Westbourne Grove

Westbourne Grove, Westminster

A recently revived commercial thoroughfare running westward from Queensway towards Notting Hill

A tall, gothic-style residence on a corner site on Westbourne Grove

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.

Postal districts: W2 and W11

 

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* The picture of Westbourne Grove near Chepstow Road at the top of this page is minimally modified from an original photograph, copyright Christina B Castro, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.