Kensington and Knightsbridge, London
Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1805-1882) once lived at number 27, Sumner Place, South Kensington. He was an architect, mainly in the Gothic Revivalist style, the founder of an architectural publication, but is better known for being the inventor of the Hansom Cab.
Born in York, to a Roman Catholic family, Hanson was apprentised as a joiner to his father as a joiner, but because he showed a talent for draughtsmanship and construction he was allowed to move his apprenticeship to that of a local architect.
He moved to Halifax in 1825, married, and took a job as an assistant to John Oates. While working for Oates he met and made a friend of Edward Welch. The two formed a partnership and went on to design many churches in Liverpool and York. They also worked on the renovation of Bodelwyddan Castle in Denbighshire and King William's Collage in the Isle of Man. In 1831 they submitted designs for Birmingham Town Hall, but because they had stood surety for the builders, the work led to bankruptcy and their partnership was dissolved.
In December of 1834, Hansom registered the patent for his design for a 'Patent Safety Cab'. The safety features included a suspended axle, larger wheels and a low cab position which meant less wear and tear on the vehicle, which in turn led to fewer accidents. He sold his patent for £10,000 but was never paid because the company he sold it to had financial problems.
Undeterred, he went on to be the founder of a new architectural publication called 'The Builder' in 1843, but never made any money from it because he had to retire from the project due to lack of funds. Renamed 'Builder' in 1966, the publication continues to this day.
In later years he devoted himself to architecture, designing and building many important buildings in the United Kingdom, South America and Australia.
He retired in 1879 and died at, his then home, in Fulham Road in 1882.
Second, third and fourth images courtesy of www.wikimedia.org
Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy (1805 - 1865) lived at 38 Onslow Square from 1854 to 1865. He is most well known for being the Commander of HMS Beagle on which the naturalist Charles Darwin sailed, but he was also a scientist, meteorologist and surveyor, as well as being a career officer in the Royal Navy. He was also Governor of New Zealand from 1843 - 1845.
He was born into the British aristocracy at Ampton Hall, Ampton, in Suffolk and in 1818, at the tender age of twelve, he was enrolled into the Royal Navel College, Portsmouth and a year later entered the Royal Navy. At the age of fourteen he sailed to South America aboard the HMS Glendower as a voluntary student and was promoted to midshipman whilst serving on the vessel.
After a long and distinguished career, he retired from active service in 1850 due to ill health and was, with the help of Charles Darwin, elected to the Royal Society in 1851, where he was made the head of a new department for the collection of weather information at sea. This department was the forerunner of the Meteorological Office.
In 1863 Fitzroy was promoted to Vice-Admiral, but in the following years, ill health, depression and financial worries were all to take their toll.
On 30th April 1865, at his house in Onslow Square, Fitzroy took his own life, by cutting his throat with a razor. At the time of his death he was almost penniless, having spent his fortune on public expendeture.
Other notable figures to have lived in Onslow Square include Sir Albert Hatings Markham, KCB (1841 - 1918), who lived there when he was a child; William Makepeace Thackeray who lived there from 1853 to 1860; the architect and designer of Nelson's Column, William Raliton and John William Crombie, the Scottish woollen manufacturer and Liberal Party politcian.
The second and third images are courtesy of www.wikimedia.org
This statue of Bela Bartok (1881 - 1945), the Hungarian composer, stands in Pelham Street, South Kensington. The statue is made of bronze and stands on a plinth of stainless steel decorated with leaves. It was designed by the Hungarian artist Imre Varga (b. 1923) and was unveiled on 2nd October 2004.
The statue originally stood on the traffic island just outside South Kensington Station, but due to road redevelopments in April 2009 it was packed up and placed in storage until 24th September 2011 when it was repositioned and unveiled for the second time.
A large and beautiful Roman Catholic church in west London. It was built as recently as 1884 and until Westminster Cathedral was built, was the largest Catholic church in London.
The church is Church oft he Immaculate Heart of Mary and is a grade 2 listed building.It is however traditionally known as Brompton Oratory which distinguishes it as a church rather than its connected clergy and religious community, and is closely connected with the London Oratory School.
Mass is celebrated twice daily and it hosts three choirs. I was not able to take any internal photographs due to restrictions but the church is very beautiful and is in the 'Italian Renaissance' style of church.
Amazingly in the cold war years the church was always under surveillance by MI5 as this is where the KGB met their spies working in England. The 'dead letter drop box' was the organ loft, 6 pews up from the alter , second statue to the right'.
The elliptical Royal Albert Hall is a renowed venue for a wide variety of entertainment from classical music to sporting events. It has a capacity of approximately 5000.
The Italian Renaissance style building was completed in 1871. Just opposite to the Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial can be found. The elaborate monument was built in 1876 and recently restored.
Update April 2014: link to new second gallery and additional photo
The Serpentine Gallery has no permanent collections, but instead shows a programme of modern and contemporary art exhibitions. Admission to these is free, and details of what’s on at any particular time can be checked on the gallery’s website (below). We particularly enjoy the photographic exhibitions, but you may also find sculpture or paintings on show. Most exhibitions last a couple of months – and between them the gallery is closed, so do check what, if anything, is on before making a special visit. Or if you're taking a walk through Kensington Gardens or nearby Hyde Park, why not detour to see if there's anything here of interest.
As well as the exhibitions, there are various talks and other events. The gallery is open daily, 10.00AM – 6.00PM. Nearby is a new second gallery, the Serpentine Sackler - see my separate review.
I have already written about the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. In September 2013 a new gallery, operated as part of this and named the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, opened just a few minutes’ walk away. This is located in an old gunpowder store (dating back to 1805), known as the Magazine, which was designed as a store for the safe keeping of gunpowder during the Napoleonic wars. It has now been adapted for use as a gallery and extended by Zaha Hadid, a remarkable Iraqi-British architect with a distinctive style. I love her designs, although they are not to everyone’s taste – check out the firm’s website to see what you make of them.
In this case her modern extension forms the gallery’s restaurant while the old gunpowder store is the venue for the changing exhibitions. The building retains much of its former character and as admission is free is worth a visit in its own right even if the current exhibition doesn’t appeal.
Talking of exhibitions, there are four a year (changing with the seasons) which are planned to coordinate with the four at the original Serpentine Gallery nearby.
We know from our own experience that visiting large cities with younger kids can often be a bit of a trial, as there can be limited safe and affordable opportunities for them to let off steam. So the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is a wonderful option to have in your 'back pocket' when you can sense that your offspring are reaching overload from being cooped up indoors! This would be a particularly good option for breaking up the day if you were planning to bring your children to one of the spectacular museums in South Kensington (Natural History, Science, Victoria & Albert), which are brilliant but can be a bit overwhelming for a full day: it's only about 15 minutes walk, most of it through the park.
The playground - which opened in 2000 - is a truly wonderful resource and a fitting tribute to a woman who unquestionable had an affinity with children. The centrepiece is a jungle gym in the form of a pirate ship, which is particularly apt given that Kensington Gardens is also home to the Peter Pan statue with commemorates J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) - see my other travel tip. It is superbly designed - including a concrete crocodile reclining in nearby shallows and a treasure chest (thankfully securely locked) - and would keep any child happy for hours!
The pirate ship is the main event, but there are also many other attractions such as an encampment of Red Indian teepees (presumably where Tiger Lily lives?), a water feature that kids can play in, sound sculptures and all manner of things to bounce on, clamber over/under/through and slide down.
The playground is well landscaped with lots of vegetation to hide in. As a result, there is quite a lot of small wildlife - squirrels and a range of birds - which enchanted my children: these will be familiar to anyone living in Northern Europe, but paradoxically, since we live in Africa, grey squirrels seemed really exotic to my lot!
Sad to say, one of the highlights of the playground is the security (which sounds like a very South African concern, but a very real consideration in any big city with the risk of pedophiles using them as stalking grounds). The playground is securely fenced, and although entrance is free, adults can only enter if they are accompanying children (except for one hour in the morning). Conversely, children have to be accompanied by an adult so that the playground cannot be used as an unsupervised childcare facility. There are also good on site toilet facilities.
The best - and most cost effective - option if you're planning to stay for any time would be to bring your own picnic. However, if you're not that well organised, there is also an on site cafe which epitomises the sort of moneyed clientele that the playground attracts: organic produce, several vegetarian options, lots of goat's cheese and rocket with everything! Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but it did make me smile that the menu would so clearly betray the priveleged demographic!
Kensington Park Gardens is located west of Kensington Park and is home to many embassies and Kensington Palace, making it one of the most expensive real estate areas in the world. The London Cage was located here-the M19 spy center that was used during WWII and the cold war. The tree-lines mile long avenue averages £22m for a property there, but most are embassies and ambassador residences. The road was originally built in 1840 and named Queen Anne Road, but was renamed in 1870 when the trees were planted. The freehold is owned by the Crown but long leases are given to private buyers. The Indian Tycoon, Lakshmi Mital, at one time the 4th richest man in the world bought a property leasehold for £57m. Many famous residents have owned property there including Rothchild, Reuter, Bernie Ecclestone, Khalili, the Saudi Royal Family, the Sultan of Brunei.
There is a gatehouse at each end and i used to drive through there years ago but i am not sure if this is still possible.
This can be found in the north east corner of Kensington Park, but only adults with children may enter. It was opened in 2000 at a cost of £1.7m and some of the features are based on Peter Pan, the highlight being a pirate ship which children can clamber over. There are also slides, swings and an area for disabled children.
The Elfin Oak is a 900 year old tree stump surrounded by a cage, located near Black Lion Gate at the north west end of Kensington Gardens. Elfs, gnomes and small animals have been carved into the stump so it looks like the stump is home to these creatures. The stump originally came from Richmond Park and was relocated here in 1928 and it took the artist, Ivor Innes two years to carve the small creatures that now inhabit the stump. The creatures are painted from time to time.
As you walk northwards on the Broad Walk you will come across a worn old marker stone that nobody takes much notice of but if i remember correctly it marks the boundary of Paddington and Kensington, but i am not sure if the boundary is still in the same place today.
The Orangery was built in the 18th century for Queen Anne who hosted lavish dinners. Now it is a restaurant famous for providing high teas as well as breakfast and lunches with delicious home made food and cakes.
There are some magnificent conifer trees as you approach the entrance.
open 9 am- 6pm March to September and 10am to 5 pm during the rest of the year. There are also set serving times for the various mealtimes.
The sunken gardens must be seen in the summer to appreciate the care taken in planting all the colourful flowers. It is sometimes known as the Dutch Garden and many tulips can be found in symmetry around the edges in springtime.
Kensington Palace is the official home of Zara Phillips, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. The original building was constructed in the early 17th century by the Earl of Nottingham but in 1669 King William III took it over as he wanted to get some clean air as he suffered from asthma in central London. Kensington was a small village outside London back in those days. Sir Christopher Wren extended the palace and for 70 years the British monarchs resided there, but Queen Mary died of smallpox there while a few years later King William fell of his horse and died a little later in the palace. George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.