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 , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 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 , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Record Shops around Portobello

North Kensington has always had musical connections.  From the Welsh and the Irish to the West Indians and the Hippies. All kinds of music found a home here.  So it is no surprise there were a lot of record shops. Especially in Portobello Road where some premises were record shops for over 20 years.

Let’s start at 202 Kensington Park Road.

Rough Trade,  202 Kensington Park Road.

Rough Trade, 202 Kensington Park Road.

This was the original Rough Trade shop,  founded in 1976 by Geoff Travis who conceived it as a record shop equivalent of San Francisco’s City Lights bookshop.  The shop was supposed to be in Willesden, but it became apparent that it would be a bit off the beaten track with not a lot of footfall. So his father helped him find this shop, which previously had been a Hippie ‘head’ and print shop. Rough Trade was synonymous with the DIY Punk ethic and everything that went with it like Xeroxed fanzines. Record shops are often one person’s idea, the result of someone having a vision for a shop and thinking – no-one else is selling the music I like or I can do better or I love/know the music. I have the connections to get the records or just have a surplus of records. Rough Trade belongs to this classic template for record shops.  It was very influential as it inspired a whole new generation of shops and ones carrying the range of music Rough Trade pioneered.

Though best known for Punk, in fact Rough Trade had a wide ranging, comprehensive, eclectic and cutting edge selection of music, including the latest Jamaican records. The African selection came from a bloke called Jumbo who lived down Oxford Gardens. He had his own label Earthworks and distributed current African music straight from Paris. The music from the African Francophone countries had been virtually unobtainable in this country because the African music here was music was from our colonies – Nigeria and Ghana.  Looking to get the latest from West Africa?  You had to go to either grocery shops in South London or Sterns at the rear of a radio repair shop in Tottenham Court Road.

Rough Trade was also a great social centre, one of those collisions of people coming together. You bumped into all kind of people there.  Upstairs is where some of the staff lived.  I got a feral kitten called Smiler from there.

That block of Kensington Park Road was totally different in the 1970s. There was a wall of corrugated iron sheets opposite where houses had been demolished.

Moving left round the corner into Blenheim Crescent, about where the Travel Bookshop was, there was a record shop selling Reggae and Soul.  I bought a classic of English Lovers rock – Louisa Marks’ Caught You In A Lie there. I cannot remember the shop’s name, there is no real information about it so it must have been pretty transitory.

2 Blenheim Crescent

The Family Dog shop, Blenheim Crescent, 1969. Photo RBK&C. Local Studies.

The Family Dog shop, Blenheim Crescent, 1969. Photo RBK&C. Local Studies.

This is one of our landmark shops.  It had been The Family Dog Shop, the first Hippie head shop in England. It closed in 1984 and two Bills – Bill Forsythe and Bill Anderson, a pair of record dealers who previously had operated by Mail Order opened up a shop there called Plastic Passion. They sold all kind of rarities, Bootlegs to 60’s Psychedelic rock, obscure US garage bands to Blues and R&B and collectors items.

The two Bills of Minus Zero and Stand Out

The two Bills of Minus Zero and Stand Out

However, in 1990 the two Bills fell out and split the shop down the middle. Bill F to the left, Bill A to the right, and renamed it Minus Zero and Stand Out.  They were still selling the music you were hard pushed to find anywhere else.  In 2010 they finally closed the shop. Bill Forsythe still sells records on a Saturday in Portobello at the Red Lion Arcade.

The building also had historical significance – upstairs was the offices for various parts of the alternative press including Frendz and the Whole Earth Catalogue. Also it was the haunt of local poet/playwright and the Frestonia character Heathcote Williams. Frestonia was the hippie breakaway state based round Freston Road inspired by the film Passport To Pimlico.

130 Talbot Road
rough tradeLets go over Portobello to the current Rough Trade Shop at 130 Talbot Road.  Vinyl is big business again, the successful record shops these days are the ones actually selling records. Vinyl, things you can hold and smell, the pungent odour of the solvent evaporating from the printing or the sharp tang of fresh pressed vinyl. And you can read the sleeve notes without using a magnifying glass. The shops selling old records have a distinctive smell of old dust as well.

In 1982 there was a split in Rough Trade between the label, distribution wings and the shop. The shop workers went independent and bought the shop out.  Now there are three Rough Trade shops – Talbot Road, Brick Lane and one in Brooklyn. They have managed to keep the open minded ethos of Rough Trade in their shops. Pete Donne, one of the original trio who bought the shop, now runs the Brick Lane shop, and went to Brooklyn to set that up shop to run the right way.  I still buy from Rough Trade. You want that pre Pol Pot Cambodian Psychedelic rock? It’s there.

We head west past by All Saints Church and left into Powis Gardens. All Saints Church Hall (now demolished) was the venue for early psychedelia – the Pink Floyd played there. Over into All Saints Road, to what used to be called the Frontline. Which was a centre for the black community based around the Mangrove Restaurant but also was the most policed street in Europe at one time.

11 All Saints Road
This is People’s Sounds record shop and has been here since the 1980’s run by very old hipster Daddy Vego, one of the Windrush generation.  North Ken as a West Indian area always featured quite a few record shops, but now People’s Sounds is the only Reggae shop left.

The other main Reggae shop was Dub Vendor, at first a hole in the wall under the railway bridge on Ladbroke Grove, and then a shop on the corner of Cambridge Gardens. But they closed down in 2008, with a change to digital in the Jamaican music and the Congestion Charge was the nail in the coffin for them.

If you look above the door to People’s Sounds they have a heavy duty waterproof electrical socket to power their Sound System at Carnival.  They are surviving, they sell records online and in the summer have tourists in the know coming to buy.  They have a really comprehensive selection of music of interest to Jamaicans (and others).

Vinyl was crucial in the Reggae world and is still revered and held in high regards by the purists.  7 inch pre’s or pre releases were the standard musical form in Jamaica – LP’s were a luxury. The 7 inch was also the currency for the Sound Systems wanting the latest tune to rock the crowd. The fresh 7’s were airfreighted into England weekly. By Thursday they were in the shops.  Friday the serious buyers came out, pockets full of wages. You stood there in a tight crush, when someone completed their shopping and moved out, everybody shuffled forward.  You attracted the attention of the person behind the counter with a sign that you wanted that record. It could be a nod or finger pointed or a eyebrow twitched and that record joined your pile on the counter.

Walking down St Luke’s Mews and into Basing Street, past the Basing Street Studios where so much great music was recorded and left into Lancaster Road and then left into Portobello.

236 Portobello Road
In the early 80’s this was a record shop called Sounds, a popular black music shop selling soul/funk/jazz. Stocking whatever the local passing trade wanted. But it went the way of many local record shops and succumbed to the prevailing wind of internet retailers, bootlegging and downloads. In the 70’s it had been an adjunct of the Family Dog shop.

Historically it was an interesting shop. In the 60’s it was called Etcetera. An early vintage clothing shop that could possibly have predated ‘I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet’. Etcetera was run by Anne Valery. Anne was an ex Rank Starlet, she was in Kind Hearts and Coronets and got swept over the weir with the first of the Alec Guinness characters.  But she is best known for her TV screenwriting Angels and Tenko. She told me she used to go to France to get WW1 German Leather Coats.

230 Portobello Rd
Musicland was an important chain of shops.  In the 70’s, it was renowned for the imports stocked. Local musician and freak Mick Farren talked about a bloke who worked there called Simon who hipped him to the first MC5 album.  Musicland was where you could find the latest US releases like Frank Zappa, Velvet Underground and the West Coast psychedelic releases  (Simon Stable later had his own record store at 297 Portobello).

Musicland was a big player in the independent record shop world. They had a number of shops through out London, including their West End shop in Berwick St where a chap called Reg Dwight later to be Elton John worked.

Musicland was owned by Windrush generation immigrants the Ali Family and Lee Gophal.  Lee had started with a stall on Portobello selling the latest Jamaican records. In 1968 he sold out his stake in Musicland to create Trojan Records along with Chris Blackwell. Lee was also Blackwells landlord in Neasden Lane where Lee had a label called B&C. Later 230 became a shop called Music Scene an amalgam of Musicland and Scene and Heard.

Over the road to 231 Portobello Road
This had been an Indian textile shop called Hindukush till 1988 when Vinyl Solution took over. Vinyl Solution started as a record shop in Hereford Road W2, buying and selling secondhand records, but moved into the new electro music.  They had a record label based at the shop.  In 1995 it became Intoxica,  which was decorated in Hawaiian Tiki Style, in quite deliberately bad taste.

Intoxica, 231 Portobello Road.

Intoxica, 231 Portobello Road.

It sold secondhand and collector records, it had an easy listening rack, original, pristine Bert Kampherts, not exactly cheap but a bargain compared to the £600 rare records on the wall. It sold every kind of obscure music, from soundtracks to surf music.




245 Portobello Road has an illustrious history. In 1974 it was bought by the Ali family to be turned into a Musicland shop.  According to Jim Ali (S.W Ali’s son) it actually became Jolly Jester run by him and his brother in law Ken Weston. Then became the Klik Reggae label and shop run bAll Ears Scany an ex Trojan staffer Joe Sinclair.  You could find dj/artists like Tappa Zukki and Dillinger hanging out outside when they were signed to the label.  It then became Bargain Records run by Jim and Tom Skinner. It changed its name to All Ears run by Larry Sevitt, if you were an overseas visitor you could ring up All Ears with an order and they would deliver to your hotel.  It returned to Bargain records, then Knockout Records both run by Ken Weston and Tom Skinner and then Westside Records  run by Jim Ali and the aptly named John The Record.  It returned to Bargain Records before becoming Bargain Music and finally closing in 1992. 

On the corner of Lancaster Road in the 70’s, local Boom Baby author Brian Nevill had a stall in the basement selling Bootlegs and stuff. During the 80’s and 90’s it was Culture Shack, run by Danny and Derek. It had stalls selling records, and a barbershop.

297 Portobello Road

Further up past the Westway is 297 Portobello another important address with a long lineage of record shops.  In the 60’s it was Melody Records selling Jamaican music, then it was part of Lee Ghopals’ Musik City chain. Also here was Simons Stable, Shakedown, Young Blood and Johnny Dickens Oldies Shop. It ended it’s musical life as the Jamaica Sounds label and shop.

Music City Portobello Rd W side neg4717 KS542 #295-297 (17-7-70)This one block between Oxford and Cambridge Gardens has major historical significance. There were seminal clothes shops like I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet and Forbidden Fruit.  Designer Barney Bubbles (Hawkwind) and the Back Ah Yard Caribbean restaurant plus the Black People’s Information Centre.  Also it was a hotbed of the alternative press like International Times and Frendz.

278 Portobello

Honest Jon's, 278  Portobello Road.

Honest Jon’s, 278 Portobello Road.

Honest Jon’s is an institution and has been at 278 Portobello for 32 years.  It started originally by Jon Clare in an arcade at 93 Golborne Rd selling 50’s jump jive, Blues and Jazz. Then in 1974 moved over the road to 76 Golborne Rd.  He briefly moved to Camden before returning to the area in 1982.  They sell a vast range of music. You want the latest Ethiopian re-release or Jazz, Reggae or Soul?  They have it.  They also stock the latest dj must have 12”s.

In the 80/90s Honest Jon’s had a record label called Bopicity which put out contemporary music from London jazz bands like drummer Tommy Chase. Now they have a new label Honest Jon’s Records which has access to the vast EMI catalogue and has delved into Calypso with the London Is The Place For Me series, along side vintage West African. But they also put out left field, oddball releases and anything that takes their fancy. Honest Jon was a dapper Jazz and Be-bop fan who was also a therapist and psychotherapist,  which some of us would suggest are good skills to have in dealing with record shop customers. Jon retired to paint and write in Wales. Long term staffers Mark and Alan bought it out and now run Honest Jon’s.

The genie is most certainly out of the bottle for record shops and we can never go back to the old days and the way record shops were. But there are some vinyl oasis’s in the desert of downloads. And they are continuing to serve up what people need and want. Just look at the queues outside Rough Trade on record shop day.

Dave Hucker, 2015  

Posted in Shops, Streets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Memories of Schooldays in Lancaster Road – Part 2

Harvey recalls Solomon Wolfson Jewish Primary School.



Harvey's older brother.

Harvey’s older brother.

I attended the Solomon Wolfson Jewish Primary School in Lancaster Road, W11 from September 1951, aged 4 1/2 until July 1958 aged 11 1/2.

There were two entrance gates to the school on Lancaster Road, one marked as “Boys” and the other as “Girls and Infants”.  Both opened onto the boys’ playground at the front of the school where the foundation stone was set into the wall, with the girls’ playground to the left side of the building and the infants’ play area at the rear. A wooden gate up two steps separated the infants’ playground from the girls’ part and was monitored  by different ladies on a rota, two of whose names I recall as Mrs Munday and Mrs Stanton. Both play areas had toilet blocks and rain shelters.

On the ground floor were four classrooms, the Infants’ classes, a cloakroom and toilet/washroom at each end, a staff room, the Mr Drake the caretaker’s room and the assembly hall. Five classrooms on the first floor were for the Juniors. This floor also with cloakrooms and washrooms at each end, housed the headmaster’s office and a staff room. A staircase at each end of the building via a lobbied area connected the two floors. Halfway between the two floors were landings with small rooms used for storage, with one room set aside for medical purposes. Meal facilities were at the top of the building with the food preparation kitchens and dining room separated by an open flat topped roof (this area later enclosed with further building development).

My teacher for the first two years was Miss Levy, who I recall was a very kindly lady liked by everyone. Although we moved into the next classroom for the second year it was nice that she stayed with us. This was in stark contrast to the teacher my brother who started two years earlier, a Miss Starr. She had a reputation for always shouting at the children so I was relieved at never encountering her.

The Head Teacher for my first year only was Mr Daniel Mendoza, a much loved grand-fatherly figure who had held the post for many years, but was retiring. He continued his link with the school through running a summer holiday camp with his wife at Seaford. Although my parents could not afford to send us, I did go one year on the basis of my mother going as a helper.

Mr Mendoza’s successor, Mr Somper, was, by contrast, very strict and authoritarian and held the post until he retired some years after I left the school. Apart from his disciplinarian regime, which included not ‘sparing the rod’, what was most memorable about him was the strong smell of tobacco emanating from his office, as he often smoked a pipe. When the door was open it often looked foggy inside – pity his unfortunate secretary Miss Cruickshank! The Deputy Head, Mr Shenfield was also a form master in one of the upstairs classes.

My second teacher, Miss Gotleib, noticeably younger than Miss Levy, taught my class for the next two years, eventually leaving to get married and to live in Israel.  It was with  her that I received my first ever award, a book, as a prize for progress at the end of my second year. One other teacher I recall from the infant classes who took us sometimes was Miss Baxter was for some reason was known as ‘The Sugar Plum Fairy”.

After four years of infant classes on the ground floor, it felt strange to move upstairs for the next three years and not to be able to use the infants’ playground. Being of the post-war ‘baby boom’  generation, my year was at this stage divided into two classes. One half went to Classroom 5 under Mr Rodney, while my half went to Classroom 4 under Mrs Ruth Walker, who remained our class teacher for both this and the following two years. For the second and third years we moved to Classroom 2 while the other half went first to Classroom 3 under My Jay and then Classroom 1 under Mr Lipschitz.

In contrast to infant classes where our class teacher taught us most subjects, we now had various teachers. Mrs Walker took us for English reading and writing, Nature Study and Music. Mr Rodney for Mathematics, Mr Jay for History, Geography and P.E and Mr Lipschitz for Religious Instruction.

Being a Jewish Primary School, religious teaching was of the Old Testament and reading and writing in Hebrew. Additional classes for this were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school hours and were taken by the Rabbi and senior members from the Notting Hill Synagogue. Separate religious instruction was held for non-jewish pupils.

Unlike the Infants’ playground, pupils were allowed to leave the premises in the main midday lunch period, usually to go to the local shops. One such was a small transport cafe in Ladbroke Grove next door to Barclay’s bank, another sweet shop on St Mark’s Road in a small parade of shops between the railway bridge and Rillington Place. Also popular was a gob-stopper machine outside the newsagent/post office in Ladbroke Grove. The Royalty Cinema immediately next door to the school was always of interest as it was where many would attend Saturday morning Minors matinee (TV not yet being a regular part of our lives).

Lancaster Road looking west from Ladbroke Grove, 1970. photo RBKC.

Lancaster Road looking west from Ladbroke Grove, 1970. photo RBKC.

Although school life was normally unaffected by outside events, there were occasions which had some bearing, two such in 1953. Firstly, the aftermath of bodies discovered in nearby Rillington Place and the police hunt for John Christie meant that school gates were kept closed and strictly monitored with no children allowed out unless accompanied. I remember walking by Rillington Place with my mother and brother on our way to school and seeing crowds of people looking down the dead end turning at the police activity. We heard a woman exclaim “Look, they’re bringing out another body!” At playtime, some of the boys including myself would try to scare the girls by saying “Don’t go to the toilets! Christie’s in there!” Needless to say we were proved wrong.

