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Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE, (18 May 1919 – 21 February 1991), the British prima ballerina assoluta, was considered by many to be the greatest English ballerina, and one of the greatest dancers of the 20th Century (apparentely there were only 5 prima ballerina abssoluta tin total – ever!).

Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Grand Adage of The Kingdom of the Shades in 1963

Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Grand Adage of The Kingdom of the Shades in 1963

She was born Margaret Hookham 1919 in Surrey , to an English father and an Irish mother of Brazilian ancestry, who was the daughter of Brazilian industrialist Antonio Fontes. Early in her career, Margaret transformed Hookham into Fontes into Fonteyn and Margaret into Margot; for a much better ring to her name. Her mother signed her up for ballet classes with her brother when they were young.  She joined the Royal Ballet while sin her teens and had been trained by some of the greatest teachers of the period, Olga Preobrajenskaya and Mathilde Kschessinskaya . Already in 1939, she was the company’s prima ballerina assoluta and the inspiration for many ballets of the day, such as Ondine, Daphnis and Chloe, and Sylvia.  Fonteyn was awarded a DBE  in 1956 at the young age of 37. In 1949, the Royal Ballet toured the United States and Fonteyn became an instant celebrity.  She lived for a number of years in Studio No. 8 and her ballet mirrors are still there (she used the sutdio for training).

I like some of her bonmots, like this one “Life offstage has sometimes been a wilderness of unpredictables in an unchoreographed world.”  As to that constantly asked question if she had an affair with Rudolf Nureyev I leave that up to others to decide (the residents of the studios hold together).  Here at article in the Sunday Tims on the subject.

Nikolai and I went to the park and were excited for two reasons.  First we heard and saw a great spotted woodpecker.  Second, there were a lot of new improvements made in the last few days and the park is nicer than ever!  I did not know, but there is a group called the Friend of Margravine Cemetery and they got a grant and spend it wisely (see for their site in the Link section on the right).

We can see the park's trees both from our garden and and from the Studio

We can see the park's trees both from our garden and and from the Studio

Their website also has a lot history and I quote the part of it that made the cemetery into such a nice park: “The 16½ acres of Margravine Cemetery became a Garden of Rest in 1951 when the then Hammersmith Council concerned at its dilapidated appearance decided to remove as many memorials and bury as many tombstones as possible and lay the cleared land to grass; there were many local objections but in general the Council paid heed only to those received from the registered grave owners and left such plots undisturbed, as were those in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Some of the more significant memorials also were retained, including the Young family mausoleum, the only one in the cemetery.”

Margravine Cemetery is definetely worth a visit and they have events including Fungi talks and walks!

Barons Court Station East

The Station from the East

Here a brief history of the Conservation Area (from the Conservation Area Character Profile here):

The name of Barons Court is believed to have been devised by Sir William Palliser, who owned and developed the land, formerly part of a large agricultural holding. Use of the name to attract potential house buyers may have been suggested by nearby Earls Court or possibly in allusion to the Court Baron held by the Lord of the Manor, the Bishop of London. The 1865 Ordnance Survey Plan shows that most of the Barons Court Conservation Area was in agricultural use, although the main arterial thoroughfares of North End Lane (upgraded and renamed Talgsth Road), North End Road and Old Greyhound Road (renamed Greyhound Road), existed at this time.

By the time of the publication of the 1894/5 Ordnance Survey Plan much of the residential road framework was in place with the majority of the residential development having already occurred. Significant developments which had taken place since the earlier Survey are the construction of the over-ground District Railway and Barons Court and WestKensington Stations, and the laying out of Hammersmith Cemetery, then known as Margravine Cemetery.

The 1916 Survey shows very little change to the road layout, although a second phase of residential development had taken place. For example, to the west of the conservation area, Margravine Gardens had been extended to give access to St Dunstan’s Road facilitating further residential development creating an enclosed residential street block. Furthermore, at this time the remainder of the properties on Claxton Grove and Beaumont Crescent had been completed and the two mansion blocks on Palliser Road were built.  In the 1920s & 30s the green space between Barton Road and Barons Court Road was replaced by residential accommodation, including Barton Court.

and from the South

and from the South

We had been introduced to Liam Wales, an illustrator who specialises in London houses and here the result:

She looks good

She looks good

Yes, until 1971 the street in front of the house was a tiny backwater street.  See this Map from 1934 that I recently found:

Our Street in 1934

Our Street in 1934

See the St. Paul’s School (now in Barnes) and how Talgarth Road becomes Colet Garden hugging the school’s park!

I was very pleased to find that I found an entry on our houses at the Royal Institute of British Architects (short RIBA and very much worth a visit!).

One of the drawings

One of the drawings

Giles Walkley’s entry was shown in the Architects’ Journal 6 December 1978.  It came in 4 sheets in pen and ink in the colours black and red; one each of the front, back, side and from top.  It got a special price and the Judges commented: “A good choice of buildings, well laid out and nicely drawn.  Interesting use of colour as line rather wash or tone, giving a feel of the texture and appearance of the building.  The competitor notes that it took him 600 hours to measure and draw.  The plottings are very good, but not such a good set of photographs.”

Intrigued I wanted the drawings(I was not so much interested in the photographs since I guess that is much easier to be done today).  But who would/could spend 600 hours on a set of drawings?  And how to get them?  Doing an extensive Google search I had an address of a Giles Walkley in Australia.  Not knowing if it was the right one I decided to write to it.  I got a reply more than a year later – the letter had gone to his parents’s address and his father gave it to his sister who put it in a her handbag (probably one of many) and did not think about it for 12 months.  Needless to mention that my surprise was big when Giles’ letter came in the form of a tube with colour copies of the plottings!  They are now hanging in the house are are indeed very good!  Thank you again, Giles!

Nearly all the occupants of St. Paul’s Studios, up until the First World War at least, are identifiably professional artists. Here some others that I came across living and working in the Studios:

  • William Logsdail (1859-1944) genre painter particularly of London scenes,
  • Edward Tennyson-Reed (1860-1933), Punch cartoonist from 1893,
  • Charles Sims R.A. (1873-1928) painter and illustrator and Keeper of the R.A. from 1920-1926, and
  • Otto Scholderer (1834-1902) a German born painter of still life and friend of Manet and Fantin-Latour.

And here samples of their work:

William Logsdail's St Martin-in-the Fields, Oil on canvas, 1888

William Logsdail's St Martin-in-the Fields

Edward Tennyson-Reed's In Vain You Argue or Protest

Edward Tennyson-Reed's In Vain You Argue or Protest

Clarles Sims' Night Piece to Julia

Charles Sims' Night Piece to Julia

Otto Scholderer's Violin Player at the Window

Otto Scholderer's Violin Player at the Window

And now please do vote for your favourite St. Paul’s Studios artist in our poll.