Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
Ladbroke Gardens runs between Ladbroke Grove
and Kensington Park Road
By the early 1850s the Ladbroke family had sold the freehold of much of the undeveloped part of their estate, including the land on which Ladbroke Gardens now stands, to various speculators. The north and south sides of what is now Ladbroke Gardens ended up in different ownership. It was a time of building boom, and in 1852 the owners of both sides began to let building leases, under which contractors undertook to erect houses in exchange for a promise that, once the houses were completed, they would be given 99-year leases, enabling them to recover their costs by subletting the new houses.
Unfortunately the building boom did not last. The excessive building had outstripped demand and it soon became clear that the developers were unable to continue financing their plans. In about 1855 building ceased almost completely on the Ladbroke estate. Ladbroke Gardens was one of the streets most affected, becoming known as “Coffin Row” because of the many half-built and crumbling carcases of houses. In 1859, The Building News described how there were eighteen first-class houses “fast hastening to decay for want of being finished” in Ladbroke Gardens. By 1860, however, “Little patches of new work” were beginning to “appear here and there amidst the desert of dilapidated structures and decaying carcases. When the whole are finished there will be some chance of an adequate return for a portion of the money invested, but till that consummation is arrived at, there are few, we imagine, who would care to dwell in that dreary desolation, with the wind howling and vagrants prowling in the speculative warnings around them.”
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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.