I snapped some shots of St Johns Church for our Instagram page. The sun was setting, radiating its beaming rays across the church steeple and gracing the trees with a last few rays of light.

On my daily travels around the area, I often pause to capture a moment in the life of Notting Hill. From front doors to churches or flowers, depending on the time of day, or how the sun falls, the streets lined with grand houses painted bright white, greys and shades of pastel colours, take on their own mood.

Back at the office, showing the photos to Nigel, Owner and Director at Homesite, he gave me a bit of background history about the church and its surroundings.

Did you know that it used to be a racecourse?’ said Nigel

Oh wow, I said, I didn’t know”. I love horses, and I have lived in Notting Hill for over two decades. So I did a little more digging.

It turns out that the Ladbroke Estate has a rich history which explains this beautifully shaped crescent that forms Lansdowne Crescent and surrounding private green spaces. The land belonged to James Weller Ladbroke. It was, and still is part of the Ladbroke Estate, spanning over 140 acres of sloping land towards Notting Hill, and across Westbourne Grove, lay soft green fields.
In 1837, Ladbroke leased the land to James Whyte, a businessman whose ambitions it was to turn the space into the ‘Kensington Hippodrome,’ a racecourse for London. Racetracks were at a popular pass time, and Whyte thought that this racecourse would serve London better than other hippodromes such as Epsom Downs and Ascot, which were much further away.

The race course ran from Lansdowne crescent, across Ladbroke Grove and over to Stanley Crescent forming the landscape of the track. The grassy hill upon which St Johns Church sits once served as a fantastic public viewing point, offering a prime position to watch the race that took place in the gentle slopes below.

The new venue received mixed opinions from the British press, whilst The Times criticised its Prime London location, the Sporting publication described it as ‘the most perfect racecourse.’ As well as attracting London’s aristocracy, it was also widely attended by poorer members of the community, the farmers of the “Potteries and Piggeries” of Pottery Lane. The racecourse was built, much to Whyte’s frustration, across a right of way which affected the farmers of Notting Dale, causing much contention through the racecourses lifespan. These visitors were not welcome on the land, and the ongoing clashes gave the place a less favourable reputation. Over a few years, the venue faded in popularity and started to run into financial difficulty, even after changing its name to ‘Victoria Park- Bayswater,’ the racecourse was failing. In 1842, James Whyte handed the land back to its owner and previous plans resumed to build property. The Victorian houses now standing on these near perfect semi-circles crescents maintain the shape of the former racecourse and the earlier designs of 1820 loosely revived, shaping the streets into the rows of period houses we see today.

Lansdowne Crescent is a mix of architecture as it has evolved through time. Consisting of a unique gothic Tudor double-fronted dwelling to the eastern side, which, in 1846, was the first property to be registered, to the stucco fronted townhouses constructed slightly later by William Reynolds, a builder turned property developer. To the western side, somewhat newer Victorian style architecture built in the 1860s’ can be found in an array of pastel colours. In 1944 designed Joshua Higgs, St John’s Church was built. Now a grade II listed building, this place of worship was constructed from Kentish Ragstone, which was a popular construction material for churches at the time. Then known as ‘St John in the Hayfields’ due to its rural location, it was the highpoint of the racecourse and centre-place of the Ladbroke estate.

Nowadays, one can walk the ring of the racecourse to find some of Notting Hill’s most luxurious homes, grand architecture spanning across the 19th & 20th century, and a peek into some the greenest private spaces remaining in London. Remnants of the Estate’s history still mark the land.

Some of Notting Hill’s history can be spotted on a local stroll through the streets of Ladbroke Estate. St Johns Church sign displays information about the land’s horsey past. A walk around the crescent and its grand buildings bares a few signs of their age, and the last remaining pottery stands on Pottery Lane on further exploration of the streets of Notting Dale

Read more about the different period architectures on Lansdowne Crescent:


Read the history of the “Potteries and Piggeries” of Pottery Lane:


For more information about the Ladbroke Estate and its history: