Over the gate...

Designed in 1913 by Victorian/Edwardian/other architect Theophilus A Allen; John Lennon's house between 1964 and 1968; sunroom, attic and prisco stripe hibernice; Mellotron and caravan; Babidji and Mimi; mortar and pestle; Wubbleyoo Dubbleyoo; curios and curiosity; remnants and residue; testimonials and traces; (Cavendish Avenue, Sunny Heights and Kinfauns); Montagu Square; mock Tudor: Brown House: *KENWOOD*.

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Friday, 31 July 2009

Kenwood: internal & external architecture part 7 - east side part 2.



Sometimes, when considering Kenwood, it is hard not to be reminded of the old one about the man who has gradually replaced every part on his bicycle over a period of 50 years, but still points at it and says, "I remember buying that bike half a century ago". And thus, believe it or not, the bit beyond the wall around the front of Kenwood. (As ever, click on it for a good look).
A couple of architects who worked on the kitchen area and the garage respectively, have very kindly responded to emails from me and provided valuable information. First the garage. As we have recently seen, this is the only part of the house which can claim a Tarrant connection. His firm built it, but didn't design it, in 1919. Well, I'm afraid another bit of Tarrant (and so in this case another bit of Lennon-era Kenwood) has bitten the dust. The original garage (the one that features in those famous pics of John and Julian by the Rolls) was demolished in 1995. The one that is there now is completely new - though the architect has done a very skillful job and it doesn't appear so. The original garage was much smaller: So there we go. Something similar pertains to the entire ground floor kitchen/sunroom/recreation area part of Kenwood. We know that the original sunroom is long gone, but so, it seems is the Lennon-era kitchen - and indeed, much of that whole part of the house. It was all demolished and rebuilt around the same time as the garage. The original kitchen was much smaller than the one there now - and much darker too, apparently. (This round of demolition/renovation also explains the noteably more integrated look that the north-western exterior of this bit of Kenwood has now, compared with the 60s). The more information that comes to light, the more of the original Kenwood shuffles off into history. A bad thing? In the grand scheme of it all (assuming there is a grand scheme) - no. As Simplicius (who was "heavily influenced" by Heraclitus) and J.W.Lennon, not forgetting the "densely melodic" Teenage Fanclub have all said - everything flows. Many thanks to those architects for taking the time to provide the new information.
UPDATE - Further examples of things I got wrong on display here. I won't point them out - for elucidation, read on Macduff.

Kenwood: north perimeter steps, 1968 & 2009.




These steps run right up the northern edge of the property, from the bottom of the garden on past where the swimming pool was originally situated. This photo of John and Yoko, taken as they approached that point in December 1968, has been seen on here before, but the recent pic, taken from the bottom of the steps below, hasn't. The images in circulation of the pair of them in and around a half empty Kenwood shortly before the final move have a tangible valedictory air to them...and there is a certain ghostly quality to the contemporary photo too, for that matter.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Kenwood: the Brown House.




Kenwood is generally regarded as being a Tarrant house (ie one designed and built by master builder W.G. Tarrant). It was certainly sold as such last time it came on the market. However, my "research" (for want of a better word) has just turned up the information that it isn't a Tarrant house at all. In fact, it seems it was designed by Victorian (and Edwardian) architect Theophilus A Allen, and built by the firm of B Love and Sons, of Surrey. Plans were filed with Walton-on-Thames Urban District Council on 1 May 1913; specifically plan No 1215, for ‘Proposed House for Norman H. Johnson Esq at St. George’s Hills’. So Kenwood (or the Brown House as it was originally known) was commissioned by and built for this Mr Johnson. (I am still on the trail of these plans). In that case, where did the Tarrant business come from? Well, there is a connection - namely, the garage. This was built later - plans were filed on 16 June 1919; architects the macabrely monikered Pine-Coffin, Imrie & Angel and, here the connection - builder W.G. Tarrant, Son & Co. So the firm of Tarrant and son built the garage, but had nothing to do with the house proper. Interesting stuff. The list of former owners of Kenwood grows - Norman H. Johnson, manufacturer Kenneth Wood (UPDATE - I've since learned that he never owned Kenwood), an unknown American woman, someone or other called John Winston Lennon (whoever he was), songwriter Bill Martin and an unknown Swedish businessman...(By the way, the illustrations above are another Theophilus A Allen designed house at Woburn Park. There is something quite Kenwood-esque about those chimneys.)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Kenwood: sunroom wall.













There is a very exciting (seriously) Kenwood related project currently happening, the fruits of which you will be able to see here and here. As part of this, we need to gather as much information as possible about the pictures hanging on the sunroom wall. (Several of these have been identified, but many more haven't.) The first photo here has the most complete upper and lower perspective thus far. That appears to be the Lucy In The Sky picture hanging above the mirror. Compare the jagged lines to its left with the colour image. However, some of the details are clearly different - has anyone got any idea why, or a version of this pic closer to the one hanging on the wall? Next up, the two books visible on the bottom right. One is the 1967 US edition of John's collected works; but what is the other one? Finally, the Alan Aldridge "Dr Lennon" is by now well known to us, and on the other end of that wall is the vintage map also shown here.
The rest remains a mystery. Any information, or ideally scans, would be greatly appreciated - send them to the email address in the header above. (Also, does anyone have a decent photo of the Fool painted piano?)

Friday, 24 July 2009

Kenwood: den - June, 1967.





A colour shot of Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger working on John's piano in the den room, which occupies part of the southern ground floor at Kenwood. This particular keyboard was, seemingly, John's favourite; originally belonging to his Aunt Mimi, it was almost certainly the one he used to write I Am The Walrus, amongst other amaranthine chefs-d'ouevre. Upon completion of the Fool's paint job, the piano was moved through to the sunroom, where it can be glimpsed in several snapshots occupying the wall next to the internal entrance (again see posts passim). Simon was kind enough to respond to a recent email from me, and confirmed that, as far as he knows, the piano that now sits in Friar Park is this very one. (That may seem fairly obvious, but it was possible that George had the Fool do a copy of John's, or vice-versa.) Note 1: Kenwood's expensive black carpeting (often mentioned in Beatles books as being particularly prone to cat-shit related trauma) can be seen in the hall. Note 2: John is filming the proceedings. Does Yoko have this footage? Note 3: The other smaller keyboard visible in the Kenwood pics above is also intriguing. John took this piano with him to Tittenhurst - it can be seen in at least one photo circa 1971. Why didn't he also take the psychedelic piano? How did it end up at Friar Park? I, for one, dunno. (Note also the Ivor Novello awards on top of it).
Simon's very interesting website has now been added to the Friends & Neighbours section on the right, and if you can speak Dutch then go and buy his autobiography - A Fool Such As I. (An English language version is currently being negotiated, so fingers crossed for that.)

Kenwood: wallpaper.




Two fragments of Kenwood, rescued by Joe Baiardi during his visit last year. These came from the room on the left in the second pic - namely the master bedroom circa 2006 - and what was probably a guest bedroom during the Lennon-era. As we have seen, Kenwood was undergoing extensive renovation at the time of Joe's visit, during which the remnants seen here were revealed behind the sheetrock. The question is, do they date from John's time? I'd say it is a distinct possibility - plants and flowers formed a definite motif in the decor of the house between 1964 and 1968. You can spot them on the dining room curtains, the sunroom armchairs, the master bedroom bed etc (see posts passim). For the hundredth time, many thanks indeed to Joe for sharing his Kenwood material with the rest of us.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Kenwood: south end & drive.






A large (click on it), new to this blog shot of the southern end of Kenwood. Dot (or someone) has opened the attic and master bedroom windows. (One can postulate why.) Enthralling stuff. This end of the house is unique, however, in that it hasn't been subject (or subjected) to any cosmetic tinkering/remodelling beyond the painting of the drainpipe. The colour 2008 Joe Baiardi shot also gives a good impression of the odd shape of Kenwood, curling away around the top of the hill. Also here, again lifted from Mr Baiardi's video, the view from that upstairs room to the left. Looking down on the drive, towards the approximate position shown in the upgraded fan photo, a curious sense of perspective is possible - mental ping pong across the decades. (I can keep this nonsense up more or less indefinitely, you realise.) The upgrade courtesy of, yet again, J. Baiardi, esq. Heaped gratitude piled upon him.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Kenwood: dining room table part 4 - Tittenhurst Park part 2.




...which, if nothing else, qualifies as most ridiculous post title thus far. Rest assured I am half-appalled that we have reached a total of 4 posts about a table. (But only half appalled.) Nevertheless, the as yet best look at the Kenwood dining room table in the second pic - captured, of course, at Ascot in 1970. The table was probably the biggest single item (apart from pianos) that John took when he moved out of Kenwood: Cynthia had already appropriated pretty much everything else. There is also an interesting, illustrative (though surely unintended) symmetry to these two photos. Many thanks to Glen Marteney for sending the second one in.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Kenwood & Greece: July, 1967.




Two front pages from towards the end of July, 1967. Click on them to read the stories. John was off in Greece buying an island, and so not present for the delivery of the psychedelic caravan to Kenwood - unlike Mrs Kathleen Bolton, apparently. (Is it just me, or does the whole story, amusing though it may be, smack a little too much of "Please-Sir-Can-We-Have-Our-Ball-Back-ism"? Though perish the thought that the tabloids might have invented a story.) She was, it seems, "jeered at" by waiting teenagers, which I'm afraid raised a titter or two round these parts. The other "story" from a couple of days later isn't really, though it does feature a splendid picture of John, refulgent in Jesus Saves t-shirt, stuffing his face.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Kenwood: attic, June 1967.



Inferior quality ("shitty" could be justifiably used), and yet, for all that, a rarely seen attic studio variant from June 1967, and therefore well worth a look. He appears to be tuning up. You can boil Lennon-era Kenwood down to two rooms - the sunroom and the attic. Both the look and the sound of the attic continue to ripple down the years, of course, courtesy of primitive technology which once captured monochromatic moments on film and verbatim drollery on lengths of magnetic tape; fan photos, Leslie Bryce, bootlegged demos, Two Virgins and the like. There is a vivid contrast between the black and white photos taken in June 1967 by Mr Bryce and their occasionally glimpsed colour variations. Both are highly evocative, of course, but the intense complexion of the latter lends them an odd hyper-real quality which is quite in keeping with the phantom nostalgia which surrounds the Beatles and the 1960s in general. (I'm talking about people like me who weren't alive at the time.) Such oddly luminescent faux-feeling certainly permeates this blog, which many might regard as at least slightly silly. But I feel it is all harmless fun, or at least relatively harmless fun, and I wonder if the same reservations would be expressed about the close study of, say, Beethoven's sunroom, or Mozart's stash tin. The Beatles' ship sailed a very long time ago - all too soon, in the grand scheme of things, they will have passed beyond the realm of living memory; at which point all such nonsense will be history proper, not to mention proper history. The poor quality of the above pic somehow underscores this. Still, annoying to think that in a drawer somewhere this, and others of its ilk, must exist in perfect quality.
And just how many colour variants are there?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Kenwood: sunroom - doll chair.




As regulars will know, the sunroom at Kenwood, particularly during the high jinks of the latter Lennon-era, was a veritable smorgasbord of the abnormal and the atypical, the quaint and the queer, the uncommon and the unheard of, the fantastic and the, dare one say it, far out; much of it a reflection of John's pell-mell, fitfully effervescent personality - stare into the newfangled colour television, and the newfangled colour television also stares into you. Or something. I sometimes feel that John's drug use may have been somewhat exaggerated over the years (though it appears to be the one thing everyone agrees on), but there is little doubt that the sunroom, as constituted throughout the shiny summer of '67, resembled nothing so much as a cocoon for acid-heads. Odd illustrations, old photographs and caricatures festooned upon the walls, the psychedelic piano to the left, the sticker, poster and mystical detritus strewn cupboards to the right, a panoramic view through windows that were doors, over a garden that resembled a curious (and beautiful) park more than it did a garden in front - yes, this is probably one reason why the room is a source of such fascination to Kenwoodites. Every time you examine a picture of the place, a new detail presents itself. In this case, we have the odd little armchair evident in the photo of John being fitted for a jacket in June, 1967. You can see it to the left, under the Monterey poster. It's clearly not big enough for an adult. Doubtless meant for Julian, it was nevertheless occasionally occupied by a somewhat creepy clown doll - and both chair and doll can be seen in colour above. Many thanks to Lana Baker for sending this pic.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Kenwood: dining room table, part 3.




Two more featuring that table again, or at least a leg thereof.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Kenwood: dining room table, part 2 - Tittenhurst Park.





More bloody table. These photos are, obviously, from the Beatles' final photo session at Tittenhurst Park, shortly after John and Yoko moved in. But they are really a better look at the dining room table from Kenwood, transplanted and shortly to be superseded. I wonder where it is now, though not often.

Kenwood: dining room table, part 1.







Some upgrades of these photos from the dining room. The rather "worried" table, which Ken Partridge obtained from a farmhouse, was a source of displeasure to Cynthia... There weren't many dinner parties chez Lennon if you don't count those involving the other Beatles, but those guests who were invited tended to be Bob Dylan or Peter Cook or Joan Baez or Mike Nesmith or etc. It's also possible that this was the table around which the Beatles convened with a medium for a spot of light seancing following the demise of Brian Epstein. Thanks to Joe Baiardi for one of these, and more on a theme of worried dining room table to follow.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Kenwood: 1965 - drawing room.



As you have probably seen, Mark Jones c.1970 has sorted this one out a bit more, so here it is. Thanks to him for that. I have had to return to the horrible world of 9-5 employment for a while, and so the rate of postage will fall whilst that is on-going. However, I will do what I can. One or two very interesting things are on the way, apparently... and in the meantime other material more or less so, now and again.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Kenwood: 1965 - dining room?



Jeannette has very kindly sent this bigger and better version in. She reckons it could be the dining room, in front of the doorway leading to the internal hall, which in turn took you to the sunroom. That could well be correct - even in 2006 this doorway was small, and there is clearly a big window quite close by which would fit with the dining room theory. She also says she has seen an uncropped version of one of the other pics in the last post (the one with Julian in the foreground and John/Cyn behind), which shows the musical instrument lithographs on the wall, meaning those pics were taken in the drawing room (to use its 2006 nomenclature). That makes sense, given the other photos from the same session taken there (ie the George and Pattie visit). Many thanks to Jeannette for the scan and the information.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Kenwood: 1965 (& 1967).







Some more of these oft-seen family shots from 1965. It's impossible (UPDATE - no, it's not. These were taken in the dining room. See later blather for the details.) to tell where exactly in Kenwood these were taken - except for the one of Julian with the small piano. That's the same keyboard as can be seen against the wall in the '67 small room shot with the Fool, and I'd guess that is the small room in the Julian shot. The radiator also looks the same as in the other '67 small room shot (remember the different window position would have resulted in a bigger stretch of wall during the John-era - as if you could ever forget), and the wall colour does too. Clicking on the panorama image will give you a closer comparison.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Kenwood: sunroom end.








A rather splendid Joe Baiardi comped image of Kenwood - click on it for the big picture. It's also worth comparing this image with the 1967 shot HERE - the best illustration thus far of the amount of renovation which that portion of the house has undergone. What's also rather splendid is that John's "perch" sits there still, unchanged all these years later, as if awaiting a certain eccentrically attired nabob. Those who knew John at Kenwood, particularly latterly, all said that they felt he was drifting away from them during this period. He often went days without speaking, but if the weather was at all mild, the sunroom doors would open and out he'd come to ensconce himself on the spot shown in these photos, looking down the hill over his magnificent patch...sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun, indeed. Goo goo g'joob, moreover. And letting one's knickers down goes without saying.