Saturday, 6 August 2011

Kings Road (2): The Rest

Real life has a way of intervening in the best of intentions, so its taken a little longer than I'd of hoped to finish recording the items of interest I spotted on a short walk from Sloane Square tube to just past Flood Street. The first post concentrated on coal plates in and around the main street but the Kings Road in Chelsea isn't just a collection of interesting coal plates. By occasionally looking up a bit and aiming my my field of vision just a bit higher I was able to spot a couple of other interesting items.

One object I particularly liked was this stately cows head stuck on the side of what was once Wright's Dairy.
The Exciting Postcard site has a couple of postcards of old Chelsea relating to the dairy. Firstly Dolly and Daisy the Chelsea favourites and the front of their old shop itself.

This site looks a bit more imposing than the postcard so I'd imagine it was actually more a sort of head-office of a small local business than somewhere for one man, his cows and a three-legged stool. It is a very impressive head though...
Wright's Dairy with it's impressive bovine bust
In an idle moment I  was wondering what the cow's head itself might be made of and how it's actually attached to the wall. My best guess is that it's a lightweight metal alloy that's bolted on but it's lasted well however it's been applied.

A young Margaret Morris
On the corner of Flood Street and the Kings Road there's a building that not only looks like a converted old cinema, but which is also covered with some attractive - if slightly battered - glazed tile-work. It's currently a very tasteful 'Out of India' sort of shop but a little bit of digging around and I was delighted to discover its slightly more radical and artistic history. Its original use was not as a cinema, as I first suspected, but as a dance theatre opened and operated by a remarkable character called Margaret Morris.

Margaret developed a form of free-flowing dance based on classical Greek vase illustrations and her theatre soon became one of the centres of free-thinkers and radicals
Tile-work on Flood Street
of the avant-garde in the years leading up to the First World War, although her involvement in the political word seems to be played down in her wiki entry which concentrates more on her dance techniques. She died in 1980 and her theatre later became first an antiques market and now retail space, but the art nouveau tile-work still provides the clue as to it's livelier and more radical origins. Grace Brockington's book "Above the Battlefield: British Modernism and the Peace Movement 1900-1918" actually places the influence of this dance theatre on a par with the Bloomsbury Group as one of the key havens of pacifist thought in the run up to the Great War
"...Two such groupings - Bloomsbury, and a previously unrecognised circle of artists, writers and performers based around the Margaret Morris Theatre in Chelsea - are the focus of this important study. Brockington reveals the exhilarating expectation of an international cultural Renaissance that motivated the Edwardian avant-garde, and that militated against conflict in 1914. ...Her analysis of the Chelsea circle draws on a wealth of new archival material about experimental performance during the war, overturning the convention that avant-garde theatre was moribund after 1914. There emerges a rich and interconnected world of hellenistic dance, symbolist stage design, marionettes and book illustration, produced in conscious opposition to the values of an increasingly regimented and militaristic society, and radically different from existing narratives of British wartime culture."
Detail of some Art Nouveau tiles
Just off the main Kings Road . It could be their rough, unpolished, artisan style, but for some reason I thought of Pompeii when I caught sight of these two mosaics outside houses. They are striking enough as it is, but when I had a closer look I was really taken by the mixture of laborious and the erratic. 
What looks so regular and uniform at first glance
... actually has a huge variety in in shape, size and layout
This is the second with what looks to me to be a more traditional 'Roman' border. 
Apart from just enjoying them there's not much more to say about them really, other than to wonder if having the extra floating 'L' in the corner of the border in the last mosaic is all that traditional?

 Saint Leonards Terrace runs parallel to the Kings Road and this nice old lodge sign is part of the entrance to the grounds of the Royal Hospital
 Thomas Faulkner in his book An historical and topographical description of Chelsea and its environs of 1810 describes the entrance in this way
The principal and grand entrance to the Royal Hospital is by an iron gate of elegant workmanship and great height ornamented on each side by lofty stone pillars surmounted with military trophies The entrance is also ornamented with two handsome porter's lodges 
The pillars and military ornamentation are still there but I couldn't in all honesty describe the porters lodges as being 'handsome'. Possibly the current ones are not original?

However I do like old brass bell buttons with their porcelain centres and verdigris surrounds and even though they are not of 1810 vintage these two were quite fetching. I keep meaning to do a collection of them at some point and if I do these will no doubt feature.
In quite good condition with only a couple of missing screws.
A bit of wear and tear on this one. Looks like the Porter was kept busy.
Nice, but a bit grimy
Off near Sloan Square and if you look up you can see a very ornate street sign on the corner. Very attractive it is too, and still showing the patina of a sootier age.

Its on the square itself though that I spotted a Metropolitan Drinking Fountain. Quite an attractive design too, as befits its position I suppose. Looking around for some information on this one took me to a site with everything I could possible wish to know about Chelsea's faded bits - Grouped Pieces and Miscellaneous Items from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.  With reference to this particular piece it notes
Steps for children, a space for the dog and staples for the cup chains
"Originally this fountain, which
cost £50 and funded by Miss
Knightingale, was erected on
Elgin Road in 1882.
It was reinstalled at Sloane
Square in 1883. The
inscription reads, “Revered
husband and father from his
loving wife and children” and
presumably was added when
it was moved."
Clearly labeled with the Association name
I wonder why there are no names mentioned?
Original taps still in place
This bought me back to the tube station and finished off a fairly short walk that managed to produced an interesting mix of coal plates and assorted local items of interest.  I only walked a short section of the entire road as well so I'm sure there's much more of interest still to find