South Kensington is famous for its museums. As you move north and west you find Kensington Gardens, the road to Kensington Palace, Kensington High Street, and lots of details to gawk at. Like the Batmobile (a moveable sight), the Royal College of Organists building (not so moveable), a historic cab shelter, pub signs, all the kinds of things I like.
We were en route to Leighton House, of which more another time.
Here are a few snappy snaps from our walk. It started with the Batmobile.
There are some ornate lamp posts around. This one has the initials “RAH”, for Royal Albert Hall, just barely visible in the background.
Just beside the Royal Albert Hall is a remarkable sight. This lovely building used to be the home of the Royal College of Organists until 1991. I think the first time I saw it, it still was the RCO but now it’s a private residence. Wow, that must be quite the place.
A more prosaic building lay ahead, but one with a history. These little green huts are Cabmen’s Shelters, established by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund in 1875. If you read Black Beauty, you must remember that the cab driver’s lot was a horrible one. The charity was one way of making life a little better by giving the drivers an easy way to get food and drink during their long shifts, when they couldn’t leave their cabs unattended on the stand.
I didn’t stop for a snack but did get a friendly wave from a cabbie in a lovely green taxi parked beside the hut.
“Anyone can buy but only those with The Knowledge can sit.” So I have read. You wouldn’t believe there’s even room in there to sit but apparently, yes. Of course, these days the cars are a lot more comfortable than the driver’s seat up top a Victorian horse-drawn cab.
Lovely little building, isn’t it?
This next tiny building and matching cow bear the name “Bodo’s Schloss”. I was sort of hoping to find out it was a mini cheese shop, even smaller than the cab shelter.
Sorry, but I have to report that it’s a fancy night club with an Austrian ski lodge theme. I say “Sorry” because I’m not a night club person so I will never know first-hand what’s behind the cow.
What else starts with C and is an animal?
But not just any cat. This is The Civet Cat. It must be one of the best pub signs in London.
The website PubsHistory.com has loads of detailed information about old pubs. From there I gather there are listings for a pub here going back to at least 1826, ending by 1921.
The London Metropolitan Archives have put up a photo showing the pub in about 1890, where it’s called The Civet Cat, but it’s clearly another building. What stands on the site today is not the original pub, and hasn’t been used as such for nearly a century. Thank goodness the charming sign is still here.
In the June 1818 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine, starting at page 510 and going on forever, there are “Remarks on the Signs of Inns, etc.”. The writer claims that cats weren’t a traditional animal to be used in a pub sign or name, and mentions that the civet cat was the sign of a perfumer.
And finally an exterior shot of the day’s destination: Leighton House near Holland Park. This angle shows the Arabian style this house famously celebrates.
Lord Leighton was an artist whose tastes included a love of ceramics from the Islamic world. The Arab Hall is under the dome you see in the picture. It was the highlight of my day, but there is no photography allowed inside. I’ll see what I can find to illustrate a blog post so you will get an idea. For now, the unusual outside will leave you wondering, as I did, what on earth could be in there. This is not your usual Holland Park house.
Every time I go for a walk in London, I see new things, even on streets I’ve walked dozens of times before.