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Guide to Kensington London W8 and SW7

Kensington is still just as its creators intended: the popular choice for the rich and powerful.

Much like today, anything the fashionable royals do creates aspirations among their subjects so when William and Mary moved their court to Kensington Palace in 1689, the hamlet’s status as a fashionable suburb was sealed.

Most of the present day buildings in Kensington were created in the 19th century during the reign of Queen Victoria, the main building activity coming in the euphoric wake of the Great Exhibition in 1851.

The council fights hard to maintain the leafy Victorian and Georgian character of the area and there are few opportunities for developers to squeeze more new buildings in, though recreating old buildings will always be a popular pursuit.

As a Royal Borough, the area is littered with embassies while Kensington gardens features a children’s playground which serves as a wonderful memorial to Princess Diana and the area is dotted with blue plaques reminding us of its popularity with those of talent and renown.

Poet and novelist GK Chesterton lived at number 32 Sheffield Terrace, a street of three storey white houses.

Kensington Square is one of London’s oldest squares, dating from 1685 and features an array of blue plaques, including one for former resident John Stuart Mill, indicating its storied, cultured and fashionable past.

Kensington Property Types

Kensington is defined to a large extent by the beauty and majesty of its palace nestling in the sumptuous gardens which was re-imagined by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17thcentury.

Queen’s Gate is another popular bolt hole for the Diplomatic Corps with plenty of embassies and ambassadorial homes dotted throughout the grand stucco terraces that dominate the busy sweeping avenue.

White Stucco detached houses, stucco terraced dwellings, brick and stucco terraces and linked housing predominate, though Plane Tree House, a prize winning 1960s flats development is a notable exception.

The achingly exclusive Kensington Palace gardens is as close to a private road as you can get with its imposing gates at either end and the constant policing attention of the Diplomatic Protection Corps to ward off the undesirable or unwelcome.

Property prices in Kensington W8 and SW7

At  between £1,100 and £5,000 plus per square foot, Kensington property remains at the very highest stratum of London pricing but, as with so many areas, there are purchase opportunities a little further down the scale. Not too far down, though.

A studio in Vicarage Court is about as affordable as the area gets with prices kicking off at £400,000.

Palace Gardens Terrace sits alongside Kensington Palace Gardens and offers opportunities for apprentice billionaires with 5-bedroom homes changing hands for upwards of £6 million.

£3.5 million is the going rate for a period 3-bedrom house in Queen’s Gate, though the few 1960s built properties in Queen’s Gate Mews are worth a little under two-thirds of that.

Community, Society & Entertainment

Kensington High Street is the heart of the area, a busy commercial centre with a dizzying array of shopping options for the affluent. South Kensington is the other hub of social activity with clusters of small shops leading to Exhibition Road, the source for the area’s museums, schools and colleges.

Kensington’s proximity to the West End entertainment mecca means it isn’t as well known for theatre, but as a centre for eating and drinking it vies with the best of them.

The area is particularly well served by museums and places of cultural improvement. The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Science Museum are all within walking distance in South Kensington.

Transport

Kensington is served by three underground stations in Travelcard Zone 1: South Kensington, Gloucester Road and High Street Kensington are all served by the Circle line and District Line with the Picadilly Line linking South Kensington and Gloucester Road with the West End.

A number of local bus services link Kensington with surrounding districts though cabs remain the public transport of choice for many residents.

Schools

The area is home to the prestigious Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music, as well as numerous other illustrious and world renowned institutions.

In keeping with the affluence of the area independent secondary schools far outnumber state schools, by a factor of four to one. There are four of the latter and a slightly higher number of primary schools.

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