174 Walton Street

15 Jan

Last Sunday I took an extended walk around Knightsbridge. It’s an area I don’t know too well, and considering the quasi-mythological role it plays in the general perception of London, I thought it was worth an hour or two of my procrastination.

Horrids aside, the area doesn’t give off many clues; Knightsbridge is devoid of the grandiose villas and Victorian delusions of grandeur that make Kensington, its neighbour to the North West such a great setting for conspiracy movies. The streets have private annexes forbidden to the general public, and I saw but a couple of people in the streets. The oligarchs must like staying indoors, I suppose.

The first thing that struck me was how empty it all was. The chap above was the only soul I saw in a full hour of aimless wandering. No shops, no noise, no dogs- and consequently, no shit. I’m unsure as to whether it would be more or less spooky in daylight.

The phone booth above is pure Mysteron, no? I started to believe it possessed the ability to recreate the exact likeness of an object or person- but first, it must destroy.

At that point I realised I the music on my headphones was too loud, and I should never have put the Captain Scarlet theme tune on repeat anyway. This broke the spell- it was time to go home.

I walked along Walton Street towards Brompton Cross, past the squat Victorian Ikea terraces, and saw this;

Something (or rather someone) had fallen through the cracks of gentrification, and I’m fully aware that I’m on dodgy moral ground for taking these intrusive photos and putting them on the internet. In my defence, It felt like a relatively important bit of urban teratology- that is, of things (or “monsters”) which simply don’t fit into a context. The decaying house is quite extraordinary- in stark contrast to the monotony of the rest of the street, and indeed the area. There’s an opportunity for a neat simile- like James Bond surrounded by Blofeld clones in Diamonds are Forever, this is the only address on Walton Street that hasn’t been facelifted to the point of losing its identity.

It reminds me of a house on Ongar Road, near to where I live. The street was scrubbed up in the mid-90s to prepare for yuppie colonisation, but the occupier of 128 refused to comply. In contrast to the rest of the sandy-coloured street, His property was soot-black, and resembled something from an Edgar Poe story. It was a local landmark, and strangely, most people seemed to like it the way it was.

It’s now covered in scaffolding, getting its inevitable makeover. My friend Ben, who used to live next door, told me the owner died without anybody noticing, and a police squad had to break down the door to get in. Apparently the corpse had been there rotting for two months.

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3 Responses to “174 Walton Street”

  1. chorcheho January 17, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    Digby you’re too pretty not to post more photos of yourself on the blog – Kelsey

  2. positivegreenford January 26, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I grew up in Knightsbridge because my mother was a housekeeper and we lived in tied accomodation. I moved to suburbia as soon as I could afford to because I had become aware that life in a cobbled mews surrounded by millionaires was just not normal. And I wanted to be able to buy a bag of chips on the way home after a gig just like my friends could. Knightsbridge can be glossy on the surface and grubby in the corners. I lived in a tiny mews house over what was once a stable, then a garage. Draughty, leaky and cramped. The live-in staff are hidden away and tend to live in the bits with lots of central heating pipes but they love telling everyone that they live in such a posh part of the city. It makes up for the lousy pay.

    • screaminjayjoplin January 26, 2012 at 1:34 am #

      Thanks for the comment- it’s interesting to hear about it below the surface first hand.
      My mother had a friend who lived in a similar-sounding mews flat in Knightsbridge in the mid-80s; apparently the stench from the restaurant bins below was intolerable, but even then there was a cinema and normal shops. It always struck me as weird that an area so ostensibly desirable can be totally devoid of what most Londoners would consider basic local amenities- I’m guessing not everyone can afford to shop in Harrods food hall.

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