Monthly Archives: June 2021

St Paul’s Cathedral – 1977 and 2021

Before looking at St Paul’s Cathedral, I have had a couple of tickets returned for my South Bank – Marsh, Industry, Culture and the Festival of Britain walk, as those who had booked cannot now make the dates. A very limited number of tickets are now available as follows:

I was looking through some of my old negative scans and found four photos of St Paul’s Cathedral dating from 1977. Nothing special about the photos, and the cathedral is one of the buildings in the City that has not changed, however they did highlight how much dirt the cathedral had accumulated, and in comparison, how clean it looks today.

The following photo shows the view of the cathedral from the junction of Cannon Street and New Change in 1977:

St Paul's Cathedral

The following photo shows the same view, forty four years later in 2021::

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral has had a number of extensive cleaning and restoration projects over the years, however the state of the cathedral in 1977 was probably not what those who worked on the mid 1960s cleaning project would have expected.

At the end of the 1960s cleaning, it was expected that with recent clean air legislation, and the City of London being designated a smokeless zone the cathedral would remain clean and there was a possibility that in “250 years time, St Paul’s Cathedral will look as Sir Christopher Wren would have liked to have seen it”.

The above quote and the following still is from a fascinating BBC programme from 1965, when “Tonight” had a lengthy feature on the cleaning of St Paul’s Cathedral. The full programme can be watched here, and also highlights the 1960s approach to health and safety (as illustrated in the still below) as well as the rather basic method of cleaning employed. At times the wind lifted the sheets preventing cleaning water from falling to the streets, resulting in some very annoyed City Police Officers who threatened those cleaning the cathedral with a summons if they did not stop work as water was blowing as far as Cannon Street.

Cleaning St Paul's Cathedral

There is also a 1962 British Pathe film of the 1960s cleaning project here, which shows how jets of water and wire brushes were used to scrub the soot from the surface of the building, which in some areas was in layers over one inch thick.

Only 11 years after completion of the mid 1960s clean, the cathedral was again looking rather dirty.

St Paul's Cathedral

The above photo is the south facing side of the cathedral in 1977 and the photo below is the same view in 2021:

St Paul's Cathedral

In my 1977 photos, the cathedral appears cleaner towards the top, and dirtier towards the bottom of the building. Although central London was a much cleaner place than it had been for many centuries, vehicles were emitting far more pollutants than they do now, and pollution would still be blowing in from the surrounding area.

It is hard to appreciate just how dirty London was up until the late 1960s. Coal burning in homes, offices and factories along with electricity power stations, and industries producing gas from coal all contributed to a significant smog of pollution and dirt.

The 1960s cleaning of the cathedral had to deal with dirt that was over an inch thick in places, and we can get an idea of the impact of this amount of dirt from a Parliamentary question asked on the 06 April 1955 by Mr. George Isaacs, MP for Southwark, when he states that based on measuring equipment installed next to Bankside Power Station, and at the Town Hall in Walworth Road, they found that over a year, the “deposit recorded at that time was the equivalent to 235 tons to the square mile on Bankside and a mile away in Walworth Road the deposit was 60 tons to the square mile”.

In the written question, he states that it is necessary to live in the area to really know what the impact of this level of pollution to everyday life means, which he describes as: “Our people have grit in their eyes and grit in their food; there is grit underfoot and grit in the laundry on washing day. I know that what I say has happened. There are the large blocks of the Peabody Buildings less than 150 yards from the station. The only place there for women to dry their laundry is on the roof. They put their laundry on the roof, and the grit comes down. Father comes home to tea, and mother goes upstairs to take in the washing, and when she comes down father knows all about it because she is not in a good humour if she finds that she has to do her laundry all over again. I can say with some justification that this is a nuisance not only physically but in the way it upsets amenities and family life in the area”.

The following graph shows how the level of pollution in London, measured by Suspended Particulate Matter (measured in micrograms per cubic metre), has changed over time (source: What the history of London’s air pollution can tell us about the future of today’s growing megacities by Hannah Ritchie, using data from Foquet (2011) –  Creative Commons BY license):

St Paul's Cathedral

Whether these figures could have been accurately measured going back to 1700 is an interesting question, however the key point of the graph is the overall shape, and the rapid decrease in the second half of the twentieth century, confirming that the air is London is now much cleaner than it has been for many centuries.

The cathedral featured in classroom material produced by the National Society for Clean Air. A chart was produced which included a before and after the recent cleaning view of St Paul’s Cathedral. The chart also included a picture of a boy and girl in clean country air, as well as devices such as smokeless domestic heating equipment. Rather scarily, the chart also included drawings of the sections of the lungs of those living in the city and in the countryside, showing the damage that was being done to the lungs of city dwellers.

School education continues, with the Mayor of London now producing toolkits for schools focusing on air pollution and the dangers of high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, which particularly affects children, and those with breathing difficulties.

