Local histories – South Kensington

Written on 1 February 2017 by Alistair Boscawen in London


South Kensington, otherwise referred to as London’s museum quarter, Paris’ 21st arrondissement (due to its large French community), or simply ‘South Ken’, is today a highly sought-after residential district. It lies to the east of Belgravia, and sits within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  

South Kensington

Generally speaking, South Kensington stretches from South Kensington tube station towards Knightsbridge, taking in Exhibition Road, to the area around Gloucester Road tube station, towards Earl’s Court. It plays host to many garden squares and elegant terraced properties in the stucco architecture style, some of which have now been converted into flats or hotels.

South Kensington grew up in the years following the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. Prior to this event, the area was mainly agricultural, supplying fruits and vegetables to the rest of London. As a result of the Great Exhibition, plans were put in place to create a cultural centre, a home for the arts and sciences on what is now Exhibition Road. This led to the construction of roads and residential properties, while the opening of the underground stations at South Kensington and Gloucester Road in 1868 provided a necessary link to the rest of London.

Today, South Kensington attracts millions of visitors and tourists per year. Its many cultural attractions include the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and the Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park, while the Design Museum is also within reach.

South Kensington can, at times, be overrun with tourists on route to one of its world-leading museums, and yet it still retains a quiet, relaxed feel.

Every Saturday a farmer’s market comes to Bute Street, while locals and visitors alike will sit inside or outside (on the rare occasion when fine weather comes to South Kensington) the many eateries and restaurants. Shoppers are spoilt for variety too, from small quirky boutiques to the legendary department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods, both located in nearby Knightsbridge.

In terms of transport links, the two main underground stations within the South Kensington area are Gloucester Road and South Kensington (both stations are on the Circle, District and Piccadilly Lines), which provide easy access to the city, the West End and the rest of London.

South Kensington sings because of its cultural connections. Despite its reputation as an affluent area, much reflected in its property values, at its heart South Kensington remains a centre for the appreciation of the arts and sciences, as it has been since the 1860s, and it is this which makes it a wonderful place in which to live.

 

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Alistair Boscawen

Alistair has 32 years’ experience as an estate agent, starting in the country house department of one of London’s main international agencies before moving to the Knightsbridge house department of the same agency and learning the difference in values between freehold, long lease and short lease houses in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea and Mayfair.

All articles by Alistair Boscawen

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