Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill Gate, Kensington & Chelsea

A visually dull but culturally interesting stretch of road situated at the meeting point of Bayswater Road, Kensington Church Street, Holland Park Avenue and Pembridge Road

Hidden London: Notting Hill Gate, September 2019

This was a lone­ly stretch of the ‘way to Uxbridge’ with a few cot­tages beside the Kens­ing­ton grav­el pits until a toll­gate was set up in the mid-18th cen­tu­ry. The gate stood at the junc­tion with what was then Por­to­bel­lo Lane, now Pem­bridge Road, and was rebuilt twice over the fol­low­ing 100 years. As neigh­bour­ing streets were laid out, bars were placed across them to pre­vent trav­ellers from evad­ing the toll.

A hig­gledy-pig­gledy set of dwellings grew up along the road­way, some of which were demol­ished in the late 1860s when the rail­way first came through. Coach­es and omnibus­es ran to sev­er­al des­ti­na­tions in west Mid­dle­sex and numer­ous inns were built here, which were pro­gres­sive­ly replaced by shops.

South of the main road, spec­u­la­tive devel­op­ers crammed work­ing-class fam­i­lies into back­street ter­raced hous­es that are now high­ly sought-after and dubbed Hill­gate Vil­lage. In 1900 (when the Cen­tral line arrived) a local cler­gy­man described con­di­tions here as “worse than the East End” – but vic­ars were always say­ing that sort of thing about the less salu­bri­ous parts of their parish­es.

In the late 1950s Not­ting Hill Gate was bru­tal­ly rede­vel­oped in a road widen­ing pro­gramme, cre­at­ing a monot­o­nous streetscape out of what had for­mer­ly been a char­ac­ter­ful if messy thor­ough­fare and com­bin­ing the two under­ground sta­tions with­in a sin­gle con­course.

Hidden London: Notting Hill Gate, the Print Room at The Coronet, by Julian Osley
The Print Room at The Coro­net

The shop­ping facil­i­ties at Not­ting Hill Gate are unex­cit­ing com­pared with near­by Por­to­bel­lo Road and its off­shoots but the local­i­ty has some chic eater­ies. The artist Damien Hirst ran the ultra-trendy Phar­ma­cy restau­rant here from 1997 to 2003, sell­ing its fix­tures and fit­tings for £11 mil­lion after its clo­sure.

Not­ting Hill Gate has four venues that are pop­u­lar with the cul­tur­al cognoscen­ti: the Coro­net opened as a the­atre in 1898, was con­vert­ed to a cin­e­ma after the First World War and became home to the Print Room the­atre in 2015; The Gate was con­vert­ed from a cof­fee palace into the Elec­tric cin­e­ma in 1911 and took its present name in 1985; The Gate The­atre was estab­lished in 1979 in a room above the Prince Albert pub on Pem­bridge Road and is nowa­days ded­i­cat­ed to pro­duc­ing a reper­toire with a whol­ly inter­na­tion­al focus; the Not­ting Hill Arts Club hosts live music, niche club nights and art exhi­bi­tions.

Postal district: W11
Station: Central, Circle and District lines (zones 1 and 2)

*The picture of the Print Room at The Coronet is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, also made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of that image is freely permitted under the terms of its licence.