Portobello Green

Park in/near North Kensington, existing between 1968 and now

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Park · North Kensington · W10 ·

Portobello Green features a shopping arcade under the Westway along Thorpe Close, an open-air market under the canopy, and community gardens.

From the 1860s to the 1960s this area was occupied by 5 houses along Portobello Road from the railway embankment, numbers 277 to 287, and two round the corner on the south side of Cambridge Gardens before the entrance to Thorpe Mews. 281 Portobello Road (now the address of the Portobello Green arcade) was AJ Symons confectioner and tobacconist in the 1920s.

Anne McSweeney, who lived across the road in the early 1960s, recalls before the Westway, ‘at the junction with Cambridge Gardens was a bakers shop, where I would be dispatched to get a Farmhouse or Short Tin loaf, and there was a small newsagent shop in Portobello Road on the Cambridge Gardens side just before the railway bridge. It was called Little’s and I was told that it was run by a boxer called Tommy Little. Keep walking down the lane on the same side opposite where all the stalls are, there was a pie and mash shop where I would take a large pudding basin and they would put the pies and mash in it.’

Post-demolition in the late 60s, the GLC and London Transport plans to use the Westway bays between Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove as a car park and bus garage were halted by local community opposition. In 1968 the Notting Hill Interzone issue of International Times contained a sketch of the proposed Westway open-air children’s theatre on the site of Portobello Green. Other uses of the area suggested in the Motorway Development Trust community survey were market stalls, old people’s club, community services, Inter-Action community art centre, Motorway restaurant, bus lay-by at Ladbroke Grove, post office on the Cambridge Gardens corner, supermarket and library in Thorpe Close.

After the Westway opened in 1970, the North Kensington Amenity Trust was set up to carry out the development. The first director Anthony Perry describes the initial stage: ‘At that time Portobello Green, as I named it, was completely fenced in with a high corrugated iron wall. It had been the site of the lorry ramp leading up to the motorway during its construction. I sold it to a scrap dealer on condition he removed it. I then declared it open to the public. Over the weeks that followed we slowly cleared it up with volunteer labour – not exactly volunteer, I paid them £1 an hour. We tarmaced the part immediately adjacent to Portobello Road and started a charity market, fencing it off from ‘the Green’ with timber posts cut from surplus telegraph poles. The London Brick Company gave us a lorry load of over-baked bricks and a Canadian student laid out an attractive sitting area. I had tree surgeons in to save the bedraggled trees bordering Cambridge Gardens. The thing to do was to get people to use the land and consider it theirs.’

Perry’s ‘A Tale of Two Kensingtons’ account of working for the trust in the early 70s features a picture of a rock band (who are thought to be Clover) playing on Portobello Green, with the caption: ‘Not everyone loved us or shared the idea of using the green for entertainment. On the north side were the houses of Cambridge Gardens and a small block of council flats. The residents had had a particularly hard time while the motorway was being built. What they felt about the future of the green was important and a small group of the residents immediately took against the Saturday rock concerts that had started early on.’

Frendz underground paper captioned photos of the local hippy groups Mighty Baby and Skin Alley, playing at the time of the 1971 Notting Hill People’s Free Carnival: ‘The weekly Saturday concert under Westway in Portobello Road pounds on. Next week Graham Bond, Pink Fairies and Hawkwind.’ Through the summer of 71 Hawkwind appeared at a series of free gigs in different locations under the flyover, including the green, commemorated on the sleeve of their ‘X In Search of Space’ album. Portobello Green also came under the jurisdiction of the local chapter of the White Panthers street hippy group, formed by Mick Farren (of the Deviants and IT) in solidarity with the Black Panthers.

The following year the Kensington and Chelsea Arts Festival of ‘folk, theatre, dance, etc’ was announced ‘under the motorway at Portobello Road where an experimental open-air stage has been erected.’ Michael Moorcock’s ‘King of the City’ novel contains a Saturday afternoon free gig on the green by the pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz, including Nick Lowe, and his Dennis Dover character’s Basing Street studios session group. The audience consisted of ‘Swedish flower children, American Yippies and French ‘ippies.’

A picture of Uncle Dog playing under the flyover features Brian Eno of Roxy Music by the stage.

In the early to mid 70s Portobello Green succeeded Powis Square as the centre of the Carnival, facilitated by the Amenity Trust. After the area featured in the 1972 children’s parade organised by Merle Major, the following year the Caribbean Notting Hill Carnival, as we know it today, was established on the green by Leslie Palmer. When Merle stepped down as she became pregnant and the event’s future was in doubt, Les remembers: “Anthony Perry had decided to pay for a Time Out advert inviting Carnival-interested persons to a public meeting in the makeshift open-air theatre space at Portobello Green under the flyover, one Sunday afternoon 7 weeks before the 1973 August bank holiday.

“5 people turned up, which didn’t say a lot for the interest and enthusiasm for the Carnival at the time. I said the event would be improved if it were to be broadened to include local sound-systems and bands. I had no idea who Anthony really was or indeed exactly what North Kensington Amenity Trust did. Their main brief was to ascertain what amenities could be housed on the undeveloped land under the flyover.

Anthony had landscaped the largest available space and created the Portobello Green. He also scrounged a load of wooden railroad sleepers, with which he created a performance space with a stage, and got Harold Wilson, the prime minister at the time, to come and open the Westway Theatre.

“The theatre occupied the largest space nearest to Portobello and had a decent sized stage, where we used to have promotional gigs on the odd weekend to draw attention to the upcoming Carnival. Trojan Records had sent along the Cimarons, who played there while the salesmen set up a record stall on the street side. We had cleared the other disused bays as far as we were able to make them fit for purpose and the smaller sounds occupied those. Phil Fearon’s 6 by 6 and Errol Shorter’s Daveracks put on a great show, accompanied by Paddington Terror and Bertram de Wasp. It was all very local. I made a deal with Lucita to provide lunchtime rotis for the council drivers and gave their boss a case of Long Life beer to share among them.”

In an internal wrangle over advertising at the Carnival in 1974, an Island Records banner hung between two lampposts on the green was torn down during the night. Meanwhile Anthony Perry wrote of the local alcoholics: ‘These are the people who fill us with anger. They are driving us mad at the moment in the trust because there is an ever growing army of them, which is alienating local people and driving kids off the green.’ In 1975 Portobello Green appeared as a local youth hangout in Horace Ove’s film ‘Pressure’, about life in the black community, the year before the area became the Carnival riot epicentre. Tom Waits was photographed in June 1976 on the corner of Cambridge Gardens, at the same location as the subsequent police charge picture on ‘The Clash’ album sleeve.

The reggae promoter Wilf Walker says: “It was incredible in those days to be in a sea of black faces. We described it as a demonstration of solidarity and peace within the black community. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for white people. 76 showed the strength of feeling, reggae was raging in those days, young blacks weren’t into being happy natives, putting on a silly costume and dancing in the street, in the same street where we were getting done for Sus every day.” 

In the International Times report on the 1977 Carnival: ‘The kids had gathered at the Westway, scene of last year’s victorious battle and by 9 O’clock it had become a maelstrom, sucking in curious whites and spitting them out, robbed and battered. Darkness fell and roaming camera lights turned the packed heads into a macabre spot-dance competition in the ballroom of violence. Police blocked all but one exit road and lined the motorway and railroad that swung overhead. Wallflowers at the dance of death. By the time the PA system shut down the screaming roar of the riot had made it irrelevant.’

The ‘Portobello Village’ under the Westway, described by Craig Sams in his 1977 alternative market guidebook, is ‘the area where the avant-garde in music, food, fashion and art has its centre. Reggae music, soul food, underground newspapers, whole-wheat bread, Bedouin dresses, art deco objects, natural shoes, herbal medicines, a Free Shop, brown rice and a gypsy fortune teller are all crammed into this little area. Influences from here have spread throughout London since the 60s, when Lord Kitchener’s Valet outfitted millions of people in exotic second-hand army dress from their little shop in the heart of the Portobello Village.’ The Westway Market under the flyover included the Grass Roots stall of the black bookshop at 61 Golborne Road, and Retreat from Moscow, who specialised in army greatcoats, 40s rayon dresses, 50s mohair jumpers, Beatle and baseball jackets.

At the end of the 70s the first Notting Hill Carnival stage was founded on the Green by Wilf Walker, who had previously promoted gigs under the flyover at Acklam Hall. The NME reported that: ‘in an effort to alleviate the problems that often arise from the Portobello Green area of Notting Hill, usually the Carnival’s flashpoint, the police and local council have agreed to the Festival and Arts Committee organising a two day concert on the green.’ The post-punky reggae bill featured Aswad, Barry Ford of Merger, Sons of Jah, King Sounds and the Israelites, Brimstone, Exodus, the Passions, Nick Turner (of Hawkwind)’s Inner City Unit, Carol Grimes and the Vincent Units. Wilf Walker recalls overcoming difficulties with officialdom by getting power supplied from the nearby house of a friend of the singer Carol Grimes: “The very first stage under the flyover in 1979, everyone resisted it, they didn’t believe it could happen. On the morning when we put up the scaffolding, we were just about to swing the multi-cord over the flyover and the policeman on the flyover on a bike said no, you can’t do that, even though we had permission weeks previously, so we weren’t allowed to get electricity. Roger Matland was supposed to be giving us power but he didn’t turn up. Luckily Carol Grimes, who played that year, had a friend who lived across the road and he gave us electricity. I ran up to the police station in Ladbroke Grove and demanded they keep their promise and let us carry on, then we were allowed to use the multi-cord.”

However, when the music stopped there was more trouble, poetically described by Viv Goldman in her Melody Maker review: ‘The cans and bottles glittered like fireworks in the street lights, then shone again as they bounced back off the riot shields. The thud thud thud of the impact rivalled the bass in steadiness, suddenly the street of peaceful dancers was a revolutionary frontline, and the militant style of the dreads was put in its conceptual context.’

From 1979 to 97 the Portobello Green Carnival stage hosted everyone from Aswad to Jay-Z. After Eddy Grant was recorded ‘Live at Notting Hill Carnival’ in 1981, Musical Youth appeared on their way to number 1 with ‘Pass the Dutchie’ the following year. In 83 Rip Rig & Panic, featuring Andrea Oliver and Neneh Cherry, played their last gig on the green. The sound-system of the Dread Broadcasting Corporation, Leroy Lepke Anderson’s pirate radio station, was located up the road outside the Black People’s Information Centre at 303 Portobello Road. In the early 80s the Portobello Green and Acklam bays under the Westway were developed into shops and offices by the Amenity Trust with Council funding. The market canopy was added to the scheme after protests from displaced market traders.

As early 90s Carnival bills featured Soul II Soul, Aswad, Burning Spear, Arrow, Osibisa, Omar, Courtney Pine, Horace Andy, Freddie McGregor and Gwen Guthrie, the green was also the venue of the Portobello Arts Festival and anti-gentrification protests. In 1992 Time Out ‘Get into the Grove’ with Don-e in the Malaysian café Makan under the Westway at 270 Portobello Road, also frequented by Lenny Kravitz and S-Express.

After Jay-Z appeared on the green in 1997 at the time of ‘Hard Knock Life’, with an accompanying crowd crush and shooting incident, the Radio 1 Carnival stage moved to Kensal.

The Thorpe Close offices at Portobello Green housed the dance music labels Wall of Sound, Millennium and Leftfield’s Hard Hands. The arcade shops underneath include Souled Out, who supplied 70s clothes to Kylie Minogue, Bjork, Elton John and Take That, and the mod outfitters Adam of London. The Portobello Green vintage fashion market featured in Tania Kindersley’s ‘Goodbye Johnny Thunders’ novel, various videos including Ian Wright and the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Do the Wright Thing’, the Sparks techno Carnival car ad and the long-running Channel 4 trailer.

In the 21st century the green has hosted the Portobello Film Festival, Jazz on the Green, Moroccan festivals and 70s Carnival anniversary community events. The Portobello Green Fitness and Snooker Centre balcony bar/café at 3-5 Thorpe Close succeeded Acklam Hall as the local venue when it became the Inn on the Green/Flyover. The 60s military jacket tradition is maintained by the market stall on Portobello Road under the flyover by the Spanish Civil War mural. In 2015 the Westway Trust plan to redevelop the area as the Portobello Village, with a building on the canopy site, was opposed by the Westway 23 campaign to preserve local community culture.


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Ian Gammons
Ian Gammons   
Added: 3 Apr 2018 08:08 GMT   
Post by Ian Gammons: Pamber Street, W10

Born in Pamber Street but moved to Harlow, Essex in 1958 when I was three years old. The air wasn?t clean in London and we had to move to cleaner air in Harlow - a new town with very clean air!

Norman Norrington
Norman Norrington   
Added: 19 Jan 2018 14:49 GMT   
Post by Norman Norrington: Blechynden Street, W10

In the photo of Blechynden St on the right hand side the young man in the doorway could be me. That is the doorway of 40 Blechynden St.

I lived there with My Mum Eileen and Dad Bert and Brothers Ron & Peter. I was Born in Du Cane Rd Hosp. Now Hammersmith Hosp.

Left there with my Wife Margaret and Daughter Helen and moved to Stevenage. Mum and Dad are sadly gone.

I now live on my own in Bedfordshire, Ron in Willesden and Pete in Hayling Island.

Have many happy memories of the area and go back 3/4 times a year now 75 but it pulls back me still.

Paul Shepherd
Paul Shepherd   
Added: 16 Jan 2018 15:21 GMT   
Post by Paul Shepherd: Chamberlayne Road, NW10

i lived in Rainham Rd in the 1960?s. my best friends were John McCollough and Rosalind Beevor. it was a good time to be there but local schools were not good and i got out before it went to a real slum. i gather it?s ok now.

Mary Harris
Mary Harris   
Added: 19 Dec 2017 17:12 GMT   
Post by Mary Harris: 31 Princedale Road, W11

John and I were married in 1960 and we bought, or rather acquired a mortgage on 31 Princedale Road in 1961 for £5,760 plus another two thousand for updating plumbing and wiring, and installing central heating, a condition of our mortgage. It was the top of what we could afford.

We chose the neighbourhood by putting a compass point on John’s office in the City and drawing a reasonable travelling circle round it because we didn’t want him to commute. I had recently returned from university in Nigeria, where I was the only white undergraduate and where I had read a lot of African history in addition to the subject I was studying, and John was still recovering from being a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese in the Far East in WW2. This is why we rejected advice from all sorts of people not to move into an area where there had so recently bee

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Maria Russ
Maria Russ   
Added: 7 Dec 2017 09:46 GMT   
Post by Maria Russ: Middle Row Bus Garage

My mum worked as a Clippie out from Middle Row Bus Garage and was conductress to George Marsh Driver. They travel the City and out to Ruislip and Acton duiring the 1950’s and 1960’s. We moved to Langley and she joined Windsor Bus Garage and was on the Greenline buses after that. It was a real family of workers from Middle Row and it formed a part of my early years in London. I now live in New Zealand, but have happy memories of the early years of London Transport and Middle Row Garage.
Still have mum’s bus badge.

Happy times they were.

Julia elsdon
Julia elsdon   
Added: 22 Nov 2017 18:19 GMT   
Post by Julia elsdon: Shirland Mews, W9

I didn’t come from Shirland Mews, but stayed there when my father was visiting friends, sometime in the mid to late forties. As I was only a very young child I don’t remember too much. I seem to think there were the old stables or garages with the living accommodation above. My Mother came from Malvern Road which I think was near Shirland Mews. I remember a little old shop which had a "milk cow outside". So I was told, it was attached to the front of the shop and you put some money in and the milk would be dispensed into your container. Not too sure if it was still in use then. Just wonder if anyone else remembers it.yz5

David Jones-Parry
David Jones-Parry   
Added: 3 Oct 2017 13:29 GMT   
Post by David Jones-Parry: Tavistock Crescent, W11

I was born n bred at 25 Mc Gregor Rd in 1938 and lived there until I joined the Royal Navy in 1957. It was a very interesting time what with air raid shelters,bombed houses,water tanks all sorts of areas for little boys to collect scrap and sell them on.no questions asked.A very happy boyhood ,from there we could visit most areas of London by bus and tube and we did.

Debbie hobbs
Debbie hobbs    
Added: 19 Sep 2017 09:08 GMT   
Post by Debbie hobbs : Raymede Street, W10


Susan Wright
Susan Wright   
Added: 16 Sep 2017 22:42 GMT   
Post by Susan Wright: Bramley Mews, W10

My Great Grandmother Ada Crowe was born in 9 Bramley Mews in 1876.

David Jones-Parry
David Jones-Parry   
Added: 7 Sep 2017 12:13 GMT   
Post by David Jones-Parry: Mcgregor Road, W11

I lived at 25 Mc Gregor Rd from 1938 my birth until I joined the Royal Navy in 1957.Our house sided onto Ridgeways Laundry All Saints Rd. I had a happy boyhood living there

Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson   
Added: 13 Aug 2017 21:39 GMT   
Post by Brenda Jackson: Granville Road, NW6

My Gt Gt grandparents lived at 83 Pembroke Road before it became Granville Road, They were married in 1874, John Tarrant and Maryann Tarrant nee Williamson.
Her brother George Samuel Williamson lived at 95 Pembroke Road with his fwife Emily and children in the 1881 Census

Apparently the extended family also lived for many years in Alpha Place, Canterbury Road, Peel Road,

Added: 20 Nov 2019 16:27 GMT   
Post by LDNnews: Aldwych
The Admiral Blake was situated at the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Barlby Road.
The Admiral Blake was situated at the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Barlby Road.


Added: 10 Nov 2019 16:27 GMT   
Post by LDNnews: Aldwych
The Bayswater Rivulet was the original name for the Westbourne River
The Bayswater Rivulet was the original name for the Westbourne River


The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1750 map does not display.

The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1800 map does not display.

The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1830 map does not display.

The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.

The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.


North Kensington

North Kensington lies either side of Ladbroke Grove, W10.

North Kensington was rural until the 19th century, when it was developed as a suburb with quite large homes. By the 1880s, too many houses had been built for the upper-middle class towards whom the area was aimed. Large houses were divided into low cost flats which often degenerated into slums, as documented in the photographs of Roger Mayne.

During the 1980s, the area started to be gentrified although areas in the north west of the district at Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park remain deprived and run down to this day.

Waves of immigrants have arrived for at least a century including, but certainly not limited to, the Spanish, the Irish, the Jews, the West Indians, the Portuguese, the Moroccans and many from the Horn of Africa and Eastern Europe. This constant renewal of the population makes the area one of the most cosmopolitan in London.

The Notting Hill carnival was first staged in 1964 as a way for the local Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their own cultures and traditions. After some rough times in the 1970s and 1980s when it became associated with social protest, violence and huge controversy over policing tactics, this is now Europe’s largest carnival/festival event and a major event in the London calendar. It is staged every August over the Bank holiday weekend.
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