, W11 was situated on the site of the modern Henry Dickens Court.
Originally called George Street, it was the most notorious road of the Notting Dale ‘Special Area’ slum.
It was more colloquially known as ‘Do as you like Street’, a place where ‘no one left their door closed’, and the venue of the Rag Fair. At the turn of the 20th century, the local district nurses were reported "valiantly holding their own in spite of the disturbance caused by nightly brawls and the noisy and unsavoury Sunday markets."
Valerie Wilson recalled in an interview by the Notting Dale Urban Studies group: “They used to threaten us – don’t go up rag fair and the first thing we did when we got outside, we forgot all about it and went straight through rag fair… that was really like a film show, they used to hang old bits of clothing on the railings… the street would throng with people… there was a group of men who came out the war and they were all ex-servicemen, big tall strong men, and they couldn’t get work, so they formed this group and they dressed up in tulle like a fairy in a pantomime and they made their faces up, hideous like white faces and red rouged cheeks and red false curls and they used to dance and people, children and grown-ups, they formed a circle or square and people would throw a penny in.”
Bangor and Wilsham Street
also hosted more respectable Coronation street parties.
Text originally published on the 2008 Portobello Film Festival website.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence
Bangor Street after a Rag Fair (1900s)
User unknown/public domain
Addison Avenue, W11 Addison Avenue runs north from Holland Park Avenue and was originally called Addison Road North. Addison Place, W11 In the nineteenth century, Addison Place was known by two names - Phoenix Place and Crescent Mews East. Addison Road, W14 Addison Road stretches from Holland Park Avenue to Kensington High Street. Avondale Park Gardens, W11 Avondale Park Gardens, unlike other roads in the area, was developed in the 1920s when it was laid out on the former workhouse site. Bard Road, W10 Bard Road lies in the area of London W10 near to Latimer Road station. Boxmoor Street, W11 Boxmoor Street was also known as Henry Place and Beaumont Street during its brief life. Bramley Mews, W10 Bramley Mews become part of a redelevopment of the area north of Latimer Road station in the 1960s. Bramley Road, W10 Bramley Road is the street in which Latimer Road station is situated. Bruce Close, W10 Bruce Close replaced the earlier Rackham Street in this part of W10. Calverley Street, W10 Calverley Street, one of the lost streets of W10 is now underneath a motorway slip road. Clarendon Road, W11 Clarendon Road is one of the W11’s longest streets, running from Holland Park Avenue in the south to Dulford Street in the north. 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. Darfield Way, W10 Darfield Way, in the Latimer Road area, was built over a number of older streets as the Westway was built. Darfield Way, W10 Darfield Way is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. East Mews, W10 East Mews was lost when the Westway was built. It lies partially under the modern Darfield Way. Elgin Crescent, W11 Elgin Crescent runs from Portobello Road west across Ladbroke Grove and then curls round to the south to join Clarendon Road. Frog Island, W12 Frog Island was the name of a lane leading north from the Uxbridge Road. 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. Haarlem Road, W6 Haarlem Road runs from Dunsany Road to Augustine Road in West Kensington, Hewer Street, W10 Built as part of the St Charles’ estate in the 1870s, it originally between Exmoor Street to a former street called Raymede Street. Holland Villas Road, W14 Holland Villas Road is a wide tree-lined avenue which runs between Upper Addison Gardens and the junction of Addison Crescent and Holland Road. Humber Drive, W10 Humber Drive is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. Kenley Street, W11 Kenley Street, W11 was originally William Street before it disappeared. Kingsdown Close, W10 Kingsdown Close is one of a select number of roads in London W10 lying south of Westway. 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. Lakeside Road, W14 Lakeside Road was built on the site of artificial lakes formed by local brickworks. 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. Lockton Street, W10 Lockton Street, just south of Latimer Road station is so insignificant that nary a soul know's it's there... Malton Mews, W10 Malton Mews is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. Manchester Road, W10 Manchester Road is one of the lost streets of North Kensington, now buried beneath a roundabout. Munro Mews, W10 Munro Mews is a part cobbled through road that connects Wornington Road and Wheatstone Road. Oakworth Road, W10 Oakworth Road dates from the 1920s when a cottage estate was built by the council. Portland Road, W11 Portland Road is a street in Notting Hill, rich at one end and poor at the other. Pottery Lane, W11 Pottery Lane takes its name from the brickfields which were situated at the northern end of the street. Queensdale Road, W11 Queensdale Road is a long road stretching from west to east, containing terraces of Victorian houses. Queensdale Walk, W11 Queensdale Walk is a small cul-de-sac with 2-storey cottages running south off Queensdale Road. Rackham Street, W10 Rackham Street is a road that disappeared from the streetscape of London W10 in 1951. Raymede Street, W10 Raymede Street, after severe bomb damage in the area, disappeared after 1950. Rootes Drive, W10 Rootes Drive is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. St Andrews Square, W11 St Andrews Square is a street in Notting Dale, formed when the Rillington Place area was demolished. St Anns Villas, W11 St Ann’s Villas, leading into Royal Crescent, is a pleasant tree-lined if busy road. St James’s Gardens, W11 St James’s Gardens is an attractive garden square with St James Church in the middle of the communal garden. St Marks Road, W11 St Marks Road, W11 is the southern extention of the W10 street and in the Latimer Road area. Station Walk, W10 Station Walk is one of the streets of London in the W10 postal area. Stoneleigh Place, W11 Stoneleigh Place, formerly called Abbey Road, was built across a brickfield in Notting Dale. Walmer Road, W10 Walmer Road is the great lost road of North Kensington, obliterated under Westway. Walmer Road, W11 Walmer Road is the oldest street in the area, dating from the eighteenth century or before. Waynflete Square, W10 Waynflete Square is one of the newer roads in the vicinity of Latimer Road station. West Cross Route, W11 The West Cross Route is a 1.21 km-long dual carriageway running north-south between the northern elevated roundabout junction with the western end of Westway (A40) and the southern Holland Park Roundabout. Woodsford Square, W14 Woodsford Square is a 1970s development consisting of a series of interconnecting squares hidden away on the eastern side of Addison Road. Wornington Road, W10 Wornington Road connected Golborne Road with Ladbroke Grove, though the Ladbroke end is now closed to through traffic.
From Pigs and bricks to Posh and Becks...
As houses were springing up all over the rest of northern Kensington, one corner of the borough was developing into a slum whose notoriety was probably unsurpassed throughout London
It lay at the foot of the hill on which the Ladbroke estate was laid out, directly north of Pottery Lane
, on badly draining clay soil between the Norland Estate and Notting Barns Farm.
Its first occupants were to give it two infamous names: the brick makers, who seemed to have arrived in the late lath century, and the pig-keepers, who moved there in the early l9th century.
To make bricks and tiles involved large excavations, which soon filled with stagnant water. The keeping of pigs entailed collecting refuse and offal from the kitchens of hotels and private houses, feeding most of it to pigs and boiling down the fat.
The combination of both bricks and pigs spelt disaster for the area.
Samuel Lake of Tottenham Court Road, a scavenger and chimney sweep by occupation was the first to keep pigs here and he was soon joined by the pig keepers of the Marble Arch area who had been forced out of their area by building development. The colony was at first sufficiently isolated to be able to go about their business unfettered; and by the time streets were being built nearby, the piggeries were so well established that developers simply steered clear.
Shacks sprang up wherever convenient for there was no building control in London at that time, and inevitably they were jumbled together with the pigs and the ponds: indeed often the three were combined, with humans sharing their roofs with animals and living directly over stagnant water: the animals at one stage outnumbered people by three to one.
The area’s unsanitary conditions had become so notorious that Charles Dickens ran a special feature on it in the first edition issue of his magazine Household Words
The Piggeries and Brickyards were far from the sight and concern of the Vestry and its duties were taken up by charities, both religious and secular. But it was Kensington’s first Medical Officer of Health, Dr Francis Goodrich, who was given the formidable task of cleaning up the area. Goodrich stated that it was one of the most deplorable
spots not only in Kensington but in the whole of the metropolis.
Rather than manufacturing bricks, locals started to concentrate more on the making of pottery, mostly drainpipes, tiles and flower pots to supply the local building boom. This trade, however, gradually declined and business ceased by 1863, the same time as when the stagnant ’Ocean’ was filled in.
As far as the Piggeries were concerned strong opposition to a clean up came from the pig keepers themselves, as that was their only livelihood. And perversely the Vestry did not want them to lose the pigs because the families then could become a charge on the poor rate.
By 1878 Goodrich’s successor Dr Dudfield managed, however, to gradually reduce the number of pigs but it was not until the 1890’s that the last pig was banished.
The area nevertheless remained notorious. Instead of pig keeping the men turned to living off what their women could earn as laundresses, initially at home (especially in
the Stoneleigh Street
area) and later in small laundries. A local saying in this area declared that ’to marry an ironer is as good as a fortune’
But change was coming.
The 1860s at last witnessed the opening of schools, (such as one in Sirdar Road
), the paving of streets and the construction of proper sewers. But it was not until 1888 were public baths and washhouses provided at the junction of Silchester and Lancaster Roads.
In 1889 the Rev C E Roberts of St Clements Church and the Rev Dr Thornton of St Johns appealed in a letter to the Times for an open space for the children of this area. As a result the old brickfield and the area of the ’Ocean’ became the start of Avondale Park opened in 1892 and named in memory of the recently deceased Duke of Clarence and Avondale.
But even then, a year after the park was opened that the Daily News described the area adjacent to the park as ’Avernus’ (the fabled gateway to hell!). The article identified Wilsham Street
, Kenley Street
, another two streets now replaced by Henry Dickens Court and part of Sirdar Road
as ’hopelessly degraded and abandoned’.
The dense rows of artisan houses in these streets were massively over-occupied or else were the most primitive lodging houses in which a bed on the floor cost a few pennies per night. Local residents made a living as best they could but it was a close knit community who seemed to scrape together enough money to pay for visits to the music hall and for summer day trips.
By 1904 new low cost tenements were built and the Improved Tenements Association bought 64 year leases of four houses in Walmer Road
in 1900, and these were modernised and divided into two room tenements to accommodate 13 families for rents of 5 shillings a week. Other housing associations followed such as the Wilsham Trust formed by Ladies- in-waiting at Kensington Palace.
The poverty and hardship of the Potteries and Piggeries is very much a thing of the past. Now the neighbourhood is an attractive, leafy, peaceful backwater made up of rows of well kept two and three storey Victorian brick terraced houses and cottages, in the shadow of the graceful golden weather vane and clock of St Clements Church.
The area has come a long way.
The Notting Hill & Holland Park Book by Richard Tames
Kensington & Chelsea by Annabel Walker with Peter Jackson
Notting Hill and Holland Park Past by Barbara Denny
Survey of London: Northern Kensington: Vol:XXXVII for the Greater London Council