Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Pop Market┃A Raver's Guide to the Portobello Road Market┃Rave Magazine (1966)



It's just a narrow gulf of a street twisting down from the posh end at Notting Hill Gate - all antique shops and arty cottages - to the junk shops and vegetable stalls nearer Kensal Town. Nothing special during the week, you might think, but on Saturdays the joint is jumping! The Portobello Road is where ravers go to look for bargains, buy clothes, meet their friends and above all, to see and be seen. Early Saturday morning the dealers in antique clothes set up their stalls along the pavements, and the antique markets and arcades get out their stock: rows of swinging necklaces, cases of heavy rings, piles of plates and silverware, trays full of odd buttons and broken watches. By eleven o'clock it's crowded out, but not only with the trade dealers you might expect. Swinging London descends en masse into the hundred yards of narrow street to look for bargains.

It's getting to the decadent stage now. The French and Americans arrive by the taxi load to stand gawping at the capes, the scarlet jackets and the clashing mini-skirts. All just as they'd read in the Wisconsin Times or the Hooterville Gazette. Long-haired guitarists strum soulfully by the railings opposite Henekeys, one of the main pubs, and further down the street a young singer with a beard and no teeth collects money in a tattered old cap, while the swarms of photographers, who outnumber everyone else, shoot everyone that moves. Among the movers you might see Mick Jagger and Chrissie Shrimpton, or it might be John Lennon and Cynthia, or maybe The Who. There are very few pop stars who haven't bought stuff from the market.

''I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet'', purveyors of military and original Victorian gear, sells all manner of frills, furs and laces. Roger Daltrey of The Who bought some sailors white bell-bottoms there. Gary Farr of the T-Bones walked out with several American Navy tee shirts. Charlie Watts has bought jackets there and so have Ray Davies, Mick Jagger and John Lennon. But it is Eric Clapton of the Cream who is regarded as the real trend-setter, perhaps because he spends most time there. Fur coats go for five pounds down the Market. And jacket and capes go for two pounds or even thirty shillings. Long Victorian dresses vary in price from about a pound to three pounds. But in all cases, you'll get what you want cheaper if you bargain for it, and that applies especially to clothes more than jewellery. Rings and necklaces are more expensive, because their value doesn't decrease with age. Nevertheless, it's still cheaper than average, and probably the best selection of Victorian jewellery in London.

But the wildest gear is on the people; yellow coat and pink tie, silver stockings and swirling green cloak. So if you fancy joining in before it dies the unnatural death of all ''in'' places, here are a few facts about where to go, how to get there and what to look for....
FRIDAY. The junk market. A lot of real rubbish..odd china, old books and kitchen sinks. But some real finds in the way of pictures, records and the odd antique, if you have the patience to look. All day at Kensal Rise end.
SATURDAY. The antique market. Lovely antique rings and stones. Lots of period clothes, mainly nineteenth and early twentieth century, at any price from ten shillings to five pounds. Starts early morning and goes on until early evening.

Looks as though the girl above prefers antique jewellery - the market's speciality. Stones on sale tend to be onyx and agate rather than gold and diamonds, but if you fancy something more flashy, there are some fantastic copies of really old rings in very elaborate.

Wild satin shirt in gold, bound with red velvet - modelled by RAVE girl Lesley Garner - sells in ''I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet'' for thirty shillings. Clothes like this make you wonder who wore them in the first place. If half the stock is Army and Navy surplus then the other half must come from a theatrical costumier!

Detail from the illustrated map of Portobello Road by Alan Parry which accompanies the feature, be sure to click on the first image at the top of the page to view a close-up of the entire map.

Look down into the crowd at the Portobello Road Market and you might pick out someone like Eric Clapton of the Cream, seen above shopping for rings. Hasn't he got enough already?

 Sailor jacket from I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet.

This couple have found what they were looking for―an American tunic at fifty shillings, and the miniest of Guard's tunics in lime green for four pounds. Victorian dresses like the one on the model can be bought at the market for anything from one to four pounds, but be careful - dresses like this show their age far more than heavy capes and jackets. Lace and feathers tend to decay with time, so inspect them before buying or your dress might fall to pieces the first time you put it on. Updated 2/9/2015: I've recently discovered the identity of the couple in this photograph, they are David Mainman and the artist Olivia Temple, you can visit Olivia's website here.

All images scanned by Sweet Jane from RAVE magazine December 1966. Original editorial by Lesley Garner. All photographs by Mark Sharratt. Portobello Road Market illustration by Alan Parry.  Discover more about the history of Portobello Road & MarketGreat photos by Simos Tsapnidis of Henekeys and Finch's (pubs) on Portobello Road in 1966-1967 & much more. Ten years later—photos of Portobello Road Market in 1977Dennis Wilson & Al Jardine of The Beach Boys shopping on Portobello road, filmed in 1966 by Peter Whitehead. edited to accompany The Spectrum's 1967 45rpm release. And the original promo film for The Spectrum's Portobello Road single.


  1. Lovely stuff. You could also include a link to this evocative and rather wonderful 1967 promo film:

  2. I used to go all the time in the early 90s but it sounds like it would have been so much fun to poke through the market in the mid 60s.