Adela Street is a small cul-de-sac in Kensal Town.
Adela Street was built by Mr Richard Ward of Holland Park in 1871. The name may be connected with Adela Ward Richardson, a spinster lady who owned several properties in North London in the mid-nineteenth century and was probably related to Richard Ward.
Adela Street had a brief starring role in the seminal 1972 movie Steptoe and Son as it doubled up as the location of Oildrum Lane, the site of their scrapyard.
As depicted in the film, Adela Street looks run down, but since the 1970s it has undergone a bit of a transformation. It is now the site of some expensive real estate.
Adela Street sign
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Kensal New Town was built between the Grand Central Canal (which opened in 1801) and the Great Western Railway line (opening in 1837) in the 1840s.
Single-storey cottages with gardens suitable for drying clothes were the first buildings and Kensal Road, Middle Row, West Row, East Row and Southern Row all appeared between 1841 and 1851. The rows of cottages quickly degenerated into a slum, mainly due to overcrowding, industrialisation and pollution.
The area was dominated by the Western Gas Company and Kensal Cemetery, which provided work but did little to improve the environment. Women were primarily involved in laundry work giving the area its nickname of ‘Soapsuds Island’.
The area was isolated from the rest of London at a time when Portobello Lane (now Portobello Road) was a muddy track sometimes impassable in bad weather.
Cut off from the municipal authorities it was left to charities to attempt to alleviate the social and health problems.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the cottage laundry industry began to be replaced by larger mechanized concerns.
In 1902 Charles Booth described it as, “Just as full of children and poverty as was the old woman’s dwelling in the nursery rhyme.” By this date the area had been transferred to the newly formed Royal Borough of Kensington. When the Piggeries and Potteries in Notting Dale were finally cleared in the early 20th century most of the displaced residents moved north into Golborne ward and Kensal.
By 1923 in the Southam Street area 140 houses contained some 2500 inhabitants. A series of evocative photographs by Roger Mayne in the 1950s showed that little had changed. It was only from the 1960s that the overcrowded and dilapidated terraces were cleared and replaced by social housing including Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower