Notting Hill Explained

Notting Hill is an area in West London, England close to the north-western corner of Hyde Park, and lying within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is a cosmopolitan district known as the location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, the setting for the 1999 film Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, and for being home to the Portobello Road Market. [1]

Notting Hill has a contemporary reputation as an affluent and fashionable area[2] ; known for attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses, and high-class shopping and restaurants (particularly around Westbourne Grove and Clarendon Cross). A Daily Telegraph article in 2004 used the phrase "The Notting Hill Set" [3] to refer to a group of young Conservative politicians, such as leader David Cameron and shadow Chancellor George Osborne. However, the large houses have also provided multi-occupancy rentals for much of the 20th century, attracting Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s who eventually clashed with the indigenous Teddy boys in the Notting Hill race riots.

In addition, Notting Hill has had an association with artists and "alternative" culture since its development in the 1820s.[4] [5] There are also areas of deprivation to the north,[6] sometimes referred to as "North Kensington", or the "Ladbroke Grove" area, from the name of the same street.

History

Origin of the Notting Hill name

The origin of the name "Notting Hill" is uncertain [7] though an early version appears in the Patent Rolls of 1356 as Knottynghull [8] [9], while an 1878 text, Old and New London, reports that the name derives from a manor in Kensington called "Knotting-Bernes,", "Knutting-Barnes," or "Nutting-barns"[5], and goes on to quote from a court record during Henry VIII's reign that "the manor called Notingbarons, alias Kensington, in the parish of Paddington, was held of the Abbot of Westminster". For years, it was thought to be a link with Canute, but it is now thought likely that the "Nott" section of the name is derived from the Saxon personal name Cnotta,[10] with the "ing" part generally accepted as coming from the Saxon for a group or settlement of people.[11]

Potteries & Piggeries

The area in the west around Pottery Lane was used in the early 19th century for making bricks and tiles out of the heavy clay dug in the area. The clay was shaped and fired in a series of brick and tile kilns.[12] The only remaining 19th-century tile kiln in London is on Walmer Road. [13] In the same area, pig farmers moved in after being forced out of the Marble Arch area. Avondale Park was created in 1892 out of a former area of pig slurry called 'the Ocean'. This was part of a general cleanup of the area which had become known as the Potteries & Piggeries.

19th century development

The area remained rural until the westward expansion of London reached Bayswater in the early 19th century. The main landowner in Notting Hill was the Ladbroke family, and from the 1820s they began to lay out streets and houses, with a view to turning the area into a fashionable suburb of the capital (although the development did not get seriously under way until the 1840s). Many of these streets bear the Ladbroke name, including Ladbroke Grove (the main north-south axis of the area) and Ladbroke Square (which is the largest private garden square in London).

The original idea was to call the district Kensington Park, and other roads (notably Kensington Park Road and Kensington Park Gardens) are remainders of this. The local telephone prefix 7727 is based on the old telephone exchange name of PARK.[14] The principal architect of this plan was the Ladbroke family surveyor, Thomas Allom; and its distinctive feature was that instead of houses being set around a garden square, separated from the houses by a road around the square, houses were placed around the edge of the garden square; with the road on the other side of the house. This meant that the houses had direct access at the back to a secluded communal garden, to which people on the street did not have access; and which could not even be seen from the street (mostly). These communal gardens continue to provide the area with much of its attraction for the richest householders.

In 1837 the Hippodrome racecourse was laid out.[15] The racecourse ran around the hill, and bystanders were expected to watch from the summit of the hill. However, it was not a success as it became waterlogged, and was closed in 1841, after which houses were built on the site. The crescent shaped roads which circumvent the hill (Blenheim Crescent, Elgin Crescent, Stanley Crescent, Cornwall Crescent, Landsdowne Crescent), were built over the circular racecourse tracks.

The Notting Hill houses were large, but they did not immediately succeed in enticing the very richest Londoners, who tended to live closer to the centre of London in Mayfair or Belgravia. Rather, the houses appealed to the upper middle class, who could live there in Belgravia style at lower prices. In the opening chapter of John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga novels, he housed the Nicholas Forsytes "in Ladbroke Grove, a spacious abode and a great bargain". [16]

Early 20th century decline

In common with many parts of London, the reputation of the district evolved significantly over the course of the 20th century. As middle class households ceased to employ servants, the large Notting Hill houses lost their market and were increasingly split into multiple occupations. During The Blitz, a number of buildings were damaged or destroyed by the Luftwaffe, including All Saints' church, which was hit in 1940 and again in 1944. In the postwar period the name Notting Hill evoked a down-at-heel area of cheap lodgings, epitomised by the notorious racketeering landlord Peter Rachman. The area to the north east, Golborne, was particularly known for being, in the words of Charles Booth, "one of the worst areas in London".[17] Southam Street had 2,400 people living in 140 nine-roomed houses in 1923, and the slum children from this street were documented in the 1950s photographs of Roger Mayne. No's 1-9 Colville Gardens, now known as Pinehurst Court, had become so run down by 1969 that its owner, Robert Gubay of Cledro Developments, described conditions in the buildings as "truly terrible".

The slums were cleared during redevelopment in the 1960s and '70s when the Westway Flyover and Trellick Tower were built. It is now home to a vibrant Mediterranean community, mainly Portuguese, Spanish and Moroccan. [18]

Late 20th Century revival and gentrification

By the 1980s, single-occupation houses began to return to favour with families who could afford to occupy them, and parts of Notting Hill are today among London's most desirable areas. The parts of Notting Hill near Holland Park are characterised by well-maintained stucco-fronted pillar-porched houses, private gardens, communal gardens, access to the public parks at Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, and smart shops. The area's newer, wealthy residents are satirised in Rachel Johnson's 2006 novel Notting Hell, which is set in grand houses surrounding a fictional communal garden.

Notting Hill features as a backdrop to novels by G. K. Chesterton (The Napoleon of Notting Hill), Colin Macinnes (Absolute Beginners), Michael Moorcock (the Jerry Cornelius quartet) and Alan Hollinghurst (The Line of Beauty). The area is also the setting of the 1965 Richard Lester movie The Knack …and How to Get It, as well as Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's 1968 film Performance starring Mick Jagger.

Geography

Notting Hill is roughly encompassed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s electoral wards of Colville, Golborne and Pembridge. It is bounded on the north by Harrow Road, on the west by Ladbroke Grove, on the south by Notting Hill Gate and on the east by Pembridge Villas and Ledbury Road.

There are three tube stations in the area: Westbourne Park; Ladbroke Grove; Notting Hill Gate.

Ladbroke Grove tube station was called Notting Hill when it opened in 1864. The name was changed in 1919 to avoid confusion with the new Notting Hill Gate station.

Areas of Notting Hill

Ladbroke Grove

See main article: Ladbroke Grove.

Ladbroke Grove is a road in the northern part of Notting Hill, stretching up to Kensal Green, straddling the W10 and W11 postal districts, and also the name given to the immediate area surrounding the road. Ladbroke Grove tube station is located on the road, at the point where it is crossed by the Westway.

Notting Hill Gate

See main article: Notting Hill Gate. A turnpike gate was constructed at the foot of the hill on the main road from London to Uxbridge, which is now known as Oxford Street, Bayswater Road and Holland Park Avenue along this part of its route. The point at which the turnpike gate stood was known as Notting Hill Gate. The gate was there to stop people passing along the road without paying. The proceeds were applied towards the maintenance of this important road. The gate was removed in the 19th century.

Portobello Road

See main article: Portobello Road. Portobello Road runs almost the entire length of Notting Hill from north to south. It runs parallel to Ladbroke Grove road. It contains Portobello Road Market, one of London's most famous markets, known for its antique section, as well as the local second-hand, fruit and veg and clothing stalls. It was originally a lane leading to Portobello Farm in the north of Notting Hill.

Westbourne Grove

See main article: Westbourne Grove.

Westbourne Grove is a retail road running across Notting Hill from Kensington Park Road in the west to Queensway in the east, crossing over Portobello Road. It contains a mixture of independent and chain retailers,[19], and has been termed both "fashionable" and "up-and-coming".[20]

The Notting Hill Carnival passes along the central part of Westbourne Grove.

North Kensington

See main article: North Kensington.

North Kensington is the key neighbourhood of Notting Hill. It is where most of the violence of the race riots of 1958 occurred, where the Notting Hill Carnival started and where most of the scenes in the Notting Hill movie were shot.

Even the area’s main transport hub, Ladbroke Grove tube station, was originally called Notting Hill from its opening in 1864 until 1919. The name was changed then to avoid confusion with the new Notting Hill Gate station.

Estate agents now call the super-rich area to the south Notting Hill; they are in fact referring to the neighbourhoods of Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park.

North Kensington was once an area well-known for its slum housing, as documented in the photographs of Roger Maine. Yet property prices have now reached dizzying heights as hordes of international investment bankers buy up the stuccoed Victorian houses.

However, North Kensington still has high levels of poverty and unemployment and a high-proportion of social (taxpayer-subsidised) housing for rent. This means that it retains the cultural and class mix which has always made it a vigorous, exciting and, at times, dangerous neighbourhood.

Waves of immigrants have arrived for at least a century including, but certainly not limited to, the Irish, the Jews, the West Indians, the Spanish, the Moroccans and many from the Horn of Africa and Eastern Europe. This constant renewal of the population makes the area one of the most cosmopolitan in the world.

Though Ladbroke Grove is the area's main thoroughfare, its best known street is Portobello Road with its street market. Many locals say that Golborne Road, at the northern end of Portobello Road, is a good representation of what Portobello Road was like before companies like Starbucks and American Apparel colonised Portobello.

Carnival

See main article: Notting Hill Carnival. Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event which takes place each August, over two days (Sunday and the following bank holiday). It has continuously taken place on the streets of Notting Hill since 1965[21] . It is led by members of the Caribbean population, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1950s. The carnival has attracted up to 1.5 million people in the past, putting it among the largest street festivals in Europe.

It attracted press attention in 1976 for clashes with the police[22], which continued for several years. More recently however Carnival has been seen as a peaceful event, and attracts press attention for the attendance figures.

As the event grew, concerns about the size of the event prompted Ken Livingstone to set up a Carnival Review Group to look into "formulating guidelines to safeguard the future of the Carnival"[23] . An interim report by the review resulted in a change to the route in 2002. When the full report was published in 2004, it was recommended that Hyde Park be used as a "savannah"; though this move has attracted some concern that the Hyde Park event may overshadow the original street carnival[24] .

In 2003 Carnival was run by a limited company, the Notting Hill Carnival Trust Ltd. A report by the London Development Agency on the 2002 Carnival estimated that the event contributes around £93 million to the London and UK economy.

Notting Hill race riots

See main article: Notting Hill race riots. The Notting Hill race riots were a series of racially-motivated riots which took place in the Notting Hill area of London, England over several nights in late August and early September 1958.

The riot is thought to have started on 20 August when a gang of white youths attacked a white Swedish woman, Majbritt Morrison, who was married to a West Indian man.[25] Later that night a mob of 300 to 400 white people, many of them "Teddy Boys", were seen on Bramley Road attacking the houses of West Indian residents.

The disturbances, rioting and attacks continued every night until they finally petered out by 5 September.

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://www.londononline.co.uk/articles/Portobello_Road/ Portobello Road, London
  2. http://www.londonhotels.com/london/areas/west-london/ West London - London Hotels .com
  3. http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,9061,1270560,00.html Feature: Tory bright young things | Politics | The Guardian
  4. http://www.beaneypearce.co.uk/?page=area&id=10 Beaney Pearce
  5. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45230
  6. http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/yourcouncil/councilfinances/sandpreport06.pdf Microsoft Word - Kensington and Chelsea _Royal Borough of__12-May-06.doc
  7. Web site: Notting Hill: Mandelson in good company. BBC News. 1998-12-22. 2009-02-17.
  8. Web site: Kensington and Chelsea. 2009-02-17.
  9. Web site: Kensington. 2009-02-17.
  10. News: Inside Notting Hill. Times Online. Sarah. Anderson. 2007-06-21. 2009-02-17.
  11. Web site: -ing. 2009-02-17.
  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/yourlondon/london_history/pottery_lane.shtml
  13. http://www.london-footprints.co.uk/wknottinghillroute.htm Notting Hill
  14. http://www.rhaworth.myby.co.uk/phreak/tenp_01.htm London Director system exchange names
  15. http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/travel/destinations/england/article727749.ece Notting Hill on foot | England - Times Online
  16. [John Galsworthy]
  17. Web site: One thousand years of Goldborne. Golborne Life. 2009-02-17.
  18. News: Exotic eats in West London. Tom. Maggoch. The London Paper. The London Style. 2006-12-20. 2009-02-17.
  19. http://www.streetsensation.co.uk/ptbello/wg_north.htm Westbourne Grove for Whistles, Joseph, Zadig & Voltaire, Dinny Hall, Heidi Klein
  20. Time Out article: "West London"; 9-16 August 1997
  21. Web site: 1965. 1Xtra - Black History. BBC. 2009-02-17.
  22. Web site: Remembering the Notting Hill riot. Emma. Griffiths. 2006-08-25. BBC NEWS. 2009-02-17.
  23. Web site: Notting Hill Carnival Review Group. Mayor of London. london.gov.uk. 2009-02-17.
  24. Web site: Caribbean Showcase vs Notting Hill Carnival?. Colourful. Alinah. Roberts. 2005-08-30. 2009-02-17.
  25. [BBC News]