Secondly, in June 1953, on the occasion of the Queen’s Coronation, those living on the route of her tour through West London and especially North Kensington, were allowed the day off school. Living in St Quintin Avenue, my brother and I were among those lucky ones and clearly remember her waving at the crowds as her car passed our house. One of our grandmothers, then living with us, was seated on the pavement and thought the Queen had come especially to see her.

It was under my time with Mrs Walker at about the age of 8, that my love for gardening was sparked off,  As part of Nature Study we were encouraged to bring a pot plant to the classroom and look after it, taking it home for school holidays and bringing it back when School resumed. My choice of plant was a Geranium. In addition, we were given seeds to grow such as Nasturtiums, with bonus class points for the best tended ones. Best of all was the Daffodil competition run for schools by the London Flower Lovers’ League. Participants were given bulbs to grow on however they wished, for judging in the Spring, the best entries being awarded a 1st Class certificate featuring a colour picture of a bunch of daffodils; second class certificates were identical but in black and white. I still treasure my colour certificate.

My final day at Solomon Wolfson was very memorable as many were fraught with sadness at parting with friends we had made maybe to never see again. We were particularly sad to say good-bye to Mrs Walker as she had nurtured us as part of a big family for 3 years. Those who went on the same schools would at least continue some of their friendships but inevitably others would lose contact as they mad new acquaintances.

I continued to visit the school as did others, to see our old teachers until such a time as when they had left or retired. Mrs Walker was always very enthusiastic to hear of my career progress at Kew Gardens, which she lived not far from and had visited many times. Those Nature Study classes had certainly borne fruit!
Prior to the school closing there was a big reunion in 1981 at which I met some of my former classmates and some teachers namely Mr Jay and Mr Lipschitz. On display was the book showing the date every pupil had entered the school. Presentations were made on the stage of the Assembly hall with three headmasters, Mr Mendoza, Mrs Somper and his successor and current headmaster Mr Bond all seated together. They all made memorable speeches about their time in office. This would be the last time I saw them.

At this stage, my niece and nephew had been pupils at the school for several years and would move to the new premises in North London. My father having retired in 1973, was a lollipop man on the Lancaster Road/St Mark’s Road pedestrian crossings and took a delight in seeing his grandchildren arrive and depart on the school coach. By now most pupils came from much further afield due to a shift in the population in North Kensington, probably a major factor in the school’s eventual closure.

Harvey Groffman 2014.

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Memories of Schooldays in Lancaster Road – Part 1

In September 2014 two new schools opened in North Kensington. Kensington Aldridge Academy is a secondary school in a brand new building on Silchester Road at the far western end of Lancaster Road. The second school to open was the privately run Chepstow House School, which is located at the other end of Lancaster Road near Portobello Road in a building that has been in educational use since Victorian times. Since many schools have come and gone along Lancaster Road we thought we would recall them.

Portobello Road School by Sue Snyder

Old entrance to Portobello Road School - infants and girls. Photo taken in 1995

Old entrance to Portobello Road School – infants and girls. Photo taken in 1995

Isaac Newton Centre 2010. Originally the boys' entrance for Portobello Road School, and now Chepstow House, a private school.

Isaac Newton Centre 2010. Originally the boys’ entrance for Portobello Road School, and now Chepstow House, a private school.

One of the first board schools to be built in 1876 in North Kensington was Portobello Road School (now Chepstow House school). The building runs behind the houses on Lancaster Road towards Portobello Road with entrances on both roads. The best view of the two-storey building is probably from the train as it leaves Ladbroke Grove going towards Westbourne Park station.

My mother, Mary Horwood, born in 1913, attended Portobello Road School from the age of 5. It catered for children up to the age of thirteen, although my mother succeeded in transferring at aged 11 to North Kensington Central School on St Mark’s Road opposite Kensington Memorial Park (see separate posting). The entrance on Portobello Road was for infants and girls while the boys entered on Lancaster Road. She described to me how there was an upstairs flat over one of the entrances that was used for training the girls in ‘household” skills such as polishing the fireplace brass and black leading a stove.

After WW2, North Kensington Central School moved from St Mark’s Road to the Portobello Road School building.


Lancaster Road School by Jean Parker

Ladbroke Lower School for Girls in 1970, formerly Lancaster Road School. photo RBKC.

Ladbroke Lower School for Girls in 1970, formerly Lancaster Road School. photo RBKC.

I started at Lancaster Road School in September 1939 when I was four and a half years old. The infants were based on the ground floor with the junior boys and girls on the first floor and the senior boys on the second floor. The senior boys’ playground was on the roof and the infants’ entrance was in St.Mark’s Road. The senior girls went to St Quintin’s School in St Mark’s Road near to Kensington Memorial Park.

Each morning, assembly was held in the hall which was also used for dancing and singing. I remember that my first teacher was called Miss Doncaster and our lessons were simple, just learning to read, write and count. We used a slate tile and chalk. There was no paper or pencils. We had small wooden boxes to store our things and these were kept under our chairs. As war progressed, teachers were in short supply so sometimes we only went to school for half a day.

The Junior lessons were more serious. We had proper writing desks with lids that lifted up so there was space to store our books, paper, pens and pencils These desks had to be kept tidy and we opened the lids every morning for the teacher’s inspection. In my third year I became ink monitor which meant keeping all the inkwells in my class filled. In those days pupils stayed in their classrooms for all lessons while the teachers went from class to class.

I had a happy childhood and Lancaster Road was a big part of it.


Lancaster Road in the 1950s recalled by Mick Kasmir.

Part of the Isaac Newton Centre in  2010, formerly Isaac Newton Boys School.  Photo Sue Snyder.

Part of the Isaac Newton Centre in 2010, formerly Isaac Newton Boys School. Photo Sue Snyder.

When I was at school there were three schools in Lancaster Road. One being North Kensington Central School, which became Isaac Newton Secondary School (and is now coming to the end of its recent incarnation as Isaac Newton Professional Development Centre). It had an entrance in Lancaster Road and one in Portobello Road (which is now The Garden Cafe). The school was mixed and fairly small.

Further down Lancaster Road and across Ladbroke Grove there was Solomon Wolfson Jewish School, a mixed primary school that sat upon the site now occupied by The Lighthouse. Next door to this school was a secondary school named, appropriately enough, Lancaster Road Secondary School, now occupied by the Virgin Gym. This school was quite big, and from what I remember, boys only. It was also quite rough.

Solomon Wolfson School, 1970. Photo RBKC local studies.

Solomon Wolfson School, 1970. Photo RBKC local studies.

Because my stepfather was Jewish (he came with his family from Russia to escape the pogroms when he was a boy), he sent my sister and me to Solomon Wolfson. Also it was near to where we lived in Lancaster Road. Apart from Maths and English, the curriculum seemed to consist of writing, painting, clay modelling, growing plants and even knitting! Boys as well as girls! We also learnt some Hebrew, and in the winter we could all leave early on Fridays to get back home before it got dark so we could celebrate Shabat (Sabbath).

Next door to the school was a cinema, The Royalty, where one could play around the back, and sometimes even get inside the cinema. On the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road there was the Children’s Library (which is still there), where I discovered more literature than both schools put together!

Royalty Cinema, Lancaster Road with Solomon Wolfson to the far right, 1970. Photo RBKC.

Royalty Cinema, Lancaster Road with Solomon Wolfson to the far right, 1970. Photo RBKC.

After Solomon Wolfson I went to North Ken Central School which was a Technical school teaching technical drawing, woodwork, metalwork, art and science. My last year, 1959, took place in Wornington Road, when both buildings became Isaac Newton boys Secondary School. And pupils who wanted to take ‘A’ levels had to transfer to Holland Park School, which had just opened in 1958. Isaac Newton finally closed in the late 1970s. I think my science teacher Mr Carter later became the head of Isaac Newton School.

Next door to the Portobello entrance was a really good pie and mash shop that later became Ceres Wholefoods (and now The Grain Shop).

Solomon Wolfson by Pat Kasmir

Before moving to Lancaster Road we lived in Hammersmith and I went to St.Paul’s primary school on Hammersmith Broadway. Then when we moved to Lancaster Road our parents sent both my brother and me to Solomon Wolfson in Lancaster Road, as it was local. This was in 1947.

Although my brother and I were not Jewish (my step father was) and we were Church of England, we attended the Jewish assembly and learnt some Hebrew and the Old Testament. It was a mixed school and had other faiths attending. A nun would come into the school to take the non-Jewish students for their assembly.

