Earls Court was one time a hamlet near to the present District Line station and acquired its name from a Court set up by the Earls of Warwick and Holland. Now it is a bustling over-busy area of mid London – straddling the two boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham. Like many areas of London it is currently subject to potentially major change.
I came to photograph the area because of this likely change and particularly at the moment to snap the giant crane which is being used in the demolition of the former Earls Court Exhibition Centre. The crane has been set up by Keltbray Engineering and it is capable of lifting the concrete beams which were the base of the Earl Court Exhibition Centre and straddle the District Line. With the aid of this crane the demolition work will be able to be completed without any need to close the District Line. The largest of the concrete beams weighs 1500 tonnes – about the same as 118 London buses.
The Earls Court Exhibition Centre itself has gone – though until a few weeks ago the District Line still announced “alight here for Earls Court Exhibition Centre” – and now the overhead beams are being removed by the giant crane. The area where the Exhibition Centre stood is being rebuilt as posh housing with a new road joining North End Road to Warwick Road. A major new master plan has been drawn up by Terry Farrell architects and can be seen on the developer’s website here. The Earls Court Exhibition Hall section of the master plan is not the most controversial but as it widens to possibly include the area occupied by the West Kensington estates it becomes very controversial, and not surprisingly the residents of these estates are opposed. There is a concern that this is yet another example of what commentators are calling social cleansing as has happened in other areas such as Elephant and Castle. However London (and many other cities of course) have long histories of such social cleansing often resulting in areas that people now revere – or certainly like a great deal – so it is not a cut and dried matter. Though there is a serious concern that working class families are being driven out to distances as far as Slough and farther, and certainly far too little genuine low cost housing is being built for ordinary Londoners.
In addition to the potential new development, I have taken snaps of North End Road and of Brompton Cemetery.
Brompton Cemetery is said to be one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries opened in the mid Nineteenth Century to cope with the overflowing local church cemeteries. As always with such cemeteries there are many well-known people buried there – but I will only mention Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette.
At one time – before the Earls Court Exhibition Centre was built – there was a fairground and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show visited there in the 1880’s. Some of the Native Americans – some Sioux people – caught a chill and died and were buried in Brompton. In the early part of the 20th Century a local lady campaigned – successfully – to have them re-interred in the Sioux Burial grounds in the United Sates.
North End Road is a really lively road with many market stalls and sometimes fully closed to traffic to allow a much bigger market. I have taken snaps of a few of the shops and some of the largest water melons – in one of those shops – that I have seen.
It will be interesting to see how Earls Court works out.