80 Years Ago


Children from North Kensington Community Nursery in the months  before the outbreak of World War Two.

September 3rd 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2. Two days earlier on 1st September 1939, thousands of children from all over London were evacuated away from the dangers of the city. Most of them left their families to go and live with complete strangers. In 2006 thanks to a National Lottery award, I led a project to collect the memories of those who were children at the time in Kensington & Chelsea. The outcome was an exhibition which was available for schools to borrow. I have reprinted some of the stories here, in particular of those that relate to North Kensington. The exhibition will be on show again from early September 2019 at Kensington & Chelsea Central Library in the Local Studies section (check on opening times before visiting).

War is Declared

When war broke out I was 7 years old and living with my Mum, Dad and little sister in Hume Road, Shepherds Bush just off Norland Market. I went to Saunders Grove School.

The day war was declared, we had just come back from a Hop picking holiday in Kent and we heard a really loud noise that rang out through the streets. It was an air raid signal but I had never heard it before and had no idea what it was. I remember my Mum heard the signal and she had tears in her eyes and I asked her ‘What are you crying for?’ but she wouldn’t tell me.      

George Hewitt


In North Kensington, the head teacher of St Clement’s School, Miss Shuck gathered parents together to prepare them for departure. She was to end up staying with the children throughout the war. This is what she said to the parents, recorded in writing.

I have called you together because none of you who read the newspapers can fail to know that the country might be faced, and faced all too quickly, with a very serious position…

The first question is this – suppose war were to come… what would you do with your children? We have got, I am afraid, to assume – that aeroplanes would come over London dropping bombs… The bombs might, and probably would, be aimed at military objectives…but there is no knowing where some of them might land. What is more an aeroplane that has carried a load of bombs all the way to London is not going to carry them back if it fails to drop where it wants to, it is going to dump them anywhere.

That means that schools will have to be shut. They cannot be kept open, we cannot risk having perhaps of children hurt by a single hit. Even in the last war one school was hit and nineteen children were killed. What then are you going to do with your children? Some of you may be lucky enough to be able to get away into the country with them the moment an emergency is declared. But many of you are at work and many more of you could not get away in the first few days. If you were at work you would be thinking of your children every time you heard a bomb fall.

Would you be ready to entrust your children to their teachers to take them away into the country? If you entrusted them to us we might be able to start right away with them on the first morning.


Nobody wants us”

I was 11 when the war started, my sister was 10 and my brother 9. So we were all evacuated together with our school St Clement’s to Whitley near Oxford. My other brothers and sisters were older than us and didn’t go, but our parents said we had to go.

It seemed as if it took us all day on the train, I thought we were never going to get there, though it’s really not very far away, about an hour it takes now. Anyway, we finally did get there and we got taken to this hall, a school hall, and people came and took us children to their own homes.

My sister and me, we were never parted, but, do you know what? We were the last two left in the hall, her and me. We thought, gosh, nobody wants us. I mean you would think that, wouldn’t you?

Anyway this lady – we were very lucky, she was a lovely lady – she took us for a short time, but she didn’t keep us, because she had a son who was in the forces and she didn’t really want evacuees, but she was very lovely. My father came down the first Sunday to visit us. I knew he would.

Olive Mundy, evacuated with St Clement’s School.

“We thought we were going on holiday”

I was evacuated from Wornington Road School in North Kensington on Friday 1st September 1939. I was 12 years old and I had to look after my little sister who was 2 1/2 years younger than me.

I think we started our journey at 7 a.m. I can vividly remember us all lining up in two’s with our haversacks on our backs. Most of the haversacks contained a towel, a facecloth, toothbrush and toothpaste, a bar of toilet soap, a change of underwear, night clothes, a brush and comb, a slab of chocolate and a packet of biscuits. We also had gas masks across our backs. The children on the whole were quite cheerful as we left the school gates. We thought we were going on holiday for a few weeks.

When we finally arrived at the station in Bath I was horrified to see it all sandbagged. I said to my sister that I thought we had come here for safety, but they seemed to be expecting bombs too. We all got onto buses to go to Oldfield School (which I later attended). It was in the hall there that we would find out where we were billeted.

When we were in the hall I remember feeling that everyone was vanishing. My sister said she wanted to spend a penny so we found toilets in the playground. Coming out we felt a bit lost but luckily I saw my own classroom teacher and went up to her. Just as she was taking us back inside the school a lady came running up to her and said “I am Mrs Scott-Reid, wife of Dr Scott-Reid. I want two nice little girls.” My teacher looked at us and smiled saying “I have just the two for you.” With that we were led back into the hall for all the correspondence to be dealt with.

Mrs Ford

“All the mothers were on the platform”

On the day of the evacuation, we all assembled at the school and then were taken by coach to Paddington station. We all had labels like on a parcel made with thin cardboard with two corners cut off. On one side was our address where we were going to and on the other, where we had come from. We also had our own school badge – ours was diamond shaped, green with a pearl button – which was sewn onto our coat.

We took as many clothes as we could carry. I had an old case; I think it was probably canvas. We had a separate paper parcel with food stuff in it, which each parent had been advised to buy. It consisted of corn beef, carnation milk, condensed milk, a biggish bar of chocolate and some sweets – I had a packet of rollos. We also all had a gas mask of course, which was carried on a piece of string, hanging in a cardboard box.

There were probably about 120 of us from my school. I was of average age, slightly older than most. When we said goodbye, there were tears from some of the younger ones. All the mothers were on the platform and my mother came to wave me off.

Alec McAllister evacuated with Oxford Gardens School

From the local newspaper in Trowbridge, destination for children from Middle Row School.

middle row

Reception and Distribution

The children on the first day were a bright and cheerful party, many obviously regarding the experience as a holiday……….

After they had rested and been refreshed with tea, coffee etc. At the schools, the Billeting Officers set out with parties of children, armed with lists of householders who had volunteered to receive them. At most house the promises made were cheerfully fulfilled. At others the reception was not so cordial and at a few houses they were met with blank refusals.


From the Wiltshire Times, Saturday September 9th 1939

A Headmaster’s Thanks (To the Editor of the Wiltshire Times)

Sir :

Last Friday, 404 children evacuated from North Kensington arrived at Trowbridge under the care of their teachers.

We all thought that we had had a difficult task in planning the evacuation from the London end, but now we have been convinced that the task of billeting evacuees is far more difficult and has required most careful planning. All the teachers wish to express most sincerely their appreciation of the tireless labours of the Reception committee and the billeting officers.

Above all we wish to thank the kind friends we have found in Trowbridge for the really wonderful welcome offered to our children. We are truly thankful that We have of course, found a number of difficulties, but these, happily are already in hand, while others will be dealt with by the weekend. We have already heard from the parents of some of our children, and the letters are full of appreciation of all that has been down.

I am, sir, yours faithfully,

ERNEST.S. BURNETT, Headmaster, L.C.C School 445 (Middle Row)

From the Wiltshire Times, Saturday, September 16th 1939.

“I want two boys for a farm”

I was apprehensive because I had no idea where we were going and we were not told a lot. We were told we were being evacuated out of London because of bombing, but that was all. We didn’t know how long we were going to be there. People spoke about the war being over in six months, by Christmas. Time didn’t come into it. We had no idea how long we would be away.

We got to Melksham in Wiltshire and from there we were coached into three villages. On arrival in the village we were taken to the local school and into the school hall. A lady came around with a clipboard. Myself and a friend were the last to be picked. “I want two boys for a farm,” she said. We were taken in a car to the farm where we met the family. The family consisted of Mister and Missus and a son who worked on the farm; he was probably nineteen or so. There was also a daughter who didn’t work on the farm and another son in the RAF.

I think the only Jewish people my foster family had met were people who went to the farm to buy poultry, which they would sell at markets in London. I don’t think they thought much of them but we had no problem at all. The family asked me if I would go to chapel with them on Sundays. They didn’t want me to feel that I had been left behind. I said “No”, but by the same token I wasn’t so keen on going to synagogue either. We used the chapel for synagogue on Saturday mornings and that’s where I had my bar mitzvah. My mother came down from London with a bottle and cakes of some sort so we had a sort of kiddish after the service. There wasn’t much food because of the rationing.

Ken Smith evacuated with the Jewish School, Lancaster Road, aged12.


Stay together”

Before leaving London our mother told us to stay together. This caused problems as very few were willing to take 3 evacuees. Therefore we were the last to be allocated. Then a lady, Mrs Lloyd from Beechingstoke, agreed to take the 3 of us. We walked to the Lloyds’ house where we met Mr Lloyd and their son Stephen. The house had no running water, only a deep well, no electric lighting, only oil lamps, and the toilet was an earth closet.

John Hughes, evacuated with Oxford Gardens School, aged 6

“We all got fleas”

My Mum put me on a bus, which took us to Winchester.  I remember there were other children from various schools, and there were some children from my school there, so I wasn’t alone.

kumara,chrstmas card

I remember us being taken by government officials to people’s homes.  Every child was taken in, one by one, and I was last.  Noone wanted to take a black child. But eventually a place was found, and that was in Marlow, but I only stayed there for a short time. I was then taken to a lady with three other evacuee children.  It was an ordinary house where there was one room with three beds in it.  These beds were used during the day by workman and by night they were our beds.  I remember the lady didn’t change the bed sheets on a regular basis, so I had to endure the smell of the workman. I remember we all got fleas, but then the authorities found out and us kids were taken away! If I travel on buses or trains and workman come near me, it takes me straight back to that time.

Marie Kumara


Letter written to the parents of David and Mary Dyett, evacuated to Cornwall with Middle Row School,

Dear Mrs Dyett,

Thank you very much for the parcel received safely and all enclosed for the children, they were so excited over the contents of the parcel. I should like you to have seen them, Mary is delighted with her dolly and has been dressing it in different clothes and has been quite amused with it. The clothes and boots will be useful for her, also David’s coat is quite alright for here and also the pullover. They were also pleased with their letters and pocket money. Mary is here now using her crayons book, which they were both glad to have. They go to school in the mornings this week; most weeks they will go afternoons. They are both very well and are very happy here, quite at home with us.

I will explain how the children came to us. Mrs Ould is the lady next door, and she and I are just like sisters, so when the children came, she said she would take David, as I could not undertake two, as I am not very strong, so I took Mary; they came here together first and slept here together for the first week or so, and now David sleeps  next door with Mrs Ould’s boy who is 15 years and is nice company for him, but they often have their meals together and both of them in and out of the both houses to play with each other and go to school together, so they are not parted, and are quite happy here and Mrs Ould and I are doing all we can to make them comfortable. So you need not worry about them, they are quite all right. The children send their love to you both; they are busy playing now. So I will close now with fondest regards to you both,

From yours sincerely,

J.M. McGregor


No gas, no electrics, no toilet”

No gas, no electrics, no toilet – you name it, we didn’t have it. In London, we had had all these things including flushing water. There were none of these things at the Perrys. The toilet was a privy in the back of the garden. The toilet paper was old newspaper which I had to cut up into squares, poke a hole through the corner with a meat skewer, push string through and hang on a nail inside the privy. The bucket had to be emptied fairly frequently – by digging a hole in the ground and putting the contents in there. I did the job a few times. The privy had bare stone walls with concrete and a bucket with a wooden toilet seat. It was pretty grim and very cold – there was no heating of any sort. You took a candle in with you to see in the dark.

To get the drinking water, we had to go out the cottage door, across the main road, through a gate, into the field to a well. I would think it was about 70 or 80 yards away. We went with two buckets, tied them onto a hook and shoot the chain around till they submerged. Then we carried the water back with a bucket in each hand. We had to do that twice a day. It was marvellous spring water, always cold.

Alec McAllister evacuated with Oxford Gardens School

Oxford Gardens School

The exodus of the children from Oxford Gardens School was particularly well documented as many of the former children kept in touch in later years. One of them, John Wittering faithfully documented the evacuation with photos and a record of the names of many of the children who came not only from Oxford Gardens School but as war progressed from other parts of London too. I have attached here in pdf format copy of part of his record that shows photographs and names of children plus their teacher.

WW2 evacuees Worton and Marston. J. Wittering.

With thanks to those who participated in this project back in 2006.

Thanks also to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies.


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Memories of Solomon Woolfson School from Earl Okin

I was in the same year as Harvey (see previous blog posts on Schooldays in Lancaster Road). Living directly across the road, I was naturally almost always late…well…almost. I wrote about the school in my autobiography. I only live about 200 yards from it now, here in the Portobello Road. The Solomon Wolfson School building is now ‘The Lighthouse’. Here are my memories as in my autobiography. After those, I’ll list a few of the people in my year whose names I remember.

At my 8th birthday party in 1955. The children, starting at the back and going anti-clockwise are…my cousin, Susan Awkin, then Geoffrey, Bernard and Barry (can’t remember their surnames) and the Whitesman brothers. The grown-ups are Pat Slifkin, mother of my friend Lawrence, and my own grandmother.
All were students at SWJS.

They always talk of school-days being the happiest days of your life. Well, unlike my secondary school-days, primary school really was. The Solomon Wolfson Jewish School was a normal London County Council school with a couple of exceptions.

Firstly, it was indeed a Jewish school, so that we had a Jewish assembly, with hymns sung in Hebrew, alongside a daily Hebrew class, just before lunch, I seem to remember. This part of school life was the only part which did not interest me in the slightest. I never became much of a Hebrew scholar and, since I became an Atheist by the age of eight, my attitude to the usual school religious indoctrination wasn’t very co-operative.

The other difference was that Isaac Wolfson, a major businessman, gave a regular grant to the school in recognition that the school had been named after his father (I believe that the original name of the school had been the Bayswater Jewish School), so we certainly had superior furniture and so on.

I think that it’s fair to say that it was a happy school. I can remember no bullying in the playground, for instance. Boys played football, while girls, for some unknown reason, liked to tuck their skirts into their dark blue underpants and do hand-stands against the wall.

We also had occasional games of kiss-chase, with some rather smelly outside loos as ‘home’ or ‘safe’ and there were sprinting races the length of the side playground. There were also occasional crazes, such as yo-yos, the annual conker tournaments and various forms of marble games adapted to respective designs of drains dotted across the playground.

I remember well, all of the teachers who taught ‘upstairs’, where older children were taught and they tended to stay for a long time and, to us, seemed as timeless as the building itself.

There was Mr. Rodney (I was never in his class, but he signed my autograph book when I left the school, nevertheless), Mr. Lipschitz, an elegant man with grey hair who played piano, ran the school choir, kept his handkerchief up the sleeve of his jacket and threw pieces of chalk at children who were talking and Mr. Jay, a strict but warm man who occasionally suffered badly from lumbago but came in to teach anyhow.

I was born as part of the post-war ‘bulge’ and so there were two top classes when I reached my final year in the school. One was in the charge of Mrs. Walker, the only non-Jewish teacher (she took all of the non-Jewish children, when it came to religious lessons). Ironically, I believe that she as the longest serving teacher of them all. She still taught at ‘Solly Woolly’, as we affectionately called our school even when I had become a school-master myself!

Last but not least was Mr. Shenfield, a medium sized man with a prominently bald head, who always seemed to wear the same suit and could be very funny when he wanted to be.

In general, we were pretty well-behaved children and, despite the odd grumble, were fond of all of our teachers.

The headmaster was Mr. Somper, who seemed to spend most of his time in his office, smoking a pipe. He was quite a kindly man, I think, but seemed very remote to children and when you were sent to him for any reason, you had to knock at his door and wait for that ‘ENTER’ sign to be lit, before daring to turn the handle and go in. However, his reaction did not please my mother at all when, early on, I had an accident, playing ‘had’ or ‘it’ soon after first joining the school.

I remember someone calling ‘had’ and pushing me in the back. The next thing I remember was colliding with a brick wall and having to get bits of my recently half-grown front tooth removed from my lower lip.

My mother went to complain about lack of supervision in the playground and Mr. Somper, after expressing sympathy then came out with what these days would not be regarded as a very PC remark, by way of comfort. ’Think how more upset you would have been, had he been a girl’. My mother was furious.

However, I wasn’t really upset and the experience certainly didn’t stop me running around the playground like a complete lunatic playing football, either during playtimes or after school, when I joined the Jewish Lad’s Brigade, a sort of Jewish Scout movement. It seems that my knees were permanently grazed or cut for the next four or five years in that short-trousered period of my life.

As well as I remember the teachers, I remember many of my fellow pupils. Here are a few of them; Henry Magrill and Michael Rath, my chief rivals when it came to exams and tests. At time of writing, I’m due to see Michael when I perform in Devon next week, where Michael now lives. Then there was Michael Levi, also very bright and who, along with the others, followed me to the same grammar school after I left Solomon Wolfson.

Judith Lowenstein, Michael Rath’s cousin wore plaits, and was dubbed the sex-symbol of the school among the other 10 year olds. Rumours as to whom she might have chosen as her ‘boyfriend’ went around the playground in a fashion that would do credit to today’s ‘celebrity’ magazines.

By contrast, and I won’t mention her name, there was a girl whom everyone decided was ‘smelly’. Behind her back, there were ‘stinky’ jokes and you were laughed at if you had to have your desk next to hers. The probability is that the whole thing was a complete fabrication.

Then there was Yvonne Wales, a pretty blonde girl, (who was some sort of relation of a then current TV celebrity called Ronnie Waldes, I remember), her friend Evelyn Schmulewicz, whose mother had survived one of the concentration camps, Jacqui Waterman, another very bright pupil who most impressed me, however, with the fact that she was one of the fastest in our playground sprint races.

Marion Mandel, was another girl with plaits, though I was chiefly jealous of her national health glasses with white frames! I couldn’t wait to wear glasses, I remember, but it was some time before I was given the chance.

Among the boys there was also Martin Atkins, whom we thought was a bit of a show off, John Krushner (I hope I have his name correct) who was the Stanley Matthews of the playground and always got picked first when we played football, and an amazing family with the surname of Moses.

Poor kids! Their parents had named them Miriam Moses, Aaron Moses and, I believe there was even a Moses Moses! Such was the standard of our school that Aaron Moses, the one in my year, (whom I remember as quite small and with dark wavy red hair), was regarded as not very bright. The last time I heard about him, he’d become a University lecturer!

Among those who were my closer friends was Wayne Alston, a little boy with impeccable manners (which impressed my grandfather very much; he would always shake hands with everyone most gravely whenever he came to my home). He had a mother who taught piano and an elder brother who actually played classical piano!

However, what I found much more fascinating was the fact that this elder brother also possessed a single eyebrow that went from one side of his face to the other without a break! This was much more impressive!

Wayne himself was surely destined to be a businessman, we thought, or perhaps a crook. There was a cinema next to the school, called the Royalty. It offered little postcards listing next month’s attractions. These were free. So Wayne, at the age of about eight, would take a handful and go around the corner and sell them to grown-ups passing by for a ha’penny each!

Then there was Graham Winefolk, always very bright but who could be a bit wild at that age. He later changed his name to Wines and, alongside his elder sister, emigrated to Australia, where he is now a leading architect. I caught up with him again when I started performing over there in the 1990s.

By contrast, I lost track of Norman Waidhofer completely. He was a very kindhearted sort of boy and another who went on to the same grammar school as I, later on. I remember going to his home where his parents seemed older than others. His father, I remember, had a strong accent, Viennese, I think, and had a limp. He also had a wonderfully warm personality and I always liked to visit them for tea. Then there was Maxie Marks, but more of him later.

I could continue with this list, but I’ll add just two more. Firstly, Yves Schama suddenly appeared at our school after the Suez crisis, when his family had fled to London. He had been born in Egypt and spoke French. He was put next to me and we started teaching each other our respective languages.

We got on well, but I lost touch with him until only a couple of years ago when I traced him through one of those Internet ‘where are they now?’ Web sites. He turned out to live only a couple of miles from me and I recognized him instantly, despite the 40 plus year gap. Incidentally, I also got to meet Wayne Alston again in the same way. He now runs a computer business with his son.

Last but not least was my best friend, Laurence Slifkin. He was small and slim with a shock of light red wavy hair. Had he been a girl, you would have called him a strawberry blonde.

Why we got on so well I can no longer remember and didn’t seen him for decades, but for a few years we were inseparable, playing cricket in the park, going out with our parents, taking the tube to Stamford Hill to go tenpin bowling, sneaking into bus and train depots where we weren’t supposed to be at all, to collect numbers (we were avid London Transport bus and train-spotters) and goodness knows what else.

In Stamford Hill, since we went on Saturday mornings, we used to watch all the ultra-religious Jewish families on the way to Synagogue, still dressed in 19th century clothing. With their wide-brimmed hats, we immediately dubbed them ‘Cowboys’.

Laurence’s father was some sort of businessman and drove what we at the time thought was quite a large limousine, unlike the Morris Minor that the headmaster drove or the tiny Fiat 600 that my father bought about that time. Laurence’s mother was rather pretty, very warmhearted and always impeccably dressed but perhaps not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

I remember once, for instance, when somebody had used the phrase ‘taking umbrage’ her remarking that Umbrage was a very strange name to give to a Jewish boy. Likewise, she would refer to ‘Hermesetas’, one of the brand names for saccharine pills, as ‘Homosexuals’, with no idea of the mistake that she was making.

Laurence went on to a different secondary school and I lost track of him completely after that. Somehow, we’d outgrown one another. Only recently have I found him again. By pure coincidence, he was in the audience at a show I gave in Shepherd’s Bush a few months ago. Like his father, he became a businessman. We are due to have a proper reunion very soon, maybe with another couple of ex-Solomon Wolfson pupils.

At this point in time, I can’t remember quite when, we moved from Arundel Gardens, though it’s quite possible that it was soon after the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the resultant trouble in the building below us.

Suffice to say, however, that we did finally move to Lancaster Road, bang across the road to my school and into a flat of four rooms which also sported what must have been another ancient bathroom with a water geyser that made a noise like the Titanic sinking as it gulped out hot water but we did at least have a proper working bathroom!

The landlady lived in the basement. Her name was Mrs. Hocking. She seemed ancient to me and was certainly crippled with arthritis. I remember now her swollen knuckles. Her pride and joy was a massive, impassive and somewhat lazy cat called Peter who enjoyed the unspoiled splendour of the unkempt jungle, otherwise known as the back garden.

Naturally, despite the proximity to my school, I was always either late or only just arriving in the playground as they blew the whistle.

It’s strange now, when Notting Hill has such a different image that, at the time, people would look extremely worried when we told them where we lived, for this was the era of race riots.

Indeed, I remember once watching from my bedroom window on the top floor a frightened looking West Indian running down the road, followed by a large group of racialist thugs who were throwing bottles at him. I never knew if they caught him. I hope not.

These thugs, however, were not local. They were bussed in from South London by right wing organizations. We called them all Mosleyites, after Sir Oswald Mosley, the ex-leader of the British Fascist Party who seemed to be the centre of such racialist activity at the time. As Jews, only a decade or so after the end of World War Two, we were naturally all very anti-Mosley!

Anyhow, all of this may explain why, one day, a tall black girl appeared in my class. Her name was Miriam. Probably, her mother thought that Jews would understand the problems of being a minority group and wanted her daughter to attend our school. Of-course, this didn’t work.

None of the kids worried about her being black, mind you. No, they excluded her from games because she admitted to eating bacon! Religious indoctrination had led them to believe that this was a sin little short of murder!

I remember someone else innocently mentioning that he’d eaten bacon in class one day. Oh my goodness! His life was made a misery for some time afterwards! (I quite liked bacon, myself, but kept this fact pretty quiet).

Well, young Socialist that I was, I wasn’t having this and made sure that Miriam and I became friends. She told me that she’d come from Spain, which I found a little confusing, but her mother later told me that they had actually come from Port Of Spain in the West Indies!

My sympathy for Miriam was increased when I found out that her mother (there was no father around) didn’t get back from work every day until long after school. Miriam had to let herself into her own empty home at the end of Ladbroke Grove with a key that she wore on a string around her neck.

She was, in short, a ‘latch-key child’! (I’d heard this phrase on some TV documentary of the time, regarded this state of being as the epitome of suffering and was convinced that I should help in some way).

So, I often invited her across the road for tea and she would stay until her mother had got home an hour or two after school ended. For this, I was rewarded with an invitation to her birthday party some months later. I remember even now all the highly coloured party dresses of the West Indian girls; bright pink, blue, green and yellow.

However, one winter’s rainy afternoon, my mother began to be alarmed when I didn’t show up. It was 5:30 at least when she came across to the school playground to look for me, and found me in the dark. When asked what I was doing, I replied simply that I was playing marbles with Miriam.

My mother was not impressed.
‘Well’, she said, ‘I see that Miriam’s had the sense to go home’.

Out of the darkness came a voice. ‘No I haven’t Mrs. Okin. Here I am’.

Miriam was very dark-skinned and was wearing a black duffel coat. My mother hadn’t seen her at all in the gloom and was very embarrassed. Naturally, we both went across the road for tea!

Miriam left the country after a while and I heard years later on that she’d had a child of her own, though I believe that the child sadly became a victim of sickle cell anemia.

Some of the people in my year were Harvey Groffman, Susan Awkin (my cousin), Michael Rath, Michael Levi, Judith Lowenstein, Marion Mandel, Yvonne Wales, Evelyn Schmulewitz, Henry Magrill, John Krushner, Wayne Alston, Jacqui Waterman, Janet Girsman, Laurence Slifkin, Yves Schama, Martin Atkins, Grahm Winefolk, Norman Waidhofer..and then there was Bernard and Geoffrey (whose surnames I can’t remember).

Earl Okin

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Blenheim Crescent looking west from Portobello Rd 1971. Photo RBKC Local Studies.


In June I curated and led a walk around W.10 and W.11 focusing on this topic. I was conscious that the establishments we covered by no means constituted a comprehensive list so I am posting my working notes from the walk and sincerely encourage readers to respond with comments/anecdotes/recollections both on the establishments described and information/stories about clubs/dives not listed here. Hopefully some forgotten ‘gems’ will surface.

I have commented on the individual premises in the order we visited them so that anyone wishing to replicate this walk can readily do so.


During this period the activity surrounding the clubs played out against a background of rapid and far reaching social change which in this area was allied to an influx of West Indian immigrants bringing with them a different culture…….So there was a lot happening! For the first time, the youth developed it’s own identity and voice … and had money to spend, which in itself was at counterpoint with the austerity following on from the end of the war.

To quote Philip Larkin, “Sexual intercourse began in 1963, between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP”.

Many clubs opened and closed for a variety of reasons. The clubs varied greatly but generally supplied a demand for OUT OF HOURS DRINKING, GAMBLING, MUSIC, PROSTITUTION AND DRUGS or a combination of these. …..running through the types of establishments, some were simply ‘drinkers’ making alcohol available outside of pub hours (11am-2pm, 5.30 – 11pm, 10.30 Sundays) These often offered the facility to place cash bets (illegal until the 1960 Act legalised betting shops) and, at least prior to c.1956, catered largely to the indigenous white population. Were they legal? Ostensibly ‘yes’ as usually initially a ‘club’ license was obtained permitting alcohol to be sold to ‘members’ outside pub hours and to 2 am…..however usually these restrictions were ignored or abused causing them to be closed only for a replacement to be quickly opened nearby prompting the police to dub them ‘mushroom clubs’.

The West Indians soon opened their own versions of these, many around the Colville area, christened Shebeens (and usually wholly illegal) after the Irish name for such establishments. These generally charged c.2/6 entrance and sold Red Stripe West Indian beer @ 2/6 a can/bottle.

Some spots lacked an alcohol license and were simply extended hours coffee bars with music and/or a drug supply, some spots offered food with some of the aforementioned vices added on, most provided a convenient meeting place for the criminal fraternity. All had at least some connection to criminals and criminality and some were wholly criminally owned and run, attracting a similar clientele. We will talk more about the drugs available as we go along. The sites we visit is by no means a comprehensive list….there were many other places most short lived, providing a variety of ‘entertainment’

The walk starts on Blenheim Crescent near Kensington Park Road.

THE BLUE MOON (Ex.THE BABY DOLL), 19 BLENHEIM CRESCENT (entrance via door leading to the basement – which remains to this day).

As the Baby Doll, it was owned and run by white criminals for white criminals including the ‘heavy mob’, then c.1962 it was taken over by Jamaican Roy Edwards who ran it together with the violent Dennis Matis on the door and Noel Walsh on the sounds.The latter was known as ‘two-gun Cassidy’ on account of him shooting a policeman in Liverpool in the 50’s. All three had criminal records for violence. It retained the patronage of the white criminal element (including members of notorious Notting Hill families) who were joined by the West Indian equivalent and gays of both sexes (remembering this was still illegal). It was a veritable den of inequity. Fights were very common both inside and outside but they were never racial. Comically the sign on the door read ‘hours 9-5’… omitting to mention this was 9pm to 5am. The police raided frequently making arrests, the most common offences being ‘living off immoral earnings’ ( which increased after a condom machine was installed in the Ladies), or drugs (in the club or close by). Eventually a large raid resulted in the arrest of many including the three Jamaicans with ‘2-gun Cassidy’ receiving 3 ½ years (!) for possession of a small amount of cannabis. Many believed this was planted on him because of his earlier non-fatal shooting of the policeman.

walk towards Portobello Road

Incredibly there were two more clubs on Blenheim Crescent between the Blue Moon and and the junction with Portobello Rd……………………

At 15a, ‘CAFE CONTINENTAL’, a basement club attracting a mixed (black/white clientele).


1-9 Blenheim Crescent, 1971. Photo RBKC Local Studies

At no.9 ‘THE NUMBER 9’ (formerly Totobags cafe). This was almost exclusively black. As ‘Totobags’ it had served as a meeting place/refuge for West Indians during the Race riots (Aug 29-Sept 2 ’58). All these clubs attracted prostitutes (as did the KPH) but not necessarily for business….even sex workers need ‘downtime’.

turn left into Portobello Road stopping opposite Alba Place..

Here at 218 was ‘BONAS’ (always pronounced ‘bonners’) a cafe on street level with a ‘drinker’ in the basement used mainly afternoons by older whites including many stallholders among them Johnny Spencer who had a stall outside and The Cains whose stall was on the corner of Westbourne Park Road.

continue along Portobello turning left into Lancaster Rd….50 yards down stop outside 77…..

77 Lancaster Road, 2018. Photo by D. Hucker

Here was the ‘SEVENTY SEVEN’, a West Indian restaurant and club used by (mainly) blacks and whites of various ages.

turn around continuing back along Portobello Rd stopping opposite ‘Makan’ (ex.No. 262)…..this is broadly the site of:

EL PORTOBELLO’ on the ground floor (most were basement premises). Young mixed race clientele, juke box music, no alcohol, only coffee…open until 2am attracting most of the local ne’er do wells’ serving as a well known pill distribution centre…outside was a sign that read’ Your late night Rendezvous’ which was ironic as nobody knew what a ‘rendezvous’ was. C.1964 it morphed into ‘BOBO’S‘ (sited at the rear) which was similar attracting a ‘MOD’ crowd eager for pills.



‘Pep pills’ were the drugs used by young whites (and younger blacks joining in with the MOD movement.) In reality these were slimming pills that only became ‘pep pills’ when taken in treble or more of the recommended (1 a day) dosage, the effect increasing with the dose. Until 1960 these were readily available over the counter from chemists and were taken routinely by air hostesses to keep them awake on long flights..but there was a murder committed on the South coast in the course of a robbery by a teenager found to be high on his Mums slimming pills which led to them being made ‘prescription only’ by law…..thereby creating an overnight industry among young entrepreneurs looking to make a fast buck and providing regular work for burglars breaking into chemists shops……Very conveniently for the smarter of these young entrepreneurs a Drug factory had opened on nearby Kensal Road (British Drug Houses) from where supplies were readily obtained via ‘the back door’. Supplies were further supplemented by obliging chemist shop workers & pharmacists eager to make a few quid on the side.


DRINAMYL – ‘PURPLE HEARTS’ The most common – I think these were prescribed for ‘anxiety and lethagy’ …When he authorities realised their alternative usage as pep pills they changed the shape to round…..needless to say they were on the streets the next day as ‘FRENCH BLUES’.

DEXEDRINE (yellow tab) – ‘YELLOW DEX’

DEXEDRINE (white tab imprinted ‘P’ for Preludin) ‘P’s’

DUROPHET – BLACK BOMBERS(came in black capsules)


The above were traded generally at 6d though Black Bombers were 9d – 1/-

CANNABIS – generally not used by young local whites until the early 60’s when the hippies discovered it, .. from the early 50’s it was imported and used by West Indians and sold in the clubs alongside the pills at 5/- per newspaper wrap….I think slighter older, more sophisticated whites, not local, used it…..but not the MODS.

proceed along Portobello Rd, turning right into Golborne Rd stopping outside no. 101…here was the ………THE BLUE ROSE CLUB.….

101 Golborne Road, 2018. Photo D.Hucker.

An ‘all nighter’ pill type club attracting plenty of ne’er do wells’ …..someone was shot outside here in 1963 thus heightening interest.

continue along Golborne rd, turning right into St Ervans Road

….here just into St Ervans Road at c.no.6 was….

St Ervan’s Road looking north towards Golborne Rd 1970. Photo RBKC Local Studies

‘THE AMERICANO’ opened and run by Dizzy a Jamaican from Kensal Green. It became popular playing good music and attracting customers from the aforementioned BLUE MOON which didn’t go down well with the B.M. ‘management’ ….. one night a Ford Anglia pulled up with a couple of B.M. ‘staff’ accompanied by two local white tearaways Frank Chopin and Bill Sykes M (known as, not his real name) ..they smashed the place to pieces and stabbed Dizzy in the top of the head. Dizzy was somewhat dismayed by this incident and it never reopened, Dizzy returning to an easier life in Kensal Green.

continue to the end of St Ervan’s Road, through the flats, over the Westway and railway bridge turning right onto Tavistock Crescent…continue along into All Saints Road passing what was ‘The Pelican’ (now the ‘Italian Job’) on the corner at the junction with Tavistock Rd. Stop at no.24.

Here HARRY WRAGGS …. an all nighter owned by West Indians but safe for whites….club in the basement…no alcohol but plenty of drugs. Also a convenient HQ for prostitutes and their ponces.

pause at the junction with Lancaster Rd…..

At this point it is worth remembering the ‘JACK THE STRIPPER MURDERS’ Between ’59 and ’65 eight prostitutes were murdered and their bodies dumped in various W.London locations. Nobody was charged. This area reeks of these murders….several lived here, all worked in the area using the clubs. Victim no 3,  Hannah Tailford lived at Pembridge Villas. Victim no 5 , Helen Barthelemy, was last seen alive in the Jazz club at 207 Westbourne Park Rd. Victim no 6, Mary Fleming, known locally as Gummy Mary lived at 44 Lancaster Rd and was last seen alive in an unlicensed ‘drinker’ at 32a Powis Square. Victim no 7,  Francis Brown had lived at Westbourne Park Rd and was last seen alive in the Warwick Castle at 225 Portobello Rd. It seems likely that the killer lived or worked in the area.

proceed along All Saints Rd stopping outside No.8………

Formerly the Mangrove, All Saints Road.  2018. Photo D.Hucker.

THE MANGROVE….owned by Frank Critchlow, it opened in ’68 as a restaurant with a 24 hour license and the successor to the El Rio. It soon became a drug distribution centre despite Critchlow effecting an anti-drug stance & claiming he had nothing to do with them….he twice faced drug charges while at the Mangrove and was twice acquitted. After a year the 24 hour license was revoked after police officers testified that cannabis was often in evidence however the restaurant continued to operate with a total disregard of the licensing laws. Police raids continued attempting to curb the flagrant licensing breaches and during one in May ’70 Critchlow and his brother Victor were arrested,charged and later convicted of assaulting a police officer. Critchlow was sentenced to four months, reduced on appeal to a £25 fine. His brother was fined £20. There were several subsequent convictions for Critchlow and various managers for running a late night cafe without a license. Amongst the customers were; Vanessa Redgrave, Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jnr, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Richard Neville (‘OZ’ mag editor) Diana Ross, Sarah Vaughn and Paula Yates

proceed to the end of All Saints Road turn left into Westbourne Park Road, stopping at 207 at junction with Ledbury Road. Here is:

THE FIESTA/THE JAZZ CLUB.. on the corner of Westbourne Park Road and Ledbury Road (opposite corner to the {ex} pub) – club entrance in Ledbury Rd The Fiesta opened in ’61 by Trinidadian Larry Ford and later, c.1963, became ‘The Jazz club’.  Music, dancing, alcohol & drugs…popular with prostitutes for business and pleasure and known to be be frequented by Helen Barthelemy, the 5th victim of ‘Jack the Stripper’ in ’64. Ford quickly racked up a string of convictions for selling alcohol without a license.

Next door in Ledbury Road was…….

THE CALYPSO.…opened in ’57 styled as The Calypso Dance and Social club, it was used by West Indians to hold a ‘council of war’ on day two of the ’58 riots (Sept 1st).

At 32a Powis Square was an unlicensed drinker frequented by ‘Gummy Mary’ Fleming, the 6th victim of Jack the Stripper Run by Roy Stewart who worked as a film extra/ stuntman.

Continue on to 127, pausing just past the junction with Great Western Rd to point out

THE GIGI at 32 St Stephen’s Gardens. (building now demolished). This was mainly a ‘spieler’ run by Michael DeFreitas.

Stop opposite127…Here was:

Rios Westbourne Park Rd. 2018 Dave copy

127 Westbourne Park Road, 2018. Photo D.Hucker.

THE EL RIO...opened in 1959 by Frank Critchlow notionally as a ‘coffee bar’ but open 24 hours included alcohol, dancing and drugs putting Crichlow on a collision course with the police…he was convicted 9 times in the 7 years it remained open, usually for selling alcohol, contravening opening hours etc… Originally it attracted a black clientele incl. all the activists/hustlers… Michael DeFreitas Lucky Gordon, Darcus Howe, Johnny Edgecombe etc. but it’s notoriety began to attract a bohemian, intellectual arty crowd curious to sample the wilder more hedonistic side of life, including amongst these were Colin McInnes (looking for boys – he was openly gay when it was still illegal,and was related to Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin), Brian Jones, Stephen Ward, Guinness heir Tara Browne, barrister Lord Tony Gifford. It’s attraction was considerably aided by Vincent Bute, the sounds man who sourced all the latest ‘blue note’ label records which were hard to obtain then.

It’s place in history was sealed when Stephen Ward introduced Christine Keeler to the two West Indians Aloysius ‘lucky’ Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe who both became her lovers, couplings which resulted in jail terms for both of them and the downfall of Secretary of State for War, John Profumo (another lover) and ultimately the collapse of the Macmillan government. The famous Mandy Rice-Davis quote from the trial, ‘he would wouldn’t he’, appears today inset into the pavement on the opposite side of the road to the club premises at 127.

The end.

With grateful and appreciative thanks to Bobby Kirkham who provided much invaluable help, information and assistance.

John Henwood, 2018.

Posted in Before the Westway, Golborne, Shops, Streets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Mews of North Kensington – Dave Hucker

Denbigh mews.Hucker

Denbigh Mews, 2018 (Hucker).

Mewed is a French word describing a building where Falcons were Mewed, or left to shed their plumage. The first use in London was for the Royal Mews which were round about where the National Gallery is on Trafalgar Square. That is where the Royal falcons were kept.

After a fire at his stables in Bloomsbury in 1537, Henry VIII rebuilt the buildings in Trafalgar Square and used them as stables. The birds were evicted but the buildings still kept the name the Royal Mews. So Mews eventually became a generic name for coach houses and stabling.

In this blog I am deliberately only looking at the area within the Parish Boundary of Kensington, from Notting Hill Gate/Holland Park Ave northwards to the Canal/Harrow Road and eastwards to the peripheries of the boundary and west to Latimer/Norland Roads where the boundary ran down Counters Creek.

It was said by the Victorian social researcher Henry Mayhew that “The Mews of London constitute a world of their own”.  There are 433 original stabling Mews left in the whole of London and 70 are in W11 and W10, which is a reasonable number for such a small area. The Mews always seem to have given W10/W11 quite a large part of the area’s identity.

The humble Mews represented one side of the aspirations of the land owners, developers and speculative builders who constructed the estates and houses in W11 in the 1850’s & later in W10. Often it was Wild West frontier capitalism. Then everything was Leasehold and a lot of the Mews still are.

When development started the owners sold off blocks of land, or even singular plots to speculative builders, who constructed the houses at their own expense. The land owner stipulated how the buildings would look and also had their surveyors approve the details when the houses had been built. The builder got his money from the lease while the land owner got a ground rent which made them money from what had previously been fields and pasture, or for example – a failed racecourse. When the 99 year leases were finished the property reverted to the land owner.

The builders and speculators were building single family dwellings for the new metropolitan middle class, who had moved from places near the edge of city, like Bloomsbury – to the leafy suburbs developing round the Hippodrome Racecourse above Notting Dale. These new estates were designed with everything that this new metro group would want. There were shops nearby and the Mews were hidden away round the back.

The Mews were built for the residents who had leased a house, to stable their horse, carriage and driver, who would transport them to the City or wherever else they wanted to go. The Mews also housed the horses and carts needed to move goods around and the Hansom cabs for moving people.

Mr and Mrs T.A.Bunn LionelMews

Mr and Mrs T.A.Bunn outside the family farriers/blacksmiths at 5 Lionel Mews (since demolished). The mews ran off Telford Road.   Photo : Darren Windsor.

Mews were part of the support system for the new inhabitants of the area. They also provided all the transport business’s needs, supporting everything the stabling trade required such as blacksmiths, chandlers, bridle repairers. And who supplied the feed for the horses? If you were one of our many Welsh Dairies you needed stabling for the transport that went everyday to Paddington to collect the churns of fresh milk. This would then be sold from the shop or decanted into bottles and delivered round by horse and cart. When you were a self – employed Hansom Cab driver, where did you rent a place to keep your cab and the horse? How did you pay the rent, weekly or monthly?

The Mews had been thrown together really cheaply and for most of the time, pretty badly. They were shoddy, small, cold, cramped and draughty places, always damp, with very little natural light. The coachman might live upstairs in quite primitive conditions, with probably just a cold water supply.

The Mews were always on cobbled streets sloping steeply to the centre, to easily allow mucking out the stables and wash everything down to where the drains and sewers were in the middle of the road. Given the nature of life then, probably very little was wasted. Straw and horse manure was probably moved on…. by horse and cart.

In posh places like Horbury Mews, which was probably the Mews for the very large houses in Ladbroke Square, there was definitely superior accommodation commensurate with the status of the owner of the house. In less swanky parts it was not so top notch.


Horbury Mews 2018 (Hucker)

This worked well until a number of things happened. Inhabitants of the new developments in the northern end of Ladbroke Grove used the recently opened omnibus routes and Ladbroke Grove station to get around and connect to other parts of London. These residents were the modern Metropolitans and had no need for a horse and carriage.

There already had been an awareness by the developers that less Mews were needed in the north of the borough. The Mews would have seen a subtle evolution of use. They have always changed to suit the needs of the people who use and live there. So they drifted into light industrial, storage – like for some of our Portobello Stall holders and their carts.

The Mews in North Ken were generally quite mundane compared to the opulent ones down in the south of the Borough. Those often had elaborate arches over the entrance. Up in the North no space was wasted and sometimes the entrance to the Mews were built over, to maximise income.

Nineteen Century reformer Charles Booth commented that the Mews were “more generally occupied by poor families carrying on little trades, and by profligate and destitute persons, than used as stables” He marked Bolton Mews off Portobello Rd as dark blue in his poverty map. Which is “Very poor, casual, Chronic want”. As was Talbot Mews, a particularly malodorous place.

Talbot Mews (2) - 1932 copy

Talbot Mews 1932 (RBKC Local Studies)

World War One changed everything. We lost so much of the population from all classes, the demographics of our life totally changed. A surplus of ex WW1 army trucks helped to replace the vast number of horses requisitioned and killed in the Great War.  And so equine power was replaced by horsepower. The internal combustion engine became the prime power source, which also coincided with the big houses being split up into flats. There was just not the need for the big family houses and their servants and separate Mews any more.

Not a lot changed physically with the Mews but sometimes the use evolved. Small industries moved in. They changed to automotive use, mechanics and car showrooms, an example being the Sports Cars adverts in Pembridge Mews.

Blechynden Mews looking west with Ford Zephyr 1969 KS1274 copy

Blechynden Mews, 1969, demolished. (RBKC Local Studies)

In the 50’s many Mews had become a dump, but sometimes cheap bijou dumps. Places hidden away, a dead end, a no through route. Although also providing you with a space to park your car – cars needed to be garaged more at that time.

railway mews. hucker

Railway Mews (from Everchanging Mews)

In the 60’s, TV series like The Avengers and The Saint, made Mews hip places to be. There was also the 1980’s famous VW Golf advert that featured a Mews with the actress who looked like Princess Diana. If you wanted a home in a fashionable area but did not want or could not afford a whole house then the Mews became an option. What they lacked in convenience they made up for in novelty.

Mews are fascinating and frustrating. There are a number of areas, which so far I really have failed to find definitive answers to certain arcane questions; did the speculative builders who constructed the houses build the Mews as well? Probably – yes. So when you bought a lease on one of these nice big houses, did it include a space in the Mews? Or was that a separate lease or rental? I assume a separate lease/rental. Why did/do the Mews have a different ownership from the leasehold tenants? Does that explain why quite a few Mews are private, gated and unadopted?

Mews have frequently been private but when parking regulations came in, sometimes it gave the owners reason to gate it. And as the mews were always quite narrow, parking generally had caused a lot of problems. There are quite a few where the Council did not adopt the road and so do not maintain it. These generally are the private ones. Ruston Mews is one, the residents paid to be connected to the sewer system, while the Council charge them for electricity for their street lights.

There are very few totally original Mews left. Many have been reconstructed, rebuilt, altered and often a pastiche of what a Mews should be. My personal favourite is Portobello Mews a genuine throwback to the old days. It has not been substantially altered, mucked around with or gussied up and still retains a 70’s bohemian feel.

Portobello Mews.Hucker

Portobello Mews 2018 (Hucker)

All kind of businesses and houses are hidden away in Mews these days. Going round you see how the buildings have adopted to the modern times, service industry, light engineering, Internet, shops. You see small and larger business operating out of the spaces now.

Codrington Mews 2006 copy

Codrington Mews 2006 (Snyder)

Some Mews have even been transformed into mega houses. Certainly the Mews have moved on with the times. The history of the mews tells the story of how we have gone from the working class to the well off.

List of mews in W10 and W11 (Alphabetical)

Addison Mews (now Addison Place)

Angola Mews (demolished)
Archer Mews (demolished)
Albert Mews (now Bulmer)
Albion Place (now Alba Place)
Boundary Mews (now Powis Mews)
Bolton Mews (demolished)
Blechynden Mews (demolished)
Bramley Mews (demolished)
Bramley Mews (demolished)
Bourne End Mews

Christopher Mews
Colville Mews
Clydesdale Mews (demolished)
Camborne Mews (new build)
Codrington Mews
Dunworth Mews
Denbigh Mews (now Close)
Elgin Mews
East Mews Road (demolished)
Edenham Mews (demolished)
Folly Mews
Garden Mews
Golden Cross Mews
Gadsden Mews
Golborne Mews
Hippodrome Mews
Hayden Place
Horbury Mews
Holland Park Mews
Head’s Mews
Kelfield Mews
Kensington Park Mews

Latimer Mews

Lavie Mews (demolished)
Lonsdale Mews
Ledbury Mews North
Ledbury Mews West.
Lionel Mews (demolished)
Lansdown Mews (previously Ladbroke Terrace Mews)
Lambton Mews (now Place)
Ladbroke Stables (now Mews)
Ladbroke Walk
Linden Mews
Munro Mews
Norland Stables (now Place)
Oxford Mews (now Malton Mews)
Portobello Mews
Pembridge Mews
Pelham Mews (now Simons Close)
Phoenix Place
Pottery Lane
Princedale Mews (now Princes Place)
Ruston Mews
Railway Mews
Roseland Place
Royal Crescent Mews
Sylvester Mews (demolished)
Scrampston Mews
Silchester Mews (demolished)
Stanley Garden Mews (lost to development)
Symphony Mews (new build)
St Johns Mews
St Lukes Mews
Tavistock Mews
Trinity Mews
Talbot Mews
Thorpe Mews (now Close)
Vernon Mews (now Yard)
Victoria Grove Mews
Wilby Mews
Wellington Close

Dave Hucker 2018

Posted in Local industries and businesses, Streets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

1867 Portland Road and Princedale Road spoons robbery raids court proceedings. Tom Vague.

Portland Rd from KHT copy

Portland Road leading to the brewery, 193Os. Photo: Kensington Housing Trust

In 1867 William Barwell, of 84 Portland Row (Road), William Bull, of 65 Prince’s (Princedale) Road, and William Jarrard were indicted for the theft of 2 silver spoons and other cutlery from 9 Norfolk Crescent in Paddington, the residence of Richard Stoneleigh Illingworth. Barwell was arrested at his lodgings at 84 Portland Road, to the north of the Clarendon Cross junction. The witness Francis Emly lived with his parents at the other end of the road, near Holland Park Avenue, at number 9. Both of these houses are still there but the site of Mr Bull’s shop at 65 Prince’s (now Princedale) Road, between Penzance Street and Place, is now occupied by the post-war Crossways Penzance Place block. The minutes of evidence against the 3 Bills, Barwell, Bull and Jarrard, contains the earliest detailed account of life in Notting Dale not long after the houses were built in the 1850s. The thief Barwell was found guilty and got 18 months’ imprisonment, Bull, who had previous, got 5 years’ penal servitude for feloniously receiving the spoons, the shop assistant Jarrard was found not guilty.

Princedale Road west side 29-31 1970 KS686 copy

29-31 Princedale Road, formerly Prince’s Road, 1970. Photo RBK&C Local Studies)

Francis Emly was employed as a brickmaker locally and at the Kensington Park Brewery at the north end of Portland Road.

brewery poster 1899 copy 2

Poster from the National Archive

In ‘Notting Hill in Bygone Days’ Florence Gladstone has ‘Portland Road’ the road to the Hippodrome (racecourse) stables, was chiefly known as Norland or Hippodrome Lane’ in the 1840s and 50s. Another local William Bull was the grandson of the Ladbroke estate architect and Tory MP for Hammersmith in the early 20th century. At the time of the 1861 Census, the general dealer William Bull and his wife Mathilda, originally from Bath, were living at 29 Prince’s Road (sometimes Princes, now Princedale). In 1871 Mathilda was living at 65 Prince’s Road and working as a clothier and head of the household. Her niece was her assistant and her nephew, William Jarrard was the shopman. In 1861 there was a 14 year-old William Barwell living at 14 St James’s Street, with his father George, a baker from Northampton, mother Hannah, 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

Tom Vague with census research by Maggie Tyler

Old Bailey Proceedings

Old Bailey Proceedings Central Criminal Court. 8th Session, London and Middlesex Cases, Old Court, Monday, November 28 1867. William Barwell (22), William Bull (49) and William Jarrard (20) were indicted for stealing 2 spoons and other goods of Richard Stoneleigh Illingworth, in his dwelling-house (9 Norfolk Crescent). 2nd count, for feloniously receiving the same…

Old Bailey Proceedings June 10 1867 Central Criminal Court Sessions Paper. Gabriel, Mayor. 8th session, held June 10 1867. Minutes of evidence, taken in short-hand by James Drover Barnett and Alexander Buckler, short-hand writers to the Court, Rolls Chambers, 89 Chancery Lane. The points of law and practice revised and edited by Edward TE Besley Esq. of the Middle Temple, barrister-at-law, London: Butterworths, 7 Fleet Street, law publishers to the Queen’s most excellent majesty.

The whole proceedings on the Queen’s Commission of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery for the City of London and gaol delivery for the county of Middlesex, and the parts of the counties of Essex, Kent and Surrey within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, held on Monday, June 10 1867 and following days, before the Right Hon. Thomas Gabriel, Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Hon Sir James Shaw Willes, one of the Justices of Her Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas; Sir James Duke Bart, Sir Francis Graham Moon Bart FSA, John Carter Esq. FSA and FRAS, and Warren Stormes Hale Esq, Aldermen of the said City; the Right Hon Russell Gurney QC, MP, Recorder of the said City; William Ferneley Allen Esq, Robert Besley Esq. and William James Richmond Cotton Esq, Aldermen of the said City; Thomas Chambers Esq, QC, MP, Common Serjeant of the said City; and Robert Malcolm Kerr Esq, Judge of the Sheriffs Court; Her Majesty’s Justices of Oyer and Terminer, and General Gaol delivery of Newgate, holden for the said City, and Judges of the Central Criminal Court. Sydney Hedley Waterlow Esq, Alderman, Francis Lycett Esq, Sheriffs, Alexander Crosley Esq, Henry de Jersey Esq, Under-Sheriffs.

Central Criminal Court. Gabriel, Mayor. 8th Session. A star (*) denotes that prisoners have previously been in custody – 2 stars (**) that they have been more than once in custody – an obelisk (+) that they are known to be associates of bad characters – the figures after the name in the indictment denote the prisoner’s age. London and Middlesex Cases. Old Court – Monday, November 28 1867. Before Mr Recorder. Reference Number: t18670610-527. 527 William Barwell (22), William Bull (49) and William Jarrard (20) were indicted for stealing 2 spoons and other goods of Richard Stoneleigh Illingworth, in his dwelling-house. 2nd count, for feloniously receiving the same. Mr Griffiths conducted the Prosecution, Mr Ribton defended Barwell, Mr Sleigh appeared for Bull and Mr Montagu Williams for Jarrard.

John Slow. I was a footman to Mr Richard Stoneleigh Illingworth of 9 Norfolk Crescent – on Friday May 3, Barwell came there about a quarter to 9 in the evening – I had known him before – I took him into the pantry – there was some plate there – I cannot remember what plate there was in the basket, but I can remember the plate that was stolen, 2 table-spoons, 3 tea-spoons, one dessert-spoon, 5 forks and 2 egg-spoons, all silver, the spoons had my master’s crest on them – I had seen them safe at dinner-time – I left the pantry for a short time to take up the coffee, and left Barwell in the pantry – I was away about 5 minutes – I went back in the pantry, Barwell was there and he said he must be going – I went out afterwards to get some beer for the maidservants – Barwell went out with me – I was away on that occasion about 4 minutes, or 5 it might have been – when I came back, from something said to me, I examined the plate basket – I then missed the plate mentioned in the indictment.

Cross-examined by Mr Ribton. Q. How long have you known Barwell? A. About 6 months – a person of the name of Emly is not a friend of mine – I made his acquaintance through Barwell – I have known him about 2 months – he was outside waiting for Barwell – he came with Barwell, I know that – he had visited me about a week before, on a Sunday, he came to see me – he stayed about 20 minutes – I did not take particular notice, but I should think it was about that time – I had not invited him – that was the first time he visited me – he had been in the pantry on the Sunday, that was the Sunday before the plate was lost – Barwell came to pay me a visit on the Friday and was with me for 3-quarters of an hour I should think – he was in the kitchen and in the pantry – the other servants were there – there were 3 or 4 maid-servants – I then went upstairs with the coffee – I must have been gone 3 or 5 minutes, when I came down Barwell was still in the pantry – he said he must be going, as he had a friend waiting for him – we went out together – I was not exactly treating the maid-servants that night – the beer was out and I went to fetch a quart – I paid for it out of my own pocket – I had not time to stop it from the master, because I had to leave that night – Barwell and I went to the public-house none of the maidservants are here – I was not out more than 4 or 5 minutes – Emly was with us the whole time when I was out – when the plate was missed I was blamed for it I was blamed for it – I was discharged and told if I would find the thief my master would take me back again – I did not leave Emly and Barwell at the public-house – they walked to the corner with me and I went in and left them – I went to Barwell’s house the very next morning – I had not seen Emly before I went there – I saw them there, both in bed together – Barwell said, “What brought you here?” – I said, “you will soon know what brought me here” – the policemen then told him the charge – he said, “Good God! John, what do you mean?” – he was just roused out of his sleep – I decline to answer whether I have ever pawned any plate before – I was asked at the police-court if I had ever pawned or sold any plate, and I declined to answer, and I decline now.

Edward Machett. I am page to Mr Illingworth – I remember the morning of May 3 – I counted my master’s plate that day about half-past 11 to a quarter to 12 – I did not see the prisoner Barwell leave the pantry – I saw him leave the house about a quarter-past 9 in the evening – he left in company with Slow – after they had gone I looked into the plate basket and missed 2 table-spoons, 2 large forks, 3 small forks and 2 egg-spoons; they were silver, with a crest on them, a lion rampant – I have seen spoons of the same kind weighed, and they weighed 25 ounces. Henry Addison (Policeman D34). On Sunday morning, May 5, I went with Slow to 84 Portland Row, Notting Hill, the house of the prisoner Barwell – I found him in bed – as soon as we entered the room he said, “Good morning, John”, that was to Slow, “what on earth brings you here?” – he said, “You will soon know what brings me here” – I then told him I was a police-constable, and told him the charge – he said, “Good God! John, what do you mean? You must be mad, I know nothing at all about it” – I searched him and found nothing on him relative to this.

George Isaacson (Policeman D2). From information I received, I went to 65 Prince’s Road, Notting Hill, on May 7. I saw the prisoner Bull there, it is a shop kept by him, a general shop, clothes and other things – I asked him if his name was Bull – he said, “Yes” – I said, “I am a police-sergeant, I want to know if you purchased any plate last week – he said, “No, nothing in particular; some little pieces of old silver, which have been sold” – I then said, “Did you buy any spoons or forks last week?” – he said, “No, nothing of the kind” – I then produced this tea spoon, bearing the crest of the lion rampant, and said, “Do you remember seeing that crest, or did you purchase any bearing this crest?” – he said, “No, I never saw the crest before in my life” – I then said, “Have you an assistant by the name of Jarrard?” – he said, “Yes” – I said, “Then do you remember that Jarrard on the night of the 3rd, paid 13s. for some silver, and that you completed the contract on the following morning by paying 1/7s?” – he said, “No, I never did anything of the kind” – I then saw Jarrard and said to him, “I am a police-sergeant; I shall ask you some questions, but you need not answer unless you think proper to do so – I said, “Did you pay 13s. to 2 young men for some silver bearing the crest of a lion rampant on Friday?” – he hesitated for a long time, and he said, “Well, I don’t know; must I answer?” – I said, “Oh! No, not unless you like” – he then said, “Very well, then I refuse to answer that question” –

I then called Addison and we searched the house – this is a list I made at the time – what I found does refer to this charge – I found 8 duplicates, which I produce – there are 3 bearing the name of Barwell, one dated April 20 1867, for a pair of trousers, 7s; May 2 1867, one coat, 10s; and February 27 1867, one watch, 15s. – Bull does not keep a pawnshop – he asked me what the particular articles were that were stolen – I read over from a list I had – he said, “That is wrong, at all events” – I said, “How do you know it is wrong if you never saw anything of the kind?” – he said, “Oh, well, I don’t exactly understand, if I had time, supposing the silver was got back, which I believe could be done” – I said, “It is too late now, you are in custody, had you told me that when I first came in, things might have borne a different aspect” – the value of the silver that has been stolen is at the lowest 6s. 6d. per ounce; I know that – on the way to the station Bull said, “Supposing the plate did come back, what would the consequence be now?” – I said, “I don’t understand you” – Jarrard stepped towards me and said, “Mr Bull means, if the plate was got back, would they prosecute?” – I said, “The matter must rest now in the hands of the Magistrate” – when I was searching the house Bull said, “It’s no use searching, you will not find it here.”

Cross-examined by Mr Sleigh. Q. Is the name of William Bull up at his place? A. W Bull is over the door, in Prince’s Road, Notting Hill – I did not bring away one of his cards – I saw one afterwards at the remand – he appeared to deal in every description of goods – I saw no appearance of his being a dealer in jewellery or silver – I found a few articles of plated goods in the cupboard in the inner parlour – I found some watches and some insides of watches – I also found some memorandums – I did not notice any printed books – I found quantities of linen and clothes in all parts of the house, under the sofa and in every imaginable place – there was the usual furniture in the house – after telling him he must consider himself in custody, I said, “I must search your house” – he said, “Very well, do so, you will not find it” – I mentioned before to the Magistrate that he said, “If time were given and the silver got back, which I believe could be done,” and also what he said on the way to the station – my deposition was read over and I signed it. Cross-examined by Mr Williams. Q. It is the fact, is it not, that Jarrard is in Bull’s employment? A. I believe so – I stated before the Magistrate what Jarrard said on the way to the station – I swear that.

Francis Henry Emly. I am a traveller and I live at 9 Portland Row – I know Barwell – I saw him on Friday, May 3, in the morning, and again in the evening, and I walked with him to Mr Illingworth’s house – I did not go into the house – I am quite sure of that – Barwell went into the house – I don’t say how long he remained there – when he came out I walked with him towards Notting Hill – we went to Mr Bull’s shop – before we went there I heard the plate in his pocket and asked what he had got – he said, “Some plate” – I said, “For God’s sake, take it back, and say you only took it for a lark” – he said, “Oh! No, it won’t be found out for a month and then it will all be blown over” – he said he had taken it from Jack, meaning Slow – I went with him to Bull’s shop to sell the plate – when we got there we saw Jarrard – the shop was closed – we knocked at the door – Jarrard opened it – Barwell asked for Mr Bull – Jarrard said he was not at home – the plate was given to Jarrard – he said he could not buy it, Mr Bull not being there, but lent 13s. on part of it – he gave 8s. and Mrs Bull gave 8s, making 13s. altogether, and told us to call the following morning to see Mr Bull – I can’t remember what the plate consisted of – there were forks and spoons, I know, but the quantity I can’t say – it consisted of egg-spoons, tea-spoons, dessert-spoons and small forks, I think were the principal part; they were silver – there was a crest on them – I should know it again – (looking at a spoon) – it was similar to this and the same pattern – Jarrard put them in a cupboard in a parlour adjoining the shop.

Cross-examined by Mr Ribton. Q. Had you been to the house in Norfolk Crescent at any time before this Friday? A. I had, I think it was the Sunday previous, to see Slow – I can’t say how long I remained with him, it might have been 20 minutes – I was in the pantry – I can’t say now where I met Barwell – I think we were lodging in the same house at the time – I did not go for him to find him out – we went together to Norfolk Crescent – we had been out in the morning together – he asked me to walk with him to Norfolk Crescent; we went out, not with the intention of going there, but when we got outside he asked me to walk with him there, and when we got there he asked me to stay outside while he went in – Slow came out with him and stood a quart of ale – I can’t say how long I had known Slow, I only visited him that once – I went on the Sunday to see Slow; not about anything – I stayed in the pantry the whole time – I saw the basket with baize over it – I did not see the plate in the cupboard – I did not know where it was or where it ought to have been; it was the first pantry I was ever in – I can’t call to mind what we were talking about during the 20 minutes – I am now out of employment – I dare say I have been so 9 or 10 months – my parents are supporting me, I have been living with them – they put me in business – I was never in the service of Messrs Lee and Jerdein – I have been falsely charged with an offence and I have now an action pending – I was accused of forgery and embezzlement by Mr Bevan, a builder and brickmaker, in whose service I was; I was not charged – I went into his service in May 1863 and left in September – I was accused of putting his name at the back of a cheque for 95/- and receiving the money – I was discharged when the brickmaking season was over – he brought this accusation 2 or 3 weeks after I was discharged – he sent for me to his residence and accused me there – I did not receive the cheque – I ought to have received it, and went to receive it, but they would not pay me, they said they would pay my employer –

I have been in employment since then – I was with the Kensington Park Brewery, and travelled for Mr Clayton of Regent Street – my parents then put me into the cigar and tobacco business, that turned out a failure; for the last 8 or 9 months I have been doing nothing – it was publically known at Mr Bevan’s that this charge had been brought against me, that was in 1863, and it was afterwards known that he had withdrawn it from me, and laid it on his son – I have an action now pending against him – I did not bring the action before because I have lost my chief witness – I put it into one solicitor’s hands, and he kept it for a year and a half, and never did anything – I was then recommended to another solicitor – it has not come on yet – he told me had issued the citation – I have been in the service of Mr Wiley, a coal agent, at Kensington – I was discharged for carelessness – while I was there a cash-box was taken, with money in it – I don’t think I was seen on the night it was missed in the Haymarket, with a great deal of money – I was only 16 years of age at the time – I am now 23 – I was discharged about 10 days after the cash-box was lost – after that I went into my father’s business and remained with him about 2 year or 2 and a half – I forget whether I went into any other service before I went to Mr Bevan’s – I did not tell Mr Bevan I had been at Wiley’s – he did not ask for my character – I did not tell him about the cash-box – when we got to Bull’s I, of course, knew that the property was stolen – I did not know it was stolen from Slow – I did not know that he had it under his control – I did not know what situation he held, whether he was footman or butler – I had been in the pantry with him on the Sunday – I did not know he had charge of the plate – I swear that.

Mr Griffith. Q. Have you ever been convicted of any offence? A. Never, my father is a chemist – he supports me now – we were to call and see Bull the following morning – we did call on the Saturday morning, and the remainder of the plate was given up, and 1/7s. paid by Bull, making 2/-. Mr Sleigh. Q. Was Barwell with you? A. Yes. Court. Q. Who was present? A. Bull and Jarrard – when we first applied Jarrard was down in the area – he looked up and said, “All right” – he came up and opened the door, and called Bull down – he was getting up – we waited – we had some plate with us at that time – I don’t know how much – we received 1/7s. for it – the whole of the plate was not given on the Friday – the 1/7s. was given to Barwell, and the plate was given to Bull. The depositions of Emly and Isaacson were put in and read. Barwell – guilty – 18 months’ imprisonment. Bull – guilty (prisoner has previously been in custody) – 5 years’ penal servitude. Jarrard – not guilty.

Transcribed by Tom Vague from


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The Harrow Club – Alan Bateman’s early memories

This gallery contains 8 photos.

My association with the Harrow Club started almost sixty years ago when I was ten years old  and lasted for over forty years. I lived in Calverley Street and joined the club in 1958 following in the footsteps of my … Continue reading

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The Harrow Boys’ Club, North Kensington W10 – Brian Iles remembers

I came across this photo recently dated 1956 which I believe would have been taken at one of the Isle of Wight camps, because by this time the club had done a couple of trips to Deal in Kent. I also remember going to Poole, Dorset one year.

I have noticed several references to the Harrow Club on this site recently and decided that I must share the photo as I am sure it will bring back many memories of those happy times and it contains lots of recognisable faces. I can name about seventeen or so, not least of all Lew Ashman the club manage, Mrs Pithers (Mrs P) who used to do all the cooking and make large mugs of cocoa for us before bedtime. To the left of Lew is someone we had to call Padre John and of course at the back is good old Eric, one of the old Harrovians who used to ferry us about in his little Morris Minor to various club activities. Lew used to wake us in the morning singing songs from the show Oklahoma; he had a particular affection for Oklahoma as he’d been based there during his service with the RAF. He was a no nonsense club manager who would not tolerate any bad language and I can remember him packing one boy off on the train home for using the F word. He considered it to be an unnecessary vile adjective…how times have changed!! We certainly knew where we stood with Lew and he commanded a great deal of respect. He was a terrific bloke.

Apart from the camping, the Harrow Club on Bard Road, offered us kids great opportunities to enjoy,  ranging from snooker, billiards, table tennis, a gym in the basement, to carpentry and first aid lessons, sailing and of course swimming, football and cricket. And let’s not forget fishing, with Lew taking groups in the old bone shaking Land Rover to places like Taplow and Henley to fish the Thames. I joined the first aid class one year with a few others and it came up real trumps as at that year’s camp four of us “first aiders” had the first aid tent to ourselves. The tents were large bell tents normally occupied by six to eight boys. I was also a member of the swimming team and one year we won the team relay event in a London Federation of Boys’ Clubs gala. As a reward we were taken by Lew to a cinema in Leicester Square to see the film Oklahoma. His choice!

Like Eric there were several volunteers and other public spirited individuals offering their help. In the carpentry group under the guidance of the instructor whose name I can’t remember, we made a canoe. It was made of a wooden framework clad with canvas. I seem to remember hearing some years later that the modernised Harrow Club developed a canoeing section so our craft may well have been the inspiration for it! At about that time one of the volunteers was an ex naval officer named Desmond Hoare and he had connections with a cadet unit on an island in the middle of the Thames called the Training Ship Neptune. He took a group of us there with our canoe and we were amazed when it actually worked, didn’t sink and became a great hit with the cadets. But I remember what really excited us the most was learning to sail in the 12 foot long single sail Heron dinghies which were available to us. What amazing fun we kids from the back streets of Notting Hill had sailing and swimming in the Thames on those magical summer Sundays when the sun always seemed to shine every time we went there. The “Training Ship Neptune” island is now called Ravens Ait (its original name I think) along the Portsmouth Road, near Kingston. It’s an area now very familiar to me, but in those distant days past I would never have dreamed that I would eventually settle in that part of London. I read several years later that Desmond Hoare became the commander of an Outward Bound Centre in Scotland.

Yours truly at the helm with David Prater and Alan Wilkinson crewing. The little lad is Desmond Hoare’s son.

There were a number of boys’ clubs in the London area sponsored by public schools e.g. Harrow, Rugby, Stowe and Eton. Our club’s association with the Harrow School was very real and many of the volunteers were themselves old Harrovians. A couple of the chaps in the camp photo were Harrow School boys. We played cricket against them at their school playing fields and had the use at times of their open air swimming pool called the “Ducker” which had the tradition of compulsory nude bathing. I remember us going there one Sunday morning and arriving early we swam in trunks. But when the school boys arrived we were reminded of the rule, and our swimming instructor who had brought his wife and young son along, was very soon politely asked to leave. A further example of the close links that existed between the club and the school was when one of the club members called Dave Saunders from Bard Road was included as part of the Harrow School team taking part in a popular BBC television panel game.

And what about the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst !! How we got to go there I do not know but we did, and completed a section (probably a very small section) of the assault course. What I do remember though were the freezing cold showers we were made to take afterwards.

At the Sandhurst assault course. Unfortunately I can’t remember the boy with me.

As has been said by a number of contributors to the North Kensington Histories site in various blog postings, the area was not one of the best places in which to grow up but we didn’t know any different. But to have had a facility like the Harrow club in those hard times offering recreational activities and introduction to the experiences we enjoyed was priceless. Lew Ashman was the manager throughout my time with the club and I often wonder what happened to him. I am glad I had the opportunity to have been a member because without it, apart from everything else, I would never have had the chance to go to Sandhurst!

Our gang during a boozy night out on holiday in Jersey 1958. Kenny Andrews, John Bailey (in background) Ken Carter, Tom Fee, yours truly, Terry Johnston and David Prater. Tony Simpson was also on the holiday but he wasn’t feeling well when the photo was taken.

Brian Iles

This one of two postings on the Harrow Club, one by Brian Iles and another by Alan Bateman.

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The northern end of Portobello Road

Portobello Road looking north from Golborne Road, 1969. Photo RBKC Local Studies.

Recently I was sent some memories of Portobello Road, so I am taking the opportunity of posting them together with some photos of the shops concerned (taken much later in 1970).

Rita’s memories of Portobello in the 1930s

I was born in 1930 at my grandfather’s house, No 341 Portobello Road. Grandfather James Taylor had a mews at the rear (Golborne Mews) where he kept a horse and cart and later it was converted to take a car. He owned a green grocers opposite at 342 Portobello Road managed by his two sons William and James Taylor.  My brother remembered going up to Covent Garden market with our grandfather in about 1930 by horse and cart to get supplies for the shop. He said the horse used to find its own way home as my grandfather had quite a lot to drink!!!

The greengrocer’s shop was closed in the 1930’s as grandfather said it was too expensive to run and James moved out and had to find other employment but the shop opened again shortly after with William(Bill) in sole charge which led to family friction!!!

I remember a cobblers in the shop at 341 Portobello Road in the 1930’s and my mother said it had previously been a laundry run by my grandmother who died suddenly in 1931.

A couple more reminiscences ……my cousins, who were a bit older than me, taking me to the eel and pie shop further down Portobello Rd in the late 1930’s where I just had the mash potato with the sauce as I don’t like fish. Also of my mother saying how they would go to the movie theatre in Portobello Road, probably to see a silent movie and there was an interval when tea and cakes were served! 

Incidentally my parents could not agree on a name when I was born in 1930. They went to see a movie called Rio Rita, hence my name! I also remember the trams from Paddington Green when going to see my grand parents, probably my father’s family who lived in the Prince of Wales area near the canal. The trams had metal runners in the road with overhead cables. Bicycles would get trapped in the metal runners.

Rita Runacres

The Butcher

My grandfather, James Reed opened a butcher’s shop at 338 Portobello Road in 1875. When my father Frank and his brother grew up they took over the family business and ran the shop until it was sold in 1960. The shop opened six days a week at 7 am and did not close until 8 or 9 pm. On a Saturday night meat was auctioned off very cheaply. This enabled poor families, who could not otherwise afford it, the chance to have meat at least one day a week. On Christmas Eve, it was open much later until 11 or midnight. People in those days had no fridges or freezers and no means of storing perishable goods for long. People often waited until the last minute in the hope of obtaining a cut price goose or turkey for Christmas dinner.

Frances Reed (taken from Portobello Its People Its Past Its Present by Shaaron Whetlor and Liz Bartlett).

Portobello Road west side 339-341 1969 KS209 copy

Portobello Road, west side nos 339-341,1969. Photo RBKC Local Studies.

Portobello Rd looking West neg2979 KS201 #363-365 (21-8-69) copy

Looking north from the corner of Faraday Road, 1969. The building on the corner had previously been a chapel. Photo RBKC Local Studies.

My own mother who grew up in the 1920s on nearby Wheatstone Road recalled this corner building, no 363 Portobello Road. She knew it as the Talbot Mission and it was where she went to Sunday School. It was an outpost of the Talbot Tabernacle.

Sue Snyder

Portobello Road - east side, 346-348 1969 KS203 copy

East side of Portobello Road at the corner of Faraday Road, 1969. Photo RBKC Local Studies

The 1960s

The photo above shows ‘Bill Cane’ ‘Turf Accountants’, a somewhat grand title given that Bill couldn’t write, however he had the nous to open three betting shops in the area shortly after they were legalised in 1960 and did very well with them. Prior to that he had been an illegal bookie collecting bets, via ‘runners’ at the local workplaces. He was also canny enough to employ young William Hill trained staff looking to supplement their wages on their days off and in 1965 I was one of them. I worked in his shop at the very top of Wornington Road, one of a short parade of shops close to the junction with Ladbroke Grove. The shop was a madhouse, always packed and Bill chain smoked c60 cigarettes a day often having one on the go at the counter and another in the ‘back office’. One day he sent me to collect money from the Portobello shop and that was even madder than Wornington. One day he came in with two packets of 20’s and sat beside me….. and just before the last race asked me if I could give him a cigarette… his packets were empty! The shop had a low ceiling and nearly all the customers smoked and looking back I don’t know how anyone could breathe in there. I was 17 at the time and it was illegal for me to even be in a betting shop let alone work in one! Fortunately Bill didn’t bother to ask how old I was and as I’d been recommended by another of his William Hill men he just threw a pile of bets to me to get on with … I think that concluded the interview.

John Henwood

If you have any memories of this section of Portobello Road please send them in to northkenstories@yahoo.co.uk or add a comment below.

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A Second hand Clothing shop in Portobello Road by Pat Terry and Mick Kasmir.

Kasmir Portobello Road

Isaac Kasmir and his assistant outside his shop at 276 Portobello Road

Our stepfather Alfred Kasmir came over to England when he was six from the Ukraine with his parents and sister, Regina. We have not got a lot of the history of this time except that his father Isaac bought a house in Lancaster Road (Pat still lives there), and then opened a shop in Portobello Road, which we can only think was rented at that time. He sold second hand clothing and had an assistant who did alterations and tailoring.

Our stepfather learnt the violin. His father was very strict with him about learning this instrument and he started his working life playing in orchestras at various venues, one being the Lyons Corner House at Marble Arch which had silver service with afternoon tea (which we went to often). He had given up playing because of the lifestyle, so he said, as in between jobs (gigs) he had passed the time by gambling, to which he became a bit too addicted! Also his health had suffered after swallowing a mouthful of ice cream during a break whilst playing in the West End one summer, which had the effect of freezing his stomach.

He then became a ‘Tally’ man, going around collecting money from people for stuff they got on TICK (hire purchase). He had plenty of interesting stories to tell. The firm he was working for was called Evans, a furniture store on the corner of Cambridge Gardens and Ladbroke Grove, which is now a Tesco. He met our mother there where she worked in the office and when he was a Tally man. They married in 1948. Friday the 13th as it happens! The News of the World somehow heard of this and thought it so amusing that they published a tiny note about it on their front page! Wish we still had a copy of this.

When he and our mother got married, he opened 276 Portobello Road (his father’s old shop) and sold and bought second hand clothes with an assistant called Joan doing the alterations. This is now the men’s clothing shop called Tonic.

Kasmir first shop now.ss

276 Portobello Road in 2014

When they first opened our mother had to put a lot of her own clothes in the shop to stock up the rails, also countless pairs of small boys short trousers made by a friend of theirs.

She used to come and collect us each day from our primary school in Hammersmith, which was in St. Paul’s Church on Hammersmith Broadway, till we moved to Solomon Wolfson Jewish School in Lancaster Road.

Next door to this shop on the north side, towards Golborne Road, was a newsagent and sweetshop where our father bought his cigarettes and our sweets, and which also delivered our newspapers and comics (my first job was as a paperboy). This shop is now Honest Jons record shop.

There was a bakers on the corner of Cambridge Gardens and Portobello Road opposite our shop from which we had a cake each day on our return from school, one in particular sticks in my mind was a cream bun, with the synthetic cream of the time, pretty yucky.


Looking south towards the railway bridge (pre Westway)

Next door to his shop going South was a chemist, Mr. Fish, which is now Falafel King on the corner of Acklam Road. The next corner going down was a pub. And next to this another newsagent named Tommy Littles (the boxer), and next to this a rag and bone shop to which us kids took old newspapers, rags and lemonade bottles that we had collected and which we got a few pennies for.

Moving further down on the same side was a shop named Kirk’s selling workmen’s clothing. This was about the only place one could buy jeans at that time – they were Levi’s too! Trouble was you had to take them to an alteration shop opposite the Royalty cinema in Lancaster Road just past the KPH pub, because our father wouldn’t allow Ada, his alteration assistant to do them because he didn’t agree with narrow trousers (drainpipes)!

Still going South from Kirk’s just as you come from under the tube train bridge was our GP’s surgery, a very unprepossessing green wood clad structure, where now exists as a metal gate into a council area.

Opposite this are the two arched metal gates that led into North Kensington Central (Technical) School, the other entrance to the school being in Lancaster Road near the traffic lights, and which is now the private Chepstow School. You now go through these two gates on Portobello past some colourful clothes stalls into an Italian restaurant. Next to this, back on Portobello Road is the Grain Store which then was a pie and mash shop.

Many years later he was offered 259 Portobello Road to rent, so moved down to a new part of Portobello Road. This shop, now One of a Kind, in the 1950s used to be a very good toy shop. So when the leaseholders retired my father took it over, and moved his second hand clothes business down from no 276.


We were a lot older then so have much clearer memories of this shop.

He used to buy clothes from people in the shop, and then sell them on to other customers. People always needed money in those days. John Christie, the famous 1950s serial murderer came in sometimes and sold some of his wife’s (not only his wife’s!) clothing to our father, who had to record all items bought and sold in a large ledger. He later had a visit from the police to check this out. Also Timothy Evans’ mother used to come in to talk about her son (who was hanged for crimes committed by John Christie). She desperately wanted her son to be pardoned, which he was years later with the help of Ludovic Kennedy.


Our father died in 1978 from cancer, and our mother carried on running the shop for a few months, but her heart wasn’t in it. There was still about eleven years left on the lease, but she decided to hand it over to the landlady’s son. The landlady, Mrs Holland, was a really charming woman, but had died a few years previously. She probably wouldn’t have let our mother Anne simply hand back the lease. When friends asked what was happening to the shop, they were all aghast. How could someone simply hand back a leasehold shop in Portobello Road, with still eleven years to run on the lease? As far as they were concerned she was simply throwing away thousands of pounds a year in rental income.

But she was adamant that she wanted no more to do with it. And even though friends would ask if they could try to talk her out of relinquishing the property, they all failed. She never did take much interest in money! The landlady’s son then sold it on to the Notting Hill Housing Trust. I think the shop carried on selling second hand clothing for a while and then turned into the ‘Bead Shop’ run by Stephanie Heatherwick. And possibly after this it became ‘One of a Kind’, which it still is (see below).

Kasmir shop now.ss

More memories of Portobello from Mick

There was a stall outside the shop at 276 that sold some kind of cure for tape worms. On the stall was a huge collection of large glass jars containing various worms in formaldehyde, which I found so fascinating that I couldn’t stop thinking about them!

I remember one morning in 1956 having breakfast whilst listening to the Today programme, with my father shaving in front of the mirror with his cut throat razor, when they announced the news of the Russian invasion of Budapest. He immediately put down his razor, wiped the shaving cream from his face, put on his coat and went straight up to the newsagent and cancelled his Daily Worker. He had become a communist more from being an anti-Fascist than anything else. This being quite common during that time, being very left wing because repulsed by the other side.

I have a lot of memories of sitting at the back of the shop chatting to the amazingly varied collection of regular customers who often as not popped in to see the ‘guvnor’, making cups of tea on a small gas ring next to the gas fire. The customers varied from manual workers to out of work actors, with a few writers and artists chucked in for good measure.

Pat remembers….

My memories are from the late 1960s , early 70s.

259 Portobello 1960s.ss

Other shops alongside 259 were 257 which was the Dry Cleaners. It did change and eventually sold Jamaican Patties for a while and now after quite a few changes of trade, it’s a Tourist shop. No 255 was an English butcher, which then changed to a Halal butcher and now sells Japanese merchandise

Going the other way towards the railway bridge was a TV sales and repair shop which I think at some time before that was a Radio Rentals shop, then on to No 269, the famous Ceres natural food store, the first in the UK. Ceres stills sells lovely vegetarian food and is now called the Grain Shop. After Ceres was Isaac Newton School. Then came the betting shop which our father frequented regularly, leaving a back in ten minutes sign on his own shop door.

Opposite was Tavistock Road with a café on one corner and a fabric shop on the other. Then going back towards Lancaster Road came Kay’s children and ladies outfitters as it was called in those days. It is now Garcia’s Spanish Delicatessen. Then Food for Thought where they stir-fried food while you waited, in giant woks, it was delicious.


After that came the really tasty Jacks Fish & Chips Shop which was next to the Golden Cross Pub, a really thriving community premises where our father played cards and everyone knew each other, market stall holders included. They also had a Public Bar on the corner entrance, but we used the Saloon Bar entrance in Lancaster Road. It is now Ukai, a bar and restaurant serving Japanese food.

I used to help dress his windows which he really liked me to do for him. I also helped out with the customers on Saturdays, my Saturday job. He had a lot of characters popping into the shop to chat to him which made it very lively.

He was there in his shop till he died of cancer in 1978.


Pat Terry and Mick Kasmir, June 2017

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Horsmans West London Saw Mills and Joinery Works

The Electric Cinema is a Portobello landmark.  Building work for it started in 1910 and it opened on 27th February 1911. It was built on the site of a Saw Mill and Timber Yard, which the Trade directories of the period describe as Thomas Saunders Timber Merchants. But at some point – we cannot say exactly when, it was taken over and run by William James & Henry Horsman – their West London Saw Mills And Joinery Works was a substantial company of master joiners, carpenters and timber merchants. They were also involved in the construction of quite a few buildings and rides for the 1908 White City Exhibition.

Until recently facts about the family and the business were quite sparse. Hopefully more information will eventually come out.


Portobello Road looking north from Finch’s pub towards the woodyard. Love the painted advertisements on the walls of the building beyond it. No space that could be used for advertising was wasted in those times either (early 1900s). Photo RBKC Local Studies.


Woodyard looking South from Blenheim Crescent/Talbot Rd (early 1900s). Photo RBKC Local Studies

The development of the Ladbroke Estate was like the Wild West, a tangled web of frontier capitalism with developers going bankrupt, buying land off each other and my favourite – lending someone the money to buy the land off you. The owner/developer of the block between Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent was a solicitor Thomas Pocock who was active elsewhere in the Ladbroke Estate. It seems he did not have any money of his own, but operated as an intermediary. He had sold (and bought back) land to the other big developer in the area – Blake.

Pocock sold the south side of Blenheim Crescent to a Charles Chambers, who is described as a Timber Merchant and Engineer. Chambers probably built the first saw mill and timber yard on the site as shown in the 1862 map. In 1862 there was only Finch’s pub, the  Chapel, and shops north up to the saw mill on the block. Just past and next to the saw mill were a stables and a garage for Hansom Cabs. By 1896 the whole block was filled up with buildings.


OS map Portobello Road, 1862


Portobello Road, OS map 1896

A 1909 booklet called The Interesting History of Portobello Road by Ernest P. Woolf suggests that the Horsmans were related to Charles Chambers and that Chambers’ saw mill/timber yard had been constructed in 1853. At that time house construction was going up all around the area at a very rapid rate. The builders would have needed timber and at that time it was all pretty locally sourced.


1874 Plan Of the Layout of the Saw Mill in order to get permission to lay a sewer pipe. RBKC Local Studies


Architect Seymour Valentin’s 1909 drawings for the proposed  Electric Theatre handily shows the outlines of the existing Saw Mill/Woodyard buildings. RBKC Local Studies


W.J. Horsman is third from left with black flower, Henry Horsman 2nd from right.

In 1890 William James Horsman had moved to London from Beirton, Buckinghamshire where his family were woodworkers and carpenters. The 1891 census has him living at 19 Montgomery Rd, Acton, the home of another carpenter. William James brother Henry and his partner in the business followed him along with other brothers. WJ and H obviously established themselves with their trade and the family must have built a reputation as quality woodworkers and created a thriving business. Big and good enough to create the newel post, supposedly carved by WJ himself, for the staircase at the very swanky Piccadilly Hotel which opened in 1908.


The newal post for the Piccadilly Hotel Staircase


Inside the Workshop, with WJ supposedly carving the newel Post for the Piccadilly Hotel


Piccadilly Hotel – Staircases


The Horsmans were also busy working on three or four of the buildings and at least one rollercoaster ride at the 1908 White City Exhibition

191 Portobello Road must have been a busy little yard, factory and business. They had a rough lumber storage shed along the southern side, a steam engine to power the saws, A workshop for the joiners and a cut timber storage space, then a office back on the street. Seasoned wood for them would arrive in logs or rough cut standard lengths and sizes which would have been delivered by horse and cart. Cut and planed to size and shape then worked on. Or sold. Whatever you wanted made in wood Horsmans could make it.

At their peak, when  building for the White City Exhibition, Horsmans had up to 100 (sub) employees and shared 191 Portobello Rd with a company of plasterers’ Mortlemans, who were doing the fibrous plaster work at the 1908 Exhibition. We can assume that Horsmans and Mortlemans had worked together on other jobs as well.

The White City Exhibition

The 1908 White City buildings the Horsmans were involved in were –

The Scenic Alpine Railway – the Great Divide.



The Wooden Framework for the Great Divide/Alpine Ride.


Carriage made by Horsman’s.


Horsman workers at the ride.

The Palace of Fine Art


Palace of Fine Art under construction


Palace of Fine Arts – completed.

Palace Of Women’s Work


Palace of Women’s Work completed.

The Congress Hall


Congress Hall under construction. You can see the frame supporting the roof and the wooden exterior shape being constructed by Horsmans


Congress Hall and cascade at night.

The 1911 Census finds WJ and his family living very near work, at 151 Portobello above the City and Midland Bank on the corner of Portobello and Colville Terrace. So they probably had been doing well, as the White City contract was pretty substantial and it must have taken them a few years to finish


Midland and City Bank, Portobello Road. Photo RBKC Local Studies.

However in 1910, the plot of land on which their West London Saw Mills And Joinery Makers sat was sold. The freehold was bought by the London And Provincial Electric Theatre Ltd to build the Electric Theatre. It was the end of an era for them and the Horsmans filed for bankruptcy. Then they seemed to concentrate on building wooden rides in Ghent in Belgium and France and invented a ride called the Snake Wiggle. We assume that European enterprise was curtailed by WW1. There is no information about any WW1 war work they did and in England during the war nobody seemed to be spending money on fairground rides. After the war part of the family moved to Grays in Essex to start a Building and Decorating business.

WJ married twice, after becoming a widower went and lived in Abergavenny Wales with his daughter. Of the descendants of the family, a few are in England and one branch went out to Australia in 1964. I am in contact with Sam Horsman in Adelaide who is carrying on the family tradition and is a carpenter!

People talk about the history of the Electric Cinema as being a significant development in the history of Portobello Road. Yes but it is also on plot of land that has had a prior claim to fame that is only now being discovered. I think you could make an argument for putting Chambers original Saw Mill & Timber Yard as the first building on that block?

This has been a voyage of discovery for the Horsmans family as well as for me. I worked at the Electric Cinema in the 1970’s and wondered about when the saw mill/timber yard was actually built, then seeing pictures of it made me realise it had always been there.

Dave Hucker, 2017

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