Notting Hill is located within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea just to the west of Central London. Notting Hill’s boundaries have always been pretty hazy, but it is generally considered to be the area around Notting Hill Gate and the southern end of Ladbroke Grove running into Holland Park. The W11 postcode is the one that is linked most closely, although it takes in parts of W2, W8 and W10 too.
Today, the Notting Hill area is mostly affluent and cosmopolitan and is home to many well-known names such as Stella McCartney, Robbie Williams and David & Victoria Beckham as well as many politicians including ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron.
However, although Notting Hill is now renowned for being cool and sought after, it has not always been so fashionable. For much of its history, Notting Hill (or Notting Dale, one of the earlier names for the area) was a rural suburb of London and was avoided by the wealthy because it was run down with a poor reputation. In fact, in its early history and right up until the late 19th century, Notting Hill was home to potters and pig farmers and was known as the Potteries and Piggeries!
During the 19th century London grew massively and, as a result, expanded outwards into the surrounding areas leading to dramatic change in Notting Hill. The Ladbroke family were responsible for much of this and many new developments in the area formed part of the Ladbroke Estate.
Streets were constructed and large townhouses built, some with private communal gardens, such as Ladbroke Square, which remains the largest private garden square in London. These were attractive to wealthy inner city families wanting cleaner air and more space.
Initially middle class London families moved into the newly built homes but Notting Hill’s reputation changed during the middle part of the 20th century and, with that, many of the middle class families moved away. Some of the servants once employed by the families remained, but few had enough money for the upkeep of the large houses. Even more families left following the Second World War as Notting Hill suffered extensive bomb damage.
In the 1950’s the population of London grew and, to support the increased number of people, a new era of housing development commenced. In some areas, including Notting Hill, bigger family homes were re-purposed. Many of the large Victorian terraced houses were subdivided into small flats that were rented out cheaply – sometimes illegally.
It was also a time when many people from the West Indies were making their way to what they thought would be a better life in England and many were attracted to the areas of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove as a result of the cheap rents. However, many were forced to live in poor conditions in properties that were neglected by their landlords who were more interested in making money than providing a decent home.
In the late 1960’s some of London’s run down areas benefitted from philanthropy and the development of Housing Associations. Improvements involved renewing public areas and cleaning open spaces and Notting Hill started to change yet again. Whilst some of the historical properties remained, some of the deprived parts were cleared and new housing developed.
With the benefit of such a central location, as London property prices have risen in recent decades, many streets in Notting Hill have became home to a wealthier section of its population. Single occupation houses became popular once again, whilst some of those previously converted into functional flats were transformed into luxury apartments, many of which now cost in excess of £1million. Independent shops, boutique retailers, smart restaurants and bars followed as Notting Hill became highly sought after and property prices rocketed.
As a result of the property price increases there have been further changes in the cultural diversity of the area. However, there are still pockets of some of its original population, particularly around Ladbroke Grove and the northern end of Portobello Road, where the world renowned Notting Hill Carnival takes place every year in August.
In Portobello Road (which became known worldwide thanks to the much loved film Notting Hill) and its environs you’ll find antiques shops and stalls, fresh food and local crafts. Many are open every day of the week, although weekends are the best time to visit.
There is no doubt that Notting Hill has been a constantly changing part of London and one that attracts a diverse range of people – and one you should certainly make time to visit.
Article provided by Vincent House London, a Notting Hill residence that provides great value single room accommodation for both long and short term stays.
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