Wedlake Street Baths
in/near Kensal Town, existed between 1898 and the 1980s
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In a time when most had somewhere to live but few had somewhere to wash at home, public baths were the place to go...
Baths and a laundry to serve Queen's Park had been built in 1898, where the boundary with Kensington ran slightly south of the canal along Wedlake Street
to Kensal Road
. They were built next to Halfpenny (Ha'penny) Steps which allowed access across the canal from the Harrow Road
to the baths for people from the Queen's Park Estate.
Baths housed both a swimming pool and public baths. Families would go there for their weekly bath. There was a distinct system in place to use the facilities - you would get a numbered ticket and sat until your number was called. While you were in the bath, you could shout out to the attendent if you wanted more hot or cold water. The steel changing cubicles, a local remembered, were all made of steel - even the door. 'It felt like you were in stir!', remembered one.
Earlier times, people would leave their clothes unattended in the cubicle with the half door and a curtain on the top. Then it turned modern and they got the clothes basket and a number to pin on their costumes.
Wedlake Baths were closed in 1980.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence
Halfpenny Steps with Wedlake Street behind
Westminster City Archive
Acklam Road, W10 Acklam Road was the centre of much action during the building of the Westway Adair Road, W10 Adair Road is a street on the Kensal Town/North Kensington borders. Albert Road, NW6 Albert Road in NW6 escaped the mass renaming of Albert Roads in London. All Saints Road, W11 Built between 1852-61, All Saints Road is named after All Saints Church on Talbot Road. Alperton Street, W10 Alperton Street is the first alphabetically of the named streets of the Queen's Park Estate in W10. Appleford Road, W10 Appleford Road was transformed post-war from a Victorian street to one dominated by housing blocks. Arundel Gardens, W11 Arundel Gardens was built towards the end of the development of the Ladbroke Estate, in the early 1860s. Blenheim Crescent, W11 Blenheim Crescent one of the major thoroughfares in Notting Hill - indeed it features in the eponymous film. Bosworth Road, W10 Bosworth Road was the first street built as Kensal New Town started to expand to the east. Bruce Close, W10 Bruce Close replaced the earlier Rackham Street in this part of W10. Brunel Mews, W10 Brunel Mews, a tiny cul-de-sac, is the northern extension of Sixth Avenue. Codrington Mews, W11 This attractive L-shaped mews lies off Blenheim Crescent between Kensington Park Road and Ladbroke Grove. Colville Gardens, W11 Colville Gardens was laid out in the 1870s by the builder George Frederick Tippett, who developed much of the rest of the neighbourhood. Cornwall Crescent, W11 Cornwall Crescent belongs to the third and final great period of building on the Ladbroke estate and the houses were constructed in the 1860s. Droop Street, W10 Droop Street is one of the main east-west streets of the Queen’s Park Estate. East Row, W10 East Row is a road with a long history within Kensal Town. Edenham Way, W10 Edenham Way is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. Elgin Crescent, W11 Elgin Crescent runs from Portobello Road west across Ladbroke Grove and then curls round to the south to join Clarendon Road. Farrant Street, W10 Farrant Street is the missing link in the alphabetti spaghetti of the streetnames of the Queen's Park Estate Golborne Road, W10 Golborne Road, heart of North Kensington, was named after Dean Golbourne, at one time vicar of St. John's Church in Paddington. Great Western Road, W9 Great Western Road’s northernmost section was created after a bridge was constructed over the canal. Huxley Street, W10 Huxley Street is the only street beginning with an H on the Queen’s Park Estate. Kensal Road, W10 Kensal Road, originally called Albert Road, is the heart of Kensal Town. Kilburn Lane, NW6 Kilburn Lane is one of the streets of London in the NW6 postal area. Kilburn Lane, W10 Kilburn Lane runs around the edge of the Queen’s Park Estate in London W10. Ladbroke Crescent, W11 Ladbroke Crescent belongs to the third and final great period of building on the Ladbroke estate and the houses were constructed in the 1860s. Ladbroke Grove, W10 Ladbroke Grove runs from Notting Hill in the south to Kensal Green in the north, and straddles the W10 and W11 postal districts. Lavie Mews, W10 Lavie Mews, W10 was a mews connecting Portobello Road and Murchison Road. Lionel Mews, W10 Lionel Mews was built around 1882 and probably disappeared in the 1970s. Malton Mews, W10 Malton Mews is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. Maple Walk, W10 Post war development on the Queen’s Park Estate created some plant-based street names. Middle Row, W10 Middle Row is one of the original streets laid out as Kensal New Town. Mozart Street, W10 Mozart Street was part of the second wave of development of the Queen’s Park Estate. Munro Mews, W10 Munro Mews is a part cobbled through road that connects Wornington Road and Wheatstone Road. Peach Road, W10 Paach Road is one of the newer streets of the Queen’s Park Estate in London W10 Ronan Walk, W10 Ronan Walk was one of the streets constructed in a 1970s build parallel to the Harrow Road. Severn Avenue, W10 Severn Avenue is a newer thoroughfare in the Queen's Park Estate, London W10 St Andrews Square, W11 St Andrews Square is a street in Notting Dale, formed when the Rillington Place area was demolished. St Marks Road, W11 St Marks Road, W11 is the southern extention of the W10 street and in the Latimer Road area. Tavistock Crescent, W11 Tavistock Crescent was where the first Notting Hill Carnival procession began on 18 September 1966. Walmer Road, W11 Walmer Road is the oldest street in the area, dating from the eighteenth century or before. Walterton Road, W9 Walterton Road was the central road of a suburb which was originally proposed to called St. Peter’s Park. Wedlake Street, W10 Wedlake Street arrived as the second wave of building in Kensal Town was completed. Westway, W10 Westway is the A40(M) motorway which runs on an elevated section along the W10/W11 border. Wornington Road, W10 Wornington Road connected Golborne Road with Ladbroke Grove, though the Ladbroke end is now closed to through traffic.
Kensal New Town was built between the Grand Central Canal (which opened in 1801) and the Great Western Railway line (opening in 1837) in the 1840s.
Single-storey cottages with gardens suitable for drying clothes were the first buildings and Kensal Road
, Middle Row
, West Row
, East Row
and Southern Row
all appeared between 1841 and 1851. The rows of cottages quickly degenerated into a slum, mainly due to overcrowding, industrialisation and pollution.
The area was dominated by the Western Gas Company and Kensal Cemetery, which provided work but did little to improve the environment. Women were primarily involved in laundry work giving the area its nickname of ‘Soapsuds Island’.
The area was isolated from the rest of London at a time when Portobello Lane (now Portobello Road
) was a muddy track sometimes impassable in bad weather.
Cut off from the municipal authorities it was left to charities to attempt to alleviate the social and health problems.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the cottage laundry industry began to be replaced by larger mechanized concerns.
In 1902 Charles Booth described it as, “Just as full of children and poverty as was the old woman’s dwelling in the nursery rhyme.” By this date the area had been transferred to the newly formed Royal Borough of Kensington. When the Piggeries and Potteries in Notting Dale were finally cleared in the early 20th century most of the displaced residents moved north into Golborne ward and Kensal.
By 1923 in the Southam Street
area 140 houses contained some 2500 inhabitants. A series of evocative photographs by Roger Mayne in the 1950s showed that little had changed. It was only from the 1960s that the overcrowded and dilapidated terraces were cleared and replaced by social housing including Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower.