Celebrating 150 years of Portobello and Golborne Market

Andy Norton, North Kensington library, writes:

Library Market stall at Portobello Rd
The Library Market Stall

Last Friday we spent an afternoon at Portobello Road Market, celebrating 150 years of local markets and promoting our own markets-inspired writing competition (more on that, below).

Despite the cold, the market was bustling and many residents stopped by to look at our photos, which showed the market from its early days.

Portobello Road began life in the 1860s as a humble country lane where farmers sold produce to local people. In 1864 the area was transformed by the opening of the Metropolitan Railway Notting Hill station – now known as Ladbroke Grove Station.

Painting of Portobello Rd from 1860s
A humble country lane…

During the 1920s and 30s, Portobello and Golborne Road Market further expanded with discharged soldiers and sailors, Spanish immigrants fleeing the civil war adding to the area’s diversity. By this time, second hand clothes, shoes and ornament stalls had joined the traditional fruit, vegetables, salad, meat, fish and flowers. After the Second World War, Portuguese people settled in the area, opening several specialist shops which are still trading in Golborne Road.

Picture of Marks & Spencer taken 1931
Portobello Road 1931

Antiques started to appear in the 1940s and 50s. Most antique stalls are open only on Saturday, which has always been the market’s busiest day.

Antique market at Portobello Road
Early morning antiquing

The 1940s and 50s also saw the arrival of Caribbean immigrants who came in response to post-war labour shortages.

An aerial view of Portobello Road, taken in 1951
An aerial view, 1951

The market has also featured in films such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Notting Hill (1999), and Paddington Bear (2014), as well as many television programmes, popular songs and literary works. Each has sparked the curiosity of a new generation of visitors and traders. We are hoping residents will be similarly inspired and take part in our short story competition which offers the opportunity to become a published author.

Portobello and Golborne Market is so big, so diverse, and so fast-changing, that chances are – even if you’re a frequent visitor – there’ll be stalls you’ve never discovered; arcades, nooks and crannies that you’ve never explored.

Promoting our Short Story Competition at Portobello Road Market, 2015
Promoting our Short Story Competition at Portobello Road Market, 2015

150 Years of Portobello & Golborne Market Short Story Competition!

Join RBKC Libraries & Markets for a unique literary collaboration, inspired by the rich history of our local markets.

Your short story can be written against any setting and from any period, including modern day.  The only necessary link is that your inspiration should come from your thoughts about Portobello or Golborne Market.

All winning entries will be published in an anthology that will be added to the library collection.

 Deadline for submissions 30th June

To register your interest and for full Terms and Conditions please email libris@rbkc.gov.uk


Local History Week at North Kensington Library – a review

We were so busy in the last week of September with Local History Week at North Kensington Library. The Carnival Mas and Mayhem banners exhibition was very popular and it was good to see local residents gather in the hallway to read the testimonials from people reminiscing about late 1950s and the birth of Notting Hill Carnival.

Notting Hill Carnival exhibition panels
Notting Hill Carnival exhibition panels

On Monday there was a talk by our own member of staff and famous soca artist John David with his guests Pepe Francis – a man who has dedicated more than 50 years to the steel band art form and Symone Williams  – the manager of the mas band Genesis whose late father Vernon Williams was one of the founding members of Notting Hill Carnival in 1964.They talked about history of steel bands, local community support of young people through own experience, costume and mask making and the importance of Notting Hill Carnival to the local community and wider.

I could have listened to them forever…

John David
John David

We had film screening Carnival 73 , featuring Leslie Palmer, the first organiser of Notting Hill Carnival as we know it today. 58 Riot Tour films by Tony Auguste followed by the discussion hat featured Sister Monica Tywang, who presented the Mas and Mayhem exhibition.

Tom Vague
Tom Vague


On Thursday, our guest was Local author Blanche Girouard whose latest book Portobello Voices was published in early September. She took us on an audio visual journey through hidden gems of Portobello Market. We listened to the recorded interviews with local traders who were talking about their experiences from the market from past and present.

The copy of the book is available to loam from all Kensington and Chelsea Libraries.

Portobello Voices by Blanche Girouard
Portobello Voices by Blanche Girouard

The last day of the North Kensington Local History week was fun, fun, fun!!! There was a carnival mask making workshop in North Kensington Children’s Library.

We had colourful paper, glitter and feathers and we created some beautiful masks (that can now be seen on display in North Kensington Children’s Library) while we chatted about the Carnival, colours, shapes and….oh…. ok…..and we had a bit of girly fashion chat as well…..

And here are some of our masks!

Carnival masks
Carnival masks
Silva Memic
Silva Memic

Silva Memic

Customer Services Manager

North Kensington, Kensal and Notting Hill Gate Libraries

Local History Week at North Kensington Library

North Kensington Library
North Kensington Library

North Kensington Library is having a Local History Week later this month from Monday 23 to Saturday 28 September. So if you’re interested in knowing more about the local area then come along – we’ve events for all ages and they’re all free.

Local History Exhibition

141-143 Ladbroke Grove in 1969
141-143 Ladbroke Grove in 1969

Monday 23 to Saturday 28 September

Notting Hill Caribbean Culture – Past and Present

Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill Carnival

Monday 23 September, 6 to 8pm

A talk by John David. Places are limited – book your free place to this at North Kensington Library.

Carnival 73, 58 Riot Tour and Grove Roots – Film Screenings

Tom Vague
Tom Vague

Tuesday 24 September, 5 to 8pm

Carnival 73 features Leslie Palmer. The screenings will be followed by a Q and A with Tony Auguste and Tom Vague. Places are limited – book your free place to this event at North Kensington Library.

Meet author Blanche Girouard

Blanche Girouard
Blanche Girouard

Thursday 26 September, 6 to 8pm

Blanche Girouard is a local author. She will talk about her latest book ‘Portobello Voices’ which is on the relevance of Portobello Market today. Places are limited – book your free place to this talk at North Kensington Library.

Carnival Mask Making workshop for children

Carnival mask
Carnival mask

Saturday 28 September, 1 to 4pm

There’s no need to book a place to this session – just come along to North Kensington Children’s Library.

Silva Memic

Customer Services Manager, North Kensington Library

The Library at Portobello Road Market

We were very kindly given a pitch on Portobello Road Market on Friday 30 November to promote the library. Me and a colleague, Amanda Southern valiantly volunteered to staff the stall for the day! We thought we’d have something eye- catching for busy shoppers to have a look at so we had lots of photos of the market through the ages, from the 18th  to the 20th centuries. These were very kindly supplied by our Local Studies Library.

Here’s some pictures of our market stall.

Our market stall from the front
Our market stall from the front
And from the back
And from the back

We were given an excellent pitch, right in the middle of the market.

Portobello Market
Portobello Market

And thankfully although it was a cold day it didn’t rain!

The sun shines at Portobello Market!
The sun shines at Portobello Road Market!

Lots of people stopped to look at the photos and talked about them.

Copy of DSC_2004
Looking at the old photos
Amanda Southern talking to an interested passer-by
Amanda Southern talking to an interested passer-by

We also took a short video of our stall. Apologies- it’s a little shaky!

Many of the current market traders knew of the families and market stalls in the photos such as Mr Brooks and Mrs Rudd.

Mr Brooks' vegetable stall, 1958
Mr Brooks’ vegetable stall, 1958
Mrs Rudd's salad stall, 1958
Mrs Rudd’s salad stall, 1958

And here’s a photo of the market in 1951.

Portobello Market, 1951
Portobello Road Market, 1951

If you’d like to see more photos like this please do pop into or contact our Local Studies Library (it’s at Kensington Central Library, W8).

It was a great day as so many people stopped to have a look and chat with us. Me and Amanda would like to say thanks to the following people as it couldn’t have happened without their help:

Mark Atkinson, Markets Development Officer- who very kindly gave us the pitch.

Eddie Philips, Building Supports Assistant- who drove us to and from the market and helped us with the gazebo.

Gaynor Lynch and Ishwari Prince from North Kensington Library- who covered for us so we could have lunch in the warm!

Dave Walker, Local Studies Librarian- he took the pictures for this post and got the photos together for the stall.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

Amanda Southern, Customer Services Manager

Kensington Central Library