Tuesday, 15 September 2020

London Visits pre lockdown, Frestonia, Ladbroke Estate memories and an art exhibition … part 6 …


In this country you go from the sublime to the ridiculous … so much change, so much hidden … while Anna’s art exhibition has titles including ‘Watching’, ‘Staging’, ‘Casting’, ‘Establishing’ 'Propping', and more …


Three canvases on display at gallery

In the 1970s I was living a little to the east – yet during my time … there was an attempt by the residents of Freston Road to establish the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia … 

who knew, not me …


… the squatting residents failed in this attempt but did go on to set up a housing co-operative with the Notting Hill Housing Trust …


The People's Hall,

At that stage in my life I wasn’t that curious, or that brave – I wasn’t a rebel … nor am I now – but I tend not to follow the crowd – so this part of ‘town’ in the late 1970s was beyond my brain’s remit!


Entrance to 
Frestonian Gallery

As I look and read up about the area: it’s fascinating … as I can appreciate how talent comes in all forms that leads to change and thought – that I, of the 3rd age, understand a little more today – and that’s come from blogging and the internet – where my eyes have been opened to much else in the world.


So this tiny motley site in the 1980s became a creative hub for writers, artists and musicians, as well as cultural activists.


Casting - from Anna's exhibitoin

It also as you can imagine became a fervent nest of human vipers … upsetting the establishment of greater London …


… the residents held a referendum on declaring independence  (94% approved) – and – even more interestingly today perhaps for us Brits – were in favour (73%) of joining the European Economic Community – now the European Union.


First edition - 1904
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe at the time expressed his support – saying “As one who had childhood enthusiasm for Napoleon of Notting Hill (– by GK Chesterton), I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations”.


Let’s go back to simpler times … Frestonia had its own flag, postage stamps (honoured by the Post Office); passport stamps for visitors; a national newspaper ‘The Tribal Messenger’, as well as an art gallery ‘The Car Breaker Gallery’ – within the confines of the Republic’s area of influence.


The Frestonia National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being – appropriately – Passport to Pimlico* and a film of the Sex Pistols.   (*about Pimlico suburb being declared a legal part of the House of Burgundy – released as a British comedy film from Ealing studios).


The Clash (an early English rock band) recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as the People’s Hall); while they and Motorhead practised in Frestonia’s rehearsal studios.


The Clash’s music was often charged with left-wing ideological sentiments … and were dubbed by the New Musical Express as “The Thinking Man’s Yobs”.


I have put some links at the bottom … as I’ve been so interested looking into Frestonia … but let’s move on to the art exhibition I went to see: my reason for being in Frestonia – albeit forty years too late!


Lower third of Anna's work
'Jacob's Ladder in Chichester Cathedral

I’ve shown you Jacob’s Ladder – Anna Bentley Freeman’s exhibit under the title ‘Descent’ being set in Chichester Cathedral in 2016 … and here was another exhibition that I could visit and offer Anna some family support. 



This exhibition entitled ‘Order and Chaos’ … deliberation and spontaneity – where she has depopulated her canvases …



… the flea market scenes have been purposefully emptied out of human figures … as too the carefully staged museum ‘interiors’ of cities around the world … bringing order to the often ramshackleness of the flea market scenes.


She loves the baroque – as seen here in the qualities of vibrance, grandeur and a certain sensuality present in all things … giving the exhibited works that splendour of colour so often found in ‘museums’ and flea-markets …



I was entranced … so will let you peruse … if you would like to look at the Gallery’s exhibit site.



Next – we’re off to Tate Britain … where Steve McQueen – the British film maker – had an exhibition on … and I’ll elaborate on his works at Tate Modern that I skated over.


Thanks for joining me on these various parts of my one day in London town earlier this year – I’m glad I’ve extrapolated on the whole.

Anna Bentley Freeman at the Frestonian Gallery - overview of her exhibition ...  

Anna's Jacob's Ladder artwork in Chichester Cathedral ...

Frestonia ... 

The Clash ... 

Passport to Pimlico - an Ealing Sudios comedy film

G K Chesterton's 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill' published 1904

This is still not quite right ... but better than it was on publishing - this is the new way!!  (new blogger)

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

London Visits pre lockdown, Piggeries, Potteries, Dovecotes and Equidae … part 5 …

We move west from Arundel Gardens (built 1862/63) … where from the title you can hold your nose as the stench assails you … probably until the late 1800s …

Ladbroke Grove in 2006 - full of
Carnival goers ...
To the west is Ladbroke Grove a (new) north-south main route established by the Ladbroke Estate over forty years: 1820s – 1860s after the infamous Hippodrome failed … further west from ancient Porto Bello, which wandered through rough pasture land.


1823 plan for the development
of the Ladbroke Estate - an
early plan:  it consists of a large central
circus with radiating streets and garden
squares (or paddocks).  {Interesting
naming ... circus and paddocks - perhaps
the plan gave Whyte the idea for
the opportunity to build
the Hippodrome}

This was the depository for all peoples at the lower end of the scale of life … those ‘dossing down’ as they attempted to make a living in the ‘hum-drum’ developments spreading out from the Hyde Park area … tradesmen of all sorts … handymen, carpenters, woodworkers, builders, labourers, etc …

… then to add to the mix there were the locals trying to make a living with their piggeries, dovecotes, chickens … set up near the brickworks on the heavy clay soils of the Hippodrome – useless for horses, but wonderful for bricks.

Brick lining for the sewers in the late 1800s

The horse-racing had established stabling, places for carts … for the horses as well as the developing trades needed for the Great Exhibition, Hyde Park, in 1951 and subsequent building expansion as it spread westwards.

In the booklet ‘Arundel and Ladbroke Gardenthe houses were described as of great architectural merit … built using bricks from that heavy clay found in quantity just to the west of Ladbroke Grove, and no doubt by the local navvies desperate for work on the new housing.

Great Western Railway (broad gauge  -
Metropolitan Class) 1850s .... very early:
(the tube now is narrow gauge) 
It was at this time that the railways were being built, later the tube (Underground) lines were being added, and the sewage system … 

River Thames and marked in black are the planned
sewers for London.

... Bazalgette’s sewer system … a necessity in 1858 when cholera became rife in England.

The 'Silent Highwayman' on the
effluent filled River Thames in the 1800s

All effluent was left to trickle away into streams and tributaries before reaching the main river of London ‘The Thames’.  

One even went under Buckingham Palace kitchens … before common sense and realisation kicked in.  Foul … by the way it was only 160 years ago …

Beehive Kiln - all that remains of the
brick kilns of the 1800s

The bricks were a major and integral part of London’s development in the 1800s … houses, sewer tunnels, railway and tube works – bridges, tunnels, embankments – all used brick linings …

The Piggeries, Chickens, Doves and Pigeons would have been a large food source … vegetables and fruits would have been brought in along the lanes – Porto Bello, and similar … sheep, geese and cows out from the rural fields …

Vegetable stall at Borough Market
in south London ...

Not much remains to remind us of these times … but my tired legs took me westwards – it would have been kinder if I could have walked straight over … 

... but no – I found myself in the morass of recovered footpaths – I too zigged and zagged along … once again getting lost.

I ended up asking – I have a smart phone, but don’t much like using it! – I did eventually find my way through.

Making Skep Beehive shaped
baskets in England
I didn’t go looking for ‘the extremely rare Beehive kiln: so-called because of its domed roof, similar in appearance to the beekeeper’s straw skeps used to catch swarms of bees and also the inside appearance being like a honeycomb’.     (see above)

Today Pottery Lane is in an area of one of London’s most fashionable and expensive neighbourhoods … but in the mid-19th century it lay at the heart of the wretched and notorious slum known as the “Potteries and Piggeries”.

As with most modern cities … the residents of today tread on the land that dirty and dissolute vagabonds used to exist on … ever hoping for a better life.

George Orwell lodged in Portobello
Road in 1927
So much change in such a short time … it was interesting to, in my mind, realise that to the west of where I used to live (Arundel Gardens) is probably more refined now than life in that northern part of the Ladbroke Estate.

Having found my way over … we now come across an area and its squatter residents trying to establish an Independent Republic in 1977 … well that I didn’t know …

Portobello Road curving away
… with, of course, some other fascinating snippets of London life – it’s now quite upmarket … and we will get to the art gallery after we’ve explored the squats …

The Programme for the
Summer Olympics 1908

Beyond the next north-south main route lay another development … set up in the early 1900s … White City – an exhibition area for the Franco-British Exhibition 1908 and the 1908 Summer Olympics: 

... our first Olympic Games to be held in Britain (again, a note … Rome was selected as the host city – but Mount Vesuvius erupted in April 1906 devastating Naples … funds for the Games were diverted to the reconstruction of Naples – Britain came to the rescue).

An illustration from the frontispiece of
Orley's Farm - illustrated by
John Everitt Millais (1861)
So our dissolute and vagrant opportunists had plenty of choices to make a living, joining forces with the early building entrepreneurs of the 1900s.

Life is interesting … I’m so glad ‘I sweated my poor feet and humbled my hips’ to get over there … I’ve stumbled on rather a lot …

Pastoral countryside ...
to the urban areas of London

Well I’m stopping now … interesting snippets coming up as well as some stunning art work …

HorsmansWest London – a family’s archive of builders covering the changing of the guard in the Ladbroke Estate area … views of Portobello in its early days ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

London Visits pre lockdown, Portobello and Ladbroke Estate memories … part 4 …

Next I was off on a memory lane journey … but the brain intervened so a little more history is added in …

Portobello Lane - c 1900

… and have noted that it is the final day of the virtual 2020 Notting Hill Festival  … good timing?!  Well other things happened so here we are a day later ... 

Also just to muddle me and you … I see the route of the Notting Hill Carnival now passes along ‘my street’ - when it's not virtual!

Arundel Gardens - I lived in a flat in about the middle
of the left terrace ... these trees are 'new'  ...
comparing the picture below the trees were probably
put in for the Millennium
Back in January this year I had to get to Portobello Road, Notting Hill tube station, to walk down to my flat where I lived for a few years in the 1970s – including the very hot summer of 1976: 

I remember it well … as I’ve just wilted here in 2020!

Depiction of the Hyde Park toll - further west ...
the area was distinctly in the hands of the highwayman

Mid 1700s – the Notting Hill turnpike toll-gate was established on the main Oxford to London road at the junction with Portobello Lane …

… a lane running north from the gravel pits of Kensington to the open country and manorial lands granted in the 11th century … it was through wooded pasture dotted with farming settlements …

… I saw this description on the speculative development of the Ladbroke Estate for most of the 1800s:

“it was like the Wild West, a tangled web of capitalism with developers going bankrupt, buying land off each other … swapping land parcels etc …”

Depiction of The Great Exhibition
opened by Queen Victoria in 1851
There was one saving grace – the Ladbroke Estate had been planned and enacted – which fortunately was never abandoned.  It appears that The Great Exhibition of 1851 ...

The Crystal Palace being opened
by Queen Victoria in 1851
... and the erection of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park had encouraged the start of urban-growth westwards.

Notting Hill Hippodrome - the
area where the horses would be
stabled and looked after -
often in filthy conditons ... 
Early in the 17th century it was run down being occupied chiefly by labourers, horse-keepers and horse-feeders, with a shifting mass of sorry folk who had come down in the world – the degraded conditions of the late 1800s were ripe for cleaning up

The eastern part (Portobello side) was developed, but the western part was really run down into the 1900s …

Portobello Lane to the right (east) of
the Hippodrome - 1841 - showing
no development at all ... within one hundred
years it was completely urbanised
In the late 1830s the hills of Notting Dale were transformed into a race course – hence the ultimate layout of the western part of the Ladbroke Estate following the curves and contours of the race course – known as the Hippodrome – more in the next post …

The race course failed … the heavy clay soil proved unsuitable for racing … but speculative land development was there for the taking, or losing, and retaking … as the needs of the local population dictated.

Booklet I've kept - a Brief Survey of the
origin, development administration of our
communal Garden within the Ladbroke Estate
In 1851 when the Estate was established, thirty communal gardens were to be maintained, and around which substantial Victorian houses were to be built.  Fifteen of the gardens now lie within the Ladbroke Estate Conservation Area … Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens being one of them …

You can just see he three bedroom
windows at the very top - that's
where I lived.
The houses after World War II were pretty grim (apparently!) and were mostly rooming houses … not lived in by one family.   Here a woman who lived in a 2nd floor bedsit in 1952 in the middle of the terrace – not quite my house – but near enough … describes the state of the area … I must have looked out over the plane tree she mentions.

Here’s her quote – pertinent to the times – twenty + years later when I arrived it had been upgraded into the 20th century – I’m glad to say!

“It was slummy, full of studenty types like me. I never went in the garden, but I loved the big plane tree I could see from my window. Inside the house was dark with dirty paintwork. I don’t remember a bathroom. My room had a gas ring and a basin. I wasn’t there much. The landlady insisted on opening the front door to make sure no unauthorised men were getting in”.

What I would describe as a 'card-house' more recently built
on the top of some flats in Eastbourne - not Notting Hill
My flat at the top – was an added floor … so I refer to it as my card-house flat – in those days there was no lift … a good walk up for the views – and yes it did have a bathroom and indoor toilet!

I spent four years there… one of which 1976: was as stinking hot as it has been recently … I was working three jobs … and playing squash – just assumed it would rain sometime and cool off … it didn’t and as far as I was concerned it was six months without any rain.  I went to Wimbledon one evening– sat in the sun I remember … and wilted …

This shows all the development that took place
in that 130 years from 1840 to as here in 1972: an
established series of roads, properties, gardens -
the hippodrome extends further west (left)
When I left there … I went off to South Africa … and had never explored the western parts of the Hippodrome area … it hadn’t been on my radar …

Interestingly further to the west the area now looked in better condition – the ups and downs of urban life …

The original Paddington Bear -
with a green hat (1972)
Another well-known resident was Paddington Bear – he resided with his owner Michael Bond and his wife at no 39 … the flat rent was about 25 shillings a week … they usually bought their food from local traders in Portobello market. 

Looking eastwards - with my flat
this time on the right; this photo taken
in 2010 - shows the young trees
The next post will cover the western parts – which didn’t go upmarket til recently – perhaps in the last thirty years …

It just amazes me how things change in quite a short time-frame … i.e. my lifetime!

Next we go west to look at piggeries, potteries, dovecotes and the Hippodrome …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories