramley Road opposite Latimer Road station and next to the Station Tavern. A photo of Lockton Street from the London Metropolitan Achives online photo archive revealed the same houses with steps and railings next to a bridge.

John made a positive identification of Walmer Road for the shots of Bette Davis walking along the street. The Robinson’s lorry is seen parked in Harrington’s Breakers Yard, on Silchester Mews, a favourite spot for John, prompting vivid recollections.

The following week, we ended up on Bramley Road next to the Station Tavern looking up at a railway arch that was once the bridge under which Lockton Street went. The road sign was even there, despite the fact that there was no street left!

Bramley Road,1972.RBKC LocalStudies

Bramley Road,1972.RBKC LocalStudies

What clinched it for us was the view through the bridge towards Bramley Road which Alan and John instantly remembered. A row of shops ending at the corner of Barandon Street and Bramley Road with Tomlin the Bakery. We had a good photo of the shops taken in 1972 that confirmed their memory. We had solved the puzzle. We are now just waiting for John to unearth his own photo of Bette Davis walking along Walmer Road! He is sure it exists somewhere!

Useful websites :

http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collage

www.reelstreets.com for identifying streets in films.

Sue Snyder and John Henwood

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Before the Westway, Streets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Walmer Road – the day Hollywood star Bette Davis set foot on the streets of North Kensington – more recollections from John.

  1. hi john did you have a schooter and have a mate whose name was roy taylor

  2. I lived at 11a Maxilla Gardens W10 (now Maxilla Walk; and The Westway!) from 1942 (with a break – being evacuated as a baby – to Devizes, Wiltshire) to about 1957. I then moved to Clarendon Road, W11. I have some photos and memories of the location, if anyone is interested – let me know.

    • Brian, Ths is Sue from the Blog writing. We would be particularly keen to see any photos of Maxilla Gardens or hear memories of Maxilla Gardens since there is not much info out there. Please send copies of photos (JPEGs) and memories to northkenstories@yahoo.co.uk and we could do a posting on Maxilla Gardens. Sue

  3. roger cowie says:

    My mum worked in a works cafeteria that I think was over by Latimer Road. I’m quite sure she called it John Halls. Any info on this? We lived on Runcorn Place in the 40’s & 50’s just off Walmer Road near Avondale Park.

  4. The last picture of the shops show Bramley Tyre supplies that was my dad’s Fred Hannington the Rolls Royce car breakers shop where we lived upstairs.

  5. roy james bursnell says:

    I lived with my parents in a house between the territorial army base and a small garage, 3 pumps very early sixties. don’t know hs no. builder used part of the yard for offices as it was detached

  6. robert walsh says:

    I lived at 14 Hurstway st, just off Bramley rd (Cummins/ Walshes)

  7. Babar says:

    Hello John,

    My family (Kirby) – dad Tommy

    Lived at 124 Walmer road.

    Opposite England Dairy

    Good times !

    Any photos greatly appreciated

    Warmest wishes

    Babar

  8. Maria Buckingham says:

    Hi Roger
    I lived at 66 Bramley Road between 1964 and 1969, above the Continental cafe. My parents Lino and Gina ran the cafe until the property was compulsorily purchased for redevelopment. I think that the white car in your photo is my dad’s Morris 11000.
    I remember the Hanningtons and I think Mrs Hannington also had a dress shop where my mum bought dresses for my sister and I.
    I also remember Eadie and George from the sweet shop where we would buy an almost daily sugar fix. There was Charlie the rag and bone man who came round on a horse and cart and his adult son Young Charlie.
    We played with the little girl who lived above the post office and less frequently with the girl and boy who lived above the pub. The infamous Begley family lived around the corner.
    I recall one day that other kids told us there was a famous actress in a car under the arches and we went to stare while one child got her autograph. Until now I never knew who the actress was! I don’t remember the name of the street on the other side of the arches but our waitress in the cafe, Bridget Maher lived in a slum tenement there until she and her family were rehoused by the council so that they could demolish the tenements to make way for the two tower blocks.
    There is lots I remember of my life there before we moved and those years were probably the happiest of my childhood. I have only been back once since then to show my children where I lived in London, so much has changed.
    I hope you find this of interest, I wonder if any one remembers my parents?
    Regards

    Maria (Ghisoni)

  9. john henwood says:

    Thanks Maria for your lovely memories. The street where Bette Davis was ‘under the arches’ was LOCKTON STREET which now virtually ceases to exist as it was largely incorporated into a recent development of flats…but the arches remain visible and intact. It’s immediately adjacent to ‘The Station Hotel’ (now the ‘Garden Bar’) at 41 Bramley Road. I remember well the ‘Continental Cafe’ on Bramley Road, but can’t recall anything particularly ‘continental’ about it!
    It is notable that almost every ex-resident of this area recalls fondly their time spent there despite the deprivation and harsh living conditions.

    With kind regards,

    John Henwood

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s