Portobello Road in the 90s

Having done posts on Portobello Road in the 1950s and the 1970s I was keen to continue the story so I was pleased when we recently acquired a large number of photographs of streets in the borough which our Planning department no longer needed. The photographs were all taken in connection with planning applications, so they had no artistic or historical intent. And of course there was no intention to cover a whole street or district or capture an atmosphere. Their existence depends purely on someone’s desire to make changes in a building.

I looked through the three folders devoted to Portobello Road and picked out images I liked, not expecting to see any kind of story, thinking I would simply see shop fronts and stalls, some of them now gone, some of them still here. But what does emerge is a feeling for the decade, a decade which doesn’t seem to my recollection at least to have a distinctive identity.

Number 265 in 1990 and 299 in 1991, properties in need of improvement after the effects of the 1980s.

See the handwritten notice about DHSS estimates on this locked up property. But remember these are the properties someone wanted to improve not examples of how the street as a whole looked. At the same time the commercial life of the market continued and some businesses were looking prosperous.

Here, around number 345 on a quiet morning in 1991:

And here at 117 where you can see the entrance to Vernon Yard, a mews which was at one time the home of an early version of Virgin Records:

The collection has a few composite pictures made up of several individual photographs put together to form a larger image.

This one shows a whole row of shops at 139-151 continued below in a second version:

It’s an interesting technique which has probably now been replaced by digital methods of merging images. Here’s another example from 1995 of number 205:

Sometimes the applications included interiors and rear views, some of which can be interesting. This image of number 95 shows the street view:

But it also comes with a view of the roof, which gives us an unusual rear view of the tower of St Peter’s Church in Kensington Park Road:

A series of pictures show the market in full swing with the shops behind them in 1994:

See the comic shop Fantastic Store at 166 also visible in the picture below.

Two years later another business is at the same address (although the German food stall remains):

In 1997 an internet cafe opens at 195 with a mission to explain:

Despite the changes you could argue that the basic character of the street remained unaltered. Some of its long established institutions remain:

The Warwick Castle has been at 225 since the 19th century.

Further up the road another long established (since 1974) institution carries on trading.

I sometimes think the 1990s were recent times, until I realise they were in another century and there’s more than a decade between then and now. Those years are retreating into history. Some things of course don’t change too much.

Back at the beginning of the street:

You can still find an obscure sports car parked near the Sun in Splendour just as we saw in the Portobello Road in the 70s post. (My transport correspondent says it’s not a Lamborghini, a Ferrari or a Maserati – suggestions welcome)

And on Saturdays you’ll still see a crowd of people making their way down the narrow street from the top of the hill to the bottom.

Thanks to all the anonymous photographers and above all to Michael Robertson of the Planning Department.


We now have two suggestions for the car parked near the Sun in Splendour – is it a Camaro Z28 (owned by Malcolm Wood) or a De Tomaso Pantera? Here is a bigger version of the picture:

At the moment I’m leaning towards the De Tomaso – see the picture below:

23 responses to “Portobello Road in the 90s

  • Michael Gall

    Another great post David…I have some personal photographs taken up the Bello in the early 1980’s I will dig them out and send them on to you if you want.

  • Danny Birchall (@dannybirchall)

    Is there any evidence in the photos of a shop called ‘Wong SIngh Jones’? (somewhere on the stretch between Westbourne Grove and the Westway) I remember this quite clearly from the mid-90s, but have never found a trace since.

    • George Hencken

      Wong Sing Jones was on the corner of Portobello & Lancaster Road, opposite what was then the Market Bar (now transformed into a Sushi restaurant) It’s a second hand clothes shop now. I guess I should say ‘vintage’ There was also a branch of Wong Sing Jones on the corner of Lancaster & All Saints, in part of what is now Edwin’s main showroom

    • Piers Thompson

      wasn’t wong singh jones on all saints road?

  • Malcolm Edwards

    The car near the Sun In Splendour is a De Tomaso Pantera!

    • Dave Walker

      Thanks for that. Exactly the right car to be parked at top of the Portobello Road. One day I’m going to do a post on interesting cars caught by chance on photos in the collection.

  • Dec

    Hi, I believe that car is a Camaro Z28 and belonged to a local named Malcolm Wood

  • Malcolm Edwards

    The car in question is definitely a De Tomaso Pantera! The customised Z28 is, I think, still around.

  • jojo adu

    hi Dave, fascinating for me. i was born in 65 at no 93 portobello road. you can see it just next door to the pub at 95. when i was little a little stout lairy bloke ran it, he had a vicious alsation called jason. me and my dog fred came a bit of a cropper on occasion courtesy of that dog. My dad owned the shop that sold period mechanical musical boxes. if you look at the front you can just make out the murals. one was of 3 little birds in a cage, representing my sisters and i. We also had horses in the stables a little further down in a mews named after us, Portobello rachel and ruth and jojo respectively. The rag and bone man often came past when i was little. I always thought he was calling my sister ;Rachel, Rachel” The next image shows the roof of 95, next door at 93 we had a sandpit on the roofs glass bricks. My mum would have her feet up. nursing a gin as the church struck the hour. Thanks so much for the information about the Poor Clares which is how i got here. Im rereading condition of muzak at the moment and wanted to check the truth of jerrys convent. Now i not only know where, but have seen inside.
    We moved in 75 to brighton. However in 85 I returned to london and through westminster short life housing lived cheaply in Talbot rd, off Powis square Turner, Hormead rd, five years in Lad broke grove directly opposite the elgin pub, Ledbury rd for a year and then also did my time in westbourne park.

  • jojo adu

    and the warwick castle – built on lay lines yeah?- not impossible to believe as however many times it changed hands and got refitted its true piss puddling character would soon shine through..

  • will jones

    The red car debate: its a DeTomaso Pantera GTS. Quite possibly belonged to the marque’s main distributor co which was at the Westbourne Grove ‘Five Ways’ junction, and also sold Maserati etc..

  • Steve Coulter

    Definitely a De Tomaso Pantera above. 1970’s Italian styling with a bullet-proof V8 engine from USA fitted, bullet proof as in they don’t blow up. As soon as I saw the pic, my mind had named the car. Fabulous blog, I love the ‘Long Good Friday’ and before era of London. Spoiled by the war, unspoilt by modern Britain.

  • jake

    The Z28 that he had was white with red stripes. The one he has now is black.

  • Lauren

    Malcom Wood was my neighbour on Colville Terrace – he had the white Zs8. We called it his batmobile – I think that might have met a bad end when it caught on fire. Rumour had it, a spurned ex did it! He was certainly a character!

    • Dec

      Malcolm had a red Z28 when I first met him, I can’t remember what happened to it but I accompanied him when he bought the white one. A long time ago, the spurned ex rumour is very believable 🙂

  • Diane P. Diamond

    Thanks for posting such wonderful pics. My friend’s Uncle stabled horses in Vernon Yard and we used to look after them. I would ride up and down Portobello Road and sometimes ride up to Hyde Park. I lived in Portobello Court.

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