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Kensington, Middlesex

Historical Description

Kensington, a metropolitan suburb and a parish in Middlesex. The suburb lies on the Paddington and Kensington Canals, and on the L. & S.W., the S.E., the L.B. & S.C., the L. & N.W., and the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District railways, between Paddington and Brompton, and between Hyde Park and Hammersmith, 4 miles W by S of St Paul's; is connected by Knightsbridge with the main body of the metropolis; has stations on the railways, and is in the Western Suburban Postal district; and contains the station of the T division of the metropolitan police, the West Middlesex Waterworks, the London and Western Cemetery, the Kensington new barracks, and a number of public institutions. Most of it is in Kensington parish, but some houses in High Street, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, and a portion between Kensington Gore and Knightsbridge, are in the parish of St Margaret Westminster. The name was anciently written Chenesitune and Koenigstown, and was probably derived from a Saxon proprietor. The manor belonged at Domesday to Aubrey de Vere, passed to Sir W. Cope and Richard Earl Holland, and is now divided. Foxes were hunted here so late as 1798. An old village, on the site of High Street, stood nearly 2 miles W of Hyde Park Corner, but has been displaced or absorbed by comparatively modern buildings. The entire suburb is a remarkable instance of transmutation from a rural place into a grand wing of a great metropolis. The older extant part of it consists of well-built houses extending a considerable distance along the Great Western Road, with numerous streets branching to the N and the S, and the newer part includes Kensington Square, St Mary Abbots Terrace, Warwick Square, Addison Road, Netting Hill, Kensington Gravel Pits, Kensington Gardens Square, and Kensington New Town. Kensington makes a rich display of palatial-looking houses, and is generally in various modifications of the Italian style from the severe details of the strictly Palladian to the ornate embellishments of the Later Renaissance.

Kensington Palace stands to the N of Old Kensington, on the way to Bayswater. It belonged originally to Heneage Finch, Earl of Nottingham and Lord Chancellor; was sold by his son, the second earl, to William III., soon after his accession to the throne, and has ever since belonged to the Crown. It is a large, irregular, brick edifice, of three quadrangles, and possesses no exterior beauty, but contains some very fine apartments, particularly the presence chamber, the king's gallery, the cube-room, the banqueting-room, and the grand drawing-room. The lower portion of it was part of Lord Nottingham's house; the higher portion and the S front were erected by William III., after designs by Wren; the banqueting-room was built by Queen Anne; the E front, the cupola room, and the grand marble staircase were erected by George I.; and the NW corner was built, as a nursery for his children, by George II. William III., his queen Mary, Queen Anne, Prince George of Denmark, and George II., all died in this palace; Queen Anne and the Duchess of Marl-borough had here their last memorable interview; the Duke of Sussex, son of George III., lived and died here, and formed here his noble library of Biblical works; Queen Victoria was born here, and held her first court here; and the late Prince Consort placed here his collection of ancient Byzantine, Russian, German, Flemish, and Italian pictures, purchased from Prince Wallenstein. A previous collection of pictures here, known as the Kensington collection, and long famous under that name, has been removed to other palaces.

Kensington Gardens lie immediately E of the palace, extend to Hyde Park, and are bounded, on that side, by a sunk fence and by the Serpentine. They were originally the pleasure grounds of the palace; but they are now open to the public, yet not to be traversed by carriages. They at first comprised only 26 acres; but they were enlarged, to the further extent of 30 acres, by Queen Anne, under the care of Bridgman; and were again enlarged, to the grand further extent of 300 acres, by Caroline, Queen of George II., under the care of Kent. They have rich attractions of walk and shade; a splendid collection of flowering trees along the north walk, which is one of the sights of London in the spring; and they are abundantly frequented by gaily-dressed pro-menaders. A large formal sheet of water, called the Basin, is on the W; and the Serpentine, as already noted, is on the E. This was formed in 1730-33, and a bridge over it, into Hyde Park, was erected in 1825, after designs by Eennie. Ornamental waterworks, for the twofold purpose of purifying the Serpentine and of forming a small Italian garden, were constructed in 1861. A screen, with vases on pilaster buttresses, separates the lower end from the Serpentine; an engine-house, in Italian architecture, is at the head; and four large reservoirs, with a jet in the centre of each, are in the interior. The works occupy a space of 300 feet from N to S, and of 170 from E to W; and they make a liberal display of very good carving and statuary. A monumental column to Captain Speke was erected near them in 1866. Beautiful wrought-iron gates are at the SE entrance of the gardens from Rotten Row, and these were the entrance-gates to the S transept of the Crystal Palace of 1851.

To the S of Kensington Gardens, between Queen's Gate and Prince's Gate, stands the Albert Memorial, one of the most magnificent monuments of the world, erected by the English nation to the memory of the late Prince Consort, at a cost of £120, 000. It was designed by the late Sir G. G. Scott, and consists of a Gothic cross and canopy with a spire reaching to the height of 175 feet. Under the canopy there is a colossal gilt bronze figure of the Prince seated and wearing the robes of the Garter, by Foley. Round the base of the Memorial is a series of 169 life-sized figures and portraits of" the poets, musicians, painters, architects, and sculptors; while four projecting pedestals at the angles support marble groups representing agriculture, manufacture, commerce, and engineering. At the corners of the steps leading up to the basement are pedestals bearing four groups of statuary- America, by John Bell; Africa, by Theed; Asia, by Foley; and Europe, by Macdowell.

The public buildings of Kensington include the South Kensington Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music, the Indian Museum, the Imperial Institute, and the Natural History Museum-for a description of which the reader is referred to the article LONDON.

Kensington Gore occupies the line between Kensington Town and Knightsbridge, and extends thence southward to Brompton. A part of it, now edificed, was the site of the once famous Kensington or Brompton Nursery, which is mentioned in the Spectator. Kingston House stands on the highest ground between London and Windsor, was built by the notorious Duchess of Kingston, was the residence and death-place of Marquis Wellesley, and passed to Earl ListoweL Gore House was occupied by Wilberforce, afterwards by Lady Bless-ington, afterwards by Soyer, who made it a symposium during the time of the Exhibition, and was eventually purchased by Government for the scheme of the South Kensington Museum. Kensington House was once the seat of the Duke of Portsmouth, and was converted first into a school, afterwards into a lunatic asylum. Holland House, the great resort of the Whig politicians during the life of the late Lord Holland, was built about 1607, and now belongs to Lord Ilchester. Villa Maria was the seat of Canning. Pitt's Buildings were the death-place of Sir Isaac Newton. A house in Lower Phillimore Place was the residence of Wilkie, while he painted his " Chelsea Pensioners," his " Reading of the Will," his " Distraining for Rent," and his " Blind Man's Buff;'' and a detached mansion in Vicarage Place was his residence immediately prior to his leaving for the Holy Land. Sir P. Perceval, Lord Chancellor Camden, and the fourth Earl of Orrery were natives; and the traveller Chardin. Lord' Keeper Bridgman, General Lambert, Talleyrand, the Earl of Craven, and the Duchess of Mazarine were residents. The family of Edwardes take from Kensington the title of Baron.

The parish includes all Kensington Gore, Earl's Court, Gravel Pits, Brompton, Norland, and Netting Hill, and parts of Knightsbridge, Little Chelsea, and Ken sal Green. The area of the entire civil parish is 2188 acres; population, 166, 308. For parliamentary purposes Kensington is divided into the boroughs of North and South Keni-ington, each returning one member. The population of North Kensington is 82, 633, and of South Kensington 83, 675.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMiddlesex 
Ecclesiastical parishKensington St. Mary 
HundredOssulstone 
Poor Law unionKensington 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

The The Registers of Kensington 1539-1675 are available to browse online.


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Kensington from the following:


Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Middlesex is online.


Maps

Online maps of Kensington are available from a number of sites:


Villages, Hamlets, &c

Brompton
Kensington Gravel Pits
Notting Hill
DistrictKensington and Chelsea
CountyGreater London
RegionLondon
CountryEngland
Postal districtW8
Post TownLondon