Portobello Road

Last updated

Coordinates: 51°30′51.3″N0°12′14″W / 51.514250°N 0.20389°W / 51.514250; -0.20389


Portobello Road Portobello Road, Notting Hill.jpg
Portobello Road
Portobello Road street sign Portobello road sign.jpg
Portobello Road street sign

Portobello Road is a street in the Notting Hill district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London. It runs almost the length of Notting Hill from south to north, roughly parallel with Ladbroke Grove. On Saturdays it is home to Portobello Road Market, one of London's notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes, pastries and antiques. [1] Every August since 1996, the Portobello Film Festival has been held in locations around Portobello Road and in 2015, Portobello Radio was founded as the area's community radio station. [2]



Portobello Road was known prior to 1740 as Green's Lane – a winding country path leading from Kensington Gravel Pits, in what is now Notting Hill Gate, [3] up to Kensal Green in the north.

18th century

In 1740, Portobello Farm was built in the area near what is now Golborne Road. The farm got its name from a popular victory during the lost War of Jenkins' Ear, [4] when Admiral Edward Vernon captured the Spanish-ruled town of Puerto Bello (now known as Portobelo in modern-day Panama). Vernon Yard, which runs off Portobello Road, still honours the Admiral's name to this day. [5] The Portobello farming area covered the land which is now St Charles' Hospital. [6]

19th century

1841 map of the Environs of London, showing the Portobello Farm on the upper left-hand side, and Porto Bello Lane. Environs of London Davies map 1841.jpg
1841 map of the Environs of London, showing the Portobello Farm on the upper left-hand side, and Porto Bello Lane.

Portobello Farm was sold to an order of nuns after the railways came in 1864. They built St Joseph's Convent for the Dominican Order - or the "Black Friars" as they were known in England. [7]

Portobello Road is a construction of the Victorian era. Before about 1850, it was little more than a country lane connecting Portobello Farm with Kensal Green in the north and what is today Notting Hill in the south. Much of it consisted of hayfields, orchards and other open land. The road ultimately took form piecemeal in the second half of the 19th century, nestling between the large new residential developments of Paddington and Notting Hill. Its shops and markets thrived on serving the wealthy inhabitants of the elegant crescents and terraces that sprang up around it, and its working-class residents found employment in the immediate vicinity as construction workers, domestic servants, coachmen, messengers, tradesmen and costermongers. After the Hammersmith and City Railway line was completed in 1864, and Ladbroke Grove station opened, the northern end of Portobello Road was also developed, and the last of the open fields disappeared under brick and concrete.


A range of communities inhabit Portobello. Its architecture is characterised by meandering roads and curving streets, in contrast to the more formally planned layout of most of the nearby area. Mid- to late-Victorian terrace houses and shops predominate, squeezed tightly into the available space. The Friends of Portobello campaign seeks to preserve the street's unique dynamic, and campaigns against branded chain stores. Portobello Road is also home to the Grade II* Electric Cinema, one of Britain's oldest cinemas.


The road descends from 84 feet (25.6 m) above sea level at the northern end, the highest point, to a lowest point of 65 feet (19.8 m), just south of the overpasses, after which the road rises and falls before reaching a high point of 78 feet (23.8 m) at the southern end. The average grade of ascent or descent between the northern end and the lowest point is about 1.77 percent.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road Market, June 2005. Portobello.market.london.arp.jpg
Portobello Road Market, June 2005.
An antique dealer on Portobello Road London 104.jpg
An antique dealer on Portobello Road
Stand selling T-shirts along the crowded market Portobello Road T-shirt.jpg
Stand selling T-shirts along the crowded market

Portobello Road Market draws thousands of tourists each year. The main market day for antiques is Saturday, the only day when all five sections are opened: second-hand goods, clothing and fashion, household essentials, fruit, vegetables and other food, and antiques. However, there are also clothing, antique, bric-a-brac, fruit and vegetable stalls throughout the week and are located further north than the antiques, near the Westway Flyover. Shops and cafes are opened daily.

