All Saints Church

All Saints Church from Talbot Road 1900s. 'In 1852 the Reverend Walker bought from Mary Anne and Georgina Charlotte Talbot 51 acres of Portobello farmland. This covered the whole strip of North Kensington lying east of Portobello Lane, from Portobello farmhouse on the north to Lonsdale Road and Western Terrace on the south. On this land which joined the ‘Ladbrooke estate’, Walker commenced to build ‘a new town’ and erect an elaborate church to the memory of his parents. The road on which the church was built was called St Columb’s Road, and the church was dedicated to St Ann, but the name of ‘All Saints’ was soon substituted.

‘This ‘very stately and abnormal stone church, built after the model of that at St Columb’s Major in Cornwall was structurally completed in 1855, but owing to pecuniary difficulties was left without glass or furniture till 1861.’ Meanwhile it stood boarded up and weed-grown near a pond, the open ground behind being sometimes occupied by gipsies. A footpath which started beside the church, for some years after this date, led over fields all the way to Kensal Green. In 1861 Walker finished the church in a less costly manner… But already it was known as Walker’s Folly, and was sometimes irreverently called ‘All Sinners in the Mud’.’ Florence Gladstone, ‘Notting Hill in Bygone Days’ 1924.

The Colville ward of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea contains most of Portobello market and Notting Hill Carnival. The area is bounded by Ladbroke Grove to the west, the Westway to the north, St Luke's Road/Ledbury Road to the east along the Westminster border, and Kensington Park Gardens/Chepstow Villas to the south. In the middle ages it was part of the manor of Notting Barns, which passed from the feudal landlords, the de Vere Earls of Oxford, to Margaret Countess of Richmond (Henry VII's mother), Westminster Abbey, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Lord Burghley, Walter Cope, the Anderson family and, at some point in the 18th century, the Talbots.

For a hundred years the Colville area was Portobello farmland to the east of the farm lane known as Barley Shotts; then in the late 1840s the fields briefly became the Portobello Pleasure Gardens. Following the short-lived Hippodrome racecourse to the west, there was another horse racing track to the east, which is said to have been around the axis of Talbot Road. The pleasure gardens also staged fairs, concerts and hot-air balloon launches.

Talbot Road (originally St Columb’s Road) is named after the landowners, who were descended from the Talbot Earls of Shrewsbury; the first of whom fought against Joan of Arc. The Powis and Arundel street names are thought to be derived from the Talbots’ other titles. The neighbouring developer WK Jenkins hailed from Hereford on the Welsh border, and came up with the local street names from that region, Chepstow, Denbigh, Garway, Hereford, Ledbury, Monmouth, Newton and Pembridge. The Welsh were one of the first ethnic communities in the area and used to run most of the dairies.

Colville is probably named after the general Sir Charles Colville (1770-1843), who fought against Napoleon in the Peninsular War and the Waterloo campaign; leading the 4th Division guarding the Duke of Wellington’s right flank at the battle; was later Governor of Mauritius, shortly before the abolition of slavery; and also gave his name to the colvillea racemosa bush. Sir Charles was a member of the Colville of Culross clan; Colville is a Norman name, meaning castle on a hill, probably derived from the town of Colvile between Caen and Bayeux in Normandy.

All Saints church was designed by the Victorian Gothic revival pioneer William White, who was also a mountaineer, Swedish gymnastics enthusiast and anti-shaving campaigner The first vicar, the Reverend John Light was followed by Robert Trench, Philip Herbert Leary, Herbert Ridley, John Herbert Coate Twisaday (1932-61), John Herbert Brown, and then breaking with the Herbert tradition, John Henry Middleton Dixon (1966-67) and Peter Clark (1967-74).

During the Blitz, on the night of September 26 1940, bombs fell on All Saints church, All Saints Road and Powis Square. On June 19 1944, in the worst local incident of the war, a V1 rocket hit Westbourne Park Road at the junction of Clydesdale Road and Mews, killing 20 people; the highest single incident death toll of the war in the area.

The church, parish hall and vicarage were also badly damaged. The vicarage was burnt out in March and the hall suffered the same fate in July 44. The church was restored after the war, along with the church hall and vicarage, and reopened in 1951. The area behind the church became a bombsite boys' adventure playground.

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