Jonathan Mirsky

What’s Behind the Blue Door?

Inside Notting Hill

By

Portobello Publishing 251pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

When cab drivers over sixty put me down in front of my house on Portland Road – nothing much under £1 million in the neighbourhood these days – they sometimes say, ‘Big change here, guv. Used to be rough.’

Just how rough I learned from this vivid guidebook. All bad guidebooks are alike; each good one is good in its own way. Inside Notting Hill is the perfect combination of 99 per cent accurate information and hair–raising stories. Take Portland Road. It lies in the heart of what used to be called Notting Dale. From the late 1840s to 1892, according to a contemporary account quoted by Miranda Davies and Sarah Anderson, it was ‘a plague spot, scarcely equalled for its insalubrity by any other in London… The occupation of the inhabitants is principally pig–fattening… The atmosphere is further polluted by fat boiling. In these hovels discontent, dirt, filth, and misery are unsurpassed by anything known even in Ireland.’ Or take Avondale Park, 100 yards from my door, where we dog–walkers gather every morning near the trees and neat flowerbeds. In the 1850s it was ‘a treacherous ocean of clay sludge and pig swill’. One minute away lies ‘the last home of the fashion designer Ossie Clark, who was murdered here by his lover on 7 August 1996.’ A five–minute walk takes you to the now demolished 10 Rillington Place, where, in 1943, John Christie ‘carried out the first of a horrific spate of murders that were to shake Notting Hill for many years to come’.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,