The Secret History of Our Streets

Portland Road

Series 1 - Episode 4 Portland Road



Although this series is London-centric, the stories about the streets featured are relevant to any city. Unscrupulous landlords, officious councils and dilapidated property aren’t the preserve of London alone.

This edition looks at Portland Road, Notting Hill, in west London. Divided in 1975 by a traffic barrier (dubbed the Berlin Wall), it is home to economic extremes. The southern end is a sort of wealthy ghetto where bankers
sell their massive properties for millions, while just yards away what once were overcrowded slums have been replaced by council flats.

Many of those who moved into the street during the bohemian 1960s have stayed, despite knowing they could make a fortune by selling, while those who were moved out in the 50s to be rehoused in “luxury” council flats barely recognise the southern end with its art galleries and boutiques. “Nowhere sells a pint of milk or pound of potatoes,” says a bewildered George, while John simply sums it up as being a bit “nobbish”.


The social history of Portland Road in Notting Hill, which Charles Booth called the worst slum in London when he visited it in 1899. Today, it is the archetypal banker street, lined with £6million homes for hedge fund managers. But alongside the super-rich live some of Britain's bottom five per cent earners. The street's changing fortunes are told through the stories of residents past and present, including George Andrews, who was born there in 1937, Tim and Penny Hicks, who moved there in 1968, only to find themselves living opposite a brothel, and Henry Mayhew, who sold his shares in the family bank to invest in a Portland property. Narrated by Steven Mackintosh.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Steven Mackintosh
Director Joseph Bullman
Producer Joseph Bullman
Series Producer Katie Bailiff