Increasingly, houses in the street which had been built for a single family were let by the floor. William & Hannah Musgrove, and then Hannah herself after William's death, lived on one of the floors at number 27 for more than 25 years between about 1885, when they married, until at least 1911.
In 1903, the area was described by Charles Booth (see week 102 for description of colour coding) as one of the worst in London. His survey reported : "Southam Street – 3 ½ story - labourers, navies, not railway employees but in the building trade. Have to follow their work and go away by train in the morning. The women do laundry work either in South Row in Kensal New Town or go north to the laundries in Bretheron & Harris streets (?). There is a great deal of dark blue in this street although the east end is fairly good and purple to pink. The whole street should be light blue."
In 1911 number 27 consisted of four separate flats lived in by a total of 19 incumbents. Two of the flats had two rooms (including the kitchen) but the Musgroves were lucky enough to be the only family with three rooms. They had needed the extra space this provided when the family were young - on the 1901 census there were both William & Hannah plus seven children and Hannah's elderly mother living there. After William died in 1901, and some of the children had left, there were just four of them living there in 1911, including my grandfather John (aka Jack) as can be seen below :
By 1923 there were 2,400 people living in the 140 nine-roomed houses in Southam Street and living conditions were already considered especially bad. This continued until, by the mid to late 1950s, the street was comprised of large decaying terraced houses with shared lavatories and was crammed with people living in crowded rooms. Because of the unsanitary conditions people spent a lot of the time outside in the street creating a community environment.
Probably not a moment too soon, in 1968, Southam Street and a number of other surrounding streets were bulldozed as being unfit for human habitation.
Over the next few years extensive development took place including bringing the Westway Flyover (A40 now M40) into central London. The Westway went slightly to the south of where the slums had been cleared. As someone said "streets were cut in half, 600 houses demolished and over 1,000 local people moved away. A mile long strip of land was left waste beneath the huge concrete stilts of the motorway".
On the Southam Street site they built the Trellick Tower which was designed by Erno Goldfinger (cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in 1987) whose name Ian Fleming used as the villain in the book of the same name. The monstrosity of what was then a modern high-rise had 217 flats over 32 floors (or 31 depending on where you search !) rising nearly 100 meters into the London sky. It was to get a terrible reputation and a blogger said :
"Trellick Tower featured regularly in the tabloids and the stories of what was to be found in its brutalist corridors were terrifying. Women raped in elevators, children attacked by heroin addicts in the basement, and homeless squatters setting fire to flats were among the more lurid.”
However, ironically, as the block became more and more dangerous, so the residents insisted on increased security and with the implementation of CCTV camera’s and concierged entry the flats have now been transformed and are very sought after - a 3 bedroomed flat with "panoramic views" on the 19th floor attracting a price of £695,000. In 1998 it was given grade 2 listed building status.
Southam Street and this whole area of North Kensington, now re-named Notting Hill, must have been an unimaginably difficult area to live and was populated by people who had no choices. They had mostly been born into poverty and in those days there were very few ways out - Frank Musgrove (see 1911 census) chose to join the Army and he died at Passchendaele in 1917 probably surrounded by similar young men who had no choice.
Other related blogs :
William Musgrove - He was a train driver ..... well they said he was
Jack Musgrove - a grandfather I never met
Frank Musgrove who died at Passchendaele