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LATIMER ROAD, LADBROKE GROVE, WESTBOURNE PARK (Hammersmith & City) LONDON TUBE RAMBLES
Past squalor, present splendour - and Portobello Road Market.
Length of walk is about 1½ miles.

This walk starts in a district that was infamous for its poverty - even now it's not what you might call a fashionable area, but there are several intriguing things to be discovered. So, exit left from Latimer Road Tube into Bramley Road. Follow this and bear left as it becomes St. Ann’s Road. Here you will find some attractive modern (1987) dwellings built for the Octavia Hill and Rowe Housing Trust. Walk on until Stoneleigh Place,  on the corner of which is a slightly strange building with a stairwell of glass bricks - the Kenilworth Castle pub, rebuilt after WW2. Turn left here, noticing the string of ornamental brickwork at the corner of Stoneleigh Gardens. At the end of the road is a mini allotment for the people who live in the adjacent flats. Cross Sirdar Road, go right, and almost immediately turn into Mary Place. A workhouse [scroll down] for able-bodied paupers stood on the left in what is now Avondale Park Gardens. If you read the history you will appreciate why it was notorious as being one of the toughest workhouses in London.  The census returns alone, accessible by clicking on the link above, make chilling reading. Just after the St. George & Dragon Hall (artists' studios) is an entrance to Avondale Park. This was created in 1892 as part of the attempt to improve the area. Cut through the park, taking the left hand path until you emerge in Walmer Road. Opposite you will see steps to a cut-through and a 1970’s private development called Hippodrome Mews. Turn into the mews to see something unusual, for walking on the cobbles will shortly bring you to an old bottle kiln*, once used for firing tiles, drainpipes etc.

 
Return to Walmer Road for a view of the other side of the kiln and a plaque explaining that in the nineteenth century potteries and brickfields were to be found round here. In the 1840’s the housing and general squalor of the area were a public scandal. The clay that was so useful to the pottery industry unfortunately contributed to public health problems by preventing the waste produced by the thousands of pigs raised in the area from draining away properly. The district became known as the Potteries and Piggeries. Not surprisingly the result of the poor or non-existent sanitation was a high death rate from outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. 
The plaque on the kiln also refers to the Hippodrome Racecourse. This ill-fated enterprise was opened in 1837, the track being created round the hill where St. John's Church, Lansdowne Crescent, now stands. The undertaking was beset with problems from the start. The local inhabitants were incensed at the blocking of an important footpath. They protested by breaking down the fencing and organizing marches which meant that police had to be on patrol to keep them away. As if this were not enough, the clay made the going too heavy for the horses and the track closed after only four years. As well as Hippodrome Mews, the names of nearby Hippodrome Place and Pottery Lane recall the extraordinary history of this area. Unsurprisingly there is no 'Piggery Street'.
Continue past the kiln and walk to the end of Walmer Road. A left turn into Hippodrome Place brings you to one of the original service roads of the Ladbroke estate.
At the corner of Clarenden Cross and Portland Road is a shop at present selling terracotta pots. The huge oil jars high on the walls were part of the original store’s advertising. Further on is a large modernised brick construction, the Clarendon Works, formerly a builder’s warehouse. A dog-leg crossing of the Clarendon Road to the left will bring you to Ladbroke Rise and the estate proper.
Here is a very different world. You are now surrounded by enormous early Victorian white stucco houses. A glance at a map shows quite clearly that development followed the curve of the Hippodrome track. Cross Lansdowne Road and continue up the hill. You will soon discover that many of the roads have their own private communal gardens, well screened by mature trees. What is so amazing is that this magnificent development was taking place at a time when a short distance down the hill in Notting Dale the slums remained a significant health hazard.

At the end of Lansdowne Rise turn right into Lansdowne Crescent, passing the Victorian St. John's church. (This has an art gallery known as The Sacred Space.) Cross over the busy Ladbroke Grove road and go right for a few steps, before turning into Kensington Park Gardens, then almost immediately go left into Stanley Crescent - more elegant houses. Turn right into Stanley Gardens at the end of which you will see across Kensington Park Road a handsome red-brick church in classical style, St. Peter's, Notting Hill (1852). Walk to the left (some modern flats come as a bit of a shock at this point) and at the junction with Ladbroke Gardens turn right up Westbourne Grove. On the left hand side is a building with delicate plasterwork, once a welfare centre. The date on the facade is 1918 when much of the area was still run down. 

Note the 20th Century Theatre on the right towards the junction with Portobello Road. In spite of its name, this delightful little building is over 150 years old and has a remarkable history (well worth reading the link). In its time it has been a penny picture house, a music hall - and as a theatre was where Sir Laurence Olivier made his first professional appearance. Now it is used for exhibitions, book launches and the like. Continue walking and soon you are in the area of Portobello Market – another world again!

PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET Although it looks quiet in the photos which were taken mid-week in the winter, the street is chaotically crowded on Saturdays. Turn right for the posher dealers. If you turn left from Westbourne Grove, going downhill, you will find food stalls as well as more second-hand stuff. Don't miss the little Electric Cinema at No. 191. Having been built in 1910-11 it's one of the oldest surviving picture houses in the country. When you get to the last crossroads before the Westway flyover, which you will see straight ahead, go a little way down Lancaster Road on the right to see a very colourful terrace. Return, and continue across the Portobello Road to the western half of Lancaster Road. From here you can reach Ladbroke Grove Underground station which is over the road to the right, only a few minutes away.  As you wait for the lights to change, notice the jolly mural on the Kensington Park pub opposite. It reflects the chirpy character of the area.


To get to Notting Hill Gate Tube station go all the way UP the Portobello Road hill (some pretty cottages near the top). At the end turn right into Pembridge Road, the Tube station is only a few metres away in the Bayswater Road (left). 


*For a description of how a bottle kiln works, click here



Photos: (click to enlarge)
House in Kensington Park Road
Tile Kiln
Pot shop
St. Peter's Church

20th Century Theatre
Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market/Electric Cinema

Houses in Ladbroke Grove/Mural, Kensington Park pub

MAP
Latimer Road is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found, even in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to www.londontuberambles.co.uk to see the other destinations explored . You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR