Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
St James’s Gardens is an attractive garden square with St James Church in the middle of the communal garden.
The houses surrounding the square were built as a series of pairs of semi-detached houses linked by shared entrances. Most of the houses are part brick and part stucco faced.
Work began on St James’s Church in 1844 to designs by Lewis Vulliamy. The church was consecrated in 1845 but it was a further five years before the tower was built and there was never enough money from residents’ contributions to erect the planned spire.
John Barnett designed the houses. It was called St James’s Square at the time. By this period individuals were getting together as “building societies” to invest in property development. Charles Richardson and his brother were heavily involved in setting up the St James’s Square Benefit Building Society, which became the main source of finance for the construction of the houses in St James’s Square.
The first house to be built were Nos. 1-8, a terrace on the southern side of the square, west of the Addison Avenue
junction. These were built in 1847. Nos. 9-13, which took up the western end of the square, were built in 1848. In 1849 work began on the long north side, with a terrace comprising Nos. 14-24. In 1850 work resumed on the south side, east of the Addison Avenue
junction, with Nos. 47-54. Finally, Nos. 42-46 were built on the eastern side of the Square in 1851. That still left a considerable part of the north side still to be constructed, but work did not start there again for another 15 years.
David Nicholson and Son, builders from Wandsworth, were the principal contractors. They built Nos. 47-54, 14-24, and 42-46, and they also completed some of the houses started by Robert Adkin, a local builder, who started Nos. 9-13 and then went bust.
Nos. 55 and 56 were built by George Drew in 1865. These were three-storey houses and they were built in linked pairs. The lower parts of the houses are stuccoed with bare brick on the upper floors. The windows and doors at ground floor level have a semi-circular heads. In the upper floors the windows are square headed. The common motif of the houses is an elaborate cornice along the top of each house, which is echoed in the cornice above the top of the first floor.
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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.