Notting Hill And Portobello Road Market Explained

by : Archy Ash

There are three dimensions to Notting Hill. First the area of shops and streets around Notting Hill Gate, with a fair amount of buzz and interest, and some quaint artisan housing all madly fashionable today: second, Portobello Road market, to be seen any day, but in full flood only on Saturdays and third, for the housing enthusiast, the extravagances of the Ladbroke Grove Estate.

This route covers all three aspects consecutively, but it makes quite a long walk. Be aware that the Notting Hill Carnival takes place in the last weekend of August.

Start at Notting Gate station (Central and Circle Lines). First briefly explore the now attractive streets on the south side of the main road Litigate Street or Farmer Street, for example, Hillgate Place running east west provides a frame.

These densely packed terraces date from 1851 and were designed to house artisans providing services for the wealthy all around. It was a hopeless cause, and they soon had multiple occupants and turned into serious slums. There is little evidence of that now in the painted facades window boxes and fast cars in the street. 20C gentrification has had some benefits.

Note the Coronet Cinema (1898), converted for cinema use in 1916. Cross back at the station to go up Pembridge Road, forking right: shops have been added to the fronts of the houses. Then go left to begin the long journey up Portobello Road.

Porto Bello, in the Gulf of Mexico, was captured from Spain by Admiral Vernon in 1739, and a farm in the countryside north of here was patriotically named after it. This road once led to that farm.

Nothing much happens to start with, but after crossing Chepstow Villas with big Victorian detached houses, as you would expect from the name, you reach very respectable antique shops and rather less respectable antique stalls, where there is plenty to explore. Keep going, over Westbourne Grove. At the crossing of Elgin Crescent and Colville Terrace, the street market becomes more conventional selling fruit and vegetables but just as vivid.

There has been a market here since 1871, starting with gypsies buying and selling horses for the Hippodrome (see below). It brought down the standard of the neighbourhood, as at Covent Garden, but the overspill of antiques from the closed Caledonian market after the Second World War, restored the tone somewhat.

After Blenheim Crescent you are in the historic part of Portobello Road. On the left is the Electric Cinema, purpose-built and one of the earliest opened in 1911.

There are also some excellent bookshops, including the Travel Bookshop and Books for Cooks. To the right down Talbot Road there is an unusual church, All Saints by William White, built in the 1850s to be the centre of a new religious community here, which never materialised.