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.
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).
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.
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.
If you have any memories of this section of Portobello Road please send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org or add a comment below.