More Notting Hill – 1987

As a schoolboy I used to cycle up a hill past some grand large houses on a street probably of a similar age to these, though not quite as grand, most of them in poor repair and multi-occupied, divided into flats and rooms. My first student flat with two friends in Manchester was in a not dissimilar house where one would meet men, usually the worse for drink, on the stairs when we went to use the shared toilet; we soon realised the occupation of two of the women who had rooms on other floors of the house, including the very motherly woman who collected our rent each week and offered consolation when she arrived one week to find me in on my own and still in bed.

Stanley Gardens, Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-11-positive_2400

When I started work in the 1960s I could have bought one of those houses I cycled past for with a mortgage for around three times my then annual salary. There would have been a few sitting tenants, some of whom could have been easily persuaded to leave. Had I been like Peter Rachman I would have first made a modest cash offer, then if they refused would make their lives miserable by holding loud and noisy all-night parties in the already empty flats, moving finally to cutting off the water and electricity and perhaps sending men with large angry dogs to harass them. He made his fortune mainly in the more northerly parts of Kensington, and not so far as I’m aware in any of the areas shown in my pictures. But even for more law-abiding landlords there were fortunes to be made. Those houses I cycled past, now converted into self-contained flats are now worth at least a thousand times more, allowing for inflation around 50 times as much.

Stanley Gardens, St Peter's Church, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-12-positive_2400

Stanley Gardens was as a part the Ladbroke Estate owned by James Weller Ladbroke who in the 1820s employed Thomas Allason to make a grand overall plan for the whole area. Ladbroke ran into problems with various developers and the plans were modified in the 1840s by landscape artist and architect Thomas Allom in the 1840s. After James Weller Ladbroke died in 1847 his cousin Felix Ladbrooke sold the land to developer Charles Blake who employed a builder in 1853 to build the houses to Allom’s designs and street plan. The builder went bust before finishing the job and others finished the work in 1858. Most of the houses in Stanley Crescent are also to Allom’s designs and THe Survey of London comments that these streets represent “grand display in the latest taste” of the Victorian era. All were Grade II listed in 1969. You can read a very full account of the area and its history at The Ladbroke Association.

St Peter’s Church Notting Hill was also designed by Thomas Allom and was built before the houses were completed in 1855-7. The site had been donated by Charles Henry Blake (1794–1872) who had made a fortune trading in indigo in India before coming back to make more as a developer in Notting Hill. Its classical style was out of fashion by the time it was built, but fits in better with the housing than would a gothic design.

Man on Skateboard, Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-31-positive_2400

My father, born in 1899, was a man of few if any qualifications but skilled in many trades including carpentry, all kinds of building work, plumbing, painting and decorating, bee-keeping and gardening. It was in this latter respect that he became a member of the Soil Association and we grew up eating the food and vegetables he grew in several gardens and an allotment, organic before anyone had thought of the marketing name.

We knew about Whole Earth Foods and Ceres, set up by Nebraska-born brothers Craig and Gregory Sams in 1967, though I don’t think we ever shopped there. Their shop on Portobello Rad was said to be the first English bakery selling wholemeal goods, though I think dedicated to them would be more accurate. They advertised Ceres as “London’s complete natural food centre featuring a full range of organically grown vegetables and grains.”

According to Craig’s blog “This was on the Portobello Road in the 1970s where we were in competition with 30 fruit and vegetable stallholders as well as cheap bakers, and when the yuppification of Notting Hill was just a glint in the property developers’ eyes.”

At some point Craig and his family moved away from Notting Hill to Hastings to continue their business – which went on to include various other companies including the fantastic ed Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate. The shop at the left of the picture had been the Ceres Bakery (which perhaps accounts for the rather American fire hydrant pictured on its front), and to the right is the entrance to Portobello Garden Arcade.
The shop is now Portobellow Health Foods.

I grabbed this image rapidly as a skateboarder came into view, which accounts for the more than usual tilt.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-41-positive_2400

Pembridge Crescent dates from 1854-9. Much of the area was developed by brothers Francis and William Radford, with Francis being the architect for the houses, and was one of the most financially successful developments in Notting Hill. The Survey of London suggests their work in Pembridge Crescent was “coarse in comparison with the earlier, gracious proportions of the houses” in the rest of the area they developed.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-43-positive_2400

Since 1969 the area has been a part of the Pembridge Conservation Area. There is a description of the architecture of the area in the Survey of London on the British History Online web site.

Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1987 87-6d-55-positive_2400

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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