The market began as many other London markets and mainly sold fresh-food in the 19th century; antiques and wares dealers arrived in the late 1940s and '50s, and gradually antiques have become the main attraction of this market, having a substantial number of them trading mainly on Saturday mornings. It is the largest antiques market in the UK.

The market section of Portobello Road runs in a direction generally between the north-northwest and the south-south-east. The northern terminus is at Golborne Road; the southern end is at Westbourne Grove, to the east. The market area is about 1,028 yards (940 m) long.

About one third of the way from its north end, the market runs beneath adjacent bridges of the A40 road and the Hammersmith & City line of the London Underground. Here the market focuses on second hand clothes as well as couture.

Market in the media

George Orwell's 1927 lodgings in Portobello Road Portobello Road - George Orwell House.jpg
George Orwell's 1927 lodgings in Portobello Road


The market was the setting for the 1999 film Notting Hill , with much of the filming taking place on the street. The famed blue door, however, no longer exists, having been sold. [8]

The 1950 Ealing Studios police thriller, The Blue Lamp , starring Dirk Bogarde and Jack Warner, as P.C. George Dixon, a character later revived in the long-running TV drama, Dixon of Dock Green , featured location filming in the Paddington/Notting Hill/Portobello area. It features good shots of these locations in pre-Westway days, and includes a thrilling car chase along largely traffic-free roads, including Portobello Road.

The market was featured in the 1971 musical film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks in a scene involving a song ("Portobello Road") and dance in and around the market staged on sets built at Disney's Burbank Studios. [9] The lyrics refer to the market and the people who live and work there.

In 2006, the 20-minute documentary Portobello: Attack of the Clones won London awards and was screened a number of times at the infamous Electric Cinema. The film showed how Portobello Road is threatened by high-street stores changing the street's independent spirit. It featured a large number of local stallholders and influencers, and was made by local filmmakers Paul McCrudden and Alex Thomas for TAG Films.


The 1959 British musical Make Me an Offer, with book by Wolf Mankowitz based on his novel of the same title, and music and lyrics by David Heneker and Monty Norman, takes place on Portobello Road, and includes the song "Portobello Road", sung by the ensemble. Another song, "I Want a Lock-up", also refers to Portobello Road. [10] The musical is available for licensing through Samuel French, Inc. [11]


The Portobello Road features prominently in Martin Amis's 1989 satirical novel London Fields.

In the short story "The Portobello Road", Muriel Spark narrates the story of a murderer who, visited by the ghost of his victim, Macbeth-style, tends to constantly go to the Portobello Road market to meet her. "The Portobello Road" was included in the 1958 collection The Go-away Bird and Other Stories. [12]

The cult British children's book character Paddington Bear, featured in the books written by Michael Bond, enjoys visiting Portobello Market on a daily basis. His friend Mr. Gruber, with whom Paddington has his elevenses every day, owns an antique shop on the Portobello Road.

In 2008, Ruth Rendell published a novel set in the area entitled, Portobello .

It is the setting for Paulo Coelho's 2007 novel, The Witch of Portobello .

In the 1970 novel The Chinese Agent by author Michael Moorcock, a world-renowned jewel-thief more than meets his match when he attempts to swipe a brooch from a Portobello Road market stall, and is hunted down through the streets like a dog by the sharp-eyed market traders.

Portobello Road is also mentioned in Indian Urdu writer Shamsur Rehman Faruqui's 2006 novel The Mirror of Beauty.

In the short story "Different Skies" by China Miéville, the protagonist buys an eerie coloured window pane in Portobello Road Market. This story is included in the 2005 collection Looking for Jake. [13]


In 1978, the rock band Dire Straits sang about the road in the song "Portobello Belle" on their second album Communiqué .

In the narrative introduction to their song Have Some Madeira M'Dear , Michael Flanders of Flanders & Swann mentions a decanter he owns – "cut glass, from the Portobello Road" – in which he keeps Madeira. That decanter plus his Edwardian hat, are credited as the inspirations for the song (album: At the Drop of a Hat ).

Donovan's song "Sunny South Kensington" containing the lyrics: "...in the Portobella I met a fella with a cane umbrella."

The B-side of British Singer-Songwriter Cat Stevens' 1966 single "I Love My Dog" is titled "Portobello Road" and discusses a walk through the famous street and market. The track also appears on Cat Stevens' 1967 debut album Matthew and Son .

It is also referenced in the song "Blue Jeans" by alternative rock band Blur, from the 1993 album Modern Life Is Rubbish , in which the opening lyrics are: "Air cushioned soles, I bought them on the Portobello Road on a Saturday."

In Caetano Veloso's "Nine Out Of Ten" song from the 1972 album Transa , he sings "walk down Portobello Road to the sound of reggae". The Brazilian artist lived in London in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of his exile from Brazil.


In the Only Fools and Horses episode "Cash and Curry", conmen who con Del Boy and Rodney Trotter using a statue of Kubera bought it from Portobello Road. The idea for the episode is as the writer, John Sullivan, visited the street and it gave him an idea for a new episode.

The street and its name also appeared regularly on the hit TV series Minder .

BBC One's daytime antiques-based gameshow Bargain Hunt regularly features contestants buying items at the market to sell later at auction.

The 1977 to 1983 Italian television broadcast RAI was named Portobello after Portobello Road.

See also


  1. "London Markets Portobello Road". London Markets. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  2. "Festival Reports". Portobello Road Film Festival. 2005. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  3. Sheppard, F. H. W. (1973). "The village centres around St. Mary Abbot's Church and Notting Hill Gate". Survey of London. volume 37. pp. 25–41. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  4. "Portobello Farm by E Adveno Brookes - 19th Century". Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  5. Harrison-Wallace, Charles. "The Coach & Signpainter". Pub Signs & Decoration. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  6. "St Charles Hospital". National Health Service . Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  7. "The history of Portobello and Notting Hill". mynottinghill.co.uk. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". The Walt Disney Company . Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  10. "The Guide to Musical Theatre, entry for Make Me an Offer" . Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  11. "Samuel French, London Office, entry for Make Me an Offer" . Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  12. Spark, Muriel (1958). The Go-away Bird and Other Stories. Macmillan, London.
  13. Miéville, China (2005). Looking for Jake and Other Stories. Macmillan, London.

Related Research Articles

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Royal borough in United Kingdom

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is an Inner London borough with royal status. It is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England; it is one of the most densely populated administrative regions in the United Kingdom. It includes affluent areas such as Notting Hill, Kensington, South Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge.

Notting Hill Area of London, England

Notting Hill is an affluent district of West London, England, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill is known for being a cosmopolitan and multicultural neighbourhood, hosting the annual Notting Hill Carnival and Portobello Road Market. From around 1870, Notting Hill had an association with artists.

Paddington Human settlement in England

Paddington is an area within the City of Westminster, in central London, located in the West End of London. First a medieval parish then a metropolitan borough, it was integrated with Westminster and Greater London in 1965. Three important landmarks of the district are Paddington station, designed by the celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1847; St Mary's Hospital; and the former Paddington Green Police Station.

Notting Hill Gate tube station London Underground station

Notting Hill Gate is a London Underground station near Notting Hill, London, located on the street called Notting Hill Gate. On the Central line, it is between Holland Park to the west and Queensway to the east. On the District line and Circle line, it is between High Street Kensington and Bayswater stations. It is on the boundary of Travelcard Zone 1 and Zone 2.

<i>Notting Hill</i> (film) 1999 film by Roger Michell

Notting Hill is a 1999 British-American romantic comedy film directed by Roger Michell. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis, and the film was produced by Duncan Kenworthy. The film stars Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Emma Chambers, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, and Hugh Bonneville. The story is of a romance between a London bookseller (Grant) and a famous American actress (Roberts), who happens to walk into his shop.

Bayswater tube station London Underground station

Bayswater is a London Underground station in the Bayswater area of the City of Westminster. The station is on the Circle and District lines, between Notting Hill Gate and Paddington stations and is in Travelcard Zone 1. It is less than 100 metres (330 ft) away from the Central line's Queensway station.

Metropolitan Borough of Kensington

The Metropolitan Borough of Kensington was a Metropolitan borough in the County of London from 1900 to 1965.

Ladbroke Grove Human settlement in England

Ladbroke Grove is a road in West London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, running north–south between Harrow Road and Holland Park Avenue. It is also a name given to the immediate surrounding areas of Notting Hill, North Kensington, Latimer Road, Kensal Green and Westbourne Park straddling the W10 and W11 postal districts although parts of the wider area cover parts of NW10. Ladbroke Grove tube station is located on the road, at the point where it is crossed by the Westway. It is the nearest tube station to Portobello Road Market. The adjacent bridge and nearby section of the Westway were regenerated in 2007 in a partnership including Urban Eye, Transport for London and London Underground. Ladbroke Grove is the main road on the route of the annual Notting Hill Carnival. The northern tip between the Harrow Road and the iron bridge is located in Kensal Green, the middle section between Barlby road and the flyover is in north Kensington with the southern end between Lancaster road and Holland Park Avenue situated in Notting Hill.

Westbourne Park tube station London Underground station

Westbourne Park is a London Underground station in the Notting Hill area of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines, between Ladbroke Grove and Royal Oak stations, and is in Travelcard Zone 2.

Westbourne Grove

Westbourne Grove is a retail road running across Notting Hill, a section of west London. Its western end is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and its eastern end is in the City of Westminster; it runs from Kensington Park Road in the west to Queensway in the east, crossing over Portobello Road. It contains a mixture of independent and chain retailers, and has been termed both "fashionable" and "up-and-coming".

Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill Gate is one of the main thoroughfares of Notting Hill, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Historically the street was a location for toll gates, from which it derives its modern name.

Queensway, London Shopping street in London

Queensway is a busy shopping street in Bayswater, an area of west London. It is home to Whiteleys, many restaurants, cafés, pubs, souvenir shops and a few high-street retail chains. Queensway and Westbourne Grove are identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London. The street is numbered the B411 in the British road numbering scheme. Queensway is currently undergoing a major redevelopment on all sides, with a building on the top of the road being developed for £500m, Whiteleys for £1.2BN and a series of other redevelopments happening at the same time.

Ladbroke Grove tube station London Underground station

Ladbroke Grove is a London Underground station on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, between Latimer Road and Westbourne Park stations, and in Travelcard Zone 2 set in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

North Kensington neighbourhood of west London

North Kensington is an area of west London. It is north of Notting Hill and south of Kensal Green and in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The names North Kensington and Ladbroke Grove describe the same area. Despite its namesake, it is not actually part of the larger district of Kensington from which it is separated by Notting Hill town centre.

<i>Portobello</i> (novel)

Portobello is a novel by British writer Ruth Rendell, published in 2008. It is set in and around the Portobello Road in Notting Hill, London. Written in the third-person narrative mode, it follows the lives of a number of Londoners—rich and poor alike—living near the Portobello Road Market whose paths cross by accident rather than design. In other words, Portobello is about "the destinies of an oddly assorted group of people, whose only common characteristic is their postcode."

Golborne Road

Golborne Road is a street in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London's Kensal Green. The road runs east from Portobello Road to Kensal Road.

George Frederick Tippett

George Frederick John Tippett was an English builder and entrepreneur who developed much of the former St Quintin Estate in Notting Hill, London. He is responsible for the construction of many buildings in the area which remain today, including Pinehurst Court, a portered Victorian mansion block at 1-9 Colville Gardens in Notting Hill.

Leslie Stephen "Teacher" Palmer,, is a Trinidadian community activist, writer and teacher, who migrated in the 1960s to the UK, where he became involved in music and the arts in West London. He is credited with developing a successful template for the Notting Hill Carnival, of which he was director from 1973 to 1975, during which time he "completely revolutionised the event and transformed its structure and content almost beyond recognition." He is also known by the name of "The Wounded Soldier" as a kaisonian.

Zetland Arms

The Zetland Arms is a pub in South Kensington, London, on the corner of Old Brompton Road and Bute Street.

Notting Dale

Notting Dale is a mainly residential enclave in the West London district of Notting Hill. It has variously been associated with Irish, Catholic and Gypsy populations.