W11: Electric Dreams

W11 is Notting hill, famed because of the film and the annual carnival and also home to no less than three pre-First World war buildings which are today still used as cinemas.

Now there does not appear to be a Post Office in W11, so I am starting at the Ladbroke Grove one in W10 which is just yards from the border with W11.

Turn left out of the Post Office at 116 Ladbroke Grove and take the first street on the left which is Lancaster Road. The next main junction is Portobello Road. Turn left here and go to the next junction on the right which is Tavistock Road.

Stop 1: The Notting Hill Carnival Plaques

The story of the Notting Hill Carnival started from two separate but connected events. Here on either side of the little pedestranised area at the end of Tavistock Road are blue plaques to commemorate two people who are linked to the genesis of Carnival.


The plaque on the south side is for Claudia Jones (1915—1964) . It was she who organised a “Caribbean Carnival” in January 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the depressing state of race relations at the time – the Notting Hill race riots had occurred the previous year. Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad but her family went to the US when she was a child. There she became a political activist and black nationalist through Communism. As a result of her political activities, she was deported in 1955 and so came to Britain. She founded Britain’s first Black newspaper, The West Indian Gazette, in 1958, although this foundered soon after her death. But she is perhaps better remembered for her role in setting up the first carnival and is considered by some to be “the Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival” despite the fact that the first ones were actually held indoors nowhere near Notting Hill.


The other plaque is on the opposite side of the road and is for Rhaune Laslett O’Brien (1919 – 2002). She was a community activist and the principal organiser of the Notting Hill Fayre or Festival, that evolved into the Notting Hill Carnival.



The story goes that this street party for neighbourhood children turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band (who had played at the earlier Claudia Jones events) went on a walkabout. So perhaps Rhaune has a stronger claim to be the “Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival” as the event she organised was actually outdoors in the local area.

And from these roots the modern day Notting Hill Carnival evolved. There is a great article about this from the Guardian by Gary Younge dated 17 August 2002:


Return down Portobello Road and at the junction with Wesbourne Park Road take a right.

Stop 2: Number 280 Westbourne Park Road

Our next stop is just along from the junction on the right. It is the famous Blue Door which featured in the film Notting Hill. In the movie, this was the door to the flat occupied by Hugh Grant’s character Will but in reality the building was owned by Richard Curtis, who wrote the screen play. Apparently behind the entrance there is not the flat you see in the film – it is a rather grand house. Curtis no longer owns the house and the original blue door was auctioned for charity. But the replacement door has been painted blue – I guess because everyone expects it to be blue. When I was there, lots of people were having their photo taken by it. There are various other locations hereabouts that were used in the film but I am going to resist pointing them out!


Return to Portobello Road and keep walking along. This section of the market still has fruit and vegetable stalls but there is also more general merchandise. Just at the next junction, look out for this Joe Strummer mural on the end of Blenheim Crescent (to your right). Note the graffiti (!)

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Our next stop is just a little further down on the right

Stop 3: Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Road

The Electric Cinema opened on 24th December 1910. It is hard to see the facade when the market is running – and to be honest it is not much of a facade, even though this is one of the first purpose built cinemas in the country.

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This cinema has survived against all the odds. I guess it helped that it was not on a main road nor owned by a big chain. It remained open (on and off) until the 1990s. As far as I can establish never succumbed to bingo and it has always been called the Electric – which is just as well given the mosaic floor in the foyer. The building was restored in 2001 and has an adjoining restaurant. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Keep walking along Portobello Road

Stop 4: Portobello Antique Market

We are now in the part of Portobello Road famed for its antique shops and arcades. It is called Portobello Road by the way because it was the road that led to Portobello Farm, near Kensal Green. And that had been renamed around 1740 after the Battle of Porto Bello. This was when Admiral Edward Vernon stormed and captured the spanish port of Porto Bello in the Gulf of Mexico in revenge for a spanish sea Captain slicing off the ear of a British mariner, Robert Jenkins – the so-called “War of Jenkin’s Ear”.

There are a couple of blue plaques in this section of the road. The first one you come across is on Number 169.


Now here’s a strange tale. I was standing there looking at this blue plaque and a woman comes up to me and says: “you know she had that put there up herself”. And if you look you can see it is unlike the official blue plaques as it has no mention of the organisation which put it up. She went on to say that Susan Garth was quite a character and suggested she had been in business in Shepherd Market before coming here – but not in the antiques trade.

It turned out I was talking to Marion who owned the shop almost opposite, which has been in her family for years. She trades antiques on a Saturday but the rest of the week it is an ordinary shop and the man who rents it puts away all his stock on friday night so she can trade antiques on Saturdays. So we carry on chatting and she mentions she is in a book about Portobello, which just happened to be in the window of the shop. It’s called “Portobello Voices” by Blanche Girouard. I buy it and lo and behold Marion is featured as the first “voice”. It is a fascinating read by the way, but it does make you worry about how the local differences are being lost. (However haven’t people been saying that for years …)

There is another unofficial looking blue plaque a little further along the road at Number 115. This is to June Aylward and it claims she opened the first antique shop on Portobello Road. Again this appears to be an unofficial blue plaque.


Sadly this is no longer an antique shop. It is now occupied by a Ben Sherman clothes store, which is a worrying sign of change.




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Keep walking along Portobello Road crossing over Chepstow Villas. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: Number 22 Portobello Road

Who would have thought it. Here at number 22 is a blue plaque to George Orwell. Orwell was of course not his real name. That was Eric Blair. He was from Suffolk and the Orwell is the main river in southern Suffolk.

Orwell is best known for his works 1984 and Animal Farm but he wrote extensively and is often ranked as one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. Afterall it was he who coined the phrase “big brother” and his pen name has given us the term “Orwellian”.



Orwell had lodgings here in Portobello Road. He moved in  here in 1927 but he does not seem to have stayed long as he moved to Paris in the spring of 1928. It is strange to think of this little house as being “lodgings” but then it is only more recently that Notting Hill has become achingly expensive.

Fascinating fact: In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay describing the ideal pub, which he called “the Moon Under Water”. That no doubt is why Wetherspoons have used this actual name on some of their pubs (including in their one in Leicester Square) and they have adapted it so you also get pub names like “Lord Moon of the Mall”.

Continue walking along Portobello Road at the end continue into Pembridge Road which leads you to the street Noting Hill Gate. Just at the junction we have almost side by the side the other two old cinemas in W11.

Stop 6a: Gate Cinema

This building (or at least a bit of it) dates from 1861. The ground floor room (which is where the current cinema is) was known as the North End and Harvey Dining Room. In 1879, the building became the Golden Bells Hotel, and the ground floor room was known as the Golden Bells Coffee Palace and Restaurant. The ground floor room was converted into a cinema in April 1911 with the name Electric Palace. It did have a much more elaborate facade but this was destroyed by WW2 bombing and rebuilt with its now rather plain facade in the 1950s.


The cinema has had various names. By 1934 it was the Embassy News and Interest Theatre. By 1944, it was simply known as the Embassy Cinema and it became the Classic Cinema in 1957. With the demise of the Classic chain in 1974 it was operated by an independent operator Cinegate under the name of the Gate Cinema. The Gate Cinema is today operated by the Picturehouse Cinemas chain. With its wealth of Edwardian plaster-work, it is designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage.

And just little further along is the Coronet.

Stop 6b: Coronet Theatre

This was built as a theatre in 1898 with some 1,100 seats over three levels – stalls, balcony and gallery.


It became a full time cinema in 1923.  In 1931 it was acquired by Gaumont but kept its original name until 1950 when it started to be called the Gaumont. It was taken over by an independent operator in 1977 who re-instated the name Coronet. The main auditorium is virtually intact, but with only 220 seats in the stalls and 160 in the balcony, as the gallery is not used. So this is a rare example of a cinema which still has seats on two levels. In 2002, the disused stage area was converted to create a second screen seating 151, on condition that this was easily removable so as not to allow a return to live theatre usage should the demand exist.

Continue walking along Notting Hill Gate. I believe somewhere along here on the north side of the street was the first Virgin Records store but I have been unable to pin that one down.

Stop 7: Number 12 Holland Park Avenue

The shops stop and the road becomes Holland Park Avenue. Our next stop is a few houses along on the right.



The plaque indicates this was the home – and workplace – of Caroline DeCamp Benn (1926 – 2000). She was wife of the now recently deceased Tony Benn. So I guess by inference this was the Benn family home. The bright red door now makes perfect sense.



Caroline Benn was an educational academic. American by birth, she came to Oxford to study. She met her future husband over tea at Worcester College, Oxford in 1949. Nine days later he proposed to her on a park bench in the city. Sometime later, he bought the bench from Oxford City Council and installed it in the garden of their house in Holland Park (which I assume is this house).

There is a wonderful quote by Tony Benn refered to in a BBC article about the time of his retirement from Parliament in 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1209497.stm

“She was my socialist soulmate. When people went through our rubbish every day, it was harder for her. I could respond in the House, she just had to take it.”

Keep walking along Holland Park Avenue. Our next stop is on the other side of the road at the corner of the street named Holland Park.

Stop 8: The Ukrainian institute

At the corner is a statue of St. Volodymyr. He was ruler of Ukraine from 980 to 1015. The statue was  erected by Ukrainians in Great Britain in 1988 to celebrate the establishment of christianity in Ukraine by St. Volodymyr one thousand years before.

And I guess it is here because the building at this corner is the Ukrainian Institute. This promotes a greater awareness, understanding and knowledge of all things Ukrainian. The Institute is maintained and supported a charity called the Society of St Sophia, a UK registered charity. It was founded in 1979 by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, following his release from 18 years in Soviet prisons.

Today the statue is surrounding by a montage of pictures of people who have died in the recent conflict in Ukraine.



keep walking along Holland Park Avenue crossing over when convenient. You will pass Holland Park station, one of the few remaining original buildings of the Central London Railway, dating from 1901.


Take the next right (Clarendon Road). Walk up Clarendon Road and our next stop is just past St John’s Gardens

Stop 9: Number 50 Clarendon Road

Number 50 was home to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, later Dame, Christabel Pankhurst.

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Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the leading campaigners for women’s rights. In 1889, she and her husband, Richard, established the Women’s Franchise League. It’s main achievement was to secure the vote for women in local elections . Then five years after her husband’s death she, with her daughter Christabel, and four other women created the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. The founders decided to form a women-only organisation to campaign for social reforms, largely in conjunction with the Independent Labour Party. They also campaigned for an extension of women’s right to vote. They were much more militant than previous groups and they adopted the slogan “Deeds, not words”

Interestingly the term “suffragette” was not the women’s own. It was first used as a term of derision for women’s suffrage activists by the Daily Mail journalist Charles E. Hands. But the term was embraced by the women, and we use it today.

The outbreak of the First World War led to a halting of much of the campaigning. But things did begin to change after the war. The Representation of the People Act 1918 enfranchised women with property who were over the age of 30. The Representation of the People Act 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21.

Christabel Pankhurst left the UK in 1921 for the United States. She returned briefly in the 1930s. She became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1936. But at the start of World War II she went back to the United States. I guess campaigning was in her blood and in the States she became a Christian evangelist.

Continue up Clarendon Road, taking the first left (Clarendon Gardens)

Stop 10: Hippodrome Place

When you reach Portland Road, there is a small pedestrianised area to the left and ahead is a street called Hippodrome Place.





This is called Hippodrome Place not because there was a theatre of that name here but because the land hereabouts was briefly a horse racing track called the Kensington Hippodrome.

The land here was owned by the Ladbroke family and by 1821 had been inherited by James Weller Ladbroke, who initiated the house building. A landscape architect called Thomas Allason was appointed to layout the estate. The original plan was for a  large central circus with radiating streets built around gardens. A financial crisis in 1825 forced his plans to be greatly scaled down, and this original vision was not fulfilled. However some fifteen of communal garden squares were built, and they give this area its unique character.

Building work all but stopped in the 1830s but some of the undeveloped land was leased in 1837 to a man called John Whyte. Whyte built a racecourse but it was not a financial success and it closed in 1842. By then financial conditions had improved and the land was soon developed by Ladbroke who had crescents of houses built on Whyte’s former race course. So all we have left to remind us of the short lived racecourse is this street name.

Now take a left at the pedestrianised area and then take the road which curves off to the right. This is Penzance Place. This becomes St James Gardens. Continue along this until you reach a cross roads. Here turn left into St Ann’s Villas. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 11: Number 17 St Ann’s Villas

Number 17 was the birthplace of music hall comedian Albert Chevalier (1861 – 1923).


Chevalier was known for his sentimental songs, his most popular being My Old Dutch, a song published in 1892 about an old man’s long happy marriage to his wife. Now “Dutch” is said to be cockney rhyming slang. It could come from “dutch plate” (“mate”) or “Duchess of Fife” (“wife”). The first Duchess of Fife by the way was daughter of the then Prince of Wales and so a grand daughter of Queen Victoria. The dukedom was created in 1889 by Queen Victoria.

However Chevalier, who wrote the words to the song, claimed that his wife’s face reminded him of the clock face of a Dutch clock (!).

Retrace your steps along St Ann’s Villas which then becomes St Ann’s Road.  After Wilsham Street on the right, there is a 1950s estate which is our next stop.

Stop 12: Henry Dickens Court

The blocks in this estate mostly seem to have Charles Dickens connection, such as Dorrit House and Nickleby House. So why, I ask myself, is the estate called Henry Dickens Court?

It turns out it was named after Henry Dickens, grandson of Charles Dickens. Henry Dickens was an Alderman on Kensington Borough Council and an active advocate of municipal housing. The estate was built on a bomb site as part of the Borough Council’s post war redevelopment plan. The estate was opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.

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This brings us to the end of our W11 walk. We have seen three old cinemas and heard of some interesting connections. Now that this area is so gentrified, it is hard to think of this as a place of radicals, communists and socialists. But as we have seen George Orwell and the Pankhursts lived in W11 as well as a couple of people who are credited with starting the idea of the Notting Hill Carnival, not to mention the Benn family.

For onward travel, you will find Latimer Road station if you keep walking. Or else there are buses running along here that will take you to Shepherd’s Bush.

W10: To Paradise by way of Kensal Green

W10 is North Kensington, not Kensal Green, I hear you say. And surely Kensal Green is in NW London. Well yes. But this is a quote from a poem which references not Kensal Green itself but Kensal Green Cemetery and that my friends is in W10 – as is the “Paradise” pub! But we are jumping ahead.

We start the W10 walk at the Ladbroke Grove Post Office at 116 Ladbroke Grove.

Turn right out of the Post Office and go under the railway bridge and then Westway. Take a right down the pedestrianised area which parallels Westway. 

Stop 1: Under Westway and Portobello Green

All along here the whole area under the elevated road has been filled in with commercial development – offices, a gym, even a nightclub fittingly called “Flyover”. This development was completed in 1981 and is a great use of what otherwise be wasted space. Even the architectural guide, Pevsner (not exactly a fan of the 1970s and 1980s) says “It is a triumphant demonstration that once their functions are clearly defined, such difficult sites need not be disaster areas.”

And on the left of the path is a little garden, which I believe was created when Westway was built in the 1970s. A green oasis – but unfortunately not a quiet backwater given the horrendous traffic noise from Westway.

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Continue walking and soon you will reach a white billowing tent – this is Portobello Green Market.

Stop 2:  Portobello Green Market and Acklam Village Market

Portobello Green Market is a bit like an overgrown jumble sale with old clothes (sorry, vintage clothes), bric a brac and old magazines. No doubt there are some gems in here but you have to look as there is a load of old tat here too.

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At the far side of Portobello Green Market from where you came in is Portobello Road itself – and there are usually some market stalls along the road side. When I was there, I saw one stall holder had a sense of fun having dressed up a couple of mannequins and put some familiar faces on top (well they are just about recognisable faces!)


Across the road is another type of market area. Being at the end of Acklam Road, this is called Acklam Market and runs Saturday and Sunday providing food, drink and music.



Walk up Portobello Road away from Westway (with Acklam Market on your right and Portobello Green on your left).

Stop 3: Portobello Road Arts Project

The Portobello Road Arts Project is a series of art commissions on a 100 metre stretch of wall which seeks to create a visual link between Portobello Road and Golborne Road. The idea is to encourage visitors to continue their journeys further up Portobello Road to discover Golborne Road, which is another market area.

The current installation is called “Aspects of Carnival” by Fiona Hawthorne which has 14 panels showing the vibrancy of North Kensington and celebrating Notting Hill Carnival. And it certainly does that.

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“Aspects of Carnival” is the seventh in a series of original art installations here. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is now seeking proposals for the next commission whose theme is “Heart of the Community”. The new work will be installed for six months, with a provisional launch date of 31 July 2014.

Continue walking along Portobello Road. The stalls thin out a bit and again you have to look hard for that little treasure amongst the dross. At Golborne Road turn right and continue through the market area and over the railway bridge.

Stop 4: Elkstone Road Sensory garden

After the railway bridge turn right into Elkstone Road and immediately on your right is our next stop – the Elkstone Road Sensory Garden. This is a nice little oasis, a garden where you can see, touch and smell. Unfortunately though it is right by the railway line so when a train goes through – and there are many – it is not as peaceful as it could be. So the one sense that is a bit bombarded is one’s hearing!

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Just across the way you can see our next stop.

Stop 5: Trellick Tower

You may not have realised it but you will have seen the Trellick Tower as you crossed the railway bridge on Golborne Road. This distinctive tower was designed by Ernö Goldfinger (1902 – 1987). It is a 31 story tower containing 217 flats – completed in 1972. It has a long, thin profile, with a separate lift and service tower linked at every third storey to the access corridors in the main building; flats above and below the corridor levels have internal stairs. For many years it was regarded as a hideous eyesore but today it is recognised as a masterpiece of its kind and it is now Grade II* listed.

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Fascinating “fact”: Ian Fleming is said to have named the James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger after Ernö.  The story goes that Fleming had been among the objectors to the demolition of some cottages in Hampstead where Goldfinger built his house at 2 Willow Road (now National Trust and well worth a visit).  When Goldfinger consulted his lawyers after publication of the book in 1959, Fleming threatened to rename the character “Goldprick”. Ernö decided not to sue. Apparently Fleming’s publishers agreed to pay his costs and gave Goldfinger six free copies of the book.

Retrace your steps along Golborne Road. After Portobello Road it becomes Chesterton Road. Continue along this until you reach Ladbroke Grove, where you should turn right.

Stop 6: Number 239 Ladbroke Grove

Our next stop is just at the first corner on the left (this is the corner of the first of three side streets confusingly called St Charles Square.)

The house here (number 239) was the home of Hablot Knight Browne (1815 – 1882) better known as Phiz, the illustrator of many Charles Dickens books.

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Phiz’s relationship with Dickens started in the late 1830s when the first illustrator for Pickwick Papers (Robert Seymour) committed suicide having produced only 7 plates. A further two were produced by another illustrator and then Phiz took over. His first couple of plates were signed “Nemo” but then he changed his  pseudonym. He is said to have explained that the change from “Nemo” to “Phiz” was made to harmonize better with Dickens’s “Boz.”

Phiz illustrated nine other Dickens books including David Copperfield, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House. So many of those very familiar Dickensian characters were realised on the page by Phiz.

Continue walking along Ladbroke Grove and turn left at the third side street called St Charles Square. Go straight ahead and turn with the road as it becomes Exmoor Street.

Stop 7:  St Charles Hospital

Our next stop is just on the left on Exmoor Street.

St Charles Hospital started life as St Marylebone Infirmary. It was opened by the then Prince and Princess of Wales in 1881. It became St. Charles’ Hospital when it was transferred from St. Marylebone Board of Guardians to the London County Council in 1930. It is an impressive yellow brick monster, which although amended over time has not acquired some of the awful inappropriate modern additions which get tacked on to such hospital buildings.

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Today it provides a range of walk-in health services to the general public from 8am to 9pm, 7 days a week. There also seems to be a mental health unit here as well.

Continue to the end of Exmoor Street and turn right into Barlby Road. Go to the end and at the roundabout turn left and go over the railway bridge.

Here as you cross the railway, you can get another glimpse of the Trellick Tower.


Just over the railway bridge is our next stop, but to get the best view of  it, keep walking and follow the entrance road into Sainsbury’s, going past the bus layby and looking back.

Stop 8: Kensal House

Kensal House is a residential estate built in 1937 and squeezed in between Ladbroke Grove, the Great Western main railway line and a gas works (now Sainsburys).

Kensal House designed by a team headed by architect Maxwell Fry. It was built for the local Gas Light and Coke Company to showcase the superiority of gas over electricity. The original flats were notable for their up to date gas cooking and heating equipment. It is now listed Grade II*.

Kensal House positioning on the site is clever and very forward thinking. It is designed on a North-South axis. Each flat has two balconies so as to catch the morning and evening sun.

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Now you should be able to see our next stop ahead.

Stop 9: Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash memorial

This grey slab is the memorial to the Ladbroke Grove rail crash on 5 October 1999 in which 31 people were killed and more than 500 injured. A couple of years earlier (in September 1997) there had been another major accident on the Great Western Main Line a bit further west at Southall. Both crashes would have been prevented by an operational Automatic Train Protection system, but introduction of such systems had been rejected on cost grounds. These accidents severely dented public confidence in the management and regulation of safety of what was then the newly privatised railway system.

Lord Cullen chaired a public inquiry into the crash in 2000 which also covered the management and regulation of UK rail safety. The recommendations of the Cullen inquiry led to the creation of the Rail Safety and Standards Board in 2003 and of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch in 2005. The latter is independent of the Railway Inspectorate and so standard setting, accident investigation and regulation functions were clearly separated, on the model of the aviation industry.


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 Retrace your steps back to Ladbroke Grove and turn left.

Stop 10: Fruit Towers

Almost immediately ahead on the right at the corner of Kensal Road is a white building. Your eye is drawn to a window at the corner. It contains models of two deer with antlers – one bright blue, the other orange. This announces it is no ordinary building, look up and whilst there is no sign, there is a logo. This is Innocent and this my friends is what they call “Fruit Towers”.


Innocent was founded by three Cambridge University graduates. The story goes that in 1999, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London. People were asked to put their empty bottles in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the “Yes”‘ bin was full, with only three containers in the “No” bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned. In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to getting a product to market.



But Innocent is not as innocent as you might think. In 2009, the Coca-Cola Company bought a minority stake said to have been between 10 -20%. In April 2010, Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% and then in February 2013 Coca-Cola increased their stake to over 90%, leaving the three founders with a small minority holding. But understandably Coca -Cola keep their connection discreet.

Continue walking along Ladbroke Grove and when you get to Harrow Road cross over and continue into Kilburn Lane.

Stop 11: Paradise by Way of Kensal Green pub, Kilburn Lane

Just a little way up on the left is a grand Victorian pub with the equally wonderful name “Paradise by way of Kensal Green”.

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I had heard this phrase before and had kind of assumed it was John Betjeman. But no it is not. It was coined by G K Chesterton in his poem “The Rolling English Road” –  first published under the title “A Song of Temperance Reform” in 1913. The full text of the poem is below:

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

Fascinatingly this poem was inspired by author’s strongly felt opposition to the idea of Prohibition into Britain. Chesterton saw it as an abuse of the ordinary man’s right to ordinary pleasures. So it is kind of fitting that there is a pub quite close to the cemetery which has been renamed “Paradise by Way of Kensal Green”.

It is a splendid building but obviously the Paradise … name is modern. A little bit of research reveals that this pub was originally called “Ye Old Plough” and this is borne out by the little relief on the side elevation.


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Return to Harrow Road and there turn right. Just a little way along on the left is our final stop

Stop 12: Kensal Green Cemetery

This is one of the early commercial cemetery, dating from 1833 and it still appears to be privately owned and run. It was the first of the magnificent seven cemeteries – We have already seen Brompton in SW10 and no doubt we see the others on our travels.

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Kensal Green Cemetery was inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and has a wide variety of mausoleums and tombs, some of which are rather grand, as is the entrance arch.


It is a huge cemetery but we will focus on the eastern end as that is the bit that is I suppose in W10.  The western entrance further up Harrow Road (where the Crematorium) is has a NW10 postcode.

So take a left as you go through the archway and head for the delightfully named “Dissenters’ Chapel”.

Just before you get there, there is a little plaque on the wall which commemorates Sir William Beatty. His main claim to fame is that he was the Ship’s Surgeon on board the HMS Victory and he witnessed Admiral Nelson’s death and subsequently wrote about it. Beatty claimed he did not administer treatment when Nelson was injured because he believed that the admiral was beyond treatment.


At his own request, Beatty was buried in an unmarked vault. This plaque is a memorial erected in the 1990s by the 1805 Club which is a society dedicated to maintaining the memory of the men of Trafalgar.

Now loop round in front of the Chapel. This by the way has an entrance on Ladbroke Grove which is not normally open – and this is one of the addresses used by the cemetery which confirms it is in W10.


Just a little way as you head back to the entrance you will see on your right a couple of columns side by side. These are not actually graves or tombs.

The one you come to first is  the Robert Owen memorial. Robert Owen (1771 – 1858) was a Welsh born social reformer. He was involved amongst other things with New Lanark which was a Scottish mill town and housing – his wife being the daughter of the founder of the Mill. It is an early example of a planned settlement and important in the historical development of urban planning. New Lanark is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland.

But he was actually buried in Newtown, Montgomeryshire so this just commemorates him. The monument itself has extensive praise for Owen:

“he originated and organised infant schools, he secured a reduction of the hours of labour for women and children in factories. He was a liberal supporter of the early efforts in favour of national education and laboured to promote international arbitration. He was one of the foremost englishmen (sic) who taught men to aspire to a higher social state by reconciling the interests of capital and labour. He spent his life and a large fortune in seeking to improve his fellow men by giving them education, self-reliance and more worth. His life was sanctified by human affection and lofty effort.”

The one next door is called The Reformers’ Memorial. Erected in 1885 at the instigation of  man called Joseph Corfield who is also mentioned on the Owen monument. The Reformers’ Memorial is:

“to the memory of men and women who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and enlarge the happiness of all classes of society”. There are long lists of people who were considered reformers and radicals.

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You can spent many an hour wandering through here, looking for the famous and not famous names (amongst the well known are both Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Wilkie Collins, William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope). There are guided tours every Sunday from the Anglican Chapel (which is the one to the right as you came in).

Now for onward travel you can go out the gate you came in. You are on Harrow Road, near the junction with Ladbroke Grove and Kilburn Lane and there are a number of buses from here. The nearest station is actually Kensal Green which is a few minutes walk along Harrow Road left out of the cemetery gates.

So W10 has been fascinating. You do not really expect to find a poor bit of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea but this is it. It is sliced up by Westway, the Grand Union Canal and railways but still manages some interesting buildings, most notably two very different listed housing developments (Trellick Tower and Kensal House).