Notting Hill – An Interesting History

Notting Hill is located within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea just to the west of Central London. Notting Hill’s boundaries have always been pretty hazy, but it is generally considered to be the area around Notting Hill Gate and the southern end of Ladbroke Grove running into Holland Park. The W11 postcode is the one that is linked most closely, although it takes in parts of W2, W8 and W10 too.

[T]oday, the Notting Hill area is mostly affluent and cosmopolitan and is home to many well-known names such as Stella McCartney, Robbie Williams and David & Victoria Beckham as well as many politicians including ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron.

However, although Notting Hill is now renowned for being cool and sought after, it has not always been so fashionable. For much of its history, Notting Hill (or Notting Dale, one of the earlier names for the area) was a rural suburb of London and was avoided by the wealthy because it was run down with a poor reputation. In fact, in its early history and right up until the late 19th century, Notting Hill was home to potters and pig farmers and was known as the Potteries and Piggeries!

During the 19th century London grew massively and, as a result, expanded outwards into the surrounding areas leading to dramatic change in Notting Hill. The Ladbroke family were responsible for much of this and many new developments in the area formed part of the Ladbroke Estate.

Streets were constructed and large townhouses built, some with private communal gardens, such as Ladbroke Square, which remains the largest private garden square in London. These were attractive to wealthy inner city families wanting cleaner air and more space.

Initially middle class London families moved into the newly built homes but Notting Hill’s reputation changed during the middle part of the 20th century and, with that, many of the middle class families moved away. Some of the servants once employed by the families remained, but few had enough money for the upkeep of the large houses. Even more families left following the Second World War as Notting Hill suffered extensive bomb damage.

In the 1950’s the population of London grew and, to support the increased number of people, a new era of housing development commenced. In some areas, including Notting Hill, bigger family homes were re-purposed. Many of the large Victorian terraced houses were subdivided into small flats that were rented out cheaply – sometimes illegally.

It was also a time when many people from the West Indies were making their way to what they thought would be a better life in England and many were attracted to the areas of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove as a result of the cheap rents. However, many were forced to live in poor conditions in properties that were neglected by their landlords who were more interested in making money than providing a decent home.

In the late 1960’s some of London’s run down areas benefitted from philanthropy and the development of Housing Associations. Improvements involved renewing public areas and cleaning open spaces and Notting Hill started to change yet again. Whilst some of the historical properties remained, some of the deprived parts were cleared and new housing developed.

With the benefit of such a central location, as London property prices have risen in recent decades, many streets in Notting Hill have became home to a wealthier section of its population. Single occupation houses became popular once again, whilst some of those previously converted into functional flats were transformed into luxury apartments, many of which now cost in excess of £1million. Independent shops, boutique retailers, smart restaurants and bars followed as Notting Hill became highly sought after and property prices rocketed.

As a result of the property price increases there have been further changes in the cultural diversity of the area. However, there are still pockets of some of its original population, particularly around Ladbroke Grove and the northern end of Portobello Road, where the world renowned Notting Hill Carnival takes place every year in August.

In Portobello Road (which became known worldwide thanks to the much loved film Notting Hill) and its environs you’ll find antiques shops and stalls, fresh food and local crafts. Many are open every day of the week, although weekends are the best time to visit.

There is no doubt that Notting Hill has been a constantly changing part of London and one that attracts a diverse range of people – and one you should certainly make time to visit.

Article provided by Vincent House London, a Notting Hill residence that provides great value single room accommodation for both long and short term stays.


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Always on the lookout for any London taxis that have been converted I came across this one parked quite close to where I live.

Called an AdCab it is advertising food delivery, now popular in London, but curiously the vehicle had no contact website or telephone number so that prospective advertisers could use this clever adaption of the iconic London cab.


Down Your Alley: Bakers’ Hall Court

Last month commemorating anniversary of The Great Fire of London we visited Pudding Lane where the fire originated in a bakers.

The Bakers’ Company can be traced back more than 850 years and received its royal charter in 1486, although it would be nearly another century before the bakers of brown bread would be admitted to the exclusive white bread makers company.

[A]djacent Harp Street was the Company’s first home in a converted 15th century mansion; rebuilt after The Great Fire of London and built again in 1715 after a second fire. It was destroyed by enemy action in 1940. The 1963 incarnation resides in Bakers’ Hall Court.

Like so many of the alleys and courts in this part of London, Bakers’ Hall Court has seen a great deal of change over the past years. Developers, in their unending effort to create more and more floor space within the City, have raised a jungle of multi-storey buildings and hidden the Court to all but the most penetrating seekers. However, a few yards away, in Harp Street, is the hall of one of the oldest inhabitants, the Bakers’ Company, from whom the Court acquired its name.


Bakers’ Hall Court

Back in 1307 there were two fraternities for those following the trade of bakers; the Company of White Bakers and the Company of Brown Bakers. They were united under a charter granted by Henry VIII in 1509, but during the following years the Brown Bakers increasingly felt that they were the under-dogs and pleaded their case for a separate charter. This was granted in 1622 and the Company split on a sour note, remaining rivals for the next thirty years. As time passed their grievances diminished and they eventually, although perhaps reluctantly, acknowledged that their cause would be better administered under a united Company.

Traditionally, bakers had relied on the assistance of boys from poor families; wage bills were small and the boys had the benefit of learning a worthwhile trade. When the Government passed a Bill in 1779 to open up the trades of bakers and butchers to any Tom, Dick, or Harry it effectively meant that apprenticeships in these trades would become a thing of the past. The Bakers’ Company threw their arms in the air and complained bitterly that the Bill would severely affect the businesses of their tradesmen. Whatever became of that Bill, the Company won the day and apprenticeships remained.

The Bakers’ first Hall, built on this site in 1506, was destroyed in the Great Fire on the 3rd September 1666. Since that day, there have been three successive Halls on the site. The present one, which occupies the ground floor and first floor of a nine storey block, was erected in 1961 and is the first of the Livery Company halls to take on 20th century styling.


St. Dunstan’s Alley

Nearby St Dunstan’s Alley, at the bottom of Idol Lane, is the tower and remaining shell of St Dunstan in the East. The church has had its fair number of travails. Built around 1100 its south aisle which was added in 1931 had only just been repaired when the church was severely damaged by The Great Fire of London. Rebuilding of the tower was by Wren in 1671 but the spire was not added until 1699. The whole creation is of spectacular proportion. Four pinnacles are set at each corner of the square tower and the crowning spire is supported on four flying buttresses.

World War II brought an end to the life of St Dunstan’s with the nave and chancel being destroyed in 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple were also badly damaged but were later repaired. The shell of the church still remains – with trees and foliage growing out of its windows – and the whole of the area has been laid out as a garden by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It is an idyllic spot to relax for a while or enjoy a packed lunch away from the noisy traffic, but it naturally gets very busy during summer lunch times.


Idol Lane

Close by Idol Lane, although many Roman idols have been found in the vicinity the name is thought to be a variation of idle suggesting a place to loiter. During the 16th century the name of this narrow cobbled lane was known as St Dunstan’s Hill, being a ‘hairpin’ continuation of the neighbouring lane to the east. ‘they meeting on the south side of this church [St Dunstan’s] and churchyard, do join in one, and running down to the Thames street, the same is called St Dunstan’s hill’ By the mid 17th century the two lanes had parted their intimate relationship and the name appeared as Idle Lane. This may be a reflection on the social inclinations of those who dallied here, implying that the area was frequented by layabouts, content to idle their time away without either trade or other constructive occupation. On the other hand, this theory may be totally out of order and ‘Idle’ could after all be the result of a lack of standardisation in spelling which was common before Johnson published his dictionary in 1755. In the 17th century there was a common belief among Protestants that the Mass was a practice of idolatry and this was after all the precinct of St Dunstan in the East which shadily supported a number of Roman Catholic organisations and where the Fraternity of Our Lady was founded fifteen years after the Reformation. It is also understood that in the years following, successive parish priests of St Dunstan’s continued to say secret Masses at the Altar of Our Lady.

Eastern part of Idol Lane by Dirk Ingo Franke (CC BY 3.0)
St. Dunstan’s Alley looking west by Basher Eyre (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Bakers’ Hall Court by Basher Eyre (CC BY-SA 2.0)

CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

Curious title, Curiocity

Energetic, eccentric and eclectic comes to mind when describing Curiocity: In pursuit of London, the recently published Penguin Random House book by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose.

Born out of a frankly eccentric map magazine published a few years ago, the authors decided to expand their wealth of knowledge into a book so large it might as well be described as a tome.

[I] was recommended this book by Matt Brown when he contributed to the London Grill the editor-at-large at Londonist, part written, according to the preface in Buenos Aires, along with contributions from anybody who has a professional interest in London’s minutiae, the book is broken down into 26 chapters, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet. With the added bonus of clues to the location of six hidden ceramic tiles to be found dotted about London, much like the seven noses of Soho prosaically termed as an interactive ‘extra’.


Utopian London

This is truly a book for London anoraks, of which I’m a fully paid up member, as such my first instinct when opening a book is to look for information about the production. Here Curiocity doesn’t disappoint, giving a full page describing the typefaces used and the reasons for that decision (Johnston and Caslon since you ask.

The second chapter deals with blocks, from buildings to the stepping block used by a diminutive Wellington to mount his horse outside the Athenaeum Club, head straight for Chapter E for Eros if London’s erotic life is your thing, or Chapter X for xenophilia (no I’d never heard of that one either, apparently it’s the love of foreign people and objects); giving you everything you need to know about London’s diverse population.

I headed off to Chapter P pearls (of wisdom of cabbies, get it?) to find how they would stand up to the scrutiny of a London cabbie, but had to refer to K for yes! Knowledge. Everything was correct with the useful information that you can see inside a Cabbie’s Green Shelters during Open House Weekend.

It’s very hard to pin down Curiocity: Is it a homage to Phyllis Pearson’s A-Z; an elaborate artwork; or a stylish coffee table book?


Building London presents the city as a perpetual building site and draws on the perspective of Pieter Breugel’s Tower of Babel and the style of 1950s Eagle comics

The maps are beautifully drawn – you could put them on your wall, if you had a mind to tear them out – not the no-nonsense orange & lemons used by cabbies when undertaking The Knowledge; as a coffee table book, if left out nonchalantly to impress visitors it fails as there is no dust jacket with a red hessian cover with its title in large Johnston Sans characters.

As a source of information and an entertaining read Curiocity has, at present, no equal, dip in and out at leisure. Only its size prevents me from taking it as my holiday read.


CabbieBlog-cabThis is not a sponsored post. The publication reviewed has been purchased independently by CabbieBlog who has not received payment for writing this review. The opinions expressed are solely his own. Links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

The London Grill: Matt Brown

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.


[M]att Brown is the former editor (now editor-at-large) of Londonist, a web site all about London now approaching its 12th birthday. He’s obsessed with London, especially the ‘hidden bits’. He’s been down into the sewers on several occasions, clambered over the roof of St Pancras and shared afternoon tea with the Lord Mayor, among many other London adventures. Everything You Know About London Is Wrong is his second book, which follows London Night and Day (2015).

What’s your secret London tip?
Go for lunch at midday. Seriously. Why does everyone go out at 1pm and then queue for half an hour? I just don’t get it.

What’s your secret London place?
North Ockendon. It’s the only significant bit of Greater London to lie outside the M25, and as such deserves some kind of recognition.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
I’m a very mild-mannered person and rarely gripe about anything. At least, I was until I started using the Thameslink ‘service’, which seems to get cancelled or delayed every time I catch it. It’s not even very good at being bad, managing only ‘second worst rail service’ behind Southern. But other than Thameslink, I don’t think I gripe much about anything. Oh, other than people who go for lunch at 1pm and then moan about the queues.

What’s your favourite building?
The Thames Barrier. It’s beautiful, functional and represents long-term thinking – a rare commodity among policy makers. I once got to walk through its maintenance tunnels, which go right across the Thames beneath the barrier. And did you know that those silver, hood-shaped towers are made of pine wood on the inside?

London-is-wrongWhat’s your most hated building?
I wouldn’t say I hate any buildings. They’re all part of the rich tapestry of London. The closest I’d get would be a class of building, rather than a specific example, and that is the cheaper species of office block from the 1980s. You know the type. Built from poo-brown bricks with dusty, mirrored windows. Most are now being torn down. I doubt there’ll be any left in a decade’s time, and few will mourn their passing.

What’s the best view in London?
I could list off dozens of high points, but my absolute favourite is actually from sea level, or just above it. That is the view of the Square Mile from the Horniman pub, just in front of HMS Belfast. Here you see just what a confusing, unplanned mongrel of a city London is. Skyscrapers — some sleek, some bulbous — cluster with 60s concrete; an occasional Wren steeple – Magnus and Dunstan — still peeks out. All is propped up by the classical façade of Custom House and brick arches of Old Billingsgate, which seem to float on the Thames. Marvellous.

What’s your personal London landmark?
Southwark Bridge. I feel sorry for it. It’s the forgotten bridge that connects nothing with nothing. It has none of the power of Blackfriars Bridge, lacks the views of Waterloo, and can’t compete with the fame of London Bridge, Millennium Bridge or Tower Bridge. It’s always had less traffic than its neighbours. I’ve kind of mentally adopted it as my own.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
The best book ever written about London has only just come out. It’s called CurioCity by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd. It’s about as thick as an Argos catalogue but contains much richer bounties. Maps, treasure hunts, essays, poetry and more London trivia than you could shake Dick van Dyke’s chimneysweep brush at.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I’m very much a pub man, so I shall recommend one of those. Actually, I’ll recommend three. Despite fears that pubs are slowly dying out, this is something of a golden age for beer drinkers, with dozens of new microbreweries springing up over the past few years. One of the best places to try their creations is The Hope in Carshalton, a friendly community-owned pub with a huge and ever-changing range of craft beers. Closer in, I’d recommend the Well and Bucket on Bethnal Green Road for a fresh modern take on the pub (and cocktail bar in the basement), or pretty much any other venue in the Barworks chain. Finally, try a little known pub on Farringdon Street called the Hoop and Grapes. In many ways, it’s nothing special – a typical Shepherd Neame place with mainstay beers like Spitfire and Whitstable Bay. Yet its friendly staff and hidden beer garden (a huge rarity in the Square Mile) make this unsung pub worth a visit.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
That’s kind of a logical impossibility. London’s my job, so I can’t really have a ‘day off’ while here. Anything I did would feel like work. So my day off would be to escape London – perhaps to head to the south coast and walk for miles along the chalk cliffs; or to lose myself in the New Forest. Is that cheating?