Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
Kensington Park Gardens is a street in Notting Hill.
Kensington Park Gardens is a broad, open street, connecting Ladbroke Grove
to Kensington Park Road
at the apex of Notting Hill, with a magnificent vista to St John’s church at the western end. Both sides of the street back onto communal gardens, and St John’s Church was built on its chosen site to close the vista at the west end of the street.
The housing was built in the 1850s during the second great wave of construction on the Ladbroke estate. In the filthy atmosphere of London in the 19th century, a considerable premium was put on being high up, and the land on which Kensington Park Gardens now stands was amongst the most valuable on the estate. The street contains some of the most important and grandest houses in the Ladbroke area.
The original layout plan for the area and designs for the houses in Kensington Park Gardens had been drawn up by the Ladbroke family’s architect and surveyor Thomas Allason in 1849, but he died before it could be fully executed. The earliest phase of development, Nos. 1-9 (consecutive) on the south east end of the street, was most likely based on Thomas Allason’s original plans, but the final design for most of the terraced housing on Kensington Park Gardens was radically adapted by Thomas Allom, who took Allason’s place as architectural adviser to the estate.
The south side of the street consisted almost entirely of detached trios of villas, unusually for the Ladbroke estate, where terraces and pairs of semi-detached villas are the norm. All back onto Ladbroke Square
Garden. The north side is an extremely grand terrace, with a magnificent archway in the centre through to the Stanley Garden South communal garden.
Notting Hill is a cosmopolitan district known as the location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, and for being home to the Portobello Road
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.