Modern day All Saints Road looks and feels like what Notting Hill is often linked with today, that being chic residential affluence and retail to match, although traces of its rather different post-war past remain. The plaque attached to Number 8 honours Frank Crichlow, who arrived in England from Port of Spain, Trinidad, in June 1953. He settled in Paddington, worked for British Rail and formed a band called the Starlight Four. Following his death in 2010, Margaret Busby wrote that the band “had some success with appearances on radio and television, and in a cinema advertisement”. In 1959, Crichlow opened a café called the Rio in Westbourne Park Road and in 1968, a restaurant called the Mangrove, as a plaque put up by the Nubian Jak Community Trust shows.
The Mangrove served West Indian cuisine to, in Busby’s words, “locals and visiting celebrities alike”, the latter including Jimi Hendrix, Vanessa Redgrave, the cast of the Avengers, and Diana Ross and the Supremes. It also attracted the attention of the Metropolitan Police, though not for dining purposes. The Mangrove was repeatedly raided in search of major offences but only minor licensing breaches were ever found. In 197o, Crichlow and eight others were charged with riot and affray after protesting against police harassment. The following year the Mangrove Nine were acquitted after a 55-day Old Bailey trial, which did not cast the Met in a good light. Film director Steve McQueen told the story in his 202o series Small Axe.
By the time the trial took place the Notting Hill Carnival had become established, and the Mangrove provided a base for its organisation. The carnival’s origins included an event at St Pancras Town Hall in January 1959, organised by journalist and activist Claudia Jones and broadcast by the BBC. It was held in response to the Notting Hill riots, which were preceded by a string of assaults on West Indian Londoners by a gang of white youths on 24 August 1958. The riots began in earnest on 30 August when a “keep Britain white” mob attacked black people’s homes on Bramley Road, W10. Disturbances lasted until 5 September and 108 people were charged, 72 white, 36 black. The nine youths found guilty of the earlier attacks each went to jail for five years.
The Mangrove was described by Busby in her obituary of Crichlow as “at the interface of liberal counter-culture, radical chic and ordinary community life”. Busby, born in Ghana and with strong Caribbean connections, had worked at that interface too, as the co-founder in London in 1967 of publishing house Allison and Busby, which in 1980 produced a new edition of Absolute Beginners, the 1959 novel by Colin Macinnes – a customer of Crichlow at the Rio Café – which depicted the 1958 riots from the point of view of his teenage photographer narrator:
“Someone cried out, ‘Get him!’ and the Spade dug it quick enough then – and he started running down the Bramley Road like lightning, though still clutching his hold-all and his parcel, and at least a hundred young men chasing after him, and hundreds of girls and kids and adults running after them, and even motor-bikes and cars. Some heathen god from home must have shouted sense into his ear just then, because he dived into a greengrocer’s and slammed the door. And the old girl inside locked it from within, and she glared out at the crowd, and the crowd gathered round there, and they shouted – and I’m quoting their words exactly – ‘Let’s get him!’ and ‘Bring him out!’ and ‘Lynch him!'”
This year’s Notting Hill Carnival is, due to Covid-19, the first to take place for two years. Its history keeps unfolding and 8 All Saints Road is an indelible part of it.
John Vane writes words sketches of London. Sometimes he makes things up. Follow John on Twitter. Photograph taken in December 2019. Article augmented on 29 January 2023.
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