As a centre it is lively and carries conviction (though like everything else in London one lifts one’s pen to celebrate, it is threatened by developmentand even before that happens, the Royal Court Theatre is to be remodelled, obliterating probably the spasmodic sound of flushing from the Gents which was wont to accompany dramatic climaxes, though not I hope entirely the rumble of the neighbouring Underground that so often lends an extra infernal dimension to the performance). The Square has, besides theatre and station, a hotel (the Royal Court) of individuality with its own loyal following; a pub (and another pub on the Underground platform); flower stalls, a coffee stall even, and at its western end one of the few London buildings of modern elegance and stylistic conviction from the 19305, the glass curve of Peter Jones department store, one of the great stores of London, particularly agreeable on the eye when the trees in the square are in their fresh May budding. With Peter Jones on your right, you can now embark on the King’s Road, Chelsea village street that wanders westwards with complete architectural undistinction (almost) but a formidable vitality. The use of the word “village here begs many questions, and indeed the visitor may reasonably at some points get the impression that the King’s Road is Bond Street all over again, re set in an area still predominantly residential, but the point is that it is still residential even if only mainly for the rich, and at the week end when Bond Street dies, the King’s Road merely swarms the thicker while the tiaflic seizes up in its narrow flanks; all through the week, moreover, its afternoons are enlivened by shopping mums with prams and darting children. Although an estate agent is on record as saying ‘Tin sorry but I think the King’s Road will turn into Knightsbridge, the transition will with luck be drawn out over some years, and the old dining rooms the fruit stalb Mr Thomas Crapper’s renowned establishment (lavatory maker to King George V), and all the old small shops, will Unger on a litde, though they all fall in the end to supermarkets. Even if junk has become a dirty word at the top of the King’s Road, where an antique is an antique and dusted and priced as such, it can still be found at the bottom end, while the antique shops stock an immense variety of quality; if you are interested, a morning or a whole day will be needed as introduction to the King’s Road, with pauses for refreshmentthe restaurants and coffee bars are amongst the best in London, and the place hums with Irallorit and bistros, not to mention pubs (particularly perhaps the cavernous Tudoresque interior of the Six Bells, where once (it was rebuilt in 1900) Rossetti, Whistler and others used to drink). Other shops include excellent clothes boutiques especially for the (rich) young female and perhaps even more for the male; one of them at least has opened a branch in Bond Street. Thus the shop windows arc enthralling even if their architectural settings are nondescript, and the public in its cosmopolitan picturesque as exotic as anywhere in London. And even if the facades, witness of a hotchpotch development in the nineteenth century (after the King’s Road was opened up from being a literally private road of the monarch, flanked by nursery gardens and fields), along the road itself, disappoint, there open off the road to north and south a series of most civilly mannered squares and little streets, bright with fresh paint and maintenance and brilliant brass.
Map Kensington and Chelsea Photo Gallery
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