Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
The huge Ladbroke Square communal garden is part communal garden accessed from the backs of the houses lining it and part traditional London Square with roads between the houses and the square.
It is bordered by Ladbroke Grove
on its west side, Kensington Park Road
on its east side, and the road called Ladbroke Square on its south side – so the latter is something of a misnomer, being a single long road. All the houses are numbered consecutively.
Felix Ladbroke, the owner of the Ladbroke estate, signed an agreement in 1840 with a developer, Jacob Connop, a bill broker in the City of London, to develop inter alia the road now called Ladbroke Square. Under this agreement, Connop let building leases of the individual plots to various builders. Then, when the houses were built or nearly built, Ladbroke granted 99-year leases of the houses to Connop or some other person at his direction, usually the builder, allowing the developer and/or the builder or financier to recover their capital outlay by subletting or selling the leaseholds..
It seems to have taken Connop some time to find people willing to take up building leases. The first plots to be let were Nos. 23-27 in August 1840, and then Nos. 28-31 in October that year. There was then a minor crisis when 220 yards of sewer that Connop had laid in the future Ladbroke Square collapsed. The whole project continued to be punctuated by various financial crises affecting the developers, and Connop himself was bankrupted in 1845. It was not until 1860 that all the houses in the road were finally completed.
All the houses are tall – mostly five-storey, including basement – and half stucco. Several houses were badly damaged in the Second World War or by fire and had to be completely or almost completely rebuilt. Nos. 1-3 are the only ones to have had dormer floors added.
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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.