5 Places That Tell the Story of Kensington and Chelsea

Once a predominantly rural area, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was officially created in 1965 and over time has evolved into one of London’s most diverse and historic neighbourhoods.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the borough saw huge development in infrastructure as farmland was transformed into a thriving urban landscape. In the twentieth century, waves of immigration have made the borough (London’s smallest) one of the most diverse.

Here are five places in Kensington and Chelsea that exhibit the borough’s evocative and memorable history.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Market © Historic England Archive aa064590

Built on land that was previously a farm and then a convent, Portobello Road was constructed in the Victoria era. The market emerged to serve the wealthy residents of Paddington and surrounding residential areas in the nineteenth century.

Today it is a popular site and draws in millions of tourists each year and the market has become a place where cultural diversity and history is showcased in the form of food, antiques and clothing.

Golborne Road

fez © Marie-Helene Bennett-Henry

Once home to some of the worst slums in London, Golborne Road has become a popular area, famous for its mixed population as well as shops and stalls. Immigration to the area in the sixties and seventies saw the road become home to communities from Spain, Portugal, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Morocco.

The area is often referred to as ‘Little Morocco’ due to a high number of Moroccan residents and Moroccan shops. At the north end of the road is the iconic Trellick Tower, which was built in 1972 to replace substandard Victorian housing.

Powis Square

Powis Square © Marie-Helene Bennett-Henry

In the twentieth century Powis Square became an increasingly multicultural area. It was the centre for the arts and music scene for the local Caribbean population, with the Tabernacle at the heart of this community.

Image: Charles Watson

Frequent attacks by fascist groups and Teddy Boys in the sixties did not stop local residents, famous musicians and legends from enjoying the vibrant music spot. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Marvin Gaye as well as Bob Marley, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were among those who visited.

Kyoto Garden and Fukushima Memorial Garden

Kyoto Gardens © Ewan Munro

Kyoto Garden is an oasis of calm in the midst of a bustling city and was donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce as part of the Japan Festival in London in 1992. It was a cooperative project and was designed by the eminent Japanese Garden designer, Shoji Nakahara.

Fukushima Memorial Garden © Marathon

Located within Kyoto Garden is the Fukushima Memorial Garden, which was opened by the Japanese Embassy in 2012 to give thanks to the British people for their support following the disasters at Fukushima in 2011.

Famous political figures who spoke at Speakers’ Corner include the suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, the Trinidadian writer and historian CLR James and the philosopher and economist Karl Marx.

Leighton House

Leighton House, 1895 © Historic England Archive bl13090a

Listed at Grade II*, Leighton House was owned by the artist Frederic Leighton and is now a museum. Leighton commissioned the architect and designer George Aitchison to build him a home and studio and the site is noted for its opulent orientalist interiors. Many of the house’s features were inspired by, or brought back from the Middle East and Italy, and the museum hosts a number of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Historic England Archive © A480944

Written by Marie-Helene Bennett-Henry, Content Intern.

Further Reading

1 response to 5 Places That Tell the Story of Kensington and Chelsea

  1. Tim Hansell says:

    Kensington Square – It was founded in 1685 and is the oldest such square in Kensington

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