Social History

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 on the Westminster border, and Kensington Park Gardens/Chepstow Villas to the south.

In the middle ages the land 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 became the Portobello Pleasure Gardens. Following the short-lived Hippodrome racecourse to the west there was another course to the east, the track of 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 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 their other titles. The neighbouring landowner/developer WK Jenkins, who hailed from Hereford on the Welsh border, 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, who fought against Napoleon in the Peninsular War and the Waterloo campaign. Colville is a Norman name, meaning castle on a hill, probably derived from Colvile in Normandy.

In 1852 the Colville area was acquired from the Talbot family by the Rev Samuel Walker, who proceeded to build All Saints church. The area surrounding the church was sold by Rev Walker in 1860 to the builder George Tippett and consequently became known as Tippett's Brick Fields. The Powis and Colville squares were built by Tippett in the 1860s as upper-middle class residences, but are said to have gone into an immediate social decline. By the 1880s some were already sub-divided into flats. Tippett went bankrupt and the estate was acquired by Edward Strutt and Hickman Bacon, who formed the Colville Estate Limited. However, on Charles Booth’s 1900s poverty map the Colville squares are still solidly well-to-do orange. The ward on the whole is a pretty even mix of wealthy, well-to-do, fairly comfortable, poverty and comfort mixed, moderate poverty and very poor.

'In Powis Square in the 1920s the first black members of the community settled. But principally the people were Russian Polish and Jewish immigrants, as well as Irish, sometimes 'immigrants' from different parts of England – the depressed areas, Lancashire and others. Many of the people who lived there became legends, people who made their names into real folk myths. Eccentrics, madmen, political radicals, poets and artists: Chicago Kate (who lived in Basing Road), the Englisher (a British born Jew), the Presser (the quiet communist theoretician), Schmooser, the best dancer in Notting Hill. Stallholders in Portobello Road for generations, many of them still represented; Rosie, an Irish woman who kept a vegetable stall and who spoke fluent Yiddish.' Dave Robins, Notting Hill Interzone International Times 1968.

Powis Square's multicultural reputation was established at the turn of the 20th century by 'the Wren College' for the Indian civil service, and the accompanying boarding houses 'occupied by men of Oriental birth', which acquired the square the nickname 'Little India'. Princess Clemence Bonaparte, the widow of Napoleon's nephew Louis Lucien, resided at number 2, and Horace George Raynor, the murderer of the store boss William Whiteley (who inspired 'Gosford Park'), lived at 43. By then 13 of the 48 houses had been sub-divided. In the 1920s the area was described as ‘rapidly becoming poorer and more Jewish.’ By the 30s the Powis and Colville squares were already known as ‘largely a slum area, and partly large houses turned into one-room tenements and small flats.' 

When Mark Strutt inherited the Colville estate in 1948 he found “there wasn’t a cupboard that didn’t have somebody living in it… The houses had been sub-let and sub-sub-let without our consent, and they were filled with prostitutes, burglars, murderers and negroes.” He concluded that the ‘escalating costs could only be covered by being ruthless’, and sold the estate to the property developer Benson-Greenall, who broke it up into manageable packages. In 1955 around a hundred Colville properties came into the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel George Sinclair, about a third of which were farmed out to Peter Rachman. Colville subsequently became the epicentre of the West Indian blues club scene, the 1958 Notting Hill race riots, 60s and 70s housing community action, the Carnival and music business.

In Hollywood W11 the ward features in 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', '10 Rillington Place', 'Absolute Beginners', 'Scandal', 'West Eleven', 'A Hard Day's Night', 'The Knack', 'Otley', 'Performance', 'The File of the Golden Goose', 'The Italian Job', 'Withnail and I', 'Ooh You are Awful', 'A Bigger Splash', 'The Tamarind Seed', 'Pressure', 'The Moon Over the Alley', 'The Squeeze', 'Breaking Glass', 'Hell W10', 'Madame Sousatzka', 'I Hired a Contract Killer', 'London Kills Me', 'The Punk and the Princess', 'Jack and Sarah', 'Crimetime', 'The Man Who Knew Too Little', 'Bedrooms and Hallways', 'Martha Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence', 'Sliding Doors', 'Twice Upon a Yesterday', 'Notting Hill', 'Saving Grace', 'Virtual Sexuality', 'Rancid Aluminium', 'Sorted', 'Mike Bassett England Manager', 'Three Blind Mice', 'Love Actually', 'If Only', 'Match Point', 'Kidulthood' and 'Adulthood'.

The Colville conservation area, designated in 2014, is smaller than the ward. The boundary is Tavistock Road to the north, not including the new Tavistock Crescent and Gardens area, Portobello Road to the west, not including the buildings on the road which are in the Ladbroke conservation area, Lonsdale Road to the south, rather than Chepstow Villas (as Lonsdale Road to Chepstow Villas is already in the Pembridge conservation area), and the St Luke’s Road/Ledbury Road Westminster boundary to the east. The area’s listed buildings are All Saints Church, the Tabernacle Community Centre, and Colville Primary School on Lonsdale Road. The conservation area includes only one surviving pub, the Pelican on the corner of All Saints Road and Tavistock Road, recently renamed the Red Lemon bar. The lost pubs of Colville include the Apollo and the Albert on All Saints Road, the Duke of Cornwall on Ledbury/Talbot Road and the Princess Alexandra on Westbourne Park Road. Negative designated buildings include Clydesdale House on the 1944 V1 bomb site on Westbourne Park Road.

Colville is summed up architecturally and historically as: ‘a largely residential area with a few small parades of shops and individual community uses throughout; well preserved Victorian terraced housing and other buildings of the 1850s-70s with original architectural details; detailing that varies between terraces particularly with regard to stucco mouldings; original lightwells and cast iron railings, which give the streets texture and character; glimpsed views of the historic rear elevations of houses; tranquil streets with a variety of trees, York stone paving and heritage-style lampposts; well maintained planting and flower boxes to the fronts of many residential properties; publicly accessible green spaces at Colville Square and Powis Square; high quality public realm to the front of All Saints Church on Talbot Road’, and ‘attractive and well maintained murals.’

The Colville ward profile from the 2011 census is: highest population density in the borough at 214 people per hectare, Kensington is 131 and London 52. 12.6% of residents arrived in the last 5 years, 56.3% are single and 76.2% aged 16-74. There has been a notable increase in residents aged between 25 and 34 since 2001. 14% of residents are under 16 and 9.7% over 65, both less than the borough average. 40.3% are white, 22.7% white/other and 13% black/black British. White and black/black British groups have decreased and Asian/Asian British group increased from 4.3% to 7.7%. 47% are Christian, 26.3% no religion and 10.3% Muslim. The top 3 languages in the ward apart from English are Spanish 2.6%, French 2.4% and Arabic 2.3%.

90% live in flats, 39.1% live alone. One person pensioner households 9.8% similar to rest of the borough. Lone parent households are 12.4%, 4th highest in the borough, average 8.3%. 45.2% of households are in social rented sector, Notting Hill Housing Trust is the largest housing association landlord. This is the largest percentage of people living in social housing in the borough. 25.9% are owner occupied (including shared ownership) and 28.1% private rentals. Highest level of households in the borough classified as overcrowded without the required number of bedrooms. 40.3% of residents aged 16-64 work full time, 17.4% are self-employed, 6.4% unemployed and seeking employment (4.3 in borough, 5.2 in London), 26.1% economically inactive, students, retired, looking after the home or long-term sick or disabled (5%), 7.7% provide some unpaid care. 29.6% work more than 49 hours a week far higher than London average. Average income in Colville is £20,000 to £24,999 per annum.

Colville has premature mortality rates above the English average. 15% of residents have long-term limiting illness (average is 12.4%) and the ward has the highest percentage of residents living with a mental health illness. Over half of people out of work in the borough and claiming incapacity benefit have mental health issues or behavioural disorders. 3rd highest ward in the borough for reported offences (after Brompton and Golborne), low burglary and motor vehicle theft, 2nd highest ward for personal robbery and highest for snatch offences at 42 (2007/8), 2nd highest for possession of drugs (after Golborne) and highest incidence of graffiti in the borough. Colville is considered well served for culture, arts and leisure, with Cinema, Library, Portobello Film Festival, Tabernacle Arts Centre, Westway Fitness Club and Carnival. There are only 3 public spaces in Colville and Powis Squares and Tavistock gardens, but it is not considered an open space deficient area compared with the rest of the borough.

Children in families in receipt of key benefits can indicate child poverty. North Kensington has some of the highest levels in the UK at up to 53.3% in Golborne, Dalgarno, Notting Dale and St Helen's. Colville is the 2nd highest level at up to 43.5% (2008). Indicators of Deprivation and Colville (2008) Nationally 7 indicators are scored to identify areas where disadvantage is concentrated. These are: income deprivation, employment deprivation, health deprivation and disability, education, skills and training deprivation, barriers to housing and services, the living environment and crime. A score of 1 is most deprived and 354 is least deprived, Kensington & Chelsea scores 101. Colville is considered most deprived regarding barriers to accessing housing and key local services, and the quality of its living environment - the living environment inside the home and housing conditions, and outside re air quality and road traffic pollution and accidents. The ward is the 2nd most deprived ranking for income deprivation affecting children and income deprivation affecting older people.

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