I really enjoyed my time there. I was very happy and made lots of friends. I can remember that we had plays and celebrations on the stage in the school hall, we had prize giving and we were taught the usual primary subjects – Maths, English, Art etc.

We used to go out at lunchtime to a sweet shop around the corner in Ladbroke Grove (could be Winkworths Estate Agency now) using our weekly sweet coupons and 5penny a week pocket money. I would imagine this would only be once a week probably on a Monday payday.

There was also another school next door to Solomon Wolfson, which I remember as Lancaster Road Boys School (where Virgin Gym is now). It was a much more rough school and I remember being really frightened walking back to my house on my own as the boys were really quite threatening.

In later years, I believe it became a girls’ secondary modern called Ladbroke Lower School and eventually amalgamated with Holland Park School in the early eighties.

I was very unhappy when I had to leave and go to Secondary school, which was Mary Boon in Shepherds Bush (which by the way I really enjoyed also)

When I moved onto Secondary school, Mary Boon in Shepherds Bush, one day a week we had Housewifery or Cooking on alternate weeks. For the housewifery we came back to Lancaster Road to the Campden Institute. They had a flat on the top floor where we were taught to change the beds, hoover the floors, do the washing and the ironing. It was good fun and I never forgot these elementary rules.

n.b. Campden Institute (now Notting Hill Prep School, is on Lancaster Road next to the Library). There is more information on the Campden Institute on a separate blog posting.


Solomon Wolfson in the early 1950s,  Rachelle Stock

I was there from about 1950-54 from five till nine years old, when we moved to Tottenham.

We lived along the Uxbridge Road, so my journey was from Shepherds Bush train station to Ladbroke Grove station. Few people from the working class Jewish immigrant population had cars, well, few people had cars full stop, hence the train journey. There was a group of us including my older brother accompanied by various adults. The walk from the station along Ladbroke Grove round the corner to Lancaster Road was exciting because we often came across chickens that we could chase. They were wandering around the entrance of the alley just along from the station.

The headmaster at the time was Mr Mendoza (a lovely gentle man) and if I remember rightly my teacher or one of them was Mr Lipchitz, a memorable name…….. a chalk throwing, tall, tweed-jacketed scary man. We had large coal stoves in the classrooms, probably the norm in most schools at that time. The highlight of my days was playing marbles in the drains. I was quite the champion and had a tin full of my winnings….If it had been raining before playtime all the better as the coloured glass sparkled like treasure nestling in the drain cover holes. Not saying much for my early education.

Around this time, 1952, Christie was committing his murders and we used to go round the corner to Rillington Place, probably on the way home accompanied by adults since I can’t think we were let out during lunchtime – to see the police activity, lots of digging going on. Fascinatingly gruesome for small children. The film 10 Rillington Place, with Richard Attenborough at his finest brings it startlingly back.

I had a ‘boyfriend’, the first, called David Rose. Strange how I remember that I can still recall him kissing me and the smell of his breath. ..yuk. The worst part of that early education was the way we learned the days of the week and months of the year with charts for days drawn as oblong boxes running from right to left (the Hebrew way) starting with Saturday ( Saturday yellow, Sunday red) and finishing with Friday. Forever my image of a week will be seen that way. For the year a circle divided into 12 segments, each segment a month again. I can’t think of the year without that image. I find that extremely annoying!

I left the school because we moved away and I took my 11+ elsewhere.


Solomon Wolfson class, 1960s.

Solomon Wolfson class, 1960s.

Solomon Wolfson class in 1965.

Solomon Wolfson class in 1965.

Samuel Wolfson School finally closed in 1981 reflecting the reduced size the jewish community in Notting Hill who were moving on and out of the area.

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Lancaster Road Baths – Recollections from the 50s and 60s

The new secondary school for the north of the borough, the Kensington Aldridge Academy is due to open this September. It is being built on Silchester Road on the site of the Lancaster Road Baths that were finally demolished in 1979.

Lancaster Road Baths on the corner of Lancaster Road and Silchester Road, c.1900. photo: RBK&C

Lancaster Road Baths on the corner of Lancaster Road and Silchester Road, c.1900. photo: RBK&C

Foreword: The Baths finally opened in 1878 after the Kensington High Street based Vestry Hall (forerunner of today’s borough council) had been slow to react to the 1846 Act for the provision of baths and washhouses. This Act recognised the need for public washing facilities to be made readily available in those poor areas where such facilities were not present in the dwellings.  Paddington, Hammersmith and Chelsea all had public baths by the time the search begun in 1877 for a suitable site for Notting Dale.  It is unlikely that the promulgators of the 1846 Act could have envisaged what a vibrant lively social hub Lancaster Road baths would become.

Lancaster Road looking west from the crossroads with the Lancaster Baths (washhouse entrances) on the right hand side, 1970s. photo: RBKC

Lancaster Road looking west from the crossroads with the Lancaster Baths (washhouse entrances) on the right hand side, 1970s. photo: RBKC

My memories:
The baths consisted of 3 strands: 1) the public laundry part which was accessed at the Eastern end of the building fronting Lancaster Road. 2) the swimming baths, and 3) the washing baths both of which were accessed by the main entrance on Silchester Road. Built as a perceived necessity the whole would become an amenity in counterpoint with social intercourse and entertainment.

I never went inside the clothes washing part but recall seeing queues of women forming on Monday mornings waiting for the baths to open at 8am. I used to peer in as I walked past and it always looked a hive of activity.   Also it always seemed full of steam making seeing inside difficult. My mother told me Alan Mullery’s mother was invariably up the front of Mondays’ queue.

interior of Lancaster road Laundry. early 1970s.

Interior of Lancaster Road Laundry. early 1970s.

There were four swimming pools; 1) The main pool, 2) Men’s 2nd class. 3) Men’s 3rd class. 4) Women’s pool.

The main pool was I think Olympic size – the galas were held there and at the shallow end was a raised wooden slatted dais across the width of the pool from where the races were started.  At the deep end were diving boards in the centre and a springboard alongside. Around the perimeter were changing cubicles and there were more around the gallery above which also doubled as a spectator facility when there was a gala. It was mixed all the time I went there but had originally been male only.

The main pool. An early photo when it was male only.

The main pool. An early photo when it was male only.

The men’s 2nd class was smaller and had cubicles at poolside level only. There was a diving board I recall but not as elaborate as the main pool
The Men’s 3rd class was slightly smaller again than the 2nd Class and swimming costumes weren’t obligatory, the rationale being that if you couldn’t afford one you weren’t excluded. I don’t think there was a diving board in the 3rd.

Occasionally, to be nosey I poked my head around the door of the Women’s pool and it was always quiet seeming civilised and serene, a world away from the frenetic not to say hooligan activity in the other pools

I first went to the baths in 1955 aged about 7 with my Mother, herself a good swimmer, who taught me to swim there in the shallow end of the main pool.  I  went regularly thereafter and around a year later I went there from Oxford Gardens with our class where our teacher Leslie Barrett taught the entire class to swim in a morning in the men’s 3rd class.  He used cork floats about 2ft x 1ft which you held out in front of you keeping you afloat while you kicked your legs out behind you. This quickly dispelled fear of sinking or drowning.  As I could already swim I demonstrated the cork float routine and gave confidence to those who held fears. He had a phenomenal success rate and after a couple of mornings almost all the class could swim.

Later in 1959 when I was 11 I swam breast stroke for Oxford Gardens in the Annual Kensington Schools Gala making it to the Final. As I hit the water in that final I recall the noise from the spectators being really deafeningly loud – the place was packed to the rafters –  but sadly it didn’t propel me to the medal despite my older cousin Wendy (Darke) screaming at me at the top of her voice to go faster. Trust me Wendy, I was going as fast as I could.  I remember Kenny Bloomfield, Peter Parry and Philip Burton in my year being excellent swimmers and I think Kenny won the freestyle final.
I used all three pools in my time but when I was younger we would all go in the 3rd where we didn’t wear costumes and as it was mainly youngsters we could scream and shout our heads off to our hearts content and the attendants were usually tolerant of our antics.  I used to go in the 2nd occasionally but not much as it seemed a waste of money being twice the cost of the 3rd without obvious advantages though it was slightly bigger and had a diving board. The 3rd was 2d admission (.8p) the 2nd was 4d (1.6p) and the main pool was 8d (3.4p). When we had changed I was always ravenously hungry and we made for the cafe inside which was (very) basic – just a small room about 15ft square with a counter at the far end and some tables and chairs.  They sold bread and dripping and bread and jam both at 1d (.4p) a slice and I would have 3 bread and dripping and 3 bread and jam and a tea (2d, .8p).  If things were ropey it would be 1 or 2 of each and no tea. Opposite the entrance to the baths was a confectioner so if I had any money left I would buy some sweets as well.  I don’t think modern nutritionists would categorise this as a healthy diet however it couldn’t have been that harmful as I’ve survived to tell the tale.

