SW10: From Sex to the World’s End

SW10 is a really small post code tucked in between SWs 5, 6 and 7. It does not really have a heart as such. The Post Office calls it West Brompton but even that is hard to pin down. I am not even sure if West Brompton station is actually in SW10. Some or all of it could be in SW5 and 6. Anyhow we start at the other end of SW10 which has the great name of “World’s End”. Apparently this was named after a 17th century tavern which gave its name to a hamlet on the King’s Road. I guess it might have seemed like the World’s End given how bad the roads were then and how long it would have taken to get here from what was then London! The modern day pub of this name dates only from 1901 and is sadly closed at the moment, so we won’t be going there. We begin at the World’s End Post Office at 351 – 353 King’s Road which is just inside SW3 but only just.

So turn left out of the Post Office and head away from Chelsea and as the King’s Road bends you enter SW10. Take the first turning on the left (Milman’s Street) and almost immediately to the left is our first stop.

Stop 1: Moravian Burial ground

Enter through the gate and you go into a peaceful garden which is actually the Moravian Burial Ground (which may or not be open – hopefully you will strike it lucky). This was first used for burials in the 1750s by a protestant group which originally hailed from what is now the eastern Czech republic. The burial ground is split into four quarters: married men; unmarried men; married women and unmarried women. Everyone gets the same basic headstone flat in the ground regardless of status.

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The Moravian Church had met in Fetter Lane in the City but their chapel was destroyed in the blitz so they settled here, where they had their burial ground already.

It all looks a bit like a bowls club – it’s just those flat gravestones that give the game away.

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Now go down Milman’s Street to the end – which is Cheyne Walk

Stop 2 Cheyne Walk (and some famous SW10 residents)

The buildings on this stretch of Cheyne Walk are hard on the road unlike further east where they mostly set back from the busy traffic flow. And this bit of Cheyne Walk in SW10 is certainly busy as it is part of a sort of ring road. We already saw a few blue plaques on the SW3 part of Cheyne Walk. But here in SW10 section of Cheyne Walk, we have a veritable treasure trove of blue plaques, plus an important non-blue one.

At the corner of Milman’s Street on the right is No 104 with plaques to poet Hilaire Belloc and artist Walter Greaves who lived in the same house at different times.

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Then if you turn right you get to No 108 where Sculptor John Tweed lived and then next door at No 109 where painter Philip Steer lived and died. Not sure I have heard of either of these!

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Keep going and you will see a metal(?)  plaque to show that the artist J M W Turner lived and worked at No 119. And just next door at No 120 (and quite a bit later) lived women’s rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst

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Interesting that probably the most famous person out of these six (Turner)  is the one who does not have an actual blue plaque. Such is the hit and miss nature of blue plaquery.

Retrace your steps a little along Cheyne Walk and go down Riley Street (by the Painted Heron building). Follow this road round past the fire access gate and into the Cremorne Estate. The road snakes left and then right. Go past the children’s playground and ahead you will see a passageway through a fifties building which leads you back to King’s Road. Here’s picture in case you think you are lost!

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Go through that passageway and turn right. Across the road from two phone boxes is our next stop.

Stop 3: No 430 King’s Road

The striking thing about No 430 King’s Road is the large clock that goes backwards. But this shop has history! In its current guise, it was designed by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood in 1980 and is supposed to resemble a cross between the Old Curiosity Shop and a Galleon.

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In the 1970s this shop went through many images but its most famous incarnation between 1974 and 1976 was as SEX – the name was in big pink letters on the front. It was the shop whose clothes defined the punk era. Their slogan was “Rubberwear for the office”.  Amazingly this shop is still part of the Vivienne Westwood “empire” after all these years.

Now cross King’s Road and as the road bends you will see a turning to the left (Park Walk). Go down this and then take the second on the right (Elm Park Road). Go over the cross roads (Beaufort Street) and then take the second on the left which is Elm Park Gardens. The buildings we are going to stop at are on the left but you may find you get a better view if you are across the road.

Stop 4 Elm Park Gardens (and a couple more famous SW10 residents)

Elm Park Gardens occupies the site of a mansion called Chelsea Park. The grounds were planted with mulberry tree in 1721 in the hope of establishing a silk industry here, but to no avail. The buildings we see today date from 1885 and architectural historian, Pevsner, describes them as tall, somewhat grim houses.

Strange then that one of the funniest women of the post war era – Joyce Grenfell – should choose to live in a flat here. She is perhaps now best remembered for her one-woman shows and monologues,one of her most well known roles was a harassed nursery school teacher. In the 1990s, Maureen Lipman did a fantastic one woman show based on Grenfell’s work (Re: Joyce) which she toured extensively.

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Now just next door at Number 32 is the house where Labour Politian Sir Stafford Cripps was born in 1889. Stafford Cripps was a senior minster in the first post war Labour Government. His last post was as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1947 – 1950)

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Walk to the end of Elm Park Gardens and at the end turn left into Fulham Road (do not cross Fulham Road yet). Stop at the traffic lights where Beaufort Street and Drayton Gardens meet Fulham Road. Our next stop is diagonally across the junction

Stop 5: Cineworld (Former Forum/ABC) Cinema

At the corner of Fulham Road and Drayton Gardens is the Cineworld cinema. Originally built as the Forum in 1930 , it was the first of the three big Forum cinemas built for Herbert Yapp the others being in Kentish Town and Ealing. It was acquired by ABC in 1935. Like many large cinemas of this era, it originally had full stage facilities. Although still in use as a cinema, very little remains of the 1930s original apart from the outside walls.

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Random (and unverified) fact: on the Fulham Road elevation there used to be an Oddbins off licence. In one of the 1996 TV special episodes of Absolutely Fabulous (called “The Last Shout” I think), the outrageous Patsy Stone is revealed as living in a store room above this shop.

Now cross Fulham Road and go down Drayton Gardens on the right hand pavement. Stop at Primrose Cottages which are a short way along on the right.

Stop 6: Primrose Cottages (93 – 95 Drayton Gardens)

There are two stones at either end of Primrose Cottages which tell the same story. Basically the original cottages of 1816 were rebuilt by a Thomas Johnson in 1840. Strange that this inscription goes into such detail about the ownership of the freeholds suggesting there may have been some sort of dispute. Who knows?

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Now look across the road where there is a modern block of flats

Stop 7: Site of Paris Pullman Cinema (90? Drayton Gardens)

A cinema first opened on this site in January 1911. It was called Bolton’s Picture Playhouse. It had a brief interlude as a live theatre club after the Second World War but was revamped with a new modern facade as the Paris Pullman Cinema in 1955. It specialised in art house films and had around 250 seats all on a single floor. It closed in May 1983 and was demolished to be replaced by a block of flats.

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Go down Drayton Gardens almost to the end.

Stop 8: No 1 Drayton Gardens

At the very end (or as it is No 1 at the very start) of Drayton Gardens, is the house lived in by Mervyn Peake, author of the Gormenghast trilogy. Somehow a neat white stucco house in SW10 does not look right for someone who created the amazing gothic fantasy that is Gormenghast.

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Now retrace your steps along Drayton Gardens and take the first right (Priory Walk). At the end turn right and go straight ahead where you will soon come to The Boltons.

Stop 9: The Boltons and St Mary’s church

This is an elegant street it consists of two shallow crescents with a garden in the middle.

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Splitting the garden into two sections is the church of St Mary’s. The entrance to the church is on the western  arm of The Boltons (left hand side of gardens as we approach). The church was built in 1850 and were it not for two pieces of 21st century art would be just a well kept but rather dull early Victorian edifice.

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The first thing that strikes you as you come in is a strange red glow on the right. This turns out to be the 2008 Crucifixion window by Craigie Aitchison (1926 – 2009). He was a Scottish painter, best known for his many paintings of the Crucifixion, Italian landscapes, and portraits (mainly black men or dogs). He had a simple childlike style, which is not to everyone’s taste!

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Then to the left of the main altar is a small chapel with an elegantly displayed bronze sculpture by Naomi Blake. The plaque nearby says it was dedicated by a Rabbi and blessed by the Bishop of London on 10 September 2000 during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the church.  Strange to have a Rabbi involved given the subject matter (Pieta = Virgin and dead Jesus) but maybe this is something to do with Naomi Blake being a holocaust survivor.

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Now retrace your steps and turn right into Tregunter Road. Just along on the left is our next stop

Stop 10: No13 Tregunter Road

Here we have one of those so called iceberg houses under construction. There is little left of the original structure apart from the outer walls and they are digging a double level basement which will have a pool (natch!) and will extend under the front and rear gardens. It does seem kind of mad but I guess it does at least keep the style of the original street. Glad I do not live next door while all this work is going on.

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Continue down Tregunter Road and turn left into Hollywood Road. At the end ahead in Fulham Road is the next stop

Stop 11: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital artworks

I believe this hospital has since it opened in 1993 had artworks scattered around.

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There is one particularly large one installed high up on the walls on the right as you come in. This is Assembly/450 by Joy Gerrard dating from 2011. It is an installation designed for the location which consists of 450 steel and polycarbonate spheres and steel rods. All very striking and when you get close you get odd reflections in the spheres which I guess is the idea.

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But there is also a quirky “artwork” right by the door as you come in from the street. I guess you might call it a begging robot!

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Turn left out of the Hospital and walk down Fulham Road, crossing over when convenient. After Ifield Road on the right, you will get to the southern entrance to Brompton Cemetery. Go in the gates.

Stop 12: Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery is one of the so-called Magnificent Seven – seven large cemeteries founded by private companies in the mid-19th century in response to the lack of space for new burials in inner city burial grounds, mostly churchyards and the concern these burial grounds were becoming a health hazard.

Oddly this is the only one managed by the Royal Parks Agency. Why?

There are some relatively famous people we might want to look for- such as suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and Sir Henry Cole (of 1851 Great Exhibition fame) But it is not at all sign posted and there is no guide or map available, so I have no idea where they might be. I guess you have to go on one of the guided walks run by the friends of Brompton Cemetery or else spend a long time looking!

So we shall just have a stroll through the main path which takes you to the Chapel and then down the long avenue to the northern entrance. The first section has been left to become an atmospheric wild meadow but further on things are more kempt.

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Two particular graves drew my attention, both on the long main avenue on the left just after the chapel. First was one for a Russian Orthodox Metropolitan – Antony of Sourozh (1914 – 2003). This was one of the only graves with flowers. But not cut flowers, in effect it was a flower bed.

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The second, close by, was for the rt hon Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie, which modestly proclaims he was founder of Nigeria!  His Wikipedia entry says: “In many ways, his role was similar to that of Cecil Rhodes elsewhere in Africa but he lacked Rhodes’ thirst for publicity.” So maybe that is why we have not heard of him!

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Keep walking to the main gates. At the end on the entranceway are a couple of contradictory signs as to opening times. Perhaps the bottom one replaced the top one and they never got round the removing the first one.

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We are now at the end of our SW10 walk.  We managed two burial grounds and a crucifixion, plus a lots of famous people on the way. And we saw how Sex lead on to The World’s End at 430 Kings Road!

We are now close to West Brompton station for onward travel. This is just a few minutes to the left along Old Brompton Road.

6 thoughts on “SW10: From Sex to the World’s End

  1. Your post brought back some very happy memories! In the mid-1960s I lived in a bedsit in Evelyn Gardens, which backed on to Drayton Gardens, – ideal for going to the Paris Pullman, a wonderful friendly little cinema which always attracted good audiences despite its secluded location. Sad, sad to hear it’s no more. For mainstream films I also used the the big cinema on Fulham Road (still an ABC house then I think). I must admit I thought the Oddbins was across the road from the cinema and that the shop in the cinema elevation was a paperback bookshop, but maybe my memory has reversed them. Whatever, there was cheap (and good) wine, cheap books and two sources of movies all in the same small area – what more could you want? Well, sex obviously, and in the summer of 1966 I met my future wife at the Fulham Road cinema, where she had a part-time job as an usherette (not a word much in use today I guess). The film being shown was Duel at Diablo, a classy western which was pretty violent for its day. The second feature was a Bob Hope film about which I remember nothing, having spent the interval chatting to Chris who, it turned out, had just moved into a bedsit on the top floor of the same house I was living in….
    We got married a few months later, left London for the Westcountry and are still together today.

  2. I’ve loved reading what the history and feel totally honoured to be a courier for the last 17years specifically in Sw10. The affluence of the people from all walks of life rub shoulders and live quite close to each other in this little now quite cosmopolitan Area of London.

  3. Stephen

    Can confirm there was an Oddbins nestled in with the Cineworld on Fulham Road. I grew up in the area, on Edith Grove, in the the 1960’s and 1970’s and remember it well. Walked past it many times.

    • Hi Brendan

      Yes I think there was definitely an Oddbins branch on the Fulham Road side of the building. I remember it well. And more to the point, in one of the 1996 TV special episodes of Absolutely Fabulous (called “The Last Shout” I think), the outrageous Patsy Stone is revealed as living in a store room above this shop.

  4. Hi – nice post! On Brompton, the cemetery was bought by the government as part of an abortive scheme devised by Edwin Chadwick to buy out and close the ‘magnificent seven’, replacing them with his own scheme for ‘national cemeteries’ run by the state. But the idea proved too much for his government colleagues, no-one in the City would back it, and the nation was lumbered with a cemetery nobody wanted (it had been a financial failure and the directors of the company were keen to get shut of it).

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