The flat above the Travel Bookshop – made famous in the film Notting Hill – is up for sale. With the chance to own a slice of film history up for grabs, The Resident takes a moment to celebrate the rich history of west London, from famous residents like George Orwell to the making of The Smiths and The Clash
Words: Will Gore
For film-lovers with deep pockets in the Notting Hill, there is currently a brief window of opportunity to get right up close to a piece of local celluloid history. Notting Hill (the film, that is) may well have starred Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, but the beautiful little Travel Bookshop in Blenheim Crescent was just as much as an integral part of the film as the A-listers. Now, Sarah Anderson, 67, who founded the shop more than 30 years ago, is selling the two-bedroom flat above it for £1.5m.
The Travel Bookshop that appeared in Notting Hill is, it must be said, not quite what meets the eye. The filmmakers recreated the interior of the shop elsewhere for shooting and used another building in Blenheim Crescent to double for its exterior, but that hasn’t stopped fans from heading there in a steady stream over the years. ‘Wherever I go anywhere in the world, people ask me about the shop and I can hardly go out of the door without being photographed 17 years on from the film’s release,’ Anderson says, adding that she’s ‘a better bookseller than Hugh Grant’.
Of course, the Travel Bookshop, which re-opened as the Notting Hill Bookshop after it was sold in 2011, is not the only local landmark to appear in Richard Curtis’s rom-com. The blue door that Rhy Ifans’ Spike paraded in front of in his grubby y-fronts is still very much there in Westbourne Park Road for fans wishing to recreate that magnificent posing for a photo (although, hopefully, for the people that live there, with clothes kept firmly on).
A trip to the old Travel Bookshop and Spike’s door would only be the start of a walking tour of Notting Hill’s numerous cultural landmarks. Blue plaque spotting is a recommended feature of any wanderings, as Notting Hill has more than its fair share. Perhaps the most impressive of these, and one that can be spotted during a trip down to the Portobello Market, is the plaque adorning the front of the house in Portobello Road proclaiming novelist George Orwell was resident in 1927.
A mural depicting Joe Strummer is painted on the side of a building just off Portobello Road, not too far from George Orwell’s old lodgings
Although it’s not quite a blue plaque, fans of punk music can pay homage to one of their heroes at a mural depicting Joe Strummer, lead singer of punk legends The Clash, which has been painted on the side of a building just off Portobello Road, not too far from Orwell’s old lodgings. Notting Hill was very much The Clash’s stomping ground and a copy of one of their records can easily be picked up just yards away at the world-renowned Rough Trade Records.
First set up in 1978 in Kensington Park Road, the shop was moved not long after to new premises in Talbot Road where it still thrives to this day. Rough Trade is not only a treasure trove of the best alternative music, but also, via the record label of the same name, launched such indie legends as the Smiths, the Strokes and the Libertines.
Just a guitar’s throw away from Rough Trade and the Strummer mural is the Electric Cinema, the upmarket film house, complete with its plush sofas and posh popcorn to keep the modern moviegoer happy. It’s all a far cry from what the cinema was like when it first opened its doors back in 1910 when it was one of the first buildings in Britain to be designed specifically for the showing of films.
The Tabernacle was first established as a church in 1869 and has been a community arts hub since the 1970s – Santana, Damon Albarn and Adele have all performed there
Inevitably, some of Notting Hill’s notable places from the past are gone, if not forgotten. The Pharmacy, the infamous restaurant co-owned by shark-pickler extraordinaire Damian Hirst, closed in 2003 and was replaced by a Marks and Spencer, while more off the beaten track and less well known, the pub in Tavistock Crescent that popped up in cult British film Withnail and I, as the Mother Black Cap, was bulldozed back in 2010.
And on that sad note this whistle-stop tour of Notting Hill’s cultural heritage comes to an end. In truth, these recommendations only scratch the surface. Research, plan and plot your own walking tour through W11 and beyond – an extraordinary history is waiting to be discovered.
Sarah Anderson, 67, who founded the Notting Hill Travel Bookshop more than 30 years ago, is selling the two-bedroom flat above it for £1.5m. The Resident takes a peek inside…