Thursday, July 26, 2012

Notting Hill Manholes, 22nd July

You would almost definitely never notice them unless you looked for them, but dotted around the Notting Hill area are seven decorated manholes. I finally got around to hunting them out this weekend. Of course, half the fun of finding them is the actual searching, and Time Out, from whom I found out about them, only gives you a starting point – outside Daunt bookshop on Holland Park Avenue and tells you the rest are around Notting Hill Gate. I think this is rather misleading and after thoroughly scouring what I considered to be ‘around Notting Hill Gate’ I had only found two. Very discouraging. I hate to cheat, but I realised that I could wander for days without perhaps stumbling upon the others. I needed, at the very least, to know how wide ranging they were, but in the end I found something on the Net that told you exactly which roads they were on. Now, I don’t want to give the game away for any who might be tempted to have a look for them themselves, so I won’t list where they all are here. However, I have roughly indicated the area in which you have to walk to find them all. As you can see it’s pretty big! 

If, after a while you’re thinking of giving up the ghost, then you can always refer to the source I used to discover them all here.

I love stuff like this. I love how they’re just dotted around and no one would ever know they were there. Someone may be lucky enough to happen to look down and see an unusual manhole but they would never guess that six more of similar ilk were out there. I also like that someone took something so ordinary and unnoticeable, so everyday and functional, and turned it into something interesting and appealing to look at. While I was scrutinising every manhole on the stretch of Notting Hill, I came across a few others that I actually thought might be candidates for the decorated ones; I hadn’t realised before that there were such variations. Or maybe it is only in the Notting Hill area that there are. Whatever the case, it will make me look twice at manholes from now on.

The other benefit of stuff like this is that it encourages you to walk around and take in an area. I don’t often go out to West London and I forgot what a nice place it is. Not just amazing, grand houses that will make you green with envy, but also the very lively Portobello Road, and, walking down some of the lesser known streets, I walked past lots of inviting cafes and bars. The sun was shining and people were dining and drinking al fresco. It was very pleasant to wander among them. One in place particular caught my eye – Julie’s Wine Bar. It had tables strewn outside it, all occupied with smiling, happily fed people. One for the List I think.

The manholes themselves I think looked good, even if some of them were rather lacking in content. The text was provided by artists/writers all from or residing in the Notting Hill area. I didn't really recognise many of the names apart from of course Sebastian Faulkes and P.D. James. The photos are captioned with their authors. And so, as proof that I did track down all seven manholes, here they are:

Margaret Drabble

P.D. James

Sebastian Faulkes

Michael Holroyd

Hugh Thomas

Colin Huborn

John Heath-Stubbs


  1. I've seen at least one of these without knowing it's all about! Cool thanks for tracking them all down :)


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