Notting Hill: A place whose fortunes have come, gone and come again...
Pottery Lane takes its name from the brickfields which were situated at the northern end of the street.
The local soil was stiff clay and after 1818, the clay begun to be dug out here and used for brickmaking to supply London’s growing suburbs. Bricks and tiles were stored in sheds lining Pottery Lane and were fired in large kilns. Parts of the diggings flooded and a particular area became known as ’The Ocean’. Rubbish and effluent ended up here and it was bounded by dangerous walkways. Over the years, many drowned there.
Roughly at the same time as the brickmaking took off, pig keepers moved into the area. They had been evicted by their landlord from the Tottenham Court Road area and settled here. Many of those families lived together with the pigs in their houses.
As the area thus became a slum known as either The Potteries or The Piggeries. Conditions in Pottery Lane became so bad it became known as Cut Throat Lane.
On Sundays, there was cockfighting, bull-baiting and the killing of rats by dogs to amuse the residents.
An entrepreneur John Whyte built a racecourse known as the Hippodrome in 1837. This only lasted until 1842 as a public footpath leading from Pottery Lane crossed the racecourse. The fashionable aims of the racecourse were scuppered by this public access.
By the mid 1840s, life expectancy in the area was 11 years 7 months, compared with the London average of 37. In 1856, a medical officer described the area as "one of the most deplorable spots, not only in Kensington, but in the whole metropolis".
Pigs gradually disappeared later in the 19th century and new building improved the housing. Churches and public schools - including both Harrow and Rugby - established missions to help the poor.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, part of Pottery Lane was rebranded Portland Place for a time. In 1892, ’The Ocean’ was filled and covered. It is now Avondale Park.
Pottery Lane became richer in the late 20th century along with the rest of the Notting Hill area - today the houses fetch multi-million pound prices.
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.