Just 48 years ago, back in 1968, George Andrews moved out of number 157 Portland Road in London’s Notting Hill. The four-bedroom house (then standing opposite a brothel) was sold to Tim and Penny Hicks for £11,750. Today, Zoopla values properties on this street at an average of £3.3 million. Not a bad investment. (Here’s a BBC documentary called The Secret History of our Streets about the rise in Notting Hill property prices – Portland Road as a feature – from a few years ago.)
Walking the streets today, you’d never think it was once a derelict neighbourhood of slums and riots. The idyllic rows of pastel townhouses peeking cheerfully from behind the springtime cherry blossoms and magnolia trees with the resident vintage cars parked in the streets make it an area of immense #houseenvy on Instagram. The homes feature regularly on popular accounts like Pretty City London and Alex on the Road.
Like everyone else, I’m smitten by their charming colours, brightening the city’s grey skies, tucked away from the bustle of Portobello Road, just behind the small Saturday farmer’s market.
A year ago, I shared some photos here on Little Observationist, but I thought I’d re-visit since it’s been a popular post. I’m always drawn there in the spring time when the weather starts to warm a bit.
Wandering around, I stumbled on the short cobbled street of Lucerne Mews where all of the original 1839 cottages are fronted by different coloured garage doors and named after herbs: Sage Cottage, Rosemary Cottage, Parsley Cottage. I believe there are 11 in total.
It was not a market day, but I walked a ways along Portobello Road anyway, enjoying the views unobstructed by groups of tourists or even many parked cars. There’s a gate I always love to take photos of that says Portobello up toward end nearest to Notting Hill station.
It was early on a Sunday morning. A man came out of his multimillion pound house to stand quietly on the front stoop in a plush white bathrobe and spa slippers with a coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A chill whipped through the air, fluttering magnolia petals to the ground. A baby cried in the house behind him, presumably being comforted by a live-in nanny.
I walked by Alice’s antique shop where goods were bring displayed outside for the day. It was a film location called “Gruber’s” antique shop for the lovable Paddington Bear. It also makes an appearance in “The Italian Job.” Across Denbigh Close is the bright blue Chloe Alberry, another antique shop that sells different types of goods, but is known for practical home bits like handles, knobs, pulls and hooks.
A black cat played in the street nearby. I jumped on to a small brick ledge, hanging on to a fence to take photos of a flowering magnolia that matched a bright pink house on the other side of the street. This stretch leads off of Portobello Road and there’s always a tourist or two snapping away here.
I cut off down toward Westbourne Grove where I love a wander through the racks of lovely French dresses in Claudie Pierlot, a scrummage through one of the city’s poshest Oxfams for seriously knocked off prices on secondhand designer finds and a lunch at 202 which serves up delicious eggs benedict but also has a fun clothing shop in the basement and coffee table books for sale.
Back on Portobello road, I’m still in the antique section, but it’s starting to shift. I wander by the Highland Store and Stumper & Fielding – as hipster as it gets up this end – targeting the sartorial gentlemen in the area with a selection of tweed jackets, bowlers and pocket squares.
Further down, the tat shops have their doors open now, souvenirs rolled out onto the pavements: baskets of mugs, boards full of magnets, union jacks galore. And the atmosphere changes a bit. Graffiti covers walls. High Street shops have moved in.
The Electric Cinema still stands though. It is probably the most famous building on Portobello Road. It opened in 1911, first showing Henry VIII staring Sir Herbert Tree. It’s had its ups and downs over the years, but the cinema remains with its Grade II listed exterior in tact, still playing films today. From there, I swung round the other side to take a photo of a shopfront that’s constantly popping up in my Instagram feed: Biscuiteers. Isn’t it pretty?
I’ll leave you with a short documentary about Notting Hill Housing, in case you’re interested in the history:
- I have a small cookbook obsession. Here’s 3 on my wish list for May: Eating in the Middle; Love & Lemons; Basque.
- Whenever we have people over for dinner, our collection of quirky plates is always a talking point. We don’t have any white ones. This one is on my list for summer!
- Loving this Not on the High Street shop: Gingko leaf salad servers, cool desk lamps, this! (although I don’t know where I’d put it…)
- One of these, please!
- How do you decorate your kitchen?
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