Portobello Project


This is a house we have recently found off market and acquired for a client. It is super cute, with a small garden at the back, and a beautiful terrace facing West over the Portobello Road on the top. The owner wanted to be right in the centre of everything, so had made up her mind to take a relaxed view about the incredible footfall of tourists down the road on a Friday and Saturday. She had not reckoned on the effect that her Morris Traveller car would produce. Every other tourist stops and takes a photo. One has pinched the windscreen wiper…. She is considering either selling the car, or taking a course on mindfulness to maintain her positive attitude towards the crowds…

While researching the provenance of the house on line, we discovered the amazing “Bomb Sight” which revealed that the house had been on the site of an old Watneys pub, the Queen Alexandra, which was bombed during the war   While investigating the state of the foundations, the owner’s builder has now discovered the floor of the old pub cellar . Apparently it was common practise during the war to shovel the rubble of a bombed building into the crater, or the cellar below if there was one, to avoid having to cart it away.

We are really looking forward to seeing the renovation of this very funky and cool looking house – watch this space..

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Magnolia Time in Notting Hill

Early spring brings the magical weeks when London streets are adorned with the flowers of that showiest and most glamorous of trees, the magnolia. In a chilly but sunny spring with little rain or wind, the blooms are preserved in their waxen beauty for maybe a fortnight – intense but fleeting.


Magnolia stellata – these are usually the first to flower, and this one in Pitt Street, W8, is just past its best.

When I was a selling agent we used to receive a flurry of calls from owners of houses at this time of year clamouring for us to send the photographer to shoot their house at the critical moment “at it’s very best – with the magnolia in bloom”. Although our brochures used to look superb with the flowering trees, unfortunately they dated only too accurately how long the house had been on the market, the same as property photographed in snow. This added to the normal level of pressure to get the house sold as soon as possible, or risk having to reshoot and reprint the front cover.

Magnolias are ideal for London as although they are often planted in small front gardens, or even against walls, there is no evidence of damage to walls from the roots. Some varieties are evergreen, with handsome leathery green leaves backed with golden brown.

The plant was named in 1737 by the Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus in honour of the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638 – 1715) It is one of the most primitive plants in evolutionary history, fossils showing that the plant existed 100 million years ago. Today it is indigenous only in China and Southern United States.


A detail of the flower, beautifully planted above a box hedge in a house in Gordon Place.


How’s this for “Wow factor”? I think this is Magnolia Soulangeana, but I want to go back with Leafsnap on my phone to check. This is the best I can do with the RHS Plant finder.


The other side of the street in Bedford Gardens, Kensington. This tree is in a south facing garden, and I think this is probably the equivalent of a male peacock showing every feather in his tail.



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