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IN GOLDFINGER’S SHADOW: North Kensington

The north end of Portobello Road crosses Golborne Road, the heart of a vibrant multi-ethnic community in London's North Kensington.

Golborne Rd

Golborne Rd

Between 1994 and 2001, I practised dentistry in a surgery on Golborne Road in North Kensington. The street crosses the better-known Portobello Road a couple of blocks north of the elevated Westway. Despite no longer working there, I make regular visits to this lively part of North Kensington, which is home to people originating from many parts of the world. Although much remains from when I began practising on Golborne Road, changes keep on occurring.

A detailed map surveyed in 1865 shows that where Golborne Road is today, was then open countryside through which ran ‘Portobello Lane’ (now Portobello Road). Thirty years later, what had been a narrow footpath running through fields from Notting Hill to Kensal New Town (laid out north of the Harrow Road in the 1840s and the railway tracks) was shown on a later edition of the map as Golborne Road, solidly lined with buildings. In 1870, Golborne Road, named after Dean Golbourne (vicar of St. John's Church in Paddington), was widened and lined with shops and houses. By the start of the 20th century, the area around Golborne Road had become an overcrowded slum (see: http://www.golbornelife.co.uk/golbornehistory.html). From the beginning of its urban development onwards, the cheap accommodation in the area attracted waves of immigrants, many of whose descendants still live there. The first group to arrive were Irish folk. Others will be described below. In the 1960s and ‘70s, there was extensive slum clearance, the Westway was built, as were apartment blocks such as Trellick Tower, which dominates the horizon. Abutting the wealthier parts of Kensington, North Kensington, which includes Golborne Road, has remained a less prosperous part of London, but this is beginning to change slowly.

Ladbroke Grove

Ladbroke Grove

This exploration begins in Ladbroke Grove just north of its Underground Station. Beginning on a morbid note, there is a branch of John Nodes Funeral Service close by. This company has been serving the area since 1828. In 1920, when the body of the Unknown Soldier was brought back from France: “…H Kirtley Nodes of John Nodes in Ladbroke Grove and together with … the Revd John Sowerbutts, they accompanied the coffin to and from France.” (see: http://lafd.org.uk/funeral-service-in-london-a-short-history). Recently, I was passing by when I saw a horse-drawn hearse loaded with a coffin waiting to depart from the premises. The two horses were decked with black ostrich feathers, and the driver, dressed in Victorian garb with a top hat, sat above them in front of the glass-sided vehicle.

Chesterton Rd looking northeast

Chesterton Rd looking northeast

The short Chesterton Road, lined with Victorian terraced housing, links Ladbroke Grove with the western end of Golborne Road. It is dwarfed by the massive Trellick Tower beyond it. The best days to visit Golborne Road are Fridays and Saturdays, when its street market is working. Many of the market stalls on the south side (or right side as you approach from Ladbroke Grove) are dedicated to selling used or ‘pre-loved’ goods, a term which sounds politer than ‘junk’. The vendors demand ridiculously high prices for their often almost worthless wares, but are willing to haggle sometimes. Books are sometimes on offer; these are rarely costly. When I worked in Golborne Road, there used to be a bookstall outside the surgery. Only once during my seven years working there did I ever acquire a valuable book at a bargain price. Whatever the value of the goods, they include an amazing assortment of items – everything from rusty tools and furniture (‘on its last legs’) to colourful disused shop signs.

Golborne Rd flea market

Golborne Rd flea market

The 'gentrification' of Golborne Rd

The 'gentrification' of Golborne Rd

I will describe the south side first. East of Portobello Road, there is a Danish restaurant, Snaps and Rye, next door to an Austrian one, Kipferl. These have opened in the last few years, and appeal to visitors rather than locals, who would regard them, as I do, as being overpriced. They are part of the ‘gentrification’ of the area, which had already begun with the establishment of Warris Vianni, an upmarket textile company, which opened in 1994 a few months before I began working in the area (see: http://warrisvianni.com/about-us/). Nearby, at number 91, presently the home of the smart-looking Zayane Modern Moroccan, there used to be a modest Arabic eatery with good food (Moroccan and Lebanese), where I often lunched. This used to be patronised mostly by North African men, some of them wearing traditional Berber costumes. I remember that whenever I brought my wife to eat with me there, all the men would turn to stare at us, not always approvingly. Many of these men have Moroccan heritage, Golborne Road and its environs having a large population of Moroccans.

L'Etoile Golborne Rd

L'Etoile Golborne Rd

Golborne Fisheries

Golborne Fisheries

The Etoile de Sous has changed little since I worked nearby. This north African café/bakery offers a selection of Middle-Eastern confectionery, including beautiful freshly-made baklava. It stands on the corner of Swinbrook Road opposite the Golborne Fisheries. This fishmonger contains a bewildering variety of fish and seafood that rivals many the stock in many good aquaria, except that all the creatures lie motionless on beds of crushed ice. The range of seafood on offer reflects the diversity of its customers, many of them locals. Many of the folk who have settled around Golborne Road are keen seafood eaters, for example: Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean, Moroccan, and Tunisian. A seagull often lurks close to this shop.

Golborne Fisheries

Golborne Fisheries

Les Couilles du Chien

Les Couilles du Chien

Les Couilles de Chien (the dog’s balls), a little further along the south side, has been in existence for more than 25 years. Its friendly owner Jerome and his staff sell a wide selection of “… unusual and decorative antiques and natural history curiosities…” (see: https://www.lescouillesduchien.com/). Facing this corner shop across Wornington Road, there is another corner store, Rainbow News. Until recently, this newsagent was a well-stocked, shabby-looking establishment. It used to be run by two Gujarati brothers from East Africa. After one of them learned that I often visit Bangalore, he would always ask me whether I ever visited Puttaparthi in Andra Pradesh, where until recently Shri Sathya Sai Baba (died 2011) ran his ashram. For the record, I have not yet visited the place. In about 2014, the Gujaratis sold their shop. Its new owners have spruced it up impressively.

Rainbow News

Rainbow News

The newsagent was separated from ‘my’ dental practice at number 59 by a Moroccan community advice centre (no longer there). When I joined the practice in 1994, I had no idea what an exciting professional life I would lead there. Back then, drug-dealers and their customers loitered outside the building despite it being under scrutiny by closed-circuit TV police cameras. Many of my patients, especially the drug-abusers, had a better knowledge of pharmacology than my colleagues and me. The richly varied backgrounds of my patients reflected that of the local population. Generalising a bit, almost the only patients who turned up punctually were the Portuguese. Just about everyone else, despite having made appointments, turned up whenever they felt like it, either on the appointed day, or on another, or not at all. One day to my great surprise, a Tunisian turned up on time. When I praised him for this, and vented about the unreliability of most of my other patients, he turned to me, and explained: “You must understand people around here believe in what the French call ‘rendez-vous africain’”. After learning this, I began feeling as relaxed about my patients’ attitudes to punctuality as they did.

Many of my patients at Golborne Road required careful handling. Some of them were schizophrenics, who had been encouraged to mingle in the community. Others were excitable, unused to not getting their own way. There were people who had endured spells in prison on several occasions. On one occasion, a couple of young men burst into my surgery. One of them demanded that I extract a certain tooth because he was in agony. I examined him, and realised that he had a broken jaw, and that extraction, apart from being dangerous, would not relieve his pain. I suggested that he headed for a hospital, but he was aggressively unwilling. In the end, his friend persuaded him to leave. I met the friend some days later, and asked how the chap with the broken jaw was getting on. He replied: “He’s on holiday,” and then paused before adding: “… a very long holiday. He won’t be back for a few years”.

Dental Surgery, 59 Golborne Rd, where Adam yamey worked

Dental Surgery, 59 Golborne Rd, where Adam yamey worked

Another man started visiting me for a course of appointments during which he was going to have a set of complete dentures constructed. He had an intimidating appearance, and told me that he needed permission from the police to visit Golborne Road, as he was barred from staying there. At the penultimate appointment, I told him that he would need to attend the following Friday. He replied that it might be difficult because he was “seeing the judge” on Monday. I asked him if he would let me know if he could not make it. He said that he would be able to ring from jail. He burst out laughing when I said to him: “You can ring from prison? Is that what they mean by a ‘cell phone’?” And, talking of mobile ‘phones, once a young fellow, a patient I saw often, came rushing into my surgery looking ‘frazzled’. I asked him what had happened. He told me that his ‘phone had just been stolen. I expressed my sympathy, and then he said: “I know who’s done it, and I’m going to get the boys in south London to put him six feet under.” You could not ‘mess’ with most of my patients!

There is no doubt that in the 1990s, Golborne Road was a rough area. One of my patients, a tall fellow with a deformed nose, told me that if ever I was in trouble locally I was to say: “I am a friend of Mick’s”. Another helpful patient was standing next to me in a queue, when he turned around and said: “If you ever need a motor, just tell me what make you want, and I’ll get one for you.” Many of my patients had challenging dental as well as social problems, but once I got know them many of them were very nice to me, and greeted me as a friend in the street, and, even today more than sixteen years after I left, some of them still stop and greet me cheerfully.

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

Lisboa Cafe

The practice, which still exists but is now under new management, is next door to the Lisboa Patisserie, which is a little bit of Portugal in London. When my ‘boss’ at the next-door surgery was interviewing me, he bought me an espresso coffee from Lisboa. I believe that it was the high quality of the coffee that helped me decide that I wanted to work in his surgery. Apart from excellent coffee, this popular café, where there are frequently queues, offers a great selection of Portuguese snacks, both savoury and sweet. It is famed for its ‘natas’ or baked custard tarts, but everything else is worth sampling. One wall of the café is decorated with a beautiful blue and white tiled (‘azulejo’) panorama of Lisbon depicting times long past. Next door to the café there is a Portuguese gift/stationery/book shop, the Lisboa Papeleria.

Lisboa Papelaria

Lisboa Papelaria

Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre Acklam Rd

Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre Acklam Rd

Just before reaching the railway bridge, St Ervans Road leads to Acklam Road on which the Al Manaar, Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, housed in a purpose-built brick building, is located close to the tracks. It is an Islamic community centre.

Golborne Rd railway bridge

Golborne Rd railway bridge

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

Golborne Rd railway bridge steps

The iron railway bridge carrying Golborne Road over the Great Western Railway was built in about 1870 (see: http://www.golbornelife.co.uk/golbornebridge.pdf). At its north-eastern corner, there is a set of several curved steps edged with coloured tiles and paving stones, on which various historic events related to the area are recorded with inlaid letters. These dates include, for example: 1870, when Golborne Road was widened from a track; and 1948 when the ‘Empire Windrush’ set sail for the UK from Australia via Jamaica, beginning a period of immigration from the Caribbean. The walls of the bridge abutment next to these steps are decorated with strips of coloured ceramic tiles with names and dates scored in them.

Former Earl of Warwick pub

Former Earl of Warwick pub

On the corner of Golborne Road and Southam Street, there stands the former ‘Earl of Warwick’ pub, undistinguished architecturally. A plaque above its corner entrance records the death of Kelso Cochrane (1927-59). Kelso, a carpenter from Antigua, was fatally wounded near this pub in what was most probably a racially-motivated attack. When this happened, the area was a stronghold for Oswald Mosely’s Union Movement and other racist groups (see: http://www.obv.org.uk/news-blogs/death-kelso-cochrane). The pub is almost directly beneath Trellick Tower.

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Designed by the left-wing Hungarian-born architect Ernő Goldfinger, and erected by the London County Council in 1972, Trellick Tower is a brutalist-style apartment block (217 flats and maisonettes, mostly state-owned, but some privately owned) that people either love or hate. I love it, but the creator of James Bond (Agent 007) Ian Fleming (1908-64) did not like Ernő’s architecture (especially the home he constructed for himself in Hampstead). Fleming’s evil character ‘Goldfinger’ was so-named because of his creator’s animosity towards the architect of Trellick Tower (see: Guardian online, 3 June 2005).

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower

Holmfield House

Holmfield House

A separate slender tower connected to the main block by short covered walkways houses the lifts and staircases. Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, approved of the building. He wrote of it in 1991: “…by the 1970s public housing on such a monumental scale was already a dinosaur from another age, however handsome and generously planned (the entrance halls are marble lined, the balconies are large)…”. At street level the block has several shops, two of which include the name Goldfinger in their trading names. The ground floor of a neighbouring block, Holmfield House, contains a shop named ‘Rellik’, which opened in 1999 and continues to sell ‘vintage’-style clothing.

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Lisboa delicatessen

Crossing over the bridge back to the stretch of Golborne Road to its west, we will next explore the northern side of the road. The Lisboa Delicatessen is opposite the Lisboa Patisserie. All the staff at the ‘deli’ and most of its customers are Portuguese speakers, either from Portugal or from its scattered former colonies. At least one of the serving staff hails from Angola. His parents moved there from Goa, when it was a Portuguese colony. The shop contains every ingredient that might ever be needed to prepare Portuguese dishes. You can buy salted-cod; prepared meats including hams (e.g. Portuguese ‘presunto, which rivals the Italian ‘prosciutto’ and Spanish ‘jamon serrano’) and salamis; wines and other drinks; fresh breads; confectionery; olives and olive oil; Portuguese cheeses; frozen goods from Portugal; and so on. We often buy ‘presunto’ here; it is freshly cut to whatever thickness is required and far cheaper and tastier than that which is available sealed in plastic in supermarkets.

Former Hicks greengrocers

Former Hicks greengrocers

Oporto cafe

Oporto cafe

Next door to the delicatessen, there is an abandoned shuttered shop bearing the name ‘W Hicks’ in fading gold lettering. When I worked at the surgery across the road, this was an old-fashioned greengrocer with friendly staff. After it closed some years ago, it premises began to be used to house stock for the delicatessen next door. The Oporto on the corner of Wornington Road is another Portuguese café. I went there a few times in the 1990s, but did not find it as congenial as the Lisboa across the road.

Vegetables and junk Golborne Rd

Vegetables and junk Golborne Rd

Tropical veg Golborne Rd

Tropical veg Golborne Rd

The north side of Golborne Road near to the Oporto has a group of fruit and vegetable barrows, which are in business on Fridays and Saturdays. The lively salesmen, who man them, joke a lot and yell out their special offers. Once I heard one of them shouting: “Collies, collies, collies … three collies, wuppa, wuppa, wuppa!” It took me a while to work out that three cauliflowers were being offered for one pound. Apart from ‘European’ fruit and vegetables, they also sell tropical foods. These greengrocery stalls have been present ever since I began working in Golborne Road, but this is not the case for the several pavement-side stalls containing kitchens where delicious Moroccan food is cooked and consumed.

Al Houida Golborne Mosque

Al Houida Golborne Mosque

There are two shops, Le Marrakech and Le Maroc, selling the conical ceramic containers for cooking tagines. Both are Morroccan groceries, which include in-house halal butchers. Near them, there is a shop frontage, the entrance to the Al Huda Mosque, a small mosque with room for only thirty men. The mosque on nearby Acklam Road (see above) can accommodate 1500 worshipers (men and women). Both mosques, although open to all worshipers, caters for the local North African community.

Unrestored half of Price and Sons

Unrestored half of Price and Sons

Le Maroc’s neighbour is the double-fronted “E Price & Sons. English and Foreign Fruiterers and Greengrocers”. One half of the shop, the left as you face it, is closed-up and dilapidated. The other half was restored in 2017. When I worked in Golborne Road, the shop was fully open, and staffed by an elderly pair, a brother and sister. They used to be out on the pavement peeling the deteriorating outer leaves off cabbages and lettuces. As a result, day after day, the peeled items gradually decreased in size. It was a place where I only bought fruit and vegetables as a last resort.

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Tagine pots at a Moroccan shop in Golborne Rd

Tagine pots at a Moroccan shop in Golborne Rd

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Restored half of Price and Sons and Le Maroc

Recently, young members of the Price family have restored one half of the shop, and have begun selling a wide selection of groceries, some basic and others luxury, in their very attractive shop. The large, healthy, fresh cabbages that they have on offer are a complete contrast to what used to be available in the 1990s from the ageing siblings, who died in about 2016. Nearby, there is a ‘cash and carry’ shop run by some Sikhs. This has an extensive stock of ingredients required for preparing food from the Indian subcontinent, as well as for several other non-British cuisines.

Cash and Carry at 84 Golborne Rd

Cash and Carry at 84 Golborne Rd

Galicia Portobello Rd

Galicia Portobello Rd

The Galicia is a Spanish restaurant on Portobello Road, a few feet south of Golborne Road. Its name, that of a north-western part of Spain, reflects the origin of many of the local Spaniards, who live around Golborne Road. Although there have been Spaniards living in London since mediaeval times (a notable example is Eleanor of Castile [1241-1290], whose death is commemorated in several places including Charing Cross), there was a significant influx of refugees from Spain to North Kensington during the Spanish Civil War.

Spanish Institute Portobello Rd

Spanish Institute Portobello Rd

I will not write much about Portobello Road, which is far better-known than Golborne, but I will mention the Spanish Institute (Instituto Español “Vicente Cañada Blanch”) close to Galicia. It is an independent co-educational school run by the Spanish government. It follows the Spanish school curriculum, and is housed in a former Dominican convent. The rather grim-looking brick building surrounded by brick walls was built in 1862 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp298-332#h3-0012), designed by Henry Clutton (1819-93), and later modified by his student John Francis Bentley (1839-1902). On Saturdays, there is a lively flea market on the stretch of Portobello road where this Spanish school stands.

Georges Portobello Fish Bar

Georges Portobello Fish Bar

Going north along Portobello across Golborne Road, you will soon reach George’s Portobello Fish Bar, which was founded by the late George Periccos from Cyprus and has been in business since 1961 (see: https://www.timeandleisure.co.uk/articles/food/1123-fish-and-chips). I used to buy lunch there occasionally. Incidentally, of all the localities where I have practised, none could begin to match the Portobello/Golborne area for the variety of reasonably-priced, good food available at lunchtime. Portobello Road continues north, and becomes steadily less interesting. Faraday and Bonchurch Roads both lead to Ladbroke Grove.

North Kensington Fire Station

North Kensington Fire Station

St Michael Ladbroke Grove

St Michael Ladbroke Grove

The attractive contemporary red and grey North Kensington Fire Station stands at the corner of Faraday Road and Ladbroke Grove. It opened in 1984, replacing an older one that had been in almost the same location since 1882 (see: http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/150/map-of-london-fire-stations.asp). The parish church of St Michael is a few yards south of the fire station. Built mainly in brick in 1871, it was designed by James Edmeston Junior (1823-98). Pevsner describes its style as “Rhineland Romanesque”.

The Eagle Ladbroke Grove

The Eagle Ladbroke Grove

Proceeding north along Ladbroke Grove, after passing the fire station, the Eagle pub is reached. This pub has been in business since the beginning of the 1870s.

Ladbroke Grove Railway Bridge

Ladbroke Grove Railway Bridge

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Kensal House Ladbroke Grove

Further north, the Grove crosses the railway over an impressive metal bridge, whose girders are richly covered with the dome-like heads of rivets. Kensal House, a slightly curved apartment block on the west side of Ladbroke Grove, was opened in 1937. Its principal architect was Maxwell Fry (1899-1987). He was one of the few British exponents of the Modernist Style that included Walter Gröpius of Bauhaus fame, as well as Le Corbusier. Fry was assisted in the designing of Kensal House by Elizabeth Denby (1894-1965), who was an expert on social housing.

Detail of  330 Ladbroke Grove under restoration by Cubic

Detail of 330 Ladbroke Grove under restoration by Cubic

There is a small house, number 330 Ladbroke Grove, which was under restoration in late 2017. The restorers have added an old carved stone to its façade. The stone, which looks like a milestone or boundary marker, reads “KP 1860”. KP might mean Kensington Parish. Old, pre-restoration photographs of the building do not show the stone, which means that it might not have originally been located here. Whatever the inscription means, the northern half of Ladbroke Road is a parish boundary along much of its length.

Canalside

Canalside

The brick building with stone facings just south of the bridge over the Paddington branch of the Regents Canal is aptly named Canalside. It is almost all that remains of an extensive gasworks that was built on a site now partly occupied by a large branch (built 1989) of Sainsbury supermarket and its car park. The Gas, Light, and Coke Company that owned the gasworks was responsible for the building of Kensal House, already noted above. A couple of gasometers can be seen west of the store. They are sandwiched between the mainly Victorian Kensal Green Cemetery and the railway tracks that lead to and from Paddington Station.

Townhouse in The sky

Townhouse in The sky

Close to the supermarket and Canalside, there is a modified water tower. Mounted on its four original concrete legs, there is a cylindrical structure which has several windows and is clad with wood. Tom Dixon, the designer associated with the Habitat chain of furnishing stores, bought the disused water tower, and had, by 2009, converted its 5000-gallon cylindrical tank into his futuristic high-altitude home, the ‘Townhouse in the sky’. The water tower had been built in the 1930s to store water to be used in case of fire braking out in the gasworks spread out below it.

Ladbroke Grove railway crash monument

Ladbroke Grove railway crash monument

On Monday the 4th of October 1999, I arrived earlier than usual at Paddington Station from Maidenhead, where I worked several days a week. Being early, I bought my ticket to Maidenhead for the following day. Usually, I bought my ticket a few minutes before boarding the train at Paddington. On Tuesday the 5th, having already purchased my ticket I did not have to waste time at the ticket office, and was able to take the train before the one that I usually boarded at a few minutes past 8 am. Had I boarded my usual train, the 8.06, I might not be writing this today. My ‘usual train’, a local stopping train, collided head-on with a heavier express train (travelling at high speed) very close to the branch of Sainsburys mentioned above. Thirty-one people were killed, mainly of them passengers on the local train leaving Paddington and well over four hundred people were injured. A simple stone monument to the victims of this accident, inscribed with the names of those killed, stands between Sainsburys and the railway tracks. Whenever I think of this incident, I shudder, and say inwardly: “There for the Grace of God…”

Barlby Gardens

Barlby Gardens

Returning south along Ladbroke Grove and turning into Barlby Road, we pass Barlby Gardens, a short crescent lined with houses of the type that can be found in almost any of the housing developments built in London’s suburbs during the years between the two World Wars. They are a far cry from their terraced neighbours with porches supported by pillars, which are so typical of most parts of Kensington.

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

Hewer Street former laundry

Hewer Street former laundry

Exmoor Road leads towards the enormous Victorian St Charles Hospital compound. Along Hewer Street, which branches off Exmoor Street, there are some old brick buildings that once housed one of the many laundries that used to exist in the neighbourhood. Described as a “fortress-like pile” by Pevsner, this hospital was built 1879-81 and designed by Henry Saxon Snell (1831-1904), an architect who specialised in creating health-related buildings. It was built as a hospital for the poor by the Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union of St Marylebone and known as the ‘St Marylebone Infirmary’ until 1922, when it was renamed briefly, before being re-named once more as St Charles Hospital in 1930 after having been taken over by the London County Council.

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

For lovers of Victorian architecture, this place with its open-air cast-iron walkways, and numerous gothic-revival features, is a real treasure. For the patients, who visit the numerous out-patient clinics which are now housed there, its exterior, redolent of oversized Victorian funerary chapels, might seem rather forbidding. However, the interiors have been pleasantly modernised, and made to look as welcoming as can be expected of hospitals.

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery

By St Charles Hospital

By St Charles Hospital

The hospital abuts a Carmelite monastery. On the wall connecting the monastery and the hospital, there are two letter-boxes. One, now sealed up, bears the letters ‘VR’ standing for Queen Victoria. Its neighbour, still in use, bears the letters ‘GR’, which refer to one (or both) of the two King Georges that reigned after Victoria and Edward VII.

St PIUS X Church

St PIUS X Church

The Roman Catholic church of St Pius X can be entered from St Charles Square. Designed in a neo-classical style by PA Lamb and R O’B North, it was built in 1908 as part of the former St Charles Training College (for boys), which was founded by Doctor (later Cardinal) Henry Manning (1808-92) in 1863 and closed in 1903. After the college closed, its precincts including the church were taken over by the nuns of The Sacred Heart for use as a training establishment. The church became a parish church in 1955. Its barrel-vaulted interior, reminiscent of 18th century churches in Italy, is delightful and airy. A short walk leads from the church to Ladbroke Grove, about five hundred yards north of the funeral parlour, where this exploration commenced.

St PIUS X Church

St PIUS X Church

Golborne Road and its environs is an area where the multi-cultural nature of London can be explored enjoyably and rewardingly. Not being a lover of crowds, I would avoid the area during the annual world-famous Notting Hill Carnival, but that is not a view shared by many. The area is full of memories for me. I worked in its heart for several years, and became acquainted with many people who live there. I continue to visit it regularly to enjoy a coffee at Lisboa, to buy ‘presunto’, and to mingle amongst people enjoying the markets that flourish at the end of the week.

Golborne Rd bus stop

Golborne Rd bus stop

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london market morocco portugal kensington portobello golborne goldfinger Comments (2)

THE KING OF THE ZULUS STAYED HERE

Once an isolated village separated from the city, London's Kensington is full of surprises

I have lived in Kensington for almost twenty-five years, yet hardly knew its fine history until I walked, with eyes wide open, along the route that I will describe below.

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

Melbury Road: Tower House: gargoyle

Roque’s map drawn in the early 1740s shows that Kensington was then a small village separated by open country (Hyde Park and the grounds of Kensington Palace from the western edge of London (marked by the present Park Lane). It lay on The Great West Road, a turnpike road leading from the city to Brentford and further west (e.g. Bath and Bristol). Kensington was separated from the next settlement, Hammersmith, by agricultural land with very few buildings.

The name ‘Kensington’ appeared in the Domesday Book as ‘Chenisitum’, which is based on the name of a person who held a manor in Huith (Somerset) during the reign of Edward the Confessor (ruled 1042-1066). During the 17th century, large houses such as Kensington Palace and the now demolished Campden and Holland Houses were established in Kensington and needed people to service and protect them. This and the fact that it was on the busy Great West Road must have influenced the growth and importance of the village. Being close to the ‘Great Wen’ as William Cobbett (1763-1835), a great advocate of the countryside, rudely described London, yet separated from it (as was also Hampstead), Kensington attracted people, including many artists, to live there, especially in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. During the 18th century, reaching Kensington from London, only four miles from the city’s Temple Bar, was not without danger as highwaymen operated in Hyde Park.

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

Mosaic by Fox schoolkids Church Str Kensington

This exploration begins (close to Notting Hill Gate Tube station) at the northern end of Church Street, which in the 1740s led from the Kensington Gravel Pits (now, Notting Hill Gate) that lined the northern edge of Bayswater to the centre of Kensington Village. Today, the road follows the same course as it did in the 18th century. Close to the Post Office and the Old Swan Pub (apparently, Christopher Wren and King William III drunk in one of its earlier reincarnations), there is an alleyway decorated with tiling designed by pupils of the nearby Fox Primary School.

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Clementi lived here Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

Churchill Arms Kensington Church Str

Just south of some of the numerous antique dealers’ shops that line Church Street, there is an 18th century house where the Italian-born composer Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) lived for many years. Nearby, is the colourfully adorned Churchill Arms pub, which was established in the mid-18th century. It offers Thai food. A tree on the corner of Church Street and Berkeley Gardens is labelled with a plaque stating that it came from Kensington in Maryland (USA) in 1952.

Berkely Gardens

Berkely Gardens

A large brick-built block of flats on Sheffield Terrace is named Campden House. This and Campden House Close, which leads off Hornton Street, are reminders that they were built on the extensive grounds of the former Campden House, which was built about 1612 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp49-57#h3-0004). An illustration published by The Reverend Lyson in 1795 shows that this was a fine building rivalling places such as Hatfield House. Sadly, it was demolished in about 1900.

Campden House Close

Campden House Close

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Sibelius in Gloucester Walk Kensington

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Corner Hornton Str and Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Charles Stanford lived here Holland Str

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

Corner Hornton and Holland Streets

Just before Hornton Street reaches the Town Hall and Library, it meets Holland Street. A small building on the corner was once the home of the composer Charles Stanford (1852-1924) between 1894 and 1916. Its drain pipe is embellished with two small bas-reliefs of animals. I wonder whether he ever bumped into the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), who lived close by in Gloucester Walk during 1909. Opposite Stanford’s house, stands number 54 Hornton Street, which used to be number 43. The ‘43’ remains on the building, but has been struck out with a line.

Drayson Mews

Drayson Mews

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Elephant and Castle Holland Street

Gordon Place

Gordon Place

Holland Street is full of treats. Number 37 was home to the lesbian novelist Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) between 1924 and 1929. It is worth wandering along the picturesque cobbled Drayson Mews before returning to Holland Street. The popular Victorian Elephant and Castle pub is opposite a delightful cul-de-sac Gordon Place, which is overhung with vegetation growing in the gardens lining it. The pub bears a large picture of an elephant with a castle on its back. This closely resembles part of the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers (see: http://www.cutlerslondon.co.uk/company/history/#coat-of-arms).

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

Old houses, number 12 Holland Street

The artist Walter Crane (1845-1915), who collaborated with William Morris, lived in number 13 Holland Street from 1892 onwards. This house is opposite number 12, the street’s oldest surviving building, which was built about 1730. It was built on the site of a ‘dissenting house’ built in 1725 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp25-41).

Carmel Court

Carmel Court

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Monastery

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

Carmelite Church Kensington Church Street

The narrow partly covered Carmel Court next to number 12 leads to the south side Catholic Carmelite monastery (Victorian) and its newer Church (built between 1954 to 1959, and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott [1880-1960]). The name of its neighbour on Church Street, Newton Court, recalls that in 1725 the scientist Isaac Newton (1643-1727) lived somewhere close-by (see: http://www.isaacnewton.org.uk/london/Kensington). Returning via Church Street to Holland Street, there is a Lebanese restaurant on the corner. This is housed in what was the Catherine Wheel pub until 2003.

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

The former Catherine Wheel pub on Kensington Church Street

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

St Mary Abbots Kensington

The lower end of Church Street is dominated by the tall spire of St Mary Abbots Church. The present building, a Victorian gothic structure, was built in the early 1870s to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878; grandfather of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott), who died in Kensington. A sort of cloister leads from the war memorial and flower stall at the corner of Church Street to the church’s western entrance. The church’s interior is grand but not exceptional.

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots School Kensington

St Mary Abbots Gardens

St Mary Abbots Gardens

To the South of the path leading to the church, there is a Victorian gothic school building, part of St Mary Abbotts Primary School. This school was founded nearby in 1645 (see: http://www.sma.rbkc.sch.uk/history-of-the-school.html). In about 1709, it was housed in two buildings on the High Street, where later the old Kensington Town Hall was built (it was demolished in 1982, and replaced by a non-descript newer version on Hornton Street). High on the wall of the Victorian school building, there are two sculptured figures wearing blue clothing, a boy and a girl. These used to face the High Street on the 18th century building. The boy holds a scroll with the words: “I was naked and ye clothed me” (from Matthew in the New Testament). The school continues to thrive today.

