is a street with quite a history.
In 1969 the Westway was opened. One of its effects was to cut one of the longest streets in the area - Latimer Road - in two.
The southern half was renamed Freston Road
and the houses had been largely emptied and readied for demolition. In the early 1970s, most of the residents of Freston Road
were squatters. When the Greater London Council planned to redevelop the area, the 120 residents first all adopted the same surname of Bramley with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively.
The Council threatened formal eviction, so at a public meeting attended by 200 people, resident Nick Albery - inspired by both the Ealing comedy film Passport to Pimlico
and a previous visit to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen - suggested that they declare the street independent of the rest of the UK. A referendum returned 94% of residents in favour of the plan, and 73% in favour of joining the European Economic Community. Independence was declared on 31 October 1977. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe wrote expressing his support, saying "As one who had childhood enthusiasm for (the novel) The Napoleon of Notting Hill, I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations".
In a legal dispute regarding the unauthorised performance of his play The Immortalist
, Heathcote Williams won a ruling from the UK courts that Frestonia
was for this purpose not part of the UK. Williams served as Ambassador to Great Britain and actor David Rappaport was the Foreign Minister.
consisted of a 1.8 acres triangle of land (including communal gardens) formed by Freston Road
, Bramley Road
and Shalfleet Drive
. The state adopted the Latin motto Nos Sumus Una Familia
- We are All One Family - and applied to join the United Nations, at the same time warning that peacekeeping troops might be needed to keep the GLC at bay.
had its own newspaper ’The Tribal Messenger’ and an art gallery called ’The Car Breaker Gallery’ from which came the performance art of ’Mutoid Waste Company’, visual artist Julie Umerle, comic book artist Brett Ewins and graphic novelist Brendan McCarthy. Professional lighting for the gallery was donated by Sandy Nairne, later to be Director of the National Portrait Gallery.
There was also a ’National Theatre’ at Frestonia
which performed The Immortalist
. The Frestonia
n National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being - appropriately - Passport to Pimlico
and a film of The Sex Pistols. Local transport was served by the Number 295 bus, and the London Underground, Latimer Road tube station being at the north end of Bramley Road
. There were Frestonia
n postage stamps (honoured by the General Post Office), as well as plans to introduce a currency.
When the state celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1982, the population numbered 97 people occupying 23 houses. The same year, The Clash recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as The People’s Hall) in Frestonia
, where Motorhead practised in the rehearsal studios.
Following international press coverage, the residents formed the Bramleys Housing Co-operative Ltd, which negotiated with Notting Hill Housing Trust for continued residence and acceptable redevelopment of the site. Some Frestonia
ns were unhappy with the consequent loss of independence, and moved away.
According to Tony Sleep, a brief Frestonia
n onlooker whose online photo-journal documents his idea of the history of the area, those leaving were often replaced by people with drinking and drug problems. The ideals of the Frestonia
n "nation" consequently went into decline. In its place, a more conventional local community reinstated the usual hierarchies.
To the current day, Bramleys Housing Co-operative manages the properties owned and built on the Frestonia
site by Notting Hill Housing Trust, and its members continue to live as a close-knit community. Some are children or grandchildren of the original Frestonia
ns, although there has also been a significant influx of new residents.
A large new office development, also named Frestonia
, now occupies the adjacent site at the junction of Bramley Road
and St Anns Road. A second large office development also named Frestonia
by its developers was erected at 125/135 Freston Road
Local resident ’Trevor’ who grew tomatoes in compost made from Frestonian residents’ waste.
User unknown/public domain
From Pigs and bricks to Posh and Becks...
|VIEW THE NOTTING DALE AREA IN THE 1750s|
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1750 map does not display.
|VIEW THE NOTTING DALE AREA IN THE 1800s|
The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1800 map does not display.
|VIEW THE NOTTING DALE AREA IN THE 1830s|
The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1830 map does not display.
|VIEW THE NOTTING DALE AREA IN THE 1860s|
The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.
|VIEW THE NOTTING DALE AREA IN THE 1900s|
The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.
As houses were springing up all over the rest of northern Kensington, one corner of the borough was developing into a slum whose notoriety was probably unsurpassed throughout London
It lay at the foot of the hill on which the Ladbroke estate was laid out, directly north of Pottery Lane, on badly draining clay soil between the Norland Estate and Notting Barns Farm.
Its first occupants were to give it two infamous names: the brick makers, who seemed to have arrived in the late lath century, and the pig-keepers, who moved there in the early l9th century.
To make bricks and tiles involved large excavations, which soon filled with stagnant water. The keeping of pigs entailed collecting refuse and offal from the kitchens of hotels and private houses, feeding most of it to pigs and boiling down the fat.
The combination of both bricks and pigs spelt disaster for the area.
Samuel Lake of Tottenham Court Road, a scavenger and chimney sweep by occupation was the first to keep pigs here and he was soon joined by the pig keepers of the Marble Arch area who had been forced out of their area by building development. The colony was at first sufficiently isolated to be able to go about their business unfettered; and by the time streets were being built nearby, the piggeries were so well established that developers simply steered clear.
Shacks sprang up wherever convenient for there was no building control in London at that time, and inevitably they were jumbled together with the pigs and the ponds: indeed often the three were combined, with humans sharing their roofs with animals and living directly over stagnant water: the animals at one stage outnumbered people by three to one.
The area’s unsanitary conditions had become so notorious that Charles Dickens ran a special feature on it in the first edition issue of his magazine Household Words
The Piggeries and Brickyards were far from the sight and concern of the Vestry and its duties were taken up by charities, both religious and secular. But it was Kensington’s first Medical Officer of Health, Dr Francis Goodrich, who was given the formidable task of cleaning up the area. Goodrich stated that it was one of the most deplorable
spots not only in Kensington but in the whole of the metropolis.
Rather than manufacturing bricks, locals started to concentrate more on the making of pottery, mostly drainpipes, tiles and flower pots to supply the local building boom. This trade, however, gradually declined and business ceased by 1863, the same time as when the stagnant ’Ocean’ was filled in.
As far as the Piggeries were concerned strong opposition to a clean up came from the pig keepers themselves, as that was their only livelihood. And perversely the Vestry did not want them to lose the pigs because the families then could become a charge on the poor rate.
By 1878 Goodrich’s successor Dr Dudfield managed, however, to gradually reduce the number of pigs but it was not until the 1890’s that the last pig was banished.
The area nevertheless remained notorious. Instead of pig keeping the men turned to living off what their women could earn as laundresses, initially at home (especially in
the Stoneleigh Street area) and later in small laundries. A local saying in this area declared that ’to marry an ironer is as good as a fortune’
But change was coming.
The 1860s at last witnessed the opening of schools, (such as one in Sirdar Road), the paving of streets and the construction of proper sewers. But it was not until 1888 were public baths and washhouses provided at the junction of Silchester and Lancaster Roads.
In 1889 the Rev C E Roberts of St Clements Church and the Rev Dr Thornton of St Johns appealed in a letter to the Times for an open space for the children of this area. As a result the old brickfield and the area of the ’Ocean’ became the start of Avondale Park opened in 1892 and named in memory of the recently deceased Duke of Clarence and Avondale.
But even then, a year after the park was opened that the Daily News described the area adjacent to the park as ’Avernus’ (the fabled gateway to hell!). The article identified Wilsham Street, Kenley Street, another two streets now replaced by Henry Dickens Court and part of Sirdar Road as ’hopelessly degraded and abandoned’.
The dense rows of artisan houses in these streets were massively over-occupied or else were the most primitive lodging houses in which a bed on the floor cost a few pennies per night. Local residents made a living as best they could but it was a close knit community who seemed to scrape together enough money to pay for visits to the music hall and for summer day trips.
By 1904 new low cost tenements were built and the Improved Tenements Association bought 64 year leases of four houses in Walmer Road in 1900, and these were modernised and divided into two room tenements to accommodate 13 families for rents of 5 shillings a week. Other housing associations followed such as the Wilsham Trust formed by Ladies- in-waiting at Kensington Palace.
The poverty and hardship of the Potteries and Piggeries is very much a thing of the past. Now the neighbourhood is an attractive, leafy, peaceful backwater made up of rows of well kept two and three storey Victorian brick terraced houses and cottages, in the shadow of the graceful golden weather vane and clock of St Clements Church.
The area has come a long way.
The Notting Hill & Holland Park Book by Richard Tames
Kensington & Chelsea by Annabel Walker with Peter Jackson
Notting Hill and Holland Park Past by Barbara Denny
Survey of London: Northern Kensington: Vol:XXXVII for the Greater London Council