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.
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.
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 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.
Along West Row Dalyte engineering works also known as Deco occupied workshops on both sides of the street.
The photo below is of the workers from Dalyte (Deco) on West Row . It was sent to me by Helen Tilley.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or put them in a ‘comment’ below.
n.b For more photos of Southern Row go to Dave’s blog at Local Studies