Esoteric London

No. 908: Kensington High Street, W8

Posted in Friezes, London Types, Shops by esotericlondon on August 21, 2013

© Roger Dean RED_3548 copy

Kensington High Street, London, W8. Photo © Roger Dean

London by Day and Night; or, Men and Things in The Great Metropolis – David W.Bartlett, 1851:

With a city missionary – a pious and courageous man – we one day visited Duck Lane. As we approached it, we noticed that the buildings were small, low, and filthy, with their few windows stuffed with rags, pasteboard, or broken panes of glass. The doors were generally swinging wide open, revealing any quantity of half-nude children with squalid faces. The only business-place were little groceries and pawn shops. The latter were full of various articles of clothing, a few watches, and a very extensive assortment of handkerchiefs, which fact, was proof enough that the pawn shops, as they are called in this region, are principally supported by thieves. We now entered Duck Lane – but saw no signs of beggary there. In fact, the population of that street are not beggars, but thieves and prostitutes. They are too fierce to beg. We saw no shops or places of business, but the street had an air of suspicious silence. The gas-lights were dimly burning, and occasionally a couple of policemen, arm-in-arm, were walking down the street. Here we saw a window open, revealing the form of a well-rouged girl, sitting by it as a decoy, to tempt some foolish man to enter her haunt of the depraved; yonder there were sounds of a violin, as if music must minister to the wants of even the wretched people of this region.

[This cigarette smoking woman with a fan and a collection of musical instruments in the photo above is on one of several panels that adorn the exterior of the old Barker’s department store, an Art Deco edifice on Kensington High Street. R.D.]

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