Frestonia

Frestonia

Frestonia was the name adopted by the residents of Freston Road, a street at the north western boundary of Notting Hill, London W11, also known as Notting Dale, when they attempted to secede from the United Kingdom in 1977. The state consisted of a triangle of land (including communal gardens) formed by Freston Road, Bramley Road and Shalfleet Drive, W10.

Actor David Rappaport was once the Foreign Minister, whilst playwright Heathcote Williams served as Ambassador to Great Britain. Another minister was Nicholas Albery.

Origins

Most of the residents of Freston Road were squatters, who moved into empty houses in the early 1970s. When the Greater London Council planned to redevelop the area, the 120 residents first all adopted the same surname of Bramley with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively.

Independence

The Council threatened formal eviction, so at a public meeting attended by 200 people, resident Nick Albery - inspired by both the Ealing comedy film Passport to Pimlico and a previous visit to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen - suggested that they declare the street independent of the rest of the UK. A referendum returned 94% of residents in favour of the plan, and 73% in favour of joining the European Economic Community. Independence was declared on 31 October 1977. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe wrote expressing his support, saying "As one who had childhood enthusiasm for Napoleon of Notting Hill, I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations". In a legal dispute regarding the unauthorised performance of his play The Immortalist, Heathcote Williams won a ruling from the UK courts that Frestonia was for this purpose not part of the UK.

The state adopted the Latin motto Nos Sumus Una Familia - We are All One Family - and applied to join the United Nations, at the same time warning that peacekeeping troops may be needed to keep the GLC at bay.

Culture, communications, transport and economy

Frestonia had its own newspaper - The Tribal Messenger - and also a "National Theatre," which performed Heathcote Williams's The Immortalist. The Frestonian National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being - appropriately - Passport to Pimlico and a film of The Sex Pistols. Local transport was served by the Number 295 bus, and the London Underground, Latimer Road tube station being at the north end of Bramley Road. There were Frestonian postage stamps (honoured by the General Post Office), as well as plans to introduce a currency.

When the state celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1982, the population numbered 97 people occupying 23 houses. The same year, The Clash recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as The People's Hall) in Frestonia.

Decline and fall

Following international press coverage, the residents formed the Bramleys Housing Co-operative Ltd, which negotiated with Notting Hill Housing Trust for continued residence and acceptable redevelopment of the site. Some Frestonians were unhappy with the consequent loss of independence, and moved away. According to Tony Sleep, a Frestonian resident whose online photo-journal documents the history of the area, those leaving were often replaced by people with drinking and drug problems. The remaining Frestonians proved incapable of maintaining the ideals of the Frestonian "nation," which consequently went into decline. In its place, a more conventional local community developed, without any claims to secession from the UK.

Current situation

To the current day, Bramleys Housing Co-operative manages the properties owned and built on the Frestonia site by Notting Hill Housing Trust, and its members continue to live as a close-knit community. Some are children or grandchildren of the original Frestonians, although there has also been a significant influx of new residents.

A large new office development, also named Frestonia, now occupies the adjacent site at the junction of Bramley Road and St Anns Road. It is occupied by both the Chrysalis Group including Heart FM, and a satellite office of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. A second large office development also named Frestonia by its developers was erected at 125/135 Freston Road in 2001.

With further major developments under construction in 2007, including the new headquarters of the Monsoon Corporation at the rear of 91 - 121 Freston Road, and the 150,000m² Westfield London shopping complex which will be linked to Notting Dale via a footbridge over the West Cross Route, it is clear that the area will continue to undergo change in the foreseeable future.

Cultural reactions

Frestonia was the name of the final album from Aztec Camera.

References

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