Thursday, November 2, 2017

South Kensington

This is the 7th station I've visited on the Circle Line. It also serves the District and Piccadilly lines. I'm sure those of you who have visited London will be familiar with this station as you would alight here if you wanted to visit one of the main London Museums.

You can access the museums easily via a subway, which runs beneath Exhibition Road. A long subway was originally proposed by  the Metropolitan Railway as a pedestrian route and tramway from South Kensington station to the Albert Hall. But permission was only granted  to build a pedestrian subway which doesn't take you as far as the Albert Hall. The 433m subway was opened in 1885 giving access to South Kensington's international exhibitions and the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens ( now the site of the Science Museum and Imperial College). There were also  exits to the Natural History Museum and the South Kensington Museum  (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The subway was only used on special occasions until 1908 when it was opened to the public free of charge. 

 Due to its history, the subway is now a Grade II listed building being linked to the development of this area known as 'Albertopolis'. The nickname was given in the 1850s to describe the 87 acre site south of Hyde Park purchased by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 with profits from the Great Exhibition. The Great Exhibition in 1851 was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. It was organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert and held in a purpose built Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Many of the objects from the exhibition were used as the first collection in the South Kensington Museum which opened in 1857 before becoming  the V and A Museum.

As it was a lovely day I decided to exit the station above ground.

Close to the station on Thurloe Street are some interesting shops worth browsing.

Just around the corner and you are on Exhibition Road. The maroon coloured brick work hides the subway skylight. This used to be the Cromwell Road entrance to the subway but it has now been blocked up. As you can see there are very few people around. It was 10am on a Sunday morning and believe me this is the best time to visit. The Museums are open but the coach parties and crowds have not yet arrived.

Lots of restaurants along here, many of which were open for breakfast. Notice the large concrete blocks, a more recent addition on London Streets which protect the public from cars/vans unlawfully driving on the pedestrian areas.
The first building you notice is the Ismaili Centre. It is a religious, social and cultural meeting place for the Ismaili Muslim community in the UK and is the first specially designed centre for Ismailis in the Western world.

Twelve responses to Tragedy by Angela Conner. This is the Yalta memorial. It commemorates those displaced citizens who returned to their country of origin after WW2 and then faced Soviet prosecution, imprisonment and death.

Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union was where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Feb 1945 to discuss Europe's postwar reorganisation.

On the corner of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road is the Natural History Museum. For me the outside is as thrilling as the inside. The building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, a young architect from Liverpool who won the contract after the original architect died. It was opened to the public on Easter Monday 1881.

The outside of the Museum is decorated with many statues, gargoyles and reliefs. Extinct animals are represented on the East side and living animals on the West. Waterhouse sketched them himself before they were cast in terracotta.

The Museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within the main collections.

Even the columns are decorated with patterns found on fossil trees.

Once inside you enter the magnificent central  hall. This was part of the vision of the  Museum's founder,Richard Owen. He wanted a museum large enough to display large mammals such as whales and elephants, as well as extinct animals such as dinosaurs.
 A cast of a diplodocus has stood in the central hall for the last 35 years until this year when it was removed to make way for the skeleton of a 25m Blue Whale. 

On the other corner of the Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road is the Victoria and Albert Museum. The world's largest art and design Museum housing a permanent collection of 2.3 million objects. Since it was built in 1852 more buildings and galleries have been added.

This Summer the new Sackler Courtyard opened enabling visitors to have access to a new entrance to the Museum and the Sainsbury Gallery.

Entry to the new courtyard is through these 19th cent arches which were an integral part of the museum's original building. They were removed and put into storage at the end of 2013 until the construction work had been completed.

On the opposite side of Exhibition Road is the Science Museum. Scientific items from the South Kensington Museum moved here in 1862.

It has items such as Puffing Billy, the world's oldest steam Locomotive to a model of Frick and Watson's double helix DNA structure. But the Museum is much more than items. Its interactive displays and investigative galleries make it a big favourite with toddlers to teenagers.

Next to the Science Museum is Imperial College founded by Prince Albert. His wife, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone in 1888.  The College is organised into faculties of science, engineering, medicine and business.

The Kensington campus was expanded in the 50s and 60s and the Queen's Tower is the only original part that remains among the more modern buildings.

The Holy Trinity church on Prince Consort Road was originally the chapel of a leper hospital and rebuilt in 1609 and was known as the Knightsbridge Chapel. This was replaced in 1901 by the present church.

Also on Prince Consort Road is the Royal College of Music. Inside here is another Museum but unfortunately due to refurbishment it is currently closed.

The Royal Albert Hall was opened in 1871, ten years after Prince Albert's death. His son, Edward, the Prince of Wales opened it on behalf of his mother who was too overcome with grief to speak. It was originally called the Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences. As soon as it opened it held national and international exhibitions promoting the arts and sciences.

Today the Hall hosts almost 400 shows a year included concerts, ballets, operas, sporting events, award ceremonies and charity events.

Across the road in Kensington Gardens is the Albert Memorial. Designed by George Gilbert Scott it is one of London's largest and most ornate memorials.


Unveiled in 1872 the memorial commemorates the death of  Prince Albert who died of Typhus fever aged 42. The monument is over 180 ft in height and took more than 20 years to complete. The memorial shows the Prince holding the catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition which he inspired and helped to organise

The South side of the tube station is quite different.
Looking back at the signage you are reminded that the Circle Line evolved from the Metropolitan Railway and the District Railway.

Next to the entrance is the ox red brick building .that used to be exit for the Piccadilly Line.

Just outside the station is a monument to Bela Bartok(1881-1945), a Hungarian composer and pianist, who stayed nearby on his visits to London.

My walk took me past the private gardens of Onslow Square.

Then onto the Fulham Road with its interesting shops and buildings

 This is Michelin House, the headquarters of Michelin Tyres when they first opened in London in 1911. A very unusual building with its decor featuring three large stained glass windows of the Michelin man 'Bibendum' . This is where you would go to have your tyres changed with  fitting bays at the front of the building.

 There are a number of decorative tiles on either side of the building showing famous racing cars that used Michelin tyres.

Also on the Fulham Road is The Royal Marsden Hospital. This was the first hospital in the world to be dedicated to the study and treatment of cancer. It was founded as the Free Cancer Hospital in 1851. It was the loss of his wife to cancer that gave Dr Marsden the resolve to study and research the disease. Initially, the hospital which consisted solely of a dispensary was  situated in Westminster . It wasn't long before it needed more space. It moved here in in the 1860s when it opened its doors to new patients in 1862.
 Next to the Royal Marsden is the Royal Brompton Hospital, the largest heart and lung medical centre in the UK.. The  hospital was founded at a time when patients with consumption (tuberculosis) were turned away from other hospitals. The foundation stone was laid in 1844 by Prince Albert on the North side of  Brompton Road. The hospital expanded to the other side of the road and a large financial bequest in the 1880s led to much development on the South side.

The building on the North side is no longer a hospital but has been turned into a gated development of family sized apartments. The building is Grade II listed and so has been restored to its former glory
These are the original chimneys, erected in 1844 and are replicas of the Tudor chimneys found at Hampton Court (1514).

The old hospital was built on three acres of land which was formally a market garden. The original lease insisted the building be set  well back from the boundary allowing the current gated accommodation to have plentiful gardens and walkways.

I turned off the Fulham Road onto Foulis Terrace. The size of these terraced housing is staggering.

And of course in this part of London, where you have large houses you must have the Mews
On one of the walls was this mosaic advertising Morris Stapleton motors

A specialist car sales company has its showroom here in the Mews.

A ski-ing holiday company advertises its business in the form of a mural.

Time to make my way back to South Kensington tube station after a very interesting walk around this historical area.


  1. Been to the museum's many times and still want to go back again. The first body scanner Oxford Instruments made used to be on show there,I remember seeing it made and visiting the science museum to see it. Also been to Imperial college to do some work as well. A beautiful area of London

  2. Now that's a place I have been just a month ago ! Haven't seen all of it of course ! Nice place !

  3. We would have needed three months (or more) in London just to see all there is to see in that museum (let alone the whole station area). Thank you for the virtual tour.

  4. Now this is one that I recognise! Natural History and Science Museum stop! Love it.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  5. So many lovely museums - and so little time!

  6. Enjoyed this post. There is so much to see along this line! Great photos of all the buildings. I especially like to see the small businesses.

  7. Wonderful photo tour of the Kensington area ~ some of which I visited but glad to have your wonderful tour again ~ delightful ^_^

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  8. My goodness … what an overwhelming amount of historic riches! It would take me years to properly explore all these wonders. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. I love London :)
    Hi :)
    i'm a new follower of your nice blog, can you follow mine?

  10. What a series of neat shots..have a nice day.

  11. Very interesting! Love the history!

  12. Beautiful shots of the place. I like that museum.

  13. It certainly is an important area with museums and hospitals and beautiful big houses.

  14. What a fun tour! I love Bela Bartok's music -- have played some of his duo piano compositions as well as solos. I'll have to find this statue next time I'm in London. A reason to return!


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