A stroll through Holland Park, with its colourful flower displays took me onto Kensington High Street by the former Commonwealth Institute
The Commonwealth Institute was designed by Robert Matthew, Sir Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, architects, and engineered by AJ & JD Harris, of Harris & Sutherland. Construction was started at the end of 1960 and completed in 1962. The project was funded by the UK government, with contributions of materials from Commonwealth countries.
Regarded by English Heritage as the second most important modern building in London, after the Royal Festival Hall, the building had a low brickwork plinth clad in blue-grey glazing. Above this swoops the most striking feature of the building, the complex hyperbolic paraboloid roof, originally made with 25 tonnes of copper donated by the Northern Rhodesia Chamber of Mines. The shape of the roof reflected the architects’ desire to create a “tent in the park”. The gardens featured a large water feature, grass lawns, and a flagpole for each member of the Commonwealth. The interior of the building consists of a dramatic open space, covered in a tent-like concrete shell, with tiered exhibition spaces linked by walkways. Despite its iconic status the building fell into disuse and began to deteriorate. As it was a listed building plans to demolish it were always resisted. Now the garden is a building site, but the ‘tent in the Park’ has retained its original shape without the copper. Still I thought it was looking good and hopefully will provide an exciting new home for the Design Museum.
Kensington High Street is not the fashion centre it used to be – most of that has, I suspect, moved to Westfield just over a mile away. Would it be too much to hope that more independent shops will start of open up along this important thoroughfare. Certainly one has, and an unusual one at that. The shop is an old fashioned hardware store called Skillman and sons. The original Skillman and sons was opened by Alfred Daniel Skillman in 1900. What a super name for someone selling tools. The store was famous for selling everything from watering cans to musical instruments. Today at Skillmans, you will find some of the best hand tools from around the world, together with top quality hardware and ironmongery from the U.K, as well as the most functional cleaning products made from all over Europe and the rest of the world. Would it be too much to hope that more independent shops might open along this important thoroughfare. Certainly one has, and an unusual one at that. The shop is an old fashioned hardware store called Skillman and sons. The original Skillman and sons was opened by Alfred Daniel Skillman in 1900. What a super name for someone selling tools. The store was famous for selling everything from watering cans to musical instruments. Today at Skillmans, you will find some of the best hand tools from around the world, together with top quality hardware and ironmongery from the U.K, as well as the most functional cleaning products made from all over Europe and the rest of the world. See http://www.skillmanandsons.co.uk
Holland Walk is the scene of the murder of Shelley Paulson in my novel Crucial Evidence. I describe it as a being ‘poorly lit, the overhanging trees creating areas of deep shade; just the sort of place for a murder’ I am not the only one to describe it in those sort of terms. In 1845 the Kensington Gazette was receiving letters which described the Walk as a ‘dark sink hole’ dismal and dangerous owing to the erection of high fences and the lack of lighting. One correspondent wrote of apprehension of insecurity being such that his wife and daughters had to be warned not to use it. Yet another writer said he was ‘constantly afraid of forbidding presence of a thug’ and it was a ‘rendezvous for the obscene’
The Walk did not follow the same route as it does now, but at that stage turned across the front of Holland House but two years after the correspondence in the press the footpath was straightened so that it was as it is now.
There has been a death there in the distant past when after a robbery occurred in the Walk during one afternoon in October 1772, Lady Mary Coke who lived in Aubrey House (which also features in my novel) heard the sound of a pistol while she was reading in her library. A highwayman had been shot on the road outside her grounds.
It certainly is a suitable place for a murder.
I want to acknowledge the publication by Barbara Denny ‘Notting Hill and Holland Park Past.’
The edited version of my novel Crucial Evidence arrived last week, together with a clean copy which includes the corrections the copy editor had made. I’m checking through carefully and have learnt a few things about presentation, like deleting the extra space we all tend to insert after a full stop. I’ve also, courtesy of my friend Elizabeth Ducie (check out her book of short stories ‘Parcels in the Rain) learnt how to insert one of those elongated dashes, called an em dash like so — . Clever or what. I’ve got to chapter 10 so far so quite a way to go before this stage is completed.
Also some proposals for the front cover have arrived. I’m quite excited by them, but keeping it under wraps for now. It will appeal to the intelligent reader I’m hoping will like the novel.
Although I don’t need it for submissions to agents I have rewritten my synopsis. The first two paragraphs read:-
‘Cassie Hardman, an ambitious barrister, wants justice for her client, Lenny Barker who faces trial for the murder of call-girl Shelley Paulson at the Old Bailey. The evidence against Barker hangs on the reliability of an eye-witness and Barker’s admission he was at the scene of the murder in Holland Park, West London. There is little forensic evidence to link him with the murder. DNA from
fingernail scrapings taken from the deceased are not Barker’s, and the Prosecution case is that they are irrelevant. Fingerprints on a bracelet appear to Cassie to be a good match to Barker’s, although a fingerprint expert will not say the prints are his. Barker, she concludes, is just another defendant trying to escape responsibility for his crime
Then just before the trial begins Cassie uncovers an alibi witness Edwin Walker aka Hinds, who could provide the evidence to clear her client. She pursues Walker into the sordid underworld of illegal ticket touts and drug dealing, where she is threatened to stay away from Walker and then arrested during a drugs raid. Desperate to avoid being charged with possession of drugs, and being disbarred, she calls DC Alexis Seymour. Alex is investigating a drug dealer who she believes left a blood stained knife in the garden square where Shelley Paulson once lived.’
Does that leave you wanting to read more?