Whilst the clogging grit and smoke that quickly blackened London’s buildings may no longer be a problem, invisible gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide, and very small particulate matter are now the main problem.

Another view of the south facing side of the cathedral in 1977:

St Paul's Cathedral

The same view today of a much cleaner building:

St Paul's Cathedral

The most recent full clean of St Paul’s Cathedral completed in 2011 ready for the 300th anniversary of the cathedral.

This had been a 14 year project which cleaned both the interior and exterior of the building. There were some controversial methods used to clean the cathedral, including a latex paste that was applied to the interior stone, which absorbed the layer of dirt and allowed this to be pulled away with the latex layer.

New methods have frequently been used for cleaning the building. In 1903, an American method of stone cleaning where a blast of pitsand was blown at the cathedral walls through a tube at a pressure of 30lb to the square inch, to try and remove the soot and dirt that was ingrained on the Portland stone of the building.

The main west facing entrance to the cathedral in 1977, photographed from Ludgate Hill.

St Paul's Cathedral

The same view today:

St Paul's Cathedral

My early memories of walking through the City are of a grey and dirty place, although it is also difficult to be sure how real some of these memories are. What is certain is that the buildings of the City are now much cleaner. The air in many places is better, but there are still many places where pollution levels are too high, generally close to busy roads as London today does not have the same polluting industries as it did.

Hopefully George Isaacs, MP for Southwark would be happy with the change, as well as Sir Christopher Wren who would now recognise the cathedral as it was when it was built.

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Kynance Mews – Kensington

One of the pleasures of walking in London is turning off a very busy road and finding a very different place. The Cromwell Road in west London carries four lanes of traffic in and out of London, with the road being the main road route from Heathrow Airport to central London. It is the A4 that leads to the start of the M4 motorway. Lined with hotels, including the world’s largest Holiday Inn hotel. The road also passes the Natural History and V&A museum.

However, turn off the Cromwell Road opposite the Holiday Inn and after a four minute walk you will find one of the most picturesque of London’s mews.

This is Kynance Mews, which my father photographed in 1986:

Kynance Mews

The same view thirty five years later:

Kynance Mews

The mews are a favourite of “travel and lifestyle” bloggers as well as on Instagram. I resisted the temptation to take any selfies whilst posing in front of the many picturesque locations along the mews.

I have marked the location of Kynance Mews with the red oval in the following map (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Kynance Mews

Cromwell Road is the large road running across the bottom of the map.

As well as finding the location of my father’s photo, I took a short walk to have a look at a couple of the streets in the area. I have marked the route on the following map, with the location of the two photos at the top of the post marked by the red circle (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors):

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews starts on the Gloucester Road, where an arch can be found leading into the mews. The road on the immediate right of the entrance to the mews is called Kynance Place.

Kynance Mews

Looking through the arch and we can see Kynance Mews disappearing into the distance.

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews is a few feet lower than Kynance Place and separated by a high brick wall.

Kynance Mews

Kynance Mews date from the 1860s, and owes its existance to the estate that was built to the south. The name is also not the original name for the mews.

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the area thirty years after completion. In the centre of the map is the centre of the development – Cornwall Gardens, and behind the large houses on the north of the gardens is Cornwall Mews  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Kynance Mews

The central area from Gloucester Road on the right and the edge of the map on the left was owned by Thomas Broadwood from 1803. By the 1850s, the area surrounding Broadwood’s land was being developed, and in 1862, Thomas Broadwood’s son (also called Thomas) decided to develop their own estate on the land.

After laying sewers in 1862, construction started on the houses and this work would continue until the mid 1870s. Work included the construction of Cornwall Mews which were built to provide stables to the large houses that the mews backed on to, the houses which formed the northern side of Cornwall Gardens.

The name Cornwall Gardens was chosen as the year when construction started (1862) was also the 21st birthday of the Prince of Wales, who also had the title of the Duke of Cornwall (the future King Edward VII).

The mews seem to have changed name from Cornwall to Kynance Mews around 1924. Kynance retains the Cornish connection with Kynance Cove on the Lizard, near Helson in Cornwall.

The entrance to Kynance Mews from Gloucester Road, with Kynance Place on the right of the mews entrance is one of the many strange street and building configurations on the estate. Kynance Mews is truncated in length and does not run the full length of Cornwall Gardens. Building lengths vary, and there are some rather odd alignments with the houses of neighbouring streets.

The reason comes down to Thomas Broadwood’s original land holding, with these early boundaries dictating the street and house plans we still see today.

In the following map, I have outlined Thomas Broadwood’s land holding, and the boundaries of the Cornwall Gardens development in red. Cornwall / Kynance Mews runs along the top right of the boundary, but stops short as the end of the mews hit another land boundary, with the length of the houses at this point decreasing to align with the boundary  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’).

Kynance Mews

The red line of Broadwood’s boundary reveal some very strange street and building configurations. As we walk into Kymamce Mews, one of these can be seen with the first building in the mews that borders Kynance Place (then St Georges Place).

In the following photo the end of the boundary wall is on the right, followed by the first building, which starts of narrow and then does widen out slightly as Kynance Mews and Kynance Place diverge (see the above map).

Kynance Mews

The first section of Kynance Mews is relatively short, with Launceston Place cutting across (another Cornish connection with the Cornish town of the same name).

At the end of the first section, and start of the second section are two more arches that frame the entrance to Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

All three arches are Grade II listed, with their Historic England listing describing them as “Archway. Circa 1860. Simple stucco arch with rusticated piers and vermiculated architrave, cornice over”.

Crossing Launceston Place, and we can look back at the shorter section of Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

I visited the mews in April, before the plants and trees along the mews had come into leaf or flower. The two arches in Launceston Place should by now be topped with hanging green branches – part of what makes the mews popular with the Instagram and Lifestyle / Travel communities.

Walking through the arch and there is a sign on the right of the arch that points to a Right of Way and some hidden steps that provide a walking route out of the mews.

Kynance Mews

Walking further along Kynance Mews and we can see the two storey buildings that back onto the houses in Cornwall Gardens. A number of these retain the large doors that once would have been part of the stables.

Kynance Mews

The census of 1911 provides a view of the employment of those who lived in the mews:

  • Groom Domestic
  • Caretaker
  • Coachman Domestic
  • Farrier
  • Carman
  • Chauffer Domestic
  • Horse Keeper

The majority of those living in the mews had jobs that seem to have involved some aspect of providing the transport for those who lived in the large houses in Cornwall Gardens, there were also a number of trades people who were probably employed in local building and maintenance works.

The transition from horse to motor transport can be seen in newspaper reports from the 1910 onwards, including one from the 14th July 1928 when Lady Grace Indja Thomson of Bell Cottage, Kynance Mews was fined 10 shillings for driving without a licence.

Lady Grace Indja Thomson was the wife of Sir Basil Home Thomson, who was typical of many of the residents of the Cornwall Gardens estate, having passed through Eton and Oxford then working in the Colonial Service where he was posted as a Colonial Administrator in Fiji and Tonga. After resigning from the Colonial Service and returning home, he took up appointments first with the Prison Service, then the Metropolitan Police.

I suspect that the original occupiers would have been stunned by the prices the houses in Kynance Mews now sell for, and the rate at which they are increasing. A typical terrace house in the mews sold for £975,000 in 2001 and was sold again in 2020 for £2,175,000.

Despite these prices, and being in a mews, the houses still suffer with road works. This is the reason why my 2021 photo is slightly different to my father’s, which, as far I could work out, was taken in the middle of the road works.

Kynance Mews

The western end of Kynance Mews terminates in a dead end, with houses on another estate, not part of Thomas Broadwood’s original land holding and Cornwall Gardens development on the other side of the wall.

Kynance Mews

There are some rather ornate chimneys lining the roofs of some of the houses in Kynance Mews:

Kynance Mews

To the north of Keynance Mews, on the other side of the boundary wall is Christ Church, Kensington:

Christ Church Kensington

In my father’s 1986 photo, there is a sign projecting from the wall on the left. The sign directs the walker to a set of stairs leading up to Victoria Road, on the eastern boundary of the church. The stairs form part of the pedestrian right of way seen on the sign on the arch leading to this section of the mews.

Kynance Mews

There are a number of stubs of roads in this part of Kensington which reflect the original estate boundaries. Victoria Road has a short stub that passes the church and ends at the boundary wall with Kynance Mews, and this stub of road provides access to the stairs which can just be seen behind the motorbike and adjacent to the lamp post.

Kynance Mews

The above photo also helps to demonstrate the difference between the size of the mews houses in the foreground, and the much larger houses to the rear which faced onto Cornwall Gardens, and that the mews buildings were built to serve.

For the rest of the post, I will take a walk in the streets to the north of Kynance Mews, as the stairs were part of the original 1986 photo and the mews and land to the north show how original owners and land boundaries influenced the current layout of streets and buildings in this part of Kensington.

The land to the north of Kynance Mews was known as the Vallotton estate, as it was developed by the Vallotton family.

John James Vallotton purchased the first parcel of land in the area in 1794. His son Howell Leny Vallotton continued with land purchases to form a significant block of land amounting to around 20 acres.

Development of Victoria Road seems to have started around 1829, and development of the area would continue through the 1830s to 1850s.

The Vallotton estate has a varied mix of architectural styles and construction materials. On the corner of Eldon Road and Victoria Road is number 52 Victoria Road:

Eldon Road

Built between 1851 and 1853 for the painter Alfred Hitchen Corbould, the building has a square blue plaque recording his residence here, and that he was Art Tutor to the children of Queen Victoria.

