Frestonia was the name adopted by the residents of Freston Road, a street at the north western boundary of Notting Hill, London, formerly part of Latimer Road, and also known as Notting Dale, when they attempted to secede from the United Kingdom in 1977. Actor David Rappaport was the Foreign Minister, while playwright Heathcote Williams served as Ambassador to Great Britain. Another minister was Nicholas Albery of BIT.
Frestonia consisted of a 1.8 acres (7,300 m2) triangle of land (including communal gardens) formed by Freston Road, Bramley Road and Shalfleet Drive, W10, which belonged at the time to the London Borough of Hammersmith. This land crosses the boundary of London postal districts W10 (North Kensington) and W11 (Notting Hill), and now belongs to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Most of the residents of Freston Road were squatters, who moved into empty houses in the early 1970s. When the Greater London Council planned to redevelop the area, the 120 residents first all adopted the same surname of Bramley with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively.
The Council threatened formal eviction, so at a public meeting attended by 200 people, resident Nick Albery - inspired by both the Ealing comedy film Passport to Pimlico and a previous visit to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen - suggested that they declare the street independent of the rest of the UK. A referendum returned 94% of residents in favour of the plan, and 73% in favour of joining the European Economic Community. Independence was declared on 31 October 1977. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe wrote expressing his support, saying "As one who had childhood enthusiasm for Napoleon of Notting Hill, I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations". In a legal dispute regarding the unauthorised performance of his play The Immortalist, Heathcote Williams won a ruling from the UK courts that Frestonia was for this purpose not part of the UK.
The state adopted the Latin motto Nos Sumus Una Familia - We are All One Family - and applied to join the United Nations, at the same time warning that peacekeeping troops might be needed to keep the GLC at bay.
Culture, communications, transport and economy
Frestonia had its own newspaper The Tribal Messenger and an art gallery called The Car Breaker Gallery from which emerged the performance art of the Mutoid Waste Company and the painter Julie Umerle whose first solo show was held at the gallery. Other exhibitors included Brett Ewins and Brendan McCarthy. Professional lighting was donated by Sandy Nairne, later to be Director of the National Portrait Gallery. There was also a "National Theatre" at Frestonia which performed Heathcote Williams's The Immortalist. The Frestonian National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being - appropriately - Passport to Pimlico and a film of The Sex Pistols. Local transport was served by the Number 295 bus, and the London Underground, Latimer Road tube station being at the north end of Bramley Road. There were Frestonian postage stamps (honoured by the General Post Office), as well as plans to introduce a currency.
When the state celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1982, the population numbered 97 people occupying 23 houses. The same year, The Clash recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as The People's Hall) in Frestonia.
Decline and fall
A core group, housed in the middle section of the street, were young feminists attempting to reform gender relationships and power imbalances. Their contribution and history is invisible now, hidden away in the media-friendly nonsense surrounding the few weeks of Frestonia. But the years of questioning the patriarchal status quo informed most of these women's lives permanently.
Following international press coverage, the residents formed the Bramleys Housing Co-operative Ltd, which negotiated with Notting Hill Housing Trust for continued residence and acceptable redevelopment of the site. Some Frestonians were unhappy with the consequent loss of independence, and moved away. According to Tony Sleep, a brief Frestonian onlooker whose online photo-journal documents his idea of the history of the area, those leaving were often replaced by people with drinking and drug problems. The remaining Frestonians grabbed what they could for themselves instead of of maintaining the ideals of the Frestonian "nation" which consequently went into decline. In its place, a more conventional local community reinstated the usual hierarchies.
To the current day, Bramleys Housing Co-operative manages the properties owned and built on the Frestonia site by Notting Hill Housing Trust, and its members continue to live as a close-knit community. Some are children or grandchildren of the original Frestonians, although there has also been a significant influx of new residents.
A large new office development, also named Frestonia, now occupies the adjacent site at the junction of Bramley Road and St Anns Road. It is occupied by the headquarters of Cath Kidston Limited. A second large office development also named Frestonia by its developers was erected at 125/135 Freston Road in 2001.
Major developments occurred in the 2000s with the completion of environmentally-friendly headquarters buildings for Monsoon Accessorize (in 2007) and TalkTalk (in 2009) at the rear of 91-121 Freston Road,. The 150,000m² Westfield London shopping complex was also finished around this time, and links Frestonia, including the two HQ buildings in Notting Dale, via a nearby footbridge over the West Cross Route.
- The Guardian, Friday, June 8, 2001 - Obituary: Nicholas Albery. Irreverent free spirit who put his socially innovative ideas into action
- Fourth World News, Vol. 1 No. 18. February 1983. Edited by Nicholas Albery. Frestonia: Smallest Nation in Europe
- The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Freston Road
- Cooke, Robin (2001-06-04). "Beneath the Mirror Ball". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- NBC News archives. "NOTTING HILL SECTION OF LONDON DECLARES ITSELF AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY--FRESTONIA; RESIDENTS ASSUME SAME SURNAME with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively"
- Vague, Tom (2007). "Getting it Straight in Notting Hill Gate 1958-2008: Subterania". HISTORYtalk. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- "The Eddie Woods Archive". American Literary Studies. Stanford University Library. 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- The Guardian. 'From Frestonia to Belgravia review'
- Portobello Film Festival 2006. Counter Culture Portobello - Psychogeographical History, by Tom Vague.
- The Republic of Frestonia. Car Breaker Posters
- The Republic of Frestonia
- Portowebbo.co.uk – Passport to Frestonia - November 2002 (archived copy)
- Time Out London, Chris Parkin, Mon May 15 2006 – Frestonia declares its independence: It happened here
- Welcome to Frestonia. Comprehensive history and archive of photographs from Frestonia, by Tony Sleep, a resident photographer
- Notting Hill Housing association – affordable homes and shared ownership schemes | Notting Hill Housing
- Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Planning.
- London Independent Film Festival 2014