A lot more than just the Kings Road

Category: News 23rd April 2024

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Just a stone’s throw from Bay D at Hammersmith Bus station is the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With easy access to the river Thames and some amazing shops this borough has a great deal to offer both the day visitor and anyone on a short break.

Used by a large number of films companies it is awash with prestige locations such as Kensington Gardens, the Portobello Road and the South Kensington National Museums.

Dating back to Saxon times Kensington and Chelsea were both mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. It has always been a favourite destination for  royal families through the centuries and currently Kensington Palace used to be the home of William and Kate but is still used by other prominent members of the royal family including the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The building also houses a number of royal offices. Areas open to the pubic including some of the state apartments and gardens as well as the Orangery Café.

The borough came into existence in 1965 however before its merger, Kensington had been granted royal status in 1901 by Queen Victoria. Part of the reorganisation of the London boroughs in the sixties it was initially to be called just Kensington but after protests from Chelsea residents it was eventually agreed that it would be known as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Providing a rich mixture of museums, and galleries it includes the Royal Chelsea Hospital, venue for the famous annual Chelsea Flower Show and a number of very well-known attractions such as the Science and Natural History museums which contain an array of amazing facts and natural wonders.

The borough is full of historic blue  plaques and has been home to such well known celebrities as Sir Richard Branson, Rowan Atkinson and Eric Clapton.  

If you are making for this area, then there are excellent connections from Hammersmith by tube with a journey time of around ten minutes to South Kensington Station.

There are plenty of events planned for the next few months within the borough including on June 1st at Chelsea Old Town Hall the Neverending Fantasy Convention. This unique event will be for just one day and will celebrate such classic films such as the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.  

The national museums in South Kensington also have a packed programme over the next few months including The Great Exhibition Road Festival which will take place on 15-16 June 2024. An annual event it will be led by Imperial College, London and feature a wide range of free events for all the family including hands-on workshops, fascinating talks, performances, and installations create by a number of research institutions, and cultural organizations such as the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and V&A.

One of Borough’s highlights every year is the Chelsea Flower Show which takes place at the Royal Chelsea Hospital. This year The Newt, close to Wincanton and Castle Cary in Somerset, will be the headline sponsor.    

The show will once again welcome visitors from this country and overseas, Running from May 21st until 25th the first two days of the show (Tuesday and Wednesday) are reserved for RHS members only. It is then open to the public from Thursday onwards. Funds from The Newt sponsorship will help carry out charity  work and community projects. The Director General of the RHS said that she is thrilled to be partnered with this Somerset based venture which shares their passion for horticulture as well as safeguarding its future.  

Guided tours of the Hospital are also possible outside these dates by going to www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk. The hospital which is famous for the Chelsea pensioners is well worth considering as part of a day trip to the borough.

Another major draw is the King’s Road which has been the centre of fashion and style for a very long time. It is said that  King Charles II was a great supporter of this area and would often be seen in his impressive outfits walking in Kew Gardens close by.    

Initially built in the late 17th century as a private road for the king it was renamed Cemetery Road in the 1800s and then again in 1911 to Kings’ Road to celebrate the coronation of George Vth. The road has always had a certain exclusivity and style which still exists today.

Another part of the borough which is always popular is Knightsbridge and Harrods. Opened initially as a drapers in the borough of Southwark in 1824 by Charles Henry Harrod he then went on to found the famous store in Knightsbridge.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England; One of the most densely populated administrative regions in the UK it includes some impressive areas such as Notting Hill and Knightsbridge where some properties can sell for tens of millions of pounds.

Kensington gets its name from “Kene Signe’s land” whilst Chelsea was probably a Saxon village called “Culcheth”, with “coal” meaning “chalk” and “Hythe” meaning “dock” or a landing place for boats.

Its connection with the Thames is also very strong and a visit to Chelsea Harbour is well worth considering with its many houseboats and yachts. River boats operate from the harbour area which has been frequented by many well-known celebrities including Michael Cain, Robbie Williams and Tom Stoppard. The borough can be found on the right bank of the river Thames.

Full of things of things to do and places to see it is one of London’s most popular tourist locations.  

Quirky fact: In medieval times the Manor of Chelsea was once owned by Westminster Abbey.