Opposite the above house, and on the corner of Eldon and Victoria Street is Christ Church Kensington, the church that backs onto Kynance Mews.

Christ Church Kensington

The church was built to a design by Benjamin Ferrey between 1850 and 1851 to serve the growing population of Vallotton’s estate. Vallotton had donated the land, and subscriptions were raised to fund the £3,540 bid for the work from builder George Myers of Lambeth.

Very few changes have been made to the church in the 170 years since completion and the church still looks as it was designed and completed.

Christ Church Kensington also serves the Cornwall Gardens estate, and is possibly one of the reasons why there is a public right of way between Kynance Mews and Victoria Road, to provide easy walking access to the church from the mews and Cornwall Gardens.

A church had been planned on the western end of Cornwall Gardens, however whilst the estate was being developed, the Metropolitan and District Railway was also being built and used land through the western end of the gardens where the church had intended to be placed.

The railway used the cut and cover method of construction and therefore prevented any work on the western end of the estate whilst it was being built, and complicated any construction on the land above when the railway was completed.

From the church, I continued to walk north along Victoria Road, the street that was the first part of the development of the Vallotton estate.

Victoria Road originally consisted of semi-detached pairs of villas, surrounded by substantial gardens. There has been a fair amount of ongoing development of the houses resulting in few being exactly as built.

Despite changes since their original construction, the houses still look magnificent. The street is quiet as the design of the estate and boundaries with other estates mean that it is not a through road.

The flowers and spring blossom on the trees add to the photogenic appearance of the estate.

Victoria Road
Victoria Road
Victoria Road

Victoria Road is a long street that runs all the way north to Kensington Road, and I do not intend to walk that far, rather head back to the start of Kynance Mews, so at the road junction with St Albans Grove, I turn right.

It is here that I cross into another of the original estates that developed this part of Kensington.

In the following map, I have marked the three estates that I am walking through. The Cornwall Gardens estate is marked by the red line. The Vallotton estate is bounded by the dark blue line and can be seen as the larger of the estates as it continues to head north.

At St Albans Grove, I am turning into the third estate, the boundary marked by the green line of the Inderwick Estate (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Inderwick Estate

The land comprising the Inderwick estate was purchased by John Inderwick in 1836 from Samuel Hutchins, who in turn had purchased the land from the manor of Kensington.

John Inderwick was an importer of pipes and snuff boxes who lived in Wardour Street. His pipe business was still in operation until as recently as 2000 when the business was finally closed. It had operated in Carnaby Street since the 1960s.

The relatively small size of the Inderwick estate probably explains the speed of construction, with work starting in 1837 and completed by 1846, with Launceston Place being the last street to be developed.

In the above map you can also see where the railway cut through the western end of Cornwall Gardens using the cut and cover method of construction. This was where the Cornwall Gardens church was intended to be built.

Launceston Place was the street that took me back down to Kynance Mews. The houses in Launceston Place are slightly smaller than Victoria Road, but are still lovely semi-detached villas.

Launceston Place

With some interesting designs at some of the end of terrace pairs:

Launceston Place

Where the gardens at the rear of the houses in Launceston Place meet the gardens at the rear of the houses in Victoria Road, there was an old footpath before the estates were built, that went by the name of Love Lane, which would also have been the original boundary of the Vallotton and Inderwick estates.

I find it fascinating when walking London’s streets that the route of 500 year old footpaths, and ancient land holdings can still be traced today.

Until 1883, Launceston Place was called Sussex Place. the name change seems to have been to extend the Cornish connection across the area.

Before Launceston Place cuts across Kynance Mews, I turn into Kynance Place, a short street that to the south has the narrow buildings and brick dividing wall with Kynance Mews, maintaining the division between the Inderwick and Cornwall Gardens estates.

The northern side of Kynance Place has a line of small shops:

Kynance Place

The early history of Kynance Place illustrates the problems that the early developers of these estates had with infrastructure.

Whilst Inderwick could complete the sewers across his estate, he would have needed a larger sewer to connect with to drain away from the estate. When he started to build the estate, no such sewers were available. There were plans to build a large sewer along Gloucester Road, however Inderwick would have had to pay the full costs of such a project.

Until there was a connecting sewer available, Inderwick was forced to construct a large open cesspool where Kynance Place now stands. Although Inderwick improved his own infrastructure, the estate had to wait until the 1860s when the Gloucester Road sewer was finally completed.

And at the end of Kynance Place, I am back to where I started the walk through Kynance Mews.

Kynance Mews probably looks even better now as the greenery will probably be out, and it is well worth a visit for a fascinating walk through an area where the boundaries of the three original estates that formed the area can still be found.

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