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The History of Notting Hill

We take a look at one of London's best-known districts.





Until the early 1800s, Notting Hill didn’t have much to offer except piggeries and pottery warehouses. Portobello Road gets its name from Portobello, a farm named after the Caribbean town of Puerto Bello in memory of the British captain responsible for capturing it (hence the Admiral Vernon antiques arcade).

Throughout the 19th century the pretty white terraces we associate with this part of West London today started appearing, and the area became one of London’s most desirable. But this change in fortune wouldn’t last. By the early 20th century Notting Dale (as it was then known) was wholly working class and suffering from similar problems to other deprived areas across London: unemployment, crime and overcrowding.

In the 1950s immigrants started arriving from the West Indies, something which caused tension among the existing white population. The new arrivals were unwelcome, and barred from local pubs, they opened their own illegal bars and clubs. Moreover, few landlords would accept black tenants, giving greedy landlords like Peter Rachman the opportunity to make fast money by housing large numbers of people in tiny, slum properties at extortionate rates.

It was an argument between a Swedish woman and her Jamaican boyfriend that started the violent rioting of the August Bank Holiday of 1958. Passers-by joined in, and for three days groups of white young men, many of whom were Teddy Boys, smashed windows and assaulted members of the black community, fuelled by the preaching of Oswald Mosley, the ex-serviceman and politician who had founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932.

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