Grotland Explored. The Fleeting Urban Imaginaries of Post-War Inner West London

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The status as a dynamic urban frontier or periphery of areas ripe for gentrification or in the process of gentrification is illuminated by discursive representations of North Kensington, West London. As part of a specifically 1950s and 1960s localized urban imaginary this district was viewed as part of ‘Grotland’, a zone of transition containing much architectural and social decay but also new social housing and wealthier incomers in the same period. Recollections of one street, Portland Road, W11, mediated by a 2012 television documentary, emphasize frontiers within the street dividing it between a wealthier south and a poorer north. Historical accounts of the area make Portland Road itself into a frontier dividing a prosperous and respectable zone to the east from an extremely poor and unrespectable one to the west. Fiction written in the 1950s and 1960s highlights moments at which life in areas such as this, far from seeming to be in inexorable change towards gentrification, seemed to hold chaos and dereliction together with capital-driven reformulations. Taking these materials into account, work on gentrification needs to be nuanced by an understanding of individual acts of gentrification in dialogue with structural and environmental change. More than has so far been recognized, urban imaginaries often focus on transitional and highly localized portions of imagined cities.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)275–295
JournalJournal of Urban Cultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • London
  • Bullman, Joseph
  • gentrification
  • Cultural memory
  • television documentary
  • North Kensington (London district)
  • Urban imaginaries

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