I went to meet a friend for lunch the other day, near to the old Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Oh, my, how it has changed since I used to got to meetings over there, which was only a year ago. In knew that there was re-development work on the horizon, I didn’t realise that the work had already started. Walking past a couple of rows of boarded up buildings was quite a shock.
There is a little side road, I’m not sure whether this is Empress Place, with some charming little cottages, I’m not sure whether this is Empress Place. At least, they look charming from the outside – I wonder how it must feel to have all that building work going on around you. Particularly as those premises have been selling to for a shed load of money before all the redevelopment. Maybe they still do.
The original Earls Court was opened in 1887 and rebuilt in 1937, in the art moderne style. (A bit more modern than art deco, I think, but I am not an expert in these things.)
Earls Court was London’s main exhibition centre for many years. It hosted the Ideal Home Exhibition (if you didn’t have sore feet and a sore back after that, you’d done something wrong), the Royal Tournament, the Motor Show, Crufts, and, up until 2010, The Brit Awards, to name just a few. I remember going to many an exhibition or show there in its heyday.
So popular was it that Earls Court Two was built and opened 1991. However, over the intervening years, other venues were built, and in some cases closed: Docklands Arena, the O2. The Olympia Exhibition Centre was opened the year before Earls Court, and although not quite such a convenient location, it’s still going strong. The whole area around the Earls Court Exhibition Centres was scheduled for demolition in 2013 to make room for more – and presumably more lucrative – residential properties. Which brings us to where we are now.
Unsurprisingly, the whole area was once a green field area, part of the manor of Kensington, and for years owned by the Earls of Oxford (hence the name Earls Court). When the railways came to the area, in the 1860s, development started.
At the end of the Second World War, many Polish immigrants settled in the Earls Court area. In the 1960s, Australians and New Zealander’s who came to the UK on their travels tended to settle in this area – it was one of the cheapest areas in Central London. That’s changed too.
North End Road is still a bit more “local” looking, with the pound shops, and local pubs, although for how long is anybody’s guess; a number of council tenants are being rehoused as a result of the redevelopment.
I suppose it’s all inevitable. Nothing and nowhere stays the same. I wonder what I’ll be writing about this area in ten years from now?
© Susan Shirley 2016