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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7 Responses to The northern end of Portobello Road

  1. Peter Fry says:

    I was born at 108, Highlever Road in October 1938. The owner of the house ran a dairy business in Portobello Road. My parents moved away in 1940.I wonder if anyone remembers that dairy, and what became of the family?

  2. S Garcia says:

    I lived in Wornigton rd in 1963. I remember the betting shop and Holmes the baker. Reiny pie mash shop in Golborne rd . So many great memories, still live in the area. Married a local girl good all days chances so much best wishes to all in W10 Kik

  3. John Basham says:

    I lived in no 411 Portobello Road in the 1950s and have fond memories of then.
    I am now 78 years of age so I doubt if many people remember me.
    But good luck to all in w10 and a long life.
    John Basham

    • John Mackenzie says:

      I lived at 396 Portobello Rd. Born there in 1960 and went to Wornington rd then Barlby rd schools. Remember bunking school to help my uncle down the market on his stall. Had a great time as a kid working the market putting all the fruit’n veg out.
      All my family lived in Portobello Road, Nan n Grandad, all my uncles and aunts, my grandad’s brothers – all in the same part from 388-396-402 around 15 -20 of us.
      Great memories.
      Family name was Mayers

      • Great to hear from you, John. If you have any more memories of Portobello particularly of the market and the stalls, please add them as the blog is a bit lacking in that area.
        Sue from Northkensingtonhistories.

  4. james cogdell says:

    I used to have my haircut at Dave’s barbers when I was a kid!!

  5. Family names Hamilton/Bancroft says:

    Hello James,
    I believe you must be a descendant of the Mrs Reed who used to send/bring her net curtains to my mother to be cleaned. We lived in Walmer Road and Mrs Reed or a man came by car to deliver them and frequently she would also have a bundle of clothes for my sisters. I was the youngest of five, and she often brought us toys and games as well. My niece still has ‘The Wonder book of Tales’ which was a great favourite of us all. I was wearing my Sunday Best REEDs coat when I was evacuated, but during the war my Mother gave up curtain framing as she was afraid that if we were bombed she would be liable. I wasn’t aware of the butcher’s shop but my sisters went to Portobello Road School and often had the job of delivering the finished curtains on the way. It’s good to hear stories of the old Nottinghill/Dale days.

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