Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Portobello Market Is 150 Years Old but There's Nothing to Celebrate; When a Dump in W11 Goes on the Market for PS1.5million You Know Bohemia's Being Pushed out by Bankers, Says Author Julian Mash

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Portobello Market Is 150 Years Old but There's Nothing to Celebrate; When a Dump in W11 Goes on the Market for PS1.5million You Know Bohemia's Being Pushed out by Bankers, Says Author Julian Mash

Article excerpt

Byline: Julian Mash

AFORMER rundown shopfront in Notting Hill, with a flat above that needs extensive modernisation, 9 Blenheim Crescent was put up for sale at PS1.5 million recently. It is another example of the huge prices that houses in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea, dubbed the Monaco of London, regularly command.

But this address has special significance to the area, for it was here on Monday, September 2, 1958, that the worst race riots in post-war British history ignited. At that time it housed Totobags Cafe, a popular haunt of the West Indian community that also attracted a bohemian set of writers, artists and aristocrats -- Winston Churchill's youngest daughter Sarah is said to have frequented it.

It is one of the few remaining houses that has not been hollowed out, knocked through and given the Farrow & Ball treatment. Retaining its original frontage and used as a market store room, it acted as a reminder that the area hasn't always been so wealthy.

Today, it is increasingly difficult to detect the bohemian currents that once made the area the cradle of counter-cultural London. But this is nothing new.

In the past decade, many businesses that had been trading for years succumbed to steep rent rises, making way for ubiquitous upmarket chain stores. The most famous examples are Kingsland Edwardian Butchers, which closed in 2011 after 163 years, The Travel Bookshop in 2011 after 30 years and the Antiques Arcade on the corner of Westbourne Grove that housed 80-plus stalls. Most recently, Video City in Notting Hill Gate shut up shop at the end of last month after 30 years.

But surely the grit and grime of the costermongers and the bric-a-brac stalls of the market offer some ballast against the chainification of W11? Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Portobello Market also seems to be under threat after Westway Development Trust unveiled plans to build a shopping mall and restaurant at the northern end of Portobello Road.

Currently home to the world-famous vintage market, local residents have been forthright in their opposition, gathering signatures in an online petition against the scheme. …

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