The Chelsea Society discovers treasures

Lucy Yates (WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer) writes:

On 13 July, Local Studies welcomed the Chelsea Society on a tour of the archives. The members were particularly delighted to see their Walter Greaves grisaille watercolours of riverside Chelsea, which are stored in the archive. Plans and descriptions of Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, once an eighteenth century pleasure ground (where the Royal Hospital now stands), were also studied with interest.

Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies 2015
Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies

Amongst the other treasures down there, Dave Walker, the Local Historian, had unearthed fascinating mortuary books, which contained details of those killed during bombing raids in World War Two.

The Chelsea Scrapbooks, with their wealth of vivid World War One posters proved to be of great interest too.

'Meet me at the Chelsea Fair' WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies
‘Meet me at the Chelsea Fair’ WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies

“I suspect that you might find some of our members camping in Local Studies over the summer,” remarked Camilla Mountain of the Chelsea Society, and we were very pleased to have raised awareness of the wealth of material in the archives and how to access this.

The visit concluded with a well earned glass of wine upstairs and a hearty agreement that we’d be delighted to have the Chelsea Society back any time.

Opening hours for Local Studies
Tours for groups can be arranged by appointment. Contact Dave Walker at for further details.


Local Studies & the Household Cavalry

Lucy Yates, World War One Project Officer, writes:

We’re lucky to have the Household Cavalry as one of our community partners on our Kensington and Chelsea’s Great War project and so we were delighted to host a visit from their representatives.



Soldiers were fascinated to see the wealth of material we had in our archives including The Illustrated London News, which was eagerly searched for photos of their regiment in action.










The picture they painted of modern soldiering, in comparison to daily life in the trenches a hundred years ago, was fascinating. Their input into our World War One commemoration project was hugely appreciated.


Happy National Libraries Day!

Today, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

National Libraries DayIf you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

Just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Local Studies Collection, or use the study space we offer.

On Saturdays in Kensington and Chelsea Libraries you can find a range of story times for children and IT help sessions. There are regular events every day that we’re open, with a brilliant programme of special events throughout the year.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Times newspaper archives and Berg Fashion Library (and more) from home too.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

Sloane Street 1919: the Peace Parade

We’ve struck gold this week: a guest blog by our Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker, with some personal- and local- reflections of WWI.

Like many of the people who work in libraries, archives and museums I’ve spent time this year getting ready for the commemoration of the start of the First World War, looking through archive material, going to meetings and workshops, working on exhibitions and events and answering the first flurry of enquiries on the subject. I’ve never experienced any preparation for a centenary like it. Raising awareness of a profoundly significant historical event and getting people interested in history is never a bad thing. But the First World War is not like other historical events. It’s definitely not like the Second World War.


World War 2 was an unambiguous struggle against evil. We may have had some allies we felt dubious about afterwards, and we may feel regret about some of the methods and weapons used by the Allies but it was a necessary war. That seems to be the general consensus. And I know it from my own family. Both my father and my mother were in the armed forces and believed in the cause for which they were fighting.


But World War 1 is less clear cut. We fought an aggressor who was determined on the domination of Europe (and elsewhere). But the origins of the war are caught up in diplomatic machinations and expediency. And there are many areas of disagreement about the conduct of the war. Were our troops “lions led by donkeys” as Allan Clarke famously put it? Or were the allied commanders as competent as could have been expected given that the technology of warfare was changing so rapidly? Was the Great War a just war against an enemy of civilisation? Or simply the result of one gang of would be imperialists attempting unsuccessfully to supplant another? It wasn’t as it turned out “the war to end wars”. But was it just an accidental outbreak of unjustifiable blood-letting?


It’s harder when the event being remembered is reaching the point of being almost past living memory. As far as my own family is concerned there are a few photos of men in uniform seen in old photo albums and I know about my great uncle John James Williamson who died towards the end of the war too late to travel home on compassionate leave when his mother died. (His brother George made it home and survived the war.)


When it comes to what is being commemorated we can agree that it was the courage and sacrifice of ordinary men and women that we want to remember and the details of ordinary lives. The historians and politicians can argue over the rest.

There is no doubt about the suffering and trauma which ended the long Edwardian summer and propelled us into the 20th century. But if it feels disheartening to contemplate pain, misery and injustice we can remember that this is history. We have the whole span of the war to examine, which is why I have chosen these pictures.


This was the Peace Parade of 1919. Men and women who served in the armed forces or in auxiliary forces are seen marching down Sloane Street (just a part of the whole route) to commemorate the end of the war.

We’re rightly avoiding the word celebration this year. But I think it is right to say that these men and women were celebrating one thing – their own survival. They marched in front of cheering crowds to celebrate the peace, proud of what they had done but glad it was finished.


Home at last. War is over.


You can follow Dave’s regular blog here




Our Community, Our Stories: the book!

Steph Webb, Brompton Librarian, writes:

At the beginning of the year Brompton library began another collaboration with Celebrate My Library for an inter-generational project called Our Communities, Our Stories. The project aimed to bring together local schoolchildren (largely from our Chatterbooks reading group) and older volunteers (from the Kensington and Chelsea Older Residents Forum) to discuss the differences between being a child now compared with the memories of childhood of their older “buddies”.

In the middle of January we all got together for a supremely well-organised session which had to find time for the discussions to take place, the children to do their creative writing and create the fashion mood-board and then for Hilary and Victoria (who are Celebrate my Library!) to gather it all up so they could produce another of their beautiful books. They discussed six different topics – At Home, Hobbies, Entertainment, Food, Fashion, Days Out and School – then the children drew pictures and wrote about the lives of the buddies when they were young, but I could see it was a learning experience for both groups.

 After that session came a nail-biting break of 6 weeks while Hilary and Victoria pulled all the material together (plus some of their own) to create the book.

On March 1st we met up again for the “great reveal” of the book “written by children at Brompton Library inspired by the stories from the residents of Kensington and Chelsea”. The children were shown the book first and loved seeing their names in print! Then they wrapped it in beautiful wrapping paper to present to the buddies. The children read out their work as a performance while the buddies, parents and friends who had also come along enjoyed tea, coffee, juice and choccy biscuits.

Celebrate My Library
Celebrate My Library

The finished product

Working with Celebrate My Library is always a pleasure. They are passionate about libraries, are wonderfully creative and produce beautiful books but also have an eye for the nitty gritty detail and organisation it takes for the sessions to run smoothly – and all this in their spare time!

 Brompton has one copy of the book but you can browse it here. I’m so proud of our Chatterbooks kids and the volunteers from the Kensington and Chelsea Older Residents Forum who gave up three Saturday afternoons for this.


Angels at Olympia – our trip to Who do you think you are?- Live

Dave Walker, our Local Studies Librarian, writes:

The Who do you think you are live show at Olympia is a  big three day event in the world of genealogical and historical research for both the amateur and professional researchers and the information providers and for the first time staff and volunteers from all three Archives / Local Studies departments attended (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington).

Exhibition Hall, Kensington Olympia
Exhibition Hall, Kensington Olympia

As you can see the historic exhibition hall at Olympia was heaving with enthusiasts. It has to be admitted that we weren’t actually in the centre of the action. Our stall is almost invisible under the balcony in the distance of this picture. But close up you can see we got plenty of attention.

Our stand
Our stand

This is the stall on Saturday where Alex from Westminster Archives, who also works at Hammersmith and Fulham Archives, is visible, along with two of H&F’s volunteers. Here they are again:

Alex and volunteers
Alex and volunteers

Eagle-eyed readers will note that the organisers have spelt Westminster incorrectly on the banner.

Other staff who spent time on the stall were myself, Tim Reid (K&C) Kim Smith (Westminster but soon to work at K&C as well), Maggie Tyler (volunteer at K&C), Alison Kenney and Adrian Autton (both from Westminster). Standing around all day is tiring work, but the stall got more than 300 visitors each day so my sore feet were worth it.

I did get the chance to wander around with a camera on Saturday.

Find my Past
Find my Past

That’s the Find my Past stand featuring a refugee from the Napoleonic wars, Myko Clelland.

Find my Past
Find my Past

And one of his colleagues in Regency dress. Or possibly a time traveller.

Below, the British Library Newspaper archive:

British Library  stall
British Library stall

Upstairs on the balcony there were a number of military related stands such as this one:

Military history
Military history

And what’s this?

Distant angels
Distant angels

Promoting the Spirit of Remembrance stand a pair of genuine, if slightly surreal, battlefield angels.


Clare and Maria, who kindly let me take a picture of them. Their costumes are based on images from actual propaganda posters of WW1.

I think the event could have been enhanced with a lot more historical costumes. Maybe we should try it next year. An 18th century man gentleman? A Victorian undertaker? A WW2 fighter pilot? And that’s just me.

Of course my favourite stand was this one:


They serve a fine venison sausage with mustard that cleared my sinuses.

We spoke to hundreds of people and encouraged them to visit the three Local Studies/Archives departments, we sold a lot of publications and I successfully answered an enquiry about Westminster, which was a first for me. Thanks to Adrian Autton of Westminster for organising the stand and all the staff and volunteers who attended.

Silver Sunday 2013

Celebrate Silver Sunday 2013 in our libraries

Silver Sunday
Silver Sunday

Silver Sunday is 6 October this year, and is a day to celebrate older people by offering them free activities and events in their local areas. Activities are made available to older people on the Sunday and other days during the weeks before and after to encourage them to try new things, to keep active in body and spirit, to meet their neighbours and to overcome loneliness.

We have two events that have been organised especially for Silver Sunday but there are other activities happening across libraries all through the year – reading groups, writing groups, computer classes and so on. Ask at your local library for details of these and other things you may be interested in.

The Local History of Brompton and Earl’s Court

Earls Court Road
Earls Court Road

Wednesday 2 October, 2 to 4.45pm
Brompton Library

Want to learn more about the local history of Brompton and Earl’s Court? Then come along to meet our Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker. He will be on hand to discuss some interesting items from the Local Studies archive relating to the Brompton and the Earl’s Court area. Come and see how the area has changed over the decades. There’s no need to book a place to this free event – just come along.

Silver Sunday Quiz

Quiz time
Quiz time

Sunday 6 October, 2 to 4pm
Chelsea Library

Come along to our Silver Sunday Quiz – a great opportunity to test your general knowledge, meet people and enjoy a cup of tea. There’s no need to book a place – just come along and it’s free!

There’s more information about this special day on the Silver Sunday website.

Sue Cornish

Adult Learning Co-ordinator

Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners’ Week – 18 to 24 May 2013

Adult Learners' Week 2013
Adult Learners’ Week 2013

Adult Learners’ Week is the UK’s largest annual festival of learning, inspiring thousands of people to discover how learning can change their lives.

It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits learning can bring, and to inspire adults of all ages to try something new. We have events in five of our libraries during Adult Learners’ Week -we hope to see you there!

What makes people happy?

Birkbeck University of London
Birkbeck University of London

Sharing the practical lessons from well-being research – Birkbeck academics have put together a series free of workshops which unpack cutting-edge research from a range of disciplines to help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips to increase your well-being.

  • Please book your free place for these sessions on Eventbrite.

 How to be happy: some quick wins (and losses)

  • Saturday 18 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library

This workshop will focus on what psychologists have learnt about the science of happiness, in particular the characteristics that allow people to remain hopeful and optimistic in the face of challenging and busy lives. We will also explore how this knowledge has been translated into practical interventions that increase hope and optimism. Participants should leave with ideas around how to translate this information into small and meaningful improvements to their own levels of hope and optimism and those in their care.

Using positive psychology to stay healthy and happy in your work

  • Monday 20 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library

Find out how to safeguard and improve your happiness and well-being in professional settings. This workshop will help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips and strategies to increase your well-being.

Crocheting Divas

  • Saturday 18 May, 10.30am to 1pm, Notting Hill Gate Library
  • Friday 24 May, 12 noon to 1.30pm, Brompton Library

Learn, chat and make with the Crocheting Divas. All materials and equipment will be provided – all you need to bring is your enthusiasm and creativity. There’s no need to book a place – just come along.

Online taster sessions

Computer training sessions
Computer training sessions

Want to do more online? Please book your free place for any of these sessions at Chelsea Reference Library.

Social media: how to make the most of Facebook, Twitter and more

  • Tuesday 21 May, 2 to 4pm, Chelsea Reference Library

Beyond Google: high quality learning materials available free from your library

  • Wednesday 22 May, 10am to 12 noon, Chelsea Reference Library

Career information online: finding the best career and training information for you

  • Thursday 23 May, 12 noon to 2pm, Chelsea Reference Library

Colville Community History slideshow and talk

Tom Vague
Tom Vague
  • Tuesday 21 May, 5.30 to 7.30pm, North Kensington Library

Colville Community History Project’s Tom Vague presents a slideshow and talk about the history of the area. Come along to join in the discussion, share your experiences and find out more about the Colville Community History Project. Please book a free place for this event at North Kensington Library.

Writing Creatively in Kensington – a creative writing workshop

Creative writing
Creative writing
  • Wednesday 22 May, 1.30 to 4.30pm, Kensington Central Library

Using photos and other artefacts from our Local Studies Library to inspire creativity participants will be encouraged to write their own pieces. Please book a free place for this event at Kensington Central Library.

Deep Recording Studios – information stall

Deep Recording Studios
Deep Recording Studios
  • Wednesday 22 May, 12 noon to 4.30pm, Chelsea Library

Want to find out more about music technology or sound engineering? Then come along to our information stall run by Deep Recording Studios in West London. They run Levels 1,2 and 3 City and Guilds accredited Music Technology and Sound Engineering Courses (no qualifications required). Deep has a fully operational recording studio facility near Ladbroke Grove tube station in West London, running Logic Pro and Pro Tools music software .

Hand Sewing Workshop – make a felt badge with Eithne Farry

Eithne Farry
Eithne Farry
  • Thursday 23 May, 2 to 4pm, Kensington Central Library

Are you passionate about clothes and accessories? Would love to create something of your own, but are unsure of how to get started? Then come along to our hand sewing workshop with Eithne Farry, where you will create your own badge out of felt.
Please book your free place for this workshop at Kensington Central Library.

How to Use Skype – over 50s session with Open Age

Open Age
Open Age
  • Friday 24 May, 10am to 12 noon, North Kensington Library

Are you over 50? Have you heard about Skype? Skype allows people to talk for free to friends and family around the world via a computer using the internet. Come along to this session to learn how to use Skype. Places are strictly limited for this class, so please book your place early at North Kensington Library.

More information

The Library at Portobello Road Market

We were very kindly given a pitch on Portobello Road Market on Friday 30 November to promote the library. Me and a colleague, Amanda Southern valiantly volunteered to staff the stall for the day! We thought we’d have something eye- catching for busy shoppers to have a look at so we had lots of photos of the market through the ages, from the 18th  to the 20th centuries. These were very kindly supplied by our Local Studies Library.

Here’s some pictures of our market stall.

Our market stall from the front
Our market stall from the front
And from the back
And from the back

We were given an excellent pitch, right in the middle of the market.

Portobello Market
Portobello Market

And thankfully although it was a cold day it didn’t rain!

The sun shines at Portobello Market!
The sun shines at Portobello Road Market!

Lots of people stopped to look at the photos and talked about them.

Copy of DSC_2004
Looking at the old photos
Amanda Southern talking to an interested passer-by
Amanda Southern talking to an interested passer-by

We also took a short video of our stall. Apologies- it’s a little shaky!

Many of the current market traders knew of the families and market stalls in the photos such as Mr Brooks and Mrs Rudd.

Mr Brooks' vegetable stall, 1958
Mr Brooks’ vegetable stall, 1958
Mrs Rudd's salad stall, 1958
Mrs Rudd’s salad stall, 1958

And here’s a photo of the market in 1951.

Portobello Market, 1951
Portobello Road Market, 1951

If you’d like to see more photos like this please do pop into or contact our Local Studies Library (it’s at Kensington Central Library, W8).

It was a great day as so many people stopped to have a look and chat with us. Me and Amanda would like to say thanks to the following people as it couldn’t have happened without their help:

Mark Atkinson, Markets Development Officer- who very kindly gave us the pitch.

Eddie Philips, Building Supports Assistant- who drove us to and from the market and helped us with the gazebo.

Gaynor Lynch and Ishwari Prince from North Kensington Library- who covered for us so we could have lunch in the warm!

Dave Walker, Local Studies Librarian- he took the pictures for this post and got the photos together for the stall.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager

Kensington Central Library

Death, Taxes and Local History

Local Studies Library
Local Studies Library

Kensington and Chelsea’s Local Studies collection is housed at Kensington Central Library.

Have you ever wondered what our Local Studies Library is and what we do? It’s a question we sometimes get asked by the casual reader as they explore our newly refurbished library. The title may sound a little vague if you have never encountered a Local Studies Library before, but effectively what it actually means in its broader sense is that Local Studies is a collection of written and illustrated records that depict the history of a specific area or locality. It is the study of our local environment, our social history and all manner of local subjects past, present and future.

Local Studies Library team
Local Studies Library team

We house and archive a large collection of material pertaining to Kensington and Chelsea; everything from census records, local newspapers that go as far back as 1855, Vestry/Council records, manuscripts and electoral registers to photographs, illustrations, local books/publications and general ephemera that have been collected and carefully catalogued over many years. Part of the team’s job is to maintain and store this precious material appropriately. Some of our oldest items date back to the 16th century and in order to ensure their continued longevity we keep them in a temperature maintained room and ensure their preservation in archival boxes. Other historical sources dating back to the 18th century are still used regularly today such as rate books, which show the rates paid by owners of some of the first properties to appear in Kensington and Chelsea. It goes to show that even in the 18th century tax was recorded meticulously. Death and taxes is the saying…
Many of our visitors are interested in researching their family history, or simply want to find out how old their house is. Others may be authors or curators researching material for a specific book or exhibition. The enquiries we get are always broad and fascinating and on many occasions stretch our research skills in the most unexpected ways: did you know that Charles Dickens was married in St Luke’s Church, Chelsea? That Henry VIII built his riverside mansion at Chelsea and was a regular visitor of the area? That the name of Kensington is actually Saxon, first recorded in the Domesday Book as Chenesitun? That the ‘Royal’ in the borough title was bestowed upon Kensington by Queen Victoria, herself born in Kensington Palace? I have to admit, prior to my years working for the department I knew very little of these historical facts. It is true that sometimes we pick up a book and come across some interesting snippets of information. But it was only when I began to acquaint myself with the wonderful items in the collection that I began to learn in earnest – a most satisfactory endeavour for anyone who has an interest in knowledge and preserving it.

The nature of Local Studies is that we keep adding to the records and enhancing our sources. Sometimes we are a repository for other collections too which enriches our own. We as a team are committed to keeping and preserving this treasure trove that ultimately presents us with a picture of the local community as it was, as it is and how it will be. Should curiosity be in your nature you are very welcome to visit the Local Studies Library where you may find secrets waiting to be discovered as one lady did when she found out one of her ancestors was a duke, to the surprise of all her relatives.
For more on Local Studies please see the wonderful blog written by the Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker. It’s called The Library Time Machine

We had an Open Afternoon on the 8th December, people were treated to a tour of our archive rooms and had a look at some of the treasures in them. It was a great success and we will be having some more in 2013. We’re open six days a week from 1pm- come in and meet the team: Senior Customer Services Assistants, Isabel Hernandez, Katrina Wilson, Tim Reid and our Local Studies Librarian, Dave walker. We will try to answer any questions you may have regarding the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s local history.

Isabel Hernandez in action!
Isabel Hernandez in action!

Isabel Hernandez, Senior Customer Services Assistant
Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library