It’s the quintessential London film – the story of a bookshop owner, William Thacker (played by Hugh Grant), whose life takes a romantic turn when a famous American actress Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) comes into his shop. And, as the name suggests, it’s set in the west London district known as Notting Hill. 

Notting-Hill-posterThe centrepiece of the 1999 film, which was directed by Richard Curtis, is the Portobello Road Market (pictured above, see more on the history of the market here) but the film also depicts other aspects of the area.

These include the Coronet Cinema, and, of course, the now famous blue door in Westbourne Park Road which represents the entry to Thacker’s flat (it was apparently actually Curtis’ home).

There’s plenty of other London sites in Notting Hill as well – The Ritz hotel in Piccadilly where Anna Scott stays, the Savoy Hotel where a press conference is held and the historic Hampstead Heath home featured (or rather not) in last week’s film Belle, Kenwood House – this time as a film set in a movie Anna is making.

Notting Hill, meanwhile, has long been a popular site for films – everything from The Italian Job (the Michael Caine version) through to another recent Richard Curtis film About Time (2013) has been filmed here.

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The address might not immediately ring a bell but it will when we tell you this was the home of London’s most famous bear, Paddington.

Paddington-BearFirst appearing in A Bear Called Paddington published on 13th October, 1958, Paddington Bear was the brainchild of Michael Bond, who was apparently inspired a couple of years earlier when he spotted a lonely teddy bear sitting on a shop shelf in a store near Paddington Station (a bear which he subsequently bought and gave to his wife as a Christmas present).

In the books, Paddington – who is typically depicted wearing a blue duffel coat, old hat and Wellington boots – was found at Paddington Railway Station by the Brown family with a note asking that he be looked after (he had been a stowaway on board a ship from Peru, put their by his Aunt Lucy who had gone to a retirement home in Lima).

Naming him Paddington after being unable to say his Peruvian name (it turns out later to be Pastuso), the family take the bear back to their large semi-detacted home at 32 Windsor Gardens, just around the corner from the station (his room ends up being located at the top of the house).

A Windsor Gardens does actually exist but it apparently has no connection with the Browns’ address which is said to have been wholly imaginary. The real Windsor Gardens is a tiny and rather unappealing cul-de-sac off Harrow Road, between Notting Hill and Maida Vale, and doesn’t even have a number 32.

Paddington, known for his love of marmalade, went on to appear in 13 books by Bond – selling more than 30 million copies around the world – and has been the subject of numerous other versions and spin-offs and even a couple of TV series. There’s also a movie in the works with a projected release date of Christmas 2014 and he’s also depicted in a statue by Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station.

For more on Paddington, see www.paddingtonbear.com.

PICTURE:  Lonpicman/Wikimedia Commons

Established far more recently than many of the other markets we’ve looked at, the origins of a market in Portobello Road in London’s inner west only go back to the mid-to-late 19th century.

The oddly named road (it takes its name from the Battle of Porto Bello in the wonderfully named ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’ between Britain and Spain in the mid 18th century – more on that in an upcoming What’s in a Name? post), was transformed from a mere laneway, known as Greens Lane, to a larger thoroughfare in the mid 180os as the area developed and the market started to take shape in the 1880s.

These days the street market can stretch for a mile along Portobello Road from Golborne Road in the north to Chepstow Villas in the south.

It offers everything from fruit and vegetables and various foodstuffs (sold particularly at the northern end and along Golborne Road itself, known as Golborne Market as well around Elgin Crescent) through to vintage and alternative clothing, music and other bric-a-brac (a section in the middle, around the Westway flyover, specialises in this – this area includes the Acklam Village Market and the Portobello Green Fashion Market) and the world famous antiques market (down at the south end, closer to Notting Hill Gate Tube station – Saturday is the key day here).

Different sections of the market open on different days – there’s a great map showing what opens when on the Portobello and Golborne Markets website here) – but Saturdays and Sundays are sure to find the area packed with people. The street is also lined with independently owned shops (including the colourful buildings above) and arcades and, as well as street food stalls, there’s plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat.

There is currently a campaign to have Portobello Road declared Britain’s first “business conservation area” with the aim of preserving the character of the market. Head here for more details.

WHERE: Portobello Road, Notting Hill (nearest Tube stations are Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove); WHEN: Trading hours vary, see websites for details; COST: Free; WEBSITE(S): www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/visitkensingtonandchelsea/shopping/portobello/ourmarkets/portobelloroadmarket.aspxhttp://shopportobello.co.uk/.

Claire Lomas, an event rider paralysed from the chest down who became the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit when she finished the London Marathon in April, is applauded by Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Prime Minister David Cameron and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, after lighting a ‘celebration cauldron’ in Trafalgar Square (with the National Gallery in the background). The event, using the English National Flame which was originally created at Scafell Pike, was part of the Paralympic Flame’s visit to London last Friday during which it was taken to various landmarks across London including the Houses of Parliament, Notting Hill ahead of last weekend’s Notting Hill Carnival, and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. During the event in Trafalgar Square, 26 ‘Flame ambassadors’ each collected a ‘splinter’ of the Flame in a lantern to take to various Flame celebrations being held around the country over the past few days. The Flame visits London again this Wednesday in the 24 hour Torch Relay leading up to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games on Wednesday night. For more on the Paralympic Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/paralympics/torch-relay/PICTURE: LOCOG. 

• The Notting Hill Carnival – the largest festival of its kind in Europe – takes place in London’s west this Sunday and bank holiday Monday. More than a million people are expected top attend to see the floats, listen to the traditional steel drum bands and sample some of the food found at the hundreds of stalls along the streets of Notting Hill.  Sunday, when the costume prizes are awarded, has been designated as Children’s Day and Monday, when the main parade takes place, as Adult’s Day. The festival has been held every summer since 1966. For more, see www.thenottinghillcarnival.com.

• With the memories of the Olympics still fresh in our minds, it’s time to turn our attention to the impending Paralympics and associated events including the 24 hour Torch Relay which hits London next Wednesday, just before the Opening Ceremony. The torch enters London at Watford and and then moves south through the city, taking in many of London’s most famous landmarks as it visits all six boroughs before arriving at the Olympic Stadium. For more on the route, see www.london2012.com/paralympics/torch-relay/route/. Meanwhile, as with the Olympics, those who don’t have tickets to the Paralympics will be able to watch on a giant screen at Trafalgar Square daily between 11am and 10pm where there will also be live music and activities including the chance to try out a range of Paralympic sports. For more, see www.btlondonlive.com/trafalgar-square. Tower Bridge, meanwhile, is undergoing a makeover with the installation of the Paralympics symbol, Agistos, tomorrow following the earlier removal of the Olympic Rings. Historic projections, meanwhile, will once again appear on the Houses of Parliament. Other events taking place around the Paralympic Games include Surprises: What You Will: Pop-Up Shakespeare – which will see Shakespearean characters like Juliet, Hamlet and Puck suddenly appearing and performing at “cultural hotspots” around the city (the exact time and location of the performances will remain a surprise until the day but you can register for updates at www.molpresents.com/surprises or follow @molpresents and @London2012Fest.

• A series of artworks by South African-born Expressionist Albert Adams are on show at the Imperial War Museum this summer. The works on show include the last painting he completed before his death in 2006 – title Abu Ghraib, it was inspired by reports of abuse perpetrated at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq – as well as a series of etchings Adams created between 2001 and 20064 which address conflicts like that Iraq War and Darfur. Admission is free. For more, see www.iwm.org.uk.

On Now: Anatomy of an Athlete – Elite sport, surgery and medical art. This exhibition in the Qvist Gallery at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields features new artworks by world-leading medical artists which explore the anatomy and physiology of elite athletes. The art works come in a variety of forms – watercolour, video and sculpture – and represent the human body in a selection of sports and para-sports. Admission if free. Runs until 29th September. For more, see www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/.

Clowns turned out en masse for the annual clown service held in honour of the ‘father of modern clowning’, Joseph Grimaldi, at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston last weekend. The London-born clown, who lived from 1778 to 1837, is became widely known for his pantomine performances and is believed to have been the first ‘white face’ clown. He has been honored at a “clown service”, held on the first Sunday in February, since the mid-1940s. It was originally held at St James’ Church, Islington – where Grimaldi was buried – but was moved after the church was demolished. His grave is preserved in a memorial garden on the site.

• Sir William Ramsay, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist credited with discovering the noble gases, has been commemorated with a blue plaque at his former home in Notting Hill. The Glasgow-born Ramsay moved to London in 1887 when appointed chair of chemistry at University College London and it was while living at 12 Arundel Gardens, Notting Hill, that he discovered the five noble gases. Ramsay lived at the property until 1902. He died in 1916. English Heritage unveiled  the plaque on Wednesday.

The oldest purpose built and continuously operated cinema in London is believed to be the Phoenix in East Finchley, north London. Built in 1910, it opened in 1912 and has known several incarnations including as the East Finchley Picturedrome, the Coliseum, the Rex and the Phoenix. It was one of the first theatres in the UK to introduce pictures with sound (it did so in 1929). The theatre, which has appeared in several movies including The End Of The Affair, recently reopened following a £1.1 million restoration. There’s a touring exhibition of the cinema’s history (follow this link to find out where you can see it). Other contenders for the oldest cinema in London include the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, which opened in 1911.