Kensington Reference Library: new prints of old Kensington

Dave Walker, Local Studies Librarian, writes: 

As the final part of the redecoration of the Reference section at Kensington Central Library a quartet of large prints of images from the Local Studies collection have been put up in the IT section of Reference (East Wing). They were chosen by staff from Reference and Local Studies to represent the historical heritage of the area around Kensington High Street, the former Kensington Turnpike around which the old Borough of Kensington grew.

Kensington Reference Library
Kensington Reference Library

On either side of the window are the two great houses of Kensington. Kensington Palace was built in 1610 but has been much altered since William and Mary adopted it as their winter palace in 1689. This engraving from 1730 shows it as the home of George II, the last reigning monarch to live there. (His grandson George III moved to Buckingham Palace).

An engraving of Kensington Palace
An engraving of Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace

On the other side of the window is Holland House.

Holland House
Holland House

Holland House, once the centre of an estate of two hundred acres, was built for Sir Walter Cope but took its name from the first Earl of Holland who married Cope’s daughter. At the time of this picture (about 1769) it was the home of the politician Henry Fox, Baron Holland. It suffered considerable damage during the Second World War but parts of it have now been incorporated into buildings in the modern Holland park.

On the right hand wall is a view of St Mary Abbots Church.

St Mary Abbots
St Mary Abbots

This is not of course the St Mary Abbots we know today with its high spire. That was built in 1869 to replace the building shown here.

St Mary Abbots
St Mary Abbots

This St Mary Abbots was built in 1772, replacing a building of 1683 which was itself a rebuilt medieval church. Kensington has been a parish since the 13th century.

The final image is a tower which you can still see today.

The Queen's Tower
The Queen’s Tower

The Queen’s Tower was once part of the Imperial Institute, one of the buildings which formed part of Albertopolis, the complex of museums and educational institutions which was the brainchild of Prince Albert. It was his son, the future Edward VII, who pushed for the creation of the Imperial Institute. It was completed in 1893. For a view of the interior see my blog post at :

http://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/halls-of-empire-inside-the-imperial-institute-1893/

Despite its ambitious intentions the Institute struggled to find a role for itself and was demolished in 1965. The Queen’s Tower remains though as a reminder of the splendour of the Imperial Institute.

When you’re sitting in the new IT area we hope you enjoy these views of Kensington before the age of information.

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