Portobello Road, W11

Road in/near Notting Hill, existing between 1600 and now

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Road · Notting Hill · W11 ·
December
12
2015

Portobello Road is internationally famous for its market.


Portobello Road was known prior to 1740 as Green Lane - a winding country path leading from Kensington Gravel Pits, in what is now Notting Hill Gate up to Kensal Green in the north. (Another local lane, not to be confused, was "Greene’s Lane" which turned into Walmer Road.)

In 1740, Portobello Farm was built in the area near what is now Golborne Road. The farm got its name from a popular victory during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, when Admiral Edward Vernon captured the Spanish-ruled town of Puerto Bello (now known as Portobelo, in modern-day Panama).

The Portobello farming area was large, covering much of the land east of what is now St Charles Hospital. Much of it consisted of hayfields, orchards and other open land.

Portobello Farm was sold to an order of nuns after the railways came in 1864. They built St Joseph’s Convent for the Dominican Order - or the "Black Friars" as they were known in England.

The road ultimately took form piecemeal in the second half of the 19th century, nestling between the large new residential developments of Paddington and Notting Hill. Its shops and markets thrived on serving the wealthy inhabitants of the elegant crescents and terraces that sprang up around it, and its working class residents found employment in the immediate vicinity as construction workers, domestic servants, coachmen, messengers, tradesmen and costermongers. After the Hammersmith and City Railway line was completed in 1864, and Ladbroke Grove station opened, the northern end of Portobello Road was also developed, and the last of the open fields disappeared under brick and concrete.

The market began as a fresh-food market in the 19th century; antiques dealers arrived in the late 1940s and ’50s, and now have a substantial number of them trading mainly on Saturday mornings. It is the largest antiques market in the UK.

The market section of Portobello Road runs in a direction generally between the north-northwest and the south-south-east. The northern terminus is at Golborne Road; the southern end is at Westbourne Grove, to the east. The market area is about one kilometre in length.

About one third of the way from its north end, the market runs beneath adjacent bridges of the A40 road and the Hammersmith & City line of the London Underground. Here the market focuses on second hand clothes as well as trendy couture.

Portobello Road’s distinctiveness does not just rely on its market. A range of communities inhabiting the street and the district contributes to a cosmopolitan and energetic atmosphere, as do the many restaurants and pubs. The architecture plays a part, too, as the road meanders and curves gracefully along most of its length, unlike the more formally planned layout of most of the nearby area. Mid- to late-Victorian terrace houses and shops predominate, squeezed tightly into the available space, adding intimacy and a pleasing scale to the streetscape.

Portobello Road is also home to the Grade II* Electric Cinema, one of Britain’s oldest cinemas.


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Notting Hill

Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...

Notting Hill is a cosmopolitan district known as the location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, and for being home to the Portobello Road Market.

The word Notting might originate from a Saxon called Cnotta with the =ing part indicating "the place inhibited by the people of" - i.e. where Cnotta’s tribe lived. There was a farm called variously "Knotting-Bernes,", "Knutting-Barnes" or "Nutting-barns" and this name was transferred to the hill above it.

The area remained rural until the westward expansion of London reached Bayswater in the early 19th century. The main landowner in Notting Hill was the Ladbroke family, and from the 1820s James Weller Ladbroke began to undertake the development of the Ladbroke Estate. Working with the architect and surveyor Thomas Allason, Ladbroke began to lay out streets and houses, with a view to turning the area into a fashionable suburb of the capital (although the development did not get seriously under way until the 1840s). Many of these streets bear the Ladbroke name, including Ladbroke Grove, the main north-south axis of the area, and Ladbroke Square, the largest private garden square in London.

The original idea was to call the district Kensington Park, and other roads (notably Kensington Park Road and Kensington Park Gardens) are reminders of this. The local telephone prefix 7727 (originally 727) is based on the old telephone exchange name of PARk.

The reputation of the district altered over the course of the 20th century. As middle class households ceased to employ servants, the large Notting Hill houses lost their market and were increasingly split into multiple occupation.

For much of the 20th century the large houses were subdivided into multi-occupancy rentals. Caribbean immigrants were drawn to the area in the 1950s, partly because of the cheap rents, but were exploited by slum landlords like Peter Rachman, and also became the target of white racist Teddy Boys in the 1958 Notting Hill race riots.

Notting Hill was slowly gentrified from the 1980s onwards now has a contemporary reputation as an affluent and fashionable area; known for attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses, and high-end shopping and restaurants (particularly around Westbourne Grove and Clarendon Cross).

A Daily Telegraph article in 2004 used the phrase the ’Notting Hill Set’ to refer to a group of emerging Conservative politicians, such as David Cameron and George Osborne, who were once based in Notting Hill.

Since it was first developed in the 1830s, Notting Hill has had an association with artists and ’alternative’ culture.
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