Notting Hill

Derry Moore

(Frances Lincoln, £14.99)

Is Notting Hill the new Tory heartland? Or merely a stage set for the world’s most famous carnival? Is it a chic new hang-out for Britain’s richest citizens or the same old Bohemian reservation it was in the 1950s? In this sumptuous, magisterial book, Derry Moore wisely avoids these questions, but captures the area’s changing character better than any earnest social historian.

Although this internationally acclaimed photographer grew up in Notting Hill in Lansdowne Crescent, and for nearly 30 years he and his family have, in estate agents’ parlance, enjoyed the benefits of a lateral conversion in Ledbury Road he offers an outsider’s view of the place. As often as not, he has snapped Notting Hill’s leafy squares and majestic crescents in the long-shadowed early hours of the morning, with dew still adorning the communal gardens. By not probing behind the stupendous original iron-work, state-of-the-art security systems, Rottweilers and razor wire there are few domestic interiors in this book he has effortlessly perpetuated the mystery of it all.

The author’s highly evocative photographs catch not only the light-reflecting newly repaired stucco, but also the adrenalin in the air and the aura of past calamities. Notting Hill is an architectural marvel far more ambitious in its conception than any other area of London, save Regent’s Park. But it’s also a dream that has only recently, after decades of mutilation or abandonment, come true. How proud and relieved those early developers such as poor James Ladbroke would be to see these bold, beautiful, almost theatrical images of their ancient streets and houses all spick and span again, swathed in mist and magic and occupied by the affluent types for which they were intended. Those who can no longer afford to live in Notting Hill can buy this modestly priced book instead.

andrew barrow.