Portobello Road is a road in the Notting Hill district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London, England. It runs almost the length of Notting Hill from south to north, roughly parallel with Ladbroke Grove. On Saturdays it is home to Portobello Road Market, one of London's notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes and antiques, and for the setting of one of the scenes in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Every August since 1996 the Portobello Film Festival has been held in locations around Portobello Road.
Portobello Road was known prior to 1740 as either Green's Lane or Turnpike Lane - a winding country path leading from Kensington Gravel Pits, in what is now Notting Hill Gate, up to Kensal Green in the north.
In 1740 Portobello Farm was built in the area near what is now Golborne Road. The farm got its name from a popular victory during the War of Jenkins' Ear, when Admiral Edward Vernon captured the Spanish town of Puerto Bello (now known as Portobelo in modern-day Panama).
Green's Lane became known as Porto Bello Lane; the title which it still held in 1841.
The Portobello farming area covered the land which is now St. Charles Hospital. The farm itself was sold to an order of nuns after the railways came in 1864. They built St Joseph's Convent.
Portobello Road is a construct of the Victorian era
. Before about 1850, it was little more than a country lane connecting Portobello Farm with Kensal Green
in the north and what is today Notting Hill
in the south. Much of it consisted of hayfields, orchards and other open land. The road ultimately took form piecemeal in the second half of the nineteenth century, nestling between the large new residential developments of Paddington
and Notting Hill. Its shops and markets thrived on serving the wealthy inhabitants of the elegant crescents and terraces that sprang up around it, and its working class residents found employment in the immediate vicinity as construction workers, domestic servants, coachmen, messengers, tradesmen and costermongers. After the Hammersmith and City Railway
line was completed in 1864, and Ladbroke Grove station
opened, the northern end of Portobello Road was also developed, and the last of the open fields disappeared under brick and concrete. George Orwell
lived in Portobello Road in the winter of 1927 after resigning as Assistant Superintendent of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. It should be noted that the Disney
film Bedknobs and Broomsticks
, although partly set in Portobello Road during one of the film's main musical numbers, is entirely filmed in a studio set which bears little or no resemblance to the real Portobello Road.
Portobello Road today
Portobello Road's distinctiveness does not just rely on its market. A range of communities inhabiting the street and the district contributes to a cosmopolitan and energetic atmosphere, as do the many restaurants and pubs
. The architecture
plays a part, too, as the road meanders and curves gracefully along most of its length, unlike the more formally planned layout of most of the nearby area. Mid- to late-Victorian
terrace houses and shops predominate, squeezed tightly into the available space, adding intimacy and a pleasing scale to the streetscape. The Friends of Portobello campaign seeks to preserve the street's unique dynamic, as the potential arrival of big-brand chain stores threatens the locals.
It is the setting for Paulo Coelho's 2007 novel, The Witch of Portobello.
The road descends from 84 feet (25.6 m) above sea level at the northern end, the highest point, to a lowest point of 65 feet (19.8 m), just south of the overpasses
, after which road rises and falls, before reaching a high point of 78 feet (23.8 m) at the southern end. The average grade
of ascent or descent between the northern end and the lowest point is about 1.77 percent.
Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market draws tourists. The main market day for antiques is Saturday. However, there are also fruit and vegetable stalls in the market, which trade throughout the week and are located further north than the antiques, near the Westway Flyover.
The market began as a fresh-food market in the nineteenth century; antiques dealers arrived in the 1960s.
The market section of Portobello road runs in a direction generally between the north-northwest and the south-south-east. The northern terminus is at Golborne Road; the southern end is at Westbourne Grove, to the east. The market area is about 3,080 feet (0.58 miles or 940 metres) long.
About one third of the way from its north end, the market runs beneath adjacent bridges of the A40 road and the Hammersmith & City line of the London Underground.
Portobello Road & Market in the Media
The market was featured in the 1971 musical film
, Bedknobs and Broomsticks
in a scene involving a song and dance in and around the market. The lyrics refer to the market and the people who live and work there.
In 1978, the rock band Dire Straits sang about the road in the song "Portobello Belle" on their second album Communiqué.
It is also referenced in the song "Blue Jeans" by alternative rock band Blur, from the 1993 album Modern Life Is Rubbish, in which the opening lyrics are "Air cushioned soles, I bought them on the Portobello Road on a Saturday.."
The cult British character Paddington Bear, featured in the books written by Michael Bond, enjoys visiting Portobello Market on a daily basis. His friend Mr. Gruber owns an antique shop on the Portobello Road, with whom Paddington has his elevenses every day.
The board game Portobello Market is named after this market.
BBC One's daytime antiques-based gameshow Bargain Hunt regularly features contestants buying items at the market to later sell at auction.
Perhaps it is most recognizable as the setting for the 1999 film Notting Hill, with much of the filming taking place on the street. The famed blue door, however, does not exist.