Created By: Cecily Powell
Land in the area was owned by a barrister called James Whitchurch and set out for building in 1846. A few of the small detached or paired houses built at this time still survive, in sadly dilapidated condition, but this first phase in the development of the area was halted by the financial crisis of 1847, and when building began to revive a year or two later it appears to have been under the auspices of the Frugality Building and Investment Society, with offices in the City.
Whitchurch was, however, still concerned in the development of the area, and the impetus of the building boom of the early 1860's was no doubt greatly strengthened by the construction of the Hammersmith and City Railway line, of which he was a director.The construction of the great high arches upon which the railway strode across the halfcompleted streets of Whitchurch's carefully contrived layout had an impact upon the existing social fabric of the locality exceeded only by that of the elevated motorway which was opened along much the same course in 1970. With Bird's worked-out brick-field and the Potteries to the south, and the noise and dirt of frequent steam trains traversing the estate, the area had no attraction for middleclass residents. After the introduction of cheap workmen's fares in the early 1860's workingclass suburbs were beginning to be a practicable proposition, and in the ensuing decades Bird's and Whitchurch's remaining vacant lands were covered with densely packed rows of three- or four-storey houses and artisans' cottages
Here you can see the pattern of the streets described in Colin MacInnes' Absolute Beginners.
Out of it, close to Latimer Road tube and running east ‘like horrible tits dangling from a lean old sow’, range ‘what I think must really be the sinisterest highways in our city, well, just listen to their names’: Blechynden Street, Silchester Road, Walmer Road, Bramley Road and Testerton Street, and numerous others he doesn’t trouble to list. Here the houses are ‘old Victorian lower-middle tumble-down’. They ‘live on like shells’ and ‘there’s only one thing to do with them’, which is ‘to pull them down till not a one’s left standing up.’
They cleared these slums in the 60s with the advent of the Westway.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Notting Dale Walking Tour