Ashburnham Road (Ashburnham Mansions)

Second World War

There were two serious incidents causing loss of life and severe damage to buildings in this road during the Blitz of the Second World War.

On Wednesday the 9th of October 1940 a high explosive bomb, obviously targetted for the Lots Road Power station, struck 21 Ashburnham Road and the blast caused severe casualties. Six people died.

The bomb also demolished numbers, 37, 39 and 41 Stadium Street.

The rescue of those still alive trapped in the debris was made more harrowing as a fierce fire broke out.

Contemporary street view of the site of 21 Ashburnham Road and 41 to 37 Stadium Street. Now replaced with a modern three storey block of flats.

Husband and wife Albert and Elizabeth (known as Kitty) McKay in number 21 Ashburnham Road were killed. Albert was 47 years old and a grocer’s manager. His body was not found and dug out of the wreckage of their home until 7 a.m. on the Friday afterwards. The body of his 42 year old wife Kitty was extracted three hours later.

In the adjacent houses in Stadium Street, three members of the Newman family- Millicent Violet, aged 47, and her two daughters, 22 year old Violet Hilda and 17 year old Mabel Phyllis, would be trapped as the blast tore through number 41.

Another casualty was 24 year old Home Guard Frederick Walter Patmore who was staying in the house.

Millicent Newman was one of the first to be pulled alive out of the debris and taken to St Stephen’s hospital. Freddie Patmore of the Home Guard visiting from his home in Fulham was alive though seriously injured.

But Mrs Newman’s eldest daughter Violet who worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Labour was killed by the falling masonry. Rescuers reached her at 2.45 a.m. in the early hours of Thursday morning, and could find no pulse.

They also found the body of her younger sister Mabel five minutes later. Mabel had worked as a clerk in the Home Office.

Their father John had the appalling task of identifying his two daughters at the Dovehouse Street mortuary on the following Saturday only hours after being by his wife’s bedside at St Stephen’s when she succombed to her injuries.

Freddie Patmore died at St Stephens on 16th October unable to recover from the injuries and burns he suffered in the bomb blast and subsequent fire.

On 14th October 1940 an incendiry bomb dropped on the roof of St John’s Church in Ashburnham Road caused a fire which gutted the church. The church occupied a triangular site between Tadema and Ashburnham Roads and was built in 1875 and often described as being situated in Ashburnham Rd. See: (contains a reproduction of a photograph of the front of the church)

The Victorian church and vicarage for St John’s in the World’s End Chelsea traversing Ashburnham and Tadema Road and destroyed through enemy action on 14th and 17th October 1940. Image public domain.

Three days later on 17th October an unexploded high explosive bomb fell on the vicarage of St John’s Church. This detonated five hours after hitting the building. There were no casualties.

On 17th October 1940 a high explosive bomb hit the east side of Ashburnham Mansions with severe damage to the building but miraculously no casualties.

All the residents were in shelters at the time. The air raid straddling the 17th and 18th October had lasted 11 hours 56 minutes.

The bomb fell directly on number 20 and cut the block almost in half with the levelling of the central wing all the way to the ground. The debris blocked Ashburnham Road.

The central wing of Ashburnham Mansions in 2023- in 1940 a direct hit levelled the block.

A small high explosive bomb fell in front of the buildings damaging railings and the road itself.

Hundreds of doors and windows were blown in and out of their fittings. Another paradox is that number 54 Ashburnham Mansions completely escaped any damage at all. It was the only one to do so.

The deaths in 41 Stadium Street

Millicent Newman Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Violent Hilda Newman Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Mabel Phyllis Newman Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Frederick Walter Patmore Commonwealth War Graves Commision

The deaths at 21 Ashburnham Road

Albert Edward McKay Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Kate Elizabeth (Kitty) McKay Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Images in slideshow at top of posting

1. Ashburnham Mansions in Ashburnham Road. Google Street view 2023

2. Junction of Ashburnham Road and Stadium Street. Google Street view 2023

3.Site of number 21 Ashburnham Road now replaced with modern housing block. Tim Crook June 2022

4.Site of numbers 37 to 41 Stadium Street destroyed in the Blitz of 1940, now replaced with block of modern apartments. Tim Crook June 2022

Special thanks to Karen White and Chris Pain whose families lived in Chelsea during World War Two and have very kindly encouraged and assisted my research. Special thanks to Marja Giejgo for editorial assistance. Research and archive facilities from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council library services, The Imperial War Museum and National Archives at Kew.

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