Kensington & Chelsea

Street Map

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The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is an inner London borough with royal status. It is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England; and it is one of the most densely populated in the United Kingdom. It includes areas such as North Kensington, Notting Hill, Central Kensington, South Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge. The borough is immediately west of the City of Westminster and east of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. It contains major museums and universities in Albertopolis, department stores such as Harrods, Peter Jones and Harvey Nichols, and embassies in Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Kensington Gardens. It is home to the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest. It contains many of the most expensive residential properties in the world. The local authority is Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. Its motto, adapted from the opening words of Psalm 133, is Quam bonum in Unum habitare, which translates roughly as ‘How good it is to dwell in unity’.

Kensington is a town and district of west and central London, England, within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Its commercial heart is Kensington High Street. This affluent and densely populated area contains the well-known museum district of South Kensington.

To the north, Kensington is bordered by Notting Hill; to the east, by Brompton and Knightsbridge; to the south, by Chelsea and Earl’s Court; and to the west, by Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush.

The area is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was written in Latin as “Chenesitone”, which has been interpreted to have originally been “Kenesignetun” (Kenesigne’s land or meadows) in Anglo-Saxon.

The manor of Kensington, Middlesex, was granted by William I of England to Geoffrey de Montbray or Mowbray, bishop of Coutances, one of his inner circle of advisors and one of the wealthiest men in post-Conquest England. He in turn granted the tenancy of Kensington to his vassal Aubrey de Vere I, who was holding the manor in 1086, according to Domesday Book. The bishop’s heir, Robert de Mowbray, rebelled against William Rufus and his vast barony was declared forfeit. Aubrey de Vere I had his tenure converted to a tenancy in-chief, holding Kensington after 1095 directly of the crown. He granted land and church there to Abingdon Abbey at the deathbed request of his young eldest son, Geoffrey. As the Veres became the earls of Oxford, their estate at Kensington came to be known as Earls Court, while the Abingdon lands were called Abbots Kensington and the church St Mary Abbots.

The focus of the area is Kensington High Street, a busy commercial centre with many shops, typically upmarket. The street was declared London’s second best shopping street in February 2005 thanks to its range and number of shops. However since October 2008 the street has faced competition from the Westfield shopping centre at White City. The heritage bus service on route 9, using Routemaster buses, was extended to Kensington High Street in November 2010 at the Council’s urging, partly to boost the number of visitors to the High Street.

Kensington’s second activity centre is South Kensington, where a variety of small shops are clustered close to South Kensington tube station. This is also the southern end of Exhibition Road, the thoroughfare that serves the area’s museums and educational institutions.

The edges of Kensington are not well-defined; in particular, the southern part of Kensington blurs into Chelsea, which has a similar architectural style. To the west, a transition is made across the West London railway line and Earl’s Court Road further south into other districts, whilst to the north, the only obvious dividing line is Holland Park Avenue, to the north of which is the similar district of Notting Hill.

In the north east, the large Royal Park of Kensington Gardens (contiguous with its eastern neighbour, Hyde Park) is an obvious buffer between Kensington and areas to the north east. The other main green area in Kensington is Holland Park, just north of Kensington High Street, whilst Kensington has numerous small residential garden squares.

While South Kensington can be regarded as a part of Kensington, the districts of North Kensington and West Kensington are regarded as distinct from Kensington. North Kensington is separated from Kensington by Notting Hill. West Kensington is separated from Kensington by the West London railway line.

Kensington is, in general, an extremely affluent area, a trait that it now shares with its neighbour to the south, Chelsea. The area has some of London’s most expensive streets and garden squares, including Edwardes Square, Earls Terrace – an exclusive redevelopment of Georgian Houses, The Phillimores, and Wycombe Square – a new build development done to a very high standard. In early 2007, houses sold in Upper Phillimore Gardens for in excess of £20 million. Additionally, most neighbouring districts are regarded as exclusive residential areas, including Knightsbridge and Brompton to the east and the nearest parts of Notting Hill to the north. To the west is the less affluent but up-and-coming area of Earl’s Court.

Kensington is also very densely populated; it forms part of the most densely populated local government district (the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) in the United Kingdom. This high density is not formed from high-rise buildings; instead, it has come about through the subdivision of large mid-rise Victorian and Georgian terraced houses (generally of some four to six floors) into flats. Unlike other parts of the Borough, Kensington itself has almost no high-rise buildings – the exception being Holiday Inn’s London Kensington Forum Hotel in Cromwell Road, a 27-storey building.

Notable attractions and institutions in Kensington (or South Kensington) include: Kensington Palace in Kensington Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall opposite the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, the Royal College of Music, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Heythrop College, Imperial College, London, the Royal College of Art and Kensington and Chelsea College. The Olympia exhibition hall is just over the western border in West Kensington.

Kensington is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and lies within the Kensington parliamentary constituency.

The head office of Daily Mail and General Trust is located in the Northcliffe House in Kensington. In addition to housing the DMGT head office, the building also houses the offices of The Independent series, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard, and Metro. Sonangol Limited, a subsidiary of the Sonangol Group, has its head office in the Merevale House in Kensington.

Kensington is crossed east-west by three main roads, the most important of which is the A4 or Cromwell Road which connects it to both Central London and Heathrow Airport. To the north is the mostly parallel Kensington Road (of which Kensington High Street forms a large part), linking central London and Hammersmith to the area. To the south is Fulham Road, which connects South Kensington with Fulham to the southwest. North-south connections are not as well-developed and there is no obvious single north-south route through the area.

Kensington is well served by public transport. Most of Kensington is served by three stations located in the Travelcard Zone 1: High Street Kensington, Gloucester Road and South Kensington. All three are served by the Circle Line which connects them to London’s railway terminals. The District Line also serves all three stations, albeit on different branches; it links the latter two to Westminster and the City. The Piccadilly Line also links South Kensington and Gloucester Road to the West End in about 10 minutes, and in the other direction to Heathrow Airport in about 40 minutes. In addition Kensington (Olympia) in Travelcard Zone 2 serves the western part of Kensington, with District Line trains to Earl’s Court and High Street Kensington. (West Kensington station is not in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.) A number of local bus services link Kensington into the surrounding districts, and key bus hubs are Kensington High Street and South Kensington station.

Chelsea is an affluent area of South West London, bounded to the south by the River Thames. Its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. Its eastern boundary was once defined by the River Westbourne, which is now in a pipe above Sloane Square Underground station. The modern eastern boundary is Chelsea Bridge Road and the lower half of Sloane Street, including Sloane Square. To the north and northwest, the area fades into Knightsbridge and Brompton, but it is considered that the area north of King’s Road as far northwest as Fulham Road is part of Chelsea. The district is entirely within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, although Chelsea gives its name to nearby locations, such as Chelsea Harbour located within the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Chelsea Barracks in the City of Westminster. From 1900, and until the creation of Greater London in 1965, it formed the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea in the County of London. The exclusivity of Chelsea as a result of its high property prices has historically resulted in the term Sloane Ranger being used to describe its residents.

Knightsbridge is an exclusive residential and retail district in West London, south of Hyde Park. It is identified in the London Plan as one of two international retail centres in London, alongside the West End. Knightsbridge is east of Exhibition Road and west of Sloane Street. Brompton Road, Beauchamp Place and the western section of Pont Street serve roughly as its southern border together with their adjacent gardens and squares such as Ovington Square, Lennox Gardens and Cadogan Square. South of this area, the district fades into Chelsea while Belgravia lies to the east and South Kensington to the west. Knightsbridge is home to many expensive shops, including the department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and flagship stores of many British and international fashion houses, including those of London-based shoe designers Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, and two Prada stores. The district also has banks that cater to wealthy individuals. Some of London’s most renowned restaurants are here, as well as many exclusive hair and beauty salons, antiques and antiquities dealers, and chic bars and clubs. Bonhams auction house is located in Knightsbridge. The district and the road itself, which is the only definitive place within it, is small, which assists its cachet: more than half of the zone closest to its tube station (and nearer to no others) is Knightsbridge Underground station. Knightsbridge had in its park side, east and west gold-coloured blocks of exceptional wealth in philanthropist Charles Booth’s late Victorian Poverty Map, formerly excluding Brompton Road to the west but extending well into Piccadilly, St James’s to the east. Knightsbridge is home to many of the world’s richest people and has some of the highest property prices in the world. In 2014 a terrace of 427m² sold for £15,950,000, a home in Montpelier Square. The average asking price for all the properties in slightly wider SW7 was £4,348,911 (as at Autumn 2014). On-street parking spaces have sold for as much as £300,000 for a 94-year lease. Fourteen of Britain’s two hundred most expensive streets are in the neighbourhood, as defined by The Times.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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