1952 – The Postwar Years

ladbroke1952The war and the trench shelter were the “coup de grace” for the concept of an “ornamental pleasure ground” the shelter had destroyed the east end of the garden.

The compensation paid by the council was not enough to restore it to an “ornamental” condition. A photograph taken by a woman who lived in the second floor bedsit of 25 Arundel Gardens in 1952 shows jungle taking over. Worst of all, intruders have no difficulty in entering.

“It was slummy, full of studenty types like me. I never went in the garden, but I loved the big plane tree I could see from my window. Inside the house was dark with dirty paintwork. I don’t remember a bathroom. My room had a gas ring and a basin. I wasn’t there much. The landlady insisted on opening the front door to make sure no unauthorised men were getting in”.


1940 – Bombed

On 26 th September, 1940, between 1 and 1.15 am a incendiary bomb fell in the garden somewhere near 2 – 4 Ladbroke Gardens. Unfortunately, the bomb incident map is on too small a scale to locate the exact spot. No casualties and no damage were reported. We are luckier than some others in nearby streets

On 5th March 1943 Trench Site no.13 is officially closed.

1939 – The Trench Site no 13

trenchzoomInside the shelter the four W.C.s are latrines, with two buckets apiece. According to the Local War Instructions of 28 th July, 1939, the shelter is to be supplied with eight hurricane lamps with four spare and one barrel of paraffin. Provision is similar in the other squares, but Kensington Gardens shelter gets 96 latrine buckets. Nothing is said about emptying the buckets.

It is ready to shelter people by 31 st October, 1939, nearly two months since war has been declared, but in time for the Blitz which comes to North Kensington in September, 1940. These shelters are only for people caught on the streets during an air raid, not for the residents, who are supposed to use their basements.

Other public shelters nearby are a public surface shelter at 14 Arundel Gardens, and public basement shelters at 92 Ladbroke Grove, 138 Portobello Rd and 2a Stanley Crescent. The nearest A.R.P. Warden and First Aid Post is on the corner of Elgin Crescent and Ladbroke Grove.

1938 – The War

airaidzoomAt the beginning of September 1938 the Home Office instructed the borough council to dig exploratory trenches for shelters for the 12,000 people the police estimate as likely to be caught in the borough’s streets during an air raid.

Ours is one of the gardens chosen for a trench shelter. The plans show the location and design of the shelter which takes up about a quarter to one third of the east lawn, It is to accommodate 153 people. The trenches are 5’7″ wide and 6’10” deep, with bench seating, which seems to be on one side only. The entrance is by a ramp, somewhere near the middle of the East Lawn, and it appears from post war correspondence with the council, the Kensington Park Road gate is always left open. There are two emergency exits at the Kensington Park Road end and one opposite 17 Ladbroke Gardens.

1937 – Inadequate Funds

Wage rises and reluctant rent payers mean less labour.  While the garden rent remained the same, wages had risen by around 70% since the war. The budget would only run to a 1 or 1 1/2 man-day’s labour, compared to the 3 man-days possible with the pre-war budget. . The gardener’s wages were £45 per anum or approximately 17/6 per week in 1926, and had risen to £52 per annum or £1 per week by 1937, roughly a 7% rise over 12 years.

Despite the poor wages Mr. R.J. Hall was the dedicated and loyal gardener during this period and remained so for 35 years until his death in 1948. Mr Hall either supplied his own tools, or used ones from another garden. No purchases of garden tools or repairs to garden equipment, even a lawnmower, have been recorded in the accounts. When the new gardener was hired in 1948, £5 was spent on tools and a wheelbarrow.

Increasing Multi-occupation and de-gentrification.
A feature of the interwar period is professional families deserting the inner city in droves, in favour of one of the three million new and easier to run houses in the suburbs, and the houses they abandon being “made down” into flats or rooming houses. With the “made-down” houses come ill-controlled children whose destructive behaviour costs the garden dear in repairs.

1928 – Between the wars

1916gdnThe evidence shows a garden striving to maintain the ideal of an “ornamental pleasure ground”. A loyal gardener plants a number of our present flowering shrubs as well as the old Victorian favourites, but all the time the problems are stacking up. The picture we get is of a garden struggling to keep its head above water – respectable but not distinguished. The Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares in 1928, in a way says it all: our garden is a “well kept and attractive open space”, but makes no mention of any fine old trees or beautifully kept flowerbeds.

1871 – “Coffin Row”

1871lgIn 1871 OS map showing the development of Notting Hill. The number of “carcase” houses has earned Ladbroke Gardens the nickname “coffin row”. It is also a haunt for drunken vagrants, as recalled by old inhabitants of the area in 1922. Nevertheless, four houses in Ladbroke Gardens, 2-5, are occupied by respectable families in 1861. By 1871 all the houses are taken, predominantly as family houses for members of the professional bourgeoisie.

1863 – The Pleasure Ground

1871gdn“At one in the afternoon of 5th January, 1863”, in the offices of Taylor, Stileman and Underwood, of 15 Furnival’s Inn, EC “the memorial is registered of the “Deed of Conveyance of the Ornamental Pleasure Ground called “Ladbroke Garden”, Notting Hill, in the Parish of St Mary Abbotts Kensington to Trustees for the Management and Grant Assignment of yearly rents for maintaining the same.” The rent to be paid by the freeholders or leaseholders of the houses backing on was 1 guinea (£1.05) (worth £58.86 in 2002 values), with strict penalties for late-payers or non-payers.

The meeting at Furnival’s Inn on that January afternoon, marks one of the last developments of the Ladbroke Estate. This started on the north side of Notting Hill in the 1820s and moved down the hill in squares, streets and crescents enclosing “ornamental pleasure grounds” at the pace dictated by property transfers, legal disputes, boom and bust in the London economy, the rise and fall of the Hippodrome race course experiment, bankruptcies of developers and building contractors.

1861 – The residents

The most obvious difference between now and then is that the houses backing on are, with one exception, occupied by one family, or one person, and his or her servants. The exception is 21 Ladbroke Gardens, which is a school for young ladies, with eight to twelve pupils aged 12 to 17, two governesses, one sometimes German, besides the head.

Some families are settled here for two decades or more, and two are still around in the 1930s The Parkers, people of independent means from Boston, MA, at are living at 3 Ladbroke Gardens in 1861 and their six year old daughter Mary goes on living there till 1931.  William Graham, An Art Furnisher by trade, and his family have moved into 12 Ladbroke Gardens by 1891. His daughter, Rose, is still active on the garden committee on the eve of the Second World War.

The residents are solid, middle class professionals, not people in “society”, to judge by the number of servants, which averages three, with very few menservants, and their titles, which rarely include a “footman” or “lady’s maid”. The fathers are in the middle ranks of commerce or the law, with a smattering of retired “Old India hands”. There is also a contingent of widows. The respectable mass is leavened by a slightly “raffish or bohemian” element.  In 1881, Samuel Bennett, “editor and leader writer” lives at 13 Arundel Gardens”. He is still there in 1891, now author/journalist with his family and brother-in-law, a sculptor and cattle painter. In 1871, Anthony Montalba, artist, is living at 19 Arundel Gardens with one daughter, an historical painter, and three other daughters, describing themselves as artists. There are always a number of European nationals, such as the Serenas, shipping brokers from Venice, who lived for two decades at number 20 Ladbroke Gardens, and the German families that frequently occupy number 19 Ladbroke Gardens.