Former public library Ken High Str

Former public library Ken High Str

Walk through the peaceful St Mary Abbots Gardens – once a burial ground (and in the 1930s, also the site of a coroner’s court), and you will soon reach a wonderful Victorian gothic/Tudor building on the busy High Street. Faced with red bricks and white stonework, this was built as the local ‘Vestry Hall’ in 1852. It was designed by James Broadbridge. From 1889 to 1960, it housed Kensington Central Library, which is now located in a newer, less decorous, building in Hornton Street. The former Vestry Hall is now home to an Iranian bank. Incidentally, there are many Iranians living in Kensington.

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Lovers of art-deco architecture need only turn their backs on the old Vestry Hall to behold two perfect examples of that style. They used to house two department stores: Derry and Toms built in 1933; and Barker’s (built in the 1930s). Barker’s took over its rival Derry and Tom’s in 1920. Both replaced older buildings, were designed by Bernard George (1894-1964), and are covered with a great variety of art-deco ornamentations. The Derry and Toms building has a wonderful roof garden,

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Barkers High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

Derry and Toms building High Str Kensington

The Kensington Roof Gardens (opened 1938) has a restaurant open to the public. In the early 1970s, the Derry and Toms building briefly housed the then extremely trendy Biba store, the inspiration of Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki. Now, there are various retail stores using the ground floors of these two buildings. The upper floors of Barker’s contain the offices of two newspapers: The Evening Standard, and The Daily Mail. A short street, Derry Street, running between these two buildings leads into Kensington Square.

Kensington Square Gardens

Kensington Square Gardens

With a private garden in its centre, Kensington Square is surrounded by fascinating old buildings (for a history and guide, see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Kensington%20Square%20CAPS.pdf). The setting-out and development of the square began in 1685, when it was named ‘Kings Square’ in honour of the ill-fated James II, who had been crowned that year. In those early days, this urban square was surrounded by countryside – gardens and fields (see: “London” by N Pevsner, publ. 1952). With the arrival of the Royal Court at Kensington Palace in the 17th century (King William III, who ruled from 1689 to 1702, suffered from asthma, and needed somewhere where the air did not aggravate his condition – see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp1-4), the square became one of the most fashionable places to live in England, but this changed when George III (ruled 1760-1820) moved the Court away from Kensington. After 1760, the square was mostly abandoned, and remained unoccupied until the beginning of the 19th century. Nowadays, its desirability as a living place for the well-off has been firmly restored.

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

Edward Burne Jones lived in Kensington Sq

The attractive garden in its centre is adorned with small neo-classical gazebo. The houses surrounding the garden have housed many famous people. Number 40 has a 19th century façade, which conceals an earlier one. It was the home of the pathologist Sir John Simon (1816-1904), a pioneer of public health. Between 1864 and 1867, the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) lived at number 41, which has Regency features as well as newer upper floors.

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 and 12 Kensington Square

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

11 Kensington Sq Mazarin Herring and Talleyrand might have lived here

At the south-east corner of the square, the semi-detached numbers 11 and 12 were built between 1693 and 1702. The attractive shell-shape above the front door of number 11 bears the words: “Duchess of Mazarin 1692-8, Archbishop Herring 1737, Talleyrand 1792-4”. Although it is tempting to believe that these celebrated people lived here, this was probably not the case. The Duchess, a mistress of Charles II, is not thought to have ever lived in the square. Talleyrand (1754-1838) did stay in the square, maybe or maybe not in this house, which was then occupied by a Frenchman, Monsieur Defoeu. As for Herring (1693-1757), he did live in the square but not at number 11. So, whoever put up the wording had a sense of history, but was lacking in accuracy.

Kensington Court Mews

Kensington Court Mews

TS Eliot lived here

TS Eliot lived here

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

Joan Sims lived here on Thackeray Street

Thackeray Street leads to Kensington Court, where a picturesque courtyard, named Kensington Court Mews, is surrounded by former stables. South of this, its neighbour, a 19th century brick apartment block, Kensington Court Gardens, was the home and place of death of the poet TS Eliot (1888-1965). Returning to the square via Thackeray Street, we pass Esmond Court (named after one of Thackeray’s novels), where the actress, best-known for her roles in the “Carry-On” films, Joan Sims (1930-2001) lived.

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

John Stuart Mills 18 Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Maria Assumpta Church Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

Heythrop College Kensington Sq

The philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote important books on logic and Political Economy while living in number 18 Kensington Square (built in the 1680s) between 1837 and 1851. Close by, the row of old buildings interrupted by a newer building, the Victorian gothic Roman Catholic Maria Assumpta Church, which was built in 1875 to the designs of George Goldie (1828-1887), TG Jackson (1835-1924) and Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912). George Goldie also designed the church’s neighbouring convent buildings, which are now adorned by a ground floor gallery consisting of six large windows and the main entrance door, which was added in the 1920s. The former convent is now the home of the University of London’s Heythrop College. Specialising in the study of philosophy and religion, the college was incorporated into the university in 1971. However, amongst all the university’s constituent colleges, Heythrop goes back the furthest, having been founded by the Jesuits in 1614. Founded in Belgium, it moved to England during the French Revolutionary Wars at the end of the 18th century.

Kensington Sq West side

Kensington Sq West side

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

30 Kensington Sq Hoare's House

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

Hoare's arms on 30 Kensington Square

The west side of the square presents a fine set of facades dating back to when the square was first established. Each of the buildings is of great interest, but the one which caught my attention is number 30, which is adorned with double-headed eagles, a symbol used by, to mention but a few: the Hittites, the Seljuk Turks, the Holy Roman Empire, Mysore State, the Russians, the Serbians, and the Albanians. The bicephalic birds on number 30 relate to none of these, but, instead, to the Land Tax Commissioner Charles Augustus Hoare (see: “A Collection of the Public General Statutes passed in the Sixth and Seventh Year of the Reign … of King William the Fourth 1836”) of the Hoare family of bankers. He bought the house in about 1820, and died in 1862 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol17/pt1/pp72-76).

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

33 Kensington Sq Mrs Patrick Campbell lived here

Number 33 was built in the early 1730s. Between 1900 and 1918, the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940), who was born in Kensington, lived there. She is said to have inspired some of the plays written by George Bernard Shaw. From Kensington Square, it is a short walk to High Street Kensington Station, which is entered via a shopping arcade that leads to a covered octagonal entrance area decorated with floral bas-reliefs, suggestive of the era of art-nouveau.

High Street Ken Station

High Street Ken Station

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

Cafe Nero Wrights Lane

At the corner of Wrights Lane, there is a branch of the Caffe Nero chain, which is housed in a modern, glass-clad narrow wedge-shaped building. Further down Wrights Lane, there is a charming old-fashioned tea shop, The Muffin Man, which serves excellent reasonably priced snacks and light meals. Before reaching this eatery, take a detour to visit Iverna Gardens.

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

St Sarkis Iverna Gdns

At the southern end of the small square, there is the Armenian Church of St Sarkis, which was built in 1922-23 with money supplied by the Gulbenkian family. Built to resemble typical traditional churches in Armenia, it was designed by Arthur Davis (1878-1951), who was born in, and died in Kensington.

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside  Our Lady of Victories

Mosaics outside Our Lady of Victories

Much of the High Street is occupied by shops housed in unexceptional buildings. To the west of most of these, stands the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Victories. Its entrance screen on the High Street was designed by Joseph Goldie (1882–1953). It served as the entrance to a church that was destroyed by bombing in WW2. The present church was built in 1957, designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882-1963), brother of Sir Giles (see above).

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

Old Odeon cinema High Str Ken

Beyond the north end of Earls Court Road, two buildings are currently behind builders’ hoardings. One, the old post-office, will probably be demolished, but the other, an Odeon cinema, is to have its impressive neo-classical art-deco façade preserved, but its interior will be re-built. Originally named the ‘Kensington Kinema’, it was opened in 1926. It was closed in 2015 (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/13801).

Edwardes Square east side

Edwardes Square east side

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Scarsdale Tavern Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

Edwardes Sq Sir William Rothenstein lived here

Further west, a narrow road leads from the High Street into Edwardes Square. This Georgian square was laid out by a Frenchman, the architect Louis Léon Changeur, between 1811 and 1820, and named after William Edwardes (1777-1852), the 2nd Lord Kensington, who owned the land which it occupies (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp249-263). At the south-east corner of the square, there is an almost-hidden pub, the Scarsdale Tavern, which was established in 1867. Opposite it, is the two-storey house where the painter and writer Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) lived between 1899 and 1902. Like so many other London Squares, this one has a centrally located private garden. At its southern edge, there is a neo-classical pavilion, now called ‘The Grecian Temple’, and still used by the head gardener. The garden’s paths were laid out by an Italian artist Agostino Aglio (1777-1857), who, having arrived in the UK in 1803 to assist the architect William Wilkins, lived in the square between 1814 and 1820.

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

The Grecian Temple Edwardes Sq

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Square Studios

Edwardes Sq West side

Edwardes Sq West side

Edwardes Square Studios opposite the Temple was home to artists including Henry Justice Ford and Clifford Bax. Better-known today than these two was the comedian Frankie Howerd (1917-1992), who also lived on the square from 1966 until his death. The north-western corner of the square leads back into the High Street. Immediately west of this, there is a row of three neighbouring Iranian food stores and an Iranian restaurant. The presence of these is symptomatic of the many emigrants from Iran, who have settled in Kensington.

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

Iranian shops and restaurant Hig Str Ken

2 St Mary Abbots Place

2 St Mary Abbots Place

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

9 St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge

Just west of the Iranian establishments, there is a cul-de-sac called St Mary Abbots Place. The façade of number 2 (part of a building called Warwick Close) is adorned with wooden carvings that have an art-nouveau motif. Above an entrance to number 9, there is a bas-relief of an eagle. Until recently, this building housed a branch of ‘The White Eagle Lodge’, a spiritual organisation founded in Britain in 1936 (see: https://www.whiteagle.org/). At the end of the street, there is a large brick building with a neo-Tudor appearance. This was built for the painter Sir William Llewellyn (1858-1941).

St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge and  Llewellen's brick house

St Mary Abbots Place White Eagle Lodge and Llewellen's brick house

St Mary Abbots Place

St Mary Abbots Place

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

GK Chesterton lived on Warwick Gardens

At the northern end of Warwick Gardens, a house (number 11) bears a plaque celebrating that the writer GK Chesterton (1874-1936) lived in it. He was born in Kensington.

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Column on Warwick Gdns

Opposite the house on an island around which traffic flows, there is a tall pink stone column, surrounded by palms and surmounted by an urn. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. Dated 1904, it was designed by HL Florence, who was President of The Architectural association between 1878 and ’79.

47 Addison Road

47 Addison Road

Olympia from Napier Road

Olympia from Napier Road

The continuation of Warwick Gardens north of the High Street is called ‘Addison Gardens’. The west side of this is lined by some 19th century houses with neo-gothic features. Napier Road leads off Addison towards, but does not reach, the Olympia exhibition halls. At the corner where the two roads meet, there is a large house, number 49 Addison Road.

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd

49 Addison Rd.  W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

49 Addison Rd. W14 Crest of Herbert Schmalz

Behind it, and easily visible from Napier Road, this house has an extension with a huge ornately framed north-facing window. Above this, there is the date “1894” and a figure holding an artist’s palate overlaid with the intertwined initials “HS”. And below that, a motto reads in German “Strebe vorwaerts” (i.e. strive ahead). This was the studio built for the pre-Raphaelite painter Herbert Gustave Schmalz (1856-1935), who was a friend of the painters William Holman Hunt and Frederic Leighton (see below).

St Barnabas Addison Road

St Barnabas Addison Road

The delicate-looking 19th century gothic church of St Barnabas stands on Addison Road just north of Melbury Road. This was designed by Lewis Vulliamy (1791-1871), and built by 1829. Prior to its existence, the only parish church in Kensington was St Mary Abbots. St Barnabas was built to serve people living in the new housing that was rapidly covering the land to the west of the centre of Kensington (see: http://www.stbk.org.uk/about-us/#about). It never had a graveyard because by the 1820s sanitary authorities were discouraging the placing of these so close to the centre of London.

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

Sir Hamo Thornycroft lived here in Melbury Rd

Melbury Road is lined with grand houses built between 1860 and 1905, some of them containing large artists’ studios. Many well-known artists, members of the ‘Holland Park Circle’, have lived and worked in this street and Holland Park Road that leads off it. A plaque next to a large north facing studio window on number 2 Melbury Road commemorates that English sculptor Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) worked here.

8 Melbury Rd

8 Melbury Rd

The large number 9 is in ‘Queen Anne style’, and was built in 1880. Opposite it, number 8, designed by Richard Norman Shaw, with north-facing studios was built for the painter Marcus Stone (1840-1921). In later years, this house, now converted into flats, was from 1951-1971 the home of the film director (who made many films with Emeric Pressburger including “Black Narcissus” and “The Red Shoes”), Michael Powell (1905-1990).

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower House Melbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

Tower HouseMelbury Road

Melbury Road is dominated by a tall circular brick tower topped with a tiled conical roof. This is attached to number 29, the Tower House. It was built between 1875 and ’80 by, and for the use of, the architect William Burges (1827-1881). Architect of Cardiff Castle and Oxford’s Worcester College, he died in Tower House soon after it was built. In the 1960s, this large amazing brick-built mock mediaeval house was abandoned, and damaged by vandals, but it has been restored subsequently. The actor Richard Harris bought it in 1969, and in 1972 it was bought by the Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, who is keen on the works of Burges and of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

Stavordale Lodge Melbury Rd

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

31 Melbury Rd. Sir Luke Fildes lived here

Stavordale Lodge, opposite the Tower, is a complete contrast. This gently curved apartment block was built in 1964. It faces the Tower House’s neighbour, number 31 (‘Woodland House’). Designed by Richard Norman Shaw, who was well-acquainted with the art establishment, in about 1875, this large house was home to the painter and illustrator Luke Fildes (1844-1927). The film director Michael Winner (1935-2013) lived here from 1972 to 2013, and now it is the home of the singer Robbie Williams.

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

18 Melbury Rd. King Cetshwayo and Holman-Hunt lived here

Woodsford Court, number 14, is built on the site of the home of the Scottish painter Colin Hunter (1841-1904), who lived there from 1877 until his death in a house that was bombed in 1940. Number 18, close-by, was the home, studio, and place of death of, of the pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman-Hunt (1827-1910) from 1903 onwards. Earlier in 1882, this house, built in 1877, hosted a very important guest, King Cetshwayo (Cetshwayo, ka Mpande, c1832-1884), King of the Zulus. After being defeated by the British in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Cetshwayo was held captive in Cape Town. During his exile, he visited London in 1882:
“On his arrival, 18 Melbury Road … was made more appropriate to his needs and those of his chiefs. The beds, for instance, were reduced to floor level. On waking on 5 August, the ex-king ‘made his way through the various rooms of the house, examining them with curiosity’.
Outside, a huge crowd of people had gathered, eager to see Cetshwayo. The Times described how ‘at times the ex-king would appear for a moment at one of the windows, and he was invariably greeted with cheers’. Cetshwayo himself looked upon the throng ‘as a display of friendly feeling towards him’. By the close of his visit, he had become something of a celebrity.
In an interview given while at Melbury Road, Cetshwayo said that he regarded the war as ‘a calamity’. He had made it clear that the purpose of his visit to England was his restoration to the throne, reasoning that his people wanted him and that there would be another war if he didn’t return. Following a meeting with Gladstone and a visit to Queen Victoria at Osborne House, his reinstatement was agreed.” (see: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/cetshwayo-ka-mpande-king-of-the-zulus-). The British allowed him to return to Zululand in 1883.

47 Melbury Rd

47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

Robertson Clan crest 47 Melbury Rd

Number 47, opposite the King’s lodging, was designed by Robert Dudley Oliver (died 1923, aged 66), a London-based architect, for the painter and playwright Walford Graham Robertson (1866-1948). It contained his studio, which he shared with the Scottish impressionist painter Arthur Melville (1858-1904) from about 1896 until Melville’s death. Above the attractive front door, there is a bas-relief of the coat-of-arms of the Robertson Clan.

South House Holland Park Rd

South House Holland Park Rd

Holland Park Road runs from Melbury Road back to Addison Road. Number 10, South House with annex bearing a prominent Dutch gable, was built in about 1893. It stands on the site of the former farm house of Holland Farm, on whose lands Melbury Road was laid in 1875. The building contained the studio of the Anglo-American portraitist James Jebusa Shannon (1862-1923). The studio and its adjoining residence are now used as two separate dwellings.

Leighton House

Leighton House

The house neighbouring Shannon’s, Leighton House, rivals Tower House in its extraordinariness. It was the home and studio of the painter Frederic Leighton (1830-1896). In 1864, he leased the house in Holland Park Road from Lady Holland. With the help of the architect George Aitchison (1825-1910) he modified it, and was able to occupy it in late 1866. Amongst many additions made by Leighton, the most remarkable is the Arab Hall (1877-79). This Moorish hall was built to accommodate Leighton’s considerable collection of tiles that he had acquired during his visits to the east. The hall also contains carved Damascus latticework and other souvenirs from the Middle East. A gentle fountain adorns the floor of the hall, and adds to its exotic atmosphere. The exterior brickwork of the hall and its tiled dome surmounted by the crescent of Islam reflect the hall’s oriental interior.

Leighton House

Leighton House

The Arab Hall is reason enough to visit Leighton House, but there is more to see. Visitors can wander around some of its rooms, climb up the tile-lined staircase, view the north-facing studio, and enjoy the occasional special exhibition held regularly in the house and the attached Perrin Gallery (designed by Halsey Ricardo [1854-1928], and completed 1929).

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House

Leighton House has a lovely large garden, which is occasionally open to the public. From it, you can get a good view of Leighton’s studio windows framed in Victorian cast-iron. It also contains a long path covered by a leafy trellis and a large sculpture of a ‘tribesman’ fighting a large serpent. Called “A Moment of Peril”, it was sculpted by Leighton’s friend Thomas Brock (1847-1922), who, also, created Imperial Memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, and the statue of Queen Victoria that stands at the edge of Cubbon Park in Bangalore (India). During summer, coffee is available for visitors.

14 Holland Park Rd

14 Holland Park Rd

Leighton’s neighbour to the west was the artist Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904), who was born in Calcutta (India) of British parents. His house, number 14, was designed by Philip Webb (1831-1915) and built in the mid-1860s. A ‘father’ of arts-and-crafts architecture, Webb did not give the exterior of this house many of its characteristics, apart from, as a neighbour pointed out to me, its amazing variety of differently shaped windows.

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Phil May lived at 20 Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Court House Holland Park Road

Holland Park Road west of number 30

Holland Park Road west of number 30

Number 20 Holland Park Road (built late 1870s), where the caricaturist Phil May (1864-1903) lived and worked, is joined to its western neighbours by an arch. A roadway passes under the arch to the entrance of Court House, a relatively modern home (built 1929; architect: AM Cawthorne) without any special architectural merit. It stands on ground, which was occupied by fields and gardens, which in the 1860s neighboured the grounds of Little Holland House (demolished 1875 in order to lay out Melbury Road), where the sculptor and painter GF Watts (1817-1904) had once lived. An archway by the west side of number 30 is adorned with a circular bas-relief of the head of a man wearing a laurel wreath.

Returning to High Street Kensington, we find at the eastern end of the Melbury Court block of flats a plaque commemorating the cartoonist Anthony Low (1891-1963), who lived in flat number 33.

Design Museum

Design Museum

Set back from the main road, and partly hidden by two hideous cuboid buildings, stands an unusual glass-clad building with an amazing distorted tent-shaped roof (made of copper). This used to be the Commonwealth Institute. Built in 1962 (architects: Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners), I remember, as a schoolboy, visiting the rather gloomy collection of exhibits that it contained shortly after it opened.

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

Paolozzi at Design Museum

The Institute closed in late 2002, and the fascinating building stood empty until 2012, when it was restored and re-modelled internally. In 2016, the building became the home of the Design Museum. Like the architecturally spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, the building competes with the exhibits that it contains, and then wins over them hands down. The displays in the Design Museum are a poor advert for the skills of British designers, whereas the building’s restored interior is a triumph. This is a place to enjoy the building rather than the exhibits. One notable exception to this comment is the sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), which stands in front of the museum.

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Holland Park gates Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

Trafalgar Way notice Ken High Str

The museum borders Holland Park, which is well-worth exploring. By the park’s High Street entrance, there is a plaque giving the history of the ‘Trafalgar Way’. This was the route taken between Falmouth and London by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotière (1770-1834), when he carried news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805. It is at this point that I will let you rest on a bench in the park, or to enjoy its lovely Kyoto Japanese Garden.

Kensington, a village beyond London’s 18th century limits, assumed importance when the Royal Court moved to Kensington Palace. Since then, it has become incorporated gradually into the city without losing much of its earlier charm. Not far from the Royal Academy, many artists have lived in the area. Today, it is one of the more prosperous parts of London, favoured by increasing numbers of wealthier foreigners as a desirable place to reside. Visit the area, and you will see why.

Leighton House

Leighton House

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london studios kensington kensington_palace artists royalty holland_park cetshwayo philosophers paolozzi Comments (5)

EXPLORING KENSINGTON'S RACE-COURSE

During a search for traces of Kensington's former 'Hippodrome' racecourse in Notting Hill, many interesting sights were discovered and explored.

This piece is largely based on a walk that I made on the afternoon of the 13th of June 2017, when I strolled right past the Grenfell Tower housing block. That night, it was to become engulfed in flames. I dedicate this essay to the memory of all those people who perished, or otherwise suffered, because of this horrendously tragic disaster.

Ladbroke Square Garden

Ladbroke Square Garden

In the mid-eighteenth century, Richard Ladbroke (brother of the banker Robert Ladbroke) of Tadworth in Surrey acquired a huge plot of land, countryside, in Kensington (for detailed history, see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol37/pp194-200). After Richard, who was extremely wealthy, died, the so-called ‘Ladbroke Estate’ passed into the hands of James Weller Ladbroke. The latter kept the estate until his death in 1847. During the several decades that James owned the land, there was much building-work done on it, making the estate (a large part of Notting Hill) much as it is today. It was during his ownership of the land that the short-lived Hippodrome race course was laid out on an as yet unbuilt part of his estate.

Before 1836, the nearest horse-racing course to London was at Epsom Downs, where races had been held since 1661, or maybe earlier (see: http://epsom.thejockeyclub.co.uk/more-information/about). Epsom is about twenty miles from Trafalgar Square, several hours by horse and carriage. In 1836, Mr John Whyte took a twenty-one year lease on at least 140 acres of the then undeveloped part of the Ladbroke Estate. He built a race-course, the ‘Hippodrome’, which was far more easily accessible than Epsom to all Londoners. One problem that Whyte encountered, and it gave rise to a lot of trouble, was that a public footpath ran across his course, which, understandably, he wanted to surround by a fence. This trouble arose in the potteries and their surrounding slums, which were to the immediate west of the race-course. Despite this problem, racing began at the Hippodrome in June 1837. Because of continuing agitation by local protesters, a considerable police presence was required at race-meetings. At one point, in 1838, Whyte considered building a subway beneath his course to get around the footpath problem. In May 1842, after only thirteen race-meetings in five years, Whyte admitted failure, and relinquished the lease. For a short while, the race-course returned to being countryside, and then James Weller Ladbroke allowed building on it to commence with a vengeance (this simplified history extracted from: http://www.housmans.com/booklists/Entrance%20to%20Hipp%20Vague%2044.pdf).

In what follows, we shall explore the area around and upon the land, which was once the Hippodrome. To do this, it is necessary to know where the race-course was. Several detailed maps contemporary with the Hippodrome exist, but were drawn long before the present road layout existed. Superimposing the old maps with current ones is not easy, but it gives us a rough idea of where the former racecourse lay. However, given that almost all the landmarks drawn on the old maps have disappeared, some intelligent guesswork is required. In the description of my walk around the area, I will point out the possible (but not by any means certain) sites of places associated with the old Hippodrome. Let us begin near Holland Park, which was never part of the racecourse.

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station on the Central Line is housed in an attractive low building on Holland Park Avenue. It opened in 1900, and was one of several Central Line stations designed by Harry Bell Measures (1862-1940). The tops of the pilasters between the windows on the north side of the station are decorated with gargoyle-like sculpted faces.

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Holland Park Station

Almost opposite this side of the building, there is a tall building with distinctive chimneys, Lansdowne House on Lansdowne Road.

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House was designed by architect William Flockhart (1852-1913), and built for the Australian millionaire Sir Edmund Davis (1861-1939), who lived at 9 Lansdowne Road (see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/visitkensingtonandchelsea/seedo/people/blueplaques/recordsh-l/lansdownehouse.aspx). He was a mining financier and an art enthusiast. He built Lansdowne house, which contains six flats with two-storey artists’ studios and other amenities.

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

Artists who lived in Lansdowne House

They attracted up-and-coming artists, a few of whom are named on the blue plaque attached to the building. None of their names mean anything to me.

Holland Park Avenue

Holland Park Avenue

Holland Park Avenue, a part of the old West Road running between London and Oxford, was developed in the nineteenth century. Lined with mature shady trees, this avenue runs alongside many fine buildings.

On  Holland Park Avenue

On Holland Park Avenue

A statue of the Ukranian Saint Volodmyr stands outside the Hotel Ravna Gora (named after one of several places with that name in the Balkans). Volodmyr ruled the Ukraine as king between 980 and 1015 AD.

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

St Volodmyr Holland Park Ave

His statue was put up in 1988 to celebrate St Volodmyr’s establishment of Christianity in the Ukraine in 988 AD. It was sculpted by the Ukrainian-born Leonid Molodoshanin (aka ‘Leo Mol’; 1915-2009).

The Benns lived here

The Benns lived here

Further up the hill, we reach the home of the late Anthony (‘Tony’) Benn (1925-2014) and his wife Caroline (née De Camp; 1926-2000). With its front door painted appropriately in red, this is where two active, intelligent socialists lived their last years. It is worth noting in passing that these leaders of the left in the UK lived in a valuable home in a very prosperous part of London. Almost opposite, but a little way uphill, is the house where the artist James McBey (1883-1959) lived in the 1930s. Its large studio windows face north to catch what many artists believe to be the best light for working.

Camden Hill Tower

Camden Hill Tower

Notting Hill Gate at the top end of Holland Park Avenue is dominated by a residential tower block, Campden Hill Towers. This unattractive building is, and has always been, privately owned, despite it looking as if it might once have been social housing. It was erected in the early 1960s, or, maybe, late 1950s. I remember visiting a schoolfriend who lived there sometime before 1965. Little did I know it then but my future wife and her family were also living in a flat there at the time. Then during my visit, I was particularly impressed that he lived in a two-storey apartment high above the ground. It was the first time I had ever seen a ‘duplex’ flat. The building is not the only eyesore in Notting Hill Gate. It competes in ugliness with nearby Newcombe House.

Notting Hill mural

Notting Hill mural

Just west of the Towers, there is a lovely mural in a narrow alleyway. This was painted by Barney McMahon in 1997 (see: http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/2014/05/see-notting-hills-barney-mcmahon-mural.html). The alleyway runs alongside Marks and Spencer’s food store, which was once the building that housed Damien Hirst’s original (in all senses of the word) Pharmacy Restaurant (now re-created and updated at the Newport Street Gallery, near Lambeth Palace).

The Coronet

The Coronet

Fortunately, the area has at least one lovely building, the former ‘Coronet Cinema’. This was designed as a theatre by WGR Sprague (1863-1933) who designed many of London’s theatres. It opened in 1908. By 1923, the Coronet had become a cinema, and remained so for many years. Apart from the screen, the fittings inside the auditorium were those of an unmodernised Edwardian theatre. Until smoking was banned in all public places, the Coronet was one of the last cinemas in London which permitted smoking (but only in the balcony seating). Between 2004 and 2014, the Coronet doubled up as both a branch of the Kensington Temple Church and, also, as a cinema. And, in 2015 the Coronet reverted to being used as a theatre, now called ‘The Print Room’. This theatre puts on interesting plays, which are well-produced.

In The Gate Cinema

In The Gate Cinema

Close to the Coronet, enclosed in an ugly modern building, is The Gate Cinema. Its beautiful old auditorium was converted in 1911 from a former Italian restaurant, which had been designed in 1861 by William Hancock. The foyer and the offices built over the cinema were built in 1962 by the architects Douton and Hurst. By now, you may be wondering what happened to the Hippodrome, which I promised you earlier on. Your patience will be rewarded soon.

Prince Albert pub

Prince Albert pub

The popular Prince Albert pub on Pembridge Road, where Kensington Park Road begins, has a small alternative theatre, ‘The Gate’, on its first floor. The early 19th century pub and its former brewery stood close to the beginning of a long footpath or track that led to the public entrance of the Hippodrome. This and the pub is recorded on maps drawn while the race-course was in existence. A green-painted wooden ‘cabmen’s shelter’, now used as a café, stands in the middle of Kensington Park Road close to the Prince Albert. This shelter is believed to be located very close to the spot where the path to the Hippodrome’s public entrance began. The path would have run in a northwest direction towards the course’s entrance.

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

Cabmen's Shelter Kensington Park Road

Directly opposite the cabmen’s shelter, there is the Kensington Temple. This is a Pentecostal church, which was built originally as the ‘Horbury Chapel’ in 1849. Its neighbour on Ladbroke Grove is the Mercury Theatre (building erected in 1851). This was opened in 1933 by Ashley Dukes (1885-1959), who was deeply involved in theatre. The theatre, which put on plays until 1956, was also used by Duke’s wife the Polish-born ballet dancer and teacher Marie Rambert (1888-1982). It was the birthplace and home (until 1987) of her world-famous Ballet Rambert.

The Mercury Theatre

The Mercury Theatre

Kensington Park Road, which did not exist at the time of the Hippodrome, leads past Ladbroke Square with its huge private garden to the neo-classical St Peters Church designed by Thomas Allom (1804-1872). It was built 1855-57 when much of the Ladbroke Estate had been covered with houses.

St Peters Notting Hill

St Peters Notting Hill

The church stands opposite the short Stanley Gardens. Where the latter meets Stanley Crescent is close to where the public entrance to the Hippodrome is believed to have been.

Stanley Crescent seen from Stanley Gardens - approximate position of the public entrance to the Hippodrome

Stanley Crescent seen from Stanley Gardens - approximate position of the public entrance to the Hippodrome

Ladbroke Grove, just west of Stanley Crescent crosses much of what would have been the eastern part of the Hippodrome. The Grove rises from Holland Park Avenue to a summit close to St Johns Church, which was built on Hippodrome Land in 1845, very soon after the racecourse closed. It was designed in a gothic style by John Hargreaves Stevens and George Alexander.

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns Notting Hill

St Johns interior

St Johns interior

It is widely believed that the hill upon which this church perches was the public grandstand from which the entire racecourse could be seen from above. Far below it, and on the far side of the course, roughly where Clarendon Road runs today, there was “… an enclosure for carriages of the Royal Family”. This is marked on a 1841 map of the Hippodrome. This map, published in the “Sporting Review” of 1841, shows the Hippodrome as having a common starting and finishing track that ran in a north-south direction, and three parallel loops that ran off it at its northern end to produce tracks varying in length from one to two miles.

