The People's Hall, Freston Road. The focal point of the Frestonia community, this is the only significant building from the Frestonian independence period still standing on Freston Road itself, and was the location for the recording of much of The Clash's album Combat Rock.
Frestonia was the name adopted by the residents of Freston Road, London, when they attempted to secede from the United Kingdom in 1977 to form the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia. The residents were squatters, many of whom eventually set up a housing co-op in negotiation with Notting Hill Housing Trust, and included artists, musicians, writers, actors and activists. Actor David Rappaport was the Foreign Minister, while playwright Heathcote Williams served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Most of the residents of Freston Road were squatters, who moved into empty houses in the early 1970s. The 'Republic of Frestonia' continued to operate as a collective well into the 1980s, becoming a creative hub for writers, artists and musicians as well as cultural activists. 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 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 postage stamps (which were honoured by the General Post Office), passport stamps for visitors, a national newspaper The Tribal Messenger as well as an art gallery The Car Breaker Gallery.
In addition, there was 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.
There were even 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. The Clash and Motörhead practised in the rehearsal studios there.
Decline and fall
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 resident photographer whose online photo-journal documents the history of the area, those leaving were often replaced by people with drinking and drug problems. The remaining Frestonians proved incapable of maintaining the ideals of the Frestonian "nation," which consequently went into decline. In its place, a more conventional local community developed, without any claims to secession from the UK.
Bramleys Housing Co-operative manages the properties owned and built on the Frestonia site by Notting Hill Housing Trust, and its members 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, was built on the adjacent site at the junction of Bramley Road and St Anns Road, and is occupied by the headquarters of Cath Kidston. A second large office development also named Frestonia by its developers was erected at 125/135 Freston Road in 2001.
1978. Simon Watters-Bramley, Frestonian Ambassador to Canada, the Arctic and Chicago, was featured on the cover of "Salty Dog Magazine" (Vol.I issue No.2) an arts and culture tabloid newspaper published by Joanne Light in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada where he resided at his ambassadorial residence before leaving his post to work for Greenpeace.