As we got a bit older, around 13-14, we gravitated to the main pool which did have advantages –it was much bigger with the best diving boards and a springboard and all the older budding  ‘Johnny Weissmuller’ jack the lads went in there so we felt grown up and part of the adult scene….oh, and I nearly forgot there were girls there too who we could try to impress … if you call jumping on top of them and nearly drowning them impressing them.  I doubt any of them mistook me for Errol Flynn let alone David Niven.  These shenanigans bring me to the ‘Camp Commandant’ of the main pool – Freddy Bloomfield (may have been related to Kenny) who lived in Bramley Road between the junctions with Silchester Road and Walmer Road along from Bell Wilson the Chemist. We were all a bit wild – I suppose these days we’d be called feral and it therefore fell to Freddy to keep order. They couldn’t possibly have found a better candidate. He was a typical tough local and knew everyone. I think he’d been a boxer in his younger days.  He sat on a chair at the far (deep) end between the diving boards and the pool entrance and wore a vest, old trousers rolled up at the bottom and around his neck hung a referees whistle on a lanyard.  When he considered you’d been in the pool long enough – around an hour or so – he would approach, blow his whistle loudly, point at you and shout ‘OUT!’ Upon this command I would swim underwater away from him as fast as possible as if I hadn’t heard him. Of course I wasn’t fooling anyone but he appreciated boys will be boys and would give you another 5 minutes or so before repeating his ‘polite’ request. If you ignored the second warning he would wait for you to come to the side, take the lanyard from around his neck and with a good swing clump you on the back with the whistle. You got out then! And a bit lively too!! Similarly if you ran along the side or jumped on someone in the pool or otherwise acted foolishly he would soon let you know that wouldn’t be tolerated. If you persisted the whistle and lanyard would prove an efficient deterrent.   He didn’t have any difficulty with the older lads either who all respected him – they all knew he was ‘the guvnor’ and it wouldn’t be sensible to get too lairy with him. He let them have their fun to a point but if they overstepped the mark he left them in no doubt they were playing to his rule book.   Looking back it could have been chaos without him. When he wasn’t working he would often sit outside his house in Bramley Road surveying the scene. He was a real character and there was a great atmosphere in the main pool which could often get busy with a wide age range of users but he kept order effortlessly.

The Washing baths were a social hub as well as providing an essential amenity and there were Men’s 1st class and 2nd class baths and the same for Women. In the 1st you had your own taps and a towel; in the 2nd the attendant filled the bath and you brought your own towel. Friday and Saturday were busiest and there would be a great atmosphere in the 2nds’ where all the local jack the lads would congregate prior to their weekend night out.  I must mention at this point that the houses in Notting Dale almost without exception had no hot water or bathroom – just one cold tap in the scullery (a basic kitchen/washing room) to serve all needs so hence the washing baths provided an essential facility. When I was younger my mother would fill a small galvanised tin bath about 2 ft. long with hot water which involved repeatedly boiling the water in a kettle on the gas stove in the scullery. The bath was placed on the  floor in the scullery and it would take several kettles full to fill it. Then I would squeeze in with my legs up under my chin and once a week that was how I had a bath. And in the winter the scullery was freezing as it had no heating so you didn’t hang around in it too long.  We did have a longer bath about the same size as a normal domestic one but it took so long to fill with the boiled kettles that by the time it was 6 inches deep the first kettle full had gone cold so it was impractical. When I was about 11, I had outgrown the 2ft bath and from thereon went to the 2nd class baths.   After buying your ticket you would make your way to the baths and if it was Friday or Saturday around 5-6pm the cubicles, which ran either side of a central corridor, would all be occupied.  At that time of day most customers were in the 17 /35 age bracket and you would sit waiting your turn on a wooden bench arrangement that ran along one wall facing the entrance to the corridor. Whilst you waited there would be plenty of chat about that day’s football/horse racing etc. along with discussions concerning plans for that evenings activities.  Meanwhile in the baths the singers would be providing a free show for all – there would be a ‘Guy Mitchell’ followed by a ‘Michael Holliday’ and a ‘Tommy Steele’ then maybe a ‘ Mario Lanza’ or ‘Billy Eckstein’ –the standard would be at least decent and if someone was particularly good they might be shouted to for an encore and as generally everyone knew each other one or two requests might be shouted for. Remember this was all taking place while each bather was in his own cubicle so you couldn’t actually see the performer – just hear them.  I think this was a unique form of entertainment and I can think of no other situation like it. I never thought about it like that at the time  – that was just the way things were – but now I reflect on how lucky I was to have been there instead of looking at four walls at home in a domestic bathroom like most people– it was fun and entertaining and you got to meet your pals there too.  When your turn came you would go into the vacated cubicle and the attendant would fill the bath using the big brass valve which was mounted on the wall outside each cubicle. He had a big metal spanner thing which he used to turn on the water –a bit like a ratchet and socket – and it would fill the bath at a rate of knots as they were fitted with wide tap heads to accommodate the high rate of flow. When it was filled you jumped in and off you went. The baths were fitted along one side of the cubicle and all around the rim of the bath was a well worn wooden capping – a Victorian nod to Health and Safety, though living in W.10 at that time there were a lot more hazardous situations than getting in and out of a bath.   The cubicles were numbered and if the water cooled, you would shout ‘More hot in 26’ and the attendant would (in his own time) come and put more hot in prefacing it with a shout of ‘Watch yer toes its comin’ in’. This was advisable as the water was very hot and if you had your feet planted under the wide tap head they would be scalded.  Of course if you were 11 or12 and you shouted (in an unbroken voice) ‘More hot in 26’ your cry would simply be ignored as there were men waiting and the attendant didn’t want youngsters spending too long in there.  If you shouted a second time that request would also be ignored and might earn a sharp word of encouragement from the attendant to vacate. You soon got the message. Naturally as I got older and the attendants got to know you they would extend the adult privileges. When you had finished and opened the cubicle door almost before you were out the attendant would set about cleaning it.  He had a round galvanised receptacle – like a football cut in half in size and shape – which was filled with soap. This was mounted on a wooden handle about 2ft long. The soap was applied with a big wooden brush also mounted on a long handle.  He would have the bath cleaned and ready for the next customer in about 2 minutes.    The whole thing was efficiency personified – no technology needed at Lancaster Road Baths!!   Later when I was about 17 I would sometimes go in the first class to experience the luxury of your own taps (ha ha) but there was no atmosphere and entertainment like the 2nds’ which were different class and I quickly returned.

Looking back we had the Victorians to thank for providing a necessary and valuable amenity however due to the character of the customers it became much more, providing a social meeting place, entertainment and fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

John Henwood, 2014

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Golborne before Trellick Tower, part 2. More memories of the 1950s and 1960s from Gwen Nelson

OS map 1935 of Golborne Road north east of the iron railway bridge towards Kensal Road. All the buildings shown were demolished. Trellick Tower was built on  the land on the east side of Golborne Road including Southam Street and Edenham Street as shown here.

OS map 1935 of Golborne Road north east of the iron railway bridge towards Kensal Road. All the buildings shown were demolished. Trellick Tower was built on the land on the east side of Golborne Road including Southam Street and Edenham Street as shown here.

To say North Kensington in the 1950s and 60s was a rough area would be a gross understatement.  It was an out and out working class area and had been ever since it was turned from farmland to residential in the mid C19th.  I believe the original plan was for quality housing for a rising, prosperous middle class but somehow this never materialised, at least not to the east of Ladbroke Grove where the large houses and accommodation over the shops on Golborne Road were rented out by the floor or room with shared conveniences for all tenants.

When we moved to Golborne Rd in 1952 I was six and knew nothing of its history or reputation. It was only some sixty years later, when researching my family history, that I discovered my family’s links with Golborne Road went back far further than we knew.

I was born in St Albans in 1946.  One of those curious quirks that resulted from expectant mothers being sent to makeshift maternity homes in the country as the main London hospitals were commandeered for returned servicemen.  I was born in Diocesan House, once home of the Bishop of St Albans and my mother would wryly comment that the maternity home was in Folly Lane, a very suitable name considering how many of the occupants got to be there.  My cousin Christine, some nine months my senior, was born at Shardeloes in Amersham, a similar grand old house although our parents both lived in the same street, Priory Grove, in Stockwell.

We lived with my maternal grandparents in a lovely old house, Montana Cottage.  Grandad had been a master builder, from a long line of master builders who hailed from Hinckley in, what was then, Rutland.  From the way Grandad spoke I assumed the family had come straight to Stockwell from Hinckley but in the 1871 census I found his father, Thomas Ireland, living at 3 Golborne Rd having moved there from Hinckley some time  the previous decade.  His marriage licence shows him marrying Elizabeth Hotter at St Martin in the Fields in 1858 and their first child, Thomas, was born in Kensington in 1860.  My grandad was born in 1874 after the family had subsequently moved to Chiswick so would have been unlikely to have known and in any event died in 1948.

Doing further research I found Thomas Ireland not only lived on Golborne Road but built and owned a large number of properties the west side of the Iron Bridge (somehow it always seems to ask to be capitalised!).  In 1869 he made application to the Kensington Vestry for leave to lay stone pipeware at numbers 51-55,66-72 and 74-78 being premises to the west side of the Mitre Tavern and St Ervans Rd respectively.  He is named as property owner and laying the drainage at his own expense.  He also, in 1872, is listed as a discharged bankrupt in The London Gazette so I can only wonder what turn of fate reduced him from property owner to bankrupt.  Thomas’ original buildings still stand.  One of them “Clarkes” is owned by Reg Thackeray, a local identity, who has been very helpful and accommodating whenever I’ve turned up with questions and camera.
But I digress.

We were fortunate in only having one other family with which to share the above shop accommodation.  Others were very cramped, often with a family per room.  Water heating and bathrooms were non existent.  “However did you keep clean?” my children asked.  On Saturday night the galvanised bathtub would be lifted off the wall in the hallway and lugged into the kitchen where it would be filled from saucepans and kettles boiled on the gas stove.  I had the first, quick bath, then Mum with the addition of more hot water and finally Dad after some water had been ladled out and still more hot added.  The rest of the week, in the words of my grandmother, one “Washed down as far as possible, up as far as possible and then washed one’s possible”.  It is not hard to imagine how the phrase “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” originated when large families were all using the same bath.  After several children had washed it must have resembled People Soup and one small body easily overlooked.

Clothing was similarly washed in a galvanised tub with a wooden scrubbing board and a bar of hard, yellow Sunlight soap.  No such thing then as a daily change of clothes although knickers were probably changed a couple of times a week and the crotch rinsed out and hung up to dry overnight.  At most, clothing was washed weekly or taken to the bagwash on the corner of Golborne and Southam Street.  Tony Roper’s play “The Steamie” about a group of Glasgow women using a communal washing facility gives an idea of what it was like although the bagwash took in your clothing and returned it to you later that day to be dried at home.  Mum would load the bag on my pushchair and wheel it along the road then retrace her steps that afternoon.  Frequently someone else’s odd sock or handkerchief would turn up amongst your wash or some item of yours would be missing which gave an element of anxiety to the proceeding.  From inside the shop one could look out the back and see the vats of hot, soapy water where the laundry would be stewed into submission.  Anything delicate was washed at home and hung on a clothes line that extended out the back window on a pulley system and was affixed at its far end to a pole rising up from the backyard.  This worked well until the rope broke and everything tumbled down into the filthy yard and had to be retrieved and rewashed. But people kept themselves clean to the best of their abilities considering the appalling conditions in which they lived.

Along our side of Golborne Road, just down from the corner with Kensal Road was a stationers’ that sold all sorts of fascinating types of paper – Bond, Antique Laid, Kraft, Manilla and Vellum to name but a few.  I loved the smell and would find any excuse to go in and buy a sheet of fine silver tissue or lace paper.  Looking at aerial photos I think this must have been number 3 where the Irelands lived but I can’t be sure after so many years.
Next door was a sweetshop, Wardells, run by an old woman who was always knitting.  A girl about my age, Gillian, lived with her but I’m not sure of their relationship.  Sweets were displayed on an open counter for you to chose your own mixture.  I’m ashamed to admit a friend and I would go in and ask the woman the time.  To tell us she had to go out the back to see the clock and in her absence we’d stuff as many sweets as we could into our pockets.  We were never  caught but I’m sure she must have suspected.

Gillian was a plump child with golden ringlets and elaborate , hand-knitted, lacy dresses.  For some reason she never fitted in with the other children on the street and we’d tease her by singing “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, so he wasn’t fuzzy wus ‘e?” and tugging her hair.

To fit in was crucial.  When we lived in Stockwell Mum used to handmake my dresses with ruching, frills and smocking and my hair would be coaxed each night into ringlets with strips of rag.  I attended tap dancing and ballet classes (and was useless at both due to a chronic lack of rhythm) I was so teased at Wornington Road school because I looked and sounded different from the rag tag children who attended that Mum had my hair cut into a straight bob and ran me up some plain gingham dresses that washed into shapelessness.  My accent was still South London but at least I didn’t look obviously different.

I only stayed less than a year at Wornington Road.  As well as the bullying, the level of teaching left much to be desired.  Mum tells me I went, at six, knowing my 6,7 and 8 times table and left having forgotten my 3 times table.  I was enrolled at St. Mary’s Catholic School on East Row and flourished there.  But more later on that.

On the corner of Golborne and Edenham was a post office, either number 9 or 11 and across Edenham Street at lived Mrs Mabley with her children. There was also a family named Wilson who had children Dawn and Keith. I was friends for a short while with Ann Mabley and we would go to the Saturday morning Minors at the Prince of Wales cinema on Harrow Road.  It was sixpence admission and I’d get another sixpence to buy sweets.  Ann and her younger brother only ever got their admission money and an apple.  I don’t recall there being a Mr Mabley.  Number 15 was a tobacconist and sweet shop run by the Whites who had two sons Gordon (?) and Raymond about my age.  Raymond had a bit of a crush on me and would sneak sweets to me when his dad wasn’t looking.  17 Golborne was also a shop down below.  Its function varied as no-one ever seemed to make a go of it.  The only business I can recall being there for any length of time was a secondhand shop that sold reconditioned electrical goods among other things. 19 was the premises of the shoe repairer Bert Cross and his wife Amy.  They were unusual in that they were a childless couple and had the whole property to themselves.

The other side of us, number 23, held three families all of whom were immigrants.  The Gonzalez and Ramayons were Spanish and the Christis were Greek Cypriot.  The Christi’s daughter Yannoula was to become my best friend during those early years and partner in shoplifting.  There was a dairy at 27 run by a Welshman Dai Francis.  His daughter married  Kenny Ball’s bassist Vic Pitt and on a couple of occasions gave us tickets for a Kenny Ball concert.  There was a friendly agreement between Dai and my Dad that Dad wouldn’t sell fresh milk and Dai wouldn’t sell meat or bacon although Dad did sell sterilised milk, a horrible tasting liquid that came in tall, narrow bottles with a crimped top like a beer bottle.  As many people didn’t have a refrigerator it had the advantage of lasting somewhat longer than regular milk.

Further along was a chemist run by an older man and his son.  In my teenage years I had an after school job there filling bottles with some patent nostrum, iron tonic, which was a virulent red but much sought after.  As I wrote previously, the bagwash was on the corner of our block.

Across the road, at the Kensal Road end were several shops.  One was a fish and chip shop but the proprietors were very surly and expected you to bring your own newspaper in which to wrap the fish and chips.  We always preferred the Greek shop the other side of the Iron Bridge.  On the corner of Hazelwood Crescent was the Prince Arthur pub.  During the week it was pretty quiet but Friday and Saturday night was regularly the scene of fights.  It was not only men who indulged in fisticuffs but women, particularly the local “toms” who had fallen out over a client.  They would strip off to the waist and bare knuckle box, pull hair and claw at each other until either other customers or the police broke them up.  This was weekend entertainment from the balcony seats of our first floor lounge.  Mum and Dad always said it was better offering than what was on our nine inch black and white tele.

At number 12, next to the Prince, lived the Howes and Higgs, a family named Fox and also Mr Fisher with his daughter Joan and teenage son David.  Joan was to be come my Mum’s best friend despite a fifteen year gap in their ages.  She worked as a cutter at Marks & Spencers in the days when British Made meant exactly that and they had their factory in Marylebone.  The three Gs –  Greens, Gethings and Gibsons were at 16 but I can recall nothing about them. (there did seem to be a curious alliterative chance as to who lived where on that side of the road!)  Among others at 18 were the Digweeds, an established local family and the Doyles.  Also the Healeys with a son John, a couple of years younger than me.  We met up through Friendsreunited some years ago and it is to him that I owe a lot of this information.

Number 20 on the corner with Appleford Road was a doctor’s surgery at ground level and lodgings for several single men on the upper floors.  From their names they seem to have been Irish.  The Powers who lived in the basement were Irish.  Mrs Power was the doctor’s housekeeper and their daughter Kayleen was also one of my friends.  The other side of Appleford Road was a closed shop that was used as a workshop by a bespoke tailor.  Above it lived a Polish (I think) couple with a daughter Juleika.  I think they were refugees or DPs.  Juleika and I were friends until one day she refused to return a book I had lent her.  It was a very old one about cats (illustrated by Louis Wain from memory) and one of my favourites.  I came home wailing and Dad went over to see her Mum but was told she wouldn’t make Juleika hand it back as “Gwen has so much and Juleika has so little”  At a distance of sixty years I can see the logic in that but not at the time and I never spoke to her again.  Forgiveness is not one of my virtues.

Gwen Nelson (nee Martin), 2014.

If you want to read more of Gwen’s memories, you will now find them on her own blog

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Golborne before Trellick Tower. Gwen Nelson (nee Martin) recalls the 1950s and 1960s.

Vic Martin in his shop at 21 Golborne Road

Vic Martin in his shop at 21 Golborne Road

We – myself and my parents Victor and Gerry (aka Vicky) Martin, moved to Golborne Road from Lambeth in 1952. After returning from being a POW in Stalag VIIIA, Lamsdorf and being demobbed Dad had never settled into a job working for a few weeks here and there as a spray painter, window cleaner, pretty much anything unskilled that was going. Mum always told of how Dad would come home, say he’d chucked in his job and hand her his final pay packet. She would go out, spend all of it and then tell him they had no money so he’d better find another job in a hurry.

In Lambeth we lived in a lovely late Georgian detached house with my grandparents Alice and Frederick Ireland. Grandad Ireland (more later about the Irelands) was a master builder and used what was originally the coach house and stables for his tools. Because we were a multi generational household Nana would look after me while Mum worked part time on the till at Lyons or ABC teahouses. Mum would also take in piecework sewing shirring elastic into children’s swimsuits at three farthings a garment.

Before the war Dad had worked as a bacon hand for Frosts, a protosupermarket group. One day he confessed to Mum that he’d like his own shop so that he could be his own boss and not work for someone else. With their small savings and some help from my grandparents they secured the lease on 21 Golborne Rd which had been run as a grocers by Vic Harrison who had apparently had little idea of shop management and pretty well run it into the ground. Our lease covered the shop and ground floor premises, the basement and back yards and the first floor rooms. Above us lived Vic Harrison’s daughter Violet Peck and her daughter, Beryl, who was a couple of years older than me.

After the lovely house in Lambeth number 21 was a huge shock. It was run down, damp and rickety with monochrome brownish wall paper hanging in large loops all the way up the stairs. Vic Harrison’s idea of repairs was to hammer six inch nails into everything, including wallpaper that had come loose. The phrase “doing a Harrison” entered our family’s vocabulary for a poorly done job. The basement of the building consisted of two rooms to the rear with a narrow passage that opened out onto a concrete yard. The inner of these rooms had no window and was quite literally dripping with green slime. Towards the street was the coal cellar. Coal was delivered by horse and cart with the street level manhole levered off and coal poured straight down into the cellar. All the rooms at this level had a fine layer of coal dust mingling with other adhesions.

At ground level there was the shop to the front and behind this a store-room with a coal fired oven where Mum would heat cornish pasties and meat pies to sell to the workmen. It was also very good for putting your feet in on a cold winter’s day. A passage ran alongside this with stairs down to the basement and up to the higher levels. It continued on to another room which was used as our kitchen and also a communal toilet for all inhabitants. It was one of Beryl’s ploys to sit in there for hours on end reading a comic and refuse to come out until Mum had words with her mum (and much effing and blinding from Mrs Peck) and made her get Beryl out. Beryl would also lay in wait for me on the landing and thump me and try to steal my toys or books until one day I filled a pint glass mug with water, hid it under my cardigan and then socked her with it nearly knocking her out. Mrs Peck complained to Mum saying I was, “as strong as an ox” After that it was a Mexican standoff. Beryl would glare at me but never touched me again.

Halfway up to the first floor the stairs took a right angled bend. There was a very tall set of french doors that opened out onto the roof of the store room. This was one of my favourite spots for playing as I could look out over the “Feathers” boys club on Edenham Street. Also Golborne Road, Edenham Street and Southam Street formed a triangle and it was possible to see everyone’s backyard. There were no fences around the perimeter and Mum always worried I’d get too near the edge and fall over.

Up on the first floor was a huge lounge that ran the length of the building looking out onto the street. It had two windows with a 12 foot drop and a large fireplace that barely warmed the room. It was so large we had in it our three piece suite, a large mahogany dining table that could be extended to the size of a table tennis table and a large sideboard with still lots of room to move. To the rear was Mum and Dad’s bedroom with a strip partitioned off by a blanket for me. For a while Mum tried to use the basement rooms but the damp and dark defeated her and I used them as part of my enchanted kingdom to play my games and keep my growing collection of pets including a wild rabbit that had a broken back and a tortoise we thought had hibernated until a foul greenish liquid started to emanate from its shell. Among my other pets was a tabby and white cat named Bobby who was my best friend and confidante. He and I would share a bed and he’d cuddle up to me with both arms round my neck.

In those days, fortunately, Health and Safety were only individual words and not a dictatorial body so there was no-one to pontificate about the hygiene of having a cat on premises where food was sold. Bobby was a regular part of shop life and would sit on the doorstep to greet customers. In reality he was an essential part of the shop as it was overrun with mice and Dad regularly had to trim the cheese to remove little teeth marks. One day, when he was cutting bacon with one of the old hand operated machines, a little mouse got trapped by the blade and before Dad could do anything he’d chopped off its little back leg. Said mouse was promptly despatched under the heel of Dad’s shoe.

Anyone who has watched “Open all Hours” would have a pretty fair idea of what Dad’s shop looked like and Dad was not unlike Ronnie Barker in appearance complete with moustache and full length coat. The only difference being that Dad’s was white. It had removable buttons that were held in place with pegs that went through loops in the back of the buttons which were pushed through holes in the coat. It fell to me or Mum to put these in as Dad had been badly wounded during WW2 and had little use of his right hand. Although he had taught himself to write left handed anything that required fine manual dexterity defeated him.

The shop had a full front window with the door opening on the left as you faced the shop. Inside were tins of biscuits from which customers chose which they wanted. He also did a fine trade in broken biscuits and children regularly asked for “fruppence werf ‘v broken ones mister”. Tea was sold loose from large wooden chests, usually an ounce or two at a time and put into a paper bag. He also bought in rice in large chests and one of my after school jobs was to weigh it into pound bags for sale. A scoop and a quarter weighed a pound and it was amazing how easily one could gauge the amount after a few goes.

At right angles to the window was the counter with a chiller cabinet containing cheeses, salami and flitches of bacon. On top of the counter was a set of scales and display stands with packets of Lyons pudding mix, Kraft cheese, Burton’s Battenberg cake, and a brand called Kut-a-kake that used to boast that each piece was “specially wrapped” On top of the chiller was another glass fronted display stand with 2d caramel wafers, Brand’s dressed crab dish paste and butter in 4 ounce packs although these were often cut into halves or quarters for customers’ requirements as rationing was still in force when we moved to North Kensington and, in any case, people could often not afford to buy a whole packet. Behind the counter he had box shelves made from old packing cases with tinned food in them and plastic strips across them where prices were displayed.

This was long before the days of pre-packaging and Dad would cut bacon and ham to order. Bacon was bought by the leg or shoulder from Ivan, Kellets and Child and one year Dad negotiated for my school class to have a trip to their smokehouse to see how bacon was made. I forget where it was but can remember the tall chimney with the joints hanging down on hooks,the interior walls of the chimney being stained with a thick, glossy brown substance and the aromatic smoky smell.

Any ends of meat that couldn’t be sold, we ended up eating or Mum would mince and add to the heaps of potatoes she chopped with onions to go inside the pasties. When I read Noel Streatfield’s “White Boots” I immediately related to Harriet Johnson and her father’s shop although Dad was a far better businessman than Mr Johnson and the shop prospered.

The pasties were very popular with young working men as they were cheap and tasty. She also made steak and kidney pies and a peculiar mixture of baked beans, tinned peas, corned beef and Oxo cubes which she would ladle out into dishes the customers brought into the shop. It was surprisingly good and became one of my favourite childhood meals.