It has been suggested to me that at least one of these loops (it would have to be the one mile loop) ran where the curved section of Lansdowne Road runs today. I cannot comment on this. The 1841 map shows a “Road to Stables” leading from what is now Holland Park Avenue into what is now either Pottery Lane or its close parallel Portland Road. “Hippodrome Stables” is marked between these two lanes on an 1860 map (see: http://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html?item=1&id=956). This is close to the spots marked as “Judges Stand”, “Saddling Paddock and Stables”, and “Starting Post”, on the 1841 map.

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

Montpelier Gardens on Lansdowne Rise

Lansdowne Rise descends from the hill where the spectators used to stand towards Clarendon Road. It passes across a private garden named ‘Montpelier Garden’, which is probably growing on land that might well have been a part of the long straight stretch of the racecourse. The 1860 map marks the Rise as being then called ‘Montpelier Road’.

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Works brickworks, Clarendon Cross

A red brick building on the short Clarendon Cross bears the name ‘Clarendon Works’. This was a Victorian brick-making factory. It has been tastefully converted into luxury apartments. Its location is not accidental, as you will soon discover. Clarendon Cross leads to a pleasant little intersection shaded by trees and surrounded by a few shops.

Clarendon Cross

Clarendon Cross

Hippodrome Place

Hippodrome Place

The continuation of Clarendon Cross is the very short Hippodrome Place. On the 1860 map, it was marked as “Clarendon Place”, but by 1900 it had acquired its present name.

Hippodrome Mews

Hippodrome Mews

It is very close to Hippodrome Mews, which apart from its name and being close to the site of the former Hippodrome but outside its bounds, displays no evidence of having been part of the Hippodrome.

Pottery Lane

Pottery Lane

Pottery Lane gets its name from the fact that it led to the potteries that ran alongside the western edge of the Hippodrome. There are two buildings of interest in the lane. One is the former ‘Earl of Zetland’ pub, which served drinkers between 1849 and 2009. It has now been converted for other purposes.

Earl of Zetland in  Pottery Lane

Earl of Zetland in Pottery Lane

Across the road from it is the Roman Catholic St Francis of Assisi Church. In the 1840s and the 1850s, the Roman Catholic population of west London increased greatly. This church was built in 1860 to address their spiritual needs.

St Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi

During the second half of the nineteenth century and before, this part of Notting Hill close to the potteries (and some piggeries), known as ‘Notting Dale’, was very impoverished and the haunt of many people involved in unlawful activities. It was people from this area, who tried disrupting races on the Hippodrome because of the disputed footpath crossing it (see above). The church’s interesting website (see: http://www.stfrancisnottinghill.org.uk/history/) relates:
“During this period the ‘West London News’ reported that “If the church of St. Francis be of gloomy aspect, it certainly throws a gleam – a ray of hope – on the outside moral darkness in the midst of which it is situated.”
Although the outside of the neo-gothic church is not eye-catching, it is worth entering its peaceful small courtyard and the church itself.

Inside St Francis of Assisi

Inside St Francis of Assisi

Apart from a road name, nothing remains of the potteries and brickfields in the area except one solitary kiln on Walmer Road. A plaque attached to it describes it as a ‘bottle kiln’. It is shaped like the neck and top of a wine bottle. Although very few of these exist in London, another one can be seen at the Fulham Pottery next to Putney Bridge Underground Station.

Pottery kiln

Pottery kiln

Kiln plaque

Kiln plaque

Avondale Park is opposite the Kiln. The park was created in the 1890s on the site that had formerly been a fetid pool, an area filled with slurries from the nearby piggeries and Adams’ Brickfields (see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks/avondale-park). The Adams family, who leased the land for their brickfields, also leased the 140 acre Portobello Farm located at the northern end of the present Portobello Road roughly south of Golborne Road. Incidentally, the name ‘Portobello’ commemorates Admiral Vernon’s victory over the Spanish in 1739 at the Battle of Porto Belo in Central America. It is ironic that today many Spanish people live in the Portobello area. Many of them were anti-fascist Spaniards escaping from General Franco. A monument to the Spanish Civil war in the form of a mural made in mosaic can be seen on Portobello Road under the Westway overhead bridge.

Avondale Park

Avondale Park

Avondale Park pavilion

Avondale Park pavilion

Avondale park contains a series of circular wood-clad buildings that look like inverted cones, and are linked together by a lovely curved, flat roof. These round structures, which comprise a ‘pavilion’, contain lavatories and storage rooms. They were designed by Mangera Yvars Architects in 2010, and then built shortly afterwards. In 2009, gardeners working on the deep roots of a tree stumbled across a long-forgotten WW2 bunker under the park. It would have been able to accommodate about 200 people, but few locals remember its existence (for full story, see: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/secrets-of-avondale-park/).

Kensington Leisure Centre

Kensington Leisure Centre

Walmer Road leads north to the beautiful new Kensington Leisure Centre on the east side of Lancaster Green. This building, which covered externally with multiple, parallel, slender, vertical concrete slabs was opened in 2015, is very pleasing to the eye. It was designed by LA Architects (of East Sussex).

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

Old foundation stone near Kensington Leisure Centre

Close to the buildings in the grassy Lancaster Green, there is an old piece of masonry, a foundation stone for a former Kensington ‘Public Baths and Wash-Houses’ that was laid in 1886. These baths used to stand close to the newly built centre.

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Notting Hill Methodist Church

Notting Hill Methodist Church

Near to the Leisure Centre, stands another new, colourful building, a school: the Kensington Aldridge Academy. This is a coeducational state secondary school sponsored by the Aldridge Foundation. It has been in existence since 2014. Its building was designed by London-based Studio E Architects. Close to this, stands Notting Hill Methodist Church. Its single slender tower recalls the appearance of minarets. It was built between 1878 and 1879.

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

Grenfell Tower, destroyed by fire on 16 June 2016

The church, the Academy, and the Leisure Centre, all stand in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, a twenty-four storey residential tower block erected between 1972 and ’74. When I was taking photographs of the Leisure Centre on the afternoon of Tuesday the 13th of June 2017, I barely noticed the block which I was standing in front of. It was just another unexceptional tower block that I thought was not worthy of my attention. That night, it and many of its inhabitants were destroyed by fire that rapidly engulfed it. It is not yet known how many people have perished in the inferno – maybe, we will never know. It has left hundreds of people homeless, bereft of all their material possessions, and mourning for their neighbours and loved ones. The cause of the conflagration and the resulting disaster, which falls into the same category of tragedy as the ‘Twin Towers’ disaster in New York City, has yet to be determined. Now, all that remains of the building is a blackened concrete skeleton. I hope that none of the local schoolchildren I watched entering the Leisure Centre that fateful Tuesday afternoon have become victims of the fire.

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

Bramley Road: 'new' WALMER HOUSE

West of the disaster area, we reach Bramley Road. Just after it passes under the elevated Westway, one of Europe’s earliest elevated highways – a modern race-track that crosses part of the former Hippodrome, we come across Walmer House. This ageing brick-built block of flats stands a little to the west of a now demolished Walmer House that used to stand on the western stretch of Walmer Road. The older Walmer House, the former Episcopal Palace of the Bishop of Norwich, is marked on a 1900 map as “Jews Deaf and Dumb Home”. This was founded in 1863 in Bloomsbury (see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-project/institutions/jews_deaf_and_dumb_home.htm) by Baroness Mayer de Rothschild. Its purpose was to teach deaf and dumb resident Jewish children to speak. The school moved to the Walmer House in Walmer Road in 1875, and then to Nightingale Lane (Balham) in 1899. It closed in 1965.

Derelict house Bramley Road

Derelict house Bramley Road

Just before Bramley Road becomes St Helen’s Gardens, there is a dilapidated house set back from the road next to Robinson House. It bears a crest with the letters “W” or “H” and “R” and the date 1894. According to Dave Walker, a historian at Kensington Central Library, this has been used as a garage and for light industrial purposes over the years since the beginning of the twentieth century. It stands just south of the probable southern boundary of the northern section of the long-gone Hippodrome racetrack.

Scampston Mews

Scampston Mews

St Helens Gardens rises gently in an almost northerly direction, crossing what was once the north-western section of the Hippodrome. Scampston Mews, which is close to the southern end of this road, is built on land that was part of the Hippodrome. The mews are not shown as existing on a detailed 1860 map, but they do appear on a 1900 map.

St Helens Church

St Helens Church

The mainly gothic, brick St Helens Church at the top of St Helens Gardens was rebuilt in 1956 (architect: JS Sebastian Comper) on the site of an earlier church, built in 1884 and destroyed during WW2. It stood close to the former Notting Barn Farm, which shared its southern boundary with the northern boundary of the Hippodrome. The farm, which certainly existed in the 18th century and was close to Portobello Farm to its east, disappeared from maps, leaving no material trace, in the 1880s (see: https://northkensingtonhistories.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-st-quintin-park-estate/).

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

The Garden next to Latymer Road Station

Retracing our steps down St Helen’s Gardens and Bramley Road, we reach Latymer Road Underground Station. It opened in 1868. Oddly, it is nowhere near to Latimer Road. It is almost half a mile south of any road named ‘Latimer’. However, when it was built, it was much closer, as I will explain soon. While at the station, you should enter the nearby ‘Garden Bar and Café’, which is housed in a former pub, the ‘Station Hotel’, which has been in existence since the 1860s. The Café, which is owned by an Albanian friend of mine, serves excellent Mediterranean food, which may be eaten inside or in a lovely sheltered back garden.

Lockton Street doorway

Lockton Street doorway

A narrow lane, Lockton Street, connects Bramley Road with nearby Freston Road. On one side, Lockton Street is lined by railway arches, and on the other by newly built apartment blocks with attractive street entrance gates.

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

Former Holy Trinity Church Freston Rd 1887

Freston Road used to be called ‘Latimer Road’, and therefore the station near it was aptly named. Walking northwards along Freston Road, one cannot miss a large red brick neo-gothic building, which has housed ‘The Harrow Club’ since 1967. This used to be the Holy Trinity Church, which was built to the designs of R Norman Shaw (1831-1912), architect of the first ‘New Scotland Yard’) between 1887 and 1889.

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

Former Latymer Road School Freston Street 1879

Further north on the eastern side of Freston Road, stands the former ‘Latymer Road School’, a massive brick building with roof gables. This was built in 1880 by the school board. Now, it is used as a ‘pupil support centre’.

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. Eton fives courts

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

Under Westway / A3220 interchange. An Eton fives court

Just beyond the school, Freston Road ends and becomes a footpath that winds its way between public sporting facilities. Amongst the tennis courts and other parts of the Westway Fitness Centre, there is a row of four Eton Fives courts, such as we had at my (private) secondary school in Highgate. Originally an elitist game, the Centre is making attempts to popularise this sport, which very faintly resembles squash except that the ball is hit with gloved hands.

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

Under Westway / A3220 interchange

The footpath then passes under the curving concrete bridges that carry the overhead roads which connect the Westway with the West Cross Route, which carries traffic south to the Shepherds Bush roundabout. Eventually, the path emerges north of Westway close to the former Latimer Arms Pub, which closed in the 1990s. It was already open for business in the early 1870s (see: http://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/Kensington/LatimerArms.shtml).

Former Latimer Arms pub

Former Latimer Arms pub

Under Westway / A3220 interchange: Travellers' site, Stable Way

Under Westway / A3220 interchange: Travellers' site, Stable Way

The beginning of Stable Way is near the former pub. It leads in a southwards direction, threading its way beneath the road bridges and between car repair workshops with many derelict vehicles. At its southern end is the Westway Traveller Site. This was built in 1976 (see: http://www.travellermovement.org.uk/pavee/images/pdfs/my_site_westway.pdf) to replace an unauthorised site that had been favoured mostly by Irish gypsies and ‘Travellers’ for centuries. Now, it is exclusively occupied by Irish Travellers. In 1981, the Travellers took Kensington and Chelsea Council to court to try to prove the unsuitability of the site, being as it is, surrounded by vehicles emitting noxious exhaust fumes. The Council won.

Former Bramley Arms

Former Bramley Arms

Retracing our steps, we return to Freston Road. Where this road meets Bramley road at a sharp angle, stands the ‘Bramley Arms’, a former pub. This nineteenth century pub, which closed in the 1980s, was used as a location in the films “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “Quadrophenia” (see: http://www.closedpubs.co.uk/london/w10_northkensington_bramleyarms.html). It is now used for housing. Further down the road, we reach a large red brick building bearing large notices, one inset in the brickwork and another in colourful mosaic, that inform the viewer that this was once ‘The People’s Hall’.

The Peoples Hall

The Peoples Hall

Opened in 1901,it assumed great significance in 1977 (see below). A part of it is on Olaf Street. This houses the newly opened “Frestonian Gallery”, which displays contemporary art. A friend of ours who works there invited us to its recent inauguration. This led to my interest in the People’s Hall.

The name of the new gallery commemorates an extraordinary incident comparable to that portrayed in the 1949 film “Passport to Pimlico”, in which the Pimlico area of London declared independence. This happened for real in Freston Road in 1977. By this date, the area around Freston Road had deteriorated significantly, and the Greater London Council (‘GLC’) wanted to evacuate its inhabitants to redevelop it. As a local resident, Tony Sleep put it:
“The GLC decided that it was intolerable having 120 people living in these damp old dirty houses and it would be a much better idea to knock them all down and make us homeless…” (see the fascinating and informative website: http://www.frestonia.org/).
Under the leadership of Tony Albery and other social activists, it was decided that the 120 residents (many of them squatters who had moved into almost derelict buildings that had been neglected by the GLC prior to redeveloping the area) living in the 1.8 acre plot around Freston Road should declare the area a republic independent of the UK. The republic was named ‘Frestonia’, and its inhabitants, who all added the suffix ‘-Bramley’ to their own surnames, were called ‘Frestonians’. In addition to applying (without success) for membership of the United Nations, Frestonia issued its own postage stamps, and created a stamp for marking visitors’ passports. The People’s Hall briefly became a National Film Theatre of Frestonia (see: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/frestonia-the-past-is-another-country/).

Frestonia attracted attention of the press both inside and outside the UK. The Republic staggered on for about five years. The actions of the Frestonians were not ignored by the GLC, who ultimately re-developed the area in such a way as not to overly disrupt the old community. The People’s Hall is the only tangible remnant of the short-lived republic.

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

Corner of Wilsham Street and St Anns Road

The final stretch of this begins on St Anns Road, which later becomes ‘St Anns Villas’. At the corner of this road and Wilsham Street, there is a flat-roofed terrace of buildings. Formerly known as ‘St Katherine’s Road’, Wilsham Street and others parallel to it lead to the former potteries described above. This street appears on an 1860 map, made at a time when there were still brickfields a few streets north of it. Charles Booth’s late nineteenth century ‘poverty map’ (see: https://booth.lse.ac.uk/) shows that the western half of the street was “Poor. 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family”, whilst the eastern half, closest to the former potteries, was “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.” Well, all of that has changed. While I cannot vouch for the behaviour of the present inhabitants, I can safely say that they are not poor.

St James Church

St James Church

St James Gardens, one street down from Wilsham Street, contains a rectangular garden in which the neo-gothic Victorian St James Church (built 1845) stands. On Booth’s map, these streets, which neighbour a poor area, are marked as “Middle class. Well-to-do.” Here, as in so many parts of London, the rich live(d) cheek-by-jowl with the poor.

Holland Park Synagogue

Holland Park Synagogue

The Holland Park Synagogue is also on St James Gardens. This was built in 1928 (see: http://hollandparksynagogue.com/about/history/) inspired by the design of the much older Bevis Marks Synagogue. Its congregation was founded by Sephardic Jews who arrived in London from the Ottoman Empire.

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

Tabernacle School St Anns Villas

The Tabernacle School neighbours the synagogue. The school is housed in a spectacular crenelated brick and white stone mock-Tudor building, similar to many of those that line St Anns Villas. A plaque on another similarly designed villa records that the music-hall comedian Albert Chevalier (1861-1923) lived there. Born Albert Onésime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier in the prosperous St Ann Villas, son of a French teacher, this son of the bourgeoisie specialised in cockney-related humour.

St Ann Villas

St Ann Villas

The present school and the other villas were built in the 1840s above the line of an improved sewer that was built in the late 1830s. This sewer follows the course of an older sewer, The Counter’s Creek Sewer’, which in turn followed the course of one of London’s ‘Lost Rivers’, Counters Creek, which used to flow from west of Kensal Green to the Thames, which it enters as ‘Chelsea Creek’. Counter’s Creek is marked on an 1841 map as running alongside the western edge of the northern part of the Hippodrome. Further south, it ran along what is now Freston Street before following a course approximately where St Anns Road and Villas run.

The Organ Factory

The Organ Factory

St James Gardens crosses St Anns Villas to become ‘Swanscombe Road’. A small Victorian building, now converted to housing, carries the name that commemorates its former use, the ‘Organ Factory’. Queensdale Road, which runs parallel to, and south of, Swanscombe Road, is the home of a Sikh temple, the ‘Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) London’.

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

Gurdwara Sikh Temple

The Khalsa Jatha was founded in London in 1908 “…to promote religious and social activities among the Sikhs who had settled in the UK. Later in the same year it was affiliated to the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar” (see: http://www.centralgurdwara.org.uk/history.htm). Initially based in Putney, it then moved to Shepherds Bush, before reaching its present site in 1969.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

At its southern end, St Ann Villas meets one of London’s answers to the Regency crescents in Bath: Royal Crescent. Now slightly shabby in appearance, this crescent was laid out by Robert Cantwell (c. 1793-1859) in 1846. Cantwell was responsible for much of the building development on the Norland Estate, which includes the Crescent.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

Garden of Royal Crescent

Unlike the crescents in Bath, Royal Crescent is made up of two quarter circle terraces, separated by St Anns Villas. The terraces surround a beautifully laid out private gardens, which can be seen easily from various places along its cast-iron fencing. In the middle of the Holland Park Avenue boundary of the gardens, there is a stone public drinking fountain (no longer working). This was paid for by Miss Mary Cray Ratray of 41 Tavistock Square to perpetuate her memory. She died in 1875.

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

Drinking fountain Royal Crescent

Just south of the Crescent, there is a wide, traffic-free street, almost a piazza, called ‘Norland Road’. This was developed in the 1840s, and as its name suggests it was part of the Norland Estate, its westernmost border. From its southern end, there is a fine view of the ‘Thames Water Ring Main Tower’, which was erected by Thames Water in 1994. Clad in a transparent material, this futuristic object in the middle of a busy roundabout, was designed by reForm Architects (London). Its purpose is to house a ‘surge pipe’ on London’s Thames Water Ring Main, which carries potable water from water treatment plants to the city’s inhabitants. It is here that I will conclude my tour.

Shepherds Bush water tower

Shepherds Bush water tower

By trying to track down the few barely tangible memories of Notting Hill’s short-lived Hippodrome racecourse, I have seen many sights that bear testimony to the history of a fascinating part of west London. Notting Hill has had a diverse history: from its rustic origins to more recent events, including , most recently, the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

AVONDALE PARK GATES

AVONDALE PARK GATES

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 02:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london ukrainian travellers synagogue kensington jews sikhs racecourse hippodrome gypsies notting_hill horse-racing frestonia grenfell_tower Comments (2)

New DESIGN MUSEUM

Great building, poor exhibition

In 1837, the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote his “Kejserens nye Klæder” (‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’). Two tailors weave some new clothes for the Emperor. No one can see them because they were invisible, they had no substance at all, they did not exist.

London’s Design Museum has just (November 2016) moved into what used to be the Commonwealth Institute (‘CI’) in Holland Park. Its construction was completed in 1962. I remember visiting the CI in the early 1960s, when its gloomy interior housed exhibits from various parts of the Commonwealth. I was more impressed by the building’s then original and fantastic architecture than by its contents.

The CI building remained closed and disused from long before the beginning of this century until this year when it re-opened as the Design Museum. The building’s exterior has been well-restored, but is somewhat hidden from the road by two ugly ‘rectanguloid’ (or box-like) low-rise tower blocks, which are an affront to both good design and good town-planning. I imagine that letting or selling space in these two buildings helped pay for the restoration of the former CI building.

The interior of the old CI building has been scooped out and replaced by a wonderful new interior, an exciting space worthy of a museum that is dedicated to design.

Sadly, the exhibition fails miserably. Leaving the splendid atrium, the visitor enters a series of ‘galleries’ crammed with ‘icons’ of (mostly) 20th century design. The cluttered exhibition spaces reminded me of charity shops or jumble sales. The only difference between the museum and the latter is that the objects on display are in better condition than those in jumble sales or charity shops.

The newly located Design Museum made me think of Hans Christian Andersen. The building is splendid, both outside and inside, but the exhibition does not deserve such a fine building. The clothing is great, but the Emperor is missing.

I have made a VIDEO to show the building's interor.

FREE ADMISSION EXCEPT TO SPECIAL TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS

  • ***NEW ADDRESS: 224-238 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 6AG****

NOW TAKE A LOOK:

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:21 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london kensington design_museum Comments (1)

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