North-West Kensington has a fascinating industrial and social history but is frequently overshadowed by neighbouring Notting Hill to the south and east. This project seeks to address this, putting the people who have lived there at the centre of this history and bringing to life for new generations the stories of the area, from overcrowding and street games, to housing campaigns, solidarirty and movements of people into the area, riots, industry, and even a declaration of independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, this project will ask those who lived through these amazing times to tell their stories.
The North-West Ken Stories Project involved Year 5 children from Barlby Primary School working with education charity digital-works to uncover and tell the stories of the people who live in the area and have experienced the many changes that have taken place over the years.
With training and support from digital:works the children researched the history of the area with the help of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Local Studies archive. After the research element, the children made a documentary film about NW Kensington and its history which includes interviews with a variety of local residents who told their stories of the area.
digital:works has set up a reminiscence group which ran in tandem with the school project. Many of the participants were interviewed for the film.
The film has been shown locally at a big launch event and at local schools and film festivals. It is available to watch on this website.
The area grew with the development of local clay fields into numerous family run brickworks and piggeries which fed the voracious growth of London from the mid 19th century. Overcrowded, living in unsanitary conditions people formed close-knit communities responding to overcrowding, poverty and de-industrialisation. Identified by Booth as one of the most deprived areas in London, and described by Dickens as scarcely equalled in its insalubrity.
Publicity attracted the attention of philanthropists and the establishment of the Rugby and Harrow Clubs to help the poor - these two clubs exist to this day. Campaigners set up some of the first housing associations, notably Octavia Hill and the Peabody Estate in 1932 which remain.
The 1958 "Notting Hill Riots" actually began in Notting Dale as white youths vented their frustration on the immigrant community, a community which famously fought back.
The late 1960s brought the demolition of a whole swathe of housing for the Westway elevated motorway. The 1970s saw the establishment of "The Peoples Republic of Frestonia", an attempt by activists and locals to highlight the neglect of their neighbourhood by squatting an area and declaring it independent to the rest of the UK. They even had their own foreign minister and established a housing coop that still exists.
The area has been characterised by movements of people with a gypsy community as far back as anyone can recall, Irish, and then more recently people from the Caribbean, Spain and Morocco. Recently parts of the area have become home to some of the wealthiest people in the UK. Creative media and advertising agencies have found a home in the area too.
The North-West Ken Stories Project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and local councillors in Dalgarno, St Helens and Notting Dale wards via The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's "City Living Local Life" initiative.
Children from Barlby School talking to Allan Tyrell about his history in the area.
Children from Barlby School and Charlie Phillips just after they have interviewed him.
Archive photos on this website thanks to Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies.