Tavistock Crescent, W11

Road in/near Notting Hill, existing between 1867 and now

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Tavistock Crescent was where the first Notting Hill Carnival procession began on 18 September 1966.


Tavistock Crescent was developed in the late 1860s alongside the Hammersmith and City railway line from Westbourne Park station, originally as Great Western Crescent. On the 1900s Charles Booth map, the Tavistock streets are down as poverty and comfort mixed/fairly comfortable, but Silvester Mews, between Basing Street and All Saints Road, is very poor dark blue.

By the mid 20th century Tavistock Crescent had gone from being respectable working class to the worst slum of the area.

On 15 May 1966 Rhaune Laslett’s London Free School playgroup at 34 Tavistock Crescent (since demolished) was visited by the world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali (in the run up to his second Henry Cooper fight). Rhaune Laslett is to Ali’s right in the picture with the kids.

This was also where the first Notting Hill Carnival procession began on 18 September 1966. Rhaune Laslett organised the Free School Fayre pageant parade around the area, featuring people dressed as Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles Dickens characters, the London Irish girl pipers, a New Orleans-style trad jazz marching band, Ginger Johnson’s Afro-Cuban band, Russ Henderson’s Trinidadian steelband from the Coleherne pub in Earl’s Court, and a fire engine.

Rhaune Laslett’s Neighbourhood Service at 34 Tavistock Crescent offered ’free advice for county and magistrates court proceedings, depressives and young addicts in need of help and advice as well as causes of acute distress, especially housing.’ The 1968 Notting Hill Fair/Carnival concluded at the London Free School ’shanty town’ adventure playground between Tavistock Crescent and Tavistock Road, with an ’open air dance’ featuring the mod band the Action, Ginger Johnson, Pure Medicine and a steel band. Pete Jenner’s Blackhill Enterprises put on benefit gigs for the Neighbourhood Service at the Roundhouse by the Small Faces, Sly and the Family Stone, and David Bowie.

The Tavistock Hotel/Arms pub on the corner of Tavistock Crescent and the footbridge under the Westway appeared in ‘The L-Shaped Room’, the Clash film ‘Hell W10’ and ‘Withnail and I’, before the site’s post-modern luxury flat conversion in 2011. After Richard E Grant and Paul McGann were chased out of the Tavistock (when it was the Frog & Firkin) in ‘Withnail and I’, the pub was named the Mother Black Cap in reality after its role in the film.

The street was partly demolished in the late 1970s.

The Clash singer Joe Strummer said in an interview with Chris Salewicz in 1978: "The other day I was walking along and I saw that all of Tavistock Crescent is gone. And they used to seem to really know how to build houses fit for human beings to live in in those days. I mean, round by Westbourne Park Road these real egg-boxes suddenly sprung up from behind the corrugated iron, which is just brutal."

Strummer later lived at 37 Lancaster Road, he returned to Tavistock Crescent in his ’Hell W10’ film (though he was in W11) and when he formed the new Clash group in the mid 80s. Lancaster Road also hosted the Rasta House of Dread visited by Bob Marley, Patsy Kensit of ’Absolute Beginners’ and Dan Donovan of Big Audio Dynamite. The new Tavistock Crescent residents include the speed-rapper JC001.


Main source: It’s Your Colville
Further citations and sources


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Notting Hill

Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...

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.
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