Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
The area was largely open country when Clarendon Road was created during the second great wave of development on the Ladbroke estate in the 1840s. The estate was still owned at that time by the Ladbroke family in the person of James Weller Ladbroke. It was a time when the population of London was growing rapidly and developers saw rich profits to be made in providing the expanding population with housing.
James Weller Ladbroke had detailed plans drawn up for the western part of the Ladbroke estate, including Clarendon Road, in 1843 and 1846. Ladbroke did not undertake the development himself; instead he signed agreements or building leases with builders or speculators under which they undertook to build a certain number of houses on the plot of land covered by the agreement. Once the houses were built, Ladbroke would then give either the builder or a person nominated by him (usually the person who had provided finance for the construction) 99-year leases of the houses. Ladbroke thus derived his profit from the ground rents (typically about £10 per annum); the developers would derive theirs from letting the houses (which commanded annual rents of £50-60).
Many of those involved in developing Clarendon Road came to financial grief. In the years following the construction of these now desirable villas, the long leaseholds (and sometimes also the freeholds) of individual houses were often bought and sold and mortgaged to secure loans. As a result, the leaseholds quite often ended up in the hands of wealthy spinsters and others living far from the area, for whom they represented reliable investment assets paying a regular return in the form of the rental. Presumably the tenants who actually occupied the properties remained relatively unaffected by all these changes, so long as they went on paying their rents.
Development started from the south, and almost all the houses on the street between Holland Park
Avenue and Clarendon Cross
were completed during a period of frenzied activity between 1840 and 1846, under the direct auspices of James Weller Ladbroke. The houses were good quality villas, often detached or semi-detached with a good space between them – although most of the gaps between the houses have now been filed by extensions built in the last 50 years. These properties along the southern end of the street are now some of the most desirable houses in the area.
Originally, each terrace of houses had its own name and numbering system, and just to complicate matters the first part of street (up to Lansdowne Walk
) was called Park Street; the next part (up to Elgin Crescent
) Clarendon Road and the last part Clarendon Road North.
The terraces were Park Villas; Clarendon Terrace (16-26 evens Clarendon Road); Clarendon Villas; Clarendon Villas North; Grove Terrace; Cambridge Villas; Hanover Terrace Villas (Hanover Terrace was the old name of Lansdowne Walk
); and St James’s Terrace.
It was not until 1866 that the whole street acquired its current name and numbers.
Most of the houses were put up as speculative ventures, often with finance borrowed from wealthy property speculators. Sometimes Weller Ladbroke himself lent the builders the money to finance the construction. There was a bewildering number of speculators, financiers, architects and builders involved, including many of the Ladbroke area’s best known players such as Thomas Allason (the surveyor to the Ladbroke Estate and one of the area’s most distinguished architects); William John Drew, a builder/architect (the distinction was not always clear in those days); Richard Roy (a speculating solicitor); the Rev. Dr Samuel Walker (a wealthy speculating clergyman); and William Reynolds (a builder who became a developer and also tried his hand at being a publican, and who was largely responsible for the introduction of the pairs of semi-detached villas that are such a characteristic of Clarendon Road).
The Survey of London has made a brave attempt to clarify the relationships between these various players, but for many of the houses the detail of which parties were responsible for the finance, design and construction remains obscure. Generally, however, in the case of Roy and Reynolds, who were partners on many of the Clarendon Road houses, it was Reynolds who organised the building of the roads, sewers and houses; and Roy who raised the necessary capital.
As the road formed the western boundary of the Ladbroke family’s estate, it has few connecting links with the parallel Portland Road
to the west, on the Norland estate. Several roads run from the east into Clarendon Road from other parts of the Ladbroke estate, most deliberately designed to form vistas, so the road’s relationship with the rest of the Ladbroke estate is clearly demonstrated. But the houses on the western side form almost a wall separating the estate from the Norland area and there are no carefully designed vistas through to the west, creating, in the words of the Borough’s Conservation Area Proposal Statement for the Ladbroke estate, an effect ‘of subtle enclosure; the eye is unaware of adjacent contrasting areas “outside”’.
The road seems in the 19th century to have been rather more of a through route than it is today. In 1892, Cardinal Manning’s funeral cortège processed along Clarendon Road on its way to Kensal Green cemetery
Notting Hill is a cosmopolitan district known as the location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, and for being home to the Portobello Road Market.
The word Notting
might originate from a Saxon called Cnotta
with the =ing
part indicating "the place inhibited by the people of" - i.e. where Cnotta’s tribe lived. There was a farm called variously "Knotting-Bernes,", "Knutting-Barnes" or "Nutting-barns" and this name was transferred to the hill above it.
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 James Weller Ladbroke began to undertake the development of the Ladbroke Estate. Working with the architect and surveyor Thomas Allason, Ladbroke 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, 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 reminders of this. The local telephone prefix 7727 (originally 727) is based on the old telephone exchange name of PARk.
The reputation of the district altered 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 occupation.
For much of the 20th century the large houses were subdivided into multi-occupancy rentals. Caribbean immigrants were drawn to the area in the 1950s, partly because of the cheap rents, but were exploited by slum landlords like Peter Rachman, and also became the target of white racist Teddy Boys in the 1958 Notting Hill race riots.
Notting Hill was slowly gentrified from the 1980s onwards now has a contemporary reputation as an affluent and fashionable area; known for attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses, and high-end shopping and restaurants (particularly around Westbourne Grove and Clarendon Cross).
A Daily Telegraph article in 2004 used the phrase the ’Notting Hill Set’ to refer to a group of emerging Conservative politicians, such as David Cameron and George Osborne, who were once based in Notting Hill.
Since it was first developed in the 1830s, Notting Hill has had an association with artists and ’alternative’ culture.