1953 – Kensington Improvement Act

arundel1952When the Council is finally asked to take over the gardens, the secretary had to get the consent of all the freeholders and leaseholders. To help with this exhausting task, he was supplied with a list of ratepayers and rated occupiers, which can also be compared with the Electoral Register.

Although there were resident freeholders or leaseholders in eleven of the 47 houses, only two in Arundel Gardens and two in Ladbroke Gardens, were occupied by one family or one person. The rest were rooming houses that may well have housed more than the seven to nine people recorded in the Electoral Register.

The photo of houses in Arundel Gardens from 1952 shows how grim the houses looked then.

In 1953 a desperate Mr Greene, the secretary, got an agreement to adopt the Kensington Improvement Act of 1851. This means that the rents, hitherto paid to the Trustees, become rates collected by the council and repaid to the committee as now.

March 1953, the Housing and Town Planning Committee reported that “under the Kensington Improvement Act of 1851, the Metropolis Management Act of 1855 and the London Government Act of 1899, the Royal Borough of Kensington do as from the first day of April 1953, take under their control and management the garden square known as Arundel & Ladbroke Garden Enclosure”

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.