In the mid 19th century, wealthy landowner James Weller Ladbroke began to convert a large area of land in Notting Hill into a luxurious suburb for London’s upper middle classes. During this period, many of the capital’s artistic, cultural and political elites moved to the area. The area still houses a number of famous residents. Here are some of Notting Hill’s most famous residents, past and present;
Poet, novelist and social commentator Thomas Hardy lived in the Westbourne Park area of Notting Hill for a short period of time whilst working for architect Arthur Blomfield in the 1860s. It is reported that Hardy never felt properly at home whilst he was living in London, because of the very distinct social divides which could be seen in the area.
Fantasy and horror writer Arthur Machen lived in the Notting Hill area in the 1880s. Although he lived in relative poverty, he moved within the literary circles which operated in the area. Some of his inspiration was derived from the unusual sights and sounds of Notting Hill. Once of his mystical books, The Hill of Dreams includes scenes which are set within the local area.
During the interwar period, children’s author Elizabeth Clark lived in the Notting Hill area. She wrote a number of children’s books, poems and short stories. Many of her stories were turned into early television programmes for children, including stories for the programme Children’s Corner, which ran between 1924 and 1926. In addition to writing children’s stories, Clark also used to give lectures on how to craft and create stories for children.
George Orwell moved into rooms on Portobello Road in 1927, with the assistance of family friend Ruth Pitter. Pitter was also an author and helped Orwell to shape his early works. She critiqued his writing and poetry during his time in Portobello Road and helped him to explore the area for inspiration. He regularly ventured to the poorer parts of London so that he could gain a better understanding of people whose upbringing differed from his own.
Peter Rachman owned and operated a large number of properties in and around Notting Hill during the post-war period. He helped to transform many of the townhouses into Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) which had private bedrooms but shared communal spaces. Many of the HMOs were unsafe and unsanitary. Although he was well-known as someone who could find accommodation for new immigrants, he was also notorious for intimidating and exploiting the people who he housed. He was prosecuted twice for brothel-keeping.
John Christie was one of Notting Hill’s most infamous residents. He was found guilty of murdering at least 8 people at his flat on Rillington Place. He stored most of his victims in secret areas at this address. The murders were considered to be even more controversial, because another man was wrongful hung for the murder of two of the victims. Christie’s former home at Rillington Place has now been demolished along with the rest of the street.
Claudia Jones organised the first Caribbean Carnival in the United Kingdom, as a response to the 1958 Notting Hill race riots. The carnival aimed to celebrate Caribbean culture in the United Kingdom. This carnival was shown on the BBC and Jones was asked to host the celebrations. Claudia Jones was also known for pacifist black activism in the United States, as well as creating the UK’s first West Indian newspaper.
Reverend Bruce Kenrick
Reverend Bruce Kenrick was an ordained minister with the United Reformed Church. He was sent to live and work in Notting Hill. Reverend Kenrick was shocked by the state of housing in the area, especially the slum accommodation which was being run by notorious landlords like Peter Rachman. He soon set up the Notting Hill Housing association, in the hope of providing better housing for Notting Hill residents. His organisation helped to put pressure on the government to improve housing legislation across the country. Reverend Kenrick later went on to form national housing charity, Shelter.
Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur is one of the most famous modern residents of Notting Hill. Albarn has been involved in supporting a number of endeavours in the local area, including offering support to the Noting Hill Carnival. Albarn also runs a record label with the owners of Honest Jon’s records, which is based on Portobello Road. This record shop specialises in introducing global artists to the UK music scene and the record label has helped to release some compilation albums of interesting world music.
Fashion designer Stella McCartney previously owned a townhouse in the Notting Hill area. The bohemian vibe of Notting Hill helped to give McCartney inspiration for many of her designs, whilst the fashion district allowed her to opportunity to test those designs out. McCartney won a number of high profile fashion awards during the period in which she was living in the Notting Hill area.
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron owns a home in the North Kensington area of Notting Hill (also known as Ladbroke Grove). David Cameron became the leader of the Conservative Party in 2005. He sat in office as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for 6 years, but resigned in humiliation following the announcement of the European Union referendum result in 2016.