Kensington Central Library – April 2013

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

Hello from us all at Kensington Central Library! This month we’re busy with lots of events- so we wanted to tell you about a couple.

Drama Workshop with Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea

Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea in action!
Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea in action!

Today we had a fantastic drama workshop for children with Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea. Fifteen children had a fantastic time – they put together a fun-filled performance using dance, drama and music as well as learning about the 150 year anniversary of the London Underground.

After only a short-time the children felt confident to show their parents everything they’d learnt which was great to see! And we thought you’d like to hear what the children thought:

I enjoyed acting and performing to others.
I enjoyed learning the facts about the tube.
The acting was my favourite part.
I enjoyed all of the workshop and nothing could have been better!
I learned a lot of facts and dances.
I liked performing to the parents best.
I liked learning about the man who got a rat up his trouser leg!

Now – that sounds like a successful event!

To see what other events we have check out our What’s On page on our website. And there’s more information about Chickenshed on the Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea webpage.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian

The Open University Information Event

The Open University logo
The Open University logo

On Monday 15 April, 11am to 6.30pm The Open University will be at Kensington Central Reference Library.

If you haven’t studied with The Open University before, or you have had a few years away from study, then this event is for you!

Come along to get answers to your questions about qualifications and modules, study methods and other aspects of learning with The Open University.

Just drop in on the day– no appointment necessary.

For more information about what they have to offer check out The Open University’s website.

National Careers Service logo
National Careers Service logo

If you cannot attend…

Did you know that we hold Career Advice sessions on a 1:1 basis every Monday at Kensington Central Library?

If you are aged 19+ you can book a session with the National Careers Service adviser.

To book an appointment please ask library staff or call 020 7361 3010.

There’s more information about how these advisors can help you on our Career Advice page on our website.

Sandeep Dhaliwal

Tri-borough Reference Librarian

Leisure and fashion in the Regency period


Regency Dress from ‘Jane Austen In Style’ by Susan Watkins

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Triborough Reference Librarian, Debby Wale has found some Austen connections with Chelsea as well as some amazing Regency fashion images.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire. Her father was the Rector of Steventon and Deane. At the age of thirty-six she emerged from relatively sequestered existence to becoming a published novelist. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. In 1809 the Austen sisters and their mother settled in Chawton and Jane Austen’s career as a published author began.

In Chelsea Past, Barbara Denny describes Jane Austen’s association with Chelsea as transitory, but letters to her sister Cassandra describes a musical evening. She lived with her brother Henry and his wife at 654 Sloane Street from Spring 1811 for two years. Between 1813 – 1815 she visited him when he moved to 23 Hans Place.

Chelsea by Thea Holme describes from Jane’s letters a party at Sloane Street with 66 guests and musicians arriving in two Hackney coaches.

Regency fashion was governed by a strict social etiquette. For women, there were outfits for every activity. Ladies might change several times a day to suit the hour or the occasion. Magazines such as Belle Assemble (La Belle Assemblée or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies) had fashion plates which were a guide to suitable attire for every circumstance.

Jane Austen was a prolific letter-writer and these letters give an interesting insight into her life. One activity suitable for a lady was walking. More promenade than serious hiking, there is a reference in one of her letters.

Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr.Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.

Jane Austen to Cassandra 25 April, 1811

These pictures from Chelsea Library’s costume collection give an idea of the style Jane or her characters, might have worn, or aspired to wear. They are from the magazine La Belle Assembléwhich Chelsea Library has more or less a complete archive.

Kensington Gardens Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811
Kensington Gardens Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811

Kensington Garden Fashionable Promenade Dress, July 1811
A round robe of jacconot muslin, with a bodice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandeburgs of Austrian green, a half pelisse of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop’s sleeves, fancifully tied with green riband. A Hyman hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.

Walking Dress, 1811
Walking Dress, 1811

Walking Dress,  June 1811
A pelisse of pink sarsnet, lined with white, and ornamented with rich silk Brandenburg trimmings of correspondent pink, or pale brown; a high standing ruff round the throat,; a Persian mantle of pale blue, or white, thrown over the dress. A basket hat of straw, ornamented with a demi-wreath of half blown roses. Shoes of blue kid; gloves of York tan.

Promenade or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811
Promenade or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811

Promenade, or Carriage Walking Costume, November 1811
A fawn colour of amber velvet three quarters pelisse; faced and ornamented around the bottom and sleeves with Regency purple velvet and faced down the waist, shoulders and half way down the side of the skirt, with rich cordons of purple, terminating with a tassel; a purple velvet collar stands up, is rounded behind, and comes down to a point below the throat; the cuffs are of purple velvet, trimmed with fine blue lace. Over the sleeve is a demi-sleeve divided; between which division small purple ornaments, in the form of  aiguillettes, but without tags, are sometimes introduce when this dress is made of twilled sarsnet instead of velvet.

Promenade Dress, August 1811
Promenade Dress, August 1811

Promenade Dress, August 1811
A round robe of India jaconot, trimmed around the bottom with ribband; a mantle of fine India muslin, or white crape, with ficher front, ornamented with drawn ribband and tassel, and confined to the waist on the same side. A village hat of white chip, with a crown of blended crape and sarsnet, bound and tied under the chin with ribband, over a lace cawl, and raised form the face by a short wreath of French roses. Parasol and ridicule of purple and green shot silk; gloves of York tan; Roman boots of white morocco.

Regency Walking Dress, February 1811
Regency Walking Dress, February 1811

Regency Walking Dress, February 1811
A pelisse of scarlet Merino cloth, buttoned down the front and up the arm with small gold buttons; the collar and cuffs of purple velvet; but during the mourning, of black, striped with scarlet; an ermine tippet pointed in the back, and muffet of the same. A bonnet of scarlet cloth, turned up with velvet, and formed to come over the face; the veil passed through the front and brought round the neck. Boots of scarlet cloth trimmed with velvet.

Debby Wale
Debby Wale

Debby Wale, Triborough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library


Additional information

Resources held in Chelsea Reference library:

  • Jane Austen In Style by Susan Watkins
  • Chelsea by Thea Holme
  • Chelsea Past by Barbara Denny
  • La Belle Assemblee magazine archive

Online resources:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – for more information about Jane Austen (you’ll need a library membership to access this database outside of the library) 

Glossary – fabrics

  • Jaconot: light weight cotton fabric
  • Sarsnet: noun a soft thin silk used for dresses, veilings, or trimmings.

Kensington Central Library – January 2013

Kensington Central Library in winter
Kensington Central Library

Welcome to our first blog post of 2013 and let me wish Happy New Year to you from all the staff at Kensington Central Library.

I’m aware that our last post didn’t contain anything from our reference library so this month we have two members of the reference team introducing themselves and telling us a little more about what they do. First up is Colin Clare who tells us about the borough’s A to Z Director, followed by Nina Risoli who tells us about her job as a reference librarian.

Make the most of your local community – the RBKC A to Z Directory

I work in our reference libraries at Kensington Central and Chelsea libraries. I am part of a small team that maintains and update all the entries in the  borough’s A to Z directory.  

Need to find a local doctor or dentist or perhaps find out about your local leisure centre, Councillor or school? Well you can, by logging onto the local information database for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea,  and look for the A to Z Directory. This is a valuable source of information containing details about clubs, organisations and Council services as well as charities, youth organisations, voluntary organisations, sports clubs and much more.

It is the definitive source that will enable you to get the most out of living in the Kensington & Chelsea area and to find instant details about your community. The database receives over 65,000 visits each month making it one of the most popular sections of the website.

If you would your organisation added to this database please email us at

Colin Clare
Colin Clare

Colin Clare

 Triborough Reference Senior Customer Services Assistant

Kensington Reference Library

What does a reference librarian do?

When they hear I work as a librarian people often say to me: “How lovely, you must read a lot at work!”, and I try to explain that reading is not really a major part of my working day.

I am a reference librarian in Kensington Central Reference library and my main duties include answering enquiries from visitors to the library and those that arrive via post, email or telephone. This is the interesting part of my job as people come with a huge variety of questions and requests. I am also responsible for managing stock, making sure we have the right books on the shelves, that they are in good condition, in date and relevant to our users. I also spend a lot of time promoting library services and our online resources, as well as training staff and public to use these resources – I’ve  recently written for the blog about some of our online resources. I also organise tours of the library and events to promote special collections such as Chelsea’s fashion and costume collection for library staff, students and visitors.

Although in truth there is rarely time to do any reading at work, I do love my job for the variety it offers and the opportunity to learn something new each day.  

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Nina Risoli

Triborough Reference Librarian

Kensington Reference Library

Hollywood glamour in the library

This month the books we have on display from our biography collection are stars from Hollywood.

Hollwood stars on display
Hollywood stars on display
More Hollywood stars on display
More Hollywood stars on display

If you’re interested to see more of our biography collection then book a place on one of our tours. They are on the following days and times:

  • Tuesday 15 January, 2 to 3pm
  • Thursday 17 January, 6.30 to 7.30pm
  • Friday 18 January, 2 to 3pm

To book a place please call 020 7361 3010.

More information about these tours and our other upcoming events can be found on our website.

How to make a robin out of paper plates

We were very lucky to have a local story teller, Laura Collins come to the children’s library on 2 January. She told a group of children the story how the robin got his red breast – the children really enjoyed this tale. They enjoyed too making their very own robins out of two paper plates with a red breast out of tissue paper!

Me and my colleague, Gemma Baker  made a robin each to show the children what to do. The ones the children made were much better!

Paper plate robins!
Paper plate robins!

We have story and craft sessions during every school holiday – look out for posters in the children’s library for the next session and on our website.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian

Kensington Central Library

Sport and fashion

As a celebration of all things sporty, we at RBKC libraries have cast an eye over Chelsea’s fashion collection and found a few sportswear gems from the past that we thought we would share…

Long before the days of lycra and spandex, ladies wore the height of fashion to cycle: this keen 1820’s cyclist (on a Pilentium, or early tricycle), wore a long-skirted white dress and tall bonnet trimmed with flowers (difficult to imagine Victoria Pendleton’s Olympic record of 200m in 10.724 seconds  in this get up):

"A Pilentum" or "Lady's accelerator", 1820
“A Pilentum” or “Lady’s accelerator”, 1820, from “English Costume for Sports and Outdoor Recreation” by Phillis Cunnington and Alan Mansfield

Judging by a 1978 illustration, men’s  and women’s cycling fashion was a little uncomfortable: a tight, military-style jacket for men with a little pillbox hat, and “the really smart wearer of this outfit carried a bugle to warn pedestrians of his approach” (from “Costumes & Fashion” by James Laver). Bradley Wiggins, take note!

Male and female cycling costume, 1878-80
Male and female cycling costume, 1878-80, from “Costumes and Fashion” by James Laver

Swimming next, and a poster of strapping young Agnes Beckwith (note the illustrations on the poster which show her many feats, including swimming with hands and feet tied, walking the water, and rescuing drowning men).

Agnes Beckwith
Agnes Beckwith, from “The Swimsuit” by Sarah Kennedy

While not an Olympian, Agnes Beckwith fought with British authorities to allow women to wear less cumbersome and restrictive garments in the water, although the 1870’s outfit she wears above still looks uncomfortable and heavy to our eyes. Below is a picture of three winners from the 1912 Women’s 100-metre freestyle Olympic swimming championship – their outfits, now knitted by new swimsuit company Speedo, look very different from those sported some forty years before. But strangely, not that dissimilar to those worn now? (Have a look at this blog post picture).

1912 Women's 100-metre freestyle Olympic swimming championship
1912 Women’s 100-metre freestyle Olympic swimming championship, from “The Swimsuit” by Sarah Kennedy

A great little booklet from Chelsea’s store called “The Story of Women’s Tennis Fashion”, by Ted Tinling, is an intimate 27-page look at women’s tennis attire from the 1870s to the 1970s. Women players wore corsets, painful and restricting (blood stains were regularly seen on women players’ “stays” in the dressing rooms), until 1925 when Suzanne Leglan wore a  simple (and daring) one-piece cotton frock, without a petticoat or coset in sight:

Suzanne Lenglen Wimbledon 1925
Suzanne Lenglen Wimbledon 1925, from “The story of Women’s Tennis Fashion”, by Ted Tinling

Stockings were discarded in 1929, and by 1939 tennis fashion became recognisably sportier and maybe a little more masculine:

Alice Marble and Kay Stammers, 1939
Alice Marble and Kay Stammers, 1939, from “The story of Women’s Tennis Fashion” by Ted Tinling

In 1949, it was decreed that tennis-wear must be all-white, but an edge of coloured lace around Gussie Moran’s panties was a nifty way around this rule:

Gussie Moran, 1949
Gussie Moran, 1949, from “The story of Women’s Tennis Fashion” by Ted Tinling

As was Lea Pericoli’s little petticoat and frilly panties…

Lea Pericoli, 1955
Lea Pericoli, 1955, from “The story of Women’s Tennis Fashion” by Ted Tinling

Of course, sportswear now is created with all the advantages of new fabrics and technologies, with celebrity designers lining up to dress our athletes from swimmers to basketball players to triple jumpers.  After this weekend’s triumphs, we can’t say it’s done them any harm!

The books from which these pictures and facts were drawn are all available in Chelsea’s costume collection:

  • Cunnington, Phillis, and Alan Mansfield, English Costune for Sports and Outdoor Recreation, London, (A. and C. Black Limited) 1969
  • Kennedy, Sarah, The Swimsuit, London, (Carlton Books Limited) 2007
  • Laver, James, Costume and Fashion, London, (Thames and Hudson Ltd) 1969
  • Tinling, Ted, The Story of Women’s Tennis Fashion, The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, (Wimbledon) 1977