West Row, W10

Road in/near Kensal Town, existing between 1841 and now

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Road · Kensal Town · W10 ·
FEBRUARY
26
2015

West Row, W10 began its life in the early 1840s.


Kensal New Town was built between the Grand Central Canal (opened 1801) and the Great Western Railway line (opened 1837).

West Row was built in the 1840s and consisted of single-storey cottages with gardens suitable for drying clothes. The rows of cottages quickly degenerated into a slum, mainly due to overcrowding, industrialisation and pollution.

The sole survivors of this phase of development are a few workshops in Southern Row, whose pantiled roofs can still be seen from the railway line, and the small chapel in Middle Row, which was built by Michael Puddefoot in 1852.

Laundry work provided the principal source of employment for the inhabitants, many of the men being comfortably supported by the labours of their wives, while others worked at the gasworks of the Western Gas Company. Rustic pursuits still prevailed in the 1850s and 1860s, and gypsies sometimes wintered here.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the cottage laundry industry began to be replaced by larger mechanised concerns.



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Kensal Town

Soapsuds Island

Kensal New Town was built between the Grand Central Canal (which opened in 1801) and the Great Western Railway line (opening in 1837) in the 1840s.

Single-storey cottages with gardens suitable for drying clothes were the first buildings and Kensal Road, Middle Row, West Row, East Row and Southern Row all appeared between 1841 and 1851. The rows of cottages quickly degenerated into a slum, mainly due to overcrowding, industrialisation and pollution.

The area was dominated by the Western Gas Company and Kensal Cemetery, which provided work but did little to improve the environment. Women were primarily involved in laundry work giving the area its nickname of ‘Soapsuds Island’.

The area was isolated from the rest of London at a time when Portobello Lane (now Portobello Road) was a muddy track sometimes impassable in bad weather.

Cut off from the municipal authorities it was left to charities to attempt to alleviate the social and health problems.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the cottage laundry industry began to be replaced by larger mechanized concerns.

In 1902 Charles Booth described it as, “Just as full of children and poverty as was the old woman’s dwelling in the nursery rhyme.” By this date the area had been transferred to the newly formed Royal Borough of Kensington. When the Piggeries and Potteries in Notting Dale were finally cleared in the early 20th century most of the displaced residents moved north into Golborne ward and Kensal.

By 1923 in the Southam Street area 140 houses contained some 2500 inhabitants. A series of evocative photographs by Roger Mayne in the 1950s showed that little had changed. It was only from the 1960s that the overcrowded and dilapidated terraces were cleared and replaced by social housing including Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower.
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