Episode 3 Janet Street-Porter

First shown on Monday 12th September 2016 8pm ITV1

Janet at her home in Yorkshire

Famous faces revisit their former homes to share memories and secrets from when they lived there. Broadcaster and journalist Janet Street Porter revisits the castle she built in the heart of London and reveals what she loves to do most at her home in Yorkshire.

Janet Street Porter was born Janet Bull in December 1946. Her parents owned a house in Parsons Green in west London. Janet’s childhood home is the first stop on the journey through her property ladder. She recalls Parsons Green was a ‘completely working class area’ then and her electrical engineer dad and school dinner lady mum could only afford to live in half the house.

Janet explains that apart from the bedroom she shared with her sister at the back of the first floor, the remainder of the two upper levels was rented out to another family. This included the only bathroom, so Janet washed and bathed in the kitchen. Her parent’s bedroom was on the ground floor – where today the former bedroom and living room have been knocked into one open plan space.

It is the kitchen that provokes many memories of the family life she hated so much. She thought ‘you can’t be my real parents. They just seemed like stone age people’ and ‘I thought my real parents would come along and get me – that my mother had picked up the wrong baby in the nursing home’. She recalls life revolving around the radio, as it did for many people in the 1950’s (in 1957 only half of all homes owned a television). Janet used to listen to Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites and wondered why ‘all the requests were for posh kids’ and she used to think ‘no one’s ever called Janet on this show. They’ve always got nice names – like Jennifer’.

Janet revisits her childhood home in Parsons Green, West London

As a young teenager Janet spent as much time as she could in the local library which was round the corner, or the museums in Kensington that were a short bus ride away. Just when Janet thought teenage life couldn’t get any worse her dad announced they were selling up and moving to Perivale out in suburbia along the A40 Western Avenue. He had sold the Parsons Green house for £5,000. Today similar houses fetch over £2 million. Janet continued to take the train to her old grammar school each day – an hour in each direction.

When she was 19 Janet ran away from her parents home, and soon moved into a Council flat in Fulham within peeking distance of Chelsea football stadium. This is the next stop on her journey. This is where she ‘became a double barrelled woman’ marrying Tim Street-Porter. She recalls how the police broke down the front door looking for drugs while she was on her honeymoon, and took away her wedding cake ‘but found nothing’. She remembers putting her studies to become an architect on hold, and quickly getting a job writing for Petticoat Magazine, which led to an offer from the Daily Mail to be deputy fashion editor. She also reveals they installed a water bed in the flat and explains how the motion made her ‘violently sick’.

Janet’s next stop is the first property she ever bought. It is a former barge repair shop in Limehouse on the banks of the River Thames which she paid for £25,000 in 1971. Janet remembers it fondly ‘The house faces south so you’ve got light all day long. It was just the most fantastic site’ She installed a snooker table on the ground floor and recalls with glee a weekend long snooker party she staged to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. There was a huge flotilla on the Thames and the Queen sailed by on a barge – Janet’s party all waved. She still has the trophy her friend made for her – as it was clear she wasn’t going to win anything. She shows off the trophy and her scrapbook of the event that she has treasured for almost 40 years. While she lived here Janet’s career was taking off and she first started presenting on LWT’s Six O’Clock Show.

Although she loved the house by the river Thames, Janet had always wanted to build her own house. In 1997 she and her architect friend from college days - Piers Gough set about finding a suitable site to build on. Eventually, in 1997, they found the perfect corner plot in Clerkenwell to build Janet’s dream representation of a Mediaeval castle.

Janet's own 'castle' in Clerkenwell, London

This is Janet’s next revisit. As Janet says her design statement was ‘don’t even bother ringing the doorbell, no visitors welcome’. The design was highly controversial with its blue roof and odd shaped windows. The coloured brickwork design looks like a shadow has hit the building ‘it’s such an achievement in brickwork it was on the cover of Brick Monthly.’ Janet also installed her own version of a blue plaque on the outside – and believes unlike other modern buildings hers ‘is a house that’s really stood the test of time’. While she was living here she was editor of The Independent, won a BAFTA for creating the innovative TV show Network 7 for Channel 4 and became head of Youth Programmes at the BBC. She remembers throwing a party to celebrate winning the BAFTA ‘and I came home, and I was so drunk, I put the award on the second floor windowsill and it fell out the window and I never saw it again’.

Eventually Janet’s castle was dwarfed by new neighbouring buildings. She moved around the corner to a former warehouse that was being used as an artist’s studio. This is the next stop on her tour of former homes. She added a new top floor, clad in glass. The conversion was so costly she ran out of money – and couldn’t afford a kitchen. She mentioned this to friend Elton John when she was round at dinner – and he offered her his kitchen. He had a new chef who didn’t like the units Elton had purchased and so they were in boxes in the garage. Now they are installed in Janet’s former kitchen. Janet stayed here for 15 years – until eventually the five floor trek from the kitchen at the top to the washing machine in the basement drove her mad and she had to move on. 

Janet has homes in Yorkshire and Kent and is currently looking for a new London home.

Celebrity Home Secrets: A So Television / Sunnyside Productions Co-production
Executive Producers: Graham Stuart, Andrea Miller, Jerry Foulkes
Directed and filmed by: Rebekah Levine