Middle Row, W10

Road in/near Kensal Town, existing between 1841 and now

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Road · Kensal Town · W10 ·

Middle Row is one of the original streets laid out as Kensal New Town.

Kensal New Town was developed in the period 1840-1859 by Mr Kinnard Jenkins on his land between the Great Western Railway and the Grand Union Canal, to provide housing for employees of the canal, the railway, the gas works, and the Kensal Green Cemetery in Harrow Road on the other side of the canal. He laid out the roads following his field boundaries- Kensal (Albert) Road, West Row, Middle Row, East Row and South Row, divided the blocks up and built cottages, and named it Kensal New Town.

The residents were largely Irish immigrants, many employed in the laundry business, the area becoming known as the "laundry colony". The village had six public houses.

Charles Booth in his "Life and Labour of the People in London" (First Series, Volume 1, pub 1902, pp.243,246) described Kensal New Town: "Kensal New Town retains yet something of the appearance of a village, still able to show cottages and gardens, and gateways between houses in its streets leading back to open spaces suggestive of the paddock and pony days gone by."

This whole area soon became an overcrowded slum with rampant poverty.

In its early days, Middle Row was the site of what became known as the Middle Row 'Pope or Garibaldi' riot.

As Florence Gladstone explains it in 'Notting Hill in Bygone Days': 'Many of the inhabitants were Irish, and racial jealousy under the guise of religious feeling ran high, just as it ran high in Notting Dale. "Who are you for, the Pope or Garibaldi?" was the favourite challenge. Then the opposing camps would range themselves for battle. There was a serious riot of this kind in Middle Row about the year 1860; while two or three hundred policemen were assembled beside the canal to be called on if necessary. This riot gave a bad name to Kensal Town.' The police would have lined up on the site of the Job Centre. At the time British volunteers were fighting for the 1848 Italian revolutionary nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi. When he visited London in 1862 Garibaldi was met by violent Irish demonstrations. There was a Garibaldi pub in Notting Dale on St Ann's Road.

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Kensal Town

Soapsuds Island

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.
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