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It’s an interesting technique which has probably now been replaced by digital methods of merging images.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: