Wednesday, September 20, 2017

High Street Kensington

This is the fifth station on the Circle Line from Edgware Road travelling anticlockwise. It is also a District Line station.

The first station here was constructed in 1867 but demolished in 1906 and rebuilt complete with a shopping arcade.
Acknowledgement of its previous rail history can be seen in the motifs above the doorway with the MR - Metropolitan Railway and DR - District Railway.

The arcade takes you out on to the High Street. Kensington High Street is a popular London shopping street in an upmarket wealthy area.

Leaving the station arcade I turned right which took me past the old department store Derry & Toms. From the late 19th century the street had three large department stores: Derry & Toms, Barkers and Pontings. By 1920 Barkers bought out both Derry & Toms and Pontings but they continued to trade under their original names. A prolonged building project in the 30s changed the buildings into fine examples of Art Deco.

In 1936 the Vice president of Barkers employed a landscape gardener to design a garden on the top of Derry and Toms. It covers 1.5 acres and has three different gardens with 500 species of plants. In 1964 the original music video for Roy Orbison's 'Oh Pretty Woman' was filmed in the garden.

When Derry and Toms closed in 1973, the building was taken over by the successful 1960s boutique Biba. But the recession in the 70s and  ambitious plans ended Biba's reign in 1975. The store was divided into separate retail outlets. Today the main retailer is Marks and Spencers  whilst the roof garden, private club and restaurant on the top floor are owned by Richard Branson's Virgin.

The D and T motif is still visible above the store

Barkers continued until 2006 when the department store closed for good. Part of the premises were taken over by American Whole Foods Market which opened the UK's first organic superstore there in 2007. The office space above the retail part of the building was occupied by the headquarters of Associated Newspapers and they took over the rest of the store for more office space.

I turned off the High Street and down Derry Street to Kensington Square.

Dating from the 17th cent, Kensington Square is one of the earliest  garden squares in London. The first buildings on the square date from 1682.

The garden is not open to the public.

One of the buildings around the square is the convent of the Assumption. Inhabited by a French order of nuns, it has been based here since 1869.

Left the square via Young Street  passing this house which used to be the home of the Victorian writer William Makepeace Thackery (Vanity Fair). The house is now part of an American College.
Back on the High Street I walked past the gates that protect the most expensive road in the UK -  Kensington Park Gardens.

The average house/mansion price is £40,000,000. For obvious reasons it is commonly  known as 'Billionaires Boulevard'.
There is a gate a little further along the High Street which might be familiar to many of you. This was the gate from  which Princess Diana's Funeral procession left Kensington Palace on its two hour journey to Westminster Abbey 20 years ago.

Kensington Palace, home to Prince William and family as well as Prince Harry and some other minor royals.

The Princess of Wales lived at Kensington Palace for 15 years and enjoyed seeing the changing displays in the garden.

To mark 20 years since her death the gardeners have created a simple but elegant White Garden.

From the Palace I walked back to Kensington Church Street via York House Place.

Kensington Church Walk is  a narrow passageway of quaint shops leading from the road to St Mary Abbot's church

The church has the tallest spire in London. It was built in 1872 by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who helped to design more than 500 churches and chapels.

St Mary Abbot's gardens were created in the former churchyard of  the church. They were opened to the public in 1953 but it wasn't until the year 2000 that the railings were replaced when the gardens and the church walk were restored to their former glory. Railings were removed during WW2 as part of the war effort as iron was in short supply. However, it is not clear what happened to them all. There is no clear evidence that the railings ended up at steel works. It is thought that far too many railings were collected but not used. It seems that nobody really knows what happened to the thousands and thousands of railings that were removed up and down the country.

The gardens led me back onto Kensington High Street.

Just off the High Street, you have small Mews houses to Mansions but one thing they do have in common is that they are all incredibly expensive.

I walked along the High Street as far as the Design Museum.

The Museum moved here from Shad Thames in Nov 2016. Its new home is the former Commonwealth Institute which was  opened in 1962 but it was too expensive to be modernised. Major funding contributions from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sir Terence Comran meant that the building would be saved and brought to life again. It also means that for the first time access to the Design Museum will be free. It has taken four years to complete the work giving the Design Museum three times more exhibition space as well as more areas to extend its learning programme.

The Museum is next to Holland Park and I left via the ornate gates. The iron gates were brought from Belgium by the third Lord Holland and erected in 1836. They have recently been restored and gilded with 780 sheets of 23.5 ct gold.

I walked back to the station via the back streets and came across this large Victorian house on Stafford Terrace. I was drawn to a notice outside which said it was open to visitors. It turns out that 18 Stafford Terrace  is a  unique example of a late Victorian  townhouse complete with furnishings and decorations of that period. It was the home of the Punch political cartoonist  Edward Linley Sambourne and family. After the death of Linley and his wife, the house was preserved by their descendants and  eventually donated to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.. It was first open to the public in 1980.  As it is only open three days a week I was very fortunate to be passing on the right day. Sometimes I come across places by chance that deserve a post all to themselves and this is one of them. The house is over six floors with much to see of interest on each floor.

'Sticky Fingers' restaurant on Phillimore Gardens. Bill Wyman of Rolling Stones fame named the restaurant after one of their albums. Pity it wasn't open when I past as I would have enjoyed tasting the food.


  1. No surprise I suppose, that Kensington High Street turned out to be a very interesting area. Overpriced, of course, but a terrific location and worth paying a lot to live there. Even the station looks very posh.

  2. Hate to say how many times I've bee past on the underground and wondered what was above. You see the remains of lots of railings that were cut off in the war, probably still staked up in some dusty scrapyard

  3. Interesting history on the department stores -- kind of a microcosm of the changes in commerce over the decades .... The people in that neighborhood can probably afford to buy all their groceries at Whole Foods (I actually like that store, but only for occasional splurges -- don't feel quite as bad about us exporting that one as I usually do about our chains)... interesting High Street walk for sure -- so many lovely things to see, not surprisingly. I do remember the funeral procession.. and love the memorial plantings.

  4. So beautiful.. last year i visited London, but I didn't discover all those gem..though we got down at Kensignton station..

  5. A lovely area but given the wealth that's not really so surprising. I remember going to the Biba store many (many) years ago lol

  6. A nice walk through a wealthy part of old London. The garden for Diana looks good.

  7. Hi! I felt as if I would go sightseeing in London again. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Gosh, the barkers building is quite impressive isn't it?

  9. Wow ! A glimpse into how the other half live. Interesting history of the dept stores. Diana's garden is lovely.Lucky to be able to go into the Victorian house and how great it is that it has been preserved.


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