This area of North West London was once made up of a cluster of villages, each with their own character and atmosphere.
Over time, these distinct neighbourhoods have grown and merged together while retaining their own discrete sense of place, personality and history.
Lyons Place and the surrounding villages of St John’s Wood, Maida Vale and Little Venice are all connected by the beauty and tranquillity of the Regent’s Canal.
Alfie’s has been here since 1976, before that the building was derelict for quite a while. It used to be a department store called Jordan’s. So it was mostly hosiery and sewing bits and bobs. The building’s Victorian, dating from around 1880.
After Jordan’s closed down, all of Church Street was quite run down, until Bennie Gray opened Alfie’s and he’s brought the area back to life, really. Alfie’s is named after his dad — he was a jazz musician and had something to do with the pearly queens as well. Bennie’s got loads of stories.
Today the antique market houses more than 200 permanent stall holders, spread over five floors. I’d say 60 per cent of the antique dealers have been here 10 to 15 years. A couple have been here since the very beginning and are still going strong. But on the flipside, 30 percent are new dealers, there’s a waiting list and always plenty of enquiries.
It was nice to start with a clean piece of paper, to think about where and who I am. I needed to be able to stop and think. Perfumer H is both a shop and a laboratory — we prefer to call it a ‘playground’ — where our customers can get involved in the process of making scent. We create seasonal editions, scented candles and bespoke perfumes for private clients. We love having a mix of local and international clients who come and see us on a regular basis.
We’ve found there’s a great community of people here from all walks of life and with all kinds of skills and interests. That’s what makes it so interesting and vibrant. We’re in central London, but there’s still a lovely village feel — people are generally friendly, respectful and help each other out when they can
I’m actually fairly new to this part of West London. I set up my contemporary art gallery here in March this year. So far so good! There were several reasons I chose Church Street for the gallery. The main one was that it’s particularly well suited for an arts or antiques business — there’s a real sense of tradition around here, so you immediately feel part of something. I also think that the diverse nature of the ward offers something new, exciting, unique and of course, the location is nice and central.
There’s a really warm, community feeling in the neighbourhood, especially between fellow traders. I have already had the chance to work with quite a few local artists. Being here does allow for easy relationships. I guess what makes working around here special is feeling part of the overall creative set-up. I’m a young, new talent in the area with a genuine passion for the arts. As the place develops — not just economically but also socially — I hope to evolve and create a positive effect for the area and my gallery.
Westminster Council released a masterplan for Church Street Ward and the planned developments look fantastic. I feel really positive that the changes will galvanise the area further, but there’s always something going on; the inaugural Arts, Antiques and Design Fair on Church Street was held recently and was a huge occasion for local residents and traders. Hopefully we’ll see plenty more of this kind of thing in the future.