Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
Kensington Park Mews lies off of Kensington Park Road
This small mews was originally built in the 1860s (it first appears in the 1871 census) between the back gardens of houses in Blenheim Crescent
and Westbourne Park Road
. The original buildings were probably typical two-storey mews houses with stables and coach-houses below and accommodation above. The 19th century census returns show that the properties were almost exclusively inhabited by coachmen or grooms, no doubt working for the occupants of the grander houses in neighbouring streets.
When horses and coaches were replaced by cars, the ground floors were mainly turned into garages and workshops. In the Second World War five of the houses at the end of the mews were converted into industrial premises for the manufacture of structural steelwork for the war effort. By the end of the War, it appears that the mews was pretty dilapidated and it was one of several such mews in the area identified for future acquisition by the Council and demolition under the slum clearance scheme. However, no immediate action was taken by the Council. Various private redevelopment schemes, involving complete reconstruction, were then submitted for planning approval and the present 14 stock-brick houses were finally erected in the 1960s. The mews is cobbled, although probably not with its original cobbles.
It appears that the mews was classified as a private road - i.e. there was public access but the Council had no responsibility for its upkeep (this was not untypical for mews). In the early 1990s the residents obtained a closure order, extinguishing public access rights and enabling them to install gates at the entrance to the mews. It is one of the very few gated developments in the area.
Notting Hill is a cosmopolitan district known as the location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, and for being home to the Portobello Road
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.