Vernon Yard, W11

The name Portobello Road derived from the 1739 capture of Puerto Bello in Central America from the Spaniards by Admiral Vernon (1684-1757) with only six ships.

Vernon Yard is similarly named – it was known as Vernon Mews until 1932. It is a small L-shaped mews with its entrance under an archway between 117 and 119 Portobello Road. The terrace of houses in Portobello Road that backs onto the mews was originally called Vernon Terrace, and the mews served these houses.

Vernon Yard would have been built at the same time as Vernon Terrace, in the first half of the 1850s. The 1863 Ordnance Survey map shows two numbered units (Nos. 1 and 2) at the southern end of Vernon Yard; a further eight units (Nos. 3-10) along the western side) and one (No. 11) at the northern end. These were almost certainly stable blocks with accommodation above. On the eastern side, the map shows a number of unnumbered units which were probably warehouses or stabling belonging to the adjoining Portobello Road houses.

The 1871 census shows only three families living in the mews – a labourer and laundress with seven children at No. 7; a coachman at No. 9; and a carman at No. 11. The 1901 census shows only two families, at Nos. 9 and 11 (the heads of family being respectively a carman and a general dealer), and there is a note to say that “all other stabling in Vernon Mews has been converted into hay and store storage”.

The buildings in Vernon Yard continued to be largely used as warehousing or garages until the 1960s. In 1964, there was only one resident, living in a small flat above a garage at No. 1. Planning documents described the mews as “a mixture of dilapidated 2-storey properties which are used for storage purposes. Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are a builder’s store and workshop. … Nos. 2 and 3 were recently used in part as a wholesale grocery store, but have otherwise been used as a corn merchants”. The builder at Nos. 5, 6 and 7 was S. Nash and Son, who moved there when their lease of the premises that they had occupied 100 Kensington Park Road for the previous 90 years came to an end in 1967 (it is now part of Waterford House). They remained there until about 1990 and were presumably responsible for remodelling the premises to form the present striking building.

Text courtesy of Elaine Spencer Hopkins.

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