A shoot in Ladbroke Grove: Part One – W11

Last Thursday
5.30
A shoot in Ladbroke Grove
Hours later
Hey, waiter
Could you pour some more of those?
All for you and when I’m all alone
I’m by the microphone
I see your photograph
Don’t even want to laugh

Saint Etienne – The Bad Photographer

Round about 1980 I owned a couple of motor bikes. I wasn’t the world’s best rider. I had a few near misses and one actual crash and after a few years I stopped riding. But I enjoyed it while it lasted and I had a few favourite routes. One was late at night, on the way home from Richmond. When you turned into Ladbroke Grove from Holland Park Avenue you drove up the hill and from the summit you saw a straight road heading north. If it was sufficiently late you could speed down the hill and if you were lucky shoot through three sets of green traffic lights until you went from W11 to W10 and up Ladbroke Grove all the way to the Harrow Road.

Ladbroke Grove is one of London’s great streets. It takes you from one of the central areas of Kensington, Notting Hill to the very edge of the Borough and like many London streets it changes in character along the way.

Ladbroke Grove West Side The Mitre Public House 1968 KS 591

The Mitre, on the corner  of Ladbroke Grove and Holland Park Avenue. Many of these photos were taken in 1968, some of the earliest in our photo survey but from time to time I’m going to insert others for comparison.

DSC_2664

This 2013 photo doesn’t tell us very much more but occasionally the comparison can be revealing. I went for a walk that year in the opposite direction and took a few pictures on the way. The Mitre has been a feature of Ladbroke Grove since the 1830s when it was built in “within the curtilage” (as the Survey of London says) of a farm house.

Ladbroke Grove PC1133

Building began on the lands of the Ladbroke Estate in the 1820s and originally there were plans for a “great circus”, a giant circular street bisected by Ladbroke Grove (or Place as it was originally called). This was never executed but the street did become the centre of a development which went right up the hill you can see in this postcard.

The street is wide, spacious and has many trees. In the picture below you can see another set of houses built by the the builders of the Mitre, the Drew family.

Ladbroke Grove 11.13,15 1968 KS 596

You can see there is “a central pediment and flanking ornamentation” (SoL again). Some of the other houses in this stretch are three-storey but they are not as tall as the houses further up the hill.

Ladbroke Grove West side 21,23 1968 KS 598.

The later houses on the east side look a little more elaborate.

Ladbroke Grove E side 42-44 1971 ks 2311

 

At the top of that hill stands St John’s Church.

St John's Church 1968 K71-282 - Copy

It would have a commanding presence even if it wasn’t at the top of a hill. A 2013 photo shows it towering over the photographer.

DSC_2631

On the other side of the road is a large apartment block.

DSC_2630

The Lodge, a 1930s building. There are modern blocks along this part of the road which contrast heavily with the 19th century buildings but the Lodge seems to fit in better with the older buildings. This part of the street is comparatively calm (or my calm might well have been my relief at getting up the hill). The buildings are tall but the street is spacious. You’re at the top of a hill after all.

The Lodge is on the corner of Ladbroke Square, one of the large communal gardens which give the area its spacious feel. (The Garden’s eastern border is Kensington Park Road. It’s large enough to have been the garden seen in the film Notting Hill, but that’s another garden altogether. The area has many of them.)

DSC_2637

DSC_2582

The houses look more imposing for being on the side of the hill.

DSC_2600

As you go down the hill back in 1968 as well as today the street remains wide but the houses are a little smaller, more likely to be divided into flats.

The intersection with Elgin Crescent is where the 52 (in 1968)and 452 (more recently) buses turn into Ladbroke Grove as you can see in this picture. [Planning photo -undated]

Ladbroke Grove 78 A - Copy

I started my walk here in 2013 heading up the hill into  relatively unfamiliar territory. But this section of the street, heading north towards the station was much more familiar – I worked for six years a little way up the street.

The first time I ever came to Ladbroke Grove was a literary pilgrimage to an address I thought was the home of the author Michael Moorcock, a hero of mine. I can’t remember how I came by the address. Information of that kind was not so accessible in the pre-internet era. There was supposed to be a notice on the door discouraging unwanted callers but I never saw it. I was perfectly happy just to be there. I was too late to see the Convent of the Poor Clares which was nearby on the east side of the street. As I have mentioned in a previous post it featured in Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius books. You can make out the housing block which replaced it. This was the Ladbroke Grove of science fiction, underground comics and magazines, New Worlds, Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies, the pre-punk counter culture. None of that is really visible here but like Hunter Thompson said if you had the right eyes you could see it.

( I later encountered Moorcock in the more conventional manner at a book signing. It was my wife who met him in the normal course of his day and got his autograph for me.)

In the picture below you can see that Advance House, as part of this terrace was called ,was a bank in 1968. The bank later moved to the corner of Lancaster Road. In the late 1970s the offices of Virgin Records were there.

Ladbroke Grove W side 101-109 ( Bank) 1970 KS 1699

At this point I have another motoring story. One Saturday lunchtime I was out and about and saw a Jaguar parked at about this point with a notice in the window offering it for sale for £100. Even then that looked like a bargain. Either I phoned my friend and flatmate Steve or I told him when I went back to the flat in Kensal Rise. Either way we were soon in his mark 1 Cortina coming back down to get the phone number. The car was Steve’s that evening. I recall a memorable drive down to Amersham to test the fuel consumption, which wasn’t that good actually. (He didn’t keep the car long). That inconsequential story has for me the flavour of those times – no smart phones, no tablets, no internet.  A more casual age.

 

Ladbroke Grove E side N K Public Library 1971 KS 2144

And that’s where I worked, North Kensington Library, built in the 1890s as part of the free library movement. What was it about that building, or that area which kept me in the library business for so long? I think it may have been something about the run down but lively atmosphere of North Kensington and its people, which grounded me in this particular London borough and made me feel at home here.

Ladbroke Grove W side Kensington Pk Hotel 1970 KS 1695

On the opposite corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road is the Kensington Park Hotel, an establishment I have never entered. In those days it had a bit of a reputation. (And is said to have been John Reginald Christie’s local). I was standing outside it one Saturday afternoon in 1980 around 5pm waiting for the Library to close and was stopped by a pair of friendly policeman for the suspicious behaviour of wearing a leather jacket and mirror shades. What was I thinking?

My colleagues and I always went to the Elgin, a few doors down from the Library where we felt more comfortable. The Elgin is now a pleasant gastro-pub and the KPH is undergoing changes.

Ladbroke Grove E side ' The Elgin PH' 1971 KS 2141

There has always been a parade of shops between Lancaster Road and the station.

Ladbroke Grove W side 141-143 1970 KS 1694

On both sides of the street.

Ladbroke Grove E side 110-112 1971KS 2146

Paul Tregeser there, the “Hot Bread Shop”.

The underground station marks the boundary between W11 and W10 so it’s the place where we pause.

Ladbroke Grove W side 159 & LT Station 1970 KS 1693

It was originally called Notting Hill Station.

Old Notting Hill

This is quite an early image. The blank space behind the railway bridge may be due to the quality of the print but it is true that there wasn’t much housing development up there until the railway came to the area and turned it into a London suburb.

In 1980, when I was nearby, the station was waiting for further development.

Ladbroke Grove station 1980s 02 - CopyLadbroke Grove station 1980s 03 - Copy - Copy

We’ll start Part 2 on the other side of the bridge.

Postscript

There was quite a lot about me this week. There’s a reason for that. These photo survey posts about particular streets often attract comments from people who lived in those streets who obviously know much more about them than I do and have many welcome reminiscences to add to the images. But Ladbroke Grove is a street full of memories for me so I thought that was a good place to start. This is my Ladbroke Grove, a few years at the start of my career when I lived and worked in west London. I met my wife here.

What about your stories?

Oh, and sorry. A little late posting this week. I had to check something first.


8 responses to “A shoot in Ladbroke Grove: Part One – W11

  • Eluzabeth

    I lived at 229 Ladbroke Grove 1953-1977 so I recognise a lot of the older photos. Used the library & worked in it occasionally. That’s the way I recall the Grove in my youth. Also worked one horrendous Saturday in that wool shop opposite the library on the corner of Lancaster Road.
    Wasn’t Barclays Bank only in Advance House for a temporary period while their usual building in Ladbroke Grove, diagonal opposite the aforementioned wool shop, was under-going repair?

    • Michael H.

      The original Barclays was exactly where the current one still is now.The original building was demolished rather than repaired…At a guess to build a more secure Bank.

      • Dave Walker

        Michael
        See my answer to Elizabeth. I never saw anything but colleagues told me the new bank opposite the library was robbed a few times before bank robbery went out of fashion.
        Dave

    • Dave Walker

      Elizabeth
      This is what I mean about local people knowing more than I do. Thanks. This answers the question of what a bank was doing at Advance House which puzzled me when I first saw the photograph.
      Dave

  • Hugh Levinson

    You might be amused……… In the late 60’s early 70’s I went to a party at Mike Morecocks flat in / near Ladbroke Road – I can’t remember. I am an old friend of Charles Platt (another sci fi writer) and he knew Mike Morecock quite well.

  • Sue Snyder

    From 1968 to 1976 I lived in a flat on the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Elgin Crescent. The main entrance to the building was in Elgin Crescent but there was and still is another door right on to Ladbroke Grove with steps leading up to it and an old lamp above. When we moved, this was blocked off and part of our kitchen. My mother had told me that when she was a child in North Kensington a doctor lived there who did not charge the poorest people who came to him for help. Later I saw a postcard from the 1900s (in the Local Studies archive I think) that shows the building as a pharmacy with the entrance on the corner and in the window looking onto Ladbroke Grove a window display of medicines plus a large sign reading OXYGEN.
    When we moved in, the houses in Elgin Crescent and in that section of Ladbroke Grove were mostly still in rented rooms. There were very few that were owned by a sole family. Converting them into flats for sale was just beginning and gradually the houses further west along the road with access to the communal gardens became attractive to wealthy families.

  • Tony Fellowes

    A school friend of mine lived in St. Mark’s Place, right behind the Virgin offices which we were forever peering into. We occasionally ventured into the KPH as wide-eyed teenagers trying to look cool, but frequented the much more respectable Mitre (and the quaint Ladbroke Arms) on a more regular basis.
    I was once barred from a pub (admittedly in more sedate Perivale) merely for wearing a leather jacket, also in about 1980. Kids today eh, don’t know they were born…

  • Jeremiah Cornelius

    A doctor did live at 87 Ladbroke Grove with a pharmacy attached whose entrance was in Elgin Crescent. Does anyone use the old Kelly’s Directories, which give enormous amounts of information about private addresses as well as commercial ones? There was a time you could find one or more in any public library. I often wore a leather jacket but don’t remember any trouble. Maybe we lived in less respectable times. I moved from my last address in Blenheim Crescent (Mrs Cornelius lived there at 51) in 1980 when it was getting a little uncomfortable with the gentrification which was evident in the increasing ‘privatisation’ of what had been publicly accessible areas (Derry and Toms included).

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