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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Correspond via: kenwoodlennon@googlemail.com

Monday, 27 September 2010

Kenwood: bloody pests.

A fan photo of Cynthia at the front door, sometime in 1967 (shamelessly filched from Meet The Beatles For Real - link under Friends & Neighbours). Probably the best illustration yet of John & Terry Doran's handiwork with the spray paint - and fairly repulsive it is too.
This pic reminds me of Chris Tanner's recollections in a MOJO feature from a while back, on a theme of "Have Ye Met The Fabs?":
"Richard & I were in the 5th form at St James' Secondary School in Weybridge. This was Beatle territory in 1966. John, Paul, George & Ringo all had properties in this comfortable stockbroker belt. Richard had collected autographs from all but the "gifted" one - John Lennon. Together, on our bikes we peddled through St Georges Hills estate to the Lennon's property Kenwood. No guards on the gate (two huge oak doors carved with the names of a thousand fans). We tread the gravel driveway that sweeps through the gardens past Beatle sculptures (remember "Beatle Boots"), to the front door. Amazingly our nervous knock on the door is answered by Cynthia Lennon complete with tinted glasses. We ask if John is home and Cynthia sweetly tells us to try on Tuesday. Is this lady dumb? Allowing two non-descript schoolboys to sally forth again! Tuesday arrived and once again we knocked on the door. This time there was a protracted, nervous wait on the step. The door opened and blue jeans, t-shirt and shock of Beatle's locks greeted us. "Hi John. Err wondered if you could autograph this album" "Give it 'ere, bloody pests". John signed the album and two school chums went home very happy.
Great story but here's the crack. Me, not really into the Beatles...more a Stones man, didn't bother with John's autograph. So now I can only look back and reflect on our meeting and the fact that Richard (wherever he is) is considerably richer than me!"

Friday, 24 September 2010

Manchester Square: EMI House.

Another little bit of London long gone: down the side of EMI House in Manchester Square sat some stairs, upon which le Ringo et al squatted on 5 March, 1963. All gone now, inevitably, but still there then, in the mid-90s, when the above pic was taken by Guus Limberger.
A then & then (note Sir George keeping a watchful eye on le Ringo (et al)):

And another:

Many thanks again go to Guus.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Kenwood: gates & ghosts.

The gate at Kenwood, circa 1976, as pictured by Guus Limberger; clearly, light has corrupted the film, giving it an odd, eerie quality. Though Guus took lots of photos, this is the only one that came out.
A couple of points: the heavy sliding gate that John installed was still in use at this point; and the sign that recently appeared for sale on eBay appears to be this one:

During the 70s, Kenwood was owned by the songwriter Bill Martin. A then & now poolside shot can be found on his website HERE. Bill recently appeared on Radio Merseyside talking about his time as owner of the auld pile, and told an interesting  tale relating to the night John died and things that go smash in the night, not that you will find me repeating it here, oh no, not me.
This, o' course, is not the first bit of supernatural gubbins related by a former owner; anyone who read the John H interview on these pages will recall the ghostly bearded man in white who appeared in the attic. And Fred Lennon's then girlfriend Pauline was terrified of the place when she slept there during the latter part of 1967.
Whatever one makes of all this, Bill spins a good yarn; here's hoping he finally writes the memoir he has been threatening for the last few years.
Finally, a more recent Joe Baiardi shot showing the gate, and the buggy originally bought by Bill, which can be seen in the Thames At 6 footage. By this point it had migrated outside the grounds:

Many thanks to Guus and to Joe.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

St Pancras Church: yet more MDO.

A couple of less often seen MDO shots, together with their then & nows, above & below:

Self-explanatory, so I'll spare you:

This, however, may be of slightly more interest; a shot from 1941 showing not only the effects of the Luftwaffe on buildings directly opposite the church, but the plinth, then lacking its obelisk, also in place in 1968 and 2010:

These bombed out buildings were, of course, subsequently razed, to be replaced by the rather splendid art-deco tower block known as Cecil Rhodes House - which later loomed pleasingly in another favourite MDO pic, and continues to do so to this day:

In an impressive feat of incompetence, I managed to cock up the Coroner's Court shot for a second time, so once again that will have to wait (not that it matters).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Kenwood: a map with bottles in etc.

Extreme trivia this may be, but many of the fixtures and fittings from the Lennon-era Kenwood have appeared on the open market - largely as a result of Cynthia's "car boot sale" in the early '90s. Above can be seen the Asprey's globe cocktail cabinet (or, in John's words, the "map of the world that has bottles in it") that sat from 1965-1968 in the den; in-situ in Cathy Kelleher Sarver's snapshot from '68, then, below that, over Tony Wilson's shoulder as he interviewed Cynthia at home in the mid-1980s, and finally at auction in 1991, where its estimate was £600-800.
Cynthia also interviewed Julian chez...err...Penrith around this time, and one or two bits of Kenwood detritus can be seen floating about (not literally). For example, the lithograph after Basilus Besler, which used to hang in the dining room at Kenwood; for a second time, to the rear of Julian:

At one point, the pair are pictured going through some old scrap-books of family snaps, some of which are instantly recognisable to anyone who follows this guff:

...and some of which, intriguingly enough, aren't.
Cynthia's Kenwood residue was sold over three auctions at Christie's, and included one or two other very familiar bits and pieces, such as the Persian rug from the sunroom, as pictured on June 29, 1967:

Julian has been re-buying a lot of these items, and a book is soon to appear on this very subject.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Kenwood: drawing room, 1965.

Another shot from the 1965 session that also produced these (amongst many others), showing the drawing room at Kenwood just before Ken Partridge's decor was scrapped:

Many thanks to Jeannette for the new pic; her Beatle progeny site can be found here.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

3 Savile Row: 1976 and all that.

Apple finally got rid of its lease on 3 Savile Row in October, 1976. The above pic, from that year, illustrates the by-then pitiful condition of the building: "OUT" indeed. Still the old Apple front door hung on, as seen to the rear of Ringo's Rotogravure:

Apparently, the door now resides in storage, having been salvaged by Neil Aspinall for what remained of Apple the company, before the lease was sold on Apple the building (though I've also heard a rumour that John had it shipped over to the Dakota). At any rate, as the door, so the building: the windows smashed, the exterior dirt-smeared... the place was "fooked", within and without. In bits, too, the fabled home of Apple Scruffs a.k.a. the steps (probably damaged by workmen lugging their smashing machinery in and out, or else chipped away at by naughty memento-seeking fans). The Scruffs actually appeared much more together than Apple (or the steps) by the end, having membership cards, a magazine, and even stationery, as the following sheet, plucked from the teetering pile of Beatles crud that threatens to overwhelm my bedroom, shows:

Plans from the early 70s suggest that 3 Savile Row had undergone conversion from an office to a production suite (and been gutted in the process - see posts passim). At least, so say the plans - I'm not sure the work was ever actually completed. Anyway, another shot from '76: a reasonable guess is that this one is post-lease, as work appears to have begun to tidy the place up again:

The basement door to the Apple studio was still in place at that point:

Nowadays, as these contemporary pics show, there is nothing left down there from the Apple era; numerous renovations have seen the lot replaced:

Finally, a shot from a few years back, with the building looking much more spruce, but temporarily semi-detached due to the demolition of its neighbour to the left:

Many thanks to Guus Limberger for the first '76 pic, Wim de Lang for the other two '76 pics, and to Christopher Bourke for the more recent shot.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Madingley Club/Ducks Walk: then & now.

A return to the scene of that April '69 photo session (Madingley Club/Ducks Walk). As has been seen, the club itself ist kaput long time. Above is what's there now; everything vaguely similar, and completely different. (I have a feeling it would make more sense to visit in the bleak mid-winter.) Below, a fairly pathetic attempt to splice 1969 into 2010, always a poor idea:

After being pictured lounging against the Roller in the car park, they moved along to Ducks Walk for a spot of messing about on the river, probably via this passage, which may or may not be where the '69 shot was taken:

When you get to Ducks Walk, there is a gate, and a sign warning that to proceed to the river is at your own risk. The path is now very overgrown, but it does lead to a small...well, "dock" is too grand a word. But presumably this is where they "pushed off" from. If so, you can see the island, which served as the focus for the final photos on that day, on the right:

Again, things have no doubt changed in the interim, but the vantage point at the end of the path certainly seems to provide the same perspective:

The by now extremely bushy island:

Thanks to The Beatles' London, and to the City of London/London Metropolitan Archive for permission to use the old Madingley Club pic, and to Julian Carr, yet again.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Kenwood: June 12, 1965.

John and George, pictured outside the front door at Kenwood, apparently (see comments) on June 12, 1965. This was the day news broke (widely) (again, see comments, if you like) about their being awarded the MBE. Note the naked-lady knocker. Note too George's get-up: the same (sans hat) as the back of Rubber Soul and the UK Help! album (I don't know about the US version - I don't have a copy of it). The photos of John on the rear of both of these were certainly taken at Kenwood, and I wonder (though not very often) if any of the others were too.
Another artefact associated with this date is the warrant sent to Ringo to inform him that he was also being so "honoured", marked the twelfth day of June, 1965:

Obviously, the other three would have received a warrant too, but, as far as I know, Ringo's is the only one to surface so far. John's MBE was recently discovered lurking in the bowels of Buckingham Palace during a spring-clean; there's talk of putting it on display somewhere or other.

Thanks to Simon, and to M.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Chiswick House: then & now - part 2.

Moving right along, the Paperback Writer promo, filmed on the same day as Rain, in the, frankly, disgusting grounds of Chiswick House. (I jest.) Again, it is rather strange to be confronted suddenly with the '66 set, in aspic, as it were; but there, rather wonderfully, it is, and you are. The statue garden served thus, and there they remain:

John was also shown having a bit of a lie down on the above spot, and to the right is a present day Beatle-eye-view, taken from that perspective; you can see the Rain cedar tree off to the right, and Chiswick House itself straight ahead - as could they:

Back to the conservatory, now stripped of plants in this central section, but the raised bit on the floor, upon which Ringo squats, remains:

Outside the main entrance to the glass building, the Fabs were filmed on a bench immediately to the right, leaning forward in sequence (as if nauseated):

Finally, and not before time, the Socrates-looking-mofo from the very start of the remastered PW clip, as seen in Anthology, in situ still:

If you are in or about London, and stuck for something to do on a fair-weather day, I thoroughly recommend a trip to Chiswick House, in and of itself. It's a beautiful place, and all the Beatle stuff is really just icing on the cake/cherry on the pie/chutney on the curry/paper party hat on the chihuahua.
Gracias again to that Beatles' London book.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Chiswick House: then & now - part 1.

Much as I love London (and I suppose I must), there are few more hellish places than, for example, Oxford Street on a hot day. Conversely, Chiswick House and gardens. Chiswick House (don't forget those gardens) is as lovely a spot as you will ever find, and made all the more so by the constant frissons engendered by happening upon oddly familiar places.
It was, of course, the locale for a pair of promo films from May '66 (one's called Rain and one's called Paperback Writer). Starting with Rain, and the gate that opens the film, seen from both sides, then and the noo:

Remarkably, the grounds don't seem to have changed much at all, since the day of filming (give or take a Ringo/statue/bush or two); the cedar tree branch, so familiar from the film and Nowhere Man ep, still there (and still covered in children when I visited):

The conservatory has undergone some refurbishment, but remains recognisable. The main difference is that the central portion, which saw much of the action, has been stripped of foliage/statuary:

One of my favourite Beatle pics, from the back cover of the 70s re-issue of Paperback Writer, much pored over as a nipper whilst the disc got spun to death (and odd it was too to be standing on the very spot all these years after the fact). The gate seen in the pic and promos isn't there anymore:

The area behind the conservatory, then as now, is home to vegetable patches and the like, and not usually open to the public. Hence, they hung out here between takes, attempting to avoid the massed ranks of teenagers from the school across the road:

Finally for part 1, a couple of pics taken near the second gate, between the conservatory and the car park; still, too, the same these days:

Note Mr Bicknell, bringing up the rear:

Part 2 to follow, like it or not. Thanks as ever to The Beatles' London (Schreuders, Lewisohn & Smith) for guidance (though wandering around lost is no chore at Chiswick (did I mention those gardens?)).

Sunny Heights: more January '67 tache action.

A couple more pics from the Sunny Heights session, complete with poodle, tache etc etc.

Many thanks to Bruno Dupont for these.

Kenwood: interview with John H.

John H. grew up at Kenwood in the 1980s; that's him on the swing in the Thames At 6 footage. I managed to track him down (or rather, he contacted me; "research" for this blog usually involves little more than periodically checking my in-box).
He was kind enough to provide interesting answers to my inane questions:

Were your family aware of Kenwood's history when they bought it?
My parents did not know that the house belonged to John Lennon when they bought it.
So what attracted them to the place?
They chose between this house and another house. This house had larger rooms and felt a lot more open. Also the view is great from the upper floors. You can see all the way to Guilford from where the blue window had been!
What renovations happened during your time at Kenwood - were there any major changes?
We renovated the sun room into a breakfast room, the kitchen was redone, the upstairs TV-room was renovated (Bedroom no.2), the master bedroom and bathroom were completely redone (master bedroom had an oriental theme and the bathroom was redone into black marble with Jacuzzi and walk in closets). We re-did one of the upstairs bathrooms to an en-suite bathroom for bedroom no.4 (my room).

In the attic area not much was done except that the blue room was repainted and the blue window changed to a normal glass window. Then there were a lot of things we wanted to do but never got round to. Like re-do the pool house and the garage area that was done in 1995. Most of the renovations were done I think in 88/89. The blue room was changed earlier - I think, around ‘85.

Was John's mirrored recess by one of the windows still there in the 80s?
Not sure about the mirror recess.
Can you shed any more light on the sunroom - was it a completely new structure during the 80s, or the same structure as the 60s, but modified?
It was redone during the renovations as mentioned above. Proper heating, double glazed windows and a gas fireplace was installed.

What was John's attic studio room used as during your time there? Was the layout of the rooms the same as in the plan? If so, what were the two small rooms off the hall used for?
The attic looked very much the same as the plan. The difference being that the studio was used as a bedroom and there was a bathroom and large closet to the right when you entered the room. In the studio room both my sisters claim they saw a white figure of a bearded man in that room. They didn’t dare to sleep there for months! The attic room, bed room no. 6, was used as a guest room. Bedroom no.5 was used as storage space. The cats room was also used as a storage space. This room had the old boiler at the far end and was a proper attic, dark, cramped and creepy. There was a half staircase leading up to it.

Did you often get people appearing at the front gate wanting to have a look round the property?
During the better part of living there we didn't use the gate, so people would knock on our door. There was at least a couple of enthusiasts every year who would come by. We didn't let them in but they were allowed to look round the property.
Speaking of the gate, an architect who worked on the place in 1995 has told me that he remembers the Lennon-era gate, covered in graffiti, lying discarded near the then current gate - were there any obvious remnants of the Lennon-era in the grounds?
Yes I remember the gate too, lying beside the entrance. It had writing such as "I love John" etc., which I always thought was amusing since my name is John. The gate was a solid wood gate. When we lived there the gate was metal bars.
By the 1980s, were there any rooms which, to the best of your knowledge, were unchanged since John's time?
I think the layout of many of the rooms were pretty much unchanged. The sunroom I'm sure was much the same, also the pool rooms I think were the same. I guess you would have to check with Bill Martin if he renovated anything during his time.
Could you describe the old, small Tarrant garage? Did it have an upstairs?
The Tarrant garage was a single garage and there was not a top floor.
Have you been back to St George's Hill since you moved out?
I was back in 1998. The thing I thought was a bit of a shame was how they Americanized the house with huge pillars in the front. The whole layout was also redone. It felt a bit like a completely different house. Some of the old charm had gone. But I saw your film of the gardens. Great that they cleared up the bottom half of the garden. It was almost a jungle when we lived there.

Many thanks go to John for taking the time to answer these questions.