Until the 1820s, the Ladbroke estate, once the heart of today’s Notting Hill, was tenanted farmland. In 1823, Thomas Allason published plans for the development of the estate and over the next 50 years this design dictated the look of a network of stucco terraces and semi-detached villas built in a series of crescents and communal gardens.
The area lost appeal in the early 20th century, becoming better known for its downtrodden areas, and then the Notting Hill race riots of 1958. Times have changed, however, and today it offers some of London’s most sought-after housing stock.
The 16 private garden squares (or “pleasure grounds”, as they were known) of the original Ladbroke estate have been Grade II listed since 1987. Access is restricted to residents. Shrubs planted around the edges of these squares enhance their privacy, concealing gravel paths, well-tended beds and open lawns. The neighbourhood is short on public green spaces but Holland Park, with its sports facilities, shaded groves and formal Kyoto garden, lies just south of Holland Park Avenue, and Kensington Gardens are a short walk away.
Notting Hill Carnival
For many residents, the Notting Hill Carnival is reason to up sticks and retreat to their houses in the country. For others, this annual celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture — Europe’s largest street party — over the late August bank holiday weekend is one of the great attractions of living in the area.
Calypso, reggae and hip-hop blast over static sound systems, while steel bands and flamboyant floats wind their way around the route. Those revellers with properties nearby soak up the atmosphere (and Red Stripe beer), then head back home to host after-parties.
Thanks to its starring role in Notting Hill, the 1999 blockbuster, Portobello Road market is now one of the most popular spots on the London tourist trail. Fruit and vegetable sellers dominate during the working week but on Fridays and Saturdays crowds flock to stalls selling vintage clothing, antiques, bric-a-brac and, increasingly, fast food and souvenirs.
Some long-term residents lament the market’s evolution but for better or worse, its popularity has allowed upmarket cafés (Farm Girl; Gail’s) and designer clothing shops (Paul Smith; All Saints) to flourish in the area.
Two Michelin stars
Until recently, it was all about The Ledbury. Chef Brett Graham’s restaurant, which opened on Ledbury Road in 2005, won the first of two Michelin stars in 2006, and last year it ranked 14th in the world’s 50 best restaurants awards. It may still be considered the jewel in the crown but it has been joined by some promising newcomers. Marianne, a tiny, 14-cover restaurant owned by head chef Marianne Lumb is known for its tasting menus; Flat Three offers Japanese-Scandi fusion food; and The Shed, run by the three Gladwin brothers, serves meat from their Sussex farm.
Photographs: Alamy; Dreamstime