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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 17:34 GMT


Notting Hill: Mandelson in good company

As he looked out of his elegant Georgian sash window, past the wrought iron balcony, at the hordes of reporters in the street wanting to ask questions, Peter Mandelson may have rued one or two things.

[ image:  ]
But he will surely not regret the fact that two years ago he was living in a one bedroom flat in Islington and now he owns a hugely desirable house which could be worth up to £800,000 in wildly fashionable Notting Hill.

By moving from the Blairite heartland of north London, Mr Mandelson has left the land of political hacks and joined the world of showbiz.

Dozens of stars live in the streets around Northumberland Place where Mr Mandelson's four storey house is.

[ image: Former Monty Python member John Cleese]
Former Monty Python member John Cleese
Virgin Radio boss Chris Evans, Australian singer Kylie Minogue and Paula Yates are some of the names. Michael Jackson also lives nearby - but this one is the chief executive of Channel Four rather than the singer.

Mr Mandelson's good friend, the chief executive of BSkyB, Elisabeth Murdoch, is within walking distance while the All Saints hang out in the area's trendy bars.

The area is also home to comedian John Cleese and Helen Fielding, the woman who brought Bridget Jones to the world, rents offices nearby.

A former boyfriend of Helen Fielding is the man behind Four Weddings and a Funeral, Richard Curtis. His next film project, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, is called - wait for it - Notting Hill.

Property prices there are among the highest in the capital, but the area has not always been so gentrified.

Ups and downs at the Hill

For most people, Notting Hill means just one thing - the annual Carnival which throbs on the streets on the last weekend in August.

[ image: Kylie Minogue: Neighbours]
Kylie Minogue: Neighbours
The origins of Notting Hill's name have never been traced although it dates back several centuries. In 1356 it was recorded as Knottynghull.

Residential development only started in the mid 19th century, when it was carved into about 15 common gardens framed by a variety of fine villas and stuccoed Italianate terraces.

But within a century its character had shifted markedly, and in the 1950s Notting Hill became popular with Caribbean immigrants, particularly those from Trinidad.

[ image: Conservative Party leader William Hague and his wife Ffion at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1997]
Conservative Party leader William Hague and his wife Ffion at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1997
The influx of West Indians into an area with an acute housing shortage sent tensions soaring and in 1958 Notting Hill became notorious as the scene of four days of race riots.

By the 1960s however, and with swinging London at full momentum, the area became a popular haunt for the creative crowd. The artist David Hockney and fashion designer Zandra Rhodes both set up home there.

In the 1980s property boom, prices took off and Notting Hill has not looked back since.

Portobello Market is a major year-round draw and the area is now characterised by trendy cafés, bars, restaurants, and antique and interiors shops.

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