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About Portobello

There is truly something for everyone in London’s famous Portobello Road, the world’s largest antiques market. It would be very difficult to name any collectable commodity that cannot be found and purchased on one of the hundreds of stalls in the street, or in one of the many large arcades.

On any Saturday, from around 6am onward, buyers and sellers begin to arrive in Portobello Road from all over the world hoping to leave with either, a pocket-full of money, or some overlooked treasure purchased for a song. Torches flash as regular buyers rush between favourite sellers, trying to time their arrival to coincide with the unwrapping of newly acquired objects.

As the light increases, in the arcades of the Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove and on the many street stalls small crowds gather and disperse and gather again. Greetings are brief; everyone is in a hurry. One would like to imagine that Charles Dickens mingled with Portobello Road antiques dealers and found characters among them to draw upon. However, Portobello Road Antiques Market is not contemporary with the Victorian facades of the buildings hosting it. The antiques market, dating back no further than the 1940’s, is a relatively recent addition to an existing market that does enjoy a nineteenth century heritage.

From the 18th century Green’s Lane tumbled and meandered down through wood and field, from the old gravel pits on Campden Hill, Kensington to Kensal Green, around three miles to the north.

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Then, in 1739, Britain and Spain fought battle for control of the Spanish port of Puerto Bello, Panama, during the conflict that has become known as The War Of Jenkin’s Ear. Puerto Bello was a great victory for the British, under the command of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, for the loss of only three British lives. The battle and Vernon are almost forgotten now, but their names live on; in the Portobello district of Edinburgh, Porto Bello, Virginia, USA, George Washington’s, Mount Vernon Estate and, in 1840, a farm to the north of Notting Hill, London – The Porto Bello.

Vice Admiral Vernon became an Admiral and Green’s Lane soon became Porto Bello Lane, continuing to pass through open country, farmland and orchard until the second half of the 19th century when the development of Notting Hill and the coming of the railway to Ladbroke Grove, in 1864, prompted an explosion of building and the lane became Portobello Road. Vernon is still remembered in Portobello Road, in Vernon Yard and The Admiral Vernon Antiques Centre, the largest antiques arcade in the area.

The Portobello Road Market began as a fish and vegetable market in the mid 19th century. Today there are four distinct markets operating in Portobello Road between Chepstow Villas, in the south and Goldbourne Road in the north.

Goldbourne Road itself trades from Monday to Saturday as a fruit and vegetable market reflecting the ethnic diversity of the area. Stalls on the north side of the street are laden with commodities that will be very familiar to visitors from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. There are also a number of antiques shops and, on Friday and Saturday, on the south side, the stalls are reserved for low-end antique dealers, totters (rag & bone men) and house-clearers. Early-bird buyers have found many exciting treasures here.

On Friday and Saturday the Goldbourne Road Market connects – at their junction – with The Portobello Road Market where a mix of general dealers stand on the east side of Portobello Road, extending past the walls of St Josephs Convent – built on part of the original Porto Bello Farm for the Dominicans, the “Black Friars” – to Oxford Gardens.

Between Oxford Gardens and the Westway Flyover is a group of interesting shops and stalls and a vast tent, under which Portobello Green Market flourishes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday a large number of good dealers can be found in this area selling a fantastic range of vintage and retro clothing and vintage accessories. Many of these dealers come into London from the provinces with vintage and antique treasures purchased in charity shops, auctions and rag yards to sell on at reasonable prices. Serious buyers arrive early – 7am – and, in winter, they take a torch. There will be plenty of competition, even at seven, as anyone who buys and sells vintage and retro will be there. It is also very popular with designers and design students, eager for inspiration. On Sunday a relaxed crowd sell general goods and a few antiques under the tent.

From Monday to Saturday, between The Westway flyover and Colville Terrace stalls selling fruit and vegetables and shops selling everything from a bag of sweets to a tattoo dominate the market. You will pass The Mountain Grill CafĂ©, made famous by Hawkwind – on their album: In The Hall Of The Mountain Grill and the door from the film Notting Hill. 191 Portobello Road is The Electric Cinema, oldest working cinema in London, now a grade II listed building.

From the junction of Elgin Crescent, Colville Terrace and Portobello Road the most famous antiques market in the world begins and by 10 am on any Saturday morning it will be packed with people from every corner of the world.

On the west side of the road, from Elgin Crescent to Chepstow Crescent many of the buildings house antiques arcades: The World Famous Market, The Portwine, The Red Lion, Harris’s, Panton Gallery, Dolphin Arcade, Admiral Vernon, Central Gallery, Crown Arcade, Jones and Sons, Atlam, The Portobello Print & Map Shop, The Red Teapot, Katrina Phillips, Gallery 91, Clock Centre, Gallery 85, Barham Antiques, Judy Fox Antiques, The Portobello Antique Store, Portobello Road Antique Gallery, Chelsea Galleries and Rogers Arcade.

On the eastern side of the road from Colville Terrace you will find many street stalls offering antiques and collectables and shops including: Delehar Antiques, The Good Fairy, Alice’s, Chloe Alberry, Henry Gregory and Jesse Western.

There are also street stalls and arcades on Westbourne Grove, between Portobello Road and Kensington Park Road.