A HIDDEN DELIGHT NEAR KENSINGTON PALACE

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KENSINGTON SQUARE gazebo

With a private garden in its centre, Kensington Square is surrounded by fascinating old buildings (for a history and guide, see: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Kensington%20Square%20CAPS.pdf). The setting-out and development of the square began in 1685, when it was named ‘Kings Square’ in honour of the ill-fated James II, who had been crowned that year. In those early days, this urban square was surrounded by countryside – gardens and fields (see: “London” by N Pevsner, publ. 1952). With the arrival of the Royal Court at Kensington Palace in the 17thcentury (King William III, who ruled from 1689 to 1702, suffered from asthma, and needed somewhere where the air did not aggravate his condition – see: http://www.

KENSINGTON SQUARE Burne Jones lived here
british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp1-4), the square became one of the most fashionable places to live in England, but this changed when George III (ruled 1760-1820) moved the Court away from Kensington. After 1760, the square was mostly abandoned, and remained unoccupied until the beginning of the 19thcentury. Nowadays, its desirability as a living place for the well-off has been firmly restored.

The square’s attractive garden in its centre is adorned with small neo-classical gazebo. The buildings surrounding the garden have housed many famous people. Number 40 has a 19thcentury façade, which conceals an earlier one. It was the home of the pathologist Sir John Simon (1816-1904), a pioneer of public health. Between 1864 and 1867, the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) lived at number 41, which has Regency features as well as newer upper floors.

KENSINGTON SQUARE

At the south-east corner of the square, the semi-detached numbers 11 and 12 were built between 1693 and 1702. The attractive shell-shape above the front door of number 11 bears the words: “Duchess of Mazarin 1692-8, Archbishop Herring 1737, Talleyrand 1792-4”. Although it is tempting to believe that these celebrated people lived here, this was probably not the case. The Duchess, a mistress of Charles II, is not thought to have ever lived in the square. Talleyrand (1754-1838) did stay in the square, maybe or maybe not in this house, which was then occupied by a Frenchman, Monsieur Defoeu. As for Herring (1693-1757), he did live in the square but not at number 11. So, whoever put up the wording had a sense of history, but was lacking in accuracy.

KENSINGTON SQUARE numbers 11 and 12

Thackeray Street leads to Kensington Court, where a picturesque courtyard, named Kensington Court Mews, is surrounded by former stables. South of this, its neighbour, a 19th century brick apartment block, Kensington Court Gardens, was the home and place of death of the poet TS Eliot (1888-1965). Returning to the square via Thackeray Street, we pass Esmond Court (named after one of Thackeray’s novels), where the actress, best-known for her roles in the “Carry-On” films, Joan Sims (1930-2001) lived.

The philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote important books on logic and Political Economy while living in number 18 Kensington Square (built in the 1680s) between 1837 and 1851. Close by, the row of old buildings interrupted by a newer building, the Victorian gothic Roman Catholic Maria Assumpta Church, which was built in 1875 to the designs of George Goldie (1828-1887), TG Jackson (1835-1924) and Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912).

KENSINGTON SQUARE number 11
George Goldie also designed the church’s neighbouring convent buildings, which are now adorned by a ground floor gallery consisting of six large windows and the main entrance door, which was added in the 1920s. The former convent is now the home of the University of London’s Heythrop College. Specialising in the study of philosophy and religion, the college was incorporated into the university in 1971. However, amongst all the university’s constituent colleges, Heythrop goes back the furthest, having been founded by the Jesuits in 1614. Founded in Belgium, it moved to England during the French Revolutionary Wars at the end of the 18thcentury.

The west side of the square presents a fine set of facades dating back to when the square was first established.

KENSINGTON SQUARE S Maria Assumpta
Each of the buildings is of great interest, but the one which caught my attention is number 30, which is adorned with double-headed eagles, a symbol used by, to mention but a few: the Hittites, the Seljuk Turks, the Holy Roman Empire, Mysore State, the Russians, the Serbians, and the Albanians. The bicephalic birds on number 30 relate to none of these, but, instead, to the Land Tax Commissioner Charles Augustus Hoare (see: “A Collection of the Public General Statutes passed in the Sixth and Seventh Year of the Reign … of King William the Fourth 1836”) of the Hoare family of bankers. He bought the house in about 1820, and died in 1862 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol17/pt1/pp72-76).

Number 33 was built in the early 1730s. Between 1900 and 1918, the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940), who was born in Kensington, lived there. She is said to have inspired some of the plays written by George Bernard Shaw. From Kensington Square, it is a short walk to High Street Kensington Station

vicIII says:
You provide a nice reference about all those magnificent places... Good for you!:)
Posted on: Sep 12, 2017
starship1 says:
Nice review! The interesting architecture here goes well with the Square's interesting past residents. Nice photos too.
Posted on: Sep 05, 2017
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KENSINGTON SQUARE gazebo
KENSINGTON SQUARE gazebo
KENSINGTON SQUARE Burne Jones live…
KENSINGTON SQUARE Burne Jones liv…
KENSINGTON SQUARE
KENSINGTON SQUARE
KENSINGTON SQUARE numbers 11 and 12
KENSINGTON SQUARE numbers 11 and 12
KENSINGTON SQUARE number 11
KENSINGTON SQUARE number 11
KENSINGTON SQUARE  S Maria Assumpta
KENSINGTON SQUARE S Maria Assumpta
KENSINGTON SQUARE
KENSINGTON SQUARE
KENSINGTON SQUARE TS Eliot lived h…
KENSINGTON SQUARE TS Eliot lived …
KENSINGTON SQUARE John Stuart Mill…
KENSINGTON SQUARE John Stuart Mil…
KENSINGTON SQUARE S Maria Assumpta
KENSINGTON SQUARE S Maria Assumpta
KENSINGTON SQUARE Heythrop College
KENSINGTON SQUARE Heythrop College
KENSINGTON SQUARE Hoare lived here
KENSINGTON SQUARE Hoare lived here
KENSINGTON SQUARE Hoare family sym…
KENSINGTON SQUARE Hoare family sy…
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photo by: ulysses