Dad had a very innovative approach and was constantly looking for ways to improve his stock. Up Kensal Road was a wholesalers run by either Czech or Polish people. It was from here Dad bought his salamis and wurst. I often used to walk up there with him and one Christmas the men gave me a musical box like a carousel that played “Silent Night”.

When West Indian immigrants started to arrive in the late 1950s they complained that British bread wasn’t as good as the bread they got back home so Dad found a West Indian baker who would supply him in bulk.

Eggs were bought from a farmer who would sell them by the trayload, thirty eggs to a tray and also would supply Dad with chickens and geese at Christmas. In those days chicken was not the ubiquitous food it is today and these birds were delivered feathered and still with their interiors still intact. Mum and I sat of an evening after delivery plucking and disembowelling the wretched things. The trick to plucking is to dampen the feathers first so they don’t fly everywhere as you pull them out but it did mean a good wash oneself afterwards to remove them from ones person. Disembowelling was trickier as I was told to be careful of the gallbladder as its rupture would taint the flesh and make the bird unsaleable. Most of these birds were old layers and often one would find an egg inside them or, more spectacularly, a string of yolks before the shell had formed around them. I recall one time finding an egg encased in its membrane with the finest, transparent shell.

Although Dad had a till he refused to add up purchases on it as he could do it in his head quicker and often more accurately than punching the keys and pulling the handle (yes just like Arkwright’s devil machine) If a customer demurred he’d let them add up on the machine while he did it in his head and always he finished first and was correct. Eventually regulars accepted that what Vic Martin said was right.

Cigarettes were a large part of his sales. Packs of twenty were available, but more often in this poor neighbourhood people bought packs of ten or even two. Popular brands were Kensitas for the coupons you collected and could exchange for gifts, Senior Service with the picture of an “old salt” smoking, Dunhill, Craven A, Players and a brand especially for the ladies “Sweet Afton”. A very upmarket brand was Sobranie. You could buy strong smelling “Black Russian” or a milder one “Cocktail” with the cigarettes each a different pastel colour. No health warnings then and I can recall seeing an advertisement in a magazine recommending smoking for people with asthma. Like butter, cigarette packets were also split and one cigarette would be bought at a time if the person didn’t roll their own. Tinned tobacco and cigarette papers were more common, as very thin “fags” could be rolled and men would spend all day with a partially smoked “dog-end” attached to their lower lip.

Customers were a mixed bunch. Many were very poor and had a real struggle to make ends meet. While Dad was far from a soft touch, he was aware of genuine hardship, having had to leave home at twelve years old and become self supporting because of his father’s remarriage. He would allow people things “on tick” until their situation improved and often give away slightly smelly bacon or sausages that were past their best. With a rinse under the tap the bacon was edible if somewhat strong tasting.

Some of the best customers Dad had were the irish “navvies” who had come over as part of “MacAlpine’s men” after the war to work on the roads. These were young, husky men, well paid and hungry as a result of their hard labour. They would buy bacon by the poundload, eggs by the dozen and a whole loaf of bread and 4oz of butter and that just for the one meal. Dad’s mother, who had died young of throat cancer, was Irish and I suspect their soft Kerry and Limerick voices touched his sentimental streak.

At the other end of the scale were women with children and no man to support them. Illegitimacy rates were high around North Kensington and I suspect that a lot of women were, unwillingly, “on the game” to support their children. Alas, all too often, this resulted in yet another mouth to feed unless a trip to the local back street abortionist could be afforded. Rumour had it that she operated from one of the basements in Edenham Street using a pint of gin and a knitting needle, brine or a chemical abortifacient to perform the task although in the 1950s I was ignorant of such things being still of primary school age. Dad could always be relied on to find a little something for a woman who was trying to raise her children decently despite her circumstances.

In those days, before the internet, and in many cases before people had telephones the “traveller” was a regular weekly visitor to Dad’s shop. These men, often European Jews, were employed by warehouses to visit shops and persuade them to buy their goods. Looking back they seemed to have a curious sameness about them. Gaberdine coat, Homberg or Fedora hat and a thick accent. They were paid on commission so were persuasive salesmen.

Dad got on well with them and, having been a POW in Silesia, could sympathise with them as many were DPs (Displaced Persons) as a result of Hitler’s policies. Dad was always keen to get a bargain and pass it on to his customers so would negotiate a special weekly deal on a particular line. I can recall one week it was Heinz Baked Beans and another tinned fruit salad, macedoine of fruit as it was called.

Next door to us at 19 were an elderly couple Bert and Amy Cross who were originally from Earl’s Barton in Northamptonshire. He had been an apprentice at Clark’s shoe makers as a young man and was operating as a “snob” as shoe makers were known in those days. In 1959 he decided to retire and the shop came up for lease. As I was now at grammar school and there was a limit to how much Mum could do in the shop, my parents decided to lease number 19 and Mum was going to run it as a drapers, ladies’ clothing and wool shop, since the closest one was the other end of Golborne Road, over the iron bridge. Thus started another phase of my life on The Golborne.

Gwen Nelson (nee Martin), 2014

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Fowell Street

There has been a trail of comments on the blog (see posts on Coronation Day Street Parties and 1966 and all that- the Demolition of Walmer Road) regarding a chapel on Fowell St. Researching recently for photographs of Lancaster Road at RBKC Local Studies, I found these photographs taken in 1969.

Fowell Street looking north 1969

Fowell Street looking north 1969

Fowell Street east side 1969.KCCHG.

Fowell Street east side 1969

Fowell Street west side 22-  1969

Fowell Street west side 22- 1969

Fowell Street ran south from Lancaster Road,  almost opposite the old Silchester Baths,  running parallel with Walmer Road. It was later demolished along with all the surrounding streets such as Bomore Road, Dulford Street and Grenfell  Road to make way for the Lancaster West Estate and the Kensington New Pools (not very aptly named since it is now being rebuilt!).

Fowell Street west side with Bramley Hall Mission 1969

Fowell Street west side with Bramley Hall Mission 1969

With thanks to RBK&C Local Studies for the photographs.

I found the following information about the chapel in an online text at


A Book of 
Metropolitan Churches and Church Enterprise.

by the Rev William Pepperell. Published in 1872


A small plain brick edifice, built in the old familiar Grecian style, and situated in Fowell Street, in the Potteries, Notting Hill. The building is square; and has in the interior on three sides a gallery, the other being occupied

A small plain brick edifice, built in the old, familiar Grecian style, and situated in Fowell Street, in the Potteries, Notting-hill.  The building is a square; and has in the interior on three sides a gallery, the other being occupied with a platform for the preacher.  In all, ground floor and galleries, there is accommodation for about 200 people.  On a memorial stone outside is the following: “This stone was laid August 2, 1864, by J. Fowell, Esq., who kindly gave the land, Rev. J. Phillips, Superintendent Minister.  J. Carrud, Architect and Builder.”  The chapel is connected with what is called the “Second London” Primitive Methodist Circuit…………………..

The Primitives are poor, their chapels are of the least costly kind, and their ministers have barely a subsistence, yet are they highly respectable in their order, and exert themselves with vigour and enthusiasm in their calling.  One of the junior ministers, the Rev. Mr. Knipe, was officiating in Fowell-street, and offered extempore prayer with an ardour, read with a homely emphasis, and preached with a demonstration of manner that can seldom be heard except in a Primitive Methodist chapel.  His congregation consisted of about 70 or 80 of the adult population, respectable-looking poor people, by no means the lowest class to be found in the Potteries……………. There is a Sunday-school with about 80 children, held in the morning and afternoon.  The services are on Sunday at 11 a.m. and 6.30 p.m.; Wednesday, 7 p.m.; prayer-meetings, Sunday morning at 7, and on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings at 7.  The society, according to Methodist custom, contributes its quota towards the support of the ministry by the weekly pence of the members, quarterly contributions, and collections.

Audrey Jones, whose family have been members of the Lancaster Road Methodist Church recalls that her grandmother attended the Fowell Street Church when she first came to London from Norfolk, where she had been a Primitive Methodist. This was around 1900.  Audrey has told me that the various Methodist Churches all united together in the 1930s, so presumably that is when the chapel probably ceased to be Methodist.

In the 1950 Street Directory the building is called  the Christian Community Mission (Bramley Hall). The photo above,  taken in 1969 refers to it as Bramley Hall Mission.  So any more information – let us know.

Next posting will be about Lancaster Cross, where Walmer Road, Lancaster Road, Clarendon Road and  Silchester Road all converged -including Kensington / Silchester Baths and Laundry. If you want your memories to be included send them to Sue at



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