Westbourne Grove, Westminster
A recently revived commercial thoroughfare running westward from Queensway towards Notting Hill
This is the smallest of the Westbourne localities, consisting of a single street and its offshoots, but it was the commercial heart of Bayswater in the latter half of the 19th century. The road was created in the late 1830s and soon extended. Cottages and villas lined both sides and most of these had front gardens.
From the mid-1850s shops began to replace the houses. Many of these ventures failed and the road was nicknamed ‘Bankruptcy Row’ when William Whiteley opened his first little shop here in 1863. Whiteley proved to be a very astute merchant and by 1876 he had acquired 15 adjacent shops, creating London’s first ‘great emporium’. This did not please smaller local traders and there was an outcry each time the store branched into a new line of business, much as there is today when supermarket chains widen their ranges. Whiteley’s buildings were always mysteriously catching fire but were soon rebuilt. William Whiteley was shot dead in his office in 1907 by a man claiming to be his illegitimate son and his legitimate sons moved the store to Queensway in 1911, after which Westbourne Grove went into a decline.
In recent years antiques dealers and upmarket boutiques have recolonised the street, which also has a growing number of restaurants with an exotic variety of cuisines. It is possible that Westbourne Grove will again become ‘the Bond Street of the West’ that it was once dubbed.