In 1739 Admiral Vernon captured the city of Puerto Bello in the Caribbean and this exploit gave rise to a number of commemorative names. One of these, Portobello Farm, in turn gave its name to Portobello Road, formerly the lane leading to it. The Market (known locally as `the lane') seems to have begun in the late 1860s or early 1870s at a time when much of the road had been built. This Market was one of several street Markets operating at the turn of the century; there were, for example, others in Kenley Street, Sirdar Road, Norland Road, Crescent Street and Golborne Road. An early reference in the vestry minutes (8 November 1893) mentions the obstruction caused by the size of the costermongers' stalls in Portobello Road.
The boundaries of today's Market are much the same, except that Saturday mornings see the addition of antique stalls in the stretch of road between Westbourne Grove and Chepstow villas. The Market falls roughly into three sections - in the south antiques and bric-a-brac; in the centre fruit and vegetables, with second-hand clothing, bedding and the like to the north. The trade in Antiques has grown markedly in the last few years and was stimulated by the temporary closure of the Caledonian Market in 1948.
In January 1961 there were some thirty-five antique dealers out of a total of 199 licence holders but this number has since increased. On Saturday mornings the southern half of the Market is a great attraction to tourists and it is packed with bargain hunters and onlookers. Although most people know Portobello Market for its antiques, the food section should not be forgotten. This, probably the oldest part, serves a real local need and trade here is brisk throughout the week.
The Portobello Road is also lined with shops on both sides, many of these being long established businesses, and is no average shopping street. At its best, it is a place of extraordinary vitality and a source of both enjoyment and fascination to its myriad users. This is more than can be said of the typical, sterile High Street. Portobello has a rich character, long in evolution, which provides a unique source of appeal to local shoppers, day-trippers and foreign visitors alike. This is a rare asset which cannot be artificially recreated.
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