Winkworth Kentish Town

Last week’s lively discussion on local ‘boundary’ issues was interesting: on the one hand it’s perhaps a futile (and, as one reader said, middle-class) question, but on the other it’s of interest historically – and that’s why we want to return to it just once more in today’s Wednesday Picture.

As most of our commenters pointed out, it’s universally agreed that West Kentish Town is within the ‘border’ of KT; most consider Kentish Town to stretch west to Maitland Park. (Perhaps, as Talacre campaigner Nick Harding astutely suggested last week, the Neighbourhood Forum should have been called the Kentish Town Road Forum.) And the above illustration from 1880 is clear historical proof that even south west of Malden Road has long been considered just ‘Kentish Town.’

This imposing edifice is Malden Factories, which once occupied the space roughly on the corner of Prince Of Wales Road and Malden Crescent (at the top of Ferdinand Street). Note its location, printed in the top left corner: not Chalk Farm (as many of us would now call it); not even ‘West Kentish Town.’ It’s also worth remembering that the Overground station alongside Camden Brewery was, until 1923, also known simply as ‘Kentish Town’.

But point made, let’s move on. Malden Works housed George Rowney & Co, a company specialising in the manufacture of oil and watercolour paintings.

The factory, arranged in blocks around three sides of a yard (top right), included other industries and was hit by scandal in the mid 1890s when a piano-making scam ended up imprisoning those responsible for fraud.

It has a literary claim to fame too. Cold Comfort Farm author Stella Gibbons was born (1902) and raised at the entrance to Malden Works.

When Stella was 11 her doctor father, a serial adulterer, threatened to his wife that he would commit suicide.

Her biographer Reggie Oliver states: ‘As the ranting went on Stella noticed a slight smile on his face and that he was deriving a secret pleasure from the scene, much as an actor might do from tearing a passion to tatters. She was appalled. To suffer from a fit of despair was one thing; but actually enjoying causing a scene was quite another.’

Fast forward fifty odd years and the whole site was rebuilt as the Denton estate, laid out at the end of the 1960s and a particularly good example of social housing at its most inward looking. Old streets layouts were abandoned in favour of a series of blocks hostile to outsiders. Sadly, last year it was where cash tills from the ransacked Evans Cycles were found after the London riots.

So another corner of the manor with a rich backstory, worth a contemplative moment or two, perhaps as you ponder the inscription on the hand-painted tiling in the surprisingly leafy herb garden:

Words & Pics: Stephen Emms

[box]The Wednesday Picture comes to you in association with Winkworth Property Agents. Find them at 306 Kentish Town Road.[/box] [box] Sources: Streets of West Kentish Town (Camden History Society, available at Owl Bookshop £7.99) Oliver, Reggie. Out of the Woodshed: A Life of Stella Gibbons. (Bloomsbury, 1998, p.